February 28, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:22 PM


Cornering the dragon (Conn Hallinan, 3/02/05 Foreign Policy in Focus)

A central goal of the confrontationists has been to deploy an anti-ballistic missile shield (ABM) in Asia, which the administration is now in the process of doing. So far it has enlisted Japan and Australia in this effort, and it is wooing India as well. While the rationale for the ABM is alleged to be North Korea, the real target is China's 20 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

The strategy of ringing China with US military bases is also well underway. Besides its traditional bases in Japan and South Korea, Guam has become, according to Pacific Commander Admiral William Fargo, a "power projection hub", that will play an increasing role in Asia, with "geo-strategic importance". The island already hosts B-52s, fighter planes, nuclear attack submarines, and the high-altitude spy drone, the Global Hawk. Since Guam is a US colony acquired during the Spanish American war, the military does not need permission for the buildup, as it would in Japan or Korea.

The US is also attempting to build bases in Southeast and South Asia. While Indonesian authorities deny the story, the Singapore Times reports that the US is presently negotiating to open a naval base on Sulawesi Island. It is also strengthening military ties to Thailand, Singapore, India, Sri Lanka, and Malaysia.

The encirclement has also spread to Central Asia, an important source of oil and gas for China. The US presently has bases in Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan, and military ties with Uzbekistan, which, according to Rumsfeld, are "growing stronger by the month".

Encircle and tighten.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:33 PM


Bush's plan for the GOP (Ross K. Baker, 2/28/05, USA Today)

A Republican dominance in 2005 and beyond might well produce more conservative social legislation, a relaxation of regulations on business and environmental rules and more truculent policy toward countries that sponsor terrorism. If he could pull it off, Bush would find himself in the select company of such presidents as Jefferson, Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt — all of whom engineered realignments.

One prong of the Bush strategy is to enact policies that he believes will lure independent voters, even Democrats, to the GOP.

•Social Security restructuring: This is the centerpiece of the administration's effort to create an "ownership society" by establishing private accounts for younger workers. The thinking behind this proposal is that people who see themselves as investors are ripe for conversion to the GOP. William Kristol, editor of the conservative Weekly Standard, said the creation of private accounts would result in "citizens not being grateful to government and therefore thinking more like Republicans than Democrats." Conservative activist Grover Norquist pointed out in a recent interview that the rise in stock ownership since the early 1980s parallels a rise in GOP strength in the electorate.

•Immigration: The president has always been more popular with Latino voters than Republicans ordinarily are, and he believes that this once-solidly Democratic group can be won over. To this end, he has proposed guest-worker status for illegal immigrants and has appointed Hispanics to two Cabinet posts.

The second prong of the strategy aims to undercut groups solidly in the Democratic camp.

•Tort reform: The president already won one battle earlier this month, signing into law legislation that moves a number of class-action lawsuits to federal courts and away from generous state juries. If Bush can get Congress to approve his plan to limit non-economic damages in lawsuits, he would further diminish the financial position of trial lawyers, who consistently back Democrats.

•Unions: The Democrats' other mainstay, the public employee unions, are the target of proposed revisions in civil-service regulations. These modifications by the National Labor Relations Board have thus far been applied only to the Department of Homeland Security. If extended, they would weaken unions' reach into federal agencies, carving into union dues and, as a byproduct, into money for Democrats.

Put simply: Court blacks and Latinos, crush lawyers and Labor.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:25 PM


Gross says he won't run for Iowa governor (Charlotte Eby, 2/28/05, Quad City Times)

Des Moines lawyer Doug Gross said today that he will not seek the Republican nomination for governor next year, ending speculation he would make another run for the job after an unsuccessful attempt in 2002.
Gross made the announcement in a letter to former Gov. Terry Branstad, saying an “all-consuming” campaign would take too much time away from his family. He and his wife are the parents of five children. [...]

Gross’ announcement clears the way for two other Republicans, U.S. Rep. Jim Nussle of Manchester and Vander Plaats, who is hoping to do better next year than his third-place showing in the 2002 primary.

Nussle has not made a formal announcement that he will enter the race, but he is widely expected to run.

This should be the start of IA cementing itself into the Red column.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:01 PM


The Times' Turnabout (JAMES TARANTO, February 28, 2005, Best of the Web)

This column last weighed in on the Valerie Plame kerfuffle back in July, when Joe Wilson, having been cast out of the Kerry campaign after a Senate report impeached his credibility, was fulminating that The Wall Street Journal, which was arguing that the special prosecutor's investigation into the "leaking" of his wife's identity as a CIA "operative" should be shut down, was part of a criminal conspiracy.

Since then, the prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, has subpoenaed several reporters, two of whom, Judith Miller of the New York Times and Matt Cooper of Time, have refused to testify before a grand jury and are now threatened with jail. Fitzgerald also demanded that Miller and another Times reporter, Philip Shenon, turn over their phone records, but last week a federal judge quashed that request, which prompted a Times editorial Saturday that contained a stunning turnabout:

Meanwhile, an even more basic issue has been raised in recent articles in The Washington Post and elsewhere: the real possibility that the disclosure of Ms. Plame's identity, while an abuse of power, may not have violated any law. Before any reporters are jailed, searching court review is needed to determine whether the facts indeed support a criminal prosecution under existing provisions of the law protecting the identities of covert operatives.

We could have saved them 18 months and a lot of pointless flailing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:46 PM


The Twilight of Atheism: Why this once exciting and 'liberating' philosophy failed to capture the world's imagination. (Alister McGrath, 02/28/2005, Christianity Today)

Atheism was once new, exciting, and liberating, and for those reasons held to be devoid of the vices of the faiths it displaced. With time, it turned out to have just as many frauds, psychopaths, and careerists as religion does. Many have now concluded that these personality types are endemic to all human groups, rather than being the peculiar preserve of religious folks. With Stalin and Madalyn Murray O'Hair, atheism seems to have ended up mimicking the vices of the Spanish Inquisition and the worst televangelists, respectively.

One of the most important criticisms that Sigmund Freud directed against religion was that it encourages unhealthy and dysfunctional outlooks on life. Having dismissed religion as an illusion, Freud went on to argue that it is a negative factor in personal development. At times, Freud's influence has been such that the elimination of a person's religious beliefs has been seen as a precondition for mental health.

Freud is now a fallen idol, the fall having been all the heavier for its postponement. There is now growing awareness of the importance of spirituality in health care, both as a positive factor in relation to well-being and as an issue to which patients have a right. The "Spirituality and Healing in Medicine" conference sponsored by Harvard Medical School in 1998 brought reports that 86 percent of Americans as a whole, 99 percent of family physicians, and 94 percent of hmo professionals believe that prayer, meditation, and other spiritual and religious practices exercise a major positive role within the healing process.

With the breakdown of social cohesion in recent decades, creating a sense of community has become an increasingly important political issue in many Western cultures. The question of how community can be recovered invites a comparison of religious and atheistic approaches.

One of the most obvious indicators of the ongoing importance of religion is the well-documented tendency of immigrant communities to define themselves in religious terms—Sikh, Hindu, and Muslim communities in Great Britain, and in France, Muslims from Algeria and other North African nations.

Christian churches have long been the centers of community life in the West. People want to belong, not just believe. [...]

The atheist dilemma is that Christianity is a moving target, whose trajectory is capable of being redirected without losing its anchor point in the New Testament. And as theologian John Henry Newman pointed out, Christianity must listen to such criticisms from outside its bounds, precisely because listening may be a way of recapturing its vision of the gospel.

Some atheists have argued that the phenomenon of globalization can only advance a secularist agenda, eliminating religion from the public arena. If the world is to have a shared future, it can only be by eliminating what divides its nations and peoples—such as religious beliefs. Yet many have pointed out in response that globalization seems to be resulting in a quite different outcome.

Far from being secularized, the West is experiencing a new interest in religion. Patterns of immigration mean that Islam and Hinduism are now major living presences in the cities of Western Europe and North America. Pentecostalism is a rapidly growing force, strengthened by the arrival of many Asian and African Christians in the West. The future looks nothing like the godless and religionless world so confidently predicted 40 years ago. The atheist agenda, once seen as a positive force for progress, is now seen as disrespectful toward cultural diversity.

Paradoxically, the future of atheism will be determined by its religious rivals. Those atheists looking for a surefire way to increase their appeal need only to hope for harsh, vindictive, and unthinking forms of religion to arise in the West.

In his problematic but fascinating work, The Decline of the West, Oswald Spengler argued that history shows that cultures came into being for religious reasons. As they exhausted the potential of that spirituality, religion gave way to atheism, before a phase of religious renewal gave them a new sense of direction. Might atheism have run its course, and now give way to religious renewal? The tides of cultural shift have, for the time being, left atheism beached on the sands of modernity, while Westerners explore a new postmodern interest in the forbidden fruit of spirituality.

It seems not too much to say that the successes and instituttionalization of atheism/rationalism -- especially in the forms of Darwinism, Marxism, and Freudianism -- exposed it as generally more repellant and repulsive than even the most excessive facets of the Judeo-Christianity it was intended to critique. Atheism is essentially just another iteration of Protestantism and a protest that is less pure than that which it protests is doomed to failure.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:33 PM


After 1/30/05: Just four weeks after the Iraqi election of January 30, 2005, it seems increasingly likely that that date will turn out to have been a genuine turning point. (William Kristol, 03/07/2005, Weekly Standard)

HISTORY IS BEST VIEWED IN the rear-view mirror. It's hard to grasp the significance of events as they happen. It's even harder to forecast their meaning when they're only scheduled to happen. And once they occur, it's usually the case that possible historical turning points, tipping points, inflection points, or just points of interest turn out in the cold glare of history to have been of merely passing importance.

But sometimes not. Just four weeks after the Iraqi election of January 30, 2005, it seems increasingly likely that that date will turn out to have been a genuine turning point. The fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, ended an era. September 11, 2001, ended an interregnum. In the new era in which we now live, 1/30/05 could be a key moment--perhaps the key moment so far--in vindicating the Bush Doctrine as the right response to 9/11. And now there is the prospect of further and accelerating progress.

I wonder if this strikes others as nonsensical. After all, by the time of the Wall's fall, and of the Iraqi election, the larger issue had already been determined. For the Cold War it seems easier to argue for any one of a series of earlier turning points: the Carter Administration's aid to the mujahadeen; Ronald Reagan's election; his Westminster Speech, in which he started us referring to the USSR in the past tense, as already failed; the acceptance a new class of missiles by the Europeans; or the announcement of Star Wars.

As far as this final war (WW IV?; the War on Terror?; the War against Islamicism?) is concerned there are likewise at least four points that were more determinative: either 9-11 itself or this speech, which dedicated the Bush presidency to a crusade; this speech, signalling that we would no longer honor the notions of stability and sovereignty where our enemies ruled; this one , which claimed the right to determine what kind of government nearly any state could have; or the re-election of George W. Bush over the Realist John Kerry, who'd run on a policy of disengagement and detente with the undemocratic Islamic world.

Any thoughts?

Major arrests show a shift in Iraq: Still, attacks continue, like the one in Hilla Monday that killed more than 100 people, despite detention of top militants. (Jill Carroll, 2/28/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

The arrest of seven key insurgents in the past two weeks, including Saddam Hussein's half-brother and top aides to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, are giving a much-needed morale boost to Iraq's counterinsurgency efforts.

Indeed, some Iraqi officials see the momentum beginning to shift since the Jan. 30 elections. They say Iraqi citizens are providing more tips, and that a series of videotaped confessions by captured insurgents shown on Iraqi TV are helping discredit the rebels. "We are very close to al-Zarqawi, and I believe that there are a few weeks separating us from him," Iraq's interim national security adviser, Mouwafak al-Rubaie told the Associated Press.

Analysts agree that the string of arrests are likely to hurt the insurgency. But the decentralized nature of the uprising makes it difficult to dismantle. A massive car bombing in Hilla, Iraq, Monday underscored the point. The bomb exploded near a line of recruits for the Iraqi security forces in the southern Iraq town, killing more than 100 people, one of the largest death tolls from a car bomb in Iraq.

Seizing Saddam...and Kin (Marni Soupcoff, American Enterprise)
A curious thing has been happening amidst critics’ complaints that the United States is not focusing sufficiently on an exit strategy in Iraq, and that the Iraqis themselves can’t deal with the terrorists attacking them: the bad guys are getting caught. One of the most notable recent achievements was the capture of Saddam Hussein’s half-brother and former adviser Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hasan al-Tikriti.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:01 PM


Lebanon's pro-Syrian PM resigns (CNN, 2/28/05)

The Lebanese government abruptly resigned Monday during a stormy parliamentary debate, prompting a tremendous roar from tens of thousands of anti-government protesters in central Beirut.

The demonstrators, awash in a sea of red, white and green Lebanese flags, had demanded the pro-Syrian government's resignation -- and the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon -- since this month's assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Demonstrators in Beirut's Martyrs Square chanted, "Syria out! Syria out!" after Prime Minister Omar Karami announced his resignation in a speech aired by the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:58 PM


The hinge of history (Robert Novak, February 28, 2005, Townhall)

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's stand against embryonic stem cell research not only changes the long-range picture for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. It augments a shift in tactics by social conservatives. They are trying to change the focus from research for fighting disease to an uncontrolled scientific community's quest to clone human beings.

Romney's position previously had been considered mildly pro-stem cell. His wife, Ann, suffers from multiple sclerosis, a disease for which cloning is supposed to promise miraculous cures. But early in February, the governor flatly came out against Harvard University's plans to create human embryos, purportedly for research. He said last Monday that he and his wife "agree that you don't create new life to help cure our issues."

That statement was made by the Massachusetts governor in Spartanburg, S.C., where he was testing early presidential waters. Romney is moving rightward on social policy, declaring himself "pro-life." But to depict what he is saying in strictly political terms is to trivialize an issue of overriding ethical importance. "We stand at the hinge of history," an anti-cloning activist who is a former official at the United Nations, told me.

The historic decision is not, as cloning proponents claim, whether to spend public funds on research to combat a wide variety of illnesses. The broader decision whether to grant science unlimited power is symbolized by the bill pending in Massachusetts to legalize the creation of human embryos. Romney has declared he will veto the bill, bringing upon himself the full wrath of the liberal establishment from Harvard to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

One of the most predictable political dramas of the next three years is Rudy Giuliani's come-to-Jesus moment, when he reveals that his brush with death and ruined marriage have caused him to renew his faith and to realize the value of traditional morality, not least the sanctity of life. He'll oppose embryonic stem cell and abortion for anything but life of the mother.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:53 PM

FIRST CASUALTY (via David Hill, The Bronx):

Clinton adviser: Pataki is not taken seriously (MARC HUMBERT, February 28, 2005, AP)

A top adviser to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday that Republican Gov. George Pataki is increasingly becoming an object of ridicule and that his possible presidential ambitions are "laughable."

"When a conservative magazine pictures you as a monkey on the cover, you've become an object of ridicule _ and that's from his own base," said Howard Wolfson, who in addition to being a top Clinton adviser is also a strategist for the state Democratic Party in New York.

The Feb. 28 issue of the National Review featured a highly critical story on the New York governor. A caricature of Pataki as the bicycle-riding "Curious George" monkey graced the conservative magazine's cover for the story headlined "Spurious George."

While Pataki is sometimes mentioned as a potential contender for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, Wolfson told The Associated Press that notion was not realistic.

"His presidential ambitions are not serious. They're laughable," said the adviser to the former first lady, herself considered a top contender for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.

Especially if this is all true, which seems sadly fair, why talk him out of challenging her for the Senate? Beating him would give the illusion that she'd won a tough race and enhance her stature.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:34 PM


Poor Chileans labor past retirement (Indira A.R. Lakshmanan, February 28, 2005, Boston Globe)

At a time when President Bush has made overhauling Social Security a central objective of his second administration, he and other proponents of privatization have held out Chile, the first in the world to privatize pensions in 1981, as a role model.

By transforming its system, this country of 16 million people fended off a looming pension debt owed its aging population and fueled domestic capital markets, contributing to high growth rates and a halving of poverty in what has become one of the most affluent nations in Latin America. For steadily employed Chileans who consistently channel 10 percent of their salaries into private retirement accounts, as required by law -- and preferably top it up with more, tax-free contributions -- pensions could reach 70 percent of salaries, providing a comfortable standard of living in retirement, according to estimates by the pension fund managers' association.

But what supporters of Chile's model have not advertised is that for poor, seasonal, and itinerant workers, and even for a great part of the middle-class and self-employed, the private system has proved inadequate, largely because those workers are unable to contribute enough to their private accounts. More than 17 percent of Chileans 65 and older keep working because their pensions are inadequate, according to a government-commissioned study.

Based on Chile's experience -- and that of more than 20 countries mostly in Latin America and Eastern Europe that followed its lead by privatizing part or all of their pension systems -- one conclusion from a new World Bank report is that the government will have to play a bigger role in any reformed pension system than proponents of privatization suggest. Private accounts can be one pillar of a Social Security system, but the state will have to provide a safety net.

The story opens with the heartrending sagas of Chileans who can't retire when they're 60...the heart bleeds.

However, the latter points are valid. If folks can't make full contributions we should fill the gap--a little now saves us big later. Andthere'll be a safety net for the truly destitute elderly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:26 PM


China Confronts Rising Crime in a Fast-track Economy (Heda Bayron, 28 February 2005, VOA News)

China's rapid economic and social changes have created some undesirable consequences, among them a rising incidence of crime. However, Chinese officials are learning that simply imposing harsh penalties will not solve the problem. [...]

China's ministry in charge of internal security says crime is on the rise. Last year, the number of reported crimes rose 7.5 percent to nearly five million, nearly at the same pace as China's economic growth. Theft and robbery made up 80 percent of the cases. Car thefts, in a country that until recently had few private cars, climbed 18 percent.

Experts say the growth is an unwelcome product of the country's rapid economic development.

China's crime rate has been accelerating since the late 1970s, when the country embarked on economic reforms. According to figures from the United Nations, in the early 1980s there were 90 reported crimes per 100,000 people. But by the late 1990s, this had jumped 45 percent to 131 per 100,000.

The change has barely begun.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:20 PM


West African Leaders Help to Prepare Togo Vote (Joe Bavier, 28 February 2005, VOA News)

Two West African heads of state have gone to Togo to discuss organizing new elections following the resignation of the military appointed president. The opposition is afraid free and fair elections will not be possible.

President Mamadou Tandja of Niger and his Malian counterpart Amadou Toumani Toure represented the regional bloc ECOWAS on its diplomatic mission in Togo's capital, Lome.

A spokeswoman for the grouping, Adriane Diop, says ECOWAS has been encouraged by the decision Friday of Faure Gnassingbe, the son of the late long ruling leader, to quit the presidency and allow an interim president to take over until polls can be held.

"We see it as a positive decision. And that has triggered the lifting of sanctions from ECOWAS. So we are going to discuss with the Togolese political class to see the way forward," said Ms. Diop. "We will be on the side of Togo as provided by our protocols in order to assist them to have free and fair and transparent elections."

ECOWAS imposed sanctions against Togo last week following Mr. Gnassingbe's installation as president by the military upon the death of his father Gnassingbe Eyadema.

It lifted the sanctions Saturday after Mr. Gnassingbe stepped down, ceding the presidency to the newly elected assembly speaker and constitutionally-mandated interim leader, Abass Bonfoh.

Somewhat lost in our excitement over the rapid reformation of the Middle East is the equally compelling story of Africa gradually pulling its act together.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:16 PM


Israel Says It Has Evidence of Syrian Involvement in Tel Aviv Nightclub Bombing (Larry James, 28 February 2005, VOA News)

Israel says it has evidence Syria was involved in the bombing at a Tel Aviv nightclub on Friday that killed five Israelis and wounded dozens more. It intends to present the evidence to representatives of the international community.

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom is to present the evidence to ambassadors of the European Union and all countries now serving on the U.N. Security Council.

Beirut Protesters Defy Ban on Demonstrations (Edward Yeranian, 28 February 2005, VOA News)
Hours before the Lebanese parliament is to vote on a motion of no confidence in the government, thousands of demonstrators, waving Lebanese flags demonstrated in Beirut's Martyr's Square.

The atmosphere was electric among the thousands of demonstrators who had gathered in Beirut's historic Martyrs Square to demand the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon and the resignation of the government. The demonstrations have swelled since the assassination of popular former Prime Minister Hariri, earlier this month. Protesters believe Syria was involved in the murder - a scenerio Syria denies.

Opposition politicians harangued the crowd, many of whom had camped out overnight, to get around a curfew imposed by the government.

Long-time member of parliament and opposition figure Butros Harb told the swarm of demonstrators, waving red and white Lebanese flags, that the Lebanese opposition will continue protesting until Lebanon recovers its freedom.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:13 PM


Attack on AARP, Like 'Religious War,' Built on Either/Or Fallacy (Ronald Brownstein, February 28, 2005, LA Times)

As synonyms for the word "vile," my thesaurus offers some of the following: offensive, objectionable, odious, repulsive, repellent, repugnant, revolting, disgusting, sickening, loathsome, foul, nasty, contemptible, despicable and noxious.

Any of those words would aptly describe the advertising attack launched last week against AARP, the largest advocacy group for seniors, by the conservative interest group USA Next. But there's one word that unfortunately can't be applied: surprising.

The salvo against AARP crystallizes trends developing both in the debate over Social Security and more broadly in the competition between the parties in Washington. On both fronts, the news isn't good.

USA Next, which envisions itself as the conservative alternative to AARP, previously made its biggest splash by using drug company money to help fund an ad blitz promoting the Medicare prescription drug plan backed by President Bush and the pharmaceutical industry. That led critics to accuse the organization of operating as a front group for the drug makers.

Last week, USA Next announced it would spend $10 million on an ad campaign attacking AARP over its opposition to Bush's proposal to create private investment accounts funded by the Social Security payroll tax. USA Next opened the campaign with an Internet-only ad that uses logic so contorted it verges on parody to accuse AARP of opposing the military and supporting gay marriage.

Charlie Jarvis, USA Next's chairman and a former aide to President Reagan and religious conservative powerhouse James Dobson, promised that was just the start for AARP. "They are the boulder in the middle of the highway to personal savings accounts," Jarvis told the New York Times. "We will be the dynamite that removes them."

In 50 years, historians may study that quote to understand why Washington now feels so much like Beirut.

Imagine for a moment that you are Lebanese and live in Beirut--how infuriating would a statement that stupid be to you? Now imagine you live in Lebanon, NH and Washiongton is beinggoverned by your party--how stupid must it seem? Okay, now imagine you're a liberal Democrat in Los Angeles and it may seem fair.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:06 PM


The secret life of moody cows (Jonathan Leake, 2/276/05, Times of London)

Christine Nicol, professor of animal welfare at Bristol University, said even chickens may have to be treated as individuals with needs and problems.

“Remarkable cognitive abilities and cultural innovations have been revealed,” she said. “Our challenge is to teach others that every animal we intend to eat or use is a complex individual, and to adjust our farming culture accordingly.”

Nicol will be presenting her findings to a scientific conference to be held in London next month by Compassion in World Farming, the animal welfare lobby group.

John Webster, professor of animal husbandry at Bristol, has just published a book on the topic, Animal Welfare: Limping Towards Eden. “People have assumed that intelligence is linked to the ability to suffer and that because animals have smaller brains they suffer less than humans. That is a pathetic piece of logic,” he said.

Webster and his colleagues have documented how cows within a herd form smaller friendship groups of between two and four animals with whom they spend most of their time, often grooming and licking each other. They will also dislike other cows and can bear grudges for months or years.

Dairy cow herds can also be intensely sexual.

No one who's ever looked into the limpid pools of a Jersey cow's eyes has failed to be stirred.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:05 PM


Blacks Courted on Social Security: Private accounts would be more useful because of a life expectancy gap, Republicans say. (Peter Wallsten and Tom Hamburger, February 28, 2005, LA Times)

The White House and its allies who back overhauling Social Security are launching a highly targeted campaign to convince blacks that President Bush's plan to create private investment accounts would have special benefits for them.

The most provocative element of the GOP message to blacks: Their shorter life expectancy means that Social Security is not a favorable deal for them, a point contested by Bush's critics. The president's plan for private accounts, say Republicans, would particularly benefit blacks by allowing them to build wealth more rapidly and pass a portion of their Social Security contributions to their heirs.

In reaching out to blacks on Bush's top domestic priority, Republicans are courting a traditionally Democratic voting bloc, which could further pressure Democratic lawmakers to back the president's plan.

Some Republican strategists also believe the effort illustrates how Bush can reap political rewards from the Social Security issue even if he fails to win passage of his plan in Congress. These strategists believe that Bush's call for private accounts, and his broader claim to be building an "ownership society," have special appeal for black voters, many of whom live in economically troubled neighborhoods and have not been able to build their own savings.

Divide and conquer.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:11 AM


Unspoken message of Bush's 'listening tour': The president's words about democracy didn't always have the intended effect on his European audiences. (Howard LaFranchi, 2/28/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

[E]urope - with the breakup of the Balkans still fresh in its memory and the feeling (often repeated to an American visitor) that "the Middle East is closer to us than it is to you" - is more interested in stability than in a revolutionary call to democratic arms.

Danged annoying, that democracy stuff.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:06 AM


An opportunity in Syria (Rami G. Khouri, February 28, 2005, Boston Globe)

[W]estern diplomatic pressure on Syria over the past two years has aimed to have Syria speed up its withdrawal from Lebanon, stop interfering politically in Lebanese domestic affairs, cooperate more effectively on restoring security inside Iraq, stop its support for Hizbullah and Palestinian ''rejectionist" groups that resist current peace-making terms with Israel, and desist from alleged programs to develop weapons of mass destruction. Syria has offered replies, explanations, denials and professions of innocence to all those allegations, but unconvincingly in the eyes of the United States, France, and most other countries.

Western pressure on Damascus is escalating briskly. The US Congress passed the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act last year, and President Bush imposed only a few of its lighter economic sanctions on Damascus. The heat was intensified in early September when Syria seemed set to extend Lahoud's term. Washington, Paris, Berlin, and others worked closely together to pass UN Security Council Resolution 1559, calling on all ''foreign troops" (i.e., Syrian forces) to leave Lebanon. [...]

Just as the extension of Lahoud's term last September pushed the Lebanese opposition across the threshold of a confrontational red line with Damascus that it had always resisted crossing, the Hariri assassination seems to have triggered a similarly significant new political dynamic -- this time in Lebanese, Western, and UN dealings with Syria, expressed in a salvo of simultaneous diplomatic gestures, statements, and soft threats.

The fascinating new dimension is that events could lead, in the first instance, to an accelerated Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon, and faster reform movements inside both Lebanon and Syria. More important, in the second instance, is whether Syrian withdrawal and faster reforms would embolden the United States and friends to continue pressuring Syria and other Middle Eastern states where policy changes are sought, such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Egypt.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:58 AM

RATHER WATCH TOM (via David Hill, The Bronx)


Not only is Dan Rather running third among viewers — he's running third at CBS, too.

The retiring evening-news anchor has become so irrelevant that even the network's heavyweights have been tuning him out.

"Rather is a superb reporter, and dead honest, but he's not as easy to watch as [ABC's Peter] Jennings or [NBC's Tom] Brokaw," said Mike Wallace, the relentless "60 Minutes" correspondent.

Rather, under fire for a sloppy report on President Bush's National Guard service, will retire March 9 after 24 years in the CBS anchor chair.

Not even the man he replaced, the venerable Walter Cronkite, thinks Rather is a must-see. Cronkite said he often watched recently retired NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw, and it seemed viewers felt "that Dan was playing a role of newsman, that he was conscious of this, whereas the other two appeared to be more the third-party reporter."

Cronkite said Rather was known for "showboating."

You have to wonder if even Mr. Rather watches his own broadcast.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:11 AM


A Dawning Age of Unreason: In 21st-century America, people seem to prefer placing their unquestioning faith in divine mysteries than worshipping at the altar of science. (Will Englund, February 27, 2005, Baltimore Sun)

Reason has been taking a beating recently, and it's not hard to see why. If Americans are flocking to religious faith, to revealed dogma, to creationism, to a place where no one pays any heed to a logic based on if x then y, it's because reason gave us a world that hardly makes sense anymore.

Yes, I know - two centuries ago, America itself was a product of the Age of Enlightenment, and of a belief that people had it within their own power to make a better life for themselves, to throw off the shackles of superstition and build a more perfect union. And it nearly happened. Look what reason - as expressed through social, technological and scientific progress - gave birth to: the First Amendment, the Erie Canal, the cotton gin, the light bulb, the submachine gun, the income tax, the Model T Ford, the exit poll, the Edsel, the New Jersey Turnpike, the polio vaccine, the tonsillectomy, the nose job, death by lethal injection, and call waiting. [...]

The Age of Reason may have reached its glorious acme in the late 19th century. But in some ways it started to go off the rails soon after. Reason said that humans could be bred like peas or hogs to produce a better specimen - a line of thinking that reached its logical conclusion at Auschwitz. Reason said that energy and mass are related - as the residents of Hiroshima were to learn. Reason said that history and economics were decipherable by way of the scientific method; thus Das Kapital , and thus The Gulag Archipelago.

It's one of the more delicious ironies of the 20th century that the Soviets believed they were acting according to scientific principles - it was nonsense, but evangelical Americans, of all people, took them at their word. The phrases "scientific communism" and "godless communism" are so close in the meaning given to them by their respective camps that they are practically synonymous. Scientific was godless. In actual fact, the Bolsheviks had one great feature in common with Christian fundamentalists: adherence to tenets that were a matter of faith and could not be proved wrong by any amount of evidence. This is the philosopher Karl Popper's definition of the difference between religion and science -- science is always open to new facts.

Religion, on the other hand, as the bioethicist Peter Singer points out in The President of Good and Evil, requires its adherents to stifle doubt, not to act on it. Case in point is George W. Bush, says Singer, who goes on to make a pretty convincing case that doubt is not one of the commander-in-chief's major afflictions.

Did the death of communism mean that Americans could dispense with doubt, once and for all? Is America turning its back finally on the Age of Reason? Susan Jacoby, an author who early in her career wrote about the Soviet Union, traces in Freethinkers the battles down through the past 200 years between religiosity and reason in American life, and concludes that religiosity is stronger now than it has ever been before. Maybe that comparison to Romantic poetry wasn't quite on target. Evangelicals preach American exceptionalism, that God has shed a special grace on America and that faith goes hand in hand with prosperity. And then consider Justice Antonin Scalia, who, as Jacoby points out, has said that the "American government derives its ultimate power not from the people but from divinity." Strict constructionism? This isn't about the Constitution's more perfect union, it's about America as the Shining City on the Hill.

With religiosity comes certainty, and with certainty comes a complete lack of curiosity. Jacoby points out that religious belief in some common forms is antithetical to democracy itself. "Those who rely on the perfect hand of the Almighty for political guidance, whether on biomedical research or capital punishment, are really saying that such issues can never be a matter of imperfect human opinion," she writes. Not wanting to know might be the new American ethos.

The genius of the Founding, of course, was that, unlike Rationalism, it rejected the possibility of perfectability. It is based on religious authority that can not be doubted or the whole project goes bung.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:40 AM


New openings for Arab democracy: Mubarak's call for elections in Egypt follows moves in Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestinian territory. (Nicholas Blanford and Gretchen Peters, 2/28/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

In a surprise announcement Saturday, Egypt's long-ruling president, Hosni Mubarak, ordered constitutional changes that would open the door for the first-ever multiparty presidential elections in the world's most populous Arab country. The move is the latest indication of a cautious democratic shift under way in the Arab world.

Since the beginning of the year, the region has seen national elections in Iraq and the Palestinian territories, landmark municipal elections in Saudi Arabia, and unprecedented mass demonstrations in Lebanon calling for an end to Syrian tutelage. [...]

[A]side from the situation here in Lebanon, where calls for democracy emerged spontaneously after the assassination of a former prime minister earlier this month, most of the recent shifts toward democracy have been top-down initiatives by regimes eager to appease Washington.

In his inauguration speech in January, President Bush said a cornerstone of his foreign policy in his second term would be to promote democracy, particularly in the Arab world. Last year, he unveiled an initiative designed to encourage Arab countries to embrace democracy. But the initiative met with a hostile reaction from most Arab countries who viewed it as interference in their domestic affairs.

Critics say that the elections in Saudi Arabia lack substance due to the limited power of municipal councils and the fact that women are barred from voting. The Saudi government argues that the pace of reform has to be measured carefully because of the deeply conservative nature of the kingdom.

Still, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal suggested over the weekend that women may be allowed to vote in future elections. "The commissioner of elections said after the elections for municipal councils that they went so well and testing the water proved so appealing that the commissioner is going to suggest to the government to have women vote in the next municipal elections," he told BBC television.

Despite Arab criticism of Washington's ambitions for democratizing the Arab world, some analysts say that the tentative reforms would not have happened without US intervention. "It's because of the Americans, let's face it," says Michael Young, a Lebanese political analyst. "These regimes didn't give a damn about the views of their people not so long ago - Mubarak's decision I link directly to Bush's inauguration address. The leaders realize things have to change in terms of the public image."

Regional election fever catches up with Emirates (AFP, 2/26/05)

Academics and members of the appointed consultative council in the United Arab Emirates came out in favor of elections in the Persian Gulf state, arguing that it could not stay out of the regional trend toward elected bodies. [...]

[M]ember Mohammad bin Ali al-Nagbi told the same newspaper he would support elections as long as they were decided from within and were not imposed by external pressure. Atiq Daka, a professor of political science at the UAE University, told AFP: "Our country is now the only member of the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (PGCC) which has yet to catch up with the political opening up under way in the Arab world. Even countries we thought incapable of political change, such as Saudi Arabia, are now ahead of us."

The PGCC groups the UAE with Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Bahrain and Kuwait have elected parliaments, while Oman has an elected advisory council.

And earlier this month, ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia kicked off unprecedented local polls in which half the members of 178 municipal councils will be elected across the kingdom. Women, however, have been excluded from the three-stage ballot.

"We are certainly ahead (of other countries in the region) at the economic and trade levels. But we should also lead the way on the political front," Daka said.

"How come that we encouraged Iraqis to take part in elections and hosted Iraqi elections on our soil while even officials of sports clubs in our country are appointed?" Daka asked.

Egypt politics: Mubarak takes the hint (THE ECONOMIST INTELLIGENCE UNIT, 2/28/05)
Egypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak, has finally responded to US prompting and to the increasingly agitated demands of his domestic opposition for meaningful democratic reforms. His announcement on February 26th that he wants the constitution changed to allow for the direct election of the president is a potentially revolutionary move. It is only a first step, however, and it is unlikely to prevent Mr Mubarak from securing a fifth term when Egypt’s first contested presidential election takes place in September this year.

Mr Mubarak has resisted calls for radical political reform ever since he assumed power in 1981 following the assassination of his predecessor, Anwar Sadat. He has advanced many reasons for his conservative stance. They have included the claim that economic reform should take precedence and that the experience of Algeria, which underwent a bloody civil war in the 1990s, showed the pitfalls of moving too fast towards political pluralism. It has, however, become harder for him to defend this rigid stance in the face of pressure, both from the US and from the grassroots, for democratic opening across the Middle East. The Palestinian and Iraqi elections and the massive street protests in Lebanon have only added to this pressure.

The US president, George W Bush, in two speeches (in November 2004 and February 2005) used similar phrases to encourage Mr Mubarak to adopt political reforms: "The great and proud nation of Egypt, which showed the way toward peace in the Middle East, can now show the way toward democracy in the Middle East," he said in the more recent version, in his State of the Union address on February 2nd. The Bush administration has also registered its concern about measures taken by Mr Mubarak’s regime against pro-democracy campaigners. The most prominent of these is Ayman Nour, a member of parliament who was arrested at the end of January, three months after securing approval for the formation of a new political party—Al Ghad—whose platform includes pressing for changes to the system for electing the president. Mr Nour has been stripped of his parliamentary immunity and detained for 45 days pending investigation of allegations that he falsified more than 1,000 signatures presented to support his application to found Al Ghad. Another source of pressure on Mr Mubarak has been a group of protestors calling openly for him to leave, under the banner of "kifaya", an Arabic word for "enough".

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:27 AM


The moral and morality of the welfare state (Carlos Alberto Montaner, Firmas Press)

Americans are missing the point of the problem. They think they're involved in a technical discussion over the economic viability of Social Security, whereas the central issue is different and a lot more important: to choose between individual responsibility and economic responsibility.

That is precisely the core of a heated debate being held worldwide over a profound reexamination of relations between society and the state. The retirement system is just one more expression of that impassioned polemic.

Here, succinctly, is the historical background. Beginning in the mid-19th Century, an idea increasingly developed that the state should furnish people with certain basic services: free public education, medical care, unemployment compensation, sick pay and retirement pension. [...]

This vision of the role of the state, of the whole of society and the role of the individual underwent a crisis in the late 20th century. Why? Because of the extremely high costs it implied and because it created a growing inefficiency in the public sector. [...]

Today, it is well known that the road to the welfare state is no longer passable. The few available resources are squandered, frustration endangers the democratic system and opens the door to all kinds of adventurers and demagogues. At the same time, the welfare state fosters among people a harmful attitude of prostrate defenselessness: ``The state, not I, is responsible for my happiness. If I lack something, it's because someone has taken it away from me.''

It is against this cosmic vision that the voices rise seeking a resurgence of individual responsibility and a reduction of the state's perimeter. They expect that a revitalization of civil society and private-sector efforts will achieve the levels of prosperity that the public environment is unable to generate.

The real problem is not where the retirement funds come from but whether we admit or reject the moral premise that every able-bodied person should save to pay for his or her old-age expenses without having to depend on the solidarity of other wage earners. That's the true debate.

That acquired dependency was a feature not a flaw for the Statists who built the systems.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:15 AM


Peter Benenson
(The Telegraph, February 28th, 2005)

Peter Benenson, who died on Friday aged 83, was the founder of Amnesty International, the organisation set up to bring pressure on governments to release people imprisoned for voicing their political or religious opinions - people for whom Benenson coined the term "prisoners of conscience". The impetus for the founding of Amnesty was a newspaper article Benenson read, when travelling on the London Underground, in November 1960: two Portuguese students had been arrested and sentenced to seven years' in jail for drinking a toast to liberty - the government of Portugal was then in the hands of the dictator Antonio Salazar - in a cafe in Lisbon.

Incensed, Benenson, a barrister who already had experience of human rights work, came up with the idea of a one-year campaign to draw public attention to the plight of the world's political and religious prisoners. With Eric Barker, a Quaker, and the barrister Louis Blom-Cooper, Benenson launched "Appeal for Amnesty 1961", which on May 28 that year appeared on the front page of the Observer newspaper.

Entitled "The Forgotten Prisoners", the piece began: "Open your newspaper - any day of the week - and you will find a report from somewhere in the world of someone being imprisoned, tortured or executed because his opinions or religion are unacceptable to his government. The newspaper reader feels a sickening sense of impotence. Yet if these feelings of disgust all over the world could be united into common action, something effective could be done."

In October, as part of the campaign, Benenson published Persecution 1961, a short book which contained the stories of a handful of men and women from varying political and religious outlooks who had suffered imprisonment for expressing their opinions. By the end of that month Amnesty had accumulated 840 case files from 31 countries and the outlook was promising.

Amnesty International, one of the original and most successful transnational NGOs, was a child of a post-war, post-Holocaust morality that wrenched human suffering out of the realm of political ideology and culture. It began with a very concrete and noble concern for imprisoned and mistreated “prisoners of conscience”, but it declined to accord any causal significance to either the nature of the imprisoning regime or the cause of the imprisoned. In perfect accord with the zeitgeist of the immediate postwar decades, it dovetailed nicely with popular movements like world federalism, French existentialism and progressive anti-colonialism. It held that, by definition, all governments were equally suspect and all dissenters equally noble. Its brilliant letter-writing campaigns offered participation in the grand sweep of international politics to one and all, and only the churlish would begrudge the pride and satisfaction of those thousands of ordinary folks who tirelessly penned appeals on behalf of some wretched prisoner half a world away.

But choices must be made, and from the very beginning its “apolitical” stance pulled it in an anti-Western direction, if only because it was much more effective dealing with accessible autocratic thugs than with the far more murderous and closed communist world. Nothing succeeds like success and the squeaky wheel gets the grease, not to mention the financial contributions. It is telling that Mr. Benenson’s inspirational rage was triggered by two Portuguese students in the same year Mao-Tse-Tung was orchestrating the death by starvation of untold millions. Knowing full well that all the letters in the world could not sway a fanatic and dogmatic totalitarian, they aimed at softer targets and, in the process, convinced themselves that these were the epicentre of human depravity. Amnesty didn’t just battle injustice, it came to define it.

Today, Amnesty bears little resemblance to a grassroots movement worrying about individuals. It has been taken over completely by that scourge of modern Western life, the professional activist, who finds individuals rather a bore. As with many other successful NGOs, it now spends most of its time in the much more exciting enchanted kingdom of UN diplomacy--issuing press releases, commissioning studies, hurrying to conferences and passing resolutions to promote the secular apocalypse of abstract, universal “human rights”. Many of these rights have little to do with human freedom and dignity. They also have much more to do with words on paper than with the real lives of human beings. And, perhaps most importantly, they increasingly require coercion to enforce. Let us be thankful that a great humanitarian like Mr. Benenson will not live to see his brainchild become an agent for the imprisonment and oppression of those fighting for true freedom.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:03 AM


Saving for college? Try a Roth. (Annette Varnier, 2/28/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

When it comes to saving money for college, many parents find themselves in a conundrum: They want to save for their children's education, yet they need to save for retirement at the same time.

While many financial experts advise making retirement saving the first priority, most parents still want to be able to pay at least part of their children's college costs. Thus, they often establish separate accounts: 401(k) plans to fund their own retirement and state-sponsored 529 plans to save for college.

But there's a third option families should consider adding to the savings mix, experts say: a Roth Individual Retirement Account.

"The Roth IRA has a lot of appeal for retirement and can be used for college, too," says Joseph Hurley, founder and chief executive of savingforcollege.com. The website specializes in providing information about 529 plans and other methods of saving for higher education.

"People should generally save for retirement first, because you can't get loans for retirement, and there are a lot of other sources of help available for college, including loans," Mr. Hurley says. In particular, 401(k) plans often come with matching contributions from employers.

But after retirement is covered, it's time to take a closer look at 529 college savings plans and Roth IRAs. Both plans use after-tax dollars for contributions, so you don't get a tax break up front but your earnings grow tax-free. Withdrawals from a 529 plan for education costs are tax-free, but so are withdrawals from a Roth IRA if the owner is over 59-1/2 and has had the account for over five years.

Isn't it long past time to combine all these accounts into one?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:50 AM


'Million Dollar Baby' Dominates Oscars (SHARON WAXMAN and DAVID M. HALBFINGER, 2/28/05, NY Times)

In a year without blockbusters in the biggest Oscar categories, "Million Dollar Baby," an intimate film about an underdog female boxer, captured four top awards Sunday at the 77th Academy Awards: best picture, best director, best actress and best supporting actor.

In a way, it's fortunate Christopher Reeve died before he could see how much his peers despised him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:49 AM


Accounts could help Americans retire rich (Kevin G. Hall, 2/27/05, Knight Ridder Newspapers

One new proposal emerging from the national debate on how to overhaul Social Security could make every American a millionaire at age 65.

Paul O'Neill, President Bush's first treasury secretary and a former chief executive officer of aluminum giant Alcoa, proposes having the government stake every American baby at birth to an investment savings account. By the time the child retires, the account would contain $1 million or more. The idea is drawing attention from an unusual coalition of lawmakers from both parties, liberals as well as conservatives.

How delicious would be the irony if Mr. O'Neill, the only Cabinet member forced out of the Bush Administration, were to help him secure his greatest victory.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:48 AM


Markets cheer India's budget (Asia Times. 3/01/05)

India's Finance Minister P Chidambaram Monday unveiled his budget - the government's annual exercise of presenting the books and stating the economic policies to be followed in the coming year - that aimed at combating poverty, significantly changed the tax structure and showed signs that foreign direct investment (FDI) in more sectors might soon be liberalized. [...]

Further liberalizing state-controlled banks, the finance minister proposed a bill to amend the current bank law and indicated that FDI in the pension, mining and trade sectors would be liberalized. Foreign-fund holdings' limit in state-run banks has been raised to 24% from 20%. FDI in private banks, it was announced, would be relaxed to 74% from 49%. [...]

Chidambaram also announced steps to strengthen the capital market. Foreign institutional investors will be permitted to submit appropriate collateral when trading in derivatives on the domestic market. Market regulators will be asked to permit mutual funds to introduce a gold exchange-traded funds scheme to enable any household to buy and sell gold in units for as little as 100 rupees - about $2.

The captains of Indian industry hailed the budget, some even going as far to call it a "dream budget". Tarun Das of the Confederation of Indian Industry, an industry body, said: "We are on a good wicket as far as the economy is concerned and reforms are on track. There are so many positives that it is difficult to find negatives."

A large measure of relief has been provided to middle class income tax payers, with a change in tax brackets. Chidambaram also spelt out wide-ranging changes in the indirect tax regime, bringing down the peak customs duty on non-agriculture products to 15% from the existing 20%.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Can Lost Morality be Restored in Modern Societies? (Gertrude Himmelfarb, Nov/Dec 1995, The American Enterprise Online)

[V]ictorian England went through an Industrial Revolution even more consequential than our current post- industrial tumult—because it involved not just economic and technological transformation, but also an urban revolution, a political revolution, and a social revolution, having the potential to subvert authority, tradition, religion, and morality. Yet the Victorians bore these upheavals without experiencing any moral crisis.

Indeed, the Victorians came out of their modernizing revolution with an accession of morality. An illegitimacy ratio of 7 percent in 1845 fell to 4 percent by the end of the century; in East London, the poorest part of the city, it was even lower. Crime, drunkenness, violence, illiteracy, and vagrancy all declined. The underclass, known to the early Victorians as the “ragged and dangerous classes,” virtually disappeared by the end of the century.

These improvements in the Victorian period contrast dramatically with the deterioration during our own time. In the past three decades alone, illegitimacy and crime in England have increased six fold. The American figures are remarkably similar. Which makes one wonder: What did the Victorians know that we don’t?

In 1839, at a time of social unrest, Thomas Carlyle urged his countrymen to pay less attention to the material standards of the people and more to their “disposition”—the beliefs, feelings, attitudes, and habits that inclined them either to a “wholesome composure, frugality, and prosperity,” or to an “acrid unrest, recklessness, gin-drinking, and gradual ruin.” By the end of the century it was evident that most citizens, even in the poorest classes, had chosen the first path.

Victorian England was shaped not only by the industrial revolution that had started half a century before, but also by a moral reformation launched even earlier. This reformation began in the middle of the eighteenth century with the Wesleyan religious revival, and was reinforced a generation later by Evangelicalism. Wesleyanism was remarkable in several respects. From the beginning, it was as much a movement for moral as for religious reform—as much an ethic as a creed. The ethic had two aspects: the individualistic Puritan ethic of work, thrift, temperance, self-reliance, and self-discipline; and a social ethic of good works and charity. The Wesleyans established societies for the care of abandoned children, destitute governesses, shipwrecked sailors, and penitent prostitutes. They founded schools, hospitals, and orphanages. They led the agitations for prison reform, child labor laws, factory and sanitary regulations, and the abolition of the slave trade. And they did all of this as a religious obligation.

The other remarkable aspect of this religious-cum-moral revival was the fact that it affected all classes of England. After Wesley’s death in 1791, the movement split, with the Methodists leaving the Church of England to form their own dissenting sects, and the Evangelicals remaining within the Church. The Methodists appealed primarily to the working and lower middle classes, the Evangelicals to the middle and upper classes. But whatever their social and theological differences, they shared a common ethic that transcended class lines. (And political lines as well; it was as much the ethic of Chartists and socialists as of liberals and conservatives.)

In the course of the nineteenth century, the religious impulse became attenuated somewhat, especially among the educated. But the moral fervor remained; indeed it intensified, as if to compensate for the loss of religious zeal. The secular ethic expressed itself in George Eliot’s famous dictum: God is “inconceivable,” immortality “unbelievable,” but duty nonetheless “peremptory and absolute.”

It was this ethic—born of religion, and retaining, even in its secularized form, all the authority and passion of religion—that preserved the moral character of England in a period of intense economic and social change. And not only the moral character of the people but also the social habits and institutions that comprise what we now call “civil society”: the family, neighborhoods, churches, self-help groups, local authorities, and a myriad of voluntary societies and philanthropies.

Elie Halévy, the great French historian of Victorian England, wrote seven volumes to account for “the miracle of modern England”—the fact that England was spared the bloody political revolutions that convulsed the continent. Underlying England’s political miracle, however, was something deeper: the miracle of social and moral regeneration.

Morality is not yet a problem,” wrote Nietzsche in 1888. But it would become a problem, he predicted, when the people discovered that without religion there is no morality. The “English flatheads” (his sobriquet for liberals like George Eliot and John Stuart Mill) thought it possible to get rid of the Christian God while retaining Christian morality. They did not realize that “when one gives up the Christian faith, one pulls the right to Christian morality out from under one’s feet.”

A century later, morality definitely is a problem, perhaps the most serious problem of modernity. And foremost among the reasons for this is Nietzsche’s own explanation: the death of God and morality. In retrospect, one might say that Victorian England was living off the moral capital of religion, and that post-Victorian England, well into the twentieth century, was living off the capital of a secularized morality. Perhaps what we are now witnessing is the moral bankruptcy that comes with the depletion of both the religious and the quasi-religious capital.

This raises a critical question: Is there any prospect of remoralizing a society once it has fallen into moral decadence?

And, if there is any, how far does the society have to fall first?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Pakistan ex-PM heads to U.S. for talks (Anwar Iqbal, 2/25/05, UPI)

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto is coming to the United States next week amid reports of new political arrangements in Pakistan.

Sources at her Pakistan People's Party told United Press International Bhutto hopes to meet senior U.S. officials in Washington on the eventual restoration of democracy to her country. [...]

Earlier this month, U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher also urged Musharraf to quit the army but said Washington regarded democracy in Pakistan as "more than the (dispute over Musharraf's) uniform" and that it wanted the next elections, scheduled for 2007, to be held in accordance with "international standards" and with "full participation" of all political parties.

On Thursday, Musharraf told reporters in Pakistan his government was negotiating with Bhutto on the future political set-up in the country.

"We need to discourage extremist elements by working with moderate political parties, including (Bhutto's) PPP, especially to have some agreement beyond 2007," he said.

Don't want to be the last Islamic nation to liberalize...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Secret Syrian, Israeli peace talks in Jordan, 'Post' learns (ORLY HALPERN, Feb. 28, 2005, THE JERUSALEM POST)

Syrian, Jordanian and Israeli Foreign Ministry officials held secret peace talks in Jordan last week, an official Jordanian source told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. According to the source, technical committees from Syria and Israel were hosted at the Movenpick Hotel on the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea.

Another meeting is planned, but there is no date set for it yet, said the source, who added that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss possibilities for more substantive peace contacts. The Israeli Foreign Ministry had no comment on the meeting. "This is the first time I have heard of this," said Mark Regev, the ministry's spokesman.

Syrian President Bashar Assad last November invited Israel to enter peace negotiations without preconditions.

Better hurry if they're going to get a deal before the regime falls.

Syria May Be Bowing to Pressure (SALAH NASRAWI, 2/27/05, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Syria, long blamed for Middle East mayhem, seems to be bowing to U.S.-led international pressure to shed its image as a sponsor of regional instability.

Iraqi authorities say Syria - accused among other things of aiding anti-Israeli extremists and fanning the insurgency in Iraq - handed over Saddam Hussein's feared half brother, Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hassan. The decision came as an apparent goodwill gesture to ease tensions with the United States, which has demanded Damascus stop aiding Mideast militants and withdraw its 15,000 soldiers from neighboring Lebanon.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Bush Weighs Offers To Iran: U.S. Might Join Effort to Halt Nuclear Program (Robin Wright, February 28, 2005, Washington Post)

The Bush administration is close to a decision to join Europe in offering incentives to Iran -- possibly including eventual membership in the World Trade Organization -- in exchange for Tehran's formal agreement to surrender any plans to develop a nuclear weapon, according to senior U.S. officials.

The day after returning from Europe, President Bush met Friday afternoon with the principal members of his foreign policy team to discuss requests made by German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac in particular. More discussions are expected this week, but the White House wants to move quickly to finalize a list of incentives to offer Tehran as part of European talks with Iran, officials said.

The new willingness to engage, even if indirectly, marks a significant change from a position that Iran deserved no rewards for actions it is legally bound to take under terms of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. But Bush's talks last week convinced him that a united front -- in offering carrots now and a stick later if Iran does not comply -- would be more effective, U.S. and European officials say.

"The reason we're comfortable considering this tactically is because strategically, when the president was in Europe, he found them solid on the big issue: that Iran can't have a nuclear weapon. Having found them firm on the strategic issue, he's more willing to consider the tactical aspects with the Europeans -- including how do we work with them and what can the Europeans offer that we would be part of it," said a senior State Department official speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive diplomacy.

We may still have to take out the nuclear facilities militarily, but time is on our side, not the mullahs', in Iran. In fact, the President should very publicly try to travel there and pull a Reagan, meeting with dissidents and giving an Iranian version of the Moscow State University Speech:
We are seeing the power of economic freedom spreading around the world — places such as the Republic of Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan have vaulted into the technological era, barely pausing in the industrial age along the way. Low-tax agricultural policies in the sub-continent mean that in some years India is now a net exporter of food. Perhaps most exciting are the winds of change that are blowing over the People's republic of China, where one-quarter of the world's population is now getting its first taste of economic freedom.

At the same time, the growth of democracy has become one of the most powerful political movements of our age. In Latin America in the 1970's, only a third of the population lived under democratic government. Today over 90 percent does. In the Philippines, in the Republic of Korea, free, contested, democratic elections are the order of the day. Throughout the world, free markets are the model for growth. Democracy is the standard by which governments are measured.

We Americans make no secret of our belief in freedom. In fact, it's something of a national pastime. Every four years the American people choose a new president, and 1988 is one of those years. At one point there were 13 major candidates running in the two major parties, not to mention all the others, including the Socialist and Libertarian candidates — all trying to get my job.

About 1,000 local television stations, 8,500 radio stations, and 1,700 daily newspapers, each one an independent, private enterprise, fiercely independent of the government, report on the candidates, grill them in interviews, and bring them together for debates. In the end, the people vote — they decide who will be the next president.

But freedom doesn't begin or end with elections. Go to any American town, to take just an example, and you'll see dozens of synagogues and mosques — and you'll see families of every conceivable nationality, worshipping together.

Go into any schoolroom, and there you will see children being taught the Declaration of Independence, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights — among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, that no government can justly deny — the guarantees in their Constitution for freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of religion.

Go into any courtroom and there will preside an independent judge, beholden to no government power. There every defendant has the right to a trial by a jury of his peers, usually 12 men and women — common citizens, they are the ones, the only ones, who weigh the evidence and decide on guilt or innocence. In that court, the accused is innocent until proven guilty, and the word of a policeman, or any official, has no greater legal standing than the word of the accused.

Go to any university campus, and there you'll find an open, sometimes heated discussion of the problems in American society and what can be done to correct them. Turn on the television, and you'll see the legislature conducting the business of government right there before the camera, debating and voting on the legislation that will become the law of the land. March in any demonstrations, and there are many of them — the people's right of assembly is guaranteed in the Constitution and protected by the police.

But freedom is more even than this: Freedom is the right to question, and change the established way of doing things. It is the continuing revolution of the marketplace. It is the understanding that allows us to recognize shortcomings and seek solutions. It is the right to put forth an idea, scoffed at by the experts, and watch it catch fire among the people. It is the right to stick - to dream - to follow your dream, or stick to your conscience, even if you're the only one in a sea of doubters.

Freedom is the recognition that no single person, no single authority of government has a monopoly on the truth, but that every individual life is infinitely precious, that every one of us put on this world has been put there for a reason and has something to offer.

America is a nation made up of hundreds of nationalities. Our ties to you are more than ones of good feeling; they're ties of kinship. In America, you'll find Russians, Armenians, Ukrainians, peoples from Eastern Europe and Central Asia. They come from every part of this vast continent, from every continent, to live in harmony, seeking a place where each cultural heritage is respected, each is valued for its diverse strengths and beauties and the richness it brings to our lives.

Recently, a few individuals and families have been allowed to visit relatives in the West. We can only hope that it won't be long before all are allowed to do so, and Ukrainian-Americans, Baltic-Americans, Armenian-Americans, can freely visit their homelands, just as this Irish-American visits his.

Freedom, it has been said, makes people selfish and materialistic, but Americans are one of the most religious peoples on Earth. Because they know that liberty, just as life itself, is not earned, but a gift from God, they seek to share that gift with the world. "Reason and experience," said George Washington in his farewell address, "both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle. And it is substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government."

Democracy is less a system of government than it is a system to keep government limited, unintrusive: A system of constraints on power to keep politics and government secondary to the important things in life, the true sources of value found only in family and faith.

I have often said, nations do not distrust each other because they are armed; they are armed because they distrust each other. If this globe is to live in peace and prosper, if it is to embrace all the possibilities of the technological revolution, then nations must renounce, once and for all, the right to an expansionist foreign policy. Peace between nations must be an enduring goal — not a tactical stage in a continuing conflict.

I've been told that there's a popular song in your country — perhaps you know it — whose evocative refrain asks the question, "Do the Russians want a war?" In answer it says, "Go ask that silence lingering in the air, above the birch and poplar there; beneath those trees the soldiers lie. Go ask my mother, ask my wife; then you will have to ask no more, 'Do the Russians want a war?'"

But what of your one-time allies? What of those who embraced you on the Elbe? What if we were to ask the watery graves of the Pacific, or the European battlefields where America's fallen were buried far from home? What if we were to ask their mothers, sisters, and sons, do Americans want war? Ask us, too, and you'll find the same answer, the same longing in every heart. People do not make wars, governments do — and no mother would ever willingly sacrifice her sons for territorial gain, for economic advantage, for ideology. A people free to choose will always choose peace.

Americans seek always to make friends of old antagonists. After a colonial revolution with Britain we have cemented for all ages the ties of kinship between our nations. After a terrible civil war between North and South, we healed our wounds and found true unity as a nation. We fought two world wars in my lifetime against Germany and one with Japan, but now the Federal Republic of Germany and Japan are two of our closest allies and friends.

Some people point to the trade disputes between us as a sign of strain, but they're the frictions of all families, and the family of free nations is a big and vital and sometimes boisterous one. I can tell you that nothing would please my heart more than in my lifetime to see American and Soviet diplomats grappling with the problem of trade disputes between America and a growing, exuberant, exporting Soviet Union that had opened up to economic freedom and growth.

Is this just a dream? Perhaps. But it is a dream that is our responsibility to have come true.

Your generation is living in one of the most exciting, hopeful times in Soviet history. It is a time when the first breath of freedom stirs the air and the heart beats to the accelerated rhythm of hope, when the accumulated spiritual energies of a long silence yearn to break free.

We do not know what the conclusion of this journey will be, but we're hopeful that the promise of reform will be fulfilled. In this Moscow spring, this May 1988, we may be allowed that hope — that freedom, like the fresh green sapling planted over Tolstoy's grave, will blossom forth at least in the rich fertile soil of your people and culture. We may be allowed to hope that the marvelous sound of a new openness will keep rising through, ringing through, leading to a new world of reconciliation, friendship, and peace.

Thank you all very much and da blagoslovit vas gospod! God bless you.

February 27, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:55 PM


Liberalism: Can it survive? (John Leo, 3/07/05, US News)

Modern liberalism, says Harvard political philosopher Michael Sandel, has emptied the national narrative of its civic resources, putting religion outside the public square and creating a value-neutral "procedural republic." One of the old heroes of liberalism, John Dewey, said in 1897 that the practical problem of modern society is the maintenance of the spiritual values of civilization. Not much room in liberal thought for that now, or for what another liberal icon, Walter Lippmann, called the "public philosophy." The failure to perceive the importance of community has seriously wounded liberalism and undermined its core principles. So has the strong tendency to convert moral and social questions into issues of individual rights, usually constructed and then massaged by judges to place them beyond the reach of majorities and the normal democratic process.

Liberals have been slow to grasp the mainstream reaction to the no-values culture, chalking it up to Karl Rove, sinister fundamentalists, racism, or the stupidity of the American voter. Since November 2, the withering contempt of liberals for ordinary Americans has been astonishing. Voting for Bush gave "quite average Americans a chance to feel superior," said Andrew Hacker, a prominent liberal professor at Queens College. We are seeing the bitterness of elites who wish to lead, confronted by multitudes who do not wish to follow. Liberals might one day conclude that while most Americans value autonomy, they do not want a procedural republic in which patriotism, religion, socialization, and traditional values are politically declared out of bounds. Many Americans notice that liberalism nowadays lacks a vocabulary of right and wrong, declines to discuss virtue except in snickering terms, and seems increasingly hostile to prevailing moral sentiments.

For a stark vision of what cultural liberalism has come to, consider the breakdown of the universities, the fortresses of the 1960s cultural liberals and their progeny. Students are taught that objective judgments are impossible. All knowledge is compromised by issues of power and bias. Therefore, there is no way to come to judgment about anything, since judgment itself rests on quicksand. This principle, however, is suspended when the United States and western culture are discussed, because the West is essentially evil and guilty of endless crimes. Better to declare a vague transnational identity and admiration for the United Nations.

Postmodernism is, of course, just a rehash of the pre-modern demolition of Reason. In its pre-modern form the critique represented little challenge to people of faith -- who just nodded their heads and said, okay faith remains superior to reason after all, But the post-modern version was fatal to those who had ignored the warnings and bought into modern Rationalism whole hog, leaving them no faith to fall back on. In modern liberalism we see people who stand for nothing because there is no solid ground for them to stand on. We are fortunate in Amerivca that our Founding, unlike the French Revolution, represented a rejection of Rationalism

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:23 PM


Behind the Suit: Politics: He's a doctor, scholar and perhaps Iraq's next leader (Babak Dehghanpisheh, 3/07/05, Newsweek)

Ibrahim Jafari prefers to wear suits. But he could, by Shiite tradition, don the robes and turban of a cleric. His family traces its lineage directly to the Prophet Muhammad. While in exile in London, Jafari, a doctor by training, placed himself under the tutelage of a cleric. His studies earned him the distinguished rank of mujtahid, a person who can make religious rulings. "People know him as a politician," says Adnan Ali al-Kadhimi, one of Jafari's aides. "They don't know the depth of his knowledge about the ideology of Islam." That knowledge—and religious commitment—has some Iraqis worried.

After extensive wrangling, the United Iraqi Alliance, the Shiite-dominated list with a majority of seats in the National Assembly, nominated Jafari as its candidate for prime minister last week. A political deadlock ended after Ahmad Chalabi, a secular Shiite and former Pentagon favorite, dropped out of the race. The mild-mannered Jafari, 58, didn't seem like an obvious choice. Though he served as a vice president in the interim government, his time in office was unremarkable. Now some secular-minded Iraqis are scrutinizing his background. If Jafari gets Iraq's top job, is he going to be moderate or push a conservative religious agenda? "The [alliance] list is obviously influenced by the clerics," says Ghassan Atiyya, director of the Iraqi Foundation for Development and Democracy. "It's hard to tell where Jafari stands. He's good in his pronouncements and his rhetoric, but you can't get ahold of something concrete in what he's saying."

On a few key issues, Jafari has been saying the right things. He has promised to reach out to Sunnis and include them in the political process. He has vowed to crack down on insurgents. And he has won tacit American support by refusing to set a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. forces. The current prime minister, Ayad Allawi, played up his tough-guy image to get into office. Jafari has used his knack for persuasive dialogue and his affable manner to win over fellow politicians. This approach has worked with ordinary Iraqis, too: a handful of opinion polls last year ranked Jafari as one of the most trusted public figures in the country.

Sistani endorses Jaafari's nomination (Lebanon Daily Star, February 26, 2005)
[I]raq's most influential Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, endorsed Ibrahim al-Jaafari's nomination for prime minister. [...]

Iranian-born Sistani's endorsement came after members of the clergy-backed alliance openly questioned its decision Tuesday to nominate 58-year-old Jaafari, who heads the conservative Islamic Dawa Party, as its candidate for prime minister following Jan. 30 elections. "Ayatollah Sistani blessed the decision taken by the alliance about the prime minister post. He respects and supports what the alliance have decided," Jaafari told reporters after meeting with Sistani in the southern Shiite holy city of Najaf.

He said that Iraq's Sunni Arab minority should be brought into the political process and help draft the country's first Constitution. Bringing the Sunni into the political process could help deflate the insurgency.

Sunni Arabs, who make up about 20 percent of the population, dominated Saddam Hussein's Baath party and largely boycotted the elections. They are believed to make up the core of the insurgency.

"Ayatollah Sistani also advised to take into consideration the uniqueness of the Iraqi issue making it impossible not to integrate other sects and to integrate the Sunni people who were not able to participate in the elections," Jaafari quoted Sistani as saying.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:15 PM


Suddenly, Critics Pile On Putin: Getting heat from President Bush is one thing, but the swipes from a former Prime Minister and others could be far more damaging (Jason Bush, 2/2505, Business Week)

As he went into Thursday's summit with U.S. President George Bush, Vladimir Putin was no doubt braced for criticism of his increasingly authoritarian ways. Yet the very same day that the Russian President was getting an earful from Bush in Slovakia, another senior politician -- former Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov -- was digging the knife into his former boss at home, in what could be the start of powerful new political opposition.

Kasyanov, who headed the Russian government between 2000 and 2004, was sacked in March and replaced with Mikhail Fradkov, a little-known bureaucrat no doubt picked because of his complete subservience to Putin. Kasyanov's blistering attack on Putin's policies finally ended months of silence. At a specially convened press conference in Moscow, Kasyanov pulled no punches, slamming everything from Putin's abolition of regional elections to the persecution of the Yukos oil company, the mishandling of reforms, and Russia's social benefits system.

"EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE." Although Kasyanov refrained from blaming Putin personally, the message was crystal clear. "The general conclusion is that the country is going in the wrong direction. The vector has changed. This vector is wrong and negatively influences the social and economic development of the country," he said.

To resist these negative tendencies, Kasyanov added that democratic forces in Russia should unite in a single party. Perhaps Kasyanov himself was up for the job of leading them? He declined to give a definite answer. But the former Premier did hint at presidential ambitions. "Everything is possible," he said. "What's important is that whoever is President in 2008 will lead Russia in a democratic direction."

Strong words indeed from the man who was the head of the Russian government until just a few months ago. It's probably the most stinging public attack on Putin ever made by a former high-ranking official and yet more evidence that, as Putin's political mistakes add up, his critics are getting bolder.

Kasyanov's comments come just a few weeks after almost identical criticisms were voiced by Andrei Illarionov, presidential economic adviser and another political insider who was demoted after speaking out against Putin. "More and more people [in the Russian elite] are willing to criticize Putin both in public and in private. This is all happening very quickly," says Anders Aslund, director of the Russian & Eurasian Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, D.C., who believes Putin's authority is crumbling fast.

Reform or get out of the way.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:44 PM


The Road (Dana Gioia, January 2005, Crisis)

He sometimes felt that he had missed his life
By being far too busy looking for it.
Searching the distance, he often turned to find
That he had passed some milestone unaware,
And someone else was walking next to him,
First friends, then lovers, now children and a wife.
They were good company—generous, kind,
But equally bewildered to be there.

He noticed then that no one chose the way—
All seemed to drift by some collective will.
The path grew easier with each passing day,
Since it was worn and mostly sloped downhill.
The road ahead seemed hazy in the gloom.
Where was it he had meant to go, and with whom?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:39 PM


'Like a Virus That Spreads': The Saudi foreign minister on women, nukes and the U.S.
Al-Faisal: 'Women are more sensible voters than men' (Lally Weymouth, 3/07/05, Newsweek)

WEYMOUTH: Should Saudi women be allowed to vote in the next municipal elections?

PRINCE SAUD: Even the commissioner of elections has said that he is going to propose that they vote. So I am assuming that they will vote in the next election, and that is going to be good for the election, because I think women are more sensible voters than men.

Do you agree that women should take a more active part in your society?

I agree wholeheartedly. Things must happen in a gradual way. But I am proud that the Foreign Ministry is doing its part. For the first time, we are going to have women in the Foreign Ministry this year.

How will the recent assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri affect the region?

In the Arab world, people are sick and tired of tragedies like this. And they are expressing their ire and anger.

Is the government of Saudi Arabia winning the battle against Al Qaeda in the kingdom?

I think we are winning the battle for the safety of our people. But the battle is not in Saudi Arabia alone. It is like a virus which spreads, and unless it is faced globally, it will continue to threaten us.

It's more accurate to view democracy as the virus and Islamicism as a failed vaccine.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:47 AM


IRA market still growing after 30 years (MEG RICHARDS, February 27, 2005, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

It's been 30 years since Americans opened their first Individual Retirement Accounts, and now the tax-deferred program designed to help workers save and preserve funds for the future has grown into a $3 trillion industry.

The IRA was the product of legislation enacted in 1974 to help fill a gap for workers who did not have access to employer-sponsored retirement plans, and to give people who change jobs a way to roll over their accumulated savings. Today, one of every four retirement dollars is held in an IRA, according to the Investment Company Institute, the trade group for the mutual fund industry. More than 45 million U.S. households-- 40 percent-- own IRAs, and that number is expected to rise as workers take greater responsibility for their retirements amid rising doubts about the future of Social Security.

"If you invest often and early in life, time works on your side, and you can really build up a substantial amount toward your retirement security," said Brian Reid, chief economist with the ICI.

Try explaining that to the Democrats.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:44 AM


Bush is what he is, and that's the problem (Leonard Pitts Jr., February 27, 2005, Seattle Times)

We are gathered here to ponder Bush Unplugged.

Meaning, this week's story of how Texas Gov. George W. Bush was secretly recorded on tape by a "friend." [...]

Having read that report several times, I find myself wondering: What, if anything, is the story here?

Yes, Bush seems to implicitly acknowledge on the tape that he once used marijuana, but it's hard to regard that as above-the-fold news, given that his age (58) puts him smack in the middle of a generation for whom drug use was once ubiquitous. Not to trivialize the thing, but frankly, it would be bigger news if Bush had not tried pot.

The Times also quotes Bush on the tape praising John Ashcroft, disparaging Sen. John McCain, ruminating over the advantages and drawbacks of allying too closely with the Christian right, and opposing gay marriage. Again, hardly anything for which you'd want to pause the presses.

Which is why I tend to believe the headline here can be found in the spinach connoisseur's statement that heads this column. And in the part of The Times report that says, "The private Mr. Bush sounds remarkably similar in many ways to the public President Bush."

Bush partisans would look at the absence of dissonance between private Bush and public Bush and say it proves his lack of artifice. As Bush himself is fond of saying, you may not agree with him, but you'll always know where he stands.

Bush critics would say that what is proved here is the president's lack of intellectual agility and resistance to change.

It occurs to me that those views are not mutually exclusive.

Partisans would even say what he has critics saying.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:43 AM


Saddam's half brother captured in Iraq (SAMEER N. YACOUB, February 27, 2005, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Iraqi security forces captured Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hassan, Saddam Hussein's half brother and former adviser who was suspected of financing insurgents after U.S. troops ousted the former dictator, the government said Sunday.

In a statement, the Prime Minister's office said the arrest "shows the determination of the Iraqi government to chase and detain all criminals who carried out massacres and whose hands are stained with the blood of the Iraqi people, then bring them to justice to face the right punishment."

Al-Hassan is No. 36 on the list of 55 most-wanted Iraqis released by U.S. authorities after troops invaded Iraq in March 2003, and one of only 12 remaining at large. He is also suspected of financing insurgents in the post-Saddam era, and Washington had put a $1 million bounty on his head.

The government statement said al-Hassan had "killed and tortured Iraqi people." It also said he had "participated effectively in planning, supervising, and carrying out many terrorist acts in Iraq."

There are reports, though of uncertain reliability, that Mr. Allawi thinks they're close to getting Zarqawi and that catching him would be such a coup that it could secure him the P.M. post in the next government.

Iraq Says Zarqawi Aide Captured (Monte Morin, February 25, 2005, LA Times)

The Iraqi government claimed today that its soldiers had captured a key aide to Jordanian militant Abu Musab Zarqawi, the leader of an insurgent network suspected of killing more than 500 people in a wave of car bombings, assassinations and beheadings.

The capture is the latest in a string of raids conducted in Baghdad, Mosul and western Iraq said to net top Zarqawi lieutenants and soldiers. Iraqi and U.S. military authorities claim to have captured or killed more than half a dozen such operatives since January, including the network's top bomb maker and it's website designer.

In a statement today, the government said Iraqi forces had captured Talib Mikhlif Arsan Walman al-Dulaymi, a lieutenant responsible for "arranging safehouses and transportation as well as passing packages and funds to Zarqawi."

The suspected aide, who also goes by the name Abu Qutaybah, was seized in a Feb. 20 raid in Anah, a town about 160 miles northwest of Baghdad, in the western province of Anbar, the government said. The province is dominated by Sunni Muslims, who have led the ongoing insurgency since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

"Abu Qutaybah was responsible for determining who, when and how terrorist network leaders would meet with Zarqawi," the government said. "His extensive contacts and operational ability throughout western Iraq made him a critical figure in the Zarqawi network."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:37 AM


Bush's Next Target: Malpractice Lawyers (STEVE LOHR, 2/27/05, NY Times)

This month, the administration won the first round in its fight to curb litigation, as Congress passed legislation to sharply restrict class-action lawsuits against companies. Next up is medical malpractice. In his re-election campaign, Mr. Bush repeatedly decried "junk lawsuits" as the bane of the nation's doctors. The issue was deftly framed, and the subtext was clear: greedy lawyers were attacking the Marcus Welbys of America, good doctors doing their best.

In a speech last month in Illinois, Mr. Bush again called for strict limits on medical malpractice suits, including "a hard cap of $250,000" on what patients could recover for non-economic damages like physical and emotional pain and suffering. Returning to his election-year themes, Mr. Bush said doctors "should be focused on fighting illnesses, not fighting lawsuits."

"We need to fix a broken medical liability system," he said, and he called on Congress to act this year. This month, a medical litigation overhaul bill, mirroring the administration's proposals, was introduced in the Senate by two Republican senators, John Ensign of Nevada and Judd Gregg of New Hampshire.

THE medical liability system, health care analysts agree, is deeply flawed. But they also generally agree that the solution offered by the administration and the Republican Congress - putting a ceiling on damages - addresses only one aspect of the problem.

Medical liability policy, said Dr. William M. Sage, a physician and a law professor at Columbia University, should seek three goals: restraining overall costs, compensating the victims of medical mistakes and providing incentives for doctors and hospitals to reduce medical errors.

"There is a strong consensus among people who have really studied the issue that caps on damages would tend to keep costs down and make liability insurance more affordable for doctors," Dr. Sage said. "And there is a universal consensus that caps would do absolutely nothing to reduce medical errors or to compensate injured patients. If anything, caps on damages would make those problems worse."

Medical malpractice laws vary state by state. But California offers a glimpse of a future preferred by the administration and many Republicans in Congress. In 1975, California passed the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act, which included a cap of $250,000 for damages like pain and suffering in malpractice cases. It did not limit economic damages for things like the cost of continuing care for a person disabled or wages lost because of medical errors. The law also curbed attorneys' fees on a sliding scale that prohibited them from collecting more than 15 percent on award amounts over $600,000, with higher percentages for the amounts below that sum. (In states without limits on fees, contingency payments to malpractice lawyers are typically about one-third of awards.)

Research varies on the likely impact of curbs on awards and fees, but a RAND Corporation study last year concluded that the California law had reduced the net recoveries for plaintiffs by 15 percent and had cut attorneys' fees by far more, an estimated 60 percent. Defendant liabilities, it calculated, were trimmed 30 percent because of the law.

One of the things we'll need as we transition to HSAs, which make patients into consumers again, is better reporting and dissemination of information about medical errors and who's making them, so that people can make informed choices about where to seek care. Making such a reporting system an element of this bill seems sensible.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:31 AM


U.S. can sit back and watch Europe implode (MARK STEYN, February 27, 2005, Chicago SUN-TIMES)

I had the opportunity to talk with former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing on a couple of occasions during his long labors as the self-declared and strictly single Founding Father. He called himself ''Europe's Jefferson,'' and I didn't like to quibble that, constitution-wise, Jefferson was Europe's Jefferson -- that's to say, at the time the U.S. Constitution was drawn up, Thomas Jefferson was living in France. Thus, for Giscard to be Europe's Jefferson, he'd have to be in Des Moines, where he'd be doing far less damage.

But, quibbles aside, President Giscard professed to be looking in the right direction. When I met him, he had an amiable riff on how he'd been in Washington and bought one of those compact copies of the U.S. Constitution on sale for a buck or two. Many Americans wander round with the constitution in their pocket so they can whip it out and chastise over-reaching congressmen and senators at a moment's notice. Try going round with the European Constitution in your pocket and you'll be walking with a limp after two hours: It's 511 pages, which is 500 longer than the U.S. version. It's full of stuff about European space policy, Slovakian nuclear plants, water resources, free expression for children, the right to housing assistance, preventive action on the environment, etc.

Most of the so-called constitution isn't in the least bit constitutional. That's to say, it's not content, as the U.S. Constitution is, to define the distribution and limitation of powers. Instead, it reads like a U.S. defense spending bill that's got porked up with a ton of miscellaneous expenditures for the ''mohair subsidy'' and other notorious Congressional boondoggles. President Ronald Reagan liked to say, ''We are a nation that has a government -- not the other way around.'' If you want to know what it looks like the other way round, read Monsieur Giscard's constitution.

But the fact is it's going to be ratified, and Washington is hardly in a position to prevent it. Plus there's something to be said for the theory that, as the EU constitution is a disaster waiting to happen, you might as well cut down the waiting and let it happen. CIA analysts predict the collapse of the EU within 15 years. I'd say, as predictions of doom go, that's a little on the cautious side.

But either way the notion that it's a superpower in the making is preposterous. Most administration officials subscribe to one of two views: a) Europe is a smugly irritating but irrelevant backwater; or b) Europe is a smugly irritating but irrelevant backwater where the whole powder keg's about to go up.

For what it's worth, I incline to the latter position.

Maybe Mr. Estaing meant he'd found his own Sally Hemmings?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:24 AM


Biden: Clinton Hard to Beat in 2008 Race (AP, 2/27/05)

"I think she'd be incredibly difficult to beat," the Delaware Democrat said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press." "I think she is the most difficult obstacle for anyone being the nominee." [...]

"She is likely to be the nominee," Biden said. [...]

Biden said he is thinking about running again, 20 years after his first failed bid for the White House because "there's a lot at stake."

There was an awkward moment when the Senator, asked if he was running, said: "I'm Joe Biden and I'm reporting for duty."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:24 AM


TIME BANDITS: What were Einstein and Gödel talking about? (JIM HOLT, 2005-02-28, The New Yorker)

Gödel entered the University of Vienna in 1924. He had intended to study physics, but he was soon seduced by the beauties of mathematics, and especially by the notion that abstractions like numbers and circles had a perfect, timeless existence independent of the human mind. This doctrine, which is called Platonism, because it descends from Plato’s theory of ideas, has always been popular among mathematicians. In the philosophical world of nineteen-twenties Vienna, however, it was considered distinctly old-fashioned. Among the many intellectual movements that flourished in the city’s rich café culture, one of the most prominent was the Vienna Circle, a group of thinkers united in their belief that philosophy must be cleansed of metaphysics and made over in the image of science. Under the influence of Ludwig Wittgenstein, their reluctant guru, the members of the Vienna Circle regarded mathematics as a game played with symbols, a more intricate version of chess. What made a proposition like “2 + 2 = 4” true, they held, was not that it correctly described some abstract world of numbers but that it could be derived in a logical system according to certain rules.

