May 31, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:13 PM


When Court Clerks Rule (David J. Garrow, May 29, 2005, LA Times)

The recent release of Justice Harry A. Blackmun's private Supreme Court case files has starkly illuminated an embarrassing problem that previously was discussed only in whispers among court insiders and aficionados: the degree to which young law clerks, most of them just two years out of law school, make extensive, highly substantive and arguably inappropriate contributions to the decisions issued in their bosses' names.

Even Roe vs. Wade, Blackmun's most famous decision, which legalized abortion nationwide in 1973, owed lots of its language and much of its breadth to his clerks and the clerks of other justices. A decade later, when Blackmun's defense of abortion rights shifted from an emphasis upon doctors' medical prerogatives to women's equality, it was his young clerks who were responsible for his increasingly feminist tone.

Blackmun's files, which span his tenure on the court from 1970 to 1994, also show that in some cases over the years, clerks introduced explicitly partisan political considerations into the court's work (once urging that an abortion ruling be issued before a presidential election, so that women could "vote their outrage" if Roe vs. Wade was reversed). Sometimes clerks' unrestrained ideological biases were starkly evident (as when one referred to Justice Antonin Scalia as "evil Nino" in a memo).

According to "Becoming Justice Blackmun," a new book by New York Times Supreme Court correspondent Linda Greenhouse, even Blackmun's most well-known line — "From this day forward, I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death" — was not his own. That 1994 dissent denouncing capital punishment was proposed by one clerk and written by a second. Blackmun accepted virtually every word of the clerk's draft.

Bob Woodward revealed all this years ago in The Brethren, which makes a laughingstock of Blackmun.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:39 PM


Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries (Human Events, May 31, 2005)

HUMAN EVENTS asked a panel of 15 conservative scholars and public policy leaders to help us compile a list of the Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries. Each panelist nominated a number of titles and then voted on a ballot including all books nominated. A title received a score of 10 points for being listed No. 1 by one of our panelists, 9 points for being listed No. 2, etc. Appropriately, The Communist Manifesto, by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, earned the highest aggregate score and the No. 1 listing.

Ulysses belongs on the list.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:53 PM


Never mind Hillary - it's 'Laura for president' now (John Hughes, 6/01/05, CS Monitor)

Her public opinion ratings are currently higher than the president's. Her performance at the Gridiron dinner in Washington proved she has even more comedic flair than her husband. And on her trip to the Middle East last week, she showed she has a mind of her own and can sometimes, with civility, take positions different from Mr. Bush.

Still not persuaded? Think the wife of a former president shouldn't, or couldn't, take a crack at running for the White House? Well Hillary Clinton is the wife of a former president and a lot of people think she's a front-runner for the Democratic nomination in 2008. What a contest that would be: Laura and Hillary. Choose one for first woman president. What a campaign Karl Rove would make.

Of course, Laura would have to elbow out Bill Frist, John McCain, and maybe even brother-in-law Jeb Bush, as well as a string of other aspiring males to get the Republican nomination. But I suspect that beneath that poised and charming exterior are nerves of steel and a canny political sense on issues of great import.

She certainly displayed cool nerve in the midst of rambunctious demonstrating crowds during her five-day Middle East visit. She also shrewdly pitched the president's agenda of freedom and democracy to the audience that could perhaps do more than any other to further that agenda throughout the Arab lands.

If Jeb won't...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:49 PM


A boost for religious practice: A Supreme Court decision on prison rights is seen as a win for minority religious groups, too. (Warren Richey, 6/01/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

The decision marks an important victory not only for religious inmates but for all minority religious groups in the United States that rely on such accommodations to freely practice their faith without government interference. A ruling that invalidated the federal law would have placed in question a wide range of religious accommodations and exemptions.

At issue before the court was whether special accommodations to facilitate worship by adherents of minority religions in prison violates the First Amendment's Establishment Clause. Critics of the law - which is called the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) - say that granting certain benefits to religious individuals that are not also granted to the nonreligious violates requirements that the government remain strictly neutral in matters of faith.

The court unanimously rejected this view. "Our decisions recognize that there is room for play in the joints between the two religion clauses of the First Amendment, some space for legislative action neither compelled by the Free Exercise Clause nor prohibited by the Establishment Clause," Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said in announcing the decision. RLUIPA "fits within the corridor between the two clauses."

Tuesday's ruling stems from a series of lawsuits filed by prison inmates in Ohio. The inmates - all adherents of nonmainstream religions such as Satanism and Wicca - complained that prison officials were refusing to permit them access to religious services, literature, and ceremonial items needed to practice their religions.

It's a horrible ruling--just because you claim your beliefs are a religion does not mean they are entitled to First Amendment protection.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:45 PM


Is outsourcing the answer to states' foster-care woes?: Florida has now contracted all its child-welfare services to the private sector - a closely watched bid to help children. (Jacqui Goddard, 6/01/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

[F]lorida hopes to become a poster child of a different sort: a model for how privatization child-welfare services work better. Although states have increasingly farmed out tasks to private contractors, Florida's effort is controversial because it relates to one of the most sensitive responsibilities of government: when and how to intervene on behalf of children in troubled circumstances. And it will be closely watched, because other states also face pressure to improve such programs.

The results so far appear to be mixed, but Gov. Jeb Bush (R) is counting on the effort over time to help turn around services tarnished by scandal.

"This is a model that other states should look at very carefully and begin to test out," says David Fairbanks, deputy director of the program, called Community-Based Care. CBC is a network of localized, nonprofit agencies to which Florida's Department of Children and Families has gradually turned to provide foster-care, adoption, and child protection services.

With that outsourcing now complete, Florida is the first state to have 100 percent of its child-welfare services in private hands. Officials believe that the 48,972 children it serves are now protected by a more responsive, more accountable system and that other states should follow.

"We have worked hard to improve our image, and CBC has been a big part of that, because now it's hometown agencies that are doing this work," Mr. Fairbanks says. "But we are putting a more local face on the job of child protection - and it's working."

More evidence of the continuity Jeb would provide in '08.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:36 PM


'Purple power' pulls new laws through House: Many Democrats from moderate districts vote with the Republicans on House measures. (Gail Russell Chaddock, 6/01/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

Despite the partisan saber- rattling on Capitol Hill, a significant number of votes in the GOP-controlled House are passing with broad Democratic support.

It's a trend that surprises analysts who have noticed the numbers, and it hints at a structural advantage for the GOP as it presses its agenda heading into 2006 elections.

Call it purple power. Although Republican control of the House of Representatives is narrow - a margin of just 30 seats out of 435 total - some 20 percent of House Democrats come from districts that President Bush carried in 2004. Only 8 percent of Republicans come from districts carried by Sen. John Kerry in the presidential vote. In a landscape where most districts are clearly red (Republican) or blue (Democrat), these purple areas represent seats that could be vulnerable.

That looming reality, analysts say, is one of the factors that explains why some Democrats have crossed over to vote with the GOP on issues from tax cuts to abortion.

"For all the focus we've put ... on the growing rift in the Republican discipline, we need to also take a look at how tough it is on the Democratic side, especially for incumbents who sit in Republican districts," says Amy Walter, a congressional analyst for the Cook Political Report.

Who are the experts it surprises? It's a predictable feature of a permanent realignment.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:27 PM



A new analysis from The Alan Guttmacher Institute shows that U.S. abortion rates continued to decline in 2001 and 2002, although the rate of decline has slowed since the early 1990s. The Institute estimates that 1,303,000 abortions took place in the United States in 2001—0.8% fewer than the 1,313,000 in 2000. In 2002, the number of abortions declined again, to 1,293,000, or another 0.8%. The rate of abortion also declined, from 21.3 procedures per 1,000 women aged 15–44 in 2000 to 21.1 in 2001 and 20.9 in 2002.

The Stassenmatics never did add up.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:02 PM


The Heritage Foundation (DANIEL LAZARE, June 13, 2005, The Nation)

James Atlas, the bow-tied editor in charge of HarperCollins's "Eminent Lives" series of short biographies, is not known for his sense of humor, but in publishing Paul Johnson and Christopher Hitchens back to back, he's revealed a mischievous streak that had previously gone unnoticed. Johnson, the New Statesman editor turned right-wing author of such bestsellers as Modern Times (1983), A History of the Jews (1987) and Intellectuals (1988), once denounced Hitchens for launching an attack on Mother Teresa that he termed "loathsome and mendacious." Hitchens, the ex-Trotskyist turned supporter of Bush's invasion of Iraq, has attacked Johnson over the years as not only a drunken, wife-beating, racist snob but a drunken, wife-beating, racist snob who, when not assailing the morals of others, has been known to enjoy a good spanking at the hands of his friendly local dominatrix. In short, not the sort of couple you'd expect to find sharing a candle-lit dinner at some quiet bistro. Yet here they are, together at last, with nearly simultaneous bios of two of America's most sainted founders

What is with the Left's weird fascination with the sex lives of conservatives? Christopher Hitchens no sooner came out as a man of the Right than his friends started accusing him of being at best a repressed homosexual.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:29 PM


The Power of the Mustard Seed: Why strict churches are strong. (Judith Shulevitz, May 12, 2005, Slate)

You wouldn't expect an economist to do a better job than the religious at explaining religion. But one has, using the amoral language of rational choice theory, which reduces people to "rational agents" who "maximize utility," that is, act out of self-interest. (Economists assume that people are rational for methodological reasons, not because they believe it.) In his 1994 essay "Why Strict Churches Are Strong," which has become quite influential in the sociology of religion, economist Laurence Iannacone makes the counterintuitive case that people choose to be strictly religious because of the quantifiable benefits their piety affords them, not just in the afterlife but in the here and now.

Iannacone starts by asking why people join strict churches, given that doing so exacts such a high price. Eccentric customs invite ridicule and persecution; membership in a marginal church may limit chances for social and economic advancement; rules of observance bar access to apparently innocent pleasures; the entire undertaking squanders time that could have been spent amusing or improving oneself.

According to Iannacone, the devout person pays the high social price because it buys a better religious product. The rules discourage free riders, the people who undermine group efforts by taking more than they give back. The strict church is one in which members with weak commitments have been weeded out. Raising fees for membership doesn't work nearly as well as raising the opportunity cost of joining, because fees drive away the poor, who have the least to lose when they volunteer their time, and who also have the most incentive to pray. Fees also encourage the rich to substitute money for piety.

What does the pious person get in return for all of his or her time and effort? A church full of passionate members; a community of people deeply involved in one another's lives and more willing than most to come to one another's aid; a peer group of knowledgeable souls who speak the same language (or languages), are moved by the same texts, and cherish the same dreams. Religion is a " 'commodity' that people produce collectively," says Iannacone. "My religious satisfaction thus depends both on my 'inputs' and those of others." If a rich and textured spiritual experience is what you seek, then a storefront Holy Roller church or an Orthodox shtiebl is a better fit than a suburban church made up of distracted, ambitious people who can barely manage to find a morning free for Sunday services, let alone several evenings a week for text study and volunteer work.

The new Pope seems to grasp this dynamic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:20 PM


Note to You Liberal Weenies -- Yes, the Right Really Can Write (Brian C. Anderson, May 15, 2005, LA Times)

Oh, how we conservatives once envied liberal writers. Just 10 years ago, liberal writers could propose a book on, say, how American capitalism stiffs the workingman or how the bourgeois family spawns injustice. Major publishers would respond by throwing oodles of money their way, or at least consider putting out the book. But pitch a critique of affirmative action or a defense of limited government and, unless your name was Buckley or Will, you'd be lucky to get a personalized rejection letter.

There was "a tremendous amount of marketplace and institutional resistance" to publishing conservative books, said Adam Bellow, an editor at Doubleday. The New York publishing world was a liberal preserve.

How things have changed. Over the last 18 months, three superpower publishers have launched conservative imprints: Random House (Crown Forum), Penguin (Sentinel) and, most recently, Simon & Schuster (Threshold, headed by former Bush aide Mary Matalin). Nor is that all. ReganBooks and the Christian publisher Thomas Nelson are putting out mass market right-of-center books, while mid-list conservative titles pour forth from Peter Collier's 5-year-old Encounter Books and several smaller imprints. There's never been a better time to be a conservative author.

What's behind the shift? Crown Forum chief Steve Ross thinks Sept. 11 made the industry less reflexively liberal. There's doubtless some truth to that. But what really turned the big New York publishers was the steady stream of bestsellers that Washington-based Regnery (my publisher) was producing, including Bernard Goldberg's "Bias," which spent seven weeks cresting the New York Times bestseller list. Sentinel's first year produced two New York Times bestsellers and Crown Forum published four, with Ann Coulter's polemic "Treason" reaching more than half a million copies in print.

One would like to think that the shift is at least partly a result of the fact that when you look back at the political writing of the 20th Century, the conservative texts remain quite readable and often pertinent, the liberal ones are uniformly embarrassing

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:56 PM


Murder Is in Our Blood (David M. Buss, May 20, 2005, LA Times)

On May 11, 2005, a jury convicted Pete Terrazas of murdering his next-door neighbor, Miguel Ruiz. Terrazas had been dating Ruiz's housekeeper, Maria Santillana, whom he deeply loved. When she abruptly broke off the relationship, Terrazas concluded that she had begun an affair with Ruiz. Terrazas loaded his .410-gauge shotgun, went over to his neighbor's driveway, blasted Ruiz in the back and then took deadly aim at the man's chest. Pete Terrazas had never before been violent. Nor had Scott Peterson before he killed his wife, Laci. Nor had Clara Harris before she ran over her adulterous husband with her Mercedes in a hotel parking lot in Houston. [...]

Evolutionary theory also explains why men kill so much more than women — 87% of killers worldwide are men. Women are the more valuable reproductive resource because of a fact of human reproductive biology: Women, not men, bear the burdens of the nine-month investment to produce a child. Competition is always fiercest among the sex that invests less. As a result, men battle to avoid mating failure and to "win big" by getting to the top to mate with desirable (and sometimes multiple) women. Mating is inextricably intertwined with murder.

If we all have mental mechanisms designed for murder, why don't more of us kill? For one thing, killing is so costly for victims that natural selection has fashioned finely honed defenses — anti-homicide strategies — designed to damage those who attempt to destroy us. We kill to prevent being killed, so attempting murder is a dangerous strategy indeed. Second, we live in a modern world of laws, judges, juries and jails, which have been extremely effective in raising the cost of killing. Homicide rates among traditional cultures lacking written laws and professional police forces are far higher than those in modern Western cultures. Among the Yanomamo of Venezuela and the Gebusi of Africa, for example, more than 30% of men die by being murdered.

To begin with, it's unjust to include Ms Harris with the others since she was morally justified in her action.

But he goes badly off the rails when he tries drawing Darwinian conclusions. (Is Michael Kinsley running a series of silly editorials on this topic?) For one thing, if evolution is such a powerful factor in murder and protects women for reasons of reproductive advantage it certainly can't be reconcoiled with the mass murder of female babies. However, he has the accidental sense to immediately contradict himself and note that while man in a state of nature is quite murderous our adoption of morality has successfully controlled us. We stopped kiling each other for unnatural reasons, not Darwinian ones.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:49 PM


Contending for Marriage (Roberto Rivera y Carlo, May 2005, Boundless)

The late David Orgon Coolidge, who headed the Marriage Law Project at Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law, described what he called the “contending models of marriage.” By “model,” Coolidge meant a “claim about what marriage ‘really’ is.” The “traditional model ... views marriage as [an] institution.” While this model understands and honors the role that love and affection -- what Coolidge called the “interpersonal dimension” -- plays in the decision to get married, the “traditional” model nevertheless insists that this love and affection are lived out within an institution whose essence and purpose transcends the desires and intentions of the people getting married.

This essence and purpose is rooted in what Coolidge called “sexual complementarity -- the reality that men and women are ‘different from, yet designed for’ one another.” This complementarity is expressed in the procreation and nurture of children but is not exhausted by these “particular functions.” In other words, while having and raising children helps to order and make sense of marriage, there’s more to marriage than the kids. Sexual complementarity results in a bonding between two people wherein “one plus one adds up to more than two.”

The other “contending models” root marriage in something other than sexual complementarity. And unlike the communal dimension inherent in the “Traditional” model,” they see marriage in more private and even individualistic terms. The “Choice” or “Liberal” model defines marriage as “essentially an agreement” between “sovereign selves.” While the agreement between the parties “may take an institutional form,” the marriage itself is a “contractual reality ... defined and created by the individuals who enter into the contract.” And, as with all contracts, the purposes of the marriage grow out of the desires of the contracting parties: in most cases, an increase in their personal happiness.

The third model, the “Postmodern” one, while also rejecting sexual complementarity as the basis for marriage, rejects the off-putting idea of marriage as an agreement for the more palatable one of marriage as a “relationship.” Just as with the “Liberal” model, the relationship “can be institutionalized,” but in this model, what holds a marriage together isn’t a set of a priori beliefs about the nature of marriage; rather, it’s the obligations that grow out of being in a relationship with someone and, as Georgetown Law professor Milton Regan put it, the “web of interdependence” that is created by this interaction with another person.

Apart from some churches, it’s difficult to name a part of Western society where the “Traditional” view of marriage still holds sway. Certainly not in marriage and family law where the “Liberal” model is virtually unchallenged. “No-fault” divorce laws are the near-perfect embodiment of the idea of marriage as an agreement or contract. When one “sovereign self” decides that happiness lies outside the marriage, they are free to leave, subject to a satisfactory division of marital property. The only acknowledgment that someone besides the couple has a stake in what is happening are child-support laws. Even there, it’s not clear who the “someone” is: the child or the taxpayer who might be forced to support the child in the absence of parental support.

The situation outside the courthouse is scarcely better. If you surveyed a representative sample of Americans and other residents of the industrialized world, you would almost certainly find their understanding of marriage is closer to the “Liberal,” and, especially, the “Postmodern” models than to the “Traditional” one. The answer to the question “why do people get married?” would seem so obvious to them -- “because they love each other” -- that they might think it’s a trick question. For most people, marriage is an expression of the shared affection between two people. It is a public celebration of an already-existing relationship between the two.

You see this belief in the increased popularity of writing one’s own vows and in celebrating the wedding in nontraditional places, especially places that figure prominently in what Regan calls the couple’s “shared history.” But even when people get married in a traditional setting, the decision is rooted more in aesthetics than in our beliefs about marriage. White gowns and church weddings are garnish, not the meal. For most people in the West, the public, as distinct from communal, dimension of marriage lies in the financial and legal benefits associated with marriage and the desire for others to celebrate and affirm the relationship.

Which brings us back to Valladolid and Nebraska. If you replace sexual complementarity, procreation and the nurture of children with “mutual obligations” and “interdependence” as the basis for marriage, extending marital rights to same-sex couples isn’t much of a conceptual leap.

Which is why the entire Liberal model needs to be rooted out, starting with divorce.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:42 PM

BE BOLDER (via mc):

New savings program for poor gaining attention: Lawmakers searching for ways to move beyond Social Security (Elana Schor, 5/27/05, Medill News Service)

A new program to promote savings of low-income Americans is attracting increased attention on Capitol Hill as Congress remains deadlocked over adding private investment accounts to Social Security and lawmakers search for other ways to help Americans save for their retirement.

The savings tool that some lawmakers are beginning to shift their political capital to is individual development accounts or IDAs, which Congress authorized in 1998 as part of government aid for the needy. Participating financial institutions offer IDAs to low-income individuals and match their contributions to the accounts on either a partial or one-to-one basis, but several proposals attracting attention on Capitol Hill would require the government to contribute to IDAs.

IDA holders receive their free money under one condition: they must undergo financial literacy education that is intended to prepare them for a life of cautious savings and no debt. President Bush has steadily increased the yearly budget for IDAs, but this year Sen. Rick Santorum has been the accounts' most tireless promoter.

IDAs are state-sponsored in Pennsylvania, home of Santorum, the Senate's third-ranking Republican and head of its Social Security subcommittee. He has leveraged his leadership to pitch two IDA proposals, one that would make government-funded IDAs available to anyone who meets income requirements (typically around $38,000 per year for a family of four) and one that would bestow an IDA on every child born in America.

"IDAs are one of the most promising tools that enable low-income and low-wealth Americans to save, build assets and enter the financial mainstream," Santorum told members of his subcommittee at an IDA hearing last month. [...]

Especially worrisome to fiscal conservatives is the easy access to IDAs. Social Security benefits cannot be spent until retirement, but both of Santorum's plans permit IDA accountholders to take money out for any purpose, from education to home purchasing to Christmas presents. [...]

Though IDAs were created to increase savings and assets for poor Americans and not as a part of the Social Security issue, some legislators who have signed onto Santorum's bills refer to universal IDAs as a partial fix for the national asset vacuum that throws Social Security's solvency problems into such sharp relief.

"I think that's part of the risk for the (IDA) field - that we'll be inadvertently linked to the privatization of these accounts that the field as a whole really believes ought to remain risk-free," Mangan said.

Paul O'Neill's approach is better, give them more money up front, but don't let them draw it down.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:20 PM


Consumer Confidence Unexpectedly Rebounds (ANNE D'INNOCENZIO, 5/31/05, AP)

Consumer confidence unexpectedly rebounded in May after declining in April, as worries about the economy and jobs eased, a private research group said Tuesday. But another closely watched report that tracks Midwestern manufacturing activity dropped in May, spooking Wall Street.

The Conference Board said that its Consumer Confidence Index rose to 102.2 from a revised 97.5 in April. The reading was much better than the 96 that analysts had expected, which would have been a decline from the original April reading of 97.7.

The consumer confidence index is now at the highest level since it reached 103 in March.

Gas prices are falling and the only way you can not have a job is through superhuman effort, yet they're surprised confidence is up? The only real drag on the economy is the picture the press paints.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:08 PM


Majority vote remains on the table for future use (John Cornyn, 5/31/05, San Antonio Express-News)

It is...important to recognize three important elements of the deal reached by these 14 senators:

First, although it doesn't solve the problem today, the deal does keep all options open — including, of course, the Byrd option — for solving the problem in the future.

Second, with Owen's confirmation, it should now be settled that disagreement over judicial philosophy is not an "extraordinary circumstance" — and, thus, no justification for a filibuster. Call it the "Owen standard." Senators should vote their conscience, but debates over judicial philosophy and disagreements about past rulings are no grounds for violating Senate tradition by imposing a supermajority voting requirement for confirming judges.

Third, should the Owen standard be violated and a baseless filibuster against a judicial nomination be launched in the future, that would be a violation of the agreement — and, thus, grounds for the use of the Byrd option to restore Senate tradition.

Indeed, this is the stated intent of at least four of the Republican senators who signed the agreement.

Just appoint Janice Rogers Brown to be Chief and watch them try to explain opposing her.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:30 PM


German 'chancellor-in-waiting' was award-winning Communist (Tony Paterson, 29/05/2005, Sunday Telegraph)

Angela Merkel, the woman fêted as Germany's chancellor-in-waiting, was an award-winning Communist in her youth whom the Stasi secret police tried to recruit as an agent.

Details of her upbringing in East Germany, which emerged last week, explain why Mrs Merkel, 50, is viewed with suspicion by hardline members of her traditionally Catholic party, the Christian Democrats, whose heartlands are in the west.

Tomorrow, however, she is expected to win the party nomination to stand against the chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, in the general election this autumn. While even her supporters concede that she lacks charisma, inspiring respect rather than affection, Mrs Merkel led the Christian Democrats to a stunning victory in recent state polls in North Rhine Westphalia - forcing Mr Schröder to bring the election forward by a year.

Her dour childhood as a reluctant Communist sheds new light on why, unlike Mr Schröder, Mrs Merkel backed the US-led invasion of Iraq. "I know what it is when you don't have freedom," she said recently. "In the West, freedom is taken for granted. Fighting for it is not as necessary as it was for us."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:02 PM


Hispanics arriving as a political force (RUBEN NAVARRETTE JR., May 29, 2005, THE UNION-TRIBUNE)

[A] lot of people are saying that Hispanics have finally arrived. They serve in the top tier of the Bush administration – among them, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Surgeon General Richard Carmona, Treasurer Anna Cabral and Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez. And the prospect of a Hispanic on the Supreme Court seems closer than ever, especially if President Bush sticks to his promise to put one there before he leaves Washington. [...]

Look at what happened in Los Angeles, a city that is now more than 47 percent Hispanic and where Hispanics outnumber every other ethnic group. Antonio Villaraigosa is soon to be sworn in as the first Hispanic mayor of the city in 133 years.

Given that this is the nation's second-largest city we're talking about, that means the 52-year-old former Assembly speaker has just arrived on the A-list of Hispanic political talent.

For Villaraigosa, who defeated incumbent Mayor James K. Hahn, getting there was half the fun. The candidate pulled together an impressive coalition of blacks, Jews, labor and progressive whites. That was an improvement over Villaraigosa's failed bid for the same office four years ago, when a black minister famously joked that African-Americans shouldn't vote for "someone whose name they can't pronounce." This time around, Villaraigosa got half the black vote.

But it was Hispanics who made the difference. The mayor-elect walked off with 84 percent of their vote. That added up in a hurry, given that Hispanics accounted for one in four votes cast.

Note to Democrats: This is the same group of voters that your party complains doesn't turn out often enough.

Democrats miss the point. It's not that Hispanics don't care enough to vote. It is that they don't care to vote for white liberals who take their votes for granted. Democratic Party leaders should look toward Los Angeles and take note. The party of John F. Kennedy had better get used to running more candidates like Villaraigosa – or get used to coming in second.

And blacks to being marginal in both parties.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:32 PM


This Document Should Make America Nervous (Jeanne Rubner, May 29, 2005, LA Times)

The draft constitution that the French will vote on today is the best that could be designed to accommodate the wishes of the EU's 25 members.

It is a rational compromise, as much of a historical necessity as the Baltics and Czechoslovakia joining the union was a historical necessity.

Europeans tend to take fewer risks than Americans — which is why they are so apprehensive. But what seems to be a risk now will later turn into a benefit. The coming of the constitution is fortunate because it will strengthen the new union by giving it the tools for better organizing its affairs, speaking with a single voice and formulating common economic and political goals as a transatlantic strategy. It will anchor Europe's future as a network of 25 countries while leaving each country its national freedom.

Do not underestimate the future power of the EU. The new Europe has strong political and cultural traditions. With an expanding market, it will revitalize its economy. And with a constitution, Europe will have, more than ever, the chance of becoming a global player with real political power. Watch out, America, here we come.

Was this supposed to be a joke?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:23 PM


Creating a Controversy: Today's anti-evolutionists don't want to abolish science -- they just want to render it irrelevant. (Chris Mooney, 05.16.05, American Prospect)

Kansas’s previously proposed science standards had appropriately defined science as "the human activity of seeking natural explanations for what we observe in the world around us." Anti-evolutionists want to change this language to the following: "Science is a systematic method of continuing investigation, that uses observation, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, logical argument and theory building, to lead to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena."

This may seem harmless at first glance. But the change carefully removes any reference to science's search for natural explanations in favor of “more adequate” explanations, creating a opening for creationists to insert the supernatural. Such a change reflects the fact that the new generation of anti-evolutionists has launched an attack on modern science itself, claiming that it amounts, essentially, to institutionalized atheism. Science, they say, has a prejudice against supernatural causation (by which they generally mean “the actions of God”). Instead, the new anti-evolutionists claim that if scientists would simply open their minds to the possible action of forces acting beyond the purview of natural laws, they would suddenly perceive the weaknesses of evolutionary theory.

Anti-evolutionists are trying to bring religion back into the picture with this maneuver and to free up science teachers to speak to their classes about matters involving the supernatural. But religion isn't all they may bring back. As far as I can tell, keeping an open mind about supernatural causes would also mean that when you or I investigate claims that a house might be haunted, we should be on the lookout for a ghost. Similarly, it would mean that when we look into reports of a weeping icon, we should get ready to investigate a paranormal event, rather than a mere case of pious fraud. And so on.

In reality, though, while they may leave open the theoretical possibility of a supernatural occurrence, scientists don't operate in this way -- and for good reason. Science seeks to explain natural phenomena in a way that other scientists (including those of varying religious faiths) can understand and independently evaluate. So, for at least two different reasons, scientists would not leap to a supernatural conclusion about a phenomenon like creaky floorboards and suddenly slamming doors in an old house. For one, they can construct a more simple explanation that does not require stretching beyond the reach of science. And for another, invoking supernatural causation (a ghost) ultimately doesn't work. Instead, postulating a supernatural cause effectively ends the inquiry, because we have no way of further investigating such a cause -- save more supernatural speculation. Supernatural "explanations" can't be tested, because scientific testing itself depends upon the constancy of natural laws.

For these reason, scientists since the Enlightenment have seen fit to distinguish between supernatural beliefs based on faith or metaphysics and scientific findings based on observed evidence and inferences about natural causation. Such inquiry is technically termed "methodological naturalism," more commonly known as the "scientific method." It has quite a successful track record over the years, from medicine to nuclear science.

But methodological naturalism deeply offends today's anti-evolutionists. Because the theory of evolution is perceived to have contributed to the undermining of religious belief, the intelligent design movement has taken to arguing that the theory itself betrays a deep philosophical prejudice against God and the supernatural. Hence, they seek to overturn not just evolution but methodological naturalism itself

To the contrary, it is precisely because Darwinism violates the scientific method--invoking just such a supernatural cause, one beyond observance and experimentation and not subject to natural laws--that it is opposed so vigorously. The dispute is not between Reason and Faith but between opposing faiths.

Posted by Paul Jaminet at 12:20 PM


Church to let gay clergy 'marry' but they must stay celibate (Times of London, 5/29/2005; via The Anchoress)

Homosexual priests in the Church of England will be allowed to "marry" their boyfriends under a proposal drawn up by senior bishops, led by Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury....

Under the proposal, a priest intending to register a civil partnership would inform his or her bishop in a face-to-face meeting....

Some bishops, however, are uncomfortable about subjecting their priests to the proposed interviews.

One said this weekend: "We all have clergy in gay partnerships in our dioceses and there is a genuine reluctance on the part of a number of us to make their lives more difficult."

The Church of England seems to be devoted to eliminating all suffering, including the suffering entailed in meeting with a bishop. The reporter neglected to ask the bishops how they reconcile this goal with Jesus's call to "take up your cross and follow Me" (Luke 9:23, Matt 10:38 and 16:24). The orthodox view is that the absence of suffering is a characteristic of the world to come, not this world of sin and sadness; so that the hope of creating heaven on earth is less realistic even than the hope of creating gay "marriage" without sex. Anglican theology appears to be more optimistic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:07 PM


Ex-FBI official says he's 'Deep Throat'
Magazine quotes him as saying he was 'doing his duty'
(MSNBC, May 31, 2005)

W. Mark Felt, who retired from the FBI after rising to its second most senior position, has identified himself as the "Deep Throat" source quoted by The Washington Post to break the Watergate scandal that led to President Nixon's resignation, Vanity Fair magazine said Tuesday.

"I'm the guy they used to call Deep Throat," he told John D. O'Connor, the author of Vanity Fair's exclusive that appears in its July issue.

Timothy Noah nailed that one.

Washington Post Confirms Felt Was 'Deep Throat': Woodward, Bernstein and Bradlee Reveal Former FBI Official as Secret Watergate Source (William Branigin and David Von Drehle, May 31, 2005, Washington Post)

The Washington Post today confirmed that W. Mark Felt, a former number-two official at the FBI, was "Deep Throat," the secretive source who provided information that helped unravel the Watergate scandal in the early 1970s and contributed to the resignation of president Richard M. Nixon.

The confirmation came from Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the two Washington Post reporters who broke the Watergate story, and their former top editor, Benjamin C. Bradlee. The three spoke after Felt's family and Vanity Fair magazine identified the 91-year-old Felt, now a retiree in California, as the long-anonymous source who provided crucial guidance for some of the newspaper's groundbreaking Watergate stories.

The Vanity Fair story said Felt had admitted his "historic, anonymous role" following years of denial.

In a statement today, Woodward and Bernstein said, "W. Mark Felt was 'Deep Throat' and helped us immeasurably in our Watergate coverage. However, as the record shows, many other sources and officials assisted us and other reporters for the hundreds of stories that were written in The Washington Post about Watergate."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:59 AM


Turkey, other EU rejects have palatable Plan B (JOHN O'SULLIVAN, 5/31/05, Chicago Sun-Times)

Under this particular Plan B, the United States would rescue Turkey and the EU from their joint crises while also advancing U.S. interests in transatlantic integration.

It would work as follows:

First, the EU and the United States (together with its partners in NAFTA) would merge their markets to form TAFTA -- or a transatlantic free trade area.

Second, they would invite all the existing European countries not in the EU, including Turkey, Norway and Switzerland, to join this enlarged TAFTA. (Ukraine, Russia and Latin American countries outside NATFA would be eligible to join once they met criteria similar to those required for EU entry.)

Third, this TAFTA would establish joint procedures for harmonizing existing and new regulations between NAFTA, the EU and non-EU states,.

Fourth, free movement of labor would not be a provision in TAFTA, but there would be preferential immigration rules between members.

Laid out in this way, such a Plan B inevitably sounds utopian. Many of its individual features, however, have been widely discussed for years. Indeed, a full-scale EU-U.S. free trade area almost came about a decade ago.

At the time it was vetoed by the French. But Europeans might now see the value of a program for economic integration that does not involve free immigration -- but that would offer Turkey a solid substitute for EU membership, mollify the Islamic world, and build an long-term economic bridge to Russia, North Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.

And in their currently shaken state, even the French might be prepared to accept American leadership out of the crisis -- so, Condi, act quickly.

Why would we want to include the dying secular nations of Western Europe in the Axis of Good?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:45 AM

THE FAVORITE IF HE RUNS (via Daniel Merriman):

'08: DUELING DYNASTIES? (John Podhoretz, May 31, 2005, NY post)

LET me build the perfect 2008 Republican candidate for you. He would be a governor, because recent history demonstrates the nearly insuperable advantage governors (Carter, Reagan, Clinton and Bush the Younger) have when it comes to running for president.

He would be from a populous state, because his success there statewide might win him 10 percent of the electoral-college votes he would need on Election Day.

He would have to be acceptable to social conservatives with resolute stands on social issues like abortion, because the Bush victory in 2004 demonstrated the importance of being able to bring evangelical churchgoers to the polls. But in manner and style he should be easygoing, in order to undercut the ability of Democrats and the mainstream media to paint him as a crazed extremist.

He should have particular appeal to Hispanics, because (again) the Bush 2004 victory was built in part on pulling Hispanic voters away from the Democratic Party. And he should probably have Southern credentials, because the GOP has to be able to rely on the votes of the solid South to prevail in the Electoral College.

Fortunately for the GOP, there is a dream candidate that fits all these categories and more. But remember, nightmares are dreams too. And the candidate described here is, nightmarishly, the brother of the current president and the son of the president two guys back.

Strange that RFK and Teddy were only considered presidential material because they were a president's brothers--but we're supposed to rule out Jeb for the same reason? He has all of W's advantages and then some, with none of his weaknesses.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:36 AM


Waiting for Harris has GOP antsy: Republicans are hoping that U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris will run against incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson in next year's Senate elections. (LESLEY CLARK, 5/31/05, Miami Herald)

Republicans say U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson will be one of their leading targets for elimination when he's up for reelection next year.

Yet, 18 months from the election, not a single Republican has stepped forward to challenge the freshman Democrat. The leading reason? U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris.

The Republican star of the 2000 presidential election recount is looking at taking on Nelson, and her interest has other Republican hopefuls on ice, given the conventional wisdom that Harris would be the runaway primary favorite should she decide to run. [...]

Some Republicans are beginning to become antsy, suggesting that time is getting short for someone to start raising the millions it will require to challenge Nelson -- particularly if Harris decides against running. But as Republicans look around the state, they're at a bit of a loss to see a ready alternative. [...]

Two of the state's most prominent Republicans, Attorney General Charlie Crist and Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher, are running against each other to succeed Gov. Jeb Bush. Some party leaders hope one of them could be convinced to change races, but both have said they're not interested.

Barring a switch, Republicans have even suggested Bush, who can't run for reelection as governor in 2006 because of term limits, and retired Army Gen. Tommy Franks, a part-time Tampa resident. Both have rejected such entreaties.

Then there are Florida House Speaker Allan Bense and U.S. Rep. Mark Foley, neither of whom have run statewide before but could have easy access to campaign cash. A spokesman for Bense didn't rule him out. Foley, who was a leading candidate for an open Senate seat in 2004 before bowing out to tend to an ailing father, suggested he's interested -- if the party wants him.

''I'm not interested yet in jumping into the middle of it, but if someone wants to recruit Mark Foley, I'd be willing to talk,'' said Foley, noting that he still has about $2 million in his campaign account -- just $1 million less than Nelson.

While Ms Harris would be their best candidate--assuming Jeb has his sight set higher--they'll have no trouble raising money for whoever runs. It's pretty much Jeb's first presidential primary to win the seat for the Party.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:30 AM


Natural Selection Killed Desdemona: Jealousy, hate, fear -- human biology beats in the heart of good literature. (David P. Barash and Nanelle R. Barash, May 31, 2005, LA Times)

That's how we like our literary figures: real, believable, true to human nature. Like us, they must be gooey, breathing, eating, sleeping, defecating, reproducing, evolving and evolved Homo sapiens, shaped by genetics and evolution, and then twisted and gnarled by life itself.

This is what lies behind Beowulf's foolhardy courage, Heathcliff's obsessive passion, Jane Eyre's spunkiness, Huck Finn's mixture of naiveté and wisdom, Augie March's antic yearning for self-realization.

There is something instantly recognizable about such basic, obviously natural traits as Romeo and Juliet's hormonally overheated teenage love, Hamlet's intellectualized indecisiveness, Lady Macbeth's ambition as well as her remorse, Falstaff's drunken cavorting, Viola's resourcefulness, Lear's rage.

Take Othello. Evolutionary scientists know that males are especially vulnerable to sexual jealousy simply because of their biology. Whereas women can rest serene in the confidence that they are genetically related to any offspring that emerges from their bodies, men have to take their mate's word for it. Othello, as a perfectly good male mammal, is therefore susceptible to suspicions of marital infidelity by his wife, Desdemona. Add the fact that sperm-makers are selected (naturally) to compete (often violently) with other sperm-makers for access to egg-makers, and Shakespeare's tragedy makes biological sense.

Think Othello might have known whether the kids were his or not?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:00 AM


Welcome to the Brave New Jersey (Paul Mulshine, May 26, 2005, Newark Star Ledger)

As a coldhearted, rational type of guy, I can't get too excited about the pro-life objection to embryonic stem cell research. The pro-lifers argue that it's wrong to destroy fertilized human eggs for research purpose. But the eggs in question are going to be destroyed eventually anyway. Why not put them to good use?

However, the other day I came upon some aspects of the research that frightened even me. Wesley J. Smith is the author of a book titled "A Consumer's Guide to a Brave New World." He's a lawyer and sometime Ralph Nader collaborator who is skeptical about just where the biotech industry is leading us with its incessant call for infinitely more spending on the research.

It's not leading us to test-tube cures for such diseases as diabetes and Parkinson's, Smith said when I gave him a call at his California home. There is simply no reliable method for turning an embryonic stem cell into the type of cell that can be safely implanted in the body of a disease victim.

"Embryonic stem cells cause tumors in mice," Smith said. "You simply can't control their growth."

The same problems are likely to occur in any attempt to implant embryonic stem cells in humans, he said. But there's a much easier -- and more ominous -- means of employing the technology, he said. The most efficient way of turning embryonic stem cells into the cells needed to treat a certain disease would be to create an embryo that is a clone of the patient. If that embryo could then be implanted into a uterus, the resulting fetus would contain a perfect copy of every cell in the patient's body. The ominous part is that the only way to gain access to those cells would be to abort the fetus. Smith fears that's where we're headed.

"What I think will happen is that when everything that can be obtained from research in a petri dish is obtained, then there will be a move to go from a petri dish to early gestation," Smith told me.

That's a disturbing thought. Even more disturbing is that such a practice would be perfectly legal in at least one state: New Jersey. A bill signed into law last year by Gov. James McGreevey permits exactly that sort of practice, Smith said. The bill's ostensible purpose was to enable stem cell research, but it also contained language regulating the traffic in fetal tissue. And the only way to turn stem cells into fetal tissue is through implantation in the womb, Smith notes.

The bill also purports to ban human cloning, but it defines cloning as "cultivating a cell with genetic material through the egg, embryo, fetal and newborn stages."

That would seem to permit cloning as long as the fetus in question were to be aborted, Smith notes.

Smith's reading of the bill is supported by Princeton University ethicist Robert George, who serves on the president's council on bioethics.

Stinks when reality disturbs reason, huh?

Posted by Peter Burnet at 9:26 AM


De Villepin appointed French PM (BBC, May 31st, 2005)

Dominique de Villepin has been named as France's new prime minister, following the country's rejection of the EU constitution in Sunday's referendum.

The former interior minister replaces Jean-Pierre Raffarin, who tendered his resignation following the vote. [...]

Mr de Villepin is best known abroad for expressing France's implacable opposition to the war in Iraq at the United Nations, and is likely to go down well with European allies.

He is also regarded as a consensual politician and is personally loyal to Mr Chirac.

But the BBC's Caroline Wyatt in Paris says that as a career diplomat never elected to public office, he of all candidates most typifies the French elite so roundly rejected by the French people on Sunday.

Isn’t this like trying to placate the mob by appointing Cardinal Richelieu?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:24 AM


On Filibuster and Stem Cells, GOP Bears Pain of Compromise (Ronald Brownstein, May 30, 2005, LA Times)

Conservatives are guaranteed the dominant voice in the GOP for the foreseeable future. But after last week, they no longer appear to be the only voice. No wonder so many of them are howling.

(Full disclosure: My wife recently took a job as an aide to Sen. John McCain [R-Ariz.], one of the judicial deal's architects. Marriages that span the divide between the media and politics are common in Washington. They require both parties to draw a firm line between their personal attachments and professional responsibilities. I do not intend to treat McCain any differently as a result of my marriage, and my wife does not expect favored treatment for her boss. I certainly don't expect any special treatment from McCain or his aides. Readers, of course, will have to make their own judgments, but I am confident that her new job will not affect my judgments, pro and con, about McCain and his initiatives.)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:40 AM


The Laach Maria monster (Spengler, 6/01/05, Asia Times)

[S]omething of the instinct for self-preservation spurred the French to vote down the European constitution. Europe's conservative parties oppose the putrefaction of the continent into a multi-cultural mush dominated prospectively by a growing Muslim population.

Benedict XVI's election as pope should not be underestimated as a catalyst for these tendencies. During the year prior to his election, Benedict inveighed against the admission of Turkey to the European Union and against Europe's abandonment of its cultural heritage.

In the first two installments of this series this month (The pope, the musicians and the Jews, and Why the beautiful is not the good), I considered Benedict's two points of emphasis: the Hebrew Bible and the classical heritage of European culture, above all its music. The trouble, I argued, is that Europe has destroyed both its cultural heritage as well as its Jews, and the tools available for rebuilding are more symbolic than real. To understand how this came to be it is useful to focus on a single place and a single moment in European history, namely a Rhineland monastery in April 1933.

The creature of Loch Ness may be a fable, but a real monster lived beside the crater lake near Trier, where stands the Benedictine Abbey of Maria Laach. It was there that a prominent wing of the institution that once had created European civilization openly embraced the new Nazi barbarism. Maria Laach's Abbot Ildefons Herwegen stated in 1933 after Adolf Hitler took power: "Let us say 'yes' wholeheartedly to the new form of the total [Nazi] state, which is analogous throughout to the incarnation of the Church. The Church stands in the world as Germany stands in politics today."

Herwegen embraced the so-called Reichstheologie, or theology of the German Empire, along with a group of prominent German Catholic theologians who saw in Hitler "a Christian counterrevolution to [the French Revolution of] 1789".

In some respects, the entire career of Joseph Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI, has been dedicated to repudiating this ghastly mistake, which Herwegen himself recognized as the Nazi terror unfolded.

Left-wing Catholics have built a small manufacturing industry around the claim that the conservative wing of the Church had ties to Hitler. Years of mudslinging at Pius XII, the hapless wartime pope, failed to prove him guilty of anything worse than timidity in the face of Nazi occupiers. James Carroll's 2001 bestseller, The Sword of Constantine, makes its villain the miserable Herwegen, but Carroll discovers to his confusion that he has more in common with the pro-Hitler Benedictines of 1933 than with the present leadership of the Church. As Carroll reports, the "liturgical movement" of the 1920s introduced congregational participation in the Mass, that is, making the "people of God" (whoever might have wandered in) into the actor. Carroll approves, explaining, "No longer do we attend Mass as a collection of isolatos, each on his or her knees, face buried in hands from which dangle rosary beads. We do not approach God alone but as members of a praying community, members of a folk." Benedict XVI rejects the "folk" Mass on the simple grounds that God, rather than the "folk", is the actor in the Mass.

In America, where no "folk" exists, Carroll's notion merely seems banal. In Europe, where the heathen folk has persisted in uneasy coexistence with Christianity, the people's liturgy became a Volkisch, that is, national-racist expression. The Catholic Church created Europe by converting waves of barbarian invaders over the span of a thousand years; as I have emphasized elsewhere, its genius lay in the syncretic adoption of pagan saints and customs as a catalyst for Christianization. At best, that left the Church the uneasy overlord of restive pagan remnants, kept at bay by the dual reign of Church and empire. At its worst, as at Maria Laach, the Church "went native" and surrendered to the pagan impulses of its congregation. [...]

Only because a pope now reigns who spent his career attempting to set matters right do I venture to report this today. The "theology of aesthetics", as I described it in the last installment of this series, "Why the beautiful is not the good", attempts to win back the true high culture of the West for Christianity. Benedict honors, as a matter of course, the Church musical tradition of Palestrina-style polyphony and Gregorian chant, but he looks to the music of Mozart and Bach as a demonstration of faith. As I wrote, Western classical music creates a goal in time, that is, teleology, making sensuous the Christian promise of life beyond the grave. There is nothing particularly Christian, by contrast, in so-called Gregorian chant, except to the extent that people used to associate it with Catholic service, like incense. New-age types who dabble in Eastern religions comprise the largest audience for recordings of chant, for its timelessness and lack of directionality conform to their state of mind.

Benedict is right to draw on the musicians - by which I mean the high classic art of Mozart - as well as the Jews, that is to say, the Hebrew Bible. The musicians are dead and the Jews are departed, but the pope must play the hand that history has dealt him. He works under the sign of the mustard seed - the infinitesimal quantity of faith that moves mountains. The inspirational character of scripture and of classical music are the weapons he has at hand, rusty though they might be. Something is stirring in the ashes of the West, and Benedict XVI yet might bring forth a flame.

Perhaps we could bring some much-needed clarity to our prior dispute over nationalism by noting, as Spengler does, that America lacks a vital element of European nationalism in the absence of a folk and folkism.

Posted by Paul Jaminet at 7:31 AM


Paris Hilton Said Engaged to Shipping Heir (AP, 5/30/2005)

Hotel heiress and "The Simple Life" reality TV star Paris Hilton is reportedly engaged to Greek shipping heir Paris Latsis.

How could Paris love anyone so well as Paris?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:31 AM

A 1.4% CRISIS?:

States say $5.15 an hour too little: Minimum wages top federal rate (Dennis Cauchon, 5/31/05, USA TODAY)

More states are raising their minimum wages, pushing hourly rates above $7 in some and shrinking the role of the federal minimum wage, which hasn't gone up in eight years.

Eleven states have raised their rates since January 2004, and Wisconsin will become the 12th on Wednesday. Employers there must pay at least $5.70 an hour through June 2006, when the minimum wage rises again to $6.50 an hour.

In all, 17 states and the District of Columbia — covering 45% of the U.S. population — have set minimums above the federal rate of $5.15. That has helped cut the number of workers earning the minimum or less (for those earning tips) from 4.8 million in 1997 to 2 million last year, or 2.7% of hourly earners, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says.

About half of minimum-wage earners work at restaurants. Millions more have wages that are influenced by the minimum. Its buying power is at its lowest point since 1949.

So almost no one is actually paid the minimum wage and those that are get tips as well?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:24 AM


Woman to Lead Conservatives in German Election (Christian Retzlaff, May 31, 2005, LA Times)

Germany's conservative opposition parties announced Monday that Angela Merkel, chairwoman of the Christian Democratic Union, would be their candidate for chancellor in early national elections expected to be held this autumn.

Merkel, who was raised in the former communist East Germany, had been widely expected to seek the chancellorship and would become the nation's first female leader if she prevailed against current Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

At a news conference Monday, Merkel promised to present an electoral platform by mid-July that would emphasize the "courage to be honest."

"Finding ways to create jobs for the people in Germany will be at the center of my work," she said

Except the problem is they aren't creating Germans.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:24 AM


Does Science Trump All? (HENRY FOUNTAIN, 5/29/05, NY Times)

In the case of stem cells, some concerns are overshadowed by the tantalizing promise of the research: rejection-free organ transplants, regenerated spinal cords, perfectly matched blood transfusions, cures for diabetes and Alzheimer's.

But those promises run headlong into questions raised by a dark history of research. Take eugenics. According to Christine Rosen, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington and the author of "Preaching Eugenics," scientists who supported eugenics claimed that it could cure disease and end poverty - involuntary sterilizations were one result.

But the scientific underpinnings cited by early eugenics researchers were often wrong, Ms. Rosen said. "The heritability of certain diseases and eye colors were right, but broader claims they made as a result were incorrect," she said.

Many religious groups tried to stop eugenics, Ms. Rosen said, but they were called obstructionists.

"The only thing that stopped this," Ms. Rosen said, "was war and the lessons of Nazi Germany and improvements in science."

The controversy over eugenics is particularly relevant to the current debate, argues Wesley J. Smith, an opponent of therapeutic cloning at the Discovery Institute, a conservative research group in Seattle.

When eugenics was popular, he said, "people at the top levels of society were accepting of the idea that you could improve the human race by improving the gene pool." Even the United States Supreme Court, he said, supported involuntary sterilization, in the 1927 case Buck v. Bell.

To Mr. Smith and others, the march of science toward therapeutic cloning can be stopped. Indeed, cloning may be halted by its own deficiencies, Mr. Smith said. Cloned animals have developed health problems, and there is a potential for tumors in cloned tissue. And research using non-cloned, adult stem cells, which are drawn from bone marrow and blood, "will not have the moral baggage of cloning," he said.

But Dr. Lee M. Silver, a geneticist who is a professor of molecular biology at Princeton, said that therapeutic cloning could not be stopped because the world has changed.

"The difference today is that we're a global village," he said. "Thirty or 40 years ago, Asia had no scientific prominence whatsoever. Now Asia is a real player in the world."

It was a global village then too--after all, the Germans just adopted eugenics, euthanasia and the like from us. And, just as they went ahead with the experiment after the religious stopped it here, so too may Asia follow a mostrous path that we've wisely stepped off of.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:10 AM

From a certain point of view Christian history is all about the intermittent reiteration of standards of observance. -Richard Fletcher, The Barbarian Conversion

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:01 AM

...AND LOWER...:

Daily Forex Commentary (Jack Crooks, 5/31/05, Asia Times)

The euro continues to be hammered lower. Oversold it is, but now we could be seeing what we thought we might be seeing - longer-term players capitulating to the dollar trend higher. The catalyst of course for this move was the French vote on the proposed European constitution and now the likely prospect that the Dutch will follow suit with a "no" vote.

Something about "the best laid plans of mice and men" might be appropriate here.

The next question: how low can it go? Short answer: a lot lower than most people would have believed last Friday. Euro 1.20 is in sight on the weekly chart below:

Can't go lower than we expect it to: we predict they'll be using it to stoke the ovens sooner or later.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:01 AM


FDR at Yalta (Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., 25 May 2005, Times Literary Supplement)

A great foreign-policy fear that haunted Roosevelt’s generation was the fear of resurgent American isolationism. We sometimes forget how brief an interval separated the two World Wars. FDR was thirty-eight years old when the Senate rejected the League of Nations; he was only fifty-seven when war broke out again in Europe in 1939 – the war predicted by Woodrow Wilson “with absolute certainty”, in September 1919, if America did not join the League. During the inter-war years the struggle against isolationism consumed much of FDR’s time and energy. As foreign-policy spokesman for the Democratic Party, he declared in a Foreign Affairs article in 1928 that only by actions of international collaboration could the United States “regain the world’s trust and friendship”.

The experience of an internationalist moment followed by a profound and impassioned isolationist revival had engraved itself indelibly on the consciousness of the old Wilsonians. In the 1942 mid-term Congressional election, internationalists launched a major campaign for a “win-the-war” Congress, targeting isolationist legislators on a hit list. The leading isolationists in Congress survived the primaries. In FDR’s own Congressional district, internationalist Republicans like Wendell Wilkie and Thomas E. Dewey opposed the renomination of the bitter isolationist, Hamilton Fish, but Fish won the primary two to one. In the General Election, only five of 115 Congressmen with isolationist records were beaten. The Republicans gained forty-four seats in the House and nine in the Senate – their best performance in years.

After the Election, Secretary of State Cordell Hull told Vice President Henry Wallace that “the country was going to keep the sequence of events from following the 1918–1921 pattern because he felt if we went into isolationism this time, the world was lost forever”.

For Roosevelt the critical task in 1943–5 was to commit the United States to a post-war structure of peace. FDR regarded a permanent international organization, in Bohlen’s words, as “the only device that could keep the United States from slipping back to isolationism”. The memory, still vivid, of the repudiation of the League two decades before suggested that the task would not be easy. Unilateralism had been the American norm for a century and a half. Internationalism had been a two-year Wilson-ian aberration. No one could assume that isolationism would simply wither away. It had to be brought to a definitive end by American commitments to international order, and, as the
master politician knew, Congress and the people were more likely to make such commitments while the war was still on. FDR said privately, “Anybody who thinks that isolationism is dead in this country is crazy. As soon as this War is over, it may well be stronger than ever”.

He proceeded to lay the groundwork in 1943–5 with the same skill and circumspection with which he had steered the nation away from isolationism in 1937–41. The challenge of contriving a smooth transition from unilateralism to internationalism shaped Roosevelt’s diplomatic strategy. He moved quietly to prepare the American people for a larger international role. By the end of 1944, a series of international conferences, held mostly at American initiative and generally with bipartisan American representation, had created a post-war agenda – international organization (Dumbarton Oaks), finance, trade and development (Bretton Woods), food and agriculture (Hot Springs), civil aviation (Chicago), relief and reconstruction (UNRRA). These conferences established a framework for the world after the war – an impressive achievement for a President whom historians used to charge with subordinating political to military goals.

Against this background we can consider Roosevelt’s objectives in this last meeting with Stalin. In order of priority, they were, I surmise: first, to get the United Nations under way before the end of the war on terms that would assure American and Soviet participation – a result Roosevelt deemed imperative both to provide the means of correcting any mistake that harassed leaders framing the peace might make and also to save his own country from a relapse into isolationism. The second priority was to get the Soviet forces to join the war against Japan by a date certain (the atomic bomb was five months in the future) on terms that would strengthen Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist regime in China. A third priority was to work out some compromise on Eastern Europe as a test of Soviet intentions; and a fourth, to get a few modest preliminary agreements for the occupation of Germany. “I dislike making detailed plans”, Roosevelt explained to Hull in October 1944, “for a country which we do not yet occupy.”

Roosevelt achieved his objectives. [...]

[A]fter Yalta, the Russians indeed went their own way. The Second World War left the international order in acute derangement. With the Axis states vanquished, the European Allies exhausted, the colonial empires in tumult and dissolution, great gaping holes appeared in the structure of world power. The war left only two states – the USA and the USSR – with the political dynamism to flow into these vacuums. The two states were constructed on opposite and antagonistic principles, marvellously incarnated in Franklin D. Roosevelt and Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin. No one should be surprised by what ensued. The real surprise would have been if there had been no Cold War.

You'll not find many Eastern Europeans who think it was worth their freedom just so FDR could create conditions that would keep America involved in Europe. Far better for all concerned to have gotten rid of Stalin and reverted to a healthy non-interventionism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Suddenly, euro isn't looking so good (Mark Landler, 5/31/05, The New York Times)

The euro wobbled in trading on Monday, hitting a seven-month low of $1.246 to the dollar, before closing at $1.247. It has fallen steadily against the dollar in recent weeks, as traders expected a negative vote in France, and steeled themselves for another rejection in the Netherlands on Wednesday.

Few experts are predicting a full-blown crisis for the euro, which is safeguarded by the politically independent European Central Bank. France's refusal to ratify the constitution will have little impact on the day-to-day running of the monetary union, or on the maze of regulations that govern the world's largest trading bloc.

Still, as Paul De Grauwe, a Belgian expert on the currency, put it: "Something psychological has changed."

Like many economists, he believes that the long-term viability of the euro hinges on the gradual political integration of the countries that use it - a prospect that, for now at least, is dashed. "Can the euro survive without a political union?" De Grauwe said. "I have my doubts."

Which begs the question: how would the Union help it survive?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


House members in both parties scramble to disclose free travel (Larry Margasak, 5/31/05, Associated Press

Scrutiny of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's travel has led to the belated disclosure of at least 198 previously unreported special interest trips by members of Congress and their aides, including eight years of travel by the second- ranking Democrat, an Associated Press review has found.

At least 43 House members and dozens of aides had failed to meet the one-month deadline in ethics rules for disclosing trips financed by organizations outside the U.S. government.

The AP review of thousands of pages of records covered pre- 2005 travel that was disclosed since early March. That's when news stories began scrutinizing DeLay's travel, prompting lawmakers to comb through their files to make sure they had disclosed their travel.

While most of the previously undisclosed trips occurred in 2004, some date back to the late 1990s. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer recently disclosed 12 trips, the oldest dating back to 1997.

Stacey Bernards, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Democrat, said the office searched the files after the travel issue was raised initially by "Republicans doing opposition research to deflect from their own ethical issues."

Hoyer's undisclosed trips were nearly doubled by Rep. Ellen Tauscher, a California Democrat, with 21. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat, reported 20 past trips and Rep. Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat, reported 13.

Republican and Democratic House members were nearly equal rules violators in failing to disclose their personal trips within 30 days after the trip's completion.

No fair, this was supposed to be about Tom DeLay...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Purgatory without end: Why is America still so prone to wars of religion? (Lexington, 5/26/05, The Economist)

Why are Americans so keen on arguing about religion? The answer is that America is simultaneously a highly religious culture and a highly secular one. The public square is all but naked when it comes to religion. Public schools cannot hold school prayers. Americans have taken to wishing each other the ghastly “Happy Holidays” rather than “Happy Christmas”. Step over the line dividing church from state and there are plenty of aggressive secular interest groups that will push you right back again.

But at the same time religion—and particularly de Crèvecoeur's “strict” religion—is thriving. In the 2004 presidential exit polls, most Americans described themselves as regular churchgoers. Only 10% admitted to having no religion. A higher proportion of Americans say they would be willing to vote for an openly gay presidential candidate (59%) than an openly atheist one (49%). Evangelical or “born-again” Christians make up a quarter of the population; and they are on the march.

In the wake of the creationist “Scopes monkey trial” in 1925, the evangelicals (though technically victorious) realised they had lost the PR battle, and retreated from American public life. Now they are popping up all over the place, from the bestseller lists to pop music. In the wake of Scopes, the Bible Belt (H. L. Mencken's tag) was seen as a home of hicks. Now evangelism is the religion of the upwardly mobile, of McMansions and office parks, with evangelicals almost drawing level with (traditionally upper-crust) Episcopalians in terms of wealth and education.

Over the past 25 years, these more confident evangelicals have become the most powerful voting block in the Republican Party. Now they want to redefine the boundaries of church and state to make more room for public displays of religiosity and for faith-based social policy, and to put the “culture of life” back at the heart of the American experiment.

For evangelicals all these positions are as mainstream as it comes. They point out that the banishment of religion from the public square is a recent development. You only have to go back to 1960 to find children praying in schools and Hollywood sentimentalising Christmas. They point out that Roe v Wade (1973), which protects abortion, was a wonky decision, based on a post-modern reading of the constitution; and that the revolution that removed religion from public life has led to social breakdown.

Yet for a growing number of secularists these positions are the very definition of extremism.

Of course it's extremist, in precise measure to the extremism of the damage the secularists did over the last four decades. The Counter-Revolution has to undo the Revolution.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM

The fact that God could create free beings vis-à -vis of Himself is the cross which philosophy could not carry, but remained hanging therefrom. -Soren Kierkegaard

May 30, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:45 PM


Democracy gains in Ethiopia, a key US ally in terror war: Initial results Monday show opposition parties have won at least 174 seats, up from 12. (Abraham McLaughlin, 5/31/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

In a sign of strengthening democracy in one of Africa's historically repressive countries - and a US ally in the war on terror - opposition parties in Ethiopia have increased their power in parliament to at least 174 seats, from just 12.

The nation's first relatively free and fair election was held May 15, with 90 percent of the country's 26 million registered voters casting ballots. Preliminary results, released Monday, gave the ruling party a majority of at least 274 seats in the 547-seat parliament. Final results could be announced June 8.

The campaign included surprising signs of openness: massive opposition rallies being allowed in the capital; coverage of the opposition in government-controlled media; and, for the first time ever, more than 300 international observers being invited in to watch the vote. [...]

The ruling party - the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, which is led by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi - has won all three elections since overthrowing a brutal Marxist dictator, Mengistu Haile Mariam, in 1991.

Having a stronger opposition in parliament could further increase pressure on the government to deliver basic goods and services, like food and housing, to the country's 73 million people.

Remember when being our ally against an ism meant you didn't have to liberalize yourself?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:40 PM


Battle for the heart of Europe (Anthony Browne and Rosemary Bennett, 5/31/05, Times of London)

TONY BLAIR is preparing to battle with President Chirac of France over Europe’s political direction for the coming decades.

The chaos in Brussels caused by France’s unexpectedly emphatic rejection of the European constitution has put Mr Blair, who takes up the EU presidency in July, in a powerful position to impose his vision of the future shape of the Union. [...]

Victory on settling the future direction of the EU would give Mr Blair the European legacy that he has long hoped for.

The day after the unexpectedly large “non” vote, it became clear in Brussels that several fronts have been opened by the demise of the constitution.

These include future Euro-pean social and economic policy, the British rebate, the size of the European budget, and enlargement, including Turkey’s application for membership, which Mr Blair championed.

Marco Incerti, of the Centre for European Policy Studies, which is funded by the Euro-pean Commission, said: “There will be a fight for the heart of Europe.”

President Chirac is expected to push hard to reassert his political authority. Sources close to the French President have given warning that he will be “more difficult, less co-operative and less European-minded than before”. One said: “The French Government will interpret ‘no’ as against being European-minded and reasonable on things like the budget.”

Charles Grant, the director of the Centre for European Reform, which is close to Mr Blair, said: “The British presidency will be a very difficult act to pull off well. France’s ability to be bloody-minded is great.”

Put them in their place, for once.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:55 PM


Cancer-Stricken US Senator Urges Expanded Stem Cell Research (Michael Bowman, 29 May 2005, VOA News)

A U.S. Senator and cancer sufferer says countless lives could be saved if the United States expanded medical research involving embryonic stem cells. President Bush has threatened to veto a bill that would broaden federal support for the controversial area of study.

Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter is a Republican ally of President Bush on Capitol Hill, but a political moderate and notoriously independent-thinker.

Said the senator: "I'd eat babies if it'd make me better."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 PM


Filibuster Deal Evaded Key Question on High Court Nominees (Dan Balz, May 30, 2005, Washington Post)

DeWine and Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) have disputed the assertion by Reid and other Democrats that the nuclear option is off the table. DeWine said he explicitly raised the issue just before the group announced the deal on Monday night. "I said at the end, 'Make sure I understand this now, that . . . if any member of this group thinks the judge is filibustered under circumstances that are not extraordinary, that member has the right to vote at any time for the constitutional option.' Everyone in the room understood that."

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), another member of the group, concurred, saying that while he hopes the nuclear option is gone for the duration of the 109th Congress, circumstances could bring it back. "I really think Senator DeWine and Senator Graham have it right," he said.

It's the only common sense reading of the text.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:00 AM


Spain is split over talks with Basque rebels (Renwick McLean, 5/30/05, International Herald Tribune )

The Basque militant group ETA may be weakening, but any discussion over its possible demise is dividing Spain to a degree that its attacks rarely have. Two weeks ago, Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero won parliamentary backing for a proposal to negotiate with the group if it would renounce violence.

The government said the future of ETA was bleak enough that it might be persuaded to disband if offered a chance to negotiate small concessions from Madrid, like the return of imprisoned ETA members to Basque jails.

But the proposal has drawn sharp criticism from the families of victims of ETA bombings, as well as from scholars and editorial writers, and has driven a wedge between the major parties on an issue once considered exempt from partisan politics: the fight against ETA.

Members of the main opposition group in Parliament, the Popular Party, have attacked Zapatero's proposal as tantamount to appeasing terrorists.

The only way to defeat ETA, the opposition party says, is to crush it using all the powers available to Spain's law enforcement agencies.

They've already won, just give them their state.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:55 AM

IT'S UNANIMOUS (via Robert Schwartz):

Europe unites in hatred of French (Henry Samuel, 17/05/2005, Daily Telegraph)

Language, history, cooking and support for rival football teams still divide Europe. But when everything else fails, one glue binds the continent together: hatred of the French.

Typically, the French refuse to accept what arrogant, overbearing monsters they are.

But now after the publication of a survey of their neighbours' opinions of them at least they no longer have any excuse for not knowing how unpopular they are.

Why the French are the worst company on the planet, a wry take on France by two of its citizens, dredges up all the usual evidence against them. They are crazy drivers, strangers to customer service, obsessed by sex and food and devoid of a sense of humour.

But it doesn't stop there, boasting a breakdown, nation by nation, of what in the French irritates them.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Britons described them as "chauvinists, stubborn, nannied and humourless". However, the French may be more shocked by the views of other nations.

For the Germans, the French are "pretentious, offhand and frivolous". The Dutch describe them as "agitated, talkative and shallow." The Spanish see them as "cold, distant, vain and impolite" and the Portuguese as "preaching". In Italy they comes across as "snobs, arrogant, flesh-loving, righteous and self-obsessed" and the Greeks find them "not very with it, egocentric bons vivants".

Interestingly, the Swedes consider them "disobedient, immoral, disorganised, neo-colonialist and dirty".

But the knockout punch to French pride came in the way the poll was conducted. People were not asked what they hated in the French, just what they thought of them.

"Interviewees were simply asked an open question - what five adjectives sum up the French," said Olivier Clodong, one of the study's two authors and a professor of social and political communication at the Ecole Superieur de Commerce, in Paris. "The answers were overwhelmingly negative."

What gets them crazy is that Americans describe them as "smelly."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:50 AM


Runs, Hits and an Era: Hurlers and batsmen in a Bay Area 'base ball' league play according to 1880s rules and customs. Its vintage feel is a far cry from today's game. (James Ricci, May 30, 2005, LA Times)

Players in the South County Jasper dugout tried to conjure an era-appropriate term as they exhorted batsman Mike "Professor" Ballen to drive home his teammates at first and third base.

"All right, Professor, two horses in the barn!" yelled Jasper captain Gary "Pops" Cooper. "Two roosters in the henhouse!" offered another teammate. "Two fleas on the dog!" cried a third.

The expression "two ducks on the pond," sometimes used by present-day broadcasters, clearly wouldn't do — not for this group of "ballists" intent on re-creating not only the look and play but even the argot of "base ball" as practiced during the presidency of Grover Cleveland.

"Striker to the line," called umpire Jim Saeger, black top hat bobbing and gold pocket-watch chain glinting in the sunlight of a recent Sunday morning. Ballen, with his blousy lace-up shirt, long stockings and trousers that tie below the knee, stepped up to home base, hefting his thick-handled replica bat.

"How would you like your pitches?" the umpire, as required by the old rules, asked.

"Low," Ballen replied.

"Low strikes," the ump informed Steve "Cappy" Gazay, hurler for the San Jose Dukes.

Gazay delivered as instructed, a pitch between the belt and knees. With an "oomph," Ballen lofted a high single to left field, allowing both runners to leg it home for a 12-5 Jasper lead.

When the game was over and the clubs had cheered "huzzah!" for each other, the unbeaten Jaspers had a 13-10 victory, stretching their winning streak to five games.

Which meant the Duke losing streak was now at five.

The two clubs are the only members of Bay Area Vintage Base Ball, which began its inaugural season last month. The organization is the only one in California devoted to playing the game according to the rules and customs of the 19th century.

Its players welcome the old game as an alternative to frequently quarrelsome adult baseball and softball leagues. It also represents a kind of purity that is lost in the din of the modern professional game, with its high-tech equipment, tantrum-prone millionaire players and rock-concert sound systems.

The vintage game, said author and former New York Yankee pitcher Jim Bouton, "is the wave of the future. It has all the things that people love most about baseball, and none of the things they hate."

Vintage baseball — "base ball," as it was called 125 years ago — has been a fixture in the East and upper Midwest for as long as two decades. Members of nearly 200 amateur clubs can be found on weekends running sand-filled bases in knickers and pillbox hats and trying to field hardballs with gloves no thicker than a gardener's — or with no gloves at all.

Some clubs are affiliated with local historical museums. Others were started by Civil War reenactment groups, which emulate Union and Confederate soldiers' recreational activities.

But there is a crucial difference between ballists and soldier-reenactors: On the base ball diamond, the competition isn't scripted, and it's often intense. The equivalent would be Civil War reenactors firing live musket balls at one another's potbellies, with the victory awarded to those left standing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:47 AM


Son of Slain Former Leader Triumphs in Beirut Vote (Megan K. Stack, May 30, 2005, LA Times)

Saad Hariri, the son of assassinated former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, swept parliamentary elections in Lebanon's capital Sunday, inheriting the public mantle left by his father and shoring up his chances of becoming prime minister.

A soft-spoken, billionaire businessman who insists that he wasn't groomed for politics, the 35-year-old Hariri headed a bloc of candidates that won all 19 of the city's seats in the first election since Syrian troops ended their 29-year domination of Lebanon.

Hariri, who presides over his father's business empire, is poised to take over the public role left vacant by the assassination three months ago. Voter turnout was light Sunday, but the win was hailed as a triumph of public confidence for the Hariri family. Hariri's campaign rhetoric was heavy with invocations of "the martyr," and pictures of the slain patriarch were plastered on shop windows, cars and even bottles of water.

"Today national unity was won in the face of the old regime. Lebanon is united in you," a beaming Hariri told hundreds of raucous well-wishers who thronged the streets outside the family's mansion, beating drums, tossing fistfuls of petals and screaming his name. "This is a win for Rafik Hariri."

And a loss for Baby Assad.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:30 AM


EU reacts swiftly to France's "non" (Deutsche Welle, May 30th, 2005)

EU leaders were also quick to react to France's no vote in Sunday's referendum. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told reporters that the result would require a period of reflection on the future of the EU. German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said that France's rejection of the EU constitution was regrettable and presented Europe with "great challenges". The President of the EU Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, described the no vote as a problem which had to be solved. German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder said the French rejection was a setback but did not spell the end of the road for the treaty.

In these difficult and uncertain times, it is reassuring to know Europe is led by courageous men of vision and conviction.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:18 AM


Pressure on North Korea: U.S. Stealth Jets Sent to South (JOEL BRINKLEY, 5/30/05, NY Times)

The deployment last week of 15 stealth fighters to South Korea, along with the severing of the American military's only official interaction with North Korea, appears to be part of a new push by the Bush administration to further isolate North Korea despite China's hesitation to join the effort.

The deployment, confirmed by the Pentagon on Friday after several news reports, came just after the Defense Department said Wednesday that it was suspending the search for soldiers missing in action since the Korean War.

The search was the Pentagon's only mission inside North Korea and its only formal contact with the country's military. The Pentagon said it acted to ensure American troops' safety in the "uncertain environment created by North Korea's unwillingness to participate in the six-party talks," as a spokesman put it, referring to the lack of negotiations on the North's nuclear arms program over 11 months.

Although senior Pentagon officials say the F-117 stealth fighters are part of preparation for a long-planned training exercise, the show of force comes at a delicate moment both militarily and politically. China, South Korea and some experts in the United States have urged the administration to make a more specific offer to North Korea, laying out what it would get in return for giving up its nuclear arms program.

Force should be the specific offer.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:15 AM


Abbas insists era of suicide bombers is over (Daily Star, May 30, 2005)

In an interview broadcast on ABC-TV in the U.S. last night, Abbas renewed calls for Hamas to renounce violence and enter into dialogue with Fatah.

"The climate right now is ready for political negotiations," said Abbas.

"Hamas should reach that conclusion that now the way is the political way and not any other way," he said.

Abbas said violent attacks in the Gaza Strip area had been reduced by 90 percent since his government took office four months ago.

Asked whether the era of suicide bombing was over, Abbas said: "I believe it is over. We have started to deal with the culture of violence, we stopped the culture of violence and the Palestinian people have started looking at it as something that should be condemned and it should stop."

Remarkable what imposing the state they wanted has done.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:01 AM


Pope's vision of a smaller church (Ian Fisher, 5/30/05, The New York Times)

Joseph Ratzinger, as a theologian and cardinal, returned to the question often over the years. And now that he is Pope Benedict XVI, his paper trail on the issue provokes skepticism about him among more liberal Roman Catholics. The question, in his own words: "Is the church really going to get smaller?"

At another point, in an interview published in 1997 in "Salt of the Earth," he explained it this way: "Maybe we are facing a new and different kind of epoch in the church's history, where Christianity will again be characterized more by the mustard seed, where it will exist in small, seemingly insignificant groups that nonetheless live an intense struggle against evil and bring good into the world - that let God in."

The standard argument is that Benedict "wants a more fervent, orthodox, evangelical church - even if it drives people away," as a New Yorker headline put it recently.

But, as with much around this new pope, the whole story is complicated. He has yet to announce an overall program, having been in office just five weeks, but both critics and supporters alike say that it is unlikely that he would plan to prune back the church intentionally - or that he could.

"I don't get any sense of him wanting to purge or anything," said Christopher Ruddy, an assistant professor of theology at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. "But I think he is willing to say what he thinks are hard truths, or unpopular truths.

It would seem germane that the Church is losing out to more fundamentalist Protestant denominations. Stricter orthodoxy doesn't appear to drive people away in the long run.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Europe stunned (Leader, May 30, 2005, Guardian)

France's emphatic rejection of the EU constitutional treaty is a stunning blow at a time when the continent faces grave economic problems and political challenges. Much comment in recent weeks has suggested that a no vote, while embarrassing, could be shrugged off, since the treaty of Nice will allow the union to carry on functioning.

But that misses the point that the constitution was agreed unanimously by 25 member states representing 455 million people from Helsinki to the Azores and from Nicosia to Warsaw. It represents a considerable investment of political capital and is a carefully-crafted compromise between different visions of the union, streamlining its functioning and boosting its clout in a world dominated by an unassailably powerful US. Despite the dire warnings of eurosceptics, it sets limits on integration. Its defeat - by 55% - 45% according to initial official figures - is very bad news for those who want a more coherent Europe punching at its weight.

Except that it's in the same weight-class as Karen Carpenter.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


The Democrats' Class Struggle (Dan Balz, May 28, 2005, Washington Post)

"The 45% of voters who make up the middle class -- those with household incomes between $30,000 and $75,000 -- delivered healthy victories to George Bush and House Republicans in 2004."

The study is based on Third Way's analysis of 2004 exit polls. Among the five principal findings are that white middle-income voters supported President Bush by 22 percentage points. The study concluded that the "economic tipping point -- the income level above which white voters were more likely to vote Republican than Democrat -- was $23,700." [...]

The report also contained alarming news for Democrats about Hispanic voters. The more Hispanics move into the middle class, the less they vote Democratic.

Based on the analysis of exit polls, Kerry's margin over Bush among Hispanics with household incomes below $30,000 was 21 percentage points, but among those with incomes between $30,000 and $75,000, it was 10 points.

A rising tide lifts the GOP boat.

May 29, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:03 PM


Judaism’s Sexual Revolution: Why Judaism (and then Christianity) Rejected Homosexuality (DENNIS PRAGER, September 1993, Crisis)

When Judaism demanded that all sexual activity be channeled into marriage, it changed the world. The Torah's prohibition of non-marital sex quite simply made the creation of Western civilization possible.

Societies that did not place boundaries around sexuality were stymied in their development. The subsequent dominance of the Western world can largely be attributed to the sexual revolution initiated by Judaism and later carried forward by Christianity.

This revolution consisted of forcing the sexual genie into the marital bottle. It ensured that sex no longer dominated society, heightened male-female love and sexuality (and thereby almost alone created the possibility of love and eroticism within marriage), and began the arduous task of elevating the status of women.

It is probably impossible for us, who live thousands of years after Judaism began this process, to perceive the extent to which undisciplined sex can dominate man's life and the life of society. Throughout the ancient world, and up to the recent past in many parts of the world, sexuality infused virtually all of society.

Human sexuality, especially male sexuality, is polymorphous, or utterly wild (far more so than animal sexuality). Men have had sex with women and with men; with little girls and young boys; with a single partner and in large groups; with total strangers and immediate family members; and with a variety of domesticated animals. They have achieved orgasm with inanimate objects such as leather, shoes, and other pieces of clothing, through urinating and defecating on each other (interested readers can see a photograph of the former at select art museums exhibiting the works of the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe); by dressing in women's garments; by watching other human beings being tortured; by fondling children of either sex; by listening to a woman's disembodied voice (e.g., “phone sex”); and, of course, by looking at pictures of bodies or parts of bodies. There is little, animate or inanimate, that has not excited some men to orgasm. Of course, not all of these practices have been condoned by societies — parent-child incest and seducing another's man's wife have rarely been countenanced — but many have, and all illustrate what the unchanneled, or in Freudian terms, the “un-sublimated,” sex drive can lead to.

Among the consequences of the unchanneled sex drive is the sexualization of everything — including religion. Unless the sex drive is appropriately harnessed (not squelched — which leads to its own destructive consequences), higher religion could not have developed. Thus, the first thing Judaism did was to de-sexualize God: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” by his will, not through any sexual behavior. This was an utterly radical break with all other religions, and it alone changed human history. The gods of virtually all civilizations engaged in sexual relations. [...]

Judaism placed controls on sexual activity. It could no longer dominate religion and social life. It was to be sanctified — which in Hebrew means “separated” — from the world and placed in the home, in the bed of husband and wife. Judaism's restricting of sexual behavior was one of the essential elements that enabled society to progress. Along with ethical monotheism, the revolution begun by the Torah when it declared war on the sexual practices of the world wrought the most far-reaching changes in history.

Genesis 2

18: And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

19: And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.

20: And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.

21: And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;

22: And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.

23: And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.

24: Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:27 PM


A tale of two constitutions (GLYN FORD, 5/30/05, The Japan Times)

On Sunday the world watched as the French electorate voted on whether to approve the new European constitution, and it will watch once again Wednesday when Holland holds a similar referendum. Both results will help determine the future direction and role of the European Union in the world.

Within two years the people of Japan will make a similar choice. For the first time since World War II, they will vote in a referendum on whether to amend their Constitution. Indeed, Japan has a team of senior politicians led by the chair of the Constitutional Affairs Committee, Taro Nakayama, observing the EU process.

Together the Japanese and EU referendums promise to affect the whole nature of global politics. New constitutions will transform the international roles of both Japan and Europe from being merely economic superpowers and global cash cows (currently the two largest donors of international aid) into global political players posing a real challenge to American domination and unilateralism.

Dream on...Four Surprises in Global Demography (Nicholas Eberstadt, August 20, 2004, AEI Online)
Sustained reductions in family size in the context of peace and social progress were first witnessed in late eighteenth-century Europe. In the first half of the twentieth century, European countries unveiled another demographic first: non-catastrophic sub-replacement fertility. During the interwar period, a number of European states reported fertility patterns that, if continued, would lead to an eventual stabilization and indefinite population decline thereafter, absent offsetting immigration. These low fertility regimens were entirely voluntary: heretofore, such low birth rates had virtually always been attended by war, pestilence, famine, or disaster. Europe experienced a baby boom after World War II, but sub-replacement fertility has now returned with a vengeance.

To maintain long-term population stability, a society's women must bear an average of about 2.1 children per lifetime. According to projections of the U.S. Census Bureau, Europe's total fertility rate (or TFR-births per woman per lifetime) is about 1.4. Indeed, nearly all the world's developed regions--Australia and New Zealand, North America, Japan, and the highly industrialized East Asian outposts of Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and South Korea--are reporting sub-replacement fertility. (Israel remains an exception.) But sub-replacement fertility is clearly no longer mainly a developed-nation phenomenon. If the Census Bureau's projections are roughly accurate, just about half the world's population lives in sub-replacement countries or territories.

Apart from Mongolia, according to the Census Bureau, all of East Asia is sub-replacement, as are Thailand and Burma in Southeast Asia, Kazakstan and Sri Lanka in South Central Asia, many Caribbean societies, and most South American countries. [...]

The United States is the singular and major exception to the demographic rhythms characterizing virtually all other affluent Western states.

In Western Europe, total populations are anticipated to decline between 2000 and 2025, with a substantial shrinkage in the under-fifty-five population and pronounced population aging. In the United States, overall population aging is much more moderate; the overall population is projected to increase, and a higher number of young people are expected in 2025 than today.

Part of this difference is attributable to a significant divergence in fertility patterns. As already noted, Europe's overall TFR stands in the 1.4 to 1.5 range, with Italy and Spain on the low end, at about 1.2, and France and Ireland on the high end, at about 1.8. The U.S. fertility rate has been over 2.0 since 1990 and is just under replacement today--somewhere between 2.0 and the 2.1 replacement level, making it about 40 percent higher than Europe's.

America's fertility levels have diverged not just from Europe's but from those of the rest of the developed world. The U.S. TFR is much higher than Japan's 1.3-1.4, and the gap is even greater with some of the other high-income East Asian countries. Even much of North America does not look so "American" these days: whereas the United States and Canada had nearly identical fertility levels back in the mid-1970s, Canada looks pretty European today, and the United States looks--well, pretty American. While the States is reporting a TFR of over 2, Canada's is around 1.5.

Much of the developed world is caught up in what Ron Lesthaege and Dirk van de Kaa have dubbed "the second demographic transition"--a shift to smaller desired family sizes and less stable family unions. If this is the new demographic revolution, Americans look to be the developed world's most prominent counterrevolutionaries.

America's relatively high TFR does not seem to be explained by any particular region or ethnicity. There are big fertility differences between some states, but forty-two states reported TFRs above 1.9 that year, and thirty-three reported TFRs of 2.0 or higher. In all of Europe, by contrast, the only country with an estimated TFR above 2.0 is Albania.

America's ethnic fertility differentials do not account for its demographic divergence from Europe. Hispanic Americans maintain relatively large family sizes in the United States, with a TFR of around 2.7, but excluding them by no means eliminates the gap between the United States and the rest of the developed world. Nor can the differential be explained by factoring out African-American fertility (which is higher than the "Anglo" rate, but much closer to the Anglo rate than to the Latinos'). In 2000, America's Anglo TFR was 1.84--about 10 percent less than the U.S. national average, but still more than 30 percent above Europe's.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:01 PM


RAF bombing raids tried to goad Saddam into war (Michael Smith, 5/29/05, Sunday Times of London)

THE RAF and US aircraft doubled the rate at which they were dropping bombs on Iraq in 2002 in an attempt to provoke Saddam Hussein into giving the allies an excuse for war, new evidence has shown.

The attacks were intensified from May, six months before the United Nations resolution that Tony Blair and Lord Goldsmith, the attorney-general, argued gave the coalition the legal basis for war. By the end of August the raids had become a full air offensive.

The details follow the leak to The Sunday Times of minutes of a key meeting in July 2002 at which Blair and his war cabinet discussed how to make “regime change” in Iraq legal.

Geoff Hoon, then defence secretary, told the meeting that “the US had already begun ‘spikes of activity’ to put pressure on the regime”.

The new information, obtained by the Liberal Democrats, shows that the allies dropped twice as many bombs on Iraq in the second half of 2002 as they did during the whole of 2001, and that the RAF increased their attacks even more quickly than the Americans did.

Easier just to regime change because it's good in itself than to cook up legal pretexts.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:58 PM


Revealed: The real cost of air travel (Michael McCarthy, Marie Woolf and Michael Harrison, 28 May 2005, Independent uk)

It might be cheap, but it's going to cost the earth. The cut-price airline ticket is fuelling a boom that will make countering global warming impossible.

The tens of thousands of Britons jetting off on cheap flights this weekend have been given graphic reminders by leading green groups that the huge surge in mass air travel is becoming one of the biggest causes of climate change.

Unless the boom in cheap flights is halted, say Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, Britain and other countries will simply not be able to meet targets for cutting back on the emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) that are causing the atmosphere to warm, with potentially disastrous consequences. In spelling out what is for most people - and for many politicians - a very uncomfortable truth, they are echoing the warnings of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution and the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee.

The scientists of the former and the MPs of the latter have set out in detail how the soaring growth in CO2 emissions from aircraft that the cheap flights bonanza is promoting will do terrible damage to the atmosphere and make a nonsense of global warming targets, such as Britain's stated aim of cutting CO2 emissions by 60 per cent by 2050. [...]

Blake Lee-Harwood, campaigns director for Greenpeace, said: [...] "The only way to stop the problem is to reduce our flying. We just have to accept public transport and highly efficient cars are the only kinds of routine transport we can sensibly use, and air travel is just for special occasions. We may not like that hard truth but we don't have a choice." The green groups feel the only solution is to cut back on demand by forcing prices up, especially as commercial aviation has long benefited from a very easy tax regime. In other words, people will have to be "priced off planes" and the cheap flights bonanza will have to end.

Amen, brother.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:14 PM

MIRACLE ON 10TH STREET (via Daniel Merriman):

Smithsonian to Screen a Movie That Makes a Case Against Evolution (JOHN SCHWARTZ, 5/28/05, NY Times)

Fossils at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History have been used to prove the theory of evolution. Next month the museum will play host to a film intended to undercut evolution.

The Discovery Institute, a group in Seattle that supports an alternative theory, "intelligent design," is announcing on its Web site that it and the director of the museum "are happy to announce the national premiere and private evening reception" on June 23 for the movie, "The Privileged Planet: The Search for Purpose in the Universe."

The film is a documentary based on a 2004 book by Guillermo Gonzalez, an assistant professor of astronomy at Iowa State University, and Jay W. Richards, a vice president of the Discovery Institute, that makes the case for the hand of a creator in the design of Earth and the universe. [...]

[Museum spokesman, Randall Kremer] said he heard about the event only on Thursday. He added that staff members viewed the film before approving the event to make sure that it complied with the museum's policy, which states that "events of a religious or partisan political nature" are not permitted, along with personal events such as weddings, or fund-raisers, raffles and cash bars. It also states that "all events at the National Museum of Natural History are co-sponsored by the museum."

Which settles the question of whether I.D. is religious in nature.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:51 PM


What Do We Owe the Rest of the World? (Crispin Sartwell, May 27, 2005, LA Times)

Delivering a commencement address at Boston University, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said this about U.S. involvement with his country prior to 9/11: "The United States and other countries that had the power, and hence the responsibility, did not see it compatible with their national interests to address the plight of the Afghan people then."

It was that little "hence" that gave me pause. If one is powerful enough to help, is one morally obliged to help?

"With great power comes great responsibility" is a classic cliche, indeed the very slogan of Tobey Maguire's Spider-Man.

But great responsibility also brings with it great resentment on the part of those over whom one is responsible, which is rational and inevitable. The fact that you are responsible for your children, for example, is a justification for your power over them. But they cannot throw off your authority — as eventually they must — without throwing off your responsibility for them, including the fact that you pay for their car insurance or their groceries.

This is one reason why so much of the world has a deeply ambivalent relationship with the U.S. at the moment. They need us in order to rise out of poverty. But if they enlist our aid to rise out of poverty, their gratitude is a form of dependence and a source of resentment.

Just another reason not to listen to foreigners.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:45 PM


Employers of Illegal Immigrants Face Little Risk of Penalty (Anna Gorman, May 29, 2005, LA Times)

Nearly every day, immigrants newly arrived from Mexico pick up job applications at Car Wash on Sunset.

Owner George Garcia insists that they provide proof, such as Social Security or green cards, that they are authorized to work. What he does not do is pick up the phone to see if the documents are phony.

"I run a business," he said. "Why is it my job to kick people out? It is not my responsibility to figure out who is legal and who is not legal. It's their job to stop them at the border."

Garcia doesn't worry about being fined or arrested by immigration authorities. Even if federal agents did raid his Los Angeles carwash and arrest his undocumented workers, it wouldn't take long to replace them.

"If I lost 20 guys," he said, "within a couple of days I'd have new guys."

The escalating debate over illegal immigration focuses primarily on those who sneak across the border, not on the jobs that lure them here or the people who hire them. When authorities do crack down on employers, it often is to stem terrorism, human smuggling or large-scale criminal operations.

In fact, the owners of hotels, farms, restaurants and retail stores who hire illegal workers — never widely sanctioned to begin with — now face a negligible risk of being penalized.

From 1993 to 2003, the number of arrests at work sites nationwide went from 7,630 to 445. The number of fines dropped from 944 in 1993 to 124 in 2003.

About 7 million illegal immigrants worked in the U.S. last year, said the Pew Hispanic Center, a research organization

Think Tom Tancredo wants to bus his own table and wash the dishes when he goes out to eat?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:42 PM


Ex-Dean leader launches worker site (Stephen Franklin, May 27, 2005, Chicago Tribune)

If the Internet could supply the energy that made Howard Dean a Democratic Party contender, imagine, Joe Trippi asks, what it could do for American workers?

"It could be a real innovative way to get people connected," said Trippi, Dean's former presidential campaign manager and a longtime political activist who on Thursday launched a Web at workers and their companies.

Trippi said he hoped his new effort would follow in the path of the Dean campaign, which amassed an e-mail list of 600,000, by stirring grass-roots activists as well as raising money from them.

Its first campaign is an attack on bankrupt United Airlines' management over its scuttling of workers' pensions. The site features a message board and allows visitors to add their name to a petition designed to urge the airline's board to replace Chief Executive Glenn Tilton and his top advisers because of their efforts to relieve United of its pension responsibilities.

Wow, they sure are using the Dean campaign as a template, whipping up futile anger in a bubble.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:33 PM


France 'rejects EU constitution' (BBC, 5/29/05)

French voters have rejected the proposed EU constitution in Sunday's referendum, according to exit polls.

The polls give the "No" side 55% - in line with surveys published in the run-up to the vote.

If confirmed, the result will be a blow to President Jacques Chirac and France's two main political parties, which campaigned for a "Yes".

It could deal a fatal blow to the EU constitution, which the Union has been working on since the start of 2002.

Of course, if the Germans offer enough chocolates and nylons the French will switch sides.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:23 PM


Pope Wants to Heal Catholic-Orthodox Rift During his Papacy (Sabina Castelfranco, 29 May 2005, VOA news)

Pope Benedict says he wants to heal the rift with the Orthodox Church during his papacy. He spoke to hundreds-of-thousands of people attending a mass in the southern Italian city of Bari during his first pilgrimage away from the Vatican since he was elected less than two months ago. [...]

Bari is often referred to as a bridge between East and West. Pope Benedict has said from the start of his papacy that he wants to further dialogue among different Christian faiths. He said it again in this city, which has close ties to the Orthodox Church.

Amid the applause, the pope said: "Right here in Bari, happy Barri, city that is home to the bones of Saint Nicholas and land of meeting and dialogue with our Christian brothers from the East, I want to repeat my willingness to assume, as a fundamental commitment, working to reconstitute the full and visible unity of all the followers of Christ, with all my energy."

The pope added that words are not enough, and concrete gestures are needed to reach out to the Orthodox.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:06 PM


White House researching potential justices (Deb Riechmann, May 29, 2005, Associated Press)

The White House has laid the groundwork to place more conservatives on the Supreme Court, scrutinizing the backgrounds and legal views of a shrinking list of candidates amid speculation that ailing Chief Justice William Rehnquist soon will step down. [...]

"The vacancy could come anytime after this Memorial Day weekend, we think," said Sean Rushton, director of the conservative Committee for Justice, which has close ties to the White House counsel's office.

"They have been winnowing the list down for some time now. I imagine they're down to maybe three or five -- a handful anyway -- who are their first choices," he said.

White House officials say it is inappropriate to discuss filling a vacancy that does not exist. They refuse to disclose publicly any details about how Bush might pick the first nominee for the court in more than a decade.

But those tracking the process say the counsel's office has researched the resumes of prospective justices, their court opinions and their views about constitutional law. Justice Department lawyers are carefully looking into the personal backgrounds of possible nominees. Justice Clarence Thomas was confirmed despite allegations of sexual harassment. One of President Reagan's nominees, Douglas Ginsburg, withdrew from consideration after it was revealed that he had smoked marijuana.

John McGinnis, a law professor at Northwestern University and former deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department's office of legal counsel, said he thinks Bush already might have made up his mind.

"This White House -- I congratulate it on its ability to be secret," McGinnis said. "It's entirely possible that Rehnquist has already communicated his intention to step down and the White House has a plan absolutely set."

Is this entire story based on supposition?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:31 AM


The China Scapegoat (NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF, 5/29/05, NY Times)

The most important diplomatic relationship in the world is between the U.S. and China. It's souring and could get much worse.

Only a Realist could think Communist China more important than democratic India.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:31 AM


U.N. Party Planners Wonder, Will Bush and Friends Attend? (DEAN E. MURPHY, 5/29/05, NY Times)

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has indicated she will not attend. So has former President George H. W. Bush. The controversial nominee for United Nations ambassador, John R. Bolton, has not been heard from, nor has President Bush, who was sent an invitation in February.

Getting big-name administration officials to attend events outside Washington is always a long shot because of their busy schedules. But in the case of the 60th anniversary celebration of the founding of the United Nations, which will take place in San Francisco late next month, some organizers are wondering if something beyond scheduling conflicts is at play.

Nancy L. Peterson, president of the United Nations Association of San Francisco, a nonprofit group that has been planning the celebration, said no explanation had been offered by the White House. But she said some members were worried that President Bush's seeming disdain for the world organization might be behind the silence and no-shows

Why not ask John Kerry to attend on behalf of the United States?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:13 AM


Lebanon launches landmark polls (BBC, 5/29/05)

Lebanese voters are going to the polls for the first of four rounds of voting in the parliamentary election.

The poll is the first in 30 years to be held without the presence of the Syrian military on Lebanese soil.

Troops withdrew last month after huge pressure sparked by the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, for which Syrians were widely blamed.

Correspondents say Mr Hariri's son Saad and his allies are poised to win the poll and dominate the new parliament.

As it becomes just another Middle Eastern democracy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:14 AM


A U.S. Faith Initiative for Africa: Secretary of State Rice and black pastors discuss a joint effort to fight AIDS. (Peter Wallsten and Tom Hamburger, May 29, 2005, LA Times)

Escalating its courtship of a politically powerful constituency, the Bush administration is teaming up with some of the nation's best-known and most influential black clergy to craft a new role for U.S. churches in Africa.

The effort was launched last week, when more than two dozen leading African American religious figures met privately with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and senior White House officials at the State Department, according to administration officials and meeting participants.

The hourlong session focused largely on how the administration's faith-based initiative could be expanded to combat the spread of HIV and provide help for tens of millions of children orphaned by the epidemic across Africa.

Some of the pastors said it was a matter of national security — that those orphans were susceptible to recruitment by Islamic extremists unless they could be exposed to churches such as theirs.

The gathering yielded no formal financial commitment from the federal government for the Africa effort. But participants said it marked a new era of engagement by black clergy with U.S. foreign policy. [...]

Rice and the pastors discussed the possibility of establishing an office of faith-based initiatives within the State Department that would direct federal funds for overseas aid to church and community groups, as similar offices have done in other Cabinet agencies.

The meeting reflected the expanding relationship between some of the country's best-known black clergy and the Bush administration — a relationship that has been nurtured through a White House program that encourages funneling government grants to religious charities.

Illustrating the political benefit of that relationship, White House officials injected some Capitol Hill strategy into the session. They solicited support among the black pastors for controversial legislation that would allow faith-based charities in the U.S. to discriminate in hiring based on an applicant's religious beliefs — a provision that has spurred opposition from some Democrats and civil rights groups.

"Compassion has a way of cutting across partisan lines," said James Towey, the top White House official in charge of the faith-based programs, who asked the pastors to sign a letter endorsing the legislation.

These guys are good.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:09 AM


Muslim pupils thriving (SANDRA TAN, 5/29/2005, Buffalo News)

It was story time.

Children in white polo shirts and navy jumpers or slacks gathered around their teacher and chimed in gleefully as they listened to a story.

On the wall hung pictures, letters and lesson plans along with a list of virtues: wisdom, perseverance, friendship, honesty, love, generosity and cooperation.

The classroom scene could have been mistaken for any private or parochial school, a tight-knit school environment where academics and moral values carry equal weight.

But a few things set Universal School in Amherst apart.

The classroom's character words were written in both English and Arabic. And the female teacher wore a head scarf, just as all female pupils in fourth grade and above do.

Universal School is a Muslim elementary school, the only one of its kind in Western New York. In the past five years, it has nearly doubled in size and now serves 55 children from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade.

"It seems to look like a different school, but it isn't," said Khalid Bibi, a Canisius College professor, founding member and parent who served as the school's first executive board president. "This is an American school, first and foremost."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Thatcher got it right on EU, says maverick urging Dutch to vote No (Toby Harnden, 29/05/2005, Sunday Telegraph)

If Geert Wilders was a rock star, his arrival would seem slightly over the top. As he steps into the square from his coach, fitted with darkened, bullet-proof windows and with VIP emblazoned on the side, he acknowledges the cheers.

"You're the best," shouts Monique Feenstra, the owner of a Hilversum coffee shop. Her hero, dressed all in white except for a lime green tie, uses one hand to sweep back his bottle-blond hair, and the other to sign an autograph. "He's beautiful," coos Maria Geijsen, a pensioner.

The perma-tanned Mr Wilders is not a lead singer, however, but a maverick Right-wing MP who fronts his own party, Groep Wilders. His populist campaign will be a key factor if, as the opinion polls predict, the Dutch No camp that he supports wins Wednesday's referendum on the European Union constitution. [...]

In opposing the constitution, Mr Wilders finds himself in an uneasy alliance with much of the Dutch Left, which sees it as undermining Holland's social model and traditional liberalism.

Both ends of the spectrum are feeding off a growing distrust of mainstream politicians and resentment over a lack of consultation on Europe. Mr Wilders's message about the evils of immigration and the loss of sovereignty to a European superstate is, he said inspired by Margaret Thatcher. "She rejected Europe very strongly and as a result today, because we were weak, the Dutch are paying Brussels what the British should pay. British people know their history and are sceptical about Europe. They are very wise and we can learn from them," he said.

Too bad the Tories can't.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Zarqawi Followers Clash With Local Sunnis: Battle That Left Marines on Sidelines Reveals Fractures in Foreign Fighters' Support (Ellen Knickmeyer, 5/29/05, Washington Post)

For four days this month, U.S. Marines were onlookers at just the kind of fight they had hoped to see: a battle between suspected followers of Abu Musab Zarqawi, a foreign-born insurgent, and Iraqi Sunni tribal fighters at the western frontier town of Husaybah.

In clashes sparked by the assassination of a tribal sheik, which was commissioned by Zarqawi, the foreign insurgents and the Iraqi tribal fighters pounded one another with small weapons and mortars in the town's streets as the U.S. military watched from a distance, tribal members and the U.S. military said. [...]

The Sunni Arab tribe involved in the clashes, the Sulaiman, lost four men, Salman Reesha Sulaiman, a member of the tribe, said in an interview after the fighting, which occurred during the first week of May.

On the Zarqawi side, 11 foreign fighters were killed outright, plus an unknown number of other foreign fighters and their Iraqi allies in U.S. bombing runs after local tribes tipped off their location to the Americans.

The fighting at Husaybah was a dramatic sign of the fractures in support and allegiance the foreign fighters are experiencing, several Iraqi political leaders and other Iraqis said.

Who will be the first Leftist pundit to complain that we should have intervened?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Banking on illegals (Dimitri Vassilaros, 5/29/05, Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW)

New South Federal Savings Bank is giving illegal aliens home mortgages to help them realize the American dream.

Its Casa Mia program is designed to help tax-paying immigrants "without traditional forms of documentation" -- like anything indicating they are Americans.

Remedios Gomez Arnau, consul general of Mexico in Atlanta, is working closely with the massive Alabama-based bank "to ensure the accurate identification of Mexican immigrants."

Said Senor Arnau: "We are excited to see a loan product specifically aimed at helping Mexican immigrants."

New South describes itself as Alabama's largest thrift with $1.4 billion in assets. It has residential mortgage loan offices in 13 states and services home loans in 30 more, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands.

If enough illegals apply, New South plans to offer Casa Mia mortgages in Atlanta, Phoenix and Houston "in the near future."

Unless, that is, the bank officers are arrested for helping to harbor illegal aliens.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Europe: Is the dream falling apart? (Iain Macwhirter, 5/29/05, Sunday Herald)

There is understandable gloom and foreboding this weekend over the future of the European project. If France and the Netherlands vote “No” to the new constitution, it will likely start a rejectionist domino effect that will knock on through Denmark, Ireland and Poland. Europe could be flattened for a generation.

Then again, perhaps this could be the moment when Europe finally comes to its senses. The French “non” will be a crisis, certainly, but a crisis is also a turning point. Few will mourn the loss of this less than inspiring document. It could be an opportunity for Europe to regain some of its idealism and purpose; a chance to remind itself that the EU is about more than agricultural support quotas.

'Split' France on analyst's couch: With opinion polls pointing to a likely victory for the "No" camp in Sunday's French referendum on the EU constitution, Paris psychoanalyst Eric Laurent talks to the BBC's William Horsley and puts his nation "on the couch". (BBC, 5/28/05)
BBC: What has the referendum campaign told you about the state of mental health of the French?

EL: It seems that in the referendum there's something irrational going on.

BBC: In what sense are the French being more irrational than usual?

EL: The fact that the "No" had this surge is, as one of our political leaders said, bizarre. The "No" vote comes from absolutely all walks of life.

BBC: Is France showing symptoms of a split personality?

EL: Yes, something like that. Of course in modern democracies the political personality is always split. You have two parties with different opinions. But this split means for the first time in years that something doesn't fit in with the usual divisions.

BBC: Are the French suffering from extreme stress? Is that what is making them behave out of character?

EL: There is a special stress, and the French nation was always revolutionary in its character. The Enlightenment happened all over Europe, but only the French nation was so divided that it produced the French revolution.

And the two parts of the nation never quite mended after that. So France has a special kind of instability among modern democracies. [...]

BBC: Are you sure that this is out of character? Perhaps this is a trait of character that hadn't come out before, but actually this is the true nature of the patient?

When Freud came up with the idea of the anal personality he was close to describing the French, but their syndrome requires the noun, not the adjective.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Cooking with Fidel: As blackouts multiply, Castro pleads for power thrift (AFP, 5/27/05)

Faced with crippling power outages and a grumbling public, Cuba's President Fidel Castro has made an urgent televised appeal for energy thrift, even demonstrating the relative merits of Chinese-made pressure cookers.

"Exceptional measures are being taken" to cope with the crisis, Castro, 78, said in an hours-long appearance on state television late Thursday, as the crunch has begun to yield more blackouts, and longer ones, as Cuba heads into the hottest summer months.

As if to underscore that he, too, feels the heat, Castro read aloud "opinions" collected from the public, replete with harsh criticism for the blackouts.

As local jokes have it, they are more reliable than the power supply.

Okay, we've proven that Socialism doesn't work--now can we just get rid of him?

May 28, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:14 PM


Britain ready to kill EU referendum (Andrew Porter and Peter Conradi, 5/29/05, Sunday Times of London)

BRITAIN is ready to drop its plans to hold a referendum on the European Union constitution next year if there is a no vote in France today, according to Foreign Office sources. [...]

President Jacques Chirac, who will broadcast on television after the polls close tonight, is set to urge other countries to continue with the ratification process.

Government sources said that was likely to cut little ice in Britain. “Chirac will attempt to shift the blame for the defeat and urge the other countries to go on and ratify because he does not want to carry the can for the constitution falling down,” a source said.

“The feeling now is that we do not really want to try to struggle on just to save his face.”

Mr. Blair has to enjoy this one.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:35 PM


Divorced Wiccans Fight Judge's Order (KEN KUSMER, 5/26/05, Associated Press)

A Wiccan activist and his ex-wife are challenging a court's order that they must protect their 9-year-old son from what it calls their "non-mainstream religious beliefs and rituals."

The Indiana Civil Liberties Union has appealed the stipulation written into the couple's divorce order, saying it is unconstitutionally vague because it does not define mainstream religion.

Thomas Jones, a Wiccan activist who has coordinated Pagan Pride Day in Indianapolis for six years, said he and his ex-wife, Tammy Bristol, were stunned by the order

Brother Perlstein suggests that this is un-American, but once you make your family subject to a court's jurisdiction this is certainly the type of thing it should take into consideration, as it reflects on the fitness of the parents. Of course, you shouldn't be allowed to divorce in the first place if you have minor children and neither spouse is being abused.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:54 PM


Liberals lead slumping Tories in poll (CANADIAN PRESS, 5/28/05)

The Conservatives continue to slump in voter support despite daily allegations of Liberal sponsorship misdeeds, a new poll suggests.

The phone survey by Decima Research Inc. puts the Liberals ahead with 36 per cent of decided voters compared to 27 per cent for the Conservatives and 21 per cent for the NDP.

In the crucial battleground of Ontario where one-third of Commons seats are centred, the Liberals lead by 16 percentage points.

The separatist Bloc Quebecois has a hammerlock on Quebec with 53 per cent of support, versus 21 per cent for the Liberals, 12 per cent for the Tories and nine per cent for the NDP.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:52 PM

NEW ISRAEL (via Tom Morin):


Dear Spengler:

The Israel-centric Judeophilia that has come to dominate American religion and politics is a relatively recent phenomenon. It drove the US into the war against Iraq, Israel's biggest enemy in the region, at the expense of the real war against terror. It may yet drive it into war against Syria and Iran, also Israel's' enemies. Will it hurt America in the long run? Only time will tell. I think it will, simply because this obsession with Israel is so irrational and so asinine.

The Hebrew god is a god that plays favorites. He commands his "chosen race" to steal land from others, to slaughter them en masse as in: "Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass" (I Samuel 15:3).

The Hebrew Bible is chock full of such insanities. No one who uses common sense would believe in such an insanely vicious deity.


Dear Bliss:

Let us examine your two issues, namely what you perceive to be America's sudden leap into Judeophilia, and your dislike for the Hebrew god.

On the first point you are poorly informed. Judeophilia characterized America from its founding; for extensive quotations and source references, I recommend Michael Novak's book On Two Wings, whose first chapter is titled "Hebrew Metaphysics at the Founding" (of the United States). Novak, a Catholic (ie, neither Jewish nor Evangelical) scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, quotes an 1809 letter from the United States of America's second president, John Adams:

I will insist that the Hebrews have done more to civilize men then any other nation. If I were an atheist, and believed in blind eternal fate, I should still believe that fate had ordained the Jews to be the most essential instrument for civilizing the nations. If I were an atheist ... I should believe that chance had ordered the Jews to preserve and propagate to all mankind the doctrine of a supreme, intelligent, wise almighty sovereign of the universe, which I believe to be the great essential principle of all morality, and consequently of all civilization.
During the first half of the 20th century, to be sure, the universal popularity of racialist theories did not leave the United States unaffected, and reverberations of European Jew-hatred influenced Americans. These attenuated gradually after the destruction of National Socialism. Evangelical Protestantism always had an affinity for the Jews, and its growth during the past 20 years surely made the US more Judeophilic, but that only took the country closer to its own origins.

On the other matter, you are not alone in your discomfort with the Hebrew god who wiped out the tribe of Amelek. Whether you acknowledge the existence of the Hebrew or Christian god, or Allah, or karma, or blind chance, one cannot help be struck by the unspeakable unfairness of life. Six thousand languages are spoken in the world today, of which two become extinct every week - which means not merely the lives of those who become extinct, but of all the members of the entire preceding culture, retroactively become meaningless. Most of them will not merit so much as a doctoral dissertation. If there is a god of any sort, he not merely wiped out Amelek, but thousands of cultures of which we know nothing, because nary a shard of pottery survives of them. At the present rate he will eradicate another 1,000 cultures in the next decade. If present trends continue, French and German will be spoken only in hell 200 years from now.

With all of this extinction going on, does it not seem woefully unfair to you that the descendants of a tribe of shepherds speaking a minor West Semitic dialect are the only people left whose ancestors walked the green earth 3,500 years ago, and the only people who still speak the same language their ancestors spoke? The Indians and Chinese, whose languages also are very ancient, do not make much of this.

Many Evangelicals consider this a miracle. When Friedrich II ("the Great") of Prussia asked his court chaplain for a proof of God's existence, the cleric replied, "Your Majesty, the Jews!" US televangelists routinely preach that if God so visibly fulfilled his promise to the Old Israel, adherents of the New Israel have some assurance that he will keep faith with them as well.

Others grind their teeth in resentment. Why should my people not be the chosen people? That is the source of Jew-hatred (What the Jews won't tell you, November 4, 2003).


It's no coincidence that societies that are anti-Semitic are likewise anti-American.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:49 PM


Judicial Nominees Compromise Was Hard-Won (DAVID ESPO, 5/28/05, AP)

The signatures of 14 Senate centrists, seven from each party, spilled across the last page of a hard-won compromise on President Bush's judicial nominees. But whatever elation the negotiators felt, the Senate's Democratic leader did not share it.

In the privacy of his Capitol office last Monday night, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., asked for commitments from six Democrats fresh from the talks. Would they pledge to support filibusters against Brett Kavanaugh and William Haynes, two nominees not specifically covered by the pact with Republicans?

Some of the Democrats agreed. At least one, Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, declined.

Details of Reid's attempt to kill the two nominations within minutes of the agreement, as well as other events during this tumultuous time, were obtained by The Associated Press in interviews with senators and aides in both parties. They spoke on condition of anonymity, citing confidentiality pledges. [...]

Democrats wanted the right to filibuster, while insisting Republicans abandon their threats to ban the practice.

Republicans insisted on some sort of linkage — limiting the potential for filibusters, while reserving the right to respond forcefully if Democrats broke their word.

Draft proposals, bearing language written by Reid's staff, envisioned future filibusters only "under extraordinary circumstances." Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., a member of the leadership, weighed in from a distance. Republicans agreed each senator could exercise "his or her own discretion and judgment" in deciding whether to filibuster.

Republicans objected forcefully at other points.

At a private lunch among senators, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and other GOP leaders equated a pending draft with unilateral disarmament. They said it would allow Democrats to filibuster without fear of retaliation.

Back around the coffee table, McCain, DeWine, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. and others insisted that Democrats yield ground.

Finally, as the negotiators returned to the Capitol last Monday, the day before the scheduled vote, the centrists were optimistic they had a deal. [...]

The draft said Democrats could filibuster only in "extraordinary circumstances" and that Republicans would oppose any rules changes "in light/assuming the spirit and commitments made in this agreement."

"In light" of, a construction credited to Graham, won out.

Collins successfully sought insertion of one additional word, obliging Democrats to "continuing" commitments.

Moments after the talks ended, six of the Democratic negotiators — Nelson, Pryor, Byrd, and Sens. Ken Salazar of Colorado, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut — walked into Reid's office.

Schumer objected to the deletion of Kavanaugh's name. Recognizing that the talks were over, Reid asked Democrats to support filibusters against both Kavanaugh and Haynes.

Nelson declined. Several participants in the meeting said the others agreed, although Landrieu said Friday through a spokesman that she had not. Reid's spokesman declined comment.

Sometimes a win can be bitter.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:36 PM


India a 'stabilising force' in world politics: Rice (S Rajagopalan, May 28, 2005, Hindustan Times)

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said that she regards India as not only a rising economic power but a country that is emerging as "a potentially very stabilizing and positive force in international politics".

That's why the US is spending a lot of time on this "very key relationship" with India and is "fully willing and ready to assist" in its transformation as a global power, she said in an interview.

She sought to emphasise that the US was committed to becoming "a reliable partner" of India which, as she put it, is "a natural friend" and "a great multi-ethnic democracy".

In her interview to Bloomberg News, a transcript of which was released by the State Department, Rice compared and contrasted the two emerging global powers - China and India.

While India's growing influence will be "largely positive", she was sceptical about China on several counts. If a country of the size of China does not play by the rules, it will end up being "disruptive to the international economy", she commented.

Rice also brought up other issues vis-a-vis China: democratisation, human rights, religious freedom, and transparency and openness in politics.

India's was "a remarkable story" in contrast, she said adding that with over a billion people in a multi-ethnic land, India "repeatedly manages to have democratic elections (and) a peaceful change of parliament".

Interview With Al Hunt, Janine Zacharia and Matt Winkler of Bloomberg News (Secretary Condoleezza Rice, Washington, DC, May 26, 2005)

MS. ZACHARIA: [S]hifting a bit to India, where relations seem to have improved, there seems to be a growing dependence of their country on outsourcing of U.S. services there and has that -- that seems to have benefited India, for sure. But what's the benefit for the United States?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, again, when this issue came up several months ago, I think that the answer that rings truest is that in order for the United States to be competitive and to make certain that jobs are here, you have to have an environment in which this is the very best place to do business. And that's what I think the President and his economic advisors spend a lot of time doing. And the President has talked about dealing not just with our near-term problems, but with our long-term liabilities, like Social Security, which depressed the capacity for the United States to be over the long term the very best place to do business. Tort reform and all of the things that they're pursuing.

But India is a rising economic influence of power in the international system. It's a great multiethnic democracy. I think it's a natural friend for the United States. The Indians are emerging from a philosophy of heavy statist involvement in the economy. They are emerging similarly from policies that were -- that were not aligned, but had a strong -- I won't call it anti-America, but tended to juxtaposed India to the United States in most of its policies -- and instead, I think, emerging as a potentially very stabilizing and positive force in international politics, which is why we're spending a lot of time on that relationship. We're spending a lot of time on South Asia.

And if you could imagine a circumstance in which what was once called the "Arc of Crisis" is instead an Afghanistan that is democratic and has a strong defense relationship with the United States, as the President -- and a strong strategic relationship with the United States, as the President and President Karzai just announced when he was here this week. A Pakistan that is democratizing and doing that in a way that roots out extremism because I think you have to say that Pakistan was very far along the road of extremism and Musharraf has made a strategic choice to turn that around.

And then in India, which is democratic, multiethnic, reforming in terms of the economy, entering the world economy in a major way, and that the United States can retain good and -- good relations with all of those and deepening relations with all of those, it's a very good strategic position for the United States in terms of security, in the fight against terrorism, as well as when you look to the West, what it means for the Middle East, and when you look to the East, what it means for East Asia more broadly.

So India is a very key relationship here and we're spending a lot of time on it. When I went out there, we talked about a stronger economic relationship, stronger energy cooperation, stronger defense cooperation and becoming a reliable partner for India as it makes its move as a global power. And we used the words that we're fully willing and ready to assist in that growth of India's global power and the implications of that, which we see as largely positive.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:32 PM


Bush's Global Clout Seen Growing (TOM RAUM, 5/28/05, Associated Press)

In the rarified club of world leaders, President Bush has taken his share of lumps. Critics have railed against his handling of Iraq, his perceived disdain for the United Nations and what they say is a swaggering approach to foreign policy.

But Bush probably would not want to trade places with any other head of state.

Nearly all his fellow leaders of the world's big industrial democracies have stumbled. It has left them vulnerable at home and weakened on the world stage.

The president, through it all, is riding what he sees as a strong re-election mandate to trumpet his goal of spreading democracy.

That helps explains why Bush, despite a slip in his approval rating among Americans, may find himself holding the stronger hand when he travels in early July to Scotland for the annual summit of the leaders of the eight major industrialized democracies.

"His counterparts all face ill political winds that make their domestic positions rather precarious," said Charles Kupchan, director of European studies with the Council on Foreign Relations, a private research group. "I do think it puts Bush in an advantageous position."

Funny, even when they thought they were the ones riding the wave it was W who wielded all the clout.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:24 PM


Health Leaders Seek Consensus Over Uninsured (ROBERT PEAR, 5/29/05, NY Times)

At a time when Congress has been torn by partisan battles, 24 ideologically disparate leaders representing the health care industry, corporations and unions, and conservative and liberal groups have been meeting secretly for months to seek a consensus on proposals to provide coverage for the growing number of people with no health insurance.

The participants, ranging from the liberal Families USA to the conservative Heritage Foundation and the United States Chamber of Commerce, said they had made progress in trying to overcome the ideological impasse that has stymied action on the problem for eight years.

The group, which first came together last October, has not endorsed any specific plan, but has discussed a range of options, including tax incentives for the purchase of insurance, changes in Medicaid to cover more low-income adults and the creation of insurance purchasing pools at the state level.

"This effort holds as much promise as any I've participated in over the last decade, probably more," said Kate Sullivan Hare, the executive director of health care policy at the United States Chamber of Commerce. [...]

The group's overarching goal is to agree, by the end of this year, on proposals that expand coverage to as many people as possible as quickly as possible. By meeting in secret, the group has tried to shield itself from political pressures. Some of the proposals under discussion could lead to increases in federal spending or regulation, at a time when the government already faces large deficits and Republicans generally oppose further expansion of government.

Though federal policymakers talk little about the issue these days, the problems of the uninsured have been gaining urgency among people who provide and pay for health care, including employers.

Increasingly, business executives say, health care costs hurt the global competitiveness of American companies. "This is a crisis," General Motors said in its latest annual report, noting that its health costs - $5.2 billion last year - had "a tremendous impact" on its profitability. [...]

The group is considering these options:

¶The federal government could require parents to arrange health insurance for their children up to a certain age, say 21. If the children were not eligible for public programs like Medicaid, the parents could obtain tax credits to help meet the cost.

¶If an employer does not offer health benefits to employees, the workers could designate amounts to be withheld from their paychecks, along with taxes. These amounts would eventually be forwarded to insurers to pay premiums.

¶The federal government could provide tax credits to low-income individuals and families or small businesses to help them pay for insurance. The full amount of the credit would be sent directly to the insurer.

¶Medicaid could be expanded to cover any adult with income below the official poverty level (about $9,600 for an individual). Each state would decide for itself whether to do this, and the federal government would provide financial incentives for states to take the option.

¶The federal government would offer small grants to states to help them establish insurance purchasing pools. Individuals and small businesses could buy coverage through these pools.

Asked what had prompted the initiative, Stuart M. Butler, the vice president of the Heritage Foundation, said: "It's a coalition built of frustration. True believers on the left and the right have been stymied on this issue."

If they can come up with some reasonably balanced proposals they provide both parties all kinds of cover to do some stuff their bases won't necessarily like.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:25 PM


Big Ben's Silence Baffles Engineers (THOMAS WAGNER, 5/28/05, Associated Press)

Big Ben, the landmark London clock renowned for its accuracy and chimes, stopped ticking for 90 minutes, an engineer said Saturday.

Officials do not know why the 147-year-old clock on the banks of the River Thames stopped at 10:07 p.m. Friday

He must have heard they were disrespecting Lord Nelson.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:41 AM


Politics may doom the euro (Edward Hadas, 5/27/05, CNN Money)

[A] strong French rejection could reduce one life expectancy, that of the euro itself. [...]

[S]uppose the "no" vote wins big, by something like 60 percent to 40 percent. And suppose the Netherlands follows on Wednesday with an even larger rejection.

That could cause something more serious than the usual EU pattern of navel-gazing followed by a vague compromise. The idea that the euro could be dissolved might start to look like a practical possibility.

The unsustainability of the euro has been a topic of dinner table conversation from long before the single currency was created. Many observers feared that the independent central bank would not be able to keep sufficient control on the member nations' fiscal policies. High debt loads might force countries to drop out or be expelled.

The counter-argument to such pessimistic speculation was vague but powerful.

Powerful? It was incoherent.

How long can the euro live as an orphan? (Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, 28/05/2005, daily Telegraph)

The prospect of a double "No" to Europe's constitution in France and Holland has already claimed its first victims, catching hedge funds off guard as the euro slumped to seven-month lows against the dollar, and battering Turkish, Balkan and East European bonds.

This is just a foretaste of what could happen once investors start to think through the euro's long-term chances of survival in a "post-federal" Europe that is no longer moving ineluctably towards ever-closer union.

Can a stateless currency hold together in a mere "zone" of 12 sovereign states, with a half-constructed legal base, while its economies are moving in starkly different directions?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:23 AM


U.S. Ponders Iraq Fight After Zarqawi: The militant may have suffered grave injuries. If he dies, the insurgency's divisions could widen. (Jeffrey Fleishman, May 28, 2005, LA Times)

Cryptic messages posted on Internet sites reporting that militant leader Abu Musab Zarqawi had been wounded raise questions about the future of a factionalized Iraqi insurgency driven in part by the power of his personality and mercurial strategy against U.S.-led forces.

Sometimes pictured as thin and willowy and other times as pudgy and bearded, Zarqawi is the face of the insurgent movement. If website postings are correct in suggesting that Zarqawi has suffered a bullet wound to a lung, the rebels could lose their fiercest voice in attempting to defeat Washington's designs for a new Iraq.

U.S. military officials say that Zarqawi's passing would not break the insurgency but could trigger a leadership struggle between Al Qaeda-backed foreign fighters on one side and Iraqi Sunni Muslims and others loyal to Saddam Hussein on the other. These groups reportedly are suspicious of each other, and uncertainty about a new leader could deepen dissension while U.S. and Iraqi forces increase their raids on militant strongholds in Baghdad and western Iraq.

"It is difficult to find leaders like Zarqawi," said Mohammed Askari, an Iraqi military analyst. The absence of such a marquee name could hurt the insurgency's recruiting and fundraising abilities, he added.

"Zarqawi is daring, elusive. He has an ability for maneuvering, evading risks and has this talent for sending effective messages to the public…. Who will come after him?"

You'd think it would be helpful if we didn't build up his successor the way we did Zarqawi and Osama.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:20 AM


U.S. May Be Trying to Isolate N. Korea (Barbara Demick, May 28, 2005, LA Times)

By severing some of the few remaining U.S. ties with North Korea in recent days, the Bush administration appears to be trying to further isolate the Pyongyang regime over its pursuit of nuclear weapons, analysts say.

Wednesday's suspension of a Pentagon program to recover the remains of U.S. soldiers killed in the Korean War puts an end to one of the few regular channels of face-to-face contact between Americans and North Koreans. It also cuts off a source of hard currency for the communist nation's army, which was being paid millions to assist in the search for remains.

Also this week, the U.S. refused to renew the contract of the American executive director of an international consortium in charge of supplying energy to North Korea.

Analysts said the decision to terminate the contract of Charles Kartman, a career diplomat who had headed the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization since 2001, was probably a prelude to abandoning a light-water nuclear reactor being built on North Korea's east coast.

"The U.S. is shutting down anything that is in any way remotely beneficial to North Korea," said L. Gordon Flake, an expert on North Korea and head of the Mansfield Center for Pacific Affairs in Washington.

Shouldn't the next phase be heating up in its silo?

What happens after North Korea falls? (Michael Barone, 5/26/05, US News)

It pays to take a look at the books George W. Bush hands out to his staffers. Last year Bush's book was Natan Sharansky's The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror, which argues that countries that do not protect individual rights cannot be reliable partners for peace. You could hear Sharansky's arguments in Bush's extraordinary second inaugural speech in which he promised to promote freedom and democracy in the Middle East and around the world. Bush's critics like to mock him as the sort of person who never read books. But he does, and his reading has consequences.

This year Bush has been handing out copies of The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag by Kang Chol-Hwan. This is the harrowing story of a man who returned with his Communist family to North Korea to help build a Communist state and who was instead imprisoned. In the past Bush has denounced the North Korean regime as tyrannical and has been chided by some foreign policy experts for what they consider his allegedly impolitic bluntness. But his championing of The Aquariums of Pyongyang suggests that he is more determined than ever to undermine a regime that is probably the world's worst violator of human rights.

It also suggests that no one should expect this administration to endorse anything resembling the Agreed Framework that Bill Clinton endorsed in 1994. Under that agreement, the United States provided aid to North Korea and refrained from undermining the regime in return for North Korea's promises not to develop nuclear arms. The North Koreans broke their word, but some foreign policy experts argue that a similar agreement is the best we can get from the six-party North Korea talks and should be accepted as at least a way of buying time. Bush has never seemed inclined to support an Agreed Framework II. He has spurned North Korea's demand for direct talks with the United States and has insisted instead on talks that include China, the country best positioned to put pressure on North Korea, and its other neighbors, South Korea, Russia, and Japan.

Now he seems poised to go one step farther and to insist on including the issue of human rights in any negotiations.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:00 AM


DOWN ON DEAN (Robert Novak, 5/28/05, Townhall)

Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean recently came to New York to dine with prominent party members and reassure them about his performance, but he totally failed with former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin.

Rubin, an icon in Democratic circles, left the meeting appalled by Dean. In contrast, party insider Vernon Jordan was impressed by the national chairman. That left Rubin wondering aloud whether he and Jordan had been at the same event.

Same events, different Party. There's no room for a Rubin anymore.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:58 AM


What's red and green and in trouble? (Judy Dempsey, 5/25/05, International Herald Tribune)

Germany's Greens, once a protest party of Marxists, Maoists and Trotskyites that first tasted power 20 years ago by joining a Social Democratic government in the state of Hessen, are gearing up for another fight. This time, the stakes are much higher.

"The big question is whether the red-green experiment is over," said Ralf Fuecks, director of the Heinrich Böll Foundation, which is affiliated with the Greens.

It seems a shame to stop the experiment before seeing if they can make every single German jobless.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:53 AM


Shock as woman gets 20 years for smuggling (CHRIS BRUMMITT, 5/28/05, The Scotsman)

A YOUNG Australian woman was sentenced to 20 years in prison yesterday for smuggling marijuana on to Indonesia's Bali island, triggering angry scenes in court and an unusual public expression of sympathy for a convicted drug smuggler from her country's prime minister.

The trial of Schapelle Corby, 27, has attracted massive media interest in Australia, where many people believe her claims that the drugs were planted in her luggage. Scores of family members and supporters - many of them Australian tourists holidaying on the resort island - attended court. [...]

"Guilty or innocent, I feel for this young woman," said the Australian prime minister, John Howard. "I ask that we all pause and understand the situation and recognise and respect that when we visit other countries we are subject to the laws and rules of those countries."

Indonesia, which, like other countries, including Australia, imprisons scores of foreigners for drug-smuggling each year, says it sees no need to grant Corby any special exemptions.

As The Wife said: Didn't she ever see Midnight Express?

Posted by Peter Burnet at 8:04 AM


The thorny 'truth' about human rights (Rosie DiManno, The Toronto Star, May 28th, 2005)

Traditionally, quotation marks have been reserved for, obviously, quotations. But somewhere along the line, those double-shift commas took on a new meaning. They are the typographical equivalent of a raised eyebrow.

Indeed, the designation has become so ubiquitous that people actually make little semaphoring gestures using the first two digits of each hand to symbolically bracket a fragment of conversation, as if to say, well, as if.

It speaks volumes that Amnesty International, in its 308-page annual report for 2005 — formally released on Wednesday — cannot bring itself to mention terrorism or the war on terrorism without hanging cautionary quotation marks around those words.

This unsubtle, mocking gesture — a hyper-neutrality — suggests terrorism is not a quantifiable fact in our lives and that the war on terrorism is somehow a duplicitous objective, perhaps a conspiracy hatched in the Pentagon rather than a global response to a legitimate threat already unleashed in widespread atrocities, from 9/11 to the bombings in Madrid and Bali.

Terrorism is thornier to define these days than necessary. The United Nations has grappled with it. In its narrowest interpretation, a consensus exists that terrorism is intentional violence against civilians (noncombatants), intended to intimidate or instill fear.

But Amnesty International, once a respected advocate for the human rights of political prisoners around the world, has been so deeply compromised by the relativist exculpation for slaughter and abuse that it can, without a hint of shame, and in the same paragraph, segue from the Sudan to the United States, from the colossal brutality in the Darfur region to the detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

The Sudan and the U.S. are two countries mentioned most notably by the organization's secretary general, Irene Khan, in her forward to the report.
There are 153 countries canvassed in the Amnesty tome, including the most reprehensible of totalitarian regimes.

Yet the brunt of the editorial scourge — in the passages most widely cited in news reports — is reserved for America, not just for its rightly condemned mistreatment of suspected terrorists, including the abhorrent torture that was inflicted on detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, but for generically and systematically "thumbing its nose at the rule of law and human rights." Such alleged disdain for the rule of law and the preeminence of human rights has, Amnesty contends, provided a green light for tyrants around the world, who need only to cloak their abuse of power within the rubric of the war on terror. As if dictators ever needed the thumbs-up from Washington to oppress their own populations.

This amoral equivalency would put the U.S. on a par with, oh, Haiti and North Korea.

You know you must be doing something very right when you beat out Israel.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:01 AM


For Rice, Unexpected Sanctuary by the Bay (Evelyn Nieves, May 28, 2005 , Washington Post)

The secretary of state was braving an appearance in hostile territory. The protests could have gotten ugly. The questions could have gotten hard.

Instead, in midnight-blue San Francisco, a city still in mourning over the presidential election, Condoleezza Rice was granted sanctuary. At a noon speech Friday at the Commonwealth Club of California -- the topic was spreading democracy throughout the world -- Rice was greeted with a standing ovation. She was interrupted by applause several times and was asked questions about as challenging as those at a presidential town hall meeting.

Remarks At the Commonwealth Club (Secretary Condoleezza Rice, Davies Symphony Hall
San Francisco, CA, May 27, 2005)

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. Thank you very much. Well, it's nice to be home. Thank you very much. Thank you, Rose, for that kind introduction and for the invitation to speak here among friends and colleagues from the Bay Area. I'd also like to thank my good friend Gloria Duffy for her leadership of this club and for her leadership in international affairs for a couple of decades now, Gloria. And I do want to admit that I always thought that I might play Davies Hall, but on the piano. (Laughter.)

It's great to be back in California. In fact, there really isn't that much that I miss about California, just the climate and the wine and the food and the culture and the people -- (laughter) -- and Pac Ten sports and all aspects of this great quality life. But I'm especially pleased to be here in San Francisco today, not just because it's down the road from the place that I really grew up as an academic -- Stanford University -- but because this great city has played an important role in the history of international politics.

Sixty years ago, the countries of the world signed the Charter of the United Nations here in San Francisco. That event marked the opening of an entirely new and unprecedented era in world history. Four decades later, San Francisco hosted one of the key events that helped to bring that era to a close. In a speech to the Commonwealth Club, 20 years ago, then Secretary of State George Schultz articulated the strategy that accelerated the collapse of the Soviet Union, a strategy that became known as the Reagan Doctrine.

The main idea of that doctrine was simple and powerful. A democratic revolution was sweeping the world -- Secretary Schultz declared -- and the United States of America would use every aspect of our national power to protect, to strengthen and to expand the movement of liberty worldwide.

Four years later, the Berlin Wall was torn asunder and the colors of dawn finally broke throughout the long twilight struggle. As we reflect on the ideas of that speech, we recognize that much that is universal in America's purpose still remains. But we also notice that this is a radically different situation in our present circumstances.

The implosion of the Soviet Union fundamentally transformed our world. From the fall of the Berlin Wall on 11/9 to the toppling of the twin towers on 9/11, the old international order slowly and then quickly crumbled into dust. For some, this was a glorious revolution, a cause for celebration throughout Russia and Eastern Europe. For others, however, the collapse of the old world order shattered the false and fragile stability within many foreign societies.

Ethnic cleansing erupted in the Balkans. War and genocide haunted Central Africa. And in Afghanistan, a vicious band of zealots seized power, brutalized their people and made common cause with mass murderers. The full nature of this new world was revealed on a warm September morning turned black with terror.

On that day, the United States learned just how closely our nation's security is tied to the success or failure of other societies. You see in today's world the greatest threats to peace emerge within nations, not between them. As a result, the internal relationship between state and society is just as important as the external balance of power between governments.

In response to this unprecedented challenge, President Bush set a new course for America, a practical course of action that summons the highest ideals of our nation, from Franklin Roosevelt to Ronald Reagan. As the President has said, "The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world."

Trying to label our policies as either realistic or idealistic, I submit to you, is a false choice. It is both. Freedom and democracy are the only way for diverse societies to resolve their disputes justly and to live together without oppression and war. Our challenge today is to create conditions of openness around states that encourage and nurture democratic reform within states.


Ladies and gentlemen, America must open a path to the march of freedom across the entire world. We are succeeding in this great purpose and we measure our success in the democratic revolutions that have stunned the entire world, vibrant revolutions of rose and orange and purple and tulip and cedar. It is a time when there is great hope for a Palestinian state founded on democratic principles and it is time --

AUDIENCE MEMBER: (Off-mike.) Stop the killing, stop the suicide, USA out of Iraq.

SECRETARY RICE: Ladies and gentlemen, ladies and gentlemen, it is a wonderful thing that people can speak their minds. And it is a good thing that they can now do so in Baghdad.


Yes, ladies and gentlemen, in Baghdad and Kabul and soon in Beirut, they too will be able to speak their minds. What a wonderful thing democracy is.


To be sure, enormous challenges still define a violent Iraq and a postwar Afghanistan and many other young democracies. But this afternoon, I would like to spend a few moments with you about the challenges strengthening democracy in three important regions: in Latin America, in Africa, and in Asia; areas that are not so often on the front pages, but that are very much in our minds.

To open a path for freedom in Latin America, the United States is offering economic incentives to advance political reform. The success of democracy in Latin America depends on the continued openness of our hemisphere, openness to new ideas and to new people and especially to new trade. A region that trades in freedom benefits everyone and one of the highest priorities of this administration is to pass the Central America and Dominican Republic free trade agreement known as CAFTA.


For too many decades, U.S. policy towards Central America has oscillated from engagement to disregard and back again. With CAFTA, we can break this trend once and for all. We can demonstrate that the United States is permanently committed to the success of all Latin American countries that honor the principles of liberty. CAFTA will energize democracy, strengthen security, and promote prosperity among some of our most important neighbors. The people of Central America and the Dominican Republic are working hard to replace a past of chaos with a future of commerce. They are embracing democratic principles and free market reform. And together, we must use the incentive of increased trade to promote even greater political freedom.

To attract trade and investment, democratic nations will work to create the political conditions for prosperity, transparent and accountable governments with the energy and the integrity to enforce the rule of law. In turn, these democratic reforms will help citizens to lift themselves out of poverty and participate in the life of their nation. There is a belief among some that CAFTA will only enable the strong to prey on the weak. But that view is totally misguided. On the lawful level playing field of democracy, free trade offers greater opportunities to all people from all walks of life. Free trade is most important for small businesses because they have the energy and the industry to adapt to new challenges and to succeed.

When government liberates the entrepreneurial spirit of its citizens, free trade becomes an engine for greater prosperity and social mobility. Of course, the CAFTA agreement will also benefit the United States by uniting suppliers and customers throughout the region. And we will all compete more successfully in a dynamic global economy.

More important still, CAFTA will contribute to democratic stability in Central America, making our nation's periphery stronger and safer and freer. For some nations in Latin America, however, democratic institutions must be nurtured with foreign aid. The United States is, thus, providing new development assistance with our Millennium Challenge Account initiative.

For decades we wasted billions of dollars in aid because it was given unconditionally. The MCA has revolutionized that practice, committing billions of dollars in new money to countries that rule justly, advance economic liberty and invest in their people. Honduras and Nicaragua have met these conditions and we are working with them to reach compacts for granting assistance.

The Millennium Challenge Account is also helping to open a path for the march of freedom in Africa. As in Latin America, it is serving as external encouragement for internal reform. Eight African nations are eligible for MCA assistance. And just this April, the Millennium Challenge Corporation signed its first compact with Madagascar; $110 million in assistance that will help the nation's citizens to share in the blessings of political and economic liberty.

The United States is committed to that vision of a peaceful, prosperous and democratic Africa. In the past four years, we have tripled the amount of official development assistance that we give to the nations of Africa. But we also recognize the limitations of that approach. As Uganda's President Museveni has said, "By itself, aid cannot transform societies. Only trade can foster the sustained economic growth necessary for a transformation."

President Bush agrees with the wisdom of that statement and he has sought to extend the benefits of free trade to Sub-Saharan Africa through the African Growth and Opportunity Act, or AGOA. This policy grants preferential trading status to African countries that are committed to democratic and free market reforms.

The result is an environment of openness that not only creates jobs, it encourages African nations to transform their society. By any conceivable measurement, AGOA is a success. Thirty-seven countries have qualified so far. Congress has twice extended the life of this legislation with strong bipartisan support. And last year alone the United States imported over $26 billion of goods from the AGOA group of African nations, a nearly 90 percent increase over the previous year.


This means more jobs and greater stability and increased opportunity for an expanding number of African citizens. With AGOA we are sending the message loud and clear that political and economic liberty are the keys to success.

As in Africa and Latin America, the United States is also opening a path for the continued march of freedom in Asia. Since the middle of the 20th century, we have guaranteed an environment of liberty, security and opportunity in Asia. And while the entire world focused on the grand events of the Cold War, an amazing thing happened right here in our own hemisphere. With America's support, billions of people across Asia, as here in our hemisphere in Latin America, tirelessly and steadily built the foundations of democracy on their own.

Some people looked at Asia in the 21st century and drew bleak comparisons with Europe in the 20th century. Like Europe then, Asia now is transforming itself politically and economically through global trade and record growth. But rather than view this change as a contribution to peace, some believe that it will stoke old grievances and nationalist sentiments.

According to cynics, the struggle for the mastery of Asia is just over the horizon. This is a crude analogy and I reject it as an abuse of history. There is no reason why Europe's past should predetermine Asia's future and we can explain why this is true in just one word: Openness. Europe's instability of the early 20th century stemmed, in part, from its non-democratic character, the Kaiser of Germany, the Czar of Russia, the Hapsburg monarchy and the Ottoman Empire. All of these closed regimes contributed to an atmosphere of distrust that summoned the guns of August.

Now look at Asia today, where democracy is more the rule than the exception. Of course, there is one large exception, and that is China, but we are confident -- we are confident -- that this will not always be so. As China continues to reap the benefits of economic openness, its leaders will look around Asia and come to one obvious conclusion: Political openness is a prerequisite for lasting success. Yes, the rise of China will certainly help to shape the future of Asia but the democratic character of Asia will also shape the rise of China.

This is a powerful reason for optimism. Ladies and gentlemen, the United States of America knows that we cannot force other nations to adopt democratic principles. In fact, we reject the entire premise of imposing democracy, because democracy, unlike tyranny, does not have to be imposed.


If you go to any corner of the globe, no matter how backward in technological development, no matter how far from the center, you will find that when men and women are asked simple questions, "Do you wish to say what you think, do you wish to worship as you please, do you wish to educate your boys and your girls freely, do you wish to be free from the arbitrary knock of the secret police at night," they will say yes. We saw it as people went to the polls in large numbers in Afghanistan, along dusty roads in a country that, in many ways, is barely out of the 17th century. We saw it in Iraq, where people went to the polls despite signs that were posted that said, "Vote and you will die."

Now, ladies and gentlemen, democracy, a belief in liberty, a desire to be free, is as natural as breathing.


It is not that it is easy, but when has it ever been easy? In our country, the great author of liberty, Thomas Jefferson, said, "The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time." But Thomas Jefferson was a slave owner; and so imperfect in his beliefs in liberty. And yet, because here, in our country, the Founding Fathers gave us institutions that protected those great principles, we have been able to struggle and stumble toward a more perfect union, built in liberty, for the more than 200 years of our existence.


All nations secure in their liberty choose to be governed by the will of the people, not by the whim of the dictator. They, too, will stumble and fall. They, too, will create institutions that are not perfect, but they will be institutions that do protect the human dignity that comes with liberty and freedom. With our first breath as a new nation, America declared that freedom is the birthright of every human being. We've always acted on that conviction.

Our nation worked to open a path for freedom 60 years ago in San Francisco when we helped to draft the UN Charter. We continue to open that path for freedom forty years later when Secretary of State Schultz declared that America would support all people worldwide who longed for democracy.

And today, though many of the challenges that we face are historically unprecedented, the United States is again guided into the world by our timeless commitment to human liberty. This is the only policy noble enough for our nation. It is the great calling of our time and by keeping faith with our highest ideals, we will succeed.

Thank you very much.


Thank you. Thank you very much.

MS. DUFFY: Our thanks to the Honorable Condoleezza Rice, U.S. Secretary of State, for her comments here today. I'm Gloria Duffy, President and CEO of the Commonwealth Club and I'll moderate today's question-and-answer session. And we do have a vast number of questions. I will, for the first part of this, skip the ones asking about piano playing, running for President, are you free for dinner tonight – (laughter) -- and all of those good questions, and go right to the very meaty questions.

Let's start with some of today's news: John Bolton. What special qualities does he bring that make it important that he represent the U.S. at the United Nations?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, thank you.

MS. DUFFY: What would be the main elements of his mission and position on behalf of the U.S.?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, let me start by saying that the United States believes that a strong and vibrant United Nations is, in fact, key to the success of our goals as a country and that's key to the success of the goals of peace and stability in the world. It's why the United States is a founding member of the United Nations and continues to support it at the levels that we do. But I think there is no doubt in anyone's mind that the United Nations needs reform.


This is a time when reform is very much on the agenda. Kofi Annan himself has talked about the need for management reform, for reform of the Secretariat, for reform of the various commissions of the United Nations. Let's be real, when you have a Commission on Human Rights and Sudan is on it, nobody can take it seriously.


And so the President and I believe that we need to send a strong voice for reform of the United Nations to the UN at this time when the UN is undergoing major changes. John Bolton has been critical, at times, of the United Nations, but frankly, it's not hard to be critical at times of some of the things that have gone on in the United Nations. In fact, friends are the ones who are most critical when things are not going well.

And so John Bolton would go to the United Nations with a mandate to strengthen it, to strengthen America's cooperation in it and he is someone who is well-positioned to do that. You know, there are very few people who can say, as diplomats, that they have actually worked pro bono for the United Nations as John did, helping Jim Baker in his Western Sahara mission for the United Nations. Or somebody who has spent as much time as John Bolton did getting a repeal of the Zionism As Racism resolution, one of the dark moments of the United Nations.


So this is someone who cares about the UN. Yes, John's a pretty tough person at times and he can have rough edges at times. I think a lot of people can, but I know many people who work for him who would walk through a wall for him. He has inspired them and I expect he'll do the same thing when he goes to the United Nations. But with all due respect, and we do respect the deliberative processes of the Senate, it is time for us to send a permanent representative to the United Nations.


MS. DUFFY: Speaking of representation for the U.S., I have heard it estimated, and actually by Dick Lugar last week, that there are around 50 ambassadorial posts representing the U.S. abroad that are currently vacant or occupied by ambassadors who are waiting to move on. This includes key posts such as Germany, Russia, Japan, and France. What's the roadblock to getting the posts filled? And since good representation for the U.S. is important, what is your plan for filling these slots --


MS. DUFFY: -- as soon as possible?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the President, of course, is very concerned to have the very best people go. We've had excellent representation in all of those countries. We continue, by the way, to have excellent representation by chargés in some of those countries, people who are very, very seasoned and senior career diplomats.

But the fact of the matter is, our appointments process -- and I don't mean of this administration, I mean of this country -- takes too long. The process of getting people cleared, the process of getting people through the confirmation process, it takes a long time and we need to find a way to speed it up. It was one of the things that the 9/11 Commission commented on, that it takes a long time to get Presidential appointments through. And I understand the need for background checks, I understand the need for the confirmation process, but we do hope that we can get people through very quickly.

And I have to say that Senator Lugar and Senator Biden and their committee are good allies of ours in trying to make this process move forward as quickly as possible, so I look forward to working with them. The President is going to send very strong representatives to those places. We've had strong representatives. One of them -- Howard Leach, I think, our Ambassador to France -- is here and did a fabulous job for us in France. And we look forward to getting these folks through because it is important to have representation abroad.

MS. DUFFY: Just going to the day's news again for a moment, there are reports that King Fahd of Saudi Arabia is now in grave health and has been admitted to the hospital. What concerns do you have over the regime's vulnerability given the terror threats the kingdom faces?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, Saudi Arabia is a country that is like many countries of the Middle East also in transition. I do not know the extent of the concern about King Fahd. He has, in fact, had some health problems for quite a long time. We have an excellent relationship with Crown Prince Abdullah, who was here recently. He was just here with the President at Crawford not too long ago. We really applaud what Saudi Arabia has done in terms of the fight against terrorism, particularly since the events of May of last year in Riyadh. The Saudis have been very aggressive in hunting down the terrorist cells that are in Saudi Arabia and we've had a good deal of success also on the terrorist financing front.

You may know that some of the financing for terrorism was coming from non-governmental organizations that had very nice titles about what it was they supposedly did in the world, the relief effort for this group or that group and many of them were kind of fronts for terrorist financing. And that was true, by the way, of some in the United States. It was true of many in Saudi Arabia. And we've worked very hard with the Saudis to shut down some of that terrorist financing. So the Kingdom is working very hard on these issues.

Now, we have made clear, as -- through the President's Second Inaugural and other speeches -- that all countries of the Middle East, most especially our friends, we expect to engage in reform and it will certainly go at different speeds for different countries, but we applaud some of the steps that have taken place in Saudi Arabia. The holding of municipal elections, one of them, we certainly do hope that the next time there are elections that the franchise will be extended to women as it has been in Kuwait.


But I want to tell you a story of something I saw on television during the Saudi elections that says something about what people are beginning to think possible. A man was voting in one of these municipal elections and he had with him his daughter. She may have been 12, 13 years old. He gave her the ballot to put into this ballot box. I mean, that's what he thinks is going to be his daughter's future and that's very hopeful.

MS. DUFFY: Dwelling just for a moment and broadening out this question from Saudi Arabia, there are times when the effort to promote freedom and democracy collides with our other national and often national security interests in countries ranging from, say, Uzbekistan to Saudi Arabia. Should our support of democracy be even-handed? How can the United States balance and resolve the conflict between freedom and our national security interests?

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. Well, there are sometimes tactical issues about the countries with which we are cooperating and where we have to continue to press for freedom. But, in fact, we see these two as inextricably linked, that our national security goals cannot be pursued without the spread of freedom and democracy in the world, and it is our view that in countries where there are tensions internally the best antidote for the kind of ideologies of hatred that are producing terrorists is, in fact, to have more openness and more democracy, not less.

And we've made this case to every country on the globe, for instance, the recent events in Uzbekistan, where there have been troubling events in the streets of Andijan in a part of Uzbekistan. We've made clear to the Uzbek Government that we believe that the kinds of tensions that are emerging there -- nobody wants them to have to deal with terrorists. That's not the issue. But the kinds of tensions that are emerging there are going to be best dealt with by giving legitimate channels for political openness through an open political process.

Look, it is not normal -- it is not normal -- for people to strap suicide belts onto themselves and kill others or to fly airplanes into buildings. When the ideology of hatred gets that deep, there is clearly a malignancy underneath. And what September 11th really taught us was that the 60 years that we had had a policy of essentially ignoring the freedom deficit in the Middle East and in the broader Middle East was giving us neither stability nor democracy. And so from our point of view, there isn't a conflict between national security and the promotion of democracy; they are one and the same.

MS. DUFFY: There are a few of us foreign policy wonks here, but for those who aren't, would you slip back into your role as an educator and explain to folks what is the Millennium Challenge Account, what is its purpose?

SECRETARY RICE: Yes, absolutely. The Millennium Challenge Account was announced by the President a couple of years ago and it was a part of something that was developing which came to be known as the Monterrey Consensus on Development Assistance. It essentially went this way, that there has been a lot of development assistance over the last decades that has gone to waste. And it has gone to waste because governments to whom it was given spent it badly, spent it in corrupt fashion and ended up with huge debt burdens but nothing really for their people. And in many places, people got poorer, not better.

The President believes that the key to spending development assistance well is to have governments that govern justly, govern transparently, that fight corruption, that have open economies, that demonstrate a commitment to the education of their people and to the health of their people. And that development assistance needs to go to those countries that are demonstrating that.

So the Millennium Challenge Account was a promise to increase over a period of three years -- it is now four years, because of getting it set up -- over a period of four years, American development assistance, official development assistance, by 50 percent. It was a $5 billion over that period commitment. Now the United States has in various ways doubled its commitment to development assistance. But this increase in development assistance was to go to those countries that are, in fact, governing wisely.

We have a number of countries that have been chosen for Millennium Compacts. What they do is they actually work with the government, with civil society, with non-governmental institutions, to create projects that the whole society can buy into. We've just signed one with Madagascar. We have them pending with countries like Honduras and Nicaragua. We have them pending with countries like Senegal. And we work with them to develop projects that will help to alleviate poverty and stimulate economic growth. But it's deliberately for countries that are governing wisely and that we believe will use the money well.

There are a number of countries that are in so-called threshold category that is they're not quite there on the very strict criteria, but we want to work with them to get there. And, of course, we continue to do through USAID, development assistance for the poorest countries, regardless of governing, but strategy. But I think this is a -- something that is now starting to catch on around the world that development is a two-way street. Yes, there are responsibilities of the donor, but there are responsibilities of the recipient, as well.

MS. DUFFY: I'd like to remind our radio audience that you're listening to the Commonwealth Club of California radio program and our guest today is United States Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice.

There are many, many questions about Iraq and so let me work through a few of them. You reported progress in Iraq, after your recent visit. But it appears that the car bombings and insurgency continues to be on the rise. How do you explain the two different pictures and are you confident the Iraqi army and police can control their country?

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, that's it?

MS. DUFFY: I'm sorry.

SECRETARY RICE: I thought you were going to give me several. All right.

MS. DUFFY: That's the first one.


MS. DUFFY: I have more.

SECRETARY RICE: All right. The Iraq situation is, yes, very difficult. And there are determined killers and terrorists who are, indeed, determined to keep the Iraqi people from progressing. And let's be very clear who these people are. These are the same murderers who worked for Saddam Hussein in oppressing people for the decades that he ruled. They are the people who oversaw torture chambers and rape rooms and they'd like to take Iraq back to that era. They are also foreign terrorists, like Zarqawi, who came in from the outside to fight the violent jihad in the -- on the streets of Iraq because they fundamentally understand that the spread of liberty and freedom to Iraq will blow a hole in their plans for taking the Middle East back to the days of when women are oppressed and when there is no tolerance of other religions.

It's a perverted sense of Islam, which is, of course, a great religion and a peaceful religion. And people like Zarqawi, who's the face of terror in Iraq, are behind these killings. Now, who are they killing? They're killing principally innocent Iraqis. They're killing men and women and children who just want a better future. Yesterday, they killed the dean of a university. They killed a young girl who was going to school. This isn't resistance. This isn't national resistance. This is bloody terror and you have to call it by name.

Now, the people of Iraq --


Now, the people of Iraq, despite that, are embarked on a political process that is quite remarkable. It started with the formation of a governing council shortly after liberation. It moved on then to the formation of an interim government after we transferred sovereignty.

And you know, we're a very impatient culture. We transferred sovereignty less than a year ago in Iraq. Less than a year ago. Now, they went from that interim government to elections on January 30th. Everybody said they couldn't pull it off. Eight and half million Iraqis voted, despite the threats of the terrorists and now they are going to write a constitution. I was just there. I talked to them about the need to be inclusive of the Sunni population, which for a variety of reasons, was not as well represented in the vote. And they're going to build a unified Iraq that is based on democratic principles. It's not going to look like the United States of America, but it's not going to look like Saddam's Iraq. And thank God for that because it was time to get that monster out of the center of Baghdad.


I know it's hard, but when you think about human rights and when you think about the struggle that people have, just think about the fact that finally, in Iraq, in the center of the Arab world, there are people who are expressing their will and expressing their interest through political processes of compromise, political processes of negotiation, political processes of coming to terms with their differences. And when you think they aren't going to make it and when you say -- when you want to criticize what they're doing and it's taking a long time and this and that, just remember, not to this date, have they made a compromise as bad as the one in 1789 that made my ancestors three-fifths of a man. So let's be humble about what they're going through.


So it's a big historical change and historical changes are often violent and they're often turbulent, but the Iraqi people are going to succeed.

MS. DUFFY: Here is a very pointed question. Can you outline, in detail, the timeline for our departure from Iraq?

SECRETARY RICE: I can tell you that -- and it relates to one part of the other question -- the President talks not about an exit strategy, but about a success strategy. We have sacrificed greatly in Iraq. The men and women of the United States of America and our coalition partners have sacrificed. We have sacrificed treasure and young life in Iraq. And we have done it because a different kind of Middle East is going to make it possible to have peace and stability and security for generations.

It would not be a good thing to leave before this job is finished, but the Iraqis themselves want more than anything to be able to secure themselves. We are actively engaged with them in building their security forces. Their security forces are stepping up to the plate. They really did the security themselves for the elections. General Casey told me that he is not -- he did not have to have one coalition intervention during the elections. They secured those elections on their own. They are getting better. It's very tough, but they're getting better. And when they are able to secure themselves, then it will be possible for the international forces to leave. I am hopeful that they are going to take more and more of the security mission and they are taking more and more of the security mission.

You know, I visited wounded soldiers when I was recently in Iraq and one of the people that was in the hospital there in Baghdad was a young woman, a 21-year-old Iraqi woman, who had been part of the security forces. And she had thrown herself near an IED in order to safeguard the person that she was safeguarding who -- she was on the Prime Minister's detail. And she was very proud of what she had done for her country, despite the fact that she had lost a leg.

Sometimes, we give more attention to the terrorists like Zarqawi than we give to the Sabrinas of the world in Iraq who are desperately trying to secure democracy for their country.


MS. DUFFY: Moving on from Iraq, let's talk about human rights a bit. We are here in San Francisco and there's a question, what are you doing to ensure that countries like China and Egypt uphold the civil rights of its gay citizens, of their gay citizens?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, obviously, from our point of view, a democratic and tolerant society is exactly that. It is a society in which all people are included. It does not matter what race, what gender, it does not matter what sexual orientation -- all that matters is that you are a citizen of that country. And indeed, we note that in countries that are democratic, in countries where there can be pressure on government, in countries where there can be checks and balances on government, then the rights and -- the rights of the most vulnerable in society tend to be more protected. And so we are concentrating in places like China and in Egypt and in other places on human rights. Whenever we have discussions with these countries, we talk about human rights. And the United States issues something called a Human Rights Report every year that talks about the human rights conditions in each country and so -- very much in line with the notion that every citizen needs to be represented and rights protected. We believe that this is the way to handle this situation.

MS. DUFFY: What should be the role of the U.S. Secretary of State in pursuing individual or group cases of human rights violations abroad? I think, for instance, of a former colleague of ours from Stanford who has been imprisoned in China for supposedly releasing national security secrets and so on. What should a Secretary of State do or not do about cases such as this?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think the Secretary of State has to work at all levels; at the general level for better rule of law and human rights respect, at the level of groups to say that the right to assembly, the right of groups to work is important, and at the individual level. When I go to places like China or talk to my colleagues from those countries, I do raise individual cases, because individual cases are sometimes more vibrant in the way that they symbolize what is going on in a country, so I think it's very important that we do that.

It's also -- very often, these are terrible humanitarian situations and you're trying to intervene for the person, but we -- I work at all levels and I think it's important to work at all levels.

MS. DUFFY: Thank you for that. Several countries, including France and Great Britain, are slated to vote on the EU constitution in the near future, which would strengthen the role and organization of the European Union. Pressure -- assuming that the U.S. supports the EU constitution, what are the implications for European unity and U.S. interests if the constitution is not approved by all the signatory states and thus does not go into effect?

SECRETARY RICE: Yes. Well, we've been very clear that we favor a strong Europe, a united Europe, that it would be a good partner for the United States because after all, we share values and you want partners in international politics that shares values. And so we have been supportive of the European project of all of this. Now we don't vote in the constitutional referenda in these countries and I don't want to try to say anything that might be viewed as intervening. I just will say that the European Union has been one of the two pillars of the transatlantic relationship.

It has been important in as an incentive, as a draw for the young countries of Central and Eastern Europe as they democratize. It is important as a draw for the countries of the Balkans as they try to move toward a European -- a future that is integrated in Europe. It is an important element that Turkey be, at some point when it meets the standards, admitted to the European Union because what we cannot afford to have is a divide between Turkey and the rest of Europe that might look like what was once described as a clash of civilizations between Muslim Turkey and multi-religious but Christian Europe; that would be a very terrible thing.

So we believe that the European Union has been a source of stability and hope that it can continue its efforts toward integration and unification.

MS. DUFFY: There are a number of questions about immigration issues with Mexico and enforcement and controlling our borders and so on. There's also the groups that have been operating in Arizona and New Mexico recently, the "Minutemen" they call themselves, trying to stimulate enforcement of the border control.

Could you give us your views of what would be on your agenda to try to improve enforcement of border control and also how to deal with a vigilante group, essentially, operating on the border?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, let me mention that the President, of course, was the Governor of Texas and so immigration is something that he's dealt with a lot. And he came to office talking about the fact that our immigration policies need reform. The fact is that we need immigration policies that, first of all, allow us to enforce our borders. We cannot have a situation in which people do not respect our laws, do not respect the fact that there are lawful ways to come to the United States.

And so we are doing a great deal with Mexico on border enforcement issues. There's something -- for instance, there's the Smart Border Initiative, because one of the problems on many of the borders, if you go down toward Tijuana or you go to the Texas border, is you have a lots of goods and people moving through that are legitimate and if you do too much enforcement at the border you will stop that trade. And so this allows for technology to help through smart borders. It allows for pre-clearance of some goods and people. And so we're working on a number of ways to deal with border enforcement.

Secondly, the President has noted that the policies need to recognize the economic realities that drive immigration issues, that there are people who come to the United States to do work that others, that Americans, will not do, and that matching willing workers with willing employers is an important element of a good immigration policy.

And thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, it needs to be humane. The fact that there are people who live in the shadows in the way that they do, despite their contributions to our economy, cannot go home and cannot be a part of their families, this is not a good thing for a country that was built on immigration.

And so the President has designed something called the Temporary Worker Program. He's working with the Congress on how we might make it possible for people to do this. People respecting -- people need to respect our laws. This cannot be an amnesty. But they do need to -- we do need to find a way to recognize economic realities and make our policies more humane.

And as to enforcement, that is a role for the United States Government and the United States Government alone.


MS. DUFFY: With the progression of North Korea and possibly Iran towards nuclear weapons, it seems that the nonproliferation regime of the past half century may be unraveling. The outcome of the Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference now taking place in New York, seeking to shore up that regime, is uncertain at best. What is your administration's approach to the Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference? And more broadly, what steps are you planning to take to prevent North Korea, Iran, al-Qaida or others from obtaining nuclear weapons?

SECRETARY RICE: That's a very good question and I know Gloria would pick that one out because this has been of great interest to Gloria who, by the way, when she was in the Clinton Administration did something very important for nonproliferation, and that is managing to negotiate the nuclear weapons of the old Soviet Union back to Russia. It's something that was very important. You could have had a world in which those nuclear weapons were spread across the collapsed empire. And I'd like to congratulate her for that.


MS. DUFFY: Thank you.

SECRETARY RICE: It is true that the Nonproliferation Treaty is -- that there are loopholes and that it is fraying in many ways. It is still an extremely important document and we continue to support it. But we have tried to go at this in several ways. The first is that the President has made a number of proposals concerning the Nonproliferation Treaty that would strengthen it. One of the surest ways to prevent the proliferation of nuclear technology is to make sure that something called reprocessing and enrichment capability is not widespread in the world. And so the President has talked about not having further transfers of that particular technology.

This is, by the way, the argument that the Iranians and the Europeans are having: is there a right to reprocessing and enrichment technology? Yes, reprocessing and enrichment technology is important for civilian nuclear power, but it can be easily diverted to be used for nuclear power. So there are some technical things you can do.

Secondly, we have to have a stronger counter-proliferation policy and we have created something called the Proliferation Security Initiative in which more than 60 countries participate, in the air, sea and on land, to interdict suspicious cargo. It was a very important success of the Proliferation Security Initiative that we interdicted a cargo that was headed to Libya from North Korea, probably helping Colonel Qadhafi and his decision to give up his weapons of mass destruction. But that kind of interdiction of suspicious cargo is a very important part. It takes good intelligence. It takes good cooperation internationally and we are getting that cooperation

Third, it is important to secure the materials that might give rise to proliferation concerns. Much of that is the work that Senator Lugar and Senator Nunn pioneered through the Cooperative Threat Reduction efforts with the former Soviet Union to secure the materials and the knowledge through the scientists -- Gloria was very involved in that program -- in making sure that there's not a ready supermarket, if you will, for these kinds of technologies.

Fourth, we have been very fortunate and I think it's a great success of our intelligence agencies that the A.Q. Khan network was brought down. The A.Q. Khan network, a Pakistani scientist who was one of the fathers of the Pakistani nuclear program whose network across the globe was selling -- just selling -- the technologies, almost turnkey kits on how to build the technologies for nuclear weapons. And that A.Q. Khan is under house arrest in Pakistan. His network, many of them are being prosecuted. That's a very big step forward because that kind of black market activity is particularly dangerous.

And then finally, occasionally people have to -- are going to have to be brought to the international community if they do not live up to their obligations. And we have been supportive of negotiations of the EU with Iran to get Iran to live up to its obligations, of the six-party talks, which is North Korea's neighbors, to get the North Koreans to live up to their international obligations. These are not easy negotiations because sometimes these are countries that are determined to build nuclear weapons. But it has to be clear to countries that isolation is all that you get from acquiring a nuclear weapon, that there is no benefit to be had. And I think we'll start to have some success.

MS. DUFFY: In spite of all that, and this, I guess, is a fatalistic question, one person wants to know: Do you feel we should plan for a nuclear Iranian state, and how? What should we do to prepare for this eventuality?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I have always believed that the best course, in policymaking at least, is to put your head down and drive toward the solution that you must have, not to become diverted by what might happen if you don't get there. And in this case, a nuclear-armed Iran would be enormously dangerous in a region that is already quite volatile.

And it's not just that Iran with a nuclear weapon, it is also Iranian behavior on other fronts. We're talking about a country that does have abominable human rights record, we're talking about a country that where an unelected few continue to suppress the desires of its people for democratic elections, most recently, with the Guardian Council deciding who can run for President and who can't run for President. And this is a country -- and we really want to underscore this -- that is out of step in terms of its support for terrorists.

The Iranians are probably the most important state sponsor of terrorists, including the terrorists who are doing their best to frustrate the hopes of the Palestinian people for a state. Mahmoud Abbas, who was with the President yesterday, came to power in an election where he won 62 percent of the vote by saying the armed Intifada has to end. The only way to get a Palestinian state is through peaceful negotiation with the Israelis. And who is he trying to face down? He's trying to face down terrorist organizations that the Iranians are funding. So the Iranians are very much out of step with the international system. And so to have a nuclear weapon in the hands of the Iranians would be a very, very dangerous thing. So we're going to do everything that we can to prevent that outcome.


MS. DUFFY: Well, I have several hundred more questions here, but we've reached the point in our program where it's time for just that one last question. Before I move to that question, please do everyone stay in the room and remain seated, if you would, while Secretary Rice leaves the room.

And the last question is: What would you like your legacy to be as Secretary of State, if you could pick one thing?

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. I was fortunate in 1989 to 1991 to be the White House Soviet specialist at the end of the Cold War. It doesn't get much better than that. And I got to participate in the end of the Communism in Eastern Europe and the rise of a united Germany on Western terms and the beginnings of the peaceful collapse of the Soviet Union.

But you know, when I look back, I realize that as heady an experience as that was, we were just harvesting good decisions that had been taken in 1945 and 1946, 1947. And I look back on people like Truman and Acheson and Marshall and Kennan and Nitze and I wonder how they got it right because if you look at the time after World War II, it was a time when freedom most certainly did not seem to be on the march.

In 1946, the Communists won large minorities in France and in Italy. In 1947, there was civil conflict in Turkey and civil war in Greece. In 1948, there was, of course, the permanent division of Germany because of the Berlin events and the Berlin airlift. And in 1948, they had to make a decision about whether to recognize Israel. In 1949, the Soviet Union exploded a nuclear weapon five years ahead of schedule -- Joseph Stalin's Soviet Union -- and the Chinese Communists won their civil war. It didn't look very good for the march of freedom.

But somehow because they put in place institutions and stayed true to their values and believed that there could be a democratic Japan and a democratic Germany, we sit now in a world in which we can't imagine war in Europe, despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of Americans and millions of Europeans died in that war, in those wars, just 60 years ago. And so it says that you need to always keep your eye on the long-term, not on the short-term. History doesn't unfold quickly, it unfolds over the long-term. And I would hope that at the end of this time, we would have laid a similar foundation in the Middle East, where we would have recognized that the real power and authority of America comes from its association with values, that it comes from our association with people who are seeking liberty and who aspire to freedom and democracy, that we would have united those allies who are on the right side of freedom's divide, lucky enough to be there because of the sacrifices of others, to make common cause with those who are still trapped on the wrong side of freedom's divide.

And that in doing so, we might look back 50 years from now -- or someone will -- and say, ‘aren't we glad that the Americans and their allies understood the power of freedom, that they understood that the people of the Middle East, of Iraq and Afghanistan and Egypt and Lebanon had the right to be free. And because those people are free, the Middle East is finally a place of prosperity and stability and peace.’

And that they would look back, some President, sitting across from a president from a free Iraq or a free Afghanistan would have the same thrill that a president now has sitting across from a president of a democratic Japan or the chancellor of -- the prime minister of a democratic Japan or the chancellor of a democratic Germany. Nobody thought that a democratic Germany and a democratic Japan were going to rise either, but I do believe that if America stays true to her values and if our friends join us, there will be a democratic Middle East and that is something for which our children and our grandchildren will be grateful.

Thank you very much.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Harkin: Bush is to stem cell what Wallace was to civil rights (DAN GEARINO, 5/27/05, WCF Courier)

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said Thursday that President George W. Bush's opposition to expanded federal support for stem cell research merely delays the inevitable ---- a point he made with an example from the civil-rights struggle.

Bush is "sort of our modern-day George Wallace, standing in the schoolhouse door," Harkin said in a conference call with reporters.

Wallace was the governor of Alabama who famously stood in the door of the University of Alabama in an attempt to stop two African American students from registering.

"The fact is, that the walls of segregation were going to come tumbling down, we were going to move ahead with integration, and no matter what George Wallace did, it was going to happen. And I think it's the same way with President Bush," Harkin said.

If the Senator is going to insist that someone be compared to wallace, shouldn't it be the Democrat who want to treat a class of people as subhuman for short term political gain?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Judge Won't Dismiss Wash. Gov. Challenge (REBECCA COOK, 5/27/05, Associated Press)

A judge Friday refused to throw out a Republican challenge to the election of Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire, saying voters deserve a full accounting of how the balloting was conducted.

The Democrats asked for a dismissal after the Republicans rested their case following four days of testimony aimed at proving that errors, illegal votes and fraud combined to deprive GOP candidate Dino Rossi of victory last fall.

He's not going to order a new election, but their suit isn't dead yet.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


McCain Urging Accord on Bolton and Secret Documents (DOUGLAS JEHL and CARL HULSE, 5/28/05, NY Times)

One of John R. Bolton's leading Republican backers, Senator John McCain of Arizona, signaled his support on Friday for a compromise in which the White House might allow Senate leaders access to highly classified documents in return for a final vote early next month on Mr. Bolton's nomination as United Nations ambassador.

The conciliatory signal from Mr. McCain came as Senate leaders traded blame over who was responsible for the miscalculation that led to Mr. Bolton's nomination being blocked Thursday. But the White House showed no sign that the Bush administration might change course. [...]

Appearing on the Fox News Channel, Mr. McCain reiterated his support for Mr. Bolton. He also praised an argument made by, among others, Senator Richard G. Lugar, Republican of Indiana, who has urged the administration to provide the Senate with more information related to Mr. Bolton's conduct. Senators calling on the administration to share the documents "have some substance to their argument," Mr. McCain said. [...]

Mr. McCain was among 53 Republicans left stunned by the Democratic move, which foiled a Republican-led effort to bring the nomination to a final roll-call vote.

The senator had played host at a meeting on Monday night in which seven Republicans struck a deal with seven Democrats in the Senate to avert a showdown over filibusters of judicial nominations. Three of those Democrats - Senators Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, and Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana - joined Republicans in voting to end the debate on Mr. Bolton.

Mr. McCain's comments on Friday suggested that he might once again see himself as playing a broker's role, though he did not say what he believed a compromise might entail.

Only two of the 55 Republicans in the Senate have said they would oppose Mr. Bolton, making it likely that he would win confirmation in a roll-call vote.

He's put this pressure on himself, to show that Democrats are interested in moving senate business. If he's the one who gets Bolton through some heads will explode on the Left and the Right.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Why Japan needs our friendship (Greg Sheridan, May 28, 2005, The Australian)

THREE dramatic stories in Tokyo's newspapers this week paint the picture of Japan's present extraordinary flux and why the Japan-Australia strategic partnership is set to deepen.

"Wu snubbed Koizumi," blared The Japan Times. It recounted the incredible incident of China's Vice-Premier Wu Yi, who first asked for a meeting with Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, then cancelled at the last minute and went home in a huff. At first Chinese officials, with their scrupulous regard for the truth, said this was because of urgent business at home. Later they said it was because of insensitive remarks by Japanese leaders.

The Chinese say they are offended by Koizumi's annual visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, which honours Japan's war dead, including some war criminals. But this issue, along with a string of others, seems to be more a pretext for China running an anti-Japan campaign.

The second telling story appeared on the front page of The Asian Wall Street Journal under the headline: "Bank earnings in Japan signal crisis has ended." The return to high profitability for Japan's banks, the paper said, signalled that the financial crisis, which had induced a decade of economic stagnation, was over.

And finally, in Tokyo's Metropolis magazine, a story was titled: "Where are the people?" It reported that the number of Japanese children under 15 has fallen for 24 years in a row.

There you have the three dominant features of Japan's national posture today: deepening strategic competition with China, enduring and underestimated Japanese economic strength, and a looming demographic crisis that will ultimately impose severe limits on Japan's strategic strength.

What has all this to do with Australia? These are among the factors impelling Japanese leaders to seek a closer strategic engagement with Australia.

May 27, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:44 PM


Yachi 'perplexed' remarks got play, is issued warning (KANAKO TAKAHARA, 5/28/05, Japan Times)

Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura on Friday urged Vice Foreign Minister Shotaro Yachi to "be careful" with his remarks, following media reports he told South Korean lawmakers earlier this month that Washington distrusts Seoul. [...]

During his May 11 meeting with South Korean lawmakers, Yachi reportedly said Japan was "hesitant" to share intelligence with South Korea on North Korea's nuclear ambitions because it appeared the U.S. did not trust South Korea on matters pertaining to Pyongyang.

They can't have been laboring under the delusion that we trust them, can they?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:10 PM


Iraqi bombers claim they were deceived
(QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHARA, 5/27/05, Associated Press)

Wisam Younis' sole ambition in life, he said Friday, is to kill Americans. So he claimed surprise when he discovered his car bomb had killed eight Iraqis and wounded more than 80 outside a Baghdad restaurant.

Younis and brothers Badr and Yassin Shakir are charged with murder and face the death penalty in the May 23 attack.

"We did not know that the attack would target innocent people and we were deceived," said Younis, barefooted and with bruised and swollen hands. He said they were taken in by enthusiastic ideas and money, adding that an insurgent leader promised $1,500 for the bombing.

"Our doctrine is to wage jihad against the Americans," Younis, wearing a stained beige traditional robe, told an Associated Press reporter as police stood over him. "Driving out the occupiers is the demand of all Iraqis... I wish to die in the battlefield instead of prison."

Baghdad police paraded out the three Sunni Arabs to help put a face to an deadly insurgency, and to show that Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari means business with a plan to encircle Baghdad with tens of thousands of security forces.

The display also was meant to reassure a public whose discontent with the Shiite-led government has been high because of its seeming inability to provide security and crush the insurgency.

Hard to believe the kind of nihilism that would use guys like this to kill fellow Muslims has much of a shelf life.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:38 PM


Aux armes, citoyens! (Oh, not again.) (Charles Bremner, 5/28/05, Times of London)

YOU HAVE to hand it to the French. No one matches their panache when it comes to demolishing the ancien régime and proclaiming a glorious new dawn. For the guerrilla resistance that has ambushed the heavy cavalry of the establishment, the likely “non” in tomorrow’s referendum on the European constitution is another dash for a radiant future. May 2005, they hope, will join all those other revolutionary beacons which have illuminated modern French history, from July 1789 to May 1968. Most of those revolts ended in tears and it is worth examining why this one is heading the same way. [...]

As good French revolutionaries, the nonistes also see themselves blazing a trail not just for France but for humanity. They want to lead Europe on a hop back to the future. For the left-wing voters, this is the Utopia imagined by Karl Marx and last glimpsed elsewhere in the 1970s. For the Right, it is the sombre patrie of the paranoid and protectionist 1930s.

The people of Europe, say the nonistes, will cheer a “no” as the opening shot in the battle for a new, socially protective Union. “Ours is a ‘no’ of foundation,” says Philippe de Villiers, the rural aristocrat who has eclipsed Le Pen as champion of the nationalist Right. “Ours is a joyful ‘no’ of hope,” says Marie-George Buffet, the Communist leader, whose party is enjoying a new lease of life. Laurent Fabius, the socialist grandee who leads the middle class left-wing resistance, is talking about a salutory “no” of liberation.

The sans-culottes of this new old Europe, we are told, will guillotine the British-dominated Brussels bureaucracy and throw up barriers to imports and offshoring, harmonise taxes upwards and bestow a French-style welfare state on the continent.

Do they think the mid-20th Century comes out differently if you rerun it?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:22 PM


Young Iraqi Kurds choose English over Arabic (Middle East Times, May 27, 2005)

Most Kurdish students in northern Iraq learn English as a second language these days, alarmingly for a country whose official language remains Arabic and where fear of Kurdish separatism still runs deep.

As Kurdish former rebel leaders test the limits of their hard-won influence in the new Iraq, some say that even traditional Muslim prayers must be said in Kurdish and that speaking Arabic is out-dated and out of touch.

"Certain extremists would like to say prayers in Kurdish," said Salam Khoshnaw, a professor at Salaheddin University who speaks perfect Arabic.

"Others, even more radical, dare to say that Arabs sent their language to us on the humps of camels and we must return it to them in a Mercedes."

It's not necessarily the students' fault that they don't learn Arabic well - following the 1991 Gulf war when Western intervention established a Kurdish safe haven in Iraq's three far-northern provinces, many schools and universities switched their teaching to Kurdish.

Salaheddin University students learn in Kurdish, Arabic or English as do teenagers at Arbil high school.

"Our 1,442 students study in their own language and don't know Arabic these days," said Hany Kader Khoder, 42, the high school director.

No longer bound by the rules of Saddam Hussein's ousted Arab nationalist regime, high school teachers now hold lessons for four or five hours per week in Kurdish and Arabic, one hour less in English, Khoder said.

"Arabic became a third language for us," said the principal. "The pupils prefer English, because, to them, Arabic is the language of oppression and the atrocities of the former regime."

The history of the future won't be written in Arabic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 PM


Why is India America's Natural Ally? (The Honorable Robert Blackwill, In the National Interest)

Let me answer in this way. Imagine a matrix, with America’s most important national security concerns along one side, and the world’s major countries along the other. What emerges may come as a surprise to many Americans—and perhaps to plenty of national security pundits as well.

Think first of the vital national interests of the United States: prosecuting the global War on Terror and reducing the staying power and effectiveness of the jihadi killers; preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction, including to terrorist groups; dealing with the rise of Chinese power; ensuring the reliable supply of energy from the Persian Gulf; and keeping the global economy on track.

Now consider the key countries of the world. Which share with us these vital national interests and the willingness to do something about threats to these interests—in an unambiguous way, over the long term—for their own reasons? India may lead the list.

Henry Kissinger argues that a cooperative U.S.-Indian relationship is in the cards because of "the geopolitical objectives of India, which they are pursuing in a very hard-headed way, [and] which are quite parallel to ours." [...]

Not only do our vital national interests coincide, but we share common values as well. The policies of United States and India are built on the same solid moral foundation. India is a democracy of more than one billion people—and there are not many of those in that part of the world. Indian democracy has sustained a heterogeneous, multilingual and secular society. In the words of Sunil Khilnani, the author of The Idea of India (1999), India is a "bridgehead of effervescent liberty on the Asian continent." George W. Bush fastened onto the genius of Indian democracy very early on, long before he was president. This has now become an even more central element of American foreign policy, given the march of freedom across the Greater Middle East and the president’s emphasis on the growth of pluralism, democracy and democratic institutions in that region. At 130 million people, India’s Muslim population is the second-largest of any nation in the world, behind only Indonesia. Yet, it is remarkable for the near absence of Islamic extremism in Indian society. For instance, there is no record of a single Indian joining Al-Qaeda, no Indian citizens were captured in Afghanistan, and there are no Indian Muslims at the Guantanamo Bay military detention center. This all says something important about democratic processes and how they are a safety valve for extremist currents within societies.

So on these major issues connected to vital national interests and the values of liberty, India and the United States will find themselves together over the long term. They are natural allies not because of any current or future organizational connection; there will be no formal alliance between the two countries. But I cannot think of another nation with which the United States shares in such a comprehensive way, and with the same intensity, these vital national interests and democratic values, and which must face threats to them in the decades ahead.

It would actually be beneficial for there to be some loose but formalized Anglospheric/Axis of Good alliance, if for no other reason that it will overawe our mutual foes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:07 PM


Stem-Cell Hypocrisy (Eleanor Clift, Newsweek)

Many parents, when faced with what to do with these spare embryos would like to donate them to science rather than let them languish indefinitely in storage tanks. The stem-cell bill that passed the House this week and is now before the Senate would free up federal funds for research on these leftover embryos. Bush says he’ll veto the bill. The Christian right’s wrongheaded invocation of religion to restrict science ranks up there with the medieval sanctioning of Galileo because his views conflicted with church doctrine.

The comparison is entirely apt. Galileo's scientific observation about the solar system was completely unobjectionable--it was the conclusions he sought to draw from the observation that were pernicious and ultimately horrificly murderous. Similarly, the idea that stem cells might have medical uses is harmless in itself--it is the moral boundaries that advocates want to violate that require sanction.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:55 PM


A Baby Bust Empties Out Japan's Schools: Shrinking Population Called Greatest National Problem (Anthony Faiola, March 3, 2005, Washington Post)

When Kami Hinokinai Junior High opened half a century ago in this picturesque northern village, Fukuyo Suzuki, then a young mother, remembers joining other parents on a warm May afternoon to plant pink azaleas in the schoolyard.

The azaleas are still here, though bare in the winter snow and, like the new occupants of the school, more fragile than they once were. In a nation grappling with a record low birthrate and the world's longest average lifespan, Suzuki, 77, is spending the daytime hours of her twilight years back in the halls of her son's old school.

The junior high, which ceased operation six years ago because of a shortage of children, now houses a community center for the elderly. Suzuki comes to pass her time sipping green tea and weaving straw baskets with other aging villagers.

"I never imagined this school would close and that I would be back here myself," said Suzuki, a farmer's widow who lives with her 52-year-old son. Like one out of four men in Nishiki, her son remains single and childless. "Now, I hear our elementary school is going to close, too," she said. "It's so sad for us. Children are vanishing from our lives."

The change at the junior high in this shrinking village of 5,924 is an example of what analysts describe as Japan's greatest national problem, a combination baby bust and senior citizen boom. Indeed, next year Nishiki is set to pay the highest price for its shrinking population: Unable to sustain its annual budget, it will join a growing list of Japanese towns that have officially ceased to exist and have merged with a neighboring city.

In the aftermath of World War II, the rush to build a modern economy sparked migration from rural towns such as Nishiki to Japan's urban centers. But officials say the lure of the big city is no longer the key factor driving depopulation. For at least the past decade, the leading cause of the town's shrinking population base has been a disturbingly low birthrate.

Last year, 42 babies were born in Nishiki, the lowest number since the town was incorporated in the 1950s, while 75 villagers died, according to local statistics. Nishiki's plight, analysts said, could be an omen of Japan's future.

The national child shortage, even as the population ages, is raising fears about Japan's long-term ability to maintain its status as the world's second-largest economy after the United States. With more Japanese choosing to remain single and forgoing parenthood, the population of almost 128 million is expected to decrease next year, then plunge to about 126 million by 2015 and about 101 million by 2050.

Many people are asking: Will there be enough Japanese left to participate in the economy in the years to come?

It's not their greatest national problem but an effect of their problem.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:01 PM


Bad Senate Deal: The McCain-Kennedy amnesty bill. (Rich Lowry, 5/27/05, National Review)

This bipartisan deal cut by Sen. John McCain is noxious. No, the issue isn’t judges. (Or campaign finance, or health care, or any number of other things.) It’s illegal immigration and a proposal that has just been cooked up by the Arizona maverick and the Massachusetts non-maverick Sen. Ted Kennedy to grant an amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants.

Under the bill, illegals would have to work in the U.S. — which they are already doing — for six years as legal temporary workers, then they would be eligible to apply for green cards. Also, a new category of guest workers would be created who would work here for four years, then be eligible for green cards. This category will likely bring another 400,000 (and probably more) foreign workers a year into the country.

Firing illegal immigrants no joyful task (Mike Littwin, May 24, 2005, Rocky Mountain News)
Lee Driscoll is cracking down on illegal immigrants in his restaurants.

And it's breaking his heart.

He's not just going the extra mile. He's taking the full trip.

And it's tearing him up inside.

He's going to fire as many as 51 of his employees - for crimes that include trying to make a living for their families.

And, Driscoll says, it's not unlike firing members of his own family.

It's one thing for Democrats to despise the American Dream, but disturbing for Republicans to do so.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:45 PM


Ex-Clinton Aide Acquitted in Fund-Raising Case (LESLIE EATON, 5/27/05, NY Times)

A federal jury today acquitted Hillary Rodham Clinton's former chief fund-raiser of charges that he underreported the costs of a glittery fund-raising event in 2000 to the Federal Election Commission.

In closing arguments on Wednesday, prosecutors accused the defendant, David F. Rosen, of accepting lavish, secret gifts that were "clearly meant to buy influence and access." Mr. Rosen, who was tried on two counts of causing false filings to be made, was the national finance director for Mrs. Clinton's 2000 Senate campaign. If convicted, Mr. Rosen, 38, could have received up to 10 years in prison.

Presumably we all have those idle moments where we imagine what we'd do if were president? How about: issue a blanket pardon for anyone accused of violating campaign finance laws?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:41 PM


Compromise on judges is a setback for the left (Robert Robb, May. 27, 2005, Arizona Republic)

The harsh criticism by conservatives of the accord on judicial nominations brokered by John McCain, R-Ariz., and Ben Nelson, D-Neb., has been excessive.

In reality, it is the left that has lost the most with the accord - big time.

The most immediate effect of the agreement is that Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has lost the solid support of Senate Democrats to filibuster judges based upon a caucus decision. Instead, seven Democrats have declared themselves to be free agents.

This in turn means that the abortion rights lobby and the extreme secularists at People for the American Way, who have exercised extraordinary influence over the actions of Senate Democrats about judges, have lost what was an effective veto over judicial appointments.

This is a monumental change, illustrated by the three judges the accord specifically commits the Democratic signatories not to filibuster: William Pryor, Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers Brown. [...]

If judges such as Owen, Pryor and Brown do not constitute "extraordinary circumstances," then the path is clear for Bush to appoint strong, well-qualified conservatives to the bench.

Of course, the accord does not similarly protect two other Bush appointees, Henry Saad and William Myers. But the Democratic signatories haven't committed to support a filibuster of them either. And the stakes for these judges just aren't the same, for the left or the right.

Saad has been nominated for a seat for which Republicans had previously blocked a Clinton nominee. So, there's a bit of political tit for tat going on, rather than a clear fight over judicial philosophy.

Myers, who has represented mining and cattle interests, has run into opposition from the left over natural resources and environmental issues.

The real Kool-Aid moment on Tuesday came when folks were insisting that conservatism was dead if we didn't get these two judges who no one's ever heard of in the deal.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:25 PM


Senate panel OKs asbestos trust fund bill (JESSE J. HOLLAND, 5/26/05, Associated Press)

Manufacturers and insurance companies would be shielded from multimillion-dollar lawsuits from people with asbestos-related diseases in exchange for funding a $140 billion trust fund under legislation that has cleared its first hurdle.

Supporters claim a fund like the one the Senate Judiciary Committee approved Thursday is the only way to stop large asbestos lawsuits that have bankrupted such companies as Owens Corning Fiberglas and W.R Grace, and left sick people with no way to pay their medical bills.

The trust fund would compensate people sickened by exposure to asbestos, a fibrous mineral commonly used in construction until the mid-1970s. Asbestos has tiny fibers that can cause cancer and other ailments when inhaled. Millions of people have been exposed, and the diseases often take decades to develop.

Bill supporters say a trust fund would speed money to those suffering from asbestos-related illnesses and it would protect companies from the prospect of being sued out of existence.

The Rand Institute for Civil Justice said in a 2003 study that more than 60 companies have sought bankruptcy protection because of more than 600,000 asbestos claims now in courts. That number is expected to grow in the future.

A legislative compromise has proved elusive.

One of the realities for Republicans of being the party of business--their money men wanted bills like this more than a filibuster fight.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:12 PM


No time for time off: U.S. workers forfeit vacation days out of fear, machismo (Andrea Coombes, 5/27/05, MarketWatch)

On average, Americans leave from three to eight days of paid vacation on the table every year, according to the two surveys.

Forfeiting vacations can be "a macho thing," said Mitchell Marks, a psychologist, management consultant, and president of, in San Francisco.

"The perception is that tough people don't need a vacation, which is of course not true," Marks said.

As the French say, that week you don't go to the beach could be the one where your elderly mother would have sweltered to death in her apartment and you'll have wasted a real opportunity.

Posted by Paul Jaminet at 3:15 PM


Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:16 PM


The Berlin-Baghdad Connection (ANDRÉS MARTINEZ, May 25, 2005, LA Times)

The world leader most responsible for the war in Iraq had a terrible weekend. I am not referring to George W. Bush or Saddam Hussein, though the Iraqi tyrant did make the front page in his underwear. [...]

[S]chroeder's recklessness on the global stage will be his real legacy. As the first German leader with no firsthand memory of life in the Third Reich, Schroeder asserted for a reunified Germany a more active role in world affairs. Within months of taking office, the dour but dapper chancellor had dispatched thousands of German peacekeepers to Kosovo as part of NATO's Balkan intervention. This was all as it should be. The Federal Republic, a model democracy for decades, had earned the right to cease thinking of itself as a nation on probation.

Schroeder's recklessness was triggered by the challenges of campaigning as a leftish reformer. Struggling in the polls a month before the last national election, in August 2002, Schroeder was the first world leader to stake out an absolutist position in advance of United Nations deliberations over Hussein's fate. Germany, the chancellor stated on the campaign trail, was in no mood for a "military misadventure" and would oppose any use of force against Iraq, regardless of what the U.N. decided. End of story.

Germany's own diplomats, led by popular Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer of the Green Party, were caught off guard by this campaign bravado and annoyed that Germany had preemptively removed itself from the debate. Bush's Texan swagger goes down poorly in Europe, and Schroeder's move to reply to it with some swagger of his own worked. The chancellor scored a come-from-behind win.

But at a terrible cost. The leader of a post-Cold War Germany has every right to disagree with Washington, but opportunistically doing so for the sake of scoring short-term political points was highly damaging to the cohesion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as well as to Germany's claim to be a nation endowed with a unique moral suasion.


Posted by Peter Burnet at 1:14 PM


A many-headed monster (Rob Greene, Radio Netherlands, May 28th, 2005)

There seems to live, among the political elite, a notion that voters can sometimes be right (as when they vote for me, or say Yes to the Constitution) but that, more often than not, they are wrong (as when they don't vote for me, or against the Constitution, or against the war, or not at all).

This is a fallacious suggestion. Any voting behaviour, in or away from the polling station, is right and legitimate, so long as it stems from genuinely held feelings about the state of the nation, our personal well-being, high-minded principles or - and why not - from plain bigotry.

In a democracy, if you give people the vote then let them use it as they will and accept the result with a smile. Democracy emphatically does not mean calling a referendum and then telling voters that they must vote Yes or else be despised as wreckers of the economy, our standing in the world and, ultimately, the EU itself.

The Dutch would do well to remember, on Wednesday, that the European Union we now inhabit took 53 years to build. Begun as the European Coal and Steel Community (founder-members West Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxemburg) when the Treaty of Paris came into effect in 1952, the Union now, nine treaties later, is a many-headed monster - 25 heads, in fact - and with more heads to come.

Hundreds of regulations and directives not of our own making control almost every aspect of our lives. Not one of those nine treaties, by the way, has in the Netherlands been the subject of a referendum; nor has the perhaps most crucial change: that of abolishing our currency in favour of the euro. The Dutch have simply never been asked a single thing…….until this Wednesday.

It is an opportunity not to be missed. Anger about the euro and the effect its introduction has had on our living standard flared up anew recently when it was revealed -by the President of the Dutch Central Bank, no less - that the Dutch guilder was converted into the euro at roughly ten percent below its real value. In other words: everyone's savings dropped in value by one-tenth overnight.

We keep hearing how the “no” camp is composed of irrational extremists and know-nothings voting in a spirit of misdirected, nostalgic ressentiment. In fact, it is the “yes” camp that has lost its marbles and has so mindlessly embraced a fairy tale that it has come to believe it is right and proper to secretly rob entire populations to keep the myth alive.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:36 AM


DeWine says dad was wrong about judicial filibusters (Howard Wilkinson, 5/27/05, Cincinnati Enquirer)

In an effort to make sure the "sin'' of the father isn't visited on the son, Republican candidate Pat DeWine made it clear Thursday he doesn't approve of the role his father, Sen. Mike DeWine, played this week in brokering a deal with Senate Democrats over judicial filibusters.

"I wouldn't have voted the way he did,'' the Hamilton County commissioner said Thursday. "If a person is appointed to the federal bench, he or she deserves an up-or-down vote.''

Ah, blood guilt.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:06 AM

LIKE TINKER BELL (via Daniel Merriman):

Keepers of the Faith; Defenders of the Light: Commencement Address, Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law (Delivered by The Honorable Janice R. Brown, Associate Justice, California Supreme Court,
May 24, 2003)

Law is the most permeable of disciplines, affected by the changes in society, but in its turn affecting what it touches. In a country so diverse, “legality ... has become the touchstone for legitimacy. ...[Law becomes] the terrain on which Americans are struggling to define what kind of people they are, and what kind of society they wish to bring into being.”

Abigail Adams, writing to John Quincy Adams in 1780, said: “These are the times in which a genius would wish to live. It is not in the still calm of life, or in the repose of a pacific station, that great characters are formed. ...Great necessities call out great virtues.” That was a critical time for America. This is an equally critical epoch. You and your peers may well be the most important generation of lawyers since that founding generation. The question for the framers was whether we could form a government based on “reflection and choice” rather than conflict and accident. They answered the question in the affirmative. What strikes me as I read the notes and letters of the founders is their supreme confidence.

The question for you will be whether the regime of freedom which they founded can survive the relentless enmity of the slave mentality. It will really be whether you want freedom to survive. The answer may be no. There are many reasons to forsake freedom.

Some will do so because they are ambitious and can only make their mark by setting out upon a new path. Abraham Lincoln described this dynamic many years before he became president. He said there will always be people among us (from the family of the Lion or the tribe of the Eagle) who “scorn to tread in the footsteps of any predecessor,” who thirst and burn for distinction, and who will obtain it “whether at the expense of emancipating slaves or enslaving free men.”

Some may reject freedom because security has always been more comfortable than freedom and infinitely more comforting to the “herd of independent minds.”

Perhaps the most likely reason for a negative response is the fatigue engendered by the “accumulated decisions of so many revolutions.” Freedom requires certitude and we are now so enlightened that, in Pascal's phrase, “we know too much to be ignorant and too little to be wise.”

I, of course, hope that this generation will rise to the challenge; that our present great necessities will call forth great virtues. Perhaps that is why, when I tried to think about what I might say to you as you commence your life in the law, only one word, one image, surfaced. The word, the image, was “Light.” Sometimes sharp and white, like the flash of a lighthouse beacon. Sometimes the soft, full radiance of sunrise. But, always, light. How odd, I thought. But then the brochure for the Columbus School of Law arrived with the motto of the Catholic University of America emblazoned across its cover. Deus lux mea est. God is my light. And then there was the Cardinal's dinner, held in San Francisco this year. The program began with a wonderful film about the university which was entitled — are you ready — “Sharing the Light.” Aha! At this point, even the dull witted must begin to see ... the light. And finally, leafing through a book of essays seeking inspiration, these words leapt out at me: “The night is for spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.” (Romans 13:12)

Light is often used as a metaphor for consciousness, comprehension, and truth. Light as an analogue of God's creative activity. Indeed, in the Christian liturgy God is light — “God of God, Light of Light” — and truth — “I am the way, the truth, and the life...” Historically, and poetically — and, I believe, actually, light and truth seem indissolubly linked.

In fact, that linkage is often proudly reflected in the mottos of institutions of higher learning. Veritas (truth) is the motto of Harvard University. And Lux et Veritas (light and truth) is the motto of Yale University, a circumstance which, due to the longstanding rivalry between the two schools, has led some Yale students to observe that Harvard graduates are just Yale students who have not yet seen the light.

Being at The Catholic University of America hopefully means you have not only seen the light but also understand its source. This is one of the few universities in America that explicitly affirms not only the existence of truth but also the legitimacy of its relentless pursuit. You will nevertheless be living, working, and striving in a world that is suspicious of, if not downright hostile to, even the possibility of truth. This is not only a stunted and benighted worldview, it is a profoundly dangerous one. Nothing less than Western Civilization and the Rule of Law is at stake.

In the spirit of the Enlightenment, truth has been reduced to a matter of perspective and all perspectives are declared equal. Since our choices can only be justified rhetorically, that is by reference to philanthropy or utility; even equality is debased, reduced to the equal right of all desires to be satisfied. “The repudiation of metaphysics, religion, and tradition… leads inevitably to the destruction of all foundations for prudence and practical reason.”

Thus, scientists and philosophers have spent the last three hundred years trying to organize society as if God did not exist and the last two centuries seeking to reshape society through industrial development, social engineering, and various forms of wealth creation and redistribution. This process was supposed to bring forth the new man, a new and improved humanity. The project was a miserable failure.

The project failed because it denied the essential nature of human beings and because, like it or not, our political institutions are a product of our culture. Culture is organic. “Culture is something you must grow; you cannot build a tree, you can only plant it, and care for it and wait for it to mature in its own due time; and when it is grown you must not complain if you find that from an acorn has come an oak, and not an elm tree.”

It is curious that we can comfortably accept the premises of a scientific specialty like chaos theory, and not see its implications for the social and moral realm. The simplest expression of chaos theory posits that “tiny differences in input can quickly become overwhelming differences in output” — a phenomenon given the name “sensitive dependence on initial conditions.” In weather, for example, this translates into what is only half-jokingly known as the Butterfly Effect — the notion that a butterfly stirring the air today in Peking can transform storm systems next month in New York.9 Why then can we not see that societies as well as civilizations may exhibit a similar sensitive dependence.

So, let me ask you a question. What did Superman fight for? If the answer does not come immediately to mind, I am not surprised. Had I asked the same question of an audience my age, the answer would have come without hesitation: “Truth, Justice, and the American Way,” When I was a child, this was an easy question. We didn't know exactly what Truth, Justice, and the American Way meant, but we did know it was good. Because Superman was one of the good guys.

By the time I was a young woman, though, we sang a different song. We sang: “There ain't no good guys; there ain't no bad guys. There's only you and me and we just disagree.” The song was not intended as an ode to moral relativism. It was particular and specific — about the end of a love affair. But in attitude and sensibility it could have served as the anthem of my generation.

There is only one problem with this little ditty. It is wrong. Wholly, flatly, irredeemably wrong. There are good guys. There are bad guys. And, as Cardinal Manning reminded us long ago, differences of opinion are at bottom theological.

Which brings me to my second question — which will be much harder. What is the American Way? If you find this more difficult to answer, it is not surprising. The American Creed has not been forgotten; it has been repudiated. “Historically, American identity has had two primary components: culture and creed.” The former is defined by our heritage from Western Civilization; the latter consists of a set of universal ideas and principles articulated in our founding documents: liberty, equality, democracy, constitutionalism, limited government, and private property. On these principles there once was wide agreement. Indeed, the Creed was hailed by foreign observers, ranging from Alexis de Tocqueville to Gunnar Myrdal, as the “cement in the structure of this great and disparate nation.” As Richard Hofstader notes: “It has been our fate as a nation not to have ideologies but to be one.”

And now the final question on today's quiz, suggested by Japanese philosopher Takeshi Umehara, who theorizes that the breakup of the Soviet Union is only the precursor to the collapse of Western liberalism: In an era in which “people everywhere define themselves in cultural terms, what place is there for a society without a cultural core,” defined only by a fragile political creed which — like Tinker Bell — is close to expiring because no one quite believes in it anymore?

In some ways, it seems we have been moving backward: bringing chaos out of order instead of the other way around. At least that is how things stood until quite recently when, in one instant of anguish, pity, grief, and rage, we had a moment of awful moral clarity. All perspectives are not equal. Evil is not merely a matter of opinion. Suddenly and undeniably, we understood that there are ideas worth defending to the death. There are lies that must be defeated at all costs. Freedom is not free. And it will never be the lasting legacy of the lazy or the indifferent. For what we ultimately pursue is a true “vision of justice and ordered liberty, respectful of human dignity and the authority of God.”15 What we need is to revive our passion for freedom and our determination to defend vigorously, rationally, and without apology, our way of life, which is unique and deserves not scorn nor diffidence, but devotion.

By accepting the beguiling proposition that all perspectives are equal, we left Western Civilization, the God of Light, and light itself, undefended. We left the very spirit of truth desolate and abandoned on its high hill. Indeed, we deemed them unworthy of defense. But, there may have been a reason why Truth, Justice and the American Way are seamlessly conjoined in the phrase with which I began today's exam. There can be no discussion about the nature of justice and the essence of law when human will is made the supreme arbiter of all human values. Without truth, there is neither justice nor freedom. “Once truth is denied to human beings, it is pure illusion to try to set them free. Truth and freedom either go together hand in hand or together they perish in misery.”

If our commitment to truth and justice was, in fact, the foundation of the vision that made America, then moral and cultural relativism is more than an educational anomaly, it is a calamity. That is why the lawyer classifieds need a new ad. Wanted: Keepers of the faith; Defenders of light.

The title poem from Sahara Sunday Spain's third book of poetry (she is now about eleven) is titled “If There Would Be No Light.”

She says:

If there would be
no light,
we would fall
into an
endless sleep of dust
and become
the stars,
the moon
the endless
burning sun.

I do not know exactly what the youthful poet meant by these words, but they reminded me of physicist Paul Davies's wonderment that “we have cracked part of the cosmic code.”

“Why this should be, just why Homo sapiens should carry the spark of rationality that provides the key to the universe, is a deep enigma. We, who are children of the universe — animated stardust — can nevertheless reflect on the nature of that same universe, even to the extent of glimpsing the rules on which it runs.”

He concludes the existence of human consciousness in the universe cannot be “a mere quirk of fate, an accident of history, an incidental blip in the great cosmic drama.”

These are questions with which to conjure. What if the universe was created solely so we might see? What if God, when He spoke the universe into existence by saying, “Let there be light,” was calling forth not just the creative properties of light but consciousness itself? What if consciousness, not matter, is the ultimate foundation of the universe? What if all of creation was set before us like a textbook from the master teacher's hand? So that our hearts could be ravished by the perfection of a single rosebud; our minds dazzled by the complex landscape of an atom; our spirits humbled by the immense, breathtaking splendor of the night sky.

What if filling the world with light (with the luminosity that ought to live within each of us) was the point of the whole exercise? Why then, if the light of truth and reason is extinguished in the world — “if there would be no light” — we might return to being nothing more than stardust. Only this time, creation would be moving backwards, like a film running in reverse. And we, sad stars, between one instant and the next would wink out one by one.

The challenge I offer you today is to be among those who seek, speak, and defend the truth.

The next time you hear that phrase, Truth, Justice, and the American Way, I hope it will have more resonance for you. This is not a perfect country. We are not perfect people. We were founded on the recognition of human fallibility. Still, I believe with all my heart that the Rule of Law, the ideal of equality under law, and the principles of human dignity and liberty which this country exemplifies are worthy of defense. Who knows? As a keeper of the faith, a defender of the light, you may be saving more than America — more than Western Civilization — you may be saving the universe!

Thanks, Senator McCain.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:56 AM


FDA Looking Into Blindness-Viagra Link (Lauran Neergaard, May 27, 2005, AP)

Federal health officials are examining rare reports of blindness among some men using the impotence drugs Viagra and Cialis, a disclosure that comes at a time when the drug industry can ill afford negative publicity about another class of blockbuster medicines.

The Food and Drug Administration still is investigating, but has no evidence yet that the drug is to blame, said spokeswoman Susan Cruzan.

It would seem significant that all were soccer fans.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:54 AM


The World’s First Murder: A Closer Look at Cain and Abel: Combining a careful reading of the text with ancient rabbinic analysis, the author takes us behind the scenes in Scripture, revealing a startling tapestry of meaning in stories that many have written-off as fiction. As before, he has designed the series to be interactive. You are encouraged to pose questions and offer comments. Try to stump the rabbi — he'll respond! (Rabbi David Fohrman, 5/27/05, Jewish World Review)

Here's a thirty-second snapshot of the narrative — followed by my best, devil's-advocate-style rendition of a question I don't really believe in:

Cain and Abel, children of Adam and Eve, each bring offerings to the Lord. The Almighty expresses pleasure with the offering brought by Abel, but not with that brought by his older brother Cain. Cain becomes very upset. Shortly afterwards, he kills his brother Abel.

Well, class, there's more to the story than that, but why don't we stop here for the time being. Let's go around the room: Is everyone here happy with this story? [...]

Imagine you were Bobby and Debbie's mother, and when your two children had each presented their respective gifts to you, you had inexplicably disregarded that basic rule of parenting, and had favored Debbie's gift over Bobbie's. Now, a half hour later, you walk by Bobby's room and find him weeping softly into his pillow. You ask him what's the matter and he turns to you and whimpers, "You told me you didn't like my present..." and then comes the kicker, something my child has tried on me one or two times. He says: "Mommies aren't supposed to say things like that to their kids ...". How would you react to Bobby's plaintive cries?

Instinctively, most parents — even those who had initially favored Debby's gift — would be unable to resist the sight of a weeping Bobby. Most of us would recognize the error of our ways, would scoop Bobby into their arms and apologize for having turned our back on his gift. You're right, we'd tell him, Mommy loves you and I'm so sorry for not accepting your gift the way I should have. We'd apologize; we'd tell Bobby we'd had a hard day at work, we weren't paying enough attention; we'd tell him it won't happen again; we'd tell him just about anything in our desperate attempt to make things right.

But that's not how it happens in the Cain and Abel story.

Just after G-d rejects Cain's offering, and immediately before Cain murders his brother, the Almighty speaks to Cain. But G-d does not soothingly tell Cain that everything will be just fine, that his offering really was pretty good after all. Instead, G-d challenges Cain, asking him whether he really has a right to be angry:

Why are you angry and why has your face fallen? Is it not the case that if you do well, then lift up! And if you don't do well, then, sin lies crouching at the door....

What's going on here? What if the parent who had accepted Debbie's gift but not Bobby's had told the weeping Bobby that if he had done better everything would be just fine; that he should just get over it. Most of us would be ready to pick up the phone and call Social Services. But, how then, are we supposed to come to grips with the Almighty's words to Cain?

And now, dear reader, the ball is in your court. I mentioned before that I felt that the questions I am asking here are not really legitimate. Its my view that the analogy to Bobby and Debbie is faulty and misleading. If you re-read the story of Cain and Abel carefully, I think you should be able to spot the flaw; you should be able to see why Bobby and Debby's sorry plight actually has little indeed to do with the story of Cain and Abel.

You've got a week to think about it.

I'll see you then.

Cain and Abel is best read as a reiteration of the Fall, with Cain as postlapsarian Man and Abel as pre-, which explains God's choice.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:32 AM


Sex-ed opponents part of movement to reclaim schools (Jon Ward, 5/26/05, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Parents who stopped a new sex-education curriculum in Montgomery County, Maryland are at the nexus of a national trend in parental activism in school matters.

"Montgomery County has become a symbol for parental activism," said Robert Knight, director of the Culture and Family Institute, an affiliate of Concerned Women for America.

Warren Throckmorton, a psychology professor at Grove City College in Pennsylvania, said parents "are beginning to take matters into their own hands and are looking for ways to collaborate with other like-minded parents to protect their kids." [...]

Curriculum supporters said the course taught tolerance for homosexuals and included factual instruction on how to deal with homosexual feelings.

But parents who formed the group Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum (CRC) said the course promoted homosexuality and promiscuity, disregarded scientifically proven health risks and denigrated traditional, religious views about sex.

A federal judge ruled in CRC's favor when he granted a temporary restraining order against the course on May 5.

"What this really illustrates is that parents have a particular set of principles and values. They work hard to instill those in the home, and they don't want this undermined in the health class," said Melissa Pardue, social welfare policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation.

The NEA should have its next convention at Masada.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:27 AM


Lion Mutilates 42 Midgets in Cambodian Ring-Fight (BBC, 5/27/05)

The fight was slated when an angry fan contested Yang Sihamoni, President of the CMFL, claiming that one lion could defeat his entire league of 42 fighters.

Sihamoni takes great pride in the league he helped create, as was conveyed in his recent advertising campaign for the CMFL that stated his midgets will "... take on anything; man, beast, or machine."

This campaign is believed to be what sparked the undisclosed fan to challenge the entire league to fight a lion; a challenge that Sihamoni readily accepted.

An African Lion (Panthera Leo) was shipped to centrally located Kâmpóng Chhnãng especially for the event, which took place last Saturday, April 30, 2005 in the city’s coliseum.

The Cambodian Government allowed the fight to take place, under the condition that they receive a 50% commission on each ticket sold, and that no cameras would be allowed in the arena.

The fight was called in only 12 minutes, after which 28 fighters were declared dead, while the other 14 suffered severe injuries including broken bones and lost limbs, rendering them unable to fight back.

Sihamoni was quoted before the fight stating that he felt since his fighters out-numbered the lion 42 to 1, that they “… could out-wit and out-muscle [it].”

Unfortunately, he was wrong.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 9:30 AM


Which kills more: ideology or religion? (Andrew Kenny, The Spectator, May 27th, 2005)

The sun set on the 20th century more than four years ago but you can still see a blood-red glow on the horizon. The century that saw unprecedented technological progress also saw unprecedented slaughter. Previously, religion had served mankind’s deep needs for explanation, order, spiritual comfort and transcendental meaning. Now a new and hideous thing was summoned up to serve the same needs. The thing was ideology, and in a few decades it caused more bloodshed than millennia of religion. It was darker and more irrational, and contained within it something unknown to all the Religions of the Book: a death wish. Religious leaders, however bad they may be, however prone to hubris and hatred, are constrained by fear of God above and by ancient tradition and wisdom. Ideological leaders have no such constraints.

Recently there have been hysterical attacks on the new Pope Benedict, including the charge that he has the blood of millions of Africans on his hands because of the Church’s ban on condoms in a continent ravaged by Aids. I live in Africa, I am an atheist and I think the Church’s prohibition of contraception is wrong, but I want to defend the Pope. To do so, I must compare the good and bad of the Church in Africa with those of the ideologies.

Ideology comes in three colours: red, brown and green, representing Marxism, fascism and environmental extremism. Judged on sheer evil, the worst crime in history was brown, the Nazi genocide, although the reds slaughtered more people. The death toll (difficult to measure) is roughly, Hitler’s holocaust 6 million, Stalin’s famine and terror 8 million, and Mao’s famine 30 million. But the greens have topped them all. In a single crime they have killed about 50 million people. In purely numerical terms, it was the worst crime of the 20th century. It took place in the USA in 1972. It was the banning of DDT. [...]

I have heard not one word of pity or regret from any green organisation about the vast loss of human life caused by the ban on DDT. On the contrary, they seem to regard it as a glorious triumph. The likely reason was spelled out with chilling clarity by Charles Wurster of the Environmental Defence Fund in the USA in 1971 when it was pointed out to him that DDT saved the lives of poor people in poor countries. He said: ‘‘So what? People are the main cause of our problems. We have too many of them. We need to get rid of some of them and this is as good a way as anything.’’

Here is the key difference between ideology and religion. Here is the fundamental reason why so many ideologues hate the Catholic Church. It was best articulated by Savitri Devi, sometimes called ‘‘Hitler’s Priestess’’, the green mystic, pagan and worshipper of Hitler, who said that Christianity was ‘‘centred on man’’ whereas her green and fascist creed was ‘‘centred on life’’. She is right. The Bible tells men to ‘‘be fruitful and multiply’’ and ‘‘have dominion’’ over other living things. This is anathema to the greens. (Greens are closer to browns than they are to reds. The red ideal is progress via central committees, steel works and tons of concrete. The brown ideal is a static idyll of forests, Alsatian dogs and flaxen-haired maidens tripping through the wheatfields.) Of course when the Bible speaks of ‘‘man’’, it means all of mankind, whereas when Devi speaks of ‘‘life’’, she means only selected types of life, such as Aryans and tigers. Some other forms of life are best exterminated.

I have mentioned only one of the crimes of the ideologues, although the worst. In Africa they have also caused dreadful misery by promoting destructive policies such as command economies and by financing and encouraging calamitous leaders such as Julius Nyerere, who drove the economy of Tanzania to destitution.

The Pope in Africa follows the Biblical injunction. He is for human life. His guides are the enduring truths of his faith and the Word of God. These, and not the latest political fashion or trend in sociology departments, are what direct him. However, the Catholic prohibition on contraception does not seem to have any Biblical foundation, apart from the story of Onan spilling his seed on the ground, which is a special case. It seems more likely to have come from Aristotle, the source of much bad doctrine. It is illogical to allow contraception by the rhythm method while banning other methods. Why is it more natural to study a calendar before engaging in sexual congress than to put a bit of rubber over your winky? However, this is the teaching. What harm has it done?

Aids is devastating Africa, even if the exact scale of the devastation is not well known. Condoms are an effective barrier against the HIV virus (despite silly attempts to pretend otherwise). However, in South Africa it is believed that a high proportion of infection comes from ‘non-consensual sex’, where the man is never going to use a condom, even if the Pope orders him to do so. African women tell us that their husbands and lovers would beat them up if they asked them to use them. The breakdown of the black family and the high incidence of married middle-aged men copulating with young girls hugely exacerbate the spread of HIV infection. The Pope’s message of abstinence outside married life and faithfulness within it would be effective if it were followed — more so than a message of free love and condoms. In Uganda President Museveni seems to be very successful in reducing HIV incidence by calling publicly for abstinence, faithfulness and condoms, which seems to me the best possible advice. (The ideologues are furious with anyone who promotes family life and seem actually frightened of the concept of abstinence.) What the balance of effects is between the Church’s promotion of faithful family life and its ban on condoms is impossible to calculate, but my guess is that it has prevented more infections than it has caused. To say that the Pope is a mass murderer is ridiculous.

The Catholic Church has been an immeasurable force for good in Africa. It has educated, treated, fed and brought hope to a multitude of Africans. It has quietly worked against evil systems, such as apartheid and African tyranny, in just the same way that the great John Paul II worked against communism. While rich young things from international aid agencies flit briefly through Africa in designer safari jackets and air-conditioned 4x4s before settling down to cosy careers in the rich countries, humble priests and nuns spend heroic lives in little villages in the hills and bushes of Africa spreading a gospel of learning, medicine, nutrition and decency, and preaching the equal worth of all men and the promise of redemption for everybody.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:24 AM


Where's the Boeuf? (VINCENT TOURNIER, 5/27/05, NY Times)

WITH its project for a European Constitution, is Europe reliving the history of the United States? The Europeans take the comparison very seriously: they baptized the assembly charged with writing the document the "Convention," in imitation of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. The president of the Convention, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, even proposed "Federalist papers" on the model of those written by the founders of the American democracy.

Americans would no doubt be astonished by the comparison. Even a cursory look at the Constitutions drawn up by both Conventions demonstrates how far off Mr. Giscard is. In a few pages, the American Constitution established a foundation for the growth of democracy. In 450 pages, the European Constitution - which establishes power-sharing among European Union members, provides for a foreign minister and full-time president and states more precisely the functions of the union and the member states - enshrines a plethora of rules and regulations while ignoring the fundamental needs of democracy. [...]

The question that Europeans face today is whether a united Europe is more important than these democratic considerations. Some countries have said yes by approving the Constitution; in others, like France, opposition has been running strong. Certainly, factors having little to do with the Constitution have contributed to public hostility in this country, like the unpopularity of the government and the troubled economy. The European message is also muddled. For some, the union has not kept its promises, notably with the single currency, which was presented as a miracle remedy for economic problems. In addition, the union is founded on a contradiction (protecting itself from globalization while preaching the opening of markets and frontiers); there is also the uncertainty about integrating the new members from Eastern Europe and, eventually, Turkey.

So the French, understandably, regard the Constitution with distrust. Now, the French may have many defects, but they are also an old political people who have seen many constitutions come and go. It's an error to explain their reluctance simply as their traditional scorn, or worse, as a refusal of the idea of Europe. They are expressing a genuine unease that is founded in a Constitution whose flaws are admitted even by its supporters. By voting no, the French will not topple Europe - the union will continue under its current rules - but they may provide the impetus for a Constitution that would be truly democratic and a truly historic document.

It's quite sensible for folks to want to emulate the example of the most successful society in history, but the Europeans are trying to have the form without the substance, the means without the ends.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:51 AM


Playing the Diplomatic Changes (BEN RATLIFF, 5/27/05, NY Times)

THE saxophonist Joshua Redman is one of the most visible jazz musicians of the last 15 years, which says something not just about his natural flow as an improviser and his command as a bandleader, but also about his willingness to use words. The chance to represent jazz to the outside world involves a certain amount of rhetoric, and Mr. Redman has risen to that challenge in a friendly, nearly guileless way.

Since at least 1996, when he released "Freedom in the Groove," Mr. Redman, now 36, has been advancing a theory of why jazz can and should share a space with pop. It has to do with sincerity as much as form: acknowledging what musicians truly listen to as they grow up and develop, as much as figuring out a way to make jazz phrasing fit over backbeats. Ultimately, he is playing what he likes and trying to make jazz records that in a gingerly way reflect advances in pop.

"Art, in the world of honest emotional experience, is never about absolutes, or favorites, or hierarchies, or number ones," he wrote in the liner notes to "Freedom in the Groove." "These days, I listen to, love, and am inspired by all forms of music ... I feel in much of 90's hip-hop a bounce, a vitality, and a rhythmic infectiousness which I have always felt in the bebop of the 40's and 50's. I hear in some of today's alternative music a rawness, an edge, and a haunting insistence which echoes the intense modalism and stinging iconoclasm of the 60's avant-garde."

What he plays reflects the noncombative nature of those liner notes, and nothing he has said or played has come back to haunt him - even as jazz has increasingly come to be seen by some as endangered by pop rather than enriched by it. He currently plays with his trio, the Elastic Band, veering back and forth between mainstream jazz and different versions of funk and pop. [...]

Recently, while in town with the SFJazz Collective, Mr. Redman agreed to listen to a few pieces of music (not his own) that he had chosen; the goal was a conversation about how the music works and the possible musical ideals it suggests to him. In preparation, he came up with two different lists and nearly 30 records, including Led Zeppelin, D'Angelo, Dexter Gordon, Keith Jarrett and Bjork. But it was pretty easy to condense them. For Mr. Redman, all other interests recede when you bring up Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane. One other choice got in, a current band that many younger musicians see as a creative ideal in jazz: the Paul Motian-Joe Lovano-Bill Frisell trio.

In the Beginning, Rollins

Mr. Rollins is the living exemplar of narrative structure in jazz improvisation, and that is principally what Mr. Redman has absorbed from him: the logical, symmetrical, advancing and recapitulating storytelling impulse. We listened to "St. Thomas," the calypso track from Mr. Rollins's 1956 album "Saxophone Colossus."

"It's funny," Mr. Redman said as the track started. "I actually haven't listened to this album for many years. But I went through a period where this was literally the only thing I listened to. I discovered it shortly after I started playing the saxophone, when I was 10. I'd certainly listened to a lot of jazz records - a lot of Coltrane, some Miles, Cannonball Adderley, Ornette Coleman, Keith Jarrett, you know, the musicians who my father was associated with." (Dewey Redman played with Mr. Coleman from 1967 to 1974, and with Mr. Jarrett from 1971 to 1976.)

"My mom couldn't afford to buy me that many records," he added, "so I went to the public library in Berkeley, checked this out, came home, put it on, and here was the first track. And it was, for me, as monumental an experience as I've had listening to music." [...]

Mr. Redman knew he wanted to talk about Coltrane but thought it might be too obvious, and then fretted about what to choose. He felt, he said, that the suite "A Love Supreme" was too sacred to pick apart, so he chose "Transition," an album from 1965. It is one of the last recordings of the intact Coltrane quartet, with the pianist McCoy Tyner, the bassist Jimmy Garrison and the drummer Elvin Jones.

"It's pretty long, so let's just play it and start talking," he said. "It's going to be a little sacrilegious for me - but, hey."

"Transition" isn't cited often as anyone's favorite album. In the timeline of Coltrane's career, it sits just inside the period when he began making individual pieces that sounded rather alike, sometimes built on a single mode. What does Mr. Redman hear in it?

"The sheer force of it," he said quickly. "As far as a single piece of Coltrane with the classic quartet, it has perhaps the greatest force, impact, feeling of surrender; you know, abandon, devotion. I had been listening to Coltrane since the day I was born, probably, but someone turned me on to this record in college."

Trane to the Next Level

After Berkeley High School, Mr. Redman went to Harvard in 1987, eventually completing a B.A. degree and graduating summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, while edging closer to jazz and playing with musicians from the Berklee College of Music in Boston in the summertime.

"Someone from Berklee hipped me to this," he said. "I think it might have been Mark Turner, I don't quite remember, but someone said, man, if you think the other stuff is potent, check this out. I remember thinking, how could it get more intense?"

(Coltrane moves up to the next level in his soloing, chipping up his fast and assured middle-register runs with high shrieks on the tenor saxophone.)

"With this track, from the beginning, there's no intro, there's no lead-in," Mr. Redman said. "It's just, like, bam: here we are at the apex. You can't go any higher. Yet they keep climbing and climbing, and then they come down a little bit, and then they climb again."

We started it over again from the beginning: Jones hits the downbeat and Coltrane lines out a scale. "You know, that was the melody, basically," Mr. Redman said. "It's so simple. And just the quality of Trane's sound - it sounds like he's screaming and praying at the same time. I mean, he's playing so much horn, so much technically, so much harmonically; the constituent elements of what he's playing are so complex. Yet it's like he's trying to blow the horn apart and just play his emotions through the instrument."

Mr. Redman said he was moved by it spiritually, but then added that he was not a religious person. So what does he mean?

Apologizing for sounding new agey, he said: "At certain times in my life this music has kind of swept me up and transported me to a place where I can sense that there is something greater than the material existence of things. And a fabric that binds the material world together, and offers an escape from that world."

"This is definitely one of the last for this band where everything is still happening around a tonic center, a mode," Mr. Redman continued. "It's in D-something: D-Phrygian, D-Dorian. And they're still operating in these even-numbered bar phrases. Not when Coltrane's playing, but the way McCoy and Elvin interact, every 16 bars, there's that big crash on the cymbal and the bass drum, and McCoy playing the root and the fifth. That was a style that they introduced in '62 or '63, I guess, but here you hear it at its furthest development.

"You can hear the band pushing the limits of its style. You can hear Trane's desire to escape. Part of Elvin is pushing in that direction too, but part of him wants to stay, wants to keep those cycles in place."

A Regular Working Band

It's still mysterious, I said, how Coltrane started going all-out during this period, just as a matter of course. "Yeah," he said, "I can't imagine doing that. But the sense you get from Trane is total commitment. I think that exists for all of us jazz musicians, as this ideal. I mean, he's like an ideal type, a Platonic ideal."

We still eagerly await the rematch between Mr. Redman and Yo-yo Ma to settle the question of which music is better; classical or jazz>

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 AM


'Japan soldiers' found in jungle (BBC, 5/27/05)

Japanese officials are investigating claims that two men living in jungle in the Philippines are Japanese soldiers left behind after World War II.

The pair, in their 80s, were reportedly found on southern Mindanao island. [...]

The two men on Mindanao contacted a Japanese national who was collecting the remains of war dead on Mindanao, according to government sources.

They had equipment which suggested they were former soldiers.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:08 AM


Vote splits French on class lines (Henri Astier, 5/27/05, BBC News)

The main parties of the right and left are both urging supporters to vote "Yes" in Sunday's referendum. The main division is social.

The Gallic village is divided between those relatively content with their lot and those Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin once called "la France d'en bas" - disaffected people at the lower end of the economic ladder.

Polls suggest that the "Yes" vote is strong among professionals, businessmen and the middle classes.

Workers, junior employees, farmers, and those generally worried about the future by and large intend to vote "No".

A deep sense of dissatisfaction with the elites - of "us versus them" - is palpable when you speak to many ordinary people up and down the country.

"This constitution has been imposed on us," says Jean-Loup Dechezlepretre, a technician from the central city of Clermont-Ferrand. "We feel like outsiders."

Never underestimate nationalism and its capacity to fire up anger and hatred.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:34 AM


AIDS in South Afria: Not Living, Not Dying Alone: South African truckers work in an industry that is still marred by the brutal legacy of Apartheid. Disenchanted and surprisingly nonchalant about AIDS or HIV, the truckers fear dying alone more than death itself. Annamarie Bindenagel, a graduate student of University of Witwatersrand, explains how HIV/AIDS has turned into an epidemic of social and moral disillusionment. (Annamarie Bindenagel, May 25, 2005, The Globalist)

"I don't want to die alone!" This was the cry of the truckers with whom I discussed HIV and AIDS in Johannesburg in November 2004. They are long-distance drivers at KITE, a trans-continental trucking company.

In a system that objectifies people, the possibility of accountability for acquiring HIV — and then for knowingly infecting another — is devoid of meaning.

The AIDS/HIV epidemic is a reaction to the reality of the instability and insecurity of forces that seek to serve the market - while neglecting to serve men.

The truckers are lonely and alone on long hauls — and even in the face of the scourge of HIV/AIDS, they would rather risk infection than insulate themselves and die alone. [...]

Herman, young and dashing, with smooth skin and soft brown eyes, said, "I will sleep with as many people as possible — so that I do not die alone." All of the truckers applauded. I stood astonished.

For these men, HIV/AIDS is not a dissuading threat to the need for the even brief intimacy and security of a sexual encounter. In an industry where men are reduced to subsistence wages, they often lack the means to pay lobola, the bride price. [...]

A weekend getaway to another location — not to mention the transactional sex offered and accepted along the trucking routes — adds more sexual partners to the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Norm spoke up and said, "I have no choice but to sleep around! I drink, then I get drunk — and then I sleep with whoever is available. I have no choice."

I asked him, "Do you see the sequence of your choices?" "Yes," he answered. "Do you accept that you might have the choice to control those choices to enhance your life and the lives of those with whom you interact?" "Yes," he answered again.

Folks like Andrew Sullivan say now that there are pills you can take this is a perfectly desirable lifestyle.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:55 AM


The new French revolution (Pepe Escobar, 5/28/05, Asia Times)

Could this be another French revolution, a la 1789? Yes it could, but this time the guillotine is the ballot box, as France marches toward its referendum on Sunday on whether or not to ratify the European constitution. The "non" - according to most polls - is set to win. "Oui" or "non", the European Union has already been thrown into probably its biggest political crisis ever.

From Southeast Asia to the Middle East, from Latin America to China, from India to Russia, the European Union is widely viewed as an example and as a social project to be admired and emulated. What is very difficult for a Chinese, Indian or Thai to understand is how such a crucial decision about the bigger picture, the future of Europe - and the multipolar world - has been hijacked by internal French politics. And this in a country that is one of the founding fathers of modern, post-war Europe. There may be a rainbow of "non" - from the extreme left to the extreme right - but French popular exasperation with President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin is the main theme. It has led to the "non" equating Chirac with unbridled neo-liberalism - when Europe, compared to every other continent, is way ahead in social democracy, social protection, workers' rights, educational infrastructure, as well as being an alternative project to the US's social Darwinism. But Chirac is a political opportunist, thus the least credible character capable of selling the dream of a strong, politically unified Europe in a multipolar world.

Jacques Chirac is certainly scum, but you'd think it would matter more that the European experiment is quite literally dying.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:48 AM


More non-inflationary prosperity (Larry Kudlow, May 26, 2005, Townhall)

[S]trong corporate profits, in particular, signal the health of this economy. Profits on an IRS income-tax basis, as reported in the national income accounts, have moved up to 10.9 percent of GDP -- the highest level since 1968. On an after-tax basis the profit share of GDP is at a post-WWII high of 8.1 percent. After adjusting for the on-again/off-again cash-expensing bonus for depreciation, after-tax profits rose 27 percent (non-annualized) in the first quarter and nearly 37 percent over the past year.

Profits are the hinge of business, and business is the backbone of jobs and the economy. With profits rising to record levels, future economic expansion is assured.

Business equipment expenditures (capex) and consumer spending have both cooled somewhat, but they certainly haven’t gone cold. Capex, after rising 18 percent annualized in the second half of 2004, increased only 5.6 percent in the first quarter, below the consensus estimate of 6.9 percent. Business inventories accumulated about $12 billion less than first estimated. And consumer spending increased only 3.6 percent, following an average 4.6 percent growth-rate in last year’s second half.

While the trade gap has narrowed, raising overall GDP growth, there are actually signs of a somewhat slower economic pace inside the basic economy. Wall Street economist Joe LaVorgna points out, however, that first-quarter wages and salaries were revised up by a huge $163 billion, with the measure growing 7.5 percent over the year-ago pace. That explains double-digit federal tax-collection returns: Lower tax-rates have expanded incomes, which are in turn throwing off more revenues. This, of course, is the Laffer-curve effect.

Core inflation is still tame, rising at 1.6 percent over the past year, about the same as the second half of last year and actually slower than in 2002. The gold price, at $418, is consistent with less-than 2 percent underlying inflation. So is the 10-year Treasury yield of 4.09 percent and a yield curve that has flattened to just over 100 basis points.

The Federal Reserve has restrained inflation expectations, and as a result long rates have descended even while short rates have moved higher. That’s a nice piece of work. Along with rising jobs and incomes, low mortgage rates will sustain the strong expansion in housing investment.

Meanwhile, the strengthening dollar, along with softer commodity prices, also suggests a benign outlook for future inflation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:41 AM


Schröder's dilemma: Set for a right hook, he gets hit with a left (Judy Dempsey, MAY 27, 2005, International Herald Tribune)

Just when Schröder and his party should be putting all their energy into defeating the conservative Christian Democrats led by Angela Merkel, disgruntled Social Democrats and parties further left are talking about setting up a grand alliance to punish the chancellor for policies they contend have betrayed socialist principles.

The instigator of this attempt to weaken the Social Democrats is Oskar Lafontaine, the maverick politician who served briefly as finance minister in Schröder's first government, in 1998.

Lafontaine, who quit the cabinet in 1999 after falling out with Schröder over economic policy, announced Tuesday that he was leaving the Social Democrats to try to forge a leftist alliance.

That group, he said, could include the Party of Democratic Socialists - the former Communists, who are strong in eastern Germany - and the Wahlalternative, a new leftist movement supported by trade unionists and others who believe that Schröder has pushed the Social Democrats too far toward the center

Start by admitting
From cradle to tomb
Isn't that long a stay.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:29 AM


Why the Bible Belongs in America's Public Schools: Without knowing Scripture, kids can't understand literature or U.S. history (DAVID GELERNTER, May 27, 2005, LA Times)

[W]ithout knowing the Bible, you can't begin to understand English literature or American history. And a recently published survey finds that American teenagers don't know the Bible well enough. (The study was commissioned by a group called the Bible Literacy Project, conducted by Gallup and funded by the John Templeton Foundation.)

How to respond? Do we dare teach the Bible in our own public schools, built and staffed with our own money? Or do we surrender to Creeping Litigation Anxiety? To the fear that any course that includes the Bible is bound to provoke lawsuits — although there is nothing unconstitutional about teaching stories and language fundamental to American culture?

Some background: Shakespeare and the Bible in English are the twin foundations of English literature. Many believe that the Bible (especially the King James translation of 1611) is the more important twin by far. It "has influenced our literature more deeply than any other book," wrote the British scholar Arthur Quiller-Couch. Bible-blind students are apt to misconstrue "the implications, even the meaning" of what they read, wrote educator and critic Herman Northrop Frye.

Can you understand American culture without knowing the biblical context of "covenant," "promised land," "shining city on a hill"?

Further, the Bible and Bible-centered Protestantism are central to U.S. history — to your history if you are American, whether you are Protestant or not. The founders had varied beliefs, writes the philosopher-historian Michael Novak in "On Two Wings," but they found common ground "by appealing to the God of the Hebrews and the religious heritage of the Torah, a 'Biblical metaphysics.' "

As public schools exist for the sole purpose of raising up a republican citizenry and as you can't comprehend the Republic unless you understand its Judeo-Christian ends why not just teach the Bible as religion?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:15 AM


Just Shut It Down (THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, 5/27/05, NY Times)

Shut it down. Just shut it down.

I am talking about the war-on-terrorism P.O.W. camp at Guantánamo Bay. Just shut it down and then plow it under. It has become worse than an embarrassment. I am convinced that more Americans are dying and will die if we keep the Gitmo prison open than if we shut it down. So, please, Mr. President, just shut it down.

If you want to appreciate how corrosive Guantánamo has become for America's standing abroad, don't read the Arab press. Don't read the Pakistani press. Don't read the Afghan press. Hop over here to London or go online and just read the British press! [...]

Guantánamo Bay is becoming the anti-Statue of Liberty. If we have a case to be made against any of the 500 or so inmates still in Guantánamo, then it is high time we put them on trial, convict as many possible (which will not be easy because of bungled interrogations) and then simply let the rest go home or to a third country. Sure, a few may come back to haunt us. But at least they won't be able to take advantage of Guantánamo as an engine of recruitment to enlist thousands more. I would rather have a few more bad guys roaming the world than a whole new generation.

Try to imagine Walter Lippman writing in 1943-4 that FDR should release German POWs if we weren't going to charge them with anything because it was inflaming the German press.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:02 AM


India edges back into Iraq (Siddharth Srivastava, 5/28/05, Asia Times)

Quietly but surely, India is reopening its diplomatic contacts with the new Iraqi administration. In the first official contact with the new Iraqi government, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's special envoy for West Asia, C R Gharekhan, met Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari earlier this week. While India has offered to help in rebuilding the war-ravaged country and in the drafting of its new constitution, it is also seeking to cut into the estimated US$100 billion reconstruction business. India hopes to garner as much as $10 billion.

During his meeting with Jaafari, Gharekhan handed over a personal letter from Singh emphasizing India's commitment to cooperate with Iraq on the task of national reconstruction. In the letter, Singh invited Jaafari to visit India, a gesture that Jaafari reciprocated by inviting the Indian premier to Iraq. Gharekhan suggested that Jaafari assign the Iraqi oil minister to lead a delegation to India for the next meeting of the India-Iraq Joint Commission. Jaafari, who has studied Mahatma Gandhi's life and teachings, spoke warmly about Indo-Iraq ties and said he supported UN reforms including the expansion of the Security Council while emphasizing India's "important position" in world affairs.

The new government in Baghdad has already indicated that it is more than willing to welcome back Indian businessmen, in order to re-establish thriving Indo-Iraq economic ties that took a hit after the US-led invasion in 2003.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Why I Support the Filibuster Deal (Stephen Bainbridge, 05/26/2005, Tech Central Station)

The so-called Gang of 14's deal on judicial nominations aroused the ire of activists on both the left and right, but it is my friends on the right who seem to have been most disaffected. In contrast, I'm a proud charter member of the Coalition of the Chillin', which is dedicated to the proposition that the world did not end on May 23rd. (We even have t-shirts!)

Some critics of the deal wanted the Senate GOP majority to pull the trigger on what they call the constitutional option (and the rest of us call the nuclear option), so as to establish a purported constitutional principle that the advice and consent clause does not authorize the Senate to require a supermajority vote to approve judges. I respect the expertise of the many scholars who hold this position, but am not persuaded by it. [...]

In my view, critics of the deal are putting short-term partisan gain ahead of both principle and long-term advantage.

Russell Kirk taught that there are ten core conservative principles, but at the heart of all of them is the basic notion that change should be slow and prudent:

Conservatives are champions of custom, convention, and continuity because they prefer the devil they know to the devil they don't know. ... Burke's reminder of the necessity for prudent change is in the mind of the conservative. But necessary change, conservatives argue, ought to be gradual and discriminatory, never unfixing old interests at once.

... In politics we do well to abide by precedent and precept and even prejudice, for the great mysterious incorporation of the human race has acquired a prescriptive wisdom far greater than any man's petty private rationality.

... Any public measure ought to be judged by its probable long-run consequences, not merely by temporary advantage or popularity. Liberals and radicals, the conservative says, are imprudent: for they dash at their objectives without giving much heed to the risk of new abuses worse than the evils they hope to sweep away. As John Randolph of Roanoke put it, Providence moves slowly, but the devil always hurries.

The filibuster is a profoundly conservative tool, which advances each of Kirk's goals. It slows change by allowing a resolute minority to delay -- to stand athwart history shouting stop. It ensures that change is driven not "merely by temporary advantage or popularity" but by a substantial majority. Is it any wonder that it has usually been liberals who want to change or abolish the filibuster rule? The left knows that the filibuster is a deeply conservative weapon whose main function is to advance the function the founders intended for the Senate:

In selecting an appropriate visual symbol of the Senate in its founding period, one might consider an anchor, a fence, or a saucer. Writing to Thomas Jefferson, who had been out of the country during the Constitutional Convention, James Madison explained that the Constitution's framers considered the Senate to be the great "anchor" of the government. To the framers themselves, Madison explained that the Senate would be a "necessary fence" against the "fickleness and passion" that tended to influence the attitudes of the general public and members of the House of Representatives. George Washington is said to have told Jefferson that the framers had created the Senate to "cool" House legislation just as a saucer was used to cool hot tea.

The filibuster furthers that objective by ensuring that change is, as Kirk put it, "gradual and discriminatory, never unfixing old interests at once."

While it's not necessarily not conservative to get rid of the filubuster for judicial appointments, there's certainly a good conservative case for not doing so.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Bush Offers Financial Aid to Abbas in Key Sign of Support: At a White House meeting, the president hails the Palestinian leader's reform efforts. (Paul Richter and Ken Ellingwood, May 27, 2005, LA Times)

President Bush on Thursday made an important show of support for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, offering U.S. financial aid and hailing his reform efforts in the first White House meeting with a Palestinian leader since 2000.

Bush offered Abbas $50 million in direct aid to help Palestinians settle the Gaza Strip once Israel completes its planned withdrawal of Jewish settlers and soldiers this summer. Although the amount is not considered large, the gesture is a key sign of confidence. The United States, concerned about corruption in the Palestinian government, has given it direct aid only twice in the last decade.

"You have made a new start on a difficult journey, requiring courage and leadership each day," Bush told Abbas, who has faced mounting challenges since he was elected in January. "And we will take that journey together."

The offer of aid and Bush's warm words marked a sharp contrast from the treatment accorded Abbas' predecessor, the late Yasser Arafat. Bush did not consider the longtime Palestinian leader a viable diplomatic partner and never invited him to the White House.

It's unfair to make one person stand for the inanities and inaccuracies of all, but we're going to anyway. Here's just the first story we found when looking through the archives for folks critical of President Bush's demand that the Palestinians elect a replacement for Arafat with whom he coyuld then do business, Mideast Misstep: Bush's dismal foray into peacemaking. (Adam B. Kushner, 6.27.02, American Prospect)
President Bush concluded his Rose Garden speech about the Middle East on Monday by calling the moment "a test to show who is serious about peace and who is not." Given how naïve his plan is -- how astonishingly far it is from any foreseeable reality -- he may have failed his own test. It's not that Bush's goals aren't noble or correct, but real diplomacy takes more than wishful thinking.

Bush's fuzzy logic, to borrow a term, is weakest with regard to what he calls the "Palestinian leadership." By refusing even to name Yasir Arafat, the president showed that he's just not ready for an honest attempt at peacemaking.

It's not that Arafat is a stand-up guy, or even a credible negotiator. Revelations in recent months all but conclusively unmasked Arafat as a financial supporter of terrorism. It's quite possible the peace process would fare better in his absence. But there's no guarantee. And that's because there's not yet a viable replacement for him -- that we know of, at least.

Who was naive? It's hard to see how events could have followed much more closely their predicted path.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


School Law Spurs Efforts to End Minority Gap (SAM DILLON, 5/27/05, NY Times)

Spurred by President Bush's No Child Left Behind law, educators across the nation are putting extraordinary effort into improving the achievement of minority students, who lag so sharply that by 12th grade, the average black or Hispanic student can read and do arithmetic only as well as the average eighth-grade white student.

Here in Boston, low-achieving students, most of them blacks and Hispanics, are seeing tutors during lunch hours for help with math. In a Sacramento junior high, low-achieving students are barred from orchestra and chorus to free up time for remedial English and math. And in Minnesota, where American Indian students, on average, score lower than whites on standardized tests, educators rearranged schedules so that Chippewa teenagers who once sewed beads onto native costumes during school now work on grammar and algebra.

"People all over the country are suddenly scrambling around trying to find ways to close this gap," said Ronald Ferguson, a Harvard professor who for more than a decade has been researching school practices that could help improve minority achievement. He said he recently has received many requests for advice. "Superintendents are calling and saying, 'Can you help us?' "

No Child Left Behind requires schools to bring all students to grade level over the next decade. The law has aroused a backlash from teachers' unions and state lawmakers, who call some of its provisions unreasonable, like one that punishes schools where test scores of disabled students remain lower than other students'. But even critics acknowledge that the requirement that schools release scores categorized by students' race and ethnic group has obliged educators to work harder to narrow the achievement gap.

"I've been very critical of N.C.L.B. on other grounds," said Robert L. Linn, a co-director of the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing. But he called the law's insistence that test scores be made public by race and ethnic group "one of the things that's been good."

At least 40 states compiled scores by racial and ethnic groups before President Bush signed the law in January 2002. (In New York, scores broken down by ethnicity were first made public in March 2002.) But even though scores were publicly accessible, many schools felt little pressure to close the gap before the law required that they show annual improvement for each category of student, including blacks, Latinos and American Indians, or face sanctions.

"More folks are talking about the achievement gap than we've ever seen before," said G. Gage Kingsbury, a director at the Northwest Evaluation Association, an Oregon group that carries out testing in 1,500 school districts.

And, of course, Democrats have turned against the law so the President gets all the credit.

May 26, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:49 PM


Constitution foes fear for France's soul (Tom Hundley, May 26, 2005, Chicago Tribune)

Such are the depths of Francois Vincent's disdain for the new European constitution that he recently uttered words that have not passed the lips of many Frenchmen.

"I would rather be an American than a European," said Vincent, 63, who owns a vegetable stall in one of Paris' open-air markets. "At least Americans love their country."

Like many Frenchmen who plan to vote "no" in this Sunday's referendum, he is worried that the new European constitution will rob France of some vital piece of its national soul.

They sold it for a mess of pottage quite a while ago.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:42 PM


Doctors seek kitchen knife ban (EDWARD BLACK, 5/27/05, The Scotsman)

LONG, pointed kitchen knives should be banned as part of a concerted effort to reduce the terrible injuries and deaths caused by stabbing attacks, doctors warned today.

Accident and emergency medics claim the knives serve no useful purpose in the kitchen but are proving deadly on the streets of Britain, with the doctors claiming the knives are used in as many as half of all stabbings.

The doctors claimed they had consulted leading chefs who said the knives were not needed for cooking - a claim disputed by chefs contacted by The Scotsman.

Latest figures from the Scottish Executive show that in 2003, 55 of 108 homicide victims were stabbed by a sharp instrument - often a kitchen knife.

By 2010 they'll be buttering their toast with tongue depressors...

Posted by Matt Murphy at 11:26 PM


'Educational' smut for kids (Michelle Malkin, May 26, 2005, Townhall)

Here's a rich irony: I'm writing today about a new children's book, but I can't describe the plot in a family newspaper without warning you first that it is entirely inappropriate for children.

The book is "Rainbow Party," by juvenile fiction author Paul Ruditis. The publisher is Simon Pulse, a kiddie lit division of the esteemed Simon & Schuster. [...]

The main characters in the book are high school sophomores -- supposedly typical 14- and 15-year-olds with names such as "Gin" and "Sandy." The book opens with these two girls shopping for lipstick at the mall in advance of a special party. The girls banter as they hunt for lipsticks in every color of the rainbow:

"Okay, we've got red, orange, and purple," Gin said. "Now we just need yellow, green, and blue."

"Don't forget indigo," Sandy said as she scanned the row of lipstick tubes.

"What are you talking about?"

"Indigo," Sandy repeated as if that explained everything. "You know. ROY G. BIV. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet."

"That's seven lipsticks. Only six girls are coming. We don't need it."

What kind of party do you imagine they might be organizing? Perhaps a makeover party? With moms and daughters sharing their best beauty secrets and bonding in the process?

Alas, no. No parents are invited to this get-together. A "rainbow party," you see, is a gathering of boys and girls for the purpose of engaging in group oral sex. Each girl wears a different colored lipstick and leaves a mark on each boy. At night's end, the boys proudly sport their own cosmetically sealed rainbow you-know-where -- bringing a whole new meaning to the concept of "party favors."

Frank Rich's column defending this practice comes out tomorrow.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:21 PM


Tilt in Germany (Tom Goeller, 5/25/05, Washington Times)

[Gerhard Schroeder's] sudden move caught the Christian Democratic Union and its junior partner the Libertarians (FDP) by complete surprise. However the vast majority of the German media calls this move a "political suicide."

Now, even if Mr. Schroeder could win the general elections together with his coalition partner the Greens, he could not even pass a bill. Out of the 16 German states only five are controlled by the SPD. The Christian Democrats can block in the Bundesrat -- the equivalent to the U.S. Senate -- any initiative of a Schroeder government. One can now safely say the Schroeder era is drawing to a close. [...]

Mr. Schroeder's reforms of the costly German welfare system are considered too inadequate to counter the country's severe economic crisis. To traditional Socialists, Mr. Schroeder is a "traitor" to capitalism. The truth is, Mr. Schroeder, who took over from conservative chancellor Helmut Kohl in 1998 with the promise to bring down the high unemployment, was unable to address the real economic problems. Instead, he distracted the German public with aggressive anti-U.S. demagoguery and by this was able to win re-election in 2002. He bought himself time but did not solve the nation's problems. [...]

German welfare reform certainly is no longer questioned by the majority of Germans, but rather by the majority of his Social-Democrats, who look backward, trapped in old visions of the last century. A new government, run by the Christian Democrats and the Libertarians, will have to go even further with the reforms than Mr. Schroeder did. A deep and far-reaching reform of German labor laws and social benefits is regarded by most economists as essential to stem the steady decline in Europe's largest economy.

But a new government in early fall of 2005 would not only change German domestic politics. More importantly, it would change German foreign policy.

One can expect from a conservative government in Berlin steps toward reconciling relations with Washington. Perhaps there will still be no German troops sent to Iraq, because for any out of area mission, the government needs a two-third majority in the parliament. But in other areas, for example to get the Iranians to stop their nuclear weapons program, a new German government will be tougher, the Washington-Berlin relationship will warm up again and the one between Paris and Berlin will cool a bit -- all to the advantage of U.S. foreign policy.

He overstates Germany's significance, its appetite for reform, and its potential for helping America much in foreign affairs, but it's nice to see the tail end of Red & Green.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:27 PM


Turmoil as Chirac plots to disregard 'non' vote (Philip Webster and Charles Bremner, 5/27/05, Times of London)

PRESIDENT CHIRAC of France is preparing to throw Europe into confusion and put Britain on the spot by backing moves to keep the European constitution alive if it is rejected in Sunday’s referendum.

French diplomats say that M Chirac is expected to urge other countries to proceed with ratification because France does not want to be seen to be blocking the European project. Any attempt to persuade other countries to go ahead will dash the hopes of those in the British Government who believed that a French rejection would make a British referendum unnecessary.

All the times Chirac has screwed with Tony Blair? He has to return the favor, doesn't he?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:19 PM


Rickey is one old dude (Alan Schwarz, 5/26/05,

[T]he best way to gauge age when it comes to Henderson is to take a look at the people he is older than – folks who aren't still lacing up the spikes to play baseball every night.

Henderson is older than Terry Francona, Ozzie Guillen, Bob Melvin and Lloyd McClendon.

He is older than Floyd Youmans, Jack Fimple and Frank Eufemia.

He is older than Billy Jo Robidoux.

Henderson is older than Bill Gullickson and Charlie Hudson. Come to think of it, he's also older than Britt Burns and Richard Dotson.

He is older than Cal Ripken and Ryne Sandberg.

He is older than George Bell, Rob Deer, Pete Incaviglia and Jesse Barfield.

He is older than Joe DeSa, which is quite a trick, given that DeSa has been dead almost 20 years.

He is older than Shooty Babbitt and Buddy Biancalana.

Of course, Henderson is older than not just these baseball notables, but dozens from other sports and walks of life. For example, he is older than Willie Gault and Vai Sikahema.

For the New York Giant fans among you, he is older than Lawrence Taylor, Joe Morris and Butch Woolfolk.

He is older than Art Schlichter.

He is older than Cris Collinsworth and Neil Lomax.

He is older than Renaldo Nehemiah. [...]

In the end, it appears as if the only person Rickey Henderson is younger than is ... (drumroll) ... Julio Franco.

But then again, aren't we all?

"I'm not a proud man," Franco said last weekend in Boston. "But I am proud of that."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:10 PM


Contraceptive may kill libido (Julie Wheldon, May 27, 2005,

TAKING the Pill for as little as six months could destroy a woman's sex drive for ever, say scientists.

The oral contraceptive dramatically reduces the levels of a hormone responsible for desire and simply stopping taking it fails to reverse the effect, it is feared.

A survey produced such dramatic results that lead researcher Dr Irwin Goldstein advised any woman on the Pill who has sexual problems to stop taking it and try another method of birth control.

"There is a possibility it is imprinting a woman for the rest of her life," he said.

The Pill was launched at the beginning of the swinging '60s with the promise of freeing women from the fear of unwanted pregnancy.

And instead it freed them from their humanity.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:53 PM


Senate Forced to Continue Debate on Bolton Nomination (Reuters, 5/26/05)

The U.S. Senate voted on Thursday to delay John Bolton's confirmation as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, bowing to Democrats' demands that the Bush administration hand over more information on Bolton.

The Senate voted 56-42, giving Republicans less than the 60 votes needed to end debate and go to a final vote on Bolton. That will put the confirmation vote off until after Congress' weeklong Memorial Day recess.

Pretty funny--in their comments on the floor afterwards, after Bill Frist decried their filibuster, Joe Biden and Harry Reid said they'd allow an up or down vote immediately if the White House just releases some documents the Democrats want. So they don't care what's in the documents, just insist they get them?

Meanwhile, Two Bush Nominees Get Panel's Quick OK (JESSE J. HOLLAND, May 26, 2005, Associated Press)

Two of President Bush's blocked judicial nominees, cleared for confirmation by this week's Senate compromise on filibusters, gained quick approval Thursday by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The nominations of Richard Griffin and David McKeague for the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati were approved by voice vote in the committee without debate. The nominees now move to the full Senate for confirmation votes.

Democrats had been blocking Griffin and McKeague at the request of Michigan's two Democratic senators, Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow. But they agreed not to hold up the nominations anymore as part of the discussion over the use of judicial filibusters.

And Senator Frist is going to seek cloture on Brown and Pryor perhaps tonight?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:42 PM


Heir apparent in Lebanon (Nicholas Blanford, 5/27/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

Saad Hariri, a billionaire businessman, is set to trounce his opponents in the parliamentary elections that begin Sunday, securing his position as the dominant Sunni Muslim voice in Lebanon.

In an interview with the Monitor at the Hariri family's sprawling headquarters in West Beirut, Mr. Hariri vows he will pursue his father's economic and political reform policies, while predicting a tough battle in the coming months as Lebanon adjusts to independence from Syria.

"I think there are going to be challenges and issues that are going to be very difficult to resolve," says the tall and well-built Hariri, who bears a striking resemblance to his slain father. [...]

Hariri is confident that despite the splits, the opposition will secure between 80 and 90 places in the 128-seat parliament, with his bloc grabbing the largest share, making him the front-runner for next prime minister.

Although he is regarded as a shoe-in for the job if he wants it, Hariri will not confirm whether he will seek the premiership. "I will sit and wait after the elections and then I'll decide," he says.

Still, he has a clear vision of the first tasks awaiting the next government which will steer Lebanon into the post pax Syrian era. "My first mandate is to have a new election law," he says. "We owe it to the Lebanese to work on a permanent election law that will be ready for the next elections in four years time."

He also intends to complete the purge of the domestic security apparatus which carried out Syria's orders in Lebanon and which many Lebanese believe played a hand in the assassination of his father. But Hariri acknowledges that it is impossible to ignore neighboring Syria.

"We and the Syrians will be there for a 1,000 years so we have to have normal and regular relations with Syria," he says.

Relatively unknown in Lebanon, Hariri was selected by the family to take over the political reins after his elder brother, Bahaa, chose to remain in business. "I was the unlucky one," he jokes.

He may be a newcomer to Lebanese politics, but Hariri is no neophyte. He ran his father's massive construction company, Saudi Oger, for over a decade and has extensive financial interests in telecommunications in the Middle East. He is ranked at 548 in Forbes Magazine's annual list of billionaires with an estimated fortune of $1.2 billion. His father was ranked 108th with $4.3 billion.

Hariri has adopted his father's globe-trotting existence, holding talks with Jacques Chirac, the French president and a close family friend, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Middle East leaders.

A European ambassador who recently met Hariri says, "He is an impressive and smart figure. He is listening carefully to his father's advisors

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:38 PM


Pressure builds on Iraq's insurgents: Iraqi officials said Thursday that they will deploy 40,000 Iraqi troops throughout Baghdad to target rebels. (Scott Peterson, 5/27/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

Deepening the speculation about the severity of battle injuries to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, his followers Thursday squabbled on the Web over naming a new leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, exposing rifts and raising questions about how the insurgency may change.

May has seen one of the bloodiest waves of violence to date in Iraq. More than 620 Iraqis and 60 US troops have died since the Shiite-led government was formed April 28.

Analysts say the insurgency can probably carry on for now with or without Mr. Zarqawi's guiding hand, pointing to the high level of bloodshed that killed at least 13 more people Thursday.

But it is under increasing pressure from numerous US offensives in western Iraq, the loss of two-dozen top lieutenants, and intelligence from Zarqawi's captured computer. Iraq's budding government is also tightening its grip, announcing Thursday that it would launch a new offensive with 40,000 troops and set up 600 checkpoints in Baghdad.

"These operations will aim to turn the government's role from defensive to offensive," said Iraqi Interior Minister Bayan Jabor.

If nothing else, it's easier to accept your own casualties when you're inflicting some on the enemy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:34 PM


A journey without maps: If France rejects an EU constitution that is a triumph of horse trading, Europe moves into uncharted territory (Ian Black, May 26, 2005, Guardian Unlimited)

It is all too easy to forget, as Europe braces itself for an unprecedented crisis if France does vote "non" to the EU constitutional treaty this weekend, how much relief and excitement, even delight, there was when the document was approved last June.

Exhausted leaders staggered out of their Brussels summit to quaff champagne and toast their achievement of agreeing a new rule book for an expanded union of 25 member states and 450 million people. It was supposed to define Europe's ambitions for a generation.

Finalising the 448-article text had been a very hard grind. Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister, had failed the previous December, largely because Jacques Chirac of France was not ready to sign, and it took six more gruelling months for Bertie Ahern, the Irish taoiseach and next holder of the union's rotating presidency, to oversee the horse trading and arm-twisting needed to finesse the deal.

Even before the ink was dry, it was clear from the record low turnout in the European elections that the toughest part - unanimous ratification by all countries - lay ahead. No one would have won any prizes for predicting serious problems with semidetached Britain or sceptical Denmark, where Brussels-bashing is a national hobby.

But it was difficult to imagine then that the biggest hurdles would be posed by stalwart founder members of the club such as France and the Netherlands. (Opinion polls suggest the Dutch are almost certain to say "nee" in their referendum on June 1.)

The idea for the constitution was born in 2001 of a desire to give the EU - then poised to expand from 15 to 25 members - a clear, comprehensible and transparent set of rules, more efficient institutions and a sense of values and its place in the world. Germany, its postwar transformation anchored in Europe, was the driving force. [...]

If France does vote "non" on Sunday, then Europe moves into uncharted territory amid chances that the whole constitutional exercise will come to nothing.

The uncharted waters come if they remain sovereign nation states rather than place themselves under a Franco-Prussian bureaucracy?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:10 PM


Tech nightmare may ruin Europe (Reuters, May 26, 2005)

The European technology sector is under pressure from strict labour laws and a lack of start-up firms, and needs a major push if it wants to create another Nokia or SAP, executives said on Wednesday.

Venture capitalists pump only one-fifth as much into start-up companies in Europe they do in the United States, and the founder and chief executive of unlisted, Luxembourg-based Skype said the reason for slow activity was tough conditions.

"We want our vacations and our social luxuries. This is not the best environment to start a company. It is much more difficult here than in the United States or China," said Niklas Zennstrom at the Reuters Telecoms, Media and Technology Summit.

Who do they think is going to pay for their luxuries?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:00 PM


French in disarray as they admit EU treaty vote is lost (Charles Bremner in Paris and Philip Webster, 5/26/05, Times of London)

THE leader of France’s ruling party has privately admitted that Sunday’s referendum on the European constitution will result in a “no” vote, throwing Europe into turmoil.

“The thing is lost,” Nicolas Sarkozy told French ministers during an ill-tempered meeting. “It will be a little ‘no’ or a big ‘no’,” he was quoted as telling Jean-Pierre Raffarin, the Prime Minister, whom he accused of leading a feeble campaign.

Although Europe would be thrown into disarray, the Government would be greatly relieved if M Sarkozy were right.

Ministers have privately told The Times that Britain is prepared to ditch its commitment to a referendum if France, or the Netherlands next Wednesday, vote against the constitution.

And so Tony Blair gets to administer the necessary coup de grace to the idea of Britain joining Europe.

Tory suspended for lining up with UKIP over sleaze (Anthony Browne, 5/26/05, Times of London)

THE Conservative Party suspended an MEP yesterday after he supported the UK Independence Party in a censure motion against José Manuel Barroso, the President of the European Commission.

The UKIP had succeeded in overcoming overwhelming opposition from the Brussels political establishment to make Senhor Barroso defend himself against sleaze allegations days before European referendums in France and the Netherlands.

In an extraordinary piece of political drama, Nigel Farage, the UKIP leader in the European Parliament, faced booing in the chamber and was denounced as a demagogue and accused of trying to undermine the Commission’s reputation before the referendums.

Roger Helmer, a Conservative Eurosceptic, came to his aid and denounced political leaders, including those of the European Conservative group, for strongarming MEPs into withdrawing their names from the UKIP motion.

How have the Tories managed to get themselves to the Left of the French?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:53 PM

UNKIND CONTRIBUTION (via Daniel Merriman):

4 Tenn. lawmakers arrested in bribery probe (The Associated Press, May 26, 2005)

Four Tennessee lawmakers, a former lawmaker and two others were indicted Thursday amid a federal investigation into the business dealings of a state senator from Memphis from a powerful political family, officials said. [...]

Those charged included the senator, John Ford; fellow Sens. Kathryn Bowers and Ward Crutchfield; state Rep. Chris Newton; and former state Sen. Roscoe Dixon. Newton is a Republican and the others are Democrats. Calls to the legislators’ offices Thursday were not immediately returned.

Ford also is charged with three counts of attempting to threaten or intimidate potential witnesses. The indictment said he told an undercover agent that “if he caught someone trying to set him up he would shoot that person.”

Ford is alleged to have taken a payoff of $55,000 from E-Cycle Management, with other defendants allegedly getting lesser amounts.

His brother is former U.S. Rep Harold Ford Sr., who served in Congress for 11 terms. His nephew, Rep. Harold Ford Jr., has served five terms in Congress and on Wednesday entered the race for the Senate seat now held by Republican Majority Leader Bill Frist.

"Here, son, hope this helps kickstart your campaign..."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:40 PM


Soccer fans forced to watch women in bikinis (IOL, May 23 2005)

Enraged football fans took to the streets of Auckland at four on Sunday morning, looking for a bar showing the English FA Cup's outcome after the local Sky TV channel switched over to another programme at full time.

With Arsenal and Manchester United in a scoreless tie after the regulation 90 minutes of play, Sky Sport went to its next scheduled programme, "Sports Illustrated 2005 Swimwear at Play", the New Zealand Herald reported on Monday.

Fans left watching a parade of bikini-clad women missed 30 minutes of extra time and the first penalty shootout in the cup's 134-year history.

About 150 to 200 people at Auckland's Albion Hotel who described themselves as "gutted" when the coverage ended took to the streets of New Zealand's largest city in search of another bar showing the game, manager Paul Hafford told the paper.

Final proof that you can't be both a straight male and a soccer fan.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:34 PM



The fruits of the Senate deal on filibusters began to be seen yesterday with the confirmation at last of Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Nominated in May 2001, Owen has been in limbo the longest of any of President Bush's judicial nominees.

The vote was 56-43 — meaning that, as Republicans had argued, there was strong support for Justice Owen in the Senate. Two Democrats voted for her confirmation, one Republican voted against (as did Jim Jeffords, an independent who usually votes with Democrats).

Debate also finally began yesterday on confirmation of John Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. In the spirit of the filibuster compromise California Democrat Barbara Boxer dropped her "hold" on the nomination, which could have blocked it indefinitely.

The beauty of it is that the GOP can keep pushing this new spirit line until the Democrats refuse to roll over anymore and then the President just whips out his recess appointment power.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:49 PM


Down the Toilet at Newsweek: Dungeon legend and the peril of anonymous sources. (Jack Shafer, May 16, 2005, Slate)

[I] wonder why Newsweek wasn't more skeptical about Quran-desecration charges. Muslims so venerate the Quran that they are outraged if anyone touches one without first washing their hands, let alone put it into a dung-hole. One would guess that this sort of desecration would be too outrageous to be common, but a short voyage on the Nexis Wayback Machine proves it to be almost widespread. The earliest example I found was from an Aug. 18, 1983, Associated Press story filed in Islamabad, Pakistan. A Western traveler told the AP that Soviet soldiers and Afghan troops had used mosques as toilets and shredded the Quran for toilet paper. "My impression is that they were trying to humiliate the Afghans, but it just makes them hate (the Soviets) even more," the traveler said. The AP noted that it couldn't confirm the story.

On March 12, 1986, Australia's Advertiser reported that religious authorities in Saudi Arabia ban the flushing of local newspapers because their pages "usually contain a verse from the Koran." On Nov. 18, 1987, the AP moved another story—dateline, Washington—advancing a conservative human rights organization's claim that Soviet troops used mosques as latrines and the Quran as toilet paper.

Moving into the 1990s, Muslims beheaded a Nigerian Christian after his wife was accused of using the Quran as toilet paper, according to a Jan. 3, 1995, AP account. Before the arrest of Timothy McVeigh in the Oklahoma City bombing case, the American-Arab Relations Committee told the AP (April 21, 1995) of receiving calls from people who said the Quran should be used as toilet paper. Deutsche Presse-Agentur (Feb. 8, 1999) reported that Philippine troops had burned mosques and flushed a torn-up Quran down a toilet to agitate Muslim rebels. The Quran-as-toilet-paper charge has even been leveled against Muslim militants by Russia's Interfax (Oct. 1, 1999).

All of the stories cited above are poorly sourced, so it's anybody's guess how many of them are true. But just as every paranoid has at least one enemy, an actual case of the toilet-paper story is documented in Nexis: 15 years ago, an Israeli soldier used pages from a Quran as toilet paper when he found it in a bathroom of a boys' school in which his unit bivouacked (Jerusalem Post, May 29, 1989). He said it was accidental, and he apologized, as did his superiors.

Compare the ubiquity of the toilet story with other kinds of Quran desecration. In my Nexis sifting I found only a handful of examples from the last 25 years: A man rips up a Quran (Statesman, India, March 27, 2001); the non-believers burn a Quran in India (San Jose Mercury News, March 23, 2001); and an Iraqi woman protests the search of her bag, which contains a Quran, by U.S. trooper's dog (Agence France Presse, Oct. 31, 2003). All unspeakable violations, but none with staying power of the toilet-paper meme.

Could it be that the Gitmo prisoners lied or exaggerated about the Quran story, pushing forward the most outrageous meme in their inventory, and that their inflated charges percolated up to Newsweek?

This is al-Qa'eda Rule 18: 'You must claim you were tortured' (Alasdair Palmer, 30/01/2005, Daily Telegraph)
The horrors of what undoubtedly took place in Abu Ghraib, the prison in Iraq, have convinced many people that the Americans must also have administered hideous tortures to everyone they imprisoned at Guantanamo. In fact it is not at all clear that the Americans have tortured anyone in Guantanamo. Some of the "sexual tortures" – women interrogators rubbing their breasts against the backs of those being questioned – sound, to Western ears, too close to the comfy chair of Monty Python's Spanish Inquistion to be taken seriously. Surprisingly, perhaps, the US army authorities took them very seriously: they dismissed for "inappropriate conduct" a female interrogator who was found to have run her fingers through one detainee's hair and sat on his lap during an interrogation.

The detainees in Guantanamo were certainly humiliated and made to feel extremely uncomfortable. They may have been deprived of light and sleep and forced to stand for long periods. But did it constitute torture? The US Department of Defence insists that none of the Britons even alleged they had been tortured or abused until October last year – and that when US officials investigated those claims, they not only found they had no foundation, but that one of the Britons had assaulted one of his interrogators.

The men's claim that they were tortured at Guantanamo should also be set in the context of the al-Qa'eda training manual discovered during a raid in Manchester a couple of years ago. Lesson 18 of that manual, whose authenticity has not been questioned, emphatically states, under the heading "Prison and Detention Centres", that, when arrested, members of al-Qa'eda "must insist on proving that torture was inflicted on them by state security investigators. [They must] complain to the court of mistreatment while in prison".

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:15 PM


NPR played a bizarre clip of George Voinovich crying when he talked about how John Bolton is going to be mean to the UN bureaucrats. Homey needs some testosterone boosters.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:09 AM


Iraq's Deadliest Insurgent Group May Be in Disarray Amid Leadership Crisis (Qassim Abdul-Zahara, 5/26/05, Associated Press)

Iraq's most lethal insurgent group appears to be facing a leadership crisis amid conflicting reports about the fate of its leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and whether a Saudi militant has been named to stand in for him.

Iraq's interior and defense ministers said Thursday they have information that al-Zarqawi has been wounded - apparent confirmation of recent rumors that the Jordanian-born terrorist leader of al-Qaida in Iraq was injured. But the officials said they did not know how severe the injury might be.

Meanwhile, a host of sometimes-dueling statements posted by militants on Web sites made it clear there could be confusion within the group itself - or perhaps even a leadership struggle - over al-Zarqawi's status.

None of the statements could be independently verified, but many of them were posted on a Web site known as a clearinghouse for al-Zarqawi, thus increasing their chances of being credible.

The only reasonable jihadi way to settle it is a fight to the death.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:45 AM


Terror jail compared to 'gulag': Amnesty International called the U.S. terror prison in Cuba a modern-day 'gulag' as the ACLU revealed claims of Koran desecration in a 2002 FBI report. (CAROL ROSENBERG, 5/26/05, Miami Herald)

In its harshest rebuke in three years, Amnesty International on Wednesday condemned the Guantánamo Bay prison camp for terrorist suspects -- calling it the ``gulag of our times.''

The similarities are pretty haunting: The Bolsheviks terror regime put some 18 million of their own citizens into the Gulag because they might threaten to undermine socialist totalitarianism and America has put six hundred enemy combatants in Guantanamo who support totalitarianism and terror.

Posted by David Cohen at 10:36 AM


Mr. Narcissus Goes to Washington: It's springtime, love is in the air, and 14 senators are gazing at the mirror. (Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal, 5/26/05)

You've heard the mindless braying and fruitless arguments, but I'm here to tell you the facts, no matter what brickbats and catcalls may come my way. Lindsey Graham defied the biases of his constituency to do what was right, not what was easy. Robert Byrd put aside personal gain to save our Republic. David Pryor ignored the counsels of hate to stand firm for our hopes and dreams. Mike DeWine protected our way of life. These men are uniters, not dividers.

How do I know?

Because they told me. Again and again, and at great length, as they announced The Deal. And I believed them, because I am an idiot. Or as they might put it, your basic "folk" from "back home."

Unable to fit every detail of a life, or even a moderately complex event, into an article or book, historians look for the telling fact that exemplifies the lesson they wish to teach. Much of the historian's skill goes into choosing just the right examplar, and a slyly chosen examplar can do more than all the misstated facts in Bellesiles Arming America to skew the reader's perception. Fortunately for (honest) historians, it is amazing how readily the right examplar comes to hand, too perfect to be ignored and too true to be skewed. For example, when the history of the filibuster compromise is written, what historian will be able to ignore the telling detail that explains it all: John McCain left the press conference early to go see a movie about his life.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:34 AM


Charters work. Wake up! (Richard Schwartz, May 26th, 2005, New York Daily News)

Why do charter schools work? Because they live and die by the numbers. Literally.

Here's the deal: Charter schools are public schools that function largely free of suffocating bureaucratic rules and union contracts. The nonprofit boards that run them sign five-year agreements - charters - that spell out precise goals for test scores, attendance rates and safety. If a school meets its targets, it gets another five-year pact. If it doesn't, the school is kaput.

"Succeed or die" is the charter school credo. Brutal but effective. Proof? Take a look at the stunning test results these schools posted last week and you'll see a small miracle in the making. The city school system's fourth-graders reading at or above the state standard jumped 9.9 percentage points. Impressive. But charters did a third better, with their pass rate soaring 13.2 points.

Just as striking were the charters' reading test results for eighth-graders. While the rest of the system saw its pass rate droop 2.8 percentage points, charter school eighth-graders gained a solid 5points on the same exam. Those numbers make a hugely compelling case for more charters. But there's a brick wall: Albany allows only 100 charters. For the entire state. By fall, the city will just about max out with 47 of those charters, representing a puny 3% of all city schools.

That's not nearly enough for Chancellor Joel Klein, who trekked up to Albany this month demanding that legislators obliterate the 100-school state cap. How many charters does Klein want? Sky's the limit. Sans cap, said one school official, the city could have 200 to 300 charter schools up and running within a few years. Translation: Hundreds of thousands of children, most of them disadvantaged and from the inner city, would get vastly better educations.

It's Klein's single best big idea for turning around city schools.

Funny how the Left believes in Darwinism in the absence of proof but not in Social Darwinism with its voluminous track record of success.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:16 AM

HOW ARE THOSE BASICS LOOKIN'? (via David Hill, The Bronx):

Euro falls to 7-month low vs broadly-robust dollar (Dhara Ranasinghe, 5/26/05, Reuters)

The euro fell to a seven-month low against the dollar on Thursday on persistent worries that France will reject the EU constitution in Sunday's referendum, while the dollar was well bid before U.S. economic growth data.

Europe's single currency fell as far as $1.2517 after London's Times newspaper reported French centre-right leader Nicolas Sarkozy had said in a private meeting with ministers that the vote was "lost".

Sarkozy's spokesman denied the statement and this gave the euro a reprieve. But uncertainty over the French referendum and expectations that data at 1230 GMT will show an upward revision to first-quarter U.S. economic growth prevented the euro from making a sustained comeback against a broadly-firm dollar.

"The story in the Times about Sarkozy is another kick for the euro and an underlying theme in the last few weeks is that the French and Dutch could reject the EU constitution," said Chris Gothard, currency analyst at Brown Brothers Harriman.

"But the main story recently has been the different growth stories in the U.S. and euro zone and today the market is expecting a healthy upward revision to U.S. GDP and this is giving the dollar a boost."

Meanwhile, the Democrats are preparing to stake their '6 campaign on making our economy more Europe's!

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:57 AM


Under Western Eyes:
Bush has gotten it right in Lebanon. (Michael Young, May 25, 2005, Slate)

Several weeks ago, during a debate in Lebanon's parliament, a Maronite Christian parliamentarian from the heartland launched a tirade against Syria. The speaker of parliament, a favored minion of Damascus, demanded that the offending words be stricken from the record. The parliamentarian turned to him, and in a high rustic twang, asked, "Why are you so scared? They're leaving."

They were indeed, and as Lebanon this weekend begins an election that will take place on four consecutive Sundays, it has embarked on a process of rejuvenation that has at several levels involved the international community, particularly the United States. Those who accuse the Bush administration of incompetence in the Middle East because of events in Iraq may soon have to temper that with an assessment of its shrewder behavior in Lebanon.

Lebanon is today under de facto international trusteeship, and the mainstays of that order, ironically, correspond to what the Bush administration's critics would have regarded as ideal in Iraq: The United Nations is involved; the United States and the Europeans are reading from the same songbook; the administration has not used military force; and a heinous crime may one day be punished. Most important, change came through a combination of outside and domestic pressures, so even compulsive foes of U.S. unilateralism might approve.

One wonders where Mr. Young got the idea that the President's critics care about liberalizing the Middle East.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:34 AM


Graham gets heat for deal: His mediator role in filibuster drama upsets many in S.C. (LAUREN MARKOE, 5/25/05, The State)

In Washington, South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham is being lauded for helping pull the U.S. Senate back from the partisan brink of a filibuster crisis.

In South Carolina, the Seneca Republican is trying to control the damage.

“The calls won’t quit, and they’re almost all against Lindsey,” state Republican Party chairman Katon Dawson said.

Dawson counted more than 900 phone calls to party headquarters in 36 hours — mostly from people who helped elevate Graham from the House to the Senate in 2002. [...]

But Graham said Tuesday he expects to regain his critics’ confidence when the compromise results in more of Bush’s conservative nominees winning spots in the federal judiciary.

Underscoring his “90 percent conservative voting record,” he said he disagrees with those who would have him spurn Democrats when the good of the country requires him to work with them.

“I will fight for the conservative cause, because I believe in it,” Graham said. “I will break away when I think the country needs me to break away to find a middle ground.

“But I will not use this job to hate people. There are some people on the right and the left, (who) expect you not only to vote with them, but to hate the people they hate. Count me out.”

He obviously thinks he's deprived Democrats of the filibuster.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:31 AM


The Force is with the conservatives (Yoel Sano, 5/27/05, Asia Times)

Yet, despite Lucas' apparent pro-liberal fears about current trends in US foreign and domestic policies, which many Americans will find exaggerated, his Star Wars saga nonetheless contains very conservative messages that will resonate with people on the desert planet of Texas and in Middle America - and indeed many other parts of the world.

For one thing, there is Lucas' idealized form of government. According to Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original Star Wars film, "For over a thousand generations the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic. Before the dark times. Before the Empire." Francis Fukuyama would have been surprised that there is indeed an alternative to his end-of-history notion of Western-style liberal democracy as the ultimate form of government.

While the Jedi did not rule the republic, they nonetheless formed the backbone of it. With the Jedi more akin to a religion or a moral force, rather than a political order, Lucas seems to envisage a heavy role of the church in some form or another, albeit without ruling the state. Some commentators have compared the Jedi to the samurai of medieval Japan, and indeed their swordsmanship, esoteric dress codes, and Darth Vader's mask design do invoke the samurai styles. But the latter were more manifestly militaristic than religious. A better analogy would be the Knights-Templar, a monastic military order formed at the end of the First Crusade with the mandate of protecting Christian pilgrims en route to the Holy Land.

If the Jedi are a religion, then their "God" is "the Force", a mystical energy field generated by all living things, which binds the galaxy together and gives the Jedi their strength. Essentially, the message of the original Star Wars trilogy is one of faith: if you believe in something enough, you can accomplish it. Hence, Luke Skywalker, the hero of the trilogy, was able to guide a missile into the Death Star's reactor vents through belief rather than using a sophisticated targeting computer. The message of faith is reassuring in this secular age.

Unfortunately, George Lucas inexplicably ditched this faith-based belief system in the prequel trilogy for a far less comforting, and indeed, slightly sinister explanation of the Force. Instead of being able to use the Force out of belief, the first prequel revealed that only those who have a high concentration of "mitochlorions" in their cells can use these powers.

[Ed: the term "mitochlorian" appears to be a pseudo-scientific invention based on real entities known to cell biologists here on Earth, namely "mitochondria" and "chloroplast". "Mitochondria" are tiny sausage-shaped organelles, found in all living cells save bacteria, whose function is to convert sugar efficiently into usable energy. "Chloroplasts", found only in plants, are the sites of photosynthesis. Interestingly, there is a widely accepted theory that both are descended from ancient bacteria - as shown by their size, shape and bacteria-like DNA - that became internalized in, and ultimately dependent upon, the primitive "eukaryotic" cells that eventually gave rise to plants and animals. At some point, Lucas appears to have heard of this theory (originally proposed by Lynn Margulis at Harvard) and decided that a similar entity, the "mitochlorion", would exist in his fictional universe and provide a convenient explanation for why some individuals have more Force powers than others.]

Ironically, however, the "mitochlorion" concept transformed the ability to use "the Force" from an article of faith into one based on blood. Rather than being true believers, the Jedi are in fact a master race or elite caste.

Talk of race brings us to another unfortunate aspect of the prequel trilogy, namely the portrayal of alien characters through ethnic stereotyping. This is most apparent in the character of Jar Jar Binks, a goofy, amphibious, bipedal alien, who hangs out with the heroes in The Phantom Menace to provide what passes as comic relief. Unfortunately, Jar Jar's pidgin-English way of speaking seems to have been designed to invoke African-American slaves of the 19th century United States, or the "noble savages" of a past imperial era.

Then there are the aliens of the evil Trade Federation, a powerful commercial-military-industrial concern fighting the republic. All of them speak with heavy mock Chinese or Japanese accents, perhaps reflecting America's Japanophobia of the 1980s, or fear of China's rising economic power today. There is also the hooked-nose, slave-owing alien Watto, who speaks with a heavy Jewish-Israeli accent and thinks of nothing but money.

Paganism, geneticism, anti-trade, anti-semitism--all the things that spring to mind when you think of George W. Bush, huh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:19 AM


EU call to re-run treaty referendums (John Thornhill in Paris, George Parker in Brussels and Betrand Benoit in Berlin, May 25 2005, Financial Times)

France and the Netherlands should re-run their referendums to obtain the "right answer" if their voters reject Europe's constitutional treaty in imminent national ballots, Jean-Claude Juncker, the holder of the EU presidency, said on Wednesday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:13 AM


Wagner and The Lion King: Where to find the total work of art: a review of Death-Devoted Heart: Sex and the Sacred in Wagner's Tristan and Isolde by Roger Scruton (John H. McWhorter, May/June 2005, Books & Culture)

Richard Wagner's lasting claim on our attention rests above all on his conception of the "total work of art" or Gesamtkunstwerk, in which music, poetry, dramatic action, and visual spectacle blend to create an overpowering experience. In description, Wagner's Gesamtkunstwerk operas tantalize. One reads that in his later works such as Tristan and Isolde, Parsifal, and the Ring Cycle, Wagner eschewed arias designed to show off singers and provide passing delight. Instead he tightly yoked vocal lines, orchestral accompaniment, and visual setting to the purpose of conveying inner psychology, mythic ideals, and philosophical truths, in a quest for a quintessentially mature art form. One eagerly anticipates the magic.

In performance, however, these operas are a truly curious experience, and ultimately exhausting. One must do without discrete songs; the vocal lines are mostly a kind of extended recitative, integrated tightly with ever-shifting colors from the orchestra. The narratives themselves would fit on one side of an index card; most of the time, little is actually happening onstage, and what does happen moves quite slowly. In Die Walküre, Wotan spends an hour recapitulating the events in the preceding Das Rheingold. In Tristan and Isolde, King Marke, catching his bride Isolde with Tristan, declaims his sense of injury for about twenty minutes—and in vocal lines with not even a hint of a "take-home tune." The pieces also require a certain Sitzfleisch: the second act of Die Walküre alone runs over two hours. Tristan takes over four hours for a plot that consists of the lovers coming together by drinking a love potion, Tristan being mortally wounded and taken to his homeland, and Isolde coming to expire along with him.

Why do these pieces occupy such an exalted place in the artistic canon? Addressing that question regarding Tristan and Isolde, Roger Scruton's Death-Devoted Heart is an elegant, erudite exploration attempting to make the operagoer "get" this piece and, by extension, Wagner's intent in all of his Gesamtkunstwerk ventures.

Scruton shows us that traditional dismissals of Tristan's brief plot as Wagner's self-therapy in the wake of a frustrated love affair miss the point. Wagner infused his version of the oft-told tale with insights from Schopenhauer's conception of life as a vile illusion and German Romantic poets' fascination with "night" and "death" as driving themes of existence. His Tristan, in particular, presents himself in a crucial passage as a creature of darkness bound to love only in death; here is his "heart devoted to death" (Todgeweihtes Herz) in Scruton's title. Tristan's mother died in childbirth, depriving him of the ability to find love in the harshness of light, and hence to truly be united with him, Isolde must follow him back into the "wondrous realm of night." Wagner's lovers are bound in an attraction so powerful that its only possible consummation is mutual expiration, the maximal manifestation of subsuming themselves within each other.

So Tristan is Darth Vader?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:09 AM


How to Farm Stem Cells Without Losing Your Soul: A solution to the stem cell dilemma that even the Vatican can love. (Clive Thompson, Wired)

William Hurlbut clicks his laptop, and an x-ray pops up on the projection screen behind him. It's a picture of a tumor in a woman's ovary - a ghostly blob floating near the spine. In the middle are several strange, Chiclet-shaped nodules. "Those white opacities," Hurlbut says, "are actually fully formed teeth."

A few audience members blanch. Though we're in an ordinary conference room in Rome, it feels like church. The seats are filled with some of the Vatican's top thinkers, including a dozen men in clerical dress, a nun in a flowing brown habit, and a Dominican priest whose prayer beads quietly clatter. Hurlbut, a bioethicist from Stanford, has traveled here to tell them about a new way to create human embryonic stem cells.

As you might expect, the Vatican is vehemently opposed to embryonic stem cell science. President Bush is also wary, and two years ago he all but banned federal funding for it. But most medical scientists remain convinced that stem cells hold the key to a new kind of healing: regenerative medicine. Embryonic stem cells are pluripotent, meaning that they have the ability to develop into any type of human tissue. If that capacity could be harnessed and directed, injury and disease need no longer be crippling. For example, new neurons grown from stem cells might reverse the damage from Alzheimer's and repair severed spinal cords. But the research requires growing - and destroying - embryos in the lab. Hurlbut, however, claims he has a method for harvesting embryonic stem cells without killing human embryos.

The proof is projected on the screen. The x-ray shows a teratoma, a naturally occurring tumor that grows from an egg or sperm cell. Like an embryo, a teratoma produces stem cells. But the teratoma does not have the right balance of gene expression to create a fully integrated organism. So it grows into a dense ball of teeth, hair, and skin, a ghastly grab bag of organs like some randomly constructed Frankenstein. Hurlbut points to the x-ray. "They're about the ugliest thing in medicine," he says, "but they might offer us a solution to our stem cell dilemma."

In a bit of diplomacy that may satisfy both the scientists and the theologians, Hurlbut advocates genetically altering cloned embryos so, like a teratoma, they wouldn't have the DNA necessary to become viable humans. For the first few days of existence, they would grow normally and produce stem cells, but then die when a critical embryonic component - say, a placenta - failed to emerge. "They would have no coherent drive in the direction of mature human form," Hurlbut tells the crowd. "It's analogous to growing skin in a tissue culture. Such an entity would never rise to the level of a human being." You could grow them in vats, kill them at will, and never risk offending God. As both a medical doctor and a deeply religious Christian, Hurlbut borrows from each side: It's a theological breakthrough in the form of a scientific technique. [...]

Central to this debate is the perennial question: When does life begin? Science and religion have radically different answers. Scientists know that nerve and brain cells emerge shortly after conception. As a consequence, stem cell researchers generally agree that research should be done on embryos less than two weeks old. "Up to 14 days, you don't have a creature with a brain in it, so you can't even consider it to be, say, brain-dead," says Michael Gazzaniga, who heads Dartmouth College's program in cognitive neuroscience. "If you accept that, then there's no problem using embryos for research." The premise here is that the brain makes a person a person, a tradition that stretches back to Descartes' "I think, therefore I am."

Christian critics have a more clear-cut view: God endows every embryo with a soul at conception. So intentionally destroying an embryo is murder - even if it's only one-cell big. Theologians typically define the embryo in terms of its human "trajectory." Since every fertilized egg cell has the inherent potential to become a fully formed adult, they argue, interrupting that process at any point - from conception to birth to nursing home - is to disrupt a sacred process.

Hurlbut has sided with pro-life theologians ever since finding faith in his twenties. (He describes himself as a "generic Christian" who goes to church at a variety of services.) "This idea that an embryo becomes a person only at day 14 is truly pseudoscientific," he says. "It's completely arbitrary." He's a vocal opponent of abortion, a position that hasn't won him many fans on the Stanford campus, where he helped develop the university's bioethics curriculum in 1989. "I've gotten a lot of heat," he says. "I can't say I've liked it."

Ironically, Hurlbut's idea came about not in spite of his piety but because of it. Instead of dismissing the theological concept of an embryo's trajectory to humanhood, he seized it, seeing a scientific opportunity. Would it be possible, he wondered, to engineer embryos that didn't have human potential yet otherwise behaved normally?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:59 AM


Mattel Is Building on American Girl's Success: It hopes a new store at the Grove, dedicated to the popular dolls, will draw girls and big sales. (Melinda Fulmer, May 26, 2005, LA Times)

Parents, watch your wallets. Mattel Inc. is planning a new shopping destination for girls that promises extreme sticker shock.

The El Segundo company plans to announce today that it will open its third American Girl Place store, in the Grove shopping center in Los Angeles' Fairfax district.

The store, aimed at girls 7 to 11 and modeled on successful locations in Chicago and New York, will open next spring in the two-story space shuttered by toy retailer FAO Schwarz Inc. last year.

Building a premium toy store on the site of a failed counterpart may not seem like the smartest bet, but analysts say the two retailers' approaches are different.

"A typical toy store sells commodity items," said Kurt Barnard, president of Barnard's Retail Consulting Group in New Jersey. "You can go inside and find toys for 59 cents. At American Girl, you are lucky if you get away with $79."

Indeed, while FAO and other retailers have been forced to compete with discounters such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp., American Girl caters to customers for whom cachet trumps price, selling them dolls, books and a bimonthly magazine.

The Daughter kinda likes them, but The Wife and Grandmothers have serious joneses.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:54 AM


Malaysia U-turn on immigrants ban (Jonathan Kent, 5/26/05, BBC News)

Having persuaded illegal migrants to leave with a threat of fines, jail and whipping, the government now desperately wants them back.

It has even set up centres in Indonesia, where most of the workers came from, to speed their return as legal employees. [...]

It is an embarrassing U-turn from a government that wanted to make political capital from its tough stance on illegal immigration - and a sign of just how badly Malaysia's labour shortage is biting.

Undocumented migrants made up more than a 10th of its workforce and factories, restaurants and construction companies have been hit hard

Nativism is so much fun until you have to do the work you hired them for in the first place.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:49 AM


Handing the 21st century to Asia (Dominique Moïsi, 5/256/05, International Herald Tribune)

For historians of the 21st century, May 29, 2005, could become a highly symbolic turning point. If the French vote "no" to the referendum on Europe's constitutional treaty - the likely result, if the latest polls are correct - they will, unwillingly and unknowingly, make sure that this becomes the "Asian century."

The European Union would probably become a Magna Helvetia - a big Switzerland - or a museum of high and old culture and the good life.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:11 AM


Keep up the pressure for a No vote, Left warned (David Rennie, The Telegraph, May 26th, 2005)

Jean-Claude Juncker, the prime minister of Luxembourg and holder of the rotating EU presidency, told Le Soir newspaper in Belgium that he would act swiftly on Sunday night if France voted No.

He would appear with the head of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, and demand that all 25 EU nations complete the process of ratifying the constitution, in referendums or parliamentary votes.

The treaty must officially be endorsed by all 25 member states.

But EU leaders appear to be focused on keeping the constitution alive after a possible French No so as to buy themselves more time for a political solution to the resulting crisis.

Mr Juncker said it was essential for the EU leadership to show a united front on Sunday night, and "maintain order in the process that will unfold the morning after".

"If it's a Yes, we will say 'on we go', and if it's a No we will say 'we continue'," he said.

Don’t they have civil wars over this kind of thing?

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:51 AM


Appeal to parents on teenage births
(Lucy Ward, The Guardian, May 26th, 2005)

The government has reached the limits of its ability to contain the UK's high rate of teenage pregnancy and can go no further without the help of parents, the new children and families minister warned yesterday.

In her first interview since her post-election return to the government, Beverley Hughes told the Guardian that ministers had "reached a sticking point" where their efforts could not by themselves solve the problem of teenage pregnancy. Figures on under-16 pregnancies released today are expected to show the government is failing to make enough progress to meet its target of halving teenage conceptions by 2010.

Ms Hughes said that parents had to take the initiative by putting aside any embarrassment and starting a dialogue about sex with their children. When this takes place, young people had sex later and were more likely to use contraception, she said.

What an unimaginative government. Just double the time allotted to compulsory sex education and hand out condoms with every school lunch and the problem will disappear. Parents will just mess you up, although we suspect there may be some truth to the notion that a lengthy dialogue with parents about sex can be a very effective contraceptive.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


NATO chief urges Sudan not to hinder AU mission: Scheffer offers support for cash-strapped African body on eve of international conference (Daily Star, May 26, 2005)

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer flew to an international conference in Ethiopia Wednesday with an offer of logistical support for the African Union's bid to widen its peacekeeping mission in the Sudanese region of Darfur.

Making an early exit from a Euro-Asian security meeting in Sweden, he said it was important for the mission's success that Sudan does not hinder the African Union.

"What is important," he told reporters, "is that the government of Sudan will give the green light to the African Union" to more than double its current peacekeeping operation to about 7,000 troops.

Our money, their troops--it's ideal.

May 25, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:47 PM


For a New Judge, Self-Reliance in Her Life and in the Law (DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK, 5/25/05, NY Times)

When the Senate asked Justice Priscilla R. Owen for the most significant opinions she had written on the Texas Supreme Court, she provided a list with a distinctive theme: tough.

She chose opinions overturning rulings in favor of a child born with birth defects, a worker injured on an oil rig, a nurse fired for blowing the whistle on a drug-dealing co-worker, a family with an interest in an oil field that had been drained by a nearby company, asbestos and breast-implant plaintiffs and a student whose school made him cut his hair.

"She represents a part of the Texas culture that is basically a frontier mentality," said Linda S. Eads, a law professor at Southern Methodist University and a former deputy attorney general of Texas who supports Ms. Owen's nomination.

"You don't cry about your hardships, you just keep moving forward," Professor Eads said. "In some ways, it's a very empowering philosophy, and in some ways it can be seen as cold. I guess it depends on which side of the outcome you are."

After four years in the crossfire of partisan battle over her nomination to the federal bench - denounced by liberal critics as extremist and callous, hailed by conservatives as a kind-hearted Sunday school teacher who lifted herself up from humble roots - Ms. Owen finally won Senate confirmation Wednesday on a 55-to-43 vote to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans.

After Senate Democrats allowed her confirmation to break a stalemate over judicial nominations, her conservative supporters argued that her confirmation set a benchmark. Judges with records and views like Ms. Owen's, her supporters argue, can no longer be construed as objectionable. They note that none of her opinions have been overturned.

Janice Rogers Brown is likely to beat that 55.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:31 PM


For 2006, Democrats try 'back to basics' (David Cook, 5/26/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

At the moment, the DSCC's goal of regaining control of the Senate looks like an uphill battle. In a moment of surprising candor, Senate minority leader Harry Reid stood on the Senate floor in late April and said, "I think it would take a miracle" for Democrats to pick up 5 senate seats in 2006. "I guess miracles never cease," he added. The current makeup of the Senate is 55 Republicans, 44 Democrats, and 1 Independent.

Schumer thinks the battle over judicial nominations will linger in voters' minds and help Democrats in the 2006 elections. "The whiff of extremism, the whiff of abuse of power, the whiff of being out of touch with what people want is in the air. I think this fight where the moderates had to rescue the Senate and the agenda from the Republican leadership and these extreme groups helps us."

But the basic thrust for Democrats in the run-up to 2006 will not be on judicial nominations, Schumer said. "We are not going to be off on some ideological escapade - rather meat and potatoes: healthcare, education, jobs."

Except that unemploymemt's low and job growth good, GDP rising, dollar rising, deficit falling, no inflation, home ownership up and the Fed will be lowering rates by next year. What's their sales pitch?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:38 PM


Africans ask: 'Why isn't anyone telling the good news?' (Abraham McLaughlin, 5/26/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

• Africa's economies grew by more than 5 percent last year - their biggest expansion in eight years. Central Africa's oil boom spurred 14.4 percent growth for that region.

• Ghana's stock exchange is regularly one of the highest-performing markets in the world; in 2003, it was No. 1, gaining 144 percent, according to one analysis.

• Exports to the US from 37 African nations jumped 88 percent last year, to $26.6 billion. Jeans made in Lesotho are sold in US stores. Also, flowers from Kenya and vegetables from Senegal are regularly available in European shops.

• Use of cellphones and the Internet is growing faster in Africa than anywhere else, according to the United Nations.

These and other statistics are getting more focus amid efforts to boost Africa's image - along with the world's willingness to the public posturing over embryonic stem-cell research, on both sides of the debate, will not end anytime soon.invest in the continent.

A prominent challenge came this week from Rwandan President Paul Kagame. Speaking in Kenya at the International Press Institute's annual gathering, he defied the media to tell the whole story.

"I urge you to play your role, not merely as watchdogs and whistle-blowers, but as advocates and educators in our joint venture to make Africa ... a better place," he said.

To begin with, African leaders could demand that Robert Mugabe step down.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:28 PM


The McCain Way (The New Yorker, 2005-05-30)

This week in the magazine, in “McCain’s Party,” Connie Bruck writes about John McCain, the senator from Arizona, and about the possibility of his running for President in 2008. Here, she discusses McCain's career, past and future, with Ben Greenman

What about his relationship with the Bushes? How can he be close to the Bush camp after their vicious character- assassination attempts in South Carolina in 2000?

Because of all the fireworks of his personality, people tend to overlook how pragmatic McCain is. Some of his aides did taunt him about his role in the campaign—“Where do they put you, in the back of the bus?” one asked, and was cursed roundly by McCain. But I think that, once he made up his mind, it was not that difficult. And I actually believe that in addition to his political calculations about 2008 he really did prefer Bush to Kerry—that it was a Hobson's choice, as one friend of McCain’s told me, but in the end he felt more comfortable with Bush. He is much closer to Bush than Kerry in his extremely hawkish views on the war in Iraq, and much closer in foreign policy, generally. As one McCain aide told me, if McCain had run with Kerry, they could have debated foreign policy with each other.

Is he now too careful about what he says? In recent weeks he has spoken out on the Downing Street memo, for instance, but without the fervor and critical passion that some people have come to expect. Is this a defanged McCain?

I will be very surprised if we see him doing anything that strikes a blow at the Bush White House. Polite differences are one thing, but attacks that can do real damage are another. I think he has done too much to build his political capital with the Party and the Republican primary voters who love Bush to throw it away. But he definitely has a fine line to walk. He can’t afford to seem like just another calculating, hypocritical politician—or he loses everything.

How unpleasant is his dilemma: to be a team player when he might, deep down, desperately want to be an iconoclast?

I think that it will be hard, because McCain loves being an iconoclast, or a rebel, or a contrarian—it’s just so much a part of who he is, and it brings him the attention that he loves. He will be oh so boring as a team player, so he will never restrict himself to that completely.

If elected, what kind of President would McCain be?

That, of course, is the $64,000 question. Even some who like him a great deal wonder whether he is steady and thoughtful enough—or, on the contrary, too volatile, intemperate, and itching to fight.

He's likely too thin-skinned and lacking in a coherent philosophy to be a great president, but he's a good enough legislator and popular enough across the political spectrum that he could finish up the much needed post-Cold War/New Deal reforms.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:51 PM


One doctor's hunch led to a chilling discovery (Stephen Smith, May 25, 2005, Boston Globe)

It was one of those moments that send shudders through even the most experienced physician.

Dr. Staci Fischer was already treating one patient at Rhode Island Hospital battling a virulent infection just 2 1/2 weeks after receiving a new kidney. He had fever and diarrhea and other symptoms that made Fischer think the man had contracted hepatitis.

Then, a few days later, Fischer encountered a second transplant recipient at the Providence hospital whose health had deteriorated precipitously. Like the first patient, the second had received a kidney, and, it turned out, the organs had come from the same donor. The patients' sudden illnesses were distressingly similar.

''So I called the organ bank that had provided the organs, and I said, 'I have these two patients, and they have very similar symptoms, and the strange thing is, it's only three weeks out from their transplant,' " Fischer, an infectious disease specialist, recalled in an interview yesterday. '' 'Is it time we have to worry that there was something transmitted with the organs?' "

It was. Fischer's call started an investigation that led to the discovery of two other transplant recipients gravely ill with mysterious infections at hospitals in Boston. In the end, all four patients, including three who died, would be connected to a single donor whose pet hamster carried the same type of virus that had infected the transplant patients.

The New England cluster of illnesses was discovered by a combination of luck and old-fashioned medical detective work. [...]

The organs given to the four patients had been taken from a woman who died from a stroke. Her kidneys went to the two Rhode Island patients, her lungs to a patient at Brigham and Women's Hospital, and her liver to a recipient at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Not long before her death, the woman, whose identity has not been disclosed by health authorities, had purchased a hamster from a PETsMART store. Unbeknownst to her and the shop, the animal carried LCMV.

The virus can be transmitted from rodents to humans, usually through dust from the animal's droppings. In most people, it causes little harm, with symptoms similar to a cold.

But in transplant patients, their immune systems intentionally ravaged so their bodies won't reject the organs, otherwise minor infections can turn lethal.

Lab tests have shown that the four patients had an identical strain of LCMV. Tests are underway to determine whether that strain matches the virus that infected the hamster.

At the same time, the Rhode Island Department of Health is collecting rodents outside the house of the woman who died.

''We're trying to track back where the hamster became infected and if the hamster of the donor family was in fact the source of the infection or if it could have come from some other animal," said Dr. David Gifford, director of Rhode Island's Department of Health.

But if it weren't for Fischer's original detective work, other doctors familiar with the cases said, the link among the patients might never have been established.

Fischer, during a telephone interview from Seattle, recalled the day in April when transplant surgeons and infectious disease doctors from the three hospitals where the operations had been performed compared notes about the patients.

''It was really, really eerie," Fischer said. ''It was really scary to hear everybody talk about it.

''By the time I talked to them, the lung recipient had died, and one of our kidney patients had died, and the liver recipient was imminently dying. And here I was left with the one surviving recipient. I've never been in a situation like that before in my career. ''

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:42 PM


Ofcom says OK to sex with animals (John Plunkett, May 25, 2005,

Clean-up TV campaigners seeking succour in Ofcom's new broadcasting rules suffered an immediate blow today when the regulator gave the all-clear to programmes about "sex with animals".

The comments by Richard Hooper, the Ofcom deputy chairman, came at the unveiling of its long-awaited new broadcasting code and will have had the regulator's spin doctors holding their heads in their hands.

Although Mr Hooper was at pains to point out that the new regulations will not give carte blanche to broadcasters, he said certain offensive material would be OK as long as it was shown at the right time and with suitable warnings.

"[What about] a programme about sex with animals? Yes, it's potentially possible. It all comes down to context," he said.

Ever try explaining to the dean of students and your parents that it was all about context?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:08 PM


Harold Ford Officially Enters '06 Senate Race (Fox News, May 25, 2005)

U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr. filed the federal paperwork Wednesday to become the second Democratic candidate in the 2006 U.S. Senate race.

Good candidate, but a Republican state.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:50 PM


Equality or Freedom (Sylvain Charat, 5/25/05, Tech Central Station)

French leadership bases its social vision on equality, the very source of collectivism. This does not mean being equal before the law, it means being socially equal - no one higher, no one lower. This eliminates any notion of competition in the name of social cohesion. That's why civil servants' jobs are so popular; that's why health coverage is a state monopoly and creates a welfare society; that's why politicians rave about a social economy. What kind of future can France have when 70 percent of its teenagers dream of being civil servants? At best, equality, in this collectivist meaning, is the praise of mediocrity.

In Eastern European and Anglo-Saxon countries, social vision is based on freedom. This involves the social integration of the rule of law and the acceptance of risk. Freedom is a risk and cannot be separated from responsibility. This is the prefect ground for a free trade society, the only one able to bring wealth and prosperity to the greatest part of its citizens. It does not mean that everything is perfect, but it means that there is much more opportunity for individuals to better themselves, to give the best of themselves, to make good use of their gifts and improve the world. At best, freedom is the praise of excellence.

Only one of these two social visions has a future.

To the contrary, the two visions are in eternal conflict. But the 20th Century does demonstrate that you can't base a successful polity on the equality/security principle.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:45 PM


Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:39 PM


The Senate's Real Leader (David S. Broder, May 25, 2005, Washington Post)

In contrast to Majority Leader Bill Frist, who was unable to negotiate a compromise with Minority Leader Harry Reid or hold his Republicans in line to clear the way for all of President Bush's nominees to be confirmed, McCain looks like the man who achieved his objectives.

If -- as many expect -- McCain and Frist find themselves rivals for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, the gap in their performance will be remembered.

To be sure, McCain was only one of 14 senators -- seven from each party -- who forged an agreement to clear three of the roadblocked circuit court nominees at once, shelve two others, and reserve the option of future filibusters only for "exceptional circumstances." And the deal forged in McCain's office probably would not have been possible without the support of such Senate elders as Republican John Warner and Democrat Robert Byrd.

But no one else in the negotiating group has McCain's national stature, and no one else is a likely presidential contender three years from now. So, while such would-be candidates as George Allen of Virginia and Sam Brownback of Kansas lined up behind Frist, McCain took the harder road and helped organize the bipartisan effort that averted the looming crisis.

He did that knowing he would incur the wrath of the conservative activists who want no barriers placed before their favorites for possible vacancies on the Supreme Court. But contrary to myth, the heroes of the far right rarely win presidential nominations -- as witness the fate of Steve Forbes, Gary Bauer, Pat Buchanan and Pat Robertson, among others.

The first post-W presidency will be about passing the remainder of his program and Mr. McCain is both a proven dealmaker and the one candidate who's guaranteed to win by enough to have a veto-proof margin in the Senate.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:25 PM


Sanders Steps Up: The representative for the rest of us sets his sights on the Senate (Joel Bleifuss, May 24, 2005, In These Times)

If elected, or should I say when elected, what kind of leadership will you bring to the U.S. Senate?

If I'm elected to the U.S. Senate, I think it would be fair to say that I'll be the most progressive voice in the Senate and that I will continue to do the work that I did in the House. There are many huge issues out there, but my major emphasis will be on economic issues and addressing what I consider to be the collapse of the middle class: the fact that despite the huge increases in productivity and technology, the average American worker is worse off today than he or she was 30 years ago.

It could practically be the new slogan of the Democratic Party--"We'll make it 1975 again."

Posted by David Cohen at 12:44 PM



We congratulate Judge Owen, President Bush and all those whose hard work and dedication have made this possible.

Chafee votes against Owen's confirmation (JOHN E. MULLIGAN, May 25, 2005, Providence Journal)

Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee was the only Republican to vote today against the confirmation of Priscilla Owen as a federal appellate judge, as a four-year partisan battle over judicial nominations ended.

The Rhode Island Republican had been one of the 14 senators who signed a bipartisan deal to prevent the effort to ban judicial filibusters.

He expressed hope yesterday that President Bush will henceforth make judicial nominations that can win enough bipartisan support to preclude filibuster threats.

Owen's nomination was confirmed on a 56-43 vote, with two Democrats, Sen. Robert Byrd, W.Va., and Sen. Mary Landrieu, La., crossing party lines to support her.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:22 PM


DEVOLUTION: Why intelligent design isn’t. (H. ALLEN ORR, 2005-05-30, The New Yorker)

First of all, intelligent design is not what people often assume it is. For one thing, I.D. is not Biblical literalism. Unlike earlier generations of creationists—the so-called Young Earthers and scientific creationists—proponents of intelligent design do not believe that the universe was created in six days, that Earth is ten thousand years old, or that the fossil record was deposited during Noah’s flood. (Indeed, they shun the label “creationism” altogether.) Nor does I.D. flatly reject evolution: adherents freely admit that some evolutionary change occurred during the history of life on Earth. Although the movement is loosely allied with, and heavily funded by, various conservative Christian groups—and although I.D. plainly maintains that life was created—it is generally silent about the identity of the creator.

The movement’s main positive claim is that there are things in the world, most notably life, that cannot be accounted for by known natural causes and show features that, in any other context, we would attribute to intelligence. Living organisms are too complex to be explained by any natural—or, more precisely, by any mindless—process. Instead, the design inherent in organisms can be accounted for only by invoking a designer, and one who is very, very smart.

All of which puts I.D. squarely at odds with Darwin. Darwin’s theory of evolution was meant to show how the fantastically complex features of organisms—eyes, beaks, brains—could arise without the intervention of a designing mind. According to Darwinism, evolution largely reflects the combined action of random mutation and natural selection. A random mutation in an organism, like a random change in any finely tuned machine, is almost always bad. That’s why you don’t, screwdriver in hand, make arbitrary changes to the insides of your television. But, once in a great while, a random mutation in the DNA that makes up an organism’s genes slightly improves the function of some organ and thus the survival of the organism. In a species whose eye amounts to nothing more than a primitive patch of light-sensitive cells, a mutation that causes this patch to fold into a cup shape might have a survival advantage. While the old type of organism can tell only if the lights are on, the new type can detect the direction of any source of light or shadow. Since shadows sometimes mean predators, that can be valuable information. The new, improved type of organism will, therefore, be more common in the next generation. That’s natural selection. Repeated over billions of years, this process of incremental improvement should allow for the gradual emergence of organisms that are exquisitely adapted to their environments and that look for all the world as though they were designed. By 1870, about a decade after “The Origin of Species” was published, nearly all biologists agreed that life had evolved, and by 1940 or so most agreed that natural selection was a key force driving this evolution.

Advocates of intelligent design point to two developments that in their view undermine Darwinism. The first is the molecular revolution in biology. Beginning in the nineteen-fifties, molecular biologists revealed a staggering and unsuspected degree of complexity within the cells that make up all life. This complexity, I.D.’s defenders argue, lies beyond the abilities of Darwinism to explain. Second, they claim that new mathematical findings cast doubt on the power of natural selection. Selection may play a role in evolution, but it cannot accomplish what biologists suppose it can. [...]

Michael J. Behe, a professor of biological sciences at Lehigh University (and a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute), is a biochemist who writes technical papers on the structure of DNA. He is the most prominent of the small circle of scientists working on intelligent design, and his arguments are by far the best known. His book “Darwin’s Black Box” (1996) was a surprise best-seller and was named by National Review as one of the hundred best nonfiction books of the twentieth century. (A little calibration may be useful here; “The Starr Report” also made the list.)

Not surprisingly, Behe’s doubts about Darwinism begin with biochemistry. Fifty years ago, he says, any biologist could tell stories like the one about the eye’s evolution. But such stories, Behe notes, invariably began with cells, whose own evolutionary origins were essentially left unexplained. This was harmless enough as long as cells weren’t qualitatively more complex than the larger, more visible aspects of the eye. Yet when biochemists began to dissect the inner workings of the cell, what they found floored them. A cell is packed full of exceedingly complex structures—hundreds of microscopic machines, each performing a specific job. The “Give me a cell and I’ll give you an eye” story told by Darwinists, he says, began to seem suspect: starting with a cell was starting ninety per cent of the way to the finish line.

Behe’s main claim is that cells are complex not just in degree but in kind. Cells contain structures that are “irreducibly complex.” This means that if you remove any single part from such a structure, the structure no longer functions. Behe offers a simple, nonbiological example of an irreducibly complex object: the mousetrap. A mousetrap has several parts—platform, spring, catch, hammer, and hold-down bar—and all of them have to be in place for the trap to work. If you remove the spring from a mousetrap, it isn’t slightly worse at killing mice; it doesn’t kill them at all. So, too, with the bacterial flagellum, Behe argues. This flagellum is a tiny propeller attached to the back of some bacteria. Spinning at more than twenty thousand r.p.m.s, it motors the bacterium through its aquatic world. The flagellum comprises roughly thirty different proteins, all precisely arranged, and if any one of them is removed the flagellum stops spinning.

In “Darwin’s Black Box,” Behe maintained that irreducible complexity presents Darwinism with “unbridgeable chasms.” How, after all, could a gradual process of incremental improvement build something like a flagellum, which needs all its parts in order to work? Scientists, he argued, must face up to the fact that “many biochemical systems cannot be built by natural selection working on mutations.” In the end, Behe concluded that irreducibly complex cells arise the same way as irreducibly complex mousetraps—someone designs them. As he put it in a recent Times Op-Ed piece: “If it looks, walks, and quacks like a duck, then, absent compelling evidence to the contrary, we have warrant to conclude it’s a duck. Design should not be overlooked simply because it’s so obvious.” In “Darwin’s Black Box,” Behe speculated that the designer might have assembled the first cell, essentially solving the problem of irreducible complexity, after which evolution might well have proceeded by more or less conventional means. Under Behe’s brand of creationism, you might still be an ape that evolved on the African savanna; it’s just that your cells harbor micro-machines engineered by an unnamed intelligence some four billion years ago.

But Behe’s principal argument soon ran into trouble. As biologists pointed out, there are several different ways that Darwinian evolution can build irreducibly complex systems. In one, elaborate structures may evolve for one reason and then get co-opted for some entirely different, irreducibly complex function. Who says those thirty flagellar proteins weren’t present in bacteria long before bacteria sported flagella? They may have been performing other jobs in the cell and only later got drafted into flagellum-building. Indeed, there’s now strong evidence that several flagellar proteins once played roles in a type of molecular pump found in the membranes of bacterial cells.

Behe doesn’t consider this sort of “indirect” path to irreducible complexity—in which parts perform one function and then switch to another—terribly plausible. And he essentially rules out the alternative possibility of a direct Darwinian path: a path, that is, in which Darwinism builds an irreducibly complex structure while selecting all along for the same biological function. But biologists have shown that direct paths to irreducible complexity are possible, too. Suppose a part gets added to a system merely because the part improves the system’s performance; the part is not, at this stage, essential for function. But, because subsequent evolution builds on this addition, a part that was at first just advantageous might become essential. As this process is repeated through evolutionary time, more and more parts that were once merely beneficial become necessary. This idea was first set forth by H. J. Muller, the Nobel Prize-winning geneticist, in 1939, but it’s a familiar process in the development of human technologies. We add new parts like global-positioning systems to cars not because they’re necessary but because they’re nice. But no one would be surprised if, in fifty years, computers that rely on G.P.S. actually drove our cars. At that point, G.P.S. would no longer be an attractive option; it would be an essential piece of automotive technology. It’s important to see that this process is thoroughly Darwinian: each change might well be small and each represents an improvement.

Design theorists have made some concessions to these criticisms. Behe has confessed to “sloppy prose” and said he hadn’t meant to imply that irreducibly complex systems “by definition” cannot evolve gradually. “I quite agree that my argument against Darwinism does not add up to a logical proof,” he says—though he continues to believe that Darwinian paths to irreducible complexity are exceedingly unlikely. Behe and his followers now emphasize that, while irreducibly complex systems can in principle evolve, biologists can’t reconstruct in convincing detail just how any such system did evolve.

What counts as a sufficiently detailed historical narrative, though, is altogether subjective. Biologists actually know a great deal about the evolution of biochemical systems, irreducibly complex or not. It’s significant, for instance, that the proteins that typically make up the parts of these systems are often similar to one another. (Blood clotting—another of Behe’s examples of irreducible complexity—involves at least twenty proteins, several of which are similar, and all of which are needed to make clots, to localize or remove clots, or to prevent the runaway clotting of all blood.) And biologists understand why these proteins are so similar. Each gene in an organism’s genome encodes a particular protein. Occasionally, the stretch of DNA that makes up a particular gene will get accidentally copied, yielding a genome that includes two versions of the gene. Over many generations, one version of the gene will often keep its original function while the other one slowly changes by mutation and natural selection, picking up a new, though usually related, function. This process of “gene duplication” has given rise to entire families of proteins that have similar functions; they often act in the same biochemical pathway or sit in the same cellular structure. There’s no doubt that gene duplication plays an extremely important role in the evolution of biological complexity.

It’s true that when you confront biologists with a particular complex structure like the flagellum they sometimes have a hard time saying which part appeared before which other parts. But then it can be hard, with any complex historical process, to reconstruct the exact order in which events occurred, especially when, as in evolution, the addition of new parts encourages the modification of old ones. When you’re looking at a bustling urban street, for example, you probably can’t tell which shop went into business first. This is partly because many businesses now depend on each other and partly because new shops trigger changes in old ones (the new sushi place draws twenty-somethings who demand wireless Internet at the café next door). But it would be a little rash to conclude that all the shops must have begun business on the same day or that some Unseen Urban Planner had carefully determined just which business went where.

The other leading theorist of the new creationism, William A. Dembski, holds a Ph.D. in mathematics, another in philosophy, and a master of divinity in theology. He has been a research professor in the conceptual foundations of science at Baylor University, and was recently appointed to the new Center for Science and Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. (He is a longtime senior fellow at the Discovery Institute as well.) Dembski publishes at a staggering pace. His books—including “The Design Inference,” “Intelligent Design,” “No Free Lunch,” and “The Design Revolution”—are generally well written and packed with provocative ideas.

According to Dembski, a complex object must be the result of intelligence if it was the product neither of chance nor of necessity. The novel “Moby Dick,” for example, didn’t arise by chance (Melville didn’t scribble random letters), and it wasn’t the necessary consequence of a physical law (unlike, say, the fall of an apple). It was, instead, the result of Melville’s intelligence. Dembski argues that there is a reliable way to recognize such products of intelligence in the natural world. We can conclude that an object was intelligently designed, he says, if it shows “specified complexity”—complexity that matches an “independently given pattern.” The sequence of letters “jkxvcjudoplvm” is certainly complex: if you randomly type thirteen letters, you are very unlikely to arrive at this particular sequence. But it isn’t specified: it doesn’t match any independently given sequence of letters. If, on the other hand, I ask you for the first sentence of “Moby Dick” and you type the letters “callmeishmael,” you have produced something that is both complex and specified. The sequence you typed is unlikely to arise by chance alone, and it matches an independent target sequence (the one written by Melville). Dembski argues that specified complexity, when expressed mathematically, provides an unmistakable signature of intelligence. Things like “callmeishmael,” he points out, just don’t arise in the real world without acts of intelligence. If organisms show specified complexity, therefore, we can conclude that they are the handiwork of an intelligent agent.

For Dembski, it’s telling that the sophisticated machines we find in organisms match up in astonishingly precise ways with recognizable human technologies. The eye, for example, has a familiar, cameralike design, with recognizable parts—a pinhole opening for light, a lens, and a surface on which to project an image—all arranged just as a human engineer would arrange them. And the flagellum has a motor design, one that features recognizable O-rings, a rotor, and a drive shaft. Specified complexity, he says, is there for all to see.

Dembski’s second major claim is that certain mathematical results cast doubt on Darwinism at the most basic conceptual level. In 2002, he focussed on so-called No Free Lunch, or N.F.L., theorems, which were derived in the late nineties by the physicists David H. Wolpert and William G. Macready. These theorems relate to the efficiency of different “search algorithms.” Consider a search for high ground on some unfamiliar, hilly terrain. You’re on foot and it’s a moonless night; you’ve got two hours to reach the highest place you can. How to proceed? One sensible search algorithm might say, “Walk uphill in the steepest possible direction; if no direction uphill is available, take a couple of steps to the left and try again.” This algorithm insures that you’re generally moving upward. Another search algorithm—a so-called blind search algorithm—might say, “Walk in a random direction.” This would sometimes take you uphill but sometimes down. Roughly, the N.F.L. theorems prove the surprising fact that, averaged over all possible terrains, no search algorithm is better than any other. In some landscapes, moving uphill gets you to higher ground in the allotted time, while in other landscapes moving randomly does, but on average neither outperforms the other.

Now, Darwinism can be thought of as a search algorithm. Given a problem—adapting to a new disease, for instance—a population uses the Darwinian algorithm of random mutation plus natural selection to search for a solution (in this case, disease resistance). But, according to Dembski, the N.F.L. theorems prove that this Darwinian algorithm is no better than any other when confronting all possible problems. It follows that, over all, Darwinism is no better than blind search, a process of utterly random change unaided by any guiding force like natural selection. Since we don’t expect blind change to build elaborate machines showing an exquisite coördination of parts, we have no right to expect Darwinism to do so, either. Attempts to sidestep this problem by, say, carefully constraining the class of challenges faced by organisms inevitably involve sneaking in the very kind of order that we’re trying to explain—something Dembski calls the displacement problem. In the end, he argues, the N.F.L. theorems and the displacement problem mean that there’s only one plausible source for the design we find in organisms: intelligence. Although Dembski is somewhat noncommittal, he seems to favor a design theory in which an intelligent agent programmed design into early life, or even into the early universe. This design then unfolded through the long course of evolutionary time, as microbes slowly morphed into man. [...]

The most serious problem in Dembski’s account involves specified complexity. Organisms aren’t trying to match any “independently given pattern”: evolution has no goal, and the history of life isn’t trying to get anywhere. If building a sophisticated structure like an eye increases the number of children produced, evolution may well build an eye. But if destroying a sophisticated structure like the eye increases the number of children produced, evolution will just as happily destroy the eye. Species of fish and crustaceans that have moved into the total darkness of caves, where eyes are both unnecessary and costly, often have degenerate eyes, or eyes that begin to form only to be covered by skin—crazy contraptions that no intelligent agent would design. Despite all the loose talk about design and machines, organisms aren’t striving to realize some engineer’s blueprint; they’re striving (if they can be said to strive at all) only to have more offspring than the next fellow.

We're as skeptical of I.D. as of Darwinism, but what's entertaining about these criticisms is that they require mere acceptance of the notion that that Darwinism is true -- "evolution has no goal" -- and are stated in terms of Darwinism as an anthropomorphic intelligence, for instance "evolution will just as happily destroy the eye." It nicely demonstrates that there's ultimately no real difference between Darwinists and Designers except for which mechanism they choose to believe in.

Posted by David Cohen at 12:11 PM


Senators test extent of deal on nominees (Rick Klein, Boston Globe, 5/25/05)

A day after a coalition of moderate senators signed an agreement to avoid a partisan clash over judicial nominations, both liberal and conservative senators began to test its limits, with each side serving notice that the Capitol Hill culture war over confirming judges is not over. . . .

Democrats . . . for their part, celebrated a deal they said defused the ''nuclear option" -- a change in rules that they said would strip them of their right to filibuster judicial nominees and force them to retaliate by slowing Senate business to a crawl.

But some lawmakers predicted that the extraordinary agreement will collapse under its own weight, mainly because Democrats remain free to use the filibuster under ''extraordinary circumstances," and Republicans can still join Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and vote for a filibuster ban if the Democrats renege on the deal.

"This agreement among these 14 -- to which 86 senators were not a party -- does not solve anything," said Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas. "What it does do is perhaps delay the inevitable."

The biggest problem, several senators said, lies in the definition of ''extraordinary circumstances," a phrase left purposefully vague to help the deal get done, according to one senator involved in the negotiations. Without a precise definition, senators can interpret that threshold on their own -- and they may get that opportunity early next month.

That's when Frist, under intense pressure from angry conservatives, may force a vote on the appellate court nomination of William G. Myers III, a conservative chosen for the left-leaning Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. Democrats, who say he's a pro-business jurist with no regard for the environment, defeated his nomination by filibuster last year, and have promised to do the same this year.

''He'll be brought up in the normal course of order, and we'll find out if he's 'extraordinary' or not," said Senator Larry E. Craig, Republican of Idaho, Myers's home state. ''There's really no deal until it plays out at length."

Added Senator George Allen, Republican of Virginia: ''I'm disappointed in the deal. I don't feel at all bound by it. William Myers should be accorded a vote. That may be when we have the battle." . . .

Democrats and Republicans yesterday offered vastly different interpretations of the settlement, reflecting its tenuous hold on the signatories. Democrats insisted that Republicans have guaranteed they won't try to ban filibusters for the rest of the 2005-2006 Senate term, but Republicans said that promise depends on whether the Democrats stick to the deal. . . .

''Let me be very clear: The constitutional option remains on the table," Frist said in a speech on the Senate floor. ''I will not hesitate to use it if necessary."

If the Democrats filibuster Myers, it could pressure the Republicans involved in Monday's negotiations to change tack and support the rules change Frist is seeking. If the deal holds, Frist wouldn't have enough votes to change the rules, but if just two GOP senators from the deal changed their minds, it would shift the balance of power.

Yesterday, Senators John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey O. Graham of South Carolina -- two key Republicans who helped hammer out the last-minute compromise -- wouldn't say what they would do if their Democratic colleagues joined a filibuster of Myers. McCain said he wasn't familiar enough with Myers's record to respond, and Graham said he would deal with the situation if it happens. . . .

Kennedy, a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, said he believes Bush will select a [Supreme Court] nominee the Democrats can accept, but Democrats will use the filibuster against any candidate they believe isn't qualified.

''We still have that right, sure do, and I don't have any hesitancy," Kennedy said.

So the upshot is that the Democrats think that the nuclear option is off the table and that they can still filibuster nominees, including to the Supreme Court and including on ideological grounds. McCain and Graham agree, depending on ill-defined circumstances. I preferred it when no one knew what the deal meant.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:46 AM


Home sales hit all-time high in April (Martin Crutsinger, 5/25/05, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The National Association of Realtors reported Tuesday that existing single-family homes and condominiums were sold at a seasonally adjusted rate of 7.18 million units last month, a gain of 4.5 percent from a revised March sales pace of 6.87 million units.

The strength in sales, which was attributed to further declines in mortgage rates, put new upward pressure on prices. The median cost rose to a record $206,000, up 15.1 percent over a year ago.

That represented the biggest 12-month gain in prices since November 1980 and added to concerns that the housing industry could be experiencing a speculative bubble similar to the stock market bubble that popped in the spring of 2000. The median is the midpoint where half the homes sold for more and half for less.

The jump in home prices raised worries in financial markets that the Federal Reserve might be compelled to boost interest rates at a more aggressive clip, given that the eight quarter-point rate hikes since last June have done nothing to cool off demand for housing.

However, some of those concerns were eased later in the day with release of the minutes of the Fed's last interest-rate setting discussion on May 3. Those minutes showed that although Fed officials were worried about what high oil prices might do in terms of sparking broader inflation pressures, in the end they decided there was no need to raise rates more aggressively

What high oil prices?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:42 AM


India, Pakistan Consider Ending Conflict on World's Highest Battlefield (Benjamin Sand, 25 May 2005, VOA News)

India and Pakistan start high-level peace talks Thursday aimed at resolving a two-decade military standoff on a glacier high in the Himalayan Mountains.

India and Pakistan have been fighting over the uninhabited Siachen Glacier for more than 20 years.

At 6,000 meters above sea level, the glacier is considered the world's highest battleground.

Military experts say the isolated expanse has little or no strategic value. More soldiers have reportedly died there from the freezing temperatures and altitude sickness than from enemy fire.

Outside magazine ran a terrific story on this insane battlefield several years ago.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:28 AM


‘Nothing But a Theory’: Activists in Kansas want to ban any reference to the 20th century from school textbooks. (Andy Borowitz, May 25, 2005, Newsweek)

A political action group is applying pressure on the Kansas State Board of Education to ban any and all references to the 20th century from school textbooks, a spokesman for the group confirmed today.

The move to ban the 20th century came up in a series of contentious school board hearings this week as the group loudly complained that the state's current textbooks are rife with references to the controversial century, which they say may or may not have happened.

It was the worst century in human history--why wouldn't we remove it if we could?

Posted by David Cohen at 10:27 AM

A food fight in the Big GOP Tent: The week conservative Republicanism lost some traction (Howard Fineman, MSNBC, 5/24/05)

I’m wondering if we haven’t just witnessed a turning point in politics. Years from now, when we look back on the “Gang of 14” deal, will we see it as the moment when the tide of conservative Republicanism crested?

American public life moves in cycles. A generation ago, Lyndon Johnson trounced Barry Goldwater. But Goldwater’s 1964 crusade unleashed energy and ideas that inspired the New Right-Republican movement, which eventually reached its zenith in George W. Bush. He unified the libertarian, religious and corporate cadres of conservatism under his GOP banner.

Is the wheel turning again with another bold Texan in power? Hard to know, of course, and the Democrats won’t rise in some mere hydraulic fashion. They need to find vision, ideas and charismatic leaders, and none of them seem to be in great supply. But the line of products – call them “Bush Right” – suddenly is looking like what marketers call a “mature brand.” There are signs of age, strain and overreach, internally and externally.

Sometimes in politics, if it looks like a loss, it really is a loss.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:22 AM


Islam, Christianity more alike than different, imam says (Scott Finn, 5/23/05, WV Gazette)

Muslims, Christians and Jews are cousins whose faiths share much in common, according to Imam Mohammad Jamal Daoudi of the Islamic Center of West Virginia.

Daoudi gave the final talk Sunday at the West Virginia Humanities Council 2005 Little Lecture series.

He emphasized the similarities among the three faiths. All are monotheistic and all spring from Abraham, for example.

In Islam, Moses and Jesus are seen as great prophets, on the same level as the final prophet, Mohammed, he said.

“We are cousins and brethren, long separated from each other,” he said. “We have left each other, and we have been looking for one another for a long time.”

In the long term the enemies are no within the monotheist camp.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:18 AM


Was Canada Just Too Good to Be True? (CLIFFORD KRAUSS, 5/25/05, NY Times)

The news from Canada has been very un-Canadian of late. Or has it?

A government program sponsoring sporting and cultural events in Quebec has been tainted by allegations of millions of dollars in kickbacks and money laundering. Witnesses before a federal inquiry into the scandal have described envelopes full of cash left on restaurant tables to advance the cause of the governing Liberal Party.

But even as the "sponsorship scandal" has unfolded, one unseemly chapter after another, Prime Minister Paul Martin has held fast, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, to a cherished Liberal Party script: Canada as a singularly virtuous country that adheres more than most to values like honesty, decency, fairness and multiethnic equality, not to mention publicly financed universal health care.

"We will set the standard by which other nations judge themselves," Mr. Martin boasted to his party caucus only minutes after his government was saved on May 19 by a single vote in the House of Commons - the vote of a lawmaker who had turned her back not only on the Conservative Party, which she helped found only a year ago, but on her boyfriend, a Conservative leader, in return for a Liberal cabinet seat.

This notion of national rectitude and compassion, long promoted by the Liberals, has been captured in the slogan of a national book chain: "The world needs more Canada."

Like John Merrick needed more tumors.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:05 AM


Up close and presidential: a review of The Survivor: Bill Clinton in the White House by John F. Harris (Ronald Brownstein, LA Times)

Harris' freshest insight challenges a cornerstone of accepted wisdom among both Clinton supporters and critics. Almost all portraits of Clinton focus on his hunger for ideas, information, people and sensation, and his desire to squeeze every opportunity and experience from each day. His admirers believe that this restless insatiability sparked his political and policy innovations, even if it fed the personal recklessness exemplified by the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Many of his critics, conversely, believe he dissipated his presidency by failing to focus it; even some sympathetic analysts, like journalist Joe Klein, have argued that Clinton's personal failings and political setbacks were both marked by an inability to set limits or establish priorities.

A common theme for supporters and critics alike is that the essence of Clinton is his boundless energy — his curiosity, ambition and voracious appetites. Harris acknowledges all of that. (How could he not?) But mostly he turns the judgment on its head. Clinton's problem, he argues provocatively, wasn't too much activism but, on many occasions, too little.

"Beneath Clinton's constant whir of activity," he writes, "lay a passive streak." While Clinton was intellectually drawn to the toughest problems, Harris argues, he too often let decisions drift, unable or unwilling to settle disputes among his advisors or with Congress or other nations. Clinton's desire to synthesize alternatives and preserve his options sometimes produced brilliant improvisation — as when he outmaneuvered congressional Republicans, and revived his presidency, during the 1995 showdown over the federal budget. But especially in his first term, his failure to impose his will — or sometimes even to discern it — left him paralyzed on issues from campaign finance reform to turmoil in Haiti and atrocities in Bosnia. Later, Clinton's reluctance to confront resistance within the government's national security bureaucracy prevented him from producing a response to terrorism commensurate with his understanding of the problem.

The result, Harris astutely concludes, was a presidency that was most effective when Clinton's advisors offered him a clear direction. "He needed people of emphatic certitudes to help sharpen his own goals, and to give him the self-confidence to pursue them," Harris writes. Even during the most chaotic moments of the administration's first years, he notes, Clinton established a decisive course on economic policy that emphasized deficit reduction and free trade largely because confident advisors the president respected, like Lloyd Bentsen and Robert Rubin, unwaveringly urged him in that direction. By contrast, Harris believes, Clinton's foreign policy drifted badly in his initial years partly because Warren Christopher, his first secretary of State, tried to "respond to his boss's wishes" rather than shape them. Christopher failed to recognize that what Clinton needed in a secretary of State "was someone who with his own certitude quieted Clinton's doubts."

The tragedy of Bill Clinton is that he could have been a great president, though not much of a man, had he simply governed as he ran. Had he, for instance, pursued a Third Way health care program with HSAs and the like, instead of an even more bureaucratized government plan. He also could have enacted sweeping SS reform, especially after 1994, far more easily than a Republican president can, because there wouldn't have been enough Democrats willing to filibuster their own president. His two great achievements, free trade and Welfare reform, came when he depended on Republican votes in Congress. Using that model he could have tackled a whole swathe of big issues and built a significant legacy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:29 AM


Revenge of Global Finance (Slavoj Zizek, May 2005, In These Times)

When the final installment of the Star Wars series, Revenge of the Sith, brings us the pivotal moment of the entire saga--the change of the "good" Anakin Skywalker into the "bad" Darth Vader--it aims to draw parallels between our personal and political decisions.

In a 2002 Time magazine interview, George Lucas explained the personal level through a type of pop-Buddhism: "He turns into Darth Vader because he gets attached to things. He can't let go of his mother; he can't let go of his girlfriend. He can't let go of things. It makes you greedy. And when you're greedy, you are on the path to the dark side, because you fear you're going to lose things."

But more resonant than how Anakin turned into Darth Vader is the parallel political question: How did the Republic turn into the Empire, or, more precisely, how does a democracy become a dictatorship? Lucas explained that it isn't that the Empire conquered the Republic, but that the Republic became the Empire. "One day, Princess Leia and her friends woke up and said, ‘This isn't the Republic anymore, it's the Empire. We are the bad guys.' " The contemporary connotations of this reference to Ancient Rome suggest the Star Wars transformation from Republic to Empire should be read against the background of Hardt and Negri's Empire (from Nation State to the Global Empire).

The political connotations of the Star Wars universe are multiple and inconsistent. Therein resides the "mythic" power of that universe--a universe that includes a Reaganesque vision of the Free World versus the Evil Empire; the retreat of the Nation States, which can be given a rightist, nationalist Buchanan-Le Pen twist; the contradiction of persons of a noble status (Princesses, Jedi knights, etc.) defending the "democratic" republic; and finally, its key insight that "we are the bad guys," that the Empire emerges through the very way we, the "good guys," fight the enemy out there. (In today's "war on terror," the real danger is what this war is turning us into.) Such inconsistencies are what make the Star Wars series a political myth proper, which is not so much a narrative with a determinate political meaning, but rather an empty container of multiple, inconsistent and even mutually exclusive meanings. The question "But what does this political myth really mean?" is the wrong question, because its "meaning" is precisely to serve as this vessel of multiple meanings.

It's intentional gobbledygook?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:09 AM


Put Your Faith in Microfinance (Jacques Attali, May 2005, Foreign Policy)


On June 1, Paul Wolfowitz will become the next head of the World Bank. His mission: to end global poverty. The trouble is, few agree on how to go about it. So FOREIGN POLICY asked five of the world’s leading development experts to offer Wolfowitz some free advice on getting the job done.

* Put Growth Ahead of Aid by Theodore Moran
* Put the Bank to the Test by Esther Duflo
* Put Your Faith in Microfinance by Jacques Attali
* Put Borrowers on Notice by Devesh Kapur
* Put the Brand First by Klaus Schwab

Put Your Faith in Microfinance

Clearly recognized today as the only efficient way to fight poverty, microfinancing provides poor people with badly needed access to credit. Typically, poor people have no property and, hence, no collateral. Without collateral, they have no means to secure a loan. So the entrepreneurial ability and ambition of poor people is blocked by their lack of access to credit. Microfinancing unleashes that entrepreneurial ambition by offering small loans—normally in the hundreds of dollars—as start-up capital at normal interest rates. The global repayment rate for microfinance loans is about 98 percent. These loans allow families to get out of poverty, send children to school, and finance healthcare costs. They also help poor people garner the resources necessary to defend their freedom and democratic rights. [...]

Microfinancing is the most efficient and least expensive instrument for fighting poverty that Wolfowitz and the bank have at their disposal. By providing poor people with a necessary instrument of entrepreneurship, microfinancing is also the best way to foster free markets and democracy in the regions where that system is needed most.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:02 AM


Germany declares satellite wars (Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, 24/05/2005, Daily Telegraph)

The German government yesterday threatened to use all means short of warfare to stop France gaining control over Europe's £2billion Galileo satellite venture, the EU's grandest industrial project to date. A rival to America's GPS Global Positioning System, Galileo is designed to break strategic dependence on the United States and propel Europe into the lead in space technology.

Launching 30 satellites into orbit by 2008, the network offers pinpoint accuracy for mobile telephones, air traffic control, maritime navigation, and a host of different uses - ultimately including EU defence.

But the scheme has been hamstrung by infighting between the French and Germans, the latest case of corporate friction that belies the cosy political rhetoric of the two countries' leaders.

If only Germany had nukes...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:00 AM


The Bulldozer Reverses Course (Aluf Benn, May 25, 2005, Foreign Affairs)

I was wrong about Israel's prime minister, Ariel Sharon, when I profiled him for Foreign Affairs (The Last of the Patriarchs, May/June 2002 issue.) I underestimated both his political survivability and his willingness to break away from the status quo. And despite following Sharon's words and deeds for a living, I missed the turning point in autumn 2003, when he unilaterally decided to withdraw Israeli forces and settlements from the Gaza strip. Coupled with his earlier decision to build a "separation barrier" in the West Bank, the move amounted to a major shift in Israel's Palestinian policy. The signs had been there all along; even my Foreign Affairs article mentioned: "Israel may decide to draw its permanent borders unilaterally and lock up the Palestinians behind fences." But if I could imagine that Sharon would want to hurt the Palestinians, the notion that the former "bulldozer" of the Israeli settlement project would tear down his life creation was beyond belief.

When there's only one way out of a situation, it eventually gets taken.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:49 AM


Colleges Test New Health Program: School employees will be able to pre-fund supplemental coverage for use in retirement. (Debora Vrana, May 25, 2005, LA Times)

The latest invention to come out of American universities has nothing to do with science or technology. Instead, it's a new kind of health insurance.

Worried that many employees were delaying retirement simply to keep their medical coverage, a group of colleges and universities has created a plan that lets both workers and employers contribute to a fund that can be tapped after retirement for medical expenses and for insurance to supplement Medicare.

Though criticized by some, the Emeriti Program — a defined-contribution plan similar in some ways to a 401(k) account — may some day be adopted by other types of employers, say those who run it.

Twenty-nine colleges and universities, including Pepperdine University in Malibu, have enrolled in the plan and an additional 200, including Harvard University, are considering it. The program will start July 1 with an estimated 3,000 individual participants.

Helping run the plan are two corporate giants. Boston-based Fidelity Investments, the nation's largest mutual fund, will provide investment options and keep the records. Aetna Inc., the third-biggest U.S. health insurer, will underwrite the insurance that members buy after retirement to supplement Medicare.

"This is brand new — you're pre-funding your supplemental retirement coverage," said William Custer, the director of health services research at Georgia State University in Atlanta, which has not joined the plan.

Employees who enroll in the plan can contribute an unlimited amount each year in after-tax dollars and employers can choose their own formula for adding to the employee's contributions. Fidelity then puts the money into its Freedom Fund program, which includes so-called lifecycle funds that invest more conservatively as the person ages. Investment gains and payouts are tax free.

After retirement, the employee enrolls in Medicare, but gets supplemental health insurance from Aetna. The insurance would cover a retiree no matter where they live in the country, even if they split their time between two homes, said Wendy Morphew, spokeswoman for Hartford, Conn.-based Aetna.

While educators hailed the program as a creative way to tackle rising healthcare costs in retirement, some critics call it a worrisome trend to shift more responsibility for those costs to employees.

Which is the main way to reintroduce market forces into health care and get costs under control.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:48 AM


Charters make grade, study finds (Jackie Burrell, 5/25/05, CONTRA COSTA TIMES)

California's experiment with charter schools just got a substantial boost from reports that classroom-based charters were a third more likely to meet academic improvement goals last year than traditional public schools. And the newest charter schools are posting academic gains on par with the most experienced.

Although charter school advocates have long sung the praises of these quasi-independent public schools, finding acceptance in the mainstream has proven more elusive. That may be about to change.

Researchers from the independent education policy organization EdSource just weighed in on charters' academic prowess, giving the publicly funded, independent schools a cautious thumbs up.

"Charter schools have recently started to make impressive gains," said senior policy analyst Brian Edwards, who co-authored the report released today. "The data for 2004 is definitely promising, but one year does not yet make a trend."

That may sound like faint praise, but coming from EdSource -- a widely-respected, Palo Alto-based education policy group known for its clear and impartial analyses -- it's a coup.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:43 AM


Senate Truce Faces Test of Bush's Next Nominations: A polarizing choice, especially for Supreme Court, could unravel the deal, both sides say. (Ronald Brownstein and Janet Hook, May 25, 2005, LA Times)

The fate of Monday's agreement defusing the Capitol Hill confrontation over judicial nominations may now rest as much in the hands of President Bush as in those of the senators who crafted it. [...]

[T]he agreement could prove short-lived if future judicial appointments provoke partisan conflicts similar to those that erupted over the current nominees.

The deal, both sides say, will face its greatest strain should a vacancy open on the Supreme Court. That could happen as soon as this summer, when many expect ailing Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist to retire.

"The Supreme Court is probably where this comes to a head," said Gary Marx, executive director of the Judicial Confirmation Network, a conservative group supporting Bush's nominees.

If the president chooses a polarizing figure for the high court, the seven Democrats would face enormous pressure to support a filibuster — and that would pressure the seven Republicans to reverse direction and back the filibuster ban.

Graham and Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio), another negotiator of the agreement, indicated in interviews Tuesday that they would support banning the judicial filibuster if they believed that Democratic use of the stalling tactic did not meet the "extraordinary circumstances" standard.

With the arrangement in such a precarious balance, the crucial factor governing its survival may be Bush's reaction to the group's request that he consult more closely with senators of both parties on his judicial nominations, particularly one for the Supreme Court.

"It totally depends on Bush," said Ron Klain, who as deputy White House counsel and Justice Department chief of staff helped guide two Supreme Court nominations for President Clinton. "If Bush picks someone for the Supreme Court who is middle-of-the-road … that person is going to get confirmed easily, and then this agreement will hold. If Bush chooses a different course and picks someone of an ideological stripe like these more controversial appellate court nominees, this agreement … will unravel very shortly after that."

The White House will use the Gang to see if the 7 Democrats can be duped into offering compromises on SS and taxes, but then the President, nevermind appointing a conservative Court nominee, will make a few recess apopointments this Summer that blow up the deal.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 AM


C.E.O.'s, M.I.A. (THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, 5/25/05, NY Times)

After six weeks of being a foreign correspondent traveling around America, the biggest question I have come home with is not "What's the matter with Kansas?" but rather, "What's the matter with big business?"

America faces a huge set of challenges if it is going to retain its competitive edge. As a nation, we have a mounting education deficit, energy deficit, budget deficit, health care deficit and ambition deficit. The administration is in denial on this, and Congress is off on Mars. And yet, when I look around for the group that has both the power and interest in seeing America remain globally focused and competitive - America's business leaders - they seem to be missing in action. I am not worried about the rise of the cultural conservatives. I am worried about the disappearance of an internationalist, pro-American business elite.

In his fine new book, The Eighties: America in the Age of Reagan, John Ehrman delineates the failure of Democrats to respond in any fashion to the Reagan Revolution and is particularly critical of the way they remained wedded to an absurd theory of American decline, all the while bewildered that no one was listening to them. Mr. Friedman has apparently decided to pick up where Paul Kennedy left off.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:16 AM


Egypt votes on election changes (BBC, 5/25/05)

Egyptians are voting on possible changes to the constitution that would allow presidential elections to be contested for the first time.

President Hosni Mubarak says the plan is an important step towards democracy.

Observers say it is too early to judge whether voters have heeded opposition calls for a boycott on the grounds that the changes are meaningless.

Critics say the plan is so limited it will be almost impossible to challenge candidates from the governing party. [...]

But BBC correspondent Heba Saleh says the government's main problem is likely to be voter apathy, after decades of authoritarian rule.

Establishing the principle of participatory democracy is half the battle.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:41 AM


What's red and green and in trouble? (Judy Dempsey, MAY 25, 2005, International Herald Tribune)

[T]he Greens, which in the late 1990s seemed invincible and even set to become a permanent political fixture on the regional and federal political scene, are in a mess.

And to make matters worse, the Social Democrats are divided over running any election campaign on a red-green ticket. But so are the Greens. Each feels damaged by each other's policies. One of the Green leaders, Reinhard Buetikofer, said Tuesday: "Of course, the Greens want another red-green coalition. But we will not run a red-green campaign. We will run a Green campaign." [...]

So what's gone wrong with a political constellation that generated so much hope in trying to modernize Germany's economic and social system? "It is always difficult being the junior partner," said Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a German who leads the Green grouping in the European Parliament.

Ever since joining the Schröder government, the Greens have repeatedly made compromises or remained silent over issues that represented their core constituency. They failed to criticize the human rights record of President Vladimir Putin of Russia because Schröder had developed a close relationship with him and had won several large contracts for German companies. And they failed to block tough new immigration laws drawn up by the Social Democrat interior minister, Otto Schily.

The Greens managed, however, to secure new rights for gay couples, including approval of a partnership that falls just short of marriage. They belatedly started to speak out against Schröder's decision to back European Union plans to lift the arms embargo that had been imposed on China when it became clear the party was losing support.

The Greens had another falling-out with Schröder when they said that they would not back a new missile defense system that was intended to provide better protection for German troops involved in peacekeeping missions abroad. The Social Democrats were furious and publicly criticized the Greens in a way that exposed serious tensions in the coalition. After enormous pressure, the Greens caved in, yet, paradoxically, it was a Greens member of the government, Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, who led a fundamental shift in Green ideology by agreeing in the late 1990s to send foreign troops abroad.

The Greens also want social and economic changes to go much farther while the left-wing of the Social Democrats want to slow down the reforms because of rising unemployment that has eroded support for the Schroeder government. Indeed, younger and more leftist Social Democratic parliamentarians, such as Andrea Nahles, have often blamed the Greens for the growing unpopularity of her party because the Greens want further reforms.

There are other differences but the biggest is one of outlook. "The Greens, whose voters are professionals and academics, are still the party for minority rights, environmental and ecological issues for sustainable development. They jar with real existential issues such as having a job," said Fuecks. "The Greens stance has confused their voters. They will have to spell out clearly what they stand for in the coming weeks if they are to survive and if the red-green experience is to survive."

The Greens are banking on Fischer, the student protestor and first-ever Greens minister, to rescue them.

These are the fissures that Democrats face in the coming years too, because the interests of women, unions, blacks, Hispanics, and the white middle/upper middle class all diverge.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:33 AM


CENTER FOLDS (Noam Scheiber, 5/24/05, New Republic)

So a deal has been struck on the filibuster. Republicans will allow Democrats to keep the filibuster as long as Democrats never use it. This way, both sides win (except for the Democrats).

Once again, the Republicans have shown their skillfulness when it comes to resetting parameters. Until recently, the perception had been that Bush had consistently filled the courts with extreme conservatives, with only a handful of truly batty nominees failing to meet the standards of Democrats. Now, facing the threat of the "nuclear option," Democrats have backed down on these as well. Thanks to the "finest traditions of the Senate" (Robert Byrd's words yesterday), there's a new agreement under which, presumably, only the certifiably insane can possibly be blocked--or, to put it as the senators did, nominees can "only be filibustered under extraordinary circumstances." That way, if Bush's pick for a judgeship finally goes too far even for Republicans--if he nominates, say, an Irish setter who, during confirmation hearings, runs up and bites Orrin Hatch in the leg, then Democrats will be allowed to play the bad guys and employ their filibuster. Otherwise, they'd better hold off, since, if they don't, Republicans might have to take the filibuster away for real.

Of course, if Democrats had been filibustering half of Bush's 200-some nominees instead of only a handful, or if, for example, they had spoken endlessly of "maintaining balance on the courts" and insisted that Bush also nominate some "centrists" and not only "extremists," then a compromise position would have looked very different. But by bracketing the debate between two right-wing extremes--confirm every nominee except for a handful or confirm every nominee through use of the nuclear option--the Republicans had won before they'd even begun.

Meanwhile, skilled negotiators that they are, Republicans have been wise enough not to gloat over their victory.

Janice Rogers Brown is well to the Right of Robert Bork, yet the Democratic moderates have just pronounced her nomination an ordinary circumstance.

The deal (Linda Chavez, May 25, 2005, Townhall)

As in any compromise, neither side got all that it wanted, but conservatives clearly came out ahead.

The agreement was forged by 14 senators, seven Republicans and seven Democrats -- most but not all of whom can be characterized as moderates. It committed the signatories, but no other senator, to invoke cloture on three nominees -- Priscilla Owen, Janice Rogers Brown and William Pryor. Not only did this effectively stop the filibuster, but it puts three well-qualified strict constructionists on appellate courts.

But it did something more: It gave lie to the canard that these nominees were in any way extremists. The Alliance for Justice, People For the American Way, and other leftwing organizations spent a great deal of money trying to convince Americans otherwise. The Alliance for Justice -- which advocates anything but justice when it comes to its treatment of conservative nominees -- called Owen an "extreme judicial activist," accused Pryor of "lacking judicial temperament" and misleading Congress during his Senate hearings, and charged Brown with "twisting the law to advance her own political agenda."

And, of course, many Democrat senators embraced this rhetoric.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:55 AM


Senate Does the Sidestep: Why stand on principle when a quick shuffle on filibusters will do? (Ronald A. Cass, May 25, 2005, LA Times)

Every time a line is drawn on principle, a deep-seated human instinct emerges — the instinct to compromise. [...]

In the fighting leading up to the Great Compromise, Republican leaders were insisting on a return to the traditional competence-plus-propriety standard for confirmation of judicial nominees, and historic respect for presidential authority.

In the 1990s, even Democratic Sens. Edward M. Kennedy, Patrick Leahy and Joseph Lieberman said an up-or-down vote on the president's picks was constitutionally required. That's the principle Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Republican, was pushing this time around.

Democratic leaders were standing on principle too: the minority's right to resist majority rule. But Democrats had taken minority rights to a new level by filibustering judicial nominations. They targeted a group of 10 nominees who offended interest groups that support Democrats. [...]

Filibustering legislation changes the balance of power within Congress. But filibustering judicial nominations changes the constitutional allocation of power between president and Senate. And, ultimately, it threatens the independence of the courts.

Earlier this week, both sides thought they were on track for a resolution of this dispute. Would the Senate rule that filibustering judges was out of bounds? Yes or no? We were about to see which principle the "world's greatest deliberative body" would adopt. We didn't get there.

Instead, amid the self-congratulations of the Great Compromisers, what we got was a more serious threat to constitutional principle. The bipartisan group of 14 Republicans and Democrats — a "super-minority" — stuck to no principle at all except that of avoiding having to choose one.

In the interest of reducing the atmosphere of partisanship in the Senate they delayed resolution of the issue until a point when tensions will be much higher and the stakes greater.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Lord Have Mercy; What About Lord Vader? (Douglas Kern, 05/24/2005, Tech Central Station)

Mercy is not a good unto itself. Mercy is a counterbalance, a brake against justice as it brushes up against the edge of vengeance. Evil wreaks harm that ripples far, far beyond the intended harm of the evil act itself. Justice permits the doer of evil to be held accountable for every iota of harm that ensues as a result of the evil act, and that reckoning can be terrible indeed. Mercy requires men to punish evil with only the minimum degree of punishment and retribution consistent with justice, so that repentance and reconciliation may restore the evildoer to society, and so that the vengeful spirit of victims may be allayed. But notice: mercy requires the minimal degree of punishment consistent with justice.

Evildoers and their enablers always forgot that "consistent with justice" part. In my prosecuting days, I would occasionally receive letters from deluded clerics, telling me that - since God is love, jail time doesn't restore virginity, and fines don't unbreak bones - we should cut Bubba some slack and give him probation. I once had a rapist quote scripture at me during a sentencing. (I shared a few thoughts about whited sepulchers in my response.) And many was the domestic violence victim who just couldn't understand why I sought to punish Willy Wifebeater, when she had forgiven him and God had, too! They all wanted me to realize that justice without mercy is inhuman and a boon to tyranny. That's true. But I wanted them to realize that mercy without justice is a sickening evil unto itself, one that corrodes the souls of victims and victimizers alike. God is indeed love, but love without responsibility is just a pretty bubble on the wind. I heard too many demands for "mercy" that were just softly-scented pleas for sentimental injustice. Real mercy respects justice enough to submit to it. Real mercy seeks atonement, not excuses.

Through superb characterization, Tolkien earns mercy for Gollum. Gollum is a murderer and liar, but he is also a broken-down, pathetic creature, whose torture at the hands of Sauron's minions atoned for many sins. His unfulfilled addiction for the Ring tears at his very sanity, subjecting him to pains that none save Frodo can fully understand. To extend mercy to Gollum is to recognize that his potential for evil had ebbed, and that a rough justice had already been visited upon him. Sam could have killed Gollum justly, but Gollum's misery and broken spirit created a space for forgiveness.

By contrast, Lucas cheats. He spends two-and-a-half movies proving that Darth Vader is an appalling monster. Yet halfway through ROTJ, Luke tells Vader (and, indirectly, the audience) that "I can feel the good in you, father." It's easy to pick worthy objects of mercy when your goodness-sense is tingling. But nothing in episodes IV and V suggests that Vader had any good worth saving. The Force convinced Luke that Vader deserved mercy, and that's more than the script and character development could do.

Lacking the Force, or a kindly narrator to ensure that every act of mercy is blessed, rewarded, and bestowed upon a worthy recipient, how should we dispose of our villains? Should we reckon them to be frail, unwitting victims of evil's seduction, like Gollum? Terrible monsters to be preserved in the name of their potential for good, like Darth Vader or Saruman? Or grotesque embodiments of evil to be destroyed, like the Emperor or Sauron?

The answer is: all of the above. Evil can seduce the small and mighty alike. Mercy makes allowances for the weakness of will that afflicts all men. But some men embrace evil as a lover. Every police officer and prosecutor encounters a few such men: soulless abominations that delight in torment, betrayal, and wanton suffering. Such men have murdered whatever good they might have offered the world. They defile whatever mercy is given them. They deserve none.

It's not necessarily that Vader shouldn't be shown mercy, just that Lucas is a crappy mythologist. Absent mercy, of course, we'd none of us be around,
Genesis 3
1 - Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?

2 - And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:

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

4 - And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:

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

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

7 - And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they [were] naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.

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

9 - And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where [art] thou?

10 - And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I [was] naked; and I hid myself.

11 - And he said, Who told thee that thou [wast] naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?

12 - And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest [to be] with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.

13 - And the LORD God said unto the woman, What [is] this [that] thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.

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

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

16 - Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire [shall be] to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

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

18 - Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;

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

20 - And Adam called his wife's name Eve; because she was the mother of all living.

21 - Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.

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

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

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

Book of Genesis: Chapter 4
4:1 And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD.

4:2 And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.

4:3 And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD.

4:4 And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering:

4:5 But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.

4:6 And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen?

4:7 If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.

4:8 And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.

4:9 And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother's keeper?

4:10 And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground.

4:11 And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand;

4:12 When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.

4:13 And Cain said unto the LORD, My punishment is greater than I can bear.

4:14 Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me.

4:15 And the LORD said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the LORD set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.

4:16 And Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden.

Genesis 8
1 - And God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the cattle that [was] with him in the ark: and God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters asswaged;

2 - The fountains also of the deep and the windows of heaven were stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained;

3 - And the waters returned from off the earth continually: and after the end of the hundred and fifty days the waters were abated.

4 - And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat.

5 - And the waters decreased continually until the tenth month: in the tenth [month], on the first [day] of the month, were the tops of the mountains seen.

6 - And it came to pass at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made:

7 - And he sent forth a raven, which went forth to and fro, until the waters were dried up from off the earth.

8 - Also he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters were abated from off the face of the ground;

9 - But the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him into the ark, for the waters [were] on the face of the whole earth: then he put forth his hand, and took her, and pulled her in unto him into the ark.

10 - And he stayed yet other seven days; and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark;

11 - And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth [was] an olive leaf pluckt off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth.

12 - And he stayed yet other seven days; and sent forth the dove; which returned not again unto him any more.

13 - And it came to pass in the six hundredth and first year, in the first [month], the first [day] of the month, the waters were dried up from off the earth: and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and, behold, the face of the ground was dry.

14 - And in the second month, on the seven and twentieth day of the month, was the earth dried.

15 - And God spake unto Noah, saying,

16 - Go forth of the ark, thou, and thy wife, and thy sons, and thy sons' wives with thee.

17 - Bring forth with thee every living thing that [is] with thee, of all flesh, [both] of fowl, and of cattle, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth; that they may breed abundantly in the earth, and be fruitful, and multiply upon the earth.

18 - And Noah went forth, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons' wives with him:

19 - Every beast, every creeping thing, and every fowl, [and] whatsoever creepeth upon the earth, after their kinds, went forth out of the ark.

20 - And Noah builded an altar unto the LORD; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.

21 - And the LORD smelled a sweet savour; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart [is] evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.

22 - While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.

And that's just the beginning. A smarter God would have figured out we aren't worth the trouble awhile ago.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Justice Choice Could Rekindle Filibuster Fight in the Senate (ROBIN TONER and RICHARD W. STEVENSON, 5/25/05, NY Times)

For all the euphoria Monday night that the political center had held, the Senate compromise in the judicial filibuster fight did not noticeably de-escalate the ultimate battle now looming: that over a potential vacancy on the Supreme Court.

In fact, a new debate erupted almost immediately over the meaning of the agreement reached by seven Democrats and seven Republicans, which sought to preserve the right to judicial filibusters but restrict their use to "extraordinary circumstances."

F Troop back to normal.

May 24, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:59 PM


Fears over eurozone spark call for rate cut (Gary Duncan, 5/25/05, Times of London)

GLOOM over the eurozone economy deepened yesterday as a leading international think-tank sharply cut its growth forecast for the 12-nation bloc and issued a powerful call for urgent cuts in interest rates.

In the latest blow to hopes for European economic revival, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development cut its forecast for eurozone growth this year to just 1.2 per cent — down from its previous 1.9 per cent projection.

Giving warning of an “abrupt weakening” in activity and “sagging consumer and business confidence”, the OECD ratcheted up pressure on the European Central Bank to make early and steep cuts in eurozone interest rates.

So all those euros are worth as little as the oil futures? Who'da dreamt...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:56 PM


Protective father of a new Europe hovers over a difficult birth (Charles Bremner, 5/25/05, Times of London)

THE “father” of the European constitution, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, paused to savour the irony of France’s revolt against his baby.

“If France votes ‘no’, that might encourage a British ‘yes’. The British might then say, ‘Now we can take the lead in Europe’,” he mused to The Times.

Aged 79, aristocratic and utterly self-assured, the former French President is the embodiment of why his country is split ahead of Sunday’s referendum on the EU treaty. Yesterday’s polls indicated that 53 per cent are preparing to vote “non”.

Monsieur le President, as he is known in Chamalières, the Giscard fiefdom in the Auvergne highlands, is the grand technocrat who ensured that France boxed above its weight when he presided over the two-year Brussels Convention...

Except that they haven't thrown a meaningful punch since Napoleon was in charge.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:34 PM


What A Social Security Deal Could Look Like: Republicans, Democrats, and President Bush are inching toward compromise (Howard Gleckman, 5/30/05, Business Week)

For months, the Social Security debate has been stuck in an endless round of recriminations between President George W. Bush and Capitol Hill Democrats. But with House and Senate committees ready to start drafting a Social Security overhaul in June, partisan whining is likely to wind down. And while it is too early to know whether Bush and Congress will reach a deal, the framework for an agreement is -- surprisingly -- beginning to take shape.

Any compromise would fall far short of Bush's goal of fundamentally overhauling Social Security. It would make big changes to the program yet retain a basic government-provided benefit for all Americans. It would secure the system's financial solvency for many years by cutting promised benefits and raising payroll taxes on high-income workers. But it would not ensure permanent financial stability, as the President has demanded. An agreement would also include some form of personal accounts, just not the White House version. And new savings incentives -- sometimes called add-on accounts -- would be created outside the current Social Security system. "I can see an agreement along those lines," says Heritage Foundation research fellow David C. John, "assuming both sides come off their absolute positions."

Such a deal would leave both factions with something to brag about. Bush could say he engineered an historic agreement to fix the program -- and Republicans could get the issue of Social Security off their backs. Democrats could say they saved the system from GOP attack. And everyone could take credit for new savings vehicles, which would be included in a Social Security package being cobbled together by House Ways & Means Committee Chairman William Thomas (R-Calif.).

That's why insiders see a quiet consensus developing around Reform Lite.

For now you just need to get any kind of private accounts included in the official program, even add-ons, along with some kind of means-testing and it's easy enough to finish the reform down the road.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:28 PM


Football fans, like EU voters, want their voices to be heard (Ferdinand Mount, 25/05/2005, Daily Telegraph)

Although I had a good ticket, I did not see very much of the Cup Final. This was because the man in front of me was wearing a huge Alan Sunderland wig and kept on jumping up and down. For those not up to speed on these things, Alan Sunderland was the shaggy-haired player who scored the winning goal for Arsenal the last time they played Manchester United in the Cup Final, back in 1979. Far from having no sense of history, football fans wallow in it and love to dress up in antique costume as much as any member of the Sealed Knot.

But if my sightline was impaired, the volume of sound around me was deafening. And what 30,000 Arsenal supporters were chanting for two hours, pretty well non-stop apart from the occasional aspersion on the referee's sanity or Wayne Rooney's private life, was ''USA! USA!'' This was apparently the most offensive chant they could think of. To rub in the fact that the proudest club in Britain had been bought by an American wheeler-dealer seemed to them the best way to humiliate the Man U supporters, who themselves regarded the sale to Malcolm Glazer in precisely the same light. Two-thirds of them had come to the game dressed in inky black. In fact they had taken the trouble to avoid confusion with the club's away colours - which happened also to be black - and had excavated from their wardrobes any old unbadged black sweater or sweatshirt to serve as mourning dress. As a result, their end of the stadium looked like a vast convention of undertakers.

How deeply peculiar it is that the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave should now be the rudest word in the vast lexicon of football insults. It is even more peculiar when you reflect that Roman Abramovich, a Russian tycoon of far more mysterious origins than Mr Glazer's, was able to take over Chelsea football club without a whimper of protest (the nickname of Chelski was purely affectionate).

Nor is it as if other post-war owners of Manchester United were easily confused with the Twelve Apostles. The ex-wife of one of them, when asked whether he sailed close to the wind, exclaimed: ''Sail close to it? He is the wind!'' We should not imagine either that this startling explosion of collective anti-American sentiment was confined to the rude proletariat. On the contrary, these Cup Final tickets had face values of £50 to £100 and a street value of up to £500. Within spitting distance of me sat young investment bankers, advertising executives and television directors - representatives of the new meritocracy in fact.

A couple of days earlier I had been having lunch at a club with members of an older generation, mild gents no more in their first youth than me and of a decidedly small-c conservative disposition.

And the first thing they all wanted to say was: "Didn't George stick it to the Yanks?'' I wonder if our political elites have any idea of just how popular Mr Galloway's assault on that Senate committee has made him in the most unexpected quarters.

You do not read much about this phenomenon, because to be openly anti-American is still not the done thing, except among dyed-in-the-red-wool Lefties. The chanting of ''USA! USA!'' was noticed only in passing in the press coverage, although the noise was fierce, prolonged and fortissimo.

But this is not the first time that I have had the uneasy feeling that a particular brew of anti-Americanism is seeping into our national consciousness, not for the most part indignant, contemptuous and melodramatic like the French variety, but irritable, gloomy and resigned.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:12 PM


Owen Nomination Nears Vote as Senate Agrees to End Debate (CARL HULSE and CHRISTINE HAUSER, 5/24/05, NY Times)

The Senate voted today to halt its debate over one of President Bush's appeals court nominees, setting the stage for a vote on her confirmation later today or Wednesday.

The 81-to-18 vote ended efforts by Democrats to prevent the Senate from approving the nominee, Priscilla R. Owen, by threatening a filibuster. It came after a compromise was reached Monday night by a bipartisan group of 14 senators that defused a potentially explosive parliamentary showdown over eliminating Senate filibusters against judicial nominees.

"We've got a chance to start over," Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, one of the 14 who helped forge the agreement, said. "That's why I voted to start over. And I hope we've learned our lesson."

All 55 Republicans voted today to end debate. So did 26 Democrats, some of whom are expected to vote against Justice Owen in the confirmation roll call. One of those was Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the minority leader.

Ms Owens was rejected by the judiciary committee back in September 2002 and four previous cloture votes have failed. Tomorrow she'll be a federal judge. Thanks, Senator McCain.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:31 PM


Syrian reformers try to keep the pressure on: Activists hope to keep the world spotlight on the regime. Tuesday, several reformers were arrested. (Rhonda Roumani, 5/25/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

[E]ven as the United Nations certified on Monday that all Syrian troops and intelligence agents had left Lebanon, activists here hope the international spotlight on Damascus doesn't dim.

Some speculate that Lebanon's Cedar Revolution that erupted after Mr. Hariri's death could begin to inspire a Jasmine Revolution, named for the plant that blooms throughout the country, to press for democratic change in Syria. And these activists insist that US pressure on President Bashar al-Assad's regime is crucial to their success.

"A large reason that reformers are looking to the US to put pressure on [Syria] is that it gives them cover to put pressure from below," says Joshua Landis, a Damascus-based specialist on Syria.

"They can say we need radical change to protect the nation because if we don't do this, Americans will come in with a two-by-four and try to destabilize Syria," he says.

In an address to parliament in March, Mr. Assad announced there would be a "great leap" in internal affairs. And there was speculation that at the upcoming Baath Party congress in June members would discuss the eradication of Article 8 of the constitution, which placed authority in the hands of the Baath Party since 1963, legalize political parties, and provide full amnesty to political prisoners and exiles.

But while there is hope that long-awaited reforms may be coming, activists say they doubt the government is willing to institute real change on its own.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:19 PM


Pipeline politics give Turkey an edge: A pipeline that brings Caspian oil to Turkey's coast opens Wednesday. (Yigal Schleifer, 5/25/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

Turkey's heartland of Anatolia - the massive plateau that serves as a land bridge between Asia and Europe - is dotted with the remains of 13th-century inns, reminders of the merchant caravans that traveled the fabled east-west Silk Road.

Some 800 years later, Turkey is again trying to take advantage of its strategic location. Today, instead of caravansaries it is building pipelines, and instead of silk and spices the products are less romantic: oil and natural gas.

A major part of this plan becomes a reality Wednesday, when the new Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline, a $4 billion, 1,093-mile project that brings Caspian Sea oil to Turkey's Mediterranean coast will be inaugurated. It should be fully operational by the end of 2005.

The pipeline - built by a consortium of 11 companies, including British Petroleum, the American firm Unocal, and Turkey's national oil corporation - is designed to bring a non-Middle Eastern source of oil to the West. This would loosen Russia's and Iran's grip on the transport of Caspian and Central Asian oil by creating a new route that is friendlier to the United States and Europe.

For Turkey, which has few energy supplies of its own, the pipeline is the initial step in its effort to become a major energy player, not as a producer but as a transit point. In an era when countries are increasingly looking to diversify their energy sources, Turkey hopes to establish itself as a kind of energy supermarket, betting that controlling oil routes will turn out to be as strategically valuable as producing the stuff.

"Geographically, Turkey is endowed with advantages, so we would like to use those advantages to give Turkey a role as a supplier of energy resources," says a senior Turkish foreign ministry official involved in energy issues. "It gives Turkey relevance."

Another reason their lack of enthisiasm for the Iraq war doesn't affect their status in the Axis of Good.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:49 PM


Dean: Blacks Annoyed by Party's Outreach (WILL LESTER, 5/24/05, Associated Press)

Black voters are upset with the Democratic Party for coming around just weeks before elections seeking their votes, party chairman
Howard Dean said Tuesday in an interview with The Associated Press.

Taking black voters for granted is a long-standing problem for the party that dates to the 1960s, said Dean, who promised changes in strategy even as he cited diversity at the top of the
Democratic National Committee.

"African-Americans are annoyed with the Democratic Party because we ask them for their votes four weeks before the election instead of being in the community now and that's a mistake I'm trying to fix," he said. "There's a new generation of African-American leaders and a new generation of African-Americans. We can't go out and say could you vote for us because we were so helpful during the civil rights era."

Marking 100 days as the party's boss, the former presidential candidate addressed several issues in an interview with AP reporters and editors, including the compromise in the Senate on
President Bush's stalled judicial nominees and the right of Democrats to filibuster.

Dean was hesitant to call the compromise a win for his party.

"It's a real test of whether this is a real long-term agreement. That will come when we find out if the president consults with the Democrats" before sending future nominees to the Senate, including a possible Supreme Court choice.

Ken Mehlman is obviously making his life miserable, but if he thinks the President is going to consult over Court nomineees he's seriously delusional.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:27 PM

PARIS ON THE PACIFIC (via Lisa Fleischman)

Child Population Dwindles in San Francisco (LISA LEFF, 5/24/05, Associated Press)

Anne Bakstad and Ed Cohen are starting to feel as if their family of four is an endangered species in San Francisco.

Since the couple bought a house five years ago, more than a dozen families in their social circle have left the city for cheaper housing, better schools or both.

The goodbyes are so frequent that Carina, age 4 1/2, wants to know when she is going to move, too. Eric, 2 1/2, misses Gus, his playmate from across the street.

"When we get to know people through our kids, we think to ourselves, `Are they renters or owners? Where do they work?' You have to figure out how much time to invest in people," Bakstad said. "It makes you feel like, `Where is everyone going? Stay with us!'"

A similar lament is being heard in San Francisco's half-empty classrooms, in parks where parents are losing ground to dog owners, and in the corridors of City Hall.

San Francisco has the smallest share of small-fry of any major U.S. city. Just 14.5 percent of the city's population is 18 and under.

It is no mystery why U.S. cities are losing children. The promise of safer streets, better schools and more space has drawn young families away from cities for as long as America has had suburbs.

But kids are even more scarce in San Francisco than in expensive New York (24 percent) or in retirement havens such as Palm Beach, Fla., (19 percent), according to Census estimates. [...]

Determined to change things, Mayor Gavin Newsom has put the kid crisis near the top of his agenda, appointing a 27-member policy council to develop plans for keeping families in the city.

"It goes to the heart and soul of what I think a city is about — it's about generations, it's about renewal and it's about aspirations," said Newsom, 37. "To me, that's what children represent and that's what families represent and we just can't sit back idly and let it go away."

Mr. Newsom apparently hasn't figured out that you can't attack the institution of marriage and attract families. SF stands for the proposition that given the opportunity, the secular Left could make life in America as bleak and anti-human as it is in Europe.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:18 PM


How Senate fracas may shape '08: The filibuster fight may help cast midterm elections and give McCain a boost in the next presidential race. (Linda Feldmann, 5/25/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

Among those who appear to be actively considering a run, Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona emerges a winner, analysts say. Senator McCain played a significant role in crafting the compromise announced Monday evening by a bipartisan group of 14 senators. And he is no stranger to the spotlight - or the public. In the 2000 presidential race, he nearly knocked off heir-apparent George W. Bush for the GOP nomination.

The agreement on judges "certainly burnished his credentials as an independent thinker and someone who's a problem-solver," says John Green, a political scientist at the University of Akron.

McCain's biggest drawback is that his shoot-from-the-hip style makes him unpopular with religious conservatives. But he opposes abortion, and could become palatable to that GOP bloc if he appeared the strongest Republican to face the Democratic nominee, analysts say.

John McCain got a bunch of nominees confirmed who'd been held up for years and gave away nothing in the process. Were Janice Rogers Brown to get a Supreme Court nomination before 2008 he'd come off particularly well.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:40 PM


Efforts of 2 Respected Elders Bring Senate Back From Brink (SHERYL GAY STOLBERG, 5/24/05, NY Times)

In the end, it was the language of the Constitution itself and two old bulls of the Senate - Robert C. Byrd and John W. Warner - that averted a grim showdown over federal judicial nominees that had threatened to wreak lasting damage on Capitol Hill.

After weeks of seemingly fruitless negotiations between the two sides, Mr. Byrd, 87, a West Virginia Democrat who has spent more than half a century in Congress, and Mr. Warner, 78, a Virginia Republican who regards himself as an "institutionalist," met privately twice on Thursday. They parsed the language of Alexander Hamilton's Federalist Paper No. 66 in an effort to divine what the founding fathers intended when they gave the Senate the power to advise and consent on nominees. After trading telephone calls over the weekend, they drafted three crucial paragraphs.

The agreement contends that the word "advice" in the paper "speaks to consultation between the Senate and the president with regard to the use of the president's power to make nominations." It goes on to state, "Such a return to the early practices of our government may well serve to reduce the rancor that unfortunately accompanies the advice and consent process in the Senate."

People on each side of the fight over President Bush's judicial nominees say those lofty principles, articulated by the Senate elders, were instrumental in bringing together 14 senators - 7 Democrats and 7 Republicans - to do what the chamber's leaders could not: draft a compromise.

While this is certainly the most ludicrous take possible on what they did last night it is precisely how the "moderates" like to think of themselves.

Meanwhile, read every word of Federalist 76 and you'll find nothing to support filibustering judicial appointments, Federalist No. 76: The Appointing Power of the Executive (Alexander Hamilton, April 1, 1788, New York Packet)

To the People of the State of New York:

THE President is ``to NOMINATE, and, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the United States whose appointments are not otherwise provided for in the Constitution. But the Congress may by law vest the appointment of such inferior officers as they think proper, in the President alone, or in the courts of law, or in the heads of departments. The President shall have power to fill up ALL VACANCIES which may happen DURING THE RECESS OF THE SENATE, by granting commissions which shall EXPIRE at the end of their next session.''

It has been observed in a former paper, that ``the true test of a good government is its aptitude and tendency to produce a good administration.'' If the justness of this observation be admitted, the mode of appointing the officers of the United States contained in the foregoing clauses, must, when examined, be allowed to be entitled to particular commendation. It is not easy to conceive a plan better calculated than this to promote a judicious choice of men for filling the offices of the Union; and it will not need proof, that on this point must essentially depend the character of its administration.

It will be agreed on all hands, that the power of appointment, in ordinary cases, ought to be modified in one of three ways. It ought either to be vested in a single man, or in a SELECT assembly of a moderate number; or in a single man, with the concurrence of such an assembly. The exercise of it by the people at large will be readily admitted to be impracticable; as waiving every other consideration, it would leave them little time to do anything else. When, therefore, mention is made in the subsequent reasonings of an assembly or body of men, what is said must be understood to relate to a select body or assembly, of the description already given. The people collectively, from their number and from their dispersed situation, cannot be regulated in their movements by that systematic spirit of cabal and intrigue, which will be urged as the chief objections to reposing the power in question in a body of men.

Those who have themselves reflected upon the subject, or who have attended to the observations made in other parts of these papers, in relation to the appointment of the President, will, I presume, agree to the position, that there would always be great probability of having the place supplied by a man of abilities, at least respectable. Premising this, I proceed to lay it down as a rule, that one man of discernment is better fitted to analyze and estimate the peculiar qualities adapted to particular offices, than a body of men of equal or perhaps even of superior discernment.

The sole and undivided responsibility of one man will naturally beget a livelier sense of duty and a more exact regard to reputation. He will, on this account, feel himself under stronger obligations, and more interested to investigate with care the qualities requisite to the stations to be filled, and to prefer with impartiality the persons who may have the fairest pretensions to them. He will have FEWER personal attachments to gratify, than a body of men who may each be supposed to have an equal number; and will be so much the less liable to be misled by the sentiments of friendship and of affection. A single well-directed man, by a single understanding, cannot be distracted and warped by that diversity of views, feelings, and interests, which frequently distract and warp the resolutions of a collective body. There is nothing so apt to agitate the passions of mankind as personal considerations whether they relate to ourselves or to others, who are to be the objects of our choice or preference. Hence, in every exercise of the power of appointing to offices, by an assembly of men, we must expect to see a full display of all the private and party likings and dislikes, partialities and antipathies, attachments and animosities, which are felt by those who compose the assembly. The choice which may at any time happen to be made under such circumstances, will of course be the result either of a victory gained by one party over the other, or of a compromise between the parties. In either case, the intrinsic merit of the candidate will be too often out of sight. In the first, the qualifications best adapted to uniting the suffrages of the party, will be more considered than those which fit the person for the station. In the last, the coalition will commonly turn upon some interested equivalent: ``Give us the man we wish for this office, and you shall have the one you wish for that.'' This will be the usual condition of the bargain. And it will rarely happen that the advancement of the public service will be the primary object either of party victories or of party negotiations.

The truth of the principles here advanced seems to have been felt by the most intelligent of those who have found fault with the provision made, in this respect, by the convention. They contend that the President ought solely to have been authorized to make the appointments under the federal government. But it is easy to show, that every advantage to be expected from such an arrangement would, in substance, be derived from the power of NOMINATION, which is proposed to be conferred upon him; while several disadvantages which might attend the absolute power of appointment in the hands of that officer would be avoided. In the act of nomination, his judgment alone would be exercised; and as it would be his sole duty to point out the man who, with the approbation of the Senate, should fill an office, his responsibility would be as complete as if he were to make the final appointment. There can, in this view, be no difference others, who are to be the objects of our choice or preference. Hence, in every exercise of the power of appointing to offices, by an assembly of men, we must expect to see a full display of all the private and party likings and dislikes, partialities and antipathies, attachments and animosities, which are felt by those who compose the assembly. The choice which may at any time happen to be made under such circumstances, will of course be the result either of a victory gained by one party over the other, or of a compromise between the parties. In either case, the intrinsic merit of the candidate will be too often out of sight. In the first, the qualifications best adapted to uniting the suffrages of the party, will be more considered than those which fit the person for the station. In the last, the coalition will commonly turn upon some interested equivalent: ``Give us the man we wish for this office, and you shall have the one you wish for that.'' This will be the usual condition of the bargain. And it will rarely happen that the advancement of the public service will be the primary object either of party victories or of party negotiations.

The truth of the principles here advanced seems to have been felt by the most intelligent of those who have found fault with the provision made, in this respect, by the convention. They contend that the President ought solely to have been authorized to make the appointments under the federal government. But it is easy to show, that every advantage to be expected from such an arrangement would, in substance, be derived from the power of NOMINATION, which is proposed to be conferred upon him; while several disadvantages which might attend the absolute power of appointment in the hands of that officer would be avoided. In the act of nomination, his judgment alone would be exercised; and as it would be his sole duty to point out the man who, with the approbation of the Senate, should fill an office, his responsibility would be as complete as if he were to make the final appointment. There can, in this view, be no difference between nominating and appointing. The same motives which would influence a proper discharge of his duty in one case, would exist in the other. And as no man could be appointed but on his previous nomination, every man who might be appointed would be, in fact, his choice.

But might not his nomination be overruled? I grant it might, yet this could only be to make place for another nomination by himself. The person ultimately appointed must be the object of his preference, though perhaps not in the first degree. It is also not very probable that his nomination would often be overruled. The Senate could not be tempted, by the preference they might feel to another, to reject the one proposed; because they could not assure themselves, that the person they might wish would be brought forward by a second or by any subsequent nomination. They could not even be certain, that a future nomination would present a candidate in any degree more acceptable to them; and as their dissent might cast a kind of stigma upon the individual rejected, and might have the appearance of a reflection upon the judgment of the chief magistrate, it is not likely that their sanction would often be refused, where there were not special and strong reasons for the refusal.

To what purpose then require the co-operation of the Senate? I answer, that the necessity of their concurrence would have a powerful, though, in general, a silent operation. It would be an excellent check upon a spirit of favoritism in the President, and would tend greatly to prevent the appointment of unfit characters from State prejudice, from family connection, from personal attachment, or from a view to popularity. In addition to this, it would be an efficacious source of stability in the administration.

It will readily be comprehended, that a man who had himself the sole disposition of offices, would be governed much more by his private inclinations and interests, than when he was bound to submit the propriety of his choice to the discussion and determination of a different and independent body, and that body an entire branch of the legislature. The possibility of rejection would be a strong motive to care in proposing. The danger to his own reputation, and, in the case of an elective magistrate, to his political existence, from betraying a spirit of favoritism, or an unbecoming pursuit of popularity, to the observation of a body whose opinion would have great weight in forming that of the public, could not fail to operate as a barrier to the one and to the other. He would be both ashamed and afraid to bring forward, for the most distinguished or lucrative stations, candidates who had no other merit than that of coming from the same State to which he particularly belonged, or of being in some way or other personally allied to him, or of possessing the necessary insignificance and pliancy to render them the obsequious instruments of his pleasure.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:24 PM


Senate back in business: Filibuster deal averts legislative shutdown (William L. Watts, May 24, 2005, MarketWatch)

Lobbyists and investors hoping for legislative action on asbestos liability, energy policy and other business-sensitive issues likely felt a sense of relief after a bipartisan bloc of 14 senators struck a deal averting a Senate showdown over Democratic filibusters of President Bush's judicial nominees.

"You've got to say it's breathed a little life into things like the asbestos bill and maybe the energy bill, [but] we sort of cautioned people not to interpret this as a sign that we're going to get a tidal wave of legislation through the Senate," said Greg Valliere, chief political strategist at Stanford Washington Research Group.

Just for comic relief, the President should invite the 14 to the White House to discuss compromise ideas on SS and tax reform. Other than Ben Nelson, would any of the Democrats even show up?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:15 PM


Bad news for Schroeder as re-election campaign begins (Expatica, 24 May 2005)

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder was hit by multiple bad news on Tuesday as his re-election campaign geared up, with a poll showing him far behind Germany's opposition conservatives and a key economic index slumping.

The closely-watched ZDF TV Politbarometer poll put Schroeder's Social Democrats (SPD) at 29 percent, compared with a comfy 50 percent for the Christian Democratic alliance (CDU/CSU).

Schroeder's Greens partner are at 6 percent and the Free Democrats (FDP), who say they will ally with the CDU/CSU, are at 7 percent, the poll showed.

Equally worrying for Schroeder is that his personal popularity is only one point higher than the expected CDU/CSU chancellor
candidate, Angela Merkel.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:08 PM


US policies pay off in global security, says think-tank (AFP, 5/24/05)

Washington's policies of promoting democracy in Iraq and elsewhere look "increasingly effective", and even the threat from terrorism abated slightly during 2004, the International Institute for Strategic Studies said in an annual report.

The London-based think-tank noted however that the situation in Iraq was also creating a recruitment effect for terrorist groups, an aspect which remained "the proverbial elephant in the living room" of US foreign policy.

The report said that the improvement in the overall strategic climate was helped by factors such as the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, but it added that US President George W. Bush's foreign policies also seemed to be bearing fruit.

"Even though the Bush policy was bold, controversial and sometimes divisive, his aggressive global agenda of promoting freedom, and democracy appeared increasingly effective," the IISS said in its 384-page "Strategic Survey 2004-05".

Posted by Peter Burnet at 8:24 AM


Eurovision harmony dies a death (Mark Steyn, The Telegraph, May 24th, 2005)

The Eurovision Song Contest is not always a reliable guide to the broader political currents coursing through the Continent. One recalls the 1990 finals in Zagreb, when the charming hostess, Helga Vlahovic, presented her own fair country as the perfect Eurometaphor: "Yugoslavia is very much like an orchestra," she cooed. "The string section and the wood section all sit together." Alas, barely were the words out of her mouth before the wood section was torching the string section's dressing rooms, and the hills were alive only with the ancient siren songs of ethnic cleansing and genital severing. Lurching into its final movement, Yugoslavia was no longer the orchestra, only the pits.

But this year's winner, Miss Helena Paparizou of Greece, was a shrewder analyst of the geopolitical scene. Her triumphant My Number One is an eerily perceptive summation of the EU establishment's view of its ingrate electorates this pre-referendum week: "You're delicious So capricious If I find out you don't want me I'll be vicious."

Pretending to listen to ordinary people does not come naturally to M Chirac or M Giscard, and they might have done better to borrow a couple of Helena's plunging diaphanous breast-hugging tops and prance around singing My Number One for the last month. Indeed, if the Euro-elite were to form their own combo, they could do a lot worse than revive the name of Helena's late Swedish pop group, Antique. The antiques have been working on their Euro-project for half-a-century and, if they find out their capricious electorates don't want it, they'll be vicious.

With the new constitution flailing in most polls, the Dutch government is being rather vicious already. Bernard Bot, the foreign minister, dismisses the electorate's objections as "a lot of irrational reaction". Piet-Hein Donner, the justice minister, warns that Europe will go the way of Helga's orchestra if the constitution is rejected. "Yugoslavia was more integrated than the Union is now," he points out, "but bad will and the inability to stifle hidden irritations and rivalry led in a short time to war."

Scornful of such piffling analogies, the prime minister, Jan-Peter Balkenende, thinks a Balkan end is the least of their worries. "I've been in Auschwitz and Yad Vashem," he says. "The images haunt me every day. It is supremely important for us to avoid such things in Europe."

At the Theresienstadt (or Terezin) concentration camp in Poland, Sweden's European Commissioner, Margot Wallstrom, declared: "There are those who want to scrap the supranational idea. They want the European Union to go back to the old purely inter-governmental way of doing things. I say those people should come to Terezin and see where that old road leads."

Golly. So the choice for voters on the Euro-ballot is apparently: yes to the European Constitution, or yes to a new Holocaust. If there's a neither-of-the-above box, the EU's rulers are keeping quiet about it. The notion that the Continent's peoples are basically a bunch of genocidal whackoes champing at the bit for a new bloodbath is one I'm not unsympathetic to. But it's a curious rationale to pitch to one's electorate: vote for us; we're the straitjacket on your own worst instincts. Or as the cute but gloomy Omar Naber, the Slovenian Eurovision entrant, put it in his Naberly way: "Come on; tie my hands so I can drown In lies, I bleed to death in your lap."

Posted by David Cohen at 12:54 AM



We respect the diligent, conscientious efforts, to date, rendered to the Senate by Majority Leader Frist and Democratic Leader Reid. This memorandum confirms an understanding among the signatories, based upon mutual trust and confidence, related to pending and future judicial nominations in the 109th Congress.

This memorandum is in two parts. Part I relates to the currently pending judicial nominees; Part II relates to subsequent individual nominations to be made by the President and to be acted upon by the Senate’s Judiciary Committee.

We have agreed to the following:

Part I: Commitments on Pending Judicial Nominations

A. Votes for Certain Nominees. We will vote to invoke cloture on the following judicial nominees: Janice Rogers Brown (D.C. Circuit), William Pryor (11th Circuit), and Priscilla Owen (5th Circuit).

B. Status of Other Nominees. Signatories make no commitment to vote for or against cloture on the following judicial nominees: William Myers (9th Circuit) and Henry Saad (6th Circuit).

Part II: Commitments for Future Nominations

A. Future Nominations. Signatories will exercise their responsibilities under the Advice and Consent Clause of the United States Constitution in good faith. Nominees should only be filibustered under extraordinary circumstances, and each signatory must use his or her own discretion and judgment in determining whether such circumstances exist.

B. Rules Changes. In light of the spirit and continuing commitments made in this agreement, we commit to oppose the rules changes in the 109th Congress, which we understand to be any amendment to or interpretation of the Rules of the Senate that would force a vote on a judicial nomination by means other than unanimous consent or Rule XXII.

We believe that, under Article II, Section 2, of the United States Constitution, the word “Advice” speaks to consultation between the Senate and the President with regard to the use of the President’s power to make nominations. We encourage the Executive branch of government to consult with members of the Senate, both Democratic and Republican, prior to submitting a judicial nomination to the Senate for consideration.

Such a return to the early practices of our government may well serve to reduce the rancor that unfortunately accompanies the advice and consent process in the Senate.

We firmly believe this agreement is consistent with the traditions of the United States Senate that we as Senators seek to uphold.

A couple of quick thoughts:

1. The Republicans never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

2. The Republican signatories to this mess were McCain, DeWine, Snowe, Warner, Graham, Collins and Chafee. Start funding their challengers now.

3. John McCain will never be President.

4. Robert Byrd's signature indicates that he is either illiterate or senile. Or ...

5. "Advise and consent" does not mean that the president should start running his nominees past the Senate first.

6. This is permission for the Democrats to filibuster with no retribution possible.

7. Bill Frist had better break this, or he will never be president.

MORE: Statement of People For the American Way President Ralph G. Neas on Senate Compromise Rejecting Nuclear Option (Via The Corner)

The explicit language of the agreement reached tonight by a group of senators rejects the nuclear option, preserves the filibuster and ensures that both political parties will have a say in who is appointed to our highest courts. The agreement embodies the very principle of consultation and consensus that the filibuster encourages. This is good news for the American people. Saving the Senate’s constitutional advice and consent role, and the checks and balances that protect judicial independence, is especially important with multiple vacancies expected on the Supreme Court.

The unprincipled nuclear option has been averted. This is a major defeat for the radical right. Senators from both parties have rejected demands by the White House, radical right groups, and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist that the filibuster be eliminated on nominees. It is a rejection of White House demands for virtually unlimited power to undermine the independence of the courts.

Nonetheless, we cannot endorse every aspect of the deal that was announced today. We are deeply concerned that it could lead to confirmation of appeals court judges who would undermine Americans’ rights and freedoms. We will urge Senators to vote against confirmation of nominees who have not demonstrated a commitment to upholding individual liberties and the legal and social justice accomplishments of the past 70 years.

The bipartisan rejection of the nuclear option provides President Bush with a clear path out of the divisive impasse that has been caused by his obstinate refusal to engage in bipartisan consultation and compromise on judicial nominations.

It is time for President Bush to recognize what the senators who negotiated this agreement know – that the Senate is the President’s constitutional partner in appointing federal judges. It is time for the White House to abandon its confrontational strategy on judges, and to work with senators from both parties to find some consensus nominees, especially in the case of expected Supreme Court vacancies. [Emphasis added]

AND STILL MORE: Senators Avert Showdown Over Filibusters (David Espo, AP, 5/24/05)

"We have reached an agreement to try to avert a crisis in the United States Senate and pull the institution back from a precipice,'' said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., adding the deal was based on "trust, respect and mutual desire to .... protect the rights of the minority.

"We have lifted ourselves above politics,'' agreed Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W. Va., "And we have signed this the interest of freedom of speech, freedom of debate and freedom to dissent in the United States Senate."...

"In light of the spirit and continuing commitments made in this agreement,'' Republicans joined Democrats in pledging to oppose any attempt to make changes in the application of filibuster rules - a commitment that Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio said at the news conference was conditional on Democrats upholding their end of the deal....

Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada seemed more receptive - although he hastened to say he remains opposed to some of the nominees who will now likely take seats on federal appeals courts.

"Checks and balances have been protected. The integrity of the Supreme Court has been protected from the undue influence of the vocal, radical right wing,'' Reid said.

The White House said the agreement was a positive development....

At the same time, even Republicans said the agreement would force a change on the White House.

"Judges are going to get a vote that wouldn't have gotten a vote otherwise. We're going to start talking about who would be a good judge and who wouldn't. And the White House is going to get more involved and they are going to listen to us more,'' he said [sic]....

Democrats, pointing to a slight change in wording from an earlier draft, said the deal would preclude Republicans from attempting to deny them the right to filibuster. Republicans said that was not ironclad, but valid only as long as Democrats did not go back on their word to filibuster only in extraordinary circumstances.

One official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the issue had been discussed at the meeting in McCain's office, and was "clearly understood'' by those in attendance.

Apart from the judicial nominees named in the agreement, Reid said Democrats would clear the way for votes on David McKeague, Richard Griffin and Susan Neilson, all named to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Democratic officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, suggested that two other appeals court nominees whose named were omitted from the written agreement - White House staff secretary Brett Kavanaugh and Pentagon lawyer William Haynes - might be jettisoned. Republicans said they knew of no such understanding.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:30 AM


Here's the Deal (The Prowler, 5/24/2005, American Spectator)

"There is no way this agreement that breaks Democratic obstruction can be spun any way other than as a victory for Republicans and the Bush Administration," said a Republican Senate leadership aide late Monday night, regarding the agreement reached by 14 senators to avert a showdown vote on the so-called nuclear option that would have ended Democratic filibustering of Bush judicial nominees.

The parameters of the deal insure that six of eight obstructed Bush nominees to the federal judiciary will receive an up or down confirmation vote in the Senate. The three most opposed Bush nominees to the court, Priscilla Owen, Janice Rogers Brown and William Pryor, will not have their nominations blocked any longer; also, three other Bush nominees will eventually receive an up or down confirmation vote as well; the only two nominees who still may be filibustered are Michigan judge Henry Saad and William Myers.

Also as part of the compromise, the Democrat moderates promise to prevent any future filibuster of Bush appeals court and Supreme Court nominees. While Democrats were able to have their "exceptional circumstances" clause inserted in the deal, no one anticipates that such a situation will arise, assuming Democrats keep their promise. And it appears, that a number of promises were being tossed around the negotiation room on Monday afternoon.

Several Republican senators involved in negotiations swore that not only will the six Bush nominees be given an up or down vote, but that Democrats in the room were aware that Republicans involved in the negotiations had agreed to vote cloture on Myers as well, and that Democratic negotiators had agreed that such a move could take place, thus also allowing Myers an up or down vote in the Senate. "Assuming that our guys hold themselves to that promise," says another Republican staffer working on the Judiciary committee, "then we're looking at a clean sweep for confirmations."

While Mr. Saad and perhaps Mr. Myers got thrown under the bus and while we'd all have enjoyed the visceral thrill of breaking the filibuster just to spite Democrats, the deal looks excellent. There's reason to believe that enough Republicans didn't want to change the rule that the vote would have been lost anyway. Meanwhile, Democrats couldn't afford to filibuster everyone, especially not the women, so they needed a face saving measure. Eventually the question will be brought to a head, probably over a Supreme Court pick, but for now both sides got what they needed. Only their most rabid partisans will be distraught.

Breakthrough Pact Unlikely To End Battle (Dan Balz, May 24, 2005, Washington Post)

At best, the group produced a cease-fire in the judicial wars that will deal with nominees who long have been in the confirmation pipeline.

After that, no one can say with certainty whether the deal will stick, particularly if there is a Supreme Court nomination in the near future, as many anticipate. The 14 senators who joined hands last night said theirs is an agreement based on faith and goodwill, but there is no certainty or even commitment that they will continue to operate as a group once past the current nominees in question.

"I think they did what the Senate very often does," said Ross K. Baker, a professor of political science at Rutgers University and a longtime student of the Senate. "They kicked the can down the road. They basically postponed a crisis and set up the predicate for another one in the future on the Supreme Court nomination."

One of the most amusing aspects of the carefully crafted deal is that the President can just give saad and Myers recess appointments and the Democrats come away empty-handed. And the Michiganders make for especially good poster children of Democratic obstruction because Senator Stabenow is up in '06.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM

COME TO JESUS TIME (via Daniel Merriman):


[I]f he chooses to run for president in 2008, Rudy will have a very hard road to travel because of a few thingshe said in the past while running for office in New York City.

In 1999, he told CNN, "I'm pro-abortion. I'm pro gay rights." He also said he opposed a ban on partial-birth abortion.

In 1989, during his first unsuccessful run for City Hall, Giuliani told Phil Donahue that though he had deep reservations about abortion, he supported the use of public money to pay for the procedure.

"I do that in spite of my own personal reservations," he said, according to a transcript released by his office to Newsmax. com. "I have a daughter now; if a close relative or a daughter were pregnant, I would give my personal advice, my religious and moral views . . . which would be that I would help her with taking care of the baby." But if the woman chose to have an abortion, "I'd support that. I'd give my daughter the money for it."

Many analysts of the Republican Party and some leaders of socially conservative interest groups would say thatthese expressed views would make it impossible for Giuliani to secure the GOP nomination for president in 2008.

The standard political analysis of the Bush win in 2004 is that the president found millions and millions of evangelicalChristians and other social conservatives who hadn't voted for him in 2000 to pull the lever for him this time. Meaning: If a Republican is to win in 2008, the party needs someone who can draw socially conservativevoters to the polls.

So can Rudy win? Based on the last eight election cycles, the answer is a provisional yes. [...]

The record is plain. A pro-choice candidate can win in the GOP provided he has a change of heart and goes pro-life. The change of heart does not even need to be all that believable. It just needs to be.

Such a shift in position needs to be handled adroitly, but it has been done, it can be done and it must be done if Rudy Giuliani actually wants to be president.

No one has ever been better positioned to reconsider his prior advocacy of the Death Culture than Rudy Giuliani who can say that his own cancer and what he witnessed on 9-11 has made him reconsider the value of every human life and brought him closer to God.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Doh! Liam's crusade to convert the Simpsons (Maureen Coleman, 20 May 2005, Belfast Telegraph)

Ulster actor Liam Neeson is to guest star in the Simpsons as an Irish priest converting the cartoon family to Catholicism.

The episode in which Neeson's character Fr Sean encourages Homer and Bart to turn Catholic has already gone out on US television and will be shown on Sky this summer.

It was due to be shown in America earlier, but had to be rescheduled due to the death of Pope John II.

In one scene Homer says: "Catholics Rule! We've got Boston, South America and the good part of Ireland."

In another scene involving a dream sequence, Marge ends up in Protestant heaven where people in polo shirts are playing badminton, while Homer's living it up in Catholic heaven - a massive Irish bar full of Riverdancers and brawling.

Jesus himself is portrayed as being in Catholic heaven.

When talking about Mass, Marge is heard to say: "It's like Simon Says without a winner."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Danger in 'Fixing' CIA (Richard A. Posner, May 24, 2005, LA Times)

Two cliches about our intelligence system are fast becoming dogma. The first is that intelligence failed in the 9/11 and Iraqi WMD cases because the entire intelligence system is "broken." Usually when we think of something as being broken we assume it can be fixed or replaced and, either way, that the problem can be put behind us; our watch is broken so we fix or replace it and the problem is solved.

But the intelligence system cannot be fixed like a broken watch (although it can be improved) because the conditions that cause it to fail are inherent in the nature of intelligence. Those conditions are numerous: Intelligence seeks information about people — usually foreigners having their own language and a mentality that may be so alien as to be unfathomable by us — who are assiduously concealing it. Effective intelligence requires secrecy (particularly as to sources), which widespread sharing of intelligence data compromises — yet without that sharing, it may be impossible to assemble the data into a meaningful mosaic. Intelligence is collected and analyzed in a political context that may warp intelligence analysis. Working conditions in intelligence are bad because of the unavoidable preoccupation with secrecy and security, the disdain of a democratic society for spies, and the asymmetry of failure and success in intelligence operations. [...]

The impression that the intelligence system can be "fixed" — implying that all intelligence failures are avoidable merely by the exercise of due care — leads to overselling intelligence as an element of national defense. To think that changes in organization, practices and personnel can make intelligence a fail-safe enterprise is a dangerous illusion, encouraging underinvestment in other, often more costly, means of defense, such as tightening our porous borders, screening foreign visitors more carefully and stocking vaccines against possible bioterror attacks.

Mr. Posner tiptoes up to the edge on genuine insight here--the conditions that cause intelligence to fail aren't inherent to intelligence, but to the system governments use. The three weaknesses he cites are: Americans trying to understand foreigners; secrecy as regards sources and methods; and secrecy within the intelligence bureacracy itself. All three are solved by simply moving towards open source intelligence.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Is Brazil Ready to Lead? (Carlos Alberto Montaner, Firmas Press)

The government of Brazil wants the country to become an internationally respected power. It already heads the Mercosur trade bloc and now wishes to become the head of South America. It hopes to gain a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council, and a few days ago brought together in Brasilia representatives of about 20 Arab countries and all South American countries. That was its debut as the leading actor in the grave matters that afflict the planet.

The ceremony didn't turn out very well, but that's of little importance when it comes to these roles. It is convenient -- or fair -- that someday some Latin American country should assume that leading role, and Brazil is best suited for it. [...]

[E]conomic power, size and population are not the only decisive factors that explain the weight of some nations in the international arena. The ancient histories of Holland and Portugal demonstrate almost the opposite.

There are other key elements: the vocation for leadership of a ruling class that has come together in the pursuit of a national program and the existence of a society that is willing to pay the high price that effort usually demands.

To be a leading nation costs money, resources and human lives sometimes, and citizens must be willing to resort to force when the other peaceful mechanisms devised to settle conflicts at the negotiating table fail.

Do Brazilians feel that urgency to lead and exert influence outside their boundaries? I don't think so. How is President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva going to forge a state policy if his Workers Party nurtures Marxists, who see the market as an abomination, have nothing but contempt for the so-called ''formal freedoms'' and cannot even reach a clear consensus on how that state should function?

Britain can be led by either Laborites or Conservatives, and the United States by either Democrats or Republicans, without a break in the basic consensus over the shape of the state and the values and interests that must be formulated and defended beyond the borders. Is there in Brazil, throughout the political spectrum, a consensus about the state and a national program that everyone would like to build in the medium or long run? I don't think so, either.

No, but Lula has moved them a long way toward that point with his drift towards the Right on issues like trade.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Travels in Fidel-land: What a visit revealed (Radek Sikorski, National Review)

As we started speaking about my visit, Father José María removed the telephone cord from the receiver in one deft, well-practiced move. I knew that move well from my youth in Communist Poland, when it was wise to assume not only that every telephone line was bugged but that each telephone could serve as a listening device. We were on the outskirts of one of Cuba’s provincial cities, in a tiny reception room with decrepit furniture and peeling paint. Even though Fr. José had a rotund face that radiated good humor, there was an otherworldliness in his manner, like that of the Solidarity priests I knew in the old days in Poland. The Cuban secret service’s favorite extermination method is simply running someone over with a police car, and Fr. José has had a couple of brushes with death recently.

But having faced martyrdom, he had clearly passed the threshold of fear. “What’s this?” I pointed to an unframed painting with animals in jolly colors and a bold red hammer and sickle in the center. The Communist symbol was upside down, with a broken white line in the middle of the sickle leading up to a hut perched on top of the handle of the hammer. “It’s an allegory of George Orwell’s Animal Farm by our local artist,” he explained. “The road markings on the sickle are meant to say that the road of the revolution leads to the pigsty.”

Fr. José then explained how he would distribute the 500 doses of antibiotics donated by the Solidarity trade union that I had brought to prisoners, among them opposition activists who had received long sentences following the crackdown on dissent two years ago. (Medicines are crucial because one of the milder persecutions the regime metes out is spraying the cell walls with foul water, which gives inmates skin diseases in a matter of days.) Assistance like this, in addition to alleviating suffering, also gives the parish more clout, making it an enclave of civil society outside the regime’s control. The regime knows this, of course, which is why all of Fr. Jose’s requests for a permit to build a community center have been refused. Instead, the Communist government gives support to the local version of voodoo, which has fewer subversive foreign links.

I had arrived in Cuba as a tourist, bearing my Polish passport. My luggage was searched minutely. My heart raced when they discovered the box of antibiotics but, curiously, they didn’t even ask me for whom such a large quantity of medicine was intended. Instead, the young customs officer focused on the copy of Playboy I had put next to the drugs. The centerfold perked him up and he called for his superior. Should we confiscate? I understood him asking. The older man let it pass; I was grateful to be thought of as just another degenerate Westerner.

My destination was one of the resorts on Cuba’s southern coast, within driving distance of Guantánamo. Like other havens for foreigners, the resort was surrounded by a fence with guards on all sides, natives admitted as staff only. The clientele were mainly elderly Canadians and Europeans of the sort who enjoy organized gymnastics on the beach. There was something East German about the ambience: regimented entertainment and the identity checks at the gate. To my surprise there was Internet access for the foreigners. It was viable but slow, reputedly on account of scrupulous key logging by the Cuban secret service. I eavesdropped as one of the tourist groups staying at the hotel received a pep talk from an official minder, who berated them about the 636 attempts on the life of Fidel Castro that the CIA has supposedly organized. (Surely, they cannot be that incompetent?)

For a former inmate of the camp of progress such as myself, visiting Cuba was peculiar. I felt 20 years younger at the sight of a grubby collective farm named after Lenin. Groups of Communist Youth in red ties such as I had myself resisted wearing at school lined the streets. Communist slogans by the roadside were familiar too — ambitious in rhetoric, pathetic as advertising. Above all, acres and acres of land with no master and therefore littered and overgrown. “Commies love concrete,” P. J. O’Rourke observed after a visit to Warsaw, and nothing has changed. And it’s not the concrete you see in Italy, the kind that contains so much marble dust it looks like reconstituted stone. Commies like their concrete poured slothfully, creating a patina so dull it positively soaks up light.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Where Now for the Tories? (Chris Pope, 05/23/2005, Tech Central Station)

After 18 years of Thatcherite revolution, and Britain's collapse from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism, the public no longer recognizes the need for radical social reform, nor the pragmatic superiority of Conservative economics. Indeed, it has been twelve years since the Conservatives have held a sustained opinion poll lead.

Whereas, for generations, the Conservative Party could rely upon Labour governments to self-destruct with crude socialistic schemes, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have succeeded in maintaining a difficult marriage between their party and the market. The Conservatives -- the most successful political party in the western world, with their implicit political slogan: "We're not socialist ideologues" -- have been caught out by the New Labour response: "Neither are we".

For all the idealistic rhetoric and talk of "new life for Britain", Blair's politics have consisted of an uneasy alliance between pragmatism and populism. While Britons knew that Mrs. Thatcher was "not for turning", they have grown accustomed to the "reverse gear" that Tony Blair has denied possessing. Market-driven policies in health, education, and transport have been tried, reversed, and tried again. The line on crime has flapped with the whims of the popular press, as have fuel taxes, immigration regulations, terror laws, and even constitutional changes.

Although New Labour's domestic reforms have consisted of little more than tentative trial and error, Tony Blair has been very keen to avoid the fates of Neil Kinnock and Michael Dukakis on national security issues. In eight years, he has dispatched forces to Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and Iraq, stood shoulder to shoulder with President Bush and -- despite his Foreign Secretary's repeated attempts to woo the tyrants of Tehran -- has seldom wavered from a principled commitment to those seeking freedom abroad.

Yet, the Conservatives have shown an astonishing inability to expose New Labour as a house divided between a pro-European centrist leadership in the mould of Ted Heath, and a socialist membership that is closer to Tony Benn. While the PR image screams "NEW!!!" Labour's policies are essentially those that were discarded by the Conservatives a generation ago.

Of course, the problem is that the Tories returned to them when they discarded Lady Thatcher and are themselves divided along the same lines.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Golf Club Prices Are Up; Scores Are Not Down (BILL PENNINGTON, 5/24/05, NY Times)

New and technologically advanced golf balls fly farther than ever. Oversize golf drivers hit the ball straighter. Space-age materials make irons easier to swing. Ergonomically engineered putters roll the ball more precisely. Golf courses are more plentiful and maintained better. Instruction is more accessible, at public and private clubs, not to mention every night on a cable television channel devoted entirely to golf.

There is even a better golf tee, revamped to let the ball soar longer and more accurately.

The only thing in golf that has not changed is the average score for 18 holes. Neither the average weekend player nor the world's best golfers have managed to get the ball in the hole any sooner.

The average 18-hole score for the average golfer remains at about 100, as it has for decades, according to the National Golf Foundation, an industry research and consulting service.

Among more serious recreational golfers who register their scores with the United States Golf Association, the average handicap index, a scoring tool, has dropped 0.5 strokes since 2000. On the PGA Tour this year, the average score of players has risen, by 0.28 strokes, compared with the average 10 years ago.

"Maybe we're all supposed to stink at this," said David Feherty, a columnist for Golf Magazine and a commentator on CBS's golf telecasts. "It's our punishment for playing this insane game."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Secularism and the meaningless life: Judeo-Christian values: Part XIII (Dennis Prager, May 24, 2005, Townhall)

Perhaps the most significant difference between [Judeo-Christian and secular values], though one rarely acknowledged by secularists, is the presence or absence of ultimate meaning in life. Most irreligious individuals, quite understandably, do not like to acknowledge the inevitable and logical consequence of their irreligiosity -- that life is ultimately purposeless.

Secular and irreligious individuals raise two immediate objections:

1. Irreligious people, including atheists, are just as likely to have meaningful lives as any religious person. They need neither God nor Judaism nor Christianity nor any other religion to have meaning. [...]

The first objection denies a fact, not a subjective judgment: If there is no God who designed the universe and who cares about His creations, life is ultimately purposeless. This does not mean that people who do not believe in such a God cannot feel, or make up, a purpose and a meaning for their own lives. They do and they have to -- because the need for meaning is the greatest of all human needs. It is even stronger than the need for sex. There are people who lead chaste lives who achieve happiness, while no one who lacks a sense of purpose or meaning can achieve happiness.

Nevertheless, the fact that people feel that their lives are meaningful -- as a parent, a caregiver, an artist, or any of the myriad ways in which we feel we are doing something meaningful -- has no bearing on the question of whether life itself is ultimately meaningful. The two issues are entirely separate. A physician understandably views his healing of people as meaningful, but if he does not believe in God, he will have to honestly confront the fact that as meaningful as healing the day's patients has been, ultimately everything is meaningless because life itself is. In this sense, it is far better for an individual's peace of mind to be a poor peasant who believes in God than a successful neurosurgeon who does not.

If there is no God as Judeo-Christian religions understand Him, life is a meaningless random event. You and I are no more significant, our existence has no more meaning, than that of a rock on Mars. The only difference between us and Martian rocks is that we need to believe our existence has significance.

Perhaps the dilemma for the secularist is best expressed this way: you can tell me why you think your own life is meaningful and valuable to you, but why would it be to me?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Theocracy meets democracy in Iran (Pepe Escobar, 5/25/05, Asia Times)

The Guardians Council, composed of six ayatollahs and six lawyers, was conceived by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini - leader of the Islamic revolution - to supposedly represent the best interests of Iranian public opinion and the constitution. This past weekend the council vetoed all but one reformist candidate, as well as 89 women candidates. The official reason: "Non-respect of Islamic values." The six candidates approved included the favorite, Rafsanjani, a centrist; mild reformer Mehdi Karrubi, a former parliamentary spokesman; and four conservatives (a former chief of police, a former commander of the Guardians of the Revolution, the mayor of Tehran and a former head of the national radio and TV network).

The reformist Islamic Iran Participation Front, whose main candidate was vetoed, immediately threatened to boycott the election. The Guardians Council did the same thing in early 2004, disqualifying more than 2,000 candidates from legislative elections. A widespread election boycott led to conservative control of the majlis (parliament). Voting participation in the February 2004 elections was only 50.57% - the lowest in the country's history.

This week, though, came a bomb - or the system trying to save itself. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei sent a decree to Guardians Council leader Ayatollah Ahmad Janati asking him to review the decision to disqualify popular reformist Mostafa Moin, a former higher education minister, and Vice President Mohsen Mehralizadeh. Moin is in the center of the furor. He is the leading candidate of the reformists, running for the Islamic Iran Participation Front, the largest pro-reform political party, led by Mohammad Reza Khatami, the younger brother of outgoing President Mohammad Khatami, who is barred from serving a third term. The Supreme Leader and the conservative ayatollahs around him sensed they might be defeated by a powerful weapon: absenteeism. Americans may consider a president chosen by roughly half the electorate as a legitimate one. Not the Iranians.

It must be the goal of Iran to reach the point America and Britain have, where the two main parties differ so little over the fundamental questions of how to organize the political sphere that one need not be bothered voting.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Deflation hobbles Japan (Matthew Rusling, 5/25/05, Asia Times)

Despite a surprise increase of 1.3% in this year's first-quarter GDP, Japan is not quite headed for an economic rebound. One big problem, say experts, is still that ghost of Japan's economic past, present and perhaps future: deflation. In its latest Outlook for Economic Activity and Prices, the Bank of Japan is forecasting a 0.1% decline in consumer prices in fiscal year 2005 from FY2004. Although the same report estimates a price increase for FY2006 of 0.3%, experts have called this miniscule.

Deflation has been a significant contributor to Japan's economic woes in recent years, and appears to be still a problem, say experts. In the late 1990s, many Japanese companies and households suffered from excessive debt. Prices declined, which had a negative effect on the country's business climate and began a series of deflationary slumps that continues today. Many use a common euphemism to describe the economy's lack of spunk, saying it is still stuck on a "stairway landing". A report by the Cabinet Office in Tokyo last week revealed that the world's second-largest economy grew at an annualized 5.3% pace in the three months ended March 31. But experts fret that despite the surprisingly positive numbers, the economy has yet to make a real comeback.

"People are struggling to make profits," says Noriko Hama, an economist at Doshisha University School of Management. She says jobs can be affected when deflation plays a significant role in an economy. "Companies will be careful about expanding their labor force."

Expand their labor force? There are no laborers to draw from.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Survival of the Metaphysically Fittest: If scientific naturalism is correct, then the scientific naturalist is on the brink of extinction. (John D. Martin, Crux)

Throughout the 1990s, scientific studies of religious communities began to deliver solid evidence that religious belief has significant benefits for believers in terms of health and longevity, as well as reproductivity. When the findings of these studies were made public, they received widespread notice in the United States press, appearing in national newspapers too numerous to list, on the broadcasts of CNN, and eventually in the pages of monthly magazines such as Christianity Today. Pastors around the country copied the newspaper and magazine articles that announced the beneficial influence of religious belief on health and dutifully pasted them on their local church bulletin boards. Chuck Colson reported the findings in his Breakpoint radio broadcast as evidence of the inherently religious nature of human beings, suggesting that the healthy effects of any kind of religious belief pointed to a human need to acknowledge and worship the Creator, however imperfectly this worship might be expressed. At the turn of the century, word on the street was that religious belief could positively impact your health.

Perhaps the best-known research into the religion/health connection is that of Dr. Harold Koenig of Duke University, who demonstrated a statistical increase in health and a decrease in mortality among those of his patients suffering from chronic or life-threatening illnesses who also professed strong religious convictions. Criticism of these studies done by a medical scholar at Stanford University in 1999 made the valid point that the studies' findings may demonstrate only that religious beliefs have beneficial effects on patients' frames of mind by promoting optimism, hope, and moral attitudes that foster healthy behavior. Even so, the benefits of religious belief on health remained unchallenged by the Stanford research review, and that review eventually did away with the possibility that the benefits of religion in decreasing patient mortality could have been a statistical illusion. The effect, the review concluded, was real. In a 2001 editorial for the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, Dr. Koenig reaffirmed his earlier findings on the importance of religion as a factor that can affect the outcome of patient care. Those in the medical profession, and in the general populace, who are of a non-religious persuasion found these findings startling, to put it mildly.

Less startling, perhaps even expected, are the findings that religious persons of all types tend to have larger and more stable families. This data comes to us from census figures and population studies done around the year 2000, the results of which have been published in various social science journals in the past two years. In the article from which the quotation at the start of this essay was drawn, Stanley Kurtz discussed four recent books that drew on the same population data and reached the same conclusion: without a return of the traditional family—or some other, more disturbing development (like, for example, eugenic fetus-farming)—that would restore fertility rates to pre-1972 levels, the human race is headed for a population implosion. One important observation contained in the research of the authors Kurtz reviewed in his article is that those nations where the birth rate has fallen beneath the replacement rate are, not coincidentally, those nations where traditional religious beliefs have declined the most severely and been replaced by some form of philosophical materialism (the idea that nothing exists beyond physical matter). Throughout the industrialized world, exceptions to the decline in population are found only in strongly religious communities. The modern “advanced” nations have, in their acceptance of a materialist perspective on reality, embraced a philosophy that actually dooms them to extinction.

In a related vein, the results of long-term studies on family stability published since the turn of the century indicate that religious belief and participation in a faith community significantly contribute to family stability. Children raised in religious households not only have fewer psycho-social pathologies, such as suicide, substance abuse, and violent behavior, they also exhibit a higher proportion of socially beneficial behaviors, such as charitable giving, establishing strong friendships, and volunteerism. This last point also has a number of public policy implications. Recent studies linking the decline in charitable giving in the U.K., the Netherlands, and Canada to the decline in religious belief have raised concern for the future of charitable giving of all kinds. A religious upbringing, the data clearly indicates, produces people who are not only better able to survive in human society, but who are more likely to contribute to the well-being of others. The decline in religious belief will mean, in the long term, that the human race will be fewer in number, psychologically and physically weaker, and less prone to help each other out.

Such studies have rather grim implications for the atheists of the world. To put it as bluntly as possible, non-religious persons, in purely evolutionary terms, experience a significant selection disadvantage in terms of longevity and reproductive success. The irreligious live shorter lives, less healthy lives, produce fewer offspring, and provide less stable, less healthy family environments for those offspring. If, in evolutionary terms, reproductive success is all that "matters"—and, strictly speaking, reproductive success is all that can matter in evolution, since it means the difference between survival and extinction—then the evidence indicates that religious believers of all sorts enjoy a very significant selection advantage over non-religious persons.

The final irony of Darwinism is that even in its own context it's a maladaption.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


The Sun Also Sets (Lee Harris, 5/23/05, Tech Central Station)

In the captions that accompanied the photos, [the Sun] described Saddam Hussein as "a pathetic figure as he washed his trousers in jail." He is a man who "once sat on thrones and treated himself as a king," but who now "sits astride a plastic pink chair while he carries out the chores of a laundry maid." All in all, the editors tell us, the surreptitiously taken snapshots of Saddam permit "a first fascinating insight into his pathetic life behind bars."

You will notice that the editors of The Sun use the word "pathetic" twice in their characterization of the pictures they have published, and it is this word that says it all. Pathetic comes from pathos, which means the inner stirrings of our passions; and it is not hard to guess what passions The Sun was trying to arouse in its readership -- namely, the passions associated with rejoicing over the humiliation of an enemy. They wished their readers to gloat over the pictures. They published the pictures simply to humiliate Saddam Hussein.

The Sun's defense against this charge has been to argue that Saddam Hussein deserves humiliation. Indeed, considering what Saddam Hussein deserves to have happen to him, the publication of photos of him is the merest trifle. This is a man who killed thousands of men, women, and children. Here is a dictator who deserves to be shot by a firing squad or hanged by the neck -- so why complain about a few intimate photos of him splashed around the world? Why not humiliate a man who humiliated so many others? Why on earth should anyone pity him?

But that's just the problem. By humiliating anyone in public, we invariably end up creating pity for him. That is why Oliver Cromwell permitted King Charles the First to be dressed like a king and to act like a king up until the final moments when his head was chopped off. The worst thing you can do with a fallen ruler is to make people feel sorry for him in his fall. The emotion of pity is deeply rooted in us, and it is often even more inexplicable in its actions than the emotions associated with sexual desire. We are often deeply stirred by compassion when we least expect to be.

To emphasize the pathos in a man's life is to invoke compassion for him. To show his pathetic side is the best way of getting us to feel sorry for him. If the editors of The Sun were trying to keep us from pitying Saddam Hussein, then the last thing they should have done was to present him as "a pathetic figure" living out "his pathetic life behind bars."

The problem with The Sun photos is not that they dehumanize Saddam; the problem is that they humanize him far too much.

It's worth considering the notion that were Adolph Hitler captured in today's Europe he'd not be executed, just sent to prison.

May 23, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:59 PM


Pacifist New Zealand adds muscle to its military: The island nation will concentrate on peacekeeping skills to help its neighbors. (Janaki Kremmer, 5/24/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

Until recently, Australia's independent-minded neighbor across the Tasman Sea chose to ignore grumblings from Canberra that it wasn't pulling its weight in defense spending.

But earlier this month, New Zealand started listening, announcing plans to boost its defense spending by $3.2 billion over the next 10 years to modernize equipment and add hundreds more ground troops.

In addition to frustrating Australia, New Zealand's antinuclear, pacifist stance has troubled its own generals and affected the morale of the armed forces in recent years. As the government moves to respond to these concerns with new money, it is also shifting strategy by concentrating on peacekeeping skills that it has developed in East Timor, Afghanistan, and the Solomon Islands.

"With the realization that the end of the cold war has only opened a Pandora's box and created more trouble spots, it's time, they feel, to contribute in the best way possible," says Peter Cozens, executive director of the Center for Strategic Studies at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand.

Almost two decades ago, New Zealand was thrown out of ANZUS, the trilateral security alliance with Australia and the United States, for refusing to allow US nuclear-powered or equipped ships to dock in its waters. It canceled a deal to buy 28 F-16 fighter jets in 2000, cut its modern warships to two, and slashed the air force. It currently spends $850 million a year on defense - less than 1 percent of its gross GDP.

The goal now is to reverse that trend, while still streamlining the military. When the budget was announced in early May, defense minister Mark Burton told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that New Zealand would move away from trying to do a little bit of everything in favor of making "realistic contributions."

By redefining its "defense identity," New Zealand could well repair its relationship with the US, which was damaged in the 1980s, experts say.

"New Zealand now does not need the latest American equipment, but it offers troops in certain situations, and that opens up the possibility of rebuilding something that was lost," says Hugh White, professor of strategic studies at the Australian National University in Canberra.

The move is also likely to strengthen ties with Australia, on which New Zealand has long depended for security.

Nowhere are Realists more unrealistic than in their obsession with the Atlantic "Alliance" at a time when it is is the Pacific and the Indian that matter.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:59 PM


Teen rings hot (but cool on sex): Thousands of teenagers are wearing rings and pledging to remain virgins until they marry. (ASHLEY FANTZ, 5/20/05, Miami Herald)

On her left ring finger, Lara Herman wears eight tiny diamonds.

''These stand for my promise to God, myself, and my parents,'' the 16-year-old said, pointing to three emeralds clustered at the center.

A gift from her parents when she turned 13, Lara's ring is a symbol of her vow to remain a virgin until her wedding night.

The Fort Lauderdale teenager is among thousands of young Americans so turned off by a sex-obsessed culture that they're carving out a niche of clean living and abstinence.

''I just don't see what you get from sex other than heartache, a baby, or a disease,'' she says. ``Sex should be two hearts united as one, something special between a husband and his wife.''

Those who pledge virginity -- and other young people called ''straight-edgers'' who abstain not just from sex but from alcohol and drugs -- proclaim their choice in their music and on their clothes and jewelry.

They are fueling a multimillion-dollar industry and bolstering a socially conservative agenda whose proponents are happy to cater to their romantic ideas about love and sex.

Funny how threatened the secular are by this demonstration of self-respect.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:47 PM


Europe in a Crisis of Cultures (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger)

Extract from the conference held on April 1, 2005, at the Monastery of St. Scholastica, Subiaco, Italy. The entire text will be published by Cantagalli Editore, Italy. [...]

It's true that today there exists a new moralism whose key terms are justice, peace, and conservation of creation — words that recall to us essential moral values of which we truly have a need. But this moralism remains vague and slippery, almost inevitably so, in the sphere of party-politics. Such a moralism is before all else a pretense for others, and too little a personal duty of our daily life. In fact, what does "justice" signify? Who defines it? Of what utility is peace? In recent decades we have seen amply enough in our streets and in our piazzas how pacifism can deviate toward a destructive anarchism and toward terrorism. The political moralism of the 70's, whose roots have not yet died, was a moralism which succeeded to fascinate even those youth filled with idealism. But it was a moralism with the wrong address, inasmuch as it was deprived of serene reasoning and because, in the last analysis, it put a utopian political order above the dignity of the individual man, showing itself capable of arriving, in the name of its grand objectives, to devalue man. Political moralism, as we have seen and as we still experience, does not only fail to open the path to regeneration, but blocks it. The same is true, consequently, of a christianity and of a theology which reduces the core of the message of Jesus, the "Kingdom of God", to "values of the Kingdom", identifying these values with the great terms of the order of political moralism, and proclaiming them, at the same time, as the synthesis of religions; thus forgetting, however, God, notwithstanding that He Himself is the proper subject and the cause of the Kingdom of God. In His place, there remains great words (and values) which are capable of any type of misuse.

This brief look at the situation of the world brings us to reflect upon the present situation of Christendom, and hence also upon the foundations of Europe . . . If Christendom, on one hand, has found its own, most efficacious expression in Europe, one needs to say, on the other hand, that in Europe there has developed a culture which constitutes itself in the most radical manner not only as the contradiction of Christendom, but of the religious and moral traditions of humanity. From this, one understands that Europe is truly and actually undertaking a "driver's test" from which one understands the radicality of the tensions which our continent must confront. But here there emerges also and above all else the responsibility which we Europeans must assume in this historic moment: in the internal debate regarding the definition of Europe, within the new political form, one is not playing at some nostalgically regarded action of history, but rather a great responsibility for today's humanity. …

The true contrariety which characterizes the world of today is not that among diverse religious cultures, but that between the radical emancipation of man from God, from the roots of life, on the one hand, and the great religious cultures on the other. If there arrives a conflict of cultures, it will not be through a conflict of the great religions — forever one against the others, but, in the end, which have always known how to live one with the other — but it will be through the conflict between this radical emancipation of man and the great historic cultures.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:37 PM


U.S. Tests Christian Halfway House (FOX News, May 16, 2005)

At six juvenile commitment centers across Florida, young criminals are studying the Bible and bowing their heads in organized prayer. They are volunteer test subjects in the nation's first faith-based mentor program for teens, funded by the U.S. Department of Justice.

"We do believe, and research bears it out, that kids — even if they've been in the system more than once — can make significant changes, especially if they are really supported," said Bob Flores, administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention. "And if they want to become part of their community again the only way to do that is to be welcomed by their community."

At a Pompano Beach halfway house, 21 high-risk offenders are taught stories from the Bible, and the discipline of decision-making. While much of the curriculum is Christian-based, the program links kids with mentors of any or no denomination. Volunteer mentors commit to work with the kids for a year after their release.

But critics say the project blurs the line between church and state.

"It makes me concerned that we will end up having government-funded — directly or indirectly — religious conversions. And that, frankly, is not an appropriate role for government," said Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

The program's superintendent said that the project should be judged on whether it works, not whether it offends.

Mr. Lynn has an odd notion of what's dangerous to our society.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:32 PM


French singing song of angry men (Elaine Sciolino, 5/24/05, The New York Times)

Both the left and the right have preyed on voters' fears that the constitution is an "ultra-liberal" treaty one ruled by the market economy - that will rob them of their generous health, employment, educational and pension benefits.

Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of the far right National Front, which opposes the treaty, has weighed in with another reason to oppose it. He has said (incorrectly) that the treaty's ratification would mean Turkey's admission to the EU and waves of "non-European" Turkish immigrants, gypsies from Romania and Bulgaria, and other "miserable native populations of the east."

The campaign underscores another political phenomenon as well: a vast gap between the French elite and ordinary voters. "There is a real division in French society today between France from on high and France from below," said Jean-Paul Fournier, the center-right mayor of Nîmes, who supports the constitution, but whose citizens voted in 1992 against the EU treaty that ushered in the euro.

In a poll in the Midi Libre newspaper released on May 20, 61 percent of the population of the French province of Gard, which includes Nîmes, said it would vote no.

Fournier and his administrators have lobbied for the constitution in neighborhoods throughout the city, which suffers from more than 15 percent unemployment and where both the Communist Party and the National Front are strong. In some of its tough suburbs, unemployment is as high as 40 percent.

One of the challenges Fournier faces in selling the constitution is that it promises nothing tangible and immediate. "I get asked all the time, 'What's in this for France?"' he said in an interview in his office. "The problem is that I can't say to the unemployed worker, 'If you vote for the constitution, you will get a job.' I would be lying. I tell them this is a vision for the long-term, for their children and grandchildren."

Patrice Couderc, secretary general of the CFDT union of the Gard region, added another angle: "Our politicians have done a great job of blaming the European Union when things go bad, but never praising it when its money helps build a bridge or a hospital, when it imposes an improvement in working conditions or equal rights for women

Filthy commoners...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:29 PM


Christian Democrats feel wind 'behind us' (Judy Dempsey, 5/24/05, International Herald Tribune)

For the first time a woman will run for chancellor, the country's top political job. Even more unthinkable, it will be the opposition conservative Christian Democrats and even its more conservative sister party, the Bavarian-based Christian Social Union, who next week will nominate Angela Merkel, 50, to run against Schröder.

"There you are: Now what does that say about Germany?" said Matthias Wissmann, European Union affairs spokesman for the Christian Democrats. "Merkel will be our candidate. The wind is behind us. The winds of change are beginning to blow across Germany."

A mighty wind...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:57 PM


The stars are out tonight! Come for drinks, buffet dinner and dancing. This is a DON'T miss party.


Benefiting Good Counsel Homes which serves women and their children in crisis pregnancy situations.

Peggy Noonan and Ambassador Faith Whittlesey

Honorary Co-chairmen Larry Kudlow & Sean Hannity

Black tie

Friday, June 3, 2005
8:00 pm - 12 midnight

New York Athletic Club
180 Central Park South
New York City

Order tickets here NOW - limited space!

Posted by David Cohen at 7:27 PM


Come back, Barry: The Republican Party continues to abandon small-government conservatism at its peril (Lexington, The Economist, 5/12/05)

THE Goldwater Institute, a libertarian think-tank based—where else?—in Phoenix, Arizona, contains a striking photograph of the young Barry Goldwater, dressed in girlish clothes and accompanied by a tame monkey. The precise meaning of the photograph—was the monkey borrowed, or a permanent part of the maverick Arizonan's household?—is lost to history. But for those with a taste for symbolism the photograph raises an intriguing question: is Goldwaterism anything more than an eccentric side-show in today's Republican Party?

Although he went down to a huge defeat in the 1964 presidential election, Goldwater did as much as anybody to launch the modern conservative movement. Yet everywhere you look, the Republican Party is abandoning his principles.

The senator's conservatism was rooted in small government. But today's Grand Old Party has morphed into the “Grand Old Spending Party”, as the libertarian Cato Institute dubs it. Total government spending grew by 33% in George Bush's first term. Goldwater's hostility to big government also extended to government meddling in people's private lives. He thundered that social conservatives such as Jerry Falwell deserved “a swift kick in the ass”, and insisted that the decision to have an abortion should be “up to the pregnant woman, not up to the pope or some do-gooders or the religious right”. For Goldwater, abortion was “not a conservative issue at all”. For many Republicans today, it often seems to be the only conservative issue.

Goldwater was a famous devotee of states' rights. (His opposition to the Civil Rights Act on those grounds earned him a reputation on the left as a racist.) Mr Bush's Republicans have no qualms about trampling states' rights in the name of the greater good. In the Terri Schiavo case, they passed a law to try to take the case out of the state courts and put it in a federal court, with the president flying all the way from Texas to sign the bill.

It is not necessary to be dead to be every liberal's favorite Republican, but it helps. Having lost big is, however, an absolute requirement. Nevertheless, if it really was Mr. Goldwater's position that state's rights are sufficiently important as to trump civil rights while simultaneously being so trivial that abortion can't even be questioned, then he was a jackass. Finally, every conservative knows the one thing Mr. Goldwater did to launch the modern conservative movement.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:19 PM


European, Not Christian: An aggressive secularism sweeps the Continent (Jay Tolson, 5/30/05, US News)

For a while last winter, Ruth Kelly, Britain's newly appointed education secretary, had to feel that she was getting the Buttiglione Treatment. Rocco Buttiglione, that is: Italy's nominee to the European Union's executive commission, who had only a few months before come under sharp attack--both from EU parliamentarians and the press--for his traditional Catholic views about the sinfulness of homosexual acts. He tried to hang in, but ultimately the controversy compelled him to stand down.

So what was Kelly's problem? She had been receiving spiritual counseling from the Roman Catholic organization Opus Dei. The British press went to town with lurid myths and half-truths about that organization, from its past associations with Franco's Spain (even though there were Opus Dei members opposed to Franco) to the fictive portrait of the murderous Opus Dei "monk" in Dan Brown's wildly popular novel, The Da Vinci Code (even though there are no monks in Opus Dei). The suggestion, clearly, was that anyone under the influence of such an organization could not support her party's position on such things as abortion and condom use.

Tough crowd. While Kelly survived the mini-tempest, her experience captures what many say is the prevailing attitude of European elites toward religion, particularly traditional religion and particularly in the public sphere. From the ban on the wearing of visible religious symbols in French public schools to the refusal of the EU to include specific mention of Christianity's influence on Europe's distinctive civilization in its first constitution, a mountain of anecdotal evidence suggests that an aggressive form of secularism--what the British religion writer Karen Armstrong calls "secular fundamentalism" --is afoot in Europe.

Numerous analysts suggest that the spreading "Christianophobia" is tied to a Europe-wide spiritual malaise that is pushing the Continent toward broad cultural and economic decline. Others describe a more complicated process, in which--as the last vestiges of established religions are disappearing in various European nations--a new spiritual awakening may be taking place. Either way, popular attitudes toward religion in Europe now stand in bold contrast to those in the United States. While 59 percent of Americans say that religion is very important in their lives, only 11 percent of the French, 21 percent of Germans, and 33 percent of Britons do, according to the Pew Research Center. More to the point, a growing part of the U.S. electorate--and not just those associated with red America--would like religious values to play an even more prominent role in shaping the nation's laws and public life.

There's still some small hope for Britain, but the others aren't just rivals but enemies, even if feeble ones.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:06 PM


Germany and France are struggling with a new world: Britain is coping better with the transition to a US and Asian-led economy (Martin Kettle, May 24, 2005, The Guardian)

To spend a few days in Germany is not just to visit another country but, increasingly for a Briton, to visit a different kind of country. In Berlin last week, what stood out was how attractively stable modern Germany still is. Here were the material prosperity, the reliable services and the well-maintained environment that most people want from life. Lack of excitement - and 5 million people out of work - almost seems a small price to pay for such a good common life, especially after the kind of 20th century Germany had.

The contrast with Britain is unmissable. Here, the reality of economic dynamism is all around us, sometimes for good, as in our high levels of employment, but also sometimes for ill, as in our high levels of stress and insecurity. Our private affluence is high, our public goods and spaces are improving, but they do not match those of Germany. Our public life is far less restrained than theirs. If Tony Blair wants to find that elusive culture of respect, all he needs to do is go to Berlin.

For a long time many on the progressive left looked to Germany as the kind of country that they wished Britain could become - industrious, civilised and moderate. To its regulars, the British-German Königswinter conference, which I attended last week, was a place where senior British public figures came to learn from the achievements of their German counterparts - to learn how a modern social democratic party worked, how a dynamic economy could be married to a generous welfare state, and how a strong national identity could meld seamlessly with the European project.

Now, the boot is on the other foot. Now it is the Germans who arrive at Königswinter aware that they have not got it as right as they once assumed. In the old days it was the Germans who had the economic miracle and who wore the badge of modernity. Now, in a more haphazard way, it is the British. Germans talk anxiously about being in denial about the price they are increasingly paying for their apparently stable good society.

Ever and always the big question in life, and many little ones, come down to how you balance freedom vs. security. Any half observant person could have told you that seeking the level of security the Left demanded in Germany would make it too unfree to survive in the long run.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:36 PM


The English Patient: Leslie Burke wants to live; the National Health Service has a second opinion. (Wesley J. Smith, 05/30/2005, Weekly Standard)

THE MOST IMPORTANT BIOETHICS LITIGATION in the world today involves a 45-year-old Englishman, Leslie Burke. He isn't asking for very much. Burke has a progressive neurological disease that may one day deprive him of the ability to swallow. If that happens, Burke wants to receive food and water through a tube. Knowing that Britain's National Health Service (NHS) rations care, Burke sued to ensure that he will not be forced to endure death by dehydration against his wishes.

Burke's lawsuit is even more important to the future of medical ethics than was the Terri Schiavo case. Schiavo was dehydrated to death--a bitter and profound injustice--because Judge George W. Greer ruled both that Terri was in a persistent vegetative state and (based on statements she allegedly made during casual conversations some 20 years ago) that she would not want to live under such circumstances. In other words, Terri Schiavo lost her life in order to safeguard her personal autonomy, though she never made the actual decision to die.

But Burke, who is fully competent, worries that his wishes will be ignored precisely because he wants food and water even if he becomes totally paralyzed. Receiving food and water when it is wanted certainly seems the least each of us should be able to expect. But, it turns out, whether Burke lives or dies by dehydration may not be up to him. According to National Health Service treatment guidelines, doctors, rather than patients or their families, have the final say about providing or withholding care.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:22 PM


Consider reformers, orders Ayatollah (Tim Butcher, 24/05/2005, Daily Telegraph)

Hardliners in Iran suffered a rare public rebuke from the country's supreme spiritual leader yesterday, when Ayatollah Ali Khamenei helped two reformist candidates running in the presidential election next month.

State radio said Ayatollah Khamenei issued an official decree for the Guardian Council, an unelected body vetting all those standing for public office, to rethink its disqualification of reformists from the poll on June 17.

International concern over Iran's nuclear programme gives this poll significance beyond the Middle East.

The Ayatollah did not give his backing to either candidate, but said that for the legitimacy of the election it was important for various political opinions to be represented. "It is desired that all people in the country from different political interests have the opportunity to take part in the big test of the elections," the decree said.

The council must reconsider the candidacies of Mostafa Moin and Mohsen Mehr-Alizadeh, two of the highest profile reformists in a country where the clash of reactionaries and modernisers dominates politics.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:02 PM


GOP Targets Spending Limit (Thomas B. Edsall, May 19, 2005, Washington Post)

House Republicans are gearing up to push campaign finance legislation that would scrap post-Watergate restrictions on the total amount of money individuals can donate and parties can spend on candidates.

House Democratic leaders, who see the GOP gaining a huge financial advantage, yesterday protested the bill, as did campaign finance advocacy groups.

Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), the bill's chief sponsor, said the measure makes a "a few modest changes" in the 2002 campaign finance law that "will restore freedom and fairness to the political economy of our nation."

Only those who qualify to vote should be allowed to give -- not corporations, unions, pac's, etc. -- but they should be allowed to give as much as they choose to. Every dollar donated should be reported on-line ASAP.

Posted by David Cohen at 5:40 PM


ME AND MY VIRUS (Andrew Sullivan,, 5/23/05)

Yet another disincentive to getting HIV has evaporated. How are you supposed to scare people when the treatment is this simple, this effective and this easy?
Written upon discovering that his viral count was high and his white blood cell count low, but that the current medication regimen is just one or two pills a day.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:39 PM


“As long President Bush stands with the Iranian people, the Iranian people will stand with him.” (Slater Bakhtavar, Persian Mirror)

The BBC world service website recently released the results of their 2004 presidential poll. Of the sixteen linguistic ethnical groups surveyed, Persians were overwhelmingly the most supportive of President Bush. In fact, over fifty two percent of Iranians preferred Republican George W. Bush to challenger John Kerry who’d received a minuscule forty two percent of the
vote. Thus, surprisingly, unlike in the United States where the presidential race was relegated to a couple of percentage points, in Iran - President Bush won by a landslide.

Numerous other sources of plausible acclaim have confirmed these results. Renowned intellectuals, as well as award-winning journalists have written pieces on this critical issue. For instance, Pulitzer Prize winner Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times who spent an entire week in the country recently wrote, “Finally, I’ve found a pro-American country. Everywhere I’ve gone in Iran, with one exception, people have been exceptionally friendly and fulsome in their praise for the United States, and often for President George W. Bush as well.” Thomas Friedman another Pulitzer Prize winner and ardent critic of the war in Iraq wrote “young Iranians are loving anything their government hates, such as Mr. Bush, and hating anything their government loves. Iran . . . is the ultimate red state.”

The well-documented emphatically pro-Bush leaning in Iran, which is relatively widespread, has perplexed many western technocrats. Part of the answer may be that Iran is changing at such a rapid rate that the media has had a difficult time reporting and/or understanding the situation inside the country. Also, Friedman may be right that “young Iranians are loving anything their government hates, such as Mr. Bush and hating anything their government loves”, but there are even deeper social as well as geopolitical reasons such as the availability of satellite dishes and the internet.

Millions of Iranian homes receive illegal satellite television beamed in by Iranian-American expatriates in California. With a mix of pop music, political discussion and international news these stations have had a profound impact on the cultural, and political situation inside of Iran. The Iranian dictatorship has repeatedly tried to crackdown on these dishes as well as the Internet, but they’ve been largely unsuccessful. Presently, it is estimated that between five to seven million homes receive satellite television and an estimated three million have Internet access. Hence, to the dissatisfaction of the reigning ayatollahs Iranians do not live in a closed off cave.

Due to the availability of satellite television, millions of Iranians were able to hear President Bush’s State of the Union speech. The Persians were once again encouraged by the President’s vision when he said “To the Iranian people, I say tonight: As you stand for your own liberty, America Stands with you.” thereby reiterating his support to the Iranian freedom fighters inside of the Islamic Republic. Several political analysts have confirmed that this was in direct reference to the pro-democracy movement in Iran.“ The President was sending a message to the people of Iran that if they rise up America will stand by their side,” said political analyst Charles Krauthammer.

Why not have the President go there and literally stand by their side?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:56 PM


The Senate Nears the Point of No Return (JEFFREY ROSEN, 5/22/05, NY Times)

"In the 19th century, the expectation was typically that if a majority of senators really wanted to pass something they would be able to do so," said Eric Schickler, a professor of government at Harvard University and co-author of a forthcoming book on the use of obstruction in the Senate.

Still, for much of the 19th century, party lines in the Senate were less sharp, which promoted a degree of interparty bargaining and compromise, especially when it came to the Senate's constitutional power to advise and consent to presidential nominations. This enabled minorities in the Senate to block the judicial nominees of presidents who had weak public support.

"In the 19th century, the Supreme Court nominations of Tyler and other presidents with a slim hold on popular approval were defeated through inaction," Professor Gerhardt said. "They never reached the floor because it's not clear they would have enjoyed majority support throughout the country."

The rules requiring unanimous consent for all Senate business and a so-called supermajority of two-thirds (since reduced to 60 votes) to end a filibuster are products of Progressive-era reforms. From the 1890's until the 1960's, filibusters were most frequently used by Southern congressmen to defeat civil rights legislation. In 1968, Senate Republicans filibustered President Lyndon B. Johnson's nomination of Abe Fortas to be chief justice of the United States.

"The filibuster wasn't routinely used for judicial nominations until you got into a period of party polarization, where the courts were becoming increasingly important," said Joseph Cooper, a scholar of Congress at Johns Hopkins University. "In the 1970's, you got senators acting more like aggressive, individualistic entrepreneurs, and in the 1980's, there was increased polarization. But it wasn't until the 1990's that this problem of judicial filibusters exploded."

It's a time honored tradition that Democrats have used since they lost power in 1980.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:51 PM


Annan Out, Bill Clinton In at U.N.? (NewsMax, 5/23/05)

"There's still more to come, there's still more to the story," a veteran U.S. diplomat told NewsMax regarding U.N. chief Kofi Annan's role in the ever-expanding Iraq Oil For Food scandal.

The diplomat, closely tied with the world body's most influential members, said pressure is building for Annan to resign. "It is possible that the Secretary-General could, for the good of the organization, eventually offer his resignation," he told NewsMax's Stewart Stogel. But who would replace Annan?

"Bill Clinton," the source said with a smile.

The U.S. official admitted that Bill Clinton as Secretary General, while still a long shot, is now being taken more seriously than in the past.

Turning the foremost transnationalist organization into an arm of the Anglosphere would be quite a coup for George Bush and Tony Blair.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:45 PM


Can hybrids save US from foreign oil?: Red-hot demand for Priuses causes doubters to take second look. (Mark Clayton, 5/19/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

The growing enthusiasm for hybrids is rattling the faith of America's automakers, who have long believed that consumers don't care about fuel efficiency. And it has opened the door to a new theory that hybrid cars - long predicted to be a niche market and a way station to future hydrogen autos - are themselves the answer to revolutionize the fleet and trim the nation's surging dependence on foreign oil.

For proponents of energy independence in the United States, the current level of dependency is worrisome. Last year, 56 percent of the nation's oil - some 11 million barrels a day - came from abroad. That's far more than the one-third share imported during the first oil crisis of the 1970s. And it's halfway to the two-thirds share projected for 2025, if nothing changes.

To reduce that dependence will require a massive modernization of America's transportation fleet, especially more efficient passenger cars and light trucks. So are hybrids up to the task?

Most auto analysts still say no, since an enormous number of hybrids would have to be sold over more than a decade to have a real impact. Still, demand for hybrids, the Prius in particular, is so strong that customers are waiting weeks to get one. Some used 2004 Priuses are selling for thousands of dollars more than the cost of a new one. On Tuesday, Toyota announced it would begin building its first North American hybrid car in 2006 at its Georgetown, Ky., plant.

The numbers are turning some heads.

"I was a huge skeptic," says Walter McManus, an auto industry researcher at the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute in Ann Arbor. "But I've basically crossed over to the dark side. You can't argue with the market reaction."

The Right will. It ignores markets if they disagree with ideology.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:39 PM


Normalizing Torture, One Rollicking Hour At a Time (ADAM GREEN, 5/22/05, NY Times)

THE acclaimed Fox series "24" has received a lot of attention over its four successful seasons: for its innovative real-time format, its braided storylines, its heady brew of national security and sentimentality, and its uncanny topicality. From Balkan nationalist revenge to rogue agents with biological weapons, wars on and of terror have been portrayed in exacting detail, shaping entertainment out of headlines that often stretch the imagination.

This is even more true of the current season. with its potent mix of diverse elements - including a two-stage nuclear conspiracy plot; the formation of an unsympathetic confederation of sleeper cells, defense contractors and rogue scientists; and even a subplot about Sino-American conflict - all poised for unpredictable resolution Monday evening. Yet it's possible that this year's "24" will be most remembered not for its experiments with television formulas, but for its portrayal of torture in prime time. [...]

[O]n the present season of "24" torture has gone from being an infrequent shock bid to being a main thread of the plot. At least a half-dozen characters have undergone interrogation under conditions that meet conventional definitions of torture. The methods portrayed have varied, and include chemical injection, electric shock and old-fashioned bone-breaking. Those subjected to these treatments have constituted a broad range, too, from an uncooperative associate of the plotters to a Middle Eastern wife and son linked to an operative to the teenaged son of the current season's secretary of defense, James Heller (William Devane).

In the sort of marriage of political crisis and melodrama that marks "24" as a leader in television's post-9/11 genre of national security thriller, Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland), now romantically involved with Heller's daughter, Audrey (Kim Raver), interrogated her estranged husband, Paul, using the electrical cords of a hotel lamp, only to discover that the allegations linking Paul to the unfolding nuclear-threat plot were false. The prospects for Jack and Audrey's relationship took several turns for the worse from that point, reaching a low with Paul's death after Jack withheld urgently needed medical care in order to save another patient, a Chinese scientist being prepared, fittingly, for interrogation.

All of which brings to mind the debate over torture that erupted - and just as strikingly receded - after the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and news of the administration's efforts to redefine military interrogation standards. Engaged as "24" is with the fine points of actual counterterrorism policy, its current interest in torture could be seen as a way of questioning the limits of just war. The show's producers, for their part, don't see it that way.

"I hate to disappoint you," said Joel Surnow, an executive producer, "but we don't work that way. We construct our stories based on what's happening to the characters in a particular episode, and how they respond to the demands of their own personal challenges."

Still, recent plot developments suggest a rightward tilt.

It's a terrifying thing for the MSM to watch the popular culture slip away from them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:36 PM


Frist schedules Senate ‘all-nighter’ on judges (Tom Curry, May 23, 2005, MSNBC)

Cots were brought into the Capitol Monday as Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist scheduled an all-night session stretching into Tuesday to dramatize the debate over President Bush’s judicial nominees and the filibusters that Democrats have used to block votes on 10 of them. [...]

The president on Monday insisted anew that all of his judicial nominees receive a vote by the full Senate as a dozen lawmakers raced to avert a showdown that threatens to paralyze the chamber and Bush’s agenda.

“My job is to pick people who will interpret the Constitution, not use the bench from which to write laws,” Bush said from the White House. “And I expect them to get an up-or-down vote, that’s what I expect. And I think the American people expect that as well — people ought to have a fair hearing and they ought to get an up-or-down vote on the floor.”

Posted by Peter Burnet at 2:22 PM


Rights groups will adopt U.S. war dodger (Colin Perkel, Canadian Press, May 22nd, 2005)

Prominent human-rights group Amnesty International has declared that it will adopt a young American war dodger as a "prisoner of conscience" if Canada deports him to the United States and he ends up in jail.

Amnesty says it considers Jeremy Hinzman a legitimate conscientious objector to the war in Iraq, even though Canadian immigration authorities have decided otherwise.

Hinzman, 26, fled to Canada in search of asylum just days before his Airborne Division unit was deployed to Iraq to fight in a war he considered illegal under international law, one in which he feared he would be forced to commit atrocities.

His refugee claim was rejected in March by the Immigration and Refugee Board, and now Hinzman, who has filed a Federal Court challenge to the ruling in hopes of staving off deportation, faces a court-martial in the U.S. and up to five years in jail.

"Accordingly, should he be imprisoned upon his return to the United States, Amnesty International would consider him to be a prisoner of conscience," the group said in a statement.

The designation is important, at least symbolically, because it will raise awareness of the issue and put public pressure on American authorities, said Gloria Nafziger, a refugee co-ordinator with Amnesty's Canadian section.

"People would write letters to the U.S. government asking that he be released and stating their objection to his imprisonment," Nafziger said.

Perhaps the government could write back and say it is the tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers who dream of coming home but do the duty they took an oath to do who are the real prisoners of conscience.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 12:47 PM


Ashes to ashes, brain to disk (AFP, May 23, 2005)

Death could become a thing of the past by the mid-21st century as computer technology becomes sophisticated enough for the contents of a brain to be "downloaded" on to a supercomputer, according to a leading British futurologist.

However, he told The Observer newspaper, this technology might be expensive enough to remain the preserve of the rich for a decade or two more.

Among other eyebrow-raising predictions by Ian Pearson, head of the futurology unit at British telecommunications giant BT, is the prospect of computer systems being able to feel emotions.

This could eventually involve such things as aeroplanes being programmed to be even more terrified of crashing than their passengers, meaning they would do whatever possible to stay airborne.

While the predictions might sound outlandish, they were merely the product of extrapolations drawn from the current rate at which computers are evolving, Pearson said in an interview with the newspaper. "If you draw the timelines, realistically by 2050 we would expect to be able to download your mind into a machine, so when you die it's not a major career problem," he said.

Just our idea of Heaven—arguing evolution with Harry for all eternity

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:15 PM


Need a tutor? Call India. (Anupreeta Das and Amanda Paulson, 5/23/05, CS Monitor)

Somit Basak's tutoring style is hardly unusual. The engineering graduate spices up lessons with games, offers rewards for excellent performance, and tries to keep his students' interest by linking the math formulas they struggle with to real-life examples they can relate to.

Unlike most tutors, however, Mr. Basak lives thousands of miles away from his students - he is a New Delhi resident who goes to work at 6 a.m. so that he can chat with American students doing their homework around dinnertime.

Americans have slowly grown accustomed to the idea that the people who answer their customer-service and computer-help calls may be on the other side of the globe. Now, some students may find their tutor works there, too.

While the industry is still relatively tiny, India's abundance of math and engineering graduates - willing to teach from a distance for far less money than their American counterparts - has made the country an attractive resource for some US tutoring firms.

It's a phenomenon that some hail as a triumph of technology, a boon for science-starved American students and the latest demonstration that globalization is leveling the playing field, particularly when it comes to intellectual capital. But critics worry about a lack of tutoring standards and question how well anyone can teach over a physical and cultural gulf. The fact that some of the outsourced tutors may be used to fulfill the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) supplemental education requirements - and get federal funds to do so - has been even more controversial.

They can teach better English than most in the NEA.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:29 AM


Senate Leaders Prepare for Crucial Filibuster Vote (Shailagh Murray and Charles Babington, May 23, 2005, Washington Post)

A dozen Senate negotiators hope to avert a showdown today over judicial filibusters, but the chamber's Democratic and Republican leaders signaled yesterday that they are ready for a long-awaited vote that could deeply affect the federal judiciary and the operations of Congress.

Senators in both parties said tomorrow's scheduled vote on whether to ban filibusters of judicial nominees remains too close to predict because a handful of crucial GOP members have declined to divulge their intentions. Some of those Republicans exchanged phone calls over the weekend with a few Democrats seeking an agreement that would retain the right to filibuster but make its use highly unlikely this year or next -- provided that both sides act in good faith. [...]

As Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) points out, filibustering legislation is one thing -- the contents can be tweaked and moved around until enough senators are satisfied. In this case, the filibuster's target is a person nominated to the federal bench, and "you can't cut off a left arm and put on a new left arm," he said.

It's the Right arm they're trying to cut off.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:02 AM


Jump-starting hydrogen car dream: SCHWARZENEGGER TO SEEK $54 MILLION FOR FUEL STATIONS, GRANTS (Paul Rogers, 5/23/05, Mercury News)

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will advocate that California invest $54 million in public money to help build a network of up to 100 hydrogen fueling stations statewide within five years, according to new details of his ``Hydrogen Highway'' plan.

A team of more than 200 scientists, automakers and environmentalists spent a year drafting the 144-page document, which the governor requested last year, calling hydrogen-powered cars a way to reduce smog, slow global warming and wean the nation from oil.

The ``California Hydrogen Highway Blueprint'' is set to be formally unveiled Thursday at a Sacramento news conference, and is posted on the state's Web site. If state lawmakers approve funding, California would move ahead of the 13 other states pursuing hydrogen initiatives.

The plan concludes that California can help speed a national transition from gasoline vehicles to environmentally friendly hydrogen fuel cell cars -- whose tailpipes emit only water vapor.

The money would provide matching funds to industry to build up to 100 hydrogen fueling stations in the Bay Area, Sacramento, Los Angeles and San Diego. Because 39 already exist or are planned soon, 61 new stations, at a cost of about $1 million each, would need to be built by 2010, the report says. Funding also would provide state grants to automakers of $10,000 per vehicle.

``The idea is that if you build it, they will come,'' said Alan Lloyd, secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency. ``You have to lay the groundwork.'

Posted by Peter Burnet at 9:59 AM


Unmitigated Galloway (Christopher Hitchens, Weekly Standard, May 30th, 2005)

To this day, George Galloway defiantly insists, as he did before the senators, that he has "never seen a barrel of oil, owned one, bought one, sold one, and neither has anybody on my behalf." As a Clintonian defense this has its admirable points: I myself have never seen a kilowatt, but I know that a barrel is also a unit and not an entity. For the rest, his defense would be more impressive if it answered any charge that has actually been made. Galloway is not supposed by anyone to have been an oil trader. He is asked, simply, to say what he knows about his chief fundraiser, nominee, and crony. And when asked this, he flatly declines to answer. We are therefore invited by him to assume that, having earlier acquired a justified reputation for loose bookkeeping in respect of "charities," he switched sides in Iraq, attached himself to a regime known for giving and receiving bribes, appointed a notorious middleman as his envoy, kept company with the corrupt inner circle of the Baath party, helped organize a vigorous campaign to retain that party in power, and was not a penny piece the better off for it. I think I believe this as readily as any other reasonable and objective person would. If you wish to pursue the matter with Galloway himself, you will have to find the unlisted number for his villa in Portugal.

Even if the matter of subornation and bribery had never arisen, there would remain the crucial question of Iraq itself. It was said during the time of sanctions on that long-suffering country that the embargo was killing, or had killed, as many as a million people, many of them infants. Give credit to the accusers here. Some of the gravamen of the charge must be true. Add the parasitic regime to the sanctions, over 12 years, and it is clear that the suffering of average Iraqis must have been inordinate.

There are only two ways this suffering could have been relieved. Either the sanctions could have been lifted, as Galloway and others demanded, or the regime could have been removed. The first policy, if followed without conditions, would have untied the hands of Saddam. The second policy would have had the dual effect of ending sanctions and terminating a hideous and lawless one-man rule. But when the second policy was proposed, the streets filled with people who absolutely opposed it. Saying farewell to the regime was, evidently, too high a price to pay for relief from sanctions.

Let me phrase this another way: Those who had alleged that a million civilians were dying from sanctions were willing, nay eager, to keep those same murderous sanctions if it meant preserving Saddam! This is repellent enough in itself. If the Saddam regime was cheating its terrified people of food and medicine in order to finance its own propaganda, that would perhaps be in character. But if it were to be discovered that any third parties had profited from the persistence of "sanctions plus regime," prolonging the agony and misery thanks to personal connections, then one would have to become quite judgmental.

The bad faith of a majority of the left is instanced by four things (apart, that is, from mass demonstrations in favor of prolonging the life of a fascist government). First, the antiwar forces never asked the Iraqi left what it wanted, because they would have heard very clearly that their comrades wanted the overthrow of Saddam. (President Jalal Talabani's party, for example, is a member in good standing of the Socialist International.) This is a betrayal of what used to be called internationalism. Second, the left decided to scab and blackleg on the Kurds, whose struggle is the oldest cause of the left in the Middle East. Third, many leftists and liberals stressed the cost of the Iraq intervention as against the cost of domestic expenditure, when if they had been looking for zero-sum comparisons they might have been expected to cite waste in certain military programs, or perhaps the cost of the "war on drugs." This, then, was mere cynicism. Fourth, and as mentioned, their humanitarian talk about the sanctions turned out to be the most inexpensive hypocrisy.

George Galloway--having been rightly expelled by the British Labour party for calling for "jihad" against British troops, and having since then hailed the nihilism and sadism and sectarianism that goes by the lazy name of the Iraqi "insurgency" or, in his circles, "resistance"--ran for election in a new seat in East London and was successful in unseating the Labour incumbent. His party calls itself RESPECT, which stands for "Respect, Equality, Socialism, Peace, Environment, Community, Trade Unionism." (So that really ought to be RESPECTU, except that it would then sound less like an Aretha Franklin song and more like an organ of the Romanian state under Ceausescu.)

The defeated incumbent, Oona King, is of mixed African and Jewish heritage, and had to endure an appalling whispering campaign, based on her sex and her combined ethnicities. Who knows who started this torrent of abuse? Galloway certainly has, once again, remained adequately uninformed about it. His chief appeal was to the militant Islamist element among Asian immigrants who live in large numbers in his district, and his main organizational muscle was provided by a depraved sub-Leninist sect called the Socialist Workers party. The servants of the one god finally meet the votaries of the one-party state. Perfect. To this most opportunist of alliances, add some Tory and Liberal Democrat "tactical voters" whose hatred of Tony Blair eclipses everything else.

Perhaps I may be allowed a closing moment of sentiment here? To the left, the old East End of London was once near-sacred ground. It was here in 1936 that a massive demonstration of longshoremen, artisans, and Jewish refugees and migrants made a human wall and drove back a determined attempt by Sir Oswald Mosley's Blackshirts to mount a march of intimidation. The event is still remembered locally as "The Battle of Cable Street." That part of London, in fact, was one of the few place in Europe where the attempt to raise the emblems of fascism was defeated by force.

And now, on the same turf, there struts a little popinjay who defends dictatorship abroad and who trades on religious sectarianism at home. Within a month of his triumph in a British election, he has flown to Washington and spat full in the face of the Senate. A megaphone media in London, and a hysterical fan-club of fundamentalists and political thugs, saw to it that he returned as a conquering hero and all-round celeb. If only the supporters of regime change, and the friends of the Afghan and Iraqi and Kurdish peoples, could manifest anything like the same resolve and determination.

This masterpiece also gives an excellent insight into how leftist activism works—and who it relies upon.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:25 AM


Dawn of an Islamic Revolution: A Muslim reformation, after centuries of stony sleep, has finally awoken and is now slouching toward Medina. (Reza Aslan, Excerpt from No god but God)

On the day Khomeini returned to Iran, I took my four-year old sister by the hand and, despite my mother's warning not to venture outdoors, led her out of our apartment in downtown Tehran to join the celebrations in the streets. It had been days since we had gone outside. The days preceding the Shah's exile and the Ayatollah's return had been violent ones. The schools were closed, most television and radio stations shut down, and our quiet, suburban neighborhood deserted. So when we looked out of our window on that February morning and saw the euphoria in the streets, no warning could have kept us inside.

Filling a plastic pitcher with Tang and stealing two packages of Dixie Cups from our mother's cupboard, my sister and I snuck out to join the revelry. One by one we filled the cups and passed them out to the crowd. Strangers stopped to lift us up and kiss our cheeks. Handfuls of sweets were thrown from open windows. There was music and dancing everywhere. I wasn't really sure what we were celebrating, but I didn't care. I was swept up in the moment and enthralled by the strange words on everyone's lips -- words I had heard before but which were still mystifying and unexplained: Freedom! Liberty! Democracy!

A few months later, the promise of those words seemed about to be fulfilled when Iran's provisional government drafted a constitution for the newly formed and thrillingly titled Islamic Republic of Iran. Under Khomeini's guidance, the constitution was a combination of third-world anti-imperialism mixed with the socio-economic theories of legendary Iranian ideologues like Jalal Al-e Ahmad and Ali Shariati, the religio-political philosophies of Hasan al-Banna and Sayyid Qutb, and the traditional Shiite ideals of Islamic populism. Its founding articles promised equality of the sexes, religious pluralism, social justice, the freedom of speech, and the right to peaceful assembly -- all the lofty principles the revolution had fought to attain -- while simultaneously affirming the Islamic character of the new Republic.

In some ways, Iran's new constitution did not differ markedly from the one written after the country's first anti-imperialist revolution in 1905, except that this constitution appeared to envisage two governments. The first, representing the sovereignty of the people, included a popularly elected President who would serve as the executive of a highly centralized state, a Parliament charged with creating and debating laws, and an independent Judiciary to interpret those laws. The second, representing the sovereignty of God, included just one man: the Ayatollah Khomeini.

This was the theory of the Valayat-e Faqih ("the guardianship of the jurist"), which Khomeini had been developing during his years of exile in France. In essence, the Valayat-e Faqih proposed that in the absence of the Imams (the divinely-inspired saints of Shi'ism) the country's "most learned cleric" (the Faqih, also called the "Supreme Jurist") should be given "the responsibility of transacting all the business and carrying out all the affairs with which the Imams were entrusted."

Khomeini was not the first Shi'ite theologian to have made this claim; the same idea was formulated at the turn of the twentieth century by politically minded clerics like Sheikh Fazlollah Nuri (one of Khomeini's ideological heroes) and the Ayatollah Kashani. But what was startling about the Valayat-e Faqih was Khomeini's insistence that the Faqih's authority on earth must be equal to the infallible and divine authority of the Imam. In other words, Khomeini had made himself a saint who's ever decision was binding and who's very authority was unconditional.

It is a sign of the great diversity of religious and political thought that exists in Shi'ism that most other ayatollahs in Iran -- including his superiors, the Ayatollahs Boroujerdi and Shariatmadari -- rejected the Valayat-e Faqih, claiming that the role of Muslim clerics in post-revolutionary Iran was merely to preserve the spiritual character of the Islamic state, not to run it. But what made Khomeini so alluring was his ability to couch his radical theology in the populist rhetoric of the time. He thus reached out to Iran's influential communist and Marxist factions by reformulating traditional Shi'ite ideology into a call for an uprising of the oppressed masses. He wooed the secular nationalists by lacing his speeches with allusions to Iran's mythic past, while purposely obscuring the details of his political philosophy. "We do not say that government must be in the hands of the Faqih," he claimed. "Rather we say that government must be run in accordance with God's laws for the welfare of the country." What he often failed to mention publicly was that such a state would not be feasible except, as he wrote, "with the supervision of the religious leaders."

Consequently, Khomeini was able, by the power of his charisma, to institute the Valayat-e Faqih as the model for Iran's post-revolutionary government, paving the way for the institutionalization of absolute clerical control. Still, Iranians were too elated by their new-found independence and too blinded by the conspiracy theories floating in the air about another attempt by the CIA and the U.S. embassy in Tehran to reestablish the Shah on his throne (just as they had done in 1953), to recognize the implications of the Valayat-e Faqih. Despite warnings from the provisional government and the vociferous arguments of Khomeini's rival ayatollahs, particularly Ayatollah Shariatmadari (whom Khomeini eventually stripped of his religious credentials despite centuries of Shiite law forbidding such actions), the Iran's new constitution was approved in a national referendum by over 98 percent of the electorate.

By the time most Iranians realized what they had voted for, Saddam Hussein, encouraged by the United States and furnished with chemical and biological samples by the CDC and the Virginia-based company the American Type Culture Collection, launched an attack on Iranian soil. As happens in times of war, all dissenting voices were silenced in the interest of national security, and the dream that had instigated the revolution a year earlier gave way to the reality of a totalitarian state plagued by the gross ineptitude of a ruling clerical regime wielding unconditional religious and political authority.

The intention of the U.S. government in supporting Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war was to curb the spread of Iran's revolution, but it had the more disastrous effect of curbing its evolution. It wasn't until the end of the war in 1988 and the death of Khomeini a year later that the democratic ideals embedded in Iran's constitution were gradually unearthed by a new generation of Iranians too young to remember the tyranny of the Shah but old enough to realize that the present system was not what their parents had intended. It was their discontent that fueled the activities of a handful of reformist academics, politicians, philosophers, and theologians who have embarked on a new revolution in Iran not to secularize the country but to refocus it on genuine Islamic values like pluralism, freedom, justice, human rights, and above all, democracy. As the eminent Iranian political philosopher, Abdol Karim Soroush, has defiantly remarked, "We no longer claim that a genuinely religious government can be democratic but that it cannot be otherwise."

Iran's previous revolutions in 1905 and 1953 were hijacked by foreigners who interests were served by suppressing democracy in the region. The revolution of 1979 was hijacked by the country's own clerical establishment who used their moral authority to gain absolute power. This new revolution, however, despite the brutally intransigent response it has thus far received from Iran's clerical oligarchy, will not be quelled. That's because the fight for Islamic democracy in Iran is merely one front in a worldwide battle taking place in the Muslim world -- a jihad, if you will -- to strip the traditionalist Ulama of their monopoly over the meaning and message of Islam, and pave the way for the realization of the long-awaited and hard-fought Islamic Reformation that is already under way in most of the Muslim world.

The reformation of Christianity was a terrifying process, but it was not, as it has so often been presented, a collision between Protestant reform and Catholic intransigence. Rather, the Christian Reformation was an argument over the future of the faith -- a violent, bloody argument that engulfed Europe in devastation and war for more than a century. Thus far, the Islamic Reformation has proved no different.

For most of the Western world, Sept. 11, 2001, signaled the commencement of a worldwide struggle between Islam and the West -- the ultimate manifestation of the clash of civilizations. From the Islamic perspective, however, the attacks on New York and Washington were part of an ongoing clash between those Muslims who strive to reconcile their religious values with the realities of the modern world, and those who react to modernism and reform by reverting -- sometimes fanatically -- to the "fundamentals" of their faith.

This is a cataclysmic internal struggle taking place not in the deserts of the Arabian Peninsula, where the Islamic message was first introduced to the world, but in the developing capitals of the Muslim world -- Tehran, Cairo, Damascus, and Jakarta -- and in the cosmopolitan capitals of Europe and the United States -- New York, London, Paris, and Berlin -- where that message is being redefined by scores of first and second generation Muslim immigrants.

By merging the Islamic values of their ancestors with the democratic ideals of their new homes, these Muslims have formed what Tariq Ramadan, the Swiss-born Muslim intellectual and grandson of Hasan al-Banna, terms a "mobilizing force" for a Muslim reformation that, after centuries of stony sleep, has finally awoken and is now slouching toward Medina to be born.

It's a terrific book, one many of us have been hoping for since at least 9-11, offering a reformist vision of Islam and its future, but one consaistent with its core values and traditions. The good folks at FSB Associates were kind enough to supply a couple copies so we could pay off some contest winners (b & PapayaSF). Do we owe anyone else besides Pat H and JonofAtlanta books?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:45 AM


UK firm claims breakthrough in fuel cell technology (Stuart Penson, May 19, 2005, Reuters)

A small British technology company on Thursday claimed to be on the verge of unlocking the vast potential of fuel cells as a commercially viable source of green energy.

Cambridge-based CMR Fuel Cells said it had made a breakthrough with a new design of fuel cell which is a tenth of the size of existing models and small enough to replace conventional batteries in laptop computers.

"We firmly believe CMR technology is the equivalent of the jump from transistors to integrated circuits," said John Halfpenny, the firm's chief executive. [...]

CMR said the new design would run for four times longer than conventional batteries in a laptop or other devices like power tools.

"It's also instantly rechargable," said Michael Priestnall, chief technology officer at CMR. Priestnall and chief engineer Michael Evans came up with the design while working at Cambridge-based consultancy Generics Group.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:38 AM

IF HE WERE AMERICAN HE'D BE ALIVE (via Robert Schwartz):

Boy dies after cash-strapped Great Ormond St cancels op (Karyn Miller and Jamie Renwick, 22/05/2005, Daily Telegraph)

A nine-year-old boy has died after an operation to treat his severe epilepsy was cancelled because Britain's top children's hospital had run out of money.

Peter Buckle, from Evenwood, in County Durham, had a massive seizure and died last Monday. He had been waiting to undergo surgery at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London.

The brain operation which might have saved his life had been cancelled twice. The first time, on March 15, Great Ormond Street cut back its operation lists after finding that it had treated more children than its budget allowed for. The operation was rescheduled for April 22, but cancelled three days beforehand when a ward was closed after staff contracted a viral infection. It had since been rescheduled for June 10.

Peter's mother, Judith, 42, said: "We will never know if the operation would have saved him - that is the most awful thing about this. I was very bitter, just like any mother would be, but it has been a long road. We are devastated. But that's life, isn't it?

"We will remember him for all the wonderful memories he has given to us. He was our special little boy."

Ah well, someone's always losing in those zero-sum games...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:35 AM


Protesters overshadow Laura Bush's Mideast tour (Steven Erlanger, MAY 23, 2005, The New York Times)

The first lady, who was encouraged to visit Israel by her husband, was greeted by about 20 protesters as she walked along the huge plaza before entering the Dome of the Rock, one of the Muslim world's holiest shrines.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:33 AM


Nazism and the German economic miracle (Henry C K Liu, 5/23/05, Asia Times)

The term "social market economy" was coined by one of German chancellor Ludwig Erhard's close associates, economist Alfred Mueller-Armack, who served as secretary of state at the Economics Ministry in Bonn from 1958-63. Mueller-Armack defined social market economy as combining market freedom with social equity, with a vigilant regulatory regime to create an equitable framework for free market processes. The success of the social market economy made the Federal Republic of Germany the dominant component in the European Union. Focusing on the social aspect, Erhard himself shied away from praising free markets. He felt that social rules of the market-economy game must be adhered to as a precondition in order to prevent unbridled pursuit of profit from gaining the upper hand.

Erhard's concept of a socially responsive regulated market economy was based on a fusion of the Bismarck legacy of social welfare and US New Deal ideology of demand management through full employment, price control, state subsidies, anti-trust regulations, state control of monetary stability, etc. It was aided by the infusion of foreign capital through the Marshall Plan. It proved to be effective for rapid and strong recovery of the West German economy via guaranteed access to the huge US market during the Cold War, culminating in the postwar economic miracle (Wirtschaftswunder).

Yet Erhard's program bore a close resemblance to the early economic strategy of the Third Reich.

The unintentional genius of the Marshall Plan was that it prevented Europe from undergoing the kind of economic reforms that would have made it viable in the long run and instead left it with the social welfare system that has helped destroy it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:21 AM


Bright pupils let down by state schools (Tony Halpin, 5/23/05, Times of London)

THOUSANDS of comprehensive schools are still failing Britain’s most able children, Ruth Kelly, the Education Secretary, has been told.

Research, commissioned by a key government adviser, shows that pupils rated among the brightest prospects at primary school go on to under-achieve at GCSE, The Times has learnt. Some do only nearly half as well as their peers in good schools.

The most politically explosive finding was of a direct relationship between the number of bright children in a school and individual achievements. [...]

Professor Jesson found that nearly 6,000 pupils who took the tests in 1999 were admitted to 167 selective grammar schools and 5,800 went on to 223 high-achieving comprehensives. The remaining 16,500 went into 2,407 comprehensives, many in urban areas, with lower achievement.

When the same students took their GCSEs last summer, many had effectively been lost because schools failed to push them to reach their potential.

Professor Jesson found that success rates declined in line with the numbers of bright children in a school, and dipped sharply when there were fewer than five.

Public schooling isn't compatible with excellence.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:49 AM


A Costly Insurance Shift for Workers (Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, 5/23/05, LA Times)

For years, they were the kinds of health insurance plans one found at small businesses or among the self-employed, plans that had huge deductibles and required workers to pay a lot of medical bills themselves — such as allergy shots, chest X-rays and the cost of a new baby.

They weren't the policies most people preferred, but they were the best some people could afford, better than no insurance at all.

Now, as medical costs keep climbing, those high-deductible plans are spreading to the giant corporations that have long been the backbone of traditional job-related, low-deductible health insurance. And if the trend continues, it could reshape the medical insurance landscape and sharply redistribute costs, risks and responsibilities for many of the 160 million Americans with private coverage.

A number of large employers, including defense contractor Northrop Grumman Corp., the Wendy's hamburger chain, high-tech conglomerate Fujitsu and office supply retailer Staples Inc., are adding what they call consumer-directed health plans to their menus of insurance options.

In a recent survey, 26% of large employers said they would offer such plans in 2006, up from 14% this year. Another survey found that about half of large companies were considering adding them.

A few companies are pursuing a "full replacement" strategy that leaves workers with no other choice. But even where such plans are optional, they are proving popular with workers who might once have scorned a plan that could leave them with several thousand dollars in medical bills each year. At Fujitsu, about half of 5,000 eligible U.S. employees have signed up for the option.

What suddenly makes such plans attractive to workers is that many are caught in a painful bind: In recent years, pay increases have been small at best. At the same time, employers have been requiring workers to pay a larger and larger share of their health insurance premiums. It's not uncommon for higher payroll deductions for healthcare to more than offset any pay raises.

With the high-deductible plan, workers pay lower monthly premiums and their employers commonly help them build up a special savings account to cushion the impact of a larger annual deductible. The accounts are controlled by the employees, which has led insurers and employers to label the plans "consumer-directed."

Even if high-deductible plans offer immediate relief for many workers, and big cost savings to employers, the allure may not last. And the plans may do little or nothing to solve the basic problem of soaring health costs.

"You're beginning to see a lot of growth in these plans, not because they're going to solve America's healthcare challenge, but because it's a way for employers to cut their out-of-control benefit costs," said Robert Laszewski, a consultant to health insurance companies. [...]

[T]he short-term appeal of high-deductible plans is easy to see. Employees get a bit more take-home pay. Employers get some relief from higher healthcare costs.

For big companies, the new plans represent an upfront savings of about 10% and the expectation of more gradual cost increases over time. Last year, large employers spent an average of $5,584 per worker for coverage through a high-deductible plan, compared with $6,181 for a worker in the typical preferred provider network, according to a Mercer Human Resource Consulting survey.

Employers say the new plans are not designed primarily to shift costs to workers. The ultimate goal, they say, is to cut healthcare costs by changing consumers' behavior — teaching them to be more cost-conscious about things such as generic drugs.

"In three to five years, every company is going to offer them," predicted Alexander Domaszewicz, a Mercer senior consultant based in Newport Beach. "People are going to be coming over from companies that have them, and they are going to want them."

There needs to be a universal mandatory system that starts at birth, but once you're older your employer should be required to contribute.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:36 AM


Election Choices Slashed in Iran: Only six out of more than 1,000 presidential hopefuls are allowed to run. Nation's reformists warn the Guardian Council of a backlash. (Nahid Siamdoust and Megan K. Stack, May 23, 2005, LA Times)

Iran's hard-line Guardian Council disqualified more than 1,000 presidential hopefuls on Sunday, narrowing a diverse field of candidates for next month's election to just six conservative contenders.

The surprise announcement all but guarantees that a conservative will take over the presidency from moderate Mohammad Khatami, whose attempts at reform have been stifled in the increasingly rigid political climate of recent years.

Iran's largest reformist party decried the disqualifications and threatened to boycott the June 17 election unless the decision was reversed by the Guardian Council, which answers directly to the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

In a similar move last year, the Guardian Council disqualified more than 2,500 reformist candidates from parliamentary elections. Voter turnout plunged, staunch conservatives won control of the legislature, and despair rose among Iranians seeking a more moderate government.

The effort to consolidate power in the hands of conservatives comes at a sensitive time for Iran's leaders, who are negotiating with the West over the nation's nuclear program.

Iran says its aims are to generate electricity, but the United States has accused Tehran of secretly working to build a nuclear bomb. At least one of the reformist candidates disqualified Sunday had urged Iran to make concessions in the talks.

Rajabali Mazrouei, a prominent member of the largest reform party, the Islamic Iran Participation Front, urged the council to reconsider the disqualifications.

"We are warning the Guardian Council that we will not participate in the election if it doesn't reverse its decision," Mazrouei told Associated Press. "Barring reform candidates means there will be no free or fair election."

Such actions merely demonstrate the fear of the hard-liners and the certain knowledge that they couldn't win open elections. But the reform required here is discrete enough that domestic and international pressure could be brought to bear on just making the one slight change...the rest of the dominoes follow.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:23 AM


Opposing free trade (Michael Barone, May 23, 2005, Townhall)

CAFTA covers Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic and is similar to other free-trade agreements that have been approved by Congress -- with Mexico and Canada in November 1993, Jordan in July 2001, Singapore and Chile in July 2003, and Australia and Morocco in July 2004. There is this difference:

Under the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI), begun in the 1980s, more than 80 percent of the products from CAFTA countries already enter the U.S. duty-free. CAFTA would immediately remove import barriers on most U.S. manufactured goods and half of U.S. farm exports. CAFTA would also allow a small increase in sugar exports to the United States, rising from 1.2 percent of current sugar consumption in the first year to 1.7 percent 15 years later.

Like the free-trade agreement with Australia, CAFTA seems to be an almost unalloyed win-win. U.S. manufacturers and farmers would gain access to markets. U.S. farm interests have been pushing to open up Cuba, which has 11 million people with very low incomes. CAFTA would open up countries with 46 million people with higher incomes. CAFTA countries would be able to import U.S. textiles and fabrics and use them to make apparel that would be competitive with Chinese products. That's why the National Council of Textile Organizations endorsed the agreement.

Yet it appears that most Democrats and not a few Republicans are set to oppose CAFTA. Why? Well, the AFL-CIO opposes i...

Remember how even folks like the NY Times worked themselves up into a lather over George Bush's steel tariffs? Why aren't they all denouncing the Democrats' attack on free trade now?

May 22, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:32 PM


The Qur'an Question (Evan Thomas and Michael Isikoff, 5/30/05, Newsweek)

The International Committee of the Red Cross announced that it had provided the Pentagon with confidential reports about U.S. personnel disrespecting or mishandling Qur'ans at Gitmo in 2002 and 2003. Simon Schorno, an ICRC spokesman, said the Red Cross had provided "several" instances that it believed were "credible." The ICRC report included three specific allegations of offensive treatment of the Qur'an by guards. Defense Department spokesman Lawrence Di Rita would not comment on these allegations except to say that the Gitmo commanders routinely followed up ICRC reports, including these, and could not substantiate them. He then gave what is from the Defense Department point of view more context and important new information.

It is clear that in 2002, military investigators became frustrated by the unresponsiveness of some high-profile terror suspects, including one who had close contact with the 9/11 hijackers. At the time, fears of another attack from Al Qaeda were running high, and the Pentagon was determined to make the terror suspects talk. The interrogators asked for, and received, Pentagon permission to use tactics like isolation and sleep deprivation. Less clear, however, is what happened to more run-of-the-mill detainees among the 800 or so housed at Guantanamo at the time.

According to Di Rita, when the first prisons were built for suspected terrorists at Guantanamo in early 2002, prison guards were instructed to respect the detainees' religious rituals. The prisoners were given Qur'ans, which they hung from the walls of their cells in cotton surgical masks provided by the prison. Log entries by the guards indicate that in about a dozen cases, the detainees themselves somehow damaged their Qur'ans. In one case a prisoner allegedly ripped up a Qur'an; in another a prisoner tore the cover off his Qur'an. In three cases, detainees tried to stuff pages from their Qur'ans down their toilets, according to the Defense Department's account of what is in the guards' reports. (NEWSWEEK was not permitted to see the log items.) The log entries do not indicate why the detainees might have done this, said Di Rita, and prison commanders concluded that certain hard-core prisoners would try to agitate the other detainees by alleging disrespect for Muslim articles of faith.

In light of the controversy, one of these incidents bears special notice. Last week, NEWSWEEK interviewed Command Sgt. John VanNatta, who served as the prison's warden from October 2002 to the fall of 2003. VanNatta recounted that in 2002, the inmates suddenly started yelling that the guards had thrown a Qur