March 31, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:59 PM

LATE IS THE HOUR:

Vatican: Pope receives Last Rites (Daily Telegraph 31/03/2005)

Pope John Paul II has received the Last Rites, the Roman Catholic sacrament reserved for the sick and dying.

A Vatican spokesman confirmed reports from the Italian media that the Pontiff, who is suffering from a very high fever caused by a urinary infection, received the sacrament earlier today after doctors inserted a tube in his throat to ease his breathing.


Pilgrims gather for sombre vigil as Pope 'nears the end' (Richard Owen, 4/01/05, Times of London)
DOCTORS were rushed to the Pope’s bedside last night as his condition worsened dramatically and a senior cardinal said that he was “nearing the end”.

Rumours swept Rome that the Pope had been given the sacrament of the infirm (last rites).

Joaquin Navarro-Valls, the chief Vatican spokesman, said that the Pope was suffering from a high temperature caused by a urinary tract infection that was being treated urgently with antibiotics. “The Holy Father today was struck by a high fever caused by a confirmed infection of the urinary tract,” Dr Navarro-Valls said.

“The medical situation is being strictly controlled by the Vatican medical team that is taking care of him.”

Vatican sources denied, however, that the Pope was being transferred to the Gemelli hospital in Rome, where he has already been treated twice since the beginning of February.

Early this morning the Vatican said that the Pope was responding to the antibiotics and his condition had stabilised.

Italian new agencies said that the Pope, 84, was suffering from a high temperature and substantial weight loss. The reports said that doctors had intervened because of a “worrying lowering of blood pressure”.

Overnight the lights were burning in the Pope’s rooms in the third floor of the apostolic apartment above a floodlit St Peter’s Square, which was sealed as pilgrims gathered to keep vigil. Italian television made special late-night broadcasts announcing that the Pope was “seriously ill”.


Pope suffers heart attack (The Age, April 1, 2005)
Pope John Paul II suffered a heart attack and his condition is "very serious", Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said today.

"Following a urinary tract infection, septic shock and a cardiocirculatory collapse occurred," Navarro-Valls said in a statement. [...]

Navarro-Valls said the Pope had been given the Holy Viaticum - communion reserved for those close to death - and had decided himself not to go to hospital for treatment.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:31 PM

WHAT IF NO ONE HAD NOTICED THAT NIXON WENT TO CHINA?:

Going Out for Indian: By helping India become "a major world power," the administration is showing the global seriuosness of the Bush Doctrine. (Tom Donnelly, 03/31/2005, Weekly Standard)

WITH THE NEWS from Iraq relegated to the back pages recently, last Friday's State Department briefing--especially since it was not devoted to Condoleezza Rice's latest fashion statements--attracted little attention. The subject: the evolving strategic partnership between the United States and India. The news? It is the "goal" of the Bush administration "to help India become a major world power in the 21st century."

This is indeed a monumental and welcome development; it's the clearest sign to date that the Bush Doctrine has a genuine strategic logic, that it's more than a justification for the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. To realize the president's goals, particularly the commitment to spreading freedom that was the core message of his Second Inaugural Address, the United States needs a workable, how-to plan, one that bends the instruments of international politics--most notably, the tools of "hard" power like military force and political alliances--to American purposes. A U.S.-India strategic partnership, if fully developed, would be the single most important step toward an alliance capable of meeting the 21st century's principal challenges: radical Islam and rising China.

Unlike our almost erstwhile allies in western Europe, India shares an equal strategic concern with both these challenges. Perhaps even more important, India shares a commitment to democracy that transcends ethnic nationalism--Hindu nationalism, in this case, will not suffice to govern a state that includes 120 million Muslims--and an understanding of the necessity for armed strength. India's position in South Asia puts it in an essential geostrategic location from both a continental and maritime perspective. In sum, the United States could hardly dream up a more ideal strategic partner.


Fifty years from today the forging of this alliance will rank only slightly behind liberalizing the Middle East among the President's accomplishment's yet the MSM has barely even noticed it.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:33 PM

ALL A WITE WASH:

'Inheriting Syria' in the Modern Age (Terry Gross, 3/31/05, Fresh Air)

Flynt Leverett is a senior fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. As Syria is prodded to withdraw its troops -- and influence -- from neighboring Lebanon, the region faces potentially drastic changes.

A veteran expert on Middle East policy -- from the National Security Council and the State Department to the CIA -- Leverett has also written a new book, Inheriting Syria: Bashar’s Trial By Fire, about Bashar al-Assad's rule of Syria after following his father as the country's leader.


For today's priceless moment with the Realists, Ms Gross asked Mr. Leverett if Bashar Assad and his father could be called "brutal" rulers. Mr. Leverett was, naturally, unable to say any such thing, though he did go on to explain that 10 to 20, 000 Syrians had "died" at Hama. One wonders how many of your people you have to murder to qualify as brutal in his book. Meanwhile, by the end of the program he was almost sobbing at the thought of the challenges that poor Baby Assad faces.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 PM

YES, DEAR:

Grumpy old men are a myth. It's the women who rage (Lewis Smith, 4/01/05, Times of London)

GRUMPY old men are just a myth. It’s women who are really raging in old age, research indicates.

Far from following the lead of Victor Meldrew, elderly men are calm old buffers who refuse to fly off the handle. Their womenfolk, on the other hand, have been boiling with anger since they were young, a situation that fails to improve with age.

The grumpy old women do score over men in one respect, however; they are much better at hiding their anger.

“Victor Meldrew was the exception and not the rule,” Jane Barnett, of Middlesex University, said in reference to Richard Wilson’s permanently cross character in the hit television show One Foot in the Grave.

She added that the Grumpy Old Women television programme, featuring people such as Janet Street-Porter and Germaine Greer ranting at a succession of irritants, was far better at reflecting reality than its counterpart Grumpy Old Men.[....]

[R]ather than follow the stereotype of male anger and reasonable female calm the women showed themselves to be far crosser than men. Once organised into age brackets it became clear that although men and women showed the same levels of anger aged 18 to 25, their responses sharply diverged as they aged.

By the time they are heading for their 40th birthday men are far less easily angered and the downward trend continues, though not at the same rate, during the ages of 41 to 60. Women’s anger levels remain the same throughout their lives and by the time they collect their pensions they are as aerated as the day they began their careers.

The study backed up previous research indicating that there is a gender difference in what makes people angry.

Men were far more likely to be infuriated by the actions of strangers and inanimate objects while what made women most cross were the people they were closest to. Frustration at failing to meet personal goals was the same for men and women.

Miss Barnett told the conference in Manchester yesterday that more research was needed into why men calm down while women “remain simmering” through the ages.
Do you really need this research when you've got Harvard Faculty meetings you can observe?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:16 PM

WHO ELSE WOULD YOU LEND MONEY?:

Surprise--America Owes Too Little (Kenneth L. Fisher, 04.18.05, Forbes)

What is the right debt level for society to carry? The answer is: that level where our marginal borrowing costs approach our marginal return on assets. This is, in fact, the same formula that a corporation would use. If you can borrow at 6% to build a factory that will yield a return of 12%, you should borrow.

The U.S. is nowhere near there. As a result, we need more debt to get more income, so people can become wealthier.

The Federal Reserve counts $97 trillion of assets in the economy, offset by $44 trillion of debt, leaving (with rounding) $52 trillion of net worth. The asset figure, to be sure, involves some double-counting (General Motors' factory, an asset, is financed by bonds, counted again as an asset in your individual retirement account), but no matter: The key figure is the $52 trillion at the bottom of the U.S. balance sheet. And we're getting a great return on that $52 trillion. Our national income is $12 trillion.

Yes, most of the income is labor income, not a return on capital as conventionally calculated. Yet think for a moment: Why are labor rates higher here than in Madagascar? It's precisely because we have so much invested in the form of roads, factories and job skills. I compare the $12 trillion income to the $52 trillion of net capital and conclude that capital is extremely productive in this country. I'm not worried about importing a little more of it and putting it to use.

Folks fret about our $2 trillion of consumer debt and $4 trillion of federal government debt. But these are small numbers in relation to our income, to our total debt (mortgage and business debts are far larger) and to our net worth. Stop worrying. Instead, buy stocks.


Lend us more and we'll make it grow.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 PM

ANY THEORY THAT SOUNDS NONSENSICAL ENOUGH IS:

Black holes 'do not exist': These mysterious objects are dark-energy stars, physicist claims. (Philip Ball, 3/31/05, Nature)

Black holes are staples of science fiction and many think astronomers have observed them indirectly. But according to a physicist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, these awesome breaches in space-time do not and indeed cannot exist.

Over the past few years, observations of the motions of galaxies have shown that some 70% the Universe seems to be composed of a strange 'dark energy' that is driving the Universe's accelerating expansion.

George Chapline thinks that the collapse of the massive stars, which was long believed to generate black holes, actually leads to the formation of stars that contain dark energy. "It's a near certainty that black holes don't exist," he claims.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:57 PM

THAT'S WHY GOD GAVE US PLIERS:

I pulled out my own teeth (TREVOR KAVANAGH, 3/31/05, Daily Sun)

TONY Blair yesterday faced a woman who pulled out SEVEN of her teeth after failing to find an NHS dentist.

Great-grandmother Valerie Halsworth, 64, removed them with her husband’s pliers.

She pulled out a seventh tooth over the weekend before meeting the PM in Coventry yesterday.


If more folks were like Ms Halsworth maybe National Health wouldn't be collapsing.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:47 PM

GOOD ENOUGH FOR HARRY:

Bush Highlights Thrift Savings Plans (Fox News, March 31, 2005)

The retirement savings plan that federal employees enjoy and President Bush cites as a model for his individual investment accounts differs in a key regard from what he proposes: Bush would carve the new accounts out of the Social Security taxes workers now pay.

The government workers' savings plan, by contrast, is in addition to the Social Security taxes they pay and the benefits they are promised.

Democrats have said they would be much more inclined to embrace the private accounts — the signature item of the president's proposed Social Security overhaul — if they, too, were treated as an add-on to the traditional benefit check rather than a partial replacement.

One Republican, Rep. Clay Shaw of Florida, who oversees a House Social Security subcommittee, has filed legislation that would create the accounts as an addition to the program. But so far the broader debate over ensuring Social Security's long-term solvency has stalled over opposition to the president's "carve-out" accounts.

"It is just so unfair, misleading and fraudulent," Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said of the president's references to the Thrift Savings Plan (search). The Nevada Democrat accused the administration of using carve-out accounts as a Trojan Horse for eliminating Social Security, by siphoning off the taxes that pay benefits.

Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, said: "It's a political pitch because his accounts can't stand on their own merits, so what he tries to do is pretend that the Thrift Savings Plan that Congress and federal employees have is the same as what he's proposing and is something Congress is denying to the public."


Do it as an add-on but means test SS benefits and both sides can claim victory, even though it effectively ends SS.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:44 PM

IS THAT AN INCRIMINATING DOCUMENT IN YOUR PANTS OR ARE YOU HOMELESS?:

Ex-National Security Adviser to Plead Guilty to Taking Classified Material (Fox News, March 31, 2005)

Former national security adviser Sandy Berger will plead guilty to taking classified material from the National Archives, a misdemeanor, the Justice Department said Thursday. [...]

The former Clinton administration official previously acknowledged he removed from the National Archives copies of documents about the government's anti-terror efforts and notes that he took on those documents. He said he was reviewing the materials to help determine which Clinton administration documents to provide to the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

He called the episode "an honest mistake," and denied criminal wrongdoing.

Berger and his lawyer, Lanny Breuer, have said Berger knowingly removed the handwritten notes by placing them in his jacket and pants and inadvertently took copies of actual classified documents in a leather portfolio. He returned most of the documents, but some still are missing.


If your kid said he was sorry about taking the cookies but they ended up in his pants by mistake you'd punish him more severely.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:40 PM

COME BACK, PTOLEMY, ALL IS FORGIVEN:

Five Out of Five Researchers Agree: Earth's Solar System Special (Sara Goudarzi, 3/31/05, SPACE.com)

Though researchers find more and more distant planets revolving around alien suns, the discoveries highlight that Earth and its solar system may be an exceptionally rare place indeed.

That was the consensus here Wednesday evening among five planetary science experts who spoke at the 5th annual Isaac Asimov Memorial Panel Debate held at the American Museum of Natural History.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson, the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium, moderated the informal discussion. At issue was whether our solar system is special, why it looks the way it does, and how others thus far detected differ. The debate took place between theoretical and observational scientists on the different aspects of detecting and categorizing alien solar systems. About 700 people attended the event.

Prior to the discovery of planets around stars other than our sun in the 1990’s, scientists thought that alien solar systems must look something like our own. They presumed that just like our solar system, there would be small rocky planets like as Earth close to their host stars and large, low density ones a little farther out. But what they discovered were solar systems unlike ours with big Jupiter-like planets close to their host star.

Of the 150 alien planets found, none of them resemble our own. “So maybe it’s not the enigma of other solar systems, it’s the enigma of our solar system,” Tyson said in opening the debate.


The more science you do the better our ancestors look.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:33 PM

IF I WERE TRULY OBSESSED WE'D HAVE NAMED THE THIRD KID "DELINO":

My Fantasy Life: Our NEWSWEEK sports columnist, finally, comes clean and puts you in touch with his infantile side. (Mark Starr, March 31, 2005, Newsweek)

I confess that, for a man my age, I have a very active fantasy life. And my wife can get really steamed about it sometimes.

Nah, not that kind of fantasy. I told you ages ago that I haven’t had an impure thought about another woman since Natalie Wood crossed the Great Divide. I’m not talking about the ladies. I’m talking fantasy baseball.

I am one of the multitude of Americans—estimates now run to 15 million—who play fantasy baseball, a preoccupation that has grown from the quirky little hobby of some New York writers into a billion-dollar industry. (And there is now fantasy football, basketball, NASCAR and, for all I know, fantasy “American Idol” too … or is “American Idol” the actual fantasy?) The pioneers of the fantasy baseball game have seen very little of any money generated by their idea. Hardly surprising. If they had a knack for profit, they wouldn’t be in my profession.

For the uninitiated, fantasy baseball uses real players and real stats to create faux teams in faux leagues. The teams are formed in auctions—my league gathers for the annual bidfest in the basement of a West Side Irish bar in New York City—or in NFL-style drafts. At auction, everybody has the same amount of money to buy the same number of players for their team, a delicious counterpoint to the financial inequities in the real game.

The original concept is credited to Dan Okrent, who would later despair that its success would dominate his obituary. But now that Okrent has served as the first public editor (i.e., ombudsman) of The New York Times, he has assured himself a slightly different post mortem (“Dan Okrent, the first public editor of The New York Times and the man who invented fantasy baseball …”). Okrent shared the idea with his cohorts during a meal in a now-defunct New York restaurant called La Rotisserie Francaise. Thus the game became known as “Rotisserie Baseball.” When the hoi polloi got involved, they cut through the fancy Frenchified title and to the chase—fantasy baseball.

Okrent’s Rotisserie gang made its debut in 1980, using National League players. Our league followed a year later, a junior circuit with an American League attachment. We became the American Dream League. (Our name was a riff on the Norman Mailer novel and meant as a decided irony for a bunch of ‘60s cynics who weren’t all that sold on the concept of the American dream.) What is remarkable is that we are now entering our 25th season, with 12 teams and 18 owners still going strong, still battling with our imaginary teams. (My team is Nova, a triple play on a fiery Starr, a smoked fish and, in a tribute to multiculturalism that was ahead of its time, “no go” in Spanish). This weekend we will come from six states around the country to celebrate the remarkable feat of our survival with a Tex-Mex banquet in Greenwich Village (if banquet and Tex-Mex can rightfully exist in the same sentence).

I joke not when I say it is remarkable. There are very few such alliances of pals—poker games, golf games, book clubs, investment clubs, dining groups or anything else—that have lasted a quarter of a century.


Infantile? We of the Juddernaut resent that crack.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:29 PM

DESPITE THE OBLIGATORY SATAN REFERENCE:

The Politics of Churlishness: GIVING GEORGE W. BUSH HIS DUE ON DEMOCRACY (Martin Peretz, 03.31.05, New Republic)

Bush, it now seems safe to say, is one of the great surprises in modern U.S. history. Nothing about his past suggested that he harbored these ideals nor the qualities of character required for their realization. Right up to the moment Bush became president, I was convinced that his mind, at least on matters Levantine, belonged to his father and to James Baker III, whose worldview seemed to be defined by the pecuniary prejudice of oil and Texas: Keep the ruling Arabs happy. But I was wrong, and, in light of what has already been achieved in the Middle East, I am glad to say so. Most American liberals, alas, enjoy no similar gladness. They are not exactly pleased by the positive results of Bush's campaign in the Middle East. They deny and resent and begrudge and snipe. They are trapped in the politics of churlishness.

The achievements of Bush's foreign policy abroad represent a revolution in the foreign policy culture at home. The traditional Republican mentality that was so perfectly and meanly represented by Bush père and Baker precluded the United States from pressing the Arabs about reform--about anything--for decades. Not Iraq about its tyranny and its record of genocide, not Syria about its military occupation of Lebanon and its own brutal Baathist dictatorship, not Egypt about loosening the crippling bonds of a statist economy and an authoritarian political system, not Saudi Arabia about its championing of the Wahhabi extremism that made its own country so desiccated and the world so dangerous, and certainly not the Palestinians about the fantasy that they had won all the wars that they had actually lost and were therefore entitled to the full rewards due them from their victories. [...]

History has never traveled in the Middle East as fast as it has during the last two years. In this place where time seems to have stopped, time has suddenly accelerated. It may be true (more likely, it is not) that a deep yearning for democracy has been latent throughout the region for a long time. There certainly was a basis in reality for skepticism about the Arabs' hospitability to the opening of their societies. Whatever the proper historical and cultural analysis of the past, however, the fact is that democracy did not begin even to breathe until the small coalition of Western nations led by the United States destroyed the most ruthless dictatorship in the area.

Democracy in Mesopotamia? A fantasy, surely. But not quite. Iraq was, despite its unbelievably bloody history, a rather sophisticated place. During the nineteenth century, many Baghdadis went abroad to study. Modern nationalism sank some roots. Baghdad itself had a plurality of Jews, learned and mercantile, until they fled to the new state of Israel. An ancient minority of Christians survived into the age of Sunni pogroms and survives--though in lesser numbers--still. The Kurds grew relatively tolerant in the areas they dominated. And the majority Shia, though viciously persecuted from the founding of the Iraqi state after World War I--with the not-so-passive consent of the British colonials--and condemned to near-genocide by Saddam's revolutionary republic, have generally maintained the restraint that piety sometimes allows. After a year and a half of nearly daily Sunni bloodletting among them, the Shia have not wreaked the vengeance they surely could and, equally as surely, some of them long to take.

The U.S. liberation-occupation has now tried to cobble together these diverging Iraqis into the beginnings of a democratic regime. Wonder of wonders, these estranged cousins have shown some talent in the art of compromise; and trying to make this polity work is hardly an effort undertaken without courage. The judge who was killed with his son outside his home on his way to work at the tribunal that will try Saddam knew that danger stalked him, and so did the rest of the victims of Sunni bloodlust. This bloodlust evokes an unmistakable but macabre schadenfreude among many critics of the war, who want nothing of history except to be proved right. It is as if suicide bombings and other sorts of helter-skelter murder were a just judgment on the wrongdoings--yes, there have been wrongdoings, some of them really disgusting--of the Bush administration. And, even if ridding western Asia of Saddam is reluctantly accepted as justified, what blogger couldn't have accomplished what came after more deftly?

In any case, this churlish orthodoxy tells us that the Sunnis need to be enticed into the political game lest it be deemed illegitimate. In this scenario, it is the murderers who withhold or bestow moral authority. John F. Burns, the defiantly honest New York Times journalist in Baghdad, who has consistently reported the ambiguous and truly tangled realities of the war, now sees the Baathist and Sunni warriors in retreat, if not actually beaten. What will probably happen in Iraq is a version of what endured for decades in Lebanon: a representative government rooted in sect--argumentative, perhaps even corrupt, but functioning. Lebanon was never perfect, but it worked reasonably well, until the aggressive Palestinian guests took to commanding Shia turf to establish a "state within a state." (This was a phenomenon that the nimble Thomas L. Friedman did not much report on in the first leg of his journey From Beirut to Jerusalem, confiding that fear for his life and livelihood kept him from deviating too far from the Palestinian story as they wanted it told. Eason Jordan avant la lettre.)

The fine fruits of the Bush administration's indifference to international opinion may be seen now in Lebanon, too. What is happening there is the most concrete intra-Arab consequence of the Iraq war. Nothing could be done in Lebanon without Syria's sanction, no government decision without the approval of Damascus, no business without a hefty Damascene percentage. Syrian troops and spies were everywhere. Lebanese of all sects and clans have been restive for years. But they lived in the fearful memory of their mad civil war, the civil war of the daily car bombs in the marketplace. Suddenly, the elections in Iraq, Bush's main achievement there, exhilarating and inspiring, sprung loose the psychological impediments that shackled the Lebanese to Syria. Even if the outcomes will not be exactly the same, this was Prague and Berlin at the end of the long subjugation to their neighbor to the east. More immediately, this was Kiev only a few months ago. The first mass protest against the Syrians and their satrap prime minister drew tens of thousands. Then there was the much larger crowd of pro-Syria Shia from the south, a disconcerting moment. But, after that, a multitude so huge that it defied counting, and so diverse. This was the true cedar revolution, a revolution of the young, for independence, for freedom from the failing but always brutal Damascus regime next door. Will Vladimir Putin be so stupid as to invest credit and arms in the stiff and callow son of Hafez Al Assad?

None of this happened by spontaneous generation. Yes, there were lucky breaks: Yasir Arafat died, Syria conspired somehow to have former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri assassinated. And yes, the new directions are young, and the autocratic-theocratic political culture of the Middle East is old, and it is once again too early to proclaim that the mission has been accomplished. As the ancient Israelite king observed, let he who girds his harness not boast as he who takes it off. But the mission is nonetheless real, and far along, and it is showing thrilling accomplishments. It is simply stupid, empirically and philosophically, to deny that all or any of this would have happened without the deeply unpopular but historically grand initiative of Bush. The hundreds of thousands of young people in Martyrs' Square knew that they had Bush's backing. The president seems even to have enticed Jacques Chirac into a more active policy toward Lebanon: For him, too, Syria had to go. If this satisfies Chirac's yearning for la gloire, so be it. (But it will not be so easy to maintain such alliances: Already, Security Council members are said to be working up plans to put the future of Lebanon under the protective care of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, when nothing in unifil's past--nothing--should provide confidence that it is able, or even disposed, to act decisively against Arab brutality.)

What is occurring in Saudi Arabia and Egypt is also heartening, if more than a bit tentative. Under pressure from the Bush administration, the Saudis have allowed the first local elections in the country's history: an election to bodies that cannot make big decisions, and an election limited to male voters, naturally. But infidels (that is, Shia) may also vote. By Saudi standards, this is the revolution of 1848. In Egypt, responding to the insistence of the Bush people, President Hosni Mubarak has allowed that he will permit opponents to run in the presidential elections against him. Mubarak has no chance of losing ... this time. Maybe, however, the son will not be the father's inevitable successor, and maybe the Arab custom of turning dictatorships into dynasties will also come to an end, at least in Cairo. And, in the brave figure of Ayman Nour, the world now has a hero of the anti-Mubarak forces to celebrate and to support. In both countries, to be sure, what we are seeing are the bare beginnings of a democratic process, the very bare beginnings. It will be years, maybe decades, before these become democratic polities. And there is always the chance--as was the case in Algeria, once the jewel in the shabby crown of the "nonaligned"--that the vox populi will vote wrong. In the Algerian instance, it had to vote wrong: The choice was between national fascists and pious fascists. Take your pick.

So the situation is certainly complex. But complexity is not a warrant for despair. The significant fact is that Bush's obsession with the democratization of the region is working. Have Democrats begun to wonder how it came to pass that this noble cause became the work of Republicans?


Jon Stewart Syndrome strikes again.


Posted by Peter Burnet at 2:26 PM

ARTICLES OF FAITH

Secularization Doesn’t Just Happen (Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, First Things, March, 2005)

“As society became more modern, it became more secular.” That sentence has about it a certain “of courseness.” It or its equivalent is to be found in numerous textbooks from grade school through graduate school. The connection between modernization and secularization is taken for granted. Christian Smith, professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina, challenges what everybody knows in an important new collection of essays by several sociologists and historians, The Secular Revolution: Power, Interests, and Conflict in the Secularization of American Public Life (University of California Press, 484 pp., $60). The challenge is not novel with Smith. Social scientists who had long propounded “secularization theory,” Peter L. Berger very notably among them, have in recent years undergone a major change of mind. The contribution of Smith’s big book is in his detailed analysis of the dubious (sometimes contrary to fact) assumptions underlying the theory, and in the case studies he and his colleagues present showing how various interest groups have employed the theory in the service of their own quest for power, usually at the expense of religion and religious institutions.

There are, writes Smith, seven crucial and related defects in conventional secularization theory. Over-abstraction: the literature of the theorists routinely spoke of “differentiation,” “autonomization,” “privatization,” and other abstract, if not abstruse, dynamics disengaged from concrete factors of social change such as interests, ideologies, institutions, and power conflicts. Lack of human agency: the theory was big on process without protagonists. It depicted secularization without secularizers. According to the theory, secularization just happens. Overdeterministic inevitability: “Religion’s marginalization from public life is portrayed as a natural or inevitable process like cell mitosis or adolescent puberty.” Secularization theory reflects a view of linear social evolution in the tradition of Comte and Spencer. “If there is one truth that history teaches us beyond doubt,” wrote the great Durkheim, “it is that religion tends to embrace a smaller and smaller portion of social life.” Any questions, class?

Idealist intellectual history: here the history of ideas is determinative. Owen Chadwick’s The Secularization of the European Mind (note the focus on the mind) puts the primary explanatory emphasis on the philosophy of liberalism, evolutionary theory, Marxist ideology, and so forth. Smith writes, “Culture, philosophy, and intellectual systems certainly matter. But they cannot be abstracted from the real historical, social, political, legal, and institutional dynamics through which they worked and were worked upon.” Romanticized history: there was in the view of secularization theorists an “age of faith”—for instance, the thirteenth century—which was succeeded and displaced by the age of reason and modernity. Then everything was religious; now everything, or at least everything that matters in public, is secular. Against that view, anthropologist Mary Douglas writes: “Secularization is often treated as a modern trend. But the contrast of secular with religious has nothing whatsoever to do with the contrast of modern with traditional or primitive. The idea that primitive man is by nature deeply religious is nonsense. The truth is that all of the varieties of skepticism, materialism, and spiritual fervor are found in the range of tribal societies. They vary as much from one another on these lines as any chosen segment of London life.”

An overemphasis on religious self-destruction: Berger’s 1967 The Sacred Canopy suggested that the Judeo-Christian tradition “carried the seeds of secularization within itself.” Ancient Israel’s monotheism began the secularization process by historicizing and rationalizing ethics, a process which Catholicism temporarily restrained but which the Protestant Reformation returned to full force in bringing about a “disenchanted” (Weber) world. A host of theorists agreed that the Reformation and the cultural exhaustion following the “wars of religion” hastened the process of secularization. While not discounting such claims entirely, Smith writes, “What most versions of secularization theory overlook is the important role played by other, nonreligious and antireligious actors in the process of secularization. At the very least, our analytical framework should include room to account for all the players who may have been involved in a process of change.”

Seventh and finally, underspecified causal mechanisms: the influential Bryan Wilson, for example, simply asserted the incompatibility of modernity and religion: “The moral intimations of Christianity do not belong to a world ordered by conveyor belts, time-and-motion studies, and bureaucratic organizations. The very thought processes which these devices demand of men leave little place for the operation of the divine.” One is reminded of the “demythologizing” New Testament scholar Rudolf Bultmann and his dictum that a man who knows how to work a light switch cannot believe in divine causality. Again, it was Berger who wrote very persuasively, thirty and more years ago, about the powerful linkage between “social structure” and consciousness. To all this Smith responds: “But sociologists and historians give too little attention to explaining exactly how and why these social changes had their supposed detrimental effects on religion. Exactly why did urbanization or technological developments have to undermine religious authority? Exactly how did industrialization and immigration work to produce religious privatization? Why should we treat these as some kind of ‘great gears of history’ that inexorably grind their way toward religious privatization? Rather than all nodding our scholarly heads together in what could be premature analytical closure, we need to go back and force ourselves to answer these questions again.”

Although these seven dubious beliefs clearly run through just about everything secularists think and do, most of them are certain they live in a world of pure and objective empiricism with minds uncluttered by prejudice or dogmatic influence.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:02 PM

WHY HAS [STORY] GIVEN US...:

Cracking the Story Code: There are seven basic plots that tell the human tale. (Christopher Booker, March 31, 2005, LA Times)

One of the greatest mysteries in our lives lies so close beneath our noses that we don't even recognize it to be a mystery. Why do we tell stories? Why has evolution given us the ability to conjure up these sequences of imaginary happenings, on which, through movies, novels, plays, TV soaps and comic strips, we spend so much of our lives?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:54 PM

THE GOYS WHO CRIED WOLF:

Wolfowitz wins unanimous bank vote (Andrew Balls, March 31 2005, Financial Times)

The World Bank's member countries met on Thursday to appoint Paul Wolfowitz, US deputy defence secretary, as president of the world's leading development institution.

The bank's executive directors approved the controversial US nominee in a unanimous vote as James Wolfensohn prepares to step down at the end of May after almost 10 years in the post.


All that hysteria for nothing?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:11 PM

THEY'RE DOING THEIR PART:

Long Queues as Zimbabwe Votes in Test for Mugabe (Cris Chinaka, 3/31/05, Reuters)

Zimbabweans queued in large numbers on Thursday to vote in polls which President Robert Mugabe says will deliver a clear victory for his ruling party but which Western powers have already condemned as unfair.

Thousands of voters in the capital Harare defied early drizzle to cast their ballots after polling stations opened at 7:00 am (12 a.m. EST), while in rural areas people turned out by bicycle and donkey-cart.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:22 PM

THE CREAM OF THE WORST GOVERNED NATION IN THE WEST:

De Gaulle's Tattered Legacy (Jim Hoagland, March 31, 2005, Washington Post)

Charles de Gaulle bequeathed the French two big ideas and the atomic bomb to see them through the sad national duty of surviving without him. The bomb is still there and probably always will be. The ideas may not be as resilient. They face severe challenge this spring.

One idea was to form a superbly educated, merit-based political elite to revitalize the defeated and demoralized nation that emerged from World War II. The cream of the intellectual crop would be chosen by rigorous examinations, educated in prestigious national schools and assigned important government jobs based on grades.

This meritocracy produced two working generations of talented, dedicated administrators who gradually moved to the top of France's business and political establishments. How you respond to "the French" depends in some measure on how you react to dealing with the smartest kid in the class, who cannot resist occasionally reminding you of that fact. You may not find that as invigorating as I (usually) do.


Is there a more absurd notion than a French elite? Who's the last Frenchman that mattered? Napoleon?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:16 PM

THE LAST HOSTAGE GOES FREE:

Koppel to Leave ABC (ABC News, March 31, 2005)
Ted Koppel, the "Nightline" anchor and a 42-year veteran of ABC News, will leave the network in December.
Who even knew he was still there?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:12 PM

CATS AND DOGS SLEEPING TOGETHER:

An Unlikely Meeting Of the Minds: For Very Different Reasons, Groups Agree on Gas Alternatives (Greg Schneider, March 31, 2005, Washington Post)

A who's who of right-leaning military hawks -- including former CIA director R. James Woolsey and Iraq war advocate Frank J. Gaffney Jr. -- has joined with environmental advocates such as the Natural Resources Defense Council to lobby Congress to spend $12 billion to cut oil use in half by 2025. The alliance highlights how popular sentiment is turning against the no-worries gas-guzzling culture of the past decade and how alternative technologies such as gas-electric hybrids are finding increasingly widespread support.

"I think there are a number of things converging," said Gary L. Bauer, a former Republican presidential candidate and former head of the Family Research Council who has signed on to a strange-bedfellows coalition of conservatives and environmentalists called Set America Free. "I just think reasonable people are more inclined right now to start thinking about ways our country's future isn't dependent on . . . oil from a region where there are a lot of very bad actors."


One important factor in the convergence is there's no downside to the policy.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:37 AM

U HAUL:

THE GREATEST SAVE: The inside story of the daring rescue of a Tiger's mother (TAMARA AUDI and MICHAEL ROSENBERG, 3/31/05, Detroit FREE PRESS)

He went over the plan again in his head.

Sixteen men on the ground, armed with M-16 rifles and newly sharpened machetes. Four men in the chopper, three more in the plane. The ground force would split into six Jeeps floated by boat across the Orinoco River. They would drive into the Amazon jungle as far as the Jeeps could go, then hike into the mountains the rest of the way, a two-hour march, each man weighed down by weapons and flak jackets. They would reach camp at sunrise and attack immediately.

He hoped she would be alive when they got there.

It had been five months since gunmen seized Maura Villarreal, the 54-year-old mother of Tigers pitcher Ugueth Urbina, whisking her away in a worn, green Ford Fiesta.

Even in a country with an alarming rise in the number of kidnappings, this one was unlike any other. The brazen, daylight abduction of a sports star's mother showed kidnappers were getting bolder. Maura's captors had even dressed in the official uniforms of the federal police.

The case stunned Venezuelans and dominated the life of Joel Rengifo, a fit, balding 48-year-old federal police commander with a methodical mind and crooked front teeth, lying now on an uncomfortable bed in a rented room, replaying the rescue plan, disobeying his own orders to sleep.

In a few hours, Rengifo and his men would leave this village outside Caicara, a last outpost before the mountainous jungle that consumes lower Venezuela, and embark on the most important mission of their careers and one of the most dangerous of their lives. [...]

On Sept. 2, Urbina boarded a flight from Miami to Caracas, the chic, turbulent capital of his home country.

It was a backward journey for Urbina, who had spent a decade trying to escape Venezuela's slums for a major league life in North America. In a scant three hours and 15 minutes -- the time it took to fly from Miami -- Venezuela's troubles would claim him, again.

In 1994, when he was 20 and barely holding a spot on a Double-A roster in Harrisburg, Pa., Urbina received what was then the worst news of his life. His father and biggest supporter, Juan Manuel, had been shot and killed trying to resist four young robbers on the streets of Ocumare del Tuy.

Urbina went home, devastated. He told his mother he would never play again. Maura would not hear of it. She reminded him that his father always thought he would make the big leagues and wanted him to be a star.

Five weeks after his father's murder, Urbina was back in the United States, playing ball. Friends said he returned with new purpose -- to make his father proud and give his mother and brothers a secure, comfortable life. In 1995, a year after his father's death, Urbina pitched in his first game for the Montreal Expos.

Three years later, already known for his fastball and intimidating on-mound sneer, Urbina signed a long-term contract with the Expos for $10 million.

He moved his mother and brothers out of a rough, cramped apartment complex in Ocumare del Tuy into a large white stucco house in a middle-class neighborhood of pastels, palms and new American cars.

Urbina installed himself in a gorgeous, bright-yellow mansion in a fashionable neighborhood of Caracas. He bought a gold Mercedes, a motorcycle and a few off-road four-wheelers. His first neighborhood was just a few miles away, rising above Caracas in the form of massive, jail-like apartment buildings and burnt orange ranchos -- tiny, hand-built concrete huts stacked every which way.

The spray-painted face of Latin American revolutionary Che Guevara is still found throughout the January 23 barrio -- named for the date Venezuelans won democracy. Political unrest and gang violence are still common. Parents command children to be in by 6 p.m. Elderly people walk with snarling dogs on ropes for protection.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:28 AM

MATTHEW 25:40:

Schiavo dies after feeding tube removed (MIKE SCHNEIDER, 3/31/05, The Associated Press)

Terri Schiavo, the severely brain-damaged woman whose final years tethered to a feeding tube sparked a bitter feud over her fate that divided a family and a nation, died Thursday, her husband's attorney said.


WHATEVER YOU DID UNTO ONE OF THE LEAST, YOU DID UNTO ME (Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Given at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington DC Thur, 3 Feb 94)

On the last day, Jesus will say to those on His right hand, "Come, enter the Kingdom. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was sick and you visited me." Then Jesus will turn to those on His left hand and say, "Depart from me because I was hungry and you did not feed me, I was thirsty and you did not give me to drink, I was sick and you did not visit me." These will ask Him, "When did we see You hungry, or thirsty or sick and did not come to Your help?" And Jesus will answer them, "Whatever you neglected to do unto one of these least of these, you neglected to do unto Me!"

As we have gathered here to pray together, I think it will be beautiful if we begin with a prayer that expresses very well what Jesus wants us to do for the least. St. Francis of Assisi understood very well these words of Jesus and His life is very well expressed by a prayer. And this prayer, which we say every day after Holy Communion, always surprises me very much, because it is very fitting for each one of us. And I always wonder whether 800 years ago when St. Francis lived, they had the same difficulties that we have today. I think that some of you already have this prayer of peace - so we will pray it together.

Let us thank God for the opportunity He has given us today to have come here to pray together. We have come here especially to pray for peace, joy and love. We are reminded that Jesus came to bring the good news to the poor. He had told us what is that good news when He said: "My peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you." He came not to give the peace of the world which is only that we don't bother each other. He came to give the peace of heart which comes from loving - from doing good to others.

And God loved the world so much that He gave His son - it was a giving. God gave His son to the Virgin Mary, and what did she do with Him? As soon as Jesus came into Mary's life, immediately she went in haste to give that good news. And as she came into the house of her cousin, Elizabeth, Scripture tells us that the unborn child - the child in the womb of Elizabeth - leapt with joy. While still in the womb of Mary - Jesus brought peace to John the Baptist who leapt for joy in the womb of Elizabeth.

And as if that were not enough, as if it were not enough that God the Son should become one of us and bring peace and joy while still in the womb of Mary, Jesus also died on the Cross to show that greater love. He died for you and for me, and for the leper and for that man dying of hunger and that naked person lying in the street, no only of Calcutta, but of Africa, and everywhere. Our Sisters serve these poor people in 105 countries throughout the world. Jesus insisted that we love one another as He loves each one of us. Jesus gave His life to love us and He tells us that we also have to give whatever it takes to do good to one another. And in the Gospel Jesus says very clearly: "Love as I have loved you."

Jesus died on the Cross because that is what it took for Him to do good to us - to save us from our selfishness in sin. He gave up everything to do the Father's will - to show us that we too must be willing to give up everything to do God's will - to love one another as He loves each of us. If we are not willing to give whatever it takes to do good to one another, sin is still in us. That is why we too must give to each other until it hurts.

It is not enough for us to say: "I love God," but I also have to love my neighbor. St. John says that you are a liar if you say you love God and you don't love your neighbor. How can you love God whom you do not see, if you do not love your neighbor whom you see, whom you touch, with whom you live? And so it is very important for us to realize that love, to be true, has to hurt. I must be willing to give whatever it takes not to harm other people and, in fact, to do good to them. This requires that I be willing to give until it hurts. Otherwise, there is not true love in me and I bring injustice, not peace, to those around me.

It hurt Jesus to love us. We have been created in His image for greater things, to love and to be loved. We must "put on Christ" as Scripture tells us. And so, we have been created to love as He loves us. Jesus makes Himself the hungry one, the naked one, the homeless one, the unwanted one, and He says, "You did it to Me." On the last day He will say to those on His right, "whatever you did to the least of these, you did to Me, and He will also say to those on His left, whatever you neglected to do for the least of these, you neglected to do it for Me."

When He was dying on the Cross, Jesus said, "I thirst." Jesus is thirsting for our love, and this is the thirst of everyone, poor and rich alike. We all thirst for the love of others, that they go out of their way to avoid harming us and to do good to us. This is the meaning of true love, to give until it hurts.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:31 AM

BETTER STICK TO THE SAT WITH ESSAY:

Despite Discontent, Mugabe's Party Has Upper Hand in Vote: Opposition says fraud and intimidation will steer parliamentary poll today in Zimbabwe. (Robyn Dixon, March 31, 2005, LA Times)

The election is as much a test of Zimbabwe's longtime ruler, Robert Mugabe, as it is of African leaders' promise to uphold human rights and ensure elections are free and fair in order to win international investment.

This year, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice named Zimbabwe as an "outpost of tyranny," lumping it with repressive regimes in Myanmar, North Korea, Iran, Cuba and Belarus. South African President Thabo Mbeki, the continent's most influential leader, has advocated "quiet diplomacy" to persuade Mugabe to enact reforms, a strategy that has reaped little reward and divided Mbeki's African National Congress party. Mbeki has also said there is no reason to doubt that today's election will be fair.

"The collateral damage Zimbabwe has inflicted on the region, if not Africa as a whole, is immeasurable," wrote Dumisani Muleya, Zimbabwe correspondent for Business Day newspaper in South Africa. "Those efforts depend on African leaders' ability to tackle issues of democracy and governance in return for funding, but Mbeki and his colleagues have not fulfilled their side of the bargain. Zimbabwe is the test case."


South Africa's black leadership seems determined to fail the test.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:24 AM

YAO MING FOR PRESIDENT!:

Stature of Limitations in China: In a newly competitive society, being short can mean being passed over. To some people, the answer lies in a painful surgery that adds inches. (Ching-Ching Ni, March 31, 2005, LA Times)

She's an acting student. She sits in a wheelchair. He's a business major. He relies on crutches to get around.

Each of them willingly had a doctor break their legs and insert steel pins into the bones just below their knees and above their ankles. The pins are attached to a bulky contraption that looks like a metal cage. For six months or so, they will wear this stretching device even though it delivers excruciating pain eased only by medication.

They dial the adjustment knobs daily, forcing the ends of the broken limbs to pull away from each other even as they heal. As new bone grows, the device forces it apart again, resulting in more new bone to fill the gap. Patients on the device typically gain about 3 inches in six months.

It may sound like medieval torture, but people who are determined to stand taller say it's nothing short of a dream maker.

At about $6,000, the treatment is out of reach for the average Chinese urbanite, who makes just more than $1,100 a year. But for some with money, it's a price they're willing to pay. In this increasingly competitive society, height has emerged as one of the most visible criteria for upward mobility.


Or they could just get rid of Communism and improve their diet.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:51 AM

THERE GOES PHILADELPHIA...:

States Debate Photo IDs at Polls (DEANNA WRENN, March 31, 2005, Associated Press)

Legislation that would require voters to show photo identification before casting ballots has touched off fierce debate in three states, with opponents complaining the measures represent a return to the days of poll taxes and Jim Crow.

Lawmakers in Georgia and Indiana walked off the job to protest the proposals, which they say would deprive the poor, the elderly and minorities of the right to vote. Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, has already vetoed a similar measure and has vowed to do so again.

Republicans argue the bills would restore voter confidence and eliminate fraud without overly burdening voters, most of whom have driver's licenses or photo IDs anyway.

"I want everyone to be able to vote -- once," said Indiana state Sen. Victor Heinold, a Republican.

Nineteen states require voters to show identification, but only five of those request photo ID, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Those states -- Hawaii, Florida, Louisiana, South Carolina and South Dakota -- allow voters without a photo ID to present other forms of identification, such as a utility bill, or sign an affidavit of identity.

Critics say the measures in Indiana, Georgia and Wisconsin do not provide good alternatives for those without photo IDs.


No sweat, just require a national photo i.d..


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:29 AM

+ 27, - 16:

A national sales tax (George Will, March 31, 2005, Townhall)

The power to tax involves, as Chief Justice John Marshall said, the power to destroy. So does the power of tax reform, which is one reason why Rep. John Linder, a Georgia Republican, has a 133-page bill to replace 55,000 pages of tax rules.

His bill would abolish the IRS and the many billions of tax forms it sends out and receives. He would erase the federal income tax system -- personal and corporate income taxes, the regressive payroll tax and self-employment tax, capital gains, gift and estate taxes, the alternative minimum tax and the earned income tax credit -- and replace all that with a 23 percent national sales tax on personal consumption. That would not only sensitize consumers to the cost of government with every purchase, it would destroy K Street.

``K Street'' is shorthand for Washington's lawyer-lobbyist complex. It exists to continually complicate and defend the tax code, which is a cornucopia from which the political class pours benefits on constituencies. By replacing the income tax -- Linder had better repeal the 16th Amendment, to make sure the income tax stays gone -- everyone and all businesses would pay their taxes through economic choices, and K Street's intellectual capital, which consists of knowing how to game the tax code, would be radically depreciated.


Mr. Will has put his finger on the key to this idea, that the 16th be repealed.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:28 AM

ICC - USA = OK:

U.S. Drops Objection to Sudan Trial (GEORGE GEDDA, March 31, 2005, Associated Press)

The United States is dropping its objections to use of the U.N.'s International Criminal Court to try Sudanese responsible for an ethnic cleansing campaign in the Darfur region that has killed tens of thousands of people and uprooted more than 2 million, administration officials said Wednesday night.

The administration had preferred that an African court try the case but agreed to a compromise during daylong discussions at the United Nations on Wednesday.

The United States has strongly opposed the ICC on grounds that American service members or civilians serving overseas could be subject to politically motivated or frivolous prosecutions.

In return for its concession, the United States received assurances that Americans deployed in Sudan, in whatever capacity, would not be subject to ICC prosecutions, the officials told The Associated Press. They asked not to be identified because the decision has not been officially announced.

The decision could raise hackles among conservatives for whom the ICC is an unaccountable body that cannot be trusted to the right thing.


That's silly. Conservatives are all for depriving second rates nations like France of their sovereignty so long as we keep our own.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:14 AM

WOULDN'T IT HAVE BEEN BETTER JUST TO NOT SIGN IT?:

UK greenhouse emissions still rising (David Crouch, March 31, 2005, The Guardian)

UK carbon dioxide emissions have risen for two consecutive years according to figures released today, despite government pledges on climate change.

Emissions are now at their highest since 1996 and 3% higher than when Labour came to power in 1997. The government will need to implement drastic changes if it is to meet its target to reduce carbon pollution by 2010.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:08 AM

THEY MAY TIRE OF THEM, BUT WE DON'T:

Watching the Detective: Sherlock Holmes lives on—in fan societies, annotated versions, and new adventures (Lawrence Block, March 28th, 2005, Village Voice)

He was born on January 6, 1854, and died for the first time in May of 1891. Died, that is to say, in print, in "The Final Problem," locked in mortal combat with Professor Moriarty, the Napoleon of Crime, with the two of them plunging to their death at the Reichenbach Falls.

A few years later, it became evident that reports of his death were greatly exaggerated. In 1894, he returned to active practice, and handled hundreds of cases in the next decade. In 1902 he turned down a knighthood, retiring a year or two later to the Sussex coast, where he took up beekeeping—he hoped royal jelly, the food of the queen bee, might lengthen life and minimize the effects of aging—and began his magnum opus, The Whole Art of Detection. He put it aside, probably in 1912, and began undercover work in anticipation of the coming war with Germany.

He seems to have retired at the war's end, but it's hard to say for sure. There's no record of his death, and there are inferences, certainly, of his continuing life over the years. A recent report (of which more later) has him in Japan during the American occupation, strolling in the ashes of Hiroshima. He was 93 at the time, and if he's still alive now he'd be 151. That might strike one as impossible, but is the continuing existence of Sherlock Holmes one whit less conceivable than that he should have somehow ceased to be?

The novel A Study in Scarlet (1887) marked the first appearance in print of Sherlock Holmes, but it wasn't until four years later, when short stories began appearing in The Strand, that the character became popular with the reading public. His audience grew with every new appearance, but almost from the beginning his chronicler, Arthur Conan Doyle, began to tire of him. Before he'd finished the first series of 12 stories, his mother had to talk him out of killing his hero off, a threat which he acted upon in the 24th story, "The Final Problem."

If Doyle was happy to see the end of Holmes, he seems to have been the only person so disposed. City of London stockbrokers donned black armbands, and some 20,000 angry readers canceled their Strand subscriptions.

It's hard to say why Doyle tired of Holmes, but it's not unheard of for authors to grow weary of chronicling the exploits of series characters. Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers are supposed to have had a conversation in which each expressed a desire to put a violent end to her chief protagonist, but neither Hercule Poirot or Lord Peter Wimsey received such harsh treatment.

Some 30 years ago, Nicolas Freeling killed his series detective, Inspector Van der Valk, midway through a novel, leaving his widow to solve the case. He subsequently wrote further about the widow—Arlette, her name was—and launched another whole series of books (about one Henri Castang). Readers, by and large, washed their hands of the son of a bitch. It's my understanding that Freeling resuscitated Van der Valk in 1990 in Sand Castles, but it was too late to win back his audience. They were through with him.

But when Sherlock Holmes came back, all was forgiven.


In the past couple years aothers killed off two terrific series protagonists: John Harvey did Charlie Resnick and Colin Dexter whacked Inspector Morse.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:05 AM

WE SHALL OVERCOME:

GOP works to overcome skepticism among blacks (Chuck Raasch, 3/30/05, Gannett News Service)

Skepticism aside, this time could be different. There is lingering discontent toward Democrats among some blacks while Republicans are forging new alliances on issues with powerful appeal in the black community, such as school vouchers. Democratic strategist Donna Brazile says Mehlman's efforts should be "cause for alarm" for her party.

Republicans are reaching out to conservative black ministers and younger blacks who don't have the formative connection to the Democrats' pro-civil rights record of the 1960s. One of the more visible ministers is Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr., head of the 3,000-member Hope Christian Church in Lanham, Md. Wearied by what he described as Democrats' timidity and indifference, the lifelong Democrat voted for Bush in 2004 and spoke out on Bush's behalf.

Jackson said he and other conservative black ministers, "gave permission for other Bible-based black Christians to unhook ... from the Democratic Party and vote their conscience."

Such ministers, Brazile wrote in the newspaper "Roll Call," "will assist the GOP in getting its message to black voters" and that some "may even like what they hear."

Jackson doesn't yet see the GOP as a panacea for black hopes, but he sees in Bush a man of religious conviction with a willingness to try new approaches.

"If we don't figure out how to keep these young black men from going back to prison, and with seven of 10 black babies being born out of wedlock, I don't see much positive," Jackson said in an interview. "The house is on fire, so I felt as though it was time to rise up and speak. But many, many people are going to hold the Republican Party accountable."

In their latest efforts to reach out to blacks, Republicans have replaced broader "big tent" rhetoric of the 1980s and 1990s with more calibrated, issues-based arguments framed around morality and economic empowerment, from abortion to Social Security reform.

"There are a whole series of issues that are coming up to demonstrate that we have ideas and we have proposals that will be beneficial to the African-American community," Mehlman said. "(Republicans are saying) 'If you give us a chance, we will give you a choice.' "


The big tent told blacks what was in it for the GOP. Specific issues tell blacks what's in it for them.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:58 AM

ONE MAN'S TERRORIST...:

Elusive Castro foe may be here: A veteran Cuban exile militant linked to a string of violent acts against Fidel Castro and his government is reportedly in South Florida seeking safe haven. (ELAINE DE VALLE AND ALFONSO CHARDY, 3/31/05, Miami Herald)

Luis Posada Carriles, the legendary Cuban exile operative accused of blowing up a Cuban airliner in 1976 and trying to kill Fidel Castro in 2000, is believed to have secretly slipped into South Florida after years of hiding abroad, a federal source said Wednesday.

The source said he understands that Posada, 77, has been in the area for about a week and has made contact with government authorities.

The source said he may be trying to retain a local attorney, but didn't explain why. One possibility might be to help ensure Posada wouldn't be extradited to Venezuela, where he escaped from prison in 1985 while facing charges related to the airliner bombing.

The Cuban-born militant, however, does not face any charges in the United States.

Santiago Alvarez, a Miami developer who is a close friend and financial backer of Posada, said he talked to three attorneys on Wednesday in case his friend decides to come forward and seek asylum. Alvarez, however, said he would neither confirm nor deny Posada is in the area.

''I cannot tell you if I have seen him or have not seen him, if he is here or is not here,'' Alvarez said. ``What I can tell you is that I am signing a contract with a lawyer to represent him in case it is true that he is here and that he will present himself to immigration.''

Were Posada to emerge publicly in Miami, his presence could pose an embarrassing foreign-relations dilemma for the Bush administration. Amid the U.S. war on global terrorism, Posada's alleged involvement in hotel bombings and assassination plots could leave the nation open to criticism, especially by Cuba and Venezuela, whose governments are antagonistic toward American policies.


Oh no, criticism from Castro and Hugo? Maybe they'll make it a causus belli.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:55 AM

TALK ABOUT ROLE REVERSAL:

Ecuador to fight EU banana regime at the WTO (Lisbeth Kirk, 31.03.2005, EU Observer)


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:43 AM

WHAT'S THE PROPER BALANCE BETWEEN DEMOCRACY AND COMMUNISM?:

Roh Accents Alliance With US (Shim Jae-yun, 3/31/05, Korea Times)

President Roh Moo-hyun stressed Wednesday the need for the nation to strengthen its alliance with the United States in efforts to maintain peace and prosperity in Northeast Asia.

"Our diplomacy should focus on playing a balancing role to prevent possible conflicts in the region,’’ Roh said while receiving a policy briefing from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

"To that end, we need to firmly maintain the alliance with the United States,’’ he said.

Roh’s statement came amid growing concern focusing on a ``balancing role’’ will eventually distance Seoul from Washington and weaken the bilateral alliance. Some experts are concerned South Korea has moved closer to China, alienating itself from traditional allies such as the U.S. and Japan.


If you seek balance between Communist China and its democratic foes then aren't you too an enemy?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:24 AM

WHY PRE-EMPTION IS ALWAYS JUSTIFIED:

Spy agencies 'dead wrong' on WMD (KATHERINE SHRADER, 3/31/05, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

In a scathing report, a presidential commission said Thursday that America's spy agencies were "dead wrong" in most of their judgments about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction before the war and that the United States knows "disturbingly little" about the threats posed by many of the nation's most dangerous adversaries.

Because we can know so little about what our enemies are up, to the only responsible position is to always assume the worst and act accordingly.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:19 AM

FEDERALISM IS FOR LOSERS:

Will the GOP need life support? (Glenn Harlan Reynolds, March 31, 2005, Salon)

The Terri Schiavo story is a tragedy in the truest sense. It is a case in which there are no happy endings and in which the mighty fall. One thing that has fallen is the notion of the Republican Party as a bastion of federalism and limited government.

The notion that a party born of abolitionism and devoted over the years to prohibition, anti-communism, strict drug laws, restrictions on abortion, etc. was ever primarily concerned about federalism is rather fanciful. Federalism is the politics of whatever party is out of power. Having lost control of the national agenda they seek to preserve their own power in the states they do control. And it's always a losing issue.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:19 AM

IT'S WHATEVER TIME WE DECIDE IT IS:

The power behind daylight-saving: Some grumble, but time change has purpose (Mark Sauer, March 31, 2005, San Diego Tribune)

Benjamin Franklin liked to sleep late. But waking early one day in 1784, the 78-year-old American minister to France was astonished to find the sun already streaming into his Paris residence.

He wrote a whimsical letter to the Journal de Paris suggesting the madness of sleeping when it is light and wasting the cost of candles when it is dark. He suggested a solution: daylight-saving time.

It was an idea well ahead of its time and one which has proved remarkably controversial over the years. [...]

The many advantages of DST makes you wonder why it has been so fiercely resisted.

Besides providing an extra hour of light in the evening for recreation, many studies have shown DST saves energy, reduces the number of auto accidents and even lowers crime rates, said Prerau, who holds a Ph.D. from MIT and has co-authored three reports to Congress on the effects of DST.

"The idea has been contentious all over the world, and for the same reasons," Prerau said. "City people love it, country people don't."

Farmers are tied to the sun and DST has them operating "an hour late compared with everybody else for things like going to the bank in town, meeting trains and trucks for deliveries, or even going to a movie after finishing work," he explained.

"Then there was the danger for schoolchildren standing on rural roads in the morning darkness waiting for the bus."

Daylight-saving time begins in the United States at 2 a.m., local time, on the first Sunday in April. We revert to Standard Time at 2 a.m. on the last Sunday in October. [...]

One persistent complaint about DST comes from people who blame the confusion over the time change for being late to church on the first Sunday in April.

"But there is this marvelous observation from a priest in St. Petersburg, Fla.," Downing said. "Why is it, he wondered, that when we fall back to Standard Time in October nobody shows up to church an hour early?"


The Wife is just happy because she won't have to subtract an hour from the clock on my bedside table for a few months.


MORE:
Spring Forward Faster (DAVID PRERAU , 3/31/05, NY Times)

Studies in many countries have found that daylight saving time curbs energy consumption and reduces traffic fatalities. While I was a researcher at the Transportation Department in the 1970's, we did a study that found that under daylight time in spring and fall, electrical energy use fell by about 1 percent, the equivalent today of roughly three billion kilowatt-hours per month, while the reduction in traffic accidents saved 25 lives and averted 1,000 injuries each month. Crime also decreased.

These results derive directly from the shift of daylight from morning to evening. For example, many people sleep through morning sunlight and then depend on electric lighting after the sun sets. Even taking commuters into account, far more people travel in the evening than in the morning, and this, when combined with poor visibility, leads to more traffic accidents. And more crimes in which darkness is a factor, like muggings, take place after dusk than before dawn.

Under the present law we have daylight time in October but not in March, even though the sun rises at similar times in both months. The European Union starts daylight time on the last Sunday in March, with few complaints. Adding one spring week of daylight time would synchronize us with Europe. Adding two weeks in the spring would double the benefit while not making a single sunrise later than those we already experience in October, thus reducing concerns about dark mornings for farmers and children heading for school.

We should also consider adding a week of daylight time in the fall. Daylight time now always ends just before Halloween - sometimes, as last year, on Halloween morning. Alarmingly, children's pedestrian deaths are four times higher on Halloween than on any other night of the year, and daylight time would provide another hour of light for young trick-or-treaters.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:11 AM

THE DEATHSTAR LIMPETH (via Jim Siegel):

2005 Major League Baseball Preview - The Yankees (TIM MARCHMAN, March 31, 2005, NY Sun)

Every year I preach that the Yankees are about to collapse, and they never do. I'm sticking with my preaching - the Yankees are about to collapse, and don't look like a 90-win team to me. They're horrible defensively, old and injury-prone, and boast a lineup consisting of five superb players and four mediocrities.

This strangely built $200 million team is as thin as a dime. I count nine potential Hall of Famers on the roster, but no one else on the team is very good, with a few exceptions like Hideki Matsui and Tom Gordon. The contrast with the Red Sox, who have three superstars and 22 solid players, is stunning. The Yankees have no sixth starter, no credible reserves in the infield, the outfield or behind the plate, and several regulars who could be among the worst at their positions in baseball.

The Yankees' underlying statistics were those of an 89-win team last year, and it's not clear that they got much better over the off-season. The real improvement, of course, was bringing in ace Randy Johnson, who represents a marked improvement over Javier Vazquez. But I'm not clear how that does more than offset the terrible Tony Womack and the continued disintegration of the team defense. This team looks to me to be clearly inferior to the Red Sox.


The Sox have just two problems, only one of which can be taken care of in season. Unless you're willing to bet a World Series trophy that David Wells is going to be healthy in October they don't really have a number 2 starter to plug in behind Curt Schilling. They'll need to acquire someone by the All Star break and on a championship team the #2 is generally a second #1 so they're usually scarce. The other problem is that neither David Ortiz nor Manny Ramirez should ever be allowed to play defense, but they obviously can't both DH. Playing Manny in Left costs them a couple games a year and playing them both in the World Series is a recipe for disaster.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:20 AM

WHEN JAW-JAW IS WAR-WAR:

Why World War IV can't sell (John Brown, 4/01/05, Asia Times)

In a recent essay (Are we in World War IV?) Tom Engelhardt of Tomdispatch commented quite rightly that "World War IV" has "become a commonplace trope of the imperial right" of the United States. But he didn't mention one small matter - the rest of the US, not to speak of the outside world, hasn't bought the neo-cons' efforts to justify President George W Bush's militaristic adventures abroad with crude "we're in World War IV" agitprop meant to mobilize Americans in support of the administration's foreign-policy follies. That's why, in his second term, Bush - first and foremost a politician concerned about maintaining domestic support - is talking ever less about waging a global war and ever more about democratizing the world.

Rather, it's proved much easier to win than even the neocons expected. With less than two thousand men lost and democracy imposed in Afghanistan, Iraq, Liberia, Ukraine, Palestine, Lebanon, Kyrgyzstan, Togo, etc. and elections beginning to occur even in supposedly unreformable places like Saudi Arabia and Egypt it's just hard to think of it as a conventional war. Perhaps we need a new term for the kind of global conflict where we can topple a regime just by talking tough.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM

JESUS WEPT:

SERMON DELIVERED BY BISHOP CLEMENS AUGUST COUNT OF GALEN (The Third Sermon, preached in the Church of St. Lambert's on August 3rd, 1941)

My Beloved Brethren,

In today's Gospel we read of an unusual event: Our Saviour weeps. Yes, the Son of God sheds tears. Whoever weeps must be either in physical or mental anguish. At that time Jesus was not yet in bodily pain and yet here were tears. What depth of torment He must have felt in His heart and Soul, if He, the bravest of men, was reduced to tears. Why is He weeping? He is lamenting over Jerusalem, the holy city He loved so tenderly, the capital of His race. He is weeping over her inhabitants, over His own compatriots because they cannot foresee the judgment that is to overtake them, the punishment which His divine prescience and justice have pronounced. ‘Ah, if thou too couldst understand, above all in this day that is granted thee, the ways that can bring thee peace!’ Why did the people of Jerusalem not know it? Jesus had given them the reason a short time before. ‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem . . . how often have I been ready to gather thy children together, as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings; and thou didst refuse it! I your God and your King wished it, but you would have none of Me. . . .’ This is the reason for the tears of Jesus, for the tears of God. . . . Tears for the misrule, the injustice and man's willful refusal of Him and the resulting evils, which, in His divine omniscience, He foresees and which in His justice He must decree. . . . It is a fearful thing when man sets his will against the will of God, and it is because of this that Our Lord is lamenting over Jerusalem.

My faithful brethren! In the pastoral letter drawn up by the German Hierarchy on the 26th of June at Fulda and appointed to be read in all the churches of Germany on July 6th, it is expressly stated: ‘According to Catholic doctrine, there are doubtless commandments which are not binding when obedience to them requires too great a sacrifice, but there are sacred obligations of conscience from which no one can release us and which we must fulfil even at the price of death itself. At no time, and under no circumstances whatsoever, may a man, except in war and in lawful defence, take the life of an innocent person.’

When this pastoral was read on July 6th I took the opportunity of adding this exposition:

For the past several months it has been reported that, on instructions from Berlin, patients who have been suffering for a long time from apparently incurable diseases have been forcibly removed from homes and clinics. Their relatives are later informed that the patient has died, that the body has been cremated and that the ashes may be claimed. There is little doubt that these numerous cases of unexpected death in the case of the insane are not natural, but often deliberately caused, and result from the belief that it is lawful to take away life which is unworthy of being lived.

This ghastly doctrine tries to justify the murder of blameless men and would seek to give legal sanction to the forcible killing of invalids, cripples, the incurable and the incapacitated. I have discovered that the practice here in Westphalia is to compile lists of such patients who are to be removed elsewhere as ‘unproductive citizens,’ and after a period of time put to death. This very week, the first group of these patients has been sent from the clinic of Marienthal, near Münster.

Paragraph 21 of the Code of Penal Law is still valid. It states that anyone who deliberately kills a man by a premeditated act will be executed as a murderer. It is in order to protect the murderers of these poor invalids—members of our own families—against this legal punishment, that the patients who are to be killed are transferred from their domicile to some distant institution. Some sort of disease is then given as the cause of death, but as cremation immediately follows it is impossible for either their families or the regular police to ascertain whether death was from natural causes.

I am assured that at the Ministry of the Interior and at the Ministry of Health, no attempt is made to hide the fact that a great number of the insane have already been deliberately killed and that many more will follow.

Article 139 of the Penal Code expressly lays down that anyone who knows from a reliable source of any plot against the life of a man and who does not inform the proper authorities or the intended victim, will be punished. . . .

When I was informed of the intention to remove patients from Marienthal for the purpose of putting them to death I addressed the following registered letter on July 29th to the Public Prosecutor, the Tribunal of Münster, as well as to the Head of the Münster Police:

‘I have been informed this week that a considerable number of patients from the provincial clinic of Marienthal are to be transferred as citizens alleged to be "unproductive" to the institution of Richenberg, there to be executed immediately; and that according to general opinion, this has already been carried out in the case of other patients who have been removed in like manner. Since this sort of procedure is not only contrary to moral law, both divine and natural, but is also punishable by death, according to Article 211 of the Penal Code, it is my bounden obligation in accordance with Article 139 of the same Code to inform the authorities thereof. Therefore I demand at once protection for my fellow countrymen who are threatened in this way, and from those who purpose to transfer and kill them, and I further demand to be informed of your decision.’

I have received no news up till now of any steps taken by these authorities. On July 26th I had already written and dispatched a strongly worded protest to the Provincial Administration of Westphalia which is responsible for the clinics to which these patients have been entrusted for care and treatment. My efforts were of no avail. The first batch of innocent folk have left Marienthal under sentence of death, and I am informed that no less than eight hundred cases from the institution of Waestein have now gone. And so we must await the news that these wretched defenceless patients will sooner or later lose their lives. Why? Not because they have committed crimes worthy of death, not because they have attacked guardians or nurses as to cause the latter to defend themselves with violence which would be both legitimate and even in certain cases necessary, like killing an armed enemy soldier in a righteous war.

No, these are not the reasons why these unfortunate patients are to be put to death. It is simply because that according to some doctor, or because of the decision of some committee, they have no longer a right to live because they are ‘unproductive citizens’. The opinion is that since they can no longer make money, they are obsolete machines, comparable with some old cow that can no longer give milk or some horse that has gone lame. What is the lot of unproductive machines and cattle? They are destroyed. I have no intention of stretching this comparison further. The case here is not one of machines or cattle which exist to serve men and furnish them with plenty. They may be legitimately done away with when they can no longer fulfil their function. Here we are dealing with human beings, with our neighbours, brothers and sisters, the poor and invalids . . . unproductive—perhaps! But have they, therefore, lost the right to live? Have you or I the right to exist only because we are ‘productive’? If the principle is established that unproductive human beings may be killed, then God help all those invalids who, in order to produce wealth, have given their all and sacrificed their strength of body. If all unproductive people may thus be violently eliminated, then woe betide our brave soldiers who return home, wounded, maimed or sick.

Once admit the right to kill unproductive persons . . . then none of us can be sure of his life. We shall be at the mercy of any committee that can put a man on the list of unproductives. There will be no police protection, no court to avenge the murder and inflict punishment upon the murderer. Who can have confidence in any doctor? He has but to certify his patients as unproductive and he receives the command to kill. If this dreadful doctrine is permitted and practised it is impossible to conjure up the degradation to which it will lead. Suspicion and distrust will be sown within the family itself. A curse on men and on the German people if we break the holy commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ which was given us by God on Mount Sinai with thunder and lightning, and which God our Maker imprinted on the human conscience from the beginning of time! Woe to us German people if we not only licence this heinous offence but allow it to be committed with impunity! [...]


March 30, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:32 PM

ALL ABOUT THE MBA:

Bush Is Keeping Cabinet Secretaries Close to Home: Spending Time at White House Required (Michael Fletcher, March 31, 2005, Washington Post)

President Bush is requiring Cabinet members to spend several hours a week at the White House compound, a move top aides say eases coordination with government agencies but one seen by some analysts as fresh evidence of the White House's tightening grip over administration policy.

Under a directive instituted by Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. at the start of Bush's second term, Cabinet secretaries spend as many as four hours a week working out of an office suite set up for them at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, adjacent to the White House. There, they meet with presidential policy and communications aides in an effort to better coordinate the administration's initiatives and messages.

"It allows us to work on a much more regular basis with the Cabinet in helping to manage issues," said Claude A. Allen, Bush's domestic policy adviser. "It also helps us lay the groundwork that is going to be necessary to implement the very aggressive agenda that the president has laid out for his second term."

The new practice applies to every Cabinet agency, although the heads of the Defense, State, Homeland Security and Justice departments are required to be at the White House so regularly for meetings that they rarely use the suite, said Erin Healy, a White House spokeswoman. Robert S. Nichols, spokesman for the Treasury Department, said that Secretary John W. Snow was already spending a lot of time at the White House "in large part due to his key role on the president's top domestic priorities, primarily Social Security."

One White House official said the policy has caused some consternation among some of the Cabinet secretaries, but the officers publicly defended the new practice. "Having an office and time to work at the White House is a great way to build an effective and cohesive team," Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao said.

Paul C. Light, a professor of public service at New York University and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, sees its purpose differently. "This administration has been very conscious in the second term of the need to control what happens in Cabinet agencies and to make sure Cabinet officers don't get too far out there," he said. "I find it absolutely shocking that they would have regular office hours at the White House. It confirms how little the domestic Cabinet secretaries have to do with making policy."


He's been president for 4+ years and they still haven't figured out that he runs the administration on a business model?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:16 PM

THOU SHALT NOT:

Clerics of 3 Faiths Protest Gay Festival Planned for Jerusalem (LAURIE GOODSTEIN and GREG MYRE, 3/31/05, NY Times)

International gay leaders are planning a 10-day WorldPride festival and parade in Jerusalem in August, saying they want to make a statement about tolerance and diversity in the Holy City, home to three great religious traditions.

Now major leaders of the three faiths - Christianity, Judaism and Islam - are making a rare show of unity to try to stop the festival. They say the event would desecrate the city and convey the erroneous impression that homosexuality is acceptable.

"They are creating a deep and terrible sorrow that is unbearable," Shlomo Amar, Israel's Sephardic chief rabbi, said yesterday at a news conference in Jerusalem attended by Israel's two chief rabbis, the patriarchs of the Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian churches, and three senior Muslim prayer leaders. "It hurts all of the religions. We are all against it."

Abdel Aziz Bukhari, a Sufi sheik, added: "We can't permit anybody to come and make the Holy City dirty. This is very ugly and very nasty to have these people come to Jerusalem."

Israeli authorities have not indicated what action, if any, they might take to limit the events. Banning the festival would seem unlikely, though the government could withhold the required permits for specific events, like a parade.

Interfaith agreement is unusual in Israel. The leaders' joint opposition was initially generated by the Rev. Leo Giovinetti, an evangelical pastor from San Diego who is both a veteran of the American culture war over homosexuality and a frequent visitor to Israel, where he has formed relationships with rabbis and politicians.

Organizers of the gay pride event, Jerusalem WorldPride 2005, said that 75 non-Orthodox rabbis had signed a statement of support for the event, and that Christian and Muslim leaders as well as Israeli politicians were expected to announce their support soon. They said they were dismayed to see that what united their opponents was their objection to homosexuality.

"That is something new I've never witnessed before, such an attempt to globalize bigotry," said Hagai El-Ad, the executive director of Jerusalem Open House, a gay and lesbian group that is the host for the festival. "It's quite sad and ironic that these religious figures are coming together around such a negative message."


You bet. Odd that the three great Abrahamic faiths would unite around morality.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:12 PM

THOSE WHO REMEMBER THE PAST ARE DOOMED TO THINK IT'S REPEATING:

Sinking Globalization (Niall Ferguson, March/April 2005, Foreign Affairs)

The last age of globalization resembled the current one in numerous ways. It was characterized by relatively free trade, limited restrictions on migration, and hardly any regulation of capital flows. Inflation was low. A wave of technological innovation was revolutionizing the communications and energy sectors; the world first discovered the joys of the telephone, the radio, the internal combustion engine, and paved roads. The U.S. economy was the biggest in the world, and the development of its massive internal market had become the principal source of business innovation. China was opening up, raising all kinds of expectations in the West, and Russia was growing rapidly.

World War I wrecked all of this. Global markets were disrupted and disconnected, first by economic warfare, then by postwar protectionism. Prices went haywire: a number of major economies (Germany's among them) suffered from both hyperinflation and steep deflation in the space of a decade. The technological advances of the 1900s petered out: innovation hit a plateau, and stagnating consumption discouraged the development of even existing technologies such as the automobile. After faltering during the war, overheating in the 1920s, and languishing throughout the 1930s in the doldrums of depression, the U.S. economy ceased to be the most dynamic in the world. China succumbed to civil war and foreign invasion, defaulting on its debts and disappointing optimists in the West. Russia suffered revolution, civil war, tyranny, and foreign invasion. Both these giants responded to the crisis by donning the constricting armor of state socialism. They were not alone. By the end of the 1940s, most states in the world, including those that retained political freedoms, had imposed restrictions on trade, migration, and investment as a matter of course. Some achieved autarky, the ideal of a deglobalized society. Consciously or unconsciously, all governments applied in peacetime the economic restrictions that had first been imposed between 1914 and 1918.

The end of globalization after 1914 was not unforeseeable. There was no shortage of voices prophesying Armageddon in the prewar decades. Many popular writers earned a living by predicting a cataclysmic European war. Solemn Marxists had long foretold the collapse of capitalism and imperialism. And Social Darwinists had looked forward eagerly to a conflagration that would weed out the weak and fortify the strong.

Yet most investors were completely caught off guard when the crisis came. Not until the last week of July 1914 was there a desperate dash for liquidity; it happened so suddenly and on such a large scale that the world's major stock markets, New York's included, closed down for the rest of the year. As The Economist put it at the time, investors and financial institutions "saw in a flash the meaning of war." The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by about 25 percent between January 1910 and December 1913 and remained flat through the first half of 1914. European bond markets, which had held up throughout the diplomatic crises of the 1900s, crashed only at the 11th hour, as the lights went out all over Europe.

Some economic historians detect the origins of the deglobalization that followed World War I in the prewar decades. They point, variously, to rising tariffs and restrictions on migration, a slight uptick in inflation starting around 1896, and the chronic vulnerability of the U.S. economy to banking crises. To this list, it might be added that the risk of further Russian and Chinese revolutions should have been fairly apparent after those of 1905 and 1911, respectively.

The trouble is that none of these problems can be said to have caused the great conflagration that was World War I. To be sure, the prewar world was marked by all kinds of economic rivalries--not least between British and German manufacturers--but these did not suffice to cause a disaster. On the contrary, businessmen on both sides agreed that a major war would be an economic calamity. The point seemed so obvious that war came to be seen by some optimistic commentators as all but impossible--a "great illusion," in the famous phrase of the author Norman Angell. Even when the war broke out, many people optimistically clung to the illusion that it would soon be over. Economist John Maynard Keynes said that it "could not last more than a year."

With the benefit of hindsight, however, five factors can be seen to have precipitated the global explosion of 1914-18. The first cause was imperial overstretch. By 1914, the British Empire was showing signs of being a "weary Titan," in the words of the poet Matthew Arnold. It lacked the will to build up an army capable of deterring Germany from staging a rival bid for European hegemony (if not world power). As the world's policeman, distracted by old and new commitments in Asia and Africa, the United Kingdom's beat had simply become too big.

Great-power rivalry was another principal cause of the catastrophe. The problem was not so much Anglo-German rivalry at sea as it was Russo-German rivalry on land. Fear of a Russian arms buildup convinced the German general staff to fight in 1914 rather than risk waiting any longer.

The third fatal factor was an unstable alliance system. Alliances existed in abundance, but they were shaky. The Germans did not trust the Austrians to stand by them in a crisis, and the Russians worried that the French might lose their nerve. The United Kingdom's actions were impossible to predict because its ententes with France and Russia made no explicit provisions for the eventuality of war in Europe. The associated insecurities encouraged risk-taking diplomacy. In 1908, for example, Austria-Hungary brusquely annexed Bosnia. Three years later, the German government sent the gunboat Panther to Agadir to challenge French claims to predominance in Morocco.

The presence of a rogue regime sponsoring terror was a fourth source of instability. The chain of events leading to war, as every schoolchild used to know, began with the assassination of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo by a Bosnian Serb, Gavrilo Princip. There were shady links between the assassin's organization and the Serbian government, which had itself come to power not long before in a bloody palace coup.

Finally, the rise of a revolutionary terrorist organization hostile to capitalism turned an international crisis into a backlash against the global free market. The Bolsheviks, who emerged from the 1903 split in the Russian Social Democratic Party, had already established their credentials as a fanatical organization committed to using violence to bring about world revolution. By straining the tsarist system to the breaking point, the war gave Lenin and his confederates their opportunity. They seized it and used the most ruthless terrorist tactics to win the ensuing civil war.


The similarities of course pale in comparison to the differences. First, Britain was not even the leading military power of the day. Though it was more engaged in world affairs, it had been apparent since the Civil War that all America required was motivation in order to crank up an unrivalled war machine, which it went on to demonstrate in the ensuing World Wars. Indeed, Britain could not have defeated several of its European rivals on its own, not least Germany. The United States has no rival today, no nation it could not defeat in hours were it sufficiently provoked. Folks imagine China a rival but America has a GDP several times that of China, despite a population less than a quarter of China's and spends more than ten times as much on its military. Not only are we not overstretched but our military expenditure as a percentage of GDP is quite low by the historic standards of a superpower. If we are an imperial power we are a mostly cultural one and we maintain it on the cheap.

Similarly, Britain didn't have the leading economy of its day. America had overtaken it in the 19th Century and today has a GDP the size of all of Europe's. Nor is America forced to pump its wealth into the black hole of colonies, as Britain was--a waste which Mr. Ferguson seems to cite with approval. Instead America is invested in its own economy; the same one that foreigners are so drawn to--a fact which Mr. Ferguson cites with disapproval.

As important though as the drastic difference in relative power between the Britain of 1914 and the America of 2005 is the imbalance between the threat of communism/socialism and that of Islamicism. In the world of 1914, a world completely dominated by Christendom, communism was an immensely appealing Christian heresy that represented a genuine internal challenge to even the successful Anglo-American model of democratic protestant capitalism. Islamicism on the other hand is totally external to the West, holding no appeal here and rather little even within Islam. It's just not a significant existential threat.

So all we're really left with is the possibility that we might do something stupid like becoming nationalistic and trying to put a stop to free trade and immigration. We may not want to dismiss our own potential for idiocy out of hand but we do need to note how little success Pat Buchanan had running on such a platform.

We'll find some way to screw up the current Golden Age eventually, but it doesn't seem likely that the era of American dominance will end in anything like the way the Pax Britannica did, or at least not for the same reasons.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:25 PM

LIVE LONG AND DESPAIR:

Elderly increasingly isolated from society (Lewis Smith, 3/31/05, Times of London)

A GROWING sense of loneliness among pensioners is destroying the self-belief and quality of life of the generation that won the war, a leading charity says.

More older people than ever are finding themselves isolated from the rest of society, with almost two million of the elderly spending Easter alone.

Of the more than 1,100 people questioned for a survey published today by Help the Aged, one in five of the 65-plus age group who live alone see members of their family less than once a month; almost one in ten go six months or more between visits.

The fast pace of modern life is blamed by the age group as a prime factor in their dislocation from society with more than two thirds — about three million — feeling out of touch.Some 9 per cent feel completely cut off from society; 21 per cent feel they have been cast off and are of use to no one.

The sense of isolation is intensified because most pensioners have no friends under the age of 30, even though they would welcome greater contact with the younger generations.

The effects of loneliness are to make older people withdraw into themselves, fearful of rebuffs and increasingly doubtful of their own abilities. Paul McCann, director of policy for the charity, said: “We far too often shunt older people into the sidings of life, leaving them without enough money, activity but, above all, human warmth.”


In the focus on self and extension of life they've forgotten everything that makes life worthwhile in the first place.


Posted by Peter Burnet at 8:43 PM

WHO MAKES CHARTERED ACCOUNTANTS LOOK WILD AND CRAZY?

Why sex is good for the species (Bjorn Carey, MSNBC, March 31th, 2005)

Sex is an expensive and risky business. It steals time and drains precious nutrient resources. And each act of reproduction runs the risk of messing up carefully crafted genetic blueprints. So why do we do it?

The answer might seem obvious to you. But it's not so clear to biologists who consider that despite a logical alternative — asexual reproduction by simple cloning without the help of a partner — sex is preferred in the wild.[...]

Scientists don't know how sex even got started. But they have long suspected that organisms prefer sex specifically because of the risk. The slight shuffling of genes produced through sexual reproduction may help organisms adapt more easily to a stressful or changing environment, the thinking goes.

We assume the stressful and changing environment is her family.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:13 PM

MEDICINE IS LOVE...:

Useless eaters: disability as genocidal marker in Nazi Germany: The methods used for mass extermination in the Nazi death camps originated and were perfected in earlier use against people with physical, emotional, and intellectual disabilities. This article describes the historical context of attitudes toward people with disabilities in Germany and how this context produced mass murder of people with disabilities prior to and during the early years of-World War II. Several key marker variables, the manipulation of which allowed a highly sophisticated Western society to officially sanction the murder of people with disabilities, are examined. Important implications must continually be drawn from these sad events as we work with people with disabilities at the dawn of a new century. (Mark P. Mostert, Fall, 2002, Journal of Special Education)

Historically, euthanasia has meant a voluntary request for death without suffering by the patient. However, in the 17th century its meaning was modified to grant the right to alleviate suffering exclusively to physicians. While the meaning and implications of euthanasia changed somewhat over time, it was universally accepted that the act of euthanasia was always voluntary. That is, when individuals exercised their right to voluntarily choose the timing and the manner of their death as a means of ending their suffering, it was a physician's responsibility to assist them (Proctor, 1988). However, in the 1890s the meaning of euthanasia in Europe, and especially in Germany, came to include two other aspects. First, the notion of a voluntary "right to die" was extended to mean that in some instances the request for euthanasia could be made by persons other than the suffering patient. Second, the extraordinary levels of care accorded the terminally ill and asylum inmates again raised the issue of negative human worth and underlined the possibility of involuntary euthanasia; that is, the economic burden that terminal illness or caring for the insane placed on families, caregivers, and the community was a factor to consider in decisions for euthanasia. In one sense, therefore, the debate quickly shifted from the idea of a "gentle death" itself to who would request or abet the patient's demise. Subsequent branches of the debate took up the notion of suffering among humans as comparable to that of animals and the implication that in certain instances humans could be disposed of in the same way--quickly and painlessly. The distinction between voluntary euthanasia and involuntary killing was thus effectively eradicated, and an ominous term was coined for the first time: "life unworthy of life."

In 1920 the concept of living beings not worthy of the life they embodied gained impetus with a tract published by two university professors, Karl Binding and Alfred Hoche. Permission for the Destruction of Life Unworthy of Life articulated key implications for people with disabilities. Binding and Hoche called for the killing of people with disabilities, whom they viewed as "incurable idiots" having no will or sense of living. Killing them, therefore, was hardly involuntary euthanasia, that is, the imposition of others' will upon them. This shifted the burden of human existence from simply being alive to requiring an explicit justification for living. For Binding and Hoche, therefore, the right to live was to be earned, not assumed. One earned the right to live by being a useful economic contributor to society. Chief among the individuals they saw as being useless were those who seemed to have little or no human feeling, or in their terms, "empty human husks" whose only societal function was the consuming of precious resources while contributing nothing to society in return. In Binding and Hoche's terms, they were "useless eaters" whose "ballast lives" could be tossed overboard to better balance the economic ship of state. In speaking of those with disabilities, and explicitly advocating involuntary euthanasia, Binding and Hoche wrote,

Their life is absolutely pointless, but they do not regard it as being
unbearable. They are a terrible, heavy burden upon their relatives and
society as a whole. Their death would not create even the smallest
gap--except perhaps in the feelings of their mothers or loyal nurses.
(Burleigh, 1994, p. 17)

Furthermore, Binding and Hoche drove home the economic argument by calculating the total cost expended in caring for such people. They concluded that this cost was "a massive capital in the form of foodstuffs, clothing and heating, which is being subtracted from the national product for entirely unproductive purposes" (Burleigh, 1994, p. 19).

Binding and Hoche's polemic was furiously debated across Germany. One strident critic of the Binding and Hoche position was Ewald Meltzer, the director of an asylum in Saxony, who held that many of his charges did indeed have the ability to enjoy life inasmuch as their disabilities would allow. In an attempt to support his belief, Meltzer surveyed the parents of his patients to ascertain their perceptions of disability and euthanasia. To Meltzer's astonishment, the survey results showed a widely held contradiction among the parents that although they had strong emotional ties to their children, they simultaneously expressed, with varying degrees of qualification, a "positive" attitude toward killing them. In fact, only a handful of respondents completely rejected all notions of euthanasia (Proctor, 1988). The results of this survey were a harbinger of future public and official perceptions and actions toward people with disabilities. Meltzer's survey was later used as a major rationale for the killing of thousands of people with disabilities under the National Socialists, whose long-held social perceptions of difference coupled with official state prejudice delineated a series of genocidal markers that doomed significant numbers of people with disabilities during the Nazi era.

Genocidal Markers of Disability

Scientific research of the late 19th century was overshadowed by Darwin's ideas of biological determinism, including its most radical form, eugenics, which had begun to establish genetic markers predictive of physiological characteristics. The fate of people with disabilities in Germany may be understood by examining a similar series of genocidal markers, with corresponding sequelae, which determined the real-world fate of "useless eaters."

Marker 1: Darwinism and the Biology of Determination

Nineteenth- and early-20th-century Germany, like the rest of the Western world, had been significantly influenced by two powerful scientific impressions. First, the prominence of the biological sciences had been established by the revolutionary ideas of Charles Darwin, who provided reasonable explanations for distinct differences among many observed natural phenomena. Darwin and his contemporaries focused on inequalities within all living species, including humans. Darwin's ideas of evolution emphasized the struggle for survival and the notion that only the strongest and most able of any species would survive as genetic progenitors of future generations, thereby safeguarding the health, and ultimately the endurance, of that species. In short order, these ideas were applied to humans in the form of Social Darwinism, which held that in humans, both biological and social traits were passed from one generation to the next.

Thus, as scientists busied themselves with measurement, classification, and definitions based on physical, biological, and social similarity and difference, they not only reinforced popular social prejudices but enshrined them as irrefutable scientific fact. By the early 20th century, scientists had amassed a great deal of pseudodata portending to show differences between individuals, genders, and ethnic groups by rank ordering any population trait from superior to inferior. For example, individuals were judged as superior based on their race (White, with northern Europeans deemed superior to southern Europeans and Slavic ethnic groups) or their wealth (wealth was superior to poverty). In addition, levels of socially appropriate behavior (law-abiding, self-regulating, restrained, and conformist) were judged superior to socially inappropriate behavior (criminality or antisocial behavior; Friedlander, 1995). These and other classifications soon precipitated both informal social changes and more formal legal measures. Darwin's ideas gained widespread acceptance in Germany, where they nudged the predisposed intelligentsia toward accepting social inequality as presumptive long before Hitler's National Socialist party swept to power in 1933.

Second, an offshoot of Darwinism, Social Darwinism, held that not only biological traits but also social characteristics and their resultant behaviors were genetically determined. Social Darwinism's ideas of difference, therefore, in the form of eugenics, appeared to have immediate and effective application for a number of societal problems, such as "hereditary" social traits (e.g., socially inappropriate or criminal behavior). Here the rationale was simple: All visible traits of human difference were genetically determined. Thus, just as eye and hair color were genetically determined, so were drunkenness, sexual promiscuity, and other socially inappropriate behaviors. A simple extension of these perceptions led to the idea that an effective way of controlling or eliminating these problems was by sterilization, incarceration, or death.

Having established the concept of social heritability and its consequences for individual inequality, similar rankings of desirability were soon applied to entire groups of people, including grouping people by class. That is, the more "inferior" (i.e., lower class) the person, the more likely they would be to engage in undesirable social behavior (e.g., sexual promiscuity) and often criminal behavior (e.g., prostitution). This logic was then used to extrapolate that because many individuals from impoverished backgrounds committed undesirable social and criminal acts, and far fewer from among the wealthy, the entire lower class was characterized by criminality. People with disabilities, many of whom displayed inappropriate behavior or abnormal physical appearance, were among the groups of people thus classified. Based on these perceptions of difference, the next logical step was to control and eventually eradicate undesirable biological and social differences through eugenics.

Marker 2: Eugenics

The term eugenics was coined by the naturalist and mathematician Francis Galton in 1881. Eugenics was described by its leading American proponent, Charles Davenport, as "the science of the improvement of the human race by better breeding" (Friedlander, 1995, p. 4). The eugenicists believed Mendelian laws governed the heredity of human physiological traits (Darwinism) and social traits (Social Darwinism). Genetics, therefore, could be manipulated to enhance social ends. This assumption encouraged research on the transmission of social traits and the classification of individuals, groups, and whole societies on a scale of human worth.

Predictably, the results of these efforts isolated individuals and groups of people who appeared to have less intelligence, higher levels of antisocial behavior, and, therefore, by definition, less human worth than those higher up on the ability and prosocial behavior scales. In turn, the emphasis on human worth by rank allowed the eugenicists to study different segments of the scale. More often than not, they chose to study the lower end, including study of individuals with lower intelligence and those they considered socially deviant. Eugenics captured the imagination of researchers in Europe, England, and the United States. In the United States, politicians purportedly promoting the public good were quick to recognize eugenics as a powerful tool for shaping public opinion against people with disabilities. Such awareness fueled laws in many states for the involuntary sterilization of people with disabilities, the most famous case perhaps being that of a Virginia woman with mental retardation, Carrie Buck, named in the 1927 landmark Buck v. Bell case (Winzer, 1993).

Prior to World War I, the German eugenicists concurred with their American and British colleagues regarding a scale of human worth, dividing the German population into those who were superior (hochwertig) and inferior (minderwertig). Thus, eugenics asserted that the "feebleminded" (a generic, inaccurate term covering everything from mental retardation to alcoholism) were almost always so because of inherited inferior characteristics. From these assumptions, they "saw the cause of the social problems of their times, such as alcoholism and prostitution, as inherited feeblemindedness, and viewed the manifestations of poverty, such as intermittent employment and chronic illness, as a hereditary degeneracy" (Friedlander, 1995, p. 6).

However, without the political heterogeneity that encouraged diverse views within the genetics movement in the United States and, to a lesser extent, in England, German eugenicists' views were much more radically homogeneous. Until Germany's defeat in World War I, the German eugenicists concentrated on "positive Eugenics," through the encouragement of higher birth rates among superior populations, which reflected the German eugenic concentration on class rather than race. However, a precursor of future troubles appeared in a eugenic faction that favored the concept of the Nordic racial ideal and despised its inferior counterpart, the anti-Nordic (Friedlander, 1995). It was this concept that eventually dominated German eugenic discourse and became enshrined in the Nazi idea of Aryan supremacy.

The two genocidal markers of Social Darwinism and eugenics were firmly in place in the professional and lay psyche when the National Socialists, under the leadership of Adolf Hitler, were elected in January 1933. Thereafter, German acceptance of humanitarian inequality mixed with Hitler's racist convictions to produce the political ideology of the "Thousand Year Reich," a major component of which was the elimination of those deemed inferior (Friedlander, 1995). Furthermore, these two markers became the bedrock of increasingly coercive official policy, eventually killing thousands of people with disabilities. These two genocidal markers were then enacted in the real world, first by involuntary sterilization.

Marker 3: Forced Prevention of Disability

Discussions of eugenic sterilization in Germany became more prominent in the early 1920s and were bolstered by contemporaneous debates about the worth of human life, although sterilization was illegal in Germany until Hitler became chancellor. One of the first official acts undertaken by the Nazis was the enactment of a sterilization law in 1933, less than 6 months after their election. Grandly titled the Law for the Prevention of Genetically Diseased Offspring, it decreed compulsory sterilization for persons characterized by a wide variety of disabilities. The law also established a mechanism for deciding who should be sterilized, which consisted of 220 regional Hereditary Health Courts, each made up of a judge and two physicians. People in or recently discharged from institutions were particularly vulnerable to this law for obvious reasons. Approximately 30% to 40% of those sterilized between 1934 and 1936 were patients in asylums across Germany (Burleigh, 1994). The sterilization law reached many categories of the "heriditarily sick," including persons with mental retardation (200,000), schizophrenia (80,000), Huntington's chorea (600), epilepsy (60,000), blindness (4,000), hereditary deafness (16,000), grave bodily malformation (20,000), hereditary alcoholism (10,000), and other specified groups (Lifton, 1986).

The law was repeatedly amended to close loopholes that might allow some persons with disabilities to escape sterilization. For example, an amendment was added to cover women with a "hereditary disease" who became pregnant prior to sterilization, or women who were impregnated by men with such "diseases." In such cases the law officially sanctioned abortion and simultaneous sterilization (Friedlander, 1995). The law also stipulated heavy penalties for physicians carrying out such actions on persons or unborn children legally judged to be healthy.

Also in 1933, the Nazis enacted the Law Against Dangerous Habitual Criminals, a law that further blurred the distinction between bona fide criminal behavior and inappropriate social behavior that characterized many people with disabilities. The law stipulated that these criminal asozialen (asocials) could be committed to state asylums, held in indeterminate protective custody, and, in the case of sex offenders, officially castrated (Friedlander, 1995).

These and other laws were the precursors of the Nuremberg Laws of 1935, which, while directed primarily at Jews, also regulated marriage among people with disabilities. For example, the Marriage Health Law prohibited marriage between two people if either party suffered from some form of mental disability, had a "hereditary disease" as previously defined by law, or suffered from a contagious disease, particularly tuberculosis or venereal disease.

To this point, while Nazi law had become increasingly segregationist and isolationist for people with disabilities, it had not yet sanctioned murder, even though it is clear that as early as 1935 Hitler voiced thoughts that he would use the cover of war to murder psychiatric patients in fulfillment of a long-held belief that he had articulated in Mein Kampf (Yahil, 1987). However, Hitler understood that state-sanctioned homicide would depend on other factors to severely curb public outrage until war became reality. The war, Hitler reasoned, would provide both a distraction and an excuse for officially killing those deemed undesirable. One such factor was the use of propaganda to convince the public of the desirability of some lives over others.

Marker 4: Disability Propagandized as Life Unworthy of Living

By 1938 the tide of public and official benevolence toward people with disabilities had begun to turn. The public mind now characterized people with disabilities as a separate, different, often criminalized group of less economic value than their counterparts without disabilities. German literature and art soon depicted lives unworthy of living in a host of propagandistic projects (Lifton, 1986; Michalczyk, 1994). For example, two 1935 silent documentaries produced largely for distribution among Nazi Party functionaries and sympathizers depicted persons with severe physical and intellectual disabilities in staged scenes to show them to their greatest disadvantage (Burleigh, 1994; Lifton, 1986). Other films were produced for wider audiences. A 1935 propaganda sound film, Das Erbe (The Inheritance), depicted, in a pseudoscientific format, the medical, social, and economic consequences of hereditary disabilities. Other films soon followed. The 1937 film Opfer der Vergangenheit (The Victim of the Past) went much further, comparing healthy, ideal German citizens with institutionalized people with severe disabilities and adding that Jewish mental patients were creations in violation of natural law. The film proposed the solution of compulsory sterilization.

Propaganda was not limited to film, however, but also appeared in German literature. An exemplar of this work is the novel Sendung und Gewissen (Mission and Conscience), which was turned into a very popular film, Ich Klage an! (I Accuse!). In the story, a beautiful young woman suffering from multiple sclerosis decides that her life is no longer worth living and requests a "merciful death" at the hand of her husband, a physician. In the film's death scene climax, he administers the fatal injection to his wife, who dies peacefully to the strains of soothing piano music played by a friend in the next room. At his trial, the doctor heroically refuses to allow his colleagues to invent an alibi for the murder and challenges the court by asking, "Would you, if you were a cripple, want to vegetate forever?" Predictably, the court acquits the physician because his actions were merciful, not murderous, a notion reinforced in the closing scenes, where the words of the Renaissance physician Paracelsus are recalled, that "medicine is love" (Proctor, 1988).

This type of propaganda, fueled by then current perceptions of disability and euthanasia, profoundly affected the German public. By the late 1930s, requests for mercy killing were being received by Nazi officials. For example, requests were received from a woman ill with terminal cancer and from a man who had been severely injured and blinded in a construction accident (Burleigh, 1997). The state was also receiving similar requests from parents of newborns and young infants with severe physical and intellectual disabilities (Lifton, 1986).

To this point, Nazi involvement with mercy killing, while implicit, appears to have been muted and uninitiated by the state. However, social perceptions of disability had been radically modified, and requests for mercy deaths were increasing and were generally viewed as more acceptable, whether conducted by individual citizens or the state. Essentially, disability was widely acknowledged to be a legitimate justification for murder.


See what we could do if only the issues wasn't cluttered up with emotion and religious mumbo-jumbo...


Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:59 PM

SNUFF PICKS (via John Resnick):

Litigation As Spiritual Practice by George J. Felos (Amazon.com)

Product Description:

As the legal advocate of his client's right to die, Attorney George Felos plumbed the depths of death and dying and spearheaded a social revolution to enable death with dignity in the state of Florida. Felos uses this case and a decade-long tax battle with the United States Justice Department - sending him to Hong Kong's back alleys in search of antique jades and ivories - as framework to interweave the story of his law practice and spiritual unfoldment.

Litigation as Spiritual Practice describes the excitement and drama of the courtroom, and the ecstasy and anguish of spiritual evolution in a combative environment.

If the seemingly barren and war-strewn field of litigation can be the playground where spirit dances, it can revel anywhere.


Which would make Terri Schiavo the teeter-totter?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:56 PM

READY FOR THE WAR:

Amputee Soldier Returns to Changed Iraq (Fox News, March 30, 2005)

The first amputee with a combat command, [Capt. David] Rozelle, of the 3rd Armored Cavalry, arrived in Baghdad just about a week ago. His prosthesis has a patch from his unit and the U.S. flag imprinted on it.

"It's ready for the war," he said.

Rozelle lost his foot in the city of Hit in June 2003 when his Humvee hit a landmine. Now helping to provide security for the citizens of Iraq, it wasn't always easy for him to think about returning.

"At the very beginning, I had a lot of self pity," he said. "I was laying in the Army hospital just outside here, when I first found out that I was going to lose my foot. Of course, I thought I'd given enough," he said.

But Rozelle said that mindset didn't last long.

"I wanted to come back into the job. Coming back to Iraq wasn't really the ultimate goal. Of course, now that I'm here, It's brought things full circle — in other words, it's taken me back to the point where I lost my foot the first time. It's allowed me to start my life again, in Iraq, where I thought it had ended," he said.

Rozelle admits that it hasn't always been easy back in Iraq and he's had to make some adjustments.

"Any time you find yourself in position where you have to walk all the time, as an amputee, that's a challenge in itself because it's much more difficult on your body to do something like walk all day. I try to drive as much as I can," he said.

Rozelle's injury doesn't appear to be fazing the unit he commands. If anything, they're grateful to have him around.

"If anything does go down, it's good to know he has the experience to keep everything in control and not let anything get out of hand," said combat medic Richard Arsenault.

After almost two years away from Iraq, Rozelle said he was surprised to see how much had changed since he'd last been there. He recalled a more uncertain environment, when the insurgency movement seemed to be growing.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:45 PM

TICKET TO HISTORY (via The Mother Judd):

Jim Thorpe and a Ticket to Serendipity (BILL PENNINGTON, 3/29/05, NY Times)

When Anthony Barone Jr. went to a local book auction with his sister Lee early this month, they came across a book from the 1920's, "Jesse James and His Greatest Hauls," a Wild West adventure of daring holdups.

Unimpressed by the condition of the book's cover, Anthony was not interested in purchasing it. But when the bidding crested at $6, Lee looked at her brother. "What's six bucks?" she said.

Anthony and Lee took the book home and ignored it for a week. They contemplated putting it back up for auction the next week, when Anthony decided he would at least flip through it.

"I started leafing through the pages, and out dropped this big red ticket," said Barone, a 44-year-old purchasing manager from Jamestown, N.Y. "It literally fell into my lap."

The ticket, six inches long, in good condition and with its stub still attached, was for an exhibition basketball game featuring Jim Thorpe and "His World Famous Indians" on March 1, 1927. It did not indicate where the game was being played, other than at a Y.M.C.A. gym. Other teams listed on the ticket - "Clothes Shop," "New Process" and "Bankers" - were mysteries.

What has followed is a story of discovery and rediscovery. Barone's red ticket, according to several historians who have chronicled the life of Thorpe, who was a star athlete in football, baseball and track and field in the early 20th century, is like an archeological find.

Artifacts of Thorpe's athletic career, generally conceded to have ended in 1928, are rare and valuable. Nearly every authority on Thorpe's life and times, including his son, did not know he had played basketball at a high level as an adult. The ticket has helped uncover a 45-game barnstorming tour centered in Pennsylvania in which Thorpe, then 39, led a team of American Indian all-star basketball players.

"I didn't know what any of it meant," Barone said of the ticket. "But I kept thinking that some 14-year-old kid thought enough of that game that he didn't even let the usher rip the stub off. He had gone to see an American hero, and then he stuffed the ticket in his favorite book about the old West, and that's where it's been for 80 years.

"I felt it must mean something."


Opening old books is often an adventure.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:41 PM

THE SCOTS CERTAINLY DON'T DESERVE IT ANYMORE:

'Braveheart' Sword Leaves Scotland (AP, Mar 30, 2005)

One of Scotland's national treasures, the 5-foot sword wielded by William Wallace, the rebel leader portrayed in the Academy Award-winning film "Braveheart," left its homeland for the first time in more than 700 years Wednesday.

The double-handed weapon that belonged to Wallace will be the centerpiece of an exhibition at New York's Grand Central Station during Tartan Day celebrations, which begin later this week.

This year marks the 700th anniversary of the execution of Wallace, who led the Scots in their battle to free themselves from English rule and whose story was brought to the screen by Mel Gibson in the 1995 film "Braveheart." The film won five Academy Awards. [...]

The 6-pound weapon will be returned to its home at the National Wallace Monument in Stirling, Scotland, after the celebrations.


Posted by David Cohen at 4:32 PM

WELL, DUH...

1981 attack on Pope planned by Soviets: Report (Agence France-Presse, 3/30/05)

New documents found in the files of the former East German intelligence services confirm the 1981 assassination attempt against Pope John Paul II was ordered by the Soviet KGB and assigned to Bulgarian agents, an Italian daily said on Wednesday.
In other news, the left continues to ridicule the claim that Syria had any hand at all in the assasination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri while demanding that President Bush be tried before the International Criminal Court in for his involvement in the death of US Senator Paul Wellstone.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:24 PM

DID HE SIGN THAT WOLFOWITZ PETITION?:

An unholy alliance: Aryan Nation leader reaches out to al Qaeda (Henry Schuster, March 29, 2005, CNN)

A couple of hours up the road from where some September 11 hijackers learned to fly, the new head of Aryan Nation is praising them -- and trying to create an unholy alliance between his white supremacist group and al Qaeda.

"You say they're terrorists, I say they're freedom fighters. And I want to instill the same jihadic feeling in our peoples' heart, in the Aryan race, that they have for their father, who they call Allah."

With his long beard and potbelly, August Kreis looks more like a washed up member of ZZ Top than an aspiring revolutionary.

Don't let appearances fool you: his résumé includes stops at some of America's nastiest extremist groups -- Posse Comitatus, the Ku Klux Klan and Aryan Nation.

"I don't believe that they were the ones that attacked us," Kreis said. "And even if they did, even if you say they did, I don't care!"

Kreis wants to make common cause with al Qaeda because, he says, they share the same enemies: Jews and the American government. [...]

You might think white supremacists like Kreis would spurn al Qaeda, since they tend to view non-Aryan Christians as, in their own term, "mud people." In fact, most of them do. But Kreis wants to change that.

"That's old-school racism, white supremacy, this is something new," he said. "We have to be realists and realize what didn't work [previously] isn't going to work in the future."


Certainly sounds like a Realist.


Posted by Bruce Cleaver at 3:14 PM

PEOPLE ARE RESOURCES NOT LIABILITIES FILE #849:

La Vida Robot (Joshua Davis,April 2005, www.wired.com)

There certainly isn't a lot of pride on the outside. The school buildings are mostly drab, late '50s-era boxes. The front lawn is nothing but brown scrub and patches of dirt. The class photos beside the principal's office tell the story of the past four decades. In 1965, the students were nearly all white, wearing blazers, ties, and long skirts. Now the school is 92 percent Hispanic. Drooping, baggy jeans and XXXL hoodies are the norm.

Across campus, in a second-floor windowless room, four students huddle around an odd, 3-foot-tall frame constructed of PVC pipe. They have equipped it with propellers, cameras, lights, a laser, depth detectors, pumps, an underwater microphone, and an articulated pincer. At the top sits a black, waterproof briefcase containing a nest of hacked processors, minuscule fans, and LEDs. It's a cheap but astoundingly functional underwater robot capable of recording sonar pings and retrieving objects 50 feet below the surface. The four teenagers who built it are all undocumented Mexican immigrants who came to this country through tunnels or hidden in the backseats of cars. They live in sheds and rooms without electricity. But over three days last summer, these kids from the desert proved they are among the smartest young underwater engineers in the country.


You simply must read this story. A bunch of bright, poor, 'undocumented' Mexican high school kids with about $800 in sponsorship money goes against MIT and $11,000 in sponsorship money for an underwater robot contest. How does it turn out? Here's a hint: Either Gene Hackman or Edward James Olmos should star as the Mentor/Coach when the movie is made....


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:53 PM

FIRST THE DEHUMANIZATION, THEN THE DEBATE:

Prop. 71 stem cell research stirs ethical debate (Sandy Kleffman, 3/30/05, CONTRA COSTA TIMES)

California's plunge into the brave new world of stem cell research is raising prickly ethical questions and could create a demand for hundreds of women's eggs.

Scientists plan to use the eggs from as many as 1,000 women for therapeutic cloning -- a technique many believe holds huge promise for medical breakthroughs in Parkinson's disease, diabetes and other chronic illnesses.

But some women's groups fear egg donors will face health risks. They worry that scientists do not know all the long-term effects of the drugs women will receive to stimulate ovulation. Some question whether voters knew the ramifications when they passed Proposition 71 in November.

"This certainly was not a well-understood or talked-about issue," said state Sen. George Runner, R-Antelope Valley, who opposed the measure.

"I'm not sure the voters really understood the ethical divide they were crossing."


They should be proud to die for the greater good.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:02 PM

ETHICS FOR YOU, NOT FOR ME:

Who is CREW? (The Hill, 3/30/05)

Why would any person or organization professing to believe in clean democracy object to revealing the names of the people influencing its policy?

One such is Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) — a self-important moniker if ever there was one — which has repeatedly refused to tell The Hill who sits on its board of directors, unlike all eight other members of the Congressional Ethics Coalition.

CREW’s secrecy is hypocritical. Its avowed mission is to promote greater transparency in federal politics. Its website boasts, “Our aim is to encourage officials to be open about their values and to act based upon their honest and best assessment of the public interest.

“If a government agency withholds information to which the public is entitled, CREW will go to court to enforce legal rules regarding disclosure.”

Sounds fine, no? But transparency is also appropriate for an organization that is at the center of partisan disputes, such as the growing ethics war in the House of Representatives.

CREW assisted former Rep. Chris Bell (D-Texas) in drafting a complaint against Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) that resulted in the majority leader’s admonishment by the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct.


Just keep digging 'til you find the check from George Soros.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:02 PM

DE-MILITANTIZED ZONE:

Islamic official attends PLO meeting for first time (Arnon Regular, 3/29/05, Haaretz)

Islamic Jihad head Mohammed al-Hindi attended a Palestine Liberation Organization executive committee meeting in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, marking the first time that a religious Islamic group has participated in a meeting of the PLO's highest decision-making body.

Hamas, however, boycotted the meeting, which was planned as a first step toward the inclusion of all the major Palestinian factions in the PLO's executive body.

Expressing optimism after the meeting, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas told reporters that a definite possibility exists for the parties to "reach an agreement on basic political common denominators."


Hamas drops call for Greater Palestine: According to a report in al-Quds a historic understanding was reached with Hamas according to which the movement will merge with the PLO and relinquish its demand for total liberation of Palestine (Roee Nahmias, 3/30/05, y-netnews)
Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas has reached a historic understanding to incorporate Hamas into the Palestinian Liberation Oraganization (PLO) in exchange for relinquishing its vision of liberating the whole of Palestine, reported the London-based al-Quds newspaper Wednesday.

According to the report, Fatah will relinquish its monopoly on government and political influence, while

Hamas has recognized the PLO as the only legitimate Palestinian organization.

In addition, Hamas has agreed in principle to a series of far-reaching concessions, primarily acceptance of the PLO’s current political platform, which is based on the founding of a Palestinian state according to the 1967 borders. Verification of the report would mean the movement has abandoned its primary demand -- namely, the liberation of Greater Palestine.


Give folks an internal politics they can contest and they will.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:01 PM

MALTHUSIANS NEVER GIVE UP (via Rick Turley):

Two-thirds of world's resources 'used up' (Tim Radford, March 30, 2005, The Guardian)

The human race is living beyond its means. A report backed by 1,360 scientists from 95 countries - some of them world leaders in their fields - today warns that the almost two-thirds of the natural machinery that supports life on Earth is being degraded by human pressure.

The study contains what its authors call "a stark warning" for the entire world. The wetlands, forests, savannahs, estuaries, coastal fisheries and other habitats that recycle air, water and nutrients for all living creatures are being irretrievably damaged. In effect, one species is now a hazard to the other 10 million or so on the planet, and to itself.

"Human activity is putting such a strain on the natural functions of Earth that the ability of the planet's ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted," it says.


The intense competition for dwindling resources would certainly explain how much speciation we observe.


MORE (via Mike Daley)::
Shaping the Future: Scientific uncertainty often becomes an excuse to ignore long-term problems, such as climate change. It doesn't have to be so (Steven W. Popper, Robert J. Lempert and Steven C. Bankes, 3/28/05, Scientific American)

Striking a balance between the economy and the environment is one leading example of the difficulty in using science to inform long-term decisions. In his 2002 book The Future of Life, Edward O. Wilson described the debate between economists and environmental scientists [see "The Bottleneck," by Edward O. Wilson; Scientific American, February 2002]. The former group frequently argues that present policies will guide society successfully through the coming century. Technological innovation will reduce pollution and improve energy efficiency, and changes in commodity prices will ensure timely switching from scarce to more plentiful resources. The latter group argues that society's present course will prove unsustainable. By the time the signs of environmental stress become unambiguous, society may have passed the point of easy recovery. Better to apply the brakes now rather than jam them on later when it may be too late.

No matter how compelling their arguments, both sides' detailed predictions are surely wrong. Decisions made today will affect the world 50 to 100 years hence, but no one can credibly predict what life will be like then, regardless of the quality of the science. Interested parties view the same incomplete data, apply different values and assumptions, and arrive at different conclusions. The result can be static and acrimonious debate: "Tree hugger!" "Eco-criminal!"

The (in)famous report The Limits to Growth from the early 1970s is the perfect example of how the standard tools of analysis often fail to mediate such debates. A group of scientists and opinion leaders called the Club of Rome predicted that the world would soon exhaust its natural resources unless it took immediate action to slow their use. This conclusion flowed from a then state-of-the-art computer model of the dynamics of resource use. The report met with great skepticism. Since the days of Thomas Malthus, impending resource shortages have melted away as new technologies have made production more efficient and provided alternatives to dwindling resources.


Posted by David Cohen at 11:54 AM

LIFE SAVING CELIBACY

Pope Getting Nutrition From Tube in Nose (Victor L. Simpson, AP, 3/30/05)

Pope John Paul II is getting nutrition from a tube in his nose, the Vatican said Wednesday, shortly after the frail pontiff appeared at his window in St. Peter's Square and managed only a rasp when he tried to speak.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:04 AM

EVERYBODY WANTS TO KILL SOMEBODY:

Remembering a dark chapter in Turkish history (Peter S. Canellos, March 29, 2005, Boston Globe)

Henry Morgenthau III sits in his living room, surrounded by mementos of his family, and speaks of the great goal of his grandfather's life: ''He wanted to think of himself as fully American."

Morgenthau's immigrant grandfather, who served as US ambassador to Turkey between 1913 and 1916, strived to establish the German-Jewish Morgenthaus in the American aristocracy almost as assiduously as Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. strived to establish his Irish-Catholic family in the American pantheon. The Morgenthaus acquired top-notch educations, a grand home in the Hudson Valley near the Roosevelts, and a seemingly permanent seat at the tables of power.

The Morgenthaus ascended the way most immigrants did, by assimilation. Henry III still remembers his grandfather reciting rhymes to try to rid himself of the last vestige of a German accent -- his difficulty pronouncing the letters ''th." The first Henry Morgenthau distanced himself from Zionism, fearful that it would prompt suspicions of dual loyalties among American Jews.

But while assuming the posture of the Protestant Yankee elites, the Morgenthaus never forgot their shared ancestry with the refugees, displaced peoples, and immigrants of the world. That is why they occupy a unique niche among America's self-made aristocracy: Both Henry Morgenthau Sr. and his son Henry Morgenthau Jr. are heroes to millions overseas for trying to intervene in the first two genocides of the 20th century, the Turkish slaughter of Armenians in 1915 and the Nazi extermination of European Jews.


The irony is that Henry Morgenthau Jr. planned with FDR to impose reprisals on a defeated Germany that would have likewise been genocidal:
TERENCE SMITH: A central character in your book is Henry Morgenthau, President Roosevelt's secretary of treasury and friend, close friend.

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: Indeed.

TERENCE SMITH: And he had a vision for postwar Germany. Tell us about that and what he did to try to forward it.

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: Morgenthau was only the second Jew in American history to be in a President's cabinet, his Hudson... Roosevelt's Hudson Valley friend and neighbor. He was horrified by what he learned about the Holocaust, and he went to Roosevelt and confronted him. He had been told that they were making lampshades out of the skins of the Jews, and he said to Roosevelt, "you have to stop this." Roosevelt began to act, but Morgenthau went further. He said, "not only do you have to try to stop the Holocaust, you have to make sure that Germany will never threaten the world again," came up with something called the Morgenthau Plan, and went to Roosevelt and said, "After this war is won by the United States and our allies, we should take apart the factories of Germany, flood the mines, make sure that there's no industry in Germany, even if the Germans starve, to teach them a lesson."

TERENCE SMITH: Of course, after Roosevelt died and Truman became President, he saw it differently.

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: Truman turned it around, because after Roosevelt died, Truman said, "yes, we have to eliminate Nazism, but if you make Germany that weak, not only will the Germans be resentful and perhaps start another world war, but also you'll leave Europe open to the Soviet Union." So Truman, after World War II and after Roosevelt's death, he was the one who presided over the big effort to build democratic institutions in Germany-- schools, newspapers, all those things that we now see today-- and the result is that Germany is one of the strongest democracies on earth.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:57 AM

STILL A LOT OF LITTER:

Libertystan (Leon Aron, March 30, 2005, Wall Street Journal)

Similar to the equally inspiring Iraqi election in its reaffirmation of human dignity--which in today's world is impossible without political liberty--in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, the recent revolts in former Soviet states should prompt a revision of many misleading stereotypes and help the U.S. to reassess its policies in that part of the world.

While the first wave of liberation in the early 1990s ended the state's monopoly in politics and economy, it failed, first, to establish civic society's effective preponderance over the state apparatus and, second, to separate political power at every level from control of property. These two preconditions of liberal democracy, which in the West took centuries to develop, proved especially difficult to achieve within a decade for the countries where the land-owning magnate, the village elder, the tribal chief or the king's satrap had combined economic and political power long before Soviet patrimonialism obliterated any distinction between the state and property for over seven decades.

With the collapse of the Soviet system, patrimonialism in the form of bureaucratic claims on property survived in myriad instances, from the former kolkhoz chairman and district fire inspector to the offices of prime ministers and presidents. Already an integral part of a long national tradition, corruption reached new heights of ubiquity and brazenness. In the end, the national revulsion over the rapacity of the executive branch and its shameless efforts to protect its loot through increasingly authoritarian politics became one of the two key components of this "second wave" of liberation.

Yet the revolts have also shown that in all three nations the anti-totalitarian revolutions of the '90s did not disappear without a trace. Instead, they left behind a basic framework of rights and liberties--rudimentary by the standards of older democracies and often subverted by the authorities--yet remarkably resilient.


The structural problems in these states will still take some time to overcome, if they ever can be--they were after all famously dubbed "trashcanistans" by Stephen Kotkin.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:50 AM

WHAT WE LEARNED FROM THE 70s:

Kids aren't as drunk, crooked as parents were (KEVIN FREKING, March 30, 2005, Chicago Sun-Times)

In many ways, children today are doing better than their parents did. They commit fewer crimes, have fewer babies and get drunk less.

The Child-Well Being Index, which tracks 28 separate measures, shows that since 1993 children have been engaging in less risky behavior. [...]

Jeffrey Butts, director of the youth justice program at the Urban Institute, said the report speaks well of today's teens.

''Maybe we have the next 'greatest generation' coming along here,'' Butts said. [...]

Some findings from developers of a child well-being index:

THE GOOD

The adolescent and teen birth rate has dropped from 20 births per 1,000 girls in 1992 to an estimated 11 births per 1,000 girls in 2004.

Binge drinking among high school seniors has fallen from 37 percent in 1975 to about 29 percent in 2004. Binge drinking is the consumption of five or more alcoholic drinks in one setting.

The number of violent young criminals has dropped over three decades from a level of 31 offenders per 1,000 youths to an estimated 8 offenders per 1,000 youths in 2003.

The number of high school seniors who reported smoking within the past month has dropped from 36 percent in 1975 to an estimated 16 percent in 2004.


Those of us who watched the mess the Boomers made of the 60s and 70s knew our parents/grandparents had been far too permissive.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:45 AM

SUNNI OR LATER:

Lawmakers regroup, aim to name leaders by week's end (ANTONIO CASTANEDA, March 30, 2005, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Iraqi lawmakers regrouped on Wednesday after failing to name parliamentary leaders during their contentious second session, seeking to forge an agreement by the end of the week so that they can begin to focus on their primary task of writing a new constitution.

The impasse, two months after the country's historic national elections, is rooted in disagreements about the posts that should be granted to Sunni Arabs, an attempt to incorporate in the new government members of the minority group that dominated under ousted dictator Saddam Hussein.

The Sunni Arab minority-- believed to be the backbone of the insurgency-- was given until Sunday to come up with a candidate to serve as speaker.

"We saw that things were confused ... so we gave (the Sunnis) a last chance," said Hussein al-Sadr, a Shiite cleric and member of interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's coalition. "We expect the Sunni Arab brothers to nominate their candidate. Otherwise, we will vote on a candidate on Sunday."



Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:08 AM

SHARANSCHISM:

Golan elephant and the Lebanese crisis (Ashraf Fahim, 3/31/05, Asia Times)

At the center of the ongoing crisis surrounding the Syrian presence in Lebanon, a 38-year-old elephant has been loitering almost unnoticed. While the world scrutinizes Syria's promised withdrawal, gawks as the Lebanese opposition and Hezbollah flood the streets of Beirut in their war of demonstrations, and debates whether the Bush administration deserves credit for inspiring the "cedar revolution", little attention has been given to a principal factor binding this Levantine Gordian knot - the Israeli occupation of the Syrian Golan heights. [...]

[T]here is every indication that the administration of US President George W Bush is settling into the dogmatic belief that peace can only be made between democracies - a belief now reinforced by right-wing Israeli politician and former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky, whose book The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror holds a hypnotic power over Bush. The so-called "democratic peace" thesis has become Bush's guidestar on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

It is difficult to see how Bush could resolve the ideological contradiction of demanding root and branch Palestinian democratization, while also pressuring Israel to negotiate with Assad's Allawite dictatorship. Assad has moved at a tortoise's pace on democratic reform, partly as a result of conspicuous US pressure and the threatening US presence in Iraq, but also because real reform would likely mean reforming the Ba'ath regime right out of power.

Assad desperately needs to recover the Golan if he is to revive the Syrian economy and shore up his legitimacy. But with Lebanon making him look fragile, the US and Israel have little interest in gifting him the Golan lifesaver.


Indeed, Assad should be further undercut by a declaration that Israel is ready and willing to turn over the Golan to the democratic regime that succeeds him.
Who gives a


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:56 AM

WHERE'S SMUTS WHEN YOU NEED HIM?:

South Africa's failure in Zimbabwe (Padraig O'Malley, March 30, 2005, Boston Globe)

Mugabe is in substantial breach of every election protocol of the Southern African Development Community, of which Zimbabwe is a member; he has failed to implement the recommendations of the African Union's Commission on Human and People's Rights; he flouts international law, and he has banned the presence of observer teams from all countries and nongovernmental organizations that might conclude that the elections might not be free and fair (China qualifies, the European Union does not).

Rather than rebuke Mugabe for his crimes against his own people, South Africa assists in their persecution. When Zimbabweans, desperate for food and work, sneak their way into South Africa, they are incarcerated in the Lindela Repatriation Center, a prison that would put any apartheid-era prison to shame.

Sadly, black South Africans seem to have forgotten that all of Africa took them in and championed their cause, often at risk to themselves. Just weeks ago, President Thabo Mbeki pronounced, ''Nobody in Zimbabwe is likely to act in a way that will prevent free and fair elections being held" -- the blithe sentiment of the mightily unperturbed.

A mere 11 years ago, South Africa held its first free, fair, and nonracial elections, which brought 40 years of apartheid ignominy and 300 years of institutionalized racial discrimination to an end. It ushered in an era of democratic governance, with the ANC the lead actor. However, before the ANC would agree to elections in 1994, it insisted on a level political playing field. The actual casting of a ballot, the ANC well knew, is the next to final act in the process of a free and fair election, not the first. The world supported the demands the ANC made on the white minority government. It stood in solidarity, and across the globe people took to the streets on its behalf, on behalf of millions of black South Africans. It flooded the country with election observers from across the world to ensure free and fair elections.

The result is history, and South Africa has been eager to share the secrets of its success with other democracies in the process of transition.

Except with its next-door neighbor.

In the days ahead, the South African government's observers have a chance to redeem their country's honor, but few here are holding their breath.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:44 AM

WELL, AT LEAST HE GOT GEOCENTRISM RIGHT:


Ptolemy Tilted Off His Axis
: Studying a statue of Atlas holding the sky, an American astronomer finds key evidence of what could be a major fraud in science history. (John Johnson, March 30, 2005, LA Times)

In a sunlit gallery of the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Italy, astronomer Brad Schaefer came face to face with an ancient statue known as the Farnese Atlas.

For centuries, the 7-foot marble figure of the mythological Atlas has bent in stoic agony with a sphere of the cosmos crushing his shoulders.

Carved on the sphere — one of only three celestial globes that have survived from Greco-Roman times — are figures representing 41 of the 48 constellations of classical antiquity, as well as the celestial equator, tropics and meridians.

Historians have long looked on the Atlas as a postcard from the past — interesting largely as astronomical art.

But as Schaefer approached, he began to notice subtle details in the arrangement of the constellations. It wasn't that anything was wrong with the statue. If anything, the positions of the constellations were too perfect to be mere decoration.

He was more than a little intrigued. No, this was no mere piece of art. Taking out his camera, he was about to take a journey through the centuries to unravel one of the great mysteries of the ancient world and uncover key evidence in what may be one of the biggest cases of fraud in the history of science.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:17 AM

1...2...3...4...5...6...7...8...9...10...11...12...?:

Federal court agrees to hear new Schiavo request (RON WORD, 3/30/05, Associated Press)

In a rare legal victory for Terri Schiavo's parents, a federal appeals court agreed to consider an emergency motion requesting a new hearing on whether to reconnect their severely brain-damaged daughter's feeding tube.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta issued a written order without comment late Tuesday allowing Bob and Mary Schindler to file the appeal, even though the court had set a March 26 deadline for doing so.

In the one-sentence order, the court said: "The Appellant's emergency motion for leave to file out of time is granted."

The court didn't say when it would decide whether to grant the hearing. Last week, it twice ruled against the Schindlers, who are trying to keep their daughter alive.

In requesting a new hearing, the Schindlers argued that a federal judge in Tampa should have considered the entire state court record and not just the procedural history when he ruled against the parents.

Time was running out for Schiavo, however. Bob Schindler described his daughter as "failing" on Tuesday, her 12th day without nourishment.

"She still looks pretty darn good under the circumstances," Schindler said. "You can see the impact of no food and water for 12 days. Her bodily functions are still working. We still have her."


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:58 AM

THE UNIVERSAL IDIOSYNCRASY (via Paul Cella):

How to Mix Religion and Politics (Edward Feser, 3/29/05, Tech Central Station)

We are constantly told by liberals -- or "progressives," or "the reality-based community," or however it is they are marketing themselves this week -- that religion and politics ought never to be mixed. Religion, it is said, should be confined as far as possible to the private sphere. In the public square, it is secular considerations alone that ought to get a hearing. The problem with these claims is that there is absolutely nothing serious to be said in their defense. We can of course readily concede that the Constitution forbids the establishment of any particular denomination as the official religion of the United States; I know of no one who denies this. But the question is not whether membership in some church or synagogue or other ought to be compulsory. The question is whether religious arguments should have the same standing in public life as secular arguments, and the answer is that there is no good reason they should not.

To be sure, liberal criticism of the influence of religion on politics is largely directed at a straw man in any case. In most of the areas where liberals think they see such an influence, religion plays, or need play, no essential role at all. For example, the main arguments presented by opponents of abortion and same-sex marriage do not rest on religious premises. Some pro-life arguments do indeed make controversial claims about the moral and metaphysical status of the fetus -- just as pro-choice arguments do -- but acceptance of those claims does not necessarily entail belief in God. The influential arguments of Princeton University's Robert P. George, for instance, rest only on some very plausible and modest claims about fetal biology and a few secular moral premises. The arguments of Don Marquis, the author of what is probably the most widely anthologized and cited pro-life article in contemporary philosophy (pdf), assume an even less robust and controversial view of the nature of the fetus. Things are no different with same-sex marriage. Philosophers like Roger Scruton and Michael Levin have defended traditional sexual morality in terms of a quasi-Kantian ethics and evolutionary psychology, respectively, rather than by appeal to any religious tradition or authority.

Suppose, however, that someone did defend a view about abortion, same-sex marriage, or some other contentious matter by appealing to religious considerations. Why should this be considered unacceptable? The problem, in the view of many liberals, is that religious considerations are matters of faith, where "faith" connotes in their minds a kind of groundless commitment, a will to believe that for which there is no objective evidence. Opinions on matters of public policy, they would say, can only appropriately be arrived at via methods of argument assessable by all members of the political community, not by reference to the idiosyncratic and subjective feelings of a minority.

If religious arguments were in general really like this, then I would agree with the liberal that they ought to be kept out of the public square. But in fact this liberal depiction of religion is a ludicrous caricature, and manifests just the sort of ignorance and bigotry of which liberals frequently accuse others.


An excellent essay except that it concedes two interlocking points unwisely: first, that reason is objective; second, that subjective faith is an inadequate basis for political philosophy.


Posted by David Cohen at 7:56 AM

THE CONSTITUTION IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL

Yesterday, Peter Burnet posted this story: Colorado Court Bars Execution Because Jurors Consulted Bible (Kirk Johnson, New York Times, March 29th, 2005)

In a sharply divided ruling, Colorado's highest court on Monday upheld a lower court's decision throwing out the sentence of a man who was given the death penalty after jurors consulted the Bible in reaching a verdict.
How, then, to explain this:

Benjamin Franklin: Constitutional Convention Address on Prayer (delivered Thursday, June 28, 1787, Philadelphia, PA)

Mr. President:

The small progress we have made after 4 or five weeks close attendance & continual reasonings with each other -- our different sentiments on almost every question, several of the last producing as many noes as ays, is methinks a melancholy proof of the imperfection of the Human Understanding. We indeed seem to feel our own wont of political wisdom, since we have been running about in search of it. We have gone back to ancient history for models of government, and examined the different forms of those Republics which having been formed with the seeds of their own dissolution now no longer exist. And we have viewed Modern States all round Europe, but find none of their Constitutions suitable to our circumstances.

In this situation of this Assembly groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings? In the beginning of the contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the Divine Protection. -- Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a Superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? or do we imagine that we no longer need His assistance.

I have lived, Sir, a long time and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth -- that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings that "except the Lord build they labor in vain that build it." I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall be become a reproach and a bye word down to future age. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing Governments by Human Wisdom, and leave it to chance, war, and conquest.

I therefore beg leave to move -- that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of this City be requested to officiate in that service.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:55 AM

SELF-REFERENCE ALERT:

Insightful detective series 'Eyes' has a whole lot of plot (LUCIO GUERRERO, March 30, 2005, Chicago Sun-Times)

ABC calls Judd "impulsive, sharp-witted."

So it's universal then?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:12 AM

THEO'S A GENIUS:

Relief needs prompt trade: With Tsao injured, Rockies go for Kim (Tracy Ringolsby, March 30, 2005, Rocky Mountain News)

Even when the Rockies think they have found an answer to their biggest uncertainty - their bullpen - they wind up with more questions.

They decided to take a shot at reviving the career of Byung-Hyun Kim, reaching a tentative deal Tuesday to acquire him from the Boston Red Sox, according to a source close to the Rockies.


Like any sidearmer, Byung-Hyun Kim can be effective against righties but gets murdered by lefties. If they let him face any of the latter in Denver someone may hit a ball 600 feet off of him.


N.B.: Okay, maybe not a genius--"The deal was pending approval by Sox ownership, who must agree to the provision of paying more than $5.6 million of Kim's $6 million salary. "


March 29, 2005

Posted by Matt Murphy at 11:38 PM

J'ACCUSE!:

Schiavo Case Is Solely a U.S. Phenomenon (ALICIA COLON, 3/29/05, NY Sun)

The national furor surrounding the Theresa Schiavo tragedy will no doubt rage for a few days but will eventually die down. The rest of the world has regarded this battle over one woman’s life as proof that we are religious extremists. I, however, have never been prouder to be an American.

Wouldn't it be interesting if Ms. Schiavo just...continues to live? Breathing, blinking, looking around, cooing, and all the rest? Imagine puzzled doctors examining the situation and saying, yes, she's unquestionably failing to receive nourishment but she continues to survive somehow on her own.

How long would it take before a freaked-out public concluded that this was an act of God and demanded that Terri's parents assume responsibility for her? How long would it take our addle-brained robed elites to comply?

Or we can take the Old Testament route: Right before she dies, a fully-conscious Terri Schiavo sits upright in her bed, points an accusatory finger straight at her husband and says...

Readers of this blog can take it from there.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:34 PM

WHERE THE BOYS ARE:

Boy Scouts Executive Surrenders in Fort Worth on a Child Pornography Charge (RALPH BLUMENTHAL, 3/30/05, NY Times)

The longtime program director of the Boy Scouts of America and chairman of its Youth Protection Task Force has surrendered on a federal charge of receiving and distributing child pornography on the Internet, the United States attorney's office in Fort Worth said Tuesday.

The director, Douglas Sovereign Smith Jr., 61, who was put on leave last month and quietly retired March 1, was expected to plead guilty on Wednesday to the single felony count filed by federal prosecutors, a crime that can carry a prison term of 5 to 20 years, said Kathy Colvin, a spokeswoman for the United States attorney's office.

Ms. Colvin said that a prosecutor's filing, rather than a grand jury indictment, was commonly used to charge a defendant when a guilty plea was anticipated. The filing charges Mr. Smith with knowingly receiving and sending "computer images which contained photographs of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct." [...]

Mr. Shields said the Scouts learned of the investigation in a visit by agents from the Department of Homeland Security in February and put Mr. Smith on administrative leave. "Shortly thereafter he chose to retire," Mr. Shields said.

Ms. Colvin said the investigation had been carried out under Operation Predator, an initiative announced in 2003 by the Department of Homeland Security "to protect children from pornographers, child prostitution rings, Internet predators, alien smugglers, human traffickers and other criminals." The operation's investigative agency is the department's Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which coordinates enforcement actions from what it calls its CyberSmuggling Center in Fairfax, Va.


It has been comforting for folk to assume that the scandals of the Catholic clergy are a unique function of its celibacy. This, however, misapprehends the problem. Men don't develop an attraction to boys because they are priests; men who are attracted to boys become priests because it will provide them access. The Church needs to do a better job of weeding such men out, but already does better than other institutions that likewise offer access.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:13 PM

THEIR OBSESSION DOESN'T MAKE HIM ANY MORE VISIBLE:

Liberals To Target DeLay In Ads (Mike Allen, March 30, 2005, Washington Post)

Democratic officials and a well-funded liberal advocacy group said yesterday that they will try to capitalize on the new visibility of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (Tex.) by casting him as a symbol of Republican excess, as critics once did with former House speaker New Gingrich.

Democratic officials in the House and Senate said that news coverage of DeLay's travel and ties to lobbyists, and his high profile in the congressional intervention in the Terri Schiavo case, has given them an opening to use him as more of a foil. They said that until now, he was so little known to the general public -- despite his enormous power at the Capitol -- that attacks on him were not effective.

The Campaign for America's Future, backed by labor and other liberal leaders, plans to announce today that DeLay will be featured in television ads in at least four Republican House districts. The group said it is buying a 30-second ad in DeLay's suburban Houston district that shows a man wearing cufflinks and a Rolex watch and washing his hands.

"Tom DeLay: He'd like to wash his hands of corruption," the announcer says before recounting charges against the majority leader. "Tom DeLay can't wash his hands of corruption," the ad concludes. "But Congress can certainly wash its hands of Tom DeLay."


The poor befuddled Left--going after a guy no one has ever heard of and who the GOP can therefore easily afford to toss under the bus if he ever does become a liability.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:34 PM

GOOD OLD FLASHY:

What makes a hero? (Harry Mount, 3/26/05, The Spectator)

‘Flashman’s just a monster,’ says George MacDonald Fraser. ‘He’s extremely unpleasant but he knows how to present a front to the world, and at least he’s honest about himself. But that was because he assumed that his memoirs would never be published.’

I’d just been putting to the author of the Flashman novels the theory of this magazine’s editor: that far from being a scoundrel, Flashman — the fag-roasting rotter thrown out of Rugby in Tom Brown’s Schooldays only to pop up in the great historic moments of the Victorian age — was in fact the toppest of eggs; an accidental hero who’s actually the genuine article because he at least admits to his flaws.

‘It’s usually my female readers who write and say that,’ Fraser says in his perfectly modulated Miss-Jean-Brodie-goes-to-Glasgow vowels, unflattened by 35 years as a tax exile on the Isle of Man, ‘— that he’s actually a very modest hero who makes himself out to be a coward and a cad. If that’s the way they want to see him, fair enough. But you must remember, he raped a girl in the first book; since then, he’s never needed to.’

Fraser’s 80th birthday on 2 April coincides with the publication of Flashman on the March, the 12th in the series. [...]

Carrying on regardless is Flashman’s forte, with his unwilling starring roles throughout the blood-soaked annals of the Victorian age. At the retreat from Kabul in 1842, Flashman is so terrified of falling victim to a badmash’s jezail that he tries to hand over the regiment’s colours to the enemy, only to be rescued in the nick of time, colours still in hand, unconscious, once more the accidental hero.

Flashman’s slug-like trail winds its way up the peaks and down the troughs of the 19th century; he shoots General Custer at Little Big Horn, he launches the Charge of the Light Brigade with a volley of farts brought on by some dodgy Russian champagne, and he stars in the Chinese Opium Wars, the Indian Mutiny and Rorke’s Drift. He always behaves odiously, but his fraudulent triumphs lead him into more and more unwelcome fixes. And he does it all with lashings of élan. Even Fraser acknowledges that Flashman has style.

‘I do remember thinking he was by far the most attractive character in Tom Brown’s Schooldays. The book fell apart after he left. My own feeling is that Thomas Hughes realised that Flashman was in danger of taking the book over and so he dropped him.’

That devil-may-care aura means the title of the real Flashman has plenty of claimants. ‘My old housemaster wrote to me and said, “I know who this is; knew him in India.” Everybody thinks he’s based on Sir Richard Burton. I knew nothing about Burton. A bit rough on Burton, who so far as I know wasn’t a scoundrel and certainly wasn’t a coward.’

There is no one original Flashman, although Fraser acknowledges there are plenty of people who take after him. ‘I see Flashy characteristics on the political scene; I won’t say where. They haven’t got his style. David Niven was keen to play him; he would have made a wonderful Flashman. Or his friend Errol Flynn, who had that shifty quality.’


They've none of the literary pretense of the Aubrey/Maturin books, but they're great fun.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:19 PM

IF ONLY SHE WERE A SERIAL KILLER, THE LEFT WOULD HELP (via Mike Daley):

Terri Schiavo: Judicial Murder: Her crime was being disabled, voiceless, and at the disposal of our media (Nat Hentoff, March 29th, 2005, Village Voice)

For all the world to see, a 41-year-old woman, who has committed no crime, will die of dehydration and starvation in the longest public execution in American history.

She is not brain-dead or comatose, and breathes naturally on her own. Although brain-damaged, she is not in a persistent vegetative state, according to an increasing number of radiologists and neurologists.

Among many other violations of her due process rights, Terri Schiavo has never been allowed by the primary judge in her case—Florida Circuit Judge George Greer, whose conclusions have been robotically upheld by all the courts above him—to have her own lawyer represent her. [...]

While lawyers and judges have engaged in a minuet of death, the American Civil Liberties Union, which would be passionately criticizing state court decisions and demanding due process if Terri were a convict on death row, has shamefully served as co-counsel for her husband, Michael Schiavo, in his insistent desire to have her die.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:13 PM

EXISTENCE IN A NUTSHELL:

Rice Alarms Reformist Arabs with Stability Remarks (Jonathan Wright, 3/29/05, Reuters)

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has alarmed many reformist Arabs with comments suggesting a new U.S. approach that promotes rapid political change without regard for internal stability.

Rice said in an interview with the Washington Post last week the Middle East status quo was not stable and she doubted it would be stable soon. Washington would speak out for "freedom" without offering a model or knowing what the outcome would be.

"This a very dangerous scheme. Anarchy will be out of control," said Hassan Nafaa, a professor of political science at Cairo University and an advocate of gradual change.


Every significant question men ask themselves boils down to that: freedom vs. security.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:03 PM

ENRON IS WORKING:

On Wall Street, a Rise in Dismissals Over Ethics (LANDON THOMAS Jr., 3/29/05. NY Times)

Two senior investment bankers at Bank of America were summoned to a meeting this month where their boss, visibly uncomfortable and flanked by bank lawyers, read them a statement. They were both dismissed and asked to leave the building immediately. The decision was final.

Stunned, the bankers asked if they had broken any regulations. No, they were told. Nor had they traded on any inside information. Within the hour, they had turned in their BlackBerrys and laptops and were on their way home to the suburbs.

In the ruthlessly competitive world of investment banking, these two men had been doing what presumably was their job. Acting on a tip from a rival banker, they had called a company preparing to merge with another and asked to get in on the deal. In a different era, such an action might well have been seen as an example of what hungry bankers do to secure an edge with a client and maybe even a better bonus - not an inappropriate use of confidential information and cause for termination.

But with regulatory scrutiny heightened after the collapse of Enron and other companies, corporations and their boards are adopting zero-tolerance policies. Increasingly, they are holding their employees to lofty standards of business and personal behavior. The result is a wave of abrupt firings as corporations move to stop perceived breaches of ethics by their employees that could result in law enforcement action or public relations disasters.


Finally adopting and enforcing standards is hardly lofty.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:29 PM

THE PARTY OF DEATH AND THE DEPRESSION:

King Karl: Think Karl Rove is losing on Social Security and Schiavo? Those are mere tactical skirmishes—he’s got a grander prize in mind. (John Heilemann, 4/04/05, New York)

The numbers are pretty striking. On Social Security, polls show support for George W. Bush’s position mired at under 40 percent, with 58 percent of Americans saying that the more they learn about his plan the less they like it. Meanwhile, an ABC poll last week reported that, by a 63 to 28 percent margin, the public favors the removal of Schiavo’s feeding tube—and that even Evangelicals are split down the middle on the question.

Not surprisingly, the Democratic reaction has been unalloyed glee—not least at the implication that Bush’s strategic supremo and deputy chief of staff may be fallible after all. Democrats in Congress charge that the Rove-ified Republicans’ Schiavo intervention unmasks the GOP as the party of big and intrusive government, while liberal strategists claim that the parade of blunders on Social Security suggests that the administration’s balding boy wonder has lost his populist touch. As New Democrat Network president Simon Rosenberg said to me the other day, “This is one of those times when you have to conclude that Rove isn’t as smart as people say.”

The Democrats’ jubilation is understandable, and even justified. But I also suspect it may turn out to be premature. Both Schiavo and Social Security are, for Rove, parts of a bigger puzzle: how to cement the fractious Republican coalition into a stable governing majority, one that advances the cause of a historic partisan realignment. Solving that puzzle inevitably poses knotty political challenges. But let’s remember, they’re the sort of challenges Democrats can only wish they had.

Not long ago, I had a chance to see Rove speak to an audience of conservative activists down in Washington. The speech was as revealing for what it left out as for what it included. Not once did Rove proclaim the importance of reducing the size and sphere of Washington’s purview. Not once did he echo Ronald Reagan’s famous line—which codified a fundamental verity of modern Republicanism—that “government isn’t the solution to our problems; government is our problem.” Instead, Rove rejected the party’s “reactionary” and “pessimistic” past, in which it stood idly by while “liberals were setting the pace of change and had the visionary goals.” Now, he went on, the GOP has seized the “mantle of idealism,” dedicating itself to “putting government on the side of progress and reform, modernization and greater freedom.” [...]

“On Social Security, we’re playing on our field,” [Grover] Norquist says. “What would a Democratic win be? The status quo! Not exactly exciting for the party of progressivism.”

More important, although Democrats, in my view, have been right as a matter both of principle and politics to fight Bush on Social Security, their stance leaves them open to attack. “Democrats did something really stupid by saying there’s not a problem,” argues Luntz. “They damaged their credibility and made themselves the party of No.” Or, as Rove put it in his speech, “they’re attempting to block reform,” he said. “The risk is that they’ll appear to be obstructionist, oppositional, and wedded to the past instead of the future—and that’s not a good place to be in American politics.”


REPUBLICANS KNOW WHAT THEY'RE DOING ON SCHIAVO (Noam Scheiber, 3/22/05, New Republic)
[T]hough polls suggest the public overwhelmingly approves of the Democrats' position, elections aren't generally referendums on single issues. The party that does well in an election is the one that voters deem to have better addressed their fundamental concerns. I'd argue that, in 2002 in 2004, that concern was security. Though polls showed vast majorities of Americans favored working through the United Nations in Iraq, being the candidate of the U.N. didn't help John Kerry because he never broke through on the security issue in some deeper emotional way. In fact, to the extent that Kerry constantly emphasized his willingness to work with our allies and the U.N., it probably hurt him more than it helped him, since his apparent deference to foreign countries underscored people's reservations about his willingness to defend our country.

The short story here is that embracing a popular issue can leave you on the wrong end of an electoral outcome if it reinforces suspicions people already have about you. Conversely, rejecting a popular position, as the Bushies did with respect to the U.N., can actually help you if it demonstrates your attentiveness to voters' fundamental concerns.

I think Democrats face a similar risk with respect to Schiavo. Since the 1960s, the party has tended to take a libertarian position on social issues like abortion and the right to die. As with the U.N. and alliances, polls show that these are overwhelmingly popular positions. Large majorities agree that the government should stay out of people's personal decisions even in socially conservative regions like the South. My concern is that, despite the public support for these individual positions, embracing them tends to reinforce deeper suspicions people have about Democrats--namely, that they're a bunch of moral relativists who can't be trusted to do what's right.


Similarly, the defense of the Social Security status quo shows them to be still wedded to the failed socialist experiment of the 20th century and not to be trusted with a modern economy.

N.B. Michael Burns, who sent the second piece, refers to it aptly as a "clue burst."


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:03 PM

NO ONE MISSES THE STENCH:

Ireland celebrates success of smoking ban (Jodie Ginsberg, 3/29/05, Reuters)

Ireland's pioneering smoking ban has won widespread support, figures published today show, despite fears the law is putting pubs out of business.

The ban on smoking in restaurants, pubs and workplaces, introduced exactly a year ago, had been expected to meet widespread resistance in a country where the pub culture of a drink and a smoke were considered part of its life blood.

Instead, the sight of smokers huddled outside pub doors is now as familiar as a pint of Guinness.

"The general support for this health initiative is extremely high and has increased further since its introduction, even among smokers -- and exceeds all expectations," said anti-smoking lobby group ASH.

Figures from an independent survey conducted earlier this month for the government's Office of Tobacco Control show 93 percent of people think the ban is a good idea.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:58 PM

ALL REACTION ALL THE TIME:

Conservative, Liberal, Principled (E. J. Dionne Jr., March 29, 2005, Washington Post)

For at least a decade now, conservatives have gleefully called their political foes "reactionary liberals" whose main task, they say, is the preservation of a New Deal-Great Society status quo. Since the 2004 election gave narrow but firm control of Washington's two elected branches of government to a Republican Party committed to conservatism, the dominant political narrative has highlighted the right's effectiveness and the left's fecklessness.

Yet the liberals' opposition to many of Bush's policies -- in particular his Social Security program and his tax cuts for the wealthy -- cannot be dismissed as a blind rejection of whatever this controversial president proposes. If there is a principle that unites the left side of the political spectrum, it is a belief that an energetic government can effectively use progressive taxation to insure the poor, the unlucky and the elderly against undue hardship. Bush's embrace of the partial privatization of Social Security has thus united liberals and created a sense of momentum unusual for the left during the Bush years.


United them in defense of the status quo, against an energetic use of government and tax policy that would empower and enrich the poor, the unlucky and the elderly. Does anyone doubt that if Bill Clinton had backed this kind of reform it would have passed the Republican Congress with bipartisan support, just as Welfare reform eventually did?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:51 PM

BAD DAY FOR "HEROES" OF MODERN JURISPRUDENCE:

Howell Heflin, Former Alabama Senator, Dies at 83
By ROBERT PEAR

WASHINGTON, March 29 - Former Senator Howell Heflin of Alabama, a conservative Democrat who supported civil rights legislation and was sometimes described as the conscience of the Senate, died on Tuesday at a hospital in Sheffield, Ala., near his home in Tuscumbia. He was 83.

His death was announced by his family.

Mr. Heflin, a large, bearlike man, was chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court before he was elected in 1978 to the Senate, where he served for 18 years.

Fellow senators often called him Judge Heflin, referring to his probity and his judicious approach to issues. For 13 years, he passed judgment on his colleagues as a senior member or chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Ethics.

Mr. Heflin voted against the nominations of Clarence Thomas and Robert H. Bork to the United States Supreme Court. He said Mr. Thomas's testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee suggested "contradictions, lack of scholarship, lack of conviction and instability."
Whatever else may have been true of Mr. Heflin, he authored one deeply despicable moment in the Senate when he tried to get himself off the hook with his constituents for voting against Robert Bork by accusing him of having a "strange lifestyle." But he got paid back in the end, even if indirectly:

Mr. Heflin was a swing voter on the Judiciary Committee, often siding with Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina and other conservative Republicans.

But in 1986, Mr. Heflin voted against a lawyer from his home state who had been nominated by President Ronald Reagan to be a federal district judge. Several civil rights groups opposed the lawyer, Jeff Sessions, on the ground that he had shown insensitivity to blacks while serving as the United States attorney in Mobile, Ala.

The Judiciary Committee blocked the nomination. Mr. Heflin said he did not know whether Mr. Sessions would be "a fair and impartial judge." But the tables eventually turned. In 1996, Mr. Sessions, a Republican, won the Senate seat being vacated by Mr. Heflin, and he now serves on the Judiciary Committee.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:49 PM

DOIN' IT WITHOUT THE FEZ ON:

US pressure making Musharraf next Ata Turak, claims Tanzeem-e-Islami (WebIndia, March 28, 2005)

After facing flak from jihadi outfits and religious fanatics for his vision of enlightened moderation, Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf's has now been compared to Kamal Ata Turak by a religious group in Pakistan for the fervour with which it believes, Musharraf is espousing the American agenda of enlightened moderationhe News quoted the founder of Pakistan's Tanzeem-e-Islami, Dr Israr Ahmad as saying that Musharraf was following the American agenda of enlightened moderation and if given more time would even beat Turkish leader Kamal Ata Turak in enlightenment.

Ahmad said that Musharraf was going ahead with his plan despite the fact that Islam itself was a moderate and enlightened religion.

Ahmad while addressing a seminar titled 'Present view of enlightenment and Islam' organised by Tanzeem-e-Islami at the Quran auditorium, said that Musharraf under US pressure, wanted to promote a new brand of Islam acceptable to the Western powers, especially the US.


Took them three and a half years to figure that out?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:36 PM

WORTH MORE DEAD THAN ALIVE:

Detroit's New Crisis Could Be Its Worst (DANNY HAKIM, 3/27/05, NY Times)

Once again, Detroit has resumed its long slide to automotive oblivion, and everyone's getting his two cents in about how to stop the bleeding. One suggestion: Make cars and trucks that people actually want, as opposed to ones that they'll tolerate in their driveway because of a $5,000 rebate or zero percent financing. A century ago the landscape was littered with American automakers. At this point, we're down to two domestic automakers, or three, depending how you count. Since Chrysler became a division of the German automaker DaimlerChrysler in 1998, people in Detroit sometimes call the Big Three the Big Two-and-a-Half.

Though Chrysler has shown recent signs of revival, General Motors and Ford are rapidly losing customers at home and their debt is rated one notch above junk by Standard & Poor's. That's bad news for two of the nation's biggest corporate borrowers, because a further downgrade could cost billions of dollars. G.M. is in particularly bad shape. Most believe a significant overhaul is required, including possibly sending another brand like Pontiac or Buick to join Oldsmobile on the chopping block.

Crises visit at least one Detroit automaker at least once a decade. But this is a different time: The silver bullets have run out. Previously, someone or something came to the rescue. In the 1980's, Chrysler fell back on the government for a bailout and then helped itself by inventing the minivan. In the 1990's, the Big Three rode the sport utility vehicle to the mainstream, and the big rigs helped them skate past lagging reputations and terminally tacky design.

But there aren't any new magic cars or trucks in the works. And with the Japanese capturing broad swaths of the S.U.V. market and even taking on Detroit's hegemony of pickup trucks, the domestics are hurting in an era when Washington looks increasingly unwilling to backstop American industry.

Detroit's dependence on trucks also has some analysts worried.

"Demand for S.U.V.'s has evidently stalled," said Standard & Poor's in a recent report. G.M. is rushing its next generation of big S.U.V.'s like the Chevrolet Suburban into production by year's end, but with increased competition and volatile gas prices, "it is questionable whether these will generate the profit margins" of the past, the report said.

Worse, there used to be just the Japanese and the Europeans to worry about. Now a vigorous Korean competitor, Hyundai, and a Chinese company, Chery, promises to bring the first ultracheap Chinese cars to the United States in two years. Worse still, soaring healthcare costs are a severe competitive disadvantage for American companies with hundreds of thousands of retirees. G.M. spends nearly $2,000 for each car or truck it produces in the United States on health care and pension benefits, more than enough to equip each car with free leather seats.


Falling to Junk (New York Sun, March 22, 2005)
It's hard to believe that the bond rating of General Motors may soon fall to junk, but it's true. Last week, GM announced an expected loss of $850 million, about $1.50 a share, for the first three months of 2005. The company slashed its profit forecast by $2 billion for the year. [...]

Over the decades, union leaders have won such generous pension and healthcare benefits for GM employees that today GM is the world's largest private consumer of health care, covering the medical costs of more than 1 million people. Health care represents more than $1,000 worth of cost, on average, in every vehicle General Motors produces, its chairman, Richard Wagoner, has said.

GM spends more on health care than on steel. The health-care costs - about $5.5 billion a year and growing - are fixed. GM's unfunded health-care obligations amount to $57 billion. GM also holds America's largest private pension obligation. The company estimates its total future American pension costs at $87 billion.

The company's total market valuation stood last week at $16.39 billion. General Motors was once the leading car manufacturer in the world. Today, it's a pension fund and a health maintenance organization with a relatively small car-making operation on the side.


Ford and GM are surviving on mere sentiment and markets aren't sentimental in the long term.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:20 PM

EARLY IN THE REALIGNMENT:

435 Ways To Parse The Presidential Election Results (Charlie Cook, March 29, 2005, National Journal)

For true political junkies, nothing is more exciting than getting a whole new bunch of voting data to pore over and analyze. This week, Polidata's Clark Bensen's preliminary compilation of presidential results by each of the 435 congressional districts is political nirvana for congressional-race watchers. The new results show President Bush won the popular vote in 255 congressional districts, a 75-seat edge over Sen. John Kerry's 180 congressional districts. [...]

For Democrats, there is even more bad news in these numbers. Forty-one (almost 70 percent) of these 59 "ticket-splitting" districts were won by President Bush and are currently held by Democrats; Kerry won just 18 districts held by a Republican incumbent. Not surprisingly, half (21) of the Bush districts held by Democratic House incumbents are in the South, while a little more than half (10) of the Kerry districts held by Republican House incumbents are located in the Northeast.

The 10 Democrats sitting in the most Republican districts by Bush percentage are: Chet Edwards, Texas-17, Gene Taylor, Miss.-04, Jim Matheson, Utah-02, Ike Skelton, Mo.-04, Earl Pomeroy, N.D.-01, Bud Cramer, Ala.-05, Stephanie Herseth, S.D.-01, Bart Gordon, Tenn.-06, Rick Boucher, Va.-09, and Dan Boren, Okla.-02.

The 10 Republicans sitting in the most Democratic districts are: Jim Leach, Iowa-02, Rob Simmons, Conn.-02, Michael Castle, Del.-01, Mark Kirk, Ill.-10, Jim Nussle, Iowa-01, Curt Weldon, Pa.-07, Chris Shays, Conn.-04, Clay Shaw, Fla.-22, Charlie Bass, N.H.-02, and Jim Gerlach, Pa.-06.


As in the Senate, the GOP majority in the House will more likely get bigger than smaller.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:08 PM

AT THIS RATE JOHN STREET MAY WIN:

Dead and buried but backing Mugabe (The Australian, March 30, 2005)

SEVENTY-eight per cent of people who have died in Zimbabwe since 1980 are registered to vote and are expected to give phantom votes to Robert Mugabe in tomorrow's national poll.

Supporters of Zimbabwe's Opposition Movement for Democratic Change say up to a million phantom voters may appear on the register and that "ghost voters" will be used by the ruling Zanu PF party to inflate the votes that it receives in this week's parliamentary elections.

For instance, Tichaona Chiminya, a driver for the leader of Zimbabwe's main opposition party, was burnt alive in a truck. David Stevens, a white farmer, was shot in the back of the head.

They were among the first to die as President Mugabe's reign of terror unrolled five years ago but their names are still on the voters' roll.

Added to a campaign to deny food to opponents of President Mugabe and door-to-door intimidation of rural voters, the opposition fears that it may lose the election, even if it has the support of the majority of voters.


MORE:
Sorry, the resurrection's been postponed: Tomorrow’s election in Zimbabwe will expose Mugabe’s thuggery and South Africa’s misguided approach (Magnus Linklater, 3/30/05, Times of London)

THERE ARE two kinds of courage. One is blind and instinctive — Napoleon called it “two in the morning courage” — when adrenalin takes over and you tackle the burglar in the front hall, or confront a gang of youths breaking into your car. It is admirable but unpredictable, and it can all too easily fail you. Instead of playing the hero, you cower in bed or carry on walking.

The other kind is sustained courage in the face of overwhelming odds. It is deliberate and determined. It wins few friends and makes many enemies. It can end with an assassin’s bullet, or in the dark corner of a torture cell. For most of us, it is beyond the reaches of our imagination.

Archbishop Pius Ncube carries this brand of courage unassumingly, but with burning conviction. His outrage at what has happened to his nation, Zimbabwe, has never abated; indeed it grows. It takes the form of open defiance of the most sinister regime in Africa, and it is embraced in full knowledge of the risks involved. On the wall of his office, next to St Mary’s Cathedral in Bulawayo, hangs a picture of Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, who was murdered by death squads as he said Mass in his chapel. Archbishop Ncube knows, therefore, what may lie in store for him if he continues to challenge the excesses of Robert Mugabe’s State, and to expose the fraudulence of his elections. But he does not give up.

When, tomorrow, the voters of Zimbabwe go to the polls, they will do so with the words of Archbishop Ncube ringing in their ears: “Somewhere there shall come a resurrection for Zimbabwe,” he told his congregation on Easter Day. He called for a “popular mass uprising” to remove Mr Mugabe from power. “The people have been too soft with this Government,” he said. “They should pluck up a bit of courage and stand up against him and chase him away.”

Words like these are an open invitation to the thugs of Zanu PF, the ruling party, to apply their tactics of violence and intimidation. Archbishop Ncube is fully aware of the risks. His sermons are monitored, his telephone bugged, he has been told he is on a death list, he has been subjected to a series of ugly slanders by pro-government propagandists. Yet he is relentless in exposing the corruption and violence that has brought the country to its knees. And he has been consistent.


Mbeki, Mandela & Tutu must have 3am wake-up calls.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:59 PM

DETENTE DREAMS:

Plans by U.S. to Dominate Space Raising Concerns: Arms Experts Worried at Pentagon Push for Superiority (Walter Pincus, March 29, 2005, Washington Post)

Arms control advocates in the United States and abroad are expressing concern with the Bush administration's push for military superiority in space.

A series of Pentagon doctrinal papers, released over the past year, have emphasized that the U.S. military is increasingly dependent on space satellites for offensive and defensive operations, and must be able to protect them in times of war.

The Air Force in August put forward a Counterspace Operations Doctrine, which described "ways and means by which the Air Force achieves and maintains space superiority" and has worked to develop weapons to accomplish such missions.

On March 1, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld signed a new National Defense Strategy paper that said the use of space "enables us to project power anywhere in the world from secure bases of operation." A key goal of Rumsfeld's new strategy is "to ensure our access to and use of space and to deny hostile exploitation of space to adversaries."

The Pentagon is developing a suborbital space capsule that could hit targets anywhere in the world within two hours of being launched from U.S. bases. It also is developing systems that could attack potential enemy satellites, destroying them or temporarily preventing them from sending signals.

Michael Krepon, president emeritus of the Henry L. Stimson Center and an arms control official in the Clinton administration, said the United States is moving toward a national space doctrine that is "preemptive and proactive." He expects the Bush administration to produce a new National Space Policy statement soon that will contrast with the one adopted in 1996 by President Bill Clinton.

"We adopted the traditional U.S. position of being a reluctant space warrior," Krepon said of the Clinton position. "Space was to be used for peaceful purposes, but if someone messed with us, we couldn't allow that to happen. But it was not our space policy preference."

Krepon last week attended a conference in Geneva organized by the Chinese and Russian governments on preventing an arms race in outer space.


Few things in life are more certain than that an "arms control expert" will side with the enemy.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:15 PM

1/14 CHANGED EVERYTHING?:

Where Were You on 1/14? (Sally Satel, M.D., Christina Hoff Sommers, March 29, 2005, Wall Street Journal)

The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University hosted a conference last week entitled "Impediments to Change: Revisiting the Women in Science Question." The auditorium in Agassiz Theatre in Radcliffe Yard was packed. Dedicated in 1904, the theatre has been the site of many a spirited intellectual exchange. But on this day it was a forum not for debate but for indignation over the insult that the assembled referred to as "1/14"--the date when Harvard President Larry Summers fatefully speculated about the possibility of inborn differences between the sexes.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:42 PM

UNIVERSAL, BUT AMERICAN-STYLE:

Bill mandates universal health insurance for Minnesotans (Patricia Lopez, March 30, 2005, Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Every Minnesotan would be required to have at least minimal health insurance and every insurer would have to offer such a plan under a far-ranging health care overhaul bill offered by the Minnesota Medical Association on Tuesday.

The bill, which is being introduced with bipartisan support in the House and Senate today, would also ban smoking in the workplace -- including restaurants and bars -- and would increase the cigarette tax by $1 a pack.

Sen. Sheila Kiscaden, I-Rochester, the bill's Senate sponsor, called the proposal "a major health care reform effort" that ultimately could result in lower cost and more effective health care that tilts the system toward illness prevention. [...]

At its core, the plan would set out an as-yet-undefined set of "essential benefits" that would provide minimal coverage with an emphasis on prevention. Kiscaden said that Minnesotans might be required to offer proof of coverage when they filed their income taxes or applied for a driver's license. By the same token, insurers would have to offer the essential benefits and could not reject anyone because of age, gender or health history. Pre-existing health conditions, a common reason for rejection for traditional policies, could not be taken into account.


Require them to offer HSA's and it's a model for the nation.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:39 PM

GET YOUR SUREFIRE COUNTERINTELLIGENCE PLAN HERE, FREE!:

Bush approves tough new plan to battle spies (Bill Gertz, 3/29/05, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Nearly 80 Americans have been caught spying since 1985, and the Bush administration has launched a more aggressive anti-spying effort to better combat foreign intelligence activities, according to a new strategy report made public yesterday.

The National Counterintelligence Strategy was approved March 1 by President Bush, marking the first time that the U.S. government has sought to formulate a comprehensive counterspy program, said Michelle Van Cleave, head of the office of the national counterintelligence executive, a White House-level intelligence post.

The strategy calls for "specific counterintelligence policies for attacking foreign intelligence services systematically via strategic counterintelligence operations," stated the report, which was released yesterday.

The new strategy "will require substantial changes in the conduct of U.S. counterintelligence," Miss Van Cleave said.

"These changes include a renewed intelligence focus on hostile services and intelligence capabilities, including those of terrorist groups, and proactive efforts to defeat them," she said.

The strategy will call for the FBI, CIA and other intelligence components to "identify, assess, neutralize and exploit foreign intelligence activities before they can do harm to the United States."


That's all a terrible waste of time. Secrets can't be kept and what we "know" is always wrong. The solution is just to completely open up our intelligence system, put everything we know on-line, and let anyone who wants to add to it, comment on it, or critique it.


Posted by Peter Burnet at 5:10 PM

INFLAMMATORY AND PREJUDICIAL

Colorado Court Bars Execution Because Jurors Consulted Bible (Kirk Johnson, New York Times, March 29th, 2005)

In a sharply divided ruling, Colorado's highest court on Monday upheld a lower court's decision throwing out the sentence of a man who was given the death penalty after jurors consulted the Bible in reaching a verdict. The Bible, the court said, constituted an improper outside influence and a reliance on what the court called a "higher authority."

"The judicial system works very hard to emphasize the rarified, solemn and sequestered nature of jury deliberations," the majority said in a 3-to-2 decision by a panel of the Colorado Supreme Court. "Jurors must deliberate in that atmosphere without the aid or distraction of extraneous texts."

The ruling involved the conviction of Robert Harlan, who was found guilty in 1995 of raping and murdering a cocktail waitress near Denver. After Mr. Harlan's conviction, the judge in the case - as Colorado law requires - sent the jury off to deliberate about the death penalty with an instruction to think beyond the narrow confines of the law. Each juror, the judge told the panel, must make an "individual moral assessment," in deciding whether Mr. Harlan should live.

The jurors voted unanimously for death. The State Supreme Court's decision changes that sentence to life in prison without parole.

In the decision on Monday, the dissenting judges said the majority had confused the internal codes of right and wrong that juries are expected to possess in such weighty moral matters with the outside influences that are always to be avoided, like newspaper articles or television programs about the case. The jurors consulted Bibles, the minority said, not to look for facts or alternative legal interpretations, but for wisdom.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:34 PM

ACCIDENTAL ACCOUNTABILITY:

Negotiating the election maize: Food shortages in the former 'breadbasket of southern Africa' are the burning issue of Zimbabwe elections (Andrew Meldrum, March 29, 2005, Guardian Unlimited)

President Robert Mugabe's claims of the triumph of his seizures of white-owned farms ring hollow at campaign rallies where people are hungry.

Confronted by unenthusiastic crowds, Mr Mugabe has admitted for the first time while campaigning that the country is confronted by widespread food shortages. Meanwhile, police have threatened to jail a civic leader who has charged that the government is withholding food from areas that support the opposition.

But the food shortages are undeniable. Maize meal supplies have been erratic in both rural and urban areas over the past month, with supermarkets in the cities without stocks for days. Zimbabwean residents say large areas of planted crops stand dry and damaged, and international agencies estimate that more than 4 million Zimbabweans are in need of food aid.

Speaking in Zimbabwe's rural heartland, Mr Mugabe was forced to acknowledge that the people were suffering from a lack of maize, the country's staple grain. At a rally for his Zanu-PF party on March 17 in Gutu, in southeastern Zimbabwe, Mr Mugabe blamed the shortages on the failure of the seasonal rains.

"The main problem we are facing is one of drought and the shortage of food, we are going to work out a hunger alleviation programme ... I promise you that no one will starve," Mr Mugabe told a listless crowd of 7,000, according to Reuters. The villagers sat through Mr Mugabe's 40-minute speech, many with blank faces.


Strange things happen when you go before the people and ask for their votes.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:30 PM

WHO DO THOSE PARENTS THINK THEY ARE?:


Kelly 'obsessed' with parent power
(Staff and agencies, March 29, 2005, Guardian Unlimited)

The leader of Britain's largest teachers' union today criticised the education secretary's "obsession" with giving parents more power over their children's education.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:54 PM

WHERE THE WAR ENDS:

College Faculties A Most Liberal Lot, Study Finds (Howard Kurtz, March 29, 2005, Washington Post)

College faculties, long assumed to be a liberal bastion, lean further to the left than even the most conspiratorial conservatives might have imagined, a new study says.

By their own description, 72 percent of those teaching at American universities and colleges are liberal and 15 percent are conservative, says the study being published this week. The imbalance is almost as striking in partisan terms, with 50 percent of the faculty members surveyed identifying themselves as Democrats and 11 percent as Republicans.

The disparity is even more pronounced at the most elite schools, where, according to the study, 87 percent of faculty are liberal and 13 percent are conservative.

"What's most striking is how few conservatives there are in any field," said Robert Lichter, a professor at George Mason University and a co-author of the study. "There was no field we studied in which there were more conservatives than liberals or more Republicans than Democrats. It's a very homogenous environment, not just in the places you'd expect to be dominated by liberals."


The Right has done a reasonably good job of creating alternatives to the liberal media and destroying the credibility of journalism generally, which leaves academia as the final battlefield.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:48 PM

HAVE THEY EVER GOTTEN ANYTHING RIGHT?:

Panel's Report Assails C.I.A. for Failure on Iraq Weapons (DAVID E. SANGER and SCOTT SHANE, 3/29/05, NY Times)

The final report of a presidential commission studying American intelligence failures regarding illicit weapons includes a searing critique of how the C.I.A. and other agencies never properly assessed Saddam Hussein's political maneuverings or the possibility that he no longer had weapon stockpiles, according to officials who have seen the report's executive summary.

The report also proposes broad changes in the sharing of information among intelligence agencies that go well beyond the legislation passed by Congress late last year that set up a director of national intelligence to coordinate action among all 15 agencies.

Those recommendations are likely to figure prominently in April in the confirmation hearings of John D. Negroponte, whom President Bush has nominated to be national intelligence director and who is about to move to the center of the campaign against terror.

The report particularly singles out the Central Intelligence Agency under its former director, George J. Tenet, but also includes what one senior official called "a hearty condemnation" of the Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency.

The unclassified version of the report, which is more than 400 pages long, devotes relatively little space to North Korea and Iran, the two nations now posing the largest potential nuclear challenge to the United States and its allies.


Perhaps the one thing Left and Right can agree on is that intelligence reports can't be the basis for war.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:35 PM

I AM SOMEBODY:

Jackson Meets With Schiavo's Parents in Florida (AP, 3/29/05)

The parents of Terri Schiavo met and prayed Tuesday with the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who called her impending death "an injustice."

Joining the conservatives who have rallied to the parents' cause, the liberal Jackson said he would call state senators who opposed legislation that would have reinserted Schiavo's feeding tube and ask them to reconsider.

Terri Schiavo was in her 12th day without food and water. Her husband and guardian, Michael Schiavo, has insisted that he was carrying out her wishes by having her feeding tube pulled. His lawyer said Monday that an autopsy was planned to show the extent of Terri Schiavo's brain damage.

Jackson's arrival Tuesday was greeted by some applause and cries of "This is about civil rights."

"I feel so passionate about this injustice being done, how unnecessary it is to deny her a feeding tube, water, not even ice to be used for her parched lips," said Jackson, who has run for president as a Democrat. "This is a moral issue and it transcends politics and family disputes."


Amazing how Democrats have put themselves in a position where when a Jesse Jackson, Joe Lieberman, or Hillary Clinton want to do the decent thing they have to go stand with conservatives.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:31 PM

LOW MAN (via Robert Schwartz):

A 60's Holdout and His Daughter, Searching for an Epic (MANOHLA DARGIS, 3/25/05, NY Times)

The Jack of all trades in the new film "The Ballad of Jack and Rose," played by the brilliant actor Daniel Day-Lewis, is no ordinary man. A proud survivor of the 1960's and its utopian promise, Jack lives alone on an island with his only daughter, Rose (Camilla Belle), a doe-eyed beauty with the milky skin and ruby lips of a fairy-tale heroine. Shrunk to near-skeletal size, his bones poking right angles through his clothes, Jack suffers from two heart conditions. One will soon put him six feet under. But before that, the other may send the terminal outsider and his daughter down the path of disaster, though one shaped more by the tao of Oprah and Dr. Phil than the tragedy of Lear and Cordelia.

The film opens in 1986 with the image of richly hued red flowers seemingly bopping to the music flooding the soundtrack, Screamin' Jay Hawkins's singularly creepy song, "I Put a Spell on You." This first version is by Creedence Clearwater Revival and is all growls and lugubriously plodding beats. Sometime later, after Jack and Rose are on the emotional outs and neck-deep in melodrama, we hear the song again, only this time the voice prowling the soundtrack belongs to Nina Simone, a singer whose unhurried phrasing and heat bring the song to a slow boil. By this point in the story, Jack has invited a woman, his sometimes lover, Kathleen (Catherine Keener), to move in with him, an invitation that sends his daughter reeling.

A story about the limits of love, "The Ballad of Jack and Rose" is also about the limits of idealism. Written and directed by Rebecca Miller, the wife of Mr. Day-Lewis and a daughter of Arthur Miller, the film summons up both a time and a worldview as distant as the Port Huron Statement, a founding document of the New Left. Once upon a time, Jack and some like-minded souls, including Rose's long-gone mother, hoped to live in communion with one another and with the natural world. The second goal turned out to be easier than the first and, over time, the other commune members drifted back into the outside world. These days, Jack alone lights the house with windmill power while Rose collects seaweed to use as fertilizer in the garden. [...]

Love is strange, and some love, like that between Jack and Rose, is stranger still. But in "The Ballad of Jack and Rose," it's also unbelievable because Ms. Miller is too smitten with the idea of this impossible love to make her characters ring true. The full measure of Jack's wrongs, what his convictions have done to his daughter and how they have shaped their life together, doesn't emerge until late in the film. But even then it remains unclear whether Ms. Miller fully appreciates just how loathsome a creature Jack is, the damage he's wrought.


As Mr. Schwartz points out, Arthur Miller is too much an icon around places like the Times for them to accept that Ms Miller knows precisly how loathsome the father is and how much damage he did.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:22 PM

JIMMY CARTER WINS!:

Rice: Human Rights Ultimate Factor in US Relations Abroad (David Gollust, 28 March 2005, VOA News)

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice vowed Monday to make respect for human rights a test of U.S. bilateral relations around the world. She spoke on release of a report on U.S. efforts to advance human rights and freedoms worldwide.

Ms. Rice's comments are a further sign of a new assertiveness on human rights, marked by President Bush's declaration in his inaugural address in January that ending tyranny in the world is a U.S. policy goal.

At a State Department event launching the human rights report, the secretary cited a dramatic shift in the international landscape over the past year, with elections in Afghanistan, the Palestinian territories and Iraq, and steps toward democracy in places like Georgia, Ukraine and Lebanon.

Ms. Rice rejected what she termed a cynical notion that some countries and societies are not ready for freedom, and she said respect for human rights will be the ultimate measure in U.S. relations with other countries.

"In all that lies ahead, our nation will continue to clarify for other nations the moral choice between oppression and freedom, and we will make it clear that, ultimately, success in our relations depends on the treatment of their own people. America's belief in human dignity and human rights will guide our policy," she said.


If only President Carter'd had sense enough to insist that our enemies meet human rights standards, instead of just our friends.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:13 PM

ALL QUIET ON THE EASTERN FRONT:

US Uses Arms Sales To Strengthen Ties with South Asian Regional Rivals (Gary Thomas, 28 March 2005, VOA News)

The Bush administration announced last week it would sell F-16 warplanes to Pakistan. But often overlooked was the simultaneous announcement that the United States would also sell arms, including F-16s, to India. The United States is engaged in a delicate balancing act in South Asia.

The real surprise about the U.S. offer to sell some F-16 warplanes to Pakistan, say analysts of South Asian affairs, was India's relatively muted reaction to the move.

President Bush took the step of calling Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to alert him to the upcoming announcement. And India also got a U.S. pledge that it, too, would be allowed to purchase arms, including F-16s.

Sumit Ganguly, director of the Indian Studies program at Indiana University at Bloomington, says that because of those actions, the reaction from New Delhi was less vocal than might have been expected in the past. "Consequently, while the Indians are somewhat piqued and irritated by the renewal of an arms transfer relationship with Pakistan, much of the sting of this message has actually been removed," he said.

A South Asia analyst at the U.S. Institute of Peace, Christine Fair, says India gains in the deal as well because Washington is trying to bolster its renewed relationship with New Delhi. "India is in some sense the long-term winner in all of this," she said. "Obviously, India gets a lot of stuff as well. But over the long term India is very much our partner. If you look at the kinds of stuff that the Indian military is doing with the U.S. military, it is qualitatively different than the stuff that the United States is doing with the Pakistan military."


The new relationship with India is a perfect example of the President's oft-stated belief that you can more easily accomplish great things if you don't insist on getting credit for them. Most of the work on the US/India/Pakistan front has been done quietly...and has been enormously effective.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:01 PM

WHEN YOU'RE TIRED, SLEEP:

Poll: Most American Adults Sleep Poorly (SIOBHAN McDONOUGH, 3/29/05, AP)

Getting a good night's sleep is hard for many adults and that often means poorer health, lower productivity on the job, more danger on the roads and a less vibrant sex life.

"By 3 to 4 in the afternoon, I'm starting to feel brain-drained and I need that caffeine to pick me back up again," said Becky Mcerien, 50, of Philadelphia.

She gets about 6.5 hours of sleep a night - slightly less than the adult average of 6.9 hours reported by the National Sleep Foundation.

Many experts say adults need a minimum of seven to nine hours of sleep a night. [...]

One-fourth of adults say sleep problems have some impact on their daily lives.

Richard Gelula, the foundation's CEO, said there's a link between sleep and quality of life.

"People who sleep well, in general, are happier and healthier," he said. "But when sleep is poor or inadequate, people feel tired or fatigued, their social and intimate relationships suffer, work productivity is negatively affected, and they make our roads more dangerous by driving while sleepy and less alert."

Symptoms of a sleep problem include difficulty falling asleep, waking a lot during the night, waking up too early and not being able to get back to sleep, waking up feeling unrefreshed, snoring, unpleasant feelings in the legs or pauses in breathing.


These problems are quite real but most are just a matter of simple common sense. For instance, instead of drinking coffeee, Ms Mcerian should just take a nap (and, obviously, go to bed earlier).


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:54 AM

THE DETERIORATION OF THE REGIME (via Random Lawyer):

Freedom and Decency (David B. Hart, June/July 2004, First Things)

Every nation with any pretense to civilization must be governed by some regime of civic prudence, possessing the power to place certain restraints upon public transactions. Without such a regime, a society cannot assure its citizens any measure of genuinely civil freedom, by which I mean the freedom that only a rigidly observed social courtesy—necessarily confining and somewhat artificially ceremonious—provides: freedom from other people’s bad taste. There is almost no such thing as purely private expression under the best of circumstances; in the age of mass communication, when every venture into a public space quickly becomes complete immersion in a world of jarring noise and garish pomps and shrill distraction, it is folly to imagine that one can if one chooses simply “turn things off” and go unmolested by the worst elements of popular culture. It is folly also to believe that the cause of freedom is advanced when a society’s citizens cannot demand—with the full force of law and custom on their side—that others not be given license to subject them constantly to offensive materials or to corrupt their children with impunity.

This is, one could argue, the simplest matter of moral stewardship. The forces of barbarism that are always eager to assail civilization—from without and within—are, if not tireless, at least remarkably resilient. Where no codes of civil conduct govern cultural production, it is inevitable that those who are coarsest and most conscienceless—those who are most wanting in shame, restraint, imagination, modesty, consideration, or charity—will prevail. What, then, of everyone else whose peace and dignity a just political order should be concerned to protect? I think it safe to say there has never been a society where the lewd, the dissolute, or the perverted have not been able to find some place for their recreation, and this is a reality to which we are wise to be in some degree resigned. But we live now in an age in which indecency refuses to be confined within its own sphere, but rather forces itself upon us, and indeed demands (almost sanctimoniously) that it be embraced and granted social legitimacy, and that it be subject to no strictures other than those of the free market. Anyone so quaintly retrograde as to want to escape the deluge must retreat to some jealously insulated domestic realm, guarded with almost martial vigilance against any intrusion by the encircling culture.

It is difficult to make sense of many of the conventional arguments against censorship. The objection that in my experience tends to be adduced most promptly (and with the greatest degree of hysteria) is that of the “slippery slope”: grant some agency the legal power of censure, the argument goes, and before long political speech will be suppressed, privacy invaded, legal protections eroded, republican liberties abridged, schools taken over by fundamentalists from Alabama, women reduced to chattels, and the demonic ferment of fascism lying always just below the surface of American life set loose upon the world. This, at any rate, was the case that a depressingly earnest civil liberties attorney in North Carolina once made to me—with such an air of catechetical exactitude that it was clear she was merely giving voice to a deeply entrenched professional orthodoxy. It was simply inconceivable to her that a humane regime of censorship could be evolved in such a way as to make abuse of its authority all but legally impossible. Apparently, as a society, we are poised precariously upon the narrowest precipice of a sheer escarpment as smooth as glass, overlooking a vast chasm of totalitarian tyranny; so much as a single step towards censorship will send us hurtling into the abyss, and nothing will be able to stay our fall.

This is, of course, nonsense. In the days when the U.S. Post Office had the authority to prosecute those who delivered obscene materials through the mails, and cinema was subject to the Hayes Office, and communities were permitted to ban books, there were certainly cases of excessive zeal in the application of these powers, and instances when provincialism triumphed over art, and perhaps many miscarriages of justice; but, mirabile dictu, we were not at the mercy of a secret police; warrantless incarceration in nameless prisons, torture, murdered journalists, the cult of the Great Leader, the rule of clandestine tribunals, the bullet in the back of the head at dawn—all of these things remained miraculously absent from our society. Were there any historical example of republican freedom weakened or subverted by public and commercial codes of decency, this line of argument might command some force. As it is, it seems to me that any people that honestly believes political despotism to be the inevitable consequence of any constraints being placed upon the dissemination of popular artifacts—say, forbidding the sale of recordings made by some sullen thug fantasizing about raping his girlfriend’s daughter—is a people that has elevated the cult of personal liberty to a new and oppressive fanaticism.

A somewhat more plausible objection is that a public censor will as often as not turn out to be some well-intentioned philistine who cannot distinguish artistically or conceptually accomplished treatments of delicate themes from simple pornography; and this, in turn, will have a stifling effect on artists and thinkers. Here, one must acknowledge, there is enough historical evidence to render this anxiety credible. It does require a fairly perceptive and finely discriminating eye to judge intelligently the intrinsic qualities of any work of art. It is somewhat embarrassing to recall the legal perils that delayed production of an American edition of Lolita, which is really—quite apart from its extraordinary aesthetic merit—a rather moral and even slightly prudish work (though Nabokov would bristle at those words). That Ulysses ever had to appear before an American bar of justice now rightly seems ridiculous. Of course, we would all have been better off to have been spared the overrated, intellectually arthritic, and incompetently written Lady Chatterley’s Lover, but two cases out of three are sufficient to make the point.

Even here, however, I am still largely unconvinced. For one thing, great art endures, and over time distinguishes itself from all the lesser accomplishments with which it might initially have been confused; and it is not necessarily a bad thing for the artist who wishes to treat of things usually left decently veiled to have to submit his work to the ordeal of prevailing moral prejudice: it is likely, for one thing, to inspire more ingenious art, as well as to test the mettle of the artist. There were many inconveniences suffered by the “urbane” bibliophile in the days when the unexpurgated Aretino or Rochester was available only in private editions, and Burton’s complete Thousand Nights and a Night existed only in limited printings, and volumes of Pierre Louÿs were sold exclusively out of back rooms and in borrowed dust-jackets by booksellers of dubious character, and Frederick Rolfe’s Venetian letters could bring fines and imprisonment to their purveyors; but I am not convinced that the cause of civilization was grievously impaired by such inconveniences. Nor does it seem plausible to me to suggest that our national literature has noticeably improved since these fetters were struck off. There is, after all, a kind of philistinism on either side of this issue. Is good art suppressed more by rules of public decency (even when applied with a heavy hand) or by the barbarism of a culture whose sensibilities have become so debauched by constant exposure to the scabrous and the vile as to have become incapable of any discrimination, or of any due appreciation of subtlety or craft?

Consider one of the more obvious cases of commercial standards abandoned, that of cinema. For all the ponderous parochialism of the old motion picture code, it did at the very least demand of screenwriters the kind of delicate technique necessary to communicate certain things to mature viewers without giving any hint of their meaning to the children also watching. Thus films had to be written by adults, and the best films required writers of some considerable skill. After all, everyone of a certain age in the audience was well aware of what things occurred between men and women in private. They understood, therefore, what may have happened between Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman when the camera cut away to the watchtower’s revolving beam of light; what had failed to happen when Spencer Tracy quietly slipped out of Katharine Hepburn’s apartment, neglecting to take his hat with him; what it was that Katharine Hepburn was both relieved and offended to discover had not happened when, on the previous evening, her inebriation had required Jimmy Stewart to carry her to her bed; what Bogart and Bacall were really discussing under the veil of their equestrian metaphors; why Glenn Ford was treating Rita Hayworth with at once such tenderness and such malice; and what Barbara Stanwyck was implying when she wrapped her arms around Fred MacMurray’s neck and murmured, “But, darling, we are at Niagara Falls.”

Well, nostalgia can be a particularly toxic opiate, perhaps. Obviously many extraordinary films have been produced since the Hayes Office vanished—there was even a brief golden age of sorts in the early 1970s—and among them have been many that could never have appeared under the old code. Even now, one is occasionally astonished by some gold amid the dross (my life would have been somewhat poorer, I think, without O Brother, Where Art Thou—though, as a Preston Sturges aficionado, I had little choice but to like it). Nevertheless, the current state of cinema seems to suggest that where good (or at least clever) writing is not a commercial necessity, and where there are no artificially imposed limits within which writers must work, the general intellectual quality of the medium cannot help but decline, and do considerable cultural damage as it descends. It would certainly be hard, if nothing else, to argue credibly that artistic expression has been well served by the revolution in standards that has made scriptwriting an occupation dominated by sadistic adolescents, and hard to claim that the art has flourished in an era in which it has been proved that immense profits can be generated from minimal dialogue but plenteous bloodshed, and in which practically nothing is considered too degraded or degrading to be offered to the public.

All my bitter musings aside, however, let me stipulate that, in an ideal situation, the practice of censorship would be undertaken only by persons properly educated and formed, whose decisions would be under some form of collective review. But, precisely at this point (alas), I encounter an obstacle to censorship that makes a creditable regime of public standards seem so unlikely as to be, for all intents and purposes, a utopian fantasy. For while it really is not that difficult to recognize irredeemable obscenity when one encounters it, as things now stand it is difficult to say whom—what class of persons—one would care to entrust with a censor’s authority. We live at a time, after all, when even the humanities departments in our universities are frequently populated by scholars of rather exiguous learning, who think that épater les bourgeoises is a significant cultural and moral achievement, and who—in their insatiable craving for ever greater frissons of the subversive—can make an “artist,” “philosopher,” and “martyr” out of an ineffably tedious mediocrity like the Marquis de Sade. Censors drawn from those ranks might prove eager and indefatigable in searching out and suppressing every form of “hate speech” (that is, anything you are likely to find in a papal encyclical), but little else. I do not believe that, if we were to create some sort of board of censors, we would be likely to suffer the reign of the American equivalent of Soviet realist art; but this is in part because the persons we would choose for the office might not be sufficiently sophisticated to rise to so plausible a level of philistinism. Simply said, it may be that we no longer have enough civilization left to save.

At least, in my darker moments (which are frequent), that is what I think. At the end of the day, however, it does not matter whether I am right to do so; all of these considerations have about them something of the fabulous and absurd. Obviously no new laws of censorship will be passed in America; even among those who sincerely wish that the circumambient culture could be purged of its ever more aggressive coarseness, there are many who would see such laws as somehow contrary to the principles of their democracy and a threat to liberty in general. This is why I suspect—as I hinted above—that the real malady afflicting our culture lies not primarily in the division between those who would prefer and those who would resent more rigid social standards of decency, but far deeper down, in many of the premises that both parties share.

As it happens, by far the worst argument against censorship is the one likely to carry most weight with persons on both sides of the cultural divide: that, were certain cultural products legally proscribed, we would be denying people things they want, denying them the right to choose for themselves, putting limits upon expressive freedom, refusing to trust in the law of supply and demand—all of which is, of course, quite true. But to find this a compelling argument, one must already be convinced of the inalienable sanctity of choice, over against every other social good, and convinced, moreover, that freedom and choice are more or less synonymous. It is indeed true that many of us manifestly do want unimpeded access to explicit depictions of sex and violence, and to mindlessly brutal forms of entertainment, and to artifacts born solely from the basest impulses of the imagination; but surely, in point of fact, no society that simply concedes the prior right of its citizens to have whatever they want can ever really be free.

This is the crucial issue, I think: not what we understand decency to be, but what we mean when we speak of freedom. It is a curious condition of late Western modernity that, for so many of us, the highest ideal of the good society is simply democracy as such, and then within democracy varying alloys of capitalism, the welfare state, regionalism, federalism, individualism, and so on. And what we habitually understand democratic liberty to be—what we take, that is, as our most exalted model of freedom—is merely the unobstructed power of choice. The consequence of this, manifestly, is that we tend to elevate what should at best be regarded as the moral life’s minimal condition to the status of its highest expression, and in the process reduce the very concept of freedom to one of purely libertarian or voluntarist spontaneity. We have come to believe—more or less unreflectively—that the will necessarily becomes more free the more it is emancipated from whatever constraints it suffers; which means that, over the course of time, even our most revered moral traditions can come to seem onerous nuisances that we must shed if we are to secure our “rights.” At the very last, any constraint at all comes to seem an intolerable bondage. But it was not ever thus.

Obviously any sane organism is predisposed to resist subjugation to forces outside itself—which is to say, forces related to it only by their power over it—and every healthy soul has a natural prejudice in favor of its own autonomy. Moreover, any rational person naturally prefers the local to the general, the familiar to the abstract, the intimate to the universal, and so resents the intrusion of any alien or usurpatious power (the state, or large corporations, or heartless bureaucracies, or unjust laws) upon the independence or integrity of his person, or family, or native place, or culture, or faith. But this is to say no more than that it is natural to rebel against purely arbitrary or extrinsic constraints, either upon oneself or upon what one loves. What distinguishes the specifically modern conception of freedom from earlier models, however, especially in its most extreme expressions, is that it seems often to presume that all constraints are arbitrary and extrinsic, and that there is no such thing as a natural or intrinsic constraint at all.

And yet—and I would not even go so far as to call this a paradox—freedom is possible only through constraints. That sane organism of which I spoke above can be solicitous of its autonomy only because it is some particular thing; and for anything to be anything at all—to possess, that is, a concrete form—it must acquire and cultivate useful, defining, shaping limits. True freedom, at least according to one venerable definition, is the realization of a complex nature in its proper good (that is, in both its natural and supernatural ends); it is the freedom of a thing to flourish, to become ever more fully what it is. An absolutely “negative liberty”—the absence of any religious, cultural, or social restrictions upon the exercise of the will—may often seem desirable (at least for oneself) but ultimately offers only the “freedom” of chaos, of formless potential. This is enough, admittedly, if one’s highest model of life is protoplasm; but if one suspects that, as rational beings, we are called to a somewhat more elevated moral existence than that, one must begin to ask which impulses within us should be suppressed, both by ourselves and by the cultural rules that we all must share.

For instance, if one wishes to become “honorable” (a word so quaint and antique as now to have the power to charm but not to compel), one must accede to any number of elaborate restrictions upon one’s actions and even thoughts; and these restrictions unquestionably confine and inhibit desire and volition, and are themselves often more a matter of ritual comity and factitious grace and painful reserve than of practical necessity. And yet, as one learns to consent to a common and demanding set of conventions and duties, one also progressively acquires an ever greater purity of character, a stability and hence identity, a unified “self”; one emerges from the inchoate turmoil of mere emotion, and is liberated from the momentary impulses and vain promptings of the will, and arrives at what can truly be called one’s essence. The form, as Michelangelo liked to say, is liberated from the marble. In this way, precisely through accepting freely the constraints of a larger social and moral tradition and community, one gives shape to a character that can endure from moment to moment, rather than dissolving in each instant into whichever new inclination of appetite or curiosity rises up within one. One ceases to be governed by caprice, or to be the slave of one’s own liberty.

This understanding of freedom, however, requires not only the belief that we possess an actual nature, which must flourish to be free, but a belief in the transcendent Good towards which that nature is oriented. This Christians, Jews, and virtuous pagans have always understood: that which can endure in us is sustained by that which lies beyond us, in the eternity of its own plenitude. To be fully free is to be joined to that end for which our natures were originally framed, and for which—in the deepest reaches of our souls—we ceaselessly yearn. And whatever separates us from that end—even if it be our own power of choice within us—is a form of bondage. We are free not because we can choose, but only when we have chosen well. And to choose well we must ever more clearly see the “sun of the Good” (to employ the lovely Platonic metaphor), and yet to see more clearly we must choose well; and the more we are emancipated from illusion and caprice, and the more our will is informed by and responds to the Good, the more perfect our vision becomes, and the less there is really to choose. The consummation for which we should long, if we are wise, is that ultimately we shall, in St. Augustine’s language, achieve not only the liberty enjoyed by Adam and Eve—who were merely “able not to sin” (posse non peccare)—but the truest freedom of all, that of being entirely “unable to sin” (non posse peccare), because God’s will works perfectly in ours.

Which is why it is not only perplexing but deeply disturbing that so many Christians and Jews in the modern world unthinkingly embrace and defend a purely libertarian understanding of freedom, even as they decry the constant gravitation of modern society toward ever more arbitrary, decadent, and extreme expressions of just this kind of freedom. They cannot be acquitted on the grounds that the cultivation of virtue is the work of individual souls and not of society at large, for there is no such thing as private virtue, any more than there is such a thing as private language, and fallen creatures vary enormously in their capacity for obedience to the Good. Though to say this might make me seem like an unregenerate Christian Platonist (which is not too dreadful a fate, since that is precisely what I am), a society is just precisely to the degree that it makes true freedom possible; to do this it must leave certain areas of moral existence to govern themselves, but it must also in many cases seek to defeat the most vicious aspects of fallen nature, and to aid as far as possible in the elevation in each soul of right reason over mere appetite and impulse—which necessarily involves denying certain persons the things they want most. A just social order, that is to say, would be one devoted to what might be called a “pedagogy of the Good,” and would recognize that there can be no simple partition between the polity of the soul and the polity of the people, and that there is in fact a reciprocal spiritual relation—a harmony—between them. When appetite seizes the reins of the soul or the city, it drives the chariot toward ruin; so it is the very art of sound governance to seek to perfect the intricate and delicate choreography of moral and legal custom that will best promote the sway of reverent reason in city and soul alike.

Democracy is not something intrinsically good, after all. Where the moral formation of a people is deficient, the general will malign, or historical circumstance unpropitious, democracy is quite unambiguously wicked in its results. All of Plato’s warnings against “ochlocracy” have been proved right often enough, even within the confines of duly constituted republics, and even he could not have foreseen the magnitude of the evil that can be born from a popular franchise (the Third Reich leaps here rather nimbly to mind). The only sound premise for a people’s self-governance is a culture of common virtue directed towards the one Good. And a society that can no longer conceive of freedom as anything more than limitless choice and uninhibited self-expression must of necessity progressively conclude that all things should be permitted, that all values are relative, that desire fashions its own truth, that there is no such thing as “nature,” that we are our own creatures. The ultimate consequence of a purely libertarian political ethos, if it could be taken to its logical end, would be a world in which we would no longer even remember that we should want to choose the good, as we would have learned to deem things good solely because they have been chosen. This would in truth be absolute slavery to the momentary, the final eclipse of rational dignity, the triumph within us of the bestial over the spiritual, and so of death over life.

When all is said and done, however, as I have already more or less acknowledged, I am trading here not merely in speculation, but in extravagant fantasy. We are very far removed indeed from a culture capable of such pedagogy—perhaps farther now than at almost any other point in Western history. And in the age of the omnicompetent liberal state, when government is at once more intimately invasive of and more airily abstracted from the concrete reality of communities and families, even to speak of moral pedagogy is likely to invite any number of pernicious authoritarianisms. Moreover, we are very near to a consensus as a society not only that choice and self-expression are values in and of themselves, but that they are perhaps the highest values of all; and no society can believe such nonsense unless it has forsaken almost every substantial good.

This is why, as I say, I am not convinced that we are in any very meaningful sense in the midst of a “culture war”; I think it might at best be described as a fracas. I do not say that such a war would not be worth waging. Yet most of us have already unconsciously surrendered to the more insidious aspects of modernity long before we even contemplate drawing our swords from their scabbards and inspecting them for rust. This is not to say that there are no practical measures for those who wish in earnest for the battle to be joined: homeschooling or private “trivium” academies; the disposal or locking away of televisions; prohibitions on video games and popular music; Greek and Latin; great books; remote places; archaic enthusiasms. It is generally wise to seek to be separate, to be in the world but not of it, to be no more engaged with modernity than were the ancient Christians with the culture of pagan antiquity; and wise also to cultivate in our hearts a generous hatred toward the secular order, and a charitable contempt. Probably the most subversive and effective strategy we might undertake would be one of militant fecundity: abundant, relentless, exuberant, and defiant childbearing. Given the reluctance of modern men and women to be fruitful and multiply, it would not be difficult, surely, for the devout to accomplish—in no more than a generation or two—a demographic revolution. Such a course is quite radical, admittedly, and contrary to the spirit of the age, but that is rather the point, after all. It would mean often forgoing certain material advantages, and forfeiting a great deal of our leisure; it would often prove difficult to sustain a two-career family or to be certain of a lavish retirement. But if it is a war we want, we should not recoil from sacrifice.

In the end, however, no matter how much we would like to win back the culture around us, we can hope for no “victory” at all—no matter what practical measures we take—if we are not resolved first and foremost to extirpate the habits and presuppositions of secular modernity from within ourselves.


It wouldn't surprise de Tocqueville or the Founders, but we live in a republic so debased that political speech of completely unobjectionable content is banned but it is insisted that obscene, violent, and pornographic commercial speech must be beyond regulation.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:30 AM

INVIOLABLE AS IN INALIENABLE:

Did Descartes Doom Terri Schiavo? (JOHN LELAND, 3/27/05, NY Times)

IN the parade of faces talking about Terri Schiavo last week, two notable authorities were missing: Aristotle and Descartes. Yet their legacy was there.

Beneath the political maneuvering and legal wrangling, the case re-enacted a clash of ideals that has run through the history of Western thought. And in a way, it's the essential question that has been asked by philosophers since the dawn of human civilization. Is every human life precious, no matter how disabled? Or do human beings have the right to self-determination and to decide when life has value?

"The clash is about how we understand the human person," said Samuel Gregg, director of research at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, a conservative policy group.

The plea last week to prolong Ms. Schiavo's feeding, against the wishes of her husband or what courts determined to be her own expressed inclinations, echoed the teachings of Aristotle, who considered existence itself to be inviolable.

On the other side, the argument that Ms. Schiavo's life could be judged as not worth living echoed Descartes, the Enlightenment philosopher who defined human life not as biological existence - which might be an inviolable gift from God - but as consciousness, about which people can make judgments. [...]

[T]his idea that all life is sacred has exerted a powerful force in America, said Mark A. Noll, a professor of history at Wheaton College, a prestigious evangelical school in Illinois, and the author of "The Old Religion in a New World: The History of North American Christianity. " It fueled the abolitionist movement of the 18th and 19th centuries, which insisted on the humanity of slaves, against the prevailing views of social science. In the early 20th century, the same ideal stood up against eugenics, which advocated forced sterilization to prevent the weakest members of society from reproducing.

In both battles, Professor Noll said, people who held the sanctity of all human life as a religious conviction triumphed over an Enlightenment contention "that said 'No, we can qualify this value' " - meaning the value of a human life could be determined by scientific thought. [...]

[T]he scientific legacy of the Enlightenment, which argued that human life resided not in the body but the mind, is now being undermined, as modern neuroscience demystifies elements of thought and personality as heartless biochemical or genetic processes. The mind is simply prisoner to the body's DNA.

The ideas at play over this history do not conclude with Ms. Schiavo's case, but feed into arguments over abortion, stem-cell research, assisted suicide, the death penalty and even animal rights.

In their competing claims, these ideas are part of what defines America, said Courtney S. Campbell, a professor of medical ethics at Oregon State University who has argued for the rights of patients to pull the plug.

"It goes back to the foundations of the Republic - the right to life and the right to liberty in the Declaration of Independence," he said. "It's a deep-rooted conflict that goes to the core of who we are as a people and as a political society, so it's not surprising that it can be polarizing."


The notion that liberty can include the right to kill is vile.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:20 AM

NOT SO FAST, FELIX?:

The state of baseball - Questions abound as countdown to season continues (George Kimball, March 29, 2005, Boston Herald)

Babe Ruth was 19 years old when he appeared in his first major league game. So were Lou Gehrig and Mickey Mantle, a couple of other Yankees legends. Ted Williams broke into the big leagues when he was 20, as did his National League counterpart Stan (The Man) Musial. Al Kaline played in his first game for the Tigers at 18, and, trivia buffs will remind you, Joe Nuxhall pitched for the wartime Cincinnati Reds six weeks shy of his 16th birthday.

Take a guess how many of today's major leaguers are under 21?

Zero, that's how many.


Which is why baseball has managed to avoid the embarrassing meltdown of basic skills that has plagued football and especially basketball.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:46 AM

SHARE YOUR LOVE:

Whose Team Am I On? (DAVID BROOKS, 3/29/05, NY Times)

If you had chanced upon the front door of Grace Church School on lower Broadway on a sunny morning in the fall of 1969, you might have come upon a radiant boy clutching a brown paper bag that contained a piece of sacred turf harvested from Shea Stadium, where the New York Mets had recently won the world championship of baseball.

That boy grew up, slightly, and in the early spring of 1986, he vowed that he would ask his girlfriend to marry him the day the Mets won their 30th game of the season. The Mets got off to an unnervingly fast start that year, and the young man decided to postpone his proposal until the 40th win. But he followed through with it, and the marriage has even endured what his wife calls his Metsomnia - his tendency to toss and turn sleeplessly after his favorite baseball team has suffered a painful defeat.

And yet we are the playthings of fate and lead lives filled with strange twists, and I (for it is time to throw off the artfully constructed mask) now find myself contemplating the uncontemplatable: that I will switch my allegiance from the beloved Mets to the new team of my adopted town. I will become a fan of the Washington Nationals.

Already I feel the tug, the love that dare not speak its name. I own several Nationals caps. Some friends and I have bought season tickets.

In the midst of this spiritual crisis I have begun to ask the fundamental question. What is the nature of the loyalty that binds us to our teams? Can a team be tossed aside even though it has given you (especially during the 1970's) some of the worst years of its life?


There's a moral obligation to root for the first team you ever love and for the hometown team, but there doesn't seem any reason that you shouldn't have a number of different teams you like. The Brothers moved to Northern NJ in the later 60s, just in time for the Amazin' Mets of Cleon Jones and Tommie Agee so we'll always have a residual affection for the team, but deep in the heart of Sox Nation you can't help but follow the Hometown Team.


Posted by Paul Jaminet at 8:44 AM

TRICKLE-DOWN PSYCHOLOGY:

Random Thoughts (Thomas Sowell, 3/29/2005)

People on the political left not only have their own view of the world, they have a view of the world which they insist on attributing to others, regardless of what those others actually say. A classic example is the "trickle down theory," which no one has ever advocated, but which the left insists on fighting against.

Actually, it's worse than that: what the left attributes to others, and attacks them for, is what they themselves actually favor.

What could better fit the description of "trickle-down economics" than the argument that we should hand over our money to the government, let them "invest" it for us (in the memorable words of William Clinton), and expect to receive back more than we handed over? Isn't that precisely the trickle-down logic -- hand over your money to a powerful elite, and it will trickle back down to you in expanded form?

The "trickle-down economics" argument was a smokescreen. Now that Democrats are no longer actively seeking to expand government, they are no longer vulnerable to the trickle-down charge, so they have ceased to hurl the charge at Republicans.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:27 AM

SUBLIME SCHWEID:

59 former U.S. diplomats ask Senate to reject Bolton (The Associated Press, March 30, 2005)

Others who signed the letter include ...Princeton Lyman, ambassador to South Africa and Nigeria under Presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton; Monteagle Stearns, ambassador to Greece and Ivory Coast in the Ford, Carter and Reagan administrations; and Spurgeon Keeny Jr., deputy director of the Arms Control Agency in the Carter administration.

How he slipped that past the AP editors is anybody's guess, but it's the funniest thing in today's paper. One assumes their wives--Muffy, Buffy, & Bunny--are still seething over Jews being let into the country club.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:47 AM

JUST COMPORT WITH COMMUNITY STANDARDS:


Political storm cloud hangs over Hollywood
: Since the reelection of George W. Bush last fall, cultural conservatives have been flexing their muscles on the entertainment front. (Patrick Goldstein, March 29, 2005, LA Times)

Last week the lunch chatter in Hollywood was all about William Morris chief David Wirtschafter's ill-fated New Yorker interview and Pat O'Brien's lascivious answering machine messages. As usual, Hollywood is worried about the important things in life.

What they're not paying attention to is the fact that since the reelection of George W. Bush last fall, cultural conservatives have been flexing their muscles not only in the political arena but also on the entertainment front. Earlier this month, the chairmen of the Senate and House committees overseeing the broadcast industry said they were considering action that would make cable TV outlets such as HBO or MTV subject to the same indecency rules as network broadcasters, which, if nothing else, would cut most "Deadwood" episodes to the length of a cartoon short.

More recently, the New York Times reported that a number of Imax theaters, including some in science museums, have refused to exhibit movies that mention evolution or the big-bang theory, fearing protests from religious groups who object to films that don't support biblical descriptions of the origins of Earth. One would hope that won't apply to "King Kong" when it reaches theaters later this year. An official at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History said the museum had decided against showing a science film called "Volcanoes" because members of a test audience had viewed it as "blasphemous." And, of course, all this comes in the wake of Clint Eastwood's Oscar-winning "Million Dollar Baby," which was attacked by Rush Limbaugh and others as "a million-dollar euthanasia movie."

The industry response has been muted, to say the least. In Hollywood, when it's not an election year, few people worry about political storm clouds until the lightning hits their roof. But in an era in which Congress is willing to inject itself into baseball's steroid scandal or family decisions, as in the Terri Schiavo case, it would hardly be a stretch to imagine a few stray sparks setting off a political crusade against raunch and violence in Hollywood. If James Dobson can accuse SpongeBob SquarePants of being part of a pro-gay agenda, can charges of devil worship in "Bewitched" be far behind?


We'll accept any reason to get rid of drivel like Bewitched.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:44 AM

THE PARTY IN POWER GETS TO CAPITALIZE:

Leaders of the Opposition (NOAM SCHEIBER, 3/29/05, NY Times)

ACCORDING to a now infamous memo circulated among Republican senators, the Terri Schiavo case is a "great political issue" for their party. The memo is half right: the case may be good politics - but for Democrats. After all, in defending their intervention, Republican leaders in Congress have marshaled traditionally liberal arguments about the federal government's obligations to its citizens.

Indeed, the practical effect of the idealistic arguments the Republican leadership puts forth to defend much of its agenda - from health care to education to immigration reform - may be to sell the middle of the electorate on longtime Democratic positions.

This phenomenon may be most pronounced in foreign policy, the president's defining issue. It is true that the president can claim that recent events in Lebanon, Egypt and even Kyrgyzstan vindicate his decision to invade Iraq, and so may bolster his party. If this trend toward democratization continues, however, Democrats may be better positioned to capitalize on it politically.

The reason is that - as with education, health care and immigration - promoting liberal democracy is a project Democrats have historically embraced.


You can almost pity folks like Mr. Scheiber who haven't figured out yet that its the Republicans not the Democrats who reflect their values.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:40 AM

DIVISION OF LABOR:

Chinese shares in free fall (Asia Times, 3/29/05)

China's shares this week hit their lowest intra-day level in nearly six years due to a piling up of weak investor sentiment. The benchmark Shanghai composite index, which groups together foreign currency B shares and local currency A shares, slid 0.46% on Monday to close at 1,200.113 points after initially docking at 1,185.45 points at noon, 1.71 points lower than 1,187.26 - the previous record logged in May 1999.

Turnover in Shanghai hit 4.910 billion yuan (US$592 million), with the bourse's biggest loser - Dongfeng Technology - shedding 10.05% to close at 7.35 yuan. Analysts foresee more losses ahead with sentiment extremely weak after an unremitting share slump. Experts said the situation is the natural result of poor sentiment caused by the government's new economic cooling measures and the failure of regulators to take steps to solve the stock market's problems following the National People's Congress (NPC) and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).

"The government has taken a series of steps, such as the housing loan rate increase, to cool the overheating economy. It's estimated that tougher ones will follow and the gross domestic product [GDP] this year will fall. Most investors have a pessimistic view of the market and are reluctant to trade amid this prevalently weak sentiment," said Wang Kai, a manager from the Investment Research Department of China Securities Co.


Still folks wonder why they're so eager to buy our securities...


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:37 AM

THE PACKAGE:

Rice's tough-minded yet temperate style apparent in Asia visit (Richard Halloran, Mar 29, 2005, Taipei Times)

A South Korean journalist in Seoul last weekend asked the visiting US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice a pointed question about how she coped with a bureaucracy staffed largely with white men.

Rice neither sidestepped the query nor brushed it away but took it head-on.

She reminded the questioner that neither of her predecessors, Colin Powell and Madeleine Albright, had been white men, then asserted: "I'm a package, I'm black and female and me."

"I think I act as Condi Rice, and that's a person who is female and black and grew up in Alabama and lived in California and was a professor," she said.

She noted that her ancestors had been slaves but that "we're making a lot of progress in the United States."


Yeah, we moved on from that whole slavery deal...


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:26 AM

DOUBLE TALK FOR DOUBLE STANDARDS (via The Other Brother):

Walking in the Opposition's Shoes (NY Times, 3/29/05)

While the filibuster has not traditionally been used to stop judicial confirmations, it seems to us this is a matter in which it's most important that a large minority of senators has a limited right of veto. Once confirmed, judges can serve for life and will remain on the bench long after Mr. Bush leaves the White House. And there are few responsibilities given to the executive and the legislature that are more important than choosing the members of the third co-equal branch of government. The Senate has an obligation to do everything in its power to ensure the integrity of the process.

A decade ago, this page expressed support for tactics that would have gone even further than the "nuclear option" in eliminating the power of the filibuster. At the time, we had vivid memories of the difficulty that Senate Republicans had given much of Bill Clinton's early agenda. But we were still wrong. To see the filibuster fully, it's obviously a good idea to have to live on both sides of it. We hope acknowledging our own error may remind some wavering Republican senators that someday they, too, will be on the other side and in need of all the protections the Senate rules can provide.


Actually, what it reminds us is that only one party is required by the press to meet heightened standards, while the other is invited to use any means necessary.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:20 AM

HIS ACHILLES HEEL IS A PREDATOR:

`We are the termites' to Cuba's old regime: Washington boosts aid to groups backing internal opposition (Gary Marx, March 29, 2005, Chicago Tribune)

Far from the White House and Havana, in strip malls and nondescript buildings along South Florida's sunlit streets, a multimillion-dollar infusion from the U.S. government has rejuvenated Cuban-American non-profit groups providing assistance to Cuba's tiny opposition movement.

The groups' ultimate goal, supported by the Bush administration, is to bring political change to Cuba and end the presidency of Fidel Castro, who has remained in power despite numerous assassination attempts and a four-decade U.S. trade embargo.

Some of what the groups send to the island doesn't reach the dissidents they hope to help, and some of the groups' leaders acknowledge that the extra $14 million the administration is sending their way this year--on top of the nearly $9 million that was appropriated--is unlikely to bring down the Cuban government.

But that hasn't dimmed their enthusiasm for aiding what they describe as courageous opposition figures, whom they view as Castro's Achilles' heel.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM

RED/GREEN, AMERICAN STYLE:

Green Opportunities for the GOP: Republicans Need New Strategy on the Environment (Samuel Thernstrom, March 28, 2005, Ripon Forum)

With the national electorate closely divided, no party can afford to ignore a chance to seize the high ground on a major issue--and the opportunities for environmental leadership today are enormous. The broad outlines of a new approach to environmental regulation are obvious, but the loudest voices on these issues are firmly committed to the old “command-and-control” (and litigate, litigate, litigate) approach.

The greatest challenge in enacting new environmental legislation is not a lack of issues; it’s lack of leadership. Democrats are loathe to give the President a victory on an issue they consider their own, and Republicans so far have been willing to settle for defeat. The President and congressional leaders are understandably focused on higher profile questions, leaving environmental policymaking to drift. It’s a shame, because the sensible reform agenda is clear, and the political payoff for leading the way could be significant.

Sixty to seventy percent of Americans sympathize with the environmental movement, while only five or six percent are hostile to it. But at the same time, voters don’t take their cues from activists: In 2004, only 9 percent said they would be more likely to vote for the presidential candidate who carried the Sierra Club’s endorsement. And basic party preferences on the environment are more balanced than you might think. Only half of the electorate prefers Democrats, while a quarter to a third prefer Republicans; the rest are evenly divided or undecided.

To make progress on this issue, Republicans will have to overcome a national press corps that considers conservative conservationists oxymoronic. That can be done with a strong agenda and real commitment. Too often, the loudest Republican voices on the environment are hardliners who mock “tree huggers” and dismiss the EPA as an American Gestapo. This ignores the real opportunities here: With environmentalists and Democrats moving steadily to the left, the common sense center is up for grabs.

For more than ten years, America has stood at the threshold of a new era in environmental policymaking, but hasn’t stepped forward. The successes--and failures--of many of our landmark environmental laws (the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Superfund program) have been clear since the 1990s. All have accomplished much, although at needless cost, and all are straining against their limitations, undermined by unforeseen complications and unintended consequences. They haven’t met their goals completely, and they face uncertain prospects for getting the job done.

Enacted a generation ago, these laws have been revised only occasionally and incompletely, if at all. They were the first federal efforts to respond to important--and complicated--problems. It’s not surprising that they weren’t perfect; it’s surprising they worked at all. By now, their strengths and weaknesses are well understood, and yet reforms have been halting at best.

Take, for example, the Clean Air Act. A vast army of state and federal bureaucrats is employed issuing thousands of permits, inspecting facilities, and litigating everything from medical science to speculative engineering questions. Rigid regulations require overly prescriptive and sometimes counterproductive approaches to complex problems. Perverse regulatory incentives hinder innovation, as companies focus on the letter of the law rather than the larger goal of environmental performance. Every sector of the economy--and every household--bears some of the cost of this inefficiency; in some sectors, the cost is considerable. Meanwhile, in some areas, air pollution remains a serious public health problem, despite 35 years of federal regulation.

To do better--to make further improvements in air quality, where it’s needed, at less cost--we need a better regulatory approach. We need an approach that promotes less bureaucracy, less litigation, more flexibility and innovation--and perhaps most importantly, more reliable results. In broad terms, we know what is needed, but cannot agree on how to do it.


It's an issue that's been sitting there for awhile just waiting for the Republican willing to face the fury of his own party for talking it up.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM

WHAT AMERICA SEES:

Condiplomacy:
Travels with the new secretary of state. (Jonathan Karl, 04/04/2005, Weekly Standard)

Democratic reformers facing repression, prison, or exile can know: America sees you for who you are: the future leaders of your free country.
--George W. Bush, January 20, 2005

WHEN THE LEADING OPPOSITION FIGURE in Egypt was arrested on questionable charges in late January, Condoleezza Rice saw a perfect test of President Bush's inaugural promise to stand with democratic reformers around the world. Egyptian authorities jailed Ayman Nour just nine days after Bush's inaugural address. "They couldn't have picked a worse time to do this," Rice told Elliott Abrams of the National Security Council when she heard the news. Indeed. Rice first directed State Department spokesman Richard Boucher to make an uncharacteristically blunt statement. "We are concerned by the signal that the arrest sends," Boucher said, warning the Egyptians against "rough treatment" of Nour and noting, "He is one of Egypt's most prominent opposition leaders." Two weeks later, with Nour still in prison, Rice gave Hosni Mubarak's government the diplomatic equivalent of a kick in the teeth.

At the end of a meeting at the State Department with Egyptian foreign minister Ahmed Gheit and a sizable contingent of Egyptian and U.S. officials, Rice made her move. She asked everybody--except Gheit, the Egyptian ambassador, and David Satterfield of the State Department's Near Eastern Affairs Bureau--to leave the room. No note-takers, no posturing. Just blunt talk. "She shot him over Ayman Nour, just shot him," said a source familiar with the discussion. Rice's message was unambiguous: Nour's arrest threatened to poison U.S.-Egyptian relations. If he were not released, she warned, she might cancel plans for an upcoming trip to Cairo. Gheit said the Nour case was working its way through the Egyptian legal system and U.S. pressure would be unhelpful. This phase of the meeting lasted more than 20 minutes, as reporters waited for Rice, now uncharacteristically late, to appear at a joint press conference with Gheit. Stung by the bluntness of Rice's criticism, the Egyptians insisted she not mention Nour's name at the press conference.

She didn't have to say his name. When a reporter asked whether she had talked about Nour's imprisonment in the meeting, Rice avoided diplomatic niceties: "Yes, I did raise our concerns, our very strong concerns about this case," she said. "I did talk at some length about the importance of this issue to the United States, to the American administration, to the American Congress, to the American people." Visibly shaken, Gheit stood silently at Rice's side. Nour remained in jail, and Rice cancelled her long-planned trip to Egypt.

If her first months in office are any indication, Secretary Rice's State Department is going to be radically different from Colin Powell's.


One big thing she has going for her is that her peers are ill prepared for bluntness.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM

ENOUGH MAKE BELIEVE:

Taiwan democracy rises above bickering (Kathrin Hille, March 27 2005, Financial Times)

It was a good weekend for Liao Wen-yen. A massive protest in Taipei on Saturday against China's anti-secession law, which organisers said drew 1m people on to the streets, provided the garbage truck driver who collects banners and posters from demonstrations and election rallies with many new trophies. [...]

[P]articipants and political observers said the peaceful gathering was the most powerful statement Taiwan could make. David Lin, a marketing manager at a local telecoms company who took part in the march, said he decided to come although he did not support President Chen Shui-bian.

“I feel his rhetoric about loving Taiwan and the threat from China is somewhat exaggerated. But if we don't protest against the mainland passing a law which is in total denial of reality that [Taiwan is] not a Chinese province but a country of our own we will become [the world's] laughing stock.” Other participants said the different views were the best proof of Taiwan's democratic way of life. “If we were part of China, we could not possibly be doing this today,” said Angela Yeh, a sales agent who had come with her family. China's state-controlled media condemned the event. The Xinhua news agency said: “Taiwan independence forces were trying to stir up popular resentment against China, and organising a political carnival was a useless waste of money.”

As Taiwan enters a period of campaigning ahead of elections for the National Assembly in early May, the DPP can be expected to use the pictures and slogans from the demonstration to increase voter turnout.

But observers have also expressed relief that the ruling party has stayed clear of radical anti-China moves.

“It is encouraging that the DPP has managed to mobilise people without having emotions get out of hand,” said Emile Sheng, of Soochow University in Taipei.


It's long past time for Taiwan to get out of hand and declare itself a completely separate nation from China.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM

THINK HOWARD DEAN CAN REACH THEM?

For family, religion shapes politics: Heartlanders convert others to live daily by 'the word of God' (Brian MacQuarrie, March 29, 2005, Boston Globe)

Michael and MarCee Wilkerson bow their heads and pray before every meal, even when they are surrounded by strangers at Skyline Chili. Their older daughter, Brittany, 13, listens to Christian-accented rap, hip-hop, and R&B. And Brooke, 9, is fond of wearing a T-shirt that proclaims, ''Jesus is my Homeboy."

A middle-class family in a Cincinnati suburb, the Wilkersons are evangelical Christians for whom a literal interpretation of the Bible is a blueprint for living. Religious beliefs also guide their politics in this staunchly Republican region, which helped President Bush carry Ohio and the national election.

To them, the president is ''a godly man" and Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts is not.

Such thinking is prompting many Democrats to rethink the party's message on religion and abortion, and how to reach out to voters for whom religion plays a critical, determining role. But in the Wilkersons' four-bedroom home, nestled between a creek and a cul-de-sac, a political conversion seems unlikely at best.

The Wilkersons oppose abortion and stem-cell research, consider homosexuality a sin, and regard same-sex marriage as the work of activist judges who cater to a dangerous fringe group. The future holds either heaven or hell, and the only way to paradise is to accept Jesus Christ. In their reading of Scripture, even a saintly non-Christian such as Gandhi has been doomed to eternal torment.

''This is the word of God," Michael Wilkerson says, brandishing the New International Version of the Bible. ''There's only one way, and it's through Jesus."


March 28, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:44 PM

FOOLISH CHILDREN:

The Children of Light and the Children of Darkness: A Vindication of Democracy and a Critique of its Traditional Defense (Reinhold Niebuhr, 1944, Charles Scribner’s Sons)

The thesis of this volume grew out of my conviction that democracy has a more compelling justification and requires a more realistic vindication than is given it by the liberal culture with which it has been associated in modern history. The excessively optimistic estimates of human nature and of human history with which the democratic credo has been historically associated are a source of peril to democratic society; for contemporary experience is refuting this optimism and there is danger that it will seem to refute the democratic ideal as well.

A free society requires some confidence in the ability of men to reach tentative and tolerable adjustments between their competing interests and to arrive at some common notions of justice which transcend all partial interests. A consistent pessimism in regard to man’s rational capacity for justice invariably leads to absolutistic political theories; for they prompt the conviction that only preponderant power can coerce the various vitalities of a community into a working harmony. But a too consistent optimism in regard to man's ability and inclination to grant justice to his fellows obscures the perils of chaos which perennially confront every society, including a free society. In one sense a democratic society is particularly exposed to the dangers of confusion. If these perils are not appreciated they may overtake a free society and invite the alternative evil of tyranny.

But modem democracy requires a more realistic philosophical and religious basis, not only in order to anticipate and understand the perils to which it is exposed; but also to give it a more persuasive justification. Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible; but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary. In all nondemocratic political theories the state or the ruler is invested with uncontrolled power for the sake of achieving order and unity in the community. But the pessimism which prompts and justifies this policy is not consistent; for it is not applied, as it should be, to the ruler. If men are inclined to deal unjustly with their fellows, the possession of power aggravates this inclination. That is why irresponsible and uncontrolled power is the greatest source of injustice.

The democratic techniques of a free society place checks upon the power of the ruler and administrator and thus prevent it from becoming vexatious. The perils of uncontrolled power are perennial reminders of the virtues of a democratic society; particularly if a society should become inclined to impatience with the dangers of freedom and should be tempted to choose the advantages of coerced unity at the price of freedom.

The consistent optimism of our liberal culture has prevented modern democratic societies both from gauging the perils of freedom accurately and from appreciating democracy fully as the only alternative to justice and oppression. When this optimism is not qualified to accord with the real and complex facts of human nature and history, there is always a danger that sentimentality will give way to despair and that a too consistent optimism will alternate with a too consistent pessimism. [...]

Democracy, as every other historic ideal and institution, contains both ephemeral and more permanently valid elements. Democracy is on the one hand the characteristic fruit of a bourgeois civilization; on the other hand it is a perennially valuable form of social organization in which freedom and order are made to support, and not to contradict, each other.

Democracy is a "bourgeois ideology" in so far as it expresses the typical viewpoints of the middle classes who have risen to power in European civilization in the past three or four centuries. Most of the democratic ideals, as we know them, were weapons of the commercial classes who engaged in stubborn, and ultimately victorious, conflict with the ecclesiastical and aristocratic rulers of the feudal-medieval world. The ideal of equality, unknown in the democratic life of the Greek city states and derived partly from Christian and partly from Stoic sources, gave the bourgeois classes a sense of self-respect in overcoming the aristocratic pretension and condescension of the feudal overlords of medieval society. The middle classes defeated the combination of economic and political power of mercantilism by stressing economic liberty; and, through the principles of political liberty, they added the political power of suffrage to their growing economic power. The implicit assumptions, as well as the explicit ideals, of democratic civilization were also largely the fruit of middle-class existence. The social and historical optimism of democratic life, for instance, represents the typical illusion of an advancing class which mistook its own progress for the progress of the world.

Since bourgeois civilization, which came to birth in the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries and reached its zenith in the nineteenth century, is now obviously in grave peril, if not actually in rigor mortis in the twentieth century, it must be obvious that democracy, in so far as it is a middle-class ideology, also faces its doom.

This fate of democracy might be viewed with equanimity, but for the fact that it has a deeper dimension and broader validity than its middle-class character. Ideally democracy is a permanently valid form of social and political organization which does justice to two dimensions of human existence: to man’s spiritual stature and his social character; to the uniqueness and variety of life, as well as to the common necessities of all men. Bourgeois democracy frequently exalted the individual at the expense of the community; but its emphasis upon liberty contained a valid element, which transcended its excessive individualism. The community requires liberty as much as does the individual; and the individual requires community more than bourgeois thought comprehended. Democracy can therefore not be equated with freedom. An ideal democratic order seeks unity within the conditions of freedom; and maintains freedom within the framework of order.

Man requires freedom in his social organization because he is "essentially" free, which is to say, that he has the capacity for indeterminate transcendence over the processes and limitations of nature. This freedom enables him to make history and to elaborate communal organizations in boundless variety and in endless breadth and extent. But he also requires community because he is by nature social. He cannot fulfill his life within himself but only in responsible and mutual relations with his fellows.

Bourgeois democrats are inclined to believe that freedom is primarily a necessity for the individual, and that community and social order are necessary only because there are many individuals in a small world, so that minimal restrictions are required to prevent confusion. Actually the community requires freedom as much as the individual; and the individual requires order as much as does the community.

Both the individual and the community require freedom so that neither communal nor historical restraints may prematurely arrest the potencies which inhere in man’s essential freedom and which express themselves collectively as well as individually. It is true that individuals are usually the initiators of new insights and the proponents of novel methods. Yet there are collective forces at work in society which are not the conscious contrivance of individuals. In any event society is as much the beneficiary of freedom as the individual. In a free society new forces may enter into competition with the old and gradually establish themselves. In a traditional or tyrannical form of social organization new forces are either suppressed, or they establish themselves at the price of social convulsion and upheaval.

The order of a community is, on the other hand, a boon to the individual as well as to the community. The individual cannot be a true self in isolation. Nor can he live within the confines of the community which "nature" establishes in the minimal cohesion of family and herd. His freedom transcends these limits of nature, and therefore makes larger and larger social units both possible and necessary. It is precisely because of the essential freedom of man that he requires a contrived order in his community.

The democratic ideal is thus more valid than the libertarian and individualistic version of it which bourgeois civilization elaborated. Since the bourgeois version has been discredited by the events of contemporary history and since, in any event, bourgeois civilization is in process of disintegration, it becomes important to distinguish and save what is permanently valid from what is ephemeral in the democratic order.

If democracy is to survive it must find a more adequate cultural basis than the philosophy which has informed the building of the bourgeois world. The inadequacy of the presuppositions upon which the democratic experiment rests does not consist merely in the excessive individualism and libertarianism of the bourgeois world view; though it must be noted that this excessive individualism prompted a civil war in the whole western world in which the rising proletarian classes pitted an excessive collectivism against the false individualism of middle-class life. This civil conflict contributed to the weakness of democratic civilization when faced with the threat of barbarism. Neither the individualism nor the collectivism did justice to all the requirements of man’s social life, and the conflict between half-truth and half-truth divided the civilized world in such a way that the barbarians were able to claim first one side and then the other in this civil conflict as their provisional allies.

But there is a more fundamental error in the social philosophy of democratic civilization than the individualism of bourgeois democracy and the collectivism of Marxism. It is the confidence of both bourgeois and proletarian idealists in the possibility of achieving an easy resolution of the tension and conflict between self-interest and the general interest. Modern bourgeois civilization is not, as Catholic philosophers and medievalists generally assert, a rebellion against universal law, or a defiance of universal standards of justice, or a war against the historic institutions which sought to achieve and preserve some general social and international harmony. Modern secularism is not, as religious idealists usually aver, merely a rationalization of self-interest, either individual or collective. Bourgeois individualism may be excessive and it may destroy the individual's organic relation to the community; but it was not intended to destroy either the national or the international order. On the contrary the social idealism which informs our democratic civilization had a touching faith in the possibility of achieving a simple harmony between self-interest and the general welfare on every level.

It is not true that Nazism is the final fruit of a moral cynicism which had its rise in the Renaissance and Reformation, as Catholic apologists aver. Nazi barbarism is the final fruit of a moral cynicism which was only a subordinate note in the cultural life of the modern period, and which remained subordinate until very recently. Modern civilization did indeed seek to give the individual a greater freedom in the national community than the traditional feudal order had given him; and it did seek to free the nations of restraints placed upon their freedom by the international church. But it never cynically defied the general interest in the name of self-interest, either individual or collective. It came closer to doing this nationally than individually. Machiavelli’s amoral "Prince," who knows no law beyond his own will and power, is made to bear the whole burden of the Catholic polemic against the modern world. It must be admitted that Machiavelli is the first of a long line of moral cynics in the field of international relations. But this moral cynicism only qualifies, and does not efface, the general universalistic overtone of modern liberal idealism. In the field of domestic politics the war of uncontrolled interests may have been the consequence, but it was certainly not the intention, of middle-class individualists. Nor was the conflict between nations in our modern world their intention. They did demand a greater degree of freedom for the nations; but they believed that it was possible to achieve an uncontrolled harmony between them, once the allegedly irrelevant restrictions of the old religio-political order were removed. In this they proved to be mistaken. They did not make the mistake, however, of giving simple moral sanction to self-interest. They depended rather upon controls and restraints which proved to be inadequate.

II.

In illumining this important distinction more fully, we may well designate the moral cynics, who know no law beyond their will and interest, with a scriptural designation of "children of this world" or "children of darkness." Those who believe that self-interest should be brought under the discipline of a higher law could then be termed "the children of light." This is no mere arbitrary device; for evil is always the assertion of some self-interest without regard to the whole, whether the whole be conceived as the immediate community, or the total community of mankind, or the total order of the world. The good is, on the other hand, always the harmony of the whole on various levels. Devotion to a subordinate and premature "whole" such as the nation, may of course become evil, viewed from the perspective of a larger whole, such as the community of mankind. The "children of light" may thus be defined as those who seek to bring self-interest under the discipline of a more universal law and in harmony with a more universal good.

According to the scripture "the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light." This observation fits the modern situation. Our democratic civilization has been built, not by children of darkness but by foolish children of light. It has been under attack by the children of darkness, by the moral cynics, who declare that a strong nation need acknowledge no law beyond its strength. It has come close to complete disaster under this attack, not because it accepted the same creed as the cynics; but because it underestimated the power of self-interest, both individual and collective, in modern society. The children of light have not been as wise as the children of darkness.

The children of darkness are evil because they know no law beyond the self. They are wise, though evil, because they understand the power of self-interest. The children of light are virtuous because they have some conception of a higher law than their own will. They are usually foolish because they do not know the power of self-will. They underestimate the peril of anarchy in both the national and the international community. Modern democratic civilization is, in short, sentimental rather than cynical. It has an easy solution for the problem of anarchy and chaos on both the national and international level of community, because of its fatuous and superficial view of man. It does not know that the same man who is ostensibly devoted to the "common good" may have desires and ambitions, hopes and fears, which set him at variance with his neighbor.

It must be understood that the children of light are foolish not merely because they underestimate the power of self-interest among the children of darkness. They underestimate this power among themselves. [...]

In the social philosophy of Adam Smith there was both a religious guarantee of the preservation of community and a moral demand that the individual consider its claims. The religious guarantee was contained in Smith’s secularized version of providence. Smith believed that when a man is guided by self-interest he is also "led by an invisible hand to promote an end which is not his intention." This "invisible hand" is of course the power of a pre-established social harmony, conceived as a harmony of nature, which transmutes conflicts of self-interest into a vast scheme of mutual service.

Despite this determinism Smith does not hesitate to make moral demands upon men to sacrifice their interests to the wider interest. The universalistic presupposition which underlies Smith's thought is clearly indicated for instance in such an observation as this: "The wise and virtuous man is at all times willing that his own private interests should be sacrificed to the public interest of his own particular order of society — that the interests of this order of society be sacrificed to the greater interest of the state. He should therefore be equally willing that all those inferior interests should be sacrificed to the greater interests of the universe, to the interests of that great society of all sensible and intelligent beings of which God himself is the immediate administrator and director."

It must be noted that in Smith’s conception the "wider interest" does not stop at the boundary of the national state. His was a real universalism in intent. Laissez faire was intended to establish a world community as well as a natural harmony of interests within each nation. Smith clearly belongs to the children of light. But the children of darkness were able to make good use of his creed. A dogma which was intended to guarantee the economic freedom of the individual became the "ideology" of vast corporate structures of a later period of capitalism, used by them, and still used, to prevent a proper political control of their power. His vision of international harmony was transmuted into the sorry realities of an international capitalism which recognized neither moral scruples nor political restraints in expanding its power over the world. His vision of a democratic harmony of society, founded upon the free play of economic forces, was refuted by the tragic realities of the class conflicts in western society. Individual and collective egotism usually employed the political philosophy of this creed, but always defied the moral idealism which informed it.

The political theory of liberalism, as distinct from the economic theory, based its confidence in the identity of particular and universal interests, not so much upon the natural limits of egotism as upon either the capacity of reason to transmute egotism into a concern for the general welfare, or upon the ability of government to overcome the potential conflict of wills in society. But even when this confidence lies in reason or in government, the actual character of the egotism which must be restrained is frequently measured in the dimension of the natural impulse of survival only. Thus John Locke, who thinks government necessary in order to overcome the "inconvenience of the state of nature," sees self-interest in conflict with the general interest only on the low level where "self-preservation" stands in contrast to the interests of others. He therefore can express the sense of obligation to others in terms which assume no final conflict between egotism and the wider interest: "Everyone," he writes, "as he is bound to preserve himself and not to quit his station willfully, so by the like reason, when his own preservation comes not into competition, ought as much as he can preserve the rest of mankind." This is obviously no creed of a moral cynic; but neither is it a profound expression of the sense of universal obligation. For most of the gigantic conflicts of will in human history, whether between individuals or groups, take place on a level, where "self-preservation" is not immediately but only indirectly involved. They are conflicts of rival lusts and ambitions.

The general confidence of an identity between self-interest and the commonweal, which underlies liberal democratic political theory, is succinctly expressed in Thomas Paine’s simple creed: "Public good is not a term opposed to the good of the individual; on the contrary it is the good of every individual collected. It is the good of all, because it is the good of every one; for as the public body is every individual collected, so the public good is the collected good of those individuals."

While there is a sense in which this identity between a particular and the general interest is ultimately true, it is never absolutely true in an immediate situation; and such identity as could be validly claimed in an immediate situation is not usually recognized by the proponents of particular interest. Human intelligence is never as pure an instrument of the universal perspective as the liberal democratic theory assumes, though neither is it as purely the instrument of the ego, as is assumed by the anti-democratic theory, derived from the pessimism of such men as Thomas Hobbes and Martin Luther.

The most naive form of the democratic faith in an identity between the individual and the general interest is developed by the utilitarians of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Their theory manages to extract a covertly expressed sense of obligation toward the "greatest good of the greatest number" from a hedonistic analysis of morals which really lacks all logical presuppositions for any idea of obligation, and which cannot logically rise above an egoistic view of life. This utilitarianism therefore expresses the stupidity of the children of light in its most vivid form. Traditional moralists may point to any hedonistic doctrine as the creed of the children of darkness, because it has no real escape from egotism. But since it thinks it has, it illustrates the stupidity of the children of light, rather than the malice of the children of darkness. It must be observed of course that the children of darkness are well able to make use of such a creed. Utilitarianism's conception of the wise egotist, who in his prudence manages to serve interests wider than his own, supported exactly the same kind of political philosophy as Adam Smith’s conception of the harmless egotist, who did not even have to be wise, since the providential laws of nature held his egotism in cheek. So Jeremy Bentham’s influence was added to that of Adam Smith in support of a laissez-faire political philosophy; and this philosophy encouraged an unrestrained expression of human greed at the precise moment in history when an advancing industrialism required more, rather than less, moral and political restraint upon economic forces.

It must be added that, whenever the democratic idealists were challenged to explain the contrast between the actual behaviour of men and their conception of it, they had recourse to the evolutionary hope; and declared with William Godwin, that human history is moving toward a form of rationality which will finally achieve a perfect identity of self-interest and the public good.

Perhaps the most remarkable proof of the power of this optimistic creed, which underlies democratic thought, is that Marxism, which is ostensibly a revolt against it, manages to express the same optimism in another form. While liberal democrats dreamed of a simple social harmony, to be achieved by a cool prudence and a calculating egotism, the actual facts of social history revealed that the static class struggle of agrarian societies had been fanned into the flames of a dynamic struggle. Marxism was the social creed and the social cry of those classes who knew by their miseries that the creed of the liberal optimists was a snare and a delusion. Marxism insisted that the increasingly overt social conflict in democratic society would have to become even more overt, and would finally be fought to a bitter conclusion. But Marxism was also convinced that after the triumph of the lower classes of society, a new society would emerge in which exactly that kind of harmony between all social forces would be established, which Adam Smith had regarded as a possibility for any kind of society. The similarities between classical laissez-faire theory and the vision of an anarchistic millennium in Marxism are significant, whatever may be the superficial differences. [...]

Hegel imagined that the nation, free of political but not of moral inhibitions, could nevertheless, by thinking "in Weltgeschichte" (that is, by becoming fully conscious of its relation to mankind), thereby "lay hold of its concrete universality." The error is very similar to that of Fichte and of all the universalists whether naturalistic or idealistic, positivist or romantic. It is the error of a too great reliance upon the human capacity for transcendence over self-interest. There is indeed such a capacity. If there were not, any form of social harmony among men would be impossible; and certainly a democratic version of such harmony would be quite unthinkable But the same man who displays this capacity also reveals varying degrees of the power of self-interest and of the subservience of the mind to these interests. Sometimes this egotism stands in frank contradiction to the professed ideal or sense of obligation to higher and wider values; and sometimes it uses the ideal as its instrument.

It is this fact which a few pessimists in our modern culture have realized, only to draw undemocratic and sometimes completely cynical conclusions from it. The democratic idealists of practically all schools of thought have managed to remain remarkably oblivious to the obvious facts. Democratic theory therefore has not squared with the facts of history. This grave defect in democratic theory was comparatively innocuous in the heyday of the bourgeois period, when the youth and the power of democratic civilization surmounted all errors of judgment and confusions of mind. But in this latter day, when it has become important to save what is valuable in democratic life from the destruction of what is false in bourgeois civilization, it has also become necessary to distinguish what is false in democratic theory from what is true in democratic life.

The preservation of a democratic civilization requires the wisdom of the serpent and the harmlessness of the dove. The children of light must be armed with the wisdom of the children of darkness but remain free from their malice. They must know the power of self-interest in human society without giving it moral justification. They must have this wisdom in order that they may beguile, deflect, harness and restrain self-interest, individual and collective, for the sake of the community.


The whole book is excellent, as so much of what he wrote, but it's best as a reminder that so much of even the best intentioned liberalism--libertarianism, capitalism, etc.--is so flawed as to be dangerous because grounded in an unrealistic conception of humankind. Importantly though, this message is tempered with a warning to the conservative that this does not justify a descent into cynicism and pessimism. Of course, the balance that Niebuhr requires us to strike is no easy thing to achieve, but then no one said life would be easy...


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:11 PM

KINGS SEEN AND UNSEEN:

Ban this racist hymn, says bishop (Jonathan Petre and Jonathan Wynne-Jones, 12/08/2004, Daily Telegraph)

A Church of England bishop has called on churches to ban the singing of I Vow to Thee, My Country, one of the best known hymns, because he says it is heretical and has racist overtones.

The Bishop of Hulme, the Rt Rev Stephen Lowe, said the hymn's popularity was a symptom of a "dangerous" increase in English nationalism which had parallels with the rise of Nazism. [...]

The bishop said the words, written by Sir Cecil Spring-Rice in 1918, were "totally heretical" because they suggested that people should pledge their allegiance to their country before God. [...]

The bishop said the emergence of nationalism had been evident during the Euro 2004 football tournament and recent military anniversaries such as D-Day.

"It is like American culture where there is this view that America is the land of the free when we know it is not. But there are those in America who want to maintain that it is and want to impose their understanding, their culture, their way of doing things on everybody else. That is dangerous."


Allegiance can, of course, only be pledged to a country, not to God.


MORE:
I Vow to Thee, My Country (Ce­cil A. Spring-Rice, 1918)

I vow to thee, my country—all earthly things above—
Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love;
The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test,
That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best;
The love that never falters, the love that pays the price,
The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.

And there’s another country, I’ve heard of long ago—
Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know;
We may not count her armies, we may not see her King;
Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;
And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,
And her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are peace.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:59 PM

OUT, OUT DAMN SPOTS:

Dances with fruit flies (Thomas Hayden, 3/28/05, US News)

The fly, at first, looks like nothing so much as a tiny matador. Now standing still, now feinting left or darting right, he circles the petri dish arena, waving a black-tipped wing at his quarry like a red cape. But he's a lover, not a fighter, and his dance is intended to induce the fruit fly equivalent of a swoon. Scientists can no more explain why female Drosophila biarmipes flies go gaga for manly markings than they can determine what it is that attracts teenage girls to Ashton Kutcher. But the spots--unheard of in biarmipes' s cousin, the widely studied lab fly D. melanogaster --are helping to shed light on even more vexing questions of animal evolution. Among them: How can species with nearly identical DNA turn out as different as biarmipes is from melanogaster, or as humans are from chimpanzees?

We're living at a strange moment in America. Once again, evolution is becoming a controversial topic. But while school boards are revisiting the 19th-century debate over whether evolution even happens, 21st-century scientists are beginning to show exactly how the natural phenomenon works. Using the powerful tools of molecular biology and comparative genomics, they're finding specific changes in the DNA that can account for 17,000 species of butterfly or why insects have only six legs instead of a dozen. And while some 55 percent of Americans balk at the idea that humans evolved at all, analysis of the genes that build our bodies shows our clear kinship not just to the apes but all the way back to bugs, worms, and beyond. Along the way, scientists are starting to find concrete explanations for everything from our large brains to just exactly how the fruit fly--or the leopard, for that matter--got its spots.

Sean Carroll, in whose University of Wisconsin-Madison laboratory the biarmipes flies danced, has been at the head of the new wave of evolutionary studies for two decades. An investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Carroll sets out in his engaging new book, Endless Forms Most Beautiful (W. W. Norton), to introduce us to the field he helped found: evolutionary developmental biology, or "evo devo." [...]

All fruit flies have the genes needed to make wing spots, including a gene for black pigment called, confusingly enough, Yellow. That gene is turned on at low levels throughout all fruit fly wings, but only male biarmipes flies have the characteristic spot. Writing recently in Nature, Carroll's research team reported finding mutations in a genetic switch for Yellow in biarmipes flies that allow a finer level of control; one part of the switch keeps gene expression low throughout the wing, while another cranks up expression at the tips, creating the characteristic spot.

It's just one small step in the twisting path of evolution, of course. But it's not hard to see how many such changes in gene switches--accompanied by even small survival advantages such as females who prefer spotted mates--could lead over time to a new species, with little change in the genes themselves. It's a principle that is found again and again throughout the animal kingdom, Carroll says, and one that should help solve one of the greatest biological mysteries of recent years. [...]

Speaking recently in his office--a space so comfortably cluttered it almost resembles a nest--sporting shaggy hair and dressed in jeans and sneakers, Carroll seems about as content as a man can be. But the critics of evolution--he calls them deniers--are really starting to get under his skin.


No wonder Mr. Carroll is upset; he's begged all the important questions and accidentally added weight to the arguments of his opponents, yet still folks don't agree with him. At the end of the day he and his cronies have used intelligent design to demonstrate that drosphila don't speciate no matter how much you isolate them.


Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:39 PM

BLAME OPRAH

Fears as girls of 11 found drunk on streets (Brian Ferguson, The Scotsman, March 28th, 2005)

Girls as young as 11 are regularly being found drunk and incapable on the streets of the Capital amid growing fears about the effects of "ladette" culture.

Police chiefs said today that young girls now account for the vast majority of "teeny tipplers" picked up by officers in the city. [...]

Police chiefs said their greatest concern was the growing trouble caused by schoolgirls and the attitude of many parents.

A Lothian and Borders Police spokesman said: "The link between alcohol abuse and youth crime is nothing new, but what we are finding is a growing ‘ladette’ culture in the Capital. Girls are increasingly behind instances of drunken disorder and we’re asking parents to ensure that they know where their kids are and what they’re up to at night."

Officers said they were often astounded by the attitude of parents when they took their daughters, or sons, home drunk.

One officer told the Evening News: "Everyone seems to think their own kids won’t be the ones who are doing this. However, it’s quite clear that some parents either don’t know, or don’t care, what their children are up to.

"The first they know about it is when our officers bring ‘little Jenny’ home and she’s drunk. Even then, some will try and blame everyone else for her condition. Frankly, they need to get a grip."

Socio-economic factors undoubtedly play a role here, but perhaps not as much as one might imagine. Anyone who talks to a modern police officer or school principal will hear lots of tales of woe about how, while in times gone by parents generally supported and cooperated with authorities on discipline issues, even the most privileged are now more likely to hurl defensive accusations and threaten lawsuits at anyone who accuses their precious jewels of any wrongdoings.

Children used to be seen as unformed blobs of charming cuteness, neediness and selfishness that had to be guided and pushed into maturity by love, education and discipline. Now, more and more, they are seen by their parents as delicate, perfectly-formed creatures without original sin who are pre-destined to corner the market in silver futures or win an Olympic gold medal if no one fractures their fragile-as-fresh-eggshell egos. Such as by telling them they are in big trouble when they misbehave and are going to pay for it.



Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:30 PM

CALLING JUDGE GREER

Schiavo's family squabbles over her funeral (Richard Luscombe, The Scotsman, March 28th, 2005)

The legal fight to keep brain-damaged Terri Schiavo alive appeared to be over last night, but a new row erupted between her husband and her parents over what will happen to her body after she dies.

Michael Schiavo, who had his wife’s feeding tube removed by court order ten days ago, has made arrangements for her to be cremated and her ashes interred in his family’s plot in Pennsylvania.

But Bob and Mary Schindler want their daughter to have a Roman Catholic funeral service and to be buried near their home in Clearwater, Florida. They are also furious that her husband denied her an Easter communion.

What these interfering and selfish parents don’t realize is that, on their first date, Terri told Michael she was unsure about the doctrine of transubstantiation and that once, while watching a film of a fevered crowd spilling Ayatollah Khomeini’s body out of his casket, she said it might have been more dignified if he had been cremated.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:29 PM

SPEECH SO IMPORTANT IT SHOULDN'T BE CHALLENGED:

Voters recall Pledge objector (Valerie Richardson, 3/23/05, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Voters in Estes Park, Colo., removed town trustee David Habecker from office Tuesday in a recall election that hinged on his refusal to recite the Pledge of Allegiance at town meetings.

Mr. Habecker, who lost by a vote of 903-605, said he is considering whether to pursue further legal action to overturn the recall outcome, arguing that the voters had infringed upon his First Amendment rights.


The right to speech wouldn't be worth protecting if we didn't have the corresponding prerogative to judge you by what you say you believe.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:23 PM

IMPERFECT WEATHERVANE:

In Rare Exchange, Jordan's King Says Syria, Iran Threaten Israel: 'Bold' Words to Groups Seen as Bid for Key Role (Ori Nir, March 25, 2005, Forward)

Syria and Iran are pushing Hezbollah to increase anti-Israeli terrorism, Jordan's King Abdullah warned this week, in a rare rebuke of other Muslim countries in front of a Jewish audience.

Abdullah made his remarks Tuesday in a meeting with Jewish communal leaders. According to participants in the meeting, the king told Jewish communal leaders that he recently offered a similar warning to Israeli Prime Minister Sharon, predicting that Hezbollah may launch attacks either directly or through its Islamist allies in the West Bank and Gaza.

It is highly unusual for an Arab leader to lob such severe accusations at another Arab state in a meeting with American Jews. The gathering was organized by the Jordanians and involved representatives of several organizations, including the two most influential Jewish groups on Israel-related issues, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

"This was striking," one participant said, noting that in past meetings Abdullah characterized Syrian President Bashar Assad as a pragmatist with whom Israel and the United States ought to be talking.

The remarks appeared to be part of a wider effort by Jordan to establish itself as a key address for Middle East peacemaking and as America's main Arab ally.


Sadly, as the Iraq War demonstrated, having the Hashemites switch to your side isn't necessarily an indicator that you're winning.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:07 PM

SQUARING EUGENICS AND THE FOUNDING:

The Terri Schiavo Debacle from a Progressive Disability Perspective (Josie Byzek, 3/28/05, Common Dreams)

It's been a hard week for disability rights activists like me who have strong feelings about Terri Schiavo's situation. Personally I am shocked that the revulsion I feel about how lightly the president and the U.S. Congress hold our Constitution isn't universally shared by my fellow disability rights activists, most of whom, like me, are card-carrying members of various progressive organizations. Some of my colleagues want to "save Terri at all costs," but I don't think anyone's life is worth even a ding on the U.S. Constitution.

There has been a lot of dialog in the disability community this week, though, and that painfully open dialog has helped me frame how I understand what I think needs to happen next regarding situations like Terri Schiavo's.

I have personally known people who were thought to "not be there" who suddenly dropped in. The first time was back in 1990 when I worked at the center for independent living in Pittsburgh. We had a contract to get severely disabled people out of institutions and there was this one guy they'd park across from my desk ... talk about vacant stares. I always said, "Hi, Henry," when I saw him and one day he said "hi" back. I jumped and spilled my coffee. That was the first time I saw how wrong we can be about whether severely cognitively disabled people are "there" or not.

My experience with Henry is practically a rite-of-passage experience in the disability rights movement and hopefully explains why many of us don't think nondisabled people know enough about our lives to determine whether we should live or die. It was nondisabled medical professionals who told our agency not to waste time with Henry, as he wouldn't know anyway. Our agency was owned and operated by disabled people at the time--all the top management positions were held by people with such significant disabilities as spina bifida and blindness--so they knew to set aside what the nondisabled medical professionals thought about such people as Henry.


But, as she says, the lives of her and people like her aren't worth "dinging" the Constitution....


Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:58 PM

BEST OF BOTH WORLDS:

Fearing Saddam, anthrax scientist kept her secret - and chanced war (AP, 3/28/05)

In early 2003, as war fever built in Washington, an Iraqi scientist faced a fateful choice.

Rihab Rashid Taha could try to lower the heat by finally telling U.N. inspectors what happened to Iraq's "missing" anthrax.

Or she could remain silent, rather than risk Saddam Hussein's wrath.

The microbiologist's dilemma, she has told U.S. interrogators, was that her team 12 years earlier had destroyed the lethal bacteria by dumping it practically at the gates of one of Saddam's main palaces, and the feared Iraqi despot might grow enraged at news of anthrax on his doorstep.

Taha chose silence in 2003, thus stoking suspicions of those who contended Iraq still harbored biological weapons. Soon thereafter, two years ago this month, the United States invaded.

"Whether those involved understood the significance and disastrous consequences of their actions is unclear," the CIA-led Iraq Survey Group says of Taha and colleagues in its final report on Iraq weapons-hunting. "These efforts demonstrate the problems that existed on both sides in establishing the truth."


Disastrous? She got rid of the WMD and Saddam. Where's the disaster?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:16 PM

A PERP WALK TO SAVOR:

Investigation of Insurance Puts Buffett in a Spotlight (TIMOTHY L. O'BRIEN, 3/28/05, NY Times)

Over the last four decades, Warren E. Buffett has built Berkshire Hathaway into one of the world's largest and most successful insurers. Along the way, he has navigated the stock market with legendary prowess and offered folksy guidelines for proper corporate governance.

Now, with investigators on three continents examining Berkshire affiliates and a deadline looming tomorrow to respond to an Australian regulatory inquiry, Mr. Buffett's company is in the unfamiliar position of having to defend its integrity.

Berkshire insurance affiliates run by Mr. Buffett's most trusted deputies are involved in what investigators describe as possible financial manipulation at insurance giants like the American International Group and the Zurich Financial Services Group. Investigators are examining Berkshire transactions that they say helped lead to the collapse four years ago of an insurance company involved in the biggest financial scandal in Australian history.

Investigators say they have traced many suspect transactions to a Berkshire subsidiary in Dublin, where at least two Berkshire executives who were recently banned from the Australian insurance market for engaging in abusive practices continue to work for the company.

Investigators are trying to determine the extent of Mr. Buffett's knowledge of the deals, which remains unclear.


His image as a guy who's just smarter about picking stocks than the rest of us has always been inexplicable.


MORE:
The Risk Not Taken: Eliot Spitzer is going after the wrong insurance company. (RICHARD DOOLING, 4/03/05, NY Times)

Granted, a Spitzer-Buffett bout might bump Michael Jackson's trial off the top of the news hour for a day or two, and Mr. Spitzer must think big, because he wants to be governor. But now his reach has officially exceeded his grasp. Investigating insurance companies is one thing, but reinsurance companies? What the heck is reinsurance? And isn't questioning Warren Buffett about the reinsurance industry a bit like asking Stephen Hawking about black holes and white dwarfs?

Let's go to this newspaper's business section for an explanation of the skullduggery that transpired: "The issues under inquiry are whether reinsurance companies controlled by A.I.G. were treated as separate entities in order to help hide A.I.G.'s exposure to risk; whether reinsurance transactions are tantamount to loans that should have been so listed; whether assets and liabilities were swapped to smooth earnings; and, finally, whether A.I.G. used finite reinsurance to smooth earnings."

Uncross your eyes and note the distinct absence of outrage.

I'm certain that Mr. Buffett understands this finite reinsurance lingo, but I fear for Mr. Spitzer if it comes to a contest of reinsurance wits bandying provisos back and forth. My prediction is that the entire scandal will vanish when the regulators get to Page 782 of the provisions governing the reinsurance contracts, where Paragraph LXIXII(A)(4), Clause (iii), colors the word "risk" a murky shade of gray and renders the entire investigation a publicity stunt within the meaning of Paragraph XXXVI(B)(3), Clause (vii). But by the time that document is parsed, Mr. Spitzer will be in his fifth term as governor and thinking about running for president.

Maybe I'm just a sucker for a demagogue, but I'd rather have Mr. Spitzer start small and initiate a full-scale investigation into how an insurance company in St. Paul can issue a policy promising (with a perfectly straight font face) to pay for direct loss to a building resulting from the eruption of a volcano, and then three paragraphs later state that it will absolutely not pay for water damage from a frozen pipe. Just what sort of industry is it that thrives by taking our premiums and promising to pay us money, but only if we die?



Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:59 PM

THE SURRENDER TALKS BEGIN:

Ex-MI6 man starts US-Hamas talks (Stephen Grey, 3/27/05, Sunday Times)

As deputy leader of Hamas, the Palestinian militant group, Musa Abu Marzouk is a potential target for assassination by Israel. Yet there to greet him last week was Alistair Crooke, a veteran of nearly 30 years with MI6 and until recently a European Union negotiator with the Palestinians.

As they made their way upstairs, they were joined by several Americans, some of them former members of the CIA and others with links to the US administration. They had gathered in the Lebanese capital for an initiative launched by Crooke: the first talks for more than 10 years between senior Americans and radical groups denounced as terrorists by Washington.

Although still defiant in their anti-American rhetoric, the militants were staking a claim to be part of the so-called “Arab spring” of democratic change that has encompassed elections in Iraq and protests in Lebanon against the presence of Syrian forces.

The Beirut meeting was attended by almost half the leadership of Hamas, which has used suicide bombers in Israel but is taking part in Palestinian parliamentary elections this summer.

The delegation from Hezbollah, which has elected members of the Lebanese parliament but remains a terrorist organisation in the eyes of the United States, included Nawaf Moussawi, the group’s chief political negotiator.

There were also representatives from Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, which is banned in many countries, and from the Jamiat-i-Islami party in Pakistan.



Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:09 PM

THE USES OF HILLARY:

Under New Chief, F.C.C. Considers Widening Its Reach (STEPHEN LABATON, 3/28/05, NY Times)

Leading lawmakers and the new leader of the F.C.C. have proposed a broad expansion of indecency rules, which were significantly toughened just last year. They are also looking for significant increases in the size of fines and new procedures that could jeopardize the licenses of stations that repeatedly violate the rules.

Some senior lawmakers, including Senator Ted Stevens, the Alaskan Republican who is the leader of the Commerce Committee, as well as Kevin J. Martin, the new chairman of the commission, have suggested it may be time to extend the indecency and profanity rules to cable and satellite television providers, which now account for viewership in 85 percent of the nation's homes. And organizations opposing what they consider indecent programming have joined forces with consumer groups that have been trying to tighten regulation over the cable industry and force it to offer consumers less expensive packages of fewer stations, known as à la carte services.

Some of the anti-indecency groups see à la carte services as a way of helping consumers block out programming they consider indecent. "We are at a rare moment when there seems to be bipartisan energy on both sides of the political aisle and both sides of the ideological divide," said L. Brent Bozell, president of the Parents Television Council, a leading advocacy organization that officials say has been responsible for the vast majority of complaints against the broadcasters.

Mr. Martin and the senior Democrat on the commission, Michael J. Copps, have consistently been among the most aggressive members of the agency on indecency issues. President Bush is expected shortly to announce the appointment of two new members to the five-person commission. Those appointments will determine whether the views of Mr. Martin and Mr. Copps on indecency issues will prevail at the agency.


Senator Clinton will need to be on the side of the angels in this dispute, providing conservatives cover as they restore control of the culture.


Posted by Peter Burnet at 9:09 AM

MULTIPOLARITY ON THE MARCH


Dissident scorns EU advice over Cuba protests
(David Rennie, The Telegraph, March 28th, 2005)

A Cuban dissident poured scorn yesterday on a visiting European Union leader who told pro-democracy activists to avoid 'provoking' Fidel Castro.

The EU development commissioner, Louis Michel, also earned criticism for declaring, at the end of a four-day visit, that he was "very optimistic" about human rights on the communist island because he was allowed to meet groups of senior democracy activists and the wives of political prisoners.

"The government did not interfere with these meetings," Mr Michel said, calling that a hopeful sign.

But one of the dissident leaders who met the commissioner, Marta Beatriz Roque, the economist, said the encounter was window-dressing by the Castro regime, which continued to repress democratic activists. She also "respectfully disagreed" with an EU decision to suspend diplomatic sanctions on Cuba, and to seek closer ties.

"The government is not going to change. Castro is deaf. Sanctions have a political value because they demonstrate to the whole world that Castro is a human rights abuser. The EU should not be seeking deeper relations with a totalitarian regime," she said. "The fact that we could meet Mr Michel one day, for an hour, is an isolated phenomenon.

“But, Madame, please understand. It’s not that the EU wants to develop deeper relations with totalitarian regimes. We have no choice. That dangerous Mr. Bush is grabbing all the free ones.”


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:31 AM

THE SA'UDS VS WAHHABISM:

Saudi writers risk flogging to challenge Islamists (Dominic Evans, 3/28/05, REUTERS)

For a man just sentenced to 200 lashes and four months in jail by an Islamic court, Saudi academic Hamza al-Mozainy is strikingly cheerful.

The diminutive, twinkle-eyed professor of linguistics was summoned by a Riyadh judge in March after an Islamist colleague said Mozainy made fun of his long beard in a newspaper article.

Dismissing arguments that his court had no jurisdiction in media cases, the judge ordered that he be flogged and jailed for two months – then doubled the punishment on the spot when Mozainy challenged his authority.

"He said: OK. Instead of 75 lashes and two months, 200 lashes and four months. And you are forbidden from writing for newspapers," Mozainy said.

But the 57-year-old professor is confident he will not serve his punishment. Just hours after the verdict, de facto ruler Crown Prince Abdullah intervened in this latest clash between liberals and religious scholars in the strict Muslim state.

"I left the court and Prince Abdullah issued a strong letter saying this judgment is null, void and baseless and the court does not have jurisdiction over this case," Mozainy said in his small office in King Saud University.

Abdullah's ruling has not been made public but liberals have interpreted it to mean that Islamic sharia courts would not have jurisdiction to try media cases. [...]

Open challenges to religious figures in Saudi Arabia, where the royal family rule in unofficial alliance with powerful Wahhabi scholars, remain rare. But in January some journalists mocked a scholar who said the Asian tsunami was God's punishment for Christmas "fornication and sexual perversion."

"The last four years have been a springtime. There has been an openness and high degree of freedom of speech," Mozainy said. "We have this openness and we don't want to lose it."

Under pressure from the United States and at home after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001, Saudi Arabia has launched cautious reforms including an easing of some restrictions on its press.


Now that Wahabbism has backfired they've little choice but to help reform it.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:15 AM

BLAMING VICTIMS:

Schröder Calls on Companies to Create Jobs In Germany (RICHARD BERNSTEIN, 3/28/05, NY Times)

Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, in comments published Sunday, calls on German companies to stop moving jobs and factories outside of the country in search of cheaper labor and lower taxes and to invest in Germany to provide badly needed employment here.

Speaking a bit more than a week since he proposed a cut in corporate taxes, Mr. Schröder contended that the package of economic changes made under his leadership in the past couple of years had led to a renewal of German competitiveness.

"Conditions are right," he said in an interview published in the newspaper Bild am Sonntag. "Therefore, the constant talk of moving production and jobs should stop, and there should be investment in Germany."


If conditions were right they'd stay.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:53 AM

LONG TIME COMING:

Re-examining practice of faith: Emotions run high in debates on gender roles, homosexuality, extremism; Progressive Muslims spark dialogue on Islam in the U.S. (Jack Chang, 3/28/05, CONTRA COSTA TIMES)

Ahmed Nassef stood at the front of a Stanford University classroom packed with hundreds of Muslims who had come from all over the Bay Area to hear him speak.

"I begin with the greeting of peace," Nassef said. "Some of what we'll talk about tonight will be painful to hear."

He wanted to discuss issues he said Muslims in the United States have avoided but can no longer ignore as American society scrutinizes their community:

Why do only about 10 percent of U.S. Muslims regularly attend prayer at mosques? How long can the religion's leaders treat women as second-class citizens? When will Muslims respond forcefully to strains of extremism?

"It's difficult being a Muslim in America today," said the New York activist and native of Egypt, who has prominently advocated re-examining how the religion is practiced. "We need to deal with these issues openly."

Many U.S. Muslims, especially those who have grown up in this country, are asking the same questions.

They are successful, professional women who chafe at having to pray in dark, secluded rooms at their local mosques while men enter through the front doors and worship in comfort.

They are professors at U.S. universities who object to attempts by religious leaders to enforce strict interpretations of Islam on others, labeling those who don't obey as fake Muslims.

They are African-American converts who see similarities between discrimination in the segregationist South and the cold treatment of blacks in some mosques run by immigrants.

"In my circles, this has been a long time in coming," said Oakland resident Moina Noor, director of the Bay Area group American Muslims Intent on Learning and Activism.

"There are angry people out there who have had bad experiences at mosques or have had people judge them," the 34-year-old said. "People have been disengaged with Islam for a long time because they don't think it's for them.

"Now, finally, there's something going on where people think, 'Wow, this is something I can belong to.'"


The ultimate irony of 9-11 is that it will affect not just the political arrangements in the Middle East but the religion of Islam itself.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:47 AM

WHAT ABOUT THE STEEL TARIFFS?:

Mideast Building Trade Ties With U.S. (Evelyn Iritani, March 28, 2005, LA Times)

In Morocco and across the Middle East, freer trade is gaining traction.

Eager for more business with America, the region's governments are slashing tariffs, reducing red tape and strengthening intellectual property laws and labor protections. These measures are boosting trade in textiles and apparel, farm goods and machinery. California farmers stand to benefit; Hollywood might find places like Morocco more attractive for film shoots.

A flurry of activity is exactly what the Bush administration hoped for two years ago when it unveiled an ambitious proposal to create a Middle East Free Trade Area within a decade.

The plan: to negotiate a series of trade agreements that would eventually fuse one of the world's most economically and politically unstable regions into a giant free-trade zone.

President Bush described the initiative as part of a larger effort to bring the Middle East into "an expanding circle of opportunity" by using free markets and trade to "defeat poverty" and teach "the habits of liberty."

Since then, the Bush administration has negotiated trade pacts with Bahrain and Morocco, and this month launched negotiations with the United Arab Emirates and Oman. Congress has yet to approve the Bahrain deal.

The U.S. also signed a deal with Egypt that created industrial zones in which goods produced with Israeli components could be exported to the U.S. duty-free. The U.S. already had trade pacts with Jordan and Israel. The Palestinian Authority is included in the Israeli agreement.

The Middle Eastern effort fits into a broader Bush administration plan to strike bilateral trade deals across the globe.


If you didn't know better you'd swear they'd been following overarching and consistent trade and democratization policies...


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:38 AM

JUST ONE AISLE:

Gospel for Both Sides of the Aisle: The evangelism of the Rev. Jim Wallis defies stereotypes: He preaches a conservative morality but condemns 'pro-rich, pro-war' views. (Teresa Watanabe, March 28, 2005, LA Times)

On a recent rainy night, an evangelical Christian preacher held 900 people spellbound at a Pasadena church. He roared about evil and sexual morality. He quoted Jesus and the Hebrew prophets. He shared his story of conversion, recalling the fire-and-brimstone minister who first drew him to Christ.

But the Rev. Jim Wallis, 56, saved most of his thunder for matters not typically found in evangelical Christian sermons: poverty, environmental protection and peacemaking. To Wallis, such issues are dominant biblical mandates that deserve as much attention as abortion, gay marriage and other hot-button issues.

"What's at stake is the meaning of being evangelical," Wallis told the crowd at First Congregational Church. "The monologue of the religious right is over, and a new dialogue has begun!"

Stout and silver-haired, Wallis is a longtime social activist, author and executive director of Sojourners, a Washington-based Christian ministry best known for its monthly magazine on faith, politics and culture. He confounds stereotypes of evangelical Christians by arguing for conservative social morality but a dovish foreign policy and an economic agenda focused on helping the poor.

Urging common ground, he has chided the right for views that promote "pro-rich, pro-war and pro-American" policies and the left for bowing to "secular fundamentalists" who dismiss the public import of faith. In the past, his views had gained a loyal but limited following, along with criticism. But intensified national debate over faith and politics since the November election has propelled Wallis to the forefront as a possible bridge between left and right.


All well and good except that he's trying to bridge a false dichotomy and differs little from a stereotypical evangelical in his concern for the poor. The FBI and Ownership Society are directed squarely at the impoverished.

That leaves only his willingness to accommodate foreign tyrannies rather than overthrow them. A perfectly legitimate politics but a dicey theology.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:28 AM

MOVING ON:

Getting out of Iraq II (Robert Novak, March 28, 2005, Townhall)

Determination high in the Bush administration to begin irreversible withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq this year is reinforced by the presence at the State Department of the most dominant secretary since Henry Kissinger three decades ago. Condoleezza Rice is expected to support administration officials who want to leave even if what is left behind does not constitute perfection.

Amid the presidential campaign's furious debate over Iraq, I reported last Sept. 20 ("Getting Out of Iraq") about strong feeling in the policymaking apparatus to get out of Iraq in 2005 even if democracy and peace had not been achieved there. My column evoked widespread expressions of disbelief, but changes over the last six months have only strengthened the view of my Bush administration sources that the escape from Iraq should begin once a permanent government is in place in Baghdad.

The most obvious change is the improved situation on the ground in Iraq, where it is no longer preposterous to imagine local security forces in control. Subtler is the advent of Secretary of State Rice. This willowy, vulnerable-looking woman wields measurably more power than Colin Powell, the robust general who preceded her. Officials who know her well believe she favors the escape from Iraq.

"She is not controlled by the neo-cons insisting on achieving a perfect democracy before we go," a colleague told me.


The same folks who accused Mr. Bush of imperialism when he invaded, and of wanting a permanent presence there, now accuse him of leaving hastily when he does exactly what he said we'd do--help them take control of their own governance and then leave.


MORE:
Iraq's Sunni Arabs Seek Their Voice: The divided minority is trying to stake a claim in a system now dominated by Shiites and Kurds. (Richard Boudreaux, March 28, 2005, LA Times)

Nearly two months after most of them sat out Iraq's historic election, 200 Sunni Arab leaders gathered to consider a belated plunge into democratic politics.

It was not a civil discussion. As a legal scholar was explaining how they could help write a new constitution, a tribal chief cut him off, shouting, "Long live the resistance!"

The chief, Mazin Jaber Nima, said the Sunni Arab-led insurgency against American troops would falter if Sunni Arabs joined in the U.S.-backed creation of a new political order.

Applause filled the Babylon Hotel's ballroom, but the next speaker was undeterred. "The subject today is how to represent the Sunni people in the political process," argued Sheik Isam Sheikhli. "Do we do it with slogans? If we go on like this, we will not achieve a thing."

After three hours of raucous debate, advocates of the political boycott gave up. The conference, one of several such Sunni Arab initiatives, endorsed a vague plan to lobby for government posts and a role in drafting the constitution.

Tardy though it is, the shift is encouraging news for the U.S. effort to spread democracy in the Middle East.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:23 AM

TOM HAGEN:

With Bush Safely Re-elected, Rove Turns Intensity to Policy (RICHARD W. STEVENSON, 3/28/05, NY Times)

In naming Mr. Rove deputy White House chief of staff for policy last month, on top of his continuing catch-all title of senior adviser, the president formally recognized Mr. Rove's affinity for the nitty-gritty of governance and publicly acknowledged his influence over whatever deal might emerge on Social Security, his No. 1 domestic priority.

"All roads lead to Karl," said Kenneth J. Duberstein, a Republican lobbyist who was the White House chief of staff under President Ronald Reagan and is now part of Mr. Rove's vast network of informal advisers and intelligence gatherers. [...]

[W]hile Mr. Rove's policy acumen has helped him expand his portfolio, his influence is derived in large part from the political apparatus he has built up.

He plays an important role in deciding where Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney and other administration officials go as they crisscross the country trying to win public support. He is overseeing an intelligence-gathering effort that closely tracks the positions of every Republican in Congress and makes sure they get phone calls, invitations to the White House, rides on Air Force One or other expressions of support if they come under pressure from the forces battling Mr. Bush over Social Security.

The work done inside the White House is augmented by the Republican National Committee, now run by Ken Mehlman, who managed Mr. Bush's re-election campaign under Mr. Rove. The committee holds a nationwide databank on Bush supporters that Mr. Rove's team amassed during the election, a treasure trove that Republicans said would be used to mobilize public pressure on Congress when Social Security legislation is taken up.

Additionally, Mr. Rove is calling on a handful of outside groups to play a substantial, loosely coordinated role in the effort.

Every Friday the Republican National Committee holds a meeting on Social Security that is often attended by Barry Jackson, Mr. Rove's deputy in his senior adviser role, who handles much of the day-to-day oversight of the Social Security campaign. Also in attendance are representatives of Progress for America, an advocacy group that is running television commercials supporting Mr. Bush's call for individual accounts in Social Security, and Compass, a business-backed group that is running a grass-roots campaign on behalf of the initiative.

Although those groups operate independently of the White House, they have close ties to the administration and to Mr. Rove. Compass's campaign is being run by Terry Nelson, who was one of Mr. Rove's top aides as political director of Mr. Bush's re-election campaign. Compass is an offshoot of the Alliance for Worker Retirement Security, which was once run by Mr. Blahous, the Social Security expert. Progress for America recently adopted an advertising strategy used by the Bush campaign, sponsoring traffic reports on radio stations in cities around the country.

Many Democrats say Mr. Bush and Mr. Rove have reached too far on Social Security and are headed for the first big defeat of their partnership. Republicans have yet to settle their own differences; Mr. Kemp, for one, continues to publicly support the approach Mr. Rove objected to, which is embodied in legislation sponsored by Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin and Senator John E. Sununu of New Hampshire.

And there is grumbling among some Republicans that Mr. Rove has mishandled the Social Security campaign. But Mr. Rove's allies and fans say that he anticipated the difficulties of moving the Social Security debate forward and that he and Mr. Bush remain convinced that they will win in the end.

"Anyone who thinks otherwise," said Charlie Black, a veteran Republican strategist, "they're underestimating Karl and they're underestimating the president."


Folks have made quite a habit of doing just that.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:07 AM

WHERE IS THE LEFT?:

Staying On, Amid Zimbabwe's Madness: My parents cling to their home in the face of Mugabe's hostility (Douglas Rogers, March 28, 2005, LA Times)

This is Zimbabwe 25 years after Robert Mugabe came to power. Initially he was seen as a unifier, and my parents, longtime liberals, chose to stay on, even as 150,000 of the 250,000 whites fled, unwilling to live under black rule. Despite a decade of relative prosperity, the last four years have seen the country descend into political turmoil and economic ruin. After losing a referendum in 2000, Mugabe accused whites of being racist colonialists and began violently seizing their farms. Blacks who opposed the regime suffered even more.

The government has become increasingly corrupt, violence is endemic, human rights violations are among the worst in the world. Despite all this, race relations are surprisingly good. Most whites and blacks tend to see the wild rantings of the regime for the cheap opportunism they are.

My parents' farm is in the Eastern Highlands, four hours east of Harare, close to the Mozambique border. It was early evening, under a blood-red sunset, when I arrived, and my parents were locking their front gate. There were uniformed guards on the perimeter, and I saw the fence around their house had been electrified. "We've just been to a farewell," my mother laughed. "Soon we'll be the only ones left!" Today, 3 million of us live outside the country. In Harare, they call London "Harare North."

My parents refuse to leave. "We are Zimbabweans, this is our country," they say. My mother was born in Zimbabwe and my father, a South African, moved there in the 1960s. But they no longer rail against those whites who do leave. "We can't blame anyone for going," said my mother.

My parents' rental cottages are routinely burgled, entire living room sets and fridges dragged away through the bush. When my mother phoned the police about one robbery, the officer in charge barely stirred: "I have no car," he said. "Can you pick me up?" That's Zimbabwe: Just when you think it's Orwellian nightmare, it turns into Evelyn Waugh farce.

It is hard to imagine that just a few years ago Zimbabweans, black and white, stood strong in the face of the political corruption of Mugabe's government. Even during the height of the 2001-2003 violence, the opposition party, Movement for Democratic Change, was ascendant; people really believed change was coming. The 2002 presidential elections felt as momentous as South Africa's in 1994. Despite threats and intimidation, people lined up in the millions to vote, and for the first time in 22 years whites — my father included — moved out from behind their high walls and sports clubs and got involved in the campaign.

But the election was stolen by Mugabe through widespread vote-rigging and intimidation — and the backlash was swift and brutal. The opposition has been virtually silent since, its leaders beaten and jailed. Four newspapers have been closed since 2002, a dozen journalists expelled. And there's no reason to expect this week's parliamentary elections to be any less corrupt than those that have gone before.


Zimbabwe archbishop calls for peaceful ouster of Mugabe (MICHAEL HARTNACK, March 28, 2005, Chicago Sun-Times)
One of Zimbabwe's most outspoken church leaders Sunday called for a peaceful uprising against President Robert Mugabe's autocratic rule, days before a parliamentary election that rights groups say is tainted by years of violence and intimidation.

Roman Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube of Zimbabwe's second-largest city, Bulawayo, said he was willing to put on his vestments and lead a march to Mugabe's residence himself, but feared: ''If I do it, I do it alone.''

''The people are so scared,'' he said. ''You are not going to get that where people are so cowardly.''

Police arrested about 200 opposition supporters after a rally Sunday in the capital, Harare, the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change said in a statement.

Mugabe, a former guerrilla leader, has led Zimbabwe since the end of white rule in 1980. Ncube thinks Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front Party will easily win Thursday's poll, which he said is sure to be rigged.

''I hope that people get so disillusioned that they really organize against the government and kick him out by a nonviolent, popular, mass uprising,'' Ncube said in an interview with the the Sunday Independent.


Mugabe's misrule (Financial Times, March 28 2005)
Anybody looking to Thursday's parliamentary poll for a way out of Zimbabwe's political impasse and economic disaster is likely to be disappointed. The vote is widely expected to consolidate the hold of Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF. Even if the opposition Movement for Democratic Change makes a decent showing, the wily Mr Mugabe may turn that to his advantage and say it was given its chance.

In a crucial year for Africa's relations with the developed world, the election will be judged differently by Zimbabwe's neighbours and by the rich nations on which any recovery will eventually depend. At least for the English-speaking rich countries, including the US, which has lumped the Mugabe regime together with Cuba's and North Korea's as an "outpost of tyranny", Zimbabwe is a test of Africa's seriousness in its willingness to confront misgovernance. But the leadership role that Zimbabwe's powerful neighbour South Africa could have exerted - and has done on other African issues - has been sadly missing.


'This time Mugabe is going for sure. The world is watching us': Zimbabweans are openly challenging the President, believing that his days are now numbered (Xan Rice and Jan Raath, 3/28/05, Times of London)
AS THE drums sound at the Chimanimani Golf Club, a shy-looking white woman appears before several thousand jubilant supporters. Her husband is in jail. Her farm has been seized. She has no record as a politician, and President Mugabe wants her out of the country.

Yet the overwhelmingly black population of this rural constituency has insisted that she stand as their candidate in Thursday’s election. And Heather Bennett, 42, whose campaign has become a symbol of the defiance and optimism that has swept through Zimbabwe over the past week, has an excellent chance of winning.

A few weeks ago, eager to confer legitimacy on the parliamentary election, Mr Mugabe ordered his youth militia to curb their violence and permit at least the semblance of democracy. The strange new atmosphere of calm — unseen for five years — has breathed unexpected life into a contest that had seemed certain to end in crushing victory for the ruling party.


If it's possible to understand the deadly cravenness with which the Left opposes the use of American force to liberalize the Third World, it's impossible to put a charitable spin on their silence when people have a chance to forward democracy peacefully if only they had some outside help.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:43 AM

ONCE THE HATE'S OUT OF THE BAG... (via Robert Schwartz):

A Dutch Soccer Riddle: Jewish Regalia Without Jews (CRAIG S. SMITH, 3/28/05, NY Times)

Just minutes before a high-stakes soccer game not long ago between this city's home team, Ajax, and their rivals from the southern city of Eindhoven, a chant built to a roar in the hall packed with supporters where they were serving plastic pint cups of Dutch beer.

"Jews, Jews, Jews!" thousands of voices cried.

Outside, souvenir stalls sold Israeli flags or flags with the Ajax logo, the head of the fabled Greek warrior, emblazoned inside the star of David. Fans arrived with hats, jackets and scarves embroidered with Hebrew writing. Until recently, the team's official Web site even featured the ringing tones of Hava Nagila and other Jewish songs that could be downloaded into fans' mobile phones.

Few, if any, of these people are Jewish.

"About thirty years ago, the other teams' supporters started calling us Jews because there was a history of Jews in Ajax," explained Fred Harris, a stocky man with brush-cut hair and a thick gold chain around his neck, "so we took it up as a point of pride and now it has become our identity."

For years, the team's management supported that unique identity. But over time what seemed to many people like a harmless - if peculiar - custom has taken on a more sinister tone. Fans of Ajax's biggest rivals began giving the Nazis' signature straight-arm salute or chanting "Hamas, Hamas!" to provoke Ajax supporters. Ajax games have been marred by shouts of "Jews to the gas!" or simply hissing to simulate the sound of gas escaping.


But, wait, we only support Dutch intolerance towards Muslim immigrants....


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:08 AM

THE MUSLIMS' FRIEND:

Jakarta Tenure Offers Glimpse of Wolfowitz: Indonesians Cite Stance on Rights, Reform (Alan Sipress and Ellen Nakashima, March 28, 2005, Washington Post)

At the height of President Suharto's autocratic rule, then-U.S. Ambassador Paul D. Wolfowitz publicly offered advice in 1989 that could have landed domestic critics in prison, pointedly telling the dictator that his record of rapid economic growth was not enough.

"If greater openness is a key to economic success, I believe there is increasingly a need for openness in the political sphere as well," Wolfowitz said in May 1989 farewell remarks at Jakarta's American Cultural Center as he prepared to leave Indonesia after three years as ambassador.

This single, unexpected sentence stunned some members of Suharto's inner circle. Wolfowitz's colleagues and friends, both Indonesian and American, said the statement was in line with the U.S. envoy's quiet pursuit of political and economic reforms in Indonesia, and they say he will bring those same values to the World Bank if approved as its new president. [...]

Even Suharto acknowledged in a 1991 interview with Time magazine that Wolfowitz's remarks had "intensified and aggravated" the debate over openness in the country. Faced with popular protests, Suharto resigned in 1998 after 32 years in power.

Abdurrahman Wahid, who became president in 1999, was so taken by Wolfowitz's 1989 speech that he asked to be introduced. Wahid, a leader of Indonesia's largest Muslim organization and staunch proponent of political pluralism, said in an interview Friday that they became friends and he remains proud of that relationship today despite differences over the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Wahid was impeached by his political rivals in 2001 but remains highly influential, especially among moderate Muslims.


March 27, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:32 PM

CHILL THOROUGHLY (via Mike Daley)

Stem cell allies divided over egg collection (Laura Mecoy, March 27, 2005, Sacramento Bee)

Ever since she championed the nation's first state law to authorize embryonic stem cell research, Sen. Deborah Ortiz has been a heroine to patient advocates and researchers.

In the past week, though, some of their admiration has turned to shock and dismay as they learned the lawmaker wants to impose a three-year moratorium on multiple egg extractions for research.

The Sacramento Democrat said she is trying to protect women's health by temporarily barring the use of hormone treatments to increase egg production for research until more is known about the risks.

But researchers and patient advocacy groups said Ortiz's proposed legislation would create enormous obstacles to therapeutic cloning, one of the promising forms of research scientists want to fund with the state's new $3 billion stem cell research program.

"It will have a chilling effect and be very damaging for the research," said Larry Goldstein, a University of California, San Diego, stem cell researcher who's worked with Ortiz. "It interferes with a woman's right to choose whether she wishes to donate her eggs or not."


So easy to pooh-pooh the slippery slope until the Death Lobby actually insists that the freedom to choose extends not just to the one fetus but to mass killing.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:22 PM

NO OPPOSITION:

On Iran and Korea, few options (Steven R. Weisman, , March 28, 2005, The New York Times)

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has won praise from Europeans and Democrats for working closely with American allies on a common approach to the crises of Iran's and North Korea's nuclear programs. Her phrase "the time for diplomacy is now" has become a kind of State Department battle cry.

But Rice has also sharpened her tone of impatience, as have other administration officials, over the stalled nuclear talks with North Korea and Iran, suggesting that "the time for diplomacy" may not last forever. [...]

The Bush administration was riven by ideological splits on foreign policy throughout the first term.

The former Secretary of State, Colin Powell, a moderate, was often pitted against conservative elements of the administration, led by the vice president, Dick Cheney, and the defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld.

But some administration officials, who asked not to be named because they were speaking about internal rivalries, said that Rice is not in that kind of opposition to other officials.

"The president has a goal, and the notion of hard-liners and moderates competing for influence is just not the right paradigm," said a senior administration official. "When it comes to Iran and North Korea, in neither case do we see that time is on our side, but in both cases we realize that progress isn't going to happen overnight."


The notion of State as a source of opposition to a president, while accurate, is deuced odd.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:51 PM

GUESS WHO WE SIDE WITH:

Koizumi stands firm to Chirac on Japan hosting nuclear project (AFP, Mar 27, 2005)

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Sunday that Japan stood firm in its attempt to host a revolutionary nuclear reactor, amid EU pressure to let France be the site of the multibillion-dollar project.

Koizumi and French President Jacques Chirac discussed the deadlock over the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) during talks in Tokyo.

"Japan has no intention to withdraw its bid to invite ITER," Koizumi told a joint news conference with the French head of state.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:49 PM

EXCEEDINGLY FINE GRINDING OF THE AXIS:

US unveils plans to make India 'major world power' (AFP, Mar 26, 2005)

The United States unveiled plans Friday to help India become a "major world power in the 21st century" even as it announced moves to beef up the military of New Delhi's nuclear rival, Pakistan.

Under the plans, Washington offered to step up a strategic dialogue with India to boost missile defense and other security initiatives as well as high-tech cooperation and expanded economic and energy cooperation.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has presented to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh the Bush administration's outline for a "decisively broader strategic relationship" between the world's oldest and largest democracies, a senior US official said.

"Its goal is to help India become a major world power in the 21st century," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity. "We understand fully the implications, including military implications, of that statement."

He did not elaborate but noted that South Asia was critical, with China on one side, Iran and the Middle East on the other, and a somewhat turbulent Central Asian region to the north.


Astonishingly few outside the Administration though have understood the implications of its several years of India policy.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:44 PM

KILL HIM, WE NEED THE BED (via Jim Yates):

The toughest decision: Fairfax man awoke from coma after his wife refused to take him off life support (Richard Halstead, 3/27/05, Marin Independent Journal)

Areme Szemanski's husband Gene had been in a coma at Marin General Hospital for 31 days when she was summoned to a conference with a team of doctors, nurses and his case manager.

They told her there was nothing more they could do for her husband, who fell off the roof of his Fairfax house on April 13, 2000, while making repairs. They wanted to take him off life support.

"They didn't give me an option," Areme Szemanski said. "Oh no, no options. They were telling me they have to switch off the machine."

When she asked for more time, maybe 15 days, Szemanski said the case manager became aggressive. The manager asked her if she thought her husband would like being paralyzed, to not be able to speak, hear or see.

"You know, she was very strong," Szemanski said. "There was no compassion. Nothing. It was more like an order, and you have to follow the order."

Szemanski refused to grant permission to turn off her husband's ventilator after the conference on May 14, 2000. Instead, she spent long hours at the hospital talking to her husband and playing music for him. Then, eight days after the conference, on his wife's birthday, Gene Szemanski opened his eyes and smiled at his wife. Eventually, he would make virtually a complete recovery.


Sometimes it's better to scratch the finger than to pull the trigger.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:00 PM

THANK GOODNESS THAT ONE DOESN'T REQUIRE EMBRYOS:

Stem-cells could allow women to grow breast implants (Sophie Goodchild, 3/27/05, New Zealand Herald)

A revolutionary technique using stem-cell research could soon allow women to choose breast enhancements made of living tissue instead of silicone. [...]

Professor Mao has developed a method of isolating the patient's stem cells, culturing them into a fatty tissue mass, and then building it around a "scaffold" of the correct shape for breasts or lips.

Professor Mao said he first took adipose stem cells from a human donor and isolated the fat-generating cells. These were mixed with a chemical, hydrogel, "which can be moulded into any given shape or dimension". Hydrogel is a lightweight material licensed for use in medicine.

"You mould them into the shape of the other normal breast or the missing portion of breast and instead of implanting silicone or saline structures, we would use the stem cell-derived adipose implant," Professor Mao said.

The living tissue implants would not "wear out". And because they are derived from the patient's own stem cells, there would not be a problem of tissue rejection that can arise with tissue from a donor.

"The technique is also applicable for other soft tissue, including facial tissue such as the lips." he said



Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:19 PM

THEY AIN'T SEEN NOTHIN' YET:

Glimpse of World Shatters North Koreans' Illusions (HOWARD W. FRENCH , 3/24/05, NY Times)

The Lee sisters are part of a virtually stateless underground population of North Koreans who have crossed into China along the 877-mile border between the countries and live on the lam in this region. International refugee and human rights groups have estimated their numbers at 200,000 and growing.

The exodus of North Koreans to Jilin and Liaoning Provinces began in earnest in the waves of famine that struck North Korea in the mid-1990's, killing as many as two million people.

The refugees pose challenges for China and for North Korea. Chinese officials fear that a flood of North Koreans across their borders would not only pose a huge economic strain on the region, but could eventually stoke a territorial dispute because of historic Korean claims in the region. For North Korea, the refugees' flight to China offers a pressure valve, allowing the poor to earn desperately needed money. But it also allows them a glimpse of the richness of the outside world, and that could be destabilizing.

Some of the refugees want to migrate to other countries, particularly South Korea, which they perceive as being hugely wealthy and hospitable. Others want to disappear amid the two million ethnic Korean Chinese in this border region. But increasingly, the refugees plan to shuttle secretly back and forth between the countries, coming to China to supply their petty commerce back home, to take care of health problems or to see relatives before returning to the hardships of their homeland. All face the perils of a paperless existence that prevents them from easily traveling to a third country, renders their presence in China illegal and exposes those who return home by wading across the Tumen or Yalu Rivers to the risk of drowning, being shot by border guards or facing punishment in labor camps.

One woman who plans to keep shuttling between countries is a 42-year-old military nurse. "I am in China now, and it is just like I had heard - very developed, full of people, with everything you could ever want to buy," she said. "But I have no ID card, no residence permit. I am in a free country, but I am not free."

The woman's unit, which served in the border regions, providing her with a glimpse of the richer world beyond, was dissolved in 1997. She said she had left an 18-year-old daughter and a 16-year-old son in North Korea, and would return there, once she had earned money in China and could buy shoes and clothes to take home to sell. "Otherwise, there is just no way to make a living in my country," she said. If the former military nurse had a good idea of what life was like in China, most recent arrivals here, including many who live close to the border, said they had a vague idea of China's striking new wealth.

In interview after interview, they spoke of the huge shift in perspective they experienced upon entering China. "When I lived in Korea, I never thought my leaders were bad," said one woman in her 50's, a farmer who had brought her grown daughter to Yanji recently from her home not far from the other side of the border for treatment of an intestinal ailment. "When I got here, I learned that Chinese can travel wherever they want in the world as long as they have the money. I learned that South Korea is far richer, even than China."

"If we are so poor," she continued, "it must be because of Kim Jong Il's mistakes," she said referring to North Korea's leader.


If they think China is free they're in for some really pleasant surprises in the future. But, in the meantime, we should be using our ability to further destabilize North Korea, and thereby China itself, as a weapon against the PRC.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:13 PM

75/25 + 75/25 = 50/50:

Longtime marrieds tell how it's done in book (Susan Reimer, February 13, 2005, Baltimore Sun)

There is plenty of other good advice in [Sheryl] Kurland's new book, Everlasting Matrimony: Pearls of Wisdom From Couples Married 50 Years or More.

"Remember your children will hear if you lived right," wrote Alice Chancey of Tampa, Fla., married to Guy since 1931.

"Family and friends talk a lot, make it good."

"We got one piece of advice from the minister who married us, and it is one we carried with us from the beginning and one that works," wrote Suzanne Concelman of Pittsburgh, married to George since 1950.

"He told us that there is no such thing as a 50/50 marriage. A good marriage is 75/25 - and both sides give 75 percent."

The book has the look of a wedding album and it includes the wedding pictures of the couples who agreed to write down for Kurland the secrets to their long marriages.

Both the husbands and the wives responded, including such pearls as this one from Sydney Cooper of Lake City, Fla., married to Rosalie since 1942:

"Always allow your wife to win [she will anyway]." [...]

"These couples grew up very fast," said Kurland. "But the part that intrigued me about the war stories was the will and determination and commitment of these people.

"Divorce just wasn't in their vocabulary. I am sure there were points when they were miserable, but they learned how to weave their way out of it."

Themes repeat themselves in the written responses included in Kurland's book: the importance of faith and church; the importance of sharing the financial decisions; the need to give each other "space;" the value of children; and the tremendous pride these couples have in them. [...]

"One of the things that sticks with me is that, for so many of these couples, marriage is a way of thinking. It is selfless.

"You are always thinking about the other person's well-being and welfare, about how to make them happy and their life richer.

"If you do that, it will come back to you."

And, she said, the happy couples had one more thing in common.

"They always praise the other person for making the marriage successful."


Interesting to note what a closed loop this is--the personal qualities that made their marriages work are those they learned from their religion. It suggests the futility of trying to expand the institution to those who aren't qualified.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:56 PM

ANYBODY KNOW ANY MATH?:

Depressed Annan close to quitting over UN scandals (Sarah Baxter, 3/27/05, Times of London)

KOFI ANNAN, the United Nations secretary-general, is said to be struggling with depression and considering his future. Colleagues have reported concerns about Annan ahead of an official report this week that will examine his son Kojo’s connection to the controversial Iraqi oil for food scheme.

Depending on the findings of the report, by a team led by the former US Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker, Annan may have to choose between the secretary-generalship and loyalty to his son.

American congressional critics of the UN are already pressing him to resign over the mismanagement of the oil for food programme, and even his supporters have been dismayed by the scandals on his watch, including the sexual abuse of children by UN peacekeepers in Congo.

One close observer at the UN said Annan’s moods were like a “sine curve” and that he appeared near the bottom of the trough.


Do sine curves keep going down or do they turn back up?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:41 PM

EVERYBODY GETS WHAT THEY WANT...:

F-16 deal: S. Asia's new arms race?: Pakistan got its long-waited US jet sale Friday. But India also got a green light for US weapons. (Owais Tohid, 3/28/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

In a move seen as rewarding Pakistan as a key ally in its war on terror, the United States agreed Friday to sell the South Asian nation F-16 fighter jets - reversing a 15-year ban.

Bush administration officials simultaneously announced that India would have the opportunity to buy some of the latest American combat aircraft.

The steps are seen as politically bolstering Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf at home, and indicate a shift in US policy toward a tacit acceptance of Pakistan and India as nuclear powers, analysts say.

"It will help Musharraf counter the religious extremists who used to taunt that America is not trustworthy as it had walked off after first Afghan War and may change the perception of common man [toward the US] as well," says analyst Tauseef Ahmed.


...except al Qaeda, France and China.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:25 PM

GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER:

Wolfowitz Dating Muslim Woman Causes Stir (Barbara Ferguson, 3/23/05, Arab News)

Here’s a bit of news that had Washingtonians choking on their coffee this morning: President Bush’s neoconservative hawk Paul Wolfowitz, the Pentagon’s architect of the US invasion of Iraq, is dating a Muslim!

While battle lines have hardened over President Bush’s nomination of Wolfowitz to become president of the World Bank, what many say is really fueling the controversy is concern within the bank over Wolfowitz’s reported romantic relationship with Shaha Ali Riza, an Arab feminist who is the acting manager for External Relations and Outreach for the Middle East and North Africa Region at the World Bank.

Political foes of Wolfowitz portray him as a leader of Washington’s Jewish neo-conservatives driving a blindly pro-Israel policy in the Middle East. Critics have also noted that his sister, Laura, a biologist, lives in Israel and has an Israeli husband.

But Wolfowitz, a married father of three, is said to be so blinded by his relationship with Riza, that influential members of the World Bank believe she played a key role in influencing the Pentagon official to launch the 2003 Iraq war. As his trusted confident, she is said to be one of most influential Muslims in Washington. [...]

A Wolfowitz opponent at the World Bank told a reporter: “Unless Riza gives up her job, this will be an impossible conflict of interest.”

Wolfowitz married his wife Clare Selgin in 1968. But they have lived separately since 2001, after allegations he had an affair with an employee at the School of Advanced International Studies where he was dean for seven years. They are now believed to be legally separated. [...]

[W]olfowitz’s only comment on the complaints has been a terse statement issued through a Pentagon spokesman. He said: “If a personal relationship presents a potential conflict of interest, I will comply with bank policies to resolve the issue.”


Adultery should be a firing offense, but is the Left really going to argue that his friendship with a Muslim disqualifies him?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:16 PM

TANNED, RESTED, AND READY TO MANAGE THE DECLINE:

Tories ready, willing and able to take reins (Rick Anderson, 3/27/05, Toronto Star)

The Conservatives are certainly ready to govern. This really boils down to two main questions and, on both counts, the Conservatives are increasingly in better shape than the Liberals.

First, the Conservatives are slowly putting together an attractive policy program: Raise incomes and create jobs by easing the heavy hand of government on economic levers and in your pocket; shift the emphasis to individual, family and local responsibility; curtail the growth of the nanny state. Let innovation flourish in health care, guided by practical criteria — better services and access, value for money — instead of shackled by partisan clichés. Common sense approaches to international affairs and relationships. [...]

Second, the Conservatives have the depth of talent. Long-term MPs like Diane Ablonczy, Jay Hill, Monte Solberg, Chuck Strahl and others have a dozen years of parliamentary experience under their belts. Younger MPs like James Rajotte and James Moore are smart and steady contributors. Vic Toews, Loyola Hearn, Brian Pallister and Rob Nicholson bring ministerial experience from provincial and federal governments. And rookie MPs such as Gord Brown, Gordon O'Connor, Bev Oda, Jim Prentice and Belinda Stronach add valuable experience from outside politics.

Bottom line, the Conservative benches compare increasingly favourably to the Liberals in terms of creativity, energy, idealism and freshness.

Finally, there is the principle known in French as l'alternance.


All they lack is an electorate that hasn't given up on a future.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:11 PM

NIGHT ROLLERS:

Minutemen appear to be restyling campaign along Mexican border (Michael Marizco, 3/27/05, ARIZONA DAILY STAR)

The Minuteman Project - reported on by the media as an impending disaster in the immigration debate - is changing its tune.

What started as a group of volunteers intending to monitor illegal entrants crossing the border and calling them in to the U.S. Border Patrol is now being sold as something more like a tailgate party on the banks of the San Pedro River.

"Our MO has changed," said Richard Humphries, a retired federal agent who's in charge of the planes the Minuteman volunteers will use to patrol the area. "Originally, we were going to try to remain quiet and hidden. That way when the illegals walked by, we could see them."

The group has been concerned about the misconception that "the media is putting out" and wants to show "that it's not just a bunch of shaved head rednecks," Humphries said.

Organizers now claim 40 percent of it's still-unproven 956 volunteers are women and minorities and that the group includes "4 wheelchair bound paraplegics and 6 amputees."

Now this is a reality tv show just waiting to happen.


Posted by Peter Burnet at 10:37 AM

AND A VERY HAPPY EASTER TO YOU TOO

The God Racket, From DeMille to DeLay (Frank Rich, New York Times, March 27th, 2005)

Culture is often a more reliable prophecy than religion of where the country is going, and our culture has been screaming its theocratic inclinations for months now. The anti-indecency campaign, already a roaring success, has just yielded a new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Kevin J. Martin, who had been endorsed by the Parents Television Council and other avatars of the religious right. The push for the sanctity of marriage (or all marriages except Terri and Michael Schiavo's) has led to the banishment of lesbian moms on public television. The Armageddon-fueled worldview of the "Left Behind" books extends its spell by the day, soon to surface in a new NBC prime-time mini-series, "Revelations," being sold with the slogan "The End is Near."

All this is happening while polls consistently show that at most a fifth of the country subscribes to the religious views of those in the Republican base whom even George Will, speaking last Sunday on ABC's "This Week," acknowledged may be considered "extremists." In that famous Election Day exit poll, "moral values" voters amounted to only 22 percent. Similarly, an ABC News survey last weekend found that only 27 percent of Americans thought it was "appropriate" for Congress to "get involved" in the Schiavo case and only 16 percent said it would want to be kept alive in her condition. But a majority of American colonists didn't believe in witches during the Salem trials either - any more than the Taliban reflected the views of a majority of Afghans. At a certain point - and we seem to be at that point - fear takes over, allowing a mob to bully the majority over the short term. (Of course, if you believe the end is near, there is no long term.)

That bullying, stoked by politicians in power, has become omnipresent, leading television stations to practice self-censorship and high school teachers to avoid mentioning "the E word," evolution, in their classrooms, lest they arouse fundamentalist rancor. The president is on record as saying that the jury is still out on evolution, so perhaps it's no surprise that The Los Angeles Times has uncovered a three-year-old "religious rights" unit in the Justice Department that investigated a biology professor at Texas Tech because he refused to write letters of recommendation for students who do not accept evolution as "the central, unifying principle of biology." Cornelia Dean of The New York Times broke the story last weekend that some Imax theaters, even those in science centers, are now refusing to show documentaries like "Galápagos" or "Volcanoes of the Deep Sea" because their references to Darwin and the Big Bang theory might antagonize some audiences. Soon such films will disappear along with biology textbooks that don't give equal time to creationism.

James Cameron, producer of "Volcanoes" (and, more famously, the director of "Titanic"), called this development "obviously symptomatic of our shift away from empiricism in science to faith-based science." Faith-based science has in turn begat faith-based medicine that impedes stem-cell research, not to mention faith-based abstinence-only health policy that impedes the prevention of unwanted pregnancies and diseases like AIDS.

Faith-based news is not far behind. Ashley Smith, the 26-year-old woman who was held hostage by Brian Nichols, the accused Atlanta courthouse killer, has been canonized by virtually every American news organization as God's messenger because she inspired Mr. Nichols to surrender by talking about her faith and reading him a chapter from Rick Warren's best seller, "The Purpose-Driven Life." But if she's speaking for God, what does that make Dennis Rader, the church council president arrested in Wichita's B.T.K. serial killer case? Was God instructing Terry Ratzmann, the devoted member of the Living Church of God who this month murdered his pastor, an elderly man, two teenagers and two others before killing himself at a weekly church service in Wisconsin? The religious elements of these stories, including the role played by the end-of-times fatalism of Mr. Ratzmann's church, are left largely unexamined by the same news outlets that serve up Ashley Smith's tale as an inspirational parable for profit.

Next to what's happening now, official displays of DeMille's old Ten Commandments monuments seem an innocuous encroachment of religion into public life. It is a full-scale jihad that our government signed onto last weekend, and what's most scary about it is how little was heard from the political opposition. The Harvard Law School constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe pointed out this week that even Joe McCarthy did not go so far as this Congress and president did in conspiring to "try to undo the processes of a state court." But faced with McCarthyism in God's name, most Democratic leaders went into hiding and stayed silent. Prayers are no more likely to revive their spines than poor Terri Schiavo's brain.

That the Times would celebrate Easter with a scurrilous rant like this shows just how strong is the visceral hatred for religion and the religious among the chattering classes. Mr. Rich is presumably one of the social liberals his colleague David Brooks thinks believes that the quality of life is a fundamental value. Of course, we already have a pretty good idea of what constitutes Mr. Rich’s notion of a quality life.


Posted by Peter Burnet at 10:24 AM

AND THIS YEAR’S AWARD FOR BEST SELF-PARODY GOES TO...


And now, the European Dream
(Eric Sylvers, International Herald Tribune, March 26th, 2005)

He stares you straight in the eyes as he tells you the world can be a better place and that the European Union has the best chance of making it possible. He says it with such conviction that you know he believes it and he gesticulates with just enough emphasis that you find yourself believing it, too.

So it goes with Jeremy Rifkin, consultant to companies and governments on both sides of the Atlantic, a best-selling author and president of the Washington-based Foundation on Economic Trends research institute. Rifkin's books are as varied as they are plentiful - there are almost 20. But for more than a decade he has railed against globalization and the widening income inequality between rich and poor countries and within the United States.

"In a frontier economy, unfettered capitalism makes sense," Rifkin said in a recent interview in Turin, where he participated in a conference organized by the World Political Forum to mark 20 years since the beginning of perestroika, the series of liberalization measures undertaken by Mikhail Gorbachev in the final phase of the Soviet Union.

"But times have changed and Adam Smith's dictum of everybody pursuing their self-interest doesn't make sense anymore now that everything and everybody are interconnected." [...]

Rifkin does note that Europe is plagued by its own problems, including bloated welfare programs, a rigid labor market and an aging population. But he says that can be solved, at least in the short term, with more vigorous integration of the European Union.

That will not be easy, he concedes, because the nation-state remains the paramount governmental institution. But it is possible if the member countries begin to see the region's 25 countries like the 50 states are seen in the United States, he says.

"Europeans must start comparing Germany to California," Rifkin said. "Both are the biggest states in their region, yet Germany is larger so the EU comes out on top."



Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:46 AM

DARING:

He dares to believe: Throw out the arguments, numbers and logic on Social Security. Bush is moved by his instincts (David Shribman, March 27, 2005, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

After years (12 of them if you count the years of the presidency of Bush's father along with those of his new boon pal, Bill Clinton) of prudence and caution, members of the Bush administration have adopted daring as the new White House leitmotif. They dare to impose tax cuts in a recession, they dare to try to make those tax cuts permanent, they dare to nominate the sorts of judges whom even Ronald Reagan wouldn't contemplate selecting, they dare to take on the mainstream press in a way that even Richard Nixon wouldn't consider. They dare, therefore they are. [...]

In this context, the dare on Social Security isn't anything very remarkable at all. It's completely in the context of the times and the politics. It has become a commonplace to say that his opponents have underestimated President Bush. Most of the time that means they have underestimated his political skills and, most disastrously, his intelligence. He has both in surfeit, which is the kind of statement that gets his opponents really angry, probably because they have come to learn that it is true and wish desperately it weren't.

But they also underestimate his determination. He believes in freedom, which is why he talked the way he did on Inauguration Day, and he believes in ownership, which is why he talks the way he does on Social Security. He believes. He may believe in things his opponents do not, but he believes. Like so many of his rivals, he finds it hard to believe that everyone else doesn't believe what he does.

That might be the best explanation for what he is doing -- or will soon be doing, for there is very little flesh on the bones of his proposal right now -- on Social Security. He believes it is better to own (securities or mutual funds) than to rent (which is essentially what a pay-as-you-go system like Social Security consists of) and he's willing to fight.


It sometimes seems the only two mainstream journalists with any grasp of George W. Bush are David Shribman and, improbably enough, Bill Keller.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:34 AM

BEES ME'S:

His predicament was all the buzz (Gordon Edes, March 27, 2005, Boston Globe)

Former Sox pitcher Darren Oliver speculated that his coconut oil-based hair gel may have attracted a swarm of bees that chased him from the mound and caused a premature halt to a Rockies-Diamondbacks exhibition game in Tucson Thursday.

"In the beginning, it was funny," said the Colorado reliever. "Then, I started to get a little nervous. I love baseball, but I like myself more.


That quote recalls the early days of the Mets, when Ralph Kiner was interviewing Choo-Choo Coleman and asked: "So, Choo-Choo, what'syour wife's name and what's she like?"

"Her name's Mrs. Coleman and she likes me."


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:25 AM

DOING ERNIE PANTUSO PROUD:

Albania stands with U.S. in Iraq (Fatos Tarifa, March 27, 2005, Washington Times)

The announcement several days ago Albania -- a small country with limited resources -- was sending an additional 50 well-trained troops to Iraq came as a surprise to some observers. But it really should not have surprised anyone.

Albania was one of only four countries to send combat troops during the operation "Iraqi Freedom." Albania is probably the most pro-American country on Earth. It showed its support of the United States early, when it initially sent 70 commandos to join the Coalition of the Willing's effort to bring peace, stability and free elections to Iraq. These new troops bring to a total of 120 Albanian soldiers serving in Iraq.

From a country with only 3.5 million people, the troops -- the flower of Albania's youth -- represent the best Albania has to offer. Why does Albania do this when it could have avoided President Bush's call for support, or when it could have dropped out as others have done when the going got tough? The answer is not difficult to find. If you believe in freedom, you believe in fighting for it. If you believe in fighting for freedom, you believe in America.

Unlike people in other countries in Europe and elsewhere, the Albanian people have not forgotten what it is like to live under tyranny and repression. The Albanians for more than 40 years were held in thrall by the repressive forces of the communists, living like prisoners without rights in their own country. It was to the United States that freedom-loving Albanians looked for inspiration during those dark years, and the Americans have not let us down.

"We Albanians are a nation of freedom fighters who know something about living under oppression," Albanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano wrote in a letter to President Bush. "That is why we wholeheartedly support the American-led effort to free the people of Iraq. And though we are a small country with a small military, we are proud to stand side by side with our allies in the fight to end the reign of terror in Baghdad."

Which makes it worth at least 120 France's.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 AM

ONE OF THE FEW REASONS TO VIOLATE THE TIME ZONE RULE:

The timeless appeal of Wagner's epic (WYNNE DELACOMA, March 27, 2005, Chicago Sun-Times)

"We're getting jazzed," said a top Lyric staffer last week about the company's upcoming immersion in Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelung.''

They aren't the only ones. Music lovers throughout the world have been getting jazzed, or the linguistic equivalent appropriate to their era, about Wagner's four-opera saga since its premiere as a complete cycle in the Franconian town of Bayreuth, Germany, in August 1876.

Loosely based on Nordic mythology, the first "Ring'' cycles were presented in a brand-new theater built to Wagner's specifications. Among the audiences in 1876 were Kaiser Wilhelm, Tchaikovsky, Grieg, Saint-Saens, Liszt and a tribe of 60 international music critics, including critics for London's Daily Telegraph and the New York Times.

Of course, not everyone was smitten by the "Ring'' and its 15 1/2 hours of music. The score has few long, definable melodies and more than 100 different "motifs'' or themes, small musical phrases whose rhythms or melodies identify specific characters or situations. Wagner weaves those into a more or less seamless musical flow.

"We've been rehearsing for two hours,'' complained British conductor Thomas Beecham during rehearsals of "Gotterdammerung," in the 1960s, "and we're still playing the same bloody tune!"

There's no question, however, that hundreds of thousands of music lovers can't get enough of the "Ring.'' They plan their vacations around "Ring'' cycles, traveling to Bayreuth or Toronto, Seattle or Berlin, New York or Chicago, to catch the "Ring'' of the moment. Lyric's will attract visitors from 27 countries and all 50 states. Approximately a dozen people have bought tickets to all three cycles. In 1996, the company estimates that "Ring'' audiences pumped $34.7 million into the city's economy.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:09 AM

GENES AS GODS:

The evolutionary revolutionary: In the 1970s, Robert Trivers wrote a series of papers that transformed evolutionary biology. Then he all but disappeared. Now he’s back—and ready to rumble. (Drake Bennett, March 27, 2005, Boston Globe)

In the 1970s, [evolutionary biologist Robert Trivers] published five immensely influential papers that braided genetics into behavioral biology, using a gene's-eye view of evolution to explain behaviors from bird warning calls to cuckoldry to sibling rivalry to revenge. According to David Haig, a Harvard professor of biology and a leading genetic theorist, each paper virtually founded a research field. ''Most of my career has been based on exploring the implications of one of them,'' says Haig. ''I don't know of any comparable set of papers.''

Trivers's ideas have rippled out into anthropology, psychology, sociology, medicine, even economics. His work provided the intellectual basis for the then-emergent field of sociobiology (now better known as evolutionary psychology), which sought to challenge our conceptions of family, sex, friendship, and ethics by arguing (controversially) that everything from rape to religion is bred in the bone through the process of evolution. The linguist and Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker calls Trivers ''one of the great thinkers in the history of Western thought.'' [...]

Trivers's work grew out of an insight made by the Oxford biologist William D. Hamilton, who died in 2000. In a 1964 paper, Hamilton proposed an elegant solution to a problem that had rankled evolutionary theorists for some time. In a battle of the fittest, why did organisms occasionally do things that benefited others at a cost to themselves? The answer, Hamilton wrote, emerged when one took evolution down to the level of the gene. Individuals were merely vessels for genes, which survived from generation to generation, and it made no difference to the gene which organism it survived in.

According to this logic, the degree to which an organism was likely to sacrifice for another should vary in direct proportion to the degree of relatedness: Humans, for example, would be more likely to share food with a son than a second cousin, and more likely to share with a second cousin than someone wholly unrelated. Hamilton called the concept ''inclusive fitness.''

In 1976, the Oxford zoologist Richard Dawkins would popularize Hamilton's ideas in his book ''The Selfish Gene.'' But more than anyone else, it was Trivers, then a graduate student, who grasped the profound implications of Hamilton's work. In a way, Trivers's legendary papers of the early 1970s were simply a series of startling applications of its logic.


There's not much left to add to the ridicule of evolutionary biology after what Andrew Ferguson and David Stove did to the notion that it comports with logic, but an example or two from reality can't hurt, Sept. 11 Hero Buried in Israel (AP, 8/05/02):
A computer programmer hailed as a hero for remaining with his quadriplegic friend rather than flee the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center was laid to rest in Israel on Monday.

In an act of final closure, the family of Abraham Zelmanowitz, 55, buried his remains next to his parents at the cemetery overlooking Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives, a revered resting place for many religious Jews. [...]

Zelmanowitz, who worked on the 27th floor of the trade center's north tower, refused to leave behind his co-worker of many years, Ed Beyea, who couldn't descend the stairs in his wheelchair. Both died when the tower collapsed.


No Ordinary Joe: Remembering a heroic act that ended in tragedy. (Rick Reilly, July 02, 2003, Sports Illustrated)
Why in creation did Joe Delaney jump into that pit full of water that day?

Why in the world would the AFC's best young running back try to save three drowning boys when he himself couldn't swim?

Nobody -- not his wife, not his mother -- had ever seen him so much as dog-paddle. A year and a half earlier, when he went to the Pro Bowl in Hawaii as the AFC's starting halfback and Rookie of the Year, he never set even a pinkie toe in the ocean or the pool. "Never had," says his wife, Carolyn, who'd known Joe since they were both seven. "In all my years, I never had seen him swim."

So why? Why did the 24-year-old Kansas City Chief try to save three boys he didn't know with a skill he didn't have?

He'd been sitting in the cool shade of a tree on a tar-bubbling afternoon at Chennault Park, a public recreation area in Monroe, La., when he heard voices calling, "Help! Help!" He popped up like a Bobo doll and sprinted toward the pit.

What made Delaney that kind of person? Why did he mow that lonely woman's lawn when he was back home in Haughton, La., rich as he was? Why did he check in on that old man every day he was in town? Why did he show up on the Haughton streets one day with a bag full of new shoes and clothes for kids whose names he'd never heard?

Why could he never think of anything that he wanted for himself? Why didn't he even make a Christmas list? The man never cashed a paycheck in his life. He would throw his checks on top of the TV for his wife. "Don't you want nothing for yourself?" Carolyn would ask Joe.

"Nah," he'd say. "You just take care of you and the girls."

"Nothing?"

"Well, if you could give me a little pocket change for the week, I'd appreciate it."

Why didn't he ask somebody else to help those three kids that day? After all, there were hundreds of people at the park, and not another soul dived into that pit. Nobody but Delaney, one guy who shouldn't have.

The boys in that pit were struggling to stay afloat. They were two brothers -- Harry and LeMarkits Holland, 11 and 10, respectively -- and a cousin, Lancer Perkins, 11. Of course, LeMarkits was always with Harry. He idolized his big brother. A water park adjacent to Chennault was staging a big promotion with free admission that day, and the boys had wandered over to the pit and waded into the water. Like Delaney, they couldn't swim.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:52 AM

THE MAKING OF A PRESIDENT:

Movement in the Pews Tries to Jolt Ohio (JAMES DAO, 3/27/05, NY Times)

Christian conservative leaders from scores of Ohio's fastest growing churches are mounting a campaign to win control of local government posts and Republican organizations, starting with the 2006 governor's race.

In a manifesto that is being circulated among church leaders and on the Internet, the group, which is called the Ohio Restoration Project, is planning to mobilize 2,000 evangelical, Baptist, Pentecostal and Roman Catholic leaders in a network of so-called Patriot Pastors to register half a million new voters, enlist activists, train candidates and endorse conservative causes in the next year.

The initial goal is to elect Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, a conservative Republican, governor in 2006. The group hopes to build grass-roots organizations in Ohio's 88 counties and take control of local Republican organizations. [...]

"In Ohio, the church is awakening to its historic role as the moral voice in the community," said Colin A. Hanna, president of Let Freedom Ring, a conservative group based in Pennsylvania that trains ministers in political activism. "Ohio is in the vanguard of that nationally. I very much want Pennsylvania to be with them."

The church leaders say they will try to harness the energy of religious conservatives who were vital not only to Mr. Bush's narrow victory in Ohio but also to passage of an amendment to the state constitution banning same-sex marriage. The amendment, known as Issue 1, was credited with drawing large numbers of rural and suburban conservatives to the polls and increasing Mr. Bush's support among urban blacks.


Mr. Blackwell's ties to Evangelicals make him a more likely first black president than Barack Obama or Condi Rice.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:45 AM

SEEN ONE VEGETABLE YOU'VE SEEM 'EM ALL:


DeLay's Own Tragic Crossroads
: Family of the lawmaker involved in the Schiavo case decided in '88 to let his comatose father die. (Walter F. Roche Jr. and Sam Howe Verhovek, March 27, 2005, LA Times)

A family tragedy that unfolded in a Texas hospital during the fall of 1988 was a private ordeal — without judges, emergency sessions of Congress or the debate raging outside Terri Schiavo's Florida hospice.

The patient then was a 65-year-old drilling contractor, badly injured in a freak accident at his home. Among the family members keeping vigil at Brooke Army Medical Center was a grieving junior congressman — Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas).

More than 16 years ago, far from the political passions that have defined the Schiavo controversy, the DeLay family endured its own wrenching end-of-life crisis. The man in a coma, kept alive by intravenous lines and oxygen equipment, was DeLay's father, Charles Ray DeLay.

Then, freshly reelected to a third term in the House, the 41-year-old DeLay waited, all but helpless, for the verdict of doctors.

Today, as House Majority Leader, DeLay has teamed with his Senate counterpart, Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), to champion political intervention in the Schiavo case. They pushed emergency legislation through Congress to shift the legal case from Florida state courts to the federal judiciary.

And DeLay is among the strongest advocates of keeping the woman, who doctors say has been in a persistent vegetative state for 15 years, connected to her feeding tube. DeLay has denounced Schiavo's husband, as well as judges, for committing what he calls "an act of barbarism" in removing the tube.

In 1988, however, there was no such fiery rhetoric as the congressman quietly joined the sad family consensus to let his father die.

"There was no point to even really talking about it," Maxine DeLay, the congressman's 81-year-old widowed mother, recalled in an interview last week. "There was no way [Charles] wanted to live like that. Tom knew — we all knew — his father wouldn't have wanted to live that way."

Doctors advised that he would "basically be a vegetable," said the congressman's aunt, JoAnne DeLay.

When his father's kidneys failed, the DeLay family decided against connecting him to a dialysis machine. "Extraordinary measures to prolong life were not initiated," said his medical report, citing "agreement with the family's wishes." His bedside chart carried the instruction: "Do not resuscitate."


Why Schiavo case worries the disabled (WILLIAM G. STOTHERS, 3/25/05, Toronto Star)
First thing:Terri Schiavo is not terminally ill. She is severely disabled with a brain injury. She is not hooked up to any life-support systems. For 15 years she has relied on a feeding tube for food and water. Her organs function normally.

So why does anyone want to kill her? "Kill" is the correct word here. Removing her feeding tube will cause her death. She will die by starvation and dehydration.

For those of us in the organized disability rights movement, it looks like Schiavo is being put to death for the crime of being disabled.

Disability makes many people uncomfortable. How many times have you said, or heard someone say, "I would never want to live like that." Or, "I would rather be dead than be like that."

People have said that to me. I am severely disabled and use a motorized wheelchair as a result of having polio 55 years ago.

Doctors told my parents to put me into a "home" and forget about me. He will have no life, they said, move on with your own lives.

They ignored the advice. When I went to school, I was teased and made an object of pity. "I would hate to live like you," kids told me. When I went to university, I was told that "at least you still have your mind." When I went to work in the newspaper business, I was expected to remain at an entry level position; when I left to go to graduate school, my work supervisor told a colleague "what else could he ever hope to do?"

People with disabilities are pushed to the ragged edge of our collective consciousness, stereotyped as dependent, unproductive and pitiful. It is not such a long step to considering such persons burdensome and too costly to maintain and finally, and of course regrettably, expendable.


Even by its own abysmal standards the press has done a terrible job covering the issues surrounding the Schiavo case--there's a great difference between the question of whether it's morally necessary to initiate heroic measures to prolong life and whether it's morally permissible to withdraw simple sustenance from someone who isn't otherwise terminal.


MORE:
Time for a moral revolution: Abortion ‘on demand’ and the scandalous Schiavo case have resonance in the week we celebrate the triumph of life over death (GERALD WARNER, 3/27/05, Scotland on Sunday)

EASTER is a celebration of the triumph of life over death and of right over wrong. So it is peculiarly poignant that issues of life and death should be dominating the news this Easter, most dramatically so in the United States.

Last week, before the eyes of the whole world, the nation that has pledged to export its values to the rest of the globe set about starving and dehydrating one of its citizens to death. That it did so against the wishes of the president, Congress and the people only added to the horror of the situation. If Terri Schiavo is still alive by the time you read this and there has been no new intervention, it will be her ninth day deprived even of water. [...]

"I thirst" was among the last words on the Cross. A human being dying of dehydration in Holy Week has an apocalyptic resonance. This Easter we must pledge ourselves to moral regeneration, reasserting our human dignity and the inviolability of all innocent life.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:39 AM

THE RATCHET RACKET:

It's the morality, stupid: In the run-up to the general election, religion and politics are mixing as never before. But ‘issues of conscience’ are a minefield for every party (EDDIE BARNES AND BRIAN BRADY, 27 Mar 2005, Scotland on Sunday)

TONY Blair is known to be an avid reader of his Bible. How he must be wishing this Easter Sunday morning that more people would pay some attention to Luke 20:25. "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s," Christ told his disciples. It has long been taken as the definitive judgment on the need to keep the worlds of church and state at arms length. Britons - with their circumspect wariness of religion and moralising - have long approved of Christ’s guidance. Yet five weeks before a likely election at the beginning of May, the unexpected has happened: the country has become locked in an epic spiritual struggle within the moral maze. The economy, inflation and public services are out. Abortion, euthanasia and questions of faith are in. What, in God’s name, is going on?

Like no election campaign in recent memory, the separate worlds of religion and politics are mixing freely. The latest example this morning comes in St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh where Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the leader of Scotland’s Roman Catholics, offers his Easter sermon. His homily (which was conveniently e-mailed to media outlets more than 24 hours beforehand) is less spiritual reflection and more political rally. In it, O’Brien barely draws breath before he tackles Caesar head on. Within the first few minutes, he is addressing the issue of abortion, and alluding to Conservative leader Michael Howard’s approval for a reduction in the time limit from 24 weeks to 20. Then it is swiftly on to cloning, and last week’s report by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee which calls for more experiments on embryos to be permitted. Then, on to the election. "I urge you all to question your prospective candidates on these issues and demand that the defence of life is placed at the top of the political agenda," O’Brien declares. He is only doing what his English counterpart Cormac Murphy O’Connor started two weeks ago when he commended Howard on abortion.

Interventions in elections by churchmen such as O’Brien are nothing new. But this time, they are more bullish. On the face of it, this would appear entirely unjustified. Religious attendance is inexorably in decline. Across Scotland, cities are pock-marked with redundant churches converted into pubs, DIY outlets and designer flats. Yet church leaders across several other denominations are convinced that the public mood is changing. Morality is back, they claim, because 21st-century Britons, disillusioned with the superficial promise of modern secular materialism, are demanding its return like never before.


Why don't these folks ever question Caesar's meddling in settled moral issues, like abortion?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:21 AM

MAKING THE SIGN SEEMS SUPERFLUOUS:

Pope Struggles to Speak at Easter Blessing (Sabina Castelfranco, 27 March 2005, VOA News)

Pope John Paul did not disappoint the Roman Catholic faithful on Easter Sunday. He came to his window to bless the Vatican pilgrims, but was unable to speak to the thousands crowding Saint Peter's Square. The pope appeared at his study window as promised, but did not speak. He tried to say something but made only some sound.

The 84-year-old pope looked pained at not being able to address the pilgrims. He has been a great communicator and a very visible pope and is clearly suffering at his inability to speak.

Aides had prepared a microphone for him, but the pope was only able to make the sign of the cross.

Many of those present cried in Saint Peter's Square. It was the most emotional Easter in the pope's long 26-year papacy.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:12 AM

AS BEST WE CAN:

They're everyday believers (Janet I. Tu, 3/27/05, Seattle Times)

Jim Roths of Sumner, who attends Redmond's Overlake Christian Church, left a high-level corporate position to move with his family to Central Asia to work as a missionary for eight years.

Betty Woodard, a grandmother of 13 and great-grandmother of three, founded a prison ministry at her church, Goodwill Missionary Baptist in Seattle's Central Area, and volunteers regularly, visiting shut-ins and nursing homes.

George Balagtas is a student minister at Seattle University, preparing the school's light-filled Chapel of St. Ignatius for Mass.

Three people from different walks of life, each with different ways of practicing their faith. Yet, at a time when Christianity has become politicized and polarized, these three also express a certain unity in what they believe it means to be Christian.

Today, some 159 million Christians in the United States, and about 1.9 billion worldwide, will celebrate Easter, marking the day they believe Jesus was resurrected. (Orthodox Christians use a different calendar and will celebrate Easter on May 1.)

It is, perhaps, one of the two days of the year — the other is Christmas — when the public expression of Christianity is most apparent, as the faithful flock to churches.

For Roths, Woodard and Balagtas and many other Christians, their faith is also lived day in and day out, in ways big and small.

The three articulate it differently. To Balagtas, it is living the life of Jesus, applying to his own life Christ's teachings and the hope of the resurrection story. Woodard calls it letting "your light shine that they may see your good work and glorify the Father." Roths sees it as a calling from God to be an example of how a Christian lives his faith.

Underlying their different statements are similar sentiments about what it means to be a Christian: to follow the example of Jesus to love others and do good deeds; and to trust that God has a plan for their lives.

As Roths says: "I think the best way we can impact society is to be an example ourselves, to live out our faith as best we can."


March 26, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:01 PM

IF ONLY MANDELA AND TUTU WERE STILL ALIVE:

Zimbabwe: Mbeki sees no evil, hears no evil: Outcry as South African premier fails to back neighbour’s struggle for democracy (Fred Bridgland, 3/27/05, Sunday Herald)

Zimbabwe’s sixth parliamentary election, to be held in five days’ time, has become less a test of President Robert Mugabe’s credibility and reputation – which are already beyond repair – than the standing of his South African ally, President Thabo Mbeki.

Mugabe, who has rigged yet another election in advance, has bet on Mbeki having no stomach to act against him when South Africa’s African National Congress (ANC) government could, if it so chose, topple Mugabe in months, perhaps weeks, by cutting off his electricity and oil supplies.

Mbeki greatly comforted Mugabe, but stunned many South Africans and most of the concerned international community when, a few days ago, he proclaimed from the steps of parliament in Cape Town: “I have no reason to think that anybody in Zimbabwe will act in a way that will militate against the [Zimbabwe] elections being free and fair.” [...]

What is extraordinary about Mbeki’s stand, apart from the long-term damage it will cause an increasingly troubled post-Mandela South Africa, is that he and other heads of state of the 14-member Southern African Development Community (SADC), southern Africa’s most important regional grouping, spent a huge amount of energy six months ago drafting guidelines for free and fair elections at a summit in Mauritius. The document won worldwide acclaim. It was even signed by President Mugabe.

Yet it is clear that Mugabe has no intention of applying the guidelines. It is equally clear that neither Mbeki nor the other SADC leaders intend calling him to account.

In the end, South Africa and SADC will pay the price in terms of lost credibility in the developed world, where they should have important roles to play in negotiating a better deal for the struggling nations of Africa. Forget about all the high ideals of Tony Blair’s Commission for Africa and of the coming G8 summit in Scotland if, after Thursday’s blatantly rigged Zimbabwe election, it is more of the same from presidents Mbeki and Mugabe.

Mbeki’s much touted doctrine of delivering good governance in Africa for better trading opportunities with the developed world will be the prime victim. Investment in South Africa, already a trickle because of bewilderingly complex black empowerment legislation and Mbeki’s denial of the scale of his country’s Aids crisis, will almost dry up.

Pius Ncube, the outspoken Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo, who is Zimbabwe’s nearest equivalent to South Africa’s Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu, has observed that Mbeki “would be booed in the streets” if he was to speak to ordinary Zimbabweans and ask them what they thought about his views on their country.

The archbishop, who said he refused an offer from Mugabe of an appropriated white commercial farm in exchange for his silence, said: “The people of Zimbabwe have no respect for Mbeki. They don’t know why he is supporting Mugabe. They don’t understand it.”

Asked what he thought of Mugabe, Archbishop Ncube replied: “He’s a very, very evil man. The sooner he dies, the better.”

MORE:
South Africa's president feels the squeeze over Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe's parliamentary election Thursday puts Mbeki between Africa and the West. (Abraham McLaughlin , 3/28/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

For years, South African President Thabo Mbeki's approach on the growing autocracy in Zimbabwe has been to use "quiet diplomacy" - supporting President Robert Mugabe in public, cajoling him in private. This used to satisfy the United States.

But that's begun to change. President Bush is newly set on "ending tyranny in our world"; his team calls Zimbabwe one of six "outposts of tyranny." Mr. Bush's ambassador to South Africa, Jendayi Frazer, hinted in a speech last month that Zimbabwe's crisis threatens US support for the region. If African organizations are "not seen to act forcefully against tyranny," she said, "it is going to be a problem in terms of trying to build international support and resources."

Now Zimbabwe holds parliamentary elections Thursday. Critics expect they'll be flawed, like the 2000 vote in which Mr. Mugabe was reelected. If so, they may cloud Mr. Mbeki's vision for an "African renaissance" that would bring in billions in Western aid dollars in exchange for stronger democracy and better governance.

"If Mbeki cares" how his plans are perceived by the world's wealthy nations, "he's in trouble" over Zimbabwe, says Tom Lodge, a political scientist at University of the Witwatersrand here.



Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:56 PM

NEED TO KNOW:

Blair clashes with Cabinet over Wolfowitz nomination (Nick Mathiason, March 27, 2005, The Observer)

Tony Blair has clashed with Cabinet members in a bitter row over the nomination of the neo-conservative US deputy defence secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, as president of the World Bank.

International Development Secretary Hilary Benn is said to be furious that Blair kept him in the dark over the nomination, which was announced by President George Bush two weeks ago.

Benn has written to the Prime Minister outlining his frustrations. Sources close to Gordon Brown describe the Chancellor as 'incandescent' over the nomination. Blair was aware of Bush's plans for a month before they became public, and declined to tell either the Chancellor, who is a key IMF figure, or Benn, a World Bank board member.

But a Blair aide said the Prime Minister was 'comfortable' with the architect of the Iraq war taking the helm of the world's most important poverty alleviation institution, which dishes out loans of $20 billion each year.


When was the last White House that could keep something like this nomination from the press for a month?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:53 PM

IRAQ FOR THE IRAQIS:

Iraqi resistance begins to crack after elections (Jason Burke, March 27, 2005, The Observer)

The Iraqi resistance has peaked and is 'turning in on itself', according to recent intelligence reports from Baghdad received by Middle Eastern intelligence agencies.

The reports are the most optimistic for several months and reflect analysts' sense that recent elections in Iraq marked a 'quantum shift'. They will boost the government in the run-up to the expected general election in May.

Though the reports predict that violence against coalition troops and local forces is likely to continue for the foreseeable future, at least two Middle Eastern intelligence agencies believe that recent 'backchannel' initiatives aimed at persuading Sunni Muslim tribes in western Iraq to cease their resistance are meeting with some success.

The talks are aimed at driving a wedge between so-called Iraqi nationalist elements of the resistance and radical Islamic militants.

'We know there is a considerable degree of animosity between the various groups that comprise the resistance and that is an opportunity for us,' said one security source.

One foreign intelligence report cites a recent incident in which members of the al-Dulaimi tribe, previously known for their antagonism to the coalition and the new government in Iraq, shot dead a number of Islamic militants from outside Iraq, whom they believed responsible for killing a senior al-Dulaimi sheikh.



Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:40 PM

EVEN MORE OF A ASS THAN USUAL:

Free Saddam and jail Blair? (Daily Telegraph, 27/03/2005)

When the International Criminal Court was set up in 2002, the Americans refused to recognise its authority. They explained their reluctance on the basis that to give overarching authority to an international court would not ensure that decisions on vital international issues were made by judges independent of political control. It would simply hand those decisions to another set of politicians with their own political agendas - which might be flatly opposed to the fundamental interests of the United States.

Tony Blair passionately endorsed the creation of the International Criminal Court (ICC), arguing that Britain must be subordinated to its rules. In the run up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Prime Minister was determined to join President Bush's coalition to invade Iraq. But he also repeatedly insisted that he would not go to war with Iraq unless it was in accord with international law. His own moral convictions may have led him to that position, but there was also the small matter of parliamentary approval for the invasion. Gaining that support would be impossible if the Prime Minister admitted that he was committed to supporting an "illegal" war.

"Illegal", however, is precisely what it seems to have been. Indeed, according to Elizabeth Wilmshurst, the deputy head of the Foreign Office legal department who resigned over the issue of the war, practically all the Government's lawyers believed it would be illegal to invade Iraq without a second UN Security Council resolution explicitly authorising that step. The Prime Minister did everything he could to achieve a second resolution. He failed so comprehensively that the issue was never even put to a Security Council vote. [...]

Tony Blair must be arrested and tried by the ICC, and Saddam should be the primary witness against him. That is the inescapable logic of the champions of international law. It should make every-one realise how unreal is the world in which they live.


Yet if there's one thing we can all agree on it is that Tony Blair is smart and George W. Bush a moron...


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:36 PM

OBLIGATORY MCCARTHYISM COMPARISON:

Dissent has gone out of style in U.S. (LEWIS W. DIUGUID, 3/25/05, KC Star)

Conformity rocks across America these days while dissent keeps losing its voice.

That condition emanates from the White House, and it's spreading across the country like a cancer. Gone are the voices of reason and caution such as former Gen. Colin Powell. He stepped down as secretary of state when President Bush began a second term.

Powell was replaced by Condoleezza Rice, former national security adviser and close Bush confidant. What Bush unilaterally wants goes.

The same go-along-to-get-along infection grips the GOP-dominated House and Senate. The wrongheaded legislative action they took with Bush this week to send the Terri Schiavo feeding tube case to federal court is the latest example.

It's as if many in government have signed loyalty oaths such as those required in the McCarthy era when alternative stands weren't tolerated.


Doesn't anyone in the GOP support a culture of death at home and tyranny abroad?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:33 PM

INSTABILITY IS US:

Rice Describes Plans To Spread Democracy (Glenn Kessler and Robin Wright, March 26, 2005, Washington Post)

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice yesterday set out ambitious goals for the Bush administration's push for greater democracy overseas over the next four years, including pressing for competitive presidential elections this year in Egypt and women's right to vote in Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries.

Rice, in an interview with Washington Post editors and reporters, said she was guided less by a fear that Islamic extremists would replace authoritarian governments than by a "strong certainty that the Middle East was not going to stay stable anyway." Extremism, she said, is rooted in the "absence of other channels for political activity," and so "when you know that the status quo is no longer defensible, then you have to be willing to move in another direction."



Posted by Paul Jaminet at 3:09 PM

LAUGHTER THE BEST MEDICINE:

I am still grieving for Terri Schiavo and remembering Jesus, but I got a laugh from this hilarious piece in the New Republic: How Liberal Are You? A TNR Online Test (T.A. Frank; via Atlantic Blog). A sample:

1. About Condoleezza Rice, I agree with:

A. George W. Bush: "America has benefited from the wise counsel of Dr. Condoleezza Rice and our family has been enriched by our friendship with this wonderful person."

B. David Gergen: "Listen, there's nothing to say that she won't be a terrific secretary of state. She may well be. She's obviously a woman of enormous stature."

C. North Korea: "Condoleezza Rice [is] a handmaid of the United States' aggressive external policy and a faithful spokeswoman for the U.S. munitions monopolies."

Correct answer: B. While North Korea deserves credit for use of the terms "munitions monopolies" and the under-used "handmaid," the correct liberal answer is Gergen's, since it's true that Rice's tenure may indeed prove "terrific"--in the original (example: "terrific conflagration") sense of the word.


The funniest part is that it's so reasonable to gauge liberalism using Bush for the right, Gergen for the center, and North Korea for the left.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:20 PM

THEY WENT THATAWAY:

Iraqi forces seize suspected insurgents (Omar Anwar, 3/26/05, Reuters)

Iraqi soldiers backed by U.S. helicopters have killed several suspected insurgents and seized 131 more in a dawn raid, capturing tons of explosives earmarked for attacks on the holy city of Kerbala, officials say. [...]

Kerbala, an important Shi'ite Muslim holy city, has been targeted by militants several times in the past. Next week it will draw hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from throughout the region for Arbain, a major mourning ceremony.

Another defence ministry official said many of those detained were from Ansar al-Sunna, a militant group based in northern Iraq, near the border with Iran, that has carried out several high-profile attacks over the past 18 months.

"This group was intending to attack Kerbala," he said.

Seized along with the suspects were three tonnes of TNT explosive, at least three ready-made car bombs, hundreds of rocket-propelled grenades, several Katyusha rockets, more than 250,000 rounds of ammunition and other equipment.

In terms of the number of people detained and the amount of weaponry seized, it marks one of the most successful Iraqi-run operations in the past two years.

Iraqi officials say their intelligence network is improving, while Iraqi security forces are also growing stronger, giving them fresh impetus in the battle against the two-year-old insurgency.


Posted by David Cohen at 10:44 AM

PROFESSIONALISM WINS

AFTER ACTION REPORT: Raven 42 action in Salman Pak (Blackfive.net, 3/25/05)

The sergeant runs low on ammo and runs back to a vehicle to reload. She moves to her squad leader's vehicle, and because this squad is led so well, she knows exactly where to reach her arm blindly into a different vehicle to find ammo-because each vehicle is packed exactly the same, with discipline.

As she turns to move back to the trenchline, Gunner in two sees an AIF***** jump from behind one of the cars and start firing on the Sergeant. He pulls his 9mm, because the .50 cal is pointed in the other direction, and shoots five rounds wounding him.****** The sergeant moves back to the trenchline under fire from the back of the field, with fresh mags, two more grenades, and three more M203 rounds. The Mk 19 gunner suppresses the rear of the field.

Now, rejoined with the squad leader, the two sergeants continue clearing the enemy from the trenchline, until they see no more movement. A lone man with an RPG launcher on his shoulder steps from behind a tree and prepares to fire on the three Hummers and is killed with a single aimed SAW shot thru the head by the previously knocked out gunner on platform two, who now has a SAW out to supplement the .50 cal in the mount.

We don't usually repeat links from Instapundit. After all, if we see it on Instapundit, then so will you. But this is just an exceptional posting: an after-action report on an attack on a coalition convoy that was repulsed by a squad of MP's and medics. The AAR gives us great insight into the modern professional Army and an immediacy that helps us understand the war against the insurgency -- called "Anti-Iraq Forces" or AIF in the AAR.

The squad also captured a videotape of the beginnings of the attack from the enemy.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:17 AM

RISE OF THE YOUTHFUL MARINER:

Hernandez pitch creates a buzz: Rookie makes like Rocket on three-pitch strikeout of defending MVP (JOHN HICKEY, March 25, 2005, SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER)

The Mariners were still talking yesterday morning about the Wednesday night fastball that rookie Felix Hernandez blew by defending American League Most Valuable Player Vladimir Guerrero of the Angels.

"That pitch had some hair on it," pitching coach Bryan Price said. "That might have been the hardest pitch we've had thrown this year."

It was the third pitch of a three-pitch at-bat, and Guerrero, swinging from the heels, couldn't touch it.

"(Hitting coach) Don Baylor was saying that if you are able to foul that ball off, it's a major accomplishment," manager Mike Hargrove said. "That pitch, that velocity, that movement was special."

For all of that, Hargrove said it was Hernandez's curve that impressed him the most.

"That's something else," he said. "When he has the fastball, then comes in with that curve, I don't know as a hitter where you go from there."

The question in Seattle that keeps coming around is whether Hernandez has impressed enough to make the team.


What would be the point of sending him down? Keep him and treat him with kid gloves the way the Mets did Doc Gooden his first year--never more than six innings or 100 pitches, whichever comes first.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:12 AM

4" = .400?:

New batting stance provides Ichiro all the right moves: Spring streak brings questions of .400, DiMaggio's record (JOHN HICKEY, March 26, 2005, SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER)

It was the middle of last year when something odd happened to Ichiro Suzuki.

The man who'd won eight batting titles in the past 11 years decided to change his stance.

When you consider all the success he'd had, it was not easy to make the move.

But Ichiro took his narrow stance -- feet about 12 inches apart -- and widened the gap to about 16 inches.

He took his bat from about a 60 degree angle to maybe a 40 degree angle.

It was a huge risk.

Then he went on the tear of all tears. His average coming into July was .315. He'd had one great month, getting 50 hits in May. But he didn't reach 30 hits in either April or June.

Once the change was locked in, he had 51 hits in July, 56 in August and 50 in September/October. That spree took him to 262 hits, the most in one season in baseball history. [...]

"It was a difficult decision to make," Ichiro said. "I didn't feel real comfortable with it until July."

So a question was posed: Is Ichiro a different hitter now than he was last June 30?

The answer didn't come easily or quickly. Ichiro, sitting on a stool in Seattle's Peoria Sports Complex clubhouse, stretched a little, repositioned his legs a few times, then ran his hands through his dark hair, first left, then right. And repeated.

Finally he ran his answer through interpreter Allen Turner.

"It's not that I'm a different player, but I think I've been able to make less mistakes than in the past," Ichiro said.


Imagine the press contingents he'd have to face if he was threatening both Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:07 AM

ONLY IL REPUBLICANS COULD BLOW THIS ONE:

Spoilers abound in gov race (THOMAS ROESER, March 26, 2005, Chicago Sun-Times)

Earlier this week, Republican state Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka and investment analyst/ice cream titan Jim Oberweis moved closer to formally announcing for governor. Topinka, a social liberal whose bubbly personality has captivated many, released a poll showing her within 3 percentage points of Gov. Blagojevich.

Social conservative Oberweis, who matches Topinka as a meet-and-greet, folksy campaigner, said after a cerebral tussle with reporter Russ Stewart on my WLS radio program that he would announce soon. A supply-sider, he said he would not just hold the line on taxes but would seek to reduce them.

The six other Republicans seeking the governorship -- except Rep. Ray LaHood -- seem wan in comparison to Topinka and Oberweis. This duo neatly encapsulates the party's two major factions, the Thompson-Edgar-Ryan establishment and Reaganite outsiders. Each faction has its potential spoiler.


Nothing wrong with a brisk primary as long as everyone acts like an adult afterwards.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:22 AM

THE DARKNESS BEFORE THE LIGHT:

In suffering's redemptive embrace (George Weigel, March 25, 2005, Newsday)

During the recent weeks of his illness, all sorts of seemingly pressing questions have been raised: Would the pope ever consider abdication? What would happen if he were to become gravely incapacitated for a long period of time?

The questions are not without interest. But they miss the more compelling point in this drama. The world is watching a man live out, to the end, one of the convictions that has shaped his life and his impact on history: the conviction that the light of Easter is always preceded by the darkness of Good Friday, not just on the calendar but in the realm of the spirit.

Contemporary Western culture doesn't have much truck with suffering. We avoid it if possible. We sequester it when it becomes unavoidable: How many of us will die at home? Embracing suffering is a concept alien to us. And yet, suffering embraced in obedience to God's will is at the center of Christianity.

The Christ whose Passion more than a billion and a half Christians commemorate this week is not portrayed in the Gospels as someone to whom suffering just happened - a prophet with the typical prophet's run of bad luck. The Christ of the Gospels reaches out and embraces suffering as his destiny, his vocation - and is vindicated in that self-sacrifice on Easter.

That is what John Paul II, not a stubborn old man but a thoroughly committed Christian disciple, has been doing this past month: bearing witness to the truth that suffering embraced in obedience and love can be redemptive.


Strange sometimes how reality is an allegory for itself.

MORE:
His greatest performance: In his agony, the Pope invites us to share something truly instructive (Martin Kettle, March 26, 2005, The Guardian)

In spite of all the dramas and distractions of the modern world, I bet that right now there are millions of us whose attention is repeatedly - and sometimes unwillingly - drawn back to the most public private ordeal that many of us have witnessed.

Even for those, like me, who are neither Catholic nor even Christian, these last days of Pope John Paul II - for that is surely what they are - have become an inclusive and shared drama. It is more than the 21st-century habit of voyeurism that makes it difficult to turn our eyes away from the Vatican this Easter weekend. For the ailing Pope is speaking to all of us, saying things about life and death that touch everyone in some way.

It is nearly two weeks since John Paul was driven back to his apartments from the Gemelli hospital in Rome after a tracheotomy operation. Vatican aides, and the Pope himself, put on an extraordinary show, especially considering his age and physical weakness.

They did everything they could to imply that the pontiff had made a strong recovery. He sat upright in the front seat of a grey Mercedes van, in full view but with his papal robes drawn tight around his neck to conceal the tube that had been inserted into his throat to ease his breathing difficulties. Behind his left shoulder, a camera crew captured the 84-year-old Pope waving to delighted roadside crowds.

It looked - and it was intended to look - as though everything was normal. But of course it was not normal at all - and we knew that too. It may, after all, have been the Pope's final earthly journey of significance. It was in many respects an El Cid moment - a form of defiance through faith that John Paul has gradually perfected through his career - suggestive of the climax of the Spanish epic when the dead Cid is strapped into his saddle to lead his troops into battle against the infidels one last time.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:16 AM

WHEN IN THE COURSE OF HUMAN EVENTS...:

Taiwan rallies against China law:Protesters march in defiance of Beijing's anti-secession law in Taipei (BBC, 3/26/05)

Hundreds of thousands of people have attended a mass protest in Taiwan against China's anti-secession law, passed earlier this month.

The law allows China, which sees Taiwan as a breakaway province, to use "non-peaceful" means to stop any move by the island towards independence.

President Chen Shui-bian was at the protest with his family.

The island's government has been heartened by broad international criticism of China's new legislation. [...]

Some observers say the march was a clever move by the Taiwanese government to focus the efforts of its more radical pro-independence supporters on street protests rather than on drawing up new anti-China legislation which might, in the long term, cause more damage to cross-Strait relations.


Time to accept the obvious and declare independence.


Posted by Peter Burnet at 9:04 AM

REALITY AND IMPOTENCE

Morality and Reality (David Brooks, New York Times, March 26th, 2005)

The core belief that social conservatives bring to cases like Terri Schiavo's is that the value of each individual life is intrinsic. The value of a life doesn't depend upon what a person can physically do, experience or achieve. The life of a comatose person or a fetus has the same dignity and worth as the life of a fully functioning adult.

Social conservatives go on to say that if we make distinctions about the value of different lives, if we downgrade those who are physically alive but mentally incapacitated, if we say that some people can be more easily moved toward death than others, then the strong will prey upon the helpless, and the dignity of all our lives will be diminished.

The true bright line is not between lives, they say, but between life and death. The proper rule, as Robert P. George of Princeton puts it, should be, "Always to care, never to kill."

The weakness of the social conservative case is that for most of us, especially in these days of advanced medical technology, it is hard to ignore distinctions between different modes of living. In some hospital rooms, there are people living forms of existence that upon direct contact do seem even worse than death.[...]

The core belief that social liberals bring to cases like Ms. Schiavo's is that the quality of life is a fundamental human value. They don't emphasize the bright line between life and death; they describe a continuum between a fully lived life and a life that, by the sort of incapacity Terri Schiavo has suffered, is mere existence.

On one end of that continuum are those fortunate enough to be able to live fully - to decide and act, to experience the world and be free. On the other end are those who, tragically, can do none of these things, and who are merely existing.

Social liberals warn against vitalism, the elevation of physical existence over other values. They say it is up to each individual or family to draw their own line to define when life passes to mere existence.

The central weakness of the liberal case is that it is morally thin. Once you say that it is up to individuals or families to draw their own lines separating life from existence, and reasonable people will differ, then you are taking a fundamental issue out of the realm of morality and into the realm of relativism and mere taste.[...]

What I'm describing here is the clash of two serious but flawed arguments. The socially conservative argument has tremendous moral force, but doesn't accord with the reality we see when we walk through a hospice. The socially liberal argument is pragmatic, but lacks moral force.

No wonder many of us feel agonized this week, betwixt and between, as that poor woman slowly dehydrates.

All across America, millions of decent folks have responded to the story of Terri Schiavo by allowing their moral compasses to be deflected to issues far removed from her actual case. Rather than confront head-on the plight of a 41-year-old disabled and uncommunicative, but sentient and unsuffering, woman in the care of a financially-interested, emotionally-remote ex-spouse who has a new family and has spent seven years trying to end her life against the wishes of parents and siblings who wish desperately to care for her, they have allowed themselves to be diverted to the plight of the ill and elderly on life-support in hopeless and painful circumstances. Believing that they themselves would wish their families to end the pointless prolongation privately and lovingly, they are alarmed, indeed terrified, by the spectre of Tom Delay and a gaggle of chanting Christians moving in to rudely displace their loved ones and condemn them to endless degrading years on a respirator.

Mr. Brooks does not seem to understand how his philosophical equivocations are tantamount to ceding the debate to the same liberals he so effectively skewers. He argues like the good citizen who is appalled by late-term abortions, but is deflected by the first poignant story of a raped teenager. He is like the neighbour who watches a friend’s family dissolve cruelly through adultery and can only react by musing philosophically on how complicated family life is and how one never knows what is really going on in a marriage. He is like the citizen who is appalled by teenage prostitution, but can think of no solution that won't unfairly criminalize youth. Like Mr. Brooks, many such people are good souls who truly feel agonized. But, also as with Mr. Brooks, their agony is largely wasted and self-indulgent, for it does not contribute to any justice or resolution or moral advance. It simply congratulates itself on its subtle humanity and acquiesces in whatever is going on around it. In this case, can there be any greater examples of moral vacuity than all those citizens who profess to be horribly anguished by Mrs. Schiavo slow death, but who have nothing to say beyond the importance of having a living will?

The greatest obstacle facing those who argue for decency amd morality is not the concerted opposition of committed and philosophically-consistent secular relativists. It is the widespread modern belief that moral issues are always so complicated that firm convictions (and consequent actions) are by definition simplistic, harsh and suspect. They can be. But not always. And not this time.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:01 AM

BUY THEIR VOTES:

Amid Famine, Zimbabwe Voters Fed Anti-Blair Vitriol: Britain is the issue in state media as legislative elections near, but food shortage stirs anger. (Robyn Dixon, March 26, 2005, LA Times)

"Bury Blair, vote ZANU-PF," run the ruling party's newspaper advertisements, promising "an end to racist factory closures, an end to racist withholding of commodities," along with a litany of other domestic problems blamed on the British leader. Mugabe is furious with Britain, the country's former colonial power, especially since Blair said he would like to see a change of regime in Zimbabwe.

Opposition leaders and rights activists charge that the government has nonetheless underpinned its anti-Blair parliamentary election campaign with threats that play on fears sparked by the food crisis. They allege that the government has threatened to bypass areas that fail to support ZANU-PF when it distributes food after Thursday's voting.

"Every time you turn on the television, you hear about how bad Tony Blair is. People are taking it as a joke. There's no strong anti-British sentiment," said a supervisor at a factory in this southwestern city. He agreed to a surreptitious interview conducted in a car outside his workplace but, fearing repercussions, gave his name only as Jack.

But he said there was plenty of anxiety about food. His elderly mother in rural central Zimbabwe and his three children at school in Bulawayo had all been warned, he said, that supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change could miss out on rations.

It is difficult to predict whether the food shortages will translate into popular anger against the government in the vote or fear of being denied food will boost the ruling party's support. Either way, analysts expect ZANU-PF to win the elections.


Why not a very public pledge from the U.S. and the Commonwealth to step in with massive food assistance for a post-Mugabe Zimbabwe?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:55 AM

KEEP THE BUDGET CUTTERS, PURGE THE EUROPHILES:

Tory split as Howard ditches errant MP (GERRI PEEV, 3/26/05, The Scotsman)

MICHAEL Howard yesterday ended the political career of Howard Flight, his former deputy party chairman, in an unprecedented punishment for his suggesting the party has a hidden agenda of spending cuts.

In an exceptional and ruthless move, the Tory leader said that Mr Flight - who was sacked from his front-bench job on Thursday - should also give up his safe parliamentary seat.

The Labour Party jumped on Mr Flight’s comments yesterday, saying it had plunged the Conservative campaign into disarray and exposed Mr Howard’s secret plans to slash public services.

An incandescent Mr Howard sacked his deputy chairman on Thursday night. Yesterday, he went further, threatening to cause uproar in his party by forcing Mr Flight’s Arundel and South Downs constituency to replace him as candidate for the forthcoming general election.


Opportunity is wasted on these guys.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:49 AM

PAST TIME TO TURN INWARD, MR. PUTIN:

Russia Fumbles, and Former Sphere of Influence Deflates: Moscow has all but lost a hold on ex-Soviet states by underestimating the populace, analysts say. (Kim Murphy, March 26, 2005, NY Times)

The revolt in Kyrgyzstan that toppled Russia's strongest ally in Central Asia was the result of the latest in what analysts say is an astonishing and painful series of diplomatic missteps by Moscow.

Three largely nonviolent revolutions over the last 16 months have all but eliminated Moscow's attempt to dominate the former Soviet states that were once part of its unquestioned empire.

The sudden collapse of Kyrgyz President Askar A. Akayev's regime, after the overthrow of governments in Georgia and Ukraine, highlights the fundamental frailty of corrupt, unpopular post-Soviet regimes across the region — most seriously, potentially, in Russia itself.

As a result, the once-formidable power wielded by the Kremlin in the three former Soviet capitals has given way to an increasingly influential diplomatic role for the United States and Europe — in part, analysts say, because of Russia's failure to successfully manage foreign policy in a region it has declared vital to its own strategic interests.

"The entire world has now seen that Russia is powerless and incapable of doing anything. And next time, no one will even think about resorting to Russia's mediation services and patronage," said Stanislav Belkovsky, a political analyst with close ties to the Kremlin. "Everyone understands that the big lion is dead, and should not be feared."


It would have been better for everyone concerned had George H. W. Bush and the Realists not been in power when the Wall was torn down, so that the coup de grace could have been delivered despite the temporary instability it would have provoked. But you can't stop the End, only delay it.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:45 AM

EAST IS EAST...AND WEST:

Where Faith Thrives (NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF, 3/26/05, NY Times)

So with Easter approaching, here I am in the heart of Christendom.

That's right - Africa. One of the most important trends reshaping the world is the decline of Christianity in Europe and its rise in Africa and other parts of the developing world, including Asia and Latin America.

I stopped at a village last Sunday morning here in Zimbabwe - and found not a single person to interview, for everyone had hiked off to church a dozen miles away. And then I dropped by a grocery store with a grim selection of the cheapest daily necessities - and huge multicolored chocolate Easter eggs.

On Easter, more Anglicans will attend church in Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda - each - than Anglicans and Episcopalians together will attend services in Britain, Canada and the U.S. combined.

More Roman Catholics will celebrate Easter Mass in the Philippines than in any European country. The largest church in the world is in South Korea. And more Christians will probably attend Easter services in China than in all of Europe together.

In short, for the first time since it began two millenniums ago, Christianity is no longer "Western" in any very meaningful sense.


Funny how he manages to arrive at exactly the wrong point. It is post-Christian Europe that is ceasing to be Western, while the developing world is becoming so.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:41 AM

THE MORE THINGS CHANGE...:

Vital Signs of a Ruined Falluja Grow Stronger (ROBERT F. WORTH, 3/26/05, NY Times)

Four months after American bombs and guns pounded much of this city into ruins, some signs of life are returning. A kebab shop and a bakery have reopened on the bullet-scarred main boulevard. About a third of the city's 250,000 residents have trickled back since early January. American marines and Iraqi police officers patrol the streets, and there has been little violence.

But the safety has come at a high price. To enter Falluja, residents must wait about four hours to get through the rigid military checkpoints, and there are strict nightly curfews. That has stunted the renascent economy and the reconstruction effort. It has also frustrated the residents, who are still coming to grips with their shattered streets and houses. Many have jobs or relatives outside the city.

"Falluja is safe," said Hadima Khalifa Abed, 42, who returned to her ruined home in January with her husband and 10 children. "But it is safe like a prison."


This is just the modern version of the slavery our ancient ancestors practiced when they needed to radically alter a conquered people's culture.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:37 AM

WIN/WIN/WIN:

Bush irks India by selling fighters (Sharon Behn, 3/26/05, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

The Bush administration yesterday announced the sale of F-16 fighter jets to its anti-terrorism ally, Pakistan, a major policy shift in the region that irked Pakistan's longtime nuclear rival India.

Pakistan, the only nuclear-armed Muslim-majority nation, is seen as critical to the U.S. strategy in the region. A senior administration official said yesterday there was "no set limit" on what Washington would be willing to sell to Islamabad.

The decision was warmly welcomed by Pakistan, but more coolly received by India.

"This is a good gesture," said Pakistani Information Minister Shaikh Rashid Ahmed. "This shows that our relations are growing stronger," he told Reuters news agency.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was informed of the sale by President Bush in a telephone call, was not pleased.

"The prime minister expressed India's great disappointment at this decision which could have negative consequences for India's security environment," the prime minister's spokesman, Sanjaya Baru, said.

The decision to sell the fighter jets reflects a shift in American strategy toward South Asia into trying "to build long-term foundations of security and friendship" with Pakistan, India and Afghanistan, the administration official said.


A significant amount of the work on F-16s is apparently done in Fort Worth, TX and internal politics will force India to place orders for them too. Nice when your international strategy melds with your home state interests.


MORE (via David Cohen):
Here's an interesting coincidence, -U.S. Air Force receives last F-16 (F-16 Net, March 25, 2005)

The US Air Force has received the last of 2,231 F-16 fighters manufactured for the service, the Air Force's Aeronautical Systems Center announced on Thursday.

The general who was the F-16 System Program Office director at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, when the contract for the aircraft was awarded delivered the Air Force's last F-16 Fighting Falcon on March 18.

While Lockheed Martin Aero, Fort Worth, will continue to produce F-16s for international coalition partners, this aircraft is the last of 2,231 F-16s produced for the Air Force, officials said. The first delivery was in 1978.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:31 AM

INTERNAL INCOHERENCE:

DIVIDED BLACK CAUCUS (Robert Novak, 3/26/05, Townhall)

Nearly half of the Congressional Black Caucus members who voted in the House on the Terri Schiavo case last weekend supported the Republican-sponsored bill, but none participated in the debate and only one put a statement on his website.

Nine voted yes, 13 voted no, and 18 were not present. Supporters included such prominent African-American congressmen as Harold Ford of Tennessee and Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois. They all kept quiet about it except for Albert Wynn of Maryland.

While he said nothing during House debate, Wynn's statement on his website said that while the case should not have been brought before Congress, he added that it had become "a question of conscience." In the absence of a living will, he said, "Congress should afford Ms. Schiavo the opportunity to continue receiving life-saving sustenance."


How would they explain to their constituents that starving the burdensome is permissible?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:10 AM

HE CERTAINLY DIDN'T LEARN IT FROM LASORDA:

Position of Influence: Figgins' speed and versatility make him a most valuable asset, no matter where Angels play him (Mike DiGiovanna, March 26, 2005, LA Times)

Way down the list of vote-getters for the 2004 American League most-valuable-player award, far behind superstars Vladimir Guerrero, Gary Sheffield, Manny Ramirez, Miguel Tejada and Alex Rodriguez, in 29th place to be exact, was Chone Figgins.

The Angel utility player's total of two points, for the two 10th-place votes he received, seemed minuscule compared to the triple-digit figures at the top of the charts. But to Figgins, those votes represent "one of the greatest accomplishments I've ever had," he said. "To even be mentioned as an MVP candidate was a great honor." [...]

The versatile, speedy Figgins started at five positions — shortstop, center field, third base, second base and right field — fielding each proficiently, and hit in six lineup spots, first, second, third, seventh, eighth and ninth.

He batted .296 with five home runs, 17 triples, 22 doubles, 60 runs batted in, 83 runs and a team-high 34 stolen bases, and with the exception of August, when his average dipped to .269, he hit .283 or better in each month.


The way he used Chone Figgins is just one indicator of what makes Mike Scioscia perhaps the best manager in the game today. With the plethora of great young players they have at the top levels of their minor league system, his Angels could be the dominant team in baseball for some time to come.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:36 AM

SELF-REFERENCE ALERT (UNPLEASANT MEDICAL DETAILS INCLUDED):

A Monument in Poor Taste (Khaled Al-Awadh, 26 March 2005, Arab News)

It seemed like a good idea to somebody. Marking the way to the health center with a giant sculpture of a hypodermic syringe certainly is thematic, but some parents and medical professional think the artists missed the point.

Blocking the negative thoughts of needles among children seems impossible at Al-Shmasiah Primary Health Care Center as a giant statue of a hypodermic needle greets every child and adult at the center’s entrance.

Al-Shmasiah is a town located 45 km east of Buraidah.

Municipal efforts to beautify the town by erecting this giant sculpture on the way to the dispensary contravene the simplest medical principles of reducing anxiety among children at the time of immunizations and health-related injections.

“Municipal workers misread the situation,” said one visitor of the center who was accompanying his 6-year-old son.


When I was a kid I passed a kidney stone--an experience I do not recommend--but was so young that the doctors figured it must ha e been something else so kept me in the hospital for a bit while they probed orifi a 5-year-old barely knows exist. Ever after I've had a stark terror of the medical profession (and a rather heightened homphobia). At any rate, a couple years later I'd come down with some kind of virulent strep throat for which the treatment was not just penicillin but penicillin delivered through three buttockular injections spaced over several days. For the first the Mother Judd and the doctor were able to hold me down, but for the second they needed reinforcements from the nursing staff. On the way to get the third--a trip for which I was bound, but unfortunately not blind-folded--we were passed by the delivery car for a local pharmacy. It was a silver Volkswagen Beetle with a six-foot hypodermic needle mounted on the roof as an advertisement. With every health care professional in Bay Shore, Long Island holding me down, I actually bit all the way through a tongue depressor (back when they were thick as yardsticks) as they adminstered the third shot.

Whoever had the bright idea to bring back the giant needle should be horsewhipped.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM

LIVESTOCK:

The Great Liberal Death Wish (Malcolm Muggeridge, May 1979, Imprimis)

Anyway, these were the golden days of liberalism when the Manchester Guardian was widely read, and even believed. Despite all its misprints, you could make out roughly speaking what it was saying, and what we typed out was quite likely, to our great satisfaction, to be quoted in some paper in - Baghdad or Smyrna as being the opinion of our very influential organ of enlightened liberalism. I remember my first day I was there, and somehow it symbolizes the whole experience. I was asked to write a leader - a short leader of about 120 words - on corporal punishment. At some head-masters' conference, it seemed, words had been spoken about corporal punishment and I was to produce appropriate comment. So I put my head into the room next to mine, and asked the man who was working there: "What's our line on corporal punishment?" Without looking up from his type-writer, he replied: "The same as capital, only more so." So I knew exactly what to tap out, you see. That was how I got into the shocking habit of pontificating about what was going on in the world; observing that the Greeks did not seem to want an orderly government, or that one despaired sometimes of the Irish having any concern for law and order; weighty pronouncement tapped out on a typewriter, deriving from nowhere, and for all one knew, concerning no one.

We were required to end anything we wrote on a hopeful note, because liberalism is a hopeful creed. And so, however appalling and black the situation that we described, we would always conclude with some sentence like: "It is greatly to be hoped that moderate men of all shades of opinion will draw together, and that wiser councils may yet prevail." How many times I gave expression to such jejune hopes! Well, I soon grew weary of this, because it seemed to me that immoderate men were rather strongly in evidence, and I couldn't see that wiser councils were prevailing anywhere. The depression was on by that time, I'm talking now of 1932--33. It was on especially in Lancashire, and it seemed as though our whole way of life was cracking up, and, of course, I looked across at the USSR with a sort of longing, thinking that there was an alternative, some other way in which people could live, and I managed to maneuver matters so that I was sent to Moscow as the Guardian correspondent, arriving there fully prepared to see in the Soviet regime the answer to all our troubles, only to discover in a very short time that though it might be an answer, it was a very unattractive one.

It's difficult to convey to you what a shock this was, realizing that what I had supposed to be the new brotherly way of life my father and his cronies had imagined long before, was simply on examination an appalling tyranny, in which the only thing that mattered, the only reality, was power. So again, like the British raj, in the USSR I was confronted with power as the absolute and ultimate arbiter. However, that was a thing that one could take in one's stride. How I first came to conceive the notion of the great liberal death wish was not at all in consequence of what was happening in the USSR, which, as I came to reflect after-ward, was simply the famous lines in the Magnificat working out, "He hath put down the mighty from their seat and hath exalted the humble and meek," whereupon, of course, the humble and meek become mighty in their turn and have to be put down. That was just history, something that happens in the world; people achieve power, exercise power, abuse power, are booted out of power, and then it all begins again. The thing that impressed me, and the thing that touched off my awareness of the great liberal death wish, my sense that western man was, as it were, sleep-walking into his own ruin, was the extraordinary performance of the liberal intelligentsia, who, in those days, flocked to Moscow like pilgrims to Mecca. And they were one and all utterly delighted and excited by what they saw there. Clergymen walked serenely and happily through the anti-god museums, politicians claimed that no system of society could possibly be more equitable and just, lawyers admired Soviet justice, and economists praised the Soviet economy. They all wrote articles in this sense which we resident journalists knew were completely nonsensical. It's impossible to exaggerate to you the impression that this made on me. Mrs. Webb had said to Kitty and me: "You'll find that in the USSR Sydney and I are icons. " As a matter of fact they were, Marxist icons.

How could this be? How could this extraordinary credulity exist in the minds of people who were adulated by one and all as maestros of discernment and judgment? It was from that moment that I began to get the feeling that a liberal view of life was not what I'd supposed it to be - a creative movement which would shape the future - but rather a sort of death wish. How otherwise could you explain how people, in their own country ardent for equality, bitter opponents of capital punishment and all for more humane treatment of people in prison, supporters, in fact, of every good cause, should in the USSR prostrate themselves before a regime ruled over brutal-ly and oppressively and arbitrarily by a privileged party oligarchy? I still ponder over the mystery of how men displaying critical intelligence in other fields could be so astonishingly deluded. I tell you, if ever you are looking for a good subject for a thesis, you could get a very fine one out of a study of the books that were written by people like the Dean of Canterbury, Julian Huxley, Harold Laski, Bernard Shaw, or the Webbs about the Soviet regime. In the process you would come upon a compendium of fatuity such as has seldom, if ever, existed on earth. And I would really recommend it; after all, the people who wrote these books were, and continue to be regarded as, pundits, whose words must be very, very seriously heeded and considered.

I recall in their yellow jackets a famous collection in England called the Left Book Club. You would be amazed at the gullibility that's expressed. We foreign journalists in Moscow used to amuse ourselves, as a matter of fact, by competing with one another as to who could wish upon one of these intelligentsia visitors to the USSR the most out-rageous fantasy. We would tell them, for instance, that the shortage of milk in Moscow was entirely due to the fact that all milk was given nursing mothers - things like that. If they put it in the articles they subsequently wrote, then you'd score a point. One story I floated myself, for which I received considerable acclaim, was that the huge queues outside food shops came about because the Soviet workers were so ardent in building Socialism that they just wouldn't rest, and the only way the government could get them to rest for even two or three hours was organizing a queue for them to stand in. I laugh at it all now, but at the time you can imagine what a shock it was to someone like myself, who had been brought up to regard liberal intellectuals as the samurai, the absolute elite, of the human race, to find that they could be taken in by deceptions which a half-witted boy would see through in an instant. I never got over that; it always remained in my mind as something that could never be erased. I could never henceforth regard the intelligentsia as other than credulous fools who nonetheless became the media's prophetic voices, their heirs and successors remaining so still. That's when I began to think seriously about the great liberal death wish.

In due course, I came back to England to await the Second World War, in the course of which I found myself engaged in Intelligence duties. And let me tell you that if there is one thing more fantastical than news, it is Intelligence. News itself is a sort of fantasy; and when you actually go collecting news, you realize that this is so. In a certain sense, you create news; you dream news up yourself and then send it. But that's nothing to the fantasy of Intelligence. Of the two, I would say that news seems really quite a sober and considered commodity compared with your offerings when you're an Intelligence agent.

Anyway, when in 1945 I found myself a civilian again, I tried to sort out my thoughts about the great wave of optimism that followed the Second World War - for me, a repeat performance. It was then that I came to realize how, in the name of progress and compassion, the most terrible things were going to be done, preparing the way for the great humane holocaust, about which I have spoken. There was, it seemed to me, a built in propensity in this liberal world-view whereby the opposite of what was intended came to pass. Take the case of education. Education was the great mumbo--jumbo of progress, the assumption being that educating people would make them grow better and better, more and more objective and intelligent. Actually, as more and more money is spent on education, illiteracy is increasing. And I wouldn't be at all surprised if it didn't end up with virtually the whole revenue of the western countries being spent on education, and a condition of almost total illiteracy resulting therefrom. It's quite on the cards.

Now I want to try to get to grips with this strange state of affairs. Let's look again at the humane holocaust. What happened in Germany was that long before the Nazis got into power, a great propaganda was undertaken to sterilize people who were considered to be useless or a liability to society, and after that to introduce what they called "mercy killing." This happened long before the Nazis set up their extermination camps at Auschwitz and elsewhere, and was based upon the highest humanitarian considerations. You see what I'm getting at? On a basis of liberal-humanism, there is no creature in the universe greater than man, and the future of the human race rests only with human beings themselves, which leads infallibly to some sort of suicidal situation. It's to me quite clear that that is so, the evidence is on every hand. The efforts that men make to bring about their own happiness, their own ease of life, their own self-indulgence, will in due course produce the opposite, leading me to the absolutely inescapable conclusion that human beings cannot live and operate in this world without some concept of a being greater than themselves, and of a purpose which transcends their own egotistic or greedy desires. Once you eliminate the notion of a God, a creator, once you eliminate the notion that the creator has a purpose for us, and that life consists essentially in fulfilling that purpose, then you are bound, as Pascal points out, to induce the megalomania of which we've seen so many manifestations in our time - in the crazy dictators, as in the lunacies of people who are rich, or who consider themselves to be important or celebrated in the western world. Alternatively, human beings relapse into mere carnality, into being animals. I see this process going on irresistably, of which the holocaust is only just one example. If you envisage men as being only men, you are bound to see human society, not in Christian terms as a family, but as a factory--farm in which the only consideration that matters is the well--being of the livestock and the prosperity or productivity of the enterprise. That's where you land yourself. And it is in that situation that western man is increasingly finding himself.

MORE:
In Love With Death: The bizarre passion of the pull-the-tube people. (Peggy Noonan, March 24, 2005, Opinion Journal)

God made the world or he didn't.

God made you or he didn't.

If he did, your little human life is, and has been, touched by the divine. If this is true, it would be true of all humans, not only some. And so--again, if it is true--each human life is precious, of infinite value, worthy of great respect.

Most--not all, but probably most--of those who support Terri Schiavo's right to live believe the above. This explains their passion and emotionalism. They believe they are fighting for an invaluable and irreplaceable human life. They are like the mother who is famously said to have lifted the back of a small car off the ground to save a child caught under a tire. You're desperate to save a life, you're shot through with adrenaline, your strength is for half a second superhuman, you do the impossible.

That is what they are trying to do.

They do not want an innocent human life ended for what appear to be primarily practical and worldly reasons--e.g., Mrs. Schiavo's quality of life is low, her life is pointless. They say: Who is to say it is pointless? And what does pointless even mean? Maybe life itself is the point.

I do not understand the emotionalism of the pull-the-tube people. What is driving their engagement? Is it because they are compassionate, and their hearts bleed at the thought that Mrs. Schiavo suffers? But throughout this case no one has testified that she is in persistent pain, as those with terminal cancer are. [...]

Why are they so committed to this woman's death?

They seem to have fallen half in love with death.


March 25, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:43 PM

The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold (Evelyn Waugh)

His strongest tastes were negative. He abhorred plastics, Picasso, sunbathing and jazz—everything in fact that had happened in his own lifetime. The tiny kindling of charity which came to him through his religion sufficed only to temper his disgust and change it to boredom. There was a phrase in the ’thirties: “It is later than you think,” which was designed to cause uneasiness.

It was never later than Mr. Pinfold thought.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:22 PM

ONE MORE REASON TO HATE LAWYERS (via Emily Bourie):

Inside Story on Schiavo Case (Steve Sailer, 3/25/05)

A Florida lawyer writes:

I have been following the case for years. Something that interests me about the Terri Schiavo case, and that doesn't seem to have gotten much media attention: The whole case rests on the fact that the Schindlers (Terri's parents) were totally outlawyered by the husband (Michael Schiavo) at the trial court level.

This happened because, in addition to getting a $750K judgment for Terri's medical care, Michael Schiavo individually got a $300K award of damages for loss of consortium, which gave him the money to hire a top-notch lawyer to represent him on the right-to-die claim. He hired George Felos, who specializes in this area and litigated one of the landmark right-to-die cases in Florida in the early 90s.

By contrast, the Schindlers had trouble even finding a lawyer who would take their case since there was no money in it. Finally they found an inexperienced lawyer who agreed to take it partly out of sympathy for them, but she had almost no resources to work with and no experience in this area of the law. She didn't even depose Michael Schiavo's siblings, who were key witnesses at the trial that decided whether Terri would have wanted to be kept alive. Not surprisingly, Felos steamrollered her.

The parents obviously had no idea what they were up against until it was too late. It was only after the trial that they started going around to religious and right-to-life groups to tell their story. These organizations were very supportive, but by that point their options were already limited because the trial judge had entered a judgment finding that Terri Schiavo would not have wanted to live.

This fact is of crucial importance...


MORE:
City man makes progress after brain damage (Ken Raymond and Jim Killackey,
The Oklahoman)

Rick and Tamie Hollis think they know how Terri Schiavo's parents feel.

Their son, Dustin Hollis, now 22, suffered brain damage in a 2003 motorcycle accident in Oklahoma City. Unresponsive for months, fed through a tube in his side, he was not expected to improve, and his parents were repeatedly told to face the facts.

"Against the advice of all of the doctors and medical experts, we brought him home," Rick Hollis said Friday. "The doctors said he was in a semi-comatose state. They said we would probably kill him."

Instead, he has made gradual progress, and his improvement and memory of events around him has convinced the Hollis family to speak out — like thousands of others — in support of Schiavo's parents and their desperate bid to save their daughter.

"From watching the footage on the news, Terri is tracking with her eyes," Tamie Hollis said. "She's smiling. She knows what's going on around her."

Schiavo, who has not been given food or water for a week, has been in a persistent vegetative state since suffering a cardiac arrest in 1990.

Friday, a U.S. District Court judge denied a request by Schiavo's parents to have her feeding tube reinserted, marking the second such denial this week. The family has filed an appeal.

"Watching all of this, it scares me to death that something will happen to me and my wife and someone else will decide to remove my son's tube," Rick Hollis said. "I've cried tears about this."


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:24 PM

HAVING OUR CAKE AND BEATING THEM TOO:

Media Groups Back Reporters In Court Filing: Judges Urged to Determine if Crime Occurred in Leak Case (Dan Eggen, March 24, 2005, Washington Post)

A federal court should first determine whether a crime has been committed in the disclosure of an undercover CIA operative's name before prosecutors are allowed to continue seeking testimony from journalists about their confidential sources, the nation's largest news organizations and journalism groups asserted in a court filing yesterday.

The 40-page brief, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, argues that there is "ample evidence . . . to doubt that a crime has been committed" in the case, which centers on the question of whether Bush administration officials knowingly revealed the identity of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame in the summer of 2003.


So after whipping up a pointless hysteria about this non-story they have to go into court to try and wiggle off the petard--and people wonder why we believe in Providence?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:52 PM

HIS MAJESTY:

Hail the king of rock 'n' soul (Randy Lewis, 2/05/05, LA Times)

Anyone coming into the presence of King Solomon ought to be armed with this bit of wisdom: prepare to take your shoes off and set a spell.

Sitting on a gilt, bejeweled, red velvet-accented throne in the living room of his two-story West San Fernando Valley home, Solomon Burke, the man dubbed "the king of rock 'n' soul" in the 1960s, exudes an aura that's part beneficent monarch, part folksy Jed Clampett.

He really does require visitors to remove their shoes and leave them in the hallway before moving into the living room, but it's not a move to put callers on the defensive. Once the shoes are doffed, he quickly offers a warm handshake and a gentle bear hug, putting even strangers in their socks immediately at ease despite his commanding presence.

Burke, 64, is hoping to throw that bear-like frame of his around music fans once again with his forthcoming album, "Make Do With What You Got," the follow-up to his 2002 career-revitalizing collection, "Don't Give Up on Me."

That album found the greatly underappreciated singer in superb voice more than four decades after first hitting the charts with "Just Out of Reach (Of My Two Open Arms)" and "Cry to Me." More important, he had songs equal to that voice by such stellar writers (and fans) as Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello, Van Morrison, Tom Waits, Brian Wilson and Nick Lowe.

As in those Lotto commercials, there was a big upside: renewed attention and respect from critics, fans and fellow musicians; the highest chart numbers of his career, and his first Grammy (for best contemporary blues album).

The downside: What next?


Solomon Burke is a central character in one of the best books ever written about America and certainly the best ever written about American music, Peter Guralnick's Sweet Soul Music. There's a phenomenal two disc intro to his music available: Home in Your Heart: The Best of Solomon Burke, although he's at his best live.


MORE:
-INTERVIEW: SONGS OF SOLOMON: SOLOMON BURKE INTERVIEW (James Porter, Roctober #33, 2002)
-Soul King: Solomon Burke’s big success. (Stuart Thornton, Jun 24, 2004, Monterey County Weekly)
-PROFILE: The Boswell of the Blues: With his definitive two-part biography, Peter Guralnick did for Elvis what Boswell did for Dr. Johnson. Now he’s set his sights on Sam Cooke. (Eric McHenry, Fall 2002, Bostonia)


Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:42 PM

THE DEMORALIZED LEFT (via Robert Schwartz):

Will the Left Finally Talk About What Matters? (Joshua Halberstam, March 18, 2005, Forward)

For years I've tried to get my students to talk about "it." "It" can be almost any controversial issue, but we never get there; my students, like most of my academic colleagues and New York City Upper West Side friends, and the American left in general, have long ago ceded actual moral judgments to others, i.e.,moral conservatives. And all of us , red and blue, pay the price.

Say the topic is pornography. I gamely ask my class: "Do you think pornography is degrading? Ignoble? Liberating?" The hands go up: "People have a right to see what they want." Three other hands: "Who decides what counts as porno anyway?" I say: "Okay, let's agree, censorship is absolutely wrong: Now about pornography... what do you think about it? " Another hand: "According to the First Amendment...."

This refusal to address "the thing itself," has been going on for decades and is systemic, ranging over issues of sexual morality and moral education to ascriptions of good and evil, dignity and decency. But if social liberals are to regain their moral voice, they need to examine how it became so muted.

Perhaps the most common form of moral reticence is the liberal habit of transforming value judgments into legal judgments. Consider, for example, the asymmetry in our long-standing national dispute about abortion. "Right-to-
lifers" seek legal restrictions on abortions, but also declare the procedure a moral wrong. In contrast, the liberal side of this debate refuses to render judgments about abortion itself, preferring to withdraw behind the barrier of legal rights. But suppose we acknowledge, insist even, on women's sovereignty over their bodies. What then of abortion itself? Is it ever a moral imperative to have an abortion? Is it ever morally wrong? Do liberals have anything to say that is not about the "right to choose" but about the choice itself? Similarly, assuming that prostitution should not be illegal, is its moral opprobrium deserved? Are there circumstances in which prostitution should even be encouraged? Again, what moral, not legal, reflections are appropriate here? You'll find further examples of this legalistic turn away from moral judgments with regard to hate speech, drugs, gambling, chastity, privacy, security policy... the list is painfully long.


Here's all we really need to know about the modern Left: they'll greet the coming news of Terri Schiavo's death with a sense of vindication, if not outright joy.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:31 PM

RESENTMENT MORE THAN REACTION:

The anti-populist: Traditionalist historian John Lukacs laments the direction of conservatism in America (Jeet Heer, March 6, 2005, Boston Globe)

In both his new book and in his larger career, Lukacs reminds us of a deep fissure that exists between traditional European conservatism and the contemporary American variety. Historically, the great conservative thinkers, from Burke to Tocqueville, have been wary of democracy, let alone populism. In conversation, Lukacs is pessimistic about current American politics, arguing that mass democracy is vulnerable to demagogic manipulation. ''The people do not speak, or they very seldom speak,'' he observes. ''But other people speak in the name of the people.'' In his new book, he expresses the fear that we are witnessing ''the degeneration of democracy'' into an ersatz populism.

The author of more than 25 works of history and countless articles, the Hungarian-born Lukacs has a particularly devoted fan club among conservatives like George Will and Richard Brookhiser, who admire his old-fashioned focus on the role of great men like Churchill and the enduring reality of national character. But while he has frequently contributed to National Review, the American Spectator, and other conservative publications (along with many liberal and nonpartisan ones), Lukacs eschews the label of ''conservative,'' preferring to describe himself as a ''reactionary,'' instinctively skeptical of the claims of progress whether made on the left or right. The reactionary ''is a patriot but not a nationalist,'' Lukacs explained in his 1990 autobiography, ''Confessions of an Original Sinner.'' ''He favors conservation rather than conservatism; he defends the ancient blessing of the land and is dubious about the results of technology; he believes in history, not in Evolution.''

Despite the fact that the Republican Party has made populism into a winning ticket, Lukacs reminds us of the intellectual contradiction inherent in today's American conservatism, which stirs up populist resentment toward the elite even as it extols ''traditional'' values.

It was Lukacs's own early experiences in the cauldron of European history that taught him to be suspicious of the kind of mass politics he sees dominating the United States today. Born in Budapest in 1924 to a father who was a progressive-minded Catholic doctor and a bourgeois Jewish mother, Lukacs grew up in the shadow of Hungary's golden age. He attended Budapest University, where he studied history.

Conscripted into the Hungarian army when it was allied with Germany, Lukacs became a deserter, spending the last days of the war in hiding as Budapest was being bombed by the allies. Although he welcomed the defeat of the Germans, he had no illusions of what liberation by the Russians meant. Soon after the war ended, Lukacs made contact with Rear Admiral William F. Dietrich, a member of the American mission in Hungary, to whom he supplied ad hoc intelligence reports about the tightening grip of Russian power in Hungary.

After emigrating to the United States in 1946, Lukacs eventually found a steady job teaching at Chestnut Hill College in Pennsylvania, where he stayed until his retirement in 1994. In his new homeland, Lukacs found himself at odds with both liberals and conservatives. Some liberals, to his chagrin, were full of illusions about the benevolence of Soviet communism, while anti-Red crusaders like Joseph McCarthy were more preoccupied with ferreting out spies in the government than with containing Soviet power in Central Europe.

''Already [in the '50s] the trouble with most conservatives was that it was a negative conservatism,'' says Lukacs, who penned several anti-McCarthy articles for Commonweal magazine when the Senator was riding high. ''They were anti-liberal. And that's not enough.''

From the early '50s onward, Lukacs repeatedly argued in books and articles that the Soviet Union was a brittle and fearful empire that was having trouble holding itself together, and that the United States should focus on pushing for fresh negotiations over the status of Central Europe rather than pursuing blustery ideological combat and pointless wars in Asia. (On this last point he found a kindred spirit in another traditionalist and early anticommunist-diplomat George F. Kennan, who became critical of Cold War excesses and who remains a close friend of Lukacs's.) Since the end of the Cold War, Lukacs has consistently advocated a more modest American role in the world, arguing that it is foolish to get entangled in the affairs of the Middle East and other hot spots.

Among Lukacs's many books two general types stand out: impressionistic reflections on modern history and philosophy with titles like ''The Passing of the Modern Age'' and ''Historical Consciousness,'' and narrative histories focusing on World War II, including ''The Duel'' (about the standoff between Hitler and Churchill in 1940) and, most recently, ''Churchill: Visionary. Statesman. Historian.''

In general, his straightforward histories have received the most attention. ''As a historian I think he is absolutely outstanding,'' says Emory University historian Patrick Allitt, author of the 1993 study ''Catholic Intellectuals and Conservative Politics in America, 1950-1985,'' in which he compared Lukacs with more mainstream conservative Catholics like William F. Buckley, John Courtney Murray, and Michael Novak. ''I put him in the very first rank of historians of the 20th century. I think he's utterly brilliant, both in his incredible powers of research and assimilation and his wonderful style [and] psychological insight.''

Yet Allitt believes that Lukacs's elitism limits the practical worth of his political worldview. ''He's never going to be a central figure in the American conservative tradition because he says things which practical politicians mustn't say,'' Allitt argues. ''Because he's an elitist he can be an interesting person to give daring and energetic ideas to conservatives, but they can't take him to the polls.''

Richard Brookhiser, an editor at National Review and a respected historian in his own right, makes a similar distinction between Lukacs's historical work and his more political writing in books like ''Populism and Democracy.'' While exceptionally insightful on World War II, Brookhiser says, Lukacs's critique of nationalism and democracy is based on a blinkered view of American culture and an unwillingness to recognize what makes America different from Europe.

Brookhiser explains his point by way of a history lesson. ''Theodore Roosevelt once wrote that there were two ways in which Jefferson was superior to Hamilton. One was his love for the West and the other was his trust in the people. I think to the 'trust in the people,' John would probably say that is populism, and evil nationalism is probably lurking behind the door. But...a disposition to trust the people up to a certain point in certain ways is an American thing and perhaps it is America's contribution to the world.''

Lukacs bristles at the suggestion that he sees America through a distorting European lens. ''I'm not speaking as a Hungarian,'' he says. ''I've lived in this country now for almost 60 years. My books don't deal with Hungary, but with British and American history.''


Thast's sadly false. He reserves particular opprobrium for the three conservative presidents he's lived under--Ike, Reagan, and W--while he all but worships Winston Churchill. Hard to see any other reason but that the last was an intellectual and an aristocrat.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:25 PM

0% IS STILL USURIOUS:

Japan prices post fastest fall in two years (David Pilling, March 25 2005, Financial Times)

Falling utility and telecoms charges pushed prices down by their fastest rate in almost two years in February, underlining the stubbornness of Japanese deflation.

The core consumer price index, which excludes fresh food, fell 0.4 per cent in February from a year earlier, the largest fall since March 2003 when it dropped 0.6 per cent.

Prices in Tokyo, considered an indicator of future price trends, fell 0.5 per cent in March compared with the same month last year, the 66th straight month of decline. Nationwide, consumer prices have been falling for seven years. Measured by the gross domestic product deflator, Japan has been mired in deflation since 1995.

The Bank of Japan is committed to keeping interest rates at zero until the CPI stabilises.


Why would it ever stabilize?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:20 PM

GOOD ENOUGH FOR HARVARD:

Personal Dispute: WHY DEMOCRATS OPPOSE BUSH (N. Gregory Mankiw, 03.15.05, New Republic)

Harvard University is, by some measures, one of the most left-wing institutions on the face of the earth. So you may be surprised to hear that it has endorsed George W. Bush's proposal for Social Security reform. Literally, of course, that is not true. But the retirement plan Harvard has set up for faculty members like me bears a striking resemblance to what the Social Security system would become under the president's proposed changes.

Harvard's retirement plan is essentially the nonprofit sector's version of a 401(k). Each year, the university puts a certain percentage of my income into my retirement account. I then invest this money in low-cost mutual funds, which hold a diversified portfolio of stocks and bonds. I can choose a safer portfolio with a lower expected return or a riskier portfolio with a higher expected return. The money is mine, even if I decide to leave the university. If I die, I can leave it to my kids. When I retire, I can use it to buy an annuity to ensure a stream of income for the rest of my life.

Under Bush's proposal, you would have the option of diverting some of your payroll taxes into a personal retirement account. You would invest this money in low-cost mutual funds, which would hold a diversified portfolio of stocks and bonds. You could choose a safer portfolio with a lower expected return or a riskier portfolio with a higher expected return. The money would be yours, no matter how many times you changed jobs. If you died before collecting any money, you could leave your account to your kids. When you retired, you could use it to buy an annuity to ensure a stream of income for the rest of your life. [...]

This raises the question: If the liberal Harvard faculty is content with the defined-contribution structure for their private retirement income, why are liberals in Congress (and the liberal New Republic, for that matter) so appalled that Bush would propose moving the public retirement system in the same direction?

As far as I can tell, there are three reasons. The first is that the president proposed it, and some Democrats will oppose anything he advances. [...]

The second reason the left hates personal accounts is that, over the long term, they could destroy one of its favorite battle cries: the alleged conflict between evil capitalists and oppressed workers. [...]

The third reason for the left's opposition to personal accounts is simple paternalism. Liberal critics of the Bush plan may be willing to accept that Harvard professors are capable of investing sensibly for their own retirement, but they are not ready to trust the general public to do the same. Compared with Republicans, Democrats are more averse to an economic system in which people play a larger role in taking care of themselves. To be sure, the paternalists raise a valid concern--some segments of the population are not economically sophisticated--but this is not so much an argument against personal accounts as a reason why we need to get the details right. Any reform should include some restrictions to protect people from themselves. There should be limits on how much risk people can take in their portfolios, especially as they approach retirement. There should be requirements that people annuitize enough of their accumulation upon retirement to ensure they are kept out of poverty for the rest of their lives.

Of course, when Democrats speak publicly, they are rarely this frank.


That's maternalism, not paternalism.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:20 PM

TED KENNEDY WAS AS RIGHT AS HE GETS:

Iraq's insurgents ‘seek exit strategy' (Steve Negus, March 25 2005, Financial Times)

Many of Iraq's predominantly Sunni Arab insurgents would lay down their arms and join the political process in exchange for guarantees of their safety and that of their co-religionists, according to a prominent Sunni politician.

Sharif Ali Bin al-Hussein, who heads Iraq's main monarchist movement and is in contact with guerrilla leaders, said many insurgents including former officials of the ruling Ba'ath party, army officers, and Islamists have been searching for a way to end their campaign against US troops and Iraqi government forces since the January 30 election.

“Firstly, they want to ensure their own security,” says Sharif Ali, who last week hosted a pan-Sunni conference attended by tribal sheikhs and other local leaders speaking on behalf of the insurgents.

Insurgent leaders fear coming out into the open to talk for fear of being targeted by US military or Iraqi security forces' raids, he said.


The Left was ahead of the curve on it being time for an exit strategy, they were just wrong about which side was winning.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:17 PM

NPR offered up another priceless moment today on Science Friday, as host Joe Palka agreed with a guest that the pro-life side shouldn't be able to get away with imposing terms or changing definitions. For example, Terri Schiavo should not be said to be starving to death because thanks to ketosis you aren't actually hungry after a day or two. Funny, I don't recall anyone saying she was being hungered to death.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:15 PM

ROCKIN' TERRY'S WORLD:

Metallica's James Hetfield on Rock and Therapy (Terry Gross, January 28, 2005, Fresh Air from WHYY)

Guitarist, songwriter and vocalist James Hetfield was a founding member of the metal band Metallica. His time in rehab is chronicled in the documentary Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, which tracks the band at a time of crisis and is now on DVD. We rebroadcast an interview with Hetfield from Nov. 9, 2004.

There's a funny bit in this interview where Terry Gross asks how he feels about Guantanamo inmates being tortured by having Metallica and PBS kid show themes blasted at them. Apparently she assumed he'd echo bandmate Lars Ulrich and whine about it, but instead Mr. Hetfield not only says he'd find it torture to have to listen to metal music for hours but seems rather happy to be doing his part for the WoT.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:11 PM

DA BOMB:

Syrian Dissidents Find Their Voice As Lebanon Provides a Megaphone (CLAUDIA ROSETT, March 23, 2005, NY Sun)

With Lebanese democrats speaking up and Syria's occupying forces pulling out, it may sound unsurprising that one of Beirut's leading Arabic newspapers ran a searing critique this week of Baathist rule in Damascus, under the headline: "Why Lebanon Is Becoming Larger and Syria Smaller."

Except the author of this piece is not Lebanese, but Syrian, writing - at serious risk - from Damascus. Signing himself as Hakam al-Baba, this journalist goes on to identify himself as someone who has worked for the past 20 years for a Syrian state newspaper, Tishrin. And like the Lebanese who for the past five weeks have been tearing down posters of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, Mr. al-Baba of Damascus is saying he has had enough.

In biting metaphor and with blunt fury, he describes how, under 42 years of Baathist rule, Syria's media has performed as a tin pot press. Reporters and editors have been required to stage Orwellian stunts in which the cruelties and depravities of the Baath Party are described as glorious deeds, in which "their corruption is turned into achievements, and their profligacy into profits." Mr. al-Baba reminds his audience of the days before Baathist tyranny, when Syria had hundreds of lively magazines and newspapers instead of a few orchestrated, official ones. He calls for a press in Syria that would be free to "learn and make mistakes, get it right, fail and succeed" and write the truth instead of trumpeting on cue the party line.

And though he is publishing in a Beirut newspaper, An-Nahar, his audience is not only in Lebanon. An-Nahar editors say that while the print edition of their newspaper is banned in Syria, they have reason to believe their Web site is widely read. "It's a bomb in Syrian society," one Lebanese observer says.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:09 PM

THE NATURALS:

Mass march urges reforms in Bahrain ((Reuters, Mar 25, 2005)

Tens of thousands have marched in one of Bahrain's largest opposition demonstrations to demand democratic reforms in the pro-Western Gulf Arab state.

Friday's peaceful march, called by the Shi'ite-led opposition, follows unsuccessful talks with the government on constitutional reforms to give greater powers to parliament's elected assembly, which is on an equal footing with a state-appointed chamber.

Bahrain, the Gulf's banking hub and home to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, has introduced some reforms, but the opposition, led by the country's majority Shi'ite Muslims, want more rights in the small Sunni-ruled island state.



Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:58 PM

WE NEED A NAME FOR THE NEXT REVOLUTION:

Polls show Zimbabwean opposition is gaining strength (JANE FIELDS, 3/25/05, The Scotsman)

LATEST opinion polls from Zimbabwe show President Robert Mugabe’s ruling party as only slightly in the lead with less than a week remaining before the country goes to the polls.

Some 40 per cent of Zimbabweans questioned say they intend voting for Mr Mugabe’s party, the Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF).

Another 34 per cent will choose the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in next Thursday’s parliamentary elections, a survey of 7,000 voters carried out by Joseph Kurebwa, a University of Zimbabwe political lecturer, showed.


Which means the real numbers are probably closer to 75-25 for the opposition, since people often lie to pollsters, especially in a thugocracy. The Anglosphere and its African friends need to be ready to give Mugabe a shove when he tries to snatch victory from what will be a very obvious defeat. This is a time when Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George H. W. Bush, and Colin Powell could make themselves useful.

MORE:
Timothy Goddard has it covered: The Gloriosa Revolution.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:27 PM

HE HAS TO PLAY TO HIS BASE TO WIN ANYWAY:

Abortion consent issue may hurt other reforms (Andrew LaMar, 3/25/05, Contra Costa TIMES)

One of the first initiatives likely to qualify for November's anticipated special election is a measure that would require minors to notify their parents at least 48 hours prior to having an abortion.

The proposed state constitutional amendment is sure to set off an emotional debate among anti-abortion and abortion rights forces -- and put Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a socially moderate Republican, in an awkward position. The measure could also overshadow the governor's agenda, which centers on more mundane matters, such as public pensions.

"For every voter who cares in an abstract way about pension reform, there are hundreds or thousands of Californians who care very deeply about an issue like this one," said Dan Schnur, a GOP strategist who served in former Gov. Pete Wilson's administration. "If the parental consent measure ends up qualifying, it could completely take over the special election debate."

For Schwarzenegger and his advisers, the measure adds another dimension to a complicated endgame over four "reform" proposals the governor has pushed since January. Schwarzenegger wants to win greater budgetary powers, redraw the state's legislative districts, pay teachers based on performance and move new public employees to less generous pension plans.


Over three-quarters of the public supports parental notification--how could this measure conceivably hurt his reform chances?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:57 AM

AN EASY ENOUGH PROBLEM TO SOLVE:

U.N. Report Quotes Threat By Assad to Harm Hariri (Colum Lynch, March 25, 2005, Washington Post)

Assad said that "Lahoud should be viewed as his personal representative" in Lebanon and that "opposing him is tantamount to opposing Assad himself," the report states. Assad then warned that he "would rather break Lebanon over the heads of" Hariri and influential Druze political leader Walid Jumblatt "than see his word in Lebanon broken."

The U.N. team, which was headed by Ireland's deputy police commissioner, Peter FitzGerald, charged that Syrian-controlled Lebanese authorities exhibited a "distinct lack of commitment" to conducting a credible investigation into Hariri's assassination by tampering with evidence and failing to pursue promising leads.

FitzGerald stopped short of accusing Syria and its Lebanese allies of detonating the 2,200-pound bomb that killed Assad's major political rival in Lebanon. But he charged that Syria "bears primary responsibility for the political tension that preceded" Hariri's assassination.

In the report, FitzGerald said that the international investigative team "would need executive authority to carry out its interrogations, searches and other relevant tasks." But he added that it was "more than doubtful" that an international investigation into the crime could succeed as long as the leadership in Lebanon's Syrian-backed security establishment remains in power.


So remove them from power.


Posted by Peter Burnet at 10:59 AM

TERRI’S GIFT


What’s God Got to Do with It?
(Denis Boyles, National Review Online, March 25th, 2005)

To our traditional allies —them perfidious, unbelieving Frenchies and their Euro-kin — the controversy swirling around poor Terri Schiavo is yet another example of dumb American over-simplification grown fat, an outbreak of lunacy inspired by Upper Room Baptists and the like. The attempts by the Congress and the president to limit the damage done by a judiciary that is unresponsive, elitist, arrogant, dictatorial, self-protecting — something very much like the government of France, come to think of it — looks, to Eric Fottorino, writing in Le Monde, like proof that Bush will do anything, including rushing to the "bedside of an almost-dead person" in a "coma," to cement his relationship with the Bible-thumping, gel-haired, tele-mullahs of the right. To the Süüddeutsche Zeitung, the congressional intervention was a drama of "Life, Death and Power" with a grandstanding U.S. president bestirring himself from his Crawford ranch, something the paper claims he'd never do for a crisis or a mere war. In the leftwing Independent, the slow starvation of Terri Schiavo is how the paper's correspondent describes a death with "dignity," something Americans can't get right —no doubt because of what Tony Blair described to the Daily Telegraph as the "unhealthy" American penchant for giving religion a prominent role in election campaigns. For Libération, the whole save-Schiavo spectacle was enough to merit a sneering headline on a piece or two, but nothing more.

Not that this kind of coverage is particularly surprising, of course. It reflects the general sentiment of the left toward muscular Christianity, something they find almost as appalling as actual muscles. Despite the fact that the New York Times has been in a persistent vegetative state for a lot longer than 15 years, the struggle to save Terri Schiavo was laughed off by one longtime columnist as part of the "God racket" —a "circus" of "religio-hucksterism." Times writers routinely ridicule the concerns of Americans for things like the life of Terri Schiavo as a predictable byproduct of a surplus of stupid red voters held hostage by Bible-thumping extremists. That America is where all Republican policies are spun to accommodate right-wing Christian nuts, where the poor all starve and where religious fervor sweeps the land like a great, darkening storm, blocking the sun of French-style reason and the grand traditions of that enlightenment thing.

This Easter weekend, let's pray to God they're right. If you ask me, the widespread grieving for Terri Schiavo is not only an indicator of the political significance of moral values but also a barometer of the nation's spiritual health. Did people go too far to try to pretzel-twist the judicial process and cheek-slap states' right? Maybe —but I don't think so, and anyway that's not the point. The alternative to being passionately engaged with the terrible fate of Terri Schiavo is to mutter a few words about how "sad and tragic" it all is and just move on. [...]

As I finish typing this early Friday morning, I don't know what Terri Schiavo's fate will be. But I do know that because of our affection for the "God racket," Terri Schiavo's body won't go unidentified, her passing won't be unnoticed, and, if the politicians have learned anything from this, the thousands of others like her without any written instructions concerning end-of-life care won't be shrugged off. Whether she's seen as an innocent woman neglected by an adulterous, grasping husband and murdered by dim judicial decree, or as programming fodder by news channels, or as a "sad and tragic" case by those inclined to side with the judge and the pseudo-husband (and by the way, where are all you timid feminists...?), everybody in America knows who Terri Schiavo is, where she is and what has happened to her, minute by horrible minute, slipping silently through Holy Week, from Maundy Thursday into Good Friday, while millions of Americans pray for her and for her family — and especially for those who torment her and ridicule the unshakable faith of her mother and her father. Those two know that for their daughter justice of one kind of another is absolutely inevitable.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:04 AM

FEED MY LAMBS:

Gov. Bush's power too little, too much: Though Gov. Jeb Bush jump-started the state's effort to keep Terri Schiavo alive and has fought for her for two years, some religious conservatives said he hasn't done enough. (LESLEY CLARK AND MARY ELLEN KLAS, 3/25/05, Miami Herald)

Gov. Jeb Bush set out two years ago to keep Terri Schiavo alive. He cajoled a reluctant Legislature to grant him the extraordinary ability to overturn a court order and reconnect her feeding tube.

When the courts rebuffed him, he tried again. And when state legislators balked at intervening a second time, he turned to a higher power: Republican leaders in Congress. The result: His brother roared back to Washington, D.C., from vacation and gave the presidential imprimatur to the efforts.

Yet Thursday, as options for Schiavo dwindled and her death seemed imminent, Bush's efforts were not enough for religious conservatives whose cause he has taken up. Some of them scorned him for letting them down.

''He raised the family's hopes but he still hasn't acted,'' said a furious Randall Terry, a spokesman for Schiavo supporters outside the Pinellas Park hospice where Schiavo is dying. ``This, in our opinion, is reprehensible.''

Whether Bush launched his crusade for personal or political motivations, his tireless effort to keep Schiavo alive has left him defensive and under fire, not just from the religious conservatives who want more from him, but from moderates in his own party who resent his efforts to drag the Legislature along.

Late Thursday, Bush, even as he directed his child-welfare agency to push the case to the Florida Supreme Court, pleaded with Schiavo supporters for understanding, saying his hands are tied.

''My powers, they are not as expansive as people would want them to be,'' Bush said at the Capitol. ``I understand they are acting on their heart. I fully appreciate their sentiments and the emotions that goes with this, but I cannot go beyond what my powers are and I'm not going to do it.''


It is well that if this must happen it happen on this weekend when we are reminded of just how imperfect Creation is. In this regard the most radical and least appreciated moments of the Crucifixion come with the passages from Mark, " My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? [Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?]" and from Luke, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."

Consider for just a moment that in the first Christ (God) is brought to the point of despair by the reality of how humans experience His Creation and that in the second, though it is placed prior in time in Biblical accounts, Christ instructs God that Man does not know any better, or at least can not do any better, than to behave the way we do. It's easy enough to see why we don't pay more attention to the implications of these lines, after all, a fallible God is even more bizarre and terrifying in its way than one who can be killed. But in that second line, when Christ intercedes on our behalf, Man is finally reconciled to the God who had judged us so brutally throughout the Old Testament. God at last is forced to recognize that the damage done when we ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil but not from the Tree of Life was far greater than even He had understood.

We can hear and understand His Commands for how we are to live and can know that each of us is endowed by Him with a dignity that we ought not trespass against, but we are simply incapable of meeting these standards because of our Fallen nature. The human dilemma is summed up by Paul in his letter to the Romans: "For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do." And yet, this propensity to evil we are to be forgiven through the intercession of Christ. If this is just myth then it is quite the most extraordinary and beautiful myth we can imagine, the one that rounds out existence and makes it comprehensible, and it's no wonder that pretty nearly every story we've told ourselves subsequently just re-enacts it--from Don Quijote to Cool Hand Luke.

With this as background we can approach the killing of Terri Schiavo and those like her with no less sadness, but perhaps some greater wisdom. Among the bitter truths we're forced to reckon with:

* Even if Jeb Bush or George Bush had it within their power to intervene and prolong Ms Schiavo's life for however long, it would not redeem us and despite our and their best intentions could end up doing more harm in the long run than good. A single killing is a tragedy, but the destruction of civil order could be calamitous.

* Were any of us in Michael Schiavo's position we'd not be unlikely to do exactly as he is. Recall that, for all the accusations that he was blaming the Jews, Mel Gibson in his film The Passion intercut his own hands driving in one of the spikes with which Christ is crucified, a healthy reminder that if any of us had been there we too would have joined the clamoring for His death or at least denied Him. What then could make any of us certain that we'd do the right thing where a burdensome spouse was concerned?

* Most importantly though, while saving the most vulnerable among us will not redeem Creation and while the evil within us will not be overcome by us alone, we know that this is not the way God wants us to treat one another. We can not perfect the world but we are obliged by our Creator to try and make it better. The good that can come of Ms Schiavo's killing is that we re-examine how we treat people as they approach the end of life and that we build safeguards against ourselves, so that we come as close as we are capable to treating them with the dignity they deserve but which we know we are all too likely not to grant them otherwise because it inconveniences us.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:43 AM

HEARING FOOTSTEPS?:

Putin sends a signal to Russian oligarchs: Meeting suggests biggest companies are safe from attack (Erin E. Arvedlund, March 25, 2005, The New York Times)

Moving to stabilize Russia's shaky business climate and soothe fearful investors, President Vladimir Putin has extended an olive branch to the country's oligarchs, saying he favors a new law limiting investigations into 1990s-era privatizations.

He made his comments at a meeting with about two dozen of Russia's wealthiest business executives, an event usually held once or twice a year. But it came at a time of slowing growth and capital flight sparked by fear of another attack similar to that on the oil giant Yukos and its founder, Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Although Putin did not mention Yukos by name, he signaled that there would not be similar actions against Russia's biggest companies. [...]

"This will help the business community look into the future with greater certainty, draw up promising development plans and make new investments, and I hope reassure entrepreneurs over the security of property rights," Putin said in remarks broadcast by state-controlled television.

MORE:
Russia is gloomy as more old friends depart: The view from ... Moscow (Andrew Osborn, March 25, 2005, The Guardian)

The tumultuous events in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan transfixed the Russian media this week, with many viewing the "revolution" there as gloomy news for the Kremlin.

The collapse of the Kyrgyz government was, commentators agreed, another blow to Russian designs to keep its former back yard in good order and filled with Moscow-friendly regimes.

Moscow is already deemed to have "lost" the former Soviet republics of Georgia and Ukraine - both of which have seen peaceful revolutions that took them out of Russia's sphere of influence - and Kyrgyzstan would make it three in a row.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:15 AM

INEVITABLY BECAUSE IT IS?:

The Tulip Revolution takes root (Pepe Escobar, 3/26/05, Asia Times)

One thing is already certain: the Tulip Revolution will inevitably be instrumentalized by the second Bush administration as the first "spread of freedom and democracy" success story in Central Asia. The whole arsenal of US foundations - National Endowment for Democracy, International Republic Institute, Ifes, Eurasia Foundation, Internews, among others - which fueled opposition movements in Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine, has also been deployed in Bishkek. It generated, among other developments, a small army of Kyrgyz youngsters who went to Kiev, financed by the Americans, to get a glimpse of the Orange Revolution, and then became "infected" with the democratic virus.

Practically everything that passes for civil society in Kyrgyzstan is financed by these US foundations, or by the US Agency for International Development (USAID). At least 170 non-governmental organizations charged with development or promotion of democracy have been created or sponsored by the Americans.

The US State Department has operated its own independent printing house in Bishkek since 2002 - which means printing at least 60 different titles, including a bunch of fiery opposition newspapers. USAID invested at least $2 million prior to the Kyrgyz elections - quite something in a country where the average salary is $30 a month.

Opposition leader Otunbaeva has recognized publicly that "yes, we are supported by the US". The investment will have paid off if a "democratic revolution" can be sold worldwide as the sterling example of a country with a Muslim majority joining the Bush crusade. But the public relations blitz will amount to nothing if the new Kyrgyz order is not immune to corruption and does not try very hard to at least alleviate the widespread sense of economic injustice. Yes, it's the economy, stupid.


Posted by Bryan Francoeur at 8:20 AM

NOTHING EVER GETS MORE EXPENSIVE:

According to Jewish World Review's This Day in History, today marks the anniversery in 1954 that the first commercially available color TV set was produced. It was made by RCA, had a 12 inch screen and cost 1000 dollars.

I just check amazon.com and for $999.94 you get a 27" HDTV flat panel LCD TV.

I don't even think they sell CRT TV's anymore.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:15 AM

ZEN COHEN #4:

After popular uprisings, concern in Russia (Steven Lee Myers, March 25, 2005, The New York Times)

In the past year and a half ... popular uprisings have claimed the sclerotic leaders of three former Soviet republics. In Georgia in November 2003, in Ukraine a year later, and now in Kyrgyzstan, simmering discontent accomplished what not long ago seemed improbable: the peaceful (so far, in Kyrgyzstan's case) overthrow of governments that ceased to represent the will of the people.

What is most surprising really is how quickly those governments fell in the face of protesters asserting the rights they had been promised when the Soviet yoke was lifted: the right to express themselves, to elect their representatives, to dream of the better life that their leaders kept promising but all too often failed to deliver.

For opposition leaders and even for some of those in power in other republics, the events that began in Georgia with the toppling of Eduard Shevardnadze and continued with the extraordinary challenge to a fraudulent election in Ukraine last fall have come like a contagion - one spreading in fast and unpredictable ways.

Nowhere is the fear and anticipation greater than in the largest and most powerful center, Russia. There President Vladimir Putin has steadily strengthened state control even as he presents himself as a democrat.

"People are tired everywhere," Aleksandr Rondeli, president of the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International studies, said in a telephone interview from Georgia's capital, Tblisi, referring to popular discontent in the former Soviet republics.

The uprisings in Georgia and Ukraine, he added, served as a demonstration what was possible.

"They saw how easy it looked on TV," Rondeli said.


Those who misapprehend the End of History are doomed to be surprised when it repeats itself.


Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:46 AM

BEGGAR THY NEIGHBOUR

Church of martyrs (Anthony Browne, The Spectator, March 25th, 2005)

There is nothing unusual about the persecution of Iraqi Christians, or the unwillingness of other Christians to help them. Rising nationalism and fundamentalism around the world have meant that Christianity is going back to its roots as the religion of the persecuted. There are now more than 300 million Christians who are either threatened with violence or legally discriminated against simply because of their faith — more than any other religion. Christians are no longer, as far as I am aware, thrown to the lions. But from China, North Korea and Malaysia, through India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, they are subjected to legalised discrimination, violence, imprisonment, relocation and forced conversion. Even in supposedly Christian Europe, Christianity has become the most mocked religion, its followers treated with public suspicion and derision and sometimes — such as the would-be EU commissioner Rocco Buttiglione — hounded out of political office.

I am no Christian, but rather a godless atheist whose soul doesn’t want to be saved, thank you. I may not believe in the man with the white beard, but I do believe that all persecution is wrong. The trouble is that the trendies who normally champion human rights seem to think persecution is fine, so long as it’s only against Christians. While Muslims openly help other Muslims, Christians helping Christians has become as taboo as jingoistic nationalism. [...]

Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, director of the Barnabas Trust, which helps persecuted Christians, blames rising global religious tension. ‘More and more Christians are seen as the odd ones out — they are seen as transplants from the West, and not really trusted. It is getting very much worse.’

Even in what was, before multiculturalism, known as Christendom, Christians are persecuted. I have spoken to dozens of former Muslims who have converted to Christianity in Britain, and who are shunned by their community, subjected to mob violence, forced out of town, threatened with death and even kidnapped. The Barnabas Trust knows of 3,000 such Christians facing persecution in this country, but the police and government do nothing.

You get the gist. Dr Paul Marshall, senior fellow at the Centre for Religious Freedom in Washington, estimates that there are 200 million Christians who face violence because of their faith, and 350 million who face legally sanctioned discrimination in terms of access to jobs and housing. The World Evangelical Alliance wrote in a report to the UN Human Rights Commission last year that Christians are ‘the largest single group in the world which is being denied human rights on the basis of their faith’.

Part of the problem is old-style racism against non-whites; part of it is new-style guilt. If all this were happening to the world’s Sikhs or Muslims simply because of their faith, you can be sure it would lead the 10 O’Clock News and the front page of the Guardian on a regular basis. But the BBC, despite being mainly funded by Christians, is an organisation that promotes ridicule of the Bible, while banning criticism of the Koran. Dr Marshall said: ‘Christians are seen as Europeans and Americans, which means you get a lack of sympathy which you would not get if they were Tibetan Buddhists.’ [...]

To this day, while Muslims stick up for their co-religionists, Christians — beyond a few charities — have given up such forms of discrimination. Dr Sookhdeo said: ‘The Muslims have an Ummah [the worldwide Muslim community] whereas Christians do not have Christendom. There is no Christian country that says, “We are Christian and we will help Christians.”’

Perhaps those Europeans and North Americans who wish to prohibit Muslim immigration, or even expel them, on the grounds that we are “Christian” nations might tell us why such actions wouldn’t promote the persecution of hundreds of millions of Christians elsewhere and sell them down the river.



Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:37 AM

BREAKING IN A NEW MITT:

Roe v. Wade omitted from proclamation (Scott S. Greenberger, March 25, 2005, Boston Globe)

Governor Mitt Romney removed a reference to Roe v. Wade in a proclamation he signed this week, raising eyebrows among abortion rights advocates who say the move corresponds with a rightward shift by Romney as he mulls a presidential bid.

Signed by Massachusetts governors since 1996, the annual proclamation establishes a ''Right to Privacy Day" to mark the anniversary of Baird v. Eisenstadt, a 1972 Supreme Court ruling legalizing birth control for unmarried people. The previous years' proclamations cited the historic Roe court decision that legalized abortion, saying that Baird v. Eisenstadt was ''a decision that was quoted six times in subsequent cases, including Roe v. Wade."

In this year's proclamation, which Romney signed this week, there is no reference to Roe v. Wade. [...]

The change in the Massachusetts proclamation has no practical effect, and leading abortion-rights advocates said they were not aware of it until a Globe reporter called them seeking their comment. But the abortion-rights advocates said the senior staff members' sudden concern about the Roe v. Wade reference fits a pattern of shifting language by Romney, who described himself as supporting the status quo on abortion when he ran for governor in 2002.

''We are very concerned about the direction that he's heading in, the change in style and rhetoric around a whole host of issues -- abortion is one of those, of course," said Erin Rowland, a spokeswoman for the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts. ''He described himself as being in favor of the status quo when he ran for governor. A number of people used the term 'prochoice' to describe him."The change in wording was discovered by Bill Baird, the plaintiff in Eisenstadt v. Baird. Baird was arrested for displaying birth control devices and giving a package of contraceptive foam to an unmarried female student at Boston University in 1967; he appealed the case to the Supreme Court. He said he has little doubt that Romney's removal of the Roe v. Wade language was politically motivated.

''Why would he take it out? He would take it out because he wanted to stay as far away from the abortion issue as he could," Baird said.


Because he wants to be president.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:22 AM

HIS OWN MEDICINE:

Jesus' Reminders (Philip Yancey)

The image Jesus left with the world, the cross, the most common image in the Christian religion, is proof that God cares about our suffering and pain. He died of it. Today the image is coated with gold and worn around the necks of beautiful girls, a symbol of how far we can stray from the reality of history. But it stands, unique among all religions of the world. Many of them have gods. But only one has a God who cared enough to become a man and to die.

Dorothy Sayers says:

For whatever reason God chose to make man as he is - limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death - he had the honesty and courage to take his own medicine. Whatever game he is playing with his creation, he has kept his own rules and played fair. He can exact nothing from man that he has not exacted from himself. He has himself gone through the whole human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation, defeat, despair, and death. When he was a man, he played the man. He was born in poverty and died in disgrace and thought it well worthwhile.

To some, the image of a pale body glimmering on a dark night whispers of defeat. What good is a God who does not control his Son's suffering? What possible good could such a God do for us? But a louder sound can be heard: the shout of a God crying out to man, "I love you." Love was compressed for all history in that lonely, bleeding figure. Jesus, who said he could call down the angels at any moment and rescue himself from the horror, chose not to - because of us. For God so loved us, that he sent his only Son to die for us.


March 24, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:49 PM

ORTHODOX IRAQ VS HERETICAL IRAN:

Iraqi Shiism could topple the mullahs (Cameron Khosrowshahi, March 24, 2005, International Herald Tribune)

At the start of the last century, some time before World War I, my grandfather left his native Iran for Najaf, Iraq. It was a common journey back then for the young and religious-minded in Iran, eager for guidance.

The Shiite centers of learning were located in the shrine cities of Iraq, where the brightest theologians of their time taught in numerous seminaries. This Shiite base outside Iran became one of the critical factors in the downfall of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, which culminated in the Islamic revolution in 1979. The religious classes had a network of followers and funding that existed beyond the reach of the Pahlavi state, which could never completely crush their opposition. Back then, Iraq contained the seeds of upheaval in neighboring Iran. Today, it does so once again. [...]

[T]here is a more organic way to effect change in Iran using the same networks that contributed to its last revolution. Rather than worrying about Iran's influence over Iraq, we should be harnessing the strength of Iraq's newly empowered Shiites against the regime in Iran. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the spiritual leader of Iraq's Shiites, is cut from a different cloth from the ruling clerics in Tehran.


Shiaphobes have mistaken Iranian attempts to meddle in Iraq for offensive manuevers when they are in fact defensive, and doomed to failure.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:36 PM

WHO DOES HE THINK FORCED THE PEACE DEAL IN THE SOUTH?

The Darfur Genocide: Enough excuses. The time to act is now. (DON CHEADLE AND JOHN PRENDERGAST, March 24, 2005, Opinion Journal)

[W]what is the real reason why the U.S. has not responded as it should have? The truth is that combating crimes against humanity is simply not considered a national security issue. We don't want to burn our leverage on Sudan in the face of issues such as Iraq, Iran and Syria.

The only antidote to this searing truth--the only way the U.S. will take the kind of leadership necessary to end the horrors for Fatima and her people--is for there to be a political cost to inaction. As American citizens increasingly raise their voices and write their letters about Darfur, the temperature has indeed risen. But not enough. We need to make it a little warmer, a little more uncomfortable for those politicians who would look away. Just a few more degrees. Just a few more thousand letters. It is, frankly, that simple.


The real reason is that it is only Evangelicals and the Admoinistration that have pushed Sudan and the Left is reflexively opposed to anything those two do. It's great that Mr. Cheadle is speaking out, but where's he been and where are his Hollywood friends, who can't seem to shut up about Iraq, which we've liberated and democratized, but can't seem to find Darfur, which still needs help, on a map?


MORE:
10,000 Peacekeepers to Be Sent to Sudan, U.N. Council Decides (WARREN HOGE, 3/25/05, NY Times)

The Security Council passed a resolution on Thursday establishing a 10,000-member peacekeeping force for Sudan to reinforce a peace agreement in the south of the country and to lend assistance in the conflicted Darfur region in the west.

The measure, introduced by the United States, drew the support of all 15 Council members.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:10 PM

WELL, IT IS SPRINGTIME...:

Hitler books 'show new obsession gripping Germans' (Kate Connolly, 25/03/2005, Daily Telegraph)

The intimate details of Hitler's life - from his fear that his lavatory might be poisoned to his habit of scratching his neck until it bled - are obsessing Germans once again amid a huge revival of interest in the Nazi era.

New titles about Hitler are flooding the bookshops to satisfy the hunger for revelations about the period in time for the 60th anniversary of the end of the 1939-45 war.

One columnist has likened the plethora of publications to a "garish circus of commemoration".

"Sixty years ago the Third Reich perished," wrote Jens Jessen in Die Zeit. "Now one gets the impression it is being resurrected on a daily basis."

One new book, A Strawberry for Hitler, is based on the true story of a horticulturalist who wants to name one of the fruits after the Nazi leader.


Isn't Nazi fruit redundant?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:04 PM

Is Deep Throat really Ben Stein?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:00 PM

HEY DUDE, WHERE'S MY PROTESTS?:

Far too quiet on the homefront (Jerry Lanson, 3/25/05, CS Monitor)

It was the first day of spring, the second anniversary of the Iraq war, the fourth day of the NCAA tournament. At the liberal church I was attending near Boston this Palm Sunday, the minister mentioned the tough winter that had dumped 108 inches of snow on the area. He said not a word about the 1,524 American soldiers killed in Iraq, at last count.

As I listened, a guest participant in the choir, he talked of the hope and rebirth that comes with spring and of the pleasure of watching college playoff basketball, with its teamwork, fraternity, and enthusiasm. He never did mention the war that slogs on thousands of miles away.

He wasn't the only one who seemed forgetful this anniversary weekend. Antiwar marches in New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and Boston drew thousands, but the crowds were far smaller than a year ago. Many news organizations neither bothered to announce these events in advance nor covered them in anything but the most perfunctory manner.

I can't tell whether America is in denial or despair over events in Iraq, but I suspect it's some of each.


It's over. We won.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:01 PM

OFTEN?:

Democracy's nasty surprises (Geoffrey Wheatcroft, March 25, 2005, International Herald Tribune)

Nearly 73 years ago one of the greatest democracies on earth held a general election under universal suffrage. None of several parties won an absolute majority, but one was the clear winner, doubling its vote to 37.4 percent to become the largest group in Parliament.

That autumn, President Herbert Hoover was up for re-election and the Republican convention managers might perhaps have produced a satisfied voter from that faraway country, in the way a grateful Iraqi was flourished in Washington recently by the Bush administration. Not surprisingly, they didn't do so. The country was of course Germany, and the triumphant party was the National Socialists, led by Hitler.

That 1932 election showed that democracy often raises as many problems as it answers, a lesson we may soon learn again in the Middle East.


Ah, yes, how often elections have brought us a Hitler...


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:43 PM

WELCOME, SENOR GRASS!:

They tried sailing a Chevy, then they gave the Buick a go (Tim Reid, 3/25/05, Times of London)

SOME Cubans are so desperate to cross the Florida Straits for a new life in America that they have attempted the journey on surfboards, in bathtubs and even in converted refrigerators.

But none has been as determined, or as ingenious, as Luis Grass.

Señor Grass, 30, whose two previous attempts to make the voyage in propeller-driven vintage cars ended in glorious, headline-grabbing failure, has finally arrived in the United States with his family after his third try.

This time he came overland — an epic, 24-day, 1,140-mile journey.

“Trying to cross the Florida Straits on my floating cars was easier, I can tell you that,” a beaming Señor Grass said in Miami at the end of a journey that took him, his wife and five-year-old son through snake- infested forests and out of sight of hostile border guards in six countries.

Señor Grass and his long- suffering wife, Isora, 27 — he thanked her for going along with his “crazy schemes” — carried their son Angel Luis from San José, Costa Rica, where their journey began on February 16, through Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico, making their way on foot, by hitchhiking, and in taxis and buses, to the US. [...]

The US Coast Guard are still marvelling at his two attempted crossings in 2003 and last year, when he twice got to within 40 miles of the Florida coast before being intercepted. His first voyage was in a converted 1951 Chevrolet, and the second on a floating 1959 Buick.

At his press conference in Miami this week, Señor Grass, a mechanic, said his Chevrolet wagon, which he had placed on 55 metal drums before loading it with nine friends and his family, was his greatest creation. In addition to attracting international headlines it triggered an hilarious exchange between Cuban security guards in Havana and their superiors.

When the Cuban guards saw the 1951 Chevy hit the water running, and then begin sailing out to sea, they radioed headquarters to report that “a truck was headed to Miami”.

According to Señor Grass, they were reprimanded and told to stop drinking while on patrol.


The wet foot/dry foot policy is an abomination, but it was especially unAmerican when they sent him home after he crafted those ingenious boats. We're a better nation with him.


Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:56 PM

WHEN JOHNNY COMES MARCHING HOME AGAIN

U.S. war deserter loses bid for refugee status (Canadian Press, March 24th, 2005)

An American war dodger who fled the U.S. military because he believed the invasion of Iraq was criminal has lost his bid for refugee status in Canada in a case closely watched on both sides of the border.

In a written ruling released Thursday, the Immigration and Refugee Board said Jeremy Hinzman had not made a convincing argument that he faced persecution or cruel and unusual punishment in the United States.

"[The board] found that the claimants would be afforded the full protection of a fair and independent military and civilian judicial process in the U.S.," it said in a statement.

He should have tried Iceland.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:31 PM

DESTROYING THE EVIDENCE BEFORE THE FRAUD IS EVEN EXPOSED?:

Fresh scandal over old bones (Dan Vergano, 3/21/05, USA TODAY)

Inside Liang Bua cave on the Indonesian island of Flores, the bones of the hobbit rested undisturbed for 18,000 years.

But no longer.

In what is being called a true case of scientific skullduggery, the remains of the newly discovered human species have suffered irreparable damage since entering the care of paleontologists.

The damage to the bones of this diminutive being — named Homo floresiensis and nicknamed hobbit by scientists — is so extensive that it will limit scholarly research on the species, say members of the Indonesian Center for Archaeology-based discovery team.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:55 PM

MUST HAVE FRESHLY SANDED HIS HORNS:

Wolfowitz Draws Nearer to World Bank Post (Paul Blustein, March 24, 2005, Washington Post)

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz virtually sealed his election as World Bank president yesterday after meeting with members of the bank's board, who were impressed and reassured by his answers to their questions, according to bank sources.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:44 PM

DON'T CALL THEM THE TOOLS OF IGNORANCE FOR NUTHIN':

A firsthand account of a stint behind the plate (Jim Salisbury, 3/24/05, Philadelphia Inquirer)

Catching Phillies closer Billy Wagner seemed like a good idea until I read the waiver form and saw that five-letter word.

"Death."

Catching the hardest-throwing lefthander on the planet seemed like a good idea until Mick Billmeyer popped his head out of the coaches' room.

"You squatting today?" the Phillies' catching instructor asked.

"Yeah," I said.

"That's great. Thanks, man. I hate catching that guy, and I'm the one who always gets stuck doing it."

Billmeyer told of how bullpen coach Ramon Henderson refused to catch Wagner.

"First time Ramon did it, the ball hit him right here," Billmeyer said, pounding himself on the chest. "We thought Ramon was dead. He won't get back there anymore."

My blood ran cold. Billmeyer said he was just kidding, but still, I wondered what I was getting into.

Hail Mary, full of...

Catching Billy Wagner's bullpen session seemed like a good idea until his second warm-up throw from about 70 feet.

He leaned back calmly, stepped forward easily, and threw. The ball came out of his hand effortlessly. That was the scary part. In half a heartbeat, the ball was on top of me, right at my unmasked face. The mitt went up and the ball branded it with a loud thwack.

Gulp. This guy means business.

But that was OK.

The whole idea of putting on the pads Friday and getting behind the dish for the first time in 20 years was to experience what one of the game's top closers and hardest throwers does on a workday. Sure, there were some good-natured hecklers around the bullpen. But this was no stunt, not for the curious (crazy?) catcher, and definitely not for the perfectionist pitcher.

"I won't cheat you," Wagner promised earlier in the day. "I can't. My job is to be perfect. I need to be perfect. That starts with my work in the bullpen. It doesn't matter who's catching me. I need to get better."

Wagner paused.

"And besides, if I don't think you can do it, I'll throw you out of there."


Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:34 PM

NEW? (via Michael Burns):

The new infantilism: Chirac, European economic reform and the ‘new communism’ (Times of London, 3/24/05)

EU summit meetings are rarely exciting affairs but can occasionally be enlightening, if depressing. The gathering that ended in Brussels yesterday falls squarely into that category. This was meant to be a showcase for major economic reform, but it instead served as the venue for the so-called Services Directive to be diluted at the insistence of Jacques Chirac on behalf of France, a stance supported by Gerhard Schröder for Germany. This innovation, which has been rightly championed by José Manuel Barroso, the relatively new President of the European Commission, is not dead but its pulse is disturbingly faint and fading.

This episode illustrates everything that is wrong about the EU as it is currently formed and why the alterations that Tony Blair often espouses will prove painfully difficult to implement. This directive would allow anyone employed in a huge range of professions — from architects to plumbers — to operate anywhere in the EU without hindrance. It is such a logical element of a single market that was supposed to have been secured more than a decade ago that it is astonishing that it has not been introduced already. Every authoritative estimate of its economic impact is that it would increase net employment and enhance the rate of growth in Europe. It is, as Americans would put it, a “no-brainer”.

Unfortunately, there appears to be a severe shortage of brainpower at the highest level in France. Even though more jobs will be created than lost, the prospect of any redundancies means the directive has been attacked by the Socialist Party and the trade unions. Not to be outdone, M Chirac has jumped on the bandwagon, seized the wheel, and chose a dinner on Tuesday to condemn liberal market principles as “the new communism of our age”.

This will be a surprise to those who had the misfortune to spend time in the labour camps. In reality, what this sad saga and his ludicrous statement illustrate is that Chiracism is the new infantilism of our era.


In what conceivable sense is European infantilization new? Unfortunately, we squandered the one chance we had to wean them when we propped up their statism with the Marshall Plan.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:09 PM

LEMON?

Protesters overthrow Kyrgyz leader in 'lemon revolution' (Chris Johnston, 3/24/05, Times Online)

Seemed like an odd choice, but it looks like this may be where "Lemon Revolution" comes from, From west to east, rolling revolution gathers pace across the former USSR (Jeremy Page, 2/19/05, Times of London)

IT WOULD be either the “lemon” or the “tulip” revolution. Kazbek and his friends could not quite decide.

But as they watched Ukraine’s Orange Revolution unfold last year, they were convinced of one thing: Kyrgyzstan could be next. Their mountainous homeland was thousands of miles east of Ukraine, and one tenth of its size, but the political parallels between the former Soviet republics were striking.

Kyrgyzstan, like Ukraine, was hailed as a beacon of democracy after the Soviet Union’s collapse but had slipped into the standard post-Soviet habits of clan capitalism and authoritarian government.

After 15 years in power Askar Akayev, the President, now appears determined to pack the parliament with relatives and allies at elections on February 27 — and to install his chosen successor at a presidential poll in October. Kazbek, a young Kyrgyz democracy activist, had been an election observer in Ukraine and witnessed first-hand the tactics used to mobilise opposition protests there.

Returning to Kyrgyzstan, he co-founded a youth movement, Kelkel, (Renaissance) modelled on Otpor (Resistance), the Serbian group that helped to topple Slobodan Milosevic and spawned similar movements in Georgia and Ukraine.

“We decided on the lemon revolution, because yellow is a colour of change — like on a traffic light,” Nazik, another Kelkel leader, told The Times. The tulip idea was to match the Rose Revolution in Georgia.

MORE:
Rose, Orange, now Lemon or Tulip (Philippe Naughton, 3/24/05, Times Online)

The Tulip Revolution? The Lemon Revolt? The latest display of people power in the former Soviet Union happened so quickly that Western pundits barely had time to choose a name for it.

First came Georgia's "Rose Revolution" in 2003 that saw the bloodless departure of Eduard Shevardnadze, the former Soviet foreign minister who had ruled the country for over a decade. Then, last December, Ukraine's Orange Revolution saw off Viktor Yanukovych, the Kremlin-backed presidential candidate.

Then, today, President Askar Akayev of Kyrgystan, who had ruled the Central Asian republic since 1990, fled from another people's revolt, his government collapsing after his helicopter left for neighbouring Kazakhstan. [...]

Many of the protesters wore red and yellow headbands - the colours adopted by opposition parties. Many carried tulips, a symbol of peace in the Central Asian state. Either way, the day was theirs.


Posted by Peter Burnet at 2:43 PM

KOFI’S ON THE CASE


In Deep Trouble
(Claudia Rosett, Wall Street Journal, March 23rd, 2005)

"This hall has heard enough high-sounding declarations to last us for some decades to come," Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the U.N. General Assembly Monday. "What is needed now is not more declarations and promises."

For announcing a U.N. reform program, it was a good start. Had Mr. Annan then apologized for the gross failure of his previous reforms, launched in 1997, and left the stage, there might be a lot more reason to hope the U.N. will shape up.

Instead, Mr. Annan went right on to deliver his latest plan for U.N. reform, by way of a 63-page report stuffed with high-sounding declarations wrapped around dozens of proposals to take most of what the U.N. does wrong, and do lots more of it, with lots more taxpayer money. Mr. Annan took the title for his report from a phrase in the U.N. charter, "In Larger Freedom." Truth in labeling would more accurately read: "In Deep Trouble." [...]

From there, Mr. Annan forges on to propose nothing less than reforming the entire known universe, via the U.N., while he bangs the drum for a budget to match. He wants to expand his own staff, change the world's climate, end organized crime, eliminate all private weapons, and double U.N.-directed development aid to the tune of at least $100 billion a year, "front-loaded," for his detailed plan to end world poverty. This comes from a U.N. that only three months ago was finally strong-armed by Congress into coughing up the secret internal Oil for Food audits confirming that under Mr. Annan's stewardship the U.N. was not even adequately auditing its own staff operations.

After a year in which scandals have been erupting from every vent in the U.N.'s traditionally cloistered corridors, assorted members of Congress have been wondering whether Mr. Annan deserves even the budget he's got already. Some, such as Sen. Norm Coleman, have called for Mr. Annan to resign. Now, in much the same way that despots faced with popular unrest like to announce giant patriotic dam-building projects involving the pouring of huge amounts of cement, Mr. Annan is presenting his new improved save-the-world reform plan, conveniently timed to serve as a distraction from the oil-for-fraud, sex-for-food, theft, waste, abuse and incompetence stories that for the past two years have bubbling up around the same U.N. he already reformed for us back in 1997. [...]

The grand failure of the U.N. is that its system, its officials and most visibly its current secretary-general are still stuck in the central-planning mindset that was the hallmark of dictators and failed utopian dreams of the previous century. Mr. Annan's plan takes little practical account of a modern world in which competition, private enterprise and individual freedom are the principles of progress. He has his own agenda, which he would like the rest of us to follow and fund. The words sound lofty: "development, security, and human rights for all." The devil is in the details, and because this is a blueprint for the future of the entire earth, that means a lot of room for big trouble. This report is not a benign document.

We’ll be hearing a fair bit about UN reform in the months to come and it will be a mistake to take much of it seriously. What will it matter if it redefines terrorism, abolishes the Human Rights Commission, puts Japan on the Security Council or even takes away France’s veto? The UN is not just politically and financially corrupt, it is philosophically corrupt as well. At the very least it should be ignored benignly for a few decades until the generation running the place and their lickspittles in foreign ministries and NGO’s have passed on.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:36 PM

AND THEY WONDER WHY JEFF GANNON DIDN'T STICK OUT?:

Dirty Democrat Pool (The Prowler, 3/24/2005, American Spectator)

It's Rathergate all over again, and the same vigilant entities that brought about to the collapse of CBS News could now also cause heads to roll among Democratic Senate leadership staffers and further shame multiple news organizations that would appear to have fallen for another document hoax.

Very quietly, Senate Republican leadership aides to both Sen. Rick Santorum and Sen. Mitch McConnell, as well as the Senate Republican Policy Committee, have been using the Senate recess break to reconstruct the purported distribution of a document that media outlets, including ABC News, the New York Times and a number of regional newspapers, identified as Senate "GOP talking points" on the Terri Schiavo fight that unfolded over the weekend.

"There is a process here for documents like this that are passed around down on the Senate floor, which is where the media claimed that the 'talking points' were being distributed last Thursday," says a Republican policy committee staffer. "There was a lot of stuff going on Thursday, but a document like this one was not being distributed. As far as we know, the only documents being handed out related to votes on a series of amendments being pushed through before the recess. Schiavo wasn't part of that package."

The document, which was posted online by ABC News, as well as several Democratic-leaning websites, was unsigned, bore no Senate office letterhead, and was rife with errors, including the incorrect Senate bill number and the misspelling of Schiavo's name. [...]

[R]epublican leadership staffers now believe the document was generated out of the Democratic opposition research office set up recently by Sen. Harry Reid, and distributed to some Democratic Senate staffers claiming it was a GOP document, in the hope -- or more likely expectation -- that it would then be leaked by those Democrats to reporters. In fact, the New York Times stated that it was Democratic staffers who were distributing the "talking points" document.


Why would the talking points have been a story anyway? If they were real all you'd have to do is interview a Republican senator and he'd give them to you.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:14 PM

SEND LAWYERS, GUNS, & VOWELS:

Opposition Takes Control of Kyrgyzstan (STEVE GUTTERMAN, 3/24/05, Associated Press) - President Askar Akayev fled Kyrgyzstan on Thursday after protesters stormed his headquarters, seized control of state television and rampaged through government offices, throwing computers and air conditioners out of windows.

A leading opponent of the Akayev regime, Felix Kulov, was freed from prison and praised the ``revolution made by the people.'' Kulov said Akayev had signed a letter of resignation, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.

Members of the parliament that was in power before February's disputed election met Thursday night to discuss keeping order in the nation and conducting a new presidential vote, perhaps as early as May or June.

Sitting in Akayev's chair surrounded by supporters, opposition activist Ulan Shambetov praised the latest uprising to sweep a former Soviet republic.

``It's not the opposition that has seized power, it's the people who have taken power. The people. They have been fighting for so long against corruption, against that (Akayev) family,'' he said.
You knew that was coming when Vladimir Putin sided with the government. We should pay him to embrace Castro.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:27 PM

REBUILDING THE SHINING CITY:

The Natural Family: A Manifesto (World Congress of Families, 22 March 2005)

A Vision:

We see a world restored in line with the intent of its Creator. We envision a culture—found both locally and universally—that upholds the marriage of a woman to a man, and a man to a woman, as the central aspiration for the young. This culture affirms marriage as the best path to health, security, fulfillment, and joy. It casts the home built on marriage as the source of true political sovereignty, the fountain of democracy. It also holds the household framed by marriage to be the primal economic unit, a place marked by rich activity, material abundance, and broad self-reliance. This culture treasures private property in family hands as the rampart of independence and liberty. It celebrates the marital sexual union as the unique source of new human life. We see these homes as open to a full quiver of children, the source of family continuity and social growth. We envision young women growing into wives, homemakers, and mothers; and we see young men growing into husbands, homebuilders, and fathers.

We see true happiness as the product of persons enmeshed in vital bonds with spouses, children, parents, and kin. We look to a landscape of family homes, lawns, and gardens busy with useful tasks and ringing with the laughter of many children. We envision parents as the first educators of their children. We see homes that also embrace extended family members who need special care due to age or infirmity. We view neighborhoods, villages, and townships as the second locus of political sovereignty. We envision a freedom of commerce that respects and serves family integrity. And we look to nation-states that hold the protection of the natural family to be their first responsibility.

Our Platform:

From these principles, we draw out a simple, concrete platform for the new century and millennium. To the world, we say:

* We will build a new culture of marriage, where others would define marriage out of existence.

* We will welcome and celebrate more babies and larger families, where others would continue a war on human fertility.

* We will find ways to bring mothers, fathers, and children back home, where others would further divide parents from their children.

* And we will create true home economies, where others would subject families to the full control of big government and vast corporations.

The Call:

A new spirit spreads in the world, the essence of the natural family. We call on all people of goodwill, whose hearts are open to the promptings of this spirit, to join in a great campaign. The time is close when the persecution of the natural family, when the war against children, when the assault on human nature shall end.

The enemies of the natural family grow worried. A triumph that, not so many years ago, they thought complete is no longer sure. Their fury grows. So do their attempts, ever more desperate, at coercion. Yet their mistakes also mount in number. They misread human nature. They misread the times.

We all are called to be the actors, the moral soldiers, in this drive to realize the life ordained for us by our Creator. Our foes are dying, of their own choice; we have a world to gain. Natural families of all races, nations, and creeds, let us unite.


The divergence of America from Europe is only in its early stage.


MORE:
Meanwhile, in Euro-America, Vibrant Cities Find One Thing Missing: Children (TIMOTHY EGAN, 3/24/05, NY Times)

The Pearl District in the heart of this perpetually self-improving city seems to have everything in new urban design and comfort, from the Whole Foods store where fresh-buffed bell peppers are displayed like runway models to the converted lofts that face sidewalk gardens.

Everything except children.

Crime is down. New homes and businesses are sprouting everywhere. But in what may be Portland's trendiest and fastest-growing neighborhood, the number of school-age children grew by only three between the census counts in 1990 and 2000, according to demographers at Portland State University.

"The neighborhood would love to have more kids, that's probably the top of our wish list," said Joan Pendergast of the Pearl Neighborhood Association. "We don't want to be a one-dimensional place."

It is a problem unlike the urban woes of cities like Detroit and Baltimore, where families have fled decaying neighborhoods, business areas and schools. Portland is one of the nation's top draws for the kind of educated, self-starting urbanites that midsize cities are competing to attract. But as these cities are remodeled to match the tastes of people living well in neighborhoods that were nearly abandoned a generation ago, they are struggling to hold on to enough children to keep schools running and parks alive with young voices.

San Francisco, where the median house price is now about $700,000, had the lowest percentage of people under 18 of any large city in the nation, 14.5 percent, compared with 25.7 percent nationwide, the 2000 census reported. Seattle, where there are more dogs than children, was a close second. Boston, Honolulu, Portland, Miami, Denver, Minneapolis, Austin and Atlanta, all considered, healthy, vibrant urban areas, were not far behind. The problem is not just that American women are having fewer children, reflected in the lowest birth rate ever recorded in the country.


Posted by Paul Jaminet at 9:42 AM

THE LAST WORD ON THE SCHIAVO CASE:

Matthew 25 (c. 30 A.D.)

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, ill and you cared for me ...'

Then the righteous will answer him and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?'

And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.'

Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, ... ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.'

Then they will answer and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or ill, and not minister to your needs?'

He will answer them, 'Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.'


Terri is now the least of our fellows: ill with a brain injury, guarded by the state police, hungry and thirsty, as humble and broken as Jesus on the cross. The Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court are very fortunate: they get to sit in judgment of their own case. Will they rule themselves sheep, or goats?

UPDATE: Supreme Court refuses to hear Schiavo case.

Pilate ... took water and washed his hands in the sight of the crowd, saying, "I am innocent of this man's blood. Look to it yourselves."

Good Friday is tomorrow.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:37 AM

GOLGOTHA EVERY DAY:

State court rejects last-ditch appeal in Schiavo case (Jill Barton, March 24, 2005, Associated Press)

A state judge and the U.S. Supreme Court refused Thursday to intervene in the case of Terri Schiavo, leaving the brain-damaged woman's parents with only the slimmest hopes in their fight to keep her alive.

Gov. Jeb Bush's request seeking custody cited new allegations of neglect and challenges the diagnoses that Schiavo is in a persistent vegetative state, but Pinellas Circuit Judge George Greer wasn't convinced and declined to hear Bush's arguments.

Greer's decision Thursday afternoon came hours after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to order her feeding tube reinserted. The decisions reduce chances for quick intervention to reconnect the tube, which was pulled last Friday. Doctors have said Schiavo, 41, likely would die in a week or two without nourishment.


EXCERPT: from Night (Elie Wiesel)
The SS seemed more preoccupied, more disturbed than usual. To hang a young boy in front of thousands of spectators was no light matter. The head of the camp read the verdict. All eyes were on the child. He was lividly pale, almost calm, biting his lips. The gallows threw its shadow over him. This time the camp executioner refused to act as executioner. Three SS replaced him.

The victims mounted together onto the chairs. The three necks were placed at the same moment within the nooses. "Long live Liberty!" cried the two adults. But the child was silent.

"Where is God? Where is He?" someone behind me asked.

At a sign from the head of the camp, the three chairs tipped over.

Total silence throughout the camp. On the horizon, the sun was setting. "Bare your heads!" yelled the head of the camp. His voice was raucous. We were weeping. "Cover your heads!"

Then the march past began. The two adults were no longer alive. But the third rope was still moving; being so light, the child was still alive...

For more than half an hour he stayed there, struggling between life and death, dying in slow agony under our eyes. And we had to look him full in the face. He was still alive when I passed in front of him. Behind me I heard the same man asking: "Where is God now?"

And I hear a voice within me answer him: "Were is he? Here He is - He is hanging here on this gallows. . . "


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:35 AM

THE HARD BIGOTRY OF THE SOFT HEALTHY:

Which Terri Schiavo? (Douglas Kern, 03/24/2005, Tech Central Station)

We want to deduce Terri Schiavo's wishes and act upon them -- but which Terri Schiavo?

Perhaps the Terri Schiavo of 1989 and the Terri Schiavo of 2005 are not the same. Perhaps great suffering engenders new selves, with interests and preferences far different from the old selves whose desires now command the respect of the law. And perhaps these new selves should command their own respect.

Any moral order based upon an appreciation of human freedom must understand selves to be continuous, stable things. By dint of that stability, a rational, autonomous agent -- a libertarian self, so to speak -- can form agreements that extend significantly into the future. Libertarian selves can enter into binding contracts for decades at a time, and be held accountable for the performance of those contracts -- no matter how their future selves unfold. And no libertarian would find it unjust to punish the future self of a criminal for serious crimes committed as a young adult.

Yet we sense that our selves are not entirely constant. Many libertarians believe that entry into and exit from legal marriage should be relatively easy, because the self of today may have romantic needs and impulses far different than those of the self of twenty years from now. By this reasoning, true freedom must meet the needs of our changing selves. [...]

[W]ho has not leafed through an old yearbook or old photos, and failed to marvel at the grotesque foolishness of youth? Deprived of our hard-won wisdom and the insight that life-changing events provide, our younger selves seem so stunted as to be almost foreign. Time makes us strangers to ourselves.

I fear that, in our rush to compose our living wills, we will forget that the continuity of our selves may change profoundly should we fall victim to severe impairment. Our healthy selves may have little understanding of the new selves that will dwell in our broken bodies.


When thinking about such issues it's always helpful to recall one brutal example: Christopher Reeves's mother wanted to kill him when he got hurt.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:02 AM

REALITY ALWAYS DAWNS:

Euro slips as reports show weak recovery (Reuters, Bloomberg News, March 24, 2005)

Somber economic data drove the euro to a one-month low against the dollar Wednesday and dealt a dose of reality to European Union leaders debating how to make the bloc the world's most powerful economy.

An important gauge of German business confidence showed an unexpected downturn, and data from Italy weighed on the euro as well, along with news of a euro-zone trade deficit and a drop in new industrial orders.

Those data were followed by a stronger-than-expected U.S. consumer price report, suggesting the Federal Reserve Board might raise interest rates more aggressively than previously thought, traders said.

"This isn't good news for the euro," said Mitul Kotecha, global head of currency strategy in London at Calyon, the securities unit of Crédit Agricole. "It's a very contrasting picture between the U.S. and Europe on growth and the U.S. wins outright."

At a meeting devoted to economic strategy, EU leaders toned down the ambitions of the so-called Lisbon Agenda, a 10-year plan to overtake the United States as the most dynamic economy.


Want some cheese to go with that surrender?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:51 AM

WHAT WOULD OUR GRANDFATHERS SAY?:

George W. to George W. (THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, 3/24/05, NY Times)

Of all the stories about the abuse of prisoners of war by American soldiers and C.I.A. agents, surely none was more troubling and important than the March 16 report by my Times colleagues Douglas Jehl and Eric Schmitt that at least 26 prisoners have died in U.S. custody in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2002 - in what Army and Navy investigators have concluded or suspect were acts of criminal homicide.

You have to stop and think about this: We killed 26 of our prisoners of war. [...]

Yes, I know war is hell and ugliness abounds in every corner. I also understand that in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, we are up against a vicious enemy, which, if it had the power, would do great harm to our country. You do not deal with such people with kid gloves. But killing prisoners of war, presumably in the act of torture, is an inexcusable outrage. The fact that Congress has just shrugged this off, and no senior official or officer has been fired, is a travesty. This administration is for "ownership" of everything except responsibility.


41st Infantry Brigade (Light) (Separate/Enhanced) "Jungleers" (Global Security)
By December 7, 1941, the 41st Division was ready. It continued the series of "firsts" by being the first United States Division to deploy to the South Pacific.

The 41st Division first stopped at Australia for even more training and then proceeded to New Guinea. This time, the 41st Division became the first American division to meet the Imperial Japanese Forces, not in defense, but in an offensive operation. Places with the strange names of Buna, Gona, Sanananda, and Salamaua became Oregonian battlegrounds in a war with an enemy during which no quarter was given or taken. The Division fought for 76 continuous days in combat against the Japanese at Salamaua. For 26 days only canned "C" rations were available. At the end of this campaign, Tokyo Rose, in her propaganda broadcasts, referred to the 41st as the "Butcher Division" because, among all the records established by the 41st, it established a record for taking the least number of Japanese prisoners-of-war in the entire Pacific theatre.



Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:30 AM

HOW LATE IT WAS, HOW LATE:

Iraqi forces kill 45 insurgents at guerrilla training camp (Colin McMahon, March 24, 2005, Chicago Tribune)

In what Iraqi officials called ''a major battle and a major success," Iraqi commando units attacked a guerrilla training camp and killed at least 45 insurgent fighters, authorities said yesterday. The final death toll could be twice that.

The fighting was notable not just for the number of insurgents killed -- the most since US-led forces retook the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah last fall -- but for its location: an isolated, swampy area northwest of Baghdad, instead of the streets of a city. Officials suggested the insurgents sought out the site to hide from Iraqi citizens who are beginning to oppose them.

At its fiercest, the clash Tuesday near Lake Tharthar raged for at least two hours. But fighting lasted throughout the day, and Iraqi and American forces were still looking for stragglers yesterday, according to US military officials and the Iraqi Interior Ministry.

''As the Iraqi people turn away from these criminals and terrorists, this training camp was selected away from any population center or main thoroughfare to avoid the population," said Major Richard Goldenberg, a spokesman for the 42d Infantry Division. ''They organized into a large group at a remote site, perhaps under the impression that Iraqi security forces would not look for them there."

MORE:
Arabs should give their support to the rebuilding of Iraq (Lebanon Daily Star, March 23, 2005)

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari raised a valid point when he accused Arabs of being "apathetic" toward Iraq. The foreign minister is right to call a spade a spade: both the governments and the people of the region have demonstrated an almost coldhearted apathy toward the devastating plight of the Iraqi people.

Over the past 50 years, authoritarian leaders in the region have banded together in support for each other almost blindly, despite all evidence of despotism, totalitarianism and heavy handed oppression. Although the ideal of pan-Arab unity was never realized, it seems that what has been achieved is a union of corrupt regimes. Grossly misusing the language of Arab unity, they casually dismissed the mass murders that occurred under Saddam Hussein's rule, as well as genocide in Sudan, Syrian oppression of Lebanon, and countless other tragedies. And since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, they have extended only a tepid welcome to the country's leadership, and have turned a blind eye to the insurgency that is wreaking havoc on the lives of ordinary Iraqi citizens. We must no longer allow the language of Arab unity to be so distorted; it is time to put aside the empty rhetoric of pan-Arab nationalism. Instead, we must support the true notions of Arab solidarity and brotherhood.

Government apathy toward the plight of the Iraqi people is matched by the popular silence on the issue of Iraqi suffering. Arab citizens have quietly watched or even applauded as terrorists attack innocent civilians, including women and children. The people of the region have been reluctant to speak out and condemn the brutal forms of violence plaguing the country. We can no longer turn a blind eye to injustice and atrocity.


US Death Rate Down in Iraq Since January Elections (Reuters, 3/24/05)
The rate of U.S. deaths in the Iraq (news - web sites) war has fallen sharply since the historic January elections as American military leaders tout progress against the insurgency but warn of a long road ahead.

March is on pace for the lowest monthly U.S. military death toll in 13 months, and the rate of American fatalities has fallen by about 50 percent since the parliamentary elections in which millions of Iraqis defied insurgents to cast ballots.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:26 AM

LOBOTOMY:

Bush wins big as China overplays its hand (Jim Lobe, 3/25/05, Asia Times)

The apparent decision by European leaders to delay the lifting of their 16-year-old arms embargo on China beyond June marks a clear-cut foreign-policy victory for US President George W Bush, who made the issue a major priority in his visit to Europe last month.

China itself may have inadvertently made Bush's victory possible. Its enactment last week of an Anti-Secession Law that lays the foundation for a possible military attack on Taiwan if, in Beijing's judgment, it were to move toward formal independence, gave the administration powerful new ammunition against ending the ban - as well as political cover to those European governments that were wary about confronting Bush on the issue. [...]

Some European governments had already been under pressure, notably from human-rights activists, to keep the embargo in place. Some also reportedly argued that the issue was not so important or urgent to justify the risk of further alienating Washington, particularly in the immediate wake of Bush's agreement to support ongoing negotiations by Britain, France and Germany (EU-3) with Iran about its nuclear program, when trans-Atlantic ties were already so fraught.

Whether the Anti-Secession Law was actually the straw the broke the camel's back or simply a convenient pretext for defusing tensions with Washington remains unclear, but it marks both an important political victory for Bush and a boost for neo-conservative and nationalist hawks in and out of the administration who favor a more aggressive containment policy against China in ever-closer collaboration with both Japan and Taiwan


Can't have been easy for Mr. Lobe to write that one.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:22 AM

INFORMED PROWLING:

Monroe gets jump on center with help from Edmonds (JOHN LOWE, March 22, 2005, Detroit FREE PRESS)

Craig Monroe wants to learn as much as possible about playing centerfield, so he's going right to the top.

Monroe called Minnesota centerfielder Torii Hunter, who has won four Gold Gloves.

Then Monroe chatted with St. Louis centerfielder Jim Edmonds, who has won seven Gold Gloves.

Monroe introduced himself to Edmonds before Sunday's game against the Cardinals.

"I feel blessed to be around, to play against such great centerfielders and be able to pick their brains," Monroe said. "I think I would be doing myself an injustice if I didn't go up and introduce myself to those guys and be honest with them and say, 'Hey, the Tigers are talking about making a move and having me go from being a corner guy to center. I was just wondering if there is anything you would add to make this an easy transition, and also give me some insight into what makes you so good out there.' "


If only some of the guys with more talent than he were equally thirsty for instruction.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:15 AM

HORRIFIED BY LIFE (via The Other Brother):

The Science and Ethics of the Schiavo Case (Jon Hamilton, March 24, 2005, NPR Morning Edition)

Doctors and bioethicists worry that the Terri Schiavo case has set back their work by decades because of Congress's decision to step in and reverse a judicial decision. Jon Hamilton visits a New York hospital team of doctors, bioethicists and mediators who work with families of patients in vegetative states. The group routinely deals with complicated "end-of-life" decisions.

What's most revealing in the report is that the question is presented as exclusively one of medicine, rather than of morality. What's most chilling is the bioethicist who complains: "I can not understand how Congress has the power to reach in and reverse a Court decision that had reached the end of the process, so I am quite frankly horrified. The burden will go on the family and the default position will be to keep patients on food anf fluid and treatment." An "ethics" whose default position is death rather than life is not even worthy of the name.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:59 AM

JUST BE CAREFUL A-ROD DOESN'T KNOCK YOUR HAND AWAY (via Rick Turley):

Kids to Sox, Yankees: Take bitter out of rivalry (Lenny Megliola, March 23, 2005, Boston Herald)

The phone rang in the Merriam School office two weeks ago. The caller asked for Ed Kaufman or Mary Ann Brandt.

``Sorry,'' said secretary Diane Walsh, ``they're in class. Who's calling? Terry Francona? No really, who's calling?''

Then again, Walsh thought, knowing what was going on at the school, it just might be the Red Sox manager. Walsh put the caller on hold and dialed up Brandt's sixth-grade class. ``I think you'd better take this one,'' Walsh said.

Brandt did. It was Francona. ``I said to the kids, `Don't scream, but do you know who's on the line? Terry Francona!' They screamed.''

The manager of the World Champions was impressed with the kids' goal for the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry to lighten up a little bit. ``Francona said, `You know, this is a fantastic idea, but I hate to disappoint you. I can't make these guys do this,' '' Brandt recalls.

Do what? Have the Red Sox and Yankees shake hands, that's what.

Brandt, a passionate Red Sox fan, and Kaufman, a lifelong Yankees fan, had become concerned just how bitter the rivalry between the two teams had become and the effects it might have on kids.

``The name-calling, the fighting, the jumping into bullpens,'' said Kaufman, who teaches fifth grade. He and Brandt started discussing the nastiness of the two teams with their students. Some figured that's just who the Red Sox and Yankees are: teams that hate each other.

But what about the kids? Didn't they shake hands after games? They started thinking. ``If we can do it, why can't they?'' said Kaufman.

And so began Project Handshake. The classes wrote to Francona, Jason Varitek, Red Sox owner John Henry, general manager Theo Epstein, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, manager Joe Torre, general manager Brian Cashman and Derek Jeter with one request: that the two teams shake hands before or after the game on Opening Day at Yankee Stadium April 3, or when the two teams met April 11 in the Fenway Park opener.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:51 AM

Y2K ON WHEELS:

The 500-Mile-Per-Gallon Solution: High-tech cars, Arctic drilling, new gas taxes: We must have the will to do it all. (Max Boot, March 24, 2005, LA Times)

An ambitious agenda to achieve those goals has been produced by Set America Free, a group set up by R. James Woolsey, Frank Gaffney and other national security hawks.

They advocate using existing technologies — not pie-in-the-sky ideas like hydrogen fuel cells — to wean the auto industry from its reliance on petroleum. Hybrid electric cars such as the Toyota Prius, which run on both electric motors and gas engines, already get more than 50 miles per gallon. Coming soon are hybrids that can be plugged into a 120-volt outlet to recharge like a cellphone. They'll get even better mileage.

Add in "flexible fuel" options that already allow many cars to run on a combination of petroleum and fuels like ethanol (derived from corn) and methanol (from natural gas or coal), and you could build vehicles that could get — drum roll, please — 500 miles per gallon of gasoline. That's not science fiction; that's achievable right now.

Set America Free estimates that if we convert entirely to flexible-fuel, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, U.S. gasoline imports in 20 years will drop by two-thirds. As important, because Americans are the world's biggest car buyers, U.S. preferences would reshape the global automotive industry. Carmakers would wind up shipping hybrid electrics to Europe and Asia too. President Bush could hasten the transition through an international agreement to move major economies away from oil dependency. This would not only reduce the Middle East's strategic importance but also help reduce emissions to Kyoto-mandated levels.

There is, of course, a catch. Moving to hybrid electric cars won't be cheap. Automakers would have to retool their wares, gas stations would have to add alcohol-fuel pumps, parking lots would have to add electric outlets. Set America Free puts the price tag at about $12 billion over the next four years.


$12 billion is chump change in an $11 trillion economy.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:47 AM

THE CAKELESS RECIPE:

Rehnquist's Test (LA Times, March 24, 2005)

What Rehnquist thinks about the use and abuse of feeding tubes doesn't matter, or shouldn't. What does and should matter is what he thinks about federalism.

If the intent of the Framers had been to protect the powers and prerogatives of the several states there would be no constitutiuon nor federal government.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:03 AM

THE PLEASANT SURPRISE:

Rumsfeld: US and Brazil to strengthen security ties (AFP, Mar 23, 2005)

The United States and Brazil want to strengthen cooperation in fighting terrorism and organized crime, said US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld Wednesday.

Rumsfeld held talks with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Minister of Defense Jose Alencar.

"Our two countries are looking (for) ways to work together more closely to confront the anti-social threats by organised crime, by gangs, drug-traffickers, hostage-takers and terrorists," the Pentagon chief said after the meeting.

Rumsfeld also lauded Brazil's leadership in building the coalition of Latin American troops which form the core of a United Nations peacekeeping force in violence-wracked Haiti.

"Brazil can be proud of the leadership it is exercising in the region and several parts of the world," he said. "It is a welcome contribution to stability in our hemisphere."

During his meeting with Rumsfeld, Lula said Brazil was making "every effort toward a more stable, integrated and economically prosper Latin America," according to government sources.


There's no reason that Brazil shouldn't be part of the Axis of Good and eventually part of the reconfigured Security Council.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM

WHAT GEORGE SOROS BOUGHT THIS TIME:

Watchdogs in Soros's pocket: GOP (Alexander Bolton, 3/23/05, The Hill)

House Republicans are taking the offensive in the burgeoning ethics war on Capitol Hill by circulating research that details links among Democrats, George Soros and government watchdog groups that have criticized Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and the House ethics process.

The research shows that members of these groups’ boards have contributed tens of thousands of dollars to Democratic candidates and political organizations and several of their staff members have previously worked for Democrats. The groups have also accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Open Society Institute, an organization founded by Soros, who spent millions trying to defeat President Bush in last year’s election. [...]

The latest spate of broadcasts and articles, a glut of the type of negative coverage that has plagued DeLay in recent years, likely explains why his name identification has risen from 46 percent to 76 percent between September 1999 and last month, according to several CNN/USA Today/ Gallup surveys of adults nationwide, cited by Democrats. During the same span, DeLay’s unfavorable ratings have swelled from 11 percent to 24 percent, according to the same surveys.

“The DeLay scandal is getting to the point where House Republicans just won’t be able to withstand much more,” a Democratic aide said.


All that money to get his negatives to 24%?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM

RING THEM BELLS:

The bells to toll on Myanmar (Verghese Mathews, 3/25/05, Asia Times)

I am sure there are many like me who will say syabas (super) to Mr Nazri Abdul Aziz, Malaysia's minister for parliamentary affairs, for his statement, widely quoted on Wednesday in local and international media, that "Myanmar's turn to be the chairman of ASEAN [ought] to be suspended and given to other countries until democratic reforms are carried out".

In addition to this comment, Aziz also tellingly declared that a motion to suspend Myanmar's chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations would be introduced in Malaysia's parliament next week.

This is surely a seriously considered commentary that is obviously well calculated to send a clear signal to Yangon that Malaysia means business. [...]

Unfortunately, all present indications are that much time and energy will indeed be wasted on the Myanmar issue.

As chairman, much of the firefighting will fall on Malaysia. Worse, if in fact Myanmar does assume the chairmanship, it will be Malaysia that will have to do the honors of passing on the baton. Malaysia is indeed serious - it does not want to be the baton-passer.

Better for those currently in power in Myanmar to realize that the proverbial bells have begun to toll.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM

OF COURSE, IN HER CASE A SPRITZ OR TWO WOULD BE AMPLE:

Senators encouraged by progress in Iraq (Albert Eisele, 3/23/05, The Hill)

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) led a bipartisan Senate delegation to Baghdad Tuesday and left little doubt that the Senate will soon approve an $81 billion supplemental appropriation passed by the House last week, most of which will go to pay for rebuilding Iraq's war-torn economy and countering insurgent violence. [...]

Reid and his colleagues, who included four Democrats and two Republicans, all indicated they are encouraged by signs of progress in carrying out the three-pronged U.S. strategy of support for bolstering Iraq's security forces, economy and political system.

"One of the people we met with today called Iraq 'an infant democracy,' and we can't leave this infant alone," said Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). "I believe what we are seeing here is good."

Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah) compared this visit with an earlier visit he made last year. "I find a quiet optimism instead of a cautious optimism," he said. He added, "I think that the elections and the strengthening of the Iraqi security forces have given us hope that the seed of democracy has been planted here. There's still a lot to do and we still have a lot to worry about, but the signs are more optimistic now than before."

Even Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who has been a leading critic of the Bush administration's Iraq policy, seemed upbeat about the future of the new Iraq government.


At least no one will say she was brain-washed.


March 23, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:57 PM

CARPE ZIM:

A Despot Clings to Power: On the eve of elections, Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe is more vulnerable than ever. (Tom Masland, 3/28/05, Newsweek International)

As night falls, dance music rises from the rural beer hall. Nothing strange about that in backwater Africa, but a special vibe animates the small crowd in Tsholotsho, a market town in the arid cattle-herding region of western Zimbabwe. The same tune thumps out over and over. Its refrain: "Forward, Tsholotsho." Minutes later two sport utility vehicles pull up. A tall man in a leather Stetson hat emerges from one of the trucks, grinning widely. The crowd of about 50 men and women who had sat for hours drinking traditional beer shrieks out his name, "Jonathan!" Until a month ago, Jonathan Moyo was the government's hard-line Information minister. But after President Robert Mugabe sacked him in February, he quit the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Popular Front (ZANU-PF) party and is now running for Parliament as an independent. "We are victorious, without any doubt," an onlooker exclaimed. "This is history."

Such optimism may be premature. Most analysts believe that Mugabe will find a way to win the March 31 elections, ensuring that ZANU retains its parliamentary majority. By all accounts, there was egregious vote-rigging in the country's last two general elections—in 2000 and 2002, when Mugabe was re-elected president—and it's virtually a foregone conclusion that similar fraud will take place again. Mugabe enjoys running Zimbabwe; he's been doing so for 25 years. But he's also 80, xenophobic and obsessed with clinging to power. And that, as well as the disastrous policies that have come out of his preoccupation, is turning his own people against him. [...]

Hoping to regain some international credibility, Mugabe has loosened his repressive grip, if only temporarily. This campaign has been largely free of the violence and thuggish tactics that ZANU has used in the past to intimidate political opponents. But the more open political climate has only exposed how deeply unpopular and vulnerable Mugabe is. For the first time since independence from Britain in 1980, he's facing serious dissent within the core ranks of his party. Eight ZANU-PF members recently defected and are running for Parliament as independents. The revolt's epicenter is Tsholotsho, where Mugabe's former chief ideologue, the 48-year-old Moyo, retreated after the president fired him for daring to raise the succession issue. "The sooner he dies, the better," says Roman Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo, western Zimbabwe's capital. "He's a very, very evil man."

Mugabe's support has shrunk to a small circle of elderly ex-generals and spies from his tribal subclan. To win the elections, he may have to resort to even more blatant vote-rigging than in the past—at a time when people-power revolts in Ukraine and Lebanon have diminished the tolerance for such shenanigans. (Voter-registration rolls are no longer public record, and are said to contain thousands of dead people and double entries.) Even if Mugabe finds a way to come out on top, the question of how long he can last will be more pressing than ever.

Indeed, the opposition's sharpest criticism is that ZANU is out of step with the times.


Tony Blair, George Bush, Condi Rice and company need to be loud and relentless.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:52 PM

OBLIGATORY KIM JONG-IL COMPARISON (via Matt Murphy):

Bush Is a Loser at Logic but a Winner in D.C. (Arianna Huffington, LA Times)

I just got back from a trip to the Happiest Place on Earth. Didn’t ride the teacups, though, because I wasn’t in Disneyland, but in Washington, D.C., where everyone is walking on air, swept away by the Beltway’s latest consensus: President Bush was right on Iraq. And, as a result, Tomorrowland in the Middle East will feature an e-ticket ride on the Matterhorn of freedom and democracy.

The political and cultural establishment has gone positively Goofy over this notion. In the corridors of power, Republicans are high-fiving, and Democrats are nodding in agreement and patting themselves on the back for how graciously they’ve been able to accept the fact that they were wrong.

The groupthink in the nation’s capital would be the envy of Dear Leader Kim Jong Il.

How did this cozy unanimity come to pass? Is it something in the water, I wondered, perhaps as a result of Bush gutting the EPA? But then I thought back to my time at Cambridge, when I took a course in elementary logic, and studied the Fallacy of the Undistributed Middle.

For those of you in need of a refresher on the concept, here’s an example: “All oaks are trees. All elms are trees. Therefore, all oaks are elms.’’

See how easily you can go from point A to point Z, jumping over all the important steps between?

So: We invaded Iraq. Change is afoot in the Middle East. Therefore, the Middle East is changing because we invaded Iraq.

See how simple it is? And how illogical?


I get why she disagrees, but how is it illogical?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:41 PM

THE ONLY SERIOUS MAN IN TOWN:

Agenda driven by leading hawks (Greg Sheridan, March 24, 2005, The Australian)

THE pattern of senior appointments in Washington offers a fascinating insight into where the second Bush administration is heading. If you're a Bush critic, the good news is that George W. Bush is going to take the multilateral system and international issues hugely seriously. The bad news is just the same.

Bush is going to engage all the issues his critics claim he neglected in his first term - Third World development, the image of the US throughout the world, reform and reinvigoration of the UN. But he will do so in a way that is consistent with his political values.

Three appointments make this clear - Paul Wolfowitz to move from Deputy Secretary of Defence to president of the World Bank, John Bolton to move from under-secretary of state to US ambassador to the UN, and Karen Hughes, the President's former communications director, to become under-secretary of state for public diplomacy.

This is clearly earnest intent. They are all Bush insiders and genuine heavy hitters. Each will be criticised but each offers Bush the chance to make a real difference.


It was rather a big speech, was anyone paying any attention:
My nation will work with the U.N. Security Council to meet our common challenge. If Iraq's regime defies us again, the world must move deliberately, decisively to hold Iraq to account. We will work with the U.N. Security Council for the necessary resolutions. But the purposes of the United States should not be doubted. The Security Council resolutions will be enforced -- the just demands of peace and security will be met -- or action will be unavoidable. And a regime that has lost its legitimacy will also lose its power.

Events can turn in one of two ways: If we fail to act in the face of danger, the people of Iraq will continue to live in brutal submission. The regime will have new power to bully and dominate and conquer its neighbors, condemning the Middle East to more years of bloodshed and fear. The regime will remain unstable -- the region will remain unstable, with little hope of freedom, and isolated from the progress of our times. With every step the Iraqi regime takes toward gaining and deploying the most terrible weapons, our own options to confront that regime will narrow. And if an emboldened regime were to supply these weapons to terrorist allies, then the attacks of September the 11th would be a prelude to far greater horrors.

If we meet our responsibilities, if we overcome this danger, we can arrive at a very different future. The people of Iraq can shake off their captivity. They can one day join a democratic Afghanistan and a democratic Palestine, inspiring reforms throughout the Muslim world. These nations can show by their example that honest government, and respect for women, and the great Islamic tradition of learning can triumph in the Middle East and beyond. And we will show that the promise of the United Nations can be fulfilled in our time.

Neither of these outcomes is certain. Both have been set before us. We must choose between a world of fear and a world of progress. We cannot stand by and do nothing while dangers gather. We must stand up for our security, and for the permanent rights and the hopes of mankind. By heritage and by choice, the United States of America will make that stand. And, delegates to the United Nations, you have the power to make that stand, as well.


The President takes the UN more seriously than it takes itself.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:35 PM

AT LEAST THE HUN ALTERNATES BETWEEN YOUR FEET AND YOUR THROAT:

Chirac stabs Blair in back (NIC CECIL, 3/24/05, Daily Sun)

BACK-STABBING Jacques Chirac last night repaid Tony Blair for helping him by trying to sabotage Britain’s £3billion EU rebate.

The double betrayal came only hours after Mr Blair rescued the French President from angry French unions.

FIRST Mr Chirac joined calls for Brussels to axe our refund.

THEN he accused British and American economic policy of exporting death to the Third World.

Mr Blair had been banking on France to help save the 20-year-old rebate.

Even with the rebate Britain pays more than TWO AND A HALF TIMES as much as the French.

Without it, the Treasury’s share of running the EU would be a staggering 14 TIMES that of France.

Yet Chirac ganged up with other EU leaders and told the PM: “The rebate is no longer justified today.”



Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:30 PM

A MAN COULD DO WORSE THAN BE MUGABE'S ARCH-ENEMY:

They may be continents apart, but Mugabe blames Blair for everything: Bemused voters find that the British leader is dominating the Zimbabwean election (Xan Rice, 3/24/05, Times of London)

FORGET about education. Forget about job creation, even though unemployment is running at 80 per cent. The 2005 parliamentary election in Zimbabwe is all about the threat posed by a middle-aged man living thousands of miles away.

President Mugabe, who since 2000 has made no secret of his contempt for Britain, has dubbed next week’s vote the “anti-Blair election”. Demonisation of the Prime Minister has become the central platform of the ruling Zanu (PF) party’s campaign.

Yesterday on page 3 of the government-run Herald newspaper, the country’s biggest, a full-page advertisement declared: “Bury Blair, Vote Zanu PF.” In bullet points, the British Prime Minister was blamed for everything from “racist factory closures” to “politically motivated price increases” and sanctions.

Nearly every Zanu (PF) campaign speech contains angry references to Mr Blair, whom Mr Mugabe accuses of financing the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

“It’s like Tony Blair is having to fight an election campaign on two fronts — in Britain and here,” Andrew Moyse, project co-ordinator for Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe, said.

The bizarre campaign has many urban voters perplexed. Foster, a security guard in Harare who did not want to give his full name for fear of reprisals, said: “Why is he talking about Blair when people are starving in this country?” Primrose, a young professional, said: “This has to be one of the most irrelevant platforms ever.” Munya, who owns an IT company, said the focus on Blair was “ nonsense propaganda”.

But Zanu (PF)’s campaign is designed to woo, or rather scare, rural voters by suggesting that if the opposition wins, Zimbabwe will became a de facto colony of Britain once more, and that land will be returned to white farmers. In a rally near the South African border on Tuesday, President Mugabe told the crowd: “Our heritage needs to be protected from neocolonialists like Blair.”


Boy, Mr. Mugabe doesn't know his people at all, huh?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:27 PM

FROM CHICO TO SAFECO:

Relentless drive pushes Madritsch (Jim Caple, 3/11/05, ESPN.com)

Back in the days when he was pitching in independent leagues and getting by on sub-minimum-wage pay and pregame spreads of peanut butter sandwiches, Seattle pitcher Bobby Madritsch once grew so disenchanted by his team's lack of professionalism that he simply left a game in the eighth inning, cleaned out his locker, got in his truck and drove 1,500 miles from Texas to Pittsburgh for a tryout with another league ... without first taking off his uniform.

This would have made for an interesting conversation with a state trooper – "But officer, there's a save situation in Pittsburgh and the bullpen cart broke down" – and it also gives you an idea of Madritsch's determination to succeed in baseball.

After all, when the tryout in Pittsburgh fell through, he traveled all the way across the country to California to pitch for the famous Chico Heat.

Thus, it shouldn't have been a surprise when the Mariners called up Madritsch last summer and he didn't show the slightest intimidation at the likes of Manny Ramirez and Vladimir Guerrero. What's the big deal about a 3-0 count to David Ortiz after you've grown up among the gangs in South Chicago, never known your mother and endured that roughest life of all – pitching for four independent teams, including three in one summer?

"I just kept telling myself, I've been through worse before,'' Madritsch said. "And by worse, I mean real-life situations. Being able to move forward and become a better person from that helps me on the baseball field, so I don't get cold feet or put my tail between my legs or start shaking.''

Madritsch, 29, was 6-3 with a 3.27 ERA last year after a late July call-up, and the Mariners need him to continue that success if they are to have much chance of rebounding from their 99-loss season. The left-hander certainly has the stuff – he throws his fastball in the low 90s with an effective cutter, slider and changeup. He also has the attitude that comes from pulling himself out of a life on the other side of the tracks.

Raised by his father, he's never known his mother (though he knows where she lives now and hopes for a meeting). He admits to getting into a lot of trouble as a teen – "I was always playing with fire and getting burned all the time'' – and said he finally turned things around after getting badly hurt: "I knew right from wrong after that."


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:17 PM

NATURAL AND WELCOME VS. INSANELY GHOULISH:

Schiavo Case Highlights Catholic-Evangelical Alliance (LAURIE GOODSTEIN, 3/24/05, NY Times)

The powerful outcry over Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged Florida woman whose case has provoked a national debate over whether she should live or die, is a testament to the growing alliance of conservative Roman Catholics and evangelicals who have found common cause in the "culture of life" agenda articulated by Pope John Paul II.

In their fight to keep their daughter alive, Ms. Schiavo's parents, who are Catholics, have been backed by an ad hoc coalition of Catholic and evangelical lobbyists, street organizers and legal advisers like the Rev. Frank Pavone, the Catholic priest who runs a group called Priests for Life and evangelical Protestants like Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue, and the Rev. Pat Mahoney of the National Clergy Council.

The struggle is only the latest indication of a strengthening religious alliance between denominations that were once bitterly divided. Evangelical leaders say they frequently lean on Catholic intellectuals like Robert George at Princeton University and the Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, editor of the journal First Things, to help them frame political issues theologically.

An increasing number of Catholics hold crucial staff positions in some of the religious conservative groups that lobby Washington. And conservative Catholics and evangelicals meet weekly in Virginia with a broad array of right-leaning lobbyists.

"The idea of building a culture that values human life is a Catholic articulation, but it echoes in the hearts of many people, evangelicals and others," said William L. Saunders Jr., director of the Center for Human Life and Bioethics at the Family Research Council in Washington.

"It was articulated by John Paul II, who is a great hero to pro-life people, regardless of their church," said Mr. Saun


Even more interesting is the emergence of a vocal Jewish contingent that's pro-life, Catching the Moon (Marc Gellman, March 22, 2005, Newsweek)
The three facts all parties to the Schiavo case agree are true are that she is alive, she is innocent and she is mute. Everything else is in dispute. One group is arguing that rational individuals can decide to refuse medical treatment, even healing treatments, if they are unhappy about the quality of their life. Terri's husband is saying that Terri wanted this. The other side is arguing that she did not want this and that her parents are willing to care for her. I believe the issue is what we as a culture will do with living, innocent, mute people in our midst, and no court can rule on that.

In many right-to-die cases, the patient is on life-support systems, so all that needs to be done to allow them to die is to remove these medical obstacles to death. However, in this case Terri Schiavo is not on any life support systems. In this case, in order to live she only requires hydration and nutrition; and it is a big stretch for many people to label food and water extraordinary means. It is one thing to let a person die in peace who is already dying. It is one thing to remove an obstacle to death. It is quite another to cause death. When you add in her parents' willingness to assume the financial and emotional burden of her care, the insistence of her husband that he be given the right to starve his wife to death just seems insanely ghoulish to many people who are otherwise in favor of a person's right to die. Death, they argue—and I agree—is not always an insult or a betrayal. Death can be a natural and welcome release from pain and suffering. We now face the frightening possibility of modern medicine, motivated more by a defensive fear of lawsuits than the Hippocratic oath of “first do no harm,” stopping us from crossing over when it is our time. But this obviously is not Terri Schiavo's time.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:50 PM

GET OUT THE "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED" BANNER:

Sunnis now want to join Iraq politics: Sunni leaders met last weekend to unite in their cause and negotiate with Shiites and Kurds. (Jill Carroll, 3/24/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

Two years after war dramatically changed Iraq's political landscape, the former ruling minority Sunnis are developing plans to participate in a government formed by elections they boycotted. [...]

The new effort, observers say, appears to be an admission that their strategy - to stop Iraq's election and denounce the formation of a new government - has failed. Bringing the former ruling class into Iraq's emerging power structure, they add, could help quell the insurgency. [...]

The significance of the conference was underscored by its attendees. Participants included members of the Muslim Scholars Association, a group of Sunni religious leaders, among them some of the most extreme figures who have influence with the insurgency.

Also present were leaders from cities in the "Sunni Triangle," including Mosul, Haditha, and Salam Pak, which is bubbling with insurgent activity. Representatives of Waqaf Sunna, the powerful administrating body of Sunni religious affairs, attended as well.


All of which goes to show that they don't listen to at least four groups of people: the Western Left, U.S. intelligence services, the MSM, and al Qaeda. If they did they'd think they were winning.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:45 PM

SHOCKING FRENCH HOSTILITY?:

Are they winning?: The shocking risk of a non to the European Union constitution (The Economist, Mar 23rd 2005)

IT WAS not supposed to happen this fast. When President Jacques Chirac decided to advance France's referendum on the draft European Union constitution to May 29th, the idea was to avoid the “Maastricht scenario”. In 1992 support for that treaty sank over the summer months from 65% to just 51%. This time, with two months still left, two new opinion polls suggest that backing for the constitution has already collapsed: the no vote is now at 51-52%. Is France, architect of Europe, really set to reject its first constitution?

A single poll could be a freak. Although the yes vote has clearly been slipping (from 69% in December to 63% in February, according to CSA, the pollster for Le Parisien), such a crumbling of support in one month looks decidedly odd. Yet a second poll conducted by Ipsos for Le Figaro has now agreed with the first one. The yes vote has plunged from 60% in early March to 48%, according to Ipsos (see chart).

The two results could still be a blip. Plenty of voters are undecided, know little about the constitution, or see no great issue at stake. If Maastricht is a guide, prediction is perilous: four weeks before the 1992 yes vote, BVA, another pollster, also registered a no of 51%. The shock of the new polls could also galvanise pro-voters—and higher participation should favour a yes. Stunned French politicians have duly begun to dramatise the vote. Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, a former president who chaired the convention that first drafted the constitution, has talked of an “open crisis” if France says no. Jacques Delors, former president of the European Commission, has talked of a “cataclysm”.

Whether they represent a new trend or not, the new polls show that a French no is now a real possibility. How to explain such a surge of Euro-hostility?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:50 PM

MORE IN COMMON THAN WHAT DIVIDES THEM:

Religious leaders join forces against J'lem gay parade (Etgar Lefkovits, Mar. 23, 2005, THE JERUSALEM POST)

A worldwide interfaith campaign against a major international gay pride parade scheduled to take place in Jerusalem this summer gathered steam Wednesday with the Chief Rabbinate, the leaders of various Patriarchs in Jerusalem and a senior Muslim religious leader joining forces to thwart the event.

The religious leaders view the parade as an affront to the religious sensibilities of millions of people around the world.

The group will issue a joint call for the cancellation of the ten day 'Jerusalem World Pride 2005,' at a Jerusalem press conference tentatively scheduled to take place next week, officials said.

The rare cooperation between Judaism's, Christianity's and Islam's top religious leaders in Jerusalem comes on the heels of a joint Christian-Jewish campaign launched in the city last week to prevent the August parade from taking place in the Holy Land.


Nothing like the common enemy to bring the Abrahamic faiths together.


Posted by Peter Burnet at 4:48 PM

SECOND THOUGHTS (VIA THE CORNER)

Schiavo Protesters Not All Christian Conservatives (Reuters, March 23rd, 2005)

Conservative Christian groups have called for mass vigils outside the hospice caring for brain-damaged Terri Schiavo but many of the few dozen who have shown up said they were drawn for personal reasons unrelated to organized religion.

Eleanor Smith of Decatur, Georgia, sat on Tuesday in a motorized wheelchair in front of the hospice, baking in the sun, with a sign on her lap reading, "This agnostic liberal says 'Feed Terri."'

Her background was a far cry from the evangelical right wing more generally seen as the lobbying force behind the U.S. Congress' scramble over the weekend to draw up a special law to try to prolong Schiavo's life, and President Bush's decision to cut short a Texas vacation to sign it.

Smith, 65, had polio as a child and described herself as a lesbian and a liberal who had demonstrated before in support of the disabled and causes supported by the conservative establishment's archfoe, the American Civil Liberties Union.

"What drew me here is the horror of the idea of starving someone to death who's vulnerable and who has not asked that to happen," Smith said.

She said she thought that people who left written instructions to withhold medical treatment should have those wishes honored but that withholding water and nutrition from Terri Schiavo, who left no such written instructions, was tantamount to murder.

"At this point I would rather have a right-wing Christian decide my fate than an ACLU member," Smith said.

What is really astounding is how everyone one who thinks ex-husbands shouldn’t have the right to kill their disabled ex-wives, or even have control over their care, is pegged as a right-wing Christian.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:27 PM

GOOD LINE, BAD IDEA:

DuBose is arrested, charged with DUI (Roch Kubatko, March 23, 2005, Baltimore Sun)

Orioles pitcher Eric DuBose was arrested and charged with driving under the influence early Monday morning in Sarasota, Fla., before making a start later that day at the team's minor league complex. He was released on $500 bond. [...]

According to the report, Deputy David Clark Jr. saw DuBose's truck swerve across the yellow line three times. Clark noted that DuBose's speech was slurred, and the pitcher exhibited poor balance, had watery and blood-shot eyes and an "odor of alcoholic beverage."

The report states DuBose informed Clark he had "a couple" drinks at the Cafe Gardens and Daiquiri Deck in Sarasota. When instructed to recite the alphabet, DuBose allegedly said, "I'm from Alabama, and they have a different alphabet."


Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:07 PM

SAFE, LEGAL, AND RARE:

Santorum re-examining death penalty (The Associated Press, March 23, 2005)

Sen. Rick Santorum, a longtime death penalty supporter, said he is re-examining his stance but not to the point of saying it is wrong in all cases.

"I still support the death penalty, but what I'm suggesting is, number one, we have to be more cautious," he said Tuesday, saying capital punishment should be limited to the "most horrific and heinous of crimes."

Santorum, who is running for a third term, said he is "not saying that I fundamentally believe the death penalty is wrong."

In an interview published in Tuesday's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Santorum, a Roman Catholic, said he agrees with the pope that the use of the death penalty should be limited.


For instance, we now know that eye witnesses are so unreliable as to be nearly useless. Mere "observation" can not be the basis for execution. More scientifically reliable evidence should be required.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:51 PM

GET OUT OF THE THIRD WAY:

Politics and Life's End (New Dem Dispatch, March 23, 2005)

One of the "values" issues on which many millions of Americans have been forced to become experts is the tangle of decisions that must often be made with respect to the care of loved ones at life's end. According to the Pew Research Center's Andrew Kohut, one-third of Americans have experienced the death of a friend or relative after the termination of life support, and half of them were involved in the decision to let life end. It's inherently a painful decision where the law's function is less to provide guidance than to seek to fulfill the patient's wishes and give health care providers some basis on which to operate.

The decision by the Republican congressional leadership to go crashing into one case, involving Terry Schiavo, with an "emergency" session of Congress, showed no understanding of how common this kind of decision has become, and no interest in providing sensible guidance. Indeed, the ringleader in the effort, House Republican Leader Tom DeLay, used terms like "murder," "barbarism," and "medical terrorism" for a decision that nobody would even be talking about if there were not a legal dispute between Schiavo's husband and parents over her care.

If the Schiavo case were actually about divining her wishes and confirming her condition, then we could certainly sympathize with the idea of going the extra mile, even after seven years of litigation, to make those determinations, and leaning in the direction of maintaining life support in the meantime. But that's not what the case is actually about. As DeLay and company, along with Schiavo's parents and their attorneys, have made abundantly clear, they regard the withdrawal of "nutrition and hydration" as either "murder" or "suicide," regardless of the patient's or his or her family's wishes, and regardless of the hopelessness of any recovery. And the logical course of action they will pursue is a congressional ban on withdrawal of certain types of life support.


Food?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:17 PM

REVERSE OBLIGATORY:

Nazis: Pioneers in medicine (Pat Buchanan, March 23, 2005, Creators Syndicate, Inc.)

Ours is a nation where a judge may not sentence Beltway sniper Lee Malvo to death, because he is too young to die, but can sentence Terri Schiavo to death, because she is too severely handicapped to live.

Schiavo continues the process of dying by starvation and dehydration, a method of capital punishment most would consider criminal if done to a pet.

This was the method used at Auschwitz to murder Father Maximilian Kolbe, the priest who volunteered to take the place of a Polish father of a large family, who was one of 10 the camp commandant had selected for execution in reprisal for the escape of a prisoner.

After being starved and dehydrated for days, Kolbe was injected by his Nazi captors with carbolic acid. He died a martyr's death, said the church that canonized him. That is what would have happened to Terri. Only she would have been denied the lethal injection by those watching her die.

That there arose a national outcry at the execution of Schiavo – so loud Congress and President Bush heard it and came to the rescue – is a sign America is not morally dead ... yet. But a culture of death has taken deep root in America's soul.

One wonders if our young, so many of them cheated of a knowledge of history in schools they are forced to attend, are aware of how closely our elites approximate, in belief and argument, the elites of Weimar and Nazi Germany in the 1920s and 1930s.


Funny how the same folks who call Mr. Buchanan a Nazi find themselves on the side of the Reich here.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:27 PM

QUALITATIVELY DIFFERENT:

Hoping for the best, but anticipating the worst (A. MASROOR, 21 March 2005, Khaleej Times)

FROM what US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her Pakistani counterpart Khurshid Kasuri said at the joint Press conference on Thursday and in the three interviews she gave (to one American and two Pakistani media outlets) following her meetings with the Pakistani leadership it appeared as if her mission to Islamabad was qualitatively different from the ones that her predecessor, Colin Powell had undertaken in the past.

In her public utterances Ms Rice appeared to be making a conscious effort to dispel the impression that the people of Pakistan do not count for anything in the eyes of the US, that Washington was beholden to Musharraf alone and that given a choice between an uniformed Musharraf and democracy President Bush would put his weight behind the General. And unlike her predecessor she talked more about Pakistan and its people and very rarely did she mention Musharraf by name or title when characterising the growing bilateral links between the US and Pakistan. And she seems to have done a lot of tough talking on democracy and A.Q. Khan with the Pakistani leadership, shared its concerns about maintaining military balance in South Asia without, of course, promising anything concrete in terms of supplying any kind of sophisticated weapon systems, and told Pakistan to stay the course on the peace process with India. [...]

The US Secretary of State had appeared even tougher on the issue of democracy. Every time she was asked about the issue of uniform, she would respond by emphasising the need for democratic reforms and hoped that the 2007 elections would be fair and free. “We did talk about the importance of democratic reform in Pakistan, about getting on a road to democratic reforms that would, in fact, lead to free and fair elections in 2007. And that was the character of our discussion. So we will always talk about the need for democracy. And it is central to our dialogue with every country in the world and it is also central for our dialogue here,” she declared at the joint Press conference trying perhaps to absolve the US from the charge of being hypocritical on the issue of democracy in the case of Pakistan. That she was persuasive enough was immediately borne out by Khurshid Kasuri’s intervention in which he said: “And I agree with Secretary Rice that when we discussed the issue, we looked forward to totally free and fair elections in 2007.”


Rice attends church in China, encourages 6-party talks (MICHAEL TACKETT, 3/20/05, Chicago Tribune)
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in a public forum in Tokyo over the weekend that she is a "deeply religious person." In Beijing, she demonstrated how faith and strategy can converge.

Rice began her day in Seoul, where there were numerous morning worship options on the last Sunday before Easter. She attended Palm Sunday services at the Gangwashi Christian church in a nation she has criticized for its lack of religious freedoms.

Her attendance was rich in symbolism and it came as the United States and China are engaged in delicate negotiations over issues ranging from North Korea's nuclear program to human rights and China's growing military prowess.

Rice sat in the front row of the church - also once visited by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright - which was so crowded that many worshippers had to listen on loudspeakers outside. She listened to a translation of the service wearing headphones that she removed to sing hymns she knew by heart. In keeping with local custom, she was welcomed as "Sister Rice." In the guest book at the state-sanctioned church, she wrote, "Yours in Christ."


Can you tell a Realist has been replaced by a theocon?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:15 PM

EAT THIS IN REMEMBRANCE OF HIM:

Roast Fresh Pork Makes a Dramatic Presentation at the Easter Table (The Associated Press, 3/23/05)

A “fresh ham” is an unsmoked pork hind leg, chef Frank Stitt writes in Frank Stitt's Southern Table. This recipe for roast fresh pork is among the cookbook's recipes and “gracious traditions,” as the subtitle has it, from his Highland Bar and Grill. It's a dish that could well take pride of place on an Easter dinner table.

“A roast pork leg makes for a dramatic presentation, and it provides a vast amount of meat, making it perfect for a buffet,” Stitt says. Be sure to remove the aitch bone for easy carving; your butcher can do this if you like, he points out.

Curing the pork in a brine for 24 hours adds both flavor and juiciness. “The brine recipe I provide comes from my friend Jeremiah Tower's book Jeremiah Cooks,” Stitt says. Stitt is chef and owner of Highlands Bar and Grill, Cafe Bottega and Chez Fonfon, all in Birmingham, Ala., and won the 2001 James Beard Award for best chef of the Southwest. His cooking combines Southern traditions with Provencal flair.

Roast Fresh Pork Leg With Onion and Bacon Gratin

For the Brine

2 gallons water

1 cup kosher salt

½ cup sugar

4 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tablespoon juniper berries, toasted (see note) and crushed

6 thyme sprigs, leaves removed

6 bay leaves

½ bunch flat-leaf parsley, leaves removed and chopped

4 dried hot chili peppers

2 tablespoons ground black pepper

1 tablespoon dried thyme

1 fresh pork leg (about 14 pounds), skinned, trimmed of fat, and aitch bone removed (have the butcher do this)

Onion and Bacon Gratin (recipe follows)

Combine water, salt, sugar, garlic, juniper, thyme, bay leaves, parsley, chili peppers, black pepper and thyme in a large pot and bring to a simmer, stirring until the salt and sugar are dissolved, then transfer to a deep pot. Place in the refrigerator to cool thoroughly before using.

Place the pork leg in the chilled brine, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 12 hours. Turn the pork over in the brine and leave refrigerated for 12 hours more.

Remove the pork leg from the brine, wipe it dry, set it on a platter. Let it come to room temperature, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 325 F.

Place the pork in a large roasting pan. Roast until the internal temperature reaches 145 F to 150 F on an instant-read thermometer, about 4 hours. Remove from the oven and let the pork stand on a large rack set over a baking sheet for 30 minutes.

Serve the pork thinly sliced, with the gratin alongside.


The gratin recipe looks just as good.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 PM

OH SAY DOES THAT FINCH-SPANGLED BANNER YET WAVE?:

Startling Scientists, Plant Fixes Its Flawed Gene (NICHOLAS WADE, 3/23/05, NY Times)

In a startling discovery, geneticists at Purdue University say they have found plants that possess a corrected version of a defective gene inherited from both their parents, as if some handy backup copy with the right version had been made in the grandparents' generation or earlier.

The finding implies that some organisms may contain a cryptic backup copy of their genome that bypasses the usual mechanisms of heredity. If confirmed, it would represent an unprecedented exception to the laws of inheritance discovered by Gregor Mendel in the 19th century. Equally surprising, the cryptic genome appears not to be made of DNA, the standard hereditary material.

The discovery also raises interesting biological questions - including whether it gets in the way of evolution, which depends on mutations changing an organism rather than being put right by a backup system.


It could certainly help explain the stubborn persistence of species.


MORE:
Plants Fix Genes With Copies From Ancestors (Rick Weiss, Washington Post, March 23, 2005)

Plants inherit secret stashes of genetic information from their long-dead ancestors and can use them to correct errors in their own genes -- a startling capacity for DNA editing and self-repair wholly unanticipated by modern genetics, researchers said yesterday.

The newly discovered phenomenon, which resembles the caching of early versions of a computer document for viewing later, allows plants to archive copies of genes from generations ago, long assumed to be lost forever.

Then, in a move akin to choosing their parents, plants can apparently retrieve selected bits of code from that archive and use them to overwrite the genes they have inherited directly. The process could offer survival advantages to plants suddenly burdened with new mutations or facing environmental threats for which the older genes were better adapted. [...]

Pruitt said others have occasionally noted the appearance of "revertant" plants but ignored them, assuming they were the result of sloppy technique or other errors. By contrast, Pruitt and Lolle took the observation seriously, said Elliot Meyerowitz, a pioneering arabidopsis researcher at California Institute of Technology.

"There are different sorts of scientists. Some like to ignore the exceptions, and others like to concentrate on them," Meyerowitz said, adding that he suspects the novel gene-fixing mechanism is present in a wide variety of organisms, including animals. He suspects the trick has been overlooked because it operates only some of the time and because scientists have been predisposed to write off the evidence as random events.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:44 AM

WEDDED TO THEIR OWN DECLINE:

Barroso seeks to calm fears of a Thatcherite laissez-faire Europe (Nicholas Watt, Jon Henley in Paris, David Gow in Brussels and Luke Harding in Berlin, March 23, 2005, The Guardian)

Jose Manuel Barroso, the president of the European commission, yesterday tried to allay Franco-German fears that he is attempting to impose a Thatcherite vision on Europe.

Amid mounting opposition in "old Europe" to a series of liberalising initiatives from Brussels, Mr Barroso pledged to fight against what has been dubbed the "race to the bottom" - in which wages are driven down as a free-for-all economy is introduced. [...]

On one side stand the two main founding members of the EU, France and Germany, whose political forefathers would turn in their graves if the Treaty of Rome led to a Thatcherite laissez-faire Europe.

On the other side is Britain and the new EU member states in central and eastern Europe who want to reform what they regard as Europe's hidebound economy.

Alasdair Murray, of the Centre for European Reform, said: "The new member states are in favour. They do think they will do well out of it. They are excited by the idea that they can send people into the west European economy and it will play to their competitive advantage. Clearly the opposition is being led by the French, symbolically old. It is, very sensitive ahead of their referendum."

Opposition to the directive has been virulent from Mr Chirac, who has demanded that it be not just amended but rewritten. The Socialist party leader, François Hollande, has been equally vituperative, describing the text as "detestable" and "unthinkable".

Gallic opponents to the constitution at both ends of the political spectrum have seized the Bolkestein draft directive (so called for the arch-liberal former Dutch European commissioner who introduced it last year) as an example of the kind of market-driven EU that can be expected if the constitution is adopted.

Philippe de Villiers of the sovereignist Movement for France said the directive would mean "1 million more Frenchmen and women on the dole", while a leading Socialist campaigner against the constitution, Henri Emmanuelli, described it as "dripping in Bolkestein sauce".

Like France, Germany has become an implacable opponent of the commission's plans to liberalise the EU's services sector. For the past year, Germany's chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, had given his tacit support to the proposal, despite opposition from Germany's powerful trade unions.

This month, however, Mr Schröder gave his most categorical statement yet that Germany would do everything it could to block the new directive.


Yeah, why would they want to have an economy like America, Ireland or even England when they can have one like France or Germany?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:03 AM

WOULDN'T WANT TO RUN AFOUL OF THE ANTICONSTITUTION (via Mike Daley):

Evangelicals Debate a Broadened Agenda: How Much Mixing of Religion and Politics Does the First Amendment Permit? (MICHAEL C. DORF, Mar. 16, 2005, Find Law)

At a Washington luncheon last week, the National Association of Evangelicals began debating a proposed "call to civic responsibility." If adopted, it would ask the organization's thirty million evangelical Christian members to take a liberal stand on issues such as environmental protection, racial equality, and distributive justice.

In light of the recent success of conservatives in mobilizing evangelicals for their candidates based on opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage, evangelical activism in favor of liberal causes has the potential to create a significant realignment in national politics.

Before liberals start dancing in the streets, however, they would do well to consider the separation of church and state. If that principle means anything, it must mean that efforts by religious groups to push their agenda on the state are potentially suspect, whether they favor conservative or liberal policies.


Fortunately it doesn't mean anything under our constitutional regime.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:56 AM

DOES MS COLLINS THINK VOTING AGAINST HER COLLEAGUES WILL IMPROVE THE ATMOSPHERE? (via Daniel Merriman):

Support falters for the 'nuclear option' (Charles Hurt, 3/23/05, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist does not have firm support among his caucus to employ the so-called "nuclear option" for dislodging the Democratic filibusters against President Bush's judicial nominees.

Of the 55 Republicans in the chamber, at least six are undecided or adamantly opposed to the plan of using the rare parliamentary procedure to end the filibusters with a simple majority vote, rather than the 60 votes normally required.

"I am very concerned about the overuse of the filibuster," said Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican who said she remains undecided. "But I am also concerned that a rule change will further charge the partisan atmosphere to the point that we will not be able to conduct business." [...]

In addition to Miss Collins, three other Republicans say they are undecided but have serious reservations. They are Sens. John W. Warner of Virginia, John McCain of Arizona and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.


Senators McCain and McCain Light have presidential aspirations, so they have to vote for it and at that point the others have no cover.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:04 AM

OTHER? HOW ABOUT ONLY:

Arthur Miller's Other Legacy: Stalin's Little Helper (Allan H. Ryskind, Mar 22, 2005, Human Events)

What has been obscured is Miller's role as willing Soviet pawn. Miller's plays not only savaged America's free-enterprise system, but also were lovingly staged in Communist countries. In a broadcast over Radio Hanoi (Aug. 22, 1972), Jane Fonda told of her euphoria when she "saw Vietnamese actors and actresses perform the second act of Arthur Miller's play, All My Sons." Hanoi Jane said she found it "very moving" that Vietnamese artists were so forgiving that they were "translating and performing American plays while U.S. imperialists are bombing their country."

Fonda didn't have a clue. Ho Chi Minh's ideological warriors were staging Miller's drama because they saw it as "agitprop" against America. The protagonist is a corrupt American manufacturer who causes American pilots to die when he deliberately sells faulty equipment to the U.S. Armed Forces. First produced in 1947, it was given a vigorous thumbs-up by the Communist Daily Worker, which hailed Miller as a "leading figure" in a new generation of playwrights. It has been much admired in Red circles ever since. Death of A Salesman, another terrific punch tossed at the American way of life, became a favorite of the left as well.

Miller also used his writing talents to zing disillusioned Communists, such as his long-time friend and collaborator, Elia Kazan. Kazan had not only turned against the Soviet Union but had also testified against some of his ex-comrades before HCUA. Miller got even with such "turncoats" and "informers" in both The Crucible and A View From the Bridge. The Miller obituaries also failed to report another important part of his legacy: his substantial support of Joe Stalin's fifth column operations here in America, those Soviet-controlled Red fronts.

When finally forced to face his own crimson past before the public, Miller chose to seriously mislead. In his famous June 1956 appearance before HCUA, he vowed--to the eternal cheers of the left--that he would never inform on Red conspirators he had known. But he also proclaimed he would be "perfectly frank with you [committee members] in anything relating to my activities."

Miller kept his first promise, but conspicuously crawfished on the second. Even the crumbs of "admissions" he coughed up had to be pried out of him by HCUA's pit-bull staff director, Richard Arens.


As Mark McGwire amply demonstrated, the reason you don't answer questions from the committee is because you'll incriminate yourself.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:09 AM

TOO GOOD AN OPPORTUNITY TO SQUANDER:

As Its Lawmakers Squabble Abroad, Somalia Suffers: Amid Kenya's safety, legislative fistfights and ministerial walkouts threaten to doom the latest effort to install a government next door. (Robyn Dixon, March 23, 2005, LA Times)

Pessimism has grown because of the government's slowness to relocate to Somalia, the failure of President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed and Prime Minister Mohammed Ali Gedi to visit Mogadishu during a recent trip to the country and bitter disagreements over whether to allow peacekeepers from neighboring countries.

There are four big clans in Somalia and various smaller clans and sub-clans. The fighting and rivalries run along clan lines, and loyalties run deep. A person's clan is the basis of his identity and defines his home territory.

Osman Harare, 30, from the Mareehaan clan, was brought up to believe that his main duty was to defend his clan, even if it meant dying. In 1992, his family fled Mogadishu to the interior of the country to escape clan fighting. But gunmen found them and killed his two older brothers. [...]

Harare said he believed that strong clan identification had hurt the cause of peace.

"The only way you can destroy clan identity is to make the younger generation believe that clan identity was the reason their forefathers were killed, and they are going to die for it in the future," he said.

The new government includes members of all the main clans, a fact widely regarded as a necessary evil. The last government, formed in 2000, was snubbed by the powerful Mogadishu warlords and never controlled more than a few blocks of the capital. The new government is more inclusive, but deeply divided.

Analyst Matt Bryden of the International Crisis Group said that while many people in Mogadishu were willing to give the president and new government a chance, Abdullahi was a divisive figure.

"He represents for many the winning side in the civil war. People will tell you he's seeking revenge against their clan," Bryden said.

Divisions over the peacekeepers and the question of an interim capital are worsening sharply, he said.

"If these issues are resolved without consensus and compromise, then you really do risk destroying the unity of the government and the Cabinet," Bryden said. "Then you'll have two armed camps and no peace process."

Abdullahi initially demanded a force of 20,000 international peacekeepers, leading to speculation that he was so concerned about the government's credibility that he wanted a massive protection force, or that he wanted to use it to protect himself from his rivals.

He also called for neighboring countries' troops to be part of the force despite deep opposition, especially to troops from Ethiopia, which is accused of arming some of the Somali factions. The issue has sparked demonstrations in Mogadishu on three occasions.

The United States and the International Crisis Group have opposed the inclusion of troops from neighboring countries as too divisive. Nations promoting the peace process are urging a force of 6,800 that would exclude troops from neighboring countries.

The failure to resolve these issues without walkouts and fistfights bodes ill for tougher issues in the future, such as forcing warlords to disarm and surrender control of roads, ports, airports and other lucrative infrastructure.

"It's going to require a level of leadership that we haven't seen from the leaders so far," Bryden said.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:17 AM

HARDER AND HARDER TO SHUT THEM UP:

World Net Daily has picked up the column by Michal Fumento--Diabetes foundation chooses politics over cure (Michael Fumento, March 23, 2005, WorldNetDaily.com)--that the folks at Scripps Howard spiked for presumably political reasons. If the Left loses control of the narrative -- in both the press and academia -- what does it have remaining? Perhaps just bile by the bucket.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 AM

THE GRIP SLIPS:

Zimbabwe Appeals Electoral Court Ruling on Jailed Parliamentarian (Tendai Maphosa, 23 March 2005, VOA News)

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn a electoral court ruling that a jailed member of parliament can participate in the March 31 parliamentary election.

The appeal pits the chairman of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Judge George Chiweshe as one of the applicants against Judge Tendai Uchena of the Electoral Court.

Earlier this month, Judge Uchena ruled that Roy Bennett an opposition Movement for Democratic Change legislator serving a prison sentence for a scuffle in parliament, can stand in his constituency from his prison cell.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:08 AM

ALL RHODES LEAD TO RUNNYMEDE:

A Morsel of Goat Meat (NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF, 3/23/05, NY Times)

The hungry children and the families dying of AIDS here are gut-wrenching, but somehow what I find even more depressing is this: Many, many ordinary black Zimbabweans wish that they could get back the white racist government that oppressed them in the 1970's.

"If we had the chance to go back to white rule, we'd do it," said Solomon Dube, a peasant whose child was crying with hunger when I arrived in his village. "Life was easier then, and at least you could get food and a job."

Mr. Dube acknowledged that the white regime of Ian Smith was awful. But now he worries that his 3-year-old son will die of starvation, and he would rather put up with any indignity than witness that.

An elderly peasant in another village, Makupila Muzamba, said that hunger today is worse than ever before in his seven decades or so, and said: "I want the white man's government to come back. ... Even if whites were oppressing us, we could get jobs and things were cheap compared to today."

His wife, Mugombo Mudenda, remembered that as a younger woman she used to eat meat, drink tea, use sugar and buy soap. But now she cannot even afford corn gruel. "I miss the days of white rule," she said.

Nearly every peasant I've spoken to in Zimbabwe echoed those thoughts...


Had they just understood themselves to be preparing such peoples for self-government on the British model and integrated them into the institutions of governance, the Brits would have no cause to regret their Imperialism.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:58 AM

STRAIN'D:

Parents Lose Appeal in Schiavo Case: In a 2-1 ruling, a federal panel refuses to order the woman's feeding tube reinserted. The Schindlers are likely to turn to Supreme Court. (John-Thor Dahlburg and Ellen Barry, March 23, 2005, LA Times)

By a 2-1 vote, the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals early today denied an emergency request to reinsert Terri Schiavo's feeding tube.

"No matter how much we wish Mrs. Schiavo had never suffered such a horrible accident, we are a nation of laws and if we are to continue to be so, the preexisting and well-established federal law … must be applied to her case," the majority ruling said.

In a strong dissent, Judge Charles R. Wilson argued that the qualities of "mercy and practicality" weighed in the plaintiff's favor.

"The gravity of the irreparable injury Theresa Schiavo would suffer could not weigh more heavily," he said. "In contrast, there is little or no harm to be found in granting this motion."


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:55 AM

ATTENTION NANCY CRATER:

Salts of the earth: Connoisseurs use a rainbow of choices to improve food (DEBRA HALE-SHELTON, Associated Press)

Adding salt "to taste" isn't so simple in these days of specialty foods, exotic ingredients -- and probably more kinds of salt than you, and certainly your grandmother, ever dreamed of.

Salt connoisseurs aren't just shaking out the stuff. They're carefully "pinching" it, savoring the texture and color as much as the taste of often-coarse, usually hand-harvested crystals of white, pink, red, gray, golden, even black salt.

Take Rob Seideman, owner of the Internet business Salt Traders, www.salttraders.com. He and his wife and business partner, Kelly Hall, keep 14 kinds of salt in their kitchen pantry.

"I have them all in my kitchen because there is no such thing as the best salt," Seideman says. "There is only the best salt for the purpose at hand."

Visit a specialty food store, and you can find everything from sea salt to flake salt, smoked salt to rock salt, kosher salt to table salt. There's fine and coarse salt. There's even salt like the Vikings once made.

There's inexpensive salt for routine cooking, and wallet-busting salt best used as a precious garnish.

The salt from France known as fleur de sel is the delicate-flavored pale "caviar of salt," says Patty Erd, co-owner of The Spice House in Chicago, Evanston, Ill., and Milwaukee. It smells of the sea and violets and is excellent as a garnish on roasted asparagus or cherry tomatoes.

There's the golden-brown, almost jewel-like Danish Viking smoked sea salt. Seideman was recently selling an ounce of it for $9.75. It's so delectable and unusual in taste that Seideman says, "I don't refer to it as my favorite salt because it's so much more than a salt. I really refer to it more as my favorite ingredient." He suggests using it as a dry rub for meat. Some restaurants use it to give other foods a smoked taste.

Indeed, I found the Viking salt to be the one of several sampled that was so delicious and aromatic (it conjured up for me a favorite back-home barbecue spot) that I not only ate a few stand-alone crystals but reached for seconds.


The Brothers won some reknown as kids with our creation of French-Fried ice, achieved by sprinkling table salt on an ice cube--especially good in summer. But I always found the simplest salt recipe to be the best: the Father Judd kept a bag of Hailite on the front porch and you could just dip in to keep a steady supply of rock salt in your pocket for replenishment all winter (one caveat, avoid pocket lint, which gives the salt a dry and gamy taste).


Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:48 AM

BLOCK THAT METAPHOR!


Keep faith out of politics, says Blair
(Stephen Bates, The Guardian, March 23rd, 2005)

Tony Blair chose a faith audience in south London yesterday to proclaim his belief that he was opposed to US-style faith politics in British public life.

The prime minister, battered by Tory tabloid pressures on abortion, insisted: "I do not want to end up with an American-style of politics with us all going out there beating our chest about our faith.

"Politics and religion - it is not that they do not have a lot in common, but if it ends up being used in the political process, I think that is a bit unhealthy." [...]

The lunchtime speech was organised by Faithworks, an umbrella body for a number of Christian organisations promoting the work of churches in the community.

It has also held meetings with Michael Howard and Charles Kennedy.

Its founder, the Baptist minister the Rev Steve Chalke, told Mr Blair afterwards: "We will pray for you over the coming weeks."

He added with only a barely perceptible pause, "and for Michael Howard and Charles Kennedy. We like to think faith is the Viagra of the people."

Church and state--the great debate continues.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:44 AM

The good folks at Watching America have, thankfully, added an RSS feed.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:57 AM

WHAT THEY CAN, AND WE COULDN'T, DO:

Iraq Moves to Expel Foreign Arabs (Alissa J. Rubin, March 23, 2005, LA Times)

In a bid to rid the country of foreign insurgents, the Iraqi government is using strict new residency rules to detain and expel non-Iraqi Arabs.

Any Arab without the proper permit can be detained, interrogated and asked to leave the country, Interior Ministry officials said. So far the program has swept up mostly Syrians, Sudanese, Saudis and Egyptians, and about 250 people have been asked to leave.

Far more are being detained — as many as 200 a day in the Baghdad area alone — although most are released within a few days. Though some are taken in for suspected terrorist activities, others are held with no evidence other than not having proper residency permits under the new rules. Such people can be deported without any evidence of having committed crimes. Although the focus has been on Arabs, a few Chechens and Iranians also have been detained.

"The fact is that some, not all, Arabs and foreigners have destroyed the reputation of Arab and foreign countries in Iraq," said Brig. Gen. Taif Tariq Hussein, who heads the Interior Ministry's residency office. "They have either helped in executing sabotage operations or they have carried out sabotage themselves.

"Both Arabs and some foreigners have been harmful to this society," he said.


Things like this are why we should hasve handed over sovereignty far quicker--they can identify foreigners far better than we and can treat them brusquely with impunity.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:56 AM

RAND MEETS REALITY (via Rick Turley):

DeLorean: a vision clouded by vanity: The automaker lived fast and his burnished dream died young, the icon of an age of excess. (Dan Neil, March 23, 2005, LA Times)

The death of John Z. DeLorean on Saturday put me in mind of a 15th century English epitaph: "His life was a well-acted story of himself." Talk about drama: The love-starved son of an alcoholic foundry worker, DeLorean rose on his native intellect and fierce energy to lead first General Motors' Pontiac division — credited with cars such as the GTO and Grand Prix — beginning in 1965, then the Chevrolet division (starting in 1969). In 1972, he attained the vice-presidency of GM in record time. If one were to storyboard this moment in the inevitable DeLorean bio-pic, the camera would pull out on the empty, expectant chair of GM's presidency.

In true cinematic fashion, it was not to be. [...]

There are two versions of DeLorean's fate at GM, both seemingly true and both instructive. In the first, DeLorean wearies of GM's dull dynasticism and engineering by ledger sheet and, like Ayn Rand's Howard Roark, quits rather than compromise. The second: DeLorean was a fop and a fool whose personal excesses and vanity — the plastic surgery, the Carnaby Street mod togs, the swinging singles pads, the half-his-age wives and girlfriends — were so repellent that, when he threatened to resign in a tantrum, the GM board let him.

What if DeLorean and GM had reconciled?

It certainly seems now they needed each other. GM needed the bold strokes of an unconventional thinker such as DeLorean. He needed the coat-and-tie discipline of the 14th floor. If the collapse of the DeLorean Motor Co. proves anything, it's that the bean-counters have their place.


How often life conspires to teach us the wisdom of conservative dicta:
The good society is marked by a high degree of order, justice, and freedom. Among these, order has primacy: for justice cannot be enforced until a tolerable civil social order is attained, nor can freedom be anything better than violence until order gives us laws.
-- Russell Kirk


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:38 AM

LONG BLACK TRAINSPOTTING:

Scotland shrugs off 'sick man' label (LOUISE GRAY, 3/23/05, The Scotsman)

SCOTLAND may be shedding its reputation as the "sick man of Europe" but widening health inequalities and the problem of alcohol abuse is holding the country back from a full recovery, the chief medical officer warned yesterday.

Dr Mac Armstrong welcomed falling levels of heart disease and the impending ban on smoking in public places.

But he warned that the healthy-living message was not getting through to large sections of society and that more people than ever were dying of alcohol-related causes.

Dr Armstrong also said the "Scottish effect" - a sense of fatalism and pessimism - could be leading to higher mortality rates than England.


They've much to be fatalistic about.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:20 AM

WELL-DESIGNED:

Origami May Be an Art, but Nature Got There First (NY Times, 3/22/05)

In 1980, a Japanese scientist, Dr. Koryo Miura, developed a pattern of peaks and valleys that allows a map to be unfolded all at once, with one pull of a corner. In introducing his method, Dr. Miura wrote that his "experience on deployable space structures and origami science" led him to look for a better way to fold a map.

The result of his work, the Miura-ori origami pattern, has indeed been used for solar arrays as well as maps.

Last week, in the journal Science, Dr. Lakshminarayanan Mahadevan of Harvard reported that nature itself has an origami trick or two, including the Miura-ori pattern. His analysis suggested that the nature of the skin of a leaf and its supporting framework could lead to the same efficient folding that Dr. Miura developed.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:19 AM

ALMOST READY:

Ichiro's batting like it's 2004 (Jim Street, 03/22/2005, MLB.com)

Mariners right fielder Ichiro Suzuki has at least one hit in each of the 12 Cactus League games he has played this spring and tacked on a 4-for-4 performance Monday night to spur Seattle to a 12-4 victory over the Rockies at Hi Corbett Field.

He singled, stole second and scored in the first inning; singled home a run in the second; singled, stole second and scored in the fourth; and tripled in the sixth, departing for a pinch-runner.

The Major League's single-season hit king raised his spring average to .579 (22-for-38). The two-time American League batting champion has a .610 on-base percentage, has walked three times and still hasn't struck out.

The club record for most hits in a spring is 35, set by Carlos Guillen in 1999.

"It's a lot of fun hitting behind him," Jeremy Reed said. "It seems like he's always in midseason form."

Asked if he's ready for the regular season to start, Ichiro said, "I'm not sure yet."


He's going to hit .400 this year.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:14 AM

NUMBER ONE WITH A BULLET:

Darfur Shooting May Speed U.N. Action: A U.S. aid worker is wounded when her convoy is attacked in the western Sudan region. (Maggie Farley and Sonni Efron, March 23, 2005, LA Times)

A 26-year-old U.S. aid official was shot in the face in Sudan's Darfur region Tuesday when her convoy was ambushed, an incident likely to lend more urgency to a U.S. push to resolve the humanitarian crisis in the African nation. [...]

The shooting came as U.S. officials were promoting a new strategy to break a U.N. Security Council stalemate on a resolution for Sudan.

The U.S. has separated its resolution on Darfur, in Sudan's west, into three parts — peacekeeping, sanctions and accountability — because disagreement over how to punish suspected Sudanese war criminals was delaying the deployment of peacekeepers and observers.

"We have literally run out of time on Sudan, and we felt we had to move ahead," acting U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson said.

The U.S. has asked for a vote Thursday on a resolution authorizing 10,000 peacekeepers for the central African nation.


Stopping the genocide was all well and good, but folks on the ground say they badly need the 10,000 peacekeepers.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:07 AM

SCARED BY THE GHOST OF ECONOMIES PAST:

Fed Boosts Interest Rate, Raises Specter of Inflation (Tom Petruno, March 23, 2005, LA Times)

The Federal Reserve hiked interest rates Tuesday and rattled investors by warning about rising inflation pressures, marking the first time in more than four years that the central bank has openly worried that prices might be climbing too quickly. [...]

Overall, inflation remains far from the double-digit levels of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Yet the Fed — and financial markets — are haunted by memories of that era and how it ravaged the economy and eroded the value of stocks and bonds. That is why the threat of accelerating inflation makes policymakers, and many investors, so nervous.

The consumer price index, the government's main inflation gauge, rose 3.3% in 2004, the biggest jump in four years, as gasoline prices leapt. Without energy and food costs, the so-called core CPI was up a more modest 2.2% for the year, but that still was double the 1.1% core rate of 2003.

The government today is expected to issue its report on the CPI for February.


Producer Prices Up in February: The increase is tempered by a drop in the vehicle sector, helping allay inflation fears spurred by gains in January. (Reuters, March 23, 2005)
[T]he core producer price index, which excludes volatile food and energy costs, rose just 0.1%, matching Wall Street forecasts and soothing inflation fears spurred by a hefty gain of 0.8% in January.

Inflation fear is purely psychological these days, not based on any underlying reality, but psychology matters to and the Fed's only purpose it to fight inflation so it tends to be quite susceptible to the mania.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:06 AM

DIFFERENT STROKES:

With Lebanon, Washington Shows 'Soft' Side of Power (Tyler Marshall and Sonni Efron, March 23, 2005, LA Times)

In crafting a policy on Lebanon, the Bush administration has adopted a more measured approach, departing from the more rigid style that characterized its diplomacy during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.

As a result, the U.S. has enlisted more allies in its campaign to free Lebanon of Damascus' grip. It has also shown greater flexibility as it grapples with the task of how best to strengthen Lebanon's democratic process once Syrian forces are gone.

Foreign diplomats and many U.S. critics of Bush's handling of foreign affairs have praised his actions during the crisis in Lebanon that followed the Feb. 14 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

"The change is from a diplomacy of statements to a discreet, active diplomacy in the traditional sense," said a European diplomat who declined to be identified. "It's the use of America's soft power rather than its military power."


Explained entirely by the absence of Saddam and by the spped with which we're winning, as contrasted to 12 years of Iraq flouting the cease-fire resolutions.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM

KILL THEM, NOT US:

Rights groups for disabled join in fight (Nina J. Easton, March 23, 2005, Boston Globe)

Disability rights groups have struck an uneasy alliance with Christian conservatives and are prepared to use the partnership to press for broad legislation restricting the ability of families to remove life-sustaining treatments from patients unable to communicate their wishes.

''Both sides of the culture war want to make this about their issues," said Diane Coleman, whose group, Not Dead Yet, was named for the same refrain in the movie ''Monty Python and the Holy Grail."

Disabled-rights supporters ''as a whole lean toward being prochoice" on abortion, Coleman said, but worry about protecting individual rights of incapacitated people who might be considered a burden to both relatives and authorities. Coleman added that the partnership with Christian conservatives is ''very awkward."

But it's a partnership that has been critical to their cause. Last weekend's extraordinary late-night congressional session produced a bill, signed into law by President Bush, that forced a federal review of a state judge's order to allow the feeding tube removed from the brain-damaged Schiavo, a 41-year-old Florida woman who can breathe on her own but can't eat. Even one objection would have delayed Senate action, but Democrats took their cue from Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa and let the motion go forward.

Harkin is a longtime ally of disability groups and a coauthor of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act. Last week, he worked with Senator Mel Martinez, Republican of Florida, and Senator Rick Santorum, Republican of Pennsylvania, on legislation allowing federal review of the Schiavo case.

''Senator Harkin's role was very, very key in terms of Senate leadership. Because Senator Harkin has been a leader on disability rights, Democrats were willing to give him deference, " said Marilyn Golden, policy analyst at the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund.


For the connoisseur of human nature that uneasiness on the part of disabled rights activists and their supporters, who generally support killing the younger burdens, is rather savory.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM

DOING MCGRUFF PROUD:

Ordinary Iraqis Wage a Successful Battle Against Insurgents (ROBERT F. WORTH, March 22, 2005, NY Times)

Ordinary Iraqis rarely strike back at the insurgents who terrorize their country. But just before noon today, a carpenter named Dhia saw a troop of masked gunmen with grenades coming towards his shop and decided he had had enough.

As the gunmen emerged from their cars, Dhia and his young relatives shouldered their own AK-47's and opened fire, police and witnesses said. In the fierce gun battle that followed, three of the insurgents were killed, and the rest fled just after the police arrived. Two of Dhia's young nephews and a bystander were injured, the police said.

"We attacked them before they attacked us," Dhia, 35, his face still contorted with rage and excitement, said in a brief exchange at his shop a few hours after the battle. He did not give his last name. "We killed three of those who call themselves the mujahedeen. I am waiting for the rest of them to come and we will show them."

It was the first time that private citizens are known to have retaliated successfully against insurgents. There have been anecdotal reports of residents shooting at attackers after a bombing or assassination. But the gun battle today erupted in full view of half a dozen witnesses, including a Justice Ministry official who lives nearby.

The battle was the latest sign that Iraqis may be willing to start standing up against the attacks that leave dozens of people dead here nearly every week.


MORE:
Iraq says 80 rebels killed in clash (QASIM ABDUL-ZAHRA, March 23, 2005, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

A raid by U.S. and Iraqi forces on a suspected rebel training camp left 80 militants dead, the single biggest one-day death toll for rebels in months and the latest in a series of blows to the country's insurgency, Iraqi officials said Wednesday.

Politicians helping shape a post-election government expected within days said negotiators are considering naming a Sunni Arab as defense minister in a move aimed at bringing Sunni Arabs into the political process-- and perhaps deflate the insurgency they lead.

The U.S. military announced late Tuesday that its air and ground forces backed Iraqi commandos during a noontime raid on a suspected guerrilla training camp near Lake Tharthar in central Iraq. Seven commandos died in fighting, the U.S. military said, but it didn't give a death toll for rebels.

Iraqi officials said Wednesday 80 rebels died in the clash-- the largest number of rebels killed in a single battle since the U.S. Marine-led November attack on the former insurgent stronghold of Fallujah that left more than 1,000 dead. On Sunday, U.S. forces killed 26 assailants after they were ambushed south of Baghdad.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM

LONG REACH:

Why The Next Pope May Be A Surprise (Business Week, 3/21/05)

The College of Cardinals will select a Pope when John Paul passes on. But when the time comes for a conclave to anoint a new pontiff to lead the world's 1.1 billion Catholics, John Paul's influence will still be considerable. He has appointed 115 of the 120 cardinals eligible to elect the next Pope, all with an eye to enforcing his conservative stance on such issues as abortion, the role of women in the church, homosexuality, and bioethics. Meanwhile, liberals such as Cardinal Martini of Milan have entered mandatory retirement, strengthening the hand of the conservatives.

John Paul has also recruited cardinals from the poor but vibrant southern rim of Catholicism and from regions hardly ever represented before. New cardinals hail from as far away as Cameroon, Syria, and the Dominican Republic. "He has made the College more reflective of the global reality of the Church," says Harold W. Attridge, dean of the Yale Divinity School.

This widening of the ranks complicates the task of figuring out who the next Pope will be. "John Paul has conducted three planetary battles," says Orazio Petrosillo, a Vatican commentator: "Breaking down the wall between East and West, reducing the gap between North and South, and curbing the hostility between Christianity and Islam." If the college wants to focus on the North-South divide, it could select one of the so-called southern cardinals.

These are prelates from Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Papabili -- papal prospects -- from this group include Nigeria's Francis Arinze, a conservative; Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, a Honduran known for his work with the poor; and India's Ivan Dias, a friend of Mother Teresa. The selection of Arinze as the first African Pope since Gelasius I, who died in the year 496, would certainly put the issue of poverty at the top of the agenda.

The question is whether the College will go that far. Some observers think the cardinals want a transitional Pope, i.e. one older than 75 who will not reign for long. In that scenario, the next Pope could be Joseph Ratzinger, a German who has been John Paul's enforcer on Church doctrine. During his short rule, Ratzinger, 78, would keep the Church focused on social conservatism.


Fortunately the Democrats can't filibuster cardinals.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM

SAUL, NOW PAUL:

Mass movement is accelerating the process of revolution (Youssef M. Ibrahim, 22/3/2005, Gulf News)

These are great times in Arab lands. In multiple countries millions are daring to imagine a future radically different from the past. Imagination is a dangerous thing, thrilling and infectious.

When it runs amok, revolution is never far behind and from the shores of Tripoli to the Gulf of Arabia, it appears indeed revolution has landed.

Just a few weeks ago, would anyone have possibly imagined in Lebanon the sight of Syrian soldiers packing jeeps, armoured cars, shutting down so-called intelligence offices, tucking tails between legs, rushing out in the darkness that precedes dawn?

It is more than imagination now.

It is happening. Could anyone have imagined that an upstart opposition movement in Egypt that called itself kifaya Arabic for "enough'' would grow strong enough to disrupt President Hosni Mubarak's hopes of a dynastic rule where his son Jamal succeeds him, surely, as the next ruler over 70 million Egyptians?

Well, guess what?

That little kifaya movement has now cast enough serious doubts over succession that Jamal as well as the entire superstructure of men who have ruled the largest Arab country since 1952 can no longer count on another half a century monopoly.

Picture frame after picture frame on the canvass what is surfacing is an Arab landscape in revolt, fears melting away, people turning suppressed frustrations into action.


Man, he's really been at the Kool-Aid.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM

AHISTORICAL BLUES:

Gladiator and the Myths of Rome: T.P. Wiseman looks at the development of the myth of ancient Rome, derived from the way its history has been seen. (T.P. Wiseman, April 2005, History Today)

Ridley Scott’s epic film Gladiator (2000) begins in ad 180, the last year of the reign of Marcus Aurelius. After the great battle in the German forest, the Roman commander Maximus and the emperor’s son Commodus are talking to two senators called Gaius and Falco. (The purist winces. To introduce a man as ‘Senator Gaius’ is like calling Mr Blair ‘Prime Minister Tony’.) Commodus warns Maximus that they will fill him full of ideas about a republic. ‘Well, why not?’ says Gaius, ‘Rome was founded as a republic.’ (The purist winces again. All seven kings forgotten? Ravished Lucretia died in vain if there was no tyrant to rebel against.) Commodus points out that in a republic, the Senate has the power. ‘Where do you stand, General?’ asks Falco, ‘Emperor or Senate?’ When Maximus tactfully avoids the question, Gaius comments ‘With an army behind you, you could be extremely ... political.’

In real life, of course, well over a century after the last vain attempt to restore the Roman Republic had been snuffed out by the Praetorian Guard, such a conversation would have been unthinkable. Gaius’ remark would have resulted in immediate arrest and execution for treason. However, the plot of the film requires that the Republic can be restored, and that Marcus Aurelius has a secret plan to restore it.

The old emperor has a final duty for Maximus: ‘I want you to become the Protector of Rome after I die. I will empower you to one end alone, to give power back to the People of Rome...’ (The word ‘Protector’ suggests that the story-writers had seventeenth-century England at the back of their minds. No one could have seriously asked ‘Emperor or Senate?’ in AD 180, but in the 1640s ‘King or Parliament?’ was a real question.) At the end of the film the dying Maximus kills Commodus in the arena. His almost last words are ‘There was a dream that was Rome. It shall be realised. These are the wishes of Marcus Aurelius.’ And as the senators carry his body out, we are left to assume that the People of Rome have got their power back.

What really happened in AD 193 was that Commodus was assassinated in a palace plot, and his successor, a senator called Pertinax, was murdered by the Praetorian Guard who then put the empire up for auction to the highest bidder. That makes a great story in the first volume of Edward Gibbon’s history, and it is the culminating scene of Anthony Mann’s 1964 film The Fall of the Roman Empire. As the camera tracks back from the outrageous auction (‘Two million denars for the throne of Rome!’), a voice-over spells out the lesson for the audience:

This was the beginning of the fall of the Roman Empire ... A great civilisation is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within.

Gladiator is essentially a remake of the Mann film, but Ridley Scott’s upbeat ending – the Republic, the wise old emperor’s vision realised – could hardly be more different.

A cynic might say that Hollywood can no longer handle a message like Mann’s. In twenty-first century America, the good guys get to win, whatever the history books may say. Besides, have the postmodernists not abolished the concept of historical fact?

But that is not the only reason for Gladiator’s plot line, and in my view not the most interesting either. Scott’s film invites us to admire the Romans, not just look on them as an awful warning. Maximus is inspired by ‘a dream that was Rome’. Marcus Aurelius wants to be remembered as ‘the emperor who gave Rome back her true self’. The tyranny of the emperors is not the real Rome. Here, however crudely, Hollywood has got it right.

The historian Florus, a contemporary of Marcus Aurelius, imagined the history of Rome as a human lifetime. Infancy was the time of the kings, youth and maturity were the Republic; under the emperors Rome is living out her old age. What the old emperor in the movie calls Rome’s true self, what the historian thought of as her vigorous youth, was an age of heroic freedom-loving citizens whose memory was honoured in a long series of exemplary stories.


The film also seems to derive from Wallace Breem's fine historical novel, Eagle in the Snow, with which it shares the problem that the protagonist's faith is such mush as not to be terribly compelling. The greater drawback of the movie though is that it can only be enjoyed if you can so isolate your mind from any historical knowledge as not to start laughing at the noble but absurd sentiment of restoring the Republic at that late date.


March 22, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:56 PM

ONE OF THEM:

Bush bonded early with evangelicals (WAYNE SLATER, March 12, 2005, The Dallas Morning News)

As George W. Bush was coming to terms with his own religious faith, he also began to understand how important an active base of religious conservatives would be to his political future.

As an emissary to evangelicals in 1988, Mr. Bush sought to bring religious conservatives – a group he eventually enlisted to win office himself – aboard his father's presidential campaign.

"He came to my office at Criswell College to ask me to work on his dad's campaign and possibly to go to Washington if his dad won," said Richard Land, an influential Southern Baptist leader.

The elder Mr. Bush did win the White House, only to lose four years later when support from Christian conservatives waned.

The younger Mr. Bush, though, continued to cultivate a network of influential evangelical support including Mr. Land.

Doug Wead, a Bush adviser in 1988, said the son's born-again experience gave him the ability to communicate with Christian evangelicals in a way his father never could. He said the younger Mr. Bush was a quick study who concluded that religious conservatives were the key to future political success.

"He would just look at those [campaign] memos and salivate about Texas," Mr. Wead said. "It was like a missing piece for him. He was thinking, 'This is huge for me. I'm one of them.'

"People miss how calculated, how sophisticated and nuanced his approach to evangelicals really is," Mr. Wead continued. "You think it's all spontaneous, but he's a very disciplined creature."


Gee, you mean it wasn't all just dumb luck?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:52 PM

DUE PROCESS FOR A SAD RESULT:

Hospital ends life support of baby: 1st U.S. case of its kind is against mom's wish, in accordance with law (BRUCE NICHOLS, March 15, 2005, The Dallas Morning News)

In what medical ethicists say is a first in the United States, a hospital acting under state law, with the concurrence of a judge, disconnected a critically ill baby from life support Tuesday over his mother's objections.

The baby, Sun Hudson, who'd been on a mechanical ventilator since his birth Sept. 25, died quickly afterward, his mother said.

"I held him ... I talked to him. I told him I love him," said the child's mother, Wanda Hudson. Then doctors took the mechanical breathing tube out, the child took a couple of breaths, struggled briefly in her arms and it was over, Ms. Hudson said.

She never shed a tear and explained why she wasn't showing emotion. "I was prepared for this," she said.

Doctors did not join her in meeting reporters, but Texas Children's Hospital issued a statement that it was "deeply saddened." The baby died of the effects of thanatophoric dysplasia, a form of dwarfism that impairs lung and chest cavity development and is "a lethal and incurable genetic deformity."

The death ended a court battle that began in mid-November when Ms. Hudson, a 33-year-old unemployed dental assistant, opposed doctors when they decided continuing life support was futile, unethical and medically inappropriate. Probate Judge William McCulloch cleared the way for removal of mechanical ventilation from the baby Monday.

There have been other cases elsewhere in which courts intervened, but the Hudson case was the first to reach the end stage, said Dr. John Paris, a bioethicist at Boston College.

"It's a first in the United States," he said. "It's not a first in the world. There was a similar case in England."

The hospital acted under a Texas law passed in 1999 that allows attending physicians, in consultation with a hospital bioethics committee, to discontinue life support when a patient's condition is hopeless. The law gives a parent or guardian 10 days to find another hospital or institution. After that, the hospital is free to act.

Texas Children's officials, and Ms. Hudson's lawyer, Mario Caballero, called dozens of institutions and none was willing to take the child, officials said. [...]

In the Hudson case, the hospital encouraged the mother to go to court and agreed to pay her lawyer after concern arose about her mental state. She said "the sun that shines in the sky," not a man, fathered her child and would decide its fate. She repeated her belief Tuesday.

Push came to shove Nov. 18, when the hospital's bioethics committee endorsed the recommendation of attending physician Peter Hainey to end life support. The hospital agreed to several extensions of the 10 days to seek alternative care but in January began pushing for a resolution.

Judge McCulloch in February lifted a restraining order barring the hospital from removing life support, but the 1st Court of Appeals stayed his order then sent the case back for correction of a procedural error. When that was done, the judge renewed his order, and Ms. Hudson's lawyer did not pursue his appeal further.

Mr. Caballero said he was a solo practitioner without the resources to go forward.

"I only have two arms and two legs," he said. He expressed disappointment that groups interested in right-to-life issues did not come forward to help him.

The law under which the hospital acted was a compromise passed with the participation from the right-to-life lobby, Ms. Krause said. Their main focus has been opposing an artificial end to life through abortion, not an end to artificial support for life, although they've intervened in some cases, analysts said.


At least two things differentiate this from the Schiavo case: first, Sun Hudson was on life support, not just receiving sustenance; second, procedural safeguards were built into this law -- perhaps thanks to the participation of pro-life advocates and the need for George Bush's signature? -- and the hospital seems to have behaved in exemplary fashion. Still, killing a child against the wishes of the parent seems a potentially dangerous precedent and was hopefully just a function of Ms Hudson's apparent estrangement from reality.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:45 PM

THE ONLY THING THEY DO EFFICIENTLY (via Robert Schwartz):

Death of a pact (Financial Times, March 22 2005)

This March, they came to bury the stability pact, not to praise it - and they did so with ruthless efficiency.

European finance ministers finally agreed to relax the enforcement procedures of the pact, which underpins fiscal policy in the European Union. In fact, they weakened it so fundamentally as to render it practically worthless. The original idea behind the pact was to ensure long-term sustainability of public finances in the eurozone. The old pact has failed to achieve this. The new one does not even try.

Officially, the strict nominal anchors of the pact remain in place, including the maximum 3 per cent deficit-to-gross domestic product ratio, and the 60 per cent debt-to-GDP ratio. But in reality, the agreement effectively raises the maximum allowed deficit-to-GDP ratio to at least 3.5 per cent - possibly close to 4 per cent - depending on how finance ministers define a number that is still "close to the reference value". "Due consideration" will be given to three ill-defined spending categories: international aid; European policy goals; and European unity.



Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:04 PM

THE ONLY WAY HOME IS BY WAY OF THIRD:

In Mideast, Shiites May Be Unlikely U.S. Allies (Robin Wright, March 16, 2005, Washington Post)

A quarter-century after its first traumatic confrontation with the Shiite world, when the U.S. Embassy was seized in Iran, the United States is moving on several fronts to support, recognize or hold out the prospect of engagement with Islam's increasingly powerful minority.

The White House is now counting on a Shiite-dominated government to stabilize Iraq. In a tactical shift, the United States is indirectly reaching out to Iran, backing Europe's offer of economic incentives to get Tehran to surrender any nuclear weapons program.

And in Lebanon, President Bush suggested yesterday, Washington might accept Hezbollah as a political party -- if it renounces terrorism, as the Palestine Liberation Organization did in 1988. "I would hope that Hezbollah would prove that they're not [a terrorist organization] by laying down arms and not threatening peace," he said in a joint appearance with Jordan's King Abdullah.

The shift is a striking contrast from the U.S. encounter with Shiite activism in 1979, when students stormed the U.S. Embassy compound in Tehran and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days. The showdown, which contributed to President Jimmy Carter's defeat and spawned the first yellow ribbon, inspired the famous political cartoon of an American booting a map of Iran. "Kick the Shiite out of Iran," read the caption, replicated on such items as posters and coffee mugs.

Shiite extremism in the 1980s embodied the main terrorist threat to the United States, as Shiite groups in Lebanon blew up two U.S. embassies and a Marine compound, and later seized dozens of Western hostages. In Kuwait, Iraq's Shiite Dawa movement simultaneously bombed the U.S. and French embassies as well as Western businesses.

The tentative U.S. moves to engage Shiite leaders are often not by choice or design, but rather a reflection of realities on the ground, including the fact that Shiites make up the largest sect in three countries in which the United States has enormous stakes, U.S. officials and regional experts say. Together, the steps represent a turning point after decades in which Washington's relations with and policies toward the Middle East were shaped largely by interaction with Sunni leaders, who controlled the region's oil resources and politics.

"The United States is coming to grips with Shiite power," a senior State Department official said. "We've come a long way since the 1980s in recognizing their growing role in the region. It's not a new principle but a practicality."

Ironically, the Bush administration's promotion of democracy is a primary factor, forcing Washington to interact with emerging players and parties, officials and experts say.


It might arguably be better if folks had realized that the design existed to be taken advantage of and this was an inevitable choice, but they've done rather well stumbling into a de facto alliance with Shi'a.


Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:51 PM

IT’S NOT LIKE SHE WAS A BANK ACCOUNT OR SOMETHING

Where There's No Will (Clinton W. Taylor, The American Spectator, March 22nd, 2005)

For Terri Schiavo, it's all over but the starving. However, the repercussions of pulling Terri's feeding tube are just beginning. National Review Online's Andy McCarthy has explained that the abuse of Terri Schiavo's rights would scandalize the nation were the same things done to murderers or terrorists. Actually, it's worse than that. Not only do we treat our murderers with more care than we treat incapacitated patients like Terri Schiavo -- we dispose of our property with more care than we are disposing of her life.

Imagine a different set of facts in the Schiavo case. Let's say a woman named Terri owns (independently of her husband) a very nice sports car. Then one day she dies, suddenly, without a will.

If someone dies without a valid will, statutes called intestacy laws determine who is entitled to inherit the dead person's estate. Intestacy laws can get complicated -- but the law in Florida (as with most states) is that your surviving spouse inherits all your property.

Anyway, in this hypothetical, Terri's mother doesn't like that. In court she says that Terri told her once or twice, "Mom, if anything happens to me, I want you to have that car."

There is this very straightforward procedure to settling questions of property distribution when no written will exists: If there's no written will to debate, then the intestacy statutes control and that's that -- whatever Mom says Terri said is simply irrelevant to the operation of the law. The mother's statement is inadmissible. No will? Terri's husband gets the car.

If Terri doesn't like the way the intestacy statute will distribute her property, of course, all you need to do is draft a will that clarifies your wishes. There's either a will, or there isn't. And if there isn't a valid will spelling out Terri's true wishes, no one can derail this statutory procedure by testifying about what Terri said years ago.

Contrast that with the real facts of the Schiavo case. Witnesses offered conflicting statements about Ms. Schiavo's wishes, as she expressed them in the 1980s. Those statements were construed by Judge George Greer to be "clear and convincing evidence" that Terri would wish to be starved to death were she ever in the situation she is now in. If this were a property distribution under intestacy laws, the answer would be clear. The witnesses' statements would be ignored, and the statutory presumptions would control.

In other words, the kind of testimony Michael Schiavo gave would not be sufficient (or even admissible) to affect the disposition of Terri's property -- but it is sufficient to end her life.

Not just intestacy laws offer more protection for property than for Terri. As "mildly pro-right-to-die" blogger Ace of Spades noted, "You need a written contract for any lease of land that lasts more than one year; it seems very odd to me indeed that the taking of a human life requires only one hearsay statement from one interested party."

These priorities are skewed. If a dead person's property is accidentally distributed against his wishes...too bad, we tried, you should have written a will. But if an innocent, incapacitated person's life is ended against his wishes? A mistake like that would be horrific.

A wonderful answer to all those who are suddenly and conveniently discovering the sanctity of positive law.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:22 PM

BECAUSE SOMEONE HAS TO STOP AMERICA FROM BULLYING JEW HATERS:

Iceland welcomes citizen Fischer (Richard Lloyd Parry, 3/23/05, Times of London)

BOBBY FISCHER, the former world chess champion incarcerated for the past nine months, may be freed this week after a diplomatic confrontation between Japan and Iceland.

President Grimsson of Iceland is expected to sign into law today a Bill granting citizenship to Mr Fischer. It represents the culmination of an extraordinary campaign by Reykjavik to save Mr Fischer from deportation to the United States where he faces criminal prosecution.

John Bosnitch, head of the Tokyo-based Committee to Free Bobby Fischer, said: “The Icelandic parliament, the Althingi, has . . . made history by standing up to the Earth’s sole superpower and demonstrating that it can no longer bully individuals or nations.” [...]

Mr Bosnitch said: “Bobby Fischer is standing up as a hero of every oppressed individual in the world.”

Mr Fischer is an unlikely prisoner of conscience, an extreme anti-Semite who has spoken openly of the attacks on the US on 11 September 2001 as “wonderful news”, and of his hope for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Jews.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:54 PM

KILL HER, THAT'LL TEACH 'EM:

Whose God Is God? (John P. Avlon, 3/22/05, NY Sun)

‘Whose God is God?” thundered the Reverend Jesse Jackson from a podium placed at the altar of The Riverside Church to an assembled crowd of the left-leaning political and religious faithful on Sunday afternoon.“There is a profound theological debate in our nation tonight about the nature and character of God… . Today the Congress reconvenes to save a woman — Terry Schiavo — from starving to death, but then vote to starve millions everyday. Whose God is God? They fight to save the fetus, and then starve the babies. Whose God is God?”

So this is just revenge on the Left's part?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:50 PM

I'M RELYING ON YOUR COMMON DECENCY:

Lawsuit over an embryo fuels debate on when life begins: An Illinois judge allows a wrongful-death suit involving a 'pre-embryo' to go forward, deepening a moral divide. (Amanda Paulson, 3/23/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

When Alison Miller and Todd Parrish filed a wrongful-death suit for the destruction of their frozen embryos by a fertility clinic, they just wanted some compensation for their disappointed hopes.

But when a Chicago judge broke precedents by letting the suit stand last month, the decision's ramifications for reproductive technology, stem-cell research, and abortion stirred debate across the nation. [...]

Jeffrey Kahn, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Minnesota, recognizes the recent wrongful death suit as one step in a broader debate. He believes the "personhood" strategies used by abortion opponents, as well as the rapid advances in technologies like ultrasound, are having a cumulative effect on public perception.

"All that rhetoric, and the ability to manipulate and understand more about developing embryos and fetuses - it pushes back in people's minds the point at which we should be thinking about this as a person and not a thing."


Just keep pushing...


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:13 PM

KING OF THE HILL, FOR NOW:

Once maligned, Hyundai aims to conquer US market: Korea's No. 1 automaker has the world's most reliable car - and a new US plant. (Donald Kirk, 3/23/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

These days, Hyundai is winning international accolades for design and reliability as it battles to catch up with Japanese, European, and American rivals on global markets. Its mid-sized Sonata was just rated the most reliable car in the US market, according to Consumer Reports.

Now Hyundai is poised to make an even bigger splash on the US scene. Earlier this month, Korea's No. 1 automaker opened a $1.1 billion plant in Montgomery, Ala., designed to crank out up to 300,000 cars a year. It's expanding at a rate reminiscent of the inroads Japanese cars made over the past two decades. The rise of Hyundai and other Korean car manufacturers is being eyed by China, which dreams of bringing its fledgling auto industry to the world stage some day.

"The quality of Korean cars is increasing dramatically," says Peter Underwood, an independent consultant and analyst of the Korean motor vehicle industry. "They're making the Japanese concerned. They're getting better all the time. They're at the point where they can charge more."

Chinese manufacturers currently compete only on their own turf, selling low-priced vehicles to buyers who cannot afford foreign cars. "It's a big industry that's expanding," says Mr. Underwood, But, he says, "Whether it's a five- or 10-year time frame, the Koreans ought to be worried."


And China will get its 5 to 10 years before being supplanted by a less developed nation. Advanced economies don't manufacture goods.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:12 PM

FIRST THINGS FIRST:

Onward, Mormon soldiers: How the Latter-day Saints could make Mitt Romney president (ADAM REILLY, Boston Phoenix)

AS MITT ROMNEY tests the waters for a potential 2008 presidential run, he’ll be able to tap a vein of affluent, motivated, activist supporters with considerable political experience — the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), a/k/a the Mormons. The Romney family is to the Mormons what the Kennedys are to the Catholics. Mitt Romney’s father, George, a former CEO of American Motors and governor of Michigan, himself ran for president in 1968. Marion Romney, one of Mitt Romney’s cousins, was once a member of the LDS Church’s First Presidency, a triumvirate of the world’s three most powerful Mormons. And then, of course, there’s Mitt. A former venture capitalist and Mormon bishop, Romney unsuccessfully challenged Ted Kennedy in a 1994 Senate campaign and then rescued the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah — the Vatican of Mormonism — from certain disaster before being elected governor here. Like John F. Kennedy, who played to the religious loyalty and ethnic insularity of his fellow Catholics, and Michael Dukakis, who appealed to Greek pride, Romney — if he runs — will surely look to his own religious base to give his campaign leverage and traction.

If there’s a moment that marks the beginning of the LDS ascendancy, it came in 1979, when right-wing Christian fundamentalist Jerry Falwell announced the formation of the Moral Majority, the anti-choice, anti-woman, anti-gay, pro-school-prayer group that reshaped American politics. In Falwell’s coalition, individual Mormons joined forces with Christian fundamentalists and conservative Catholics in an attempt to make American politics more godly. The oft-isolated LDS Church had finally found willing partners.

Today, the nation’s Mormon population is relatively small: there are 5.5 million in the United States, compared to 66 million Roman Catholics. But their ranks are tight — a distinct advantage when operating in a fractious and factionalized society. In 1972, George McGovern and his liberal backers used similar cohesion to gain brief control of the Democratic Party. The conservative takeover of the GOP is a bigger success story; today, the former right-wing insurgents have become the right-wing establishment. Now the voraciously ambitious Mitt Romney wants a place at the table, if not the lead chair. And Mormon solidarity — next to which standard conservative esprit de corps pales in comparison — may help him get it. [...]

According to J. Quin Monson and David Campbell — professors at Brigham Young University (BYU) and Notre Dame, respectively, and Mormons both — the Latter-day Saints are the political equivalent of "dry kindling." The demands made on individual Mormons by their culture, Monson and Campbell claim, give them an unusually high aptitude for political activism.

To make their case, the professors cite a lengthy list of distinctive Mormon traits and habits. First, the overwhelming majority of Mormons vote consistently for Republicans; in 2000, for example, 88 percent of Mormons voted for George W. Bush. (Among other observant white Christian evangelicals, the number was 84 percent.) In addition to voting as a bloc, Mormons make greater sacrifices for their faith than members of many other religions do. The typical adult Mormon spends three hours in Sunday services; complements this with periodic worship in Church temples, which fulfills obligations that Sunday worship does not; visits a pre-established network of congregation members each month to discuss their satisfaction with the Church; and volunteers in some other capacity for his or her congregation. (One study found that 60 percent of Mormons volunteer annually for a church-related group, compared to 36 percent of Southern Baptists and 27 percent of Catholics.)

The list goes on. While the LDS Church is intensely hierarchical, its members are intimately involved in its day-to-day functioning; Monson and Campbell cite statistics showing that 53 percent of Mormons reported giving a speech or presentation at church in the past half-year, compared to 14 percent of Southern Baptists and four percent of Catholics. On top of that, most males also spend two years as missionaries just as they enter adulthood, journeying far from home to plug their faith to an often-hostile audience. Then there’s the unusually rigorous Mormon tithing guideline, which instructs adults to donate 10 percent of their income to the LDS Church. (In contrast, the Catholic Church asks adherents only to contribute to its upkeep; the average Catholic giving rate is about 1.5 percent.)

Imagine how all this might play out in the 2008 presidential campaign.


Ducking a re-election bid would be such an admission of weakness that it can't help but damage his candidacy, while running and winning would make him formidable.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:07 PM

OUT OF THE WILDERNESS:

Once without a prayer, faith agenda emerging: Special prison dorms, gay-marriage ban advance in GOP-led legislature, but other bills languish. (Robert King, March 13, 2005, Indianapolis Star)

One state lawmaker who says he promotes Christianity whenever he gets the chance wants to bring elective Bible courses into the public schools.

Another seeks special prison dorms that immerse inmates in Bible study and Christian counseling.

And a third says an "In God We Trust" license plate would serve as a good reminder of "what separates us from the animals."

Religious beliefs influence Indiana lawmakers of both parties. And laws with a Godly flavor are nothing new. But with Republicans controlling the General Assembly and the governor's office for the first time in 16 years, the faith agenda is advancing further than it has in years.

With their political base built solidly on religious conservatives, Republicans are giving hearings to faith-oriented bills that previously had languished in Democratic-controlled committees. And some measures -- including faith-based prison dorms and a ban on same-sex marriages -- have advanced further through the legislative maze than ever before.

It reflects a trend seen in other states where Republicans have gained control of legislatures after long periods in the wilderness, said Tom McClusky, director of government affairs at the Family Research Council, a socially conservative policy agency based in Washington.

MORE:
Bush working to fund 'armies of compassion': Executive order used on behalf of faith-based groups (BENNETT ROTH, 3/12/05, Houston Chronicle)

The city council of Janesville, Wis., said last year that it would approve federal funds for a Salvation Army housing project only if plans for Bible study there were abandoned.

In response, the Bush administration swung into action.

Federal housing officials informed the city that taxpayer dollars could be spent on the project for the homeless as long as religious services were voluntary. So the council awarded a $250,000 grant to the Salvation Army without stipulations.

President Bush recently seized on the city's reversal as evidence of his determination to give so-called faith-based groups a better shot at government funding.

"The city had no right to tell the Salvation Army that the price of running a center was giving up its prayers," he told a conference of faith-based providers this month.


Posted by Peter Burnet at 4:56 PM

MULTIPOLARITY IF NECESSARY, BUT NOT NECESSARILY MULTIPOLARITY

EU delays push to lift arms ban on China (Steven Weisman, International Herald Tribune, March 23rd, 2005)

Yielding to pressure from President George W. Bush and threats of retaliation from Congress, the European Union has put off plans to lift its arms embargo on China this spring and may not press the issue until next year, U.S. and European officials said.

The officials said Monday that, in addition to U.S. pressure, European nations had been shaken by the recent adoption of legislation by the Chinese National People's Congress authorizing the use of force to stop Taiwan from seceding. The Chinese action, they said, jolted France and undercut its efforts to end the embargo before June.

"Europe wants to move forward on the embargo, but the recent actions by China have made things a lot more complex," a senior European official said. "The timeline has become more difficult. The timeline is going to have to slip."


Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:53 PM

YOU CAN DO IT WHEN HE'S PRESIDENT OR WHEN I AM:

McCain trumpets Bush Social Security plan (JENNIFER LOVEN, March 21, 2005, AP)

President Bush and Sen. John McCain put on another showing Tuesday of their good-cop, bad-cop routine on Social Security, trying to prod Democrats into cooperating with rather than opposing the president's drive to create private accounts within the system.

Bush emphasized the positive, continuing to assure current and near-retirees their benefits would not change under his plan and promising that credit would be duly shared if Washington politicians can come together to fix Social Security's long-term fiscal ills.

"Bring your ideas forward, please," the president told a mostly darkened auditorium here. "If we're going to solve this problem, it's not going to be a Republican idea or a Democratic idea. It's going to be an American idea."

McCain, after speaking glowingly of "the pride I feel in this president," had a less conciliatory message for Democrats in Congress, whom he accused of being obstructionist and shortsighted.

"Some of our friends who are opposing this idea say, 'Oh, you don't have to worry until 2042.' We wait until 2042 when we stop paying people Social Security? That's not what this is all about," he said. "Please urge our Democrat friends to come to the table and sit with us and do this for the greater good of the United States of America. ... This issue isn't shouldn't have anything to do with partisan politics."

He also aimed some of his "straight talk" at AARP, the powerful lobby for older citizens that opposes Bush's plan to allow younger workers to divert a portion of their Social Security payroll taxes into personal accounts that could be invested in the stock market in trade for reduced guaranteed benefits.


Suddenly the MSM and Democrats are having second thoughts about their making Mr. McCain out to be a non-partisan saint. He'll run on this in '08 if it doesn't get done now.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:13 PM

PERFIDIOUS? PERHAPS, BUT NOT SINISTER:

Blair praises faith's place in society, but not politics (Matthew Tempest, March 22, 2005, Guardian Unlimited)

Tony Blair today called on Britain's churches to play a "bigger role" in national life, but rejected the US style of politics in which people "beat their chests" about their faith.

In a speech to Faithworks, an organisation of largely evangelical Christians in London, the prime minister said churches made a "visible, tangible difference" for the better in society.

And, despite a recent cross-party understanding that religious beliefs on issues such as abortion should not become part of party politics, Mr Blair said he would like to see church leaders "play a bigger, not a lesser role in the future."


Quite fun to watch this election play out as the Tories finally realized that whichever party is furthest Right will win, something Mr. Blair knew all along but seemed to forget for awhile.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:59 PM

OUT OF STEP/IN HIS STEPS:

GOP May Be Out of Step With Public (Charles Babington and Michael A. Fletcher, March 22, 2005, Washington Post)

Congressional Republicans and President Bush have seized upon the Terri Schiavo case with such fervor that they may find themselves out in front of an American public that is divided over right-to-die issues and deeply leery of government intrusion into family affairs, according to analysts and polls. [...]

Republicans in Congress and administration officials say their actions are principled and courageous. Whatever the motives, dramatic actions on such a high-profile case will have repercussions in next year's congressional elections, campaign strategists say.

Polls and analyses suggest that Republicans could find themselves out of step with many Americans, especially if Democrats find a more unified voice on the subject. An ABC News poll released yesterday concluded that "Americans broadly and strongly disapprove of federal intervention in the Terri Schiavo case, with sizable majorities saying Congress is overstepping its bounds for political gain."

By 63 to 28 percent, Americans support the removal of Schiavo's feeding tube, which her husband says would be her wish. Seventy percent of the respondents said it was inappropriate for Congress to get involved as it has. And 67 percent said they believe that elected officials trying to keep Schiavo alive are doing so mainly for political reasons.

The poll suggests that Democrats have an opportunity to speak for a significant portion of Americans who feel the GOP is overreaching. But whereas Democratic lawmakers continue to attack the administration's Social Security plans -- which polls also show to be unpopular -- they seem far more reticent on the Schiavo case. None of the Senate's 44 Democrats tried to delay the legislation that some of their House colleagues denounced as dangerous and unconstitutional.

"The Republicans may be setting themselves up for problems" in the 2006 elections, said Democratic pollster Doug Schoen, "but I don't think we're there yet." Democrats are divided over how to respond to the emotional right-to-die issue, he said, and as long as there is not a "Democratic worldview," strongly committed conservatives will control the debate.


Of course they're out of step with the public, just as they were thirty years ago on abortion (and are on embryonic stem cells). Those of us who are healthy assume we'd find illness or disability intolerable and we want an out. As importantly, we don't want to be tied down by burdensome spouses and parents, sucking up our time and resources when we could be getting on with our own lives.

But, just like abortion, this is a teachable issue and it would be a political disaster, as even they seem to recognize, for the Democrats to adopt another issue where they're the advocates for death. There's always short term gain in playing to our basest instincts, but rarely long term. This isn't Europe.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:30 PM

SLOW TO RECOVER ONCE YOU'RE OFF THE 'ROIDS:

Bonds on missing the season: 'Maybe' (ESPN.com news services, 3/22/05)

A dejected Barry Bonds said Tuesday that there's a chance he might not return this season because of multiple knee surgeries.

"Right now I'm just going to try to rehab myself back to, I don't know, hopefully next season, hopefully middle of the season. I don't know," Bonds said. "Right now I'm just gonna take things slow. I feel bad for the guys because I want to be out there for them."

When asked directly if he said he might not be back until mid-season or next season, Bonds answered, "Maybe. I told you that before I left, remember? You thought I was joking."

Bonds arrived on crutches at spring camp Tuesday, bringing his son, Nikolai, to meet with members of the media.

While Bonds was defiant and confrontational during his first press conference of the spring Feb. 22, he was despondent Tuesday, using the word "tired" 14 times during his approximate 10-minutes session.


It could be just me--or that so many of my Rotisserie guys are affected--but it does seem that more guys are hurt and recovering slower this Spring than in recent years. That could, from what I understand, be a function of not having chemical help to speed the healing. At any rate, this'll give Mr. Bonds plenty of time for his perjury trial.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:37 PM

THAT WAS EASY ENOUGH, HUH?:

Dell Reinstates 31 Muslim Employees (RNS, 3/22/05)

The company, together with advocacy groups, announced March 17 that a settlement between the workers and the world's largest computer systems company had been reached. The settlement includes back pay for the employees and full reinstatement of their jobs, as well as provisions for religious accommodation. [...]

In addition to reinstating the workers, the settlement provides that employees be granted paid time away from their work areas to pray, "as long as those requests are reasonable," said a statement released by Dell, the contract employer Spherion Corp. and the Nashville Metro Human Rights Commission, which helped mediate the dispute.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington-based advocacy group, helped to broker the settlement.

"This settlement can be used as a model by other production facilities that employ large numbers of Muslim workers," said Arsalan Iftikhar, the council's legal director, who participated in the negotiations.


Way to give your company a black eye needlessly.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:15 PM

WHY W WILL WIN:

ALTERNATIVE MINIMUM TAX HITTING BLUE STATES THE HARDEST (NCPA, March 21, 2005)

The Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) once targeted the wealthiest of families but is now hitting the upper middle-class in states that vote Democrat, says Peronet Despeignes (Fortune).

The AMT works by imposing a flat 26 percent tax rate on the first $175,000 of income and 28 percent after that. By law, taxpayers pay either their regular taxes or the AMT, whichever is greater. But because it is not adjusted for inflation, the tax has begun to target the upper middle-class, particularly those in Democratic or “blue” states:

* Already the tax has ensnared more than one million Americans and could hit a total of 30 million taxpayers by 2010.

* According to the Urban Institute, the 11 states that already have the greatest share of taxpayers paying the AMT are blue states; toping the list is New York (23.1 percent of taxpayers), District of Columbia (15.8 percent) and New Jersey and California (both 15.6 percent).

* Meanwhile, the bottom 10 states -- those that have the fewest percentage of taxpayers paying the AMT -- are red states; for instance, only 1 percent of taxpayers in Montana have to pay the AMT.


The need to fix this will force Democrats to accept some kind of tax reform.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 PM

LIDDY ON LINE ONE:

Steele giving real thought to campaign for Senate: Lt. governor weighs effect on family, administration (Andrew A. Green, March 20, 2005, Baltimore Sun)

Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele said yesterday that he is seriously considering a run at the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Paul S. Sarbanes in 2006 and will make further announcements about his plans in the coming weeks.

Speaking on WBAL-AM's Stateline with Governor Ehrlich program yesterday morning, Steele spoke publicly about his possible candidacy for the first time, saying he wants to hold off on serious discussion of the race to give Sarbanes his due for his years of public service.

With Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s announcement last week that neither he nor his wife, Kendel Ehrlich, planned to run for the seat, Steele is widely viewed as presenting the GOP's best chance to break the Democrats' decades-long hold on Maryland's Senate seats.

"I am seriously thinking about it, yes, and we'll evaluate it in context of a couple of things: Will my wife give me permission? How does it help the administration? Does it help Governor Ehrlich's re-election? And does it make sense for me?" Steele said.


He'd have more help from the White House and the RNC than he'd know what to do with.


MORE:
Conservative Could Win Maryland Senate Race (John Gizzi, Mar 22, 2005, Human Events)

The potential candidate that many Republicans are talking about has already demonstrated he can win statewide: Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, one of only two African-American Republicans to hold the second-highest office in a state.

A lawyer and former state party chairman, Steele made headlines nationwide in 2002 when he was elected on the ticket headed by then-Rep. Bob Ehrlich, who became Maryland's first Republican governor since Spiro Agnew in 1966. Interestingly, while Ehrlich is pro-choice on abortion, Steele is unabashedly pro-life. As lieutenant governor, Steele has been a prominent participant in the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. He has also focused on promoting Ehrlich's no-more-taxes agenda in the Democrat-controlled state legislature. [...]

Steele declined overtures by national Republicans to take on Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski last year. Before Sarbanes announced that he was retiring, Steele had signaled that he intended to seek re-election as lieutenant governor and then run for governor in 2010, when Ehrlich would be term-limited out. A source close to Steele, however, told HUMAN EVENTS last week, "Michael is at least considering the Senate race this time."


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:32 AM

RIGHT FROM THE BEGINNING (via Kevin Whited):

Hughes doctrine: Thinking outside of box (in garage): A professor recalls one of his best students from 1976 (BOB MANN, 3/21/05, Houston Chronicle)

Back in 1976, Karen Hughes — then Karen Parfitt — was my star journalism student at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. [...]

The yellowed grade sheet indicates the future Hughes made a B+ on that initial deadline undertaking, an exercise in which I barked out facts that students nervously tried to convert into a news article while I paced among them, ranting and raving in tough city-editor fashion.

Most students pounded feverishly, some of them panicked, on old Royal typewriters, but not Hughes.

From day one, she got my attention with her intense focus. Her steel-blue eyes shut out the rest of class and concentrated only on her words. Always, she finished first, ripping out her copy and cockily presenting it to me. I loved it.

I asked those laboratory students on that first day in the spring of 1976 to write a short biography and to discuss their ambitions. Hughes, then 19, typed out:

"The most important issue facing America is the question of her foreign policy. I have lived in other countries and seen anti-American feelings growing as totalitarian governments or a loss of democracy begin to sweep their country.

"I think America is in danger both internally from the dissentions of her own people on foreign policy and externally from the strong governments in the world which are not democratic."

As a journalism student in the heart of Texas, Karen Hughes was composing what has become the Bush doctrine. Perhaps her portfolio is not so "new."


It helps that today so closely resembles the point in the Cold War where Democrats had given up and Republicans had decided to force the conclusion.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:22 AM

KILL BILL TOO?:

If Congress can save a life, could it also take one away? (MARK BROWN, March 22, 2005, Chicago SUN-TIMES)

Whether you believe Schiavo should be kept alive or allowed to die, here's why you don't want Congress second-guessing the Florida courts about her case:

If this session of Congress can pass special legislation designed to keep Schiavo alive after the courts decided it would be her wish to die, then what's to keep the next session of Congress from deciding to intervene in an effort to allow your ill father to die even though you and an Illinois court decided he would prefer to be kept alive?

You say that's different. How so? If Congress has the power to interfere in such situations, then logically it has the power to go either way.


Never mind the "logic" that killing someone is the same as not letting them be killed, the Founders, not suprisingly, made specific provision against the possibility of Congress ordering a killing in the bill of attainder clause.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:48 AM

NOT SO STRANGE:

The strange death of the liberal West (Mark Steyn, 22/03/2005, Daily Telegraph)

Almost every issue facing the EU - from immigration rates to crippling state pension liabilities - has at its heart the same glaringly plain root cause: a huge lack of babies. I could understand a disinclination by sunny politicians to peddle doom and gloom were it not for the fact that, in all other areas of public policy, our rulers embrace doomsday scenarios at the drop of a hat. Most 20-year projections - on global warming, fuel resources, etc - are almost laughably speculative. They fail to take into account the most important factor of all - human inventiveness: "We can't feed the world!" they shriek. But we develop more efficient farming methods with nary a thought. "The oil will run out by the year 2000!" But we develop new extraction methods and find we've got enough oil for as long as we'll need it.

But human inventiveness depends on humans - and that's the one thing we really are running out of. When it comes to forecasting the future, the birth rate is the nearest thing to hard numbers. If only a million babies are born in 2005, it's hard to have two million adults enter the workforce in 2025 (or 2033, or 2041, or whenever they get around to finishing their Anger Management, Systemic Racism and Gay Studies degrees). If that's not a political issue, what is? To cite only the most obviously affected corner of the realm, what's the long-term future of the Scottish National Party if there are no Scottish nationals?

When I've mentioned the birth dearth on previous occasions, pro-abortion correspondents have insisted it's due to other factors - the generally declining fertility rates that affect all materially prosperous societies, or the high taxes that make large families prohibitively expensive in materially prosperous societies. But this is a bit like arguing over which came first, the chicken or the egg - or, in this case, which came first, the lack of eggs or the scraggy old chicken-necked women desperate for one designer baby at the age of 48. How much of Europe's fertility woes derive from abortion is debatable. But what should be obvious is that the way the abortion issue is framed - as a Blairite issue of personal choice - is itself symptomatic of the broader crisis of the dying West.

Since 1945, a multiplicity of government interventions - state pensions, subsidised higher education, higher taxes to pay for everything - has so ruptured traditional patterns of inter-generational solidarity that in Europe a child is now an optional lifestyle accessory. By 2050, Estonia's population will have fallen by 52 per cent, Bulgaria's by 36 per cent, Italy's by 22 per cent. The hyper-rationalism of post-Christian Europe turns out to be wholly irrational: what's the point of creating a secular utopia if it's only for one generation?


Ah, but that is the point--this utopian vision is all about the self, not about the place. What do the secular care what came before or what comes after themselves?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:16 AM

SWEET 16, SOUR 54:

Sweet on this tourney: There's much to love about 16 teams left (Bob Ryan, March 22, 2005, Boston Globe)

Don't ask. I have nine of the Sweet 16 left, OK? At least I have three of my Final Four left (Kentucky, Louisville, Oklahoma State). Overall, however, I would have been better off consulting one of my 5-year-old triplet grandchildren. Or my golden retriever.

But I'm lovin' the NCAA Tournament. How could you not?

Having the field at 64 is absolutely perfect, isn't it? (Yes, it's actually 65; don't get me started on that.) It is now ingeniously structured so that there are different attainable goals for different teams. The Vermonts and Bucknells win one, and their season, careers -- and, who knows, maybe even their very lives -- are made. The Wisconsin-Milwaukees -- actually there is no one else left like Wisconsin-Milwaukee -- are totally vindicated just by getting to a regional. And the rest may or may not be feeling pretty satisfied, depending on their particular 2004-05 circumstance.

Of the 16 teams left, eight are from the top tier of the tournament (seeds 1 through 4) and eight are from the other tier. The four No. 1s have held up nicely, but of the 12 2, 3, and 4 seeds, only four remain. Does this mean the tournament committee did a poor job? No. It means it had an almost impossible job to begin with.


Taylor Freakin' Coppenrath...


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:09 AM

WHEN THE LAST MOMENT WOULD BE THE LAST:

Life, Death and Cynical Grandstanding (Robert Scheer, March 22, 2005, LA Times)

I cannot remember a time when Congress and the president have acted with more egregious political opportunism and shameless trafficking in human misery than last weekend, leaping into the 15-year-long Terri Schiavo saga at the last possible moment as grandstanding defenders of the defenseless.

What remains of the Left if it objects to using government in defense of the defenseless?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:02 AM

IT IS DUN:

MUSIC REVIEW: Baptism of 'Saint Matthew': Water lends aural and visual texture to Tan Dun's 'Passion' in a stirring local premiere by the Master Chorale. (Mark Swed, March 22, 2005, LA Times)

In Tan Dun's ritualistic "Water Passion After Saint Matthew," given its local premiere Sunday night by the Los Angeles Master Chorale in Walt Disney Concert Hall, Bach takes a bath. So do singers, percussionists and anyone sitting too close to the stage, on which large, translucent bowls of water serve as percussion instruments.

The "Water Passion" was the fourth of four extraordinary new musical passions after the Gospels of Luke, Mark, John and Matthew commissioned by the International Bach Academy in Stuttgart, Germany, to celebrate the millennium in 2000.

German composer Wolfgang Rihm took his inspiration from Luke, using the story of Jesus' last days to question belief in a country with historical blood on its hands. Using John as her source, the Russian Sophia Gubaidulina wrote perhaps her most ravishingly mystical work, a 90-minute piece she has since expanded. Osvaldo Golijov, a Jew who grew up in Argentina, presented a black Jesus, an outsider who rocked to South and Central American rhythms. "La Pasión Según San Marcos" was the big hit of the bunch and made the composer, now living in America, a classical music celebrity.

But it was the even weirder "Water Passion" that created the greatest curiosity. Tan grew up in Maoist China barely aware of Judeo-Christian tradition, let alone Bach. Here, then, was a composer who had become adept at mingling Western and Chinese music, at combining popular music devices with those from the avant-garde, confronting one of the most revered masterpieces in sacred art: Bach's "Saint Matthew" Passion.

For Tan, Jesus was not the outsider, he was. He read Matthew as someone far more tuned in to Taoist thought than Christian belief. He was struck by physical elements in this Gospel, by water, sand and stone. Especially water.

Having just completed a water percussion concerto for the New York Philharmonic, Tan then read of the baptism and needed no more encouragement. He placed three large bowls for three percussionists at the points of a cross onstage, then added a row of vessels through the middle of the chorus in which soloists and singers could take a ceremonial elbow bath at the end.

Tan presents the Passion story as something akin to Chinese opera, but Chinese opera with a window on the West.


NPR did a good story on him and the piece a couple years ago. If you watch the recent Gospel of John you get a nice feel for just how elemental the story is.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:00 AM

THE BARREN PATH:

The Schiavo revelation (James P. Pinkerton, March 22, 2005, Newsday)

[T]he Democrats continue to be guided by their secular left wing - and that's a barren path.

It's politically viable for "Deep Blue" Democrats, such as Barney Frank of Massachusetts, to vote their liberal conscience in opposition to Republican efforts to intervene and preserve the life of Schiavo. But for the Democratic Party to flourish in Red States, it simply can't oppose the wishes of energetic Protestant and Catholic constituencies. So it's bad news for the national party that a majority of those Democrats in the House early yesterday voted against the life-saving intervention, while Republicans voted 30-1 for that intervention.

Put bluntly, the Democrats are moving in a secular direction - nominating the likes of Al Gore and John Kerry for president - as the country becomes more religious. Indeed, on the Schiavo vote, the party followed the cue of Hollywood, which awarded the Academy Awards for best movie and best foreign-language movie to two pro-euthanasia films, "Million Dollar Baby" and "The Sea Inside."

So the one consolation here to the Democrats should be that they lost the vote on Capitol Hill: If Schiavo had died a difficult death as a result of last week's court-ordered starvation, the funeral would have been a defining and crystallizing event for tens of millions of God-fearers, including many ex-Democrats.


There were obviously many other things going on--not least the complete collapse of their economic theory--but it seems fair to trace the Left's decline to the point where they went from being the party of civil rights for blacks to being the party that supports the killing of various classes of people.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:39 AM

NO PRICING POWER:

Airlines fail to implement rate hikes on U.S. flights (DAVID KOENIG, 3/22/05, Associated Press)

Another round of airline fare increases faltered Monday as two carriers backed down, including Continental Airlines, which had started the price hikes of $10 per round trip on many U.S. flights to offset rising fuel costs.

The fate of the increase -- it would have been the third in less than a month -- was uncertain, however.


In a world where companies have no power to boost prices because of competition, it's hard for the inflation ratchet to start biting.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:35 AM

240 MAY HAVE TO AWAIT THE NEXT CENSUS:

House 2006: Looking For A Few Good Races (Charlie Cook, March 22, 2005, National Journal)

A very early preview of 2006 House races shows slim pickings for both sides. With just a handful of retirements -- and few competitive open seats on the horizon -- both sides are scrambling to find serious challengers to a dwindling field of vulnerable incumbents. With the caveat that unpredictable events could always impact the 2006 landscape, Republicans do not appear to be in danger of losing their majority.

At this point, Democrats actually have more seats in jeopardy than Republicans have. Currently, there are four Democratic seats in the toss-up category: John Salazar in Colo.-03, Melissa Bean in Ill.-08, Charlie Melancon in La.-03 and Chet Edwards in Texas-17. And if the Republican-drawn map in Georgia passes Justice Department muster, Democrat Jim Marshall in Ga.-03 will find himself in a very competitive race.

Republicans, on the other hand, have just one toss-up seat: Iowa-01, where Rep. Jim Nussle is retiring to run for governor. But if Colorado's 7th District Rep. Bob Beauprez (R) decides to run for governor -- something that looks like a very real possibility -- his suburban Denver district, which is the most evenly divided in the state, would also be a true toss-up.

Beyond this group of seven seats, there are few other districts that look vulnerable.



Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:24 AM

THE REST IS POSTSCRIPT (via Robert Schwartz):

What's Left? Shame. (Charles Krauthammer, March 18, 2005, Washington Post)

At his news conference on Wednesday, President Bush declined an invitation to claim vindication for his policy of spreading democracy in the Middle East. After two years of attacks on him as a historical illiterate pursuing the childish fantasy of Middle East democracy, he was entitled to claim a bit of credit. Yet he declined, partly out of modesty (as with Ronald Reagan, one of the secrets of his political success) and partly because he has learned the perils of declaring any mission accomplished.

The democracy project is, of course, just beginning. We do not yet know whether the Middle East today is Europe 1989 or Europe 1848. In 1989 we saw the swift collapse of the Soviet empire; in 1848 there was a flowering of liberal revolutions throughout Europe that, within a short time, were all suppressed.

Nonetheless, 1848 did presage the coming of the liberal idea throughout Europe. (By 1871, it had been restored to France, for example.) It marked a turning point from which there was no going back. The Arab Spring of 2005 will be noted by history as a similar turning point for the Arab world.


At a minimum these events mark the Arab acceptance of the End of History, the acknowledgement that they won't have successful and decent societies under either dictatorship or Islamicism.


MORE:
As Window of Opportunity Opens in Lebanon, Hope Surges (Claudia Rosett, March 21, 2005, The New York Sun)

Above a busy shopping street where a bomb blew out the front walls of a building Friday night, injuring nine people, there now stretches a long row of glittering lights. Local authorities have rekindled the decorations left over from Christmas. "They want to show the bombers that they are building," a policeman guarding the site said.

After three decades that spanned a civil war followed by 15 years of brutality, jailing, and murder under Baathist Syrian dominion, such peaceful rejoinders to violence and repression have so far been the mark of Lebanon's democratic spring. And over the extraordinary five weeks since this Cedar Revolution began, the political landscape has shifted to a degree that leaves many here full of hope - and nervous. "A window of opportunity is opening," said lawyer Muhamad Mugraby, who two years ago served prison time as part of his long campaign for rule of law in Lebanon. He warned that "Lebanese politicians habitually have been good at closing such windows."

The main players have by now all had their say, from the withdrawing forces of Syria to the pro-Syrian Hezbollah, to the democratic demonstrators who turned out a million strong in downtown Beirut last Monday, backed at this stage by America, the European Union, and the United Nations. But no one knows yet exactly what a democratic Lebanon might look like, or who precisely might end up running it. There is no single leader of the democratic opposition. Rather, there are at least four or five, and as many as a dozen, top contenders, ranging from Druze chief Walid Jumblatt to the Maronite Patriarch to Bahiya Hariri, the sister of the assassinated former prime minister, Rafik Hariri - whose murder sparked this democratic uprising - to assorted leaders of the press and business community. They have been united in their insistence that Syria leave Lebanon. But beyond endorsing the general call for democracy, they hold widely disparate views about what a free Lebanon should look like. [...]

And yet, Lebanon has more reason today for hope than at any time in the past. Both this country and the world around it are changing. Beirut is no longer a war zone. In fact, it is a largely rebuilt city, in which one of the new landmarks is the tent encampment in downtown Martyr's Square, referred to these days by the Lebanese as "freedom square," or "sahat al-hurriya," where a new generation is demanding the right to join the modern democratic world.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:20 AM

OSH B'GOSH:

Kyrgyz leader calls for elections inquiry: Akayev acts as demonstrations mount (The Associated Press, March 22, 2005)

President Askar Akayev ordered a probe Monday into alleged election violations that have triggered demands for his resignation and weeks of increasingly violent protests across this former Soviet republic.

The police, security forces and local officials in the nation's second-largest city, Osh, fled Monday in the face of about 2,000 demonstrators, some armed with clubs and Molotov cocktails, some shouting: "Akayev, go!" The protesters seized the governor's office and regional police and security stations.

About 100 protesters later took control of Osh Airport, where they met no resistance, the police said.

The opposition has also taken control of government buildings in four other cities and towns across Kyrgyzstan's impoverished south, said an Interior Ministry spokesman, Nurdin Jangarayev.

"This is a new day in our history," exulted Omurbek Tekebayev, an opposition official in Osh.

"Power in Osh has been taken over by people!" another opposition member, Anvar Artykov, told the crowd. "I congratulate you on our victory and urge you to maintain order."


It's a nation badly in need of vowels.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:02 AM

IMMACULATE REJECTION:

French attacked as work reforms aid the ‘no’ vote (Anthony Browne, 3/22/05, Times of London)

FRENCH politicians received a severe dressing-down yesterday by José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, when the second poll within four days showed that a majority of French voters were likely to reject Europe’s new constitution.

Senhor Barroso told the French Government to do its part to win public support and insisted that France could not tell the Commission to abandon legislation unpopular with the French public. He tried to distance himself from any failure by declaring repeatedly: “It’s not our fault.”


It's such a rarity in history for the French to do the right thing that you have to assume they'll botch this too and vote "yes".


MORE:
France Dismantles Its 35-Hour Workweek (LAURENCE FROST, 3/21/05, AP)

Sophie Guilbaud not only holds a full-time job, she also helps run her son's nursery and treats herself to regular weekdays of shopping, movies and art shows. The secret to her balancing act is a remarkable piece of social engineering — France's 35-hour workweek. Introduced under the Socialists but headed for effective abolition by lawmakers Tuesday, "les 35 heures" have been a boon for some but, critics argue, a big drain on the economy.

Heated debate over dismantling the working time law has fed into wider political and literary soul-searching in France, on themes ranging from the country's economic frailty and bureaucratic office culture to whether quality of life should be measured in time or money.

For Guilbaud, a Parisian who works as a loan company manager, that last question is a no-brainer.

"Work is not the only thing in my life," she said, suggesting she might quit rather than work more hours.

But with unemployment at 10 percent, politicians of all stripes acknowledge that the country's unique 35-hour law has failed in its original ambition: to force employers to hire massively. What's more, there are strong signs that it hurt living standards as employers froze salaries to make up for lost labor.


The French version of Sophie's choice: work or quit.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:01 AM

THE GODDESS SMILES (via Jim Siegel):

The Green Fields of the Mind (A. Bartlett Giamatti)

It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops. Today, October 2, a Sunday of rain and broken branches and leaf-clogged drains and slick streets, it stopped, and summer was gone.

Somehow, the summer seemed to slip by faster this time. Maybe it wasn't this summer, but all the summers that, in this my fortieth summer, slipped by so fast. There comes a time when every summer will have something of autumn about it. Whatever the reason, it seemed to me that I was investing more and more in baseball, making the game do more of the work that keeps time fat and slow and lazy. I was counting on the game's deep patterns, three strikes, three outs, three times three innings, and its deepest impulse, to go out and back, to leave and to return home, to set the order of the day and to organize the daylight. I wrote a few things this last summer, this summer that did not last, nothing grand but some things, and yet that work was just camouflage. The real activity was done with the radio--not the all-seeing, all-falsifying television--and was the playing of the game in the only place it will last, the enclosed green field of the mind. There, in that warm, bright place, what the old poet called Mutability does not so quickly come.

But out here, on Sunday, October 2, where it rains all day, Dame Mutability never loses. She was in the crowd at Fenway yesterday, a gray day full of bluster and contradiction, when the Red Sox came up in the last of the ninth trailing Baltimore 8-5, while the Yankees, rain-delayed against Detroit, only needing to win one or have Boston lose one to win it all, sat in New York washing down cold cuts with beer and watching the Boston game. Boston had won two, the Yankees had lost two, and suddenly it seemed as if the whole season might go to the last day, or beyond, except here was Boston losing 8-5, while New York sat in its family room and put its feet up. Lynn, both ankles hurting now as they had in July, hits a single down the right-field line. The crowd stirs. It is on its feet. Hobson, third baseman, former Bear Bryant quarterback, strong, quiet, over 100 RBIs, goes for three breaking balls and is out. The goddess smiles and encourages her agent, a canny journeyman named Nelson Briles.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM

FOLLOWING THEIR LEADER:

GOP Governors Cut State Workers' Rights (ROBERT TANNER, 3/21/05, AP)

Republican governors in a few spots across the country are angering state employees by removing one of organized labor's strongest tools — the right to collective bargaining.

Governors in three states who've taken the step say it's about making government more efficient or being fair to non-union workers. Critics say it's political payback for labor's traditional support of Democrats and part of a wider shift to undermine workers in favor of big business.

Within hours or days of taking office this year, Mitch Daniels in Indiana and Matt Blunt in Missouri eliminated collective bargaining agreements for state employees, affecting about 50,000 workers. Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher did the same when he took office in 2003. In each case, the agreements had only been granted by executive order, not by law.

In Mississippi, where state employees don't have collective bargaining rights, GOP Gov. Haley Barbour supports a legislative effort to eliminate existing civil-service protections. In Oklahoma, the GOP-controlled state House approved a measure to repeal a law granting collective bargaining to municipal employees.


You have to like the part that accidentally refers to state governmet as "big business."


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM

THUS THE FAIRER SEX:

Women pay painful price for equal military training (Michael Evans, 3/22/05, Times of London)

YOUNG female recruits to the Armed Forces are not tough enough to be treated on a par with their male colleagues, a report claimed yesterday.

Too many young women were being injured in training, the independent Adult Learning Inspectorate said, and called for a rethink of the “gender-free” policy. The previous “gender-fair” policy, which took account of the “weaker sex”, was reckoned to be contrary to equal opportunities legislation.

In a report that criticised much of the culture behind Armed Forces’ training, the inspectorate, which carried out checks on all the training establishments, said that the military’s interpretation was to treat everyone the same. In the case of female recruits, the gender-free approach had led to record levels of injuries.

It recommended reverting to gender-fair training.


So by "fair" they mean unequal?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM

SYSTEM BUCKING:

Bush's Shake-Up-the-World View: Wolfowitz, Bolton and Huges understand it--and share it. (FRED BARNES, March 22, 2005, Opinion Journal)

When the rumor erupted in the press recently that Carly Fiorina, the deposed CEO of Hewlett-Packard, was being considered for the presidency of the World Bank, it prompted guffaws at the White House. President Bush was not conducting a job search for the World Bank post. There was no short list. He'd selected his nominee, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, many weeks before. "There was an early consensus around Paul," a senior White House official said. That means the president knew exactly whom he wanted from the start. By the time the choice of Mr. Wolfowitz was announced last week, European leaders had been consulted and discussions on replacing Mr. Wolfowitz at the Pentagon were well on their way.

Mr. Wolfowitz is controversial, given his role as an early advocate and architect of the Iraq war. But his nomination is also typical of the president. In lesser administration positions--commerce secretary would be one--Mr. Bush is happy to take suggestions and consider people he barely knows or hasn't met at all. But in jobs he views as critical, especially in foreign affairs, he prefers a known quantity, usually a tough, loyal administration veteran with an agenda. His agenda. Two other Bush nominees, John Bolton as ambassador to the U.N. and Karen Hughes as undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, are also in the agenda category.

Anyone shocked by the nominations of Messrs. Wolfowitz and Bolton doesn't understand the president's approach to multilateral organizations. The conventional idea is that these organizations are wonderful, though perhaps flawed and infused with too much anti-American sentiment. And the chief task of U.S. representatives is to get along amicably, not buck the system and cause problems. This idea is popular in the press, the State Department bureaucracy and diplomatic circles, and with foreign-policy "experts." But not with Mr. Bush.

The president's idea is simple: No more Mr. Nice Guy. He believes international organizations have failed largely and must be challenged and reformed.


After all, if you can't make them work why keep them around?


March 21, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:23 PM

A CONFORMPROMISE:

EU stumbles at key moment (Graham Bowley, March 22, 2005, International Herald Tribune)

Europe's leaders face a crucial decision Tuesday when they consider whether to endorse plans to weaken the fiscal rules that underpin the euro and to start economic initiatives, all of which appear to be undermining public support for the European Union.

On Monday, the European Central Bank bluntly criticized plans, expected to be approved by leaders at a meeting in Brussels, that would give EU countries greater freedom to run up larger budget deficits.

The plans, tentatively agreed to late Sunday, were hailed as a "remarkable compromise" by José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission.

But the changes largely conformed to insistent demands by big countries, principally Germany and France, to ease controls on their spending. Germany and France broke the Stability and Growth Pact's rules but refused to face the sanctions imposed by it.


Isn't that the point of the EU, that a compromise is whatever the Franco-Germans say it is?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:12 PM

WHERE DO THEY GET THAT RIGHT TO LIFE HOKUM?:

Activist Legislators: The boundless overreaching behind Congress' new Schiavo bill. (Dahlia Lithwick, March 21, 2005, Slate)

Whether Terri Schiavo will live or die in the coming days has come down to this: Can federal district judge James Whittemore set aside virtually every bedrock constitutional principle on which this nation was founded, just so members of the United States Congress may constitutionalize the nowhere-to-be-found legal principle that a "culture of life" is a good thing?

Here's a principle that seems to cover the matter:
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...

Or, 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.

And, of course, one of the stated purposes of the Constitution is to secure these Blessings.

Perhaps you forget the bedrock if you stand on it too long?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:01 PM

URBAN BLIGHT:

The Real Engine of Blue America (Steven Malanga, Winter 2005, City Journal)

Is it really true that America is politically divided between conservative “Red” states in the southern and middle sections of the country and liberal “Blue” states on both coasts? Not exactly: a close look at the district-by-district voting patterns of the coastal states in the 2004 elections brings into crystal-clear focus the real nature of our political divisions. There’s really no such thing as a Blue state—only Blue metropolitan regions. Indeed, the electoral maps of some states that went for John Kerry in 2004 consist mostly of Red suburban and rural counties surrounding deep Blue cities.

What makes these cities so Blue is a multifaceted liberal coalition that ranges from old-style industrial unionists and culturally liberal intellectuals, journalists, and entertainers to tort lawyers, feminists, and even politically correct financiers. But within this coalition, one group stands out as increasingly powerful and not quite in step with the old politics of the Left: those who benefit from an expanding government, including public-sector employees, workers at organizations that survive off government money, and those who receive government benefits. In cities, especially, this group has seized power from the taxpayers, as the vast expansion of the public sector that has taken place since the beginning of the War on Poverty has finally reached a tipping point.


And cities are dying. How ya' lookin'?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:00 PM

WHO'S AFRAID OF THE EUROFIGHTER?:

US chill gives Europe cold feet on China arms sales (Roland Watson, Richard Beeston and David Charter, 3/22/05, Times of London)

EUROPE is reconsidering plans to lift its arms embargo on China in the light of America’s implacable opposition and a new Chinese threat against Taiwan.

Several European Union member states have got “cold feet”, making it “significantly” more likely that the EU will eventually drop its controversial plan, senior diplomatic sources have told The Times.

At the very least, the decision is likely to be postponed.

“Taking our time rather than rushing may not be a bad idea,” one EU official said.

Last week a high-level EU delegation left Washington under no illusion that giving China access to European military equipment would infuriate the US. Congressional leaders have threatened to stop selling advanced military technologies to European allies if the embargo is lifted.


What's the big deal? It's not as if European arms have posed much of a challenge to us since the middle of the 19th Century. May as well drain currency from China especially when they'll be getting junk.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:36 PM

A RATHER MEAGER IMPERIALISM:

All Hail…King George?: Some say President Bush acts like an autocrat. Then again, so have most of America’s greatest presidents. (Eric A. Posner, March 2005, Foreign Policy)

George Washington and his contemporaries faced the vital question of how the Constitution’s vague provisions on executive powers should be interpreted. James Madison argued that the president’s powers were limited to those enumerated in the Constitution and those delegated to him by congress. These enumerated powers included the powers of commander in chief, the power to enter treaties (with the Senate’s consent), the power to receive ambassadors, and little else. Alexander Hamilton argued that the president, as chief executive, had all the powers that an executive in those days had—and executives in those days were kings—except where the Constitution said otherwise. Although the Constitution gave some significant powers to congress, including the power to appropriate funds and to declare war, Hamilton’s formulation ensured that the president had dominant authority over foreign affairs.

Washington exercised Cincinnatus-like restraint throughout his career; nonetheless, as president he sided with Hamilton. As a result, he was not just the first president, but also the first strong president—and the first to be accused of usurping the powers of congress. He was also the first great president. And there have been several other great presidents who also claimed (and exercised) expansive presidential powers, and were called usurpers by their critics. Abraham Lincoln won the Civil War and freed the slaves, but he also suspended the writ of habeas corpus. Theodore Roosevelt introduced the United States to the world stage, but he also asserted new presidential powers to use force and negotiate treaties without congressional involvement, especially in Panama and elsewhere in Latin America. Franklin D. Roosevelt led the United States through the Great Depression and World War II, but he also tried to pack the Supreme Court with his own nominees and broke the norm that confined presidents to two terms in office. By contrast, a dozen or more milquetoast presidents both abjured imperial power and exercised what power they acknowledged in as undistinguished a manner as possible.

So should we welcome or fear the imperial presidency? To answer this question, I conducted a very unscientific empirical study. First, I used presidential ratings compiled by Prof. James Lindgren of Northwestern Law School. I used the mean scores assigned to the presidents by a politically balanced group of political scientists, historians, and law professors, with 1 going to the worst and 5 to the best.

Second, I classified all of the presidents as either “imperial” or “republican” according to whether they, in word or deed, adopted an expansive or limited view of presidential power. (To classify presidents as imperial or republican, I focus on whether the president strained against existing constitutional understandings, and I do not try to use an absolute measure.) To minimize my own biases, I used a standard textbook on the presidency, Sidney M. Milkis and Michael Nelson’s The American Presidency, and relied on the authors’ conclusions about whether a particular president sought to expand his power, or seemed satisfied with what he had. For example, I classify Dwight D. Eisenhower as republican because he was uninterested in expanding presidential power; and I classify Andrew Johnson as imperial, even though he was perhaps the weakest president ever, because he fought hard against the efforts of an ambitious congress to curtail the powers of the presidency.

The table demonstrates the pattern. Imperial presidents perform better than limited-power republican presidents. Average presidents are found in both categories, but within the extremes—the great and the terrible—there are only two modern exceptions. Eisenhower was a good president who did not try to expand his power, and Nixon was a bad president who did. Indeed, Nixon alone is probably responsible for the modern view that the imperial presidency is the worst kind of presidency. But if a constitutionally weak presidency prevents another Nixon, it also prevents another FDR or Lincoln. Although once in a while an Eisenhower could come along, most of the time we would have to make do with a Jimmy Carter, a Gerald Ford, or a Millard Fillmore. Such a state of affairs would hardly be appealing.


Just think though how easily Congress could have nipped the Iraq war in the bud by voting down the authorizing resolution. Even "strong" presidents are quite constrained.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:04 PM

"BECAUSE I AM LAHOUD":

An Anschluss brought down by errors and hubris (William Harris, March 22, 2005, Lebanon Daily Star)

"I am the only one who has the right to select the Lebanese president and no other person, Syrian or Lebanese, has that right." Lebanon's former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri reported this remark of Syrian President Bashar Assad in an interview shortly before being murdered, with 16 others, in a massive explosion on the Beirut seafront last February 14.

Through 2004, Hariri opposed Assad's determination to extend the term of Lebanese President Emile Lahoud beyond the latter's constitutionally allowable six years, due to end in November 2004. In August 2004, Assad summoned Hariri to Damascus to order him to have the Lebanese government and Parliament change Lebanon's Constitution to extend Lahoud's presidency, "because I am Lahoud." Hariri bowed to the diktat, but resigned shortly thereafter. It was a throwback to Hitler's treatment of Austria and Czechoslovakia in 1938-39. The international community did not allow the affair to pass. Both the White House and French President Jacques Chirac appealed for a normal election. The Syrian leader, displaying breathtaking hubris, brushed both aside. In response, the United States and France co-sponsored United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559, requiring the withdrawal of foreign forces - meaning Syria's - from Lebanon, the termination of external interference in Lebanese politics and the disarming of militias, meaning, mainly, Hizbullah

Syrian backing for Iraqi insurgents had already angered the U.S., and Chirac felt personally affronted by Assad's behavior. Bringing the U.S. and France together was a signal Syrian achievement, given the estrangement between the two powers over the U.S. invasion of Iraq. This, combined with Lebanese internal reactions, inaugurated a serious crisis for Syria in Lebanon, entirely provoked by Assad.


Fortunately, dictators seldom have more than a passing acquaintance with reality.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:01 PM

BLOWING IT:

Opposition manoeuvres to place Kremlin's grandmaster in check (Simon Tisdall, March 15, 2005, Guardian)

The decision by Garry Kasparov, the world's top chess player, to retire from the game and devote his talents to opposing Vladimir Putin will hardly induce the Kremlin's grandmaster to resign his position. But Mr Kasparov's move reflects broader, increasingly vocal discontent over the president's perceived descent into authoritarianism. The Putin paradox is that the more he tries to exert control, the more uncontrollable a changing Russia may ultimately prove to be.

Mr Kasparov's assertion that the country "is heading down the wrong path" echoed the words of a more formidable political figure, Mikhail Kasyanov, prime minister during Mr Putin's first term and finance minister under Boris Yeltsin.

Accusing Russia's leader of abandoning democratic values by stifling political pluralism, undermining judicial and media independence, and turning his back on a free-market economy, Mr Kasyanov called on the democratic opposition to unite. "I have reached the view that not one of these values is being implemented or respected," he said last month. "The direction has changed _ The country is on the wrong track."

This view has found prominent supporters. Former president Mikhail Gorbachev warned last week of social upheaval and a "merciless revolt" unless Mr Putin sacked incompetent advisers and changed tack.

Mr Yeltsin is also believed to have lost faith in the protege he raised from obscurity in 1999. "He doesn't say it in public but Yeltsin thinks he made a mistake with Putin," a source said.

Mr Kasyanov's hint that he might seek the presidency in 2008, when Mr Putin is constitutionally bound to step down, has prompted comparisons with Viktor Yushchenko and Ukraine's "orange revolution".


Russians would happily give Mr. Putin some room to be rather authoritarian so long as he was effecting genuine reforms and improving their lives--he needs to get back on track though and, in particular, forget about foreign affairs.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:45 PM

SWAPPING THE ONE FOR THE OTHER WAS NO VICTORY:

The Two Totalitarianisms (Slavoj Zizek, 3/17/05, London Review of Books)

A small note – not the stuff of headlines, obviously – appeared in the newspapers on 3 February. In response to a call for the prohibition of the public display of the swastika and other Nazi symbols, a group of conservative members of the European Parliament, mostly from ex-Communist countries, demanded that the same apply to Communist symbols: not only the hammer and sickle, but even the red star. This proposal should not be dismissed lightly: it suggests a deep change in Europe’s ideological identity.

Till now, to put it straightforwardly, Stalinism hasn’t been rejected in the same way as Nazism. We are fully aware of its monstrous aspects, but still find Ostalgie acceptable: you can make Goodbye Lenin!, but Goodbye Hitler! is unthinkable. Why? To take another example: in Germany, many CDs featuring old East German Revolutionary and Party songs, from ‘Stalin, Freund, Genosse’ to ‘Die Partei hat immer Recht’, are easy to find. You would have to look rather harder for a collection of Nazi songs. Even at this anecdotal level, the difference between the Nazi and Stalinist universes is clear, just as it is when we recall that in the Stalinist show trials, the accused had publicly to confess his crimes and give an account of how he came to commit them, whereas the Nazis would never have required a Jew to confess that he was involved in a Jewish plot against the German nation. The reason is clear. Stalinism conceived itself as part of the Enlightenment tradition, according to which, truth being accessible to any rational man, no matter how depraved, everyone must be regarded as responsible for his crimes. But for the Nazis the guilt of the Jews was a fact of their biological constitution: there was no need to prove they were guilty, since they were guilty by virtue of being Jews.

In the Stalinist ideological imaginary, universal reason is objectivised in the guise of the inexorable laws of historical progress, and we are all its servants, the leader included. A Nazi leader, having delivered a speech, stood and silently accepted the applause, but under Stalinism, when the obligatory applause exploded at the end of the leader’s speech, he stood up and joined in. In Ernst Lubitsch’s To Be or Not to Be, Hitler responds to the Nazi salute by raising his hand and saying: ‘Heil myself!’ This is pure humour because it could never have happened in reality, while Stalin effectively did ‘hail himself’ when he joined others in the applause. Consider the fact that, on Stalin’s birthday, prisoners would send him congratulatory telegrams from the darkest gulags: it isn’t possible to imagine a Jew in Auschwitz sending Hitler such a telegram. It is a tasteless distinction, but it supports the contention that under Stalin, the ruling ideology presupposed a space in which the leader and his subjects could meet as servants of Historical Reason. Under Stalin, all people were, theoretically, equal.


It's simply too much to ask folks to accept this and to recognize the futility of WWII.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:21 PM

THE UNIQUELY AMERICAN CANON (via Robert Schwartz):

H.P. Lovecraft's Afterlife: He was an atheist and a nihilist, and he's more influential than ever. (JOHN J. MILLER, March 15, 2005, Opinion Journal)

For a man who didn't believe in the afterlife, H.P. Lovecraft sure is having a remarkable one. Few people had heard of him when he died at the age of 46 on this date in 1937, and fewer still had read the stories he sold to tacky pulp magazines. Nowadays, however, Stephen King and just about everybody else in the know recognizes him as the 20th century's most influential practitioner of the horror story--a claim he arguably clinched last month with the publication of his best works in a definitive edition.

If our country's literary canon has a dress code, then surely it involves those shiny black jackets covering the volumes produced by the Library of America. Lovecraft's new one runs for more than 800 pages and includes 22 novellas and short stories with titles such as "The Horror at Red Hook," "At the Mountains of Madness" and "The Thing on the Doorstep." There are now 25,000 copies in print, which is an above-average number for the nonprofit publisher. (A book of Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women" and other writings, released at the same time, has an initial printing of 19,000.)

As with so much genre fiction, Lovecraft's oeuvre isn't for everyone. Some people just can't see past the wooden characters, overwrought prose, and fantastic speculations about the nature of the universe. The dialogue occasionally descends into Howard Dean-like howls of "Eh-ya-ya-ya-yahaah!" Edmund Wilson once quipped that the only horror in Lovecraft's corpus was the author's "bad taste and bad art."

Yet it is difficult to deny his enormous importance in a field of literature whose roots stretch back to the Gothic novels of Anne Radcliffe, the prescient nightmares of Mary Shelley, and the macabre mind of Edgar Allan Poe. Even the most respectable authors have taken advantage of the conventions these writers created and refined. "The Turn of the Screw" by Henry James, after all, is a pretty good ghost story.

Lovecraft wrote in this dark and distinguished tradition, and much of his early work displays the influence of Poe and other predecessors. By the late 1920s, however, he was no longer a mere dwarf standing on the shoulders of giants but a genuine innovator whose lasting impact appears mainly in a set of stories known as the "Cthulhu Mythos." They begin with "The Call of Cthulhu," written in 1926 and one of Lovecraft's finest pieces. It's about a young sculptor's bizarre dreams, a hideous statuette he manufactures in his sleep, a dastardly voodoo cult, a shadowy book called the Necronomicon, and a menacing encounter in the Pacific Ocean with a monster that's perhaps best described as a gargantuan alien octopus with wings (and owning the unpronounceable name "Cthulhu").

This may sound silly and, at a certain level, it surely is. Yet "The Call of Cthulhu" is also strangely engrossing, and contains many elements that will be familiar to fans of "The Da Vinci Code" by Dan Brown: The main character is an Ivy League professor determined to investigate ancient mysteries and their lingering effects on the present day. Readers who become accustomed to Lovecraft's writing style may find that it possesses a florid eloquence.

They will also appreciate his skill at producing a sense of mounting dread.


Interesting that the genre is so very American, presumably because we so devoutly believe in the reality of Evil.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:20 PM

LIFE SONGS:

Al Green: Take me to the preacher: Paul Sexton goes in search of Al Green, the legendary soul man turned pastor, for his radio series on the singer's life and times (Paul Sexton, 11 March 2005, Independent)

It was a 20-minute cab ride, but it was like a pilgrimage. Out of Memphis city centre, past Graceland, out into the Tennessee suburbs and on to an unremarkable building called the Full Gospel Tabernacle. Pastor: the Reverend Al Green.

As a fan and then as a journalist, he'd been on my soul soundtrack from the moment that incredible voice wrapped itself around the Hi Records rhythm section on "Tired of Being Alone" in 1971. So he only had one more truly global hit with "Let's Stay Together" - so what. For another five years, he was the original king of bedroom R&B, from "Look What You Done for Me" to "You Ought to Be with Me", "Sha-La-La (Make Me Happy)" and many others.

Now here I was in the adopted home of the poor boy from Arkansas to interview him for a four-part series for BBC Radio 2, and to explore the lifelong push-and-pull between the church and the charts that goes on inside the head of perhaps America's last great soul man.

Green may have been a committed man of the cloth since he bought his own church in a quiet suburb of Memphis 28 years ago. He may have temporarily turned his back on the sexually charged, romantic soul that made him a wealthy superstar in the early 1970s. But the minute you meet him, it's as if he's on stage, performing - and when you witness his sermon, you feel as though you should have paid to get in. [...]

In his autobiography Take Me to the River, Green says he has had carnal relations with more women than he could possibly calculate, and that before he was born again, he thought nothing of singing "Light My Fire" one minute and "God Is Standing By" the next.

"We used to have a lot of women hanging around here, man," he says, looking around the room at Royal where he honed his reputation as a lothario on wax. "Upstairs, downstairs, around the corner, in the control room, girls everywhere.

"A lot of this music has sexual overtones naturally incorporated in it, because that's the way I felt, that's the way the time felt. But that's what life's about. If it's not about that, you're missing a big chunk of life. It's about love, kids, falling in love, making up, and that's what we sung about."

His new secular songs have a decidedly "safer" romantic timbre, being written for his wife of 18 years, but he still has to explain to his congregation the implied compromise of his part-time return to showbusiness.

"I still sing those [old] songs, and I sing them now as life songs, because it's a part of life. God made you the way you are, and if you say you don't have this type of feelings, something is wrong with you.

"God didn't make you for sin so much," muses Green. "But if you find your mate, in the midst of all of this 'I love you' to different ones you're saying it to, just to get over... then that's what life is." He finishes the point with a sanctified "yeah," just as he probably will next Sunday morning.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:20 PM

SUCH MOMENTS ARE NEVER BRIEF:

The Bush Factor: What the president has done for his party. (Fred Barnes, 03/28/2005, Weekly Standard)

Five factors have come together to give Republicans their best chance for major legislative and foreign policy achievements in nearly 80 years. And Bush has been crucial to each one.

The first factor is, obviously, the Republican ascendancy. [...]

Factor two: Democratic disarray. Nothing drives Democrats to distraction--and to demagoguery--the way Bush does. He brings out the worst in them. If Bush wants something, they're reflexively and often mindlessly against it. [...]

The CBS scandal leads to factor three, the crackup of the mainstream media. [...]

Factor four: the decline of liberalism. No one has described liberalism's sad state better than Martin Peretz, editor in chief of the New Republic. Liberalism is no longer a serious set of ideas. Nor is it a coherent ideology used to guide political action. In 2005, it has become merely a complaint, Peretz suggested, a complaint about Bush and much of America.

And, finally, factor five: an ambitious, impatient president with an agenda. In a word, Bush. Presidents have a choice. They can lead or they can govern. President George H.W. Bush governed. His son leads. He does what he doesn't have to do. Or at least tries to. So Bush aims to reform Social Security, curb trial lawyers, make the federal courts more conservative, and implant democracy all over the world.

These five factors have produced a rare political moment for Republicans. It's a moment that won't last more than a year or two. The question is whether they'll do anything with it. Nothing is guaranteed. But a lot is expected.


To the contrary, though it may have marginal ups and downs over the next few years, it's likely to last quite awhile, for demographic reasons alone.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:13 PM

NATURE CAGE:

Requiem for the beast: Twenty-five years after Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro unleashed Raging Bull, RICK GROEN looks anew at its defining portrayal of rage (Rick Groen, 2/04/05, Globe & Mail)

Raging Bull is essentially a character study, and the archetype under the lens is nothing less than the raw, violent male. Scorsese had explored this type before (Mean Streets, Taxi Driver) and would again (Goodfellas, Casino), but never so unflinchingly, never so bereft of anything -- a vestige of charm, humour, introspection -- to shield us from the pure animal urge.

To that end, the whole of the movie is symbolically compressed into the black-and-white imagery of the opening two scenes. The first, a precredit sequence, shows the young LaMotta (a fit Robert De Niro) alone in the ring, wearing a hooded robe and throwing punches in hypnotic slow-motion, all behind ropes that cross the frame like bars in a cell. Yes, imprisoned in the cage of his own violent nature, the muscled titan is shadow-boxing -- he's fighting himself. The second scene cuts to the finish, and brazenly gives away the conclusion. LaMotta has grown old and fat (De Niro's famous weight gain) but he's still alone, this time in a seedy night club where, rehearsing lines for his clumsy standup act, he again confronts his reflection in the dressing-room mirror. The meaning is clear: The venue has changed, the body has changed, but the interior fight goes on.

Everything that follows has the sole purpose of exploring this fight in all its contradictory facets. However, since LaMotta is singularly lacking in self-awareness, the exploration has to be done without the help of voiceover insights or even much dialogue. The internal must be externalized, viciously dramatized. In the process, the violence that defines the man -- and that part of the American character he represents -- emerges as simultaneously the source of his great success and the agent of his pathetic undoing. He abuses his opponents in the ring, to cheers, and he abuses his wife in the kitchen, to sobs. Violence is his path to freedom (sound familiar?) and the means by which he liberates himself from the violent dictates of others, from the despotic gangsters who run his neighbourhood and control his sport. Yet, the same violence is a manifestation of his self-hatred and his sexual insecurity and his paranoid jealousy.

Violence, then, is his heroic strength and his tragic flaw. So girded, LaMotta lives very much in a black-and-white world. He batters and eventually loses his young blond wife (Cathy Moriarty) who, if she isn't a Madonna, must be an unfaithful whore. He beats up and also loses his loyal brother (Joe Pesci) who, if he isn't his keeper, must be his mortal enemy. This isn't violence that simmers, waiting to explode like Travis Bickle's catharsis in Taxi Driver. Rather, it's volcanic, perpetually erupting. That's why Scorsese repeatedly juxtaposes the ring brutality with the domestic brutality, sanctioned violence with its jaundiced equivalent. Watch how his flash editing works to reinforce this theme: In a fearsome cut, a gloved fist to a man's head becomes an open slap to a woman's face.

In fact, stylistically, the entire film exists in a similar state of dialectical tension -- white light competing with shadow, antic jump-cuts vying with mesmerizing slow motion, pop period music alternating with a sonorous classical score. Although De Niro's searing performance deserves its plaudits (Oscar at least gave him a prize), this is an auteur's work. Seldom has a film's direction -- each movement of the camera, the detailed attention to sight and sound -- been so inextricably tied to its message. Everything Scorsese does is intended to elevate that message, to float it in a timeless bottle. There, he argues that male violence is endemic to the beast, a social trait as enduring as the wars that continue to be fought in the name of peace. It's no coincidence that the story starts in 1941, the year of the response to Pearl Harbor, and finishes in 1964, during the escalation in Vietnam -- the picture itself is book-ended by violence, justified and not.


Posted by Peter Burnet at 5:00 PM

GAIA, PLEASE ACCEPT THESE OFFERINGS

Green groups 'deceive public to stop GM crops' (David Harrison, The Telegraph, March 20th, 2005)

Aid agencies and environmentalists have deceived the public over genetically modified crops by deliberately ignoring scientific evidence that supports the technology, according to a new book.

The March of Unreason, by Dick Taverne, the Liberal Democrat peer, accuses Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and other green groups of turning their opposition to GM plants into a "religious crusade", based on "blind faith and deep bias" rather than serious research.

Lord Taverne, a member of the House of Lords science and technology committee, accuses environmentalists and aid agencies of ignoring "solid science", citing each others' reports, and using discredited studies to push the case against GM crops.

He also argues that the green lobby has whipped up public hysteria with scare stories and emotive terms such as Frankenstein foods when the science shows overwhelmingly that GM crops will help to ease world hunger and poverty, help the environment and improve public health.[...]

Green groups rejected the peer's accusations. Tony Juniper, the executive director of Friends of the Earth, said that the green lobby took science "very seriously" and studies so far had failed to prove the long-term safety of GM crops.

"Science has its limits. We have concerns about the social, economic, environmental and ethical impact of this technology," he said.

We here are all in favour of subordinating science to social and ethical considerations, but we’d like to think we do so in the name of saving lives, not sacrificing them.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:59 PM

A WORTHWHILE PELL GRANT:

Pell hails stem cell discovery (Wayne Smith, March 22, 2005, news.com.au)

CATHOLIC Archbishop George Pell will refer to Rome an Australian scientific breakthrough that could make obsolete the moral and ethical debate surrounding embryonic stem cell research.

Griffith University's Alan Mackay-Sim yesterday published the results of a four-year project that succeeded in growing adult stem cells harvested from the nose.

The cells appear to be able to deliver everything that embryonic stem cell research promises, but without the medical and ethical side-effects.

Professor Mackay-Sim said the easily harvested and grown olfactory stem cells are capable of being turned into heart cells, brain cells, nerve cells, indeed almost any kind of cell in the body, without the problems of rejection or tumours forming, which can happen in one in five cases when embryonic stem cells are injected into the body.

The university research team, partially funded by a $50,000 grant from the Catholic Church directly approved by Cardinal Pell, appears to have found a direct and non-controversial alternative to the use of stem cells derived from leftover embryos created during IVF fertility treatment.

Cardinal Pell, who has lobbied for a national ban on embryonic stem cell research, said there was a real possibility the findings had made "an enormous contribution".

"I would be happy to communicate it to the Pontifical Academy of Science to expedite the scientific examination and also to spread the word about the success," he said.

He also indicated he was prepared to put more Catholic funding into the project.


You'd like to think that a John Kerry would be breathing a sigh of relief at dodging a moral bullet.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:21 PM

NUKING THEMSELVES:

Court declines to intervene on judicial appointment that bypassed Senate: Judicial appointments made by Bush during congressional recess are controversial, but in this case the Supreme Court lets the practice stand. (Warren Richey, 3/22/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

The recess appointment cases were significant because they were seen as a possible test of whether Mr. Bush would be free to use the authority to bypass attempts by Senate Democrats to stall judicial nominations indefinitely - including at the high court. [...]

By declining to take up a case challenging Mr. Pryor's February 2004 recess appointment to the federal appeals court in Atlanta, the justices have let stand an 8-2 decision upholding a broad interpretation of the president's authority. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D) of Massachusetts and others argued in court papers that the Constitution's recess appointment power should be construed narrowly to forbid the president from making appointments such as Mr. Pryor's. [...]

The 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in mid-October that the president could make recess appointments during any Senate recess longer than a few days.

The latest action sets the stage for what many analysts expect will become a divisive battle between Senate Democrats and the White House over judicial nominations in general and Supreme Court vacancies in particular. If Democratic Senators seek to filibuster a high court nominee, some suggest the White House could respond by turning to a recess appointment. Under the US Constitution, the recess appointee would be entitled to serve until the end of the Senate's next session - as long as two years.


How would you like to be a Democrat campaigning for the Senate when your victory would mean the, at least temporary, unseating of a Justice Gonzales or Rogers Brown?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:19 PM

MARK MY FOOTSTEPS, MY GOOD PAGES (via Tom Corcoran):

Europe's Problem--and Ours: Will the EU choose collectivism over individualism? Will we? (PETE DU PONT, 3/21/05, Opinion Journal)

Vaclav Klaus, president of the Czech Republic, was recently in Washington to meet with President Bush and release his new book, "On the Road to Democracy." When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and the Velvet Revolution came to Czechoslovakia, Mr. Klaus became finance minister in the new democracy. He became prime minister in 1992, and later president. His market principles replaced communism with freedom and choice; he liberated prices and foreign trade, deregulated markets and privatized state ownership of assets. Communism was dismantled and prosperity came to his country.

But now President Klaus sees an unsettling new challenge: the zeal of Old Europe--France, Germany, Brussels--to impose collective choices on New Europe--Poland, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Ireland. "Ten years ago," Mr. Klaus writes, "the dominant slogan was: 'deregulate, liberalize, privatize.' Now the slogan is different; 'regulate . . . get rid of your sovereignty and put it in the hands of international institutions and organizations.' "

"The current European unification process is not predominantly about opening up," he continues, "It is about introducing massive regulation and protection, about imposing uniform rules, laws, and policies." It is about a "rush into the European Union which is currently the most visible and the most powerful embodiment of ambition to create something else--supposedly better--than a free society."


As Vaclav Havel symbolizes the defeat of communism, so too might Vaclav Klaus one day symbolize the defeat of transnationalism, a far more important fight since it affects us directly and has a domestic appeal the other isms never did.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:57 PM

ENRON NATION:

Can China handle threats to growth and stability? (Ian Bremmer, March 20 2005, Financial Times)

Many analysts continue to tout China as the great investment opportunity of the new century. Yet, the long-term sustainability of its economic expansion remains uncertain. Can China’s explosive growth survive its corrupt and inefficient political system?

The economic record is, without question, impressive. Foreign direct investment levels jumped again in 2004 to a record $64bn. Between 1978, when its market-based economic reforms began, and the end of 2004, China has raked in an estimated $563.8bn – about 10 times the amount Japan has amassed since 1945. Wall Street analysts remain bullish on the People’s Republic, largely because these analysts tend to project growth rates for China’s next generation based on the performance of the last.

However, given China’s enormous and growing social and structural problems, there are few countries where past performance is less a guarantee of future results.


Actually past performance is an excellent predictor, just not the recent past.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:56 PM

NEW WORLD ORDER:

Key ally in new world (The Australian, March 21, 2005)

WHEN John Howard was explaining his decision to send extra Aussie soldiers to Iraq, the Japan connection was central.

"Japan's presence in Iraq as part of the coalition is very important, both in substance and through its symbolism," he said. "Japan is a significant Asian power, a great Pacific democracy and a global economic power."

Howard's words to Parliament indicate Japan's continuing central relevance to Australia. Japan remains the second-largest economy in the world and the biggest export market for Australia.

Australia has been central to Japan's energy security and Japan has been central to Australia's post-war prosperity. But Japan is also, like Australia, a democracy and also, like Australia, a military ally of the US. We make too little of these shared values.


As is so many things, George W. Bush has achieved what his father only talked about.


MORE:
Jakarta plan Australia's key to Asia: Indonesia's Foreign Minister pledges to help Australia become a member of a powerful new regional grouping. (Mark Forbes, March 21, 2005, The Age)

Australia should become part of Asia and a proposed security treaty with Indonesia could be a symbol for integration with the region, according to Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda.

In an exclusive interview with The Age, Dr Wirajuda said deepening and expanding ties with Indonesia could see his nation become a "bridge" into the region for Australia. He vowed to try to overturn resistance to Australia joining a new East Asian Summit.

Last week Malaysia said Australia should not be invited to the summit - an expanded ASEAN that could form the region's major international forum - which will hold an inaugural meeting in Kuala Lumpur in December.

Dr Wirajuda said he would argue against the exclusion at a meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers next month.

To forge a groundbreaking security treaty, Dr Wirajuda indicated Indonesia would not insist on Australia abandoning controversial restrictions on training with some of Indonesia's feared Kopassus troops, stating a gradual approach to closer military ties would be acceptable.


Posted by Peter Burnet at 3:51 PM

OH, STOP BEING SO CHILDISH!


Sex education for all pupils 'needed to fight STD epidemic'
(Gaby Hinsliff, Amelia Hill and Jo Revill, The Observer, March 20th, 2005)

Britain's soaring rates of sexually-transmitted diseases means that sex education should be made compulsory for all pupils, according to one of the most influential reports on the issue of the nation's sexual health.

Too many children are taught the basics of biology but not the emotional and social skills to help them handle sexual relationships, according to the Commons committee report.

Fear of a backlash from religious schools and traditionalist parents have so far led ministers to resist pleas to make so-called Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) - covering concepts such as self-esteem, resisting peer pressure, negotiating over contraception and protecting against disease, alongside sexual mechanics - a statutory part of the timetable. They argue that heads and governors should be free to choose what it is taught.

But the report from the all-party Health Select Committee warns that amid alarming rises in sexually transmitted disease, 'the cost and consequences of this ill-considered decision are considerable'.

There is, of course, a simpler explanation of why they don’t have “the emotional and social skills to help them handle sexual relationships”. They’re children.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:54 PM

SIXTY YEARS OF ERROR:

Foreign Affairs has done something shockingly worthwhile, making everything George Kennan wrote for them available on-line.

It affords a good opportunity to see just how wrong the Realism of which he was the primary spokesman really was, as here:

[L]et us recognize that the functions, commitments and moral obligations of governments are not the same as those of the individual. Government is an agent, not a principal. Its primary obligation is to the interests of the national society it represents, not to the moral impulses that individual elements of that society may experience. No more than the attorney vis-à-vis the client, nor the doctor vis-à-vis the patient, can government attempt to insert itself into the consciences of those whose interests it represents.

Let me explain. The interests of the national society for which government has to concern itself are basically those of its military security, the integrity of its political life and the well-being of its people. These needs have no moral quality. They arise from the very existence of the national state in question and from the status of national sovereignty it enjoys. They are the unavoidable necessities of a national existence and therefore not subject to classification as either "good" or "bad." They may be questioned from a detached philosophic point of view. But the government of the sovereign state cannot make such judgments. When it accepts the responsibilities of governing, implicit in that acceptance is the assumption that it is right that the state should be sovereign, that the integrity of its political life should be assured, that its people should enjoy the blessings of military security, material prosperity and a reasonable opportunity for, as the Declaration of Independence put it, the pursuit of happiness. For these assumptions the government needs no moral justification, nor need it accept any moral reproach for acting on the basis of them.

This assertion assumes, however, that the concept of national security taken as the basis for governmental concern is one reasonably, not extravagantly, conceived. In an age of nuclear striking power, national security can never be more than relative; and to the extent that it can be assured at all, it must find its sanction in the intentions of rival powers as well as in their capabilities. A concept of national security that ignores this reality and, above all, one that fails to concede the same legitimacy to the security needs of others that it claims for its own, lays itself open to the same moral reproach from which, in normal circumstances, it would be immune.

Whoever looks thoughtfully at the present situation of the United States in particular will have to agree that to assure these blessings to the American people is a task of such dimensions that the government attempting to meet it successfully will have very little, if any, energy and attention left to devote to other undertakings, including those suggested by the moral impulses of these or those of its citizens.


No idea ever did more damage to America than that the Soviets too had legitimate interests that we had to respect.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:44 PM

THE AUGEAN STABLE:

Power and morals: Realists argue that foreign policy is necessarily amoral. Liberals contend that there is no distinction between the moral standards that apply in domestic policy and those in international politics. Both views are flawed. Morality does count in foreign policy, but it is usually the morality of the lesser evil (Owen Harries, April 2005, Prospect)

The connection between foreign policy and morality is surprisingly poorly examined. It is not wanting in words or assertions. On the second anniversary of the Iraq invasion we will read and hear millions of them on the moral authority of the UN, intervention in the affairs of sovereign states, democratic governments deceiving their citizens--and many other questions with a moral content.

But there has been little attempt to spell out general and coherent positions on these questions, to relate particular circumstances to general principles, or to acknowledge and confront the difficulty of discussing moral issues in the peculiar conditions and circumstances of international politics. What follows is a tentative attempt to do some of those things.

There are two widely held and sharply contrasting views on the subject. The first, in its extreme version, is that morality in foreign policy is like snakes in Iceland: there ain't any. A more moderate version allows for some minor role for morality. But essentially, foreign policy and international politics are seen as necessarily amoral activities. In academic circles, this view is associated with the "realist" school.

The second widely held belief is that there is only one morality, and that it applies in all circumstances. There is no distinction between the standards that states should be held to and those that apply to individuals, or between those that apply in domestic politics and those that apply in international politics. This view is often held by small "l" liberals, which is why they tend to lead frustrated lives and spend much of their political energy expressing anger and disappointment at the failure of governments, especially their own, to live up to accepted moral standards in their international behaviour--to be, among other things, compassionate, generous, forgiving, humane, honest, tolerant and consistent in their treatment of others. As we have seen recently, this is a view of things that can also be found among conservative and religious groups who believe that the values they hold should prevail universally, and that their government's foreign policy should be dedicated to ensuring that they do.

These two views are not straw men. Each has a long intellectual pedigree, representing in simplified form a central tradition of thought about the behaviour of states in their relationships with each other. [...]

Where does this leave us? In my view it leads to the conclusion that the morality that is appropriate and can be sustained in the soiled, selfish and dangerous world of power politics is a modest one, whose goal is not perfection but decency. It is, more often than not, a morality of the lesser evil, of prudence. Edmund Burke referred to prudence as "the god of this lower world"--the world, that is, of public affairs--and he was right.

Prudence does not mean timidity. In some circumstances it demands firmness, even boldness in dealing with problems early, while they are still manageable (in 1936, for example, rather than in 1939). But in a system composed of a large number of independent and conflicting wills, uncertain intelligence, deadly weapons, different cultures and no universally recognised authority, it does require modesty--modesty of ends, of means and of rhetoric. Not only does strident and extravagant rhetoric--and we have heard a fair amount of it recently--raise the international temperature, but the fact that it cannot be lived up to is one of the main causes of public cynicism about foreign policy. A more careful, qualified and intellectually responsible rhetoric might be less inspirational, but it would have a longer shelf life and avoid a great deal of disillusion and embarrassment.

A prudential ethic places importance on those most mundane of virtues--order and stability. These do not, of course, guarantee a satisfactory state of affairs. They do not constitute a sufficient condition for anything. But they are a necessary condition for everything whose achievement requires a degree of predictability and continuity: a system of justice, for example, or sustainable commercial relations.


Making stability into an overarching value doesn't seem to differ much from denying that morality matters.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:24 PM

THERE'S JUST ONE SHOE LEFT TO DROP:

An unthinkable Tory victory? (Melanie Phillips, 21 March 2005, Daily Mail)

Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Is the unimaginable about to happen and the Conservative Party to snatch triumph from near-extinction by winning the general election?

Even to ask the question is to acknowledge the seemingly overwhelming odds against such a suggestion. For the Tories to achieve the electoral swing needed to overturn Labour’s massive majority would entail, in the eyes of many, the biggest comeback since Lazarus.

But we live in disoriented and volatile times. Polls fluctuate; and the Tories have recently been dissolving Labour’s lead like a blow-torch on an ice sculpture.

Beyond the polls, there is now a distinct feeling that something intangible has shifted in the political ether. It is not just the palpable panic in the Government’s ranks over the inadequacy of Alan Milburn’s tactics as Labour’s election mastermind, or the desperately forced shows of unity between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown to conceal the profound fissure at the very heart of government.

More than that, there seems to have been a subtle but perceptible shift in the national mood. Even last week’s pork-barrel Budget left people looking askance. For they have begun to hear once again a sound that had almost disappeared from the national memory. It is the sound of the Conservatives’ voice.


Come out against Europe and they can win.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:07 PM

JUST CHANGE THE SOUNDTRACK:

Melinda and Melinda (James Bowman, March 18, 2005)

Who was it who said it’s the hardest thing in the world to be funny? It might have been Woody Allen, come to think of it. But Woody Allen himself is not even trying anymore. His new film, Melinda and Melinda is fake from the set-up, which consists of a writer of comic plays and a tragedian arguing about whether life is fundamentally comic (the tragedian’s argument) or tragic (the comic writer’s). It’s a parody of a Woody Allen movie. And anyway, who writes tragedies today? Mr Allen seems to think there is something profound about his banal point that if you change what happens to your characters, you automatically go from tragedy to comedy or vice versa. If you show happy things befalling them, it’s a comedy; sad things, it’s a (sort of) tragedy. Who knew?

Mr. Allen was only ever even mildly amusing when he made fun of himself. But he started taking himself seriously ages ago (even as most of those who previously had stopped). It's entirely typical that he misses his own point here.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:55 PM

REGRESSIVE PROGRESS (via The Other Brother):

Maggots: Coming to a Hospital Near You (Ben Hirschler, 3/21/05, Reuters)

Phyllis Hulme's family and friends were aghast when she told them doctors planned to put maggots on her leg ulcer.

"I got some horrified looks. I think they thought: she's old, she doesn't know any better, she's gone a bit gaga," said the 81-year-old, who suffers from diabetes.

"But it's been marvelous. I used to feel like screaming sometimes, the pain was so bad, and the first night they were on, the pain went."

It may sound gruesome, but it turns out that maggots are remarkably efficient at cleaning up infected wounds by eating dead tissue and killing off bacteria that could block the healing process.

Maggot medicine, in fact, has a long history. Napoleon's battle surgeon wrote of the healing powers of maggots 200 years ago, and they were put to work during the American Civil War and in the trenches in World War One.

With the arrival of modern antibiotics in the 1940s, however, maggots were consigned to the medical dustbin.

Now a new generation of physicians, keen to cut back on antibiotic use, is waking up to the creatures' charms.


Give us some more time and we'll figure out all the stuff our ancestors knew.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:23 PM

BACK TO THE RIGHT:

Blair acts on Jamie's plan for schools (Gaby Hinsliff and Amelia Hill, March 20, 2005, The Observer)

Tony Blair is to bow to the increasing clamour from parents for better school meals for their children and announce a series of plans to swap junk food for 'organic and local' fresh meals.

In a response to the plea from TV chef Jamie Oliver for a 'school dinner revolution', the Prime Minister will say that school kitchens will be rebuilt and equipped so dishes can be cooked from scratch, while dinner ladies are given 'culinary skills' to help them create appetising menus.

Writing in today's Observer , Blair acknowledges for the first time the strength of parental anger about the fatty, sugary processed diet on offer in many schools. He pledges an independent food trust to build on and expand the work begun by Oliver in his Channel 4 series, Jamie's School Dinners .

The moves will form part of a mini 'children's manifesto' to be published tomorrow outlining Labour's pitch to parents on issues from diet to paedophiles targeting children through the internet.

It will argue that far from fearing a 'nanny state', fami lies want the government to intervene to protect children's health and safety.

The crux, however, will be its response to the uproar over the quality of school dinners triggered by Oliver's programme, which followed the chef and father of two as he tried to change menus for pupils in Greenwich, south-east London.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:56 PM

THE FEBRILE LEFT IN GLACIAL AMERICA:

Two Years After Iraq Invasion, Protesters Hold Small Rallies (ROBERT D. McFADDEN, 3/20/05, NY Times)

Two years after the American-led invasion of Iraq, relatively small crowds of demonstrators - the home guard of the antiwar movement - mobilized yesterday in New York, San Francisco and cities and towns across the nation to condemn the war and demand the withdrawal of allied forces.

Thousands joined similar protests in European cities. On both sides of the Atlantic, the protests were passionate but largely peaceful, and nowhere near as big as those in February 2003, just before the war, when millions around the world marched to urge President Bush not to attack.

The American crowds ranged from about 350 in Times Square to several thousand in San Francisco. And in contrast to the vociferous rage of demonstrations two years ago, yesterday's protests were mostly somber and low-key, with marchers carrying cardboard coffins in silence to the beat of funereal drums, with rally speakers alluding often to the war dead and subdued crowds keeping behind police barriers. [...]

President Bush did not comment on the protests, which seemed unlikely to have any significant effect on national policy or on the glacial movement of public opinion in America.


What an odd sentence.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:48 PM

WATCH THE BALANCED BUDGETEERS RUN FOR COVER:

States and Communities Battling Another Round of Base Closings (ERIC SCHMITT, 3/20/05, NY Times)

For the first time in a decade, communities across the country are bracing for a major round of military base closings, and they are mounting aggressive lobbying campaigns to stave off cuts and other changes that some independent experts say could dwarf the previous four rounds combined.

Pentagon officials say all 425 domestic bases are under scrutiny, as the military looks to squeeze efficiencies and billions of dollars in savings from a cold-war network that has nearly 25 percent more capacity than what the armed services say they need.

After more than two years of exhaustive study, Pentagon analysts are putting the finishing touches on a list of recommendations that Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld will present to a nine-member independent commission for review. Scores of Pentagon analysts and auditors have been poring over data and dozens of options as part of an effort that is intended to mesh with Mr. Rumsfeld's broader goals to make the military more agile and responsive to security threats.

"We know we have too much," Philip W. Grone, the deputy under secretary of defense for installations and environment, said in an interview. "We know that we have capacity in the wrong place, either over or under. We're not well matched to the mission need."


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:27 PM

OSWALD MOSLEY'S DAY HAS COME:

Tories announce crackdown on Travellers (James Sturcke, March 21, 2005, Guardian Unlimited)

The Conservative party today announced a seven-pronged attack on sites illegally occupied by Travellers.

Trespass by Travellers on private land would become a criminal offence and Britain would consider scrapping human rights legislation under a Tory government, the Conservative leader said.

Michael Howard, although acknowledging that many Travellers lived within the law, said a minority abused the planning system.

"If you are a Traveller you can build anywhere you like," he said. "That is not fair. That is one reason why we are reviewing the Human Rights Act. If it cannot be improved, we will scrap it. 'I have my rights' has become the verbal equivalent to putting two fingers up at authority."

The Tories also want to give councils new powers to ensure the quick removal of caravans from illegal sites and give them the ability to use compulsory purchase orders to stop land being bought by Travellers.

A Conservative government would encourage police to use their powers to deal with trespass by Travellers and to tackle criminal or anti-social behaviour on Traveller sites. The Tories also oppose the imposition of central or regional quotas on councils to provide Traveller camps and want to give local people more say on where Travellers should go.


And so we have Labour running an anti-Semitic campaign while the Tories go after gypsies.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:23 PM

VIEW MASTER:

Spreading democracy (Tod Lindberg, 1/17/05, Washington Times)

During the remarkable round of interviews he gave to major newspapers last week, President Bush spoke often of his commitment to the spread of democracy, sometimes in startling terms. As he told the Wall Street Journal in an aside after the end of the formal interview, "I understand there are many who say 'Bush is wrong.' I assume I'm right. It's exciting to be part of stimulating a debate of such significance. It really is the philosophical argument of the age." I don't know which is the more remarkable: An American president who thinks in terms of "the philosophical argument of the age." Or that, well, yes, Mr. Bush is right, the question of the spread of democracy really is the philosophical argument of the age.

Mr. Bush has picked his side: He stands for the promotion of democracy and, fresh from his own re-election, has reaffirmed his commitment of the United States to the cause of its promotion. So we have the leader of the world's biggest power committing it to securing "the Blessings of Liberty" — as the Constitution puts it — not just "to ourselves and our Posterity" but across the globe.

Mr. Bush thinks big. Some might have imagined the war on terror to have been his great project and the one on which his legacy would stand or fall. But here, he has subsumed even that task under the broader "philosophical argument of the age": The best weapon against terror is political participation of the sort only democracy allows. Terror is born of alienation from the political process, from denial of the ability to participate in making the decisions that govern one's life.

It's actually not the argument of the age, but of Creation. All of existence boils down to one simple contest between two competing human impulses: that towards freedom and that towards security. From the Fall to the Inaugural every minute of every day of our lives reflects the struggle to strike the proper balance between Freedom and Security.

This is why politics has always divided in two--the Right is essentially made up of those who would tilt the balance towards Freedom, the Left those who would tilt towards Security. Note that there is nothing perjorative in this characterization--Freedom is not a superior value in any absolute sense, though we conservatives prefer it. Without some significant level of Security there could be no Freedom, so, other than Libertarians, even the Right incorporates much Security into its political program. And, of course, even Christ told us to render unto Caesar. Our politics--all politics--would be a good deal less feverish if both sides could recognize that the other seeks to vindicate a desire that both share, just with different emphases.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:21 PM

AFRAID OF THE LADIES:

RUDY HOLDING SUMMIT TO PLOT HIS NEXT MOVE (FREDRIC U. DICKER, March 21, 2005, NY Post)

FORMER Mayor Rudy Giuliani — weighing a run for president or governor — will hold a summit of top advisers within a month to "set the direction" for his political future, The Post has learned.

Two prominent Republicans familiar with the summit say Giuliani has not — despite widely held views to the contrary — ruled out running for governor next year, and is likely to do so if he concludes he can't win the GOP presidential nomination in 2008.

"Anyone who thinks Rudy has ruled out running for governor doesn't know what he's talking about," said a source in regular contact with the former mayor.

"He has not ruled it out. If he does rule out running for president, he's likely to run for governor, assuming Gov. Pataki doesn't run for re-election.

"And if he does run for governor and wins, he's going to stay in Albany and try to straighten out the state, not run for president the next year," the source added.


He can't win the presidential nomination and might not beat Hillary for the Senate, but he can definitely win the gubernatorial.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:14 PM

PAPA DON'T PREACH:

Intense Atheism: I will begin by addressing the deep personal psychology of the great — or at least the passionate and influential — atheists. (Paul Vitz, Faith of the Fatherless: The Psychology of Atheism)

Of course, atheism has not simply been the expression of the personal psychology of important atheists: it has received much support from social, economic, and cultural forces. Nevertheless, atheism began in the personal lives of particular people, many of them the leading intellectuals of the modern period, such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, Bertrand Russell, and Jean-Paul Sartre. I propose that atheism of the strong or intense type is to a substantial degree generated by the peculiar psychological needs of its advocates.

But why should one study the psychology of atheists at all? Is there any reason to believe that there are consistent psychological patterns in their lives? Indeed, there is a coherent psychological origin to intense atheism. To begin, it should be noted that self-avowed atheists tend, to a remarkable degree, to be found in a narrow range of social and economic strata: in the university and intellectual world and in certain professions. Today, as a rule, they make up a significant part of the governing class. (By contrast, believers are found much more widely throughout the entire social spectrum.) Given the relatively small numbers of unbelievers and the limited number of social settings in which they are found, there is certainly an a priori reason for expecting regularity in their psychology.

Nevertheless, the reader might ask if this is not unfair — even uncalled for. Why submit atheism to psychological analysis at all? Is this relevant to the issue of unbelief? Here we must remember that it is atheists themselves who began the psychological approach to the question of belief. Indeed, many atheists are famous for arguing that believers suffer from illusions, from unconscious and infantile needs, and from other psychological deficits. A significant part of the atheist position has been an aggressive interpretation of religious belief as arising from psychological factors, not the nature of reality. Furthermore, this interpretation has been widely influential. In short, the theory that God is a projection of our own needs is a familiar modern position and is, for example, presented in countless university courses. But the psychological concepts used so effectively to interpret religion by those who reject God are double-edged swords that can also, indeed easily, be used to explain their unbelief.

Finally, a valid reason for exploring the psychology of atheism is to give us some understanding of why certain historical forces common in the modern period have so reliably promoted an atheistic attitude. By identifying psychological factors in the lives of prominent rejectors of God, we will observe how social and economic conditions which fostered a similar psychology also promoted the spread of atheism. By starting with the psychological, we will be able to see how the personal became political. In short, there has been a synchrony between the psychology and the sociology of atheism. [...]

I am well aware that there is good reason to give only limited acceptance to Freud's Oedipal theory. In any case, it is my own view that, although the Oedipus complex is valid for some, the theory is far from a universal explanation of unconscious motivation. There is a need, therefore, for a wider understanding of atheism, especially of the intense kind. Since I know of no theoretical framework other than the Oedipal one, I am forced to sketch something of a new model. But in fact I will develop an undeveloped thesis of Freud himself. In his essay on Leonardo da Vinci, Freud remarks that "psychoanalysis, which has taught us the intimate connection between the father complex and belief in God, has shown us that the personal god is logically nothing but an exalted father, and daily demonstrates to us how youthful persons lose their religious belief as soon as the authority of the father breaks down."

This interesting observation requires no assumptions about unconscious sexual desires for the mother, or even about presumed universal competitive hatred focused on the father. Instead, Freud makes the simple and easily understandable claim that once a child or youth is disappointed in or loses respect for his earthly father, belief in a heavenly father becomes impossible. That a child's psychological representation of his father is intimately connected to his understanding of God was assumed by Freud and has been rather well developed by a number of psychologists, especially psychoanalysts. In other words, an atheist's disappointment in and resentment of his own father unconsciously justifies his rejection of God.

There are, of course, many ways a father can lose his authority or seriously disappoint his child: he can be absent through death or abandonment; he can be present but obviously weak, cowardly, and unworthy of respect, even if he is otherwise pleasant or "nice"; or he can be present but physically, sexually, or psychologically abusive. I will call these proposed determinants of atheism, taken together, the "defective father" hypothesis and will seek evidence for it in the lives of prominent atheists, for it was in reading their biographies that this interpretation first occurred to me.


This is important if for no other reason than that we realize we should pity and not despise such folk.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:34 AM

IN MUCH THE SAME WAY WILLIAM CHESTER MINOR WAS AN OPTIMIST:

The Eternal Optimist: John Kerry is on the road again, listing excuses for losing in 2004 and looking like a 2008 campaigner (PERRY BACON JR., Mar. 28, 2005, TIME)

It seemed as if the campaign had never ended. There was John Kerry standing on a chair in a blue neighborhood of Atlanta, in the Democrat-friendly tavern Manuel's, speaking to 100 folks, many of them wearing Kerry-Edwards T shirts. The Massachusetts Senator insisted that he wasn't "one to lick wounds," but then he did: he noted that Bush had won with the smallest percentage margin ever for an incumbent and complained that the Republican team had six years to develop its electoral strategy while his had only eight months. And although he claimed that "my focus is not four years from now," he made sure his audience knew just how viable a candidate he had been--and could be again. "We actually won in the battleground states," Kerry said, adding that his loss in Ohio was so close that if "half the people ... at an Ohio State football game" had voted differently, he would be in the Oval Office now.

Kerry's words and moves suggest that he thinks Nov. 2, 2004, was merely a detour on his road to the White House.


Optimism would be one name for it.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:07 AM

IF ONLY IT WERE ABOUT THE SCIENCE:

Sweet cell of success (Wayne Smith, March 22, 2005, The Australian)

ALAN Mackay-Sim and his small team of researchers investigating the human sense of smell have tended to get up the noses, pardon the pun, of the serious scientists working in the field of stem-cell exploration.

Most of the real players were to be found studying embryonic stem cells at such long-established research centres as Monash University and the University of Queensland, although the work of those other Australian scientists targeting bone marrow and neural stem cells was also highly regarded.

But no one quite knew what to make of Mackay-Sim's Griffith University team that somehow had taken an odd turn into the murky tributary that is the olfactory mucosa - the organ of smell in the human nose - and begun rowing against the tide by studying adult stem cells taken from the nose.

The prevailing science was that where embryonic stem cells had multi-potentiality and could give rise to all cell types in the body, adult stem cells were old dogs that couldn't be taught new tricks. Even those stem cells in tissues that do regenerate, such as skin, blood and olfactory mucosa, can only give rise to, respectively, more skin, blood and olfactory mucosa, so the accepted wisdom went.

Moreover, there was also the suspicion that adult stem cells were the last refuge of the religious Right, that after 40 years of intensive fossicking in this stream the only scientists still stubbornly panning for gold were those whose ethical beliefs wouldn't allow them to experiment with embryos left over from fertility treatment.

Certainly, adult stem-cell research had long been left behind by governments, corporations and benefactors wanting to sponsor scientific advances. In California, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger last November was able to persuade voters to approve a $4.04 billion investment in embryonic stem-cell research over the next decade. Meanwhile, by contrast, Mackay-Sim's team laboured away on an annual budget of a couple of hundred thousand dollars, the pickings so slim that one key researcher, Wayne Murrell, was forced to take a scientific time-out to earn some real money by working as manager of a grocery store.

"It has been a disregarded area of research generally," Mackay-Sim, the 2003 Queenslander of the Year, concedes wryly. "Whenever I presented a paper, the feedback I would get was that our work was 'interesting but weird'."

Yesterday, in one of those sublime moments with which the history of science is replete, the tributary might suddenly have become the mainstream. With the publication of Mackay-Sim's research on the Developmental Dynamics website, the twin arguments that adult stem cells lack the multipotency of embryonic stem cells and might not be as useful for stem-cell therapies were abruptly turned on their heads.


As if this will even slow the Death Lobby down.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:55 AM

INTELLIGENT DESIGN IS RATHER EASY:

DNA clues to prehistoric pig-taming (The Los Angeles Times, March 14, 2005)

Mean-tempered, big-tusked wild boars were transformed thousands of years ago into floppy-eared domestic pigs not once or twice, but repeatedly in many parts of the world as humans abandoned foraging and hunting for a farming life.

In a report published Friday in the journal Science, researchers used DNA from wild boars and pigs to conclude that domestication of pigs occurred in at least seven places.

"The question is no longer where pigs were domesticated, but where pigs were not domesticated," said Greger Larson, at the University of Oxford and the paper's first author.

The surprisingly widespread origin of domestic pigs about 9,000 years ago is unusual in the history of animal domestication. Sheep, cows, horses and goats were traditionally thought to have been domesticated just a handful of times during human farming history, mostly in the Fertile Crescent of the Near East. Charles Darwin, among others, proposed that pigs were domesticated just twice - in Asia and the Near East - then transported by Neolithic migrants who carried their farming culture with them.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:51 AM

YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO SWING THE BLUES:

Topinka taking aim at Blagojevich (LYNN SWEET, March 21, 2005, Chicago Sun-Times)

GOP state Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka is preparing to run for governor -- raising money, polling and reaching out to key state and national Republicans.

If all goes as planned, Topinka, elected three times as state treasurer and a former chairman of the Illinois Republican Party, is expected to announce a bid to topple Gov. Blagojevich when the legislative session ends, sometime in late spring or early summer.

Last week in Washington, Nancy Kimme, Topinka's chief of staff who doubles as her top political adviser, met with Michael Stokke, the deputy chief of staff for House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) who handles Hastert's political portfolio. She also met with representatives of the Republican Governors Association. [...]

Kimme is briefing key state and national Republicans on a poll Topinka commissioned to test the treasurer's viability and Blagojevich's vulnerability. [...]

The poll showed that Blagojevich's approval rating was at 48 percent and his disapproval number at 45 percent.

Unlike Blagojevich, whose political strength rests in Chicago and its suburbs, Topinka has a strong statewide base and could win just by adding a very few points on the margins, the poll found.

Other findings from the Topinka poll:

*Asked if it was time for a new person to be governor, 47 percent said "yes."

*In a hypothetical November 2006 horse race, Blagojevich and Topinka start in a tie. Asked to choose between the two, 42 percent were for Topinka and 45 percent for Blagojevich, with 11 percent undecided.

*Blagojevich is popular with women, especially those who are more than 60 years old.

*The abortion issue will likely be a factor in a GOP primary that Topinka will have to confront. Some 42 percent of GOP primary voters are anti-abortion, and the issue impacts their vote. Topinka supports abortion rights, but she is in favor of parental notification for minors and is against late-term abortion.


How hard will Mayor Daley work for Mr. Blajojevich?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:26 AM

CONVERGENCE:

Hail, Mary: She was there at the Cross. Yet Protestants seldom talk about the mother of Jesus at Easter, or at most other times. But they are starting to now (David Van Biema, 3/21/05, TIME)

[T]hings have begun to change, and not just among theologians. Xenia, Ohio, is no radical hotbed. Campaign signs there still promote Bush, half the weekday-morning radio dial features conservative religious fare, and most of Westminster Presbyterian’s 300 members are middle-aged or older. Yet with a few exceptions, the 21 who recently gathered at the Rev. Maguire’s Bible class were fascinated by his thoughts on Mary. “I always thought of her as the first disciple,” said Corinne Whitesell, 74. “Rosaries and Hail Marys, that’s not right. [But] that total submission to God is one of the most beautiful things about her.” Said Gloria Wolff, 78: “We grew up in a time when women couldn’t be elected as church elders. It’s important to teach young women about the strong female role models in the church.” Remarked John Burtch, 75: Maguire is “the new guy on the block, and he’s got some interesting ideas. So we listen to him. We’re open to change.”

In a shift whose ideological breadth is unusual in the fragmented Protestant world, a long-standing wall around Mary appears to be eroding. It is not that Protestants are converting to Catholicism’s dramatic exaltation: the singing of Salve Regina, the Rosary’s Marian Mysteries, the entreaty to her in the Hail Mary to “pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.” Rather, a growing number of Christian thinkers who are neither Catholic nor Eastern Orthodox (another branch of faith to which Mary is central) have concluded that their various traditions have shortchanged her in the very arena in which Protestantism most prides itself: the careful and full reading of Scripture.

Arguments on the Virgin’s behalf have appeared in a flurry of scholarly essays and popular articles, on the covers of the usually conservative Christianity Today (headline: The Blessed Evangelical Mary) and the usually liberal Christian Century (st. mary for protestants). They are being preached, if not yet in many churches then in a denominational cross section—and not just at modest addresses like Maguire’s in Xenia but also from mighty pulpits like that at Chicago’s Fourth Presbyterian Church, where longtime senior pastor John Buchanan recently delivered a major message on the Virgin ending with the words “Hail Mary ... Blessed are you among us all.”

This could probably not have happened at some other time. Robert Jenson, author of the respected text Systematic Theology, chuckles when asked whether the pastor of his Lutheran youth would have approved of his (fairly extreme) position that Protestants, like Catholics, should pray for Mary’s intercession. “My pastor would have been horrified,” he says, adding, “The pastor was my father.” Yet today Catholics and Protestants feel freer to explore each other’s beliefs and practices. Feminism has encouraged popular speculations on the lives of female biblical figures and the role of the divine feminine (think The Red Tent and The Da Vinci Code). A growing interest, on both the Protestant right and left, in practices and texts from Christianity’s first 1,500 years has led to immersion in the habitual Marianism of the early and medieval church. And the influx of millions of Hispanic immigrants from Catholic cultures into Protestantism may eventually accelerate progress toward a pro-Marian tipping point—on whose other side may lie changes not just in sermon topic but in liturgy, personal piety and a re-evaluation of the actual messages of the Reformation.

The movement is not yet prevalent in the pews. And it has its critics. While granting that Mary shows up more in the New Testament than some churches recognize, Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Southern Seminary, charges that those who use her full record to justify new “theological constructions” around her are guilty of “overreaching,” “wishful thinking” and effectively “flirting with Catholic devotion.” Yet Lutheran theologian Carl Braaten, co-editor of an essay collection on what might be called Marian upgrade, claims, “We don’t have to go back to Catholicism. We can go back to our own roots and sources. It could be done without shocking the congregation. I can’t predict how exactly it will happen. Some of it will be good, and some of it may be bad. But I think it’s going to happen.”


Flirtation now, consumation later. Protestantism has served its purpose and will drift back into the Church, just as the Church will Reform itself a bit to make itself more accommodating to the lost sheep.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:42 AM

CONDI'S PATH TO POWER:

Rice Urges China to Allow More Political Openness (Luis Ramirez, 21 March 2005, VOA News)

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has concluded a week-long Asian tour with a stop in Beijing, where she urged leaders to improve China's human rights record. The top U.S. diplomat also called on Chinese leaders to respect religious freedom.

While visiting U.S. officials usually call China on the religious freedom issue, it appeared to be personal conviction that brought Ms. Rice to press the case during her meetings here with Chinese officials.

Ms. Rice attended a Palm Sunday service at a Christian church following her meetings with President Hu Jintao and other officials. At a briefing Monday, she said she urged leaders here to consider a more open political system for China that would - in her words - "match its economic openness" and allow for the full creativity of the Chinese people.

"I do hope that there is an understanding that religious communities are not a threat to transitioning societies," said Ms. Rice. "In fact, they are often, in societies that are changing, a force for good, for stability and for compassion."


If she does want to be president, Ms Rice can build a significant constituency by pushing this line.


Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:24 AM

SUNRISE, SUNSET

Learning from Terri Schiavo (Peter A. Singer, National Post, March 21st, 2005)

Schiavo's case is hardly unique: In the United States and Canada, family members are called upon regularly to make decisions regarding the initiation or continuance of life-sustaining treatment to mentally incapacitated patients. But this case has become a cause celebre because it contains two powerful metaphors for caring and community.

First, the fact Schiavo's eyelids are open has caused some to impute human feelings to the random movements of the woman's eyes. Photos of her gazing at the camera -- however blankly -- have emotive power for much the same reason.

Second, the case involves the cessation of tube-feeding. In my experience as a physician, decisions surrounding this life-sustaining treatment are difficult for families because feeding is itself a powerful metaphor for caring.

Schiavo's particular medical condition is severe and relatively uncommon, but tens of thousands of Canadians will end up this year with other conditions, such as stroke or dementia, that leave them afflicted by mental impairment and, like Schiavo, unable to make decisions for themselves.

A patient with severe dementia, for instance, is unable to recognize family and friends or engage in meaningful conversations. Such patients often require a feeding tube for nourishment and are confined to a long-term care facility. Anticipating such a situation, people should ask themselves: Would they want to be resuscitated if their heart stopped? Would they want to be put on a breathing machine if they contracted pneumonia? And, as in Schiavo's case, would they want tube feeding?

Readers should take time to talk about these issues with loved ones. There is no right or wrong answer to the questions listed above. But talking them through, and even writing down one's preferences, make it possible for caregivers to be true to a patient's original wishes. This is especially important for those whose medical conditions put them at risk of developing an infirmity that robs them of their ability to make decisions.

“ Well, children, it is time to talk of my wishes if I ever become incapacitated and can’t make decisions for myself. Here they are:”

“Don’t even think of pulling that tube except in the most extreme and unpredictable circumstances. My life is not yours to give or take away and you aren’t going to get out of it by waving some yellowing piece of paper from years back when I was young, in good health and barely aware of my own mortality. Feeding and tending to the sick and aged are not metaphors for caring. They are caring. This is a family, and if we aren’t going to care for one another in sickness and health, maybe it was all a waste of time.

“What would I wish? Kids, I get flummoxed when your mother asks me what I want for dinner. Every year we spend hours planning new exciting places to visit and we always end up going to the same damn ones. Do you really think I know what I would want years from now in situations I can’t even imagine? I have no idea where I will be, and neither will you or the world’s best doctors.”

“Meaningful conversations? That’s up to you, isn’t it? I doubt it will bother me much. You know, I’ve had thousands of conversations with you over the years. Some were fun and many were a pain, but, no offence, the word meaningful doesn’t jump out as a general memory. But I’ll tell you, the most important, poignant and joyful ones were the ones I had with you in my head when you were sleeping or off somewhere doing your things. They were gifts you gave me unknowingly. Maybe I can do the same for you.”

“Does it frighten me? Are you crazy, of course it does. And no parent can be dependent without feeling guilty. I realize fully I might become a very heavy burden, but it won’t be of my choosing, will it? You may become very overwhelmed and resentful. I understand, but it’s called life so suck it up. Did you think it was all about personal trainers and tropical eco-tours? And speaking of heavy burdens–-oh, never mind.”

“There are limits. Your own children come first. And it may be that I will clearly be in such pain or distress that you will have to make a very difficult choice. The Lord works in mysterious ways and He sure doesn’t make it simple. Pray on it and consult a good lawyer. I trust you. And remember your own children will be watching and learning. Ego te absolvo, but the decision must be yours. God be with you.”

“Just don’t expect me to fall for the smooth-as-the-creamy-curd drivel of some “bioethicist” from the culture of death who, under the guise of personal choice, wants me issue a general licence to kill in murky, far-off circumstances that will absolve all and sundry of the consequences of their actions, whatever their motives. You see, if it were just up to me, I might, in a weak moment of guilt and misplaced honour, be convinced to do it. But it isn’t just up to me. Thank God.”


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:55 AM

MAKE A GIOIAFUL NOISE:

Poet-leader takes NEA 'beyond the controversies': Arts agency enjoys renewal of support (Toby Eckert, March 19, 2005, COPLEY NEWS SERVICE)

As a group of Marines, some battle-hardened in Iraq, gathered recently at Camp Pendleton to swap stories and get pointers on crafting them into fiction pieces, poems and memoirs, Dana Gioia was observing with a mixture of awe and pride.

The workshop was part of Operation Homecoming, one of Gioia's high-profile initiatives as chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. It has brought writers like Tobias Wolff and Tom Clancy to military bases nationwide to coach veterans on their writing, some of which will be published in an anthology.

"I was enormously impressed by these young men and women who were enormously reflective and articulate in talking about their experiences," said Gioia, a noted poet and critic who grew up in the blue-collar enclave of Hawthorne. "It made me understand, even more dramatically, the human importance of these writing workshops."

Back in Washington a couple of weeks later, Gioia was working on another initiative.

"What could we do in the Inglewood-Westchester area of L.A., where we only had one grant last year?" he said he wondered. "I met with some people, we've made phone calls to some of the civic institutions, to try to make sure that we have more applications from that area."

In public and behind the scenes, Gioia (pronounced JOY-ah) has been on a mission the past two years: to rebuild the NEA after more than a decade of being politically and financially battered in the nation's culture wars.

The two prongs of his strategy have been launching popular initiatives like Operation Homecoming and spreading grant funding to more communities, such as Inglewood.

"I would say that the major reform I've made at the endowment can be summarized pretty easily," Gioia said. "Historically, the National Endowment for the Arts thought of itself as a federal agency that served artists. Today, the NEA sees itself as a federal agency which serves the American public by bringing the best of the arts and arts education to all Americans."


Any bureaucrat who serves the people who dole out the money instead of those who receive will be effective, but despised by the latter.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:50 AM

PIED PIPER OF PRIVATIZATION:

The Siren of Santiago: How a Pinochet protégé helped charm Bush into privatizing Social Security. (Barbara T. Dreyfuss, March/April 2005, Mother Jones)

President Bush's enthusiasm for Social Security privatization may have had its start on a yacht off the Italian island of Elba in June 1997. As the vessel cruised the Tyrrhenian Sea, José Piñera, once the labor minister for Chilean military dictator Augusto Pinochet, told another passenger—a close friend of Bush's—how he had taken Chile's equivalent of Social Security private. Two months later, Piñera got an invitation to the Texas governor's mansion, where he dined with Bush and Ed Crane, founder and president of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank based in Washington, D.C. Afterward, says Crane, they retired to the library for further discussion about privatization.

Crane credits Piñera's ardent comments that night with convincing Bush to advocate replacing part of Social Security with Wall Street investments. As he recounts it, "Bush said, 'José, you make a very compelling case. I do believe that privatizing Social Security is the most important issue facing the nation.'" Policy analyst Peter Ferrara, who in 1981 wrote a highly influential Social Security primer for Cato while studying the Chilean system, and who has been a leading figure in the debate over the program's future, agrees: "I believe that [conversation] was the whole genesis of the president's commitment to personal accounts."

Bush isn't the only politician captivated by the suave, urbane Piñera. "He's kind of the Pied Piper of Social Security privatization," says Crane. Senator John Sununu (R-N.H.), author of a key Republican bill creating private accounts, introduced Piñera at a forum, declaring, "No one has done more to empower workers to save and invest for retirement than José Piñera."

In the two decades since he left the Chilean government, Piñera has been instrumental in persuading countries across Europe and Latin America to turn public retirement systems over to the marketplace; since 1995, he has been the codirector of Cato's Project on Social Security Choice, one of Washington's most vigorous pro-privatization efforts. And because he is positioned as an outside expert, Piñera is expected to take on an increasingly high-profile role in helping the Bush administration and congressional Republicans campaign to privatize the program.


Well, Chile does owe us one for helping save them from Allende.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:50 AM

GO THE DISTANCE:

Off to a Running Start, How Far Can GOP Go? (Janet Hook, March 20, 2005, LA Times)

Less than three months after starting their new terms, President Bush and GOP leaders have scored a remarkable series of legislative victories, many involving measures that Republicans had been trying to move through Congress for years.

Even while spending a huge amount of time and political capital to keep his Social Security plan alive, Bush and congressional leaders have managed to whisk through business-backed legislation to crack down on class-action lawsuits and consumer bankruptcy filings. The Senate has cleared the way for Bush's plan to expand oil and gas drilling in Alaska. Antiabortion forces have won their first test of strength in the Senate.

And even though the president's effort to overhaul Social Security has gotten off to a halting start, the fact that this once-verboten topic has been thrust to the forefront is a measure of how much the winners of the 2004 elections have redirected the nation's public policy priorities.


Here's a more significant indication of how the President has shifted those priorities:
Despite protests from some Democrats who accused Republicans of inappropriately injecting Congress into medical decisions related to the severely brain damaged Florida woman, the House voted 203 to 58 for the bill at the end of four tumultuous days and an emotional debate that began Sunday night at 9 and ended shortly after midnight.

Voting yes were 156 Republicans and 47 Democrats, while 53 Democrats and 5 Republicans voted no.


When Democrats are afraid to be seen as pro-Death it's real progress.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:46 AM

DOES BRITAIN HAVE A MORAL MAJORITY?:

Churches unite to demand an election pledge on abortion (Ruth Gledhill, 3/21/05, Times of London)

ABORTION was propelled to the centre of the election campaign yesterday as the Church of England threw its weight behind demands for a thorough review of legislation.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, who declared that there was a “groundswell of distaste” at the way the current law works, was backed by senior Anglican clergy who not only questioned th