Gödel was introduced into the Vienna Circle by one of his professors, but he kept quiet about his Platonist views. Being both rigorous and averse to controversy, he did not like to argue his convictions unless he had an airtight way of demonstrating that they were valid. But how could one demonstrate that mathematics could not be reduced to the artifices of logic? Gödel’s strategy—one of “heart-stopping beauty,” as Goldstein justly observes—was to use logic against itself. Beginning with a logical system for mathematics, one presumed to be free of contradictions, he invented an ingenious scheme that allowed the formulas in it to engage in a sort of double speak. A formula that said something about numbers could also, in this scheme, be interpreted as saying something about other formulas and how they were logically related to one another. In fact, as Gödel showed, a numerical formula could even be made to say something about itself. (Goldstein compares this to a play in which the characters are also actors in a play within the play; if the playwright is sufficiently clever, the lines the actors speak in the play within the play can be interpreted as having a “real life” meaning in the play proper.) Having painstakingly built this apparatus of mathematical self-reference, Gödel came up with an astonishing twist: he produced a formula that, while ostensibly saying something about numbers, also says, “I am not provable.” At first, this looks like a paradox, recalling as it does the proverbial Cretan who announces, “All Cretans are liars.” But Gödel’s self-referential formula comments on its provability, not on its truthfulness. Could it be lying? No, because if it were, that would mean it could be proved, which would make it true. So, in asserting that it cannot be proved, it has to be telling the truth. But the truth of this proposition can be seen only from outside the logical system. Inside the system, it is neither provable nor disprovable. The system, then, is incomplete. The conclusion—that no logical system can capture all the truths of mathematics—is known as the first incompleteness theorem. Gödel also proved that no logical system for mathematics could, by its own devices, be shown to be free from inconsistency, a result known as the second incompleteness theorem.

Wittgenstein once averred that “there can never be surprises in logic.” But Gödel’s incompleteness theorems did come as a surprise. In fact, when the fledgling logician presented them at a conference in the German city of Königsberg in 1930, almost no one was able to make any sense of them. What could it mean to say that a mathematical proposition was true if there was no possibility of proving it? The very idea seemed absurd. Even the once great logician Bertrand Russell was baffled; he seems to have been under the misapprehension that Gödel had detected an inconsistency in mathematics. “Are we to think that 2 + 2 is not 4, but 4.001?” Russell asked decades later in dismay, adding that he was “glad [he] was no longer working at mathematical logic.” As the significance of Gödel’s theorems began to sink in, words like “debacle,” “catastrophe,” and “nightmare” were bandied about. It had been an article of faith that, armed with logic, mathematicians could in principle resolve any conundrum at all—that in mathematics, as it had been famously declared, there was no ignorabimus. Gödel’s theorems seemed to have shattered this ideal of complete knowledge.

That was not the way Gödel saw it. He believed he had shown that mathematics has a robust reality that transcends any system of logic. But logic, he was convinced, is not the only route to knowledge of this reality; we also have something like an extrasensory perception of it, which he called “mathematical intuition.” It is this faculty of intuition that allows us to see, for example, that the formula saying “I am not provable” must be true, even though it defies proof within the system where it lives. Some thinkers (like the physicist Roger Penrose) have taken this theme further, maintaining that Gödel’s incompleteness theorems have profound implications for the nature of the human mind. Our mental powers, it is argued, must outstrip those of any computer, since a computer is just a logical system running on hardware, and our minds can arrive at truths that are beyond the reach of a logical system.

The Materialists still take it rather poorly when you point out that their Reason and Logic rest on a basis of Faith (or intuition as Godel would have it). But Godel was correct, it simply means that our access to ultimate reality is not rational, but faith-based.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:19 AM


Summers' Remarks Supported by Some Experts (MATT CRENSON, 2/27/05, AP)

"Among people who do the research, it's not so controversial. There are lots and lots of studies that show that mens' and womens' brains are different," says Richard J. Haier, a professor of psychology in the pediatrics department of the University of California Los Angeles medical school.

What does actual science have to do with academic arguments?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:17 AM


W.'s Stiletto Democracy (MAUREEN DOWD, 2/27/05, NY Times)

It was remarkable to see President Bush lecture Vladimir Putin on the importance of checks and balances in a democratic society.

Remarkably brazen, given that the only checks Mr. Bush seems to believe in are those written to the "journalists" Armstrong Williams, Maggie Gallagher and Karen Ryan, the fake TV anchor, to help promote his policies. The administration has given a whole new meaning to checkbook journalism, paying a stupendous $97 million to an outside P.R. firm to buy columnists and produce propaganda, including faux video news releases.

The only balance W. likes is the slavering, Pravda-like "Fair and Balanced" coverage Fox News provides. Mr. Bush pledges to spread democracy while his officials strive to create a Potemkin press village at home. This White House seems to prefer softball questions from a self-advertised male escort with a fake name to hardball questions from journalists with real names; it prefers tossing journalists who protect their sources into the gulag to giving up the officials who broke the law by leaking the name of their own C.I.A. agent.

These folk wonder how the moron keeps hganding them their butts on a serving tray but then obsess over such trivialities during a week when Mr. Putin pledged that Russia would not retreat from democracy, Togo and Egypt were forced to hold elections for their next leaders, the Palestinians forced a reformist cabinet on their elected leadership and then denounced a terrorist act against Israel, and Syria began the process of withdrawing from the Lebanon. Ms Dowd can identify 52 different varieties of navel lint but wouldn't know a world historical shift if it hit her in the head.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:16 AM


Winston Churchill, Neocon? (JACOB HEILBRUNN, 2/27/05, NY Times Book Review)

Douglas J. Feith was becoming excited. After spending an afternoon discussing the war in Iraq with him, I asked what books had most influenced him. Feith, the under secretary of defense for policy and a prominent neoconservative, raced across his large library and began pulling down gilt-edged volumes on the British Empire. Behind his desk loomed a bust of Winston Churchill.

It was a telling moment. In England right-wing historians are portraying the last lion as a drunk, a dilettante, an incorrigible bungler who squandered the opportunity to cut a separate peace with Hitler that would have preserved the British Empire. On the American right, by contrast, Churchill idolatry has reached its finest hour. George W. Bush, who has said ''I loved Churchill's stand on principle,'' installed a bronze bust of him in the Oval Office after becoming president. On Jan. 21, 2005, Bush issued a letter with ''greetings to all those observing the 40th anniversary of the passing of Sir Winston Churchill.'' The Weekly Standard named Churchill ''Man of the Century.'' So did the columnist Charles Krauthammer, who in December 2002 delivered the third annual Churchill Dinner speech sponsored by conservative Hillsdale College; its president, Larry P. Arnn, also happens to belong to the International Churchill Society. William J. Luti, a leading neoconservative in the Pentagon, recently told me, ''Churchill was the first neocon.'' Apart from Michael Lind writing in the British magazine The Spectator, however, the Churchill phenomenon has received scant attention. Yet to a remarkable extent, the neoconservative establishment is claiming Churchill (who has just had a museum dedicated to him in London) as a founding father.

Like their absurdly high regard for Harry S. Truman, their love of Churchill derives from failure to understand the reality of his tenure beyond opposing Hitler.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:57 AM


American Politics In The Networking Era (Michael Barone, Feb. 25, 2005, National Journal)

In mid-2003, when former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean surged ahead of other Democrats in fundraising and in the polls, much attention was given to campaign manager Joe Trippi's use of the Internet. He used it to bring volunteers and money into the campaign, and to allow Dean supporters to add their own words, literally, in the campaign blog. Many political supporters were impressed, and rightly so, that the Dean campaign amassed a list of 600,000 e-mail addresses. But few reporters at the time took note of the number of e-mail addresses the Bush campaign had collected: 6 million.

Over two years, the Bush campaign built an organization of 1.4 million active volunteers. This was unprecedented. By way of comparison, the Democratic National Committee has said it enlisted 233,000 volunteers during the 2004 campaign. The Bush volunteers worked not just in heavily Republican neighborhoods -- only 15 percent of Republican voters, Mehlman calculated, live in precincts that vote 65 percent or more Republican. Instead, they went everywhere, especially to rural counties, many of them slow-growing places where most politicians figure there are no more votes to be won, and to the fast-growing exurban areas at the edges of metropolitan areas, where most of the young families moving in tend to be Republican. Just as Sam Walton figured he could make huge profits selling things to people in low-income rural areas and in low-fashion exurbs, so Mehlman calculated that he could wring votes out of areas that most political strategists and political reporters ignored.

To make sure that those volunteers were achieving their goals, Mehlman established metrics -- numerical goals, measured by third parties. Every week, the leaders of the local, state, and national organizations got reports on whether those metrics had been achieved. Productive volunteers were given positive reinforcement, sometimes a call from Mehlman himself. Unproductive volunteers were replaced or persuaded to do more. Mehlman's management was very much like former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's management of the New York City Police Department: Precinct commanders were given goals -- low crime numbers -- which were independently validated. Those who produced were promoted; those who failed lost their jobs. As a result, crime in New York was cut by more than 50 percent -- more than even Giuliani thought was possible.

This is not command-and-control management, but management by networking, by holding people accountable and letting them learn from each other how to do better. And in post-industrial America, it got better results than command-and-control management. In crucial states with the largest volunteer organizations, the numbers speak as loud as Giuliani's -- turnout rose 28 percent from 2000 in fast-growing Florida and 20 percent in slow-growing Ohio.

The Bush campaign used connections -- networks -- to recruit volunteers and identify voters. The campaign built on existing connections -- religious, occupational, voluntary -- to establish contacts. If a Bush volunteer was a Hispanic accountant active in the Boy Scouts, the campaign would reach out through him to other Hispanics, accountants and their clients, and Boy Scout volunteers. Of course, the campaign put much effort into contacting people in religious groups -- particularly evangelical Christians, but also Catholics and Orthodox Jews. And the Bush campaign reached out to people with shared affinities who tend to be Republicans. The campaign consulting firms National Media and TargetPoint identified Republican-leaning groups -- Coors beer and bourbon drinkers, college football TV viewers, Fox News viewers, people with caller ID -- and devised ways to connect with them.

As Thomas Edsall and James Grimaldi wrote in The Washington Post after the election, "Surveys of people on these consumer data lists were then used to determine 'anger points' (late-term abortion, trial lawyer fees, estate taxes) that coincided with the Bush agenda for as many as 32 categories of voters, each identifiable by income, magazine subscriptions, favorite television shows, and other 'flags.' Merging this data, in turn, enabled those running direct-mail, precinct-walking, and phone-bank programs to target each voter with a tailored message."

Presidential campaigns from 1968 up through 2000 spent most of their time, money, and psychic energy on devising television ads to appeal to undecided and weakly committed voters. Bush-Cheney '04 spent unprecedented amounts of time, money, and psychic energy on networking -- making connections with voters -- through advertising, to be sure, but also through personal contact. The Democrats' turnout drive depended on paid workers persuading strangers to get out and vote. The Republicans' turnout drive depended on volunteers persuading people with whom they had something in common to get out and vote. In industrial America, the Democrats' way may have been more effective. In Information Age America, the Bush campaign's strategy was more effective.

In his book Bowling Alone, Harvard professor of public policy Robert Putnam argued that America is suffering from a decline in social-connectedness -- in people voluntarily working and playing together, being active in those voluntary associations that Alexis de Tocqueville identified as one of the defining characteristics of democracy in America in the 1830s. The Bush campaign, by assembling a core of 1.4 million volunteers, increased social-connectedness in America in an important way.

Anyone who has volunteered and worked actively for a political campaign knows that it is a way to make new friends, to establish ties with people with whom you will work together again, on political campaigns but also on community projects and in voluntary associations of all kinds. Volunteer campaign work has reverberations over the years. Rove and Mehlman believed that it was possible to build such a large volunteer organization, but only for an incumbent president whom people had come to know well and admire, or even love. The Republicans will not have an incumbent to campaign for in 2008. But the 2004 Bush campaign created a quantum of social-connectedness that the Republican nominee in 2008 can build on, a long-lasting asset for the Republican Party.

In the process, the Bush campaign reshaped the electorate. People who have voted once are more likely to vote than are people who have never voted. The Bush campaign added more people to the electorate in 2004 than the Democrats did, and that achievement is likely to reverberate in elections to come. It could even lead to the kind of natural majority for the party that the Democrats built in the 1930s and the Republicans built in the 1890s, majorities that pretty much prevailed for more than 30 years.

The beautiful part of the story is that for the MSM it was just obvious that the stuffy old GOP couldn't revolutionize politics using the Internet and they certainly couldn't hope to win a turnout war. So they mostly ignored all the signs of what was happening around them. Meanwhile, because Joe Trippi and Howard Dean fit their preconceived notions of what revolutionaries should be like, they badly overestimated the likely impact of their Internet efforts, which were more harmful than helpful.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:46 AM


2008 Presidential Race Gets Its First Cattle Call (Dana Milbank, February 27, 2005, Washington Post)

Technically, this first '08 campaign event is the bipartisan meeting of the National Governors Association. But as many as 15 of the nation's 50 governors are considering a bid for the presidency, and both parties have learned the benefits of nominating a governor. [...]

So here's a scouting report on the guvs of 2005 -- and the would-be presidents of 2008:


Arnold Schwarzenegger (Calif): Needs constitutional amendment -- quickly.

Mitt Romney (Mass.): Prettier than John Edwards.

George E. Pataki (N.Y.) : He'll have to outfox Rudy.

Jeb Bush (Fla.): Many hope he'll break his promise not to run.

Haley Barbour (Miss.): Deep ties to Washington steakhouse of dubious value.

Mike Huckabee (Ark.): Recent weight loss increases speculation.

Mark Sanford (S.C.): Can't run if his friend John McCain does.

Bill Owens (Colo.): Embarrassed by Democratic victories in his state in '04.


Tom Vilsack (Iowa): Early favorite to win the Iowa caucuses.

Mark R. Warner (Va.): A southern Democrat.

Phil Bredesen (Tenn.): Could do better in his state than Al Gore did.

Bill Richardson (N.M.): Dogged by his Energy Department tenure.

Jennifer M. Granholm (Mich.): Waiting for the Schwarzenegger amendment to pass.

Janet Napolitano (Ariz.): Her home state may be too red for Democrats to win.

Rod Blagojevich (Ill.): His home state may be too blue to matter.

Jeb is the clear class of this field, but Mr. Milbank's assertion that the two parties have learned a lesson is debatable. The Democratic front-runner and prohibitive favorite is, once again, a Northeastern senator. Meanwhile, in the absence of Jeb, the main GOP buzz surrounds a mayor and a cabinet secretary.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:40 AM


High Schools Are 1.0 in a 5.0 World, Gates Says (Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, February 27, 2005, LA Times)

"Training the workforce of tomorrow with today's high schools is like trying to teach kids about today's computers on a 50-year-old mainframe," said Gates, whose $27-billion Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has made education one of its priorities.

"Everyone who understands the importance of education, everyone who believes in equal opportunity, everyone who has been elected to uphold the obligations of public office should be ashamed that we are breaking our promises of a free education for millions of students," added Gates, to strong applause.

Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner, chairman of the nonpartisan association, said high school education was in need of an overhaul to raise standards and to closely align instruction with the requirements of colleges and employers.

"It is imperative that we make reform of the American high school a national priority," Warner, a Democrat, said.

The governors' winter meeting coincides with a push by President Bush to extend elements of his No Child Left Behind initiative from the primary grades to the high school level.

The President should put Mr. Gates in charge of a panel to make reccomendations for how to improve H.S. education. His imprimatur would make it easier to pass the next package of reforms.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:36 AM


Immigration — What Europe Can Learn From the United States: Do the benefits of immigration outweigh the potential disadvantages? This questions has long been debated in Europe. Martin Hüfner — Chief Economist at Munich-based HVB Group — examines the U.S. example. He finds that immigration not only increases economic growth and unemployment, but also offers a range of other benefits. (Martin Hüfner, February 22, 2005, The Globalist)

The German Federal Office of Statistics has just published an estimation that the number of immigrants to Germany declined significantly in 2004.

Overall net immigration — that is, immigrants minus emigrants — was only 75,000. Ten years ago, the number was almost 400,000. And even between 2000 and 2003, the average was still about 200,000.

Keeping out immigrants will only be possible if one were to construct a European wall akin to the famous Chinese wall — not a realistic assumption.

There are no comprehensive statistics available yet for all of 2004, but since Germany is the biggest country in the European Union, it is safe to assume that in Europe as a whole, the number of immigrants has come down in 2004.

Some people who think that the number of foreigners in Europe is already too high will welcome this decline. I think, however, that this is a mistake, at least from an economic point of view. Europe does not need less immigration — but more.

The reason is quite simple. If we look at international statistics, countries with a higher rate of population growth are often more successful economically.

The United States is a prominent example. There, the economy is expanding by a long-term average rate of 3.5% per year. More than one percentage point of this increase can be attributed to the increase in population.

Immigration makes America as America makes its immigrants American. Immigration will unmake Europe, because its nations are premised on blood and soil, not ideas.

As much as some folks despise the notion that certain radical political ideas and their advocates have at times been branded un-American in our history, it reflects the fact that there are core ideas around which we are organized--ideas accessible to everyone, regardless of race, creed, or color. On the other hand, no one is ever said to be un-French or un-German--they are not German or not French by reason of ethnicity.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:35 AM


SAT's Essay Question Spells Stressful Prep (Rebecca Trounson, February 27, 2005, LA Times)

Writing, Audrianna Galvin says forthrightly, has never been her strong suit.

So the teenager was more than a little anxious when makers of the SAT college entrance exam announced in 2002 that a revised version of the test would, for the first time, include a handwritten essay.

"The whole idea of the writing section just really freaked me out," said Audrianna, 16, a junior at the private Buckley School in Sherman Oaks. "I thought, 'How on earth could I do that?' "

Now, with the debut of the new, longer SAT — and its fear-inducing writing section — two weeks away, Audrianna says she is feeling somewhat better. She has gained some confidence from hours spent on preparation, in classes and on her own. "But I'm still pretty nervous," she admits.

Other college-bound students are also stressed over the high-stakes test. They're filling test prep classes in record numbers, mainly, they say, to practice for the essay. For the exam itself, they will have 25 minutes to write, clearly and persuasively, on such broad philosophical topics as "Do people need to keep secrets or is secrecy harmful?"

Some students also seem loath to be among the first to face the new SAT. Enrollments for its initial offering, on March 12, are significantly lower than those for the essay-less test last March. Officials with the College Board, which owns the exam, said the 11% dip in registration is similar to a drop in March 1994, when an earlier revision of the test was introduced.

But many counselors and other experts are urging students — and parents — to keep calm. They point out that the essay, the subject of most of the nervous chatter surrounding the new test, will count for only about one-ninth of a student's overall score.

"They all need to take a deep breath and relax," said Jennifer Karan, director of SAT and ACT programs for Kaplan Test Prep.

When I took the English Achievement Test with Essay in November 1978 the essay was something to the effect of: "We have met the enemy and he is us: Discuss."

Conveniently for us, but sadly for the victims, the test coincided with early reports of the Jonestown Massacre.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:32 AM


Minds are changing (Michael Barone, 3/07/05, US News)

Nearly two years ago I wrote that the liberation of Iraq was changing minds in the Middle East. Before March 2003, the authoritarian regimes and media elites of the Middle East focused the discontents of their people on the United States and Israel. I thought the downfall of Saddam Hussein's regime was directing their minds to a different question: how to build a decent government and a decent society. I think I overestimated how much progress was being made at the time. But the spectacle of 8 million Iraqis braving terrorists to vote on January 30 seems to have moved things up to breakneck speed.

Evidence abounds. Consider what is happening in Lebanon, long under Syrian control, in response to the assassination, almost certainly by Syrian agents, of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. Protesters have taken to the streets day after day, demanding Syrian withdrawal. The Washington Post 's David Ignatius, who covered Lebanon in the 1980s and has kept in touch since, has been skeptical that the Bush administration's policy would change things for the better. But reporting from Beirut last week, he wrote movingly of "the movement for political change that has suddenly coalesced in Lebanon and is slowly gathering force elsewhere in the Arab world." Ignatius interviewed Walid Jumblatt, the Druze leader long a critic of the United States. Jumblatt's words are striking: "It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world. The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it." As Middle East expert Daniel Pipes writes, "For the first time in three decades, Lebanon now seems within reach of regaining its independence."

We aren't even two years out from March 2003--Mr. Barone underestimated rather than overestimated.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:29 AM


President of Egypt Calls for Open Election: The announcement follows recent White House criticism of Mubarak's iron-fisted regime. (Megan K. Stack and Sonni Efron, February 27, 2005, LA Times)

Noting that Egypt needed "more freedom and democracy," Mubarak said he'd sent a letter to lawmakers asking them to amend the constitution to open the presidential election to political competition. [...]

After years in which his seemingly permanent hold on the presidency was seldom questioned out loud, Mubarak has been pelted with growing criticism. His tight grip on power has provoked demonstrations in the streets of Cairo and has drawn mounting calls for constitutional reform. Rumors that Mubarak's son, Gamal, was being groomed to succeed his father as president have intensified the anti-government grumblings of disgruntled Egyptians.

At the same time, the United States, Egypt's crucial ally and largest international donor, has shifted its tone, becoming more critical of Mubarak's iron-fisted regime. Bush rapped Egypt in his State of the Union address for failing to reform, and Rice reinforced that criticism last week with the cancellation of her trip.

Bush administration officials have not threatened, publicly or privately, to slash aid to Egypt. "Egypt is a very proud nation, and there's no point in humiliating them," said an administration official, who spoke under the condition of anonymity. "It would be counterproductive to do so."

The United States has prepared a $1-billion economic aid package aimed at revamping Egypt's deeply troubled banking sector. The package was ready Jan. 23, but it has not yet been signed. The administration has given no explanation for the delay.

"There were pressures building up to such a decision. The country is in crisis," said Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh, a senior leader in the Muslim Brotherhood, a popular party that has been officially banned in Egypt for decades but has joined the ranks of parliament by running its members as independents. "The regime moved wisely."

Among ordinary Arabs who have watched the upheaval unleashed by the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and bemoaned long-standing U.S. alliances with tyrannical Arab governments, U.S. calls to democratize the region have been received with a mix of skepticism and hope.

Despite widespread doubt over U.S. intentions, themes of democracy and reform are much on the minds of Arabs this year. Voters have gone to the polls in Iraq, the Palestinian territories and Saudi Arabia, and an unprecedented wave of popular protest has welled up in Lebanon against Syrian domination.

But many analysts view Egypt, the most populous Arab nation, as the true testing ground for whether democracy can take hold.

Egypt's state-run television, which carried Mubarak's speech live Saturday morning, praised the president's announcement as "a historical decision in the nation's 7,000-year-old march toward democracy."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:26 AM


Clinton Taiwan trip upsets China (Chris Hogg, 2/27/05, BBC News)

Former US President Bill Clinton has arrived in Taiwan, a visit that has drawn criticism from China.

Mr Clinton will give a speech about democracy and is expected to meet Taiwan's President, Chen Shui-bian.

China fears Mr Chen wants to push towards independence for Taiwan - a move it would regard as an act of war.

With Ms Clinton prodding the Iraqis towards greater liberalism and Mr. Clinton poking the ChiComs oin the eye, we can for once say that both Clintons are rendering exemplary public service.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:23 AM


GOP May Seek a Deal on Accounts: Anxious Lawmakers Negotiate With Democrats on Social Security Changes (John F. Harris and Jim VandeHei, February 27, 2005, Washington Post)

As described in interviews, most of these compromises would involve Bush significantly scaling back his proposals for restructuring the popular benefits program. In exchange, he could still claim an incremental victory on what he has described as his core principles: enhancing the long-term solvency of Social Security and giving younger Americans options to invest more of their retirement money.

In one example, Rep. E. Clay Shaw Jr. (R-Fla.) said, a compromise might involve merging Bush's proposal with plans -- some backed by Democrats -- that create government-subsidized savings plans outside Social Security. Under this scenario, Bush's proposal to divert 4 percent of an individual's Social Security payroll tax would become 2 percent or less.

"The president could claim a real victory just by getting personal accounts," said Shaw, who has shared his ideas with Vice President Cheney and White House senior adviser Karl Rove. "It may be that a hybrid" is the key to compromise.

Meanwhile, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said that he is discussing with Democratic colleagues a compromise plan that would guarantee low-income beneficiaries will do better under a new program than the existing system, even if this increases the program's cost.

White House officials said Bush is open to such a compromise and will continue to signal this publicly in the days ahead.

Just get the concept in place and make sure that earnings from personal accounts are counted against your eventual SS entitlement and it is a massive victory. You can jigger the numbers in 2007, once the Senate is 60-40.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:19 AM


US Offers Strong Support for Burmese Democracy Activists (Serena Parker, 26 February 2005, VOA News)

Paula Dobriansky, U.S. undersecretary of state for global affairs, says the United States stands in solidarity with those in Burma who are denied basic rights.

"We will continue to help the people of Burma in their struggle," she said. "We need to press the world to stand firm against the junta, and remind people everywhere precisely what is going on in Rangoon."

She accused the military government in Burma of harassing political opponents through widespread intimidation, violence and unwarranted arrests.

"With conduct like this, it is very clear why our Secretary of State, Dr. Condoleeza Rice, recently noted that Burma is one of the world's 'outposts of tyranny,'" said Ms. Dobriansky.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:06 AM


EDWARD PATTEN | 1939-2005: Motown singer was the pillar of the Pips (JACK KRESNAK, February 26, 2005, Detroit FREE PRESS)

Edward Patten was not just any Pip.

Besides singing bass and then tenor -- his voice had incredible range -- on harmonies backing up the group's lead singer, Gladys Knight, Patten also served as one of the group's choreographers as well as the treasurer who made sure that promoters paid and that the travel and accommodation plans were set.

"When Edward and Langston George became part of the Pips, we danced a whole 'nother way," said William Guest, one of the original Pips. "He was that type of guy. He made sure that we did things right. We called him Daddy Patten. He was no more than two to three years older than me and a year older than Langston, but we respected him."

Patten, who had lived in Detroit since 1964 when Gladys Knight and the Pips joined Berry Gordy Jr.'s Motown records, died early Friday at St. Mary Hospital in Livonia. He was 65 and had been in ill health since a series of strokes beginning in 1995 left him unable to sing.

Patten, Guest and Knight are cousins.

Who didn't grow up dreaming of being the Pips' bass?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Unintelligent Design (JIM HOLT, 2/20/05, NY Times Magazine)

From a scientific perspective, one of the most frustrating things about intelligent design is that (unlike Darwinism) it is virtually impossible to test. Old-fashioned biblical creationism at least risked making some hard factual claims -- that the earth was created before the sun, for example. Intelligent design, by contrast, leaves the purposes of the designer wholly mysterious. Presumably any pattern of data in the natural world is consistent with his/her/its existence.

But if we can't infer anything about the design from the designer, maybe we can go the other way. What can we tell about the designer from the design? While there is much that is marvelous in nature, there is also much that is flawed, sloppy and downright bizarre. Some nonfunctional oddities, like the peacock's tail or the human male's nipples, might be attributed to a sense of whimsy on the part of the designer. Others just seem grossly inefficient. In mammals, for instance, the recurrent laryngeal nerve does not go directly from the cranium to the larynx, the way any competent engineer would have arranged it. Instead, it extends down the neck to the chest, loops around a lung ligament and then runs back up the neck to the larynx. In a giraffe, that means a 20-foot length of nerve where 1 foot would have done. If this is evidence of design, it would seem to be of the unintelligent variety.

Such disregard for economy can be found throughout the natural order. Perhaps 99 percent of the species that have existed have died out. Darwinism has no problem with this, because random variation will inevitably produce both fit and unfit individuals. But what sort of designer would have fashioned creatures so out of sync with their environments that they were doomed to extinction?

The gravest imperfections in nature, though, are moral ones. Consider how humans and other animals are intermittently tortured by pain throughout their lives, especially near the end. Our pain mechanism may have been designed to serve as a warning signal to protect our bodies from damage, but in the majority of diseases -- cancer, for instance, or coronary thrombosis -- the signal comes too late to do much good, and the horrible suffering that ensues is completely useless.

And why should the human reproductive system be so shoddily designed? Fewer than one-third of conceptions culminate in live births. The rest end prematurely, either in early gestation or by miscarriage. Nature appears to be an avid abortionist, which ought to trouble Christians who believe in both original sin and the doctrine that a human being equipped with a soul comes into existence at conception. Souls bearing the stain of original sin, we are told, do not merit salvation. That is why, according to traditional theology, unbaptized babies have to languish in limbo for all eternity. Owing to faulty reproductive design, it would seem that the population of limbo must be at least twice that of heaven and hell combined.

It is hard to avoid the inference that a designer responsible for such imperfections must have been lacking some divine trait -- benevolence or omnipotence or omniscience, or perhaps all three.

Mr. Holt's objection that "any pattern of data in the natural world is consistent with his/her/its existence" is obviously true of Darwinism as well, but still sillier is that even as he notes the doctrine of Original Sin he manages to ignore its implications. No one who's read the Bible would claim that the God described therein is especially benevolent, omipotent, omnipresent, or omniscient. Thus:
002:025 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not

003:001 Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field
which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea,
hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?

003:002 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit
of the trees of the garden:

003:003 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the
garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall
ye touch it, lest ye die.

003:004 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:

003:005 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your
eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good
and evil.

003:006 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and
that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to
make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and
gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

003:007 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they
were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made
themselves aprons.

003:008 And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden
in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves
from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the

003:009 And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where
art thou?

003:010 And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was
afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.

003:011 And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou
eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou
shouldest not eat?

003:012 And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me,
she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.

003:013 And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou
hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I
did eat.

003:014 And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done
this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast
of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt
thou eat all the days of thy life:

003:015 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between
thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou
shalt bruise his heel.

003:016 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and
thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and
thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over

003:017 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the
voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I
commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is
the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all
the days of thy life;

003:018 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and
thou shalt eat the herb of the field;

003:019 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou
return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for
dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

003:020 And Adam called his wife's name Eve; because she was the
mother of all living.

003:021 Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of
skins, and clothed them.

003:022 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us,
to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand,
and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:

003:023 Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden,
to till the ground from whence he was taken.

003:024 So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the
garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned
every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

004:003 And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of
the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD.

004:004 And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and
of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to
his offering:

004:005 But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain
was very wroth, and his countenance fell.

004:006 And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is
thy countenance fallen?

004:007 If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou
doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be
his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.

004:008 And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass,
when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel
his brother, and slew him.

004:009 And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he
said, I know not: Am I my brother's keeper?

004:010 And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother's
blood crieth unto me from the ground.

004:011 And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her
mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand;

004:012 When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield
unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou
be in the earth.

006:005 And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth,
and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was
only evil continually.

006:006 And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth,
and it grieved him at his heart.

006:007 And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from
the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping
thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I
have made them.

Capped, most importantly by:
Matthew 27:46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

A God who can despair of Himself is a radically different being than the one Mr. Holt has summoned from the pamphelets full of vapid objections such folk hand around.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


The Tipping Points (THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, 2/27/05, NY Times)

The other night on ABC's "Nightline," the host, Ted Koppel, posed an intriguing question to Malcolm Gladwell, the social scientist who wrote the path-breaking book "The Tipping Point," which is about how changes in behavior or perception can reach a critical mass and then suddenly create a whole new reality. Mr. Koppel asked: Can you know you are in the middle of a tipping point, or is it only something you can see in retrospect?

Mr. Gladwell responded that "the most important thing in trying to analyze whether something is at the verge of a tipping point, is whether it - an event - causes people to reframe an issue. ...A dumb example is the Atkins's diet, which reframes dieting from thinking about it in terms of avoiding calories and fat to thinking about it as avoiding carbohydrates, which really changes the way people perceive dieting."

Mr. Koppel was raising the question because he wanted to explore whether the Iraqi elections marked a tipping point in history. I was on the same show, and in mulling over this question more I think that what's so interesting about the Middle East today is that we're actually witnessing three tipping points at once.

We are, of course, far past the Tipping Point in two of the cases he discusses and just past in the third. But this is likely to be a kind of outlier column as Mr. Friedman manages to work himself into the essay and thinks things may be tipping because even he finally recognizes that they are, but doesn't find room to mention the Tipper-in-Chief who's been telling anyone who'd listen that we'd crossed the Rubicon for several years now.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


The Wrath Of God: As evangelical Christians force a Scottish cancer charity to refuse money raised from a benefit performance of controversial show Jerry Springer – The Opera, Iain S Bruce reports on the emergence of new militant faith groups who are no longer prepared to turn the other cheek (Iain S. Bruce, 2/27/05, Sunday Herald)

Firing the opening salvoes of a campaign that looks set to rage for decades to come, last week they launched an attack that took Britain by surprise when the evangelical cadre Christian Voice stepped in and, demonstrating the militant guerrilla tactics set to become a familiar feature of 21st-century politics, pressured a small Scottish cancer charity, Maggie’s Centre, into rejecting a £3000 donation. The proceeds of a benefit performance by the cast of the controversial mus ical Jerry Springer – The Opera could have had a significant impact upon the work of Maggie’s Centre, but amid reported warnings of picket action and the thinly veiled threat that accepting the funds could lead to a backlash from devout donors, the Glasgow-based voluntary organisation felt compelled to decline.

It was, Labour MP John Cryer told parliament, the work of “fundamentalist thugs,” an act of theological blackmail so far beyond the pale that it beggared belief. Sending a storm of liberal outrage sweeping through the nation’s media and provoking a deluge of hate mail directed at the perpetrators, it was an incident that the popular consensus might hope was a single unacceptable aberration but was in fact merely a taste of things to come. [...]

Britain is waking up to a new breed of faith that seems a million miles from the traditional forms of religious expression in this country. No longer content to remain in society’s shadows, they are stepping out into the light, armed with a reinvigorated brand of militant faith and a fundamentalist agenda on which they insist there will be no compromise. Radical, committed and apparently no longer prepared to turn the other cheek, they have presented the nation’s policy makers with an unexpected new challenge, and from Holyrood to the House of Commons apparatchiks have been sent scurrying to identify who these people are and exactly what it is that they want.

Attempting to flush out the facts on who is behind the emerging new strain of vigorous British puritanism is no easy task, however. Drawing its footsoldiers from a plethora of small-time fellowships and organisations such as Christian Voice, MediaMarch, the Christian Institute and Mediawatch UK, the movement consists of dozens of self-starting, autono mous groups. Although frequently sharing similar principles and providing each other with mutual support, very few formal links exist between such operations, so precisely mapping out the UK’s radical-Christian power structure is currently close to impossible.

What is clear, however, is that these groups represent a political foe to be reckoned with. Attracting members from both the established mainstream church and congregations from the far fringes of the Christian faith, these self-funding organisations are believed to have total backing worth in excess of £20 million a year and are rapidly turning themselves into highly organised and zealously committed campaigning machines.

Identifying the individuals behind this emerging movement is less difficult. Typically middle-aged churchgoers ensconced in the warm embrace of traditional family units, they are the progeny of a liberal generation who believe that their parents’ quest for self-expression and freedom has led society to the brink of doom, creating a world where there is no longer much honour, safety or respect.

Isn't the problem that having a traditional family makes you seem radical?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Bush cancels St Patrick’s Day party and tells Adams: you’re not wanted here (Ed Moloney and Torcuil Crichton, 2/27/05, Sunday Herald)

US President George W Bush is expected to announce in the next few days that this year’s St Patrick’s Day party in the White House will be cancelled in response to allegations that Sinn Fein members, including leader Gerry Adams, authorised December’s £26.5 million IRA bank robbery in Belfast.

The White House snub will further isolate Sinn Fein from the political mainstream, and comes as a man surrendered himself to police in connection with the IRA murder of a Belfast man that has thrown the organisation into crisis.

How about inviting Adams to the White House but arresting him out front? It would clear a bit of the stain of Bill Clinton letting him in the place and make for a sweet perp walk.

February 26, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:39 PM


Palestinians Angry Over Tel Aviv Attack (MOHAMMED BALLAS, 2/27/05, Associated Press)

Palestinians expressed anger Saturday at an overnight suicide bombing in Tel Aviv that killed four Israelis and threatened a fragile truce, a departure from former times when they welcomed attacks on their Israeli foes.

Official condemnations and denials were followed by public anger toward the perpetrators as Israeli blamed Syria and the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad, which claimed responsibility for the attack.

For several years now folks have said that if you just give the Palestinians a state they'll quickly shift their focus from Israel to their own internal problems and "hawks" have scoffed.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:35 PM


EXCERPT: Chapter One: The Plot to Murder Hitler (The Conquerors: Roosevelt, Truman and the Destruction of Hitler's Germany, 1941-1945 By Michael R. Beschloss)

[H]itler was burrowed in at the Wolf's Lair, his field headquarters near Rastenburg, in a melancholy, dank East Prussian forest. At noon, in a log barracks, he listened to a gloomy report from one of his army chiefs about Germany's retreat on the Eastern front. In the steamy room, Hitler took off the eyeglasses he vainly refused to use in public and mopped his forehead with a handkerchief. SS men and stenographers stood around the massive, long oak table like nervous cats. Maps were unfurled. Hitler leaned over them and squinted through a magnifying glass, grimacing at the bad news.

Into the room strode a thirty-seven-year-old officer named Claus von Stauffenberg. He was a Bavarian nobleman, with blond hair and sharp cheekbones, who had lost an eye and seven fingers to an Allied mine in Tunisia while fighting for Germany. Unknown to the Führer or the other two dozen people in the chamber, Stauffenberg was part of a secret, loosely rigged anti-Hitler conspiracy that included military officers, diplomats, businessmen, pastors, intellectuals, landed gentry.

Some wanted historians of the future to record that not all Germans were Nazis. Some simply wanted to spare their nation the full brunt of conquest by the Soviet, American and British armies. Still others were unsettled by Hitler's war against the Jews. For years, the plotters had tried to kill Hitler with rifles and explosives, but the Führer had always survived.

Disgusted by what he heard about Nazi brutality in Russia, Stauffenberg had taught himself how to use his remaining three fingers to set off a bomb. By luck, in July 1944, he was summoned to the Wolf's Lair to help brief Hitler about the Eastern front. When Stauffenberg entered the room, the Führer shook his hand, stared at him appraisingly, then returned to his maps.

Inside Stauffenberg's briefcase, swaddled in a shirt, was a ticking time bomb. While the Army chief droned on, Stauffenberg put the briefcase under the table. Leaving his hat and belt behind, as if he were stepping out for a moment, Stauffenberg walked out of the room and left the barracks.

About a quarter to one came a loud boom and swirl of blue-yellow flame, followed by black smoke.

Outside the barracks, Stauffenberg saw men carry out a stretcher on which lay a body shrouded by what seemed to be Hitler's cloak. Rushing to his car for a getaway flight to Berlin, he presumed that Adolf Hitler was no more. Stauffenberg hoped that next would come a public declaration of Hitler's assassination, an Army revolt and establishment of an anti-Nazi government in Berlin.

But when he arrived at General Staff headquarters on Bendler Street, there was only disarray. Fellow plotters were not convinced that Hitler had been killed. Aghast, Stauffenberg cried, "I myself saw Hitler carried out dead!"

But he was wrong. Striving for a better view of the maps, one of the Führer's aides had pushed the briefcase behind one of the table's massive supports, protecting Hitler from certain death. Stauffenberg and his adjutant, Werner von Haeften, a collaborator, had felt too rushed to put a second bomb in the briefcase. Had they done so, Hitler would have certainly been killed.

Instead, when the smoke cleared Hitler was still standing. With bloodshot eyes staring out from a soot-blackened face, he tamped down flame from his trousers. His hair stood out in spikes. His ruptured eardrums were bleeding. His right arm dangled numb at his side.

A weeping Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel threw his arms around Hitler: "My Führer, you're alive! You're alive!"

After donning a fresh uniform, seemingly exhilarated by his survival, Hitler was almost merry. "Once again everything turned out well for me!" he chortled to his secretaries. "More proof that fate has selected me for my mission!" That afternoon he showed his scorched clothes to the visiting ousted Italian dictator Benito Mussolini: "Look at my uniform! Look at my burns!" Hitler had the uniform sent to his mistress, Eva Braun, for safekeeping as proof of his historical destiny.

When generals telephoned from the far reaches of the German Reich to learn whether, as some had heard, Hitler was dead, the Führer was furious that they should even raise the question. With froth on his lips, he shouted, "Traitors in the bosom of their own people deserve the most ignominious of deaths....Exterminate them!...I'll put their wives and children into concentration camps and show them no mercy!" He even confronted his Alsatian dog: "Look me in the eyes, Blondi! Are you also a traitor like the generals of my staff?"

It did not take Hitler's men long to discover who was behind the plot. In Berlin, Stauffenberg and three fellow plotters were arrested. A five-minute trial, "in the name of the Führer," found them guilty of treason. In a shadowy courtyard, they were hauled before a firing squad.

Just before his execution, remembering his country before Hitler, Stauffenberg cried out, "Long live eternal Germany!"

An hour after midnight on Friday, July 21, Berlin time, Hitler spoke by radio from the Wolf's Lair. After a burst of military music, he declared, "Fellow members of the German race!" An "extremely small clique of ambitious, unscrupulous and foolish, criminally stupid officers" had plotted to kill him and the German high command - "a crime that has no equal in German history."

The plotters had "no bond and nothing in common with the German people." He was "entirely unhurt, apart from minor grazes, bruises or burns." Failure of the plot was "a clear sign from Providence that I must carry on with my work."

Hitler had come to power claiming that Germany had lost World War I because craven politicians in Berlin had betrayed the generals. The newest plotters, he now said, had planned to "thrust a dagger into our back as they did in 1918. But this time they have made a very grave mistake." His voice rose to a shriek: "Every German, whoever he may be, has a duty to fight these elements at once with ruthless determination....Wipe them out at once!"

Fearing for his life, Hitler never again spoke in public. By his orders, hundreds of suspected conspirators were arrested, tortured and executed. Another five thousand of their relatives and suspected anti-Nazi sympathizers were taken to concentration camps. A decree went out for Stauffenberg's family to be "wiped out to its last member."

Hitler ordered some of the chief plotters "strung up like butchered cattle." A motion picture of their execution was rushed to the Wolf's Lair for the Führer's enjoyment. By one account, Hitler and his chief propagandist, Joseph Goebbels, watched in the Führer's private theater as the shirtless men on the screen swung from piano-wire nooses, writhing and dying while their carefully unbelted trousers fell off to reveal them naked.

Goebbels had demanded for years that Hitler's enemies be stalked with "ice-cold determination." But when the top Nazis watched the ghoulish flickering images of the lifeless plotters, it was later said, even the cold-blooded Goebbels had to cover his eyes to keep from passing out.

As Hitler finished his speech from the Wolf's Lair, Franklin Roosevelt gave his own radio address from California. Speaking from a private railroad car at the San Diego naval base, he accepted the 1944 Democratic nomination for President. For wartime security reasons, the public was told only that the base was on the "Pacific coast."

The President was taking a five-week, fourteen-thousand-mile military inspection trip of the Pacific Coast, Hawaii and Alaska. His special nine-car railroad caravan had moved slowly from Chicago to Kansas City, El Paso and Phoenix, to "kill time" before his arrival in San Diego and spare him from having to sleep at night in a moving train. Secret Service agents had tried to keep Roosevelt's exact whereabouts a secret. At each stop, the President and his party were asked to stay aboard the train. But Roosevelt's famous Scottie dog, Fala, had to be taken off to relieve himself. When Pullman porters and ticket takers saw Fala, they knew who was really aboard the train called "Main 985."

One might have expected Roosevelt to be delighted when he heard the news of a coup that might topple Adolf Hitler. If a new, post-Hitler government accepted the Allied demand for unconditional surrender, it would save millions of lives and let the Big Three - Roosevelt, Joseph Stalin and Winston Churchill - throw Allied forces fully into the war against Japan.

But Roosevelt knew that life was rarely that uncomplicated. For months, American intelligence had secretly warned him of plots against Hitler. In early July 1944, Allen Dulles of the Office of Strategic Services reported from Bern, Switzerland, that "the next few weeks will be our last chance to demonstrate the determination of the Germans themselves to rid Germany of Hitler and his gang and establish a decent regime." Eight days before Stauffenberg set off his bomb, Dulles warned that "a dramatic event" might soon take place "up north."

Roosevelt would have certainly realized that a new, post-Hitler junta would probably demand a negotiated settlement. It might insist that certain members of the German military high command, government and other institutions stay in place. This would frustrate his declared intention to remake postwar Germany from the ground up so that it could never threaten the world again. Official Allied policy was unconditional surrender. But Roosevelt knew that if a rump post-Hitler government sued for peace, it would be difficult for Churchill and himself to persuade their war-exhausted peoples to keep fighting and lose hundreds of thousands more lives.

Dulles had reported that one group of anti-Hitler conspirators wanted "to prevent Central Europe from coming...under the control of Russia." As Roosevelt knew, Churchill might be sorely tempted by a deal with a new German government that could save British lives and block the Soviets in Europe, provoking an immediate confrontation with Stalin.

It would be one thing if, despite his conscious decision not to help hasten Hitler's fall, FDR had at least succeeded in his own scheme, but instead he lost half of Germany, which remained a flashpoint for the next half century.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:26 PM


For Bush, a Long Embrace of Social Security Plan (RICHARD W. STEVENSON, 2/27/05, NY Times)

The conservative economists and public policy experts who trooped in to brief George W. Bush on Social Security not long after he was re-elected governor of Texas in 1998 came with their own ideas about how to overhaul the retirement program. But they quickly found that Mr. Bush, who was well into preparations for his first presidential race and had invited them to Austin for the discussion, already knew where he was headed.

"He never said, 'What should I do about Social Security?' " said one of the participants in the meeting, Martin Anderson, who had been a domestic policy adviser in the Reagan administration. "On the day we talked about Social Security, he said, 'We have to find a way to allow people to invest a percentage of their payroll tax in the capital markets. What do you think?' "

Mr. Bush had long been intrigued by the idea of allowing workers to put part of their Social Security taxes into stocks and bonds. One Tuesday in the summer of 1978, in the heat of his unsuccessful race for a House seat from West Texas, Mr. Bush went to Midland Country Club to give a campaign speech to local real estate agents and discussed the issue in terms not much different from those he uses now.

Social Security "will be bust in 10 years unless there are some changes," he said, according to an account published the next day in The Midland Reporter-Telegram. "The ideal solution would be for Social Security to be made sound and people given the chance to invest the money the way they feel."

Two decades later, Mr. Bush's desire to change Social Security intersected with the promotion of private accounts by well-financed interest groups and conservative research organizations, which viewed the concept as innovative if ideologically explosive. What was once a fringe proposal has been propelled to the forefront of the national agenda in one of the biggest gambles of Mr. Bush's political career, and in one of the most concerted challenges since the New Deal to liberal assumptions about the relationship of individuals, the government and the market.

So he was a revolutionary even back when he was just a moronic preppy skating on his Dad's name? Who'da thunk...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:08 PM


Discrimination bill snubs gays to save Muslim vote (David Cracknell, 2/27/05, Times of London)

GAY RIGHTS campaigners have been snubbed by the government for fear of upsetting Muslim voters who are regarded as more important to Labour’s election campaign.

This week a new bill giving Muslims protection against religious discrimination will be published, but there will be no equivalent right for gays, as had been planned by ministers.

Downing Street fears that Muslims, whose votes could be the key to saving the seats of many Labour MPs, might feel offended if they were “lumped together” with homosexuals.

The change comes despite the fact that there are thought to be around 3m gay voters, compared with 1.3m Muslims of voting age in Britain.

Under the bill, it will become illegal for the provider of any goods or services — such as a hotel, shop, pub or restaurant — to refuse to serve someone on the grounds of their religion. It is already illegal to do so on the basis of race or gender.

The demographic trends aren't hard to figure, are they?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:04 PM


Despite severe combat injuries, sergeant fulfills pledge made to troops (Steve Liewer, February 27, 2005, Stars and Stripes)

One month after a rocket-propelled grenade blew off his leg, mangled his arm and tore a gash in his head while his convoy patrolled in Iraq, 1st Sgt. Brent Jurgersen fulfilled a pledge he made to troops of the 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment when they left for the Middle East a year ago. He vowed he would personally lead them home.

So he and his wife, Karin, flew home to Schweinfurt last week from Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, where he awoke from a drug-induced coma less than three weeks ago. On Wednesday night, Jurgersen — the non-commissioned officer-in-charge of 1-4 Cavalry’s headquarters troop — greeted 80 of his soldiers behind a curtain in the gym at Conn Barracks.

Then he led them out.

“He made a promise to his men. He kept it,” Karin Jurgersen said. “That’s who he is.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:57 PM


More Dutch Plan to Emigrate as Muslim Influx Tips Scales (MARLISE SIMONS, 2/27/05, NY Times)

Paul Hiltemann had already noticed a darkening mood in the Netherlands. He runs an agency for people wanting to emigrate and his client list had surged.

But he was still taken aback in November when a Dutch filmmaker was shot and his throat was slit, execution style, on an Amsterdam street.

In the weeks that followed, Mr. Hiltemann was inundated by e-mail messages and telephone calls. "There was a big panic," he said, "a flood of people saying they wanted to leave the country."

Leave this stable and prosperous corner of Europe? Leave this land with its generous social benefits and ample salaries, a place of fine schools, museums, sports grounds and bicycle paths, all set in a lively democracy?

The answer, increasingly, is yes. This small nation is a magnet for immigrants, but statistics suggest there is a quickening flight of the white middle class. Dutch people pulling up roots said they felt a general pessimism about their small and crowded country and about the social tensions that had grown along with the waves of newcomers, most of them Muslims."The Dutch are living in a kind of pressure cooker atmosphere," Mr. Hiltemann said.

Why would anyone with a family, or plans for one, and an interest in the future stay in Europe?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:30 PM


Israel Blames Syria for Suicide Bombing (AP, Feb 26, 2005)

Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz blamed Syria on Saturday for a suicide bombing that killed four Israelis in Tel Aviv, and Israel's Army Radio reported that he also froze plans to hand over security responsibilities in the West Bank to the Palestinians.

Israeli security officials also said they may resume assassinations of the leaders of the militant Islamic Jihad group, which claimed responsibility Saturday for the bombing. The officials said on condition of anonymity that the recent cease-fire forged with the Palestinians no longer applies to Islamic Jihad, which has links to Syria.

Cut to the chase--do Assad.

Islamic Jihad claims responsibility (Matthew Gutman and Jpost Staff, Feb. 26, 2005, THE JERUSALEM POST)

The Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility on Saturday evening, from Damascus, for the deadly attack in Tel Aviv on Friday night.

"The period of calm was set for one month, and that month is over," said Abu Tark, a senior member of the Jihad movement. "Israel did not obey the agreement, and that's what led to our action."

The announcement confirms the security establishment's earlier suspicions, which also estimated that the Hizbulla was not involved.

Defense officials estimated that the Islamic Jihad in Damascus had operated via one of its cells in the Tulkarm area.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:25 PM


Wrong-way evolution of the creationist movement (Patrick Chisholm, 2/23/05, csmonitor.com)

Christian fundamentalists often have been accused of wanting to alter the laws and institutions of the United States. Actually it is usually the other way around; most of the time they only try to prevent America's laws and institutions from being radically altered. One example is their battle to stem the banning of Christmas symbols and celebrations.

But there is one area where many Christian fundamentalists do indeed want to impose radical change: the teaching of Biblical creationism vs. evolution in public schools.

After losing favor since the Scopes trial 80 years ago, the creationist movement seems to be making inroads again. In Dover, Pa., school administrators recently ordered biology teachers to declare in class that "Darwin's theory... is a theory, not a fact. Gaps in the theory exist for which there is no evidence." In an Atlanta suburb in 2002, stickers were placed on textbooks stating that "evolution is a theory, not a fact ..." Then, last month, a judge ruled the stickers unconstitutional.

In 1999, the Kansas state board of education voted to remove most references to evolution from state education standards, a decision that was reversed two years later.

According to a CBS poll conducted last fall, two-thirds of Americans favor teaching creationism in public schools together with evolution, and 37 percent want to totally replace the teaching of evolution with creationism.

Of course, we won the Scopes trial too.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:14 PM


Editorial: Listen to the Presbyterians (Taipei Times, Feb 24, 2005)

The Presbyterian Church in Taiwan on Tuesday issued a "Statement on Justice and Peace," advocating that Taiwanese sovereignty and independence should be the basis for interparty cooperation and negotiation. The statement also said that the quest for justice and peace is the common responsibility of the international community from which Taiwan long has been ostracized in violation of universal principles of justice and peace. The statement ended by calling for the establishment of a new relationship between Taiwan and China, saying that the two nations should recognize each other based on the principles of equality, mutual benefits and peaceful co-existence. [...]

The Presbyterian Church in Taiwan fought fiercely against the KMT's authoritarian rule. The atmosphere around Tainan Theological College and Seminary, which was responsible for training new missionaries, became one of fear, as the elderly warned young people not to linger near the school, so as not to be arrested by the Taiwan Military Garrison Command for no reason. The Thai-Peng-Keng Maxwell Memorial Church was even seen as a base for the pro-independence movement.

With such a unique historical background, although Christianity is not the most common religion here, the political concern of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan actually represents the origins of Taiwan awareness.

All through the 1970s, the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan resisted political oppression. Following its 1971 "Statement on our National Fate," in which it recommended holding "elections of all representatives to the highest government bodies" and called on the international community to recognize that the people of Taiwan had the right to decide their own future, there were many other statements. In 1975, it published a call for the government to deal with Taiwan's foreign affairs situation and guarantee the livelihood of the people. In 1977 the Church made its declaration on human rights, demanding that Taiwan's future be decided by the people who lived in Taiwan and calling on Taiwan to become a new and independent nation.

Whenever there has been unrest in society, the Presbyterian Church has come forward to declare their love of God, and their love of Taiwan. Tuesday's statement is something that the president and premier should certainly heed.

Taiwan is not and never will be a part of China.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:08 PM


Here's a post that makes for amusing reading today. Doesn't it seem like years ago that John Kerry and company were whining that we were losing the WoT?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:06 PM


Putting faith in people (Amy Doolittle, 2/23/05, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

On the desert sweeps of Morocco, a cross-cultural conversation is well under way. Evangelical Christians, long viewed as hostile to Islam and its followers, actively are participating in conversations with the Moroccan government, businesses and community leaders.

The goal is to develop understanding between the two very different perspectives.

Friendship Caravan is the flagship organization for this conversation. Founded by photojournalist Michael Kirtley after the September 11 attacks, it is now headlining an unprecedented effort focused on helping American evangelicals and Moroccan Muslims understand each other.

But it wasn't evangelicals -- eager to spread the Gospel and proselytize the nonbelievers -- who first pursued the relationship, says Mr. Kirtley; it was the Moroccan government. [...]

Morocco's citizens are almost entirely Muslim. Like most Muslim societies, the country maintains laws restricting evangelism. Evangelicals had reason to be surprised when their delegation experienced a warm welcome in Morocco, both from the government and the people.

"The delegation came back with the willingness on the part of the Moroccan government to allow ... Christianity in that county," Mr. Cizik says. "In everyone's estimation it's a breakthrough of sorts. It's never been done before. We see it now as we saw it before -- as an overture by the Moroccan government not to be ignored."

Despite what have been seen in the past as insurmountable differences between Christian and Muslim societies, says Mr. Kirtley, Moroccan Muslims have begun to recognize the common ground the two groups hold.

"On both sides there is a feeling of a lot of common ground, especially with the evangelical Christians because Morocco is a conservative society," Mr. Kirtley says. "When Christians and Moroccans get together, they find things they have in common [such as] feelings against abortion, gay marriage, family and faith in terms of public life. I think this is one of the reasons that the two groups have hit it off so well."

Behind Morocco's pursuit of friendship, says evangelical leader Josh McDowell, is the desire for peace.

"They want sincere, healthy relationships with evangelical Christians. They believe as I do that the greater the understanding of people of faiths of each other, the greater chance of peace in the world," Mr. McDowell says.

One irony of the last several years is that on 9-11 King Mohamed VI's Morocco was one of the most reform-minded Arab nations and perhaps our best ally in the Islamic world. But now he and they have some catching up to do.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:43 PM


The French Reconnection: Europe's most secular country rediscovers its Christian roots. (Agnieszka Tennant, 02/25/2005, Christianity Today)

At the beginning of the 21st century, the postmodern French have deconstructed deconstructionism, seen through the utopia of socialism, and realized that wine and other sensual delights only go so far in filling what French philosopher Blaise Pascal described as the "God-shaped void." According to France Mission, an opinion poll conducted in March 2003 showed that 32 percent of those who call themselves Christians have recently returned to the faith. In 1994, only 13 percent said so.

You see this trend in the writings of French intellectuals and philosophers who are products of the 1960s sexual revolution when "it was forbidden to forbid," says Mark Farmer, former pastor of a Baptist church across from the Louvre. The most articulate plea for France to re-examine its Judeo-Christian roots came recently in Jean-Claude Guillebaud's critically acclaimed Re-founding the World: The Western Testament.

"What's this? A French intellectual starting his book with a quote from Psalm 1?" Farmer recalls his reaction to first paging through the volume. "And he's got a chapter on the apostle Paul? He starts the book by saying that the 20th century has been a century of disillusion. Marxism, evolution, socialism, hedonism, wars have all failed us. He says it's easy to be pessimistic, but there are some things that we appreciate about our civilization. For example, the notion of right and wrong that transcends any culture—where does that come from? He stops short of saying that he himself has become a Christian, but he's led the horses to the water."

The sales of another book—the Bible—are at a historic high, according to the French Bible Society. In 2003—which Christians promoted as the Year of the Bible—FBS's publishing house sold an unprecedented 100,000 Bibles and 50,000 New Testaments, says Christian Bonnet, the group's secretary general. At the time of our conversation, the Bible with life application notes for seekers, La Bible Expliquée, had just sold a record 80,000 copies in one month. In the last 15 years, Bonnet says, secular bookstores, "which never wanted to sell Bibles before," and major supermarket chains began selling Bibles.

The search for God in the most secular country of Europe is so universally felt that even a business journal—the equivalent of Forbes or Fortune—was compelled to publish a special issue in July and August of 2003 whose cover exclaimed, "God, the Stocks Are Rising!" Its 72 pages describe the surge of interest in religion and its effect on the business world, says Paris-based International Teams missionary Steve Thrall. The contents page announces that "after a materialistic 20th century, religions are coming back in force. In France, this rise in spirituality is pushing out secularism in both schools and business."

The accelerated growth of Islam in France, to nearly 5 million adherents now, has rightly received much attention from the American media. But few people realize that French evangelicals have experienced healthy—sevenfold!—growth since 1950, and that evangelistic influences such as the Alpha course are revitalizing faith in the nominally Catholic and practically secular nation. [...]

Of France's 60 million inhabitants, about 40 million consider themselves Catholic, but only about 5 million attend church each month. Up to 5 million are Muslim and 650,000 are Jewish. One million are Protestants; about 650,000 of them belong to the often austere and liturgical Reformed and Lutheran churches, but only a small proportion attend church regularly. Up to one-third of these mainline church attenders are likely evangelical-minded. Finally there are the 350,000 evangelical churchgoers. Most French are then deists, agnostics, or atheists. Or seekers.

It's unwise to underestimate Christianity, but it's fighting against two centuries of secular rationalist damage there.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:34 PM


The British navy's pink carpet (The Japan Times, Feb. 27, 2005)

'Rum, sodomy and the lash" are the words Winston Churchill is popularly credited with using to sum up the traditions of Britain's Royal Navy. (A former assistant has said that Churchill never uttered the famous phrase but wished he had.) Either way, the idea that Her Majesty's naval forces have always been a hotbed of homosexual activity is hardly new. The only thing that has changed over the years is the official response to such activity, which has ranged from a blind eye, to strictly enforced prohibition, to reluctant tolerance and now -- in possibly a worldwide first -- caring solicitude.

Note how the slippery slope tracks precisely with how little sea they have to protect? Now that they're down to just guarding the Thames they can turn them into party boats.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 5:34 PM


Does Canada stand for anything? (National Post, February 26th, 2005)

Our refusal to participate in the U.S. ballistic missile shield, a project that would protect Canadian and American cities alike from immolation, is perhaps the best example yet of how thoroughly fantasy and reality diverge in Ottawa. On Thursday, our government declared it would have nothing to do with the shield -- a foolish gesture meant to placate the pacifists in the Liberal caucus. But the next day, our PM advanced the conceit that the Americans would still have to consult with us before activating the system. One can practically hear the howls of laughter emanating from the few Washington officials who still bother to inform themselves of Ottawa's pronouncements: Can anyone seriously imagine that the President would ask our PM for permission to shoot down a missile heading for a U.S. target?

Should it ever see the light of day, Canada's much-delayed foreign policy review will be a chance for our government to see our country the way other nations see us, and respond accordingly. Nobody is suggesting a full u-turn in our foreign policy, or that we become a lapdog to the United States. Rather, what the federal government should do is consider how some of its previously touted principles could serve as the bedrock for a newly engaged nation.

At the core of both the "responsibility to protect" doctrine flirted with by Mr. Martin, and the "human security" agenda trumpeted by Chretien-era foreign minister Lloyd Axworthy, is the notion that Canada should be part of an international effort to bring a better life to those oppressed by war, dictatorship and human rights violations. For all our grousing about U.S. policy, how different are such principles from George W. Bush's declared aim to spread liberty? History shows that freedom and "human security" go hand-in-hand. How can we shy away from the U.S. effort to spread the former if we hope to make good on rhetoric concerning the latter?

We stand at a crossroads. Either we will continue to shrivel into our role as the world's impotent scold. Or we can begin to reclaim our status as a leader on the international stage. We urge the Prime Minister and his Cabinet to use the upcoming foreign-policy and military reviews to restore Canada's place in the world community and put an end to our unconscionable drift.

A noble thought, and one repeated in many editorials, but the Post is not following through with the logic of its own painful insights. The problem is not error, but madness. While one can at least give the Europeans the compliment of having a discernible ideological coherence to their follies, Canada is simply floundering in a miasma of Boomer cant. To use an analogy familiar to fans of this site, it is as if Canadian policy and Canadian public opinion are guided by a chaotic process of random mutation with no natural selection to guide towards survivability and fitness.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:40 PM


Tancredo's foolish crusade on China (Rocky Mountain News, February 26, 2005)

Should we even be making a fuss over a congressional resolution that is doomed to humiliating defeat - and which the White House, State Department and Pentagon have all understandably chosen to snub with silence? We're talking about Rep. Tom Tancredo's call last week for the Bush administration to scrap the One China policy and resume formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

There are enough Republicans who hate Communist repression of Christianity and enough Democrats who hate free trade that it should be possible to force a policy change towards China.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:24 PM


Official: Pakistan Dismantled al-Qaida (RIAZ KHAN, 2/26/05, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Pakistan has "broken the back" of al-Qaida by dismantling its network and arresting hundreds of suspects, a top government official said Saturday. [...]

"The remnants of al-Qaida are on the run. Their network is no more in tact. They are scattered and not in a position to even plan attacks," Sherpao said in this northwestern border city. "The al-Qaida leadership is no more effective."

Pakistan has arrested more than 700 al-Qaida suspects since the Sept. 11 attacks, including top leader Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who was captured near the capital, Islamabad, in March 2003.

There's always just one concern when America goes to war, that it will choose to stop too soon, due to popular pressure from within, and not complete the job it set out to do. As Mr. Bush pushes even our putative allies to liberalize their regimes and as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia--two of the allies who need reforming--crack down on the terrorists within their borders, the possibility exists that we will complete, and therefore win, a war for the first time in our history.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:13 PM


Why Not Here? (DAVID BROOKS, 2/26/05, NY Times)

This is the most powerful question in the world today: Why not here? People in Eastern Europe looked at people in Western Europe and asked, Why not here? People in Ukraine looked at people in Georgia and asked, Why not here? People around the Arab world look at voters in Iraq and ask, Why not here?

Thomas Kuhn famously argued that science advances not gradually but in jolts, through a series of raw and jagged paradigm shifts. Somebody sees a problem differently, and suddenly everybody's vantage point changes.

"Why not here?" is a Kuhnian question, and as you open the newspaper these days, you see it flitting around the world like a thought contagion. Wherever it is asked, people seem to feel that the rules have changed. New possibilities have opened up. [...]

It's amazing in retrospect to think of how much psychological resistance there is to asking this breakthrough question: Why not here? We are all stuck in our traditions and have trouble imagining the world beyond. As Claus Christian Malzahn reminded us in Der Spiegel online this week, German politicians ridiculed Ronald Reagan's "tear down this wall" speech in 1987. They "couldn't imagine that there might be an alternative to a divided Germany."

But if there is one soft-power gift America does possess, it is this tendency to imagine new worlds. As Malzahn goes on to note, "In a country of immigrants like the United States, one actually pushes for change. ... We Europeans always want to have the world from yesterday, whereas the Americans strive for the world of tomorrow."

One need not have drunk the Kool-Aid to recognize that there's just one man responsible for the fact that so many are asking this question right now.

The tide of freedom (SALIM MANSUR, 2/26/05, Toronto Sun

Shakespeare's Brutus declares, "There is a tide in the affairs of men," and its meaning, when properly grasped, opens new chapters in human history.

The abiding tide in human affairs is that of freedom, sometimes receding and at other times in full flood.

It is in the wake of this tide beginning to swell in the Middle East that U.S. President George Bush arrived in Europe this week.

Bush -- like Ronald Reagan, his political hero -- has shown an uncanny ability to grasp the meaning of freedom's tide in history and boldly "take the current when it serves" to expand liberty's realm.

He's more the wakemaker, no?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:02 PM


Egypt's Mubarak Calls for Multi-Party Presidential Elections (VOA News, 26 February 2005)

In a historic move, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has ordered the constitution changed to allow more than one candidate to run for president.

In a televised address Saturday, Mr. Mubarak called for the constitutional amendment to be made before May, in time for September's presidential elections.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:53 PM


Three arrested for Tel Aviv bomb (Associated Press, February 26, 2005)

Palestinian security forces have arrested at least three suspected militants in connection with a suicide bombing that killed four Israelis at a Tel Aviv nightclub, acting on orders from Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to track down and punish those responsible.

Palestinian security officials pointed to the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah, which has been trying to disrupt an informal Mideast truce, as the apparent mastermind of the attack. Abbas hinted at Hezbollah involvement, holding a "third party" responsible for the bombing. [...]

The bomber was identified as Abdullah Badran, 21, a university student from the village of Deir al-Ghusun near the West Bank town of Tulkarem. His parents said he was a devout Muslim, but had no history of militant activity.

The three main militant groups - Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades - denied involvement, and none hung the customary posters of congratulations at the bomber's home.

The Palestinian interior minister, Nasser Yousef, said Palestinian security forces have arrested two militants in connection with the attack. Local security officials in Tulkarem said the two men have ties to Islamic Jihad, and that more arrests were expected.

Palestinian security officials had said they were investigating whether Badran was recruited by local militants from Al Aqsa, which has ties to to Abbas' ruling Fatah movement, at the behest of Hezbollah. Often, there is overlap and coordination between militant groups, particularly Islamic Jihad and Al Aqsa.

Mr. Abbas' desire to deflect blame from Fatah and its allies is understandable, if transparently false.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:45 PM


Cosmos' Missing Matter Could Be in Their Sights: A hydrogen mass is a major clue in one of the deepest mysteries of the universe, scientists say. (John Johnson, February 26, 2005, LA Times)

The discovery of a big ball of hydrogen 50 million light-years from Earth may help unravel one of the thorniest problems in modern cosmology: Where is the missing dark matter in the universe?

Researchers at Cardiff University in Wales have measured a giant ball of hydrogen in the Virgo Cluster of Galaxies that they believe to be part of a much larger invisible galaxy of whirling debris.

If the finding stands up under the scrutiny of other cosmologists, it would be the best evidence yet that most of the matter in the universe is made up not of stars, but of a cold and invisible material known as dark matter. [...]

Other possible dark galaxies have been announced before, only to turn out to contain hidden stars when observed with high-powered telescopes. Others turned out to be the remains of colliding galaxies. The Cardiff team spent much of the five years since detecting the hydrogen ball eliminating other possibilities.

They found no stars and no traces of a galactic collision.

"As Sherlock Holmes said, 'When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever is left — however improbable — must be the truth,' " said Mike Disney of the Cardiff team.

If it wasn't so funny it would be sad that this is what passes for "scientific reasoning" these days.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:36 PM


Toss Bashar Assad Out of Both Lebanon and Syria
: The assassination of Rafik Hariri is the final straw. The world should help the two nations oust this tyrant. (Danielle Pletka, February 25, 2005, LA Times)

If Syria is responsible for the assassination of Lebanon's former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri — as many observers believe — it is only the most recent in a long line of that country's transgressions. And it must not go unanswered.

It marks a moment when much of the world is united against the regime of Bashar Assad, Syria's tyrannical dictator. It is clear that quashing Assad in Lebanon would strike a blow for liberty there. As important, it could strike a blow for a free Syria, and wider liberty in the Arab world. [...]

But liberty for Lebanon should not be the endgame for the United States, France or the United Nations. Syria itself must be freed from the Assad dictatorship, with its legacy of poverty, corruption and death, including the 1982 murder of up to 20,000 opponents of the regime in the city of Hama.

The costs of standing up to Syria in Beirut and in Damascus should not be insurmountable. Assad is feeling the world's censure now, claiming that he will begin to remove troops from Lebanon. A small increase in pressure might move him out altogether.

And Sunni Arab governments in the region may well be amenable to challenging the Alawite status quo. Even the Shiite-dominated government in Iraq has taken a stand against Assad, closing its border with Syria several times. If Syria continues on its current path it could find itself an island in its own region, denied trade, tourism, hard currency. A free Lebanon could even exclude Syrian guest workers — now exported to Lebanon's free market to relieve high unemployment at home.

How about a book for correctly picking when Baby Assad steps down or calls an election to choose his own replacement?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:28 PM

THE SHIELD (via Michael Burns):

HILL'S IRAQ SLAP (NILES LATHEM, February 25, 2005, NY Post)

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has touched off a diplomatic flap with Iraq's incoming government by questioning whether the leading candidate to become the next prime minister is too close to Iran's ayatollahs.

The likely new prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, shot back at Clinton, who just completed a visit to Iraq, by questioning her credibility as a spokeswoman for U.S. foreign policy.

"Hillary Clinton, as far as I know, does not represent any political decision or the American administration and I don't know why she said this," al-Jaafari told The Times of London.

"She knows nothing about the Iraq situation," he added.

Clinton had infuriated al-Jaafari — selected this week by the dominant Shiite political conglomerate to become prime minister — by saying his past connections to Iran are cause for "concern."

The former first lady, considering running for president in 2008, ignited the diplomatic tempest after she appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday and noted al-Jaafari's leadership of the Dawa Party, a conservative Shiite group with longstanding ties to Iran.

"There are grounds for concern and for vigilance about this," said Clinton, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

It's obviously in our interest--and that of the Iraqis--to have a "bad cop" prodding them when they show signs of getting out of line. That Ms Clinton would take on such a thankless role suggests she's capable of putting public concerns ahead of private interest.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:58 AM


Amid a Lukewarm Europe, Bush Finds a Fan in Slovakia (ELISABETH BUMILLER, February 26, 2005, NY Times)

A respite came in Slovakia, where crowds cheered Mr. Bush's talk of freedom and the country's prime minister, Mikulas Dzurinda, raved about his meeting with the American president.

"I like Bush," Mr. Dzurinda told American reporters over lunch on Thursday. "You know why? Because he told me that he doesn't like to write, but he likes to speak to people, and I am the same."

President and prime minister also bonded, Mr. Dzurinda reported, over the complications of raising girls. "He has two daughters; I have two daughters," Mr. Dzurinda said. "The older is 20, the younger 17 - you can imagine." And did Mr. Bush commiserate about his party-loving twins?

Mr. Dzurinda wiped his brow with great drama and laughed. "We share some experiences," he replied. [...]

Mr. Bush prides himself on his plain-spoken English and Texas style, so he surprised an audience of Europeans on Monday in Brussels by quoting a French existentialist.

"Albert Camus said that 'Freedom is a long-distance race,' " Mr. Bush said in his opening speech about the future of the United States and Europe. "We're in that race for the duration and there is reason for optimism."

The full Camus quote, from "The Fall," is not quite so cheery: "I didn't know that freedom is not a reward or a decoration that is celebrated with Champagne. Nor yet a gift, a box of dainties designed to make you lick your chops. Oh, no! It's a choice, on the contrary and a long-distance race, quite solitary and very exhausting. No Champagne. No friends raising their glasses as they look at you affectionately. Alone in a forbidding room, alone in the prisoner's box before the judges, and alone to decide in face of oneself or in the face of others' judgment. At the end of all freedom is a court sentence; that's why freedom is too heavy to bear, especially when you're down with a fever, or are distressed, or love nobody."

Can Ms Bumiller really not figure out that's why they chose the quote for his visit to Europe?

Posted by David Cohen at 11:33 AM


I'm not sure if this was covered while I was away, but in trying to catch up upon my return, I loved the juxtaposition of these two stories:

JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS: Rep. Hinchey Calls for Media Scrutiny (CNN, 2/22/05)

WOODRUFF: As we reported a little while ago in our blog segment, the Internet is abuzz with reaction to comments by New York Democratic Congressman Maurice Hinchey. The congressman over the weekend shared his views about the now disputed CBS News report about President Bush's Air National Guard service. Representative Maurice Hinchey is with me now, he joins us from Albany, New York. . . .

REP. MAURICE HINCHEY (D), NEW YORK: Well, Judy, what I said came in response to a question from one of my constituents. There were about 100 people there. And they asked some questions about media manipulation. They were concerned about the issue of Armstrong Williams, for example, people being hired by this administration to pretend that they were giving objective news and information but were really putting forth the point of view of the administration rather than doing it objectively. And also the issue with Mr. Gannon, who was admitted to the White House press corps but who was not a legitimate press person, and was there just to throw softballs to the president.

And then the issue of the CBS Dan Rather event came up, and I said that there were false documents or documents which were falsified and presented as being accurate and there was a question as to where those documents came from. And in the context of the discussion I suggested that -- my theory was that I wouldn't be surprised if it came from the White House political operation, headed up by Karl Rove.

WOODRUFF: Well, I'm reading here a transcript of what you said, you said: "I have my own beliefs about how that happened. It originated with Karl Rove in my belief in the White House." What do you know that you base that on?

HINCHEY: Well, I think there's a great deal of circumstantial information and factual information. . . .

WOODRUFF: But, at this point, it is just imagination, is that correct?

HINCHEY: It's a possibility, yes. It's a possibility based upon circumstantial evidence and the history of his behavior over the course of several decades. . . .

WOODRUFF: But some would say, listening to what you said and hearing your acknowledgment that you don't have any proof, that it's irresponsible or -- let me ask you, do you think it's responsible for you to say this without evidence?

HINCHEY: I think it's very responsible of me to speculate about where this manipulation is coming from. Yes. I think it's important to speculate about it, I think it's important to discuss it and I think it's important to try to stimulate the investigative agencies to look into this. (Emphasis added)

In Secretly Taped Conversations, Glimpses of the Future President (David D. Kirkpatrick, NY Times, 2/20/05)

As George W. Bush was first moving onto the national political stage, he often turned for advice to an old friend who secretly taped some of their private conversations, creating a rare record of the future president as a politician and a personality.

In the last several weeks, that friend, Doug Wead, an author and former aide to Mr. Bush's father, disclosed the tapes' existence to a reporter and played about a dozen of them. . . .

Preparing to meet Christian leaders in September 1998, Mr. Bush told Mr. Wead, "As you said, there are some code words. There are some proper ways to say things, and some improper ways." He added, "I am going to say that I've accepted Christ into my life. And that's a true statement."

But Mr. Bush also repeatedly worried that prominent evangelical Christians would not like his refusal "to kick gays." . . .

He refused to answer reporters' questions about his past behavior, he said, even though it might cost him the election. Defending his approach, Mr. Bush said: "I wouldn't answer the marijuana questions. You know why? Because I don't want some little kid doing what I tried."

He mocked Vice President Al Gore for acknowledging marijuana use. "Baby boomers have got to grow up and say, yeah, I may have done drugs, but instead of admitting it, say to kids, don't do them," he said. . . .

The private Mr. Bush sounds remarkably similar in many ways to the public President Bush. Many of the taped comments foreshadow aspects of his presidency, including his opposition to both anti-gay language and recognizing same-sex marriage, his skepticism about the United Nations, his sense of moral purpose and his focus on cultivating conservative Christian voters. . . .

The New York Times hired Tom Owen, an expert on audio authentication, to examine samples from the tapes. He concluded the voice was that of the president. . . . [Who said that Rathergate wouldn't change journalism?]

Mr. Bush knew that his own religious faith could be an asset with conservative Christian voters, and his personal devotion was often evident in the taped conversations. When Mr. Wead warned him that "power corrupts," for example, Mr. Bush told him not to worry: "I have got a great wife. And I read the Bible daily. The Bible is pretty good about keeping your ego in check."

The Democrats would have a much better chance of figuring out what game to play if they could first figure out where the arena is.

Semi-selfreferential comment: We had a great vacation, but the only BrothersJudd moment I had (other than noticing the large number of churches on a poor island) came on our first travel day. Last Sunday, scurrying to make one of those Atlanta connections in which you are given 45 minutes to complete a substantial leg of your journey on foot, we passed a closed Chick-Fil-A in the airport. It didn't really matter to us, as (a) we had no time and (b) we would have gone to the Cinnabon next door, anyways.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:36 AM


Rice Calls Off Mideast Visit After Arrest of Egyptian (JOEL BRINKLEY, Feb. 25, 2005, NY Times)

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Friday abruptly called off a planned trip to several Middle Eastern countries that had been scheduled for next week, a decision that came apparently because of the arrest of a leading Egyptian opposition politician last month.

The decision highlighted a rift with an important ally over President Bush's push for democratic change. It came a day after Mr. Bush's tense meeting with Vladimir V. Putin, the Russian president, who was clearly uncomfortable with Mr. Bush's criticism of Russia's democracy. [...]

The immediate trigger for the tensions was the arrest on Jan. 28 of Ayman Nour, a member of Egypt's largely powerless Parliament and head of an opposition party called Al Ghad, or Tomorrow. When Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit visited Washington last week, Ms. Rice made her displeasure clear, officials said.

After the meeting, Mr. Gheit protested that Mr. Nour's arrest was an internal Egyptian matter, and Suleiman Awad, the spokesman for President Hosni Mubarak, said he rejected "any foreign interference in Egypt's internal affairs."

Some members of Congress then began urging Ms. Rice not to attend the meeting of Arab and Group of 8 nations in Cairo. One of them, Representative Adam Schiff, a California Democrat who is on the Middle East subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, co-sponsored a resolution condemning Egypt for arresting Mr. Nour.

"To attend a conference on democracy in Egypt right now would be the height of irony," Mr. Schiff said in an interview on Friday. "The State Department must send the message to Egypt that it is on the wrong track, that we are no longer willing to overlook these things."

Remember how the President couldn't possibly mean all this liberty guff and certainly wouldn't apply it to "allies"?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:32 AM


Murky Debate on Abortion Law: Kansas legislation states precisely its terms for ending pregnancies late in the term. But how doctors interpret those rules may not be clear. (P.J. Huffstutter and Stephanie Simon, February 26, 2005, LA Times)

The law in Kansas is explicit: A fetus old enough to survive outside the womb cannot be aborted — unless continuing the pregnancy would endanger the woman's life or irreversibly harm her physical or mental health.

In demanding access to the medical records of women who had late-term abortions, Kansas Atty. Gen. Phill Kline suggested this week that doctors might be violating that law by aborting viable fetuses too freely.

His aggressive action earned praise from abortion opponents, some of whom maintain a vigil in front of hundreds of white crosses pounded into the grass outside the state's sole late-term abortion clinic, here in Wichita.

"The attorney general is doing his job. He's enforcing the law," said Troy Newman, president of the abortion protest group Operation Rescue West.

But abortion providers — and patients — say the thought of a prosecutor sifting through medical charts to second-guess their choices terrifies them. [...]

Fetal viability and maternal health can be assessed using objective scientific measures, but there is inevitably a subjective component, said Janet Crepps, a staff attorney with the Center for Reproductive Rights in New York

"If you look far enough, you can probably find a doctor who will have a different opinion, especially in an area as politically charged as abortion," Crepps said. "That's why physicians feel vulnerable" when prosecutors demand that they open their medical charts.

Easy enough to avoid prosecution. Don't kill.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:25 AM


Thompson shot self while talking with wife (AP, 2/25/05)

The widow of journalist Hunter S. Thompson said her husband killed himself while the two were talking on the phone.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Revenge killings in Iraq on the rise (HANNAH ALLAM, Feb. 25, 2005, Knight Ridder Newspapers)

Shiite Muslim assassins are killing former members of Saddam Hussein's mostly Sunni Muslim regime at will and with impunity in a parallel conflict that some observers fear could snowball into civil war.

The war between Shiite vigilantes and former Baath Party members is seldom investigated and largely overshadowed by the mostly Sunni insurgency. The U.S. military is preoccupied with hunting down suicide bombers and foreign terrorists, and Iraq's new Shiite leaders have little interest in prosecuting those who kill their former oppressors or their enemies in the insurgency.

The killings have intensified since January's Shiite electoral victory, and U.S. and Iraqi officials worry that they could imperil progress toward a unified, democratic Iraq.

"It's the beginning, and we could go down the slippery slope very quickly," said Sabah Kadhim, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry. "We've been so concerned with removing terrorists and Islamists that this other situation has reared its ugly head. Both sides are sharpening their knives."

Since the Jan. 30 elections, Shiite militants have stepped up their campaign to exact street justice from men who were part of the regime that oppressed and massacred members of their sect for decades. While Shiite politicians turn a blind eye, assassins are working their way through a hit list of Saddam's former security and intelligence personnel, according to Iraqi authorities, Sunni politicians and interviews with the families of those who've been targeted.

The failure to do this right off the bat, in 2003, was a huge mistake and provided the insurgency with leadership that could have been neutralized instead.

February 25, 2005

Posted by Peter Burnet at 8:30 PM


Archbishop fears Anglican split over gays
(AP/CP, February 25th. 2005)

On Thursday, the Anglican leaders asked the U.S. Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada to withdraw from a key council of the global communion for three years because of the election of a gay bishop in the United States and the blessing of same-sex unions there and in Canada. Some fear the move could be the first step toward a permanent split in the 77-million-strong church.

The request was made following a Northern Ireland meeting that the Anglican leaders, or primates, convened on the crisis.

In a statement, the bishops called on the U.S. and Canadian churches to “voluntarily withdraw their members from the Anglican Consultative Council for the period leading up to the next Lambeth Conference,” an international Anglican gathering to be held in 2008.

The Episcopal Church, which is the U.S. province of Anglicanism, precipitated the most serious rift in the communion's history when it consecrated V. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire in November 2003. Robinson lives with his long-time male partner. Conservatives have also criticized North American dioceses for allowing blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples.

The North Americans have been asked not to attend the next meeting of the consultative council, a body of bishops, priests and lay people from national Anglican churches who meet and consult in between the once-a-decade Lambeth Conferences for the primates.

Anglican leaders also recommended, however, a special hearing be organized at the council's gathering in June to allow the North American churches to send representatives who could explain their views on homosexuality.

“In the meantime, we ask our fellow primates to use their best influence to persuade their brothers and sisters to exercise a moratorium on public rites of blessing for same-sex unions and on the consecration of any bishop living in a sexual relationship outside Christian marriage,” the statement said.

Despite the rift, Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, said the meeting was conducted on good terms.

The strategy of the pro-gay, liberal forces seems to be to keep the issue a subject of perpetual dialogue that is never brought to a head and resolved. Presumably this stems from their conviction they are the voice of cutting-edge progressive enlightenment and that the ignorant conservatives will eventually find their way out of the darkness or die off.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:51 PM


Togo's military-installed president says he will resign (AP, 2/25/05)

Togo's military-installed president said late Friday that he was stepping down after three weeks in office because of mounting pressure at home and abroad.

"I've taken the decision to step down from the office of president in the interest of Togo," President Faure Gnassingbe said on state radio.

Gnassingbe had been under growing pressure from the United States, the United Nations and West African leaders to resign since he was installed Feb. 5 after the death of his father...

The dominoes are falling quickly now.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:48 PM


Suicide bomber kills at least five outside of Tel Aviv nightclub (AP, 2/25/05)

A Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up in a crowd of young Israelis waiting outside a nightclub near Tel Aviv's beachfront promenade just before midnight Friday, killing up to five people, wounding dozens and shattering an informal Mideast truce.

About 20 to 30 people were waiting to get into the Stage club on Herbert Samuel street, close to the promenade. "I was near the club. There were about 20 people outside. Suddenly, there was an enormous explosion," said a witness, identified only as Tsahi.

There were conflicting reports of who was behind the attack. Israeli media said the militant group Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility.

NPR is reporting that Islamic Jihad says they did it. At any rate, it's a perfect opportunity for Israel to say that Palestine now has a democratic government that represents its people and has foresworn violence while Islamic Jihad represents no one but bitter-enders whose day has passed. Marginalize them even further.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:40 PM


-VIDEO: Washington Journal: Mark Steyn (C-SPAN, 2/25/05)

It doesn't get any better than Brian Lamb interviewing Mark Steyn.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:30 PM


Taking on Tehran
(Kenneth Pollack and Ray Takeyh, March/April 2005, Foreign Affairs)

Although Iran's hard-line leadership has maintained a remarkable unity of purpose in the face of reformist challengers, it is badly fragmented over key foreign policy issues, including the importance of nuclear weapons. At one end of the spectrum are the hardest of the hard-liners, who disparage economic and diplomatic considerations and put Iran's security concerns ahead of all others. At the opposite end are pragmatists, who believe that fixing Iran's failing economy must trump all else if the clerical regime is to retain power over the long term. In between these camps waver many of Iran's most important power brokers, who would prefer not to have to choose between bombs and butter. [...]

Iran's conservative bloc is riddled with factions and their contradictions. But whereas reformers and conservatives differ over domestic issues, the divisions within the conservative faction chiefly relate to critical foreign policy issues. Stalwarts of the Islamic revolution launched by Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979 still control Iran's judiciary, the Council of Guardians (the constitution's watchdog), and other powerful institutions, as well as key coercive groups such as the Revolutionary Guards and the Islamic vigilantes of the Ansar-e-Hezbollah. The hard-liners consider themselves the most ardent Khomeini disciples and think of the revolution less as an antimonarchical rebellion than as a continued uprising against the forces that once sustained the U.S. presence in Iran: Western imperialism, Zionism, and Arab despotism. Ayatollah Mahmood Hashemi Shahroudi, the chief of the judiciary, said in 2001, "Our national interests lie with antagonizing the Great Satan. We condemn any cowardly stance toward America and any word on compromise with the Great Satan." For ideologues like him, international ostracism is the necessary price for revolutionary affirmation.

The pragmatists among Khomeini's heirs believe that the regime's survival depends on a more judicious international course. Thanks to them, Iran remained a regular player in the global energy market even at the height of its revolutionary fervor. Today, these realists gravitate around the influential former president Hashemi Rafsanjani and occupy key positions throughout the national security establishment. One of the group's leading figures, Muhammad Javad Larijani, a former legislator, argues, "We should not have what I would call an obstinate policy toward the world." Instead, the pragmatic conservatives have tried to develop economic and security arrangements with foreign powers such as China, the European Union, and Russia. In reaction to the United States' overthrow of two regimes on Iran's periphery--in Afghanistan and Iraq--they have adopted a wary but moderate stance. Admonishing his more radical brethren, Rafsanjani, for example, has warned, "We are facing a cruel and powerful U.S. government, and we have to be cautious and awake."

In a similar vein, the issue of Iraq is also fracturing the theocratic regime. In the eyes of Iran's reactionaries, the Islamic Republic's ideological mission demands that the revolution be exported to its pivotal Arab (and majority Shiite) neighbor. Such an act would not only establish the continued relevance of Iran's original Islamic vision but also secure a critical ally for an increasingly isolated Tehran. In contrast, the approach of Tehran's realists is conditioned by the requirements of the nation-state and its demands for stability. For this cohort, the most important task at hand is to prevent Iraq's simmering religious and ethnic tensions from engulfing Iran. Instigating Shiite uprisings, dispatching suicide squads, and provoking unnecessary confrontations with the United States hardly serves Iran's interests at a time when its own domestic problems are deepening. As a result, Tehran's mainstream leadership has mostly encouraged Iraq's Shiite groups to participate in reconstruction, not to obstruct U.S. efforts, and to do everything possible to avoid civil war. Hard-liners, meanwhile, have won permission to provide some assistance to Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army and other Shiite rejectionists.

Teetering between the two camps is Iran's supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei. As the theocracy's top ideologue, he shares the hard-liners' revolutionary convictions and their confrontational impulses. But as the head of state, he must safeguard Iran's national interests and temper ideology with statecraft. In his 16 years as supreme leader, Khamenei has attempted to balance the ideologues and the realists, empowering both factions to prevent either from achieving a preponderance of influence. Lately, however, the Middle East's changing political topography has forced his hand somewhat. With the American imperium encroaching menacingly on Iran's frontiers, Khamenei, one of the country's most hawkish thinkers, is being forced to lean toward the pragmatists on some issues.

More than any other issue, the pursuit of nuclear weapons has exacerbated tensions within Iran's clerical estate. The theocratic elite generally agrees that Iran should maintain a nuclear research program that could eventually allow it to build a bomb. After all, now that Washington has proved willing to put its provocative doctrine of military pre-emption into practice, Iran's desire for nuclear weapons makes strategic sense. And Tehran cannot be entirely faulted for rushing to acquire them. When the Bush administration invaded Iraq, which was not yet nuclearized, and avoided using force against North Korea, which already was, Iranians came to see nuclear weapons as the only viable deterrent to U.S. military action.

The key, of course, is for us to demonstrate that nukes aren't a deterrent. A strike on North Korean nuclear facilities would take care of that.

But the rest of the essay raises an obvious question: how many totalitarian regimes have ever made the choice to pursue economic development at the cost of abandoning military aspirations? Any? If you can't afford to have elections can you afford to appear weak?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:28 PM


Boston Arena May Be Named for Derek Jeter (AP, 2/25/05)

The arena is in downtown Boston, the heart of Red Sox Nation. There couldn't be a bigger insult than to name it after the captain of the hated New York Yankees.

But that's just what Manhattan lawyer Kerry Konrad aims to do next Tuesday after his $2,325 bid won an eBay auction giving him the one-day naming rights to the FleetCenter.

Konrad's proposed name: the Derek Jeter Center, after the Yankee shortstop.

His winning bid threw the FleetCenter brass into a dilemma.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:49 PM


'U.S. will get Syria out by May': Former Lebanese PM says war in Iraq will allow his country to be free (Aaron Klein, February 25, 2005, WorldNetDaily.com)

The U.S. led war against terrorism and its advances in Iraq and Afghanistan have enhanced the climate in the Middle East and will enable the international community to force Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon likely by May, former Lebanese Prime Minister Michel Aoun told WorldNetDaily today in an exclusive interview.

"The U.S. and EU are backing us in our movement to free Lebanon," said Aoun, speaking to WND from France. "They are interfering through diplomacy and threats of sanctions, and the situation is such today that Syria must comply. If the U.S. and Europe follow through, Syria will be obliged to withdraw before Lebanese elections in May."

Just in time for the June strikes on Iran that Seymour Hersh is predicting. Looks like Kim Jong-il gets his in July.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:10 PM


Dean visiting GOP strongholds: Mixed reception likely in Kansas (John Mercurio, 2/24/05,

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean on Thursday began a two-day visit to the GOP stronghold of Kansas, hoping to erase the notion that his party has surrendered so-called "red states" to Republicans. [...]

Dean is likely to face a mixed reception in Kansas, which at 43 percent trails only Nebraska and Utah in the percentage of population registered as Republicans.

The state hasn't gone for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964, and President Bush beat John Kerry among Kansans in November by 25 percentage points.

That, Dean said, is precisely why he's traveling there. "I don't think Democrats are ever going to be a national party unless we bring our message to every state, and that includes Kansas," he told the Kansas City Star.

Some local Democrats appear unconvinced.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat who scored a surprising win in 2002 but is a top GOP target next year, won't appear with Dean during his two-day visit.

An aide noted that Sebelius remained neutral in the DNC race and backed Kerry in the presidential primary.

Rep. Dennis Moore, the state's only congressional Democrat, is traveling out of the country and won't return until next week.

The idea that Democrats' problem is that people aren't hearing them is utter lunacy. Good news for the few Red State Democrats though, the Shuttle is scheduled to start flying again soon and they may be able to pull a Jake Garn and actually leave the planet Earth when Dr. Dean comes to town.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:46 PM


A Specter is Haunting Arabia (Uriah Kriegel, 02/25/2005, Tech Central Station)

Would the Lebanese uprising against Syrian occupation have happened had we not invaded Iraq two years ago? There is every reason to think not. And this genuine display of People Power is only a manifestation of a deeper undercurrent slowly swarming and propagating throughout the Arab world.

A specter is haunting the Middle East -- the specter of freedom. [...]

If none other, this one prediction of the war's proponents appears to have come true: the experimentation with political freedom in the heart of Arabia is indeed spreading the notion of freedom across that land. What used to be a monolithic realm of self-anointed monarchies is starting to show another face, with democratically elected governments now ruling the Iraqi, Afghani, and Palestinian populations.

We should therefore credit the recent display of Lebanese empowerment to the Bush Doctrine. We have been discussing endlessly the supposed insurgency in Iraq. I say "supposed" because a relentless string of bloodbaths initiated by foreigners who murder innocent locals would not normally be described as an "insurgency." But a genuine insurgency may yet take shape in the Middle East over the next few months, or perhaps more realistically, the next few years. Namely, a Lebanese insurgency against the Syrian occupation.

Not just the Middle East either: Georgia, the Ukraine, Togo...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:41 PM

DIVE IN (via Rick Turley):

Ex-Steeler Swann Raising Money for Bid (AP, Feb 24, 2005)

Former Pittsburgh Steelers star Lynn Swann has formed a campaign committee to raise money for a potential run for governor in 2006. [...]

A Quinnipiac University poll of voters conducted earlier this month showed Rendell winning a hypothetical matchup against Swann, 50 to 34 percent.

He can expect to see a lot of George W. Bush if he wins the nomination. It's the ideal party-building candidacy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:48 PM


The Online Insurgency: MoveOn has become a force to be reckoned with (TIM DICKINSON, Rolling Stone)

They signed up 500,000 supporters with an Internet petition -- but Bill Clinton still got impeached. They organized 6,000 candlelight vigils worldwide -- but the U.S. still invaded Iraq. They raised $60 million from 500,000 donors to air countless ads and get out the vote in the battle-ground states -- but George Bush still whupped John Kerry. A gambler with a string of bets this bad might call it a night. But MoveOn.org just keeps doubling down.

Now that Howard Dean has been named chair of the Democratic National Committee -- an ascension that MoveOn helped to engineer -- the Internet activist group is placing another high-stakes wager. It's betting that its 3 million grass-roots revolutionaries can seize the reins of the party and establish the group as a lasting political force. "It's our Party," MoveOn's twenty-four-year-old executive director, Eli Pariser, declared in an e-mail. "We bought it, we own it and we're going to take it back." [...]

So who is MoveOn? Consider this: Howard Dean finished first in the MoveOn primary. Number Two wasn't John Kerry or John Edwards -- it was Dennis Kucinich. Listing the issues that resonate most with their membership, Boyd and Blades cite the environment, the Iraq War, campaign-finance reform, media reform, voting reform and corporate reform. Somewhere after freedom, opportunity and responsibility comes "the overlay of security concerns that everybody shares." Terrorism as a specific concern is notably absent. As are jobs. As is health care. As is education.

There's nothing inherently good or bad in any of this. It's just that MoveOn's values aren't middle-American values. They're the values of an educated, steadily employed middle and upper-middle class with time to dedicate to politics -- and disposable income to leverage when they're agitated. That's fine, as long as the group sticks to mobilizing fellow travelers on the left. But the risks are greater when it presumes to speak for the entire party. "The decibel level that MoveOn can bring is very high," says Bill Carrick, a longtime Democratic strategist.

Like so many other Internet start-ups, MoveOn has raised -- and burned through -- tens of millions of dollars, innovating without producing many concrete results. Any reasonable analysis shows its stock may be dangerously overvalued. Those banking on MoveOn had better hope it is more Google than Pets.com. Because should the group flame out, the Democrats could be in for a fall of Nasdaq proportions.

Here's the most obvious question that the suicidal path of the Democratic Party raise: is there no adult supervision?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:26 AM


In Reagan's Footsteps: Europe decides that Bush may be right after all. (Wall Street Journal, February 25, 2005)

Europe, collectively and in its several parts, requires a functioning relationship with the U.S. to secure its vital interests. The same cannot be said of America's requirements of Europe. President Bush was gracious when he acknowledged the willingness of Germany and France to contribute to the training of Iraqi policemen. But the one (yes, one) French officer now detailed to the task will probably not turn the tide of war.

Probably the most important component is that President Bush's vision of spreading democracy--of getting to the "tipping point" where tyrannies start to crumble--seems not only to be working but also winning some unexpected converts. Just ask the Lebanese who are suddenly restive under Syrian occupation. As a result, European politicians are in a poorer position to lecture this President about the true ways of the world.

This isn't to say that Mr. Bush can or should be indifferent to the attitudes of his European counterparts. They have agreed to put differences about Iraq behind them, which is good. The U.S., France and Germany also seem to be reasonably united in their concern about Russia's imperial pretensions and attenuated civil liberties. But potentially larger differences loom before them, above all over the nuclearization of Iran and the lifting of the post-Tiananmen arms embargo to China.

In each case, fundamental U.S. strategic interests--the security of Taiwan and Israel; the sovereignty of Iraq; naval supremacy in the Persian Gulf--stand at odds either with European commercial interests or ideological hobbyhorses (the French infatuation with "multipolarity"). If smoother diplomacy, both public and private, can avert another Iraq-style eruption without compromising U.S. interests, so much the better.

Then again, if Europe continues to demand a high price for its political favors, the Bush Administration would do well to shop for partners and ad hoc coalitions elsewhere. America's cultural links to Europe may be precious, but there is no law of nature or history that requires both sides of the Atlantic to act in concert. To the extent that Europeans continue to value the relationship, it is up to them to demonstrate it, chiefly by not acting as freelancers or spoilers in areas of vital U.S. concern.

Even folks like the WSJ editorial board keep saying things like this but what culture do we share with a secular statist Realist Europe?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:11 AM


Pat Metheny: An Idealist Reconnects With His Mentors (BEN RATLIFF, 2/25/05, NY Times)

IT was one of the coldest days of the winter and the guitarist Pat Metheny was only a few minutes late, but he had called ahead. When he arrived at our meeting place, a small recording studio within Right Track Studios in Midtown Manhattan, he arranged his stuff on the couch - including some musical scores - and sat down in a swivel chair before the 96-channel console. Mr. Metheny grew up in the rural Midwest but seems Californian: he has the inner glow. He had no socks on and looked comfortable.

"Basically, it's impossible," he said flatly, and smiled. "My taste, my general connection to music, I mean, you know, it just, I mean, even now, I think it just can't be done."

My proposal was that we listen together to a few pieces of music (not his) that affected him strongly. It could be any music: the point wasn't desert-island endorsements or a strict autobiography of influence; it was to talk about how music works. I had defined "a few" as three, or even one long piece, like a whole record. But Mr. Metheny took the challenge seriously.

"For me to say I'm going to build a case that describes something, under the guise of, you know, three songs - it actually shuts me down a little bit," he said, seeming pained. "The whole idea of style and genre is actually something I've willfully resisted from the very early stage. So if I pick this and then I pick that, it creates these two pillars. But I think I know what you're looking for, which has nothing to do with what I'm talking about."

He began to warm up. "I don't think too much about stuff like this, and it's been kind of a musical psychoanalysis. Most musicians are occasionally asked to put together their 10 favorite albums, but you're looking for the undercurrents to it all."

"You've got it perfectly," I said.

He produced a disc, onto which he had burned six pieces of music. "Well, then, let's start with Sonny Rollins and Paul Bley." [...]

In 1963 Sonny Rollins made a fascinatingly tense record with his saxophone-playing role model, Coleman Hawkins. Called "Sonny Meets Hawk!," the recording had an almost transparently psychological subtext: Mr. Rollins wasn't trying to best or outsmart Hawkins so much as to be very, very himself, with all possible eccentricities, in the face of his idol's magnificence.

"He was a young guy at the time," Mr. Metheny marveled, listening to Mr. Rollins's emphatic, darting lines in "All the Things You Are," harmonically at odds with Hawkins's, on the opening chorus. "That feeling is such a great feeling - like 'I can play anything, and it's all good.' Not to analyze it, but Hawk was kind of like his father. And it's like Sonny's saying, "yeah, but . . . ."

What especially attracts Mr. Metheny to the track, though, is Paul Bley's piano solo. It is made of elegant, flowing phrases that dance in and around the tonality and the melody of the song; it builds momentum and becomes carried away with itself. Mr. Metheny calls the solo "the shot heard 'round the world," in terms of its aftereffects in subsequent jazz, especially through Keith Jarrett. He describes Mr. Bley's solo as having an "inevitability."

"His relationship to time," Mr. Metheny said, "is the best sort of pushing and pulling; wrestling with it and at the same time, phrase by phrase, making these interesting connections between bass and drums, making it seem like it's a little bit on top, and then now it's a little bit behind." (He held an index finger straight up, and moved it slightly to the right and left, like a bubble in a carpenter's level, or an electronic tuning meter.)

"But there's also this X factor," he continued. "It's the sense of each thing leading very naturally to the next thing. He's letting each idea go to its own natural conclusion. He's reconciling that with a form, of course, that we all know very well. And he's following the harmony, but he's not. It just feels like, 'Why didn't anybody else do that before?' "

There is a plainspokenness, a kind of folkish natural feeling, to Bley's lines and his harmony, I added. Is the idea of "inevitability" related to that?

"Well, for me," he answered, "let's keep jazz as folk music. Let's not make jazz classical music. Let's keep it as street music, as people's everyday-life music. Let's see jazz musicians continue to use the materials, the tools, the spirit of the actual time that they're living in, as what they build their lives as musicians around. It's a cliché, but it's such a valuable one: something that is the most personal becomes the most universal."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:43 AM


Our Godless Constitution (BROOKE ALLEN, February 21, 2005, The Nation)

It is hard to believe that George Bush has ever read the works of George Orwell, but he seems, somehow, to have grasped a few Orwellian precepts. The lesson the President has learned best--and certainly the one that has been the most useful to him--is the axiom that if you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it. One of his Administration's current favorites is the whopper about America having been founded on Christian principles. Our nation was founded not on Christian principles but on Enlightenment ones. God only entered the picture as a very minor player, and Jesus Christ was conspicuously absent.

Our Constitution makes no mention whatever of God.

The author seems to know equally little about the Founders, the Constitution and religion (Puritans in the 1790s?). But the most obvious error is to read the Constitution in the abstract and to read only its technical provisions. It is merely a means; its ends stated in the too often ignored Preamble:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

All the Founders were trying to do was to set up institutions that would vindicate the principles of the Declaration:
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

For the Founders, as for most of us still, governments exist among men only n order to secure the gifts of the Creator and derive their legitimacy from the degree to which they succeed. As John Adams put it: "You have rights antecedent to all earthly governments; rights that cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws; rights derived from the Great Legislator of the Universe."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:53 AM


I wonder if I might beg your indulgence and even asjk your participation in a brief thought experiment. The Daytona 500 was run on Sunday--the Great American Race--and some details about it are of interest. For one thing the political associations, such that democrats were recently fretting over their inability to appeal to NASCAR fans. Also, the odd fact that it is pretty much the Superbowl of NASCAR, but is the first race rather than the last. And apparently it know gets a bigger tv audience than the NBA Finals. But, at any rate, suppose you were trying to explain the race, its attraction, and its importance to someone, how would you rate the following factors (you needn't do them all, maybe just the first two or three):

The racetrack

The drivers and their stories

The cars, their owners and sponsors

The qualities of auto racing

The pit crews and the work they do

The infield

The television coverage

The win itself, the checkered flag/trophy/prize money

UPDATE: It was an unforgivable parlor trick, I know, but you'll note from the comments that the answer is not, as Galileo and the Materialists insist, the infield, despite the physical fact that the race circles it. Indeed, nothing is further from the center of the story than the geometrical center of the race.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:40 AM

I'VE JUST FOUND ME A NEW BOX OF MATCHES (via Bryan Francoeur via Ed Driscoll

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:30 AM


Conservatives Say Pawlenty Is Potential Presidential Candidate: Minnesota Governor Has a Conservative Fan Base -- Those Who Are Hunting for the Ideal Candidate (MARC AMBINDER, Feb. 10, 2005, ABC News)

The confetti had barely settled after the inauguration of George W. Bush when hundreds of the nation's top conservative activists gathered in Orlando, Fla., during the last week in January for a meeting of the Council on National Policy.

Members of the council, an influential and private group that works behind the scenes to influence Republican politics, were already pondering the election in 2008.

Several noted that for the first time in many presidential cycles, prominent social conservatives have yet to identify a potential favorite.

In informal conversations, as described by two of the participants, more than a dozen names were thrown around -- most notably that of popular conservative Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Other potential candidates such as Tennessee Sen. Bill Frist and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush were discussed as well, though Bush has said he will not run in 2008.

The participants, including respected commentator Paul Weyrich and the Eagle Forum's Phyllis Schlafly, agreed that prominent conservatives should coordinate efforts to cultivate the candidate who best represents "values voters," and Pawlenty fits that description.

"He seems to be in line with the views of what we now call the 'values voters,' which are very important to the future of the Republicans," said Weyrich, who says he remains undecided about whom he'll support in 2008.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:26 AM


Murder at Harvard (American Experience, 2/28/05, 9pm, PBS)

In November 1849, Dr. George Parkman, one of Boston's richest citizens, suddenly disappeared. The police conducted an extensive search of the city and dredged the Charles River. Parkman had last been seen walking towards the Harvard Medical College. The Medical School's janitor, Ephraim Littlefield, who had a suspicion where Parkman might be found, spent two grueling nights tunneling beneath a basement laboratory looking for clues. What he discovered horrified Boston and led to one of the most sensational trials in American history.

Inspired by a book by historian Simon Schama, Murder at Harvard uses drama and documentary to re-examine this grisly episode. Schama plays a key role in the film as a "time-traveling" detective who puts himself in the place of the story's central characters, trying to uncover the "truth" behind the case. Weighing and sifting the evidence, he probes the lingering mysteries of this notorious trial and the larger philosophical question of how we can ever know what happened in the past.

'Murder at Harvard': Medical College case riveted 19th century Boston (Beth Potier, Harvard Gazette)

The disappearance of a prominent Bostonian. Dismembered body parts in the bowels of Harvard Medical College. A trial that pitted a Harvard professor deeply in debt against a grave-digging janitor.

Fact or fiction? History textbook or detective novel?

Both, said historian Simon Schama and filmmakers Eric Stange and Melissa Banta.

The three visited the Harvard Film Archive Wednesday (Sept. 25) to screen their new film, "Murder at Harvard," scheduled to air on the Public Broadcasting Service's "American Experience" series in 2003. The film and the book that inspired it, Schama's 1991 "Dead Certainties: Unwarranted Speculations," take an unorthodox route through historical storytelling, one that makes frequent visits to fiction, arriving at a truth that may be even more precise than the facts suggest.

In history, said Schama, "you have to feed both the imagination and reason."

-An Aristocrat's Killing (Craig Lambert, July/August 2003, Harvard Magazine)
-Shooting Back (Eric Stange, April 2001, Common-Place)
-All about George Parkman (Katherine Ramsland, Crime Library)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:49 AM


Adelphia Reverses Decision on Porn: Soon after starting to show hard-core fare, the cable firm stops offering it amid activist pressure. (Lorenza Muñoz and Sallie Hofmeister, February 25, 2005, LA Times)

The heat generated by Adelphia Communication Corp.'s decision to air hard-core pornography apparently was too hot for Southern California's largest cable operator.

In a quick about-face, Adelphia stopped offering customers the opportunity to purchase triple-X programming after receiving tens of thousands of complaints from anti-porn activists and expressions of concern in investment circles that the hard-core fare could complicate the company's pending sale.

Do Democrats still think they can get as far Right as the nation?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:15 AM


George Bush's Stepford Critics: You're likely to recant, zombie- like, if you betray the president. (JONATHAN CHAIT, February 25, 2005, LA Times)

Most presidents have to face betrayal sooner or later. (See John Dean revealing Nixon's cover-up, or David Stockman revealing the underside of Reagan's fiscal policies.) What's uncanny about the Bush administration is that its dissidents invariably recant, usually in zombie-like fashion.

...they're wrong.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:13 AM


French finance minister quits: Unemployment rate rises to 10% in January (Emily Church, Feb. 25, 2005, MarketWatch)

French Finance Minister Herve Gaymard resigned on Friday after less than three months on the job amid a scandal over his taxpayer-funded Parisian apartment and as the French unemployment rate rose to 10 percent.

His resignation, which had been anticipated as concerns grew over his 14,000 euros-a-month ($18,500) a month apartment, came on the day France joined Germany with the dubious distinction of an unemployment rate at double-digit percentage levels.

French unemployment lifted to a five-year high of 10 percent in January, up from 9.9 percent in December, the Insee statistics agency said. Economists had projected the jobless rate to hold steady at 9.9 percent.

The German jobless rate in January rose to 11.4 percent, a post-war high.

U.S. Q4 GDP stronger than first estimated (Greg Robb, 25, 2005, MarketWatch)
The U.S. economy grew at a 3.8 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter, stronger than the 3.1 percent estimated a month ago, the Commerce Department reported Friday.

And Fred Kaplan and company wonder why W didn't drink up their wisdom?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 AM


Palestinian Lawmakers OK New Cabinet; Most Arafat Loyalists Out: Much of the slate is made up of reform- minded technocrats and first-timers. (Henry Chu, February 25, 2005, LA Times)

Palestinian lawmakers ended days of rancorous debate Thursday and broke with the legacy of Yasser Arafat, giving their approval to a reformist Cabinet filled with technocrats and newcomers and nearly devoid of the late president's loyalists.

The 24 ministers, nearly three-quarters of them freshmen and two of them women, were sworn in late Thursday and were to start work today as the Palestinian Authority's first post-Arafat government.

In a sign of how the political scene has shifted since Arafat's death in November, the lineup includes only a couple of people, including Deputy Prime Minister Nabil Shaath, who are considered part of the old guard that surrounded Arafat.

Shaath, who also has the information portfolio, is the Cabinet's only elected legislator. Most of the new ministers are academics and professionals, a concession by Prime Minister Ahmed Korei to lawmakers who had insisted that the government abandon the cronyism and corruption of past years in favor of expertise.

The transformation of the Middle Easty is proceeding so smoothly and at such a rapid pace that we'll start to see stories any day now about how everyone knew it was inevitable and supported it 100% and George Bush just followed along--which is the Left's version of Reagan winning the Cold War. If he plays his cards right, Mr. Abbas could even be their Gorbachev...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:03 AM


Court: Man can sue over 'surprise' pregnancy (ABDON M. PALLASCH, February 25, 2005, Chicago Sun-Times)

If a woman performs oral sex on a man, leaves the room, secretly uses that sperm to impregnate herself, then sues the man for child support, is that "extreme and outrageous" conduct?

Yes it is, the Illinois Appellate Court ruled this week.

The justices said Chicago doctor Richard Phillips can try to convince a jury that his ex-fiancee pulled that trick on him, causing him emotional distress.

The ex-fiancee, Sharon Irons, also a doctor, says Phillips got her pregnant the old-fashioned way -- sexual intercourse -- and concocted the oral sex story as a novel excuse to get out of paying child support for their 5-year-old daughter.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:00 AM


Argentina Prepares to Shed Its Debt, Reenter Fiscal Markets: Deadline arrives for bondholders to decide whether to accept about one-third the value. (Héctor Tobar, February 25, 2005, LA Times)

Argentina is expected to complete the largest debt restructuring in history today, hoping to end the long saga of financial excess, collapse and default that has made the country's name synonymous with fiscal irresponsibility.

Today is the deadline for President Nestor Kirchner's take-it-or-leave-it offer to worldwide investors who own the nearly $103 billion in bonds and interest that Argentina defaulted on three years ago: Accept payment in a new series of bonds that will, on average, pay back investors one-third the value. Most are expected to take it, but some have already filed lawsuits. [...]

Despite the seemingly bad terms of Kirchner's offer, financial observers say about 75% of the bondholders are expected to accept. Officials at the International Monetary Fund and other agencies have said that would probably end Argentina's status as a financial pariah.

The debt restructuring will allow the nation to regain access to world financial markets.

Yet folk still can't grasp that we have the ChiComs over a barrel.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:58 AM


FDI open house in India (Kunal Kumar Kundu, 2/25/05, Asia Times)

India on Thursday liberalized rules for foreign investment in the real estate sector by deciding to allow 100% foreign direct investment (FDI) in construction. "The cabinet cleared the proposal for 100% FDI on the automatic approval route in the construction development sector," India's Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath announced after a cabinet meeting. Till now, overseas firms were allowed in only after clearance from the highly bureaucratic Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB).

"Foreign investors can enter any construction development area, be it to build resorts, townships or commercial premises, but they will have to construct at least 50,000 square meters within a specific time-frame," said Nath, without specifying the timeframe. "This will ensure they do not hold onto land for speculative purposes."

Nath said higher foreign investment in the real estate and construction sectors would boost employment and generate "positive spin-offs" for India's labor-intensive cement, steel and brick industries.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:52 AM


Iraqi Forces Capture Top Zarqawi Aide (VOA News, 25 February 2005)

Authorities in Baghdad say Iraqi security forces have captured the leader of an al-Qaida terrorist cell allegedly responsible for a series of beheadings.

The government identified the cell leader as Mohammed Najam Ibrahim, and said he worked closely with Iraq's most-wanted fugitive, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. He was arrested in Baquba, 60 kilometers north of the Iraqi capital.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:20 AM


The War on the War on Poverty: Bush's theory of domestic policy is more profound than "compassionate conservatism." (MYRON MAGNET, February 25, 2005, Wall Street Journal)

Implicit in compassionate conservatism was the epochal paradigm shift that is now all but explicit. Taken together, compassionate conservatism's elements added up to a sweeping rejection of liberal orthodoxy about how to help the poor, which a half century's worth of experience had discredited. If you want to help the poor, compassionate conservatives argued, liberate them from dependency through welfare reform; free their communities from criminal anarchy through activist policing; give them the education they need to succeed in a modern economy by holding their schools accountable; and let them enjoy the rewards of work by taxing their modest wages lightly--or not at all.

For the worst-off--those hampered by addiction or alcohol or faulty socialization--let the government pay private organizations, especially religious ones, to help. [...]

[T]he second Bush term is bringing the War on Poverty--demonstrably a cataclysmic mistake--to an end. A glance at the administration's recent budget shows the ongoing dismantling of antipoverty programs: a sharp reduction in the Community Development Block Grant, the main conduit for funneling federal money to cities; the reduction in HUD money for Section 8 subsidized housing vouchers, which abets the formation of dysfunctional single-parent families and destabilizes respectable working-class neighborhoods; and the shrinkage of ever-expanding Medicaid. Welfare is now temporary assistance in adversity, not a permanent way of life; and we can expect welfare reform's conditions to become even stricter when the 1996 Act finally gets reauthorized.

Supporters of the old paradigm are naturally apoplectic over such a transformation; and their outrage reveals just how sweeping a welfare state they really champion. As Georgetown law professor Peter Edelman, who resigned from the Clinton administration to protest the president's signing of the 1996 welfare reform, told columnist William Raspberry: "For virtually all of my adulthood, America has had a bipartisan agreement that we ought to provide some basic framework of programs and policies that provide a safety net, not just for the poor but for a large portion of the American people who need help to manage." How large a portion? Well, figures Mr. Raspberry, "the lower third of the economy." Think about that: nearly 100 million Americans as clients of the federal government. This is not temporary assistance but a European-style "social-democratic" (that is, socialist) welfare state. It is the political culture of America's old cities, with their hordes of government-supported clients, employees, and retirees--a culture that has produced slow or negative job and population growth. And this is exactly what the Bush administration does not want.

The failure of the European model, explicitly based on the belief that free-market capitalism is dangerous and needs to be tied down with a thousand trammels, like Gulliver, is one of the signal facts of our era, along with the failure of communism. In Europe, the idea that capitalism creates a permanently jobless class has become a self-fulfilling prophecy, as strict regulation and the high taxes needed to pay lavish welfare and unemployment benefits have resulted in half the U.S. rate of job creation, twice the rate of unemployment, and thus little opportunity.

Meanwhile retirees, often young and vigorous, go off for government-funded visits to health spas at taxpayer expense. Even if this were morally sustainable, it is not economically so, as even Gerhard Schroeder has learned. But with so many voters on the dole, or employed by the government to administer the vast welfare-state apparatus, who knows whether reform or collapse will occur first?

It's in this context that we should understand President Bush's campaign for Social Security reform. It is part of the large and coherent world view that has evolved out of compassionate conservatism.

While the Democratic version of same--the Third Way--has become extinct.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


China unhappy over US Patriot missiles to India (APP, 2/25/05)

A spokesman of the Chinese Foreign Office Kong Quan Thursday said that his country has taken note of reports regarding the sale of US anti-ballistic missile system to India, hoping that the relevant countries would ensure peace and stability in South Asia.

India is pivotal in the Axis of Good because it has Islam's Eastern flank and China's Western.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Democratic Terrorists?: Lebanon could emerge as the center of a new Middle East. But first the United States may have to come to terms with Hizbullah (Christopher Dickey, Feb. 24, 2005, Newsweek)

[I]f we really want to liberate the Lebanese, lumping Hizbullah together with Osama bin Laden’s lunatic cronies is counterproductive, a point that was often made by the late prime minister Hariri himself. In fact, more than a quarter of Lebanon’s people are Shiites, and Hizbullah is the most revered of the Shiite political parties, precisely because its militia fought so long and hard against the Israelis. It’s already represented in the Lebanese Parliament and on any day of the week, Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah can put as many people in the streets as all the anti-Syrian protest groups combined. Moreover, its interest in fighting Israel is much less ideological and much more local than is usually portrayed. Hizbullah wants Palestinian land liberated so Lebanon can send back hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees on its territory, most of whom are in Shiite areas. That’s a very tough political problem, but hardly the kind of cosmic, confrontational ideology that drives Al Qaeda.

Now, as Druze opposition leader Walid Jumblatt is making clear, Hizbullah has to decide whether it thinks the future of Lebanon lies with Syria or with the Lebanese people. If it turns against Damascus, then Syria’s Lebanese holiday is over. So, instead of isolating and excoriating Hizbullah at this point, Washington might do better by looking for ways to encourage it to join the opposition and draw it into the pro-democracy movement. Certainly that’s what Walid Jumblatt has been thinking.

Turn terrorists into democrats? That’s not as incongruous as it sounds. The Palestine Liberation Organization was a terrorist group, by most definitions. Now its leaders are hailed as legitimate elected officials. Twenty-five years ago one of the most infamous international terrorist organizations in the world was a Shiite group called the Dawa Party, many of whose cadres eventually became involved with Hizbullah and carried out terrorist acts that included kidnapping Americans and blowing up the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait. (The Dawa was fighting Saddam Hussein, in fact, and Washington and Kuwait were backing him.) Now Dawa Party leader Ibrahim Jaafari may well become the new elected prime minister in Baghdad, with Washington’s blessing. So, if politics have made terrorists our strange bedfellows in Palestine and Iraq, why not Lebanon? It’s a tough call, and there’s no guarantee Hizbullah will take on this role. But only if it does is there a real chance Beirut can emerge as the center of the center of the new, democratic Middle East.

Hezbollah, like Hamas, has for some time been just a political party waiting to happen and there's nothing incongruous about our emerging alliance with the Shi'a.

Lebanon's fate hinges on the Nasrullah factor (Sami Moubayed, 2/25/05, Asia Times)

Any person who was in Beirut on May 24, 2000, the day Hezbollah liberated South Lebanon, understands how immensely popular the enigmatic Hasan Nasrullah is in the country's Muslim, and particularly Shi'ite, community. Any person watching his speech five years later, this month, after the US started to press for the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon, and the disarming of Hezbollah, of which Nasrullah is the head, knows how easy it might be for the United States to get Syria to leave Lebanon, but how difficult, if not impossible, it would be to disarm or weaken the Shi'ites. [...]

The Shi'ites of Lebanon, like the Shi'ites of Iraq, are a majority who have long suffered from Sunni domination, especially during the 400-year rule of the Ottoman Empire in what is present-day Lebanon. Located in the eastern Bekka Valley, they survived during the early years of the 20th century through trade with Palestine, which was cut off completely by the creation of Israel in 1948. Preoccupied with domestic issues, consecutive Lebanese regimes paid little attention to the plight of the Shi'ites, and they were forgotten, politically and economically, during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

While government funds poured into the modernization of Beirut, making it the "Switzerland of the East" during the 1960s, the Shi'ite districts were neglected, receiving 0.7% of the state budget in 1974, although they made up 20% of the population at the time. Their representatives in parliament were all absentee feudal landlords who paid little attention to their plight, making the Shi'ites an economic under-class during the booming years of Beirut. [...]

The popularity that Hezbollah accumulated in the 1990s was due to two things: its massive media machine, and the countrywide educational and social network of schools, charities, hospitals and mosques that they operated, often under Nasrullah's direct supervision. Hezbollah put a lot of money into rebuilding poverty stricken neighborhoods of the Shi'ite community, and subsidizing housing in South Lebanon, after the Israeli withdrawal in 2000.

Much of the money initially came from Iran, but after gaining nationwide popularity in 2000, Hezbollah began to raise a lot of money on its own. On every road leading into Beirut, and on every route to the Shi'ite neighborhoods, Hezbollah youth would create friendly roadblocks, adorned with pictures of Nasrullah, the yellow flag of Hezbollah, booming nationalist songs, and a charity box. These petty donations added up and pretty soon larger donations came in from the emigrant Shi'ite community in the US, Latin America and Africa.

Needy families in the Shi'ite community received sealed envelopes from the secretary general of Hezbollah at the start of every month, with a decent stipend. This endeared him to the lower class of the Shi'ite community, which 30 years earlier Musa al-Sadr had described as the "wretched of the Earth".

Part of Nasrullah's success was that while always appealing to the Shi'ites, he never mentioned pan-Shi'ite loyalties, and always claimed to be speaking for Lebanon. This was not the case with Musa al-Sadr, who rose to power in the 1960s and 1970s through emphasis on Shi'ite nationalism as part of the greater Lebanese nationalism.

This different approach gave Nasrullah a fairly large following among the Sunnis of Lebanon as well. Like Sadr, however, he fully understood the multitude of Lebanon's confessional system, never once calling for an Islamic state in Lebanon, and always proclaiming to be a firm believer in the right of all Lebanese, regardless of religion, to live in harmony. Sadr, on the other hand, had referred to the Shi'ites as "disinherited", criticizing Maronite arrogance toward the Shi'ite community and the disproportionate representation of Shi'ites in senior political posts. While Sadr was highly critical of the Lebanese army for failing to protect the South from Israeli attacks in the 1970s, Nasrullah requested the protection of no one, claiming that Hezbollah can do well in South Lebanon without assistance from the Lebanese army. This was partly in order to maintain his hold over the South, and mainly to have a free hand in launching sporadic cross-border attacks against Israel.

Nasrullah liberates South Lebanon
Nasrullah's attacks on Israel usually resulted in retaliatory attacks on South Lebanon. In 1999, however, Israel's new prime minister Ehud Barak responded by bombing Beirut, causing much discontent among non-Shi'ite civilians who did not want to pay the price for Nasrullah's war. They quickly silenced their grumbling when one year later on May 24, 2000, Nasrullah liberated South Lebanon from the Israeli occupation it had been under since 1978. He was hailed throughout the Arab and Muslim world as a great leader, the only Arab to fight a war and emerge victorious against Israel since 1948.

Many speculated that he would now lay down his arms, and transform Hezbollah into a political party, but Nasrullah had other plans. He refused to disarm, just as he is doing today with regard to Resolution 1559, claiming that Israel still occupies Sheba Farms in South Lebanon.

President Emile Lahhoud could do little to stop him, since by that point Hasan Nasrullah was literarily the strongest man in Lebanon, supported wholeheartedly in his war against Israel by both Syria and Iran. The death of Syria's president Hafez al-Assad in June 2000 left the activities of Hezbollah unchecked inside Lebanon, since only Asad had the influence to dictate policy on the Shi'ite guerillas.

They maintained a strong relationship with Syria's new leader, Assad, based on common objectives in the Middle East, but no longer received orders from Syria. They informed the Syrian government of their plans, received guidance, supported Assad, and often relied on the Syrians for advice, but apart from that, this is where Syrian influence ended.

Nasrullah's team entered the political arena, running for parliament and winning 12 seats in 2000. In 1992, they had won eight seats in the 128-seat parliament. Hezbollah refused to assume government office, however, because according to Nasrullah, this would make the party bear responsibilities for mistakes done by any regime, whereas in the resistance it remains purified from political corruption and blundering.

Force them to take power.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Competing Visions For Social Security (Jonathan Weisman, February 24, 2005, Washington Post)

[O]ut of political pragmatism, those who hope to preserve a basic structure established by Franklin D. Roosevelt -- mainly Democrats -- have obscured both tax increases and benefit cuts, using a variety of mechanisms that make the proposals remarkably complex. [...]

Democrats and liberal economists have focused on bringing Social Security's finances into line without fundamentally altering the system. But their formal proposals would not simply raise taxes and reduce benefits. One prominent Democratic plan, proposed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist Peter A. Diamond and Brookings Institution economist Peter R. Orszag, would use a nine-stage battery of revenue-raisers and benefit reductions to produce a Social Security system that would be both in balance and more generous for poor workers, widows, the disabled and children who survive the death of their parents.

"It was designed by looking at particular sources of imbalance that seemed to us worth addressing," Diamond said.

Under the plan, all new state and local government workers would be brought into the Social Security system, effectively expanding the Social Security tax base to cover the 25 percent of government workers who now are exempt. Diamond and Orszag would also raise the cap on wages subject to payroll taxes to about $105,000 for now.

To raise more revenue, they would impose a 3 percent tax on all earnings above the cap. They would also slowly raise the current 12.4 percent Social Security tax rate to 14.2 percent in 2055.

Benefits would be cut, on a scale that starts with trims of only 0.6 percent for a worker currently 45 years old but rising to 8.6 percent for a future retiree who is now 25. And under a complex formula, cuts would hit more affluent retirees the hardest, while benefits for low-wage workers would rise.

Dean Speaks to Cornell Community: Party leader introduces Democrats' new strategy (Julie Geng, 2/24/05, Cornell Sun)
Dean began by speaking on what he thought was the most important issue today: the proposed privatization of Social Security. He said that President George W. Bush was trying to appeal to 20- and 30-year-olds through privatization, but claimed that in fact that generation would end up having to pay the $2 trillion bill for it.

"I think that privatizing Social Security has much more to do with the enormous amount of money that corporate Wall Street poured into the President of the United States's campaign than [helping] senior citizens," Dean said. "[Social Security] was a response toward [overcoming] abject poverty...it is not meant as a retirement program...it was meant as a social safety net for people who had reached the end of their working careers and did not deserve, after a long lifetime of dignified work, to live in poverty. ... It's not supposed to be a pension."

Dean pointed out that, while he would not endorse this, if Social Security were left alone for 30 years, its benefits would be reduced to 80 percent of what it is now. He acknowledged that while there were indeed problems with the program, turning to Wall Street was not the answer.

The President needs to just start beating Democrats with the fact that their position on SS requires benefit cuts and/or tax hikes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Egypt's Brutal Answer (Washington Post, February 24, 2005)

ON MONDAY President Bush again called on Egypt to "lead the way" toward democratic change in the Middle East. Apparently Hosni Mubarak, the country's leader for the past 24 years, wasn't listening. Later that same day, Mr. Mubarak's agents renewed their "interrogation" of Ayman Nour, the imprisoned head of the liberal Tomorrow Party. Six hours later -- at 1 a.m. -- Mr. Nour, a diabetic with a history of heart trouble, was "sweating, vomiting and holding his left arm," his wife told the Reuters news agency. Authorities refused his doctor's request that he be hospitalized; instead, he was taken Tuesday to a prison clinic. The Egyptian Human Rights Organization has issued a statement warning that Mr. Nour's life is in danger. Mr. Mubarak's relationship with the United States, and the U.S. aid that props up his regime, should be in danger too.

Were Egypt to respond to Mr. Bush's call, Mr. Nour would likely do some of the leading. Though only in his forties, he has served in the powerless Egyptian parliament for a decade and, like much of the Egyptian elite, has grown steadily more insistent in demanding political change. [...]

The Bush administration has been relatively assertive in protesting Mr. Nour's imprisonment, but Mr. Mubarak has been provocative in his defiance.

Here's one, like Syria was, where Congress could actualy prod the Administration.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Bush Listened to Europe: Now watch him ignore all the advice he got. (Fred Kaplan, Feb. 24, 2005, Slate)

Which part was he supposed to listen to; the pro-Saddam part; the pro-ChiCom part; or the pro-mullahcracy part?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Why French teachers have the blues (François Buglet, 2/25/05, Expatica)

French is disappearing from European classrooms in favour of English
The predominance of English on the internet, the relative ease of learning basic English and the perception that English is "cooler" - thanks in large part to popular music and films - means French is becoming ever more restricted to older generations and the upper classes of many countries where it used to be the second language of choice in schools.

Getting rid of the language is a good start.

February 24, 2005

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:02 PM


Harvard chief's 'sexism' apology (The Times, February 25th, 2005)

Harvard University president Lawrence Summers appears to have saved his job after apologising for politically incorrect remarks about differences between men and women.

Dr Summers, who was Treasury secretary in the Clinton administration, escaped a confidence vote yesterday at the second faculty meeting since his comments about women's ability in maths and science.

"I am determined to set a different tone," Dr Summers said. "I pledge to you that I will seek to listen more, and more carefully, and to temper my words and actions in ways that convey respect and help us work together more harmoniously."

Dr Summers had suggested that innate differences between the sexes may account for the lack of female professors in maths and science.

One of the most bizarre features of our times is how so many modern parents sacrifice so much to send their kids to institutions dedicated to closing their inquiring minds.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:42 PM


Schumer Signals 'Nuclear' War on Nominees (Robert B. Bluey, Feb 24, 2005, Human Events)

Senate Democrats are preparing to once again filibuster President Bush's judicial nominees despite efforts by Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (R.-Pa.) to extend an olive branch in hopes of reconciling differences. Liberal Sen. Chuck Schumer (D.-N.Y.) dismissed Specter's gesture Thursday and all but declared war on the nominees Bush resubmitted to the Senate last week.

Hoping to avoid the so-called "nuclear" option that would change the Senate's filibuster rule, Specter said he would tackle the nomination of William Myers III to the 9th Circuit appeals court next Tuesday. Myers, by Specter's calculation, is only two votes shy of the 60 needed to avoid a filibuster. He would have 58 votes if all Republicans and three supportive Democrats--Senators Joe Biden (Del.), Ben Nelson (Neb.) and Ken Salazar (Colo.)--vote for his confirmation. Needing only two other Democrats, Specter suggested Schumer could be a possible convert.

"Senator Schumer has made the public comment that there ought to be balance on all of the circuits, and the 9th Circuit is a very liberal circuit," Specter told reporters. "I think William Myers would give some balance to the 9th Circuit, and that is going to be one of the arguments that I am going to make."

But only moments after Specter concluded his wide-ranging 40-minute press briefing in the Capitol, Schumer took center stage to declare his opposition to Myers--and the other six nominees whom Democrats filibustered in Bush's first term. "Unless there's new and dramatic information, we feel nothing has changed and they should continue to be blocked," Schumer said in response to a question from HUMAN EVENTS.

The theory, though not the reality, of nuclear deterrence was that each side could destroy the other so neither would launch: Mutual Assured Destruction. Democrats have adopted the novel strategy of provoking a nuclear war even though they're disarmed.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:36 PM


Putin humiliated next to Bush (UPI, 2/24/05)

As Russia analysts James M. Goldgeier and Michael McFaul had put it in a commentary in the current issue of the Weekly Standard:

"If the president neglects to affirm his commitment to freedom with Putin at his side, Bush will be signaling that his words don't count."

So most of us were expecting the issue to be raised, if only in passing.

But no one could have been prepared for what was about to unfold.

While observing diplomatic niceties, President Bush's opening remarks included a pointedly blunt statement of his concern that Russia was not fulfilling "fundamental" democratic principles.

And this was nothing to what President Putin was forced to endure in the subsequent questions, every single one of which focused on democracy.

We could tolerate a fair amount of authoritarianism from Mr. Putin if he were enacting the fundamental reforms that Russia requires and if he were co-operating with us in places like Iran in the meantime. He's not.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:29 PM


Tent city rises to pressure Syria (P. Mitchell Prothero, 2/23/05, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

In a land where civil war is endemic but political protest is almost unknown, long-feuding Muslims, Christians and Druze are camping out just blocks from the parliament saying they will not leave until either Syrian troops leave their country or the government falls. [...]

In Mainz, Germany, President Bush -- who has called repeatedly for Syrian troops to leave Lebanon -- said Syrian intelligence services should get out of the country, as well. French President Jacques Chirac said Tuesday evening that Syrian "special service operatives controlling Lebanon are in fact more questionable than the military occupation."

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak also has taken interest in the situation, dispatching his intelligence chief to Damascus for talks with President Bashar Assad.

But regional analysts say Mr. Assad is most likely to be unnerved, not by foreign political pressure but by the unprecedented protest movement sparked by the Feb. 14 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:53 PM


Heart of Christianity shifts from Europe - to Timbuktu (John Hooper, February 23, 2005, The Guardian)

Down the centuries, sages and saints have wrangled over whether the centre of Christianity is in Rome or Constantinople, Nazareth or Jerusalem. Until yesterday, no one mentioned Timbuktu.

Yet according to the results of an American research project, the geographical "centre of gravity" of Christendom lies near the historic trading city of mainly Muslim Mali. And by the end of the century, it could be in Nigeria.

The shift away from Europe reflects the zeal of missionary work in Africa over recent decades and is evidence of how Christianity has become predominantly a religion of the developing world, according to the report by the Study of Global Christianity.

Using historical data, it plotted the shifting trends of the religion over the past two millennia.

Starting in Jerusalem, the centre of gravity for Christianity moved to Constantinople - now Istanbul. The Christianisation of Europe thereafter meant that Budapest was its centre by 1500, though the colonisation of the Americas pulled it across Europe to Madrid by 1900. Since 1982, however, Christianity's centre has moved relentlessly south.

"The slope we're on now is steeper than at any other time in Christian history," Todd Johnson, the study's author, told Reuters news agency. "It's really a massive shift."

He added: "Timbuktu used to be considered the middle of nowhere."

Growing awareness of that shift in the Roman Catholic church, the biggest Christian denomination, has prompted speculation that the next pope could be from Latin America, Africa or Asia.

Which is why Atlanticists are living in a past that, like Europe, no longer matters to America.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:30 PM


How sweet it is: Girl eats real food for first time in 7 1/2 years after doctors at Stanford solve mystery (Dave Murphy, February 24, 2005, SF Chronicle)

From the time Tilly Merrell was a year old, doctors told her family she would never have a normal life -- or even a normal meal.

British doctors found that the food she swallowed went into her lungs instead of her stomach, causing devastating lung infections. They said she had isolated bulbar palsy, and their solution was to feed her through a stomach tube. Forever.

But having a backpack with a food pump wired to her stomach wasn't much of a life for a girl whose favorite smell is bacon frying -- a girl who once broke through a locked kitchen door in an effort to sneak some cheese. So her family got help from their community of Warndon, about 120 miles north of London, raising enough money to take Tilly, now 8, on a 5,000-mile journey they hoped might change her life, a journey to Lucile Salter Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford University.

Doctors at Packard were intrigued that she had no neurological symptoms often associated with the palsy. In all other ways, she was a normal child with a mischievous smile and a truckload of energy. After seeing her Feb. 7, they ran three tests and found out what was wrong with her.


Posted by Peter Burnet at 5:29 PM


A History of Flawed Teaching (Sam Wineburg, Los Angeles Times, February 24th, 2005)

Imagine this: Nearly a third of the students who apply to Stanford's master's in teaching program to become history teachers have never taken a single college course in history. Outrageous? Yes, but it's part of a well-established national pattern. Among high school history teachers across the country, only 18% have majored (or even minored) in the subject they now teach.

I don't doubt the dedication of these people. The application statements I read at Stanford shine with a commitment that renews one's faith in the passion of today's youth. And nearly every one of these young people is willing to forsake a more lucrative career — in law, medicine, business — to pursue teaching.

But how can you teach what you don't know? Would someone who wanted to teach calculus dare to submit a transcript with no math courses? Would a prospective chemistry teacher come to us with a record devoid of science? Yet with history, the theory goes, all you need is a big heart and a thick book.

The state of California encourages this state of affairs. Although it requires teachers to earn a rigorous teaching credential before they may teach math, English, biology or chemistry in the public school system, there is no such credential for history. Instead, the state hands out a loosey-goosey "social science" credential.

To qualify to teach history in California (and in many other states), you can possess a major in almost anything — anthropology, psychology, ethnic studies. All you've got to do is earn the "social science" credential and pass a multiple-choice exam of historical facts. But a storehouse of facts is the beginning, not the end, of historical understanding.[...]

Lack of knowledge encourages another bad habit among history teachers: a tendency to disparage "facts," an eagerness to unshackle students from the "dominant discourse" — and to teach them, instead, what the teacher views as "the Truth." What's scary is the certainty with which this "Truth" is often held. Rather than debating why the United States entered Vietnam or signed the North American Free Trade Agreement or brokered a Camp David accord, all roads lead to the same point: our government's desire to oppress the less powerful. It is a version of history that conjures up a North Korean reeducation camp rather than a democratic classroom.

One need not be a conspiracy theorist to believe Professor Wineburg is missing the underlying design behind what he seems to think is just a bureaucratic omission. The secular modernist project hangs on the belief that history is a steady march from ignorance and oppression to enlightenment and freedom. It has no interest in inculcating any doubt on this and no use for any view of the past as other than a sad and simplistic litany of cruelty and ignorance we must abjure and reject. Modern history does not require trained teachers because it is taught to confirm simplistic prejudices, not to expand culture and knowledge.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:22 PM


Take a Walk on the Wild Side (JIM DOHERTY , 2/24/05, NY Times)

Call it the grizzly test. Require all would-be developers to take it. If you want to drill for oil in the refuge, first you have to spend a couple of weeks roughing it there. No guns, no phones, no guides. Just you and the bears. Let them look into your heart. If they're reassured by what they see, you pass; if they feel threatened, well, according to Ave Thayer, there are worse ways to go.

Those who survive the grizzly test earn the right to submit their drilling proposals to Congress. But who knows? Perhaps a solitary stint in the refuge is enough to make even the most avaricious developers think twice. Once they've discovered for themselves how magnificent the refuge is; once they've watched caribou lope across the tundra, listened to wolves howl, beheld the mesmerizing effects of light and shadow on limestone mountains riddled with caves and turreted with hoodoos - once, in short, they understand why so many folks consider the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge sacred ground, they might undergo a change of heart and decide to leave it the way it is. Which is to say, undisturbed.

Jonah Goldberg's trip there several years ago raised the question of whether it wouldn't doom ANWR if folks actually had to experience it:
Yes, the drilling would be in ANWR, but it wouldn't be where the beauty shots are. It's like doing an on-location report on New York City's urban blight and crime, but broadcasting from a café in Rockefeller Center. The coastal plain is, in fact, a vast tract of peat bog and mud puddles (sounds like a crime fighting duo: "Tune in this fall to see Pete Bog and his fast-talking streetwise sidekick Mudd Puddles, tackle evildoers. Tuesdays at 9.").

The coastal plain is a breeding ground for all sorts of awful flying critters. There are trillions of mosquitoes. There are these creatures called warble flies and nosebots, two bumblebee-like flies that cause the caribou unrelenting grief. I could swear I even saw Alan Dershowitz whiz past my ear.

Sure, it's possible to think this spot is beautiful. People find all sorts of things beautiful these days. In fact, a man sold a can of his own excrement at an auction for tens of thousands of dollars a few years back. If that's art, hell, then the coastal plain is Shangri-frickin'-La.

And, of course, both Alaskans and the native people who actually do live there support drilling.

Crude Reality: As the brutal battle over proposed drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge grinds on, a former oil worker returns to the North Slope in search of the truth about the pro-exploration argument. His conclusion? (Brace yourself.) The unthinkable is the right thing to do. (David Masiel, February 2004, Outside Magazine)

I have listened to the debate over Arctic drilling for 20 years, and I believe it is far from finished, that it will never be finished until oil is obsolete or the first production wells start pumping ANWR crude into the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. Election-year politics may have buried ANWR for now, but two points are clear: If reelected, George W. Bush will continue his pursuit of drilling in ANWR. And no matter who is elected, Alaskan lobbyists and politicians will never let this one go—there's simply too much at stake. "It's never decided," Senator Stevens has vowed several times, "until I win."

Meanwhile, both pro- and anti-drilling camps have dug their heels into the Arctic permafrost, each side deploying an array of facts and statistics, all of them "true," and most mutually exclusive. The Bush administration insists that, in the wake of 9/11, America's longtime goal of reversing dependence on foreign oil has become a necessity. The oil companies pledge that drilling can be done cleanly, thanks to new technologies like extended-reach drilling and man-made ice roads that melt every spring.

Environmentalists stress that any development is too much: The 1002 is home to the largest concentration of onshore polar bear dens in the world, the summer home to some 138 species of migratory birds, and the calving grounds of the 123,000-member Porcupine caribou herd. Even 2,000 acres of development, opponents argue, would create a maze of pipelines and service roads extending impacts a hundredfold. Moreover, they say, a defeat here will mortally wound the very idea of wilderness protection.

There's also the little matter of how much oil there is (no one really knows) and whether oil companies can ever be trusted as stewards (no one knows that, either). As if this weren't enough, native Alaskans themselves are divided: The Inupiat Eskimo of the North Slope largely favor drilling, but the Gwich'in Athabascans, to the south, don't.

I was divided myself. My family's ties to the oil business go back three generations. My grandfather was a tanker captain for Standard Oil, my father the president of Chevron Pipeline Company. My sister, brother-in-law, and cousin, not to mention half a dozen friends—oil people, all. On the North Slope, I'd gained intense respect for the people who work there, but I'd also seen the ways that the Arctic's harsh, remote conditions could drive crews to cut corners.

So, in 2002, I decided to drill into the issue—to drill into myself, frankly. My approach was admittedly personal. In my tiny way, I had helped bring drilling to ANWR, and I couldn't forget that bear as he escaped across the ice. I wondered, Is it possible to take care of the bear and still feed the machine?

After a journey that took me back to the Arctic for the first time in 13 years, and through dozens of interviews with policy analysts, native Alaskans, wildlife biologists, and congressional staff experts, I became convinced of only one thing: Both sides are far too entrenched to see the other side clearly.

It's time for a compromise, and as much as I can hear the cries of readers rising out of their chairs in choked protest, the reality of ANWR begs something new. Distasteful as it is, it's time to allow at least some drilling in the refuge. [...]

When old hands grumble about environmental standards, it's a good sign things are moving in the right direction. But anecdotal evidence is hardly proof. So I turned to my own contacts, including the CFO of one of the four largest oil companies in the world, who agreed to speak to me on condition of anonymity.

"We're the deep pockets," my friend told me. "Oil spills mean lost product plus cleanup costs. And ever since the Exxon Valdez, the bar has continually been raised. We're paying clean-up costs on operations from 20 years ago that were in full compliance of laws at the time. I tell my managers this all the time: Don't tell me you disposed of waste materials in some landfill and it's all according to EPA regulations, because I'm going to assume at some point we'll be required to go back and clean up—at greater costs. We want zero discharges."

In other words, economics ensures clean drilling. Another contact, the general manager of health, safety, and environment for the overseas branch of a major oil company, spelled it out for me: "The real reason for clean operations," he said, scribbling something on a piece of paper, "is this." He shoved the paper across the table. On it, he'd drawn a giant dollar sign.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:11 PM


Gay Marriage Stirs New York Evangelicals (Ben Smith, 2/24/05, NY Observer)

On Feb. 4, the Reverend Joe Mattera got a call from WMCA, the popular New York Christian radio station. The host was looking for his comment on a State Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage.

Mr. Mattera, a trim 46-year-old with a thick Brooklyn accent, didn’t like what he heard, so he dashed off an e-mail to his network of 500 evangelical Christian ministers.

The ruling marked "the greatest threat ever launched against traditional marriage," the e-mail said, calling for a Valentine’s Day rally on the steps of City Hall. "No anti-gay banners permitted," it added.

When Mayor Bloomberg decided to split the baby on gay marriage earlier this month, appealing the court’s decision while coming out for expanding the definition of marriage, Mr. Mattera and the Christian Right were hardly at the top of his list of worries. There were angry gay-rights groups and outraged Democratic candidates. The people Mr. Mattera represents—who are among the roughly 50 percent of New Yorkers who oppose same-sex marriage—have had little voice in a public debate between the left and the center-left.

That may be about to change. Mr. Mattera and his allies have begun to harness the city’s booming evangelical Christian population—numbering as many as 1.8 million, according to one recent survey—into the kind of political force that has already changed the face of American politics.

"One of these days, we’re going to wake up and you’ll have a female, Hispanic, Pentecostal Mayor saying that the public schools will have abstinence education," said Tony Carnes, a Columbia University researcher and writer for Christianity Today. His survey of evangelical churches (financed by Brooklyn’s Christian Cultural Center) counted between 1.5 million and 1.8 million believers last year. That number, however rough, includes booming Hispanic and Chinese churches in storefronts and basements, as well as older African-American congregations with traditions of more liberal politics.

New York has just begun to take note of the evangelicals’ existence, with a New York Times story last year turning up unlikely supporters of President Bush. But the political infrastructure is only beginning to keep up with the evangelical movement’s numbers in New York.

Same-sex marriage, however, could be the force that turns New York’s evangelicals into a political movement, much like Roe v. Wade energized conservative Christians across America.

Nice one about the Mayor splitting the baby, huh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:03 PM


The Private Bush (Howard Kurtz, February 23, 2005, Washington Post)

Doug Wead may have done George Bush a favor.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not a fan of secretly recording conversations with a friend and then releasing them to the world, muttering about the importance of history, while using the tapes to hype your forthcoming book. The word betrayal is the mildest one I can think of. And trying to justify it, rather than admit the self-serving nature of your little scam, only makes it worse.

But the debate over the tapes story, which was broken by the New York Times, has mostly been about the motivation of Wead, a man most of us had never heard of before. What Bush said when he didn't know he was being recorded hasn't stirred a whole lot of controversy.

That may be because the tapes make Bush look good, in the sense that there's very little separation between the Bush we hear in private, unaware that his pal has the recorder going, and the George W. Bush we have come to know in public.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:48 PM


A Tale of Two Daleys: Chicago's mayor doesn't have a theory of governance. He just likes to solve problems. (JOSEPH EPSTEIN, February 24, 2005 Wall Street Journal)

Rich Daley appears to have no theory of government, but merely a boundless appetite for governing. He is a fix-it, a problem-solving, man, treating the city of Chicago as if it were an unending episode of "This Old House"--and he seems to be turning the old heap into a damn stately mansion.

But perhaps the real secret behind the Daley family success is the fixed but limited ambition of both father and son. Neither Dick nor Rich Daley ever aspired to rise any higher than Mayor of the City of Chicago. Dick Daley, doubtless, enjoyed being a kingmaker and a power in the Democratic Party; this would appear to be less true of Rich Daley, but then the age of king-making Democratic Party bosses seems to be over. A homeboy, the current mayor does not wish to become governor or a U.S. senator, or--here's a thought to pass on to the search committee in Cambridge--the next president of Harvard. That goes a good way to explaining why he is so good at his job and why he is likely to be able to keep it for as long as he likes.

He may not have the theory down, but Mayor daley is the last Third Way politician in the Democratic Party and offers thereby the only viable alternative to compassionate conservatism. It speaks volumes of the plight of the Democrats that the mildly innovative Rudy Guiliani is a front-runner for the GOP's presidential nomination but the truly innovative Mayor Daley doesn't get a mention for theirs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 PM


China Objects to Clinton's Taiwan Visit (Luis Ramirez, 24 February 2005, VOA News)

China is objecting to former President Bill Clinton's plans to meet Sunday with Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian in Taiwan. [...]

[F]oreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan expressed displeasure over the former president's plans to visit Taiwan and meet with leader Chen Shui-bian.

"As a former U.S. president, he should know China's position on the Taiwan issue," he said. "He should honor his commitment to the Chinese government, including abiding by the one-China policy."

There are already two, with more to follow.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:56 AM


President Addresses and Thanks Citizens of Slovakia (George W. Bush, Hviezdoslavovo Square, Bratislava, Slovakia, 2/24/05)

Thank you all. Dobrý deò. (Applause.) Mr. President, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for your strong leadership and friendship. Mr. Mayor, distinguished guests, citizens of a free Slovakia. (Applause.) Thank you for your hospitality. Laura and I are honored, extremely honored to visit your great country. We bring greetings and we bring the good wishes of the American people. (Applause.)

With us here today is a group of remarkable men and women from across Central and Eastern Europe, who have fought freedom's fight in their homelands and have earned the respect of the world. We welcome you. We thank you for your example, for your courage and for your sacrifice. (Applause.)

I'm proud to stand in this great square, which has seen momentous events in the history of Slovakia and the history of freedom. Almost 17 years ago, thousands of Slovaks gathered peacefully in front of this theater. They came, not to welcome a visiting President, but to light candles, to sing hymns, to pray for an end to tyranny and the restoration of religious liberty. (Applause.)

From the hotel to our left, communist authorities watched thousands of candles shining in the darkness -- and gave the order to extinguish them. The authorities succeeded in crushing that protest. But with their candles and prayers, the people of Bratislava lit a fire for freedom that day, a fire that quickly spread across the land. (Applause.) And within 20 months, the regime that drove Slovaks from this square would itself be driven from power. By claiming your own freedom, you inspired a revolution that liberated your nation and helped to transform a continent. (Applause.)

Since those days of peaceful protest, the Slovak people have made historic progress. You regained your sovereignty and independence. You built a successful democracy. You established a free economy. And last year, the former member of the Warsaw Pact became a member of NATO, and took its rightful place in the European Union. Every Slovak can be proud of these achievements. And the American people are proud to call you allies and friends and brothers in the cause of freedom. (Applause.)

I know that liberty -- the road to liberty and prosperity has not always been straight or easy. But Americans respect your patience, your courage and your determination to secure a better future for your children. As you work to build a free and democratic Slovakia in the heart of Europe, America stands with you. (Applause.)

Slovaks know the horror or tyranny, so you're working to bring hope of freedom to people who have not known it. You've sent peacekeepers to Kosovo, and election observers to Kiev. You've brought Iraqis to Bratislava to see firsthand how a nation moves from dictatorship to democracy. Your example is inspiring newly-liberated people. You're showing that a small nation, built on a big idea, can spread liberty throughout the world.

At this moment, Slovak soldiers are serving courageously alongside U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. Some have given their lives in freedom's cause. We honor their memory. We lift them up in our prayers. Words can only go so far in capturing the grief of their families and their countrymen. But by their sacrifice, they have helped purchase a future of freedom for millions. Many of you can still recall the exhilaration of voting for the first time after decades of tyranny. And as you watched jubilant Iraqis dancing in the streets last month, holding up ink-stained fingers, you remembered Velvet Days. For the Iraqi people, this is their 1989, and they will always remember who stood with them in their quest for freedom. (Applause.)

In recent times, we have witnessed landmark events in the history of liberty, a Rose Revolution in Georgia, an Orange Revolution in Ukraine, and now, a Purple Revolution in Iraq. With their votes cast and counted, the Iraqi people now begin a great and historic journey. They will from a new government, draft a democratic constitution, and govern themselves as free people. They're putting the days of tyranny and terror behind them and building a free and peaceful society in the heart of the Middle East, and the world's free nations will support them in their struggle. (Applause.)

The terrorist insurgents know what's at stake. They know they have no future in a free Iraq. So they're trying desperately to undermine Iraq's progress and throw the country in chaos. They want to return to the day when Iraqis were governed by secret police and informers and fear. They will not succeed. The Iraqi people will not permit a minority of assassins to determine the destiny of their nation. We will fight to defend this freedom and we will prevail. (Applause.)

Victory in this struggle will not come easily or quickly, but we have reason to hope. Iraqis have demonstrated their courage and their determination to live in freedom, and that has inspired the world. It is the same determination we saw in Kiev's Independent Square, in Tbilisi's Freedom Square, and in this square almost 17 years ago. (Applause.)

We must be equally determined and also patient. The advance of freedom is the concentrated work of generations. It took almost a decade after the Velvet Revolution for democracy to fully take root in this country. And the democratic revolutions that swept this region over 15 years ago are now reaching Georgia and Ukraine. In 10 days, Moldova has the opportunity to place its democratic credentials beyond doubt as its people head to the polls. And inevitably, the people of Belarus will someday proudly belong to the country of democracies. Eventually, the call of liberty comes to every mind and every soul. And one day, freedom's promise will reach every people and every nation. (Applause.)

Slovakia has taken great risks for freedom in Afghanistan and Iraq. You have proved yourself a trusted friend and a reliable ally. That is why I recently announced a new solidarity initiative for nations like Slovakia that are standing with America in the war on terror. We will help you to improve your military forces so we can strengthen our ability to work together in the cause of freedom. We're working with your government to make it easier for Slovaks to travel to the United States of America. (Applause.) Hundreds of thousands of our citizens can trace their roots back to this country. Slovak immigrants helped build America and shape its character. We want to deepen the ties of friendship between our people, ties based on common values, a love of freedom, and shared belief in the dignity and matchless value of every human being. (Applause.)

The Velvet Generation that fought for these values is growing older. Many of the young students and workers who led freedom's struggle here now struggle to support families and their children. For some, the days of protest and revolution are a distant memory. Today, a new generation that never experienced oppression is coming of age. It is important to pass on to them the lessons of that period. They must learn that freedom is precious, and cannot be taken for granted; that evil is real, and must be confronted; that lasting prosperity requires freedom of speech, freedom to worship, freedom of association; and that to secure liberty at home, it must be defended abroad. (Applause.)

By your efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq and across the world, you are teaching young Slovaks these important lessons. And you're teaching the world an important lesson, as well: that the seeds of freedom do not sprout only where they are sown; carried by mighty winds, they cross borders and oceans and continents and take root in distant lands.

I've come here to thank you for your contributions to freedom's cause, and to tell you that the American people appreciate your courage and value your friendship. On behalf of all Americans, dakujem, and may God bless you all.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:22 AM


Sex Ed: THE SCIENCE OF DIFFERENCE (Steven Pinker, 02.07.05, New Republic)

Summers did not, of course, say that women are "natively inferior," that "they just can't cut it," that they suffer "an inherent cognitive deficit in the sciences," or that men have "a monopoly on basic math ability," as many academics and journalists assumed. Only a madman could believe such things. Summers's analysis of why there might be fewer women in mathematics and science is commonplace among economists who study gender disparities in employment, though it is rarely mentioned in the press or in academia when it comes to discussions of the gender gap in science and engineering. The fact that women make up only 20 percent of the workforce in science, engineering, and technology development has at least three possible (and not mutually exclusive) explanations. One is the persistence of discrimination, discouragement, and other barriers. In popular discussions of gender imbalances in the workforce, this is the explanation most mentioned. Although no one can deny that women in science still face these injustices, there are reasons to doubt they are the only explanation. A second possibility is that gender disparities can arise in the absence of discrimination as long as men and women differ, on average, in their mixture of talents, temperaments, and interests--whether this difference is the result of biology, socialization, or an interaction of the two. A third explanation is that child-rearing, still disproportionately shouldered by women, does not easily co-exist with professions that demand Herculean commitments of time. These considerations speak against the reflex of attributing every gender disparity to gender discrimination and call for research aimed at evaluating the explanations.

The analysis should have been unexceptionable. Anyone who has fled a cluster of men at a party debating the fine points of flat-screen televisions can appreciate that fewer women than men might choose engineering, even in the absence of arbitrary barriers. (As one female social scientist noted in Science Magazine, "Reinventing the curriculum will not make me more interested in learning how my dishwasher works.") To what degree these and other differences originate in biology must be determined by research, not fatwa. History tells us that how much we want to believe a proposition is not a reliable guide as to whether it is true.

Nor is a better understanding of the causes of gender disparities inconsequential. Overestimating the extent of sex discrimination is not without costs. Unprejudiced people of both sexes who are responsible for hiring and promotion decisions may be falsely charged with sexism. Young women may be pressured into choosing lines of work they don't enjoy. Some proposed cures may do more harm than good; for example, gender quotas for grants could put deserving grantees under a cloud of suspicion, and forcing women onto all university committees would drag them from their labs into endless meetings. An exclusive focus on overt discrimination also diverts attention from policies that penalize women inadvertently because of the fact that, as the legal theorist Susan Estrich has put it, "Waiting for the connection between gender and parenting to be broken is waiting for Godot." A tenure clock that conflicts with women's biological clocks, and family-unfriendly demands like evening seminars and weekend retreats, are obvious examples. The regrettably low proportion of women who have received tenured job offers from Harvard during Summers's presidency may be an unintended consequence of his policy of granting tenure to scholars early in their careers, when women are more likely to be bearing the full burdens of parenthood.

Conservative columnists have had a field day pointing to the Harvard hullabaloo as a sign of runaway political correctness at elite universities. Indeed, the quality of discussion among the nation's leading scholars and pundits is not a pretty sight. Summers's critics have repeatedly mangled his suggestion that innate differences might be one cause of gender disparities (a suggestion that he drew partly from a literature review in my book, The Blank Slate) into the claim that they must be the only cause. And they have converted his suggestion that the statistical distributions of men's and women's abilities are not identical to the claim that all men are talented and all women are not--as if someone heard that women typically live longer than men and concluded that every woman lives longer than every man. Just as depressing is an apparent unfamiliarity with the rationale behind political equality, as when Hopkins sarcastically remarked that, if Summers were right, Harvard should amend its admissions policy, presumably to accept fewer women. This is a classic confusion between the factual claim that men and women are not indistinguishable and the moral claim that we ought to judge people by their individual merits rather than the statistics of their group.

Many of Summers's critics believe that talk of innate gender differences is a relic of Victorian pseudoscience, such as the old theory that cogitation harms women by diverting blood from their ovaries to their brains. In fact, much of the scientific literature has reported numerous statistical differences between men and women. As I noted in The Blank Slate, for instance, men are, on average, better at mental rotation and mathematical word problems; women are better at remembering locations and at mathematical calculation. Women match shapes more quickly, are better at reading faces, are better spellers, retrieve words more fluently, and have a better memory for verbal material. Men take greater risks and place a higher premium on status; women are more solicitous to their children.

Of course, just because men and women are different does not mean that the differences are triggered by genes. People develop their talents and personalities in response to their social milieu, which can change rapidly. So some of today's sex differences in cognition could be as culturally determined as sex differences in hair and clothing. But the belief, still popular among some academics (particularly outside the biological sciences), that children are born unisex and are molded into male and female roles by their parents and society is becoming less credible.

What makes this all especially delicious for us superstitious bigoted chauvinists of the Right is the way secular rational Academia rejects science completely when it conflicts with their politics.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:09 AM


From Psst to Oops: Secret Taper of Bush Says History Can Wait (DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK, 2/24/05, NY Times)

All week, Doug Wead has said the reason he secretly recorded some of his phone calls with President Bush was for history's sake.

But Wednesday, after a blast of criticism, Mr. Wead abruptly decided he had spoken too soon. "History can wait," he said, promising to turn over the tapes to Mr. Bush.

The disclosure that he had such tapes, recordings that spanned two years before the 2000 presidential election when he was an evangelical adviser to Mr. Bush, was published in The New York Times on Sunday.

Since then, Mr. Wead has appeared on several television news and talk shows to defend his actions, insisting several times that he had never sought to profit from the tapes and had decided to release some of them only after the president's re-election.

"My thanks to those who have let me share my heart and regrets about recent events," Mr. Wead wrote in the statement, posted on his Web site Wednesday. "Contrary to a statement that I made to The New York Times, I know very well that personal relationships are more important than history."

Mr. Wead, an author who drew on the tapes obliquely for one page in his recently published book, "The Raising of a President: The Mothers and Fathers of Our Nation's Leaders," said, "I am asking my attorney to direct any future proceeds from the book to charity and to find the best way to vet these tapes and get them back to the president to whom they belong."

The White House declined to add to its previous statements that Mr. Bush "was having casual conversations with someone he believed was his friend."

It's obviously easy for the President in this instance, because the "revelations" are so complimentary to him, but note how blithely he's ignored the whole dust-up in stark contrast to Democrats of late.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:58 AM


Iraq video claims to show rebels' confessions (MAGGIE MICHAEL, February 24, 2005, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The Syrian intelligence officer who appeared on the U.S.-funded Iraqi state television station had a stark message about the insurgency-- he'd helped train people to build car bombs and behead people.

"My name is Anas Ahmed al-Essa. I live in Halab. I am from Syria," he said by way of introduction-- naming what he said was his home in Syria.

"What's your job?" he was asked by someone off-camera. "I am a lieutenant in intelligence."

Then a second question. "Which intelligence?" The reply: "Syrian intelligence."

And so began a detailed 15-minute confession broadcast by al-Iraqiya TV on Wednesday, in which the man, identified as 30-year-old Lt. Anas Ahmed al-Essa, said his group was recruited to "cause chaos in Iraq ... to bar America from reaching Syria."

"We received all the instructions from Syrian intelligence," said the man, who appeared in the propaganda video along with 10 Iraqis who said they had also been recruited by Syrian intelligence officers.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:49 AM


Church auctioning off basement bowling alley (RUMMANA HUSSAIN, February 24, 2005, Chicago Sun-Times)

Parishioners at St. Mary of the Angels Church lost interest decades ago in the basement bowling alley.

Now they're about to lose the alley -- to the highest bidder.

The Bucktown church's vintage Brunswick six-lane B-1 bowling alley -- complete with original ball holders, ball polishers, two seats and pin washer -- will be auctioned off on eBay today with the starting price of $9,000.

The bowling alley was probably installed shortly after the church at 1850 N. Hermitage was built in 1920 for Polish immigrants, according to Diane Hudec, vice president of auctionBay Inc., the Chicago eBay consignment company handling the auction that will benefit the church.

The bowling alley wasn't used much after World War II, and most parishioners are not even aware it's there. It has been used for storage for 60 years, Hudec said.

Before the Internet, cosmic bowling and even television, churches were neighborhoods' primary social centers, so it was common for them to have a bowling alley, according to Jim Dressel, editor of the Chicago-based Bowlers Journal International, the oldest sports magazine in the country. Dressel said he doesn't know whether any other church in the Chicago area has an alley.

The Grandmother Judd used to take us to a church in Brooklyn with a bowling alley in the basement, which was wicked cool--only problem? you had to run to the end of the lane after each frame and set the pins by hand. It made bowling the most physically exhausting sport on Earth.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:49 AM


The Downside of Democracy: What if the U.S. doesn't like what the voters like in the Mideast and beyond? (Juan Cole, February 24, 2005, LA Times)

With the emergence of Shiite physician Ibrahim Jafari as the leading candidate for Iraqi prime minister earlier this week, the contradictions of Bush administration policy in the Middle East have become even clearer than they were before.

President Bush says he is committed to democratizing the region, yet he also wants governments to emerge that are friendly to the U.S., benevolent to their own people, secular, capitalist and willing to stand up and fight against anti-American radicals.

But what if democratic elections do not produce such governments? What if the newly elected regimes are friendly to states and groups that Washington considers enemies? What if the spread of democracy through the region empowers elements that don't share American values and goals?

The recent election in Iraq is a case in point. The two major parties in the victorious Shiite alliance are Jafari's party, the Dawa, founded in the late 1950s to work for an Islamic republic, and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, or SCIRI, the goal of which can be guessed from its name. To be fair, both have backed away from their more radical stances of earlier decades. But both parties — and Jafari himself — were sheltered in Tehran in the 1980s by Washington's archenemy, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, and both acknowledge that they want to move Iraq toward Islamic law and values. [...]

Although the Palestinian elections in January were widely viewed as a success — producing a pragmatic prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas — remember that the radical fundamentalist party, Hamas, boycotted those elections. Then, less than three weeks later, local elections were held — and Hamas won decisively in the Gaza Strip, leaving it more influential than before and poised for even bigger wins in next July's legislative elections.

And in recent years, democratization has also put Hezbollah in the Lebanese parliament. Serbian nationalists have won seats in Belgrade.

Are such outcomes acceptable to the Bush administration?

Strange that Professor Cole has so little faith in Islam. Nevermind that Hamas and Hezbollah are rapidy transforming into normal political parties as the prospect of power beckons, the Iranians are notoriously pro-American and pro-liberalization, so much so that their government is on borrowed time--opposed even by Ayatollah Khomeini's grandson woirking with the Shah's son--and is terrified of Iraq, whose Shi'ite clerics view Khomeinism as a heresy. Indeed, Shi'ism generally seems compatible, even unusually compatible, with liberal democracy. Mr. Cole seems like one of those Soviet experts of the '80s predicting long life for the Iron Curtain and discerning a hostility to the West where none in fact existed.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:12 AM


Lebanese business leaders plan strike to demand government resign (AFP, 2/23/05)

Leaders of Lebanon's banking, industrial and commercial sectors said they would shut down next Monday to demand the country's pro-Syrian government resign and that a "neutral" one replace it.

The strike would coincide with an expected vote of confidence in parliament, two weeks after the murder of former premier Rafiq Hariri in a bomb blast for which the opposition has pinned blame on the government and its Syrian backers.

"The economic authorities call for the formation of a new and neutral government which has the people's support, and the trust of the international community and Arab countries," the private sector said in a statement carried by the official news agency ANI.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:49 AM


Could George W. Bush Be Right?: Germany loves to criticize US President George W. Bush's Middle East policies -- just like Germany loved to criticize former President Ronald Reagan. But Reagan, when he demanded that Gorbachev remove the Berlin Wall, turned out to be right. Could history repeat itself? (Claus Christian Malzahn, February 23, 2005, Der Spiegel)

Quick quiz. He was re-elected as president of the United States despite being largely disliked in the world -- particularly in Europe. The Europeans considered him to be a war-mongerer and liked to accuse him of allowing his deep religious beliefs to become the motor behind his foreign policy. Easy right?

Actually, the answer isn't as obvious as it might seem. President Ronald Reagan's visit to Berlin in 1987 was, in many respects, very similar to President George W. Bush's visit to Mainz on Wednesday. Like Bush's visit, Reagan's trip was likewise accompanied by unprecedented security precautions. A handpicked crowd cheered Reagan in front of the Brandenburg Gate while large parts of the Berlin subway system were shut down. And the Germany Reagan was traveling in, much like today's Germany, was very skeptical of the American president and his foreign policy. When Reagan stood before the Brandenburg Gate -- and the Berlin Wall -- and demanded that Gorbachev "tear down this Wall," he was lampooned the next day on the editorial pages. He is a dreamer, wrote commentators. Realpolitik looks different.

But history has shown that it wasn't Reagan who was the dreamer as he voiced his demand. Rather, it was German politicians who were lacking in imagination -- a group who in 1987 couldn't imagine that there might be an alternative to a divided Germany. Those who spoke of reunification were labelled as nationalists and the entire German left was completely uninterested in a unified Germany.

When George W. Bush requests that Chancellor Schroeder -- who, by the way, was also not entirely complimentary of Reagan's 1987 speech -- and Germany become more engaged in the Middle East, everybody on the German side will nod affably. But despite all of the sugar coating the trans-Atlantic relationship has received in recent days, Germany's foreign policy depends on differentiating itself from the United States.

And differentiating yourself from America has always meant opposing the spread of liberty.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:34 AM


Maybe docs can just say 'I'm sorry' (JIM RITTER, February 24, 2005, Chicago Sun-Times)

State legislators are considering a surprisingly simple solution to the medical malpractice mess.

When doctors and hospitals screw up, they should just say "I'm sorry" and offer prompt compensation.

Patients treated this way, the theory goes, are less likely to sue for malpractice, and this in turn could help rein in skyrocketing malpractice insurance costs. [...]

Several hospitals in other states have begun apologizing for mistakes and offering compensation. One of the first is the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Lexington, Ky. The VA's candid policy has resulted in more malpractice claims but lower payments, according to a 1999 study in the Annals of Internal Medicine. An editorial in the journal said the VA policy "seems to be the rare solution that is both ethically correct and cost-effective."

University of Michigan Health System began a similar policy in 2002. The average number of legal actions pending against the system has dropped to about 130, from 275. The system also is saving about $1.5 million per year in legal bills.

"Patients are far more forgiving than we give them credit for," said Rick Boothman, the system's chief risk officer.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:44 AM


Russia's forgotten war (Ilyas Akhmadov, February 24, 2005, Boston Globe)

TODAY'S SUMMIT in Bratislava between President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin is a golden opportunity for reassessing conflict and peacemaking in the age of terrorism. It is an opportunity to nudge one of the bloodiest conflicts in European history since the end of World War II toward a peaceful resolution. The war in question is the forgotten conflict between Russia and Chechnya.

The summit falls around the 61st anniversary of Stalin's effort on Feb. 23, 1944, to wipe out the Chechen nation by deportation in cattle cars to Central Asia and Siberia. This was recognized as an act of genocide by a resolution of the European Parliament in 2004. The memory of the deportations motivated the Chechen drive for independence, and in 1991 the Republic of Chechnya proclaimed its independence. Unable to remove the Chechen president by covert means, the Russian military launched its first war into Chechnya in December 1994.

During this decade-long war, more than 200,000 individuals -- one quarter of the Chechen population -- have lost their lives, including thousands of children. Roughly 300,000 Chechens have fled to escape annihilation. Tuberculosis, cardiac problems, deafness, and depression are rampant. As families have been destroyed, some surviving kinfolk have been driven out of desperation to suicide bombing attacks against Russia.

For Russia, Chechnya and the northern Caucasus region have been turned into a tinderbox of armed confrontations. Over the course of the last decade, the Russian military has lost more men than the total number of combat deaths in the Soviet Union's intervention in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

The war in Chechnya has consumed a large portion of Russia's defense budget. Opinion polls in Russia indicate growing restiveness at Putin's inability to bring the conflict to an end.

If Mr. Putin feels the need to put up a security wall or something in order to save face by all means let him, but it's time for Russia to quit Chechnya once and for all.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:41 AM


Let us pray together: More Muslim women are fighting for equal treatment in the mosque (Vanessa E. Jones, February 24, 2005, Boston Globe)

Sitting in the mosque on Shawmut Avenue, Faaruuq justifies the separation of women and men by reiterating the Islamic ritual laws often used by those defending this practice. Women aren't required to do their Friday communal prayers in mosques. Men must pray shoulder to shoulder. Men and women must pray in separate lines. Add constraints created by a lack of space and a sweep of Islamic conservatism descending on some American mosques, and the result is separate and sometimes unequal conditions for women.

A national survey released by the Council on American-Islamic Relations suggests the problem is growing. Fifty-two percent of mosques put female congregants behind a partition or in a separate room in 1994. Sixty-six percent of mosques did so in 2000.

After years of whispered complaints, people are now beginning to discuss how to tackle the issue. Should it be done from within via quiet discussions with mosque leaders? Or should objectors take Nomani's cue and embark on attention-grabbing activism reminiscent of the civil rights era? Complicating the answer are fears by some that focusing on this issue reflects negatively on a community already embattled by bad press.

"They feel it's airing the dirty laundry," says Ingrid Mattson, a professor at the Hartford Seminary in Connecticut and the first female vice president of the Islamic Society of North America, "or that Muslims have enough problems, that Muslims are stereotyped and discriminated against so much, that this will only make it worse. I understand those concerns because it is a very difficult time for Muslims. . . . In the end, I think you just have to deal with the issue."

A handful of Muslim organizations are beginning to do that. The New York-based Women in Islam plans to release a brochure on the topic next month. The Council on American-Islamic Relations is working on a similar project. And the ISNA's Leadership Development Center is developing a guide that will discuss the woman's place in the mosque, among other issues.

"What you're seeing now," says Omid Safi, a professor of Islamic Studies at Colgate University and cofounder of the Progressive Muslim Union of North America, a newly formed organization working to reform Islam from within, "is a large number of American Muslims, some converts, some second generation, some African-American Muslims, who are saying, 'We don't care what you did back in Egypt or in Pakistan. We care about how we do it here. Our interpretation of Islam is just as valid as everybody else's.' "

Pity the poor isolationists--they wish for America to withdraw from the affairs of the world, but instead we are the Wittenberg of Islam's Reformation and George Bush its Luther.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:35 AM


Health of a Nation: Entrepreneurs are sick of sky-high health insurance premiums, and the government is scrambling for reform. But can Uncle Sam save the deteriorating state of health care? (Joshua Kurlantzick, March 2005, Entrepreneur)

On the campaign trail, President Bush emphasized several potential reforms that he believes could lower premiums and improve access to care. For one, Bush has pushed for the expansion of association health plans (AHPs). AHPs would let business trade groups offer health insurance plans to their members. The association plans would be exempt from state insurance regulations, which can add costs to small employers' premiums; many large employers are already exempt from these state regulations. In theory, by banding together in AHPs, small employers could negotiate with insurers for better rates. Congressional staffers expect an AHP bill to pass Congress this year, since Bush is expected to push for it.

Bush has also focused on health savings accounts, or HSAs. In one presidential debate, he said, "Health-care costs are on the rise because the consumers are not involved in the decision-making process. It's one of the reasons I'm a strong believer in health savings accounts." HSAs combine a high-deductible health plan with a savings account so employees can save the money allotted if they don't spend it on care. They first became officially available in 2004. By giving consumers the ability to judge the costs and benefits of their health coverage, and to save the unspent money (HSAs can be taken with workers from job to job), HSAs may prompt consumers to use care more wisely, thereby cutting costs.

In a March 2004 study by Mercer Human Resource Consulting, nearly 75 percent of employers said they are very or somewhat likely to offer their employees a high-deductible health plan with an HSA by 2006. Employees may not welcome the news. According to a study by Washington, DC, benefit consulting firm Watson Wyatt Worldwide released in January, less than one third of workers who have health insurance know what HSAs are. Once respondents were given an explanation of the plans, 57 percent said they did not want to pay higher deductibles.

Bush plans to expand HSA utilization, partly by offering tax credits to small companies that contribute to employees' HSAs. He has also proposed extending tax credits for low-income health-care purchasers and has suggested capping the amount employers buying traditional insurance can spend tax-free--a means of encouraging them to shift to HSAs.

The paradox is that choice will only work if folks don't have a choice whether to be in HSA's in the first place. Make them universal and start them at birth.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:24 AM


Lawmaker finds a generation gulf on Social Security (Peter S. Canellos, February 24, 2005, Boston Globe)

The almshouse, a citadel of rust-colored brick overseen by a master and matron, was a place of fear for penniless elderly and orphans in the early decades of the 20th century.

By the time Richard E. Neal, the city's current US representative, was orphaned in the 1960s, the almshouse was gone -- rendered obsolete by Social Security. A monthly survivor's benefit enabled Neal to go to college and made it easier for his younger sisters to live with relatives.

Neal's experiences have made him a fierce defender of the traditional Social Security system, and now he is putting his story on display to build opposition to President Bush's plan to allow people to invest portions of Social Security taxes in private investment accounts.

But he has found that some people's experiences send them in different directions.

This week, as he brought his story home to Springfield, he discovered that loyalty to the current system fades with successive generations -- especially among those with no connection to the time before Social Security, from fears of the almshouse to the devastating loss of savings accounts and stock-market investments in the Depression.

If time starts flowing backwards the Democrats are sitting pretty.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:20 AM


Racist incidents jarring the French (Katrin Bennhold, February 24, 2005, International Herald Tribune)

Swastikas on the walls of a Paris mosque. An arson attack on a railway carriage commemorating French Jews who were deported to Nazi camps in World War II. Blatant anti-Semitic comments by a comedian.

A recent string of racist incidents in France has shaken the political establishment at a time when the country is battling its image abroad as a country where anti-Semitism is making a powerful comeback and anti-Arab sentiments are rising.

Jean-Claude sipped his Vichy water and wondered how people could think his country anti-Semitic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Arafat loyalists lose out in compromise deal
(SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, 2/23/05, Knight Ridder Newspapers)

Rebellious Palestinian legislators on Wednesday pushed more Yasser Arafat loyalists out of the Cabinet in a compromise struck after the intervention of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

The political struggle leading to the deal reflected the restiveness and growing power of the younger guard of legislators. They've long been angry over the unwillingness of leaders who returned from exile with Arafat more than a decade ago to share power with the homegrown generation of Palestinian politicians.

With an election looming in July, legislators are also anxious to show a commitment to a financial and political overhaul of the Palestinian Authority, which has been plagued with corruption. They're particularly worried about the success of the Islamic militant group Hamas in recent local elections, fearing that Hamas candidates may put in a strong showing in July's election as well.

Under the agreement reached at a closed-door meeting between Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia and legislators from the dominant Fatah political faction, only two of the old guard - Qureia and the man he wants for his deputy, Nabil Sha'ath, will remain in the 22-member Cabinet to be ratified by the full Palestinian legislative council Thursday afternoon.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Kurd who will seal Saddam's fate: Favourite for presidency insists on a federal, secular state (Anthony Loyd, 2/24/05, Times of London)

JALAL TALABANI, the former Kurdish guerrilla commander, prisoner and outlaw who seems likely to become Iraq’s President, has more reason than most to want Saddam Hussein dead.

The enmity between the two men is such that on one occasion, during the brutal struggle between Saddam’s forces and the Kurds in northern Iraq, Saddam offered an amnesty to every Kurdish fighter except Mr Talabani.

As President, Mr Talabani would have a chance to turn the tables on the fallen dictator. If Saddam is convicted of war crimes, including the slaughter of more than 182,000 Kurds, Mr Talabani would sign his execution warrant.

But he has a problem. “I’ve thought about it and this is one of my big problems,” he told The Times in an interview at his base in Qala Chwallan, northern Iraq. “Why? Because as a lawyer I signed an international appeal against executions and now this gentleman will be sentenced to death, and Iraqi people want to sentence him, to kill him. What can I do?”

Asked if he can resolve the dilemma, he laughed. “I hope so.”

Can what remains of the Left's opposition to the war--basically the Tmes editorial page, Hollywood and congressional Democrats--really endure War Crimes coverage?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


India asks Israel for technical assistance to develop SLBM (Ran Dagoni, 23 Feb 05, Globes)

''Defense News'' reports that India has given the go-ahead to its Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to speed up development of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM). India has asked Israel for "technical assistance" on the development work. Russia also wants to provide "aid".

The missile program is called "Sagarika". Defense News'' quotes top DRDO scientists as saying that they have received permission to extend the missile's range from the originally planned 1,000 kilometers to 2,500 kilometers. The Sagarika currently has a range of only 300 kilometers. A top Indian scientist said extending the Sagarika's range was intended to give it nuclear deterrent capability.

Okay, we get Israel, India, Taiwan, Japan, Australia, Britain and Poland and the other side gets? Who that matters?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Ex-Israel air chief's appointment fuels speculation over Iran strike (AFP, Feb 23, 2005)

With the appointment of former air force supremo Dan Halutz as new chief of staff, Israel has put the ideal man in charge of the military for any potential air strike against Iranian nuclear facilities.

Chosen Tuesday by Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz to succeed the outgoing General Moshe Yaalon, Haalutz is the first man with an air force background to be chosen as chief of staff in the history of the Jewish state.

Like Mofaz, who was Yaalon's immediate predecessor, outgoing deputy chief of staff Halutz is also of Iranian origin.

February 23, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:29 PM


Reid says Howard Dean is "not some wild-eyed, left-wing nut" (KRNV-TV, Feb 23, 2005)

Senator Harry Reid admits Howard Dean was not his first choice to be the new chairman of the national Democratic Party.

And he says he told the Vermont governor so much. But the Nevada Democrat told reporters in Reno Wednesday he's impressed with how Dean has, "taken the darts that were thrown at him" during the primary election. [...]

Reid says, Dean is "not some wild-eyed, left-wing nut."

Glad we cleared that up.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:22 PM


Koizumi angry at two cops fleeing from club-wielding man (Japan Today, February 23, 2005)

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Tuesday he has told Japan's public security chief to review police training and preparedness after viewing a television news report about a man easily chasing off two police officers.

"I couldn't believe it when the police officers fled instead of trying to seize the suspect when he came at them," Koizumi said, referring to footage of an incident aired by Fuji Television Network on its morning news program.

Where's Stacey Koon when you need him?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:03 PM


Vague attempts (John McCaslin, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

First it was Iowa and Connecticut. Then, we wrote recently, Texas.

Now, an Assembly bill has been introduced in New York to make hunting a punishable act of animal cruelty. Do we sense a pattern across this country, similar to what has beguiled Britain?

Anti-hunting lawmakers, confirms the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance, are introducing "vague or poorly worded" animal-cruelty legislation in an effort to outlaw hunting. The latest New York bill, introduced by Democratic Assembly member Alexander Grannis, seeks to revise the state's definition of animal cruelty to include "killing or injuring ... wild game and wild birds."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:16 PM


Syria elite seeks Lebanon pullout (Nicholas Blanford, 2/24/05, Times of London)

ABOUT 140 Syrian intellectuals and human rights activists yesterday published an open letter urging Damascus to withdraw its estimated 14,000 troops from Lebanon to avoid further international censure.

The letter, addressed to the Lebanese opposition, said: “We support your demand for the withdrawal of the Syrian Army from Lebanon and in correcting the Syrian-Lebanese relationship.”

Syria deals harshly with political dissent. The intellectuals who signed the letter criticising their Government risk being jailed. [...]

Michel Kilo, a Syrian human rights activist and one of the letter’s signatories, said Syria had to change its policies towards Lebanon. “You have the international community against Syria. The Lebanese are no longer with Syria. The Syrians are feeling scared and isolated,” he told The Times.

More than 100 Syrian journalists rallied in Damascus yesterday to denounce the Hariri murder. The rally “reflects the sadness of the man in the street in Syria after the misfortune which has struck our two brotherly countries”, Saber Falhout, head of the Syrian General Union of Journalists, said.

As Walid Jumblatt put it:
"It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq," explains Jumblatt. "I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world." Jumblatt says this spark of democratic revolt is spreading. "The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:59 PM

Dumb and Dumber: Revisiting Conservatives as the Stupid Party (Orrin C. Judd, 02/23/2005, Tech Central Station)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:41 PM


In a secular ocean, waves of spirituality (Peter Ford, 2/23/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

On the face of it, religion has continued to suffer setbacks in Europe recently. Just last year, the French government reinforced its secular approach by banning Muslim head scarves and other religious symbols from schools.

Catholic teaching on such questions as abortion, contraception, divorce, and homosexuality, meanwhile, is honored more in the breach than in the observance.

That would seem to continue a secularist trend visible in Europe for several decades. That trend is offset, however, by a growing awareness that European secularism is an aberration in a world where religion is largely on the rise.

The prominent role that religion continues to play in American public life, meanwhile, has undermined the widespread European view that modern societies inevitably grow more secular, and that religion is an attribute of underdevelopment.

"A preoccupation with spirituality is much more present now at a religious and philosophical level" than it was a few years ago, says Dominique Moisi, a French political analyst.

In Britain, the country's largest bookseller has noticed that preoccupation, and moved to meet it. Expanding the shelf space it devotes to religious and spiritual books, "we have increased our range over the last few years," says Lucy Avery, a spokeswoman for the Waterstone's chain.

Sales of such books rose by nearly 4 percent last year, she adds, and titles such as the Dalai Lama's "The Art of Happiness" and a modern-language "Street Bible" have become bestsellers.

"I have noticed that a lot of general-interest publishers are turning to religious books now for commercial reasons, because that is what the public wants," says Laurence Vandamme, a spokeswoman for Cerf, the largest French religious publisher.

In France, leading philosopher Régis Debray, once a comrade in arms of Che Guevara in the Bolivian mountains, has devoted two of his most recent books to explorations of God and religion. Le Monde, the French establishment's newspaper of record, this year launched a glossy bimonthly "World of Religion."

"The need for meaning affects the secularized and de- ideologized West most of all," wrote Frédéric Lenoir, the editor of the new magazine, in his first editorial. "Ultramodern individuals mistrust religious institutions ... and they no longer believe in the radiant tomorrow promised by science and politics; they are still confronted, though, by the big questions about origins, suffering, and death."

Rocco Buttiglione, a confidant of the pope who was denied a bid to join the European Commission last year because of his staunch Catholic views on social issues, has a ready answer to such questions. "For a long time they told us that science and maths would give us the identity we need," he says. "Both failed. Now when Europeans ask themselves 'Who are we?' they don't have an answer. I suggest we are Christians."

That opinion is not widely shared. Critics point to the millions of immigrant Muslim Europeans living in France, Germany, Britain, and Spain, not to mention Europe's indigenous Muslims in the Balkans.

Nor are there many signs of a resurgence of organized religion on a continent where church attendance has been plummeting almost everywhere in recent decades.

Yet 74 percent of Europeans say they believe in a God, a spirit, or a life force, according to the latest findings of the European Values Study, a 30-year, Continentwide survey. And youth workers in Britain are finding "consistent evidence ... that a secular generation is being replaced by a generation much more interested in spiritual issues," says Stuart Murray-Williams, a theologian at Oxford University who recently published a book entitled "After Christendom."

A wide array of religious groups has sprung up across Europe to meet that generation's needs, most notably Buddhist communities.

"I've noticed a steady increase in interest," says Suvannavira, a Russian-born, British-educated monk who runs the Western Buddhist Order's Paris outpost in a cramped storefront meditation center. "Our order has doubled in size since 1990."

"The discourse has changed," Dr. Murray-Williams says. "Ten or 15 years ago, any mention of spiritual experiences would have drawn blank looks. Today people are hungry to talk about them." Murray-Williams says it's too soon to say what all this portends.

"There is a kind of inchoate spirituality that could be significant, or it could be a passing trend," he says. "It will be a while before we know whether or not it is strong enough to challenge the culture of secularism."

That culture is showing signs of wear, argues Jacques Delors, who once bemoaned Europe's lack of "soul" when he was president of the European Commission. "I fear that the construction of Europe is sinking into absolute materialism," he worries. "Things aren't going well for society, so society is little by little going to start asking itself what life is for, what death is, and what happens afterwards."

We've examples of great civilizations, cultures, and nations that sank into a materialist wallow but rather fewer instances (none?) of such stopping the slide and reviving themselves. The reasons are obvious: everyone would like to be relieved of the burden of morality and personal responsibility. The question now is, once relieved will they resume the weight? It doesn't seem overlikely.

Economists want to know: Do Europeans work less because they believe less in God? (Joshua S. Burek, 2/22/05, CS Monitor)

[R]esearchers are reexamining whether there might be a link between religious belief and economic performance.

In a 2003 study of nearly 60 countries, Harvard researchers Robert Barro and Rachel McCleary found that certain religious beliefs did contribute to economic growth. Notably, they concluded that a belief in hell was a slightly more potent economic spur than a belief in heaven.

Last year, Niall Ferguson, a professor of history at Harvard University, examined the connections between faith and work ethic in light of divergent trends he found in the United States and Europe.

Religious belief in North America has "been amazingly resilient" amid big economic gains, he says, disputing the notion that wealthier countries necessarily become less religious.

But abroad, Ferguson noted that a decline in European working hours coincided with a decline in faith.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:30 PM


Same Old Bush (Dan Froomkin, February 22, 2005, Washington Post)

A reporter from the French newspaper Le Monde began a meandering question by noting that Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, on a scouting trip to Europer earlier this month, described himself as a new Rumsfeld. (That was to distinguish from the "old Rumsfeld" who had condemned European countries that refused to back the war against Iraq.)

"Same old Bush," the president interrupted.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:24 PM


When Democracy Failed - 2005: The Warnings of History (Thom Hartmann, 2/23/05, CommonDreams.Org)

This weekend - February 27th - marks an important historical anniversary. One that the corporate media is not likely to cover. The generation that experienced this history firsthand is now largely dead, and only a few of us dare hear their ghosts.

It started when the government, in the midst of an economic crisis, received reports of an imminent terrorist attack. A foreign ideologue had launched feeble attacks on a few famous buildings, but the media largely ignored his relatively small efforts. The intelligence services knew, however, that the odds were he would eventually succeed. (Historians are still arguing whether or not rogue elements in the intelligence service helped the terrorist. Some, like Sefton Delmer - a London Daily Express reporter on the scene - say they certainly did not, while others, like William Shirer, suggest they did.)

But the warnings of investigators were ignored at the highest levels, in part because the government was distracted; the man who claimed to be the nation's leader had not been elected by a majority vote and the majority of citizens claimed he had no right to the powers he coveted.

He was a simpleton, some said, a cartoon character of a man who saw things in black-and-white terms and didn't have the intellect to understand the subtleties of running a nation in a complex and internationalist world.

His coarse use of language - reflecting his political roots in a southernmost state - and his simplistic and often-inflammatory nationalistic rhetoric offended the aristocrats, foreign leaders, and the well-educated elite in the government and media. And, as a young man, he'd joined a secret society with an occult-sounding name and bizarre initiation rituals that involved skulls and human bones.

Nonetheless, he knew the terrorist was going to strike (although he didn't know where or when), and he had already considered his response. When an aide brought him word that the nation's most prestigious building was ablaze, he verified it was the terrorist who had struck and then rushed to the scene and called a press conference.

"You are now witnessing the beginning of a great epoch in history," he proclaimed, standing in front of the burned-out building, surrounded by national media. "This fire," he said, his voice trembling with emotion, "is the beginning."

60.6 million American fascists can't be wrong.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 2:20 PM


Brave new world. Get ready for robots that can think (Jodie Sinnema, Edmonton Journal, February 23rd, 2005)

Bowling is creating a 67.5-kilogram robot capable of speeds up to 20 kilometres an hour to play soccer with and against humans on Segway human transporters. The robot, worth at least $14,000 US, will adapt its kicking strategies and goal-scoring manoeuvres depending on how aggressive or defensive other players are or how muddy the turf is.

The U of A already has soccer-playing robots, but ones much smaller than Timmy that play with golf balls on fields about three times the size of a ping-pong table. Those robots only play each other and, being programmed in similar ways, don't have to reason with intellectual teammates who dribble down the field or deke the goalie by veering suddenly to one side, Bowling said.

Unlike these smaller soccer aficionados, Timmy -- fondly named after the wheelchair-bound cartoon character from South Park -- will soon be weaned off his joystick and given camera eyes and will have to play on his own with no human intervention, Bowling said.

In May, Timmy will be off to Atlanta, Ga., to compete with other robots and their human counterparts on Segways. Similar research is being done at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pa., where Bowling taught until last year. By 2050, robotics experts aim to field a team of robots that will trounce humans in soccer.

Word has it they are completely stumped on how to make them fake injuries.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:23 PM


After Thompson's suicide, attorney saw clues (David Abel, February 22, 2005, Boston Globe)

The decision, he said, had nothing to do with the reelection of George W. Bush or the current trend in national politics, which provided a certain grist for Thompson's mill.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:16 PM


Beirut's Berlin Wall (David Ignatius, February 23, 2005, Washington Post)

"Enough!" That's one of the simple slogans you see scrawled on the walls around Rafiq Hariri's grave site here. And it sums up the movement for political change that has suddenly coalesced in Lebanon and is slowly gathering force elsewhere in the Arab world.

"We want the truth." That's another of the Lebanese slogans, painted on a banner hanging from the Martyr's Monument near the mosque where Hariri is buried. It's a revolutionary idea for people who have had to live with lies spun by regimes that were brutally clinging to power. People want the truth about who killed Hariri last week, but on a deeper level they want the truth about why Arab regimes have failed to deliver on their promises of progress and prosperity.

A crowd was still gathered at Hariri's resting place well after midnight early yesterday. Thousands of candles -- many bearing Christian icons, others Muslim designs -- flickered in a semicircle around the grave and melted together into a multicolored patina of wax. Mourners have written angry messages in Arabic on a nearby wall denouncing Syria, whose troops occupy Lebanon and which many Lebanese blame for Hariri's murder. "The Ugly Syrian," says one. "Get Out of Here," says another. For people who have been frightened even to mention Syria's name, it must feel liberating just to write those words.

Over by the Martyr's Monument, Lebanese students have built a little tent city and are vowing to stay until Syria's 15,000 troops withdraw. They talk like characters in "Les Miserables," but their revolutionary bravado is the sort of force that can change history. "We have nothing to lose anymore. We want freedom or death," says Indra Hage, a young Lebanese Christian. [...]

"It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq," explains Jumblatt. "I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world." Jumblatt says this spark of democratic revolt is spreading. "The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it."

You bet, they're nothing like us.....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:05 PM


Bush gets weak support
for program cuts
: Even loyal Republicans oppose many plans (The Associated Press, Feb. 22, 2005)

Bush’s rationale for the cuts is the need to control relentless federal deficits that the White House expects to set a third straight record this year, hitting $427 billion. He also would slow the growth of the Pentagon’s budget and pluck savings from Medicaid, farm aid, veterans payments and other benefit programs.

“The principle here is clear: Taxpayer dollars must be spent wisely, or not at all,” Bush said in his State of the Union speech this month.

Many interest groups and members of Congress, including plenty of the president’s fellow Republicans, think what’s unwise are his proposed cuts. That’s why his plan to save $15.3 billion by eliminating 99 programs and cutting 55 others faces bleak prospects.

Was anything in life ever more certain in life than that when you challenged supposed budget hawks of both parties to "put up or shut up" they'd shut up?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:33 PM


Breaking the grip of secular fundamentalists (Steve and Cokie Roberts, Feb 21, 2005, Jewish World Review)

Democrat Tim Roemer won a Congressional seat in a Republican state, Indiana. As a member of the 9/11 Commission, he had strong credentials on fighting terrorism. Yet his bid for the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee went nowhere, and for one reason: as a practicing Catholic, he opposes abortion in most cases.

"It was a very difficult mountain to climb from the beginning, and people tried to hang a radioactive anvil around my neck on abortion," says Roemer. "They threw a couple of kitchen sinks and then some at us, with phone banks and mailings and efforts to derail the candidacy just based on that one issue."

Instead, the new chairman is Howard Dean — a favorite of pro-choice activists, and a leader of what evangelical Christian writer Jim Wallis calls the "secular fundamentalist" wing of the Democratic Party.

Which choice made more sense for a minority party that's lost control of every branch of government? A man of faith who doesn't need a visa to visit Red State America? Or a classic Northeastern intellectual who said, during his failed bid for the 2004 Democratic nomination, that he had just discovered that Southern voters take religion seriously?

From any practical perspective, Roemer was the better option, but the abortion rights lobby was simply too powerful.

Wing? Secular fundamentalism is the raison d'etre of today's Democratic Party.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:06 PM


Poll: Schwarzenegger's Approval Rating Slipping (Reuters, 2/22/05)

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's job approval rating remains high, but his support has slipped from the lofty levels during his first year in office, according to a poll released on Wednesday. [...]

The poll found 55 percent of registered California voters approve of Schwarzenegger's job performance and 35 percent disapprove. [...]

The sliding job performance rating reflects an increasingly negative view among Democrats and independents of the Republican governor. By contrast, he retains overwhelming support from Republicans, according to the poll.

The most important thing to take from this poll is that Arnold remains popular and easily re-electable despite now being seen more clearly as a standard issue Republican.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:27 AM


Defining Limits of Eminent Domain: High Court Weighs City's Claim to Land (Charles Lane, February 23, 2005, Washington Post)

There were two empty chairs at the bench, with Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist absent because of illness and Justice John Paul Stevens out because his flight from Florida, where he maintains a home, had been canceled.

That created an opportunity for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the most senior remaining justice, to become the first woman to preside over an oral argument at the court.

Sounding skeptical that there could be a blanket rule against using eminent domain to promote private redevelopment, O'Connor pressed Bullock repeatedly to say under what circumstances it might be allowable.

When Bullock suggested that a "minimum standard" might be to require cities to show there is a good chance that the promised public benefits of redevelopment might materialize, O'Connor replied, "Do you really want the courts in the business of deciding whether a hospital will be successful . . . or a road will be successful?"

But when Wesley W. Horton rose to argue on New London's behalf, O'Connor asked whether it would be "okay" for a city to replace a Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton "if the city felt Ritz-Carlton could pay more tax."

Horton said yes, prompting several justices to pepper him with questions about the basic fairness of shifting resources from one set of private owners to another, richer, set.

"What this lady [Kelo] wants is not more money," Justice Antonin Scalia said. "She says I'll move if it's for the public good, but not just so that someone else can pay more taxes. This is an objection in principle that 'public use' in the Constitution seems to be addressed to."

The simple decision seems to be to compensate owners as if the development were going to be successful.

Posted by Jim Siegel at 10:58 AM


Government for Hire (STEPHEN GOLDSMITH and WILLIAM D. EGGERS, February 21, 2005, The New York Times)

In the past, those of us who wished to limit government's monopoly over public services were content to make the case for greater private delivery and then leave it up to the bureaucrats to figure out how to do it. But not enough attention has been devoted to one of the central policy and management issues of our time: what kinds of systems, organizational structures and skills are needed to operate a government that increasingly orchestrates (rather than owns) resources and purchases (rather than directly provides) services?

It must be recognized that involving partners to produce government services places more - not less - responsibility on public officials. It requires them, often with declining resources, to provide more public service than before, but produce less of it themselves. This in turn demands a different set of governmental abilities. It requires public leaders who understand that their job is to produce public value and not merely to manage activities.

This new breed of leadership must recruit managers skilled in negotiation, contract management and risk analysis who will tackle problems unconventionally and focus on results rather than on defending bureaucratic turf. Ultimately, this means fewer people overall at the lower and middle levels, but more highly skilled individuals at the top who are properly paid.

Record baby boomer retirements over the next four years - up to 50 percent in some federal agencies - provide an opportunity to transform the public work force without layoffs. But to attract a new kind of public employee, the government has to change outdated seniority rules, narrow job classifications and archaic hiring practices.

Management must move to center stage. Holding providers accountable and measuring and tracking their performance has to become a core government responsibility that is as important, if not more so, than managing public employees.

Public officials must be careful to retain control of outcomes even while their private partners directly manage services. This requires a delicate balancing act, building in the needed flexibility to enable dynamic change, while not becoming a captive of private vendors.

It's time to put the debate aside.

The size, power, expense and arrogance of government grow unless restrained. I’m not anti-government. But the more we rely on the government to do things for us, the less freedom we have, the less responsibility we take for ourselves and for others, the less potential we achieve. Often best public policy lies with some combination of government, the private sector, and not-for-profit organizations, and more likely at the local level which is closer to problems and better able to come up with solutions.

In the words of Daniel Webster, “Human beings will generally exercise power when they can get it, and they will exercise it most undoubtedly in popular governments under pretense of public safety.” C.S. Lewis agreed, “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny that sincerely exercises for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.” Edmund Burke wrote: “The true danger is when liberty is nibbled away, for expedience and by parts.” And columnist Jonah Goldberg says:

The doctrine of limited government holds that government is, well, limited — that governmental neglect at the federal level is in fact benign. Conservative dogma holds that the people cannot develop the habits of the heart necessary to take care of themselves if they are being taken care of by the government. Moreover, a government that provides services simply because they are demanded is a government that reserves the right to take as much of my property and wealth as it deems necessary to meet the demands of somebody else….

We used to believe that since men are not angels, limited government is necessary. Now it seems to be that until men are made into angels — and by our own hand — unlimited government is required. After all, flawed men will make demands on the government when they are hurting and until those flaws and those pains are remedied, their demands must stir the government "to move."… We know from history that every new program creates constituencies who will fight like hell to prevent a final, program-ending, victory.

In his book What’s So Great About America Dinesh D’Souza puts it this way:

The founders took special care to devise a system that would prevent, or at least minimize, the abuse of power. To this end they established limited government, in order that the power of the state would remain confined. They divided authority between the national and state governments. Within the national framework, they provided for separation of powers, so that the legislature, executive and judiciary would each have its own domain of power. They insisted upon checks and balances, to enhance accountability.

In general the founders adopted a “policy of supplying, by opposite and rival interests, the defect of better motives.” (Federalist Papers No. 51, James Madison) This is not to say that the founders ignored the importance of virtue. But they knew that virtue is not always in abundant supply. The Greek philosophers held that virtue was not the same thing as knowledge – that people do bad things because they are ignorant – but the American founders did not agree. Their view was closer to that of St. Paul: “The good that I would, I do not. The evil that I would not, that I do.” (Romans 7:19) According to Christianity, the problem of the bad person is that his will is corrupted, and this is a fault endemic to human nature. The American founders knew they could not transform human nature, so they devised a system that would thwart the schemes of the wicked and channel the energies of flawed persons toward the public good.

Likewise, commentator Andrew Ferguson says, “Government can work – can indeed be a positive good. With vigilant oversight, it can live within its means, deliver its services with relative efficiency, and make the lives of citizens safer, richer, and more convenient.” And Wade Horn, the Assistant Secretary for Children and Families in the US Department of Health and Human Services under President George W. Bush, has said the principle should be “not about expanding government; it is about doing it better.”

I worked with federal government employees as a contractor for 13 years, and found that they get a bad rap. Some were terrific, many were good, some were duds. While the civil service system does shield civil service employees from politicians’ whims, it gives little incentive to excel and protects those who aren’t “good enough for government work.” The same for the aspects of the contracting process which stifle initiative. We knew that the profit percentage on a government contract had to be less than for a commercial client. But we did not make enough money to invest too many of our own nickels in proactive work that could pay off for the taxpayer.

Stephen Goldsmith is former Indianapolis Mayor and currently is Professor of the Practice of Public Government at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. According to his faculty profile, “As Mayor of America’s 12th largest city, he reduced government spending, cut the city’s bureaucracy, held the line on taxes, eliminated counter-productive regulations and identified more than $400 million in savings. He reinvested the savings by leading a transformation of downtown Indianapolis that has been held up as a national model.”

In his book The Twenty-First Century City – Resurrecting Urban America, Goldsmith gives credit to a combination of actions: competition between private companies and government departments to provide public services, better understanding of what it costs to provide that service, the setting and measuring of performance goals that are customer-focused, and giving unionized public employees the opportunity to “be as innovative, effective, and cost-conscious as their private sector counterparts – and they can prove it in the marketplace.” He says:

The president of the local chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers put it much more simply. Because we broke up our government monopoly and allowed city workers to compete to please customers, he said, “city workers are no longer asked to park their brains at the door when coming to work.”

Among the big accomplishments were higher quality operations for a lower cost of the city airport, wastewater plants, jails, recreational facilities; conversion of a newly closed naval base to private hands that saved 2,000 jobs, added 700 more jobs and avoided $180 million in federal expense for the closure in the process; reduced crime and improved quality of life in neighborhoods.

Of the many things they did, here’s one small example. The city decided to put up for competitive bid some street maintenance. City workers were asked to bid. Goldsmith writes:
The workers complained they could not possibly compete while carrying unreasonable overhead in the form of managers’ salaries. For a mere ninety-four workers in the street repair division there were thirty-two politically appointed supervisors – an absurd ratio, especially considering that most of the supervisors were relatively highly paid. In part to call my bluff, union employees told us that if we serious about competition we would eliminate several of these supervisors to give the union a real chance to compete.

By normal political standards the union’s demands would have been a show stopper. The supervisors were registered Republicans. I was a Republican mayor. These managers, and their patrons in the party, had supported my election. The union had supported the opposition and campaigned strongly against me. Now the union wanted me to fire politically connected Republicans to help a Democratic union look good.

We did it. We had to. If I had blinked and shielded my fellow Republicans, the message would have been clear: we were not serious about competition. In addition to laying off or transferring fourteen of the thirty-two supervisors, we provided the workers with a consultant to help them prepare their bid.

The union was surprised, impressed, and probably nervous. Workers now knew that they, too, would be finding new jobs if they failed to draw up a competitive plan.

Making workers responsible for their own destiny sent a clear message that for the first time in ages management recognized that the men and women who do the job know better than anyone what it takes to get it done….

For example, street repair crews previously consisted of an eight-man team that used two trucks to haul a patching device and a tar kettle. Once in charge, the city workers saw that my remounting the patching equipment they could eliminate one of the trucks, and by doing do reduce the crew from eight to five.

The city employees bid significantly below their private competitors and won the job decisively. While the city previously spent $425 per ton filling potholes with hot asphalt, the new proposal reduced the city’s cost to $307 per ton – a 25 percent savings.

We were shocked. In fact, many within city government doubted the union proposal. But when DoT actually did the work, workers not only met the bid price, they beat it – by $20,000. They increased the average production of a work crew from 3.1 to 5.2 lane miles per day – a 68 percent efficiency increase.

In New York City and State, where public employee unions have enormous power to block attempts to improve efficiency and outcomes, we’ve been less successful. Today New York City employs about 100,000 more workers than it did forty years ago, a 30% increase, while the population size has stayed about the same.

For those who would condemn Goldsmith and his allies as heartless he says:

We cannot simply pull out of communities destroyed by poor services and unwise welfare state intervention. But government’s involvement must take a new form, fostering market-produced prosperity instead of making income transfers through welfare. First, government must do right by its basic responsibilities – safety, schools, and infrastructure. Second, government needs to help remove the structural barriers to investment by helping reduce the cost of investing in homes or jobs by the private sector.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:50 AM


Lebanon's Prime Minister Offers to Step Down (Edward Yeranian, 23 February 2005, VOA News)

Lebanon's pro-Syrian prime minister signaling he is ready to resign to help restore order in the country. Many Lebanese blame Syria for a huge bomb attack that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 17 others last week. Syria has denied a role in the Hariri assassination, but tensions are running high.

Lebanon's pro-Syrian Prime Minister Omar Karameh says he is ready to quit and other top Syrian allies in the government are sounding worried. Mr. Karameh told Beirut's An Nahar newspaper that he would be willing to give way if there was "consensus over a new government, rather than chaos."

Opposition politician Marwan Hamadeh, who survived an alleged Syrian attack on his life last November, also insists the government must go, because "things can not continue as they are."

A famous economic maxim: when things can't continue as they are they don't.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:39 AM


Bush does Brussels: President George W Bush's visit to Brussels was carefully coordinated to convey the impression that he needs Europe to fulfill his mission for the world. But the European Union was not falling for that sucker punch. (Pepe Escobar, 2/23/05, Asia Times)

Bush's trip may have been to Brussels, but it was all about Asia (China) and the Middle East (Palestine, Iraq, Syria, Iran). Bush insisted at all stops he now wants a "partnership" with Europe: Chirac and Schroeder, on the record, praised the new tune, but their diplomats insist that only facts will test the rhetoric. "It may be the same wine in a different bottle," quipped a diplomat. Bush certainly did not engage in his trademark born-again Christian fundamentalist rap that makes cultured Europeans cringe. But he insisted he wants to see "an arc of reform from Morocco to Bahrain, passing through Iraq and Afghanistan", which for many a European still means regime change by force. [...]

Bush in Brussels vaguely "encouraged" the EU's diplomatic approach [to Iran], but he didn't endorse it - ringing alarm bells in every diplomatic desk, just as former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter revealed in the US that Bush had personally signed an order for an air attack on Iran planned for next June. But some more optimistic diplomats, taking Rice and Bush at their word, agree that the EU's step-by-step strategy may suit Washington for the moment because "as they have admitted, they are not contemplating a military strike against Iran" [...]

As a public relations exercise, Bush in Brussels was carefully coordinated by Washington to convey to the world the impression that Bush II needs Europe to fulfill his self-imposed mission. But the EU made it clear: forget about a dependent relationship between a hyperpower and its vassals. Jose Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission - a pro-American - put it nicely as "America needs Europe and Europe needs America". But skepticism remains the name of the game in Brussels: "Style may have changed, but not substance," warns a diplomat. "We know the neo-conservatives remain at the core of the new Bush administration, formulating policy. With these people, dialogue is impossible. They are ideologues, and the EU has no ideology."

This may be the smartest thing Mr. Escobar has ever written. The trip is a nice bit of lip service, but we're not going to ever be serious allies again with people who don't any longer share the ideas that undergird our culture.

Pope Calls Gay Marriage Part of 'Ideology of Evil' (Philip Pullella, 2/22/05, Reuters)

Homosexual marriages are part of "a new ideology of evil" that is insidiously threatening society, Pope John Paul says in a new book published Tuesday.

In "Memory and Identity," the Pope also calls abortion a "legal extermination" comparable to attempts to wipe out Jews and other groups in the 20th century. [...]

The 84-year-old Pontiff's book, a highly philosophical and intricate work on the nature of good and evil, is based on conversations with philosopher friends in 1993 and later with some of his aides.

In one section about the role of lawmakers, the Pope takes another swipe at gay marriages when he refers to "pressures" on the European Parliament to allow them.

"It is legitimate and necessary to ask oneself if this is not perhaps part of a new ideology of evil, perhaps more insidious and hidden, which attempts to pit human rights against the family and against man," he writes.

The Pope's fifth book for mass circulation, issued by Italian publisher Rizzoli, sparked controversy in Germany and elsewhere after Jewish groups protested against leaked excerpts comparing the Holocaust to abortion.

In at least two sections of the book, the Pope talks about the Nazi attempt to exterminate Jews and the wholesale slaughter of political opponents by Communist regimes after World War II.

In following paragraphs he says that legally elected parliaments in formerly totalitarian countries were today allowing what he called new forms of evil and new exterminations.

"There is still, however a legal extermination of human beings who have been conceived but not yet born," he writes.

"And this time we are talking about an extermination which has been allowed by nothing less than democratically elected parliaments where one normally hears appeals for the civil progress of society and all humanity," he writes.

And they say they have no ideology...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:31 AM


China fumes as Japan and the US discuss security: Beijing feels left out (Jing-dong Yuan, 2/24/05, Asia Times)

What alarmed Beijing is what it views as the unprecedented clarity with which Washington and Tokyo define their security interests and security perimeter in the region, which now clearly includes the Taiwan Strait. This is seen by China as exceeding the jurisdiction of a bilateral US-Japan security pact, whose original objective was the defense of Japan. While the US-Japan joint statement issued last weekend also made a point to "develop a cooperative relationship with China, welcoming the country to play a responsible and constructive role regionally as well as globally", the spat and misunderstanding that could arise from this development could cast a shadow over the long-term stability in the region.

Beijing's strong reaction to a significant extent reflects the divergent perspectives of China on the one hand, and the US and Japan on the other, over the future of the region's security architecture, and their mutual suspicion and concerns over each other's long-term intentions.

It's easy enough to move from left-out to let-in--reform your government.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:28 AM


Enter a unifier and a healer: The key questions for the United States regarding the future government of Iraq relate to the possibility of it being too Islamic, too close to Iran and too hostile to US forces in the country. On all counts, Ibrahim Jaafari, the man most likely to be the next premier, scores well. On paper at least. (Ehsan Ahrari, 2/24/05, Asia Times)

Ibrahim Jaafari is the United Iraqi Alliance' (UIA's) unanimous choice for the premiership of Iraq. He is not a novice, in the sense that he was long in opposition to Saddam Hussein's rule. He served as vice president in the interim Iraqi government. His Da'wa (Islamic Call) Party has long advocated an Islamic government; however, that aspiration is either tempered or even abandoned when faced with the awesome responsibility of governing Iraq. [...]

Jaafari has demonstrated his sophistication as a candidate for the job for several days, if not weeks. Indeed, if one had any doubts regarding the potential emergence of the UIA as a viable ruling party in Iraq, those doubts should have been dispelled right after the elections. The party has made it known its readiness to be all-inclusive and shunned from all manifestations of parochialism. The all-inclusive aspect of its characteristic was clear by its readiness to go out of its way in actively seeking the cooperation of the Sunni minority, a group that boycotted the election and then showed deep resentment about the possibility of the emergence of Shi'ite dominance in the next government.

The UIA acted as if the Sunni resentment was not even there. It has made it clear that it has every intention of making the Sunnis a real partner in the next government. The UIA's spurning of parochialism will be further demonstrated in its refusal to entertain any ideas that would jeopardize the unity of Iraq. The Kurdish groups had better re-examine all their aspirations that even remotely resemble the weakening the integrity of Iraq.

The administration of US President George W Bush has been besieged by a number of questions related to Jaafari, his Da'wa Party and the UIA. The question that is uppermost in Washington now is whether the UIA's commitment to avoid establishing an Islamic government in Iraq is real. Jaafari has shown special sensitivity to this issue. In fact, he recently made quite a revealing comment in this regard. He said, "Every country has its own character. Not all Iraqis are Muslims. Not all Muslims are Shi'ite. Not all Shi'ites are Islamic. We have to have a system that is open to all components of society."

The next significant question in Washington is how close Iraq will get to Iran. In the Pollyannaish world of the neo-conservatives there is no room for any nuanced approach toward Iran. Either a country can be a friend of the US and enemy of Iran, or vice-versa. There is no way any country can be a friend of Iran and remain close to the US.

Indeed, those who fret about how close Iraq could be to Iran are missing the point--the more liberal Iraq and Ayatollah Sistani will likely have a greater influence on the mullahcracy than vice versa and help bring about reform in Iran, at which point they'll both be our allies.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:20 AM


Romney's stance on civil unions draws fire: Activists accuse governor of 'flip-flopping' on issue (Frank Phillips, February 23, 2005, Boston Globe)

A national gay and lesbian Republican organization yesterday accused Governor Mitt Romney of "flip-flopping" on civil unions for same-sex couples, and other gay activists and Democrats complained that Romney was reinventing himself as a conservative to run for president.

In his speech Monday night, part of what many GOP activists see as the early signs of a presidential campaign, the governor said, "From day one I've opposed the move for same-sex marriage and its equivalent, civil unions." He briefly reviewed the Supreme Judicial Court decision that said gay couples could marry and said, "Some are actually having children born to them."

Yesterday the Log Cabin Republicans sharply rebuked the Massachusetts governor, saying his remarks indicate he is backsliding on his 2002 campaign commitment to support some benefits for gay couples.

He's running nationally now, not locally.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:17 AM


Retirement plan sees million-dollar babies: A former Treasury secretary says the federal government should start an investment account for all babies -- and it will grow to a million dollars by the time they turn 65. (KEVIN G. HALL, 2/23/05, Miami Herald)

One new proposal emerging from the national debate on how to overhaul Social Security could make every American a millionaire at age 65.

Paul O'Neill, President Bush's first treasury secretary and a former chief executive officer of aluminum giant Alcoa, proposes having the government stake every American baby at birth to an investment savings account. By the time the child retires, the account would contain $1 million or more. The idea is drawing attention from an unusual coalition of lawmakers from both parties, liberals as well as conservatives.

To move away from Social Security's chronic funding problems, O'Neill suggests that the government put $2,000 in a special investment account for every newborn American. The government would invest $2,000 more each year until the child reaches 18.

The money would be invested in a conservative index of stocks and bonds and couldn't be touched until retirement. The investment would grow at a compounded rate, meaning that as the value of assets in the account grows, profit would be reinvested so the account would grow even more. Without adding a single cent beyond compounding after the child turns 18, he or she would retire at age 65 with $1,013,326 in the account, O'Neill said.

''If you do the arithmetic, the $1 million would provide an annuity of $82,000 a year for 20 years,'' O'Neill said in an interview.

O'Neill assumes a 6 percent annual return on investment. He calls that figure conservative since it represents the worst performance to date of any 25-year cycle on Wall Street.

This is where the death of the Democratic Party matters. It's the kind of idea they'd get behind if they were still functional and could easily win as part of broad SS reform.

Posted by Bruce Cleaver at 9:03 AM


The only French God: Thought itself (Michael Moriarty, February 21, 2005, Enter Stage Right)

Upon completing Our Oldest Enemy by John J. Miller and Mark Molesky (an insightful history of Franco-American relations), I concluded that the French brand of Marxism is a veritable religion unto itself, a behemoth that dwarfs even the Roman Catholic Church at the height of its power. The Vatican of French Communism is the United Nations Secretariat Building in Manhattan. It is seen as the House of Reason, a sturdy branch on the tree of humanist evolution. The sacredness of life itself must bow before the God of Thought.

"Liberté, égalité, fraternité" are still only aspects of a God called Life. Why the Paris commune didn't include that divine word in its manifesto is perhaps the most profound reason for the repeated failure of the Napoleonic revolution and the certain cause of its ultimate demise at a final Waterloo – the U.S. presidential election of 2008. Even if these geniuses succeed in turning that election into our Alamo, that battle was only one defeat in a war of ultimate American superiority of soul.

Michael Moriarty, who portrayed the Assistant DA Ben Stone in Law and Order, lobs some blistering and insightful invective across the Atlantic. This is all the more amazing because he is a product of an Ivy League education and an actor.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:58 AM


Bush Turns Heat on Syria, But to Wait on Sanctions (Lucy Fielder, 2/23/05, Reuters)

President Bush demanded Wednesday that Syria pull its security services as well as its army from Lebanon, echoing France's remarks that Syrian intelligence controlled the country.

But Bush said before seeking U.N. sanctions, Washington would see how Syria responded to international clamor for it to quit Lebanon, which has grown louder since a massive bomb killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri last week.

"We will see how they (the Syrians) respond before there are any further discussions about going back to the United Nations," Bush told a news conference he held with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in Mainz, Germany.

Washington has cranked up pressure on Lebanon's "oppressive neighbor" Syria over the past week, recalling its Damascus ambassador.

You don't hear much from even those on the Left about how awful it is that the President is effecting regime change unilaterally.

Iraqi insurgents said trained in Syria (UPI, 2/23/05)

Iraqi insurgents told Iraqi television Wednesday they were taught in Syria how to prepare and detonate cars bombs and roadside explosives.

Also a Syrian national, going by the name of Anas the Syrian, appeared on television and confessed he was a first lieutenant in Syrian intelligence.

The insurgents -- many former officers of the dissolved Iraqi army -- confessed to several crimes, including the kidnappings and killings of Iraqis working as translators with the U.S. forces. They also admitted to bombing attacks against multinational troops in the city of Mosul, north of Iraq.

They said they were trained in Latakia, Syria, by Syrian intelligence officers.

The televised confessions have been going on for three days and are bound to cause a crisis in relations between Iraq and neighboring Syria.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:48 AM


The Philosophy Gap: Another argument between the left and the center? Democrats have to dig deeper than that. (Michael Tomasky, 02.22.05, American Prospect)

We’ve known for a long time about these striations within the conservative movement. But we’ve also observed conservatives’ unanimity at election time, or when a major piece of legislation is up for consideration. We’ve explained this by citing their superior discipline. And it’s true, they are more disciplined. Conservative people by nature are more likely to heed their authority figures than liberal people are.

Relatedly, we’ve also explained it by citing their much stronger focus on getting and holding power. They set most of their differences aside, we argue, in the interest of winning, and when they do have disputes, they deal with them privately. The February 20 New York Times piece by David L. Kirkpatrick, in which he scored the great scoop of getting David Wead to hand him over the Bush tapes, underscored this. Bush’s insistence early in the 2000 campaign that the meeting with the religious right be private and unpublicized reflected his obvious realization that a public meeting could make him beholden to a group that scares a lot of Americans, so he made that group the promises he felt he needed to make behind closed doors. And the group, rather than denouncing him and running to the newspapers, said, “We understand, that’s fine.”

Both explanations are true, and I’ve written about both at different times. But both are about tactics. But what, I’ve been wondering lately, if there’s a deeper answer to the question of greater conservative sense of purpose? What if it’s not just about tactics, but about philosophy?

I’ve long had the sense, and it’s only grown since I’ve moved to Washington, that conservatives talk more about philosophy, while liberals talk more about strategy; also, that liberals generally, and young liberals in particular, are somewhat less conversant in their creed’s history and urtexts than their conservative counterparts are (my excellent young staff excepted, naturally; I’m mostly wondering if young Democratic Hill aides have read, for example, The Vital Center or any John Dewey or Walter Lippmann or any number of things like that).

Mr. Tomasky ignores the obvious point here: conservative texts are still read because, grounded in the profound judeo-Christian comprehension of human nature, they proved prescient and timeless, while the writings of the Left, derived from such nonsense as Materialism, Rationalism, Marxism, Freudianism, Darwinism, atheism, pragmatism, and a whole host of other trendy -isms, are even more embarrassing to read today than they were at the time.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:33 AM

NOT EVEN A WORTHY FOE (via Jim Yates):

The Traffic Accident in Syria in 1994 that May Lead to Lebanon's Freedom in 2005 (Daniel Pipes, 2/22/05, NY Sun)

The fate of Syria was in good measure determined on January 21, 1994. That's when, driving at a too-high speed to the Damascus airport for a skiing trip abroad, Basil Al-Assad crashed the Mercedes he was driving, killing himself and his passengers.

The accident had great consequence because Basil, then 31, was being groomed to succeed his father, Hafez Al-Assad, as dictator of Syria. All indications pointed to the equestrian, martial, and charismatic Basil making for a formidable ruler.

After the car crash, his younger brother Bashar got yanked back from his ophthalmologic studies in London and enrolled in a rapid course to prepare as Syria's next strongman. He perfunctorily ascended the military ranks and on his father's demise in June 2000 he, sure enough, succeeded to the presidential throne. (This made Bashar the second dynastic dictator, with Kim Jong Il of North Korea having been the first in 1994. The third one, being Faure Gnassingbé of Togo, emerged earlier this month. Other sons waiting in the wings include Gamal Mubarak of Egypt, Saifuddin Gadhafi of Libya, and Ahmed Salih of Yemen. Saddam Hussein's pair never made it.)

The possibility existed that Bashar, due to his brief Western sojourn and scientific orientation, would dismantle his father's totalitarian contraption; Bashar's early steps suggested he might do just that, but then he quickly reverted to his father's autocratic methods - either because of his own inclinations or because he remained under the sway of his father's grandees.

His father's methods, yes, but not his skills.

Bad systems produce bad leaders.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:21 AM


Palestinians Demand New Cabinet Roster: Prime minister, bowing to lawmakers' calls to bar Arafat cronies, agrees to revamp the lineup. The debate spotlights a growing rift. (Laura King, February 23, 2005, LA Times)

Back in the era of Yasser Arafat, Palestinian lawmakers were inclined to rubber-stamp just about anything their longtime leader asked of them. Even if they didn't, the autocratic Arafat would simply ignore their wishes.

But this week, something unusual happened in the halls of the Palestinian parliament. Lawmakers rose up and vehemently declared they did not want corruption-tainted cronies of Arafat to serve in the new Cabinet.

On Tuesday, after two days of stormy debate, some of it held in the predawn hours, Prime Minister Ahmed Korei agreed to overhaul the Cabinet lineup. In a face-saving compromise, he told lawmakers he had decided to appoint technocrats rather than politicians to key posts and promised to present a new roster of ministers for approval as early as today.

Reform-minded lawmakers cheered the turn of events, even while warning that only the final outcome would tell whether things had really changed since the wheeler-dealer days of Arafat, who died Nov. 11.

"This is the beginning of what could be very good news," said Mustafa Barghouti, who ran for the Palestinian Authority presidency last month on a reformist platform. "It shows that people are really fed up with nepotism and corruption and are seeing how democracy can change that."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:15 AM


The Overstretch Myth (David H. Levey and Stuart S. Brown, March/April 2005, Foreign Affairs)

Would-be Cassandras have been predicting the imminent downfall of the American imperium ever since its inception. First came Sputnik and "the missile gap," followed by Vietnam, Soviet nuclear parity, and the Japanese economic challenge--a cascade of decline encapsulated by Yale historian Paul Kennedy's 1987 "overstretch" thesis.

The resurgence of U.S. economic and political power in the 1990s momentarily put such fears to rest. But recently, a new threat to the sustainability of U.S. hegemony has emerged: excessive dependence on foreign capital and growing foreign debt. As former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers has said, "there is something odd about the world's greatest power being the world's greatest debtor."

The U.S. economy, according to doubters, rests on an unsustainable accumulation of foreign debt. Fueled by government profligacy and low private savings rates, the current account deficit--the difference between what U.S. residents spend abroad and what they earn abroad in a year--now stands at almost six percent of GDP; total net foreign liabilities are approaching a quarter of GDP. Sudden unwillingness by investors abroad to continue adding to their already large dollar assets, in this scenario, would set off a panic, causing the dollar to tank, interest rates to skyrocket, and the U.S. economy to descend into crisis, dragging the rest of the world down with it.

Despite the persistence and pervasiveness of this doomsday prophecy, U.S. hegemony is in reality solidly grounded: it rests on an economy that is continually extending its lead in the innovation and application of new technology, ensuring its continued appeal for foreign central banks and private investors. The dollar's role as the global monetary standard is not threatened, and the risk to U.S. financial stability posed by large foreign liabilities has been exaggerated. To be sure, the economy will at some point have to adjust to a decline in the dollar and a rise in interest rates. But these trends will at worst slow the growth of U.S. consumers' standard of living, not undermine the United States' role as global pacesetter. If anything, the world's appetite for U.S. assets bolsters U.S. predominance rather than undermines it. [...]

At the peak of its global power the United Kingdom was a net creditor, but as it entered the twentieth century, it started losing its economic dominance to Germany and the United States. In contrast, the United States is a large net debtor. But in its case, no plausible challenger to its economic leadership exists, and its share of the global economy will not decline. Focusing exclusively on the NIIP obscures the United States' institutional, technological, and demographic advantages. Such advantages are further bolstered by the underlying complementarities between the U.S. economy and the economies of the developing world--especially those in Asia. The United States continues to reap major gains from what Charles de Gaulle called its "exorbitant privilege," its unique role in providing global liquidity by running chronic external imbalances. The resulting inflow of productivity-enhancing capital has strengthened its underlying economic position. Only one development could upset this optimistic prognosis: an end to the technological dynamism, openness to trade, and flexibility that have powered the U.S. economy. The biggest threat to U.S. hegemony, accordingly, stems not from the sentiments of foreign investors, but from protectionism and isolationism at home.

And it is precisely the isolationists and protectionists, of Left and Right, who always insist that decline is imminent even as we keep rising.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:44 AM


Who killed Rafik Hariri? (Patrick Seale, February 23, 2005, The Guardian)

If Syria killed Rafik Hariri, Lebanon's former prime minister and mastermind of its revival after the civil war, it must be judged an act of political suicide. Syria is already under great international pressure from the US, France and Israel. To kill Hariri at this critical moment would be to destroy Syria's reputation once and for all and hand its enemies a weapon with which to deliver the blow that could finally destabilise the Damascus regime, and even possibly bring it down.

So attributing responsibility for the murder to Syria is implausible.

Didn't the Guardianistas learn anything from the whole WMD dog and pony show? It doesn't matter who did it--the assassination can be blamed on Syria and used as the lever for regime change, at least in Lebanon, and possibly in Syria.

MORE (via Tom Morin):
Pat can't figure it out either, Baiting a trap for Bush? (Pat Buchanan, February 21, 2005, Creators Syndicate, Inc.)

If Syria's Bashar Assad was behind the assassination of ex-Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri of Lebanon, he is, in the edited version of Gen. Tommy Franks' phrase, "the dumbest ... man on the planet."

The Beirut car-bombing that killed Hariri smashed Assad's hope of any rapprochement with the United States, forced him into a collision with President Bush, united the Lebanese in rage at Damascus and their own pro-Syrian government, and coalesced world pressure on Assad to get his 15,000 troops out of Lebanon.

The blowback from this atrocity, fully predictable, is Syria's isolation. Hence, it makes no sense for Bashar to have done it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:39 AM


The case for Judeo-Christian values: Part V (Dennis Prager, February 15, 2005, Townhall)

Judeo-Christian values combine the two religions' strengths -- the Jewish emphasis on moral works in this world with the Christian emphasis on keeping God at the center of one's values and works.

Another example is the American Christian's ability to remain God-centered and hold onto traditional beliefs while fully participating in modern society. This has not generally been the case in Jewish life. Over the centuries, God-centered and Torah-believing Jews retreated from mainstream society. They did so because: 1) anti-Semitism forced Jews into ghettos; 2) Jewish ritual laws increasingly restricted contact with non-Jews; and 3) Jews are a people, not just a religious group.

On the other hand, Jewish rituals have kept Judaism and the Jews alive while the abandonment of ritual (for example, Sabbath observance) has hurt Christianity. And Jewish peoplehood has ensured action on behalf of persecuted fellow Jews while Christians usually did little on behalf of persecuted fellow Christians -- as, for example, those many Christians terribly persecuted under Communism; the Copts in Egypt; the Maronite Catholics in Lebanon; and the Christians of Sudan.

In sum, despite whatever differences they have, Jews and Christians need each other and Judaism and Christianity need each other. The Judeo-Christian values system has become a uniquely powerful moral force. Among its many achievements is that it is the primary contributor to America's greatness.

One germane point that Mr. Prager ignores is that Christians, in particular Americans, have acted on behalf of the persecuted of every faith everywhere, because Christyianity is universalist rather than particularist. Thus America will liberalize Egypt, Syria and Lebanon in their entirety.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:58 AM


Judge Prolongs "Right-to-Die" Case: An emergency stay blocks the removal of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube, the same day a Florida court cleared the way for the move. (John-Thor Dahlburg, February 23, 2005, LA Times)

The long legal battle over a severely brain-damaged woman was extended at least one more day Tuesday, when a Florida appeals court cleared the way for the removal of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube, only to have another judge order it kept in place.

The emergency stay, issued by Pinellas Circuit Judge George W. Greer, expires at 5 p.m. today. David C. Gibbs III, an attorney for Schiavo's parents, said he would argue that enough issues remained unresolved in the case that Greer should extend his ban on disconnecting the tube indefinitely.

Bob and Mary Schindler have been fighting for years to keep their daughter alive. They were at her bedside in a hospice Tuesday, fearing her food and water supply might be cut off, when they learned of Greer's order.

"They believe God answered their prayers. Their daughter is alive for another day," Gibbs said.

We the People are the only thing that stands between Terry Schiavo and the husband who wants to be rid of her. For now, at least, the system is working.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:56 AM


Paying the Price for Safety (JIM HALL, 2/23/05, NY Times)

THE Air Transport Association, the lobbying group for the United States airline industry, is loudly protesting legislation backed by the Bush administration to increase a security fee by $3 per flight, to $5.50. At the same time, some Republican leaders in Congress are saying that aviation security should once again be the responsibility of the private sector.

How soon we forget.

On Sept. 11, 2001, America paid a horrible price in part because of flaws in the aviation security system. Now we risk repeating some of the mistakes that led to 9/11.

As a member of the Gore Commission on Aviation Safety and Security in 1996 and 1997, I saw the airline industry lobby against security enhancements that might have prevented 9/11. That was the second time the airline industry fought the recommendations of a presidential commission on safety and security. In 1990, the industry resisted the recommendations of President George H. W. Bush's commission on aviation security and terrorism.

Mr. Hall repeats the fundamental mistake that all those who've looked to assign blame for 9-11 have made--it's not about the airlines; it's about us. Americans are not willing to pay for the kind of safety the experts want.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:51 AM


Question of the Day (MSNBC, February 23rd, 2005)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:46 AM


New Revenue to Help Fill Projected Gap (Evan Halper, February 23, 2005, LA Times)

An infusion of cash from robust business growth and improving stock market returns is flowing into California's coffers, leading the nonpartisan legislative analyst to predict Tuesday that the state's budget gap will shrink substantially.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:39 AM


Bucking the Deans at Dartmouth: A new challenge to the university monolith on the hill. (Scott Johnson, 02/21/2005, Weekly Standard)

The adversary culture that has been widely institutionalized and ruthlessly enforced in the university is so out of step with the rest of America that it is perhaps time to wonder whether it can survive the publicity it has received in recent weeks. Next month's election of two trustees to the Dartmouth College board may provide a portent.

LAST YEAR Cypress Semiconductor chief executive officer T.J. Rodgers waged a successful insurgent campaign--the first in 24 years--for election to the Dartmouth board against three candidates selected by the alumni council nominating committee. Rodgers leans libertarian and shuns characterization on the left-right divide; he says he was motivated to run by "the degradation of freedom of speech and the freedom of assembly . . . at [Dartmouth] today." Rodgers initially promoted his candidacy via a website and mailed alumni to solicit signatures (500 are required) to have his name placed in nomination for election to the board.

This year the alumni council nominating committee has presented a slate of four alumni candidates for two board positions. Following in Rodgers's footsteps, Peter Robinson and Todd Zywicki have set up websites and solicited signatures to have their names placed in nomination in addition to the four pre-selected candidates. They have both secured signatures sufficient to be added to the ballot that will be presented to alumni in the election that takes place next month. Rodgers supports their candidacies. [...]

Peter Robinson is the Hoover Institution fellow and former Reagan speechwriter who wrote the earth-shaking 1987 "tear down this wall" speech. Todd Zywicki is a professor of law at George Mason University Law School and a blogger at The Volokh Conspiracy. In addition to their desire to preserve Dartmouth's traditional character as an institution devoted to undergraduate education, Robinson and Zywicki share concerns about the repressive atmosphere and rigid orthodoxy of political correctness on campus. (Zywicki's site links to a Dartmouth Daily article by student Dan Knecht, The Monolith on the Hill. Knecht writes, "In my almost four years at Dartmouth, I have encountered more than a handful of dyed-in-the-wool liberals. I have yet to meet one conservative professor.")

The election has been the subject of a fascinating article in the local Dartmouth-area newspaper (http://www.vnews.com/02052005/2235697.htm), the Valley News, which quotes Hans Penner, a retired religion professor and former dean of the faculty. Penner reveals more than he intends, observing: "It always seemed to me that alumni [trustees] that wanted to get into the actual workings of the college make more trouble than it's worth. They don't know what's going on . . . It's the faculty and the administration that they should trust."

We've got to have something to occupy our attention until the next primary season starts....

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:36 AM


Howard not sorry for Iraq backflip (The Age, February 23rd, 2005)

Prime Minister John Howard defended his backflip on Australia's troop commitment to Iraq, but said he would not apologise for sending another 450 soldiers to the country.

Mr Howard has said the $300 million decision to send the troops to protect Japanese engineers and train local security forces for as long as a year would be unpopular and could put Australian lives in danger.[...]

"I admit quite openly that we have changed our position," he told ABC radio in an interview recorded in Perth last night and broadcast this morning.

"I'm not running away from the fact that I have previously said I did not contemplate a major increase and that was a fair statement of the government's state of mind at the time I made that.

"But in these situations a government must have a capacity, if circumstances alter, and it is judged to be not only in our own interest but also in the broader interests of democracy and the Middle East that we make those changes."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:35 AM


A Turkey In Your Tank: Could poultry scraps be the next big source of fuel oil? (Ellyn Spragins, February 1, 2005, Fortune)

One solution to america's energy crisis just may be gobbling away at a poultry farm near you. Changing World Technologies has developed a working system to convert turkey guts and scraps into fuel oil. But CWT's tribulations show how hard it is for even the most innovative green company to compete in the energy business.

CWT's improbable alchemy is based on an idea that scientists have been kicking around for three decades: mimicking the earth's process for creating oil and gas. By subjecting organic materials to extreme heat and pressure, CWT produces in minutes what the planet takes thousands of years to make. The company says its process works on tires, various hazardous wastes, and plastic as well as heavy metals.

The key question is whether the end products are pure enough and cheap enough to compete with other biofuels and petroleum.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:33 AM


Martin will say No to U.S. missile shield: reports (Alexander Panetta, National Post, February 23rd, 2005)

Prime Minister Paul Martin will deliver a firm No to Canadian participation in the U.S. missile defence plan and break a lengthy silence that fomented confusion on both sides of the border.

The announcement, first reported by a radio station and confirmed by federal officials Tuesday night, will come Thursday and end a streak of obfuscation where Martin refused to state Canada's position.

News of the announcement follows a day of confusion on Parliament Hill after Frank McKenna, Martin's choice to be the next ambassador to the U.S., sparked a political firestorm by saying participation in the controversial continental missile defence system is a done deal.

The end of Martin's silence will come as an about-face for a prime minister who had repeatedly stated his support for missile defence when he was a Liberal leadership candidate barely a year ago.

Martin had promised a new era of Canada-U.S. relations after bitter divisions over the war in Iraq. But American officials had warned it would be an inauspicious start to any new era if Canada refused to join the missile plan.

Opposition inside and outside the Liberal party made it impossible for Martin to move forward, said government officials.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:21 AM


Freedom? Why Europe's not bothered (Janet Daley, The Telegraph, February, 23rd, 2005)

The enlightenment idealism of Europe was exported to the rebellious colonies and, in geographical isolation, it flourished. While Europeans themselves undermined their own great democratic project with their ancient hatreds and their aristocratic nostalgia, the naïve Americans kept the dream intact, building it into a written constitution (which was an 18th-century idea itself).

Europe has pretty much given up on the whole undertaking now: we tried it and it ended in the Terror. We went through our phase of proselytising democratic revolution with Bonaparte and look where that ended. Spreading freedom? All that amounts to is killing off one generation of autocrats and replacing them with another. Trust the people? They are just as likely to follow a fascist demagogue as to perpetuate the sacred principle of justice.

Better to make your cynical peace with the worst aspects of human nature than to pretend that free men will always choose good over evil. Much better to make a mutually profitable trade-off behind the scenes than to expose political decisions to the popular will. What evidence is there that the people actually know what is best for them? Most charitably, the European philosophy of government - shortly to be permanently installed under the EU constitution - is paternalistic. At worst, it is arrogant and authoritarian.

But whatever it is, it no longer has a belief in real democracy of the kind that Americans recognise - government of the people, by the people and for the people - at its heart.

That is why Jacques Chirac - the very embodiment of corrupt European political cynicism - and George Bush can never, ever find true common ground. When the President tries to give credit where it is due - to the European authorship of democratic revolution - it sounds faintly sarcastic.

I have written before on this page that European hatred of the United States has a great deal to do with jealousy of American self-belief. But there is an element of shame there, too. Because Europe knows that it has sold the pass. It has traded liberty for security: the safety of consensus, the reassuring unfreedom of bureaucratic control and an over-regulated economy.

American talk about spreading freedom is not just gauche; it is a reproach.

But it is too late now. Europe has had disillusionments too great to permit a return to that purist belief in the transforming power of democratic institutions. What was left standing in the ruins of the Bonapartist experiment was effectively demolished by the two world wars. The people - with nothing but the raw franchise - will never be allowed to run amok again. Europeans cannot be trusted to govern themselves. Their affairs will be administered by an EU oligarchy. And if they do not trust their own populations, European leaders are scarcely going to support handing out freedom to anarchic tribal societies that scarcely know what the right to vote is for. (Never mind that the only way to learn the value of democracy is to practise it.)

Europeans have found something better, and more readily controlled, as a substitute for personal liberty. They have found wealth: mass prosperity and the kind of government-subsidised economic security that their countries, traumatised by generations of war and unrest, have never known. Since the Cold War ended, they have been able to consolidate the post-war economic miracle with a "peace dividend": all that money that used to be spent on arms could go into more and more generous welfare and pension arrangements. So now they are not even fit to defend themselves, or to sort out a mess in their own Balkan backyard. Why should they join in any crazy scheme to bring peace to the rest of the world?

There is some insight here, but unfortunately Ms. Daley falls victim to the old canard about Europe having blown the Enlightenment because of “ancient hatreds and aristocratic nostalgia”. She would have a tough time explaining why the President is so strongly supported by the conservative parishioners of tens of thousands of well-attended churches that dot the U.S. landscape, while the American secular left, which quite rightly sees itself as a child of the Enlightenment, is desperate to emulate the Europeans.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:18 AM


Utah set to reject No Child Left Behind (George Archibald, 2/22/05, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Utah's state Legislature is poised to repudiate the No Child Left Behind Act and spurn $116 million in federal aid tied to it because state policy-makers are fed up with federal control of education and dictates.

If only the other 49 would follow suit the President would achive the GOP's goal of getting rid of the Department of Education.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:07 AM


The Undiscovered Malcolm X: Stunning New Info on the Assassination, His Plans to Unite the Civil Rights and Black Nationalist Movements & the 3 'Missing' Chapters from His Autobiography (Democracy Now, 2/21/05)

AMY GOODMAN: Now, you are the only historian who has seen excerpts of the attorney Reed, the three chapters that he has in his safe?

MANNING MARABLE: I cannot say that for certain.

AMY GOODMAN: One of the few.

MANNING MARABLE: One of -- I could say that very few people have seen it. Reed, after a series of conversations -- Reed said he would allow me to see this. This was about two years ago. I flew out to Detroit. I asked when could I come over to the office, and he said, no, let's meet at a restaurant, which struck me as rather odd. We met at a restaurant. He came with a briefcase, and he opened the briefcase and he showed me the manuscripts. He said, I'll let you take a look at this for about 15 minutes. Well, that wasn't very much time. I was deeply disappointed, nevertheless, in that 15 minute time, looking at the content, because I'm so familiar with what Malcolm wrote at certain stages of his own life and development, it became very clear that there's a high probability he wrote this material sometime between August or September 1963 to about January 1964. Now, this is a critical moment in his development. In November 1963, he gives his famous message to the grassroots address in Detroit, which really kind of marks off the real turning point in his own development. But I would argue that equally important is a brilliant address he gives in Harlem in mid-August of 1963, which actually is one of my favorite addresses by Malcolm, which actually is superior in my judgment to the message to the grassroots address, where he lays into a critique of what then is being mobilized, the march on Washington, D.C., the pinnacle of the civil rights movement. Malcolm envisions a broad-based pluralistic united front, which is spearheaded by the Nation of Islam, but mobilizing integrationist organizations, non-political organizations, civic groups, all under the banner of building black empowerment, human dignity, economic development, political mobilization. He's already envisioning the N.O.I. playing a role cooperatively with integrationist organizations. I believe that if we could see the chapters that are missing from the book, we would gain an understanding as to why perhaps -- perhaps -- the F.B.I., the C.I.A., the New York Police Department and others in law enforcement greatly feared what Malcolm X was about, because he was trying to build a broad -- an unprecedented black coalition across the lines of black nationalism and integration. And in way, it presages 30 years ahead of time, the Million Man March.

It just seems hard to believe that the history of black America over the last forty years would not have been better had the movement turned to self-empowerment and development of the kind that even a nut like Louis Farrakhan preaches instead of turning to the federal government for handouts.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Bush and Chirac reopen wounds (Roland Watson and Anthony Browne, 2/23/05, Times of London)

TWELVE hours after sharing an intimate lobster risotto and proclaiming an end to their Iraq war feud, President Bush and Jaques Chirac were yesterday at loggerheads on a range of issues.

The pair disagreed on China, Iran, Iraq and the future of Nato, marring efforts by US and European leaders to declare that transatlantic relations had entered a new era of harmony.

Can we realistically have more than an expedient relationship with a pro-Communist, pro-Ba'ath, pro-mullahcracy Europe?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Queen will not attend the Prince's wedding (Alan Hamilton and Sean O’Neill, 2/23/05, Times of London)

THE Queen will not attend the civil wedding ceremony of the Prince of Wales, her son and heir, to Camilla Parker Bowles, Buckingham Palace said last night.

The official explanation for the decision is that she respects the Prince of Wales’s wish for the occasion to be low key. But her refusal to attend the ceremony in the Guildhall, Windsor, discloses divisions at the heart of the Royal Household.

It's just too big a step down from Di to Camilla.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


She's worth 'going nuclear' over: State Justice Brown would be a champion of freedom on the federal bench (HAROLD JOHNSON, 2/22/05, Orange County Register)

Will Senate Republicans go "nuclear" for California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown? Columnist Robert Novak reported recently that in March, the GOP will use Brown's now- stalled nomination to the federal bench as a test run for the "nuclear option" - a strategy to foil Democratic filibusters and confirm judges with a simple majority vote, through parliamentary hardball.

If GOP leaders really do go to the wall for Brown - and succeed - a bright future awaits her on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (a post that could position her for an eventual Supreme Court nomination). But her departure will be a loss for the law in California.

This daughter of an Alabama sharecropper - this African-American woman who attended segregated schools in her native state, and put herself through college and law school in California - offers testimony to the rewards that can come from character and can-do commitment.

But Brown's star power derives from more than her impressive personal story. She is an intellectual leader of California's high court and its most articulate voice for limited government and individual freedom.

Skip the Appeals Court and give her Rehnquist's Chief Justice slot.

February 22, 2005

Posted by Stephen Judd at 11:59 PM



Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:04 PM

"MY SON HAD REASONED" (via Mike Daley):

Don't apologize for abortion (Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser, 2/17/05, Philadelphia Inquirer)

My 9-year-old son overheard my friend telling me about her situation, and he was worried on her behalf. Days later, when I reported my friend's good news - everything looks healthy - to my son, he replied, "Good, then she doesn't have to have an abortion. I mean, if she'd had to have one, that would have been fine, but it's not a good thing."

In a previous conversation about our friend, my son had reasoned that "between one and four months, it's not a baby." But now he was saying he saw abortion as bad. I asked why he thought abortion might be a bad choice.

"Why would you say no to having a baby?" he countered.

I took one moment to consider whether I was going to get into this with him. I took one deep breath. Then, I told him that I have had two abortions. Of course, he wanted to know all about what happened.

As I started to describe my senior year of high school dilemma (baby or college?), he leapt in: "College."

I told him about being 20 and having had a birth control failure. I told him I wasn't at all sad about those choices because I had the family I wanted all along: a loving papa with three wonderful kids, something that would not have been possible had I become a mother before I was ready.

Reproductive freedom - abortion rights; freedom of sexual consent; motherhood - is essential to women's equality. Far from being tragic, abortion ensures us agency over our lives.

Every euphemism and every apology about abortion is really another apology for being female, as if over and over, that pesky fertility gets in our way.

So in getting away from euphemism she says abortion isn't about the child she kills but about herself? Well, she's certainly right that we need folks like her to be more honest, forthright, and unapologetic--they'll appall people.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:32 PM


America’s and Russia’s scan, seek and kill is making Al-Queda run for cover – they just cannot take it any more! (India Daily, Feb. 22, 2005)

Al-Queda is getting squeezed from all directions. American forces recent superb performance in Iraq and Afghanistan is making Al-Queda scratch its head.

And now report from Russia is equally bad for Al-Queda.

Russian forces killed al Qaeda member Abu Dzeit, who was in charge of financing militant activity in southern Russia, the Federal Security Service said on Feb. 21. Dzeit blew himself up after Russian forces searched a house in Ingushetia, finding the entrance to a secret bunker in which he was hiding. The bunker reportedly contained stockpiles of arms and ammunition, a small studio for producing propaganda videos and a lab for making explosives.

American and Russian forces have used signal as well as ground intelligence very well. America’s and for that matter for the whole world the biggest triumph over terrorism was when Pakistan’s Musharraf turned around and ISI became Al-Queda hostile. That made India turn around though slowly. The whole region around Afghanistan slowly understood the limited capabilities of Talibans and the Al-Queda.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:49 PM

SPREADING THE GOSPEL (via Judd Heartsill):

Disney's Next Hero: A Lion King of Kings (DAVID KEHR, 2/20/05, NY Times)

AS the residents of Narnia like to whisper, "Aslan is on the move." And so he is. But for the moment, Walt Disney Pictures has him on a very short leash.

Aslan, a talking lion with mystical powers, is the central figure in "The Chronicles of Narnia," the much-beloved seven-volume series of fantasy novels written by the British academic C. S. Lewis in the 1950's. By the year's end, if Disney marketers have their way, he will have joined Mickey Mouse, Pinocchio and Buzz Lightyear in a long line of characters that have periodically provided the Burbank giant with entertainment's most valuable asset, a new fantasy to trade on.

This next wave begins with the expected release on Dec. 9 of "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," which combines live action and computer-generated images in a movie adaptation of Lewis's epic. Sequels may follow. But films are only the spearhead of a corporate initiative that is likely to include a theme park presence, toys, clothing, video games and whatever other tchotchkes the infinitely resourceful Disney team can devise. Having been criticized for failing to cash in on the merchandising opportunities offered by 2003's "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl," Disney is preparing for the kind of all-encompassing drive it hasn't mounted since 1994, when it turned "The Lion King" into a pop cultural event that still reverberates in its retail stores and on Broadway. [...]

[T]he pros at Disney are wrestling with a special challenge: how to sell a screen hero who was conceived as a forthright symbol of Jesus Christ, a redeemer who is tortured and killed in place of a young human sinner and who returns in a glorious resurrection that transforms the snowy landscape of Narnia into a verdant paradise.

That spirituality sets Aslan apart from most of the Disney pantheon and presents the company with a significant dilemma: whether to acknowledge the Christian symbolism and risk alienating a large part of the potential audience, or to play it down and possibly offend the many Christians who count among the books' fan base.

As Gilbert Meilander has said, one of the keys to Lewis' achievement is that: "[R]eaders actually get a rather heavy dose of serious religious reflection, though generally in quite alluring literary style." Disney doesn't need to lean on the Christianity, the story will take care of that.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:29 PM


As Gonzo in Life as in His Work: Hunter S. Thompson died as he lived. (TOM WOLFE, February 22, 2005, Wall Street Journal)

In the summer of 1988 I happened to be at the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland one afternoon when an agitated but otherwise dignified, silver-haired old Scotsman came up to me and said, "I understand you're a friend of the American writer Hunter Thompson."

I said yes.

"By God--your Mr. Thompson is supposed to deliver a lecture at the Festival this evening--and I've just received a telephone call from him saying he's in Kennedy Airport and has run into an old friend. What's wrong with this man? He's run into an old friend? There's no possible way he can get here by this evening!"

"Sir," I said, "when you book Hunter Thompson for a lecture, you have to realize it's not actually going to be a lecture. It's an event--and I'm afraid you've just had yours."

Hunter's life, like his work, was one long barbaric yawp, to use Whitman's term, of the drug-fueled freedom from and mockery of all conventional proprieties that began in the 1960s. In that enterprise Hunter was something entirely new, something unique in our literary history. When I included an excerpt from "The Hell's Angels" in a 1973 anthology called "The New Journalism," he said he wasn't part of anybody's group. He wrote "gonzo." He was sui generis. And that he was.

In our neck of the woods we have a name for such folks: jerks. They're a dime a dozen.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:54 PM


Protests held in Cairo against fifth term for Mubarak (AFP, 2/21/05)

More than 500 people rallied in Cairo to protest against a new term in office for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and against moves to enable his son Gamal to succeed him afterwards.

"That's enough" and "Down with Hosni Mubarak" shouted protestors who gathered in front of Cairo University, while around 50 trucks packed with police were deployed nearby. [...]

Organised by the Egyptian Movement for Change, the demonstrators also included Marxists, Nasserites, liberals and Islamic dissidents from the Muslim Brotherhood.

Leaflets handed out at the rally called for a constitutional amendment which would limit the president to two, four-year terms in power, instead of an indeterminate number of six-year terms.

They condemned the decision of some opposition parties to postpone demands for constitutional reform until after Mubarak's re-election vote.

You don't read much anymore about how the Domino Theory can't work...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:19 PM


Feminist Fatale: Where are the great women thinkers? Thinking so much about women has shrunk their minds. (Charlotte Allen, February 13, 2005, LA Times)

When Susan Sontag died recently, she was mourned as America's leading female intellectual. So the question naturally arose: Is there anyone to take her place? If you can't come up with many names, you're in good company. The list is short.

This wasn't always the case. Ironically, during that part of the 20th century when overt discrimination barred many women from advanced educations, lucrative fellowships and prized teaching and editorial positions preparatory for the world of public letters, there were many brilliant, highly articulate female writers who combined a rigorous mind with a willingness to engage broad political, social and literary issues for an audience beyond academia. We still read their books (or at least their epigrams), and we remember their names: Gertrude Stein, Dorothy Parker, Simone de Beauvoir, Simone Weil, Mary McCarthy, Iris Murdoch, Hannah Arendt and Sontag, to name several.

Some of these women possessed glittering scholarly credentials. But most did not, because a public intellectual is more than simply an intellectual. Unlike the academic version who speaks mostly to fellow scholars, public intellectuals pitch their ideas to the general reading public — and their writings appear in newspapers, magazines and books. Garry Wills is a public intellectual; Berkeley's jargon-laden postmodern theorist Judith Butler is not.

Public intellectuals also explore the implications of ideas, which distinguishes them from sharply observant journalists. When Sontag wrote about camp — or Tom Wolfe about customized cars as kinetic sculpture — they joined writing about popular culture with the long tradition of writing about high culture.

The definition is narrow enough to exclude the most significant female intellectual of the 20th century, but not Mary Ann Glendon, Jean Bethke Elshtain, and Gertrude Himmelfarb. Of course, none of them count, they're too conservative to be considered intellectuals.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:02 PM


More Africans Enter U.S. Than in Days of Slavery (SAM ROBERTS, 2/21/05, NY Times)

For the first time, more blacks are coming to the United States from Africa than during the slave trade.

Since 1990, according to immigration figures, more have arrived voluntarily than the total who disembarked in chains before the United States outlawed international slave trafficking in 1807. More have been coming here annually - about 50,000 legal immigrants - than in any of the peak years of the middle passage across the Atlantic, and more have migrated here from Africa since 1990 than in nearly the entire preceding two centuries.

New York State draws the most; Nigeria and Ghana are among the top 20 sources of immigrants to New York City. But many have moved to metropolitan Washington, Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston and Houston. Pockets of refugees, especially Somalis, have found havens in Minnesota, Maine and Oregon.

The movement is still a trickle compared with the number of newcomers from Latin America and Asia, but it is already redefining what it means to be African-American. The steady decline in the percentage of African-Americans with ancestors who suffered directly through the middle passage and Jim Crow is also shaping the debate over affirmative action, diversity programs and other initiatives intended to redress the legacy of slavery.

In Africa, the flow is contributing to a brain drain. But at the same time, African-born residents of the United States are sharing their relative prosperity here by sending more than $1 billion annually back to their families and friends.

"Basically, people are coming to reclaim the wealth that's been taken from their countries," said Howard Dodson, director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, in Harlem, which has just inaugurated an exhibition, Web site and book, titled "In Motion," to commemorate the African diaspora.

The influx has other potential implications, from recalibrating the largely monolithic way white America views blacks to raising concerns that American-born blacks will again be left behind.

"Historically, every immigrant group has jumped over American-born blacks," said Eric Foner, the Columbia University historian. "The final irony would be if African immigrants did, too."

Thomas Sowell noted years ago that Haitian immigrants did about as well as non-black immigrants, so it's likely Africans will too. But Hugh Thomas, in his book The Slave Trade, estimates that ten million slaves were taken out of Africa. Even if not all were brought here, it wouldn't seem possible that as many Africans have immigrated here in just fifteen years. (What's 15 x 50,000?)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:54 PM


Main Iraqi Shi'ite Alliance Picks Al-Jaafari as PM Candidate (VOA News, 22 February 2005)

Senior officials in Iraq's main Shi'ite alliance say the group has selected interim Vice President Ibrahim al-Jaafari as its candidate for prime minister.

Tuesday's announcement came after three days of marathon negotiations, and after another United Iraqi Alliance candidate, Ahmed Chalabi, withdrew his candidacy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:51 PM


'This Crowd Uses Gays as the Enemy' (Ted Olsen, 02/22/2005, Weblog: Christianity Today)

[T]he tapes reveal a strong personal spirituality on Bush's part along with ambivalence toward religious political groups.

When Wead warned Bush, "Power corrupts," Bush countered, "I have got a great wife. And I read the Bible daily. The Bible is pretty good about keeping your ego in check."

Bush was willing to meet with evangelical leaders privately, but was wary of public rallies with them. Kirkpatrick reports, "When he thought his aides had agreed to such a meeting, Mr. Bush complained to Karl Rove, his political strategist, 'What the hell is this about?'"

Once he did meet with the leaders, Bush kept to the basics: "As you said, there are some code words. There are some proper ways to say things, and some improper ways. … I am going to say that I've accepted Christ into my life. And that's a true statement."

Apparently one Christian leader that had some doubts—or at least was perceived to have doubts—about how much Bush believed those code words was Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, whom Bush went to visit in September 1998. Kirkpatrick reports:

"He said he would like to meet me, you know, he had heard some nice things, you know, well, 'I don't know if he is a true believer' kind of attitude," Mr. Bush said.

Mr. Bush said he intended to reassure Dr. Dobson of his opposition to abortion. Mr. Bush said he was concerned about rumors that Dr. Dobson had been telling others that the "Bushes weren't going to be involved in abortion," meaning that the Bush family preferred to avoid the issue rather than fight over it.

"I just don't believe I said that. Why would I have said that?" Mr. Bush told Mr. Wead with annoyance.

By the end of the primary, Mr. Bush alluded to Dr. Dobson's strong views on abortion again, apparently ruling out potential vice presidents including Gov. Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania and Gen. Colin L. Powell, who favored abortion rights. Picking any of them could turn conservative Christians away from the ticket, Mr. Bush said.

"They are not going to like it anyway, boy," Mr. Bush said. "Dobson made it clear."

If Bush still perceives Dobson as an unsatisfiable perennial critic, it may explain why a Bush aide recently told Time, "We respect him greatly, but [Dobson's] political influence is not everything people might think." (So far, there's no response from Focus.)

While Bush suggested that he was willing to fight on abortion, he seemed awfully reluctant on homosexuality:

"I think he wants me to attack homosexuals," Mr. Bush said after meeting James Robison, a prominent evangelical minister in Texas.

But Mr. Bush said he did not intend to change his position. He said he told Mr. Robison: "Look, James, I got to tell you two things right off the bat. One, I'm not going to kick gays, because I'm a sinner. How can I differentiate sin?"

Later, he read aloud an aide's report from a convention of the Christian Coalition, a conservative political group: "This crowd uses gays as the enemy. It's hard to distinguish between fear of the homosexual political agenda and fear of homosexuality, however."

"This is an issue I have been trying to downplay," Mr. Bush said. "I think it is bad for Republicans to be kicking gays."

Told that one conservative supporter was saying Mr. Bush had pledged not to hire gay people, Mr. Bush said sharply: "No, what I said was, I wouldn't fire gays."

As early as 1998, however, Mr. Bush had already identified one gay-rights issue where he found common ground with conservative Christians: same-sex marriage. "Gay marriage, I am against that. Special rights, I am against that," Mr. Bush told Mr. Wead.

The New York Daily News doesn't get it:

The disclosures could weaken support for Bush with his conservative base — and crack his renowned aura of predictability and discipline.

"It ought to be damaging," said Baruch College political scientist Doug Muzzio. "It's hypocritical to say one thing now but to have said other things … in the past."

A senior Democratic operative added, "Put aside the admission of drug use, his comments about gays are certainly not going to energize his base."

Really? Being against gay marriage and "special rights," but insisting, "I'm not going to kick gays, because I'm a sinner" sounds straight down the middle of the evangelical world to Weblog. Criticizing the Christian Coalition for "using gays as the enemy"? Preach it, brother, and we'll turn the pages. The only people who are going to be upset with these comments are those whom Bush might say, "They are not going to like it anyway, boy."

It's not as if the Daily News has its finger on the pulse of evangelical America, huh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:45 PM


High court to review assisted suicide law (HOPE YEN, February 22, 2005, Associated Press)

The Supreme Court stepped back into the right-to-die debate Tuesday, agreeing to hear the Bush administration's challenge to a unique state law allowing doctors to help terminally ill patients die more quickly.

The decision to review Oregon's law during the session beginning in October sets up another fight over whether states or the federal government should decide the delicate question.

The same nine justices sided with states in 1997, but four years later Attorney General John Ashcroft declared that federal drug laws prohibited doctors from prescribing lethal doses. An appeals court rejected that interpretation and the Bush administration is appealing the decision.

Since the Oregon law took effect in 1997, more than 170 people have used it to end their lives. The law is meant for only extremely sick people - those with incurable diseases who two doctors agree have six months or less to live and are of sound mind.

Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski, a Democrat, said the Bush administration is trampling on state's rights.

Just as states rights didn't give you the right to enslave people just because they were black it doesn't give you a right to kill them just because they're ill.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:40 PM


What place for God in Europe? (Peter Ford, 2/22/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

As he urged closer ties with Europe Monday, President Bush played down the current political disputes. "No power on earth will ever divide us," he said.

That may be true when it comes to Iran's nuclear program. But his remark ironically hints at a transatlantic chasm over US and European values, and the role each side assigns to a fundamental facet of human life: religious faith.

Two events last year neatly frame the challenge: In the United States, a California man tried to remove "One Nation, Under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance. Americans cried foul - roughly 90 percent wanted to keep the phrase - and on June 15, the Supreme Court halted the bid on procedural grounds.

Three days later, in Brussels, officials agreed on the final text of the European Union's new Constitution. The charter made no mention of God, despite calls that it recognize Europe's Christian roots.

Indeed, its secularism has led to jokes that Europe is one big "blue" state. But Europeans aren't laughing. Buffeted by the crosscurrents of secularism, Christianity, and Islam - and mindful of a history of religious violence - they are wrestling with their values and identity as never before.

"The clash between those who believe and those who don't believe will be a dominant aspect of relations between the US and Europe in the coming years," says Jacques Delors, a former president of the European Commission. "This question of a values gap is being posed more sharply now than at any time in the history of European-US relations since 1945."

Religion's role in public life, and its influence on politics, have been center-stage questions worldwide since Sept. 11, 2001. But the debate in Europe has been complicated by the continent's difficulty in integrating its fast-growing Muslim immigrant minority. It has been sharpened by tragedies such as the bombing of a Madrid train station last March, and the brutal murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh by an Islamic extremist last fall.

Those incidents "will reinforce secularism" in Europe, predicts Patrick Weil, a sociologist of religion at the Sorbonne in Paris. "The tendency now in Europe is to say we have to be clear on the limits to religious intervention" in public life. "We are not going to sacrifice women's equality, democracy, and individual freedoms on the altar of a new religion."

Instead we'll impose secularist dogma and political correctness!

That Other Church: Let's face it: Secularism is a religion. Let's treat it as such. (David Klinghoffer, 12/21/2004, Christianity Today)

A 2004 survey of religion and politics revealed a religious minority that constitutes at least 7.5 percent of the American population. It referred to this informal denomination as "Secular."

Sponsored by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, the poll shows the fairly uniform political orientation of secularists: Only 21 percent regard themselves as politically conservative. A large majority, 79 percent, favor what the survey terms "gay rights" and support legal abortion.

For each element in the Judeo-Christian family of faiths, secularism has its counterpart: a strict ethical code, albeit focusing on health issues ("Thou shalt not smoke," etc.); the use of shame when individuals disregard ethical rules (e.g. fat people); a related promise of eternal life through medical advances; a creation story (Darwinian evolution); and so forth. All that's missing is a deity, but not every religion has one, as the case of Zen Buddhism attests.

The secular church is populous and dynamic, with a membership far exceeding that figure of 7.5 percent. Many individuals who identify nominally as Jews or Christians in fact are devout secularists.

All this would be fine—after all, America is a big country with plenty of room for every spiritual predilection—but for the tendency of secularists to use aggressive means in advancing their political agenda and spreading their faith. [...]

Americans outside the secular fold need to develop responses to the encroachments of secularism in the public square. Mutual understanding is key. Many secularists live in isolated enclaves (Beverly Hills, San Francisco, certain New York City neighborhoods, etc.) with few members of other faiths present. Some sort of interfaith dialogue, matching representatives of secularism with believing Jews, Christians, and members of other religions, would do some good.

But it's not the entire solution. So that everyone can know where everyone else stands, it's time to start identifying the secular faithful as such. The word Secular should be capitalized, indicating a distinctive philosophical orientation. So, just as Mel Gibson is always referred to as a Catholic filmmaker, Michael Moore should be identified as a Secular one.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:19 PM


Researcher: 'Outing' of Simpsons Character Consistent with Hollywood Bias (Mary Rettig, February 22, 2005, AgapePress)

A researcher for the American Family Association says the homosexual outing of a character on The Simpsons is just another show of Hollywood's blatant pro-homosexual bias.

The February 20 episode of the popular animated series was titled "There's Something About Marrying." It was preceded by a "parental discretion" advisory because the show contained discussion of same-sex "marriage." It also touted that one of the show's characters was going to come "out of the closet."

Indeed, on Sunday's night's installment, the chain-smoking Patty Bouvier -- Marge Simpson's older sister -- announced she is a lesbian and wants to marry her lover, Veronica. The Simpsons' fictional town of Springfield also decides to allow homosexual marriages as a way to bring in tourism.

Actually, wasn't it more indicative of the bias that even Hollywood has against homosexuals? They played safe and to stereotype by outing a character who everyone that's ever seen the show assumed must be a lesbian--frumpy, chain-smoking, maladjusted, unhappy (didn't she even act as a beard for Troy McClure at one point?). If the gay rights crowd wasn't so hard up for sign of acceptance they'd have labeled the show a hate crime.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 2:23 PM


EU Intends to End China's Arms Embargo (Deutsche Welle, February 22nd, 2005)

The European Union announced on Tuesday that it intends to bring its 16-year arms embargo against China to an end, much to the regret of visiting US President George W. Bush.

US President George W. Bush expressed "deep concern" on Tuesday about European Union plans to lift an arms embargo on China, saying that it might upset relations between Beijing and Taiwan. His concerns alone are unlikely to be enough to stop the EU from pursuing its goal of ending its ban on arms sales to the People's Republic.

"With regard to China, Europe intends to remove the last obstacles to its relations with this important country," French President Jacques Chirac announced after talks with President Bush.[...]

It looks increasingly like some Europeans have been lying in wait for Bush. After the relaxed smiles and cordiality offered to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during her tour earlier this month, the president looks to be having a rougher ride since arriving two days ago.

As well as the China issue, Bush has faced behind-closed-doors opposition to aspects of his Iraq plan concerning NATO members and the training of security forces in the country. France has agreed to spare just one member of staff from their NATO team while the French, Germans and Belgians continue to oppose sending any of their military personnel to Iraq.

Bush is also likely to face heat on other subjects such as the Kyoto protocol on climate change, the International Criminal Court and disputes over transatlantic trade.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:36 PM


Tackling Election Reform: After a two presidential elections marred by flaws in the mechanics of voting, it's time for Congress to fix the system. (NY Times, 2/22/05)

The Democratic Senate bill, introduced last week by Senators Hillary Clinton, Barbara Boxer, John Kerry and Frank Lautenberg, is now the gold standard for election reform. It would require not only paper records, but recounts in 2 percent of all polling places or precincts, and restrictions on political activity by voting machine manufacturers.

The bill would also take on lines at the polls - which stretched up to 10 hours this year - by requiring standards for the minimum number of voting machines per precinct. It would limit the states' ability to throw out voter registration forms and provisional ballots on technicalities, and prevent them from using onerous identification requirements to turn away eligible voters. And it would strike a blow against vote suppression by outlawing the use of deception - like fliers giving the wrong date for a election - to keep people from voting.

Some important big-picture reforms would also be made by that Democratic Senate bill. It would make Election Day a holiday, freeing up people to vote and serve as poll workers, and it would require states to allow early voting. It would bar chief election officials, including secretaries of state, from engaging in partisan politics. And it would require states to restore the vote to felons who have paid their debts to society; many of them are now barred from voting.

Fumdamental reform is certainly overdue, among its features should be the following franchise restrictions:

(1) Repeal Amendment XVII, Amendment XIX, Amendment XXIII, Amendment XXIV & Amendment XXVI

(2) Only married people who own homes and pay more in taxes than they receive from the government (with the exception of the military).

(3) Prospective voters should have to pass the same civics exam that is administered for citizenship.

(4) Courts should be prohibited from redrawing congressional and state legislative districts

(5) Move Election Day out of hunting season.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:20 PM


Children 'harmed' by vegan diets (Michelle Roberts, 2/21/05, BBC News)

Putting children on strict vegan diets is "unethical" and could harm their development, a US scientist has argued.

Lindsay Allen, of the US Agricultural Research Service, attacked parents who insisted their children lived by the maxim "meat is murder". [...]

Professor Allen said: "There have been sufficient studies clearly showing that when women avoid all animal foods, their babies are born small, they grow very slowly and they are developmentally retarded, possibly permanently."

"If you're talking about feeding young children, pregnant women and lactating women, I would go as far as to say it is unethical to withhold these foods [animal source foods] during that period of life."

She was especially critical of parents who imposed a vegan lifestyle on their children, denying them milk, cheese, butter and meat.

"There's absolutely no question that it's unethical for parents to bring up their children as strict vegans," she told the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

The decline of the Left becomes easier to explain.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:36 PM


Turning Down The Volume On Abortion (Charlie Cook, Feb. 22, 2005, National Journal)

After each presidential election, the losing party's elected officials and strategists generally develop a consensus on one lesson that they at least intend to apply to future elections. (Whether they pick the right one or not, of course, is often debatable.)

Behind the scenes, there is at least a conversation (if not an actual debate) about what that lesson should be from 2004. More than a few Democrats are suggesting that, just as the party informally decided to downplay the gun issue after their 2000 loss, Dems should now do the same with abortion -- or as Democrats prefer to call it, "the choice issue."

The theory is that if Democrats showcase the issue a bit less, it might help them win downscale, small-town and rural voters who have been defecting from the party with increasing frequency. It would be a nice little theory if Democrats actually had any say in what issues Congress and the president will be addressing the next few years. Instead they'll have to fight judicial appointees who can't find the putative right to abortion in the Constitution and legislation like the Fetal Pain bill or else face a revolt on the Left.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:23 PM

"U. S. A.":

25 years later, Miracle still poignant memory (RON RAPOPORT, February 22, 2005, Chicago Sun-Times)

ESPN Classic will show the victory over the Soviets at 7 tonight -- and the gold-medal win over Finland on Thursday -- and anyone watching it will get a glimpse of a different era. The graphics are primitive by current standards, the camera work not as smooth as we are used to and the color not as sharp.

Along with most of those Olympics, the game against the Soviets was shown on tape delay, and when ABC, finally waking up to what was happening, asked officials if the gold-medal game could be played in the evening, it was refused. Change the schedule to accommodate television? Who ever heard of such a thing? As I say, it was a different era.

The network bit the bullet and showed the U.S. victory over Finland live Sunday morning. A number of stations, many of them in the South, did not air it, however. Their religious programming, aimed at those who believe in miracles of a different sort, took precedence.

In the days and weeks after the game, it acquired a socio-political connotation that made it larger than sport. There were American hostages in Iran, Soviet soldiers in Afghanistan and Jimmy Carter had sent a delegation to Lake Placid to press his case for a boycott of the upcoming Summer Olympics in Moscow.

This always has seemed a little glib to me -- it was a sensational hockey game and one of sport's greatest moments; wasn't that enough? -- and certainly the players didn't feel the weight of a country's dreams. "We were kidding the younger guys on the team,'' Buzz Schneider said after a 10-3 exhibition loss to the Soviets at Madison Square Garden not long before the Olympics began. "We told them they'd be in Afghanistan soon.''

That's just silly. The only reason anyone paid attention to a Olympic hockey game was because we hated the Soviets so much and Jimmy Carter and his predecessors had made people doubt the eventual outcome of the Cold War. People went around saying "We beat the Russians!," not "We won a sensational hockey game!"

Wanna know how long ago it was though? I had the only color television (13" at that) in my freshman dorm at Colgate and we had about sixty people in there at one point on Sunday morning.

-AUDIO: The Miracle on Ice- 25 years later (Laura Knoy, 2005-02-22, The Exchange: NHPR)

Twenty-five years ago today, during the height of the cold war, one of the greatest upsets in sports history unfolded, when a fledgling U.S. hockey team defeated the formidable Soviet powerhouse in the 1980 Olympics. Its been called one of the greatest sports events of the 20th century but for an America faced with a new President, a hostage crisis and major economic woes it meant so much more. Laura's guest is Wayne Coffee, Award winning sportswriter for the New York Daily News and author of "The Boys of Winter: The Untold Story of a Coach, a Dream, and the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team".

U.S. Defeats Soviet Squad In Olympic Hockey by 4-3 (Gerald Eskenazi, 2/22/80, The New York Times)
In one of the most startling and dramatic upsets in Olympic history, the underdog United States hockey team, composed in great part of collegians, defeated the defending champion Soviet squad by 4-3 tonight.

The victory brought a congratulatory phone call to the dressing room from President Carter and set off fireworks over this tiny Adirondack village. The triumph also put the Americans in a commanding position to take the gold medal in the XIII Olympic Winter Games, which will end Sunday. [...]

Few victories in American Olympic play have provoked reaction comparable to tonight's decision at the red-seated, smallish Olympic Field House. At the final buzzer, after the fans had chanted seconds away, fathers and mothers and friends of the United Sates players dashed onto the ice, hugging anyone they could find in red, white and blue uniforms.

Meanwhile, in the stands, most of the 10,000 fans - including about 1,500 standees, who paid $24.40 apiece for a ticket - shouted "U.S.A.," over and over, and hundreds outside waved American flags.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:11 PM


Chavez Says US Is Plotting To Kill Him (Cleto A. Sojo, 22 February, 2005, Venezuelanalysis.com)

Chavez also threatened with the interruption of the flow of oil to the U.S. in case he is assassinated. "If these perverse plans succeed, Mr. Bush can forget about Venezuelan oil... Forget about it Mr. Bush," he said.

These poor dumb bastards--they listen to the Left and think it's about oil, so they whip out what they think is their trump card only to discover we couldn't care less.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:19 AM


Bush Unplugged (LA Times, February 22, 2005)

The conversations — segments from a dozen tape recordings made by onetime Bush family political advisor Doug Wead and played first for the New York Times — display flashes of the sort of personality quirks that endear Bush to his supporters and frighten his critics.

Bush tells Wead, "The Bible is pretty good about keeping your ego in check" and says he stays humble by reading it every day. Yet he casts himself in grandiose terms, boasting that his popularity will "change Texas politics forever" by catapulting coattail Republicans to success when he wins his second term as governor.

While campaigning in 2000, he says he favored John Ashcroft as a vice presidential running mate because the right-wing senator "wouldn't say ugly things about me," suggesting that then, as now, he saw loyalty as the preferred litmus test for political picks.

And he demonstrates a political savvy that suggests that college grades and the ability to find Latvia on a map aren't the only measures of brilliance. Bush understands — in the same way Bill Clinton did — that the American electorate is eager to embrace the underdog, the fallible, the redeemed, and he manages to turn his self-described "wild behavior" as a young man into a political asset.

That certainly is what frightens them--he understands this stuff so much better than they do.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:06 AM


Bush: Issue more vouchers: Gov. Jeb Bush is expected to propose offering private-school vouchers to students who have failed the reading part of the FCAT for three consecutive years. (GARY FINEOUT, 2/22/05, Miami Herald)

Six years after creating the nation's first statewide school voucher program, Gov. Jeb Bush will this week propose a massive expansion of the use of vouchers, offering them to any student in Florida who has failed the state reading test for three years in a row.

The proposal will be part of a comprehensive package of K-12 education law changes that some are already calling ''A-plus-plus,'' or a sequel to the ambitious A+ Plan that was the centerpiece of Bush's 1998 campaign for governor.

The A+ Plan resulted in the expanded use of high-stakes testing as well as sanctions and rewards for schools depending on how their students scored.

Besides vouchers -- which allow eligible students to switch to private schools at state expense -- the governor's new proposal will allow schools to offer different levels of pay to teachers, including those who are needed for specific subjects such as science and math.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:03 AM


Cases Lift Hopes for Property Rights: Two disputes coming to the high court, dealing with rent control and eminent domain, could revive the fortunes of a conservative movement. (David G. Savage, February 22, 2005, LA Times)

Since the early 1990s, however, the property rights movement's progress in the courts has stalled.

Today, in what is likely to be the last term of the Rehnquist Court, the justices take up two disputes that could change that.

One will decide whether cities can condemn homes and small businesses to clear the way for business development. The other tests the government's power to regulate economic transactions, such as imposing rent controls. [...]

Though 1954 is best remembered in legal circles as the year of a landmark school desegregation case, the Supreme Court issued another far-reaching ruling that year. While government has long had the power to seize private land for such public uses as highways, the justices declared that cities could also condemn entire blocks as "blighted" and clear the land for redevelopment — even if it meant knocking down small businesses that were thriving.

After the ruling, "all hell broke loose," says Gideon Kanner, professor emeritus at the Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and a longtime advocate of property rights.

The 1960s became an era of urban renewal as redevelopment agencies cleared many downtown areas, hoping to spur a revival in the nation's cities. Sometimes, critics say, they succeeded only in emptying the life from cities.

More recently, redevelopment agencies have used eminent domain to clear away small businesses to make way for big-box retailers such as Wal-Mart or Costco.

In response, some conservative theorists began urging the federal courts to aggressively limit the government's power to regulate property.

The Fifth Amendment seems straightforward enough: "nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." Eminent domain requires just compensation and that the property be taken only for public use. Enforce those provisions of the Constitution and you'll nip this kind of thing in the bud.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:04 AM


Romney talks 'right' on social issues in S.C. (Raphael Lewis, February 22, 2005, Boston Globe)

Governor Mitt Romney, addressing 350 Republicans in a speech here last night, decried efforts by Massachusetts Democrats to legalize certain cloning for stem cell research, blasted the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling that legalized gay marriage, and praised Ronald Reagan and President Bush for their struggles against worldwide tyranny and higher taxes.

The 25-minute address, carried live on C-SPAN, won Romney a standing ovation in a state that is key to Republicans with presidential aspirations. The first-term governor struck a deeply patriotic and religious tone that he rarely takes in Massachusetts.

''Americans are religious; from our Declaration of Independence to our currency itself, we recognize our creator," Romney told the appreciative crowd at the Spartanburg County Presidents' Day fund-raiser, as he lamented the SJC's court ruling on same-sex marriage. ''The fundamental building block of American society is the family. Through the family we prepare the next generation. America cannot continue to lead the family of nations around the world if we suffer the collapse of the family here at home."

The speech, viewed by many in the crowd as Romney's initial step on the road to South Carolina's first-in-the-South presidential primary in 2008, was received with near-unanimous enthusiasm, and Romney was approached by several audience members afterward for autographs and photos. Some in attendance who had voiced skepticism about the electability of a governor from liberal Massachusetts emerged believing that Romney speaks the language of the party of Reagan and President Bush, whom he extolled as heroes in his speech.

''It was fantastic; you've got a good governor in Massachusetts," said Gary Towery, a Spartanburg County GOP committeeman who had initially fretted that Romney might be too liberal. ''He spoke to the crowd well, covered family values, economics, jobs, the life issue."

You have to wonder if the early start and immediate move Right mightn't signal that he's not running for re-election.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:52 AM

Word of the Day (Wordsmith.org, 2/22/05)

hoosegow or hoosgow (HOOS-gou) noun

A jail.

[From Spanish juzgado (court), past participle of juzgar (to judge), from
Latin judicare (to judge). Ultimately from Indo-European root deik- (to
show or to pronounce solemnly) that is also the source of other words such
as judge, verdict, vendetta, revenge, indicate, dictate, and paradigm.]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:44 AM


Transforming 'one soul at a time': George W Bush's faith-based initiatives are destroying the strict separation between religious activities and social service programs. (Don Monkerud, 2/23/05, Asia Times)

In the past four years, Bush has gone around Congress and behind the public's back to spread his faith-based initiatives throughout the government, raising serious issues that the public appears to accept.

And that's the crux of the matter, no? Americans agree with him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:33 AM


The unmaking of the neo-con mind: The neo-conservatives are not malign but irrelevant. They play at faith rather than live it, and a world dominated by faith politics has passed them by. Professor Gertrude Himmelfarb's fascination with the High Modernist apostle T S Eliot sheds light on the neo-conservative state of mind. (Spengler, 2/23/05, Asia Times)

When US president Ronald Reagan called actor John Wayne a "great American", a critic offered that Wayne merely played great Americans, or rather, one might add, the sort of people Reagan thought were great Americans. A solecism of the same kind is Professor Gertrude Himmelfarb's praise for the late Lionel Trilling as "the most eminent intellectual figure of his time" in the February 14 Weekly Standard. Trilling merely wrote about great intellects, or rather, one might add, the sort of people Himmelfarb thinks were great intellects. John Wayne played Davy Crockett, the Tennessee adventurer, while Trilling wrote about T S Eliot, the Anglo-Catholic modernist.

By chance, the Weekly Standard website posted Himmelfarb's souvenir, "The Trilling Imagination", just as my excoriation of T S Eliot (Dead Peoples Society) appeared on February 14. She is married to Irving Kristol, the "godfather" of neo-conservatism; their son is Weekly Standard editor William Kristol. I had dismissed Eliot as the junkyard dog of 20th-century Catholic culture, a syncretist who looked through High Church forms to the paganism underneath.

In the paranoid imagination of left-wing critics, the neo-conservatives form a network of Leo Strauss acolytes infiltrating the United States' seat of power, and guide the world's only superpower into imperialist adventures. On the contrary, they are fighting political and cultural battles of a past generation which neither were won nor lost, but merely became irrelevant. Like T S Eliot, the neo-conservatives play at faith rather than live in the world of faith, a stance that eliminates their relevance to a world in which faith politics dominate.

It was fascinating to watch the neocons realize this a few years, when George W. Bush waxed their man John McCain, prompting a flurry of socially conservative writings from their best and brightest: Francis Fukuyama on bioengineering; Charles Krauthammer on cloning and embryonic stem cells; and William Kristol on cloning. It all represented a canny recognition that unless they could tie themselves to the moral issues that move the Religious Right they risked being completely marginalized.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:49 AM


String Theorist Explores Dark Energy And Our Unique 'Pocket' Of The Universe: A little ball of paradise in a universe of chaos. (Dawn Levy, Feb 18, 2005, SPX)

Some celestial bodies are so cold that methane freezes; others are so hot that nuclear reactions occur. And then there's Earth, with a benign temperature hovering in the narrow range between freezing and boiling, allowing the existence of liquid water-and life. "There's no question that there are many things about the [universe] which if they were very much different, even just a little bit different, life couldn't exist, intelligent life couldn't exist," said Stanford physics Professor Leonard Susskind, who is currently on sabbatical and writing a popular book titled The Cosmic Landscape. "The [universe] is truly an incredibly fine-tuned place."

And at its center is the Earth.

N.B. Reposted due to proprietor's ineptitude.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:50 AM


Crisis in Palestinian Authority (Khaled Abu Toameh, Feb. 21, 2005, THE JERUSALEM POST)

A crisis erupted in the Palestinian Authority on Monday when Palestinian legislators attacked Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei, accusing him of retaining corrupt ministers and including only a few new faces in his new cabinet.

Qurei was supposed to present the new lineup to the Palestinian Legislative Council on Monday for approval. However, the vote was delayed until Tuesday following a stormy debate during which many legislators threatened to vote against the proposed cabinet.

And in yet another blow to Qurei, former security minister Muhammad Dahlan, who was tipped to become minister of cabinet affairs, announced that he would not take the job.

"Dahlan refuses to join the cabinet because it does not fulfill the hopes of the Palestinian people and lacks the true standards of change," a PA official said.

Democratic rhetoric creates democratic reality.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:01 AM


Humvee Tragedy Forges Brotherhood of Soldiers: Iraqis Persevere to Recover Dead Americans (Steve Fainaru, February 22, 2005, Washington Post)

When the Iraqi troops arrived that morning, three American servicemen lay dead at the bottom of the Isaki Canal.

The body of a fourth, Sgt. Rene Knox Jr., 22, had been recovered from a submerged Humvee. Patrolling without headlights around 4:30 a.m., Knox had overshot a right turn. His vehicle tumbled down a concrete embankment and settled upside down in the frigid water.

During the harrowing day-long mission to recover the bodies of the Humvee's three occupants on Feb. 13, an Air Force firefighter also drowned. Five U.S. soldiers were treated for hypothermia. For five hours, three Navy SEAL divers searched the canal before their tanks ran out of oxygen.

What happened then, however, has transformed the relationship between the Iraqi soldiers and the skeptical Americans who train them. Using a tool they welded themselves that day at a cost of about $40, the Iraqis dredged the canal through the cold afternoon until the tan boot of Spec. Dakotah Gooding, 21, of Des Moines, appeared at the surface. The Iraqis then jumped into the water to pull him out, and went back again and again until they had recovered the last American. Then they stood atop the canal, shivering in the dark.

"When I saw those Iraqis in the water, fighting to save their American brothers, I saw a glimpse of the future of this country," said Col. Mark McKnight, commander of the 1st Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, which had overall responsibility for the unit in the accident, his eyes tearing.

Those dang Iraqis just refuse to comport with Realist stereotypes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


New Round of Speculation About Rehnquist's Farewell (NEIL A. LEWIS and LINDA GREENHOUSE, 2/22/05, NY Times)

When the Supreme Court resumes its term on Tuesday, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist will again be absent from the bench because of his illness. Although he is not bedridden and has been regularly attending the justices' private conferences, his empty black leather chair will certainly set off a new round of speculation and chatter about his tenure on the court.

But for senior White House officials, as well as a handful of others who follow the court closely, a working assumption about what is going to happen has already taken shape. The strong expectation, senior administration officials and others said, is that Chief Justice Rehnquist is making his best effort to serve out the remainder of the term that ends in June before resigning. And the only question, they say, is whether the 80-year-old chief justice, who is suffering from thyroid cancer and the effects of his treatment, will be able to do so. [...]

The officials said that among the candidates being considered most seriously for nomination to the Supreme Court are a handful of federal appellate judges. Included on the list are Judges Michael W. McConnell of the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, John G. Roberts of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and J. Harvie Wilkinson III and J. Michael Luttig, both of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Another possible candidate is Judge Samuel A. Alito of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, who sits in Newark. [...]

One outside adviser suggested that Judge McConnell had risen in the White House's handicapping because, among other things, he had been supported in his nomination to the appeals court by dozens of liberal law professors.

Before joining the bench, Judge McConnell was a law professor who was well known for his erudite criticism of legalized abortion. When he encountered opposition during his nomination to the appeals court, some 200 law professors, ranging across the ideological spectrum, signed a petition supporting his confirmation.

Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and nomination hearings...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Democracy Promotion to be at the heart of India’s new South Asia Doctrine (Minivan News, February 20, 2005)

India’s Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran outlined a hawkish new policy vis a vis SAARC member countries last week. He said that “India’s sympathies with will always be with democratic and secular forces…we need to go beyond governments.”

India further said it would not entertain a SAARC in which some of its members perceive it as a vehicle primarily to countervail India or to seek to limit its room to maneuver.

In a strongly worked speech, India’s top diplomat unveiled a new South Asia doctrine, setting out the new rules of the game within which India will engage with its neighbours. India was willing to make its neighbours “full stakeholders in its economic success story but the neighbours would have to demonstrate sensitivity to New Delhi’s vital concerns” said Saran.

"India can and will not ignore such conduct (cross-border terrorism and hostile activity against India) and will take whatever steps are necessary to safeguard its interests", Mr Saran said.

A key pillar of the new doctrine is also a sharper stance with non-democratic neighbours. “India would like the whole of South Asia to emerge as a community of flourishing democracies.”

The synergy he's developed with India ranks among Mr. Bush's most significant and least acknowledged achievements.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Black Contract with America on Moral Values: A new contract with America is in the works; this one, dealing with moral issues and relies on Christians of all races. (Keith Peters, 2/21/05, Family.org)

The Contract with America worked wonders for the Republican Party back in 1994 — can a similar strategy work for black pastors wanting to raise issues? A coalition of prominent black pastors is taking on the ambitious idea but with one major difference — this contract hinges on moral values. The coalition hopes everyone joins them in supporting what they term the "Black Contract with America on Moral Values."

According to Bishop Harry Jackson, the Black Contract with America on Moral Values aims at combining two specific biblical concepts — rghteousness and justice.

Bishop Jackson said predominantly black churches have traditionally supported justice issues, while predominantly white churches have largely supported righteousness issues. Jackson hopes to build a consensus through the contract, which emphasizes things like family, education, prison reform, health care and wealth creation. Bishop Frank Stewart of the Black American Family Christian Agenda calls the contract a "a new paradigm" based on a strong defense of the Christian faith.

"We're in a philosophical war, and when you start fighting collectively, as many of the liberal groups are doing — fighting my faith — I'm putting my gloves on," Stewart said.

Bishop Jackson, meanwhile, said the coalition wants Washington and the media to notice.

"Black America doesn't think the way political pundits . . . say we think," Jackson said. "Black America doesn't think the way some people who are self-proclaimed spokespersons say (we think.) The polls speak differently. We speak differently."

The coalition hopes to get a million signatures on the Black Contract with America on Moral Values by the end of the year. They hope Christians of all colors join them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Rocket man gives up rebellion to put the Taliban on road to peace (Thomas Coghlan, 22/02/2005, Daily Telegraph)

One of the Taliban's most senior and charismatic commanders has become a key negotiator as more and more members of the Islamic militia in Afghanistan give up the fight against the Americans.

The commander, Abdul Salam, earned the nickname Mullah Rockety because he was so accurate with rocket propelled grenades against Russian troops.

He later joined the Taliban as a corps commander in Jalalabad before being captured by the Americans after September 11.

Now he is a supporter of President Hamid Karzai and is tempting diehard Taliban fighters to accept an amnesty offer and reconcile themselves to Afghanistan's first directly elected leader.

"The Taliban has lost its morale," he said, speaking by satellite phone from the heartlands of Zabul province, a Taliban redoubt.

Not coincidentally, so has the Left.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Europeans, lend Bush your ears (Reginald Dale, February 22, 2005, International Herald Tribune)

(MADISON, Virginia) A woman who is no fan of President George W. Bush in this rural red-state community recently wrote the local paper boasting she had switched off the president's State of the Union address after only five minutes. She then proceeded to castigate his policies on Iraq and the Middle East for the best part of 600 words.

Of course, having missed most of what he said, she got it completely wrong, all the less surprisingly as she also proudly admitted her views were heavily influenced by Hollywood movies. Her irrational if entertaining letter would be trivial were it not representative of a much wider conundrum surrounding the Bush presidency: Why is that so many people think they know what Bush thinks, while so few appear to listen to what he says?

It's especially triue because the President is so utterly transparent. It is the case that if you listen to him he'll tell you exactly what he thinks and what he's going to do.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


President challenges Europe to step outside the comfort zone (Roland Watson and Rory Watson, 2/22/05, Times of London)

PRESIDENT BUSH gave a stern warning to Israel yesterday as he set the bruised transatlantic alliance a series of grand goals for the 21st century.

Mr Bush used the keynote address of his European visit to lay out tough terms for Israel before peace could be established in the Middle East.

He said that Ariel Sharon, the Israeli Prime Minister, must stop all settlement activity in the West Bank. And he went further than ever before in insisting that an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank had to be large-scale rather than piecemeal.

Referring to the resulting Palestinian state, Mr Bush said: “A state of scattered territories will not work.” The line produced one of the biggest rounds of applause, which was polite if hardly enthusiastic, from the audience of 300 European dignitaries in Brussels.

Mr Bush later delivered his toughest words to Syria since the assassination of Rafik Hariri, the former Prime Minister of Lebanon. He said that Syria had to end its “occupation” of Lebanon, the first time he has described it as such.

The President and Jacques Chirac, the French leader, issued a joint statement telling Damascus to do so before Lebanon’s parliamentary elections this spring. [...]

Stability, a theme sounded by Gerhard Schröder, the German Chancellor, in a landmark foreign policy speech this month, could be over-rated, Mr Bush said. “In the Cold War, Europe saw the so-called stability of Yalta (the division of postwar Europe into communist and capitalist spheres of influence) as a constant source of injustice and fear,” he said. Only the spread of freedom would guarantee Europeans peace.

Mr Bush also delivered a sharp rebuke to President Putin of Russia, whom he is meeting on Thursday in the Slovak Republic. “For Russia to make progress as a European nation, the Russian Government must renew a commitment to democracy and the rule of law,” he said in an elegant reception room in the Concert Noble. [...]

Mr Bush referred to the divisions over Iraq in a manner some could have regarded as loaded. “Some European nations joined the fight to liberate Iraq, while others did not,” he said.

February 21, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:07 PM


Population growth falls as number of males declines (The Japan Times, Feb. 22, 2005)

Japan's estimated population registered 0.05 percent growth in the year ended last Oct. 1 for the lowest increase on record and with the number of men marking the first yearly decline, the government said Monday. [...]

People aged 65 or older accounted for 19.5 percent of the population, up 0.5 percentage point and the age bracket's largest percentage ever.

Those aged up to 14 comprised 13.9 percent, down 0.1 point, to account for the smallest percentage ever.

Darwinists assure us this will reverse any day now....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:57 PM


The Quadrangle of Evil: What to do about 'Friendly Syria'? (Michael M. Rosen, 02/21/2005, Tech Central Station)

[H]ow can we bring about change in the repressive Syrian regime of Bashar Assad?

First, we must recognize that the road to change in Damascus runs through Beirut. Until Syria encounters genuine opposition to its presence in Lebanon, Assad will continue to believe that neither the U.S. nor the international community will challenge his curtailment of human rights at home or his adventures in sponsoring jihad abroad.

Second, the U.S. must continue to apply diplomatic pressure to Assad. On Tuesday, Washington recalled its ambassador to Damascus as a reflection of our "deep concern" and "profound outrage" over the bombing. The U.S. also sponsored a resolution at the UN Security Council deploring the bombing and asking the Secretary-General to investigate. This followed two resolutions in 2004 in which the Council called on all foreign armies to quit Lebanon forthwith. [...]

Third, and perhaps most importantly, we must aggressively court and support Syrian dissidents attempting to build civil society in opposition to the Assad regime. Several pundits have pressed the case for bolstering Iranian human rights activists as the best mechanism for effecting regime change. They bemoan the embarrassingly small amount of money we bestow on these groups when every additional dollar could make an enormous difference.

The same logic applies to Syria. [...]

Bringing about reform in Syria may unlock the Iranian puzzle as well. Just as Damascus and Tehran appear to be hunkering down together in the face of global outrage over the assassination, so too could opening up Syrian society loosen the Mullahs' grip on power.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:56 PM


Bush chided Harper on missile defence (Canadian Press, February 21st, 2005)

George W. Bush scolded Conservative Leader Stephen Harper for his silence on missile defence and asked him to help secure Canadian involvement in the U.S. plan, The Canadian Press has learned.

The U.S. President used his trip to Canada late last year to bluntly voice irritation with Harper's enigmatic position on missile defence, sources on both sides of the border say.

One U.S. official described Mr. Bush's reproach to Mr. Harper as: "Please don't play partisan politics with this."

"I would hope you're looking at this in Canada's national interest and not in terms of partisan politics," Mr. Bush reportedly told Mr. Harper.

Little did President Bush realize who the leader of Canada’s conservatives secretly looks to for inspiration.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:49 PM


Last of the Confederates (Cathy Young, February 21, 2005, Boston Globe)

CONSERVATIVES often complain, with good cause, about America-hating left-wing radicals in academia. Yet in recent weeks, a college professor who co-founded an organization that refers to the United States as an ''alien occupier" in its manifesto -- and whose 2001 essay blaming the ''barbarism" of American policies for Sept. 11 was picked up by Pravda, the Russian communist newspaper -- has received gushing praise on the conservative media circuit.

Meet Thomas E. Woods Jr., assistant professor of history at Suffolk County Community College on Long Island and author of ''The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History." A main selection of the Conservative Book Club, it has been propelled to the New York Times best-seller list with help from talk shows such as Fox News's ''Hannity & Colmes."

The book's back cover promises a refutation of ''myths" written into textbooks and popular history books by left-wing academics. But don't expect a book that celebrates American heroes and American accomplishments as an antidote to hand-wringing over the sins of dead white males.

If there are any American heroes in Woods's book, apart from the Founding Fathers, it's the Southerners who fought for the Confederacy. Abraham Lincoln is on the villain side of the ledger. [...]

Woods's own writings for publications such as The Southern Partisan are revealing. In a 1997 essay, he writes that the Confederacy's defeat was the ''real watershed from which we can trace many of the destructive trends" in modern America. He vilifies abolitionists and endorses a Southern theologian's description of slavery's defenders as ''friends of order and regulated freedom." There's a lot more, collected by University of North Carolina professor Eric Muller at www.isthatlegal.org.

When you find someone who pathologiocally hates Lincoln it's almost always a paleocons or a libertarian isolationist.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:44 PM


President Discusses American and European Alliance in Belgium (George W. Bush, Concert Noble, Brussels, Belgium, 2/21/05)

Guy, or Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for your kind introduction and thank you for your warm hospitality. Distinguished guests and ladies and gentlemen. Laura and I are really glad to be back. I'm really pleased to visit Brussels again, the capital of a beautiful nation, the seat of the European Union and the NATO Alliance. The United States and Belgium are close allies, and we will always be warm friends.

You know, on this journey to Europe I follow in some large footsteps. More than two centuries ago, Benjamin Franklin arrived on this continent to great acclaim. An observer wrote, "His reputation was more universal than Leibnitz or Newton, Frederick or Voltaire, and his character more beloved and esteemed than any or all of them." The observer went on to say, "There was scarcely a peasant or a citizen who did not consider him as a friend to human kind." I have been hoping for a similar reception -- (laughter) -- but Secretary Rice told me I should be a realist. (Laughter.)

I appreciate the opportunity, in this great hall, to speak to the peoples of Europe. For more than 60 years, our nations stood together to face great challenges of history. Together, we opposed totalitarian ideologies with our might and with our patience. Together, we united this continent with our democratic values. And together we mark, year by year, the anniversaries of freedom -- from D-Day, to the liberation of death camps, to the victories of conscience in 1989. Our transatlantic alliance frustrated the plans of dictators, served the highest ideals of humanity, and set a violent century on a new and better course. And as time goes by, we must never forget our shared achievements.

Yet, our relationship is founded on more than nostalgia. In a new century, the alliance of Europe and North America is the main pillar of our security. Our robust trade is one of the engines of the world's economy. Our example of economic and political freedom gives hope to millions who are weary of poverty and oppression. In all these ways, our strong friendship is essential to peace and prosperity across the globe -- and no temporary debate, no passing disagreement of governments, no power on earth will ever divide us. (Applause.)

Today, America and Europe face a moment of consequence and opportunity. Together we can once again set history on a hopeful course -- away from poverty and despair, and toward development and the dignity of self-rule; away from resentment and violence, and toward justice and the peaceful settlement of differences. Seizing this moment requires idealism: We must see in every person the right and the capacity to live in freedom. Seizing this moment requires realism: We must act wisely and deliberately in the face of complex challenges. And seizing this moment also requires cooperation, because when Europe and America stand together, no problem can stand against us. As past debates fade, as great duties become clear, let us begin a new era of transatlantic unity.

Our greatest opportunity and immediate goal is peace in the Middle East. After many false starts, and dashed hopes, and stolen lives, a settlement of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is now within reach. America and Europe have made a moral commitment: We will not stand by as another generation in the Holy Land grows up in an atmosphere of violence and hopelessness. America and Europe also share a strategic interest: By helping to build a lasting peace, we will remove an unsettled grievance that is used to stir hatred and violence across the Middle East.

Our efforts are guided by a clear vision: We're determined to see two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. (Applause.) The Palestinian people deserve a government that is representative, honest and peaceful. The people of Israel need an end to terror and a reliable, steadfast partner for peace. And the world must not rest until there is a just and lasting resolution of this conflict.

All the parties have responsibilities to meet. Arab states must end incitement in their own media, cut off public and private funding for terrorism, stop their support for extremist education, and establish normal relations with Israel. Palestinian leaders must confront and dismantle terrorist groups, fight corruption, encourage free enterprise, and rest true authority with the people. Only a democracy can serve the hopes of Palestinians, and make Israel secure, and raise the flag of a free Palestine. A successful Palestinian democracy should be Israel's top goal as well. So Israel must freeze settlement activity, help Palestinians build a thriving economy, and ensure that a new Palestinian state is truly viable, with contiguous territory on the West Bank. A state of scattered territories will not work. (Applause.) As Palestinian leaders assume responsibility for Gaza and increasingly larger territory, we will help them build the economic and political and security institutions needed to govern effec

These vital steps are also difficult steps, because progress requires new trust, and because terrorists will do all they can to destroy that trust. Yet we are moving forward in practical ways. Next month in London, Prime Minister Blair will host a conference to help the Palestinian people build the democratic institutions of their state. President Abbas has the opportunity to put forward a strategy of reform, which can and will gain financial support from the international community -- including financial support. I hope he will seize the moment. I have asked Secretary Rice to attend the conference, and to convey America's strong support for the Palestinian people as they build a democratic state. And I appreciate the prominent role that Prime Minister Blair and other European leaders are playing in the cause of peace.

We seek peace between Israel and Palestine for its own sake. We also know that a free and peaceful Palestine can add to the momentum of reform throughout the broader Middle East. In the long run, we cannot live in peace and safety if the Middle East continues to produce ideologies of murder, and terrorists who seek the deadliest weapons. Regimes that terrorize their own people will not hesitate to support terror abroad. A status quo of tyranny and hopelessness in the Middle East -- the false stability of dictatorship and stagnation -- can only lead to deeper resentment in a troubled region, and further tragedy in free nations. The future of our nations, and the future of the Middle East, are linked -- and our peace depends on their hope and development and freedom.

Lasting, successful reform in the broader Middle East will not be imposed from the outside; it must be chosen from within. Governments must choose to fight corruption, abandon old habits of control, protect the rights of conscience and the rights of minorities. Governments must invest in the health and education of their people, and take responsibility for solving problems instead of simply blaming others. Citizens must choose to hold their governments accountable. The path isn't always easy, as any free people can testify -- yet there's reason for confidence. Ultimately, men and women who seek the success of their nation will reject an ideology of oppression, anger, and fear. Ultimately, men and women will embrace participation and progress -- and we are seeing the evidence in an arc of reform from Morocco to Bahrain to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Our challenge is to encourage this progress by taking up the duties of great democracies. We must be on the side of democratic reformers, we must encourage democratic movements, and support democratic transitions in practical ways.

Europe and America should not expect or demand that reforms come all at once -- that didn't happen in our own histories. My country took many years to include minorities and women in the full promise of America -- and that struggle hasn't ended. Yet, while our expectations must be realistic, our ideals must be firm and they must be clear. We must expect higher standards from our friends and partners in the Middle East. The government of Saudi Arabia can demonstrate its leadership in the region by expanding the role of its people in determining their future. And the great and proud nation of Egypt, which showed the way toward peace in the Middle East, can now show the way toward democracy in the Middle East.

Our shared commitment to democratic progress is being tested in Lebanon -- a once-thriving country that now suffers under the influence of an oppressive neighbor. Just as the Syrian regime must take stronger action to stop those who support violence and subversion in Iraq, and must end its support for terrorist groups seeking to destroy the hope of peace between Israelis and Palestinians, Syria must also end its occupation of Lebanon. (Applause.)

The Lebanese people have the right to be free, and the United States and Europe share an interest in a democratic, independent Lebanon. My nation and France worked to pass Security Council Resolution 1559, which demands that Lebanon's sovereignty be respected, that foreign troops and agents be withdrawn, and that free elections be conducted without foreign interference. In the last several months, the world has seen men and women voting in historic elections, from Kabul to Ramallah to Baghdad -- and without Syrian interference, Lebanon's parliamentary elections in the spring can be another milestone of liberty.

Our commitment to democratic progress is being honored in Afghanistan. That country is building a democracy that reflects Afghan traditions and history, and shows the way for other nations in the region. The elected president is working to disarm and demobilize militias in preparation for the National Assembly elections to be held this spring. And the Afghan people know the world is with them. After all, Germany is providing vital police training. The UK is helping to fight drug trade. Italy is giving assistance on judicial reform. NATO's growing security mission is commanded by a Turkish General. European governments are helping Afghanistan to succeed -- and America appreciates your leadership.

Together, we must make clear to the Iraqi people that the world is also with them -- because they have certainly shown their character to the world. An Iraqi man who lost a leg in a car bombing last year made sure he was there to vote on January the 30th. 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." Every vote cast in Iraq was an act of defiance against terror, and the Iraqi people have earned our respect. (Applause.)

Some European nations joined the fight to liberate Iraq, while others did not. Yet all of us recognize courage when we see it -- and we saw it in the Iraqi people. And all nations now have an interest in the success of a free and democratic Iraq, which will fight terror, which will be a beacon of freedom, and which will be a source of true stability in the region. In the coming months, Iraq's newly elected assembly will carry out the important work of establishing a government, providing security, enhancing basic services, and writing a democratic constitution. Now is the time for established democracies to give tangible political, economic and security assistance to the world's newest democracy.

In Iran, the free world shares a common goal: For the sake of peace, the Iranian regime must end its support for terrorism, and must not develop nuclear weapons. (Applause.) In safeguarding the security of free nations, no option can be taken permanently off the table. Iran, however, is different from Iraq. We're in the early stages of diplomacy. The United States is a member of the IAEA Board of Governors, which has taken the lead on this issue. We're working closely with Britain, France and Germany as they oppose Iran's nuclear ambitions, and as they insist that Tehran comply with international law. The results of this approach now depend largely on Iran. We also look for Iran to finally deliver on promised reform. The time has arrived for the Iranian regime to listen to the Iranian people, and respect their rights, and join in the movement toward liberty that is taking place all around them.

Across the Middle East -- from the Palestinian Territories, to Lebanon, to Iraq, to Iran -- I believe that the advance of freedom within nations will build the peace among nations. And one reason for this belief is the experience of Europe. In two world wars, Europe saw the aggressive nature of tyranny, and the terrible cost of mistrust and division. In the Cold War, Europe saw the so-called stability of Yalta was a constant source of injustice and fear. And Europe also saw how the rise of democratic movements like Solidarity could part an Iron Curtain drawn by tyrants. The spread of freedom has helped to resolve old disputes, and the enlargement of NATO and the European Union have made partners out of former rivals. America supports Europe's democratic unity for the same reason we support the spread of democracy in the Middle East -- because freedom leads to peace. And America supports a strong Europe because we need a strong partner in the hard work of advancing freedom in the world. (Applause.)

European leaders demonstrated this vision in Ukraine. Presidents Kwasniewski of Poland and Adamkus of Lithuania, Javier Solana of the EU, helped to resolve the election crisis and bring Ukraine back into the camp of freedom. As a free government takes hold in that country, and as the government of President Yushchenko pursues vital reforms, Ukraine should be welcomed by the Euro-Atlantic family. We must support new democracies, and so members of our alliance must continue to reach out to Georgia, where last year peaceful protests overturned a stolen election, and unleashed the forces of democratic change.

I also believe that Russia's future lies within the family of Europe and the transatlantic community. America supports WTO membership for Russia, because meeting WTO standards will strengthen the gains of freedom and prosperity in that country. Yet, for Russia to make progress as a European nation, the Russian government must renew a commitment to democracy and the rule of law. We recognize that reform will not happen overnight. We must always remind Russia, however, that our alliance stands for a free press, a vital opposition, the sharing of power, and the rule of law -- and the United States and all European countries should place democratic reform at the heart of their dialogue with Russia. (Applause.)

As we seek freedom in other nations, we must also work to renew the values that make freedom possible. As I said in my Inaugural Address, we cannot carry the message of freedom and the baggage of bigotry at the same time. We must reject anti-Semitism from any source, and we must condemn violence such as we have witnessed in the Netherlands. All our nations must work to integrate minorities into the mainstream of society, and to teach the value of tolerance to each new generation.

The nations in our great alliance have many advantages and blessings. We also have a call beyond our comfort: We must raise our sights to the wider world. Our ideals and our interests lead in the same direction: By bringing progress and hope to nations in need, we can improve many lives, and lift up failing states, and remove the causes and sanctuaries of terror.

Our alliance is determined to promote development, and integrate developing nations into the world economy. And the measure of our success must be the results we achieve, not merely the resources we spend. Together, we created the Monterrey Consensus, which links new aid from developed nations to real reform in developing ones. This strategy is working. Throughout the developing world, governments are confronting corruption, the rule of law is taking root, and people are enjoying new freedoms. Developed nations have responded by increasing assistance by a third. Through the Millennium Challenge Account, my nation is increasing our aid to developing nations that govern justly, expand economic freedom, and invest in the education and health of their people. While still providing humanitarian assistance and support, developed nations are taking a wiser approach to other aid. Instead of subsidizing failure year after year, we must reward progress and improve lives.

Our alliance is determined to encourage commerce among nations, because open markets create jobs, and lift income, and draw whole nations into an expanding circle of freedom and opportunity. Europe and America will continue to increase trade, as we do so, we'll resolve our trade disagreements in a cooperative spirit -- and we should share the benefits of fair and free trade with others. That's why we'll continue to advance the Doha Development Agenda, and bring global trade talks to a successful conclusion. We should all pursue fiscal policies in our nations -- sound fiscal policies of low taxes and fiscal restraint and reform that promote a stable world financial system and foster economic growth.

Our alliance is determined to show good stewardship of the earth -- and that requires addressing the serious, long-term challenge of global climate change. All of us expressed our views on the Kyoto protocol -- and now we must work together on the way forward. Emerging technologies such as hydrogen-powered vehicles, electricity from renewable energy sources, clean coal technology, will encourage economic growth that is environmentally responsible. By researching, by developing, by promoting new technologies across the world, all nations, including the developing countries can advance economically, while slowing the growth in global greenhouse gases and avoid pollutants that undermines public health. All of us can use the power of human ingenuity to improve the environment for generations to come.

Our alliance is determined to meet natural disaster, famine, and disease with swift and compassionate help. As we meet today, American and European personnel are aiding the victims of the tsunami in Asia. Our combined financial commitment to tsunami relief and reconstruction is nearly $4 billion. We're working through the Global Fund to combat AIDS and other diseases across the world. And America's Emergency Plan has focused additional resources on nations where the needs are greatest. Through all these efforts, we encourage stability and progress, build a firmer basis for democratic institutions -- and, above all, we fulfill a moral duty to heal the sick, and feed the hungry, and comfort the afflicted.

Our alliance is also determined to defend our security -- because we refuse to live in a world dominated by fear. Terrorist movements seek to intimidate free peoples and reverse the course of history by committing dramatic acts of murder. We will not be intimidated, and the terrorists will not stop the march of freedom. I thank the nations of Europe for your strong cooperation in the war on terror. Together, we have disrupted terrorist financing, strengthened intelligence sharing, enhanced our law enforcement cooperation, and improved the security of international commerce and travel.

We're pursuing terrorists wherever they hide. German authorities recently arrested two terrorists plotting to attack American interests in Iraq. Both will be prosecuted under new German laws, enacted after the September the 11th. Just last week, the United Nations added Muhsin al-Fadhli to its al Qaeda and Taliban Sanctions Committee list. This man is a known al Qaeda operative and Zarqawi associate, provided support to the terrorists who conducted the 2002 bombing of a French oil tanker. Working together, America, France and other nations will bring him to justice. For the sake of the security of our people, for the sake of peace, we will be relentless in chasing down the ideologues of hate.

On September the 11th, America turned first to our immediate security, and to the pursuit of an enemy -- and that vital work goes on. We also found that a narrow definition of security is not enough. While confronting a present threat, we have accepted the long-term challenge of spreading hope and liberty and prosperity as the great alternatives to terror. As we defeat the agents of terror, we will also remove the sources of terror.

This strategy is not American strategy, or European strategy, or Western strategy. Spreading liberty for the sake of peace is the cause of all mankind. This approach not only reduces a danger to free peoples; it honors the dignity of all peoples, by placing human rights and human freedom at the center of our agenda. And our alliance has the ability, and the duty, to tip the balance of history in favor of freedom.

We know there are many obstacles, and we know the road is long. Albert Camus said that, "Freedom is a long-distance race." We're in that race for the duration -- and there is reason for optimism. Oppression is not the wave of the future; it is the desperate tactic of a few backward-looking men. Democratic nations grow in strength because they reward and respect the creative gifts of their people. And freedom is the direction of history, because freedom is the permanent hope of humanity.

America holds these values because of ideals long held on this continent. We proudly stand in the tradition of the Magna Carta, the Declaration of the Rights of Man, and the North Atlantic Treaty. The signers of that Treaty pledged "To safeguard the freedom, common heritage, and civilization of their peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty, and the rule of law." In this new century, the United States and Europe reaffirm that commitment, and renew our great alliance of freedom.

May God bless you all.

Nice the way he once again redefines realism as idealism and then summons them back to the ideals they once shared.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:52 PM


Hard News: Daily Papers Face Unprecedented Competition . . . (Frank Ahrens, February 20, 2005, Washington Post)

The venerable newspaper is in trouble. Under sustained assault from cable television, the Internet, all-news radio and lifestyles so cram-packed they leave little time for the daily paper, the industry is struggling to remake itself.

Papers are conducting exhaustive surveys to find out what readers want. They are launching new sections, beefing up Web sites and spinning off free community papers and commuter giveaways in hopes of widening their audience. They even are trying to change the very language of the industry, asking advertisers and investors to dwell less on "circulation" -- how many papers are sold -- and more on "readership," or the number of people exposed to a paper's journalism wherever it appears, in print, on the Web or over the air.

The changes come as circulation totals have eroded steadily for nearly two decades and as newspapers no longer play the central role in daily life they once did. Newspaper executives argue that an emphasis on readership better reflects what newspaper companies are becoming -- multidimensional media conglomerates with growing Internet sites and stakes in television, radio, magazines and other businesses.

"Natural societal things are going on," said Steve Lerch, a newspaper advertising buyer for Campbell Mithun of Minneapolis. "You can't take a half-hour to read the newspaper and eat a bowl of cereal in the morning. People aren't eating cereal anymore, either. I know -- I have General Mills as a client. People are eating yogurt bars on the way in to work."

Frank A. Blethen, publisher of the Seattle Times, said his industry has some breathing room left. But not much.

"The baby boomers are going to continue to drive print [sales] for some time," he said. "The problem we have are the . . . 18- to 35-year-olds. They're not replacing the baby boomers."

Others are more blunt, if hyperbolic.

"Print is dead," Sports Illustrated President John Squires told a room full of newspaper and magazine circulation executives at a conference in Toronto in November. His advice? "Get over it," meaning publishers should stop trying to save their ink-on-paper product and focus on electronic delivery of their journalism.

The major dailies join the network newscasts on the trash heap and it may be impossible to overstate what that means in terms of the Culture War. The renaissance of conservatism has come against an overwhelming dominance of the media by those whose views are well to the Left of the American public. Break that pedagogical grip and who knows how far the country could shift back to the Right.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:47 PM


President Bush’s Governing Philosophy (Peter Wehner, February 21, 2005, text of a speech at The Hudson Institute last week)

As the world is moving toward freedom, President Bush believes we must show we are worthy of it here at home. He believes rights must be tethered to responsibilities – and that the public interest depends on private character. In the words of the President, “Self-government relies, in the end, on the governing of the self.” This belief goes back to the ancient Greeks and to the American Founders. It is an old truth – but one that has been often overlooked in these modern times.

Character is formed by habits – and habits are shaped by key institutions: families and schools, communities and places of religious worship. These are the institutions that help give purpose and meaning to our lives – and government cannot be indifferent to them. To cite a line penned by one of this year’s Bradley Prize winners, statecraft is soulcraft.

That is why the President has spoken out often, and eloquently, in defense of marriage as a sacred institution and the foundation of society. It is why he has put the government on the side of supporting safe and stable families, adoption, and responsible fatherhood. It is why he signed into law the most important Federal education reform in history – one that insists on high standards and accountability. It is why faith-based groups are receiving unprecedented support and encouragement. It is why the President has fostered a culture of service and citizenship. And it is why the President is building a culture of life and upholding the dignity of the human person.

There are of course limits to what government can do to shape the habits of the heart. Government is a blunt instrument, and everyone in this room is familiar with the Law of Unintended Consequences. Yet surely we can expect the government to be an ally instead of an adversary when it comes to strengthening vital social institutions – those that provide our children with love and teach them empathy, that instill in them compassion and courage, self-discipline and honesty, respect for others and love of country.

One of the duties of adulthood is to teach future generations what is worthy of their affection and passion, their honor and their allegiance. “What we have loved, others will love, and we will teach them how,” Wordsworth said. And “teaching them how” is preeminently the responsibility of families and schools, communities and houses of worship.

Creating An Ownership Society

Let me now turn to the President's economic agenda. President Bush has made the case that many of our most fundamental systems – the tax code, health care coverage, pension plans, and worker training – were created for a bygone era. The President is committed to transforming these systems so citizens are better prepared to make their own choices and pursue their own dreams. "Whatever else it does," Business Week wrote during the 2004 election, "Bush's throwing down the gauntlet will open one of the more striking debates of the campaign. That's because there's a philosophical gulf between liberals' evocations of social equity and the comfort of a government helping hand vs. conservatives' paeans to individualism and entrepreneurship."

The philosophical underpinning of what President Bush calls the "ownership society" is to provide Americans with a path to greater opportunity, more freedom, and more control over their own lives. This young century will be liberty's century, the President has said, and here at home we will extend the frontiers of freedom. And so the President has embraced the ideas of voluntary personal accounts in which younger workers can save some of their Social Security taxes in order to build a nest egg for retirement; lifetime savings accounts which would allow every American to save as much as $7,500 a year and shield from taxation the investment returns on those savings; health savings accounts, tax-free accounts designed to help individuals save for health expenses; and tax credits for low-income families and individuals to purchase health insurance.

The President has also pledged to reform the current tax code, which he calls “archaic” and “incoherent.” He wants a new tax code that is simpler, fairer, and more pro-growth. Homeownership in America is at an all-time high – and President Bush will build on that achievement. And in almost every realm – education, the federal civil service system, drug treatment programs, foreign aid, and much else – the President is tying public spending to competition and accountability.

Ownership also contributes to community. When people own their own houses, they become vested not just in their property, but their community. It makes people more communally responsible. Ownership also elicits greater commitment and care from owners themselves. “In the history of the world,” it has been said, “no one has ever washed a rented car.”

As I mentioned before, one of the core questions of political philosophy has to do with the habits that government encourages among the citizenry. The aim of the President's policies is to encourage self-reliance and provide greater opportunity.

He believes government should promote market reforms and strengthen liberty – and underlying all of this is the belief that government must begin with the proper conception of the individual. Government's default position should not be to view citizens as wards of the state, but rather as responsible and independent, self-sufficient and upright.

The closest example to what President Bush is attempting to do with his emphasis on an "ownership society” may be found in the policies of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. In her remarkable 1992 book The Anatomy of Thatcherism, the political philosopher Shirley Robin Letwin wrote this:

"... the Thatcherite argues that being one's own master -- in the sense of owning one's own home or disposing of one's own property -- provides an incentive to think differently about the world... A Thatcherite … stresses that [ownership and moral attitudes] are connected, and sees in wider individual ownership a useful means of promoting the moral attitudes that Thatcherism seeks to cultivate. Nor is it only independence and self-sufficiency which the Thatcherite hopes to encourage by means of wider ownership. Personal energy and adventurousness, critical components of the vigorous virtues -- are also believed by the Thatcherite to be encouraged by wider ownership."

The President's agenda is an ambitious one – but to quote The Economist magazine, "Mr. Bush is nothing if not ambitious. If his new philosophy endures, he will be a transformative figure in the history of the modern conservative movement."

As the Cold War recedes from memory might we find Margaret Thatcher to have been a more influential figure than Ronald Reagan?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:39 PM


Chalabi to Face off Against Al-Jaafari as Shiite Ticket's PM Candidate (Maggie Michael, 2/21/05, Associated Press)

Ahmad Chalabi, a secular Shiite once known for his ties to Washington, and Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the conservative interim vice president, will face off in a secret ballot Tuesday to determine who will be the Shiite majority's choice for Iraqi prime minister, officials said.

The decision to hold a secret ballot came after the clergy-backed United Iraqi Alliance, which has most of the seats in the 275-member National Assembly, was unable to decide on a nominee - despite days of negotiations.

Chalabi spokesman Haidar al-Moussawi said the most powerful man in predominantly Shiite Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, met with interim Finance Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi in the southern city of Najaf and gave his backing for whatever decision the alliance makes.

"Al-Sistani assured that whoever the alliance will choose, he will agree on him," al-Moussawi said.

If the neocons really do manage to engineer a Chalabi victory maybe they're as smart as they think they are.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:36 PM


A New Target for Advisers to Swift Vets (GLEN JUSTICE, 2/21/05, NY Times)

Taking its cues from the success of last year's Swift boat veterans' campaign in the presidential race, a conservative lobbying organization has hired some of the same consultants to orchestrate attacks on one of President Bush's toughest opponents in the battle to overhaul Social Security.

The lobbying group, USA Next, which has poured millions of dollars into Republican policy battles, now says it plans to spend as much as $10 million on commercials and other tactics assailing AARP, the powerhouse lobby opposing the private investment accounts at the center of Mr. Bush's plan.

"They are the boulder in the middle of the highway to personal savings accounts," said Charlie Jarvis, president of USA Next and former deputy under secretary of the interior in the Reagan and first Bush administrations. "We will be the dynamite that removes them." [...]

USA Next has been portraying AARP as a liberal organization out of step with Republican values, and is now trying to discredit its stance on Social Security. USA Next's campaign has involved appearances by its leaders, including Art Linkletter, its national chairman, on Fox News and various television programs. Its commercials are to be broadcast around the country in coming weeks.

AARP, the largest organization representing middle-aged and older Americans, is considered a major obstacle to Mr. Bush's Social Security plan in part because of its size and influence with the elderly. Though it is officially nonpartisan, and it stood beside the administration to help pass a prescription drug bill in 2003, many Republicans have long characterized the group as left-leaning.

Ohio Gay Marriage Supporters Gain Powerful Ally (365Gay.com, October 4, 2004)
The American Association of Retired People has announced its opposition to a proposed amendment to the Ohio state constitution that would ban same-sex marriage.

They're just another special interest lobby and it's long since time someone took them on.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:31 PM


Bush dismisses rift on Iraq (Tom Raum, February 22, 2005, The Age)

US president George Bush has dismissed the rift with Europe over Iraq as a "passing disagreement of governments" and yesterday urged greater trans-Atlantic co-operation, including more support for the fledgling Iraqi Government.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:27 PM


Bill would raise cigarette tax a buck a pack (Dane Smith, February 22, 2005, Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Cigarette taxes would go up $1 per pack, raising about $250 million a year to reduce health-care taxes on Minnesota small businesses, under a tripartisan "revenue neutral" bill announced today and backed by small businesses, health insurance companies and health advocacy groups.

The proposal was first unveiled in December by Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Despite the potential power of the tobacco lobby and anti-tax groups to block such a proposal, sponsors said today a confluence of forces this year will help them prevail. Small businesses are hurting much more than large businesses from soaring health-care costs and disproportionately high state taxes and assessments to support health-care coverage, sponsors say.

For the first time, the tobacco tax increase has the support of the Minnesota chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), which represents mostly small businesses, and which has been strongly opposed to almost all tax increases in previous years.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:09 PM


'Extinct' plants revived via seeds from lake bed (The Japan Times, Feb. 22, 2005)

A group of researchers has succeeded in reviving plants that were considered extinct at Ibaraki Prefecture's Lake Kasumigaura by using seeds found buried in lake bed soil, they said Monday.

The plants are thought to have become extinct after the ecosystem was damaged by development projects, including bank protection work, in recent years.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:56 PM


Thought for the Day ends in apology (Kirsty Scott, February 18, 2005, The Guardian)

The BBC was forced to issue an apology after the Rev Dr John Bell used the slot on February 10 to tell the story of a young Arab-Israeli soldier supposedly conscripted into the Israeli army and imprisoned for refusing to shoot Palestinian children.

BBC officials, who received dozens of complaints from members of the Jewish community following the broadcast, said there were a number of factual errors in the tale and they had been unable to substantiate the soldier's story. [...]

Dr Bell told listeners how he had got talking to the 19-year-old corporal, an Israeli-born Arab of "Palestinian Muslim stock" who had saved many lives by killing a suicide bus bomber. He said Adam had also been imprisoned for refusing to shoot schoolchildren.

The day before the broadcast, Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas had declared a truce which offered new hope for peace in the Middle East.

Dr Bell had said he was telling the story to illustrate the fact that a peace deal will not wipe out the hatred between Jews and Palestinians.

Members of the Jewish community phoned the BBC to say elements of Adam's account could not be true. Israeli Arabs are exempt from conscription and it would be all but impossible for a 19-year-old to reach the rank of corporal.

The BBC contacted the Israeli authorities who said there was no evidence of the soldier's existence. The corporation then issued the apology, saying the facts should have been checked and it had been unable to find any evidence to support the story.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:49 PM


French unborn death 'not a crime' (BBC, 2/17/05)

A French appeals court has ruled that a man responsible for the death of a pregnant woman in a car accident was not guilty of a double crime.

Florinda Braganca was killed instantly when the car she was driving was struck by 30-year-old Kevin Germon's van on a motorway in October 2003.

Her husband said Germon should be sentenced for double manslaughter.

But the court upheld a lower court ruling that an unborn child could not be considered the victim of a crime.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:47 PM


Justice Thomas Finds Himself in Inauguration Controversy (Tony Mauro, 2/17/05, Legal Times)

In an invitation-only ceremony, [Justice Clarence ] Thomas on Jan. 13 gave the oath of office to newly elected Alabama Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker, a close protégé and former aide to one-time Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore. Moore was ousted from office in 2003 for defying a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the judicial building rotunda in Montgomery, Ala.

Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, says that by associating himself with someone closely identified with Moore, Thomas was "thumbing his nose" at current church-state doctrine just weeks before the Supreme Court considers two cases on the constitutionality of displays of the Ten Commandments on public property. "If Thomas ever had any chance of becoming chief justice, this action should kill it," says Lynn. [...]

In remarks he gave after his second swearing-in, Parker reported that the day before, Thomas "admonished us to remember that the work of a justice should be evaluated by one thing and one thing only -- whether or not he is faithful to uphold his oath, an oath which, as Justice Thomas pointed out, is not to the people, not to the state, and not to the constitution, but an oath which is to God Himself."

Parker continued, "I stand here today, humbled by this charge, but a grateful man who aspires to adhere to that tradition embodied in the sentiments spoken to me yesterday by Justice Clarence Thomas, and the commitment to our Founders' vision of authority and the rule of law personified by Chief Justice Roy Moore."

Mr. Lynn seems as inept at reading election returns as he's always been at reading the Constitution.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:43 PM


Activists focusing on Romney in S.C. (Raphael Lewis, February 18, 2005, The Boston Globe)

When Governor Mitt Romney delivers a major speech to South Carolina Republicans Monday, many party activists there will listen with a key question in mind: Can a Massachusetts governor, with nuanced positions on gay rights and abortion, appeal to conservative Southern voters?

The speech, which some view as Romney's first step toward a bid for the White House, is expected to draw hundreds of GOP members to Spartanburg, including most of the state's Republican elite. South Carolina holds the first major Southern presidential primary.

Romney supporters have spent months quietly easing the way for his introduction to the key state, donating lavishly to GOP candidates and county committees. South Carolina political observers suggest he will arrive to a warm and open-minded audience.

''It stands to reason that folks will probably ask themselves, 'OK, here's a governor from Massachusetts, he could potentially be a presidential candidate, so let's size him up,' " said Luke Byars, executive director of the South Carolina Republican Party, who will attend Romney's speech. ''If you ask me point blank if a candidate is for civil unions and is lukewarm on abortion, I would tell you it's hard and would take a heck of a campaign and a tremendous candidate to overcome those obstacles. Because those are obstacles."

He's no Jeb...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:28 PM


Malcolm X: Make it Plan (American Experience, 9pm, PBS)

It is obviously one of history's great unanswerables, but it's always seemed to me that black America and America in general would have been better served had Malcolm X's vision of how to win Civil Rights prevailed rather than Martin Luther King's.

MORE (via Jim Siegel):
Truth about Malcolm X (Stanley Crouch, February 20th, 2005, New York Daily News)

Forty years ago today, Malcolm X was shot down in front of his family and an audience of followers at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem. When he died, Malcolm X had been estranged from the Nation of Islam for about a year and had begun to call Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the cult, a liar, a fraud and a womanizer. [...]

Malcolm X proved how vulnerable Negroes were to hearing another Negro put some hard talk on the white man. The long heritage of silence, both in slavery and the redneck South, was so strong that speech became a much more important act than many realized. Martin Luther King Jr. recognized this, observing that many of those who went to hear Malcolm X were less impressed with his ideas than they were with the contemptuous way he spoke to white power.

Since his death, Malcolm X has been elevated from a heckler of the civil rights moment to a civil rights leader - which he never was - and many people now think that he was as important to his moment as King. He was not, and Malcolm X was well aware of this. But in our country, where liberal contempt for black people is boundless, we should not be surprised to see a minor figure lacquered with media "respect" and thrown in the lap of the black community, where he is passed off as a great hero.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:26 PM


Investors Sue Maker of Film on Kerry (MSN, Feb 15, 2005)

Two investors have sued a filmmaker for allegedly misleading them about plans for a documentary on the life of presidential candidate John Kerry.

The federal lawsuit filed Monday says brothers Marc Abrams and Russell Abrams were misled into thinking that George Butler, a longtime Kerry friend, and the film's producers were trying to make a commercially successful film.

The Cabana Boy title misled them into thinking it was going to be porn.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:19 PM


Devastated city of Fallujah begins rising from the ashes (MARK MOONEY, 2/21/05, New York Daily News)

This shattered city overrun by U.S. troops to root out terrorists is coming back to life and American officers brag it's now the safest place in Iraq.

In the two months since the gunfire subsided, the bodies have been collected and rubble cleared from the streets. The Marines have recovered more than 400 weapons caches, destroyed 400,000 guns, more than 100,000 shells and nearly 800 roadside bombs.

Generators hum, producing some light at night for the first time since November. Shops are stocking up again.

About a dozen schools have opened because the children are back. They emerge from doorways or from behind piles of rubble in cheerful packs, hello-ing Marines or waving shyly.

About 60,000 people have returned to the city that was home to 300,000 before the November offensive. Many have overcome the paralyzing sight of the destroyed city and have begun rebuilding blasted walls and shoveling debris from kitchens and bedrooms.

The biggest change is the lack of gunfire.

"Fallujah is probably the safest place in Iraq" - a comment frequently made by Marines - said Lt. Col. Keil Gentry.

We were promised Stalingrad....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:16 PM


Many Africans see U.S. as distant savior (BRYAN MEALER, 2/21/05, Associated Press)

As President Bush visits Europe this week, he is up against a continent brimming with hostile public opinion. But while Americans have grown used to being condemned as global bullies, at least one region has people looking to them for salvation.

For many of the young people who take to the streets in protest in Lome and other blighted, overlooked capitals across Africa, only one distant power seems great enough to defeat the local forces of tyranny: the U.S. military.

"Tell George Bush to send us guns," young protesters screamed last weekend in Lome, capital of Togo, where the dictator of 38 years had just died, only for his son to succeed him by military appointment within hours.

"We need American troops to deliver us from this regime," young men shouted.

America's export of democratic ideals, along with the hard-core rap music and imagery that has suffused African youth cultures, has made it seem like a beacon to Africa's downtrodden - or at least better than France, former colonial ruler and lasting influence in much of West Africa.

With the Reformation of the Middle East in high gear, Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair can devote more time and energy in their next terms to Africa.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:12 PM


Bush acknowledges low popularity ratings (TERENCE HUNT, 2/21/05, Associated Press)

Fully aware that many Europeans have disagreed with him on Iraq and other issues, President Bush was quick on Monday to acknowledge his low popularity ratings.

"You know, on this journey to Europe, I follow in some large footsteps," Bush said at the beginning of his speech that addressed hotspots around the world. "More than two centuries ago, Benjamin Franklin arrived on this continent to great acclaim."

Bush quoted an observer at the time who said, "There was scarcely a peasant or citizen who did not consider him as a friend to humankind."

"I've been hoping for a similar reception," Bush said, drawing laughter from the audience. "But Secretary (of State Condoleezza) Rice told me I should be a realist."

It seems unlikely that Europeans will recognize the contempt in which the President holds Realists like them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:02 PM


Three reasons why the US and Europe won't make up: China, Iran and Iraq all loom over Bush's bid to woo the Europeans (Niall Ferguson, February 21, 2005, The Guardian)

[I]t is impossible to escape the suspicion that this mood music conceals fundamental differences on three major international issues.

Number one remains Iraq. France and Germany still refuse to allow military personnel to enter Iraq. Any contributions they make to training will take place in countries neighbouring Iraq.

Number two is Iran. The US is intensely suspicious of the recent European deal that elicited promises from Tehran - a "totalitarian" regime, according to Condi Rice - to renounce uranium enrichment in return for assistance with non-military nuclear projects. The European position, as enunciated by the German defence minister last week, is that Iran will "only abandon its nuclear ambitions if _ its legitimate security interests are safeguarded". This does not play well in Washington, where plans were quite recently afoot for air strikes against Iranian nuclear facil ities. At the very least, the US wants to put the case for sanctions against Iran before the UN security council.

The biggest source of tension, however, may relate to China. The Europeans plan to lift the arms embargo imposed in 1989 after Tiananmen Square. The Americans oppose this, but their opposition is a symptom of a deeper suspicion of what Europe is up to in Asia.

What do we have in common with people who remain wedded to Ba'athism, mullahcracy and Communism? And what does their supposed Realism reveal about how little they comprehend the disastrous prospects of these tyrannies?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:36 PM


'Bartman ball' pieces to be served up in sauce to Cub fans (ABC, February 15, 2005)

A Chicago restaurant has cooked up a promotional scheme involving what's left of the infamous foul ball. It's the one that deflected off Cub fan Steve Bartman during Game Six of the National League Championship Series in 2003.

A year ago -- after buying the ball at auction for more than 113-thousand-dollars -- Harry Caray's Restaurant had a Hollywood special-effects expert detonate it on live T-V.

Now, Harry Caray's plans to soak the ball's remnants in Budweiser and brew it up into a "curse-ending sauce" that will be served on spaghetti to willing Cub fans next week.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:17 PM


Gorilla Foundation rocked by breast display lawsuit (Patricia Yollin, February 18, 2005, SF Chronicle)

Two former employees of the Gorilla Foundation, home to Koko the "talking" ape, have filed a lawsuit contending that they were ordered to bond with the 33-year-old female simian by displaying their breasts.

Nancy Alperin and Kendra Keller, both of San Francisco, are taking on the Woodside nonprofit and its president, Francine "Penny" Patterson.

Their lawsuit, filed Tuesday in San Mateo County Superior Court, alleges sexual discrimination, wrongful termination in retaliation for reporting health and safety violations, and failure to pay overtime or provide rest breaks.

It seeks more than $1 million total in damages for the two women.

The suit follows complaints filed by Alperin and Keller in January with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, in which they gave identical reasons for why they were fired: "I refused to expose my breast to perform acts of bestiality with one of the gorillas." [...]

The subject of books, videos and documentary films, the hairy linguist participated in what was called the first interspecies chat on the Internet in 1998, attracting more than 8,000 AOL users.

San Francisco attorney Stephen Sommers, who is representing Alperin and Keller, has a transcript of that chat.

"There's a history with this nipple thing," he said, leafing through the transcript and pointing out the word "nipple" -- which he'd highlighted in pink -- each time it appeared.

The history, as such, might date back to Koko's mother, who reportedly did not have enough breast milk to feed her.

The suit, in any case, says that Patterson would interpret hand movements by Koko as a demand to see exposed human nipples. She warned Alperin and Keller that their employment with the foundation would suffer, the suit says, if they "did not indulge Koko's nipple fetish."

During at least three visits, the suit says, "Patterson communicated to Alperin that exposing one's breasts to Koko is a normal component to developing a personal bond with the gorilla."

If you're going to work with animals in San Francisco isn't anything short of being asked to have sex with them a pleasant surprise?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:48 PM


Castration proposed for sex offenders (Conrad Defiebre, February 18, 2005, Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Serious sex offenders who prey on children in Minnesota should be subject to court-ordered castration -- surgical or chemical -- a group of Republican legislators proposed Thursday.

"At first glance that may seem to be a little overboard," said Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Delano, chief sponsor of a bill introduced in the House to promote what he called "asexual rehabilitation" for pedophiles. "But it would control the urges that they cannot control themselves."

Scientific research in Europe has shown that chemical castration with regular injections of antiandrogen drugs such as depo provera can reduce recidivism by child sex offenders to near zero, said Emmer, a lawyer and freshman legislator who has seven children in school. [...]

A 1991 Star Tribune Minnesota Poll found support among 56 percent of the public for surgical castration of repeat sex offenders and 51 percent backing for administering "drugs to make them impotent." The same poll showed 37 percent support for the death penalty for child sex abuse.

The press conference where Hillary Clinton endorses this should be pay-per-view.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:28 PM


Democrats: Abortion opponents seem to be making some inroads (David D. Kirkpatrick, February 20, 2005, New York Times)

[A]bortion-rights advocates warn of a bigger revolt within the party if its members start compromising on new abortion restrictions such as parental notification laws or the fetal-pain bill. Karen Pearl, interim president of Planned Parenthood, said some of her allies were saying that "to the degree that the Democrats move away from choice, that could be the real birth of a third-party movement."

But Pearl added, "When the day is done, I don't believe they will backslide."

In a New York Times poll last month, 36 percent of respondents said abortions should be generally available, 35 percent said the procedure should be available but under stricter limits and 26 percent said abortions should not be permitted.

The financial balance sheet is much more one-sided. Single-issue abortion-rights groups gave more than $1.4 million in the 2004 elections to candidates for national office, more than twice as much as the total from groups opposed to abortion rights, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. In addition, Emily's List raised $34 million for female candidates who support abortion rights, according to the center. By comparison, the National Right to Life Committee, the largest donor opposed to abortion rights, raised about $1.7 million.

If Democrats don't remain the Death Lobby the Greens or some other party will certainly rise to their Left.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:23 PM


Saudi Oil May Have Peaked (Adam Porter, 2/21/05, Aljazeera)

Energy investment banker Matthew Simmons, of Simmons & Co International, has been outspoken in his warnings about peak oil before. His new statement is his strongest yet, "we may have already passed peak oil".

It's very much the way of such predictions: the more consistently wrong you are the more firmly you state the falsehood.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:05 PM


They Choose or We Lose: Parents are panicking about proposals to change how students are assigned to public schools in Seattle. Could this transform the city? (Nina Shapiro, 2/15/05, Seattle Weekly)

According to plan, Maria Gutierrez is supposed to be filling out a Seattle Public Schools application to enroll her daughter in kindergarten next year. Now the Lake City mom doesn't know what to do. The school district has announced that to save on transportation costs, it is considering drastically reducing or eliminating the choice system that allows parents to pick from schools throughout the city. "We bought our house in Seattle specifically because we believed we could choose a school," says Gutierrez, who might have moved instead into the Shoreline or Eastside districts. She views the nearby school to which she would likely be assigned if choice were eliminated, Olympic Hills, as far less attractive than some of the schools she has been considering a little to her south. "It doesn't have a music teacher," she says of Olympic Hills. "It doesn't have an after-school art program. It doesn't have a language program. It doesn't have a PTA that raises $200,000 a year."

Stressed by the uncertainty, she recently called the Shoreline district to find out about getting a boundary waiver that would allow her child to go there. Similarly concerned, many of her friends are applying to private schools. She calls what's going on "fright flight."

The backlash has begun. The school district isn't contemplating making any changes to its choice system until the 2006–07 school year. With the district kicking off community forums on the issue early this month, the scale of potential changes isn't widely understood. But already there is a palpable sense of panic among parents, compounded by a range of other cuts the district is contemplating in the face of a financial crisis, including closure of numerous schools.

The looming school closings have garnered most of the publicity, but the possible scrapping of the choice system is equally if not more momentous. "It's not just tweaking," says longtime schools activist Melissa Westbrook. "It would change the landscape of how we do things." It could not only affect enrollment in the Seattle Public Schools, prompting some to flee to suburban and private schools, it could alter the composition of the city, worsening economic and racial stratification. You can bet that if their kids could only go to one neighborhood school, parents with means would make darn sure that they moved into a neighborhood with a good school.

Taft plans to expand school vouchers: Private schools would benefit; public education gets little boost (Cleveland Plain Dealer, February 10, 2005)
Gov. Bob Taft will call for expanding school vouchers beyond Cleveland by offering them to 2,600 students who attend public schools with persistently failing test scores.

Taft will propose $9 million for vouchers -- and call for increasing the annual value of a voucher from $3,000 to $3,500 -- when he unveils his final two-year budget as governor at a news conference today.

Dubbed the Limited Ohio Choice Scholarship, the plan calls for the state to make vouchers available in the second year of the budget to students in schools that fail to meet state proficiency standards in math and reading three years in a row.

Education advocates briefed on the proposal said students at 71 schools would be eligible if the plan were in place today.

Republicans who control the General Assembly are expected to embrace the plan. Lawmakers have until June 30 to pass Taft's budget, their own or a compromise.

Don't let fear of vouchers halt Perdue plan (Joseph M. Knippenberg, , February 16, 2005, Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Much of the opposition to Gov. Sonny Perdue's proposed Faith and Family Services Amendment (Senate Resolution 49) stems from belief that, if approved by the voters in 2006, it will remove a constitutional barrier to educational vouchers. After all, the current state constitution prohibits direct or indirect aid to "any church, sect, cult, or religious denomination, or any sectarian institution."

Well, folks, I've got news for you. We already have vouchers in Georgia. The HOPE scholarship and Georgia Tuition Equalization Grant programs provide vouchers to students attending public, private non-sectarian, and church-affiliated colleges and universities. And while the lottery-funded pre-k program isn't exactly a voucher program, it operates in an analogous manner and pays for slots at church-sponsored pre-schools.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:01 PM


U.S. in Secret Talks with Iraqi Insurgents (Reuters, 2/20/05)

U.S. diplomats and intelligence officers are conducting secret talks with Iraq's Sunni insurgents on ways to end fighting there, Time magazine reported on Sunday, citing Pentagon and other sources. [...]

The magazine cited a secret meeting between two members of the U.S. military and an Iraqi negotiator, a middle-aged former member of Saddam Hussein's regime and the senior representative of what he called the nationalist insurgency.

A U.S. officer tried to get names of other insurgent leaders while the Iraqi complained the new Shi'ite-dominated government was being controlled by Iran, according to an account of the meeting provided by the Iraqi negotiator.

"We are ready to work with you," the Iraqi negotiator said, according to Time.

Iraqi insurgent leaders not aligned with al Qaeda ally Abu Mousab al-Zarqawi told the magazine several nationalist groups composed of what the Pentagon calls "former regime elements" have become open to negotiating.

The insurgents said their aim was to establish a political identity that can represent disenfranchised Sunnis.

It's a little understood truth about diplomatic negotiations that the mere act of sitting down for them means that one side has already lost. In this case, obviously, the insurgents who are looking for a way to become just another political party are acknowledging defeat.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:57 AM


The Theory That Self-Interest Is the Sole Motivator Is Self-Fulfilling (ROBERT H. FRANK, February 17, 2005, NY Times)

A NEW YORKER cartoon depicts a well-heeled, elderly gentleman taking his grandson for a walk in the woods. "It's good to know about trees," he tells the boy, before adding, "Just remember, nobody ever made big money knowing about trees."

If the man's advice was not inspired directly by the economist's rational-actor model, it could have been. This model assumes that people are selfish in the narrow sense. It may be nice to know about trees, it acknowledges, but it goes on to caution that the world out there is bitterly competitive, and that those who do not pursue their own interests ruthlessly are likely to be swept aside by others who do.

To be sure, self-interest is an important human motive, and the self-interest model has well-established explanatory power. When energy prices rise, for example, people are more likely to buy hybrid vehicles and add extra insulation in their attics.

But some economists go so far as to say that self-interest explains virtually all behavior. As Gordon Tullock of the University of Arizona has written, for example, "the average human being is about 95 percent selfish in the narrow sense of the term." Is he right? Or do we often heed social and cultural norms that urge us to set aside self-interest in the name of some greater good?

If the search is for examples that contradict the predictions of standard economic models, a good rule of thumb is to start in France.

Which is sillier, looking to France for an example of anything positive in economics or specifically for altruism?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:54 AM


Leader in city’s black community joins GOP because it gets results (JOE HALLETT, February 20, 2005, Columbus Dispatch)

When Walter R. Cates tells people what he’s become, incredulously they respond, "You’re a what!"

From the moment he took his first breath 63 years ago, Cates has been three things: "I’ve always told people I was born black, Baptist and Democrat."

Now he’s a Republican.

He recently switched parties, officially announcing it Thursday during a Buckeye Republican Club luncheon.

Cates is one of the most recognizable and influential leaders in Columbus. As former president of the local NAACP chapter in 1973, he sued the Columbus school district, police and fire divisions for discrimination and forced them to change.

Cates, known in the black community as "The Mayor of Main Street," founded and heads the Main Street Business Association. He often is credited, as much as anyone, for the streetlights and sidewalks, the bus stops and clinics, the stores and businesses that breathe life into the city’s urban core.

Cates has been a member of the Franklin County Democratic Party Central Committee, he’s served on the party’s candidate screening committees and he even ran for the Ohio Senate as a Democrat in 1992.

Now he’s a Republican.

There was no philosophical transformation. Issues such as gay marriage, abortion, guns, school prayer — all the stuff that moves the Republican base — had nothing to do with Cates’ move.

"This is all about delivering the goods," he said. "The Republicans are listening more."

Democrats depended for seventy years on puchasing loyalty, but no longer have access to the purse. Pared down to just the ideological base they're a twenty/thirty percent party.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:31 AM


Tapes show Bush is not anti-gay but did inhale (Francis Harris, 21/02/2005, Daily Telegraph)

Taken as a whole, the material indicates that the private Mr Bush is very similar to the public man - a figure who means what he says and whose personal faith is at the centre of his political life.

We're not big on conspiracy theories, but the President's foes are justified in believing these tapes are too good to be true.

Secret Tapes Not Meant to Harm, Writer Says: Ex-Bush Adviser Contends He Recorded Their Conversations for 'Historic' Purposes (Lois Romano and Mike Allen, February 21, 2005, Washington Post)

The excerpts obtained by the Times and ABC show the aspiring president privately as he likes to portray himself publicly: very religious, very conservative -- and tolerant.

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."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:56 AM


How Neo-Conservatives Helped Bring Down Richard Nixon (Joan Hoff, History News Network)

To talk about Watergate and the Nixon presidency over 30 years after the break-ins, cover-up, resignation, and pardon, one has to ask a completely different set of questions than was asked in the last half of the 1970s because there is so much more information available about those events. Because we know more, we must question the mainstream interpretation about the importance of Watergate in relation to the overall significance of the foreign and domestic policies of Richard Nixon.

I initiated this reinterpretation a decade ago with my book, Nixon Reconsidered, which was not well received by reviewers because it praised Nixon’s liberal domestic policies (which I had been surprised to find out about) and his innovative attempt to diplomatically engage both the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China. [...]

Another and more positive view of Nixon coming out of asking new questions based on new information is this: the search for the identity of Deep Throat has for too long proved a diversion from rethinking the meaning of Watergate and the Nixon presidency. Here again, Dean has greatly helped in the perpetuation of that search with several books and online postings naming different individuals as possible candidates for the honor of being Deep Throat. One way to ease people’s minds about whether Deep Throat was one source or a composite and why he knew what he did, I would like to ask Bob Woodward today to agree to video or audio tape Deep Throat or Deep Throats confirming his or their role so that when he or they die we will have more than a Washington Post obit to authenticate his or their identity.

More important, however, instead of continuing to ask WHO leaked the information, we should ask WHY one or more individuals within the executive branch would leak such information. The answer lies with those who strongly disagreed with Nixon’s major diplomatic initiatives involving Russia and China, and his failed pursuit of victory in Vietnam. A group of both civilian and military anti-Communist extremists (those Norman Podhoretz referred to as subscribing to “hard anti-Communism") could not tolerate Nixon’s attempt to go beyond containment and try to bring both nations into the international community. Nor could these Cold War hawks support his policy of Vietnamization designed to turn the war over the South Vietnamese.

New research has shown that their dissatisfaction set in motion the formation or birth of a radical conservatism inside and outside the Nixon administration. Détente and rapprochement (and ultimately defeat in Vietnam) prompted these early neo-conservative Republicans to organize against Nixon’s foreign policy (and to a lesser degree his liberal domestic reforms). These were the men (initially Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Nitze, Richard Perle, James Schlesinger, Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, and Admiral Thomas Moorer) who wanted Nixon weakened and who ultimately supported his resignation. Watergate thus facilitated their opposition to the most enlightened aspects of his foreign policy. From this nucleus emerged the full-blown neo-con movement within the Republican party that dominated Reagan’s foreign policy in his first term and completely took over George W. Bush’s after September 11.

Viewed in this light, Watergate and the Nixon presidency has a contemporary importance that has been largely ignored. This new interpretation also finally confirms the obvious about Richard Nixon’s political career: he had never been an arch conservative on either domestic or foreign policy. Instead of his conservatism being the cause of his downfall, as so many have claimed, his more liberal or enlightened policies so alienated radical conservatives (many of whom urged him to resign) that they contributed to his downfall and vowed to reverse and/or discredit both his foreign and domestic policies.

In essence, Watergate killed Republican centrism and opened the door for the take-over of the Republican party by neo-conservatives. This is the most important contemporary significance of the Nixon presidency in relation to Watergate, regardless of the fact he should of been indicted and convicted for obstructing justice. His downfall represented the beginning of a conservative coup and this is much more important than concentrating on the nonproductive pursuit of the identity of Deep Throat.

Conservatives did understand during his presidency that Nixon had sold them out, but it took until Tom Wicker wrote One of Us for the Left to begin reckoning with the fact that they'd help take down our most liberal president.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:49 AM


Thousands rally against Syria
(Nayla Razzouk, February 21, 2005, AAP)

THOUSANDS of Lebanese HAVE massed on the Beirut seafront chanting "Syria out" as the pressure mounted on the government and its backers in Damascus a week after the killing of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri.
The rally was called by Lebanon's Opposition, which is demanding an end to Syrian interference in the country's political affairs and a withdrawal of its estimated 14,000 troops.

Waving the red and white scarves of what the opposition is calling its "peaceful uprising for independence", demonstrators shouted "Syria out" and "Down with the Government" as they marched on the site where Mr Hariri was killed on February 14.

The Government, facing mounting calls to resign over the murder, has vowed to co-operate with UN investigators to find his killers but rejected a full international inquiry. [...]

Internationally, France and the US, which co-sponsored a UN Security Council resolution last September demanding the withdrawal of foreign troops from Lebanon, have been the most vocal in insisting on a UN inquiry.

A UN team is due to arrive in Lebanon this week, headed by Ireland's deputy police commissioner Peter Fitzgerald.

Amid the deteriorating situation in Lebanon, Arab League chief Amr Mussa is visiting an increasingly isolated Syria, where he will hold talks with President Bashar al-Assad and Foreign Minister Faruq al-Shara today.

The only question now is the pace at which Syria folds.

Apparently quite quickly, Syria to Pull Troops From Lebanon (AP, February 21, 2005)

In Damascus, Arab League chief Amr Moussa said Syria will "soon" take steps to withdraw its army from Lebanese areas in accordance with a 1989 agreement. It was not clear whether that meant Syria would completely leave Lebanon as demanded by the international community.

Moussa spoke after a meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad. Syria itself has made no announcements about troop withdrawals.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:36 AM


Case of Vanishing Deductions: Alternative Tax Called Culprit (DAVID LEONHARDT, 2/21/05, NY Times)

The valuable federal tax deductions that people receive for paying local and state taxes have quietly started to vanish for many households, raising the cost of living in places like New York, Massachusetts and California, already among the nation's most expensive.

The culprit is a once-obscure federal tax provision known as the alternative minimum tax, which was created in 1969 to ensure that a relatively small number of wealthy people did not use loopholes to avoid paying taxes.

But it is increasingly being applied to families with incomes of $75,000 to $250,000 a year who claim relatively high deductions - like the ones for property taxes, state and local income taxes - and the exemption for children. When it does apply, it cancels some of those deductions.

The impact is about to mushroom. Barring a change in the law, almost 19 million taxpayers will be subject next year to the alternative minimum tax, or A.M.T., up from roughly 3.4 million this year and 1.3 million in 2000, according to the Tax Policy Center, a Washington research group whose calculations on this issue are widely accepted.

The shrinking of the deduction for local taxes for millions more families in the next few years has the potential to cool price increases in thriving real estate markets, particularly in the Northeast and on the West Coast.

This is George W. Bush's secret weapon: because the AMT strikes Blue America more than Red it will bring Democrats to the tax reform table and in exchange for fixing it the President will be able to get much that he desires.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:11 AM


How Psychologists Rate Presidents (Steve Rubenzer, Deniz Ones, and Tom Faschingbauer, 2/21/05, History News Network)

Because we used a standardized test that has been administered to a large number of typical Americans, we were able for the first time to compare the personalities of presidents to the people they represent. Presidents, as a group, have been more Assertive, Achievement-Striving, traditional in values, and less Straightforward than average Americans. In other words, they have been dominant, ambitious, conservative, but somewhat devious men. We found that current presidents tend to be very extraverted (about 90th percentile), while early presidents tended to be more introverted than most present-day Americans. The Founders also were more philosophical (consider Adams, Jefferson and Madison vs. LBJ, Reagan, and the Bushes) and rated higher on some measures of character than the current office holders. Recent Democrats and Republicans (up through G. H. W. Bush) differ in terms of personality as well as policy: Democrats (FDR through Clinton) were rated as ambitious, energetic, devious, undependable, and tenderhearted by their biographers, whereas Republicans were generally considered very conservative in values, unsympathetic toward the disadvantaged, and uninterested in philosophy or intellectual play. Other than Nixon, however, they scored much higher than Democrats on indices of character.

We also explored whether there are discernable presidential personality types by examining how similar the presidents’ personalities are to each other, using experts’ ratings on all 592 items of our questionnaire. We found eight types of presidents: Dominators (LBJ, Nixon, A. Johnson, Jackson, Polk, T. Roosevelt, and Arthur), Introverts (J. Adams, J. Q. Adams, Nixon, Hoover, Coolidge, Buchanan, Wilson, and B. Harrison), Good Guys (Hayes, Taylor, Eisenhower, Tyler, Fillmore, Cleveland, Ford, and Washington), Innocents (Taft, Harding, and Grant), Actors (Reagan, Harding, Harrison, Clinton, and Pierce), Maintainers (McKinley, G.H.W. Bush, Ford, and Truman), Philosophes (Garfield, Lincoln, Jefferson, Madison, Carter, and Hayes), and Extraverts (FDR, Kennedy, Clinton, T. Roosevelt, Reagan, W. Harrison, Harding, Jackson, and LBJ). Although our major purpose was to identify types of presidents based on personality, it turns out that some types tend to make better presidents than others: Philosophes and Extraverts tend to perform better than average, while Introverts and especially Innocents perform below average. [...]

We produced similar profiles for all of the prominent past presidents, and preliminary ones for G .W. Bush and John Kerry. Bush is interesting because he scores well below the average president on many of our presidential success factors, with low scores on Competence (keeps well-informed, makes good decisions), Achievement Striving (works hard to meet goals), and Tender Mindedness. He scored highly only on Positive Emotions (enthusiasm and humor), but also most resembled two successful presidents. Bush’s similarity to Reagan (much more than to his own father) has been noted. However, we found Bush to most resemble another charismatic, combative, incurious extravert -- Andrew Jackson.

The secret to the success of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush is that they are not only obvious Jacksonians but unrecognized Philosophes.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:04 AM


The missing link (Yosef Goell, Jerusalem Post, February 21st, 2005)

Even yesterday, as the cabinet was approving not only the prime minister's deeply contested plan to withdraw from 25 settlements in the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria but also the most recent version of his corrected path for the stalled security barrier along the West Bank, nearly no one could bring himself to admit that the two issues were part of a package deal.

One of the reasons it has been so difficult to explain Ariel Sharon's historic volte-face, and now the dramatic change in the final vote of the Likud cabinet ministers, is that it has been considered a political no-no to discuss the details of the two issues' connectedness openly in polite society.

But the fact remains that they are inextricably linked – the missing link being Israel's relations with the Bush administration.

There is no question that the first George W. Bush administration was the most friendly to Israel (or at least to Sharon's Israel) ever, and this support is expected to solidify even more with Condoleezza Rice now firmly esconced as secretary of state. And in its time, the Clinton administration was also extremely supportive.

But on two issues these successive and mutually antagonistic Democratic and Republican administrations took issue with Israel's official policy: the settlements, and America's commitment to an independent, territorially contiguous Palestine.

It took the sweeping Bush electoral triumph last November to convince Sharon that the two decisions brought to the Israeli cabinet vote yesterday were the best deal Israel could get, even from the friendliest US administration imaginable.

The main fly in this ointment of super-political rationality is that while Arik's Israel is now totally committed to the physical evacuation of settlements by July, the solidity of Washington's commitment to its part of the deal – support for Israeli annexation of the major settlement blocs on the West Bank, through the thick and thin of negotiations on a long-term settlement with Abu Mazen's Palestinian Authority – is far from certain.

The quest for peace in the Middle East has become a kind of Holy Grail that has pre-occupied American Presidents to one extent or another since Johnson. That it must to some extent be imposed is now generally accepted, but the seemingly intractable conflict has gone on for so long that we tend to take Israeli strength, even invincibility, for granted and at times wonder is they aren't being suspiciously obstreperous. Understandably, this is not a perspective shared by Israelis. It will be important to keep the negotiations grounded in hard, cautious reality and not to let the lure of Palestinian agreement become simply too exciting to pass up, a mistake the Israelis themselves know all about.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:56 AM


To End Battle Over Judicial Picks, Each Side Must Lay Down Arms (Ronald Brownstein, February 21, 2005, LA Times)

Some Senate Republicans are optimistic that this time they can shatter the Democratic resistance to the most controversial nominees. That's always possible. But it's still not likely unless Republicans execute their threats to change Senate rules to prevent Democrats from filibustering nominees. And that could generate enough hostility in Congress to make the Civil War analogy frighteningly apt.

Rather than escalating the conflict so dangerously, each side would better serve the country by reaching an agreement that breaks the impasse over judges. It's a depressing measure of contemporary Washington that hardly anyone talks about such a compromise.

The idea that Blue America will take up arms against Red is lunatic, while the idea that the GOP with 55 seats in the Senate; control of the House, the presidency, most state governments; and dominance in polling should deal with the Democrats as equals is partisan hackery.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:52 AM


Ruling Party in Brazil at a Crossroads: Critics say the grouping has dropped its core principles. Top officials insist it is evolving. (Henry Chu, February 21, 2005, LA Times)

If 25 sounds young for a midlife crisis, consider what the Workers' Party has been through in its quarter-century of existence.

After its humble birth among disgruntled metalworkers, the party weathered abuse from a right-wing dictatorship, built a committed following and survived a bout of adolescent blues. It stumbled badly in its first outings at the polls, shed some of its leftist dogma and, after three successive defeats, succeeded in getting Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva elected as Brazil's first working-class president in 2002.

Now the party, or PT, is staggering under the weight of its history as it tries to decide what it stands for. A significant number of dissidents question whether the party has lost its leftist identity and no longer shines as a beacon of social justice in a country marked by a large gap between rich and poor.

Lula, a former lathe operator, was elected partly on promises that he would tackle the glaring inequities in income, education and health. But few, if any, of those pledges have been met. Instead, his administration has concentrated on promoting economic growth following the Wall Street-ordered prescriptions of his center-right predecessor, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, a course that smacks of betrayal to many party faithful.

If people are surprised at this evolution, just wait until Hamas and Hzbollah take power.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:50 AM


Europe's Jews Seek Solace on the Right (CRAIG S. SMITH, 2/20/05, NY Times)

A curious thing is happening in Belgium these days: a small but vocal number of Jews are supporting a far-right party whose founders were Nazi collaborators. The xenophobic party, Vlaams Belang, plays on fears of Arab immigrants and, unlike the prewar parties from which it is descended, courts Jewish votes. Perhaps 5 percent of the city of Antwerp's Jews gave it their votes in the last election.

The Belgian example is extreme, but it represents the sharpest edge of a much broader political shift by European Jews - away from the left, particularly the far left, and toward the center and right, in the face of rising displays of anti-Semitism and the European left's embrace of the Palestinian cause.

This drift from the left has "been going on steadily for the last 20 or 30 years," said Tony Lerman, who runs London's Hanadiv Charitable Foundation, which supports Jewish life in Europe.

Of course, the shift is not monolithic and some of it is also associated with a rise in Jews' social and economic status. In the vast majority of cases it represents a move toward tolerant parties of the center or center-right rather than a leap to the far end of the spectrum - where many xenophobic parties remain unfriendly to Jews as well as to Arabs. So the number of Jews on the far right remains a very slim minority.

But the fact that there are any at all is a measure of the degree to which many of Europe's 2.4 million Jews feel abandoned by the left and are still searching for a comfortable place in European politics.

Meanwhile, they are becoming increasingly active in the mainstream right.

Kind of ironic that it is precisely the lack of danger in America that makes it possible for American Jews to stay loyal to a Democratic Party that opposes their interests.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:45 AM


Cabinet Agrees to Evict Settlers
: Israel also decides its separation wall should enclose two settlements as it approves historic West Bank and Gaza Strip evacuations. (Ken Ellingwood, February 21, 2005, LA Times)

Israel's Cabinet on Sunday approved removing Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank and decided a separation barrier in the West Bank should enclose two large settlement blocs.

The decisions appeared aimed at shaping future Israeli-Palestinian borders, and carried plenty of historical significance: It was the first time Israel had ordered the evacuation of Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip and West Bank from land captured during the 1967 Middle East War.

The decision allows the government to send eviction notices to about 8,500 Jewish settlers who are to be removed from 21 settlements in the Gaza Strip and four tiny communities in the northern West Bank.

All the things Ariel Sharon would never do....

Israel starts shaping borders (KARIN LAUB, February 21, 2005, Chicago Sun-Times)

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Cabinet began charting Israel's future borders in a historic session Sunday, giving final approval to a withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and a revised route for the West Bank separation barrier that would move Israel's border closer to its original frontier. [...]

While the Palestinians have balked at Israel's go-it-alone approach, they avoided declaring the moves a deal-breaker in a reinvigorated peace process.

''Israel is creating facts on the ground in the West Bank,'' Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi said. ''Sharon wants payback in the West Bank for the disengagement from Gaza, particularly Jerusalem.''

All the things the Palestinians will never accept...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:42 AM


Surprise: Both US, Chile win big with free trade (Andres Oppenheimer, Miami Herald)

While few people in this capital seem to care about anything that doesn't start with the letter ''I'' -- Iraq, Iran, Israel -- there is a little-known development on the trade front that should be making big headlines: The first-year figures for the U.S.-Chile free trade agreement show extraordinary results.

Contrary to the dire predictions of protectionists in the U.S. Congress and anti-free-trade television pundits, who claim that free trade agreements with Latin America cause U.S. job losses and a widening trade deficit, a small line buried in just-released U.S. government trade figures for 2004 shows that U.S. exports to Chile rose 37 percent last year.

And contrary to Latin American antiglobalization champions, who say free trade hurts Latin American countries, Chile's exports to the United States rose 31 percent last year. The South American country still maintains a substantial trade surplus with the United States.

In other words, both sides have significantly increased their bilateral trade -- by about $1 billion each -- since the free trade deal went into effect Jan. 1, 2004.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:40 AM


China Accuses U.S. and Japan of Interfering on Taiwan: China criticized a joint statement in which Japan and the U.S. declared a peaceful Taiwan Strait as a strategic objective. (JIM YARDLEY and KEITH BRADSHER, 2/21/05, NY Times)

China accused Japan and the United States on Sunday of meddling in its internal affairs, and criticized a new joint security statement in which the two countries declared a peaceful Taiwan Strait as among their "common strategic objectives."

The mention of Taiwan in the statement issued Saturday by senior American and Japanese officials drew a firm response from China, which considers Taiwan a breakaway province and is acutely sensitive to what it regards as outside interference. By contrast, Taiwan's foreign minister cautiously welcomed the statement.

In Beijing, the official New China News Agency described the statement as "unprecedented" and quoted China's Foreign Ministry as saying that the country "resolutely opposes the United States and Japan in issuing any bilateral document concerning China's Taiwan, which meddles in the internal affairs of China, and hurts China's sovereignty."

It's never a good idea for a dictatorship to call attention to its own weakness.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:37 AM


Old Europe can still undermine the US (Gerard Baker, The Australian, February 21st, 2005)

It’s Hug-a-European Month for American foreign policy. First Condoleezza Rice inaugurates her tenure at the State Department with a grand tour of Europe's capitals. Then last weekend, hot on Rice's elegant heels, and with no less enthusiasm, Donald Rumsfeld undertakes his own friendship initiative.

All this activity is mere prologue, of course, to the main event. This week, President George W. Bush will travel overseas for the first time since his reinauguration, with symbolic stops in Brussels, for diplomatic dinners at the EU and NATO; Germany, where he will praise transatlantic unity in a set-piece speech; and Slovakia, where he will meet Russian president Vladimir Putin. You would have to be insensate to miss the meaning of all these semiotics. Message: We care. After four years in which the Bush administration has reached out to most of Europe with a single, raised middle finger, it has begun its second term with a smothering embrace.

But there is a danger that the Bush administration, in its newfound eagerness to show its kinder, less Martian, more Venusian side, will actually create bigger problems for itself. In its efforts to be diplomatically accommodating, the US may end up supporting and bolstering a vision of Europe that is directly at odds with long-term US goals and interests. Nothing is to be gained by unnecessarily antagonising Europeans, to be sure, and the US is right to pursue ways of co-operating. But if the early signs of the new detente are any guide, the Bush administration may find itself walking into a trap.

During this week's visit, Bush will promise closer co-operation and may even signal some US movement on contentious issues such as Middle East peace and global warming.

Yet hard challenges have made a mockery of friendly gestures and warm rhetoric in the past. And there are plenty of reasons besides to think that these latest good intentions will go the way of previous ones.

The US and EU are squabbling over how to deal with Iran's nuclear ambitions, whether to lift the EU's embargo on arms sales to China, and the democratic transformation of Iraq and the broader Middle East. These differences are not just awkward, inconvenient blots on an otherwise pleasant landscape of Atlantic unity. They are great, ugly cleavages in basic perceptions, strategy, and policy. The Bush administration remains committed to revolutionary change throughout the world and, just as the Reagan administration did, believes America's security is inextricably tied up with the advance of liberty well beyond its borders. Europeans, meanwhile, are ever more staunch in their defence of the status quo, however unfree that may leave people. Stability, not liberty, is their aim.

The main danger is not naivite. It is leaving the rest of the world confused as to what the play book says.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:33 AM


European Union leaders in battle for Bush's ear (Graham Bowley, February 21, 2005, International Herald Tribune)

The government of tiny Luxembourg, which has been charged with organizing the summit meeting, held primarily to close the rift caused by the Iraq war, has complained about the embarrassing haggling between EU countries, and between proud Brussels institutions, to get valuable time with the president.

"If ridicule could kill, there would be bodies piling up in the streets in Brussels," said Jean-Claude Juncker, the prime minister of Luxembourg. "One day you will read in my memoirs the difficulty to find the right way to have a press conference or to put a knife and fork together without having disrespect between institutions."

Leaders have been nudging each other aside to get to talk to the president, who many had reviled over the war in Iraq.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:31 AM


The New Evangelicals (EDITH BLUMHOFER, February 18, 2005, Wall Street Journal)

An ever higher number of U.S. evangelicals--perhaps nearing a third of the total--are Asian, African, Latin American or Pacific Islander. While Billy Graham would probably make their list of influential people, some of Time's others would not.

The ethnic evangelicals, having arrived since 1965, have brought a surge of fervor into American denominations. Between 1998 and 2004, ethnic congregations in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod increased to 204 from 48. Every Sunday, U.S. Christian and Missionary Alliance congregations worship in 28 languages. A 2004 article in Presbyterians Today noted how immigrants from Brazil to the Sudan were changing the ethnic mix of that denomination.

The faith of these newer Americans is--like that of U.S. evangelicals generally--rooted in the Bible and personalized by experience. It may even be more expressive and literalist than what the older forms of evangelicalism have become. But the ethnic evangelicals have little time for the much-publicized conservative interest groups that mobilize white middle-class church members.

Ethnic evangelicals and their offspring are more urban than suburban; they vote Democrat as well as Republican. New arrivals are as likely to care about immigration, human rights, poverty and religious freedom abroad as about same-sex marriage or Israel--though they do not speak with a unified voice. They often pour their money and energy into programs focused on their countries of origin.

These newcomers already wield influence in evangelical institutions.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:26 AM


Regional vote deals setback to Schröder (Judy Dempsey, February 21, 2005, International Herald Tribune)

The opposition Christian Democrats led by Angela Merkel were poised Sunday to take power in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein after Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's governing Social Democrats suffered heavy losses in an election campaign dominated by unemployment and the economy.

If preliminary results are confirmed, the Christian Democrats, now the largest party in the state, will be able to form a coalition government with the opposition Free Democrats. If so, it will be the first time since 1988 that the Christian Democrats have headed a government in this state of 2.8 million and it will also give Merkel a big lift.

The Christian Democrats have been rife with divisions and infighting for months over whether Merkel could summon enough support from within her own party to challenge Schröder in federal elections next year.

But the mood among Christian Democrats on Sunday was ebullient. "We fought really hard and together," Merkel said. "I am very pleased."

So much for Mr. Schroeder representing the European challenge to George Bush.

Germany tightens Jewish immigration rules (Richard Bernstein, February 21, 2005, The New York Times)

Since the beginning of the year, new rules on immigration have had the effect of sharply reducing the numbers of Jews immigrating to Germany, at least temporarily ending a 15-year policy aimed at rebuilding the Jewish community that was destroyed by the Nazis.

Over the past decade, as a result of the virtual blanket acceptance of Jews from the former Soviet Union, Germany's Jewish population has risen from roughly 29,000 to more than 200,000, which is more than one-third of the prewar total.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:22 AM


The Danger in President's Bush's Conviction He's Right (Tom Palaima, 2/21/05, History News Network)

The freedom we are supposedly spreading in Afghanistan and Iraq is proof of the president's big thinking and big doing. America is leading a "march of freedom" at home and abroad. The administration is puzzled, even annoyed, that many Europeans and Americans are skeptical about such claims. What is going on here?

Part of the answer can be found in the political reality of "positive illusions." All human beings and human societies need to construct myths to believe in and live by. According to Dominic Johnson's recent book Overconfidence and War, it is a Darwinian fact that our leaders become our leaders because they have an extraordinary capacity for "positive illusions" and can inspire us to believe in these illusions and act upon them.

For the unitiatiated, that's like a "Divine truth."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:19 AM


Al-Qaida leader blasts U.S. calls for reform in Mideast SALAH NASRAWI, February 21, 2005, Chicago Sun-Times)

Al-Jazeera television aired a videotape Sunday purporting to show al-Qaida No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahri denouncing U.S. calls for reform in the region and urging the West to respect the Islamic world.

Al-Zawahri, who appeared sitting on the ground and in front of a brown background, said the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, ''explains the truth about reforms and democracy that America alleges it wants to impose in our countries.

Sometimes you can't tell their rhetoric from that of the Realists without a program.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:10 AM


These men run IRA, says Dublin (IAN GRAHAM, 2/21/05, The Scotsman)

GERRY Adams and Martin McGuinness last night stood accused by the Irish government of being members of the IRA’s ruling Army Council.

Michael McDowell, the Irish justice minister, said the Sinn Fein president and chief negotiator - both MPs - and Martin Ferris, who sits in the Irish parliament, were three of the members of the seven-man council.

In a separate attack, the former Irish Prime Minister Albert Reynolds said the IRA must disband and Sinn Fein must take a bold step forward into the democratic peace process in Northern Ireland.

Talk is cheap--arrest them or shoot them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:08 AM


Key gaps exposed in terror defences (JAMES KIRKUP, 2/21/05, The Scotsman)

CRITICAL gaps remain in Britain’s defences against terrorism despite four years of intensive planning, ministers will be told this week in the most authoritative public report on the nation’s security since the 11 September attacks.

The study, which had the co-operation of the intelligence services and other security officials, will say that, in certain key areas, the government still has "a long way to go" before the UK is fully prepared for a terrorist attack.

Among the warnings from experts is that more attention must be given to protecting sites away from London and other big cities.

We still await any evidence that the democracies have either the technical capacity or the political will to make the changes necessary to their societies in order to protect against terrorist attacks.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Strong Europe essential for world peace, declares Bush (Roland Watson, Anthony Browne and Rory Watson, 2/21/05, Times of London)

After a courtesy call to the King and Queen this morning, Mr Bush will open the business of his five-day visit with a speech to invited guests at the ornate grandeur of the Concert Noble.

He will draw on Europe and America’s common history and shared values as he tries to enlist help for his second-term overseas priorities, which immediately include preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, winning the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon and securing an Israeli-Palestinian peace.

“Together American and Europe can once again set history on a hopeful course — away from poverty and despair and toward development and the dignity of self-rule, away from resentment and violence and toward justice and the peaceful settlement of differences.”

Mr Bush will call for help “to secure peace between Israel and Palestine”, both for its own sake and to add to the momentum of reform throughout the broader Middle East. He will also deliver tactical victories for Tony Blair by saying that he is prepared to do more in partnership with the EU to ease global warming, and to deliver relief and help development in Africa.

“The nations in our great alliance have many advantages and blessings. We also have a call beyond our comfort — we must raise our sights to the wider world,” Mr Bush will say.

“Our ideals and our interests lead in the same direction. But bringing progress and hope to nations in need, we can improve many lives and lift up failing states, and remove the causes and sanctuaries of terror.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


History of modern man unravels as German scholar is exposed as fraud: Flamboyant anthropologist falsified dating of key discoveries (Luke Harding, February 19, 2005, The Guardian)

It appeared to be one of archaeology's most sensational finds. The skull fragment discovered in a peat bog near Hamburg was more than 36,000 years old - and was the vital missing link between modern humans and Neanderthals.

This, at least, is what Professor Reiner Protsch von Zieten - a distinguished, cigar-smoking German anthropologist - told his scientific colleagues, to global acclaim, after being invited to date the extremely rare skull.

However, the professor's 30-year-old academic career has now ended in disgrace after the revelation that he systematically falsified the dates on this and numerous other "stone age" relics.

Yesterday his university in Frankfurt announced the professor had been forced to retire because of numerous "falsehoods and manipulations". According to experts, his deceptions may mean an entire tranche of the history of man's development will have to be rewritten. [...]

Missing links and planted stone age finds

Piltdown Man
The most infamous of all scientific frauds was unearthed in 1912 in a Sussex gravel pit. With its huge human-like braincase and ape-like jaw, the Piltdown Man "fossil" was named Eoanthropus dawsoni after Charles Dawson, the solicitor and amateur archaeologist who discovered it. For 40 years Piltdown Man was heralded as the missing link between humans and their primate ancestors. But in 1953 scientists concluded it was a forgery. Radiocarbon dating showed the human skull was just 600 years old, while the jawbone was that of an orang-utan. The entire package of fossil fragments found at Piltdown - which included a prehistoric cricket bat - had been planted.

The devil's archaeologist
Japanese archaeologist Shinichi Fujimura was so prolific at uncovering prehistoric artefacts he earned the nickname "God's hands". At site after site, Fujimura discovered stoneware and relics that pushed back the limits of Japan's known history. The researcher and his stone age finds drew international attention and rewrote text books. In November 2000 the spell was broken when a newspaper printed pictures of Fujimura digging holes and burying objects that he later dug up and announced as major finds. "I was tempted by the devil. I don't know how I can apologise for what I did," he said.

Piltdown Turkey
The supposed fossil of Archaeoraptor, which was to become known as the "Piltdown turkey", came to light in 1999 when National Geographic magazine published an account of its discovery. It seemed to show another missing link - this time between birds and dinosaurs. Archaeoraptor appeared to be the remains of a large feathered bird with the tail of a dinosaur. The fossil was smuggled out of China and sold to a private collector in the US for £51,000. Experts were suspicious and closer examination showed the specimen to be a "composite" - two fossils stuck together with strong glue.
David Adam

Add Darwin's finches, Haeckel's embryoes, Kettlewell's peppered moths and you end up with an unfortunately fair joke:

Q: How do you know when a Darwinist is lying?

A: He says he has evidence of speciation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Hunter Thompson commits suicide: "Fear and Loathing" author dead at 67 (Troy Hooper, February 20, 2005, The Denver Post)

Hunter S. Thompson died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his home in Woody Creek on Sunday night. He was 67.

Regarded as one of the most legendary writers of the 20th century, Thompson is best known for the 1972 classic "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas." He is also credited with pioneering gonzo journalism - a style of writing that breaks tradition rules of news reporting and is purposefully slanted.

Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis, who is a close personal friend of Thompson, confirmed the death. His son, Juan, found him Sunday evening.

Hunter S. Thompson, 65, Author, Commits Suicide (MICHELLE O'DONNELL, 2/21/05, NY Times)

February 20, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:35 PM


2000 changed everything (Michael Barone, February 21, 2005, Townhall)

We know now that, thanks to the news media consortium that recounted ballots in every Florida county, recounting under any method and any criterion they tested would not have overturned Bush's exceedingly thin plurality.

But the Gore campaign, Terry McAuliffe during his four years as Democratic National Chairman and John Kerry in his 2004 presidential campaign encouraged rank-and-file Democrats to believe that the election was stolen. They decided to delegitimize an American election for partisan gain. And in the process, they did much damage to George W. Bush and the Republicans, to the reputation of the American political process and, inadvertently but to a far greater extent, to their own Democratic Party.

The damage to Bush was obvious. A large minority of Americans has regarded him as an illegitimate president. That has weakened his ability to work across party lines and has helped to maintain the intense polarization of the electorate. It made it more difficult for him to win re-election in 2004.

The damage to the Democrats, I would argue, has been greater.

Not least because it's a scab they can't stop picking at.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:28 PM


My Path to Lesbianism: It was hatred of women that drove me there, and Christ in community that led me out. (Diane Mattingly, 02/17/2005, Christianity Today)

Misogyny isn't always meted out by men. The messages I received from my mother were that women are only as good as they look, and they are manipulative and unpredictable. She once told me that the reason I didn't have a man was because I was too independent. She said men don't like independent women, and that I should learn how to play coy so I wouldn't overpower men. If our mothers are full of self-hatred or feel inferior to other women, are not comfortable with their own femininity, or "bend into" men, they can pass down their brokenness to us, their daughters.

Mary Beth Patton, a psychologist, counselor, and researcher of same-sex attraction who is on the board of Portland Fellowship, an Exodus International-affiliated ministry, so described what happens to women like me: "Women who deal with same-sex attraction often possess a history of dis-identification with their mothers, and therefore with their femininity. This leads to a longing for connection with the feminine that becomes sexualized in adolescence."

Girls disconnected from their mothers often begin to hate their emotions and all the other things that make them women. I don't necessarily mean those things that make us look feminine on the outside, but those internal characteristics that actually make us feminine beings. For example, I was always comfortable wearing dresses, getting my nails done, and wearing lots of jewelry, so I didn't see those as contemptible qualities in my mother. But when I saw her let herself be a victim of my father's verbal assaults, I vowed that I would never be like my mother. I'd never be under the control of a man, never be dependent on a man, never be weak or admit my vulnerability. Psychologists call such feelings of children toward their parents "defensive detachment." In not allowing my mother to influence me, I walled myself off, not just from anything negative she could have instilled in me, but also from anything good she could have imparted to me as a woman.

Of course, misogyny doesn't always lead to lesbianism. In my case it fostered same-sex attraction because it cut me off from men, from women, from God, and even from myself. I hated men. I hated women. I hated myself for being a woman. I had no more value for women than any women-hating man does, and yet no one was more surprised to discover that I, too, was a misogynist. And I've had to confess that sin to God. My detachment from men and women left me walled off from being able to receive anything good from either men or women.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:29 PM


Too Many Victims -Workplace Bullying Now A Crime (Margherita De Bac, Corriere Della Sera, February 19th, 2005)

They are not work-shy. Quite the reverse, they are devoted to their work, often ambitious and may have important jobs, perhaps as top-level administrators or successful executives. Then one day, they become the target of a fiendish campaign of harassment intended to isolate them. It’s as if there were a silent conspiracy in the company. In the end, even their colleagues appear to be sneering at them. The individual concerned may be forced to change office, swapping a well-lit room with secretaries and a bar for a stuffy, crowded space little bigger than a cupboard. The victim’s job may also be degraded. A manager may be turned into a paper-shuffler warming a seat. Victims suffer and fret, finally becoming ill and in need of psychological support for depression, anxiety or panic attacks.

In Italy, there are at least 750,000 bullied workers, or 4.2% of all employees. But the actual figure is thought to be around one and a half million. For the first time, the phenomenon has been studied from a legal and scientific viewpoint in a dossier that will be presented today at conference to be held at the Senate. The title is “Mobbing Oggi, Dalla Riflessione Alla Legge” (“Workplace Bullying Today. From Reflection to Legislation”. The English term “mobbing” is used in Italian to refer to workplace bullying.-Trans). Also being presented is the draft bill proposed by National Alliance’s Senator Luciano Magnalbò, a lawyer and vice president of the constitutional affairs committee. The proposal incorporates the many drafts deposited in parliament by both majority and opposition parliamentarians.

Workplace bullying is to be treated as a criminal offence and those responsible will risk up to four years in jail. Among the many new elements is a series of instruments to safeguard victims. One of these is the reversal of the onus of proof, albeit only for the purposes of the civil code. It will be up to the employer to prove there was no deliberate intention to cause harm. If the bully is convicted, all the measures taken to push the victim aside will be declared invalid. Article eight lays down that the regulations also apply to employees of “political parties and associations”, the only workers who can still be dismissed without reason.

Let’s hope those European reformers who are trying to tackle job security and benefits entitlements are entitled to some grief counseling themselves.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:37 PM


Playing Make-Believe In Iran (Elizabeth Palmer, 2/14/05, CBS News)

"Do you think President Bush will invade our country?" the young Iranian student asked hopefully, peering up from his keyboard in the darkness of a Teheran Internet cafe. "You know it is our great hope. America is the only country strong enough to free us from the mullahs."

I was asked the same question – often wistfully, always seriously – time and again in Iran, even as America’s military nightmare unfolded in neighboring Iraq.

This is not a real invitation to U.S. troops. A military invasion of Iran would meet fierce resistance, even from the young. But it is a measure of the anger and helplessness that consumes Iranian youth.

If your own reporting conflicts with what you wish to believe, stick to your ideology, eh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:31 PM

TOTALITARIAN ART (via Jim Siegel):

Only Two Decades Out of Date (JAMES GARDNER, February 14, 2005, NY Sun)

Here is my verdict: The 7,500 16-foot-tall posts, covering 23 miles of the park's trails, do not seem, either singly or collectively, to possess a compelling visual interest. From a purely formalist perspective, the totalizing ambition of the work is greatly qualified by the many intervals or synapses that exist between the sequences of gates and that were necessitated by the nature of the territory.

It should be said, however, that these Gates are not ugly, as I had feared they might be, and as I have found other works by Christo to be.

The primary appeal of the Gates - more intellectual than perceptual - has always consisted in their pure stunt value, in the appreciation of the thousands of minute calibrations required to create a sense of uniformity.

The imposition of artificial uniformity in the pursuit of a totalitarian ideal is ever and always anti-American and anti-human.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:24 PM


African Group Imposes Sanctions on Togo (Gabi Menezes, 20 February 2005, VOA News)

The West African grouping, ECOWAS, has suspended Togo and imposed sanctions on the government of President Faure Gnassingbe, who was installed by the military after the death of his father and is refusing to step down.

The member states of ECOWAS are increasing pressure on Togolese President Faure Gnassingbe to step down. Member states have recalled their diplomats from the country, and the group is imposing an arms embargo on Togo and a travel ban on Togolese officials.

Although Mr. Gnassingbe said Friday that he would hold elections within 60 days, ECOWAS said in a statement, that is not enough. [...]

France, Togo's former colonial power, gave its full support to ECOWAS' decisions, and called for a quick restoration of 'full constitutional legality.'

The State Department issued a statement backing ECOWAS' decision to impose sanctions, and said it was ending all military assistance to the country.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:15 PM


Pakistan deploys commandos against extremists (Agence France Presse, February 19, 2005)

Pakistan deployed specially trained anti-Al-Qaeda commandos to guard against sectarian violence Friday as two Sunni militants planning to attack parades by rival Shiites blew themselves up.

The so-called Quick Reaction Force - which formerly battled militants linked to Osama bin Laden's terror network in tribal areas near Afghanistan - will patrol in sensitive central and northwestern regions. [...]

Police in Quetta said two members of a banned Al-Qaeda-linked Sunni extremist group had killed themselves with a grenade early Friday after a raid on their hideout.

"The militants could have attacked Shiite processions in the city today and there is also a possibility they were planning to attack the main Ashoura procession" on Sunday, said provincial police chief Chaudhry Mohammed Yaqub.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:35 AM


Democrats' Grass Roots Shift the Power: Activists Energized Fundraising, but Some Worry They Could Push Party to Left (Dan Balz, February 20, 2005, Washington Post)

At a minimum, say party strategists, the shift will mean a more confrontational Democratic Party in battles with President Bush and the Republicans. But some strategists worry that the influence of grass-roots activists could push the party even further to the left, particularly on national security, reinforcing a weakness that Bush exploited in his reelection campaign.

It was Dean during the presidential primaries who argued that it was time for the "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party" to reassert itself, an implicit criticism of strategies that guided President Bill Clinton in his battles with Republicans in the 1990s. Clinton recently warned Democrats not to assume that the policies he pursued are incompatible with a vibrant, progressive wing of the party.

As Dean takes the helm as party chairman, Democrats now face a competition between what might be called the Dean model and the Clinton model, between confrontation and triangulation. This amounts to a contest between a bold reassertion of the party's traditional philosophy that fits the polarized environment of the Bush presidency vs. a less provocative effort to balance core values with centrist ideas that proved successful in the 1990s but has since produced a backlash within the party.

Bill Clinton was elected president of the United States twice. Howard Dean couldn't beat John Kerry in the Democratic Iowa caucuses. the choice of models doesn't seem difficult.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:30 AM


A windmill I won't tilt at: It is the 400th anniversary of Don Quixote, a more important work than all of Einstein's theories (Simon Jenkins, 1/21/05, Times of London)

Millions have come to regard Quixote as a friend for life. Like Cervantes, they have slaved in the galleys at Lepanto and emerged with only their dreams to live for. Like Quixote they have hoped beyond hope and loved beyond love. All of us sometimes see windmills as giants, and giants as windmills. Everyone has a knight errant within them, guiding his lance and turning the most humble career into a noble crusade. Like Quixote we long to leap on life’s stage, to warm Mimi’s frozen hand or stay Othello’s dagger. We imagine that frump in the Tube as the matchless Dulcinea, at least until Tottenham Court Road.

Somehow I shall survive without Einstein. I can drive spaceship Earth without knowing the workings of the atom. But I cannot do without my icon. I raise my glass to the Knight of the Sorrowful Countenance, Don Quixote of La Mancha, as he trots across the plain of life in search of self-fulfilment. He knew that reason would triumph, but he also knew that reason was not enough. Quixote’s epitaph ran: “It was his great good fortune to live a madman and die sane.” Amen to that.

The remarkable thing about Don Quijote is that, though often unintentionally, Cervantes anticipated four hundred years of literary style and intellectual substance, such that we can say that neither advanced a lick since he wrote. In literary terms, the novel is a metafiction, with Quijote meeting folks in Book Two who have read of his adventures in Book One, so that he is a non-fictional character within a fiction. Many a "cutting-edge" author of the 20th Century could have saved himself some troublke had he simply recognized that his "revolutionary" tricks were old hat even at the birth of the novel.

Meanwhile, in philosophical terms the novel put paid to the Age of Reason at its dawn. This is the pattern for the tale: the Don misperceives threats in the
innocent and mundane events of every day life; Sancho Panza tries to disabuse
him of these notions but loyally supports him after failing to do so; the
Don does battle, often suffering ignominious defeat; whereupon he claims
that sorcery has intervened. Throughout, Cervantes has great fun
at the Don's expense. He is a figure of ridicule and scorn, not of
mere amusement. But in the end, when Don Quijote is finally returning
home after losing a battle with the Knight of the White Moon, Don Antonio
Moreno speaks for all of us when he implores one of Quijote's friends who
has come to fetch him:

Ah, sir, may God forgive you for the damage you've
done to the whole rest of the world, in trying to cure the wittiest lunatic ever seen! Don't you see, my dear sir, that whatever utility there might be in curing him, it could never match the pleasure he gives with his madness? But I suspect that, despite all your cleverness, sir, you cannot possibly cure a man so far gone in madness, and, if charity did not restrain me, I would say that Don
Quijote ought never to be rendered sane, because if he were he would lose, not only his witticisms, but those of Sancho Panza, his squire, any one of which has the power to turn melancholy into happiness.

And finally, when Don Quijote lies on his death bed, fully sane and renouncing his own deeds, even Sancho Panza begs him not to abandon their chivalric quests. They and we can see that the ideal world of the Don is vastly preferable to the "real" world.

Of course, the central conceit of Reason was that it would liberate mankind from illusion and create a better world based on a foundation of absolute truth. Wiser heads warned all along that from an external viewpoint Reason was itself based in faith, indeed, is irrational and inescapably ideological. However, it turned out that science and math and the other tools of Reason were so limited that they were not even internally reliable, Truth, Incompleteness and the Gödelian Way (EDWARD ROTHSTEIN, 2/15/05, NY Times)

Relativity. Incompleteness. Uncertainty.

Is there a more powerful modern Trinity? These reigning deities proclaim humanity's inability to thoroughly explain the world. They have been the touchstones of modernity, their presence an unwelcome burden at first, and later, in the name of postmodernism, welcome company.

Their rule has also been affirmed by their once-sworn enemy: science. Three major discoveries in the 20th century even took on their names. Albert Einstein's famous Theory (Relativity), Kurt Gödel's famous Theorem (Incompleteness) and Werner Heisenberg's famous Principle (Uncertainty) declared that, henceforth, even science would be postmodern. [...]

Before Gödel's incompleteness theorem was published in 1931, it was believed that not only was everything proven by mathematics true, but also that within its conceptual universe everything true could be proven. Mathematics is thus complete: nothing true is beyond its reach. Gödel shattered that dream. He showed that there were true statements in certain mathematical systems that could not be proven. And he did this with astonishing sleight of hand, producing a mathematical assertion that was both true and unprovable.

It is difficult to overstate the impact of his theorem and the possibilities that opened up from Gödel's extraordinary methods, in which he discovered a way for mathematics to talk about itself. (Ms. Goldstein compares it to a painting that could also explain the principles of aesthetics.)

The theorem has generally been understood negatively because it asserts that there are limits to mathematics' powers. It shows that certain formal systems cannot accomplish what their creators hoped.

Even worse, the various Rationalisms turned out not to foster a more perfect world but an ugly and despicable one. Judeo-Christian faith, and hopefully Shi'ism, turns out to be the only sound basis for a decent society.

The lesson of Don Quijote endures: if our ideals are irrational it is nonetheless better to adhere to them, purely for aesthetic reasons, than to be "cured."

Two cheers for hypocrisy: The blue-state metrosexuals ridicule as "hypocrites" church-going folk who re-elected US President George W Bush. Yet apart from the saintly, only the unashamedly wicked are guiltless of hypocrisy. The rest of us give lip-service to standards we cannot or will not live up to. It is what makes life, which is by definition a failure, livable. (Spengler, 1/18/05, Asia Times)

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.

Secular modernism marches under the banner of truth and freedom.

-In Search of Certainty (Nathan L.K. Bierma)
I was consumed by the question "What is truth?" while studying journalism in a way I never would have if I had studied philosophy. Journalism is, after all, a fundamentally ontological exercise, a disciplined routine of declaring truth on a daily basis. Truth, says theologian Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., is our traction on reality. Like all human communication, journalism exists to give us a grip, to try to salt the icy and unforgiving cement of reality.

While the average newspaper or magazine may not represent a ponderous pursuit of profound cosmic puzzles, journalism remains a brazen epistemic act for its attempt to regularly define reality, to purport to summarize a day in the world, to mark another notch on history’s timeline. And so one may be startled at journalism's confidence in certainty—its own certainty and the idea of certainty in a confusing world to begin with. "That's the way it is," Walter Cronkite curtly signed off (his successor, Dan Rather, is more ontologically deferential: "that's part of our world tonight"). Nothing perplexed me more as a journalism student and newspaper intern as my insecurity about my lack of overconfidence. I trusted my ability to observe and write, but at times I would be paralyzed by the task of telling it like it is. Is this the way it is? I would ask myself before turning in a story (even if the story was on as mundane a topic as, say, real estate—the more mundane the subject, in fact, the greater my insecurity about my mastery of it). What is this reality I'm defining? Already I had been disabused of the pompous journalistic ideal of objectivity—the silly but durable belief that the journalist could release herself from her personhood, hover above reality, and render it in a neutral way. But what, then, is left? Is the news just a record of the he-saids and she-saids of the government, financial, and social elites? ("Lady, we don't report the truth," Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee responded to a plea to print the truth. "We just report what people say.") An establishment organ that pacifies society, as neo-Marxists believe? Is not the news article merely a rhetorical style, adhering to the habits and assumptions of its institution, rather than some supreme method of conferring truth?

Even if journalism in practice reduces the writer to a propagandist for a corporation, journalism in theory remains a metaphysical experiment, and thus an exotic enterprise. "The writer," said Emerson, "believes all that can be thought can be written. ... In his eyes a man is the faculty of reporting, and the universe is the possibility of being reported." The reason I chose to embark on this reportorial venture as a journalist and not as a scholar (at least not yet) is that I was dissatisfied with academia's commitment to report the universe in an organic, personal, broadly curious way. The ivory tower is so specialized today that it seems one can only gain distinction if one disgorges volumes on an obscure new strand of socio-psychological relational paradigms in early seventeenth century German literature. Besides, decades after the advent of mass literacy (and the supposed liberation of knowledge from the elite), academia remains mired in its own habits of vision and snooty superiority complex. All of which raises the familiar but important question of what accumulating knowledge has to do with gaining wisdom. The writer—the thinker—cannot comfortably be a specialist at the expense of being a generalist. Novelist E.L. Doctorow, who entitles his essay collection Reporting the Universe, channels Emerson to say that the writer is "alive only to the great, if problematical, glory of your own consciousness." I am no transcendentalist; my only impulse to write is my curiosity. Since curiosity is as boundless as creation itself, it tantalizes its holder with a universe bearing "the possibility of being reported."

That possibility, though, depends on simplificiation. To apprehend reality via the human mind and its communicative capacities requires that reality be simplified. The human mind is nothing but a hair-thin lasso with which to snare a toenail of the raging steer or reality. Truth is our traction on reality, and traction by definition is a roughness over an otherwise inaccessible surface. My journalistic insecurity described above arose from this realization; I was awed by the task of considering a complex topic and then simplifying it helpfully. Take that real estate story. What is the reality? Another way of asking it is, in journalistic terms, what's the angle? From one realtor's perspective, the market was getting better. From another's, it was getting weaker. In one analyst's view, it depended on how you saw the recent past. From another's, it depended on how you saw the near future. Whose perspective was correct? Was any? But I had to write a story. So the headline was, market stays strong, and the story stayed faithful to this angle.

Human conception of reality is necessarily an act of simplification. In journalism, the result is the writing and reading stories that all sound alike, about the same things—politics, street crime, and earthquakes—over and over again, until a certain controlled version of reality emerges—an artificial, predictable world that exists only on the page or the television screen. This is why, though most people read the paper to "get the facts," I've taken to avoiding TV and newspapers in order to actually gain a truer sense of creation and not just a plastic picture.

In fact, all human communication is oversimplified. Rather than a mechanical recitation of inert tidbits of truth called "facts," as rational objectivity promises, communication is a way we process nature, culture, and ideas, and regurgitate them through the filters of human consciousness. The depths of reality elude us, because we're human. This is why we have something to wonder about. This is also why we generalize. Our grotesque generalizations take the form of prejudice, leaps to conclusions, gossip, hearsay, myth, memes, habits, assumptions, and conventional wisdom that is neither conventional nor wise.

Our simplifications are simultaneously functional and dysfunctional. If you are walking down the street and see a young black male coming your way, how will you react? Many people will become at least slightly uneasy, for mathematical reasons—more young black males commit crimes than young males of other races—and borderline racist ones—they have seen enough prime time dramas and television news reports in which young black males are savage attackers that they adopt the view themselves. It may well be that the black man in front of you is a Harvard student, a minister, or an undercover cop. Without knowing anything about who he is or where he has been in life, we have already put him in a box. We have simplified reality in order to tolerate it. It would be intolerable to refrain from conceiving anything about anyone until you stopped them and asked for their life story. That's the function of stereotypes. But it would be degrading to avoid speaking to a man for fear of assault were he actually a peacemaker. That's the dysfunction.

Because of this tension between functional and dysfunctional simplification, the ceaseless process of growing up and making peace with life necessarily means learning to tolerate nuance and ambiguity.

Quixote at 400: Still Conquering Hearts
(ILAN STAVANS 1/07/05,
Chronicle Review)
The Knight of the Sorrowful Countenance is turning 400. By
some accounts, the first part of Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes's
masterpiece, was available in Valladolid by Christmas Eve 1604, although
Madrid didn't get copies until January 1605. Thus came to life the
"ingenious gentleman" who, ill equipped with antiquated armor "stained
with rust and covered with mildew," with an improvised helmet, atop an
ancient nag "with more cracks than his master's pate," went out into a
decaying world where there were plenty of "evils to undo, wrongs to
right, injustices to correct, abuses to ameliorate, and offenses to

Cervantes catches a glimpse of the down-and-out hidalgo at around 50,
the prime of one's life by today's standards but a synonym of
decrepitude during what was considered Spain's "Golden Age," an
appellation Cervantes complicates. The protagonist, we are told, is
weathered, his flesh scrawny, and his face gaunt. We know nothing of his
childhood and adolescence and only a modicum about his affairs,
including that too little sleep and too many chivalry novels have addled
his brain.

Almost 1,000 pages later, Don Quixote (or Alonso Quixada or Quexada,
some names Cervantes gives to the hidalgo) lies on his deathbed.
Finally, well into the second book, issued in 1615, Don Quixote dies --
but only after an impostor, Alonso Fernández de Avellaneda, impatient
that Cervantes kept procrastinating, brought out an unofficial second
part that pushed the author to complete his work. Cervantes may also
have been sensing that his own demise, which came in April 1616, was close.

About to die the exemplary death, Don Quixote is nevertheless consumed
by the grief of countless defeats and frustrated in his impossible
mission to see his beloved Dulcinea of Toboso. Is he wiser?
Disenchanted? Does he die of melancholia? The limits of age?

"Don Quixote's end," we are told, "came after he had received all the
sacraments and had execrated books of chivalry with many effective
words. The scribe happened to be present, and he said he had never read
in any book of chivalry of a knight errant dying in his bed in so
tranquil and Christian a manner as Don Quixote, who, surrounded by the
sympathy and tears of those present, gave up the ghost, I mean to say,
he died."

Don Quixote might be dead, but his ever-ambiguous ghost lives on. His
admirers -- and, in unequal measure, detractors -- are legion. Operas,
musicals, theatrical and film adaptations, as well as fictional
recreations keep piling up: Laurence Sterne was inspired by Don
Quixote's misadventures when writing Tristram Shandy; Gustave Flaubert
paid homage to him in Madame Bovary, as did Fyodor Dostoyevsky in The
Idiot. Isaac Bashevis Singer's "Gimpel the Fool" can be read as a
reimagining of the knight's simplicity. And so on.

Then there are the multilayered interpretations of Don Quixote's
pursuit. Anybody that is somebody has put forth an opinion, from Miguel
de Unamuno, José Ortega y Gasset, Salvador de Madariaga y Rojo, and
Américo Castro, to name a handful of Iberians first, to Samuel Johnson,
Denis Diderot, Franz Kafka, Thomas Mann, Lionel Trilling, and Vladimir
Nabokov. Over the years, Don Quixote has been a template of the times:
The 18th century believed the knight to be a lunatic, lost to reason;
the Victorians approached him as a romantic dreamer, trapped, just like
artists and prophets, in his own fantasy; the modernists applauded his
quest for an inner language; the postmodernists adore his dislocated
identity. Psychiatrists have seen him as a case study in schizophrenia.
Communists have turned him into a victim of market forces. Intellectual
historians have portrayed him as a portent of Spain's decline into
intellectual obscurantism.

Some scholars call Don Quixote the first modern novel, a bildungsroman
that traces the arch of its protagonist's life and the inner
transformation to which it gives room. In the spirit of Erasmus of
Rotterdam's In Praise of Folly, parody reinforces the divide between the
life of the mind and the strictures of society. Others stress the
novel's irony, the multiple voices and blurring of fiction and reality
-- the latter an aspect that Gabriel García Márquez would pay
tribute to in One Hundred Years of Solitude. Don Quixote is one of the
first characters to comment on his own readers ("for me alone was Don
Quixote born," Cervantes writes in the second book, in response to the
publication of the sham version); he is caught at the turning point of
the Enlightenment, between the secular and the religious, reason and
belief. Detractors argue that Cervantes is a careless stylist and a
clumsy plot-builder, pointing out the fractured nature of the novel, the
endless repetitions.

No doubt all that would have come as a surprise to Cervantes himself, a
tax collector with a tarnished reputation, a soldier whose old
battleground glories and often pathetic dreams of literary success kept
him alive. He envied Lope de Vega, the dramaturge of 1,000 comedias, and
was looked down upon by the snobbish literary figures of his day. In
short, Cervantes was an outcast. Indeed, in spite of all the hoopla, he
remains one in Spain, perhaps because Spaniards today still don't know
what to make of him. In Madrid the house of de Vega has been turned into
a museum; the one nearby where Cervantes wrote has been sold time and
again, commemorated by a miserable plaque.

One wonders: Would Don Quixote pass the test and be published in New
York today? I frankly doubt it. It would be deemed what editors call "a
trouble manuscript": too long, the story line problematic, the plot
stuffed with too many adventures that do too little to advance the
narrative and too many characters whose fate the reader gets attached to
but who suddenly disappear. And that awkward conceit of a character
finding a book about himself! The style! Those careless sentences that
twist and turn!

The first part of Cervantes's manuscript was sent (possibly under the
title of El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha) to the Counsel
of Castilla for permission to print it. It then went to the
Inquisitorial censors for approval. Around August 1604, Cervantes tried
in vain to enlist a celebrity to compose a poem eulogizing his
protagonist, as it was the custom of the time to include such praise at
the outset of a novel. He failed, his narrative considered too lowbrow,
and composed his own poems.

For all that, the first part of the novel was successful early on. The
initial printing of some 1,800 copies was quickly insufficient, and new
editions were issued (including one in English in 1612). By the time the
second part was released in 1615, Don Quixote was a best seller. The
parodic quality of the novel, the way it pokes fun at erudition and
paints love as the only redemption for the heart, enchanted readers. As
did Cervantes's digressions on his country's delusions of grandeur.

In my personal library, I have some 80 different versions, including
ones produced for children, as well as translations into Yiddish,
Korean, Urdu, and part of the novel that I translated into Spanglish. I
guess my collection is proof of my passion. I can't think of a book that
better illustrates the tension between private and public life, one that
speaks louder to the power of the imagination in such an ingenious,
unsettling fashion. If ever I wanted to live my life like a literary
character, it would be as Cervantes's sublime creation.

As the forerunner of antiheroes and superheroes, Don Quixote, with his
flawed aspirations, may not subdue giants or imaginary enemies like the
Knight of the Wood, but he continues to conquer hearts, precisely
because he is so ridiculous, inhabiting a universe of his own
concoction. He is the ultimate symbol of freedom, a self-made man
championing his beliefs against all odds. His is also a story about
reaching beyond one's own confinements, a lesson on how to turn poverty
and the imagination into assets, and a romance that reaches beyond class
and faith.

Some authors are so influential that their names have been turned into
adjectives: Dantean, Proustian, Hemingway-esque. But how many literary
characters have undergone a similar fate? "Quixotic," "quixotism," and
"quixotry," according to the Oxford English Dictionary, are all related
to "Quixote," "an enthusiastic visionary person like Don Quixote,
inspired by lofty and chivalrous but false or unrealizable ideals."

To be an underdog, to be a fool content with one's delusions, is that
what modernity is about? Or is it the impulse to pursue those delusions
into action? Undoubtedly we will continue asking ourselves those
questions as the enthusiastic visionary starts his fifth century, still
as vibrant and mischievous, as resourceful and controversial as ever.

-Your Spanish Skies: Spain’s greatest literary character Don Quixote was brought to life 400 years ago this year. And as the country celebrates with a calendar of impressive events, exhibitions and guided trails, tourists can now follow in the hoof prints of Miguel de Cervantes, one of the world’s greatest and most restless adventurers (Sunday Herald, 1/17/05)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:16 AM


Tax cut spurs firms to shift overseas cash home (MARY DALRYMPLE, February 20, 2005, Chicago Sun-Times)

Led by drug makers, American companies have started announcing their plans to use a temporary tax break and shift back to the United States billions of dollars in profits that have been stashed abroad.

An incentive to invest in the U.S. economy -- that's how lawmakers promoted the short-term relief that lets companies avoid as much as 85 percent of the taxes they might otherwise pay on earnings abroad. [...]

The announcements stem from a law passed in October that allows companies, for one year, to pay a reduced 5.25 percent tax on overseas earnings returned to the United States. The profits otherwise face tax rates as high as 35 percent.

Private estimates suggest that companies could bring more than $300 billion in overseas earnings back here. Few companies have said how they will use the money.

Allen Sinai, president and chief economist at Decision Economics, estimated that companies might be on track to announce a combined $100 billion repatriation during the first quarter of the year.

He estimated the influx of cash could generate 400,000 to 600,000 jobs in the next few years and boost economic growth this year.

''We're on the way to quite a bit of money coming back from overseas,'' Sinai said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:49 AM


When Camels Fly: What you are witnessing in the Arab world is the fall of its Berlin Wall. The old autocratic order is starting to crumble. (THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, 2/20/05, NY Times)

It's good news, bad news time again for the Middle East. The good news is that what you are witnessing in the Arab world is the fall of its Berlin Wall. The old autocratic order is starting to crumble. The bad news is that unlike the Berlin Wall in central Europe, the one in the Arab world is going to fall one bloody brick at a time, and, unfortunately, Vaclav Havel, Lech Walesa and the Solidarity trade union are not waiting to jump into our arms on the other side.

No one is more pleased than I am to see the demonstration of "people power" in Iraq, with millions of Iraqis defying the "you vote, you die" threat of the Baathists and jihadists. No one should take lightly the willingness of the opposition forces in Lebanon to stand up and point a finger at the Syrian regime and say "J'accuse!" for the murder of the opposition leader Rafik Hariri. No one should dismiss the Palestinian election, which featured a real choice of candidates, and a solid majority voting in favor of a decent, modernizing figure - Mahmoud Abbas. No one should ignore the willingness of some Egyptians to demand to run against President Hosni Mubarak when he seeks a fifth - unopposed - term. These are things you have not seen in the Arab world before. They are really, really unusual - like watching camels fly.

Something really is going on with the proverbial "Arab street." The automatic assumption that the "Arab street" will always rally to the local king or dictator - if that king or dictator just waves around some bogus threat or insult from "America," "Israel" or "the West" - is no longer valid.

Ever notice how Mr. Friedman, who's writing is virtually bipolar, assumes that it is the world that swings back and forth rather than his mood? The "Arab street", like the Eastern European street before it, was a lie.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:44 AM


Amtrak's Own Board Sows Alarm About System's Future: Passenger-rail supporters fumed as the Bush administration talked of eliminating aid for Amtrak. (MATTHEW L. WALD, 2/20/05, NY Times)

As Amtrak's supporters in Congress seek to renew the federal subsidy for the railroad despite President Bush's plan to eliminate federal aid, the railroad faces a new challenge: the ambivalence of its own board of directors.

The board, whose four members were appointed by President Bush, missed a Feb. 15 deadline to submit a budget request to Congress. Two days later, the chairman, David M. Laney, sent a letter to Congress saying that the board plans to make a grant request, but that "the status quo at Amtrak is neither viable nor acceptable."

The board said it was developing legislative proposals that "would provide the foundation needed for the development of U.S. passenger rail service, whether or not Amtrak remains its chief steward."

The letter, combined with the language the Bush administration used to introduce its budget for the fiscal year starting in October, is raising alarm among Amtrak's supporters.

The best way to aid Amtrak is to steeply hike gas taxes and airline fees.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:31 AM


What We Don't Know About 9/11 Hurts Us (Robert Scheer, February 15, 2005, LA Times)

Had the business-friendly administration put safety first and ordered a full complement of air marshals into the air, over the obscene objections of airlines loath to give up paid seats, nearly 3,000 people might not have died that day. And had the president of the United States taken some time from his epic ranch vacation that August to order a nationwide airport alert, two bloody wars abroad, as well as an all-out assault on civil liberties in this country, probably would not have happened.

It's always useful to check such attackjs against reality. For instance, here's the reaction to even a post-911 security fee hike:
Senate Turbulence Greets Plan to Raise Airline Ticket Security Fees (Sara Kehaulani Goo, February 16, 2005, Washington Post)
15 Groups Protest Budget Proposal to Double Aviation Security Taxes (securityInfoWatch)
Fifteen leading airline, business and labor groups today urged Congress to reject a federal budget proposal that would double aviation security taxes, costing travelers and U.S. carriers $1.5 billion.

Groups opposing the new security tax include the AFL-CIO's Transportation Trades Department, Air Line Pilots Association, Air Transport Association, Air Travelers Association, Americans for Tax Reform, Cargo Airline Association, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Gerchick-Murphy Associates, Interactive Travel Services Association, J. Dunham and Associates, National Business Travel Association, National Taxpayers Union, Regional Airline Association, Travel Business Roundtable, and Travel Industry Association of America.

Even knowing what the threat is we aren't willing to pay for security nor be inconvenienced much by it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:08 AM


Presidential Also-Ran Shows No Signs of Fading Away: Sen. Kerry goes against precedent, getting back in the political spotlight in a leadership role. (Mark Z. Barabak, February 20, 2005, LA Times)

Since losing in November, the Massachusetts Democrat has delivered a series of speeches on healthcare, electoral reform and military preparedness. He helped lead the unsuccessful opposition to Condoleezza Rice, President Bush's pick for secretary of State, and Alberto R. Gonzales, Bush's choice for attorney general. [...]

The prospect of a repeat Kerry candidacy — perhaps facing his old running mate, former Sen. John Edwards, in the primaries — draws a decidedly mixed response. Republicans express delight.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:03 AM


SELLING SCIENTIFIC PROMISE: A desperate injection of stem cells and hope (Alan Zarembo, February 20, 2005, LA Times)

Tom Hill was just the type of patient BioMark was looking for.

The company was launched in the summer of 2002, less than a year before Tom found its website. It began small, in a rented condominium shared by its founders, Laura Brown and Steve van Rooyen, just a few miles from Tom's house.

At first, the company survived patient to patient, each paying as much as $21,000 per treatment.

Word was spreading. It was a good time for a stem cell business.

The once exotic science was in the news almost daily. In August 2001, President Bush allotted federal funds for stem cell research but said they could not be spent on the study and development of new lines of cells from human embryos. It was a compromise to address the concerns of religious conservatives and others who opposed any destruction of human embryos.

The restrictions came under attack from high-profile figures, including former First Lady Nancy Reagan and actor Christopher Reeve, fomenting a national debate that turned "stem cell" into a household term.

Reports of each new scientific advance circulated rapidly — in the media and on Internet message boards for people with incurable diseases. Stem cell clinics began popping up in China, Ukraine, Barbados and other places.

Brown and Van Rooyen built their business on the idea that science had already proved the therapeutic power of stem cells. BioMark was simply making it available to the world.

The company had a scientific advisory board, a professional-looking website and doctors to administer the therapy in Atlanta.

"When something this powerful, this beautiful, is laid in your hands, in your path, you give everything you have to it," Brown said in an interview with The Times last fall.

At least 220 patients had received BioMark injections, she said.

The therapy, as advertised, was simple: an injection of 1.5 million stem cells in the abdomen. Everybody got the same type of cells, regardless of their disease.

"Once in the body, cells migrate to the site of the disease and begin producing the needed cells," explained a BioMark information packet.

BioMark cells, Brown told patients, were free from the "right-to-life issues" slowing the development of stem cell cures in the U.S. The cells did not come from embryos, but from blood harvested from umbilical cords after childbirth.

One BioMark brochure carried a disclaimer that the treatment was not approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

But some patients saw that as a badge of honor. Someone was working to help them, even if that help ran afoul of the government.

It infuriated Tom that politics had trumped science.

"People suffering from disease are told they have to wait for their cures," he wrote in a letter to his U.S. senators. "Many of these patients do not have time to wait and a research delay could be a death sentence."

Tom created a website to protest the federal restrictions. After 25 years as a Republican, he renounced his party membership.

He told Valerie about BioMark and instructed her not to tell his doctors.

She didn't know what to make of all this. She had never heard of anyone being cured of ALS, and she gingerly questioned his plan.

Tom stabbed at the keys on his voice synthesizer. An electronic retort pulsed back at her: "I've done a lot of research."

He felt sure: This was science.

How would people develop such delusions? This kind of mumbo-jumbo doesn't help: "If we do the work that we can do in this country, the work that we will do when John Kerry is president, people like Christopher Reeve are going to walk, get up out of that wheelchair and walk again."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:44 AM


Deep Roots Hold Syrian Influence in Lebanon (Megan K. Stack, February 20, 2005, LA Times)

The sandbags and tanks are long gone, and soldiers are rarely seen in the streets. Syrian military control isn't on display anymore in Lebanon, aside from some army bases and the clutches of soldiers who stand guard at checkpoints on country roads.

These days, Syrian influence has quietly permeated the parliament, the president's office, the financial sector and virtually every other institution. Syrian soldiers were meant to keep the peace after Lebanon's civil war. Instead, Syria has taken over.

"It's a creeping annexation," said former Lebanese President Amin Gemayel. "Syria considers its presence here not as something temporary, not as a foreign occupation, but as something natural. They think that Lebanon is a part of Syria."

Pressure to withdraw Syrian soldiers, whose ranks in Lebanon are estimated to number about 16,000, has swelled since former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated last week in Beirut. Damascus, the Syrian capital, has responded to the calls with defiance.[...]

A few months ago, ordinary Lebanese were afraid to discuss Syria on the streets. Last week, hundreds of thousands of Lebanese — white collar and blue; young and old; Christian, Muslim and Druze — marched through downtown shouting "Syria out," hollering curses against Syrian President Bashar Assad and insulting their own Syrian-linked government. Thousands have signed a petition calling for the resignation of the Lebanese government.

In the first days after Hariri's death, many figures linked to Syria stayed out of sight. A journalist known for supporting Syria spoke only on the condition that his name not be used.

"They gave us security, but what a price we've paid for this security," he said. "They took our money, they took our democracy. I am an ally to Syria, but I can't defend Syria. There are no allies to Syria now."

Except Iran.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 8:42 AM


What's US policy on Europe? No giggling (Mark Steyn , The Telegraph, February 20th, 2005)

The differences between America and Europe in the 21st century are nothing to do with insensitive swaggering Texas cowboys. Indeed, they're nothing to do with Iraq, Iran, Kyoto, the International Criminal Court, or any other particular issue. They're not tactical differences, they're conceptual.

Does this matter? Not a bit. "Dear Condi," cooed Michel Barnier, the French Foreign Minister, at their joint press conference, "how convinced I am that the world works better when the Americans and the Europeans cooperate."

But what exactly does this new Euro-American "cooperation" boil down to when the airy platitudes float gently back to earth? It means that the US expends huge amounts of diplomatic effort and, after a year or three, the French graciously agree to train a couple of dozen Iraqi policemen. Not in Iraq, of course – that would be too close cooperation – but in France. So, in the détente phase of the new Cold War, the Iraqi police recruits permitted to set foot in the Fifth Republic are the equivalent of a 1970s ballet-company cultural exchange.

By contrast, consider the Kingdom of Tonga; population 100,000. A few months back it managed to deploy 45 Royal Marines to Iraq, and without getting schmoozed by Condi or Rummy or anyone else. A proportional deployment from France would be 27,450 troops; from Germany, 37,350 troops. Even Belgium would be chipping in 5,000. Can you conceive of any circumstances in which France or Germany would ever "cooperate" to that extent? The entire "Trans atlantic Split: Chirac Aghast At Blundering Yank Moron Shock!" vs "Transatlantic Rapprochement: Rumsfeld Gives Tongue Sarnie To Schröder – See Souvenir Pictorial" narrative is wholly post-modern: either way, it makes no difference. That suits Europe; the Kyoto Treaty makes no difference to global warming, the EU negotiating troika makes no difference to Iran's nuclear programme, the threat of an ICC subpoena makes no difference to the Sudanese government's mass slaughter programme – and Washington has concluded that a Europe that makes no difference suits it just fine, too.

So the test this coming week will be whether anybody talks about anything concrete, anything specific, or whether they just dust off the usual blather: "Europe and America," said President Bush in Ireland last year, "are linked by the ties of family, friendship and common struggle and common values."

In fact, Mr Bush and many other American officials have an all too common struggle articulating what those common values are. In Prague in 2002, the President told fellow Nato members: "We share common values – the common values of freedom, human rights and democracy." In a post-Communist world, these are vague, unobjectionable generalities to everyone except the head hackers in the Sunni Triangle. It's when you try to flesh them out that it all gets more complicated. The reality is that Europe's very specific troubles – economic, demographic, political – derive from Europe, not America. And, if the member states of the EU are determined to enshrine constitutionally and Continent-wide the "rights" that have proved so disastrous for them as individual nations, there's not a lot America can do about it except stand well clear. Or as Mr Bush put it in his Telegraph interview yesterday: "No, I'm not going to comment [laughter]" – evidently still having trouble with the "no giggling" rule.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:40 AM


Shiites Mark Holy Day Amid Hope, Violence: Attackers kill 54 in Iraq, but there are fewer casualties than feared. Pilgrims flock to shrines as religious rites add to post-election optimism. (T. Christian Miller, February 20, 2005, LA Times)

Despite the violence, the public commemoration of the Ashura holiday added to a sense of hope that has burgeoned since the end of January, when a Shiite-backed political alliance swept to victory in the national assembly election.

"The terrorists will not succeed," said Majeed Abed Kareem, 62, who had traveled a long way from his home in southern Iraq to Karbala to join the celebrations, which had been banned under the regime of Saddam Hussein, a secular Sunni Muslim. [...]

Still, the violence was less than U.S. and Iraqi security forces had feared. During last year's Ashura, as many as 200 people were killed and hundreds more injured in Karbala and Baghdad as suicide bombers weaved into crowds of worshipers and detonated themselves. [...]

To prevent a recurrence of last year's violence, Iraq closed its borders with its Shiite neighbor, Iran, halting streams of pilgrims from joining the celebrations. Iraqi security officials and Shiite religious militias also saturated holy sites throughout Iraq, in some cases shutting off streets to traffic and setting up checkpoints every 30 feet.

Iraqi police commanders hailed their security measures, which were achieved with a minimal U.S. presence.

In Karbala and the northern city of Kirkuk, police announced the capture of nine suspected insurgents, including Harbi abd Khudair, allegedly the leader of a cell in Kirkuk, and Haidar abu Bawari, described as a top aide to Jordanian militant Abu Musab Zarqawi. Police also began patrolling the city of Fallouja in the Sunni heartland after a three-month absence.

"Our national guard, with the new army, has transformed from a tool in the hand of the tyrant [Hussein] to kill people … to a system which protects people," said Maj. Waleed Fakir Abbas, deputy commander of the Iraqi national guard in Karbala.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:02 AM


Third of female employees work in public sector (ALLISTER HEATH, 2/20/05, The Scotsman)

ONE-THIRD of the female working population in Britain now works in the public sector after a pre-election recruitment drive by Chancellor Gordon Brown, a new report will reveal tomorrow.

Almost half of all jobs created in the UK since 1997 have been in the public sector, taking the state’s share of the workforce to one in four, the survey by broker Williams de Broë will also reveal.

These new figures fly in the face of announcements by the Chancellor that civil service and public sector jobs will be cut.

The research, which draws exclusively on little-known official figures buried in the Labour Force Survey database at the Office for National Statistics (ONS), will rekindle fears that the private sector is being squeezed out as the state sector surges.

It will also fuel accusations that most of the new state sector workers are not doctors, nurses, teachers or police officers, but clerks, administrators or regulators in back offices. This would be bad news for public sector productivity, which has performed poorly over the past five years.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Hariri's killers 'recruited from Syrian-linked group in Iraq' (Damien McElroy, 20/02/2005, Sunday Telegraph)

Assassins who killed Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister, travelled from Iraq through Syria to carry out the attack, according to the Beirut judge leading the inquiry into the bombing.

Rachid Mezher, the senior investigator for the Lebanese military tribunal, said that the organisers had been recruited from Islamist groups linked to Syria and operating against the US-led coalition in Iraq.

Although no firm ties with the Syrian regime have been established, his comments suggest strong circumstantial evidence of a connection.

Investigators believe that a suicide bomber drove a car laden with explosives into the 60-year-old billionaire's convoy last Monday, killing him and 14 others. Judge Mezher said that a video in which a fanatic called Ahmed Abu Adas said the attack was the work of "Victory and Jihad in Greater Syria", an unknown group, was a genuine claim of responsibility.

Abu Adas, 23, a Palestinian Lebanese believed to have fled the country, attended two Beirut mosques known to be recruiting grounds for the Ansar al-Islam group, linked to the Jordanian extremist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Investigators suspect that the mosques have ties to Sheikh Abderrazak, a Damascus cleric who has helped fighters travel through Syria to Iraq. The Beirut attack bore similarities to suicide bombings carried out in Iraq by al-Zarqawi, who has increasingly strong ties to al-Qaeda. [...]

The Syrian president is a member of the Alawite religious sect, feared throughout medieval Europe as the Assassins. When its leader wanted an opponent killed, he handed a follower a dagger and his wishes were carried out. Many Lebanese believe that Mr Hariri's death was commissioned in similar fashion by Syria's Mukhabarat intelligence service.

The noose tightens.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


UK hatred of EU is our biggest challenge, says constitution commissioner (Justin Stares, 20/02/2005, Sunday Telegraph)

Margot Wallström, the EU commissioner responsible for pushing through the controversial European constitution, has likened her task to "dressing Frankenstein's monster".

In her first public remarks about a job that will keep her busy for the next 18 months, Mrs Wallström told a press conference in Brussels that the British would prove particularly sceptical. "The UK is filled with hatred towards the EU institutions," she said. [...]

The Netherlands, France and Denmark will be asked to vote on the text later this year, but the commission's opinion polls show the UK is more steadfastly opposed than any other country.

In a Eurobarometer poll last month, the UK was the only EU country in which opponents (30 per cent) outnumbered supporters (20 per cent). The rest said they did not know enough about the text to form an opinion.

You'd like to think the Brits have one last fight against power-mad continentals in them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Majority of Iranians Favor Bush and Peace (Slater Bakhtavar, Feb 17, 2005, NCM Editorial Exchange)

The BBC World Service website recently released the results of their 2004 presidential poll. Of the sixteen linguistic ethnical groups surveyed, Persians were overwhelmingly the most supportive of President Bush. In fact, over fifty two percent of Iranians preferred Republican George W. Bush to challenger John Kerry who'd received a minuscule forty two percent of the vote. Thus, surprisingly, unlike in the United States where the presidential race was relegated to a couple of percentage points, in Iran - President Bush won by a landslide.

Numerous other sources of plausible acclaim have confirmed these results. Renowned intellectuals, as well as award-winning journalists have written pieces on this critical issue. For instance, Pulitzer Prize winner Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times who spent an entire week in the country recently wrote, "Finally, I've found a pro-American country. Everywhere I've gone in Iran, with one exception, people have been exceptionally friendly and fulsome in their praise for the United States, and often for President George W. Bush as well."

Thomas Friedman, another Pulitzer Prize winner and ardent critic of the war in Iraq, wrote, "young Iranians are loving anything their government hates, such as Mr. Bush, and hating anything their government loves. Iran . . . is the ultimate red state."

The well-documented emphatically pro-Bush leaning in Iran, which is relatively widespread, has perplexed many western technocrats. Part of the answer may be that Iran is changing at such a rapid rate that the media has had a difficult time reporting and/or understanding the situation inside the country. Also, Friedman may be right that "young Iranians are loving anything their government hates, such as Mr. Bush and hating anything their government loves", but there are even deeper social as well as geopolitical reasons such as the availability of satellite dishes and the internet.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


"Bad News" on the Trade Deficit Often Means Good News on the Economy (Daniel Griswold, January 11, 2005, Free Trade Bulletin)

In 8 of the years since 1980, the U.S. current account balance has moved in a positive direction (i.e., the deficit has shrunk or "improved") as a share of GDP from the previous year. In 16 of those years, it has moved in a negative direction (i.e., the deficit has grown or "worsened"). Of those years in which the balance moved in a negative direction, 10 have seen a moderate movement of between 0.0 and 0.5 percentage points, and 6 have seen a more rapid movement of 0.7 to 1.3 percentage points.

How has the U.S. economy fared under each of those three current account scenarios? To address that question, Table 1 lists the size of the current account as a share of GDP for each year since 1980, along with the change in the current account percentage, real GDP, manufacturing output, and the unemployment rate from the previous year. (Changes in manufacturing output and the unemployment rate are measured from December to December to more fully capture the trend of that year.) The years are grouped in three categories, according to the magnitude of change in the current account balance as a share of GDP.

As the table illustrates, by all three measures of economic performance–GDP, manufacturing output, and the unemployment rate–the U.S. economy performs better in years when the current account deficit is rising as a share of GDP than in years when it is shrinking. And it performs especially well in years when the current account deficit is rising most rapidly.

By the most basic measure of economic performance, the change in real GDP, evidence points to a stronger economy in years in which the current account deficit is rising. In those years since 1980 when the current account deficit declined as a share of GDP, the economy grew each year by an average of 1.9 percent. In those in which the current account deficit grew moderately, real GDP grew at an annual average of 3.0 percent. In those years in which the deficit most rapidly "deteriorated," to borrow another popular characterization, real GDP grew by a robust annual average of 4.4 percent–a rate more than double the growth in years when the deficit was "improving." Four of the five best years for GDP growth since 1980 have occurred in the same years when the current account deficit was growing most rapidly.

The same pattern emerges in the manufacturing sector. It has become the conventional wisdom that a trade deficit hurts manufacturing because imports presumably displace domestic production, but the plain evidence of the past quarter century contradicts that presumption. Manufacturing output actually declined slightly on average in those years in which the current account deficit shrank. In contrast, it grew by 4.1 percent in years when the current account deficit grew moderately and by a brisk 5.3 percent when the deficit grew rapidly. In fact, five of the six years that saw a decline in manufacturing output occurred in years in which the current account deficit was declining.

The pattern also applies in the politically sensitive area of employment. Again, the conventional wisdom holds that a trade deficit destroys jobs by supposedly shipping them overseas. But again the evidence suggests something quite different. In those years of an "improving" current account deficit, the unemployment rate on average jumped by 0.8 percentage points. In years when the deficit moderately "worsened," the unemployment rate fell by an average of 0.2 points, and in years when the deficit grew the most rapidly, the unemployment rate fell by an even larger average of 0.7 points. Indeed, in 7 of the 8 years in which the current account deficit "improved," the unemployment rate went up; in 13 of the 16 years in which the current account deficit "worsened," the unemployment rate went down.

The year 2004 appears to fit the pattern comfortably. Through the first three quarters of the year, January through September, the current account deficit averaged 5.5 percent of GDP, a 0.6 percentage point shift in the negative direction from 2003. That would place 2004 somewhere between a moderate and rapid growth of the current account deficit. Befitting the pattern, economic performance through the first three quarters of the year was also moderate to robust. Real GDP grew an average annual rate of 3.9 percent during the first three quarters. Manufacturing output grew during those same three quarters at an annual rate of 5.4 percent from the previous year, while the unemployment rate was on a pace to drop by 0.4 percentage points during the full year.

In 2004, as in previous years, a rising current account deficit may have been bad news to headline writers, but it appears to have accompanied good news for the U.S. economy, its factories, and its workers.

Evidence from the past 25 years directly contradicts the assumption that trade deficits impose a drag on the U.S. economy. Contrary to prevailing assumptions, "worsening" trade deficits are associated with faster GDP and manufacturing growth and more rapidly declining unemployment, while "improving" trade deficits are associated with slower GDP and manufacturing growth and rising unemployment.

The Democrats say they'd get rid of the deficit.

February 19, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:59 PM


In Secretly Taped Conversations, Glimpses of the Future President (DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK, Feb. 19, 2005, NY Times)

As George W. Bush was first moving onto the national political stage, he often turned for advice to an old friend who secretly taped some of their private conversations, creating a rare record of the future president as a politician and a personality.

In the last several weeks, that friend, Doug Wead, an author and former aide to Mr. Bush's father, disclosed the tapes' existence to a reporter and played about a dozen of them.

Variously earnest, confident or prickly in those conversations, Mr. Bush weighs the political risks and benefits of his religious faith, discusses campaign strategy and comments on rivals. John McCain "will wear thin," he predicted. John Ashcroft, he confided, would be a "very good Supreme Court pick" or a "fabulous" vice president. And in exchanges about his handling of media questions about his past, Mr. Bush appears to have acknowledged trying marijuana.

Mr. Wead said he recorded the conversations because he viewed Mr. Bush as a historic figure, but he said he knew that the president might regard his actions as a betrayal. As the author of a new book about presidential childhoods, Mr. Wead could benefit from any publicity, but he said that was not a motive in disclosing the tapes. [...]

The conversations Mr. Wead played offer insights into Mr. Bush's thinking from the time he was weighing a run for president in 1998 to shortly before he accepted the Republican nomination in 2000. Mr. Wead had been a liaison to evangelical Protestants for the president's father, and the intersection of religion and politics is a recurring theme in the talks.

Preparing to meet Christian leaders in September 1998, Mr. Bush told Mr. Wead, "As you said, there are some code words. There are some proper ways to say things, and some improper ways." He added, "I am going to say that I've accepted Christ into my life. And that's a true statement."

But Mr. Bush also repeatedly worried that prominent evangelical Christians would not like his refusal "to kick gays." At the same time, he was wary of unnerving secular voters by meeting publicly with evangelical leaders. When he thought his aides had agreed to such a meeting, Mr. Bush complained to Karl Rove, his political strategist, "What the hell is this about?"

Mr. Bush, who has acknowledged a drinking problem years ago, told Mr. Wead on the tapes that he could withstand scrutiny of his past. He said it involved nothing more than "just, you know, wild behavior." He worried, though, that allegations of cocaine use would surface in the campaign, and he blamed his opponents for stirring rumors. "If nobody shows up, there's no story," he told Mr. Wead, "and if somebody shows up, it is going to be made up." But when Mr. Wead said that Mr. Bush had in the past publicly denied using cocaine, Mr. Bush replied, "I haven't denied anything."

He refused to answer reporters' questions about his past behavior, he said, even though it might cost him the election. Defending his approach, Mr. Bush said: "I wouldn't answer the marijuana questions. You know why? Because I don't want some little kid doing what I tried."

He mocked Vice President Al Gore for acknowledging marijuana use. "Baby boomers have got to grow up and say, yeah, I may have done drugs, but instead of admitting it, say to kids, don't do them," he said.

Mr. Bush threatened that if his rival Steve Forbes attacked him too hard during the campaign and won, both Mr. Bush, then the Texas governor, and his brother, Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, would withhold their support. "He can forget Texas. And he can forget Florida. And I will sit on my hands," Mr. Bush said.

The private Mr. Bush sounds remarkably similar in many ways to the public President Bush.

Why remarkably? He's an eminently transparent man. No president has more clearly telegraphed his thoughts and plans and then followed through on them more consistently. What would be remarkable is if the tapes revealed a different man than the one we see.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:48 PM


Navy signals for help to recruit gay sailors (Nicholas Hellen, 2/20/05, Times of London)

THE Royal Navy has turned to Stonewall, the gay lobby group, for advice on how to recruit and retain homosexual sailors. [...]

Commodore Docherty said the navy had a code of conduct, including a “no touching” rule, that was no different for same sex and heterosexual relations. “We do rely heavily, just as we have done with having women at sea (since 1991), on common sense and good manners.” He admitted the navy was irritated by the fascination in popular culture with the camp behaviour of gay seafarers — reflected in songs such as the disco hit In the Navy by Village People.

It reached a peak in the 1950s and 1960s, when prior to the decriminalisation of homosexuality, some ships provided one of the only places where gays could be open about their sexuality. “I think the 38,000 people in the navy would dearly love to change that banter,” he said.

Documents released recently revealed a crackdown on homosexuality in the late 1960s, appearing to confirm in part Winston Churchill’s claim that naval tradition was “nothing but rum, sodomy and the lash”.

Dozens of explicit photographs of British sailors were found in Bermuda in 1969. Hundreds of sailors were involved in what was described as gross indecency, and commanding officers were ordered to “stamp out this vice”.

Why not bring back the lash?

Kenya's Twist on the Odd Couple: An orphaned hippo bonds with a tortoise at a wildlife park. The mammal-reptile attachment has surprised experts. (Robyn Dixon, February 20, 2005, LA Times)

For a panic-stricken baby hippo, lost and far from home, the sight of an old, wrinkly, rotund male tortoise must have suggested something very different: Are you my mother?

Owen the hippo sought refuge behind the tortoise shortly after Christmas, and weeks later here they are together, safe and warm on a lazy afternoon. Owen looks like a character in a children's book, his eyes closed blissfully as he snuggles down in a mud puddle near a reptile 130 years his senior. He pricks up his Shrek-like ears at the slightest sound, opens his eyes, then dozes off again.

In the wild, hippos are sociable creatures who live in close-knit groups. But this bonding of mammal and reptile has surprised wildlife experts.

Still, there is no accounting for love.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:28 PM


Shias stand firm against the bombers: Suicide attacks fail to deter worshippers (Rory Carroll, February 20, 2005, The Observer)

Multiple attacks were expected in the run-up to yesterday's festival of Ashura, when Shias commemorate the 7th-century martyrdom of the grandson of the prophet Mohammad and Islam's schism into Shia and Sunni branches. This time last year bombers killed at least 180.

After decades of oppression, Shias, who comprise 60 per cent of the population, are preparing to take power and Sunnis, a privileged minority under Saddam, are in the political wilderness.

The insurgents, a mixture of Islamic radicals and former members of the Baathist regime, hope that the attacks will destabilise the country. 'It is the rage of losers. No matter how many they kill, we have won,' said one Shia cleric.

Political ascendancy might seem an abstract comfort to Shias who have been killed while buying bread, queuing outside government buildings or, of course, worshipping.

Yet the community is not cowed. Emboldened by the 30 January election, when most Shias voted despite fears of attacks, men, women and children this week packed mosques for Ashura.

Individual bombers inflict less damage than before. Every day Shia mosques add to their panoply of sentries, razor wire, bollards and blast-proof walls. The strategy is not to prevent detonation, but induce it prematurely.

And the terror on the face of Friday's bomber might have been the knowledge that another mission had failed.

Imagine for a moment that a significant number of radicals in some American minority unleashed this kind of bombing campaign--would we be this restrained? Mind you, we put Japanese Americans in concentration camps when a foreign country bombed a miltary base outside the country.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:17 PM


Bloggers will rescue the right: Beat the metropolitan elite with the tactics of US conservatives (Iain Duncan Smith, February 19, 2005, The Guardian)

[T]he blogosphere will become a force in Britain, and it could ignite many new forces of conservatism. The internet's automatic level playing field gives conservatives opportunities that mainstream media have often denied them.

An online community of bloggers performs the same function as yesteryear's town meetings. Through the tradition of town hall meetings, officials were held to account by local people. Blogger communities are going to be much more powerful. They will draw together not only local people but patients who have waited and waited for NHS care. They will organise parents of disabled children who oppose Labour's closure of special-needs schools and evangelical Christians who see their beliefs caricatured by ignorant commentators.

All this should put the fear of God into the metropolitan elites. For years there have been widening gaps between the governing class and the governed and between the publicly funded broadcasters and the broadcasted to.

Until now voters, viewers and service users have not had easy mechanisms by which to expose officialdom's errors and inefficiencies. But, because of the internet, the masses beyond the metropolitan fringe will soon be on the move. They will expose the lazy journalists who reduce every important public policy issue to how it affects opinion-poll ratings.

Tired of being spoon-fed their politics, British voters will soon be calling virtual town hall meetings, and they will take a serious look at the messenger as well as the message. It's going to be very rough.

Karl Rove is right. The internet could do more to change the level of political engagement than all the breast-beating of introspective politicians and commentators. A 21st century political revolution is now only a few mouse clicks away.

It's curious that political blogging remains so predominantly an American phenomenon--you have to wonder if these other peoples have just allowed the muscles of democracy to atrophy too far.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:49 PM


Support for death penalty passes 80% for first time (Japan Times, 2/20/05)

More than 81 percent of Japanese expressed support for the death penalty in a recent government survey, exceeding the 80 percent mark for the first time.

The rise appears to reflect deepening public alarm over a recent spate of serious crimes, including the kidnapping and murder of a girl in Nara.

The increase to 81.4 percent of respondents saying they support the death penalty was 2.1 percentage points higher than in the previous survey in November 1999, when the support figure was 79.3 percent.

Only 6.0 percent said the death penalty should be abolished, down 2.8 points from the 1999 poll.

Europe's numbers will head this way soon.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:33 PM


U.S. senators visit Iraq; Clinton says insurgency is failing (Todd Pitman, February 19, 2005, Associated Press)

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said today a string of attacks killing more than 50 Iraqis in two days were failed attempts to sow sectarian strife and destabilize the country.

Clinton, a New York Democrat, and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., were part of a five-member congressional delegation that met with U.S. officials and members of Iraq's interim government.

Both Clinton and McCain have been strident critics of the Pentagon's planning and management of the war in Iraq. But Clinton said Saturday that Sunni Muslim insurgents were failing in their efforts to destabilize Iraq through sectarian violence. [...]

Clinton said insurgents had also failed to disrupt Iraq's landmark Jan. 30 elections, won by the Shiite clergy-backed ticket. The United Iraqi Alliance won 140 seats in the 275-seat National Assembly.

``Not one polling place was shut down or overrun and the fact that you have these suicide bombers now, wreaking such hatred and violence while people pray, is to me, an indication of their failure,'' she said.

``The results of the election are a strong rebuke to those who did not believe that the Iraqi people would take this opportunity to demonstrate their own commitment to their own future.''

Ms Clinton will continue to distance herself from her own party on such issues as she prepares her run for the presidency.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:11 PM


Rove-Gannon Connection? (Dotty Lynch, Feb. 18, 2005, CBS News)

hen Jeff Gannon, White House "reporter" for Talon "News," was unmasked last week, the leap to a possible Rove connection was unavoidable. Gannon says that he met Rove only once, at a White House Christmas party, and Gannon is kind of small potatoes for Rove at this point in his career.

But Rove's dominance of White House and Republican politics, Gannon's aggressively partisan work and the ease with which he got day passes for the White House press room the past two years make it hard to believe that he wasn't at least implicitly sanctioned by the "boy genius." Rove, who rarely gave on-the-record interviews to the MSM (mainstream media), had time to talk to GOPUSA, which owns Talon.

GOPUSA and Talon are both owned by Bobby Eberle, a Texas Republican and business associate of conservative direct-mail guru Bruce Eberle who says that Bobby is from the "Texas branch of the Eberle clan." Bobby Eberle told The New York Times that he created Talon to build a news service with a conservative slant and "if someone were to see 'GOPUSA,' there's an instant built-in bias there." No kidding.

Some of the real reporters in the White House pressroom were apparently annoyed at Gannon's presence and his softball, partisan questions, but considered him only a minor irritant. One told me he thought of Gannon as a balance for the opinionated liberal questions of Hearst's Helen Thomas. But what Gannon was up to was not just writing opinion columns or using a different technique to get information. He was a player in Republican campaigns and his work in the South Dakota Senate race illustrates the role he played. It is also a classic example of how political operatives are using the brave new world of the Internet and the blogosphere. Gannon and Talon News appear to be mini-Drudge reports; a "news" source which partisans use to put out negative information, get the attention of the bloggers, talk radio and then the MSM in a way that mere press releases are unable to achieve. [...]

This week Democrats, who have serious case of Rove envy, went a little nuts and started sending around information and graphic pictures of Gannon and his porn Web sites. But it is the more routine part of Gannon's life that deserves serious scrutiny. Planting or even just sanctioning a political operative in the WH press room is a dangerous precedent and Karl Rove's hope to become a respected policymaker will be hampered if the dirty tricks from his political past are more apparent than his desire to spread liberty around the globe.

The best part of this whole scandal is that the Left has seized on it as another opportunity to go gay-bashing. One assumes you won't hear many Democrats saying it should be dropped though just because it's "only about sex."

Jeff Gannon Admits Past 'Mistakes,' Berates Critics (Howard Kurtz, February 19, 2005, Washington Post)

Jeff Gannon, the former White House reporter whose naked pictures have appeared on a number of gay escort sites, says that he has "regrets" about his past but that White House officials knew nothing about his salacious activities. [...]

In the interview, Gannon did not dispute evidence that he has advertised himself as a $200-an-hour gay escort but would not specifically address such questions.

Dismissing speculation that he had a permanent White House press pass, which requires a full-blown FBI background check that usually takes months, Gannon said he could not get one because he was required to first get a pass from the Senate press gallery, which did not consider him to be working for a legitimate news organization. Instead, he said he was admitted on a day-to-day basis after supplying his real name, date of birth and Social Security number. He said he did not use a pseudonym to hide his past but because his real last name is hard to spell and pronounce.

Gannon said he began covering the White House in February 2003, at least a month before Talon News was created. He said he was then working for GOPUSA. Talon was launched as "a marketing consideration to separate the news division from something that could be viewed as partisan," he said.

Suggestions that White House officials coddled him or gave him special access are "absolutely, completely, totally untrue," Gannon said, adding that he was often among the last to be called on at press briefings and sometimes could not ask a question at all. "I have no friendships with anyone there. . . . The White House, as far as I know, was never aware of the questions about my past."

Asked how recently he was putting his photo on escort sites, Gannon said that "so much of this stuff" was "years in the past. . . . Anything that goes on the Internet is there forever," he said. "Every day I learn about another site where there are allegedly pictures of me."

Gannon says he was questioned by the FBI in the Valerie Plame leak investigation after referring to a classified CIA document when he interviewed the outed CIA operative's husband, former ambassador Joe Wilson.

But he said yesterday: "I didn't have the document. I never saw the document. It was written about in the Wall Street Journal a week before. I had no special access to classified information."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:58 PM


Iraq on the Road to Democracy (Amir Taheri, 2/19/05, Arab News)

An election that was not supposed to happen because terrorists and insurgents in Iraq, and their sympathizers in the West, did not want it has produced results that the doomsters that fought to prevent it did not expect.

First, the massive boycott of the polls, predicted by Saddam nostalgics and other members of the Hate-America coalition, did not take place. Last month almost two-thirds of Iraqi voters went to the polls in the first free election in their history.

Now, the final results, announced Sunday, show that the doomsters were wrong a second time.

Lots of things that the opponents of the liberation of Iraq had prayed for did not happen.

There was no green tidal wave of radical Shiism that was supposed to transform Iraq into a carbon copy of the Kohmeinist republic in Iran. The United Iraqi Alliance, a list endorsed by Grand Ayatollah Ali Muhammad Sistani, the primus inter pares of the Shiite clerics, did win 48 percent of the votes. But this is far short of the two-third majority that the Shiites could have won had they all voted for the list. In any case, the UIA list was not presented as a confessional ticket and included Arab Sunnis, Kurds, and Christians. It was an alliance of half a dozen parties and groups, including radical secularists.

The supposed total exclusion of the Arab Sunnis from the transitional National Assembly did not happen either. Arab Sunnis account for some 15 percent of the Iraqi population and are a majority in four out of 18 provinces. In three of those provinces the voter turnout was below 30 percent, and in one, Anbar, dropped to two percent. But only half of the Arab Sunnis live in those provinces. The other half, in Baghdad and other major cities, voted in larger numbers.

Based on their demographic strength, the Arab Sunnis should have 42 seats in the 275-seat transitional National Assembly. The final results show that the new assembly will, in fact, include 49 Arab Sunnis. Of these 40 were elected on the Shiite-led and the Kurdish lists plus the list headed by interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, himself a Shiite. Five were elected on a list led by interim President Ghazi Al-Yawar, an Arab Sunni, while four more won within smaller alliances. If we add up the Kurds, who are also Sunni Muslims, at least 110 members of the newly elected assembly are Sunnis. [...]

With the Iraqi election as a model, it would not be easy for Syria to orchestrate another fake election in Lebanon in May. The Khomeinists in Iran would find it hard to present another pre-arranged election in June as a genuine reflection of the popular will. The Egyptians would have a hard time producing another 99.99 percent majority in yet another single-candidate election next year. In Libya Col. Qaddafi might find it harder to appoint his son as prime minister with a mere acclamation from his henchmen.

The momentum for representative government continues to quicken, Lebanese Opposition Declares 'Uprising for Independence' (VOA News, 18 February 2005)
Lebanon's opposition has called for an "uprising for independence" and demanded the country's pro-Syrian government step down.

Opposition leader Walid Jumblatt told al-Jazeera television that pro-Syrian officials should leave Lebanon and the country should become independent and democratic.

The bold words from opposition officials follow increasing calls from abroad for Syria to end its long military and political involvement in Lebanon.

Friday in Beirut, Lebanon's tourism minister quit, complaining that the pro-Syrian government could not resolve the country's "dangerous situation."

Togo's Opposition Demands President Step Down (Nico Colombant, 19 February 2005, VOA News)
More than 20,000 protesters have taken to the streets in Togo demanding the military-installed president Faure Gnassingbe step down. The son of the country's late long-ruling leader says he will be a candidate in elections to be held within 60 days. [...]

Opposition leaders who organized Saturday's protest say Togo should not be a dynasty. Mr. Gnassingbe replaced his father, Gnassingbe Eyadema, who died earlier this month after 38 years in power.

Another protest took place at the presidential palace, where several thousand government supporters heard a speech in which Mr. Gnassingbe said he would be a candidate and ensure stability in the run-up to the vote.

One of his supporters said he was relieved to hear this and he hoped the international community would help Togolese in this transition period.

Parliament had changed the constitution, allowing Mr. Gnassingbe to finish out his father's term until 2008, but his son has now bowed to domestic and outside pressure to allow quick elections as stipulated previously.

Mr. Gnassingbe made the concession to hold a presidential election within 60 days in a speech late Friday. He also said legislative elections would be held soon.

-Burma Opens Constitutional Conference Despite Opposition Boycott (Scott Bobb, 17 February 2005, VOA News)
Burma's military government has reopened a national convention to draft a new constitution. The military leadership says its wants to bring democracy to Burma, but critics say some important opposition groups have been excluded from the process.

A senior member of the Burmese military junta, General Thein Sein, Thursday reopened the national constitutional convention. He says his government wants an orderly transition to democracy.

General Thein Sein says the government wants to establish a durable, disciplined democracy that is free from terrorism and anarchy, which he says afflict some democratic countries.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:41 PM


Conservatives, morals linked in poll (Jennifer Harper, 2/14/05, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Americans have come to perceive conservatism as a stronghold of traditional ideas: According to a new Harris poll, the public believes conservatives support moral values and oppose same-sex "marriage," homosexual rights and abortion.

And liberals provided almost a mirror image of the findings.

According to a survey of 2,209 adults in mid-January, 85 percent said conservatives opposed same-sex "marriage." When asked the same question about liberals, 78 percent said the group would support same-sex "marriage."

Another 81 percent said conservatives opposed homosexual rights while 82 percent said that liberals would support the same issue.

In addition, 77 percent said conservatives opposed abortion rights and 84 percent said liberals supported those rights. [...]

The poll found that 78 percent felt conservatives supported moral values, while 54 percent said the same about liberals. A further breakdown of the question showed that 28 percent felt liberals actually opposed moral values, while 10 percent said the same about conservatives.

Hard to imagine a more disastrous turn of event for a political party in a Puritan nation than to become associated in the public mind with amorality or even immorality.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:57 PM


Fulton J. Sheen, Catholic Champion (THOMAS C. REEVES, The Catholic League)

When American history textbooks mention Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen at all, it is briefly and in connection with the allegedly "feel good" Christianity of the 1950s. To some Americans, Sheen was merely a glib, superficial television performer and pop writer who blossomed briefly on the national scene and rapidly disappeared.

Many orthodox Catholics have a clearer understanding of Sheen, for more than a dozen of his books remain in print, several anthologies of his writings are for sale, and his television shows and tapes continue to be popular. The Eternal Word Television Network regularly features Sheen videotapes. Moreover, an effort is underway, formally inaugurated by the late Cardinal O'Connor of New York, to have the Archbishop canonized.

In preparing America's Bishop: The Life and Times of Fulton J. Sheen I discovered a brilliant, charismatic, and holy man who has been underestimated by historians, largely overlooked by the contemporary mass media, and forgotten by too many Catholics. Indeed, I came to the conclusion that Fulton J. Sheen was the most important Catholic of twentieth century America.[...]

In 1928, he went on the “Catholic Hour,” a nationally broadcast radio program. He quickly became the program's most popular preacher and for more than two decades was asked to preach during Lent and at Holy Days. Vast quantities of letters and financial donations poured in on “Catholic Hour” officials whenever Sheen spoke.

Sheen was soon in demand throughout the country and Western Europe as a preacher, retreat leader, and teacher. He preached annually at St. Patrick's Cathedral, where he packed the huge church and received much attention in the press.

Francis Cardinal Spellman of New York, one of the most powerful figures in the Roman Catholic Church, took Sheen under his wing after World War II, and in 1948 invited him to join a world-wide tour and assume the bulk of the journey's preaching duties. The two men greatly appreciated each other's talents (the Cardinal was a superb administrator and fund-raiser), and in 1950 Spellman had Sheen named to head the American branch of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, the Church's principal source of missionary funds. The appointment came with a miter, and in 1951, Sheen was consecrated in Rome. Sheen flung himself into his new duties, revealing his great skill as a fund-raiser. He continued to produce books, articles, and newspaper columns at an astonishing rate, and accepted invitations to preach throughout the country and across the world. Sheen's personal success at winning converts — the list included writer Clare Boothe Luce, industrialist Henry Ford II, and ex-Communist Louis Budenz — attracted national attention. Unmentioned in the press were the thousands of average Americans who came into the Church because of Sheen's efforts.

When, in 1951, the Archdiocese of New York decided to enter the world of television, Sheen was a natural choice to appear on screen. The initial half-hour lectures were broadcast on the tiny Dumont Network, opposite big budget programs by comedian Milton Berle, "Mr. Television," and singer-actor Frank Sinatra. No one gave Sheen a chance to compete effectively. Soon, however, Sheen took the country by storm, winning an Emmy, appearing on the cover of Time magazine, and entering the "most admired" list of Americans. In its second year, "Life Is Worth Living" moved to the ABC Network and had a sponsor, the Admiral Corporation.

Sheen's talks, delivered in the full regalia of a bishop, were masterful. He worked on each presentation for 35 hours, delivering it in Italian and French to clarify his thoughts before going on television. He at no time used notes or cue cards, and always ended on time. The set was a study with a desk, a few chairs, and some books; the only prop was a blackboard. A four-foot statue of Madonna and Child on a pedestal was clearly visible. Sheen's humor, charm, intelligence, and considerable acting skill radiated throughout the "Live Is Worth Living" series, captivating millions eager to hear Christian (only indirectly Catholic) answers to life's common problems.

Some of Sheen's talks and writings dealt with Communism, which the Bishop, a student of Marxism and a personal friend of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, thought a dire threat to the nation and the world. But at no time did Sheen appear with or praise Senator Joe McCarthy (he had little use for politicians of any stripe) or directly support the Second Red Scare, which swept through the country during the early 1950s.

Sheen was also a student of Freud, and was consistently critical of Freudian psychology. Sheen's best-selling book, Peace Of Soul, presented his views on the subject forcefully. At about the same time, the bishop wrote a powerful book on the Virgin Mary, The World's First Love, followed a few years later by an equally impressive Life of Christ.

For all of his concerns about worldly issues, Sheen was above all a supernaturalist, who fervently believed that God is love, that miracles happen, and that the Catholic Church best taught the divinely revealed truths about life and death. As he put it in Peace Of Soul, "nothing really matters except the salvation of a soul."

Still, Sheen was not a plaster saint. Vanity was a constant problem for him, and he knew it. As both priest and bishop, Sheen lived and dressed well and enjoyed the publicity he received in the media and the applause of adoring crowds. Perhaps more serious was an offense that was not discovered until twenty years after his death: while a young teacher at Catholic University, in order to expedite his academic career, he invented a second doctorate for himself.

Sheen could also be difficult at times when his authority was challenged. In the early 1950s, he and Cardinal Spellman, a very proud man, engaged in a bitter feud largely over the dispersal of Society funds. The struggle led to a private audience before Pius XII, who sided with Sheen. In a rage, Spellman terminated Sheen's television series, made him a local outcast, and drove him from the Archdiocese.

Mr. Reeves biography of JFK is outstanding and, along with Michael Beschloss's Crisis Years, should be required reading for anyone who still admires Kennedy. He also has a blog at History News Network

Fulton J. Sheen in word and deed: Peace of Soul remains as profound a book now as it was 50 years ago (PAUL KENGOR, 1/07/05, National Catholic Reporter)

This month marks the 25th anniversary of the death of Bishop Fulton J. Sheen (1895-1979), one of the most remarkable Americans of the 20th century. Sadly, Sheen’s name increasingly escapes our nation’s collective memory, even among Catholics.

Bishop Sheen was extraordinarily popular. By April 1952, he was on the cover of TIME magazine. He won the 1952 Emmy Award for “Most Outstanding Television Personality,” beating out legends such as Jimmy Durante, Edward R. Murrow, Lucille Ball and Arthur Godfrey. Stated differently, these Hollywood superstars, these icons of the screen, lost to a priest. A nationwide poll of radio and television editors named Bishop Sheen TV’s “Man of the Year.” In the 1950s, Vice President Richard Nixon thanked him for his “outstanding contributions to a better understanding of the American way of life.” President Dwight Eisenhower invited him to the White House. This esteem escalated over the years, to the point where Bishop Sheen’s death on Dec. 9, 1979, and his funeral at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York on Dec. 14 were major stories.

A poll taken at the end of the 20th century by the Internet Catholic Daily, with 23,455 respondents, listed the top four Catholics of the century as Pope John Paul II, Mother Teresa, Blessed Padre Pio and Bishop Sheen. The Catholic Almanac for the year 2000 rightly described him as “perhaps the most popular and socially influential American Catholic of the 20th century.”

Bishop Sheen was so renowned because he was so gifted. He was a superb communicator, through the spoken word, on radio first and then television, and the written word, delivered via a syndicated column and innumerable books and pamphlets. [...]

The global Catholic television network, EWTN, reruns broadcasts of his television show, Life Is Worth Living, on Mondays at 2:00 p.m. and Fridays at 9:00 p.m. (EST). Watching these broadcasts evokes many feelings, including the sense that one has hopped into a time capsule. Additionally, a captivating, superb biography of Bishop Sheen was written in 2001 by Thomas C. Reeves, titled America’s Bishop: The Life and Times of Fulton J. Sheen.

-Sheen, revisited (Amy Wellborn, 12/10/04)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:35 PM


Islamophobia myth: If there is a backlash against British Muslims, where is the evidence for it? Scaremongering about Islamophobia promotes a Muslim victim culture and allows some community leaders to inflame a sense of injury while suppressing internal debate. The new religious hatred law will make matters worse (Kenan Malik, February 2005, Prospect)

Ten years ago, no one had heard of Islamophobia. Now everyone from Muslim leaders to anti-racist activists to government ministers wants to convince us that Britain is in the grip of a major backlash against Islam.

But does Islamophobia exist? The trouble with the idea is that it confuses hatred of, and discrimination against, Muslims on the one hand with criticism of Islam on the other. The charge of "Islamophobia" is all too often used not to highlight racism but to silence critics of Islam, or even Muslims fighting for reform of their communities.

The notion of Islamophobia, like that of homophobia, is empowering--it lets folks think that they are criticized because they are fearsome, rather than because they are wrong.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:03 PM


Chasing the Long Tail (Edward B. Driscoll, Jr., 02/07/2005, Tech Central Station)

Back in October of last year, Chris Anderson of Wired magazine created a powerful meme -- the concept of "The long tail". His article discussed how e-tailers such as Amazon and Netflix are changing how we think about inventories of books, DVDs and CDs; and how pop culture is transformed by making available not only obscure titles that would otherwise consume valuable space in a physical store, but also all of an artist's back catalog.

For example, your local Borders is likely to have, say, Miles Davis' Kind of Blue, Porgy and Bess, and a few of his other titles available on CD. Amazon has virtually every CD that he's played on that's currently in print (or available used) as well as almost every disc released by his myriad sidemen. (And if some of their albums aren't available on CD, they're likely to pop up in LP form on eBay from time to time.)

Anderson notes that because Netflix doesn't have to worry about shoving as many bestsellers into a limited store space as Blockbuster does, he's helped pump new life into documentaries that had brief theater runs, or shorter exposures on television:

"Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, who's something of a documentary buff, took this newfound clout to PBS, which had produced Daughter From Danang, a documentary about the children of US soldiers and Vietnamese women. In 2002, the film was nominated for an Oscar and was named best documentary at Sundance, but PBS had no plans to release it on DVD. Hastings offered to handle the manufacturing and distribution if PBS would make it available as a Netflix exclusive. Now Daughter From Danang consistently ranks in the top 15 on Netflix documentary charts. That amounts to a market of tens of thousands of documentary renters that did not otherwise exist."

This ability of the tail to make heretofore relatively uncommercial products viable has enormous implications for both pop culture and political discourse as mass media continues breaking apart into smaller and smaller fractals. [...]

Although Anderson has his own weblog, his Wired piece didn't directly reference the Blogosphere -- but it also has its own long tail.

Personally, I won't believe in the power of the Long Tail until this book is back in print.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:08 PM


Tony Snow's illness (Greg Pierce, 2/18/05, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

"Popular Fox News TV and radio host Tony Snow is about to undergo surgery to remove his cancerous colon," Washington Whispers columnist Paul Bedard reported yesterday (Thursday) at www.usnews.com.

"'I've been living in fear of cancer for 27 years,' he tells Whispers. 'I've got too much to live for.' He was meeting with a surgeon [yesterday], and might go under the knife this weekend. Snow said he's had colitis for years and knew he was a high-risk candidate. His mother died of cancer when she was 38. He got the diagnosis last week during a routine check. 'Of course I was shocked,' he said. 'I didn't know something was up.' But, he said, 'We're dealing with it. We're forging ahead.'

"Snow said the game plan is to remove the whole colon. 'The kind of cancer I've got is a real baddy.' He and his doctors expect a full recovery within a year. The cancer scare comes right as he's renegotiating a new three-year contract with Fox, but Snow said it shouldn't interrupt the talks and eventual agreement. And he wanted to thank his listeners who have been praying for him. 'The power of prayer is pretty powerful. You really do feel better,' he said."

He's always been a favorite of The Wife, not least because of the spoonerism she made of his name. We wish him all the best.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:01 AM


Serpents of desire: History's First Question: Where Are You? (Rabbi David Fohrman, 1/21/05, Jewish World Review)

The story of Adam and Eve in the Garden ends with two final acts.

* The Almighty fashions clothes from animal skins for Adam and Eve, to replace the more primitive coverings they had made out of leaves.

* After sending Adam and Eve out of the Garden "lest they eat from the Tree of Life", G-d stations angels — cherubs — with flaming swords at the entrance to Eden to guard the way back to the Tree of Life.

In a strange but poignant way, these two events, I think, are closely tied to one another.

We noticed earlier that cherubs make an appearance just twice in the entire Five Books of Moses. The only other time these angels appear is when their likeness adorns the top of the Holy Ark in the Tabernacle, where they guard the Tablets of the Law. Aptly, the Book of Proverbs describes these tablets, or the Torah they represent, as another Tree of Life — a tree of life to all who grab hold of it (see Proverbs 3:18). Evidently, the same cherubs who keep us away from one Tree of Life grant us access to another one. Weeks ago, we asked why. And we wondered in what sense the Torah can be seen as a "replacement" Tree of Life.

The answer to these questions should by now be evident. After attaining the knowledge of good and evil, mankind became more godly — more passionate, more desirous, more insistently creative. But we were only half-gods. To truly be godly means not just to be passionate, possessed of will, as G-d is. It means not just to create, as G-d creates — but to wisely wield the fearsome power of creation. It means to fully control this power; not to be controlled by it. It means keeping passion in balance; realizing that there is a time to create, and a time to desist from creating.

After eating from the Tree of Knowledge, after boosting the role of passion in our lives, living eternally was no longer what the doctor ordered for humankind. A new and different Tree of Life was called for — one that could help restore balance, harmony, in the psyche of man. The new Tree of Life was designed to help man cope with a new world — a world in which passion can cloud the mind's eye, obscuring that which is genuinely right and that which is genuinely wrong. The angels that bar man access from one tree of life do indeed grant him access to another one. The Torah is a guide to G-d's Will, a tool that can help man distinguish the impulses of his own creativity from the deeply held convictions of his Creator. In consuming the fruit of this replacement Tree of Life, in assimilating the viewpoint of the Torah, man would attain a steering wheel to match his engine, making himself into a fully godly being.

Now take a moment, if you will, and contemplate what happened here. Even as G-d banished us from Eden, even in that moment when we seemed most rejected, most cast away — still, He bequeathed to us the tools we would need to make it in the new world of our own making....

And now let's talk about G-d's second act: The making of clothes for Adam and Eve. In the world that G-d envisioned for man, there would have been no need for clothes; they would have been a superfluity. It was not G-d's choice that man live in a world where nakedness was something to be feared or avoided. Nevertheless, in this moment of profound disappointment, the Almighty provides Adam and Eve with clothes, giving them the wherewithal to "make it" in this journey of their own choosing.

The Fall teaches us our own limitations and gives God the first inklings of His, thus He clothes us. The interplay of those limitations will later be driven home to Him on the Cross.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:58 AM


Orwell for Christians (Paul J. Griffiths, December 2004, First Things)

George Orwell is probably not much read by American Christians. When he is (unavoidable doses of Animal Farm or Nineteen Eighty-Four at school, perhaps) it’s not likely to be with the thought that his work might nourish a reader’s Christian or American identity. This isn’t surprising. Orwell had a vestigial affection for the rites and buildings of the Church of England but was otherwise opposed to almost everything about Christianity as he understood it, and especially to Catholicism. Among the many groups he considered the enemy and for which he had little but vituperation, Catholics and Americans figure largely, though usually separately. If you’re an American Catholic, you can’t read Orwell for the nostalgic Anglophiliac thrills you might get from Evelyn Waugh, or for the voyeuristic shudders you might hope for from Graham Greene. [...]

If one does read (or reread) Orwell, one ought not to do so expecting great or even competent novels. The novels are, as novels, mostly bad and never better than mildly interesting. Orwell knew this, and often lamented his lack of skill as a novelist. [...]

Keep the Aspidistra Flying (1936) is an extended rant about class, money, and literature, drawing heavily from George Gissing and in every literary way inferior to its models; its protagonist, Gordon Comstock, is among the most unsympathetic literary figures ever created, and the little liveliness he has flows from the fact that his unpleasantnesses are very like Orwell’s own. The best novel as a novel is Coming Up For Air (1939), which is coherently plotted, speaks in a single, affecting voice—that of a restless lower-middle-class insurance agent on the eve of World War II who attempts and fails to recover his lost, golden, pre–World War I childhood—and is a moving evocation of nostalgia, decay, loss, and anticipated totalitarian violence. [...]

Orwell’s theoretically skeptical prophetic meliorism resonates with much in Christianity, and especially Catholicism. Catholics do think that there is a natural order, that its fundamentals are accessible to the naïve gaze, that these fundamentals include the profound impropriety of torture, oppression, tyranny, the killing of the innocent, and the despoliation of the natural order. Further, the Catholic Church has no political theory of its own; it does not identify any political order here below with the Kingdom of God; and it is (in its best moments) properly skeptical of the idea that we can do any better than local meliorism in politics. Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum, for example, protests against utopianism and perfectionism in politics for reasons very like Orwell’s. John Paul II’s address to political and economic questions during the last quarter-century has also refused to identify any particular solution to the political question as the right one but has instead concentrated on identifying instances of offense against natural law and natural right that belong to particular polities. His critique of the offenses that belong to Marxist polities is too well known to need recapitulation, and Orwell would have endorsed most of it. Perhaps more in need of emphasis is his critique of the offenses that belong to democracies: unbridled consumerism, commodification, an understanding of rights that embraces a right to kill the defenseless, and so on. This, too, Orwell would have endorsed.

It remains to ask, then, why Orwell was so largely vituperative about Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. The most basic reason is that he thought Catholicism just another example of a doctrinal system that encouraged its adherents to excuse and perform horrible deeds. In his view Catholic doctrine, like Marxism, moves at a level of abstraction and pretended completeness that forces an aversion of the gaze from particulars and encourages the malformation of that gaze. He draws this parallel explicitly in Wigan Pier. In addition to this general objection, like most of his generation in Europe, he saw the Catholic Church as an ally of fascism and therefore complicitous with the very worst tyrannies. In Spain, for example, the Church supported Franco, in large part because of the violent anti-ecclesiasticism of his leftist opponents. This anti-ecclesiasticism included the burning of churches, the killing of priests, and the raping of nuns. Orwell was aware of this: he records instances of it in Homage to Catalonia in a dispassionate way. He did not endorse such atrocities, but he also did not think they excused support of fascism. I don’t here offer any opinion about the rights and wrongs of the Spanish Church’s support of Franco in the 1930s and afterwards. I note it only to identify one source of Orwell’s hostility to the Church.

But along with this anti-Catholicism there is something else. Orwell’s substantive judgments as to which actions are indefensible, which actions ought always to be resisted because they are indecent or unjust or oppressive, are very often in accord with those of Catholic doctrine. His conscience was, by Catholic standards, surprisingly well-formed: he saw the evils of abortion, contraception, oppression, tyranny, and poverty. But there is more yet: there are sometimes glimmers of empathy. In Wigan Pier, Orwell writes favorably of those English working-class homes in which you can see “the crucifix on the wall and the Daily Worker on the table.” He likes this because it bespeaks a nondoctrinaire approach to both socialism and Catholicism: neither is taken to exclude the other, and each can be pressed into the service of resisting the unacceptable. As soon as either becomes doctrinaire, though, as Catholicism does in the “silly-cleverness” of the English Catholic apologists of the time (Orwell has Chesterton and Belloc in mind), and as socialism does in the polysyllable-chewing of the popular socialist orators of the time (“human barrel-organ[s] shooting propaganda at you by the hour,” as Orwell calls them in Coming Up For Air), then the game is lost. Then evils are justified, even encouraged, in the name of the system: Catholics become apologists for Hitler (Orwell reviewed the English version of Karl Adam’s Spirit of Catholicism in 1932, and although Adam was not then known in England as a Nazi sympathizer, the criticisms that Orwell made of the book show that he sees that trajectory in Adam’s work); socialists become apologists for Stalin; and violence, torture, concentration camps, and mass extermination spread without limit.

Nondoctrinaire Catholicism, then, can be a force for good in Orwell’s view. But there is more even than this. Orwell was deeply aware that the world in which he lived, the world of decaying and corrupting empire in Asia, of flourishing totalitarianisms in Europe, and of “sluttish” (a favorite word of his) commercial civilization in England and America, did not nurture the clear eye or the well-formed conscience. In 1935 he had the protagonist of Keep the Aspidistra Flying say that if you reject the corruptions of the money-god, of sluttish commercialism, then you have only three options: suicide, socialism, or Catholicism. And in 1949, a few months before he died, he wrote to a friend that “the problem of the world is this. Can we get men to behave decently to each other if they no longer believe in God?” He was by that time skeptical that the answer could be Yes. Of the three alternatives to sluttish commercialism he identified, socialism was the one he tried to embrace, but his version of it proved unacceptable to most socialists; Catholicism he could not manage; and suicide was, finally, the most attractive. He chose, against medical advice, to spend much of the last four years of his life on Jura, one of the most inhospitable of the Hebridean islands, to the detriment of his health (he was suffering from tuberculosis); and he worked himself to an earlier death than need have been his, again against medical advice.

Whether ultimately "Christian" or not, Orwell's work is undeniably conservative.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:37 AM


The Long Tail: Forget squeezing millions from a few megahits at the top of the charts. The future of entertainment is in the millions of niche markets at the shallow end of the bitstream. (Chris Anderson, December 2004, Wired)

In 1988, a British mountain climber named Joe Simpson wrote a book called Touching the Void, a harrowing account of near death in the Peruvian Andes. It got good reviews but, only a modest success, it was soon forgotten. Then, a decade later, a strange thing happened. Jon Krakauer wrote Into Thin Air, another book about a mountain-climbing tragedy, which became a publishing sensation. Suddenly Touching the Void started to sell again.

Random House rushed out a new edition to keep up with demand. Booksellers began to promote it next to their Into Thin Air displays, and sales rose further. A revised paperback edition, which came out in January, spent 14 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. That same month, IFC Films released a docudrama of the story to critical acclaim. Now Touching the Void outsells Into Thin Air more than two to one.

What happened? In short, Amazon.com recommendations. The online bookseller's software noted patterns in buying behavior and suggested that readers who liked Into Thin Air would also like Touching the Void. People took the suggestion, agreed wholeheartedly, wrote rhapsodic reviews. More sales, more algorithm-fueled recommendations, and the positive feedback loop kicked in.

Particularly notable is that when Krakauer's book hit shelves, Simpson's was nearly out of print. A few years ago, readers of Krakauer would never even have learned about Simpson's book - and if they had, they wouldn't have been able to find it. Amazon changed that. It created the Touching the Void phenomenon by combining infinite shelf space with real-time information about buying trends and public opinion. The result: rising demand for an obscure book.

This is not just a virtue of online booksellers; it is an example of an entirely new economic model for the media and entertainment industries, one that is just beginning to show its power. Unlimited selection is revealing truths about what consumers want and how they want to get it in service after service, from DVDs at Netflix to music videos on Yahoo! Launch to songs in the iTunes Music Store and Rhapsody. People are going deep into the catalog, down the long, long list of available titles, far past what's available at Blockbuster Video, Tower Records, and Barnes & Noble. And the more they find, the more they like. As they wander further from the beaten path, they discover their taste is not as mainstream as they thought (or as they had been led to believe by marketing, a lack of alternatives, and a hit-driven culture).

An analysis of the sales data and trends from these services and others like them shows that the emerging digital entertainment economy is going to be radically different from today's mass market. If the 20th- century entertainment industry was about hits, the 21st will be equally about misses. [...]

To get a sense of our true taste, unfiltered by the economics of scarcity, look at Rhapsody, a subscription-based streaming music service (owned by RealNetworks) that currently offers more than 735,000 tracks.

Chart Rhapsody's monthly statistics and you get a "power law" demand curve that looks much like any record store's, with huge appeal for the top tracks, tailing off quickly for less popular ones. But a really interesting thing happens once you dig below the top 40,000 tracks, which is about the amount of the fluid inventory (the albums carried that will eventually be sold) of the average real-world record store. Here, the Wal-Marts of the world go to zero - either they don't carry any more CDs, or the few potential local takers for such fringy fare never find it or never even enter the store.

The Rhapsody demand, however, keeps going. Not only is every one of Rhapsody's top 100,000 tracks streamed at least once each month, the same is true for its top 200,000, top 300,000, and top 400,000. As fast as Rhapsody adds tracks to its library, those songs find an audience, even if it's just a few people a month, somewhere in the country.

This is the Long Tail.

You can find everything out there on the Long Tail. There's the back catalog, older albums still fondly remembered by longtime fans or rediscovered by new ones. There are live tracks, B-sides, remixes, even (gasp) covers. There are niches by the thousands, genre within genre within genre: Imagine an entire Tower Records devoted to '80s hair bands or ambient dub. There are foreign bands, once priced out of reach in the Import aisle, and obscure bands on even more obscure labels, many of which don't have the distribution clout to get into Tower at all.

Oh sure, there's also a lot of crap. But there's a lot of crap hiding between the radio tracks on hit albums, too. People have to skip over it on CDs, but they can more easily avoid it online, since the collaborative filters typically won't steer you to it. Unlike the CD, where each crap track costs perhaps one-twelfth of a $15 album price, online it just sits harmlessly on some server, ignored in a market that sells by the song and evaluates tracks on their own merit.

What's really amazing about the Long Tail is the sheer size of it. Combine enough nonhits on the Long Tail and you've got a market bigger than the hits. Take books: The average Barnes & Noble carries 130,000 titles. Yet more than half of Amazon's book sales come from outside its top 130,000 titles. Consider the implication: If the Amazon statistics are any guide, the market for books that are not even sold in the average bookstore is larger than the market for those that are (see "Anatomy of the Long Tail"). In other words, the potential book market may be twice as big as it appears to be, if only we can get over the economics of scarcity. Venture capitalist and former music industry consultant Kevin Laws puts it this way: "The biggest money is in the smallest sales."

The same is true for all other aspects of the entertainment business, to one degree or another. Just compare online and offline businesses: The average Blockbuster carries fewer than 3,000 DVDs. Yet a fifth of Netflix rentals are outside its top 3,000 titles. Rhapsody streams more songs each month beyond its top 10,000 than it does its top 10,000. In each case, the market that lies outside the reach of the physical retailer is big and getting bigger.

When you think about it, most successful businesses on the Internet are about aggregating the Long Tail in one way or another. Google, for instance, makes most of its money off small advertisers (the long tail of advertising), and eBay is mostly tail as well - niche and one-off products. By overcoming the limitations of geography and scale, just as Rhapsody and Amazon have, Google and eBay have discovered new markets and expanded existing ones.

This is the power of the Long Tail. The companies at the vanguard of it are showing the way with three big lessons. Call them the new rules for the new entertainment economy.

Rule 1: Make everything available [...]

Rule 2: Cut the price in half. Now lower it. [...]

Rule 3: Help me find it

By the way, the "Long Tail" concept is neat enough, but, in addition, Touching the Void is an excellent film, not least because of Mr. Simpson's accidental spiritualism.

Lawrence and Alex's Great Publishing Adventure (LAWRENCE DOUGLAS (with ALEXANDER GEORGE), 1/12/05, Chronicle Review)

Our sentimental education in the ways of publishing began two months before our book of humor, Sense and Nonsensibility, was to be issued by Simon & Schuster. Over lunch at the publishing giant's corporate headquarters in Manhattan, our publicist revealed a highly confidential fact: "Advertisements don't sell books." When we registered our surprise, he assured us that this was the typical reaction of first-time trade authors. "Ads are totally passé," he said. We were therefore immensely relieved when, over dessert, he revealed that Simon & Schuster was not planning on running any ads for our book whatsoever. "Let the publisher of Eats, Shoots & Leaves waste its money on full-page color spreads in The New York Times," we snickered. We knew better!

Our spirits remained high when our summer publication date quietly passed. Patiently we waited for reviews to appear. Two early and enthusiastic notices in Publishers Weekly and Library Journal prepared us for the coming flood, and we openly wondered whether David Levine's caricature in The New York Review of Books would flatter or ridicule us. But weeks went by, and nothing further appeared. No Booklist, no Kirkus; not even our own campus newspaper reviewed our book. This prompted our ever-helpful publicist to share another trade secret: "Reviews don't sell books."

Frankly, we were flabbergasted. "Really?" we exclaimed. "Not even good reviews?"

"Oh ... good reviews." he sniffed. "Yes, I suppose they can help, but even then. ... "

The process was starting to appear mysterious. "How do books sell?" we asked.

"When people buy them," our publicist confided.

We had occasion to muse over the significance of this lapidary insight as we monitored our Amazon ranking. It remained stubbornly at 1.5 million. That figure was far higher than the total number of volumes housed in Amherst's venerable Robert Frost Library. How could that be? Our Amazon site already had more than its share of glowing five-star reviews written by our respective siblings, partners, former lovers, children, and close or indebted friends, not to mention ourselves. Suddenly we saw the flaw in our strategy -- it assumed that people were aware of our book's existence, and did nothing to steer the would-be buyer to our bargain-priced volume. Promptly we hired work-study students to insert exuberant plugs for our book into otherwise-lackluster reviews of our competitors' works. Amazon's listing for David Sedaris's latest was soon flooded with comments like, "Entertaining. Great for the bathroom. But if you want something life-alteringly hilarious, you're better off with Douglas & George's Sense and Nonsensibility." Or, for The 9/11 Commission Report: "After reading this sobering and important document, I was glad to unwind with Douglas & George's gem, Sense and Nonsensibility."

Within days, our Amazon ranking had broken through the glass ceiling of 100,000. A week later we were under 10,000. And for one glorious, improbable day, we were at 485.

Emboldened, we turned next to bookstores.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:26 AM


"By means of the struggle, the elites are continually renewed. The law of selection justifies this incessant struggle, by allowing the survival of the fittest. Christianity is rebellion against natural law, a protest against nature. Taken to its logical extreme, Christianity would mean the systematic cultivation of failure." -Adolph Hitler, 10th October, 1941 (Hitler's Table Talk 1941-1944)
Posted by Peter Burnet at 10:21 AM


His father went to Germany to topple a wall - now George Bush arrives to mend fences (Julian Borger and Nicholas Watt, The Guardian, February 19th, 2005)

Transatlantic relations are at their worst for a generation, and Washington now recognises that the problem threatens to hobble its ambitious global agenda. The president has therefore dedicated the first foreign trip of his second term to addressing the troubled relationship.

To do so, Mr Bush will be spending quality time with his two bitterest European critics. He will dine with Jacques Chirac on Monday night, although it will be under the Stars and Stripes at the US ambassador's residence in Brussels, rather than under the Tricolore in Paris as the French president would have preferred (France has not yet been entirely forgiven). The US president then spends much of Wednesday with Gerhard Schröder in Mainz. On Thursday, in Bratislava, he meets Vladimir Putin, the one European leader to openly support his re-election, although relations have worsened dramatically in recent weeks.

In a tour heavily loaded with symbolism, Mr Bush will begin his odyssey tomorrow in Brussels - the institutional heart of Europe and home to the EU and Nato.

In his first term, the Bush administration avoided and mistrusted these two giant bureaucracies, preferring to cherry-pick willing coalition partners from what it liked to think of as "New Europe".

Not so this time. This trip will be a homage to "Old Europe" and the baroque architecture of European institutions. The highlights will include an address to the continent made from the Concert Noble, an ornate banqueting hall in Brussels on Monday, and meetings with Nato leaders and the full 25-member European Council the next day. "This is a gesture of reaching out to Europe," declared the EU's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana.

We up here have tried to warn them, but will they listen?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:01 AM


Where's the Faith In This Agenda? (E. J. Dionne Jr., February 19, 2005, Washington Post)

I recently reread one of the best political speeches of the 1990s. It was powerful because the leader in question not only discussed his own views but also offered a vision of who we are as Americans.

He set his face against an empty conventional wisdom -- a "destructive mind-set" he called it -- and challenged "the idea that if government would only get out of our way, all our problems would be solved. An approach with no higher goal, no nobler purpose, than 'Leave us alone.' Yet this is not who we are as Americans."

There is much of the speech I'd like to cite here, but consider just a few passages: "We have always found our better selves in sympathy and generosity, both in our lives and in our laws. Americans will never write the epitaph of idealism. It emerges from our nature as a people, with a vision of the common good beyond profit and loss. . . .

"We are a nation of rugged individuals. But we are also the country of the second chance, tied together by bonds of friendship and community and solidarity. We are a nation of high purpose and restless reform, of child labor laws and emancipation and suffrage and civil rights. . . . We can, in our imperfect way, rise now and again to the example of St. Francis, where there is hatred, sowing love; where there is darkness, shedding light; where there is despair, bringing hope."

I feel like standing up and cheering, which would be unusual for me these days because the speaker is George W. Bush. He gave that speech in Indianapolis on July 22, 1999. [...]

I still hope that liberals and conservatives might someday come together in acknowledging that alleviating poverty requires the energies of both government and the charitable sector, emphatically including our religious institutions.

Unfortunately, the president's new budget moves us no closer to that happy time. It cuts programs for the poor while insisting that no tax cut for the wealthy be left behind. The politician who spoke so movingly in 1999 about our "bonds of friendship and community and solidarity" and offered "a vision of the common good beyond profit and loss" was on to something important. Whatever happened to that guy?

He's creating programs that don't just eliminate poverty but make the average American truly wealthy--school vouchers, HSAs, home ownership, and personal retirement accounts--while at the same time reknitting social bonds--via the Faith Based Initiative (which has been enacted by executive order, rather than legislation, which Democrats could block) and moral initiatives, like the limitations on abortion, embryonic stem cell experimentation, and the like. What are liberals doing? Other than obstructing all those things?

Posted by Peter Burnet at 9:46 AM


Why the EU Constitution is bad for Britain and bad for the US (Charles Moore, The Telegraph, February 19th, 2005)

It is natural for Americans to like the sound of the word "constitution". They have the best one ever written in a single document. It consists, in the copy I have before me, of 12 pages, 11 if you exclude the list of the men who signed it. There are also amendments added over the past two centuries: they amount to another nine pages. If President Bush tucked himself up with it at his famously early bedtime of 9.30, he could finish it well before 10.

I should be surprised if the State Department, the Washington faction keenest on turning Mr Bush into a Euro-enthusiast, has encouraged him to go to bed with a copy of the European Constitution. My copy, published by TSO (note that the former name Her Majesty's Stationery Office has quietly been relegated), is 511 pages long. I do not claim it would keep Mr Bush up all night – in fact, I guarantee that, if he tried to read it, he would still be asleep by 10 – but it would wake him and the First Lady up with a start as it slipped from his nerveless hands and crashed, all 2lb 8oz of it, on the floor.

If he did spend 20 minutes with the document, however, the President would see that it was not what is normally meant by a constitution. Rather than confining itself to the division of powers by which a country should be governed – head of state, parliament, judiciary, what's local and what's national – it lays out scores of pages telling people how to run their lives. It supports positive discrimination, outlaws the death penalty in all circumstances, commits itself to high public spending, compulsory consultation with trade unions about changes at work, "the exchange of youth workers", "fat-free breakfasts", "distance education" and "the physical and moral integrity of sportsmen and sportswomen" (I made one of these up). And it imposes all these on nations that have their own governments and electorates.

It also contains a great bundle of miscellaneous provisions about such things as abortion in Malta, "Hot Rolling Mills Nos 1 and 2" for a steel company in the Czech Republic, some rather frightening-looking stuff about the nuclear power plant in Slovakia and "the right to provide services by natural persons who do not enjoy hembygdsrätt/kotiseutuoikeus (regional citizenship) in Åland". This is not a constitution, certainly not a constitution intended to be understood by those it affects. It is a vast agglomeration of decisions made by governments to take power over citizens of vastly differing countries.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:25 AM


Commentaries on the Constitution (Joseph Story, 1833)

§ 1865. How far any government has a right to interfere in matters touching religion, has been a subject much discussed by writers upon public and political law. The right and the duty of the interference of government, in matters of religion, have been maintained by many distinguished authors, as well those, who were the warmest advocates of free government, as those, who were attached to governments of a more arbitrary character. Indeed, the right of a society or government to interfere in matters of religion will hardly be contested by any persons, who believe that piety, religion, and morality are intimately connected with the well being of the state, and indispensable to the administration of civil justice. The promulgation of the great doctrines of religion, the being, and attributes, and providence of one Almighty God; the responsibility to him for all our actions, founded upon moral freedom and accountability; a future state of rewards and punishments; the cultivation of all the personal, social, and benevolent virtues;--these never can be a matter of indifference in any well ordered community. It is, indeed, difficult to conceive, how any civilized society can well exist without them. And at all events, it is impossible for those, who believe in the truth of Christianity, as a divine revelation, to doubt, that it is the especial duty of government to foster, and encourage it among all the citizens and subjects. This is a point wholly distinct from that of the right of private judgment in matters of religion, and of the freedom of public worship according to the dictates of one's conscience.

§ 1866. The real difficulty lies in ascertaining the limits, to which government may rightfully go in fostering and encouraging religion. Three cases may easily be supposed. One, where a government affords aid to a particular religion, leaving all persons free to adopt any other; another, where it creates an ecclesiastical establishment for the propagation of the doctrines of a particular sect of that religion, leaving a like freedom to all others; and a third, where it creates such an establishment, and excludes all persons, not belonging to it, either wholly, or in part, from any participation in the public honours, trusts, emoluments, privileges, and immunities of the state. For instance, a government may simply declare, that the Christian religion shall be the religion of the state, and shall be aided, and encouraged in all the varieties of sects belonging to it; or it may declare, that the Catholic or Protestant religion shall be the religion of the state, leaving every man to the free enjoyment of his own religious opinions; or it may establish the doctrines of a particular sect, as of Episcopalians, as the religion of the state, with a like freedom; or it may establish the doctrines of a particular sect, as exclusively the religion of the state, tolerating others to a limited extent, or excluding all, not belonging to it, from all public honours, trusts, emoluments, privileges, and immunities.

§ 1867. Now, there will probably be found few persons in this, or any other Christian country, who would deliberately contend, that it was unreasonable, or unjust to foster and encourage the Christian religion generally, as a matter of sound policy, as well as of revealed truth. In fact, every American colony, from its foundation down to the revolution, with the exception of Rhode Island, (if, indeed, that state be an exception,) did openly, by the whole course of its laws and institutions, support and sustain, in some form, the Christian religion; and almost invariably gave a peculiar sanction to some of its fundamental doctrines. And this has continued to be the case in some of the states down to the present period, without the slightest suspicion, that it was against the principles of public law, or republican liberty. Indeed, in a republic, there would seem to be a peculiar propriety in viewing the Christian religion, as the great basis, on which it must rest for its support and permanence, if it be, what it has ever been deemed by its truest friends to be, the religion of liberty. Montesquieu has remarked, that the Christian religion is a stranger to mere despotic power. The mildness so frequently recommended in the gospel is incompatible with the despotic rage, with which a prince punishes his subjects, and exercises himself in cruelty. He has gone even further, and affirmed, that the Protestant religion is far more congenial with the spirit of political freedom, than the Catholic. "When," says he, "the Christian religion, two centuries ago, became unhappily, divided into Catholic and Protestant, the people of the north embraced the Protestant, and those of the south still adhered to the Catholic. The reason is plain. The people of the north have, and will ever have, a spirit of liberty and independence, which the people of the south have not. And, therefore, a religion, which has no visible head, is more agreeable to the independency of climate, than that, which has one." Without stopping to inquire, whether this remark be well founded, it is certainly true, that the parent country has acted upon it with a severe and vigilant zeal; and in most of the colonies the same rigid jealousy has been maintained almost down to our own times. Massachusetts, while she has promulgated in her BILL OF RIGHTS the importance and necessity of the public support of religion, and the worship of God, has authorized the legislature to require it only for Protestantism. The language of that bill of rights is remarkable for its pointed affirmation of the duty of government to support Christianity, and the reasons for it. "As," says the third article, "the happiness of a people, and the good order and preservation of civil government, essentially depend upon piety, religion, and morality; and as these cannot be generally diffused through the community, but by the institution of the public worship of God, and of public instructions in piety, religion, and morality; therefore, to promote their happiness and to secure the good order and preservation of their government, the people of this Commonwealth have a right to invest their legislature with power to authorize, and require, and the legislature shall from time to time authorize and require, the several towns, parishes, &c. &c. to make suitable provision at their own expense for the institution of the public worship of God, and for the support and maintenance of public protestant teachers of piety, religion, and morality, in all cases where such provision shall not be made voluntarily." Afterwards there follow provisions, prohibiting any superiority of one sect over another, and securing to all citizens the free exercise of religion.

§ 1868. Probably at the time of the adoption of the constitution, and of the amendment to it, now under consideration, the general, if not the universal, sentiment in America was, that Christianity ought to receive encouragement from the state, so far as was not incompatible with the private rights of conscience, and the freedom of religious worship. An attempt to level all religions, and to make it a matter of state policy to hold all in utter indifference, would have created universal disapprobation, if not universal indignation.

§ 1869. It yet remains a problem to be solved in human affairs, whether any free government can be permanent, where the public worship of God, and the support of religion, constitute no part of the policy or duty of the state in any assignable shape. The future experience of Christendom, and chiefly of the American states, must settle this problem, as yet new in the history of the world, abundant, as it has been, in experiments in the theory of government.

§ 1870. But the duty of supporting religion, and especially the Christian religion, is very different from the right to force the consciences of other men, or to punish them for worshipping God in the manner, which, they believe, their accountability to him requires. It has been truly said, that "religion, or the duty we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be dictated only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence." Mr. Locke himself, who did not doubt the right of government to interfere in matters of religion, and especially to encourage Christianity, at the same time has expressed his opinion of the right of private judgment, and liberty of conscience, in a manner becoming his character, as a sincere friend of civil and religious liberty. "No man, or society of men," says he, "have any authority to impose their opinions or interpretations on any other, the meanest Christian; since, in matters of religion, every man must know, and believe, and give an account for himself." The rights of conscience are, indeed, beyond the just reach of any human power. They are given by God, and cannot be encroached upon by human authority, without a criminal disobedience of the precepts of natural, as well as of revealed religion.

§ 1871. The real object of the amendment was, not to countenance, much less to advance Mahometanism, or Judaism, or infidelity, by prostrating Christianity; but to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects, and to prevent any national ecclesiastical establishment, which should give to an hierarchy the exclusive patronage of the national government. It thus cut off the means of religious persecution, (the vice and pest of former ages,) and of the subversion of the rights of conscience in matters of religion, which had been trampled upon almost from the days of the Apostles to the present age. The history of the parent country had afforded the most solemn warnings and melancholy instructions on this head; and even New England, the land of the persecuted puritans, as well as other colonies, where the Church of England had maintained its superiority, would furnish out a chapter, as full of the darkest bigotry and intolerance, as any, which could be found to disgrace the pages of foreign annals. Apostacy, heresy, and nonconformity had been standard crimes for public appeals, to kindle the flames of persecution, and apologize for the most atrocious triumphs over innocence and virtue.

§ 1872. Mr. Justice Blackstone, after having spoken with a manly freedom of the abuses in the Romish church respecting heresy; and, that Christianity had been deformed by the demon of persecution upon the continent, and that the island of Great Britain had not been entirely free from the scourge, defends the final enactments against nonconformity in England, in the following set phrases, to which, without any material change, might be justly applied his own sarcastic remarks upon the conduct of the Roman ecclesiastics in punishing heresy. "For non-conformity to the worship of the church," (says he,) "there is much more to be pleaded than for the former, (that is, reviling the ordinances of the church,) being a matter of private conscience, to the scruples of which our present laws have shown a very just, and Christian indulgence. For undoubtedly all persecution and oppression of weak consciences, on the score of religious persuasions, are highly unjustifiable upon every principle of natural reason, civil liberty, or sound religion. But care must be taken not to carry this indulgence into such extremes, as may endanger the national church. There is always a difference to be made between toleration and establishment." Let it be remembered, that at the very moment, when the learned commentator was penning these cold remarks, the laws of England merely tolerated protestant dissenters in their public worship upon certain conditions, at once irritating and degrading; that the test and corporation acts excluded them from public and corporate offices, both of trust and profit; that the learned commentator avows, that the object of the test and corporation acts to exclude them from office, in common with Turks, Jews, heretics, papists, and other sectaries; that to deny the Trinity, however conscientiously disbelieved, was a public offence, punishable by fine and imprisonment; and that, in the rear of all these disabilities and grievances, came the long list of acts against papists, by which they were reduced to a state of political and religious slavery, and cut off from some of the dearest privileges of mankind.

§ 1873. It was under a solemn consciousness of the dangers from ecclesiastical ambition, the bigotry of spiritual pride, and the intolerance of sects, thus exemplified in our domestic, as well as in foreign annals, that it was deemed advisable to exclude from the national government all power to act upon the subject. The situation, too, of the different states equally proclaimed the policy, as well as the necessity of such an exclusion. In some of the states, episcopalians constituted the predominant sect; in others, presbyterians; in others, congregationalists; in others, quakers; and in others again, there was a close numerical rivalry among contending sects. It was impossible, that there should not arise perpetual strife and perpetual jealousy on the subject of ecclesiastical ascendancy, if the national government were left free to create a religious establishment. The only security was in extirpating the power. But this alone would have been an imperfect security, if it had not been followed up by a declaration of the right of the free exercise of religion, and a prohibition (as we have seen) of all religious tests. Thus, the whole power over the subject of religion is left exclusively to the state governments, to be acted upon according to their own sense of justice, and the state constitutions; and the Catholic and the Protestant, the Calvinist and the Arminian, the Jew and the Infidel, may sit down at the common table of the national councils, without any inquisition into their faith, or mode of worship.

there's no meaningful difference between secularist attempts to read Religion out of the Founding and Michael Bellesiles's attempt to read out guns.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:18 AM


US, OAS Members Sign New Environmental Agreements (VOA News, 18 February 2005)

The agreements are aimed at strengthening environmental protection and creating a Secretariat for Environmental Matters to help implement the environmental provisions of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).

The accords were signed in Washington D.C. Friday by senior representatives of the governments of Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and the United States.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:10 AM


Whither Dean’s Dems?: To be called ‘secular’ these days is more of an insult even than getting labeled liberal. That’s why the new chairman of the Democratic Party has to begin defining its policies in moral terms (Eleanor Clift, 2/18/05, Newsweek)

The Left is uncomfortable talking about spiritual matters, which puzzles Wallis. He points out with wonderment that the Democrats, a party that during the time of the civil rights movement was led by black churches, allowed itself to get defined as secular. "Where would we be if Dr. King had kept his religion to himself?" he asks. The hard truth dawning upon Democrats is that this is a profoundly religious Christian country, and that’s a political reality that will relegate Democrats to the ash heap of history if they don’t figure out how to respond. A New Yorker cartoon captures the current mood with a church bulletin board asking, “What would Jesus do about Social Security?” [...]

Politics is about connecting. It's no accident that the two Democrats elected president in recent years have been Southern Baptists. Jimmy Carter is a born-again evangelical, and Bill Clinton has a deep appreciation and knowledge of religion. Voters want to know about the moral compass of their leaders, and religious expression is one of the guideposts. Dean understands the challenge, and it doesn’t mean that he has to take a press pool with him to church on Sundays. But he has to begin to define Democratic ideas and policies in moral terms. For starters, Wallis says budgets are moral documents. They reflect the values of a family, city or nation. Democrats should do a “values audit” of President Bush’s budget—who wins, who loses, who suffers, who benefits.

Dean's chairmanship of the Democratic Party is a victory of the grassroots activists over the party establishment, which did everything to stop him and failed. One Beltway Democrat called the elevation of Dean "an office-warming gift for Rove," now that King Karl has been named deputy chief of staff and moved closer to the Oval Office.

Were Democrats to follow the moral leadership of the black churches again they'd come out against gay marriage and abortion....likely?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:49 AM


Protester Throws Shoe at Richard Perle (RUKMINI CALLIMACHI, 2/18/05, AP)

Howard Dean, the newly minted leader of the Democratic Party, and former Pentagon adviser Richard Perle made clear their opposing views on the war in Iraq during a debate marred by a protester who tossed a shoe at Perle.

Perle had just started his comments Thursday when a protester threw a shoe at him before being dragged away, screaming, "Liar! Liar!"

The saboteur gets top billing over Mr. Perle's ideas and then folks whine about the control being exercised over who gets in to see the President speak.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:43 AM


Americans flock to India for treatment (New Kerala, Feb 16, 2005)

A reversal of medical tourism now has Americans making a beeline for India, seeking latest and cheaper treatments.

Until recently, it was the other way round, with Indians rushing to the US for better cure facilities.

However, with the state-of-art medical procedures, equipment and facilities now available in India, patients from developed countries like Canada and Britain are flocking to Indian hospitals.

The Indian medical fraternity conquered the "final frontier" when Americans too started coming here for the latest medical procedures, which are either not available in their country or are much more expensive.

Robert Walter Beeney was unable to walk due to a stiff hip when he landed in India Jan 24. Twenty days later, he not only recovered after a rare hip replacement surgery at Apollo Hospital here but also visited the famous Taj Mahal in Agra after that.

Heck, if you go to an American hospital your doctor isn't unlikely to be Indian either.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:40 AM


Don't panic, it might never happen: A mathematical study of terrorist attacks need not leave us fearing the worst (Philip Ball, 2/18/05, Nature)

Computer scientists Aaron Clauset and Maxwell Young of the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, have analysed the data on terrorist attacks compiled by the National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism in Oklahoma City. They say the numbers follow a 'power-law' relationship.

A graph of the number of attacks n plotted against their severity x (in terms of injuries and/or fatalities) reveals that n is roughly proportional to x -1.85. Put simply, this means that the frequency of attacks decreases as their size increases - which is what you'd expect - but also that this relationship holds for events ranging from those that injured or killed just a few people to those that, like the Nairobi car bomb in August 1998, produced over 5000 casualties.

This might sound like no more than a formal way of presenting the statistics, but the power-law relationship has startling implications. For example, Clauset and Young say that the statistics suggest a strong probability of an attack as devastating as that on the World Trade Center within seven years.

And the power-law relationship implies that the biggest terrorist attacks are not 'outliers': one-off events somehow different from the all-too-familiar suicide bombings that kill or maim just a few people. Instead, it suggests that they are somehow driven by the same underlying mechanism. [...]

[A] power-law suggests something about that mechanism. If every terrorist attack were instigated independently of every other, their size-frequency relationship should obey the 'gaussian' statistics seen in coin-tossing experiments. In gaussian statistics, very big fluctuations are extremely rare - you will hardly ever observe ten heads and ninety tails when you toss a coin 100 times. Processes governed by power-law statistics, in contrast, seem to be interdependent. This makes them far more prone to big events, which is why giant tsunamis and market crashes do happen within a typical lifetime. Does this mean that terrorist attacks are interdependent in the same way?

This touches on a deep, difficult and long-standing question that has divided historians for centuries: are there universal laws governing human history?

Immanuel Kant, writing in his essay Idea of a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View (1784), proposed that "Individual men, and even whole nations, little think, while they are pursuing their own purposes...that they are advancing unconsciously under the guidance of a purpose of nature which is unknown to them."

The idea that there are robust laws of social behaviour analogous to the laws of physics - laws which are beyond our power to change - is what underlay the 'positivist' philosophy of Auguste Comte in the 1830s. It moved Leo Tolstoy to ask: "What is the force that moves nations?" A belief in the 'law-like' unfolding of history and economics also provided the foundation of Karl Marx's theories, and it continues to inform the thinking of Marxist historians today.

No one of even mildly open mind will fail to discern the other philosophy of history that derives from faith in such Natural law.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:39 AM


Criminals at the Border Thwarted by Own Hands (Richard Marosi, February 19, 2005, LA Times)

The U.S. Border Patrol has arrested tens of thousands of people with criminal records, including suspected murderers, rapists and child molesters, since the agency last year installed a fingerprinting system that identifies criminals among the 1 million illegal migrants apprehended annually.

The high-tech system is part of a broader effort by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to create a "virtual border" to stop terrorists and those with criminal pasts from entering the country.

The fingerprints of all detained illegal immigrants are now matched against the FBI's national criminal database through scanners installed at all 137 Border Patrol stations along the Mexican and Canadian borders. To process a person, all 10 fingers are rolled across a scanner, and the digitized fingerprint images are compared against the database's 47 million records. The results usually come back within minutes.

About 30,000 of the 680,000 illegal migrants who were arrested from May through December were identified as having criminal records, compared with about 2,600 during the same period in 2002 — an eleven-fold increase. Criminal illegal immigrants are those with past arrests or convictions for crimes ranging from shoplifting to murder.

Since its start as a pilot program in 2003, the system has identified about 24 people suspected of homicide, 55 of rape and 225 of assault, according to Border Patrol statistics.

Such would be the benefits of a more regularized and regulated inflow of illegal immigrants--it would be easier to separate out the undesirables.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:38 AM


Mid-18th-Century Modern: The Classicists Strike Back (DAVID COLMAN, 2/10/05, NY Times)

Since 2002 the [Institute of Classical Architecture] has made sweeping changes to its once-fusty agenda, and the design world is scoffing no longer. The group appointed its first full-time president, Paul Gunther, two years ago; merged with Classical America, another traditional scholarship organization; and has fanned the appetite for traditional architecture. In the last 18 months, its membership has more than doubled, to 1,500, and the group (now called the Institute of Classical Architecture & Classical America) has opened five new regional chapters for a total of seven.

Its program of classes, tours and lectures teaching the concepts and practices of traditional architecture - a curriculum largely vanished from architecture schools - earned last year's largest design grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Its lectures in New York have drawn speakers like Martha Stewart and crowds as large as 300, even on staid topics like a new translation of Vitruvius.

"Their contribution to the awareness of architecture and design has become enormous in the last few years," said Chase Rynd, the executive director of the National Building Museum in Washington. Even decorators who like their modernism, like Miles Redd and DD Allen, are showing up for the institute's lectures and classes on subjects like ornamental pilastering and theories of proportion. It has started regional programs aimed at developers and builders. While the institute was sustained for more than a decade by pure classicists like Gil Schafer III, Anne Fairfax and Richard Sammons, their preaching did not find a great audience. Now the institute, which last year finally found a permanent home in a neo-Classical style 1890 building on West 44th Street, has opened up the discourse to include traditional architectural styles, including Georgian and Greek Revival, Arts and Crafts, Gothic Revival and shingle style.

"They're really expanding the definition of what constitutes classicism," said Bunny Williams, the Manhattan decorator and a fellow on the institute's board. Last year the institute gave its Ross Award for excellence in architecture to Merrill & Pastor, a Florida firm, whose work ranges from classical to early modern.

"The purists on the board are not ascendant," Mr. Gunther said. While he deflects praise to the institute itself, he is responsible for much of its recent success, members say. Mr. Gunther, a socially well-connected former vice president of the New-York Historical Society, has become a kind of Karl Rove for the classicist movement. "He's a huge factor in their success," Ms. Williams said.

Ever on the lookout for ways to expand the institute's scope and prestige, Mr. Gunther last month announced that in partnership with Habitat for Humanity it would design classically styled affordable homes for use in historic neighborhoods across the country. Prototypes will be built in Savannah, Ga.; Norfolk, Va.; and Rochester.

"It was a well-thought-out and practical collaboration," said Jeff Speck, the director of design at the National Endowment for the Arts, which contributed $50,000. "Nothing is more attractive to an N.E.A. panel than seeing artistic means used toward social ends."

Mr. Gunther, for his part, accounts for the institute's popularity as a reassuring counterpoint to today's technological upheaval, and not an anachronistic clash. "All those high-tech guys on the West Coast, they're on the cutting edge of inventing the future," Mr. Gunther said. "But when it comes to home and hearth, they're building traditional houses. There's a marketplace of demand for this out there. So do you just ignore it or try and do something about it and make it better?"

Classicism's most zealous fans maintain that its tenets mark it as the great and timeless architecture of democracy, and they exalt it above all other styles. But even nonzealots have come to see its allure. "I'll have people who have lived in really fabulous modern apartments," Mr. Redd said. "But then they'll move into an apartment or house that has a lot of classical proportions and details, and they'll say, 'Now, I really feel like a grown-up.' "

America has outgrown Modernity.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:36 AM


GREEN EVANGELICALS (Robert Novak, February 19, 2005, Townhall)

Evangelical leaders are being urged to sign a document that attempts to take a stand on environmentalism by asserting "we are not the owners of creation but its stewards."

The document, already adopted by the National Association of Evangelicals, quotes Genesis that men are summoned by God to "watch over and care for" the earth. It is to be circulated and discussed March 9-10 in Washington at a meeting of the association, which represents 52 denominations. So far, signatories include Chuck Colson, James Dobson and Ted Haggard.

Evangelicals supporting the document say it can help take the environmental issue away from the Left.

It is the Democrats' last issue and, for now the Greens' only. But a conservative environmentalism will be qualitatively different.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:30 AM


The next Speaker (Robert Novak, February 19, 2005, Townhall)

If House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert were to announce his retirement, the most likely successor would be somebody given up for dead a few years ago as far as Republican leadership ambitions were concerned: Rep. John Boehner of Ohio.

At age 45 with only four years' experience in Congress, Boehner was named chairman of the House Republican Conference when the GOP took control of the House in the 1994 elections. He lost support from rank-and-file members, partly because of his role in the unsuccessful coup to replace Newt Gingrich as speaker.

Helps that everyone later realized the coup was right.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:21 AM


Risk-Reward Gamble (Albert B. Crenshaw, January 16, 2005, Washington Post)

This shift -- from the New Deal to the Ownership Society -- is a sea change in the way Americans view the relationship between themselves and the government, and between themselves and the rest of society. Whereas government, unions and other collective organizations were widely seen in the 1930s as placing a safety net under workers and their families, today they are regarded by many people, especially in the "red states," as stifling enterprise and protecting the lazy.

In contrast to the New Deal, the Ownership Society will have optional elements, with greater rewards but also far greater risk. While the administration's Social Security plan taps into taxes that workers are already paying, a key element of the Ownership Society is that to take full advantage of it, you must put up a great deal more of your own money -- pay to play, if you will. And that principle of pay to play applies in fields ranging from retirement to education to health care.

Private employers, long the source of a truly secure retirement for so many, have already begun their retreat from the social safety net and embraced the ownership philosophy. Consider the increasingly common 401(k) and related retirement plans.

Typically these have attractive tax benefits, and many employers who sponsor them chip in by matching a portion of the money a worker contributes. But the fact remains that the primary driver of these accounts is the worker's own money. To participate in a 401(k) plan, a worker has to take money out of his or her own paycheck and shift it to the retirement account.

And these amounts can be substantial. This year, a worker is allowed to contribute up to $14,000 to a 401(k), plus an additional $4,000 "catch-up" contribution if the worker is 50 or older. Next year, those amounts rise to $15,000 and $5,000. A working couple could conceivably contribute double those amounts.

The couple who sock away $30,000 or $40,000 a year for many years would, absent some economic catastrophe, almost certainly end up with a handsome retirement account.

Truly ambitious savers can tack on an individual retirement account, which also carries substantial tax benefits, or a Roth IRA, funded with non-deductible contributions.

Having a government-sanctioned way to squirrel away thousands of dollars every year, and having those assets accumulate earnings that won't be immediately taxed, is enticing, even empowering. The limiting factor for many families will be their own finances.

And the benefits in the outlying years for a rather inexpensive investment in the early years are such that we should be prepared to help those whose finances might genuinely constrain them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:16 AM


Rereadings: How Mattie got her man (Donna Tartt, January 8, 2005, The Guardian)

It's a commonplace to say that we "love" a book, but when we say it, we really mean all sorts of things. Sometimes we mean only that we have read a book once and enjoyed it; sometimes we mean that a book was important to us in our youth, though we haven't picked it up in years; sometimes what we "love" is an impressionistic idea glimpsed from afar (Combray... mad-eleines... Tante Leonie...) as opposed to the experience of wallowing and ploughing through an actual text, and all too often people claim to love books they haven't read at all. Then there are the books we love so much that we read them every year or two, and know passages of them by heart; that cheer us when we are sick or sad and never fail to amuse us when we take them up at random; that we press on all our friends and acquaintances; and to which we return again and again with undimmed enthusiasm over the course of a lifetime. I think it goes without saying that most books that engage readers on this very high level are masterpieces; and this is why I believe that True Grit by Charles Portis is a masterpiece.

Not only have I loved True Grit since I was a child; it is a book loved passionately by my entire family. I cannot think of another novel - any novel - which is so delightful to so many disparate groups and literary tastes. Four generations of us fell for it in a swift coup de foudre - starting with my mother's grandmother, then in her early 80s, who borrowed it from the library and adored it and passed it along to my mother. My mother - her eldest granddaughter - was suspicious. There wasn't much over-lap in their reading matter: my gentle great-grandmother - born in 1890 - was the product of an extremely sheltered life, and a more innocent creature in many respects than are most six-year-olds today; whereas my mother (in her 20s then) kept books like The Boston Strangler on her bedside table. Purely from a sense of duty, she gave True Grit a try -and was so crazy about it that when she finished it, she turned back to the first page and read it all over again. My own middle-aged grandmother (whose reading habits were rather severe, running to politics and sci ence and history) was smitten by True Grit , too, which was even more remarkable since - apart from the classics of her childhood, and what she called "the great books" - she didn't even care all that much for fiction. I think she might have been the person who suggested that it be given to me to read. And I was only about 10, but I loved it too, and I've loved it ever since.

It's a great book.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:53 AM


Remarks at NBER Conference on Diversifying the Science & Engineering Workforce (Lawrence H. Summers, January 14, 2005)

The second thing that I think one has to recognize is present is what I would call the combination of, and here, I'm focusing on something that would seek to answer the question of why is the pattern different in science and engineering, and why is the representation even lower and more problematic in science and engineering than it is in other fields. And here, you can get a fair distance, it seems to me, looking at a relatively simple hypothesis. It does appear that on many, many different human attributes-height, weight, propensity for criminality, overall IQ, mathematical ability, scientific ability-there is relatively clear evidence that whatever the difference in means-which can be debated-there is a difference in the standard deviation, and variability of a male and a female population. And that is true with respect to attributes that are and are not plausibly, culturally determined. If one supposes, as I think is reasonable, that if one is talking about physicists at a top twenty-five research university, one is not talking about people who are two standard deviations above the mean. And perhaps it's not even talking about somebody who is three standard deviations above the mean. But it's talking about people who are three and a half, four standard deviations above the mean in the one in 5,000, one in 10,000 class. Even small differences in the standard deviation will translate into very large differences in the available pool substantially out. I did a very crude calculation, which I'm sure was wrong and certainly was unsubtle, twenty different ways. I looked at the Xie and Shauman paper-looked at the book, rather-looked at the evidence on the sex ratios in the top 5% of twelfth graders. If you look at those-they're all over the map, depends on which test, whether it's math, or science, and so forth-but 50% women, one woman for every two men, would be a high-end estimate from their estimates. From that, you can back out a difference in the implied standard deviations that works out to be about 20%. And from that, you can work out the difference out several standard deviations. If you do that calculation-and I have no reason to think that it couldn't be refined in a hundred ways-you get five to one, at the high end. Now, it's pointed out by one of the papers at this conference that these tests are not a very good measure and are not highly predictive with respect to people's ability to do that. And that's absolutely right. But I don't think that resolves the issue at all. Because if my reading of the data is right-it's something people can argue about-that there are some systematic differences in variability in different populations, then whatever the set of attributes are that are precisely defined to correlate with being an aeronautical engineer at MIT or being a chemist at Berkeley, those are probably different in their standard deviations as well. So my sense is that the unfortunate truth-I would far prefer to believe something else, because it would be easier to address what is surely a serious social problem if something else were true-is that the combination of the high-powered job hypothesis and the differing variances probably explains a fair amount of this problem.

There may also be elements, by the way, of differing, there is some, particularly in some attributes, that bear on engineering, there is reasonably strong evidence of taste differences between little girls and little boys that are not easy to attribute to socialization. I just returned from Israel, where we had the opportunity to visit a kibbutz, and to spend some time talking about the history of the kibbutz movement, and it is really very striking to hear how the movement started with an absolute commitment, of a kind one doesn't encounter in other places, that everybody was going to do the same jobs. Sometimes the women were going to fix the tractors, and the men were going to work in the nurseries, sometimes the men were going to fix the tractors and the women were going to work in the nurseries, and just under the pressure of what everyone wanted, in a hundred different kibbutzes, each one of which evolved, it all moved in the same direction. So, I think, while I would prefer to believe otherwise, I guess my experience with my two and a half year old twin daughters who were not given dolls and who were given trucks, and found themselves saying to each other, look, daddy truck is carrying the baby truck, tells me something. And I think it's just something that you probably have to recognize. There are two other hypotheses that are all over. One is socialization. Somehow little girls are all socialized towards nursing and little boys are socialized towards building bridges. No doubt there is some truth in that. I would be hesitant about assigning too much weight to that hypothesis for two reasons. First, most of what we've learned from empirical psychology in the last fifteen years has been that people naturally attribute things to socialization that are in fact not attributable to socialization. We've been astounded by the results of separated twins studies. The confident assertions that autism was a reflection of parental characteristics that were absolutely supported and that people knew from years of observational evidence have now been proven to be wrong. And so, the human mind has a tendency to grab to the socialization hypothesis when you can see it, and it often turns out not to be true. The second empirical problem is that girls are persisting longer and longer. When there were no girls majoring in chemistry, when there were no girls majoring in biology, it was much easier to blame parental socialization. Then, as we are increasingly finding today, the problem is what's happening when people are twenty, or when people are twenty-five, in terms of their patterns, with which they drop out. Again, to the extent it can be addressed, it's a terrific thing to address.

As the whole mess suggests, these aren't questions that can be addressed. They're ideological, not scientific.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:53 AM


Don Eberly's Conservative Civil Society (Bill Berkowitz, Feb 7, 2005, Working for Change)

An advocate of shrinking government, Don Eberly, the head of the Civil Society Project promotes faith-based organizations, private philanthropic initiatives, traditional families, volunteerism and the building of a 'values' society. Whose 'values' is the question.

You won't find him on many of television's talking head programs, you wouldn't be able to pick him out of a line-up, and his essays aren't sexed-up or buzz-worthy, but for more than 15 years, Don Eberly has been one of the leading advocates of a strain of conservative advocacy known as "civil society."

Although vague and often ambiguous, "civil society" advocates intend to shrink government by handing over responsibility for maintaining and administering what's left of the social safety net to faith-based organizations, corporate and community groups, families and philanthropic initiatives. As neoconservative cultural critic Gertrude Himmelfarb has written, "When we speak of the restoration of civil society it is a moral restoration we should seek."

And moral renewal, along with building the conservative century, is what Eberly is seeking. He gives great weight to an observation made by Michael Novak (bio at AEI), the veteran conservative scholar who is currently the George Frederick Jewett Scholar in Religion, Philosophy, and Public Policy at the American Enterprise Institute (website). Novak maintains that "The American political party that best gives life and breath and amplitude to civil society will not only thrive in the twenty-first century. It will win public gratitude and it will govern."

During a conference held in 2000, and sponsored by The Heritage Foundation in commemoration of the five-year anniversary of the class of 1995, Eberly told a group of Congressmen and Congresswomen that the defeat of totalitarianism and the rollback of the welfare state were the two greatest achievements of Republicans and conservatives over the past two decades. An essay derived from that speech, and later published in Essays on Civil Society – An American Conversation on Civic Virtue (Volume 2000, No. 1) – a publication of Eberly's Harrisburg, PA-based Civil Society Project, (website) laid out Eberly's thesis for social transformation – shrinking government and building a values society based on tradition American values.

After the defeat of totalitarianism, "the second major question before the country and the Congress for the past several decades was how could we tame a seemingly untamable welfare state" Eberly writes. "The entire weight of sophisticated opinion – buttressed by every school of prestigious school of public policy in this nation – was that increasing segments of American society would steadily come under the managerial supervision of a credentialed, enlightened, bureaucratic elite.

"The fact that we are now instead talking mostly about the miracle-working power of local faith-based charities, which in their ragtag existence represent the antithesis of the public administration state, is nothing short of breathtaking. Their very existence, not to mention their effectiveness, is an affront to the pedigreed and professional social service bureaucracy."

For Eberly, "it was not merely welfare spending that was conquered, but the idea behind it...the welfare state."

Where would conservatives go from there?

Before George W. Bush took office in January 2001, and laid out his faith-based initiative, Eberly was arguing the virtues of "compassionate conservatism" – the elusive concept credited to Marvin Olasky, editor-and-chief of the evangelical weekly, World magazine. Politically, compassionate conservatism "triangulates the ideological claims of big-government liberalism on the one hand and a pure laissez-faire conservatism on the other. It steals the mantle of compassion, long monopolized by liberals, while adding a practically useful modifier, to the noun conservatism."

But compassionate conservatism is not the end-all be-all in and of itself writes Eberly: It "does not speak to the need to recover virtue throughout the majority society, apart from which we are left with partial remedies directed selectively to the poor," which is unfair. "The moral pathologies afflicting American society are no respecters of class, ethnicity, or geographic boundaries. The problems of divorce, co-habitation, fatherlessness, out-of-wedlock pregnancy, abortion and as host of other moral ills are not confined to the poor."

Eberly sees a "values crisis" in America and claims that it can only be addressed by Americans organizing "for social change outside the political process"; renewing the non-governmental sector of civil society, particularly the development of voluntary associations.

If the "great challenge" of the 1980s and 1990s was to "reign in government," the "great challenge" of the twenty-first century is to "rebuild non-governmental institutions – to not merely replace government with the economic market, but to replace more and more of the public sector with a viable social sector.... [and] build up the good society."

Even many of the President's supporters underestimate how the Ownership Society, Faith Based Initiative, Culture of Life and even Liberty's Century interlock to create a truly revolutionary politics.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:55 AM


What is a Species, and What is Not?: I analyze a number of widespread misconceptions concerning species. The species category, defined by a concept, denotes the rank of a species taxon in the Linnaean hierarchy. Biological species are reproducing isolated from each other, which protects the integrity of their genotypes. Degree of morphological difference is not an appropriate species definition. Unequal rates of evolution of different characters and lack of information on the mating potential of isolated populations are the major difficulties in the demarcation of species taxa. (Ernst Mayr, June 1996, Philosophy of Science)

What is a species, and what is not? As someone who has published books and papers on the biological species for more than 50 years, and who has revised and studied in detail more than 500 species of birds and many species of other groups of organisms, the reading of some recent papers on species has been a rather troubling experience. There is only one term that fits some of these authors: armchair taxonomists. Since many authors have never personally analyzed any species populations or studied species in nature, they lack any feeling for what species actually are. Darwin already knew this when, in September 1845, he wrote to Joseph Hooker: "How painfully true is your remark that no one has hardly the right to examine the question of species who has not minutely described many." (Darwin 1987, 253). These authors make a number of mistakes that have been pointed out again and again in the recent literature. Admittedly, the relevant literature is quite scattered, and some of it is perhaps rather inaccessible to a non-taxonomist. Yet, because the species concept is an important concept in the philosophy of science, every effort should be made to clarify it. It occurred to me that instead of criticizing certain recently published papers individually, it would be more constructive and helpful if I would here attempt to present, from the perspective of a practicing systematist, a concise overview of the philosophically important aspects of the problem of the 'species'. There is nothing of the sort in the literature.

The species is the principal unit of evolution and it is impossible to write about evolution, and indeed about almost any aspect of the philosophy of biology, without having a sound understanding of the meaning of biological species. A study of the history of the species problem helps to dispel some of the misconceptions (Mayr 1957, Grant 1994).

2. Species of organisms are concrete phenomena of nature. Some recent authors have dealt with the concept of species as if it were merely an arbitrary, man-made concept, like the concepts of reduction, demarcation, cause, derivation, prediction, progress, each of which may have almost as many definitions as there are authors who have written about them. However, the concept biological species is not like such concepts. The term 'species' refers to a concrete phenomenon of nature and this fact severely constrains the number and kinds of possible definitions. The word 'species' is, like the words 'planet' or 'moon,' a technical term for a concrete phenomenon. One cannot propose a new definition of a planet as "a satellite of a sun that has its own satellite," because this would exclude Venus, and some other planets without moons. A definition of any class of objects must be applicable to any member of this class and exclude reference to attributes not characteristic of this class. This is why any definition of the term 'species' must be based on careful study of the phenomenon of nature to which this term is applied. Alas, this necessity is not appreciated by all too many of those who have recently discussed the species problem after a mere analysis of the literature.

The conclusion that there are concrete describable objects in nature which deserve to be called "species" is not unanimously accepted. There has been a widespread view that species are only arbitrary artifacts of the human mind, as some nominalists, in particular, have claimed. Their arguments were criticized by Mayr (1949a, 371).

3. Why are there species of organisms? Why is the total genetic variability of nature organized in the form of discrete packages, called species? Why are there species in nature? What is their significance? The Darwinian always asks why questions because he knows that everything in living nature is the product of evolution and must have had some selective significance in order to have evolved. (1) He therefore asks: What selection forces in nature favor the origin and maintenance of species? The answer to this question becomes evident when one makes a certain thought experiment.

"It is quite possible to think of a world in which species do not exist but are replaced by a single reproductive community of individuals, each one different from every other one, and each one capable of reproducing with those other individuals that are most similar to it. Each individual would then be the center of a concentric series of circles of genetically more and more unlike individuals. What would be the consequence of the continuous uninterrupted gene flow through such a large system? In each generation certain individuals would have a selective advantage because they have a gene complex that is specially adapted to a particular ecological situation. However, most of these favorable combinations would be broken up by pairing with individuals with a gene complex adapted to a slightly different environment. In such a system there is no defense against the destruction of superior gene combinations except the abandonment of sexual reproduction. It is obvious that any system that prevents such unrestricted outcrossing is superior'' (2) (Mayr 1949b, 282). The biological species is such a system.

The biological meaning of species is thus quite apparent: "The segregation of the total genetic variability of nature into discrete packages, so called species, which are separated from each other by reproductive barriers, prevents the production of too great a number of disharmonious incompatible gene combinations. This is the basic biological meaning of species and this is the reason why there are discontinuities between sympatric species. We do know that genotypes are extremely complex epigenetic systems. There are severe limits to the amount of genetic variability that can be accommodated in a single gene pool without producing too many incompatible gene combinations" (Mayr 1969, 316). The validity of this argument is substantiated by the fact that hybrids between species, particularly in animals, are almost always of inferior viability and more extreme hybrids are usually even sterile. "Almost always" means that there are species interpreted to be the result of hybridization, particularly among plants, but except for the special case of allopolyploidy, such cases are rare.

Among the attributes members of a species share, the only ones that are of crucial significance for the species definition are those which serve the biological purpose of the species, that is, the protection of a harmonious gene pool. These attributes were named by Dobzhansky (1935) isolating mechanisms. It is immaterial whether or not the term isolating mechanism was well chosen, nor is it important whether one places the stress on the prevention of interbreeding with non-conspecific individuals or the facilitation ("recognition") of breeding with conspecific individuals. The concept I have just developed is articulated in the so-called biological species definition: "Species are groups of interbreeding natural populations that are reproductively isolated from other such groups."

If you don't choose to crossbreed you're a species, regardless of whether you can crossbreed. They're barely even pretending anymore.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:15 AM


Kyoto Protocol Misplaced Priorities (Bjorn Lomborg, 15 February 2005, The Jakarta Post)

When the Kyoto treaty enters into force on February 16, the global warming community will undoubtedly congratulate itself: to do good they have secured the most expensive worldwide treaty ever. They have succeeded in making global warming a central moral test of our time. They were wrong to do so.

Global warming is real and is caused by emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2). But existing climate models show we can do little about it. Even if everyone (including the United States) applied the Kyoto rules and stuck to them throughout the century, the change would be almost immeasurable, postponing warming for a mere six years in 2100 while costing at least US$150 billion a year.

Global warming will mainly harm developing countries, because they are poorer and therefore less able to handle climate changes. However, by 2100, even the most pessimistic forecasts from the UN expect the average person in the developing countries to be richer than now, and thus better able to cope.

So Kyoto is basically a costly way of doing little for much richer people far in the future. We need to ask ourselves if this should be our first priority. [...]

We live in a world with limited resources, so caring more about some issues means caring less about others. If we have a moral obligation, it is to spend each dollar doing the most good that we possibly can. With Kyoto, the world will spend $150 billion a year on doing little good a century from now. In comparison, the UN estimates that half that amount could buy clean drinking water, sanitation, basic health care, and education for every single person in the world. Which is better?

Global warming really is the moral test of our time, but not in the way its proponents imagine. We need to stop our obsession with global warming and start dealing with more pressing and tractable problems first.

Global warming benefits precisely from the fact that it has to be taken on faith.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


A climate of fear in the stem cell lab (David A. Shaywitz, February 17, 2005, Boston Globe)

WHILE RESEARCHERS in California gleefully contemplate how they will spend the $3 billion in stem cell funding recently approved by state voters, a dispiriting miasma has settled upon the rest of the stem cell community. In Massachusetts, Governor Romney's recent critique of stem cell research has profoundly exacerbated this sense of concern.

This much is clear: in most states -- including Massachusetts -- significant funding seems unlikely to materialize, while chafing federal research restrictions are apparently here to stay and likely to be enforced with renewed elan. Add to this Romney's desire for additional restrictions, and the result is an environment that seriously challenges the ability of stem cell researchers to achieve the best results. [...]

A vocal minority of Americans are fundamentally opposed to human embryonic stem cell research, and even may be enjoying a bit of Schadenfreude as they hear about our ongoing difficulties. But to most Americans, the opportunities afforded this new discipline seem enormous, and compel us to find some way to move forward with the science, while also respecting the genuine concerns of our critics.

Schadenfreude is an appropriately Germanic term for stopping morally repellant medical experimentation.

February 18, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:36 PM


Losing our common wealth of knowledge (PROFESSOR JOHN HALDANE, 2/16/05, The Scotsman)

EDUCATION has long been regarded as a strength of the Scottish nation, but recent trends raise the question of whether we might have squandered our inheritance. That possibility is suggested by Lindsay Paterson, professor of educational policy at the University of Edinburgh.

Having hitherto celebrated the character of Scottish education, he has now turned to challenge it, complaining that Scots have "stopped thinking about what real learning is" and may be changing the function of universities to a point where "they are not worth having".

With parliament re-established in Edinburgh one might dismiss such criticism as untimely disloyalty. Yet precisely because Scotland cherishes an ideal of national commitment to educational excellence - and because it is now in a strong position to promote that ideal - it is important to consider whether he is right. [...]

Along with centralising political trends, and a concern in the 1960s to spread the benefits of higher education more widely, this led to an increasingly uniform UK system. Some differences remained north and south of the Border but by comparison with the growing similarities they meant less and survived like the exterior of a building whose inner structure has been transformed.

Then came the accelerated expansion of higher education, pulling ever-greater numbers into colleges and universities, including ill-qualified entrants. Even had resources been increased to match the enlargement, there would have been the difficulty of adapting teaching and study to the circumstances of those with limited or forgotten academic training. But the funding fell behind and, inevitably, the quality of education was impoverished.

To admit that would have been heard as a confession of failure; to have linked it to the fitness for study of some of the enlarged intake would have incurred the old charge of elitism. Instead, many institutions developed new courses, changed styles of assessment and adjusted standards of expected performance, to better "manage" the new situation. Failure is a word now rarely heard in higher education.

Individuals, departments, institutions and the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council made real efforts to adapt teaching to the new circumstances. But it is one thing to be in the company of an experienced scholarly or scientific mind, quite another to be downloading course notes and re-expressing them for the benefit of graduate tutors working to fund their own studies.

Teaching underwent a qualitative change, becoming more standardised with short modules replacing extended courses of study, areas of a subject being turned into self-contained packages with abbreviated summaries, and small group tutorials being replaced by large seminars. Meanwhile, academics were required to justify their employment mainly through ongoing, assessable research. Since this became a main source of institutional income - and thereby a route to promotion - a further force began to prise academics apart from undergraduates.

By stages we have arrived at policies which Paterson can reasonably describe as "diluting seriousness, by fragmenting difficult programmes of study into modularised segments, and by trying to divert students into intellectually undemanding courses of ostensible vocational relevance". The last point is ironic, since it was the boast of traditional Scottish higher education that it fitted students for any calling by training them in the use of the "intellectual and active powers". By sharpening observation, discrimination and judgment and by developing responsibility, the sense of duty and the ideal of worthy achievement equipped young adults for any form of employment in which intelligence and character are the primary qualifications.

The advocates of specialised vocational degrees risk building structures without foundations; and outside some areas of science and technology it is not even what employers want. They would far rather have a well-formed general intelligence with a developed sense of responsibility, which could then be trained in the specifics of tomorrow’s job, than have someone lacking in settled knowledge but trained in the specifics of yesterday.

That last is a dubious proposition. Industries, professions and other employers have certainly fed the increasing specialization of education.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:43 PM


All British embassies face closure (Paul Sims, 2/18/05, Evening Standard)

Britain, along with other EU countries, will close all its 153 embassies around the world under the new EU constitution, Spain's prime minister has predicted.

Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero revealed the radical move ahead of his country's referendum on the new EU constitution at the weekend.

Speaking about the federal ambitions, which will lead to a single European foreign service, he said: "We will undoubtedly see European embassies with a European foreign service." He said that approving the Constitution - Spain is the first country to hold a referendum - would lend credibility to a common European policy.

"We will have a single European voice within Nato." His comments will fuel fears that the Government will have to follow the European line even if it disagrees with Germany or France as it did over Iraq.

Shadow foreign secretary Michael Ancram said : "Spain's prime minister has made clear what Tony Blair has denied - that the EU constitution is all about handing vast new powers to Brussels."

Kind of late for the Brits to realize they lost WWII, but hopefully not too late.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:21 PM


Not Much Left: LOSING OUR DELUSIONS (Martin Peretz, 02.18.05, New Republic)

I think it was John Kenneth Galbraith, speaking in the early 1960s, the high point of post-New Deal liberalism, who pronounced conservatism dead. Conservatism, he said, was "bookless," a characteristic Galbraithian, which is to say Olympian, verdict. Without books, there are no ideas. And it is true: American conservatism was, at the time, a congeries of cranky prejudices, a closed church with an archaic doctrine proclaimed by spoiled swells. William F. Buckley Jr. comes to mind, and a few others whose names will now resonate with almost nobody. Take as just one instance Russell Kirk, an especially prominent conservative intellectual who, as Clinton Rossiter (himself a moderate conservative) wrote, has "begun to sound like a man born one hundred and fifty years too late and in the wrong country."

At this point in history, it is liberalism upon which such judgments are rendered. And understandably so. It is liberalism that is now bookless and dying. The most penetrating thinker of the old liberalism, the Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, is virtually unknown in the circles within which he once spoke and listened, perhaps because he held a gloomy view of human nature. However gripping his illuminations, however much they may have been validated by history, liberals have no patience for such pessimism. So who has replaced Niebuhr, the once-commanding tribune to both town and gown? It's as if no one even tries to fill the vacuum. Here and there, of course, a university personage appears to assert a small didactic point and proves it with a vast and intricate academic apparatus. In any case, it is the apparatus that is designed to persuade, not the idea.

Ask yourself: Who is a truly influential liberal mind in our culture? Whose ideas challenge and whose ideals inspire? Whose books and articles are read and passed around? There's no one, really. What's left is the laundry list: the catalogue of programs (some dubious, some not) that Republicans aren't funding, and the blogs, with their daily panic dose about how the Bush administration is ruining the country.

Those pronouncements were silly when they were made, but it's shocking to hear someone repeat them now. Consider only this: it was in the early '60s that this speech was given. Awfully hard to argue that it's devoid of ideas or that those ideas haven't animated the past quarter century.

Meanwhile, Mr. Peretz ignores the most obvious fact about Reinhold Niebuhr: his politics flowed from his firm belief in Original Sin. A Left which thinks religion a mere superstition has no access to that wisdom and, because it is the Truth, nothing much to say to us about the human condition and the kind of ploitics we need to practice.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:27 PM


Stewart’s Party (NY Sun, 2/17/05)

Of all the silly stunts that happen in politics, it is hard to think of a stranger way for Howard Dean to kick off his tenure as chairman of the Democratic National Committee than to call for the resignation of the chairman of the New York State Republican Party, Stephen Minarik.What seems to have annoyed Dr. Dean is Mr. Minarik’s comment that the Democrats “can be accurately called the party of Barbara Boxer, Lynne Stewart and Howard Dean.” [...]

[S]tewart, the lawyer convicted by a federal court last week of aiding terrorists, the New York City Board of Elections confirmed to us that she is a registered Democrat. If Dr. Dean wants to throw her out of his party,it’d be fine with us.But until he does, the decent thing would be to stop bawling about Mr. Minarik’s pointing out what is an unassailable fact.And while he’s at it,let his party get behind the war effort. And Mr. Pataki, instead of attacking his own party chairman for pointing out the obvious, could take the battle to the Democrats and challenge Dr. Dean to clean the filthy links off the DNC’s Web site.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:24 PM


Can Graham pull off Social Security coup?: Unorthodox South Carolina Republican wants private accounts,
paid for with higher taxes on upper-income people (Tom Curry, 2/18/05, MSNBC)

An army of one, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, is trying to save Social Security as well as President Bush’s concept of private accounts.

This week, Graham claimed to have found one solution to the problem of paying for the transition from the current pay-as-you-go system to a personal accounts system. Graham would raise the “cap” on earned income that is subject to the 6.2 percent Social Security tax. Currently the first $90,000 of a worker’s earned income is taxed.

Graham touted the idea of a “donut hole” in the Social Security tax. Graham hasn’t worked out exact numbers yet. But as a purely hypothetical example, the Social Security tax would apply to the first $90,000 of income, the next several thousands of dollars of income would be exempt, but then the tax would resume on all income above $300,000.

The “donut hole” would let upper-middle class Americans off the hook, yet would force higher-income people to help pay the cost of transitioning to private accounts.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, subjecting all earnings to the Social Security tax would raise more than $1 trillion over ten years, which is approximately equal to the initial ten-year cost of the transition to a private accounts system.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:28 PM


Why Bush won’t back Howard (Fraser Nelson, 2/19/05, The Spectator)

Tories who maintain their own Republican contacts are in no doubt about the scale of the crisis. ‘Personal loyalty matters to President Bush above all other things, even party politics,’ says one senior Tory MP, well connected in Washington. ‘That’s how he works, that’s his foreign policy and it has served him well. So he takes loyalty very seriously. At the moment, I’d say relations now between our two parties are at their lowest ebb since Suez.’ And by no means all Conservatives are distraught. Several Tory MPs spent last year admiring John F. Kerry — as George Osborne, the Tory’s shadow treasury secretary, explained in this magazine a year ago. ‘It pains me to report,’ he wrote, ‘that we Bushites are a minority.’

This rift, ironically, has opened at a time when British conservatism is at a new peak of influence in the White House. After revolutionising America’s foreign policy, the Bush administration is using 1980s Britain as a blueprint for a domestic revolution. The White House’s ‘ownership society’ agenda is explicitly modelled on the Thatcher government’s policies with council houses in the 1980s: use ownership to transform people’s lives and mindsets. The aim is to move from state-dependency to empowerment.

The White House wants to sprinkle this magic on US social security: allowing workers to control part of their personal pension investments, rather than have retirement funds managed by the state. Thatcherism has never been more fashionable. [...]

To explain his ‘ownership society’, Rove then quoted extracts from a book, The Anatomy of Thatcherism by the late Shirley Robin Letwin, mother of the shadow chancellor. This obscure 1992 academic book is now at the heart of White House thinking on reform. ‘The Thatcherite argues that being one’s own master — in the sense of owning one’s own home or disposing of one’s own property — provides an incentive to think differently about the world,’ he read. ‘The Thatcherite, whilst not believing that patterns of ownership absolutely determine people’s moral attitudes, nevertheless stresses that the two are connected, and sees in wider individual ownership a means of promoting moral attitudes Thatcherism seeks to cultivate.’

What fascinates Rove is what Letwin calls ‘vigorous virtues’ — patterns of behaviour unleashed by the status of ownership. This idea, captured by Letwin and enacted by Thatcher, is what Rove believes will ‘recast the domestic political debate’ in America.

This was not a show laid on for the Brits. In a recent speech to another Washington think-tank, Rove directed them to the same source. ‘The closest analogy to what President Bush is attempting to do with his emphasis on an “ownership society” may be found in the policies of Margaret Thatcher,’ he said.

That British conservatism can be so popular in the White House while the British Conservatives are so unpopular shows how detached the two have become in the American mind. The Tories are no longer seen as guardians of the Thatcherite flame. The White House remains keen to welcome people like Mark Worthington, Baroness Thatcher’s private secretary, who was received in Washington in December. But the Conservative party is slipping off the Republican radar.

‘We’re aware of British think-tanks like the Adam Smith Institute and the Institute of Economic Affairs,’ says Grover Norquist, an influential free-market activist in Washington. But today’s Tory party, he says, makes far less impact. Britain’s general election will make ‘half a day’s news’ in America: ‘It’s not as if he’s going to lose to a left-wing party that will pull out of Iraq.’ And as long as Blair remains in power, he will shine so brightly in America that the Tories remain invisible.

British conservatism is at a new peak of influence in Britain too.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:20 PM


Dazed and confused (Thomas Lifson, February 18th, 2005, American Thinker)

I find myself stunned by the magnitude of the quick victory President Bush has won on tort reform, with the new bill, now awaiting his signature federalizing most class action lawsuits. [...]

The end came quickly because the old means of obstructionism no longer work very well. Short of a Senate filibuster, the Democrats are unable to prevent legislation attacking obviously self-serving interest groups from passing both chambers of Congress. Who among them is going to stand-up for the right of law firms to earn millions or billions in cash, while sending discount coupons or checks for 33 cents (which need a 37 cent stamp to be applied-for) to the supposed “beneficiaries” of their legal action?

The meme of an obstructionist, special interest-protecting Democratic Party is fully established in the public mind. Democrats are on the defensive against it. The MSM’s ability to bottle-up coverage of embarrassing positions is shattered. Defending the outrageous can be no longer accomplished in private. The old order of battle, in which GOP forces could always be outflanked by a combination of stealth- and publicity-reliant forces of the left is gone, replaced by robust Congressional majorities and battalions of nimble fact-checking bloggers feeding information to the heavy artillery of Fox News Channel, talk radio hosts, and those members of the MSM unwilling to look foolish by studiously ignoring stories which are being talked about at the water coolers, diners, bars, and family get-togethers of America.

Not-so-slowly, but surely, Karl Rove's vision of a vanquished Democratic Party is being realized. The Democrats, meanwhile, do not seem to know what has hit them. Like stoners searching for their cars, they are dazed and confused by the realities of Twenty-First Century politics.

The stories today about Democratic reaction to President Bush saying we should look at lifting the cap on SS taxes are especially poignant--party leaders are afraid to say anything about the proposal because it "could be a trick."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:10 PM


Neb. Supreme Court Spares Life of Dog (KEVIN O'HANLON, 2/18/05, Associated Press)

LINCOLN, Neb. - The state Supreme Court granted clemency Friday to a dog sentenced to death for fighting with a neighbor's pet.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:44 PM


Japan to Join U.S. Policy on Taiwan: Growth of China Seen Behind Shift (Anthony Faiola, February 18, 2005, Washington Post)

The United States and Japan will declare Saturday for the first time in a joint agreement that Taiwan is a mutual security concern, according to a draft of the document. Analysts called the move a demonstration of Japan's willingness to confront the rapidly growing might of China.

The United States has long focused attention on the Chinese government's threat to use military force against Taiwan if the island, which China views as a renegade province, moves toward independence. Until now, Japan has been content to let the United States bear the brunt of Beijing's displeasure.

But in the most significant alteration since 1996 to the U.S.-Japan Security Alliance, which remains the cornerstone of U.S. interests in East Asia, Japan will join the Bush administration in identifying security in the Taiwan Strait as a "common strategic objective." Set for release after a meeting of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and their Japanese counterparts in Washington on Saturday, the revisions will also call for Japan to take a greater role in conjunction with U.S. forces both in Asia and beyond, according to a draft copy obtained by The Washington Post.

Although it is likely to anger China, the move is being welcomed by Taiwan, which, despite having been occupied by Japan from 1895 to 1945, maintains an empathy for the Japanese that is rare in Asia.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:29 PM


UN report slams Lubbers for 'regular sexual harassment' (Expatica, 18 February 2005

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers was found guilty last year of sexual harassment in a confidential report. It also accused him of unwanted sexual advances towards four other female employees, it was revealed on Friday.

Behold the UN High Commisioner! A dignified and potent officer, Whose functions are particularly vital!

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:08 PM


Mahmoud Abbas And The Degeneration Of The Palestinian National Movement (Jean Shaoul And Chris Marsden, 16 February 2005, World Socialist Web)

Although Abbas has sought to cultivate Washington’s support by carrying through measures against his own people that the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s (PLO) long-time leader Yasser Arafat balked at, his present course nevertheless expresses the degeneration of the Palestinian nationalist movement as a whole—a degeneration rooted in the bourgeois character of the PLO itself.

The fundamental perspective of the PLO for the establishment of a Palestinian state has always been based on reaching an agreement with imperialism. This goal has been pursued through two methods—negotiations and the armed struggle. While appearing to be opposed, they have always been essentially complementary. The final aim of the armed struggle has always been a negotiated settlement with imperialism, never the independent mobilisation of working class and peasant masses. In other words, the acceptance by Abbas and the PLO leadership of a ceasefire, and its imposition, does not contradict the logic of the armed struggle but arises organically from it.

The PLO was the most radical of national movements and established a mass popular base amongst broad sections of the Palestinian people due to its determined advocacy of armed struggle against Israel. But in essence its leadership represented the Palestinian bourgeoisie and its interests and not those of the masses, as it professed. National bourgeois organisations, however radical, are organically incapable of consistently leading an independent struggle against imperialism along a progressive and democratic route because their interests are, in the final analysis diametrically opposed to those of the working class and peasantry.

Whereas the Palestinian working class and peasantry saw the establishment of a national entity from the standpoint of reclaiming the land stolen since 1948 and ending oppression by imperialism and Zionism, the essential aim of the Palestinian bourgeoisie in its conflict with Israel is to establish its own class rule—which centres on its right to exploit the working class. As such its opposition to imperialism is always conditional and partial. Its aim is not to end imperialist domination, but to establish its own relations with the major imperialist powers that dominate the global economic order. At all times it seeks to oppose any independent political action by the working class that would threaten the basis of capitalist rule. Hence, even in its most radical period, the PLO insisted that it was recognised as the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people” and that its perspective for establishing a Palestinian state on the basis of capitalist property relations was unchallenged.

On this basis it was never possible to resolve the problems of national oppression and social exploitation.

What good is peace, freedom, and economic development for the Palestinians if we don't get our revolution?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:00 PM


Town's last six doctors quitting (ROB FERGUSON, 2/18/05, Toronto Star)

Ontario's doctor shortage is taking a turn for the worse as the last six physicians in the town of Geraldton are quitting en masse, presenting another headache for Health Minister George Smitherman.

The move will leave the local hospital and thousands of patients with no physicians when the departures take effect in May — unless months of failed efforts to recruit replacement physicians suddenly pay off.

Losing its doctors will likely move Geraldton to the top of the list of about 140 cities and towns in the province officially designated by the government as being short of doctors. About 100 of those are in southern Ontario.

The Ontario Medical Association estimates one million Ontarians don't have family physicians and says that number is likely to grow with hundreds of doctors — many of them over 65 — within a few years of retiring.

The canaries are dead--stay out of the mine.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:57 PM


Iran Sends N. Korea Moral Support (Anadolu News Agency, Friday 18, 2005)

Iran sent North Korea a message of support that praised the Pyongyang administration for "protecting the peace."

North Korea's official Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that the Islamic Republic of Iran's President, Mohammed Khatemi, send the Pyongyang administration a message saying that the Iranian government ad its people fully support the North Korean government and its people in their efforts to protect North Korea's security and peace.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:00 PM


Congress gives Bush win on class-action suit limits (Jesse J. Holland, February 18, 2005, Associated Press)

Congress on Thursday sent President Bush legislation to discourage multimillion-dollar class-action lawsuits by having federal judges take them away from state courts. Conservatives hope it will lead to other lawsuit limits. [...]

But Democrats say the legislation is aimed at protecting GOP business donors and hurting trial lawyers, a traditional part of their base.

Is it really wise to advertise your own powerlessness and ties to the loathsome?

Bush Enacts U.S. Law Placing Limits on Class-Action Lawsuits (Bloomberg, 2/18/05)

President George W. Bush signed a bill to curb multi-state class-action lawsuits by shifting most of them from state to federal courts, a victory for business that also fulfills one of Bush's second-term goals.

The new law is ``a critical step toward ending the lawsuit culture in our country,'' Bush said at a White House signing ceremony. The law ``will ``begin restoring common sense and balance to America's legal system,'' he said.

The ``Class Action Fairness Act'' makes it tougher for lawyers to go ``forum shopping,'' choosing to file cases in state courts such as Madison County, Illinois, that are known for awarding plaintiffs large judgments. Class-action claims of more than $5 million will be shifted to federal courts, where legal precedents are more uniform and judges are appointed for life, compared with many state court judges who are elected. [...]

Stanton Anderson, chief lobbyist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said he expects the lawsuit restrictions will lead to higher profits for corporations and lower costs for consumers.

``The impact is going to be immediate because many of these cases are going to stop being filed in these local county courts,'' Anderson said in an interview after the House vote yesterday. ``Companies are going to see over the next couple of quarters that they don't have to settle these cases in these problematic jurisdictions.''

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:46 PM


'America would back Israel attack on Iran' (Francis Harris, 18/02/2005, Daily Telegraph)

President George W Bush added a new twist to the international tension over Iran's nuclear programme last night by pledging to support Israel if it tries to destroy the Islamic regime's capacity to make an atomic bomb.

Asked whether he would back Israel if it raided Teheran's nuclear facilities, Mr Bush first expressed cautious solidarity with European efforts, led by Britain, France and Germany, to negotiate with Iran.

But he quickly qualified himself, adding that all nations should be concerned about whether Iran could make nuclear weapons.

"Clearly, if I was the leader of Israel and I'd listened to some of the statements by the Iranian ayatollahs that regarded the security of my country, I'd be concerned about Iran having a nuclear weapon as well. And in that Israel is our ally, and in that we've made a very strong commitment to support Israel, we will support Israel if her security is threatened."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:41 PM


PLUGGED INTO prescription drugs (Anita Manning, 2/14/05, USA TODAY)

If aliens landed on Earth and watched TV for an hour, they'd no doubt conclude that Americans are the most drug-dependent creatures in the universe.

Advertisements for prescription drugs are fired out like baseballs in a batting cage. Trouble sleeping? Take Ambien! High cholesterol? Try Zocor! Heartburn? Ask about Nexium!

Ads for conditions once considered unmentionable have some parents squirming. "The commercials they show these days! It's very uncomfortable watching TV with your children," says Debra Timberlake of San Jose, Calif., a mother of five and Bay Area director of the Parents Television Council, a watchdog group.

"We watched the Levitra commercial," she says, referring to a treatment for erectile dysfunction. "My son goes, 'What's that pill for?' I said it's for a blood-flow problem."

People aren't responsible enough to allow them to see the ads--they're like giving drunk teenagers car keys.

Vatican Decries 'Religion of Health' (FRANCES D'EMILIO, 2/17/05, AP)

Vatican officials Thursday decried what they called a "religion of health" in affluent societies and held out Pope John Paul II's stoic suffering as an antidote to the mentality that modern medicine must cure all.

"While millions of people in the world struggle to survive hunger and disease, lacking even minimal health care, in rich countries the concept of health as well-being figures in creating unrealistic expectations about the possibility of medicine to respond to all needs and desires," said the Rev. Maurizio Faggioni, a theologian and morality expert on the Vatican's Pontifical Academy for Life.

"The medicine of desires, egged on by the health care market, increases the request for pharmaceutical and medical-surgical services, soaks up public resources beyond all reasonableness," Faggioni said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:14 AM


Samuel Alderson, Crash-Test Dummy Inventor, Dies at 90 (MARGALIT FOX, 2/18/05, NY Times)

Samuel W. Alderson, a physicist and engineer who was a pioneer in developing the long-suffering, curiously beautiful human surrogates known as automotive crash-test dummies, died Feb. 11 at his home in Los Angeles. He was 90.

The cause was complications of myelofibrosis and pneumonia, his grandson Matthew Alderson said.

The dummy that is the current industry standard for frontal crash testing in the United States is a lineal descendant of one Mr. Alderson began manufacturing for the aerospace industry in the early 1950's. It is used today by automakers and government agencies to test safety features like seat belts.

Seat belts, air bags and other safety features are estimated to have saved nearly 329,000 lives since 1960, according to a study released last month by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

"You have to consider that a test dummy basically motivates all restraint design, whether belts or air bags," Rolf Eppinger, chief of the National Transportation Biomechanics Research Center at the safety administration, said in a telephone interview.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 8:44 AM


Top court to decide if hosts liable for drunken guest's deadly crash (Cristin Schmitz, Ottawa Citizen, February, 18th, 2005)

A Kemptville woman who was paralysed by a drunk driver will get her chance to convince the Supreme Court that Canadians who allow people in their homes to consume too much alcohol should be held financially responsible for the devastation wreaked by their impaired guests.

The top court agreed yesterday to hear a groundbreaking appeal by Zoe Childs, 23, who became paraplegic at 18 when the car she was riding in was slammed head-on by a drunk driver on Jan. 1, 1999. Her spine was severed in the crash.

Desmond Desormeaux, an alcoholic with two previous impaired driving convictions, veered into the wrong lane on Albion Road, killing Ms. Childs' boyfriend, Derek Dupre, and seriously injuring three passengers.

Mr. Desormeaux's blood alcohol was nearly three times the legal limit.
He was found guilty of several charges, including impaired driving causing death, and sentenced to 10 years in prison. In 2002, he was remanded to a halfway house in Ottawa.

Mr. Desormeaux had just left a New Year's Eve "bring your own booze" potluck party at the home of his friends, Dwight Courrier and Julie Zimmerman. Mr. Desormeaux was uninsured and had no assets.

But Ms. Childs, who claims $3.2 million in damages, sued the two hosts of the party, who have $1 million in tenant's insurance.

She argued the pair ought to be held at least partly responsible for the catastrophic injuries she suffered because they should have prevented the known heavy drinker from getting behind the wheel.

The Ontario lower courts dismissed her case. "Social hosts" have never been held liable in Canada for damages caused by their inebriated guests. But Ms. Childs' appeal might be heard as soon as next fall when the Supreme Court could choose to open that door. No decisions have held social hosts liable in England, Australia or New Zealand, but a few American states do impose such liability.

If Ms. Childs wins, the ruling would affect the social behaviour of Canadians across the country, predicted her lawyer, Barry Laushway.

"People would have to take some ownership if they have a drunk who comes to their property and gets seriously intoxicated while there," he said. "A host would have to take some reasonable precaution, or some reasonable steps, to prevent that person from leaving and killing people, or putting them in a wheelchair."

Nanny state or responsible citizenship?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:44 AM


Sam Francis, columnist, 57, dies (THE WASHINGTON TIMES, 2/17/05)

Samuel Francis, a syndicated columnist and author, died Tuesday night at a Washington-area hospital of complications following major heart surgery. He was 57.

Mr. Francis was an editorial writer for The Washington Times and served from 1987 to 1991 as the deputy editorial page editor. He remained a staff columnist through September 1995.

Mr. Francis received the Distinguished Writing Award for editorial writing from the American Society of Newspaper Editors in both 1989 and 1990, and was a finalist for the Scripps Howard Foundation's National Journalism Award (Walker Stone Prize) for editorial writing for those years.

Samuel Francis, Requiescat In Pace Domini (Thomas Fleming, 2/16/04, Chronicles)
It is with unspeakable regret that I have to report the death of my friend and colleague Sam Francis. In any age, he would have been a remarkable man for the penetration of his mind, his unflinching pursuit of truth—regardless of current cant or personal consequences—and the gravity of his style. In our age, he is peerless, and his death represents an irreplaceable loss.

Sam and I were friends and allies for over 25 years, and although we had an occasional falling-out—once for many months—I never ceased admiring his work and his character. A gentleman of a school so old we can no longer recognize its existence, Sam never talked of his “feelings” and if one spoke of loyalty or friendship, he was sure to make an ironic quip. Nonetheless, I learned early on that he was loyal to his friends even (especially) when it entailed a threat to his own interest. In so many ways, he was the opposite of most conservatives. He rarely talked a good game, but he always played one.

Sam’s deep sense of loyalty became very apparent during the struggle over M.E. Bradford’s proposed nomination as head of the National Endowment for the Humanities. This was the first occasion on which the neoconservatives showed their hand, and none of Mel’s friends—least of all Sam—has ever forgotten the dirty part played by Irving Kristol, George Will, and the head of a leading conservative think-tank. As an assistant to Sen. John East, Sam worked tirelessly, both on the Hill and among conservatives, to support his friend’s nomination, but to no avail. Too many true-blue “Reagan” conservatives either did not care or simply looked the other way. This was the first of many defeats in which Sam showed himself an American Cato.

Except that Cato's side won. Mr. Francis and his paleocon cohorts are best understood by reference to who and what they dislike: Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Israel, and immigration.

-ARCHIVES: Sam Francis (Chronicles)
-Unpatriotic Conservatives: A war against America (David Frum, April 7, 2003, National Review)

You may know the names of these antiwar conservatives. Some are famous: Patrick Buchanan and Robert Novak. Others are not: Llewellyn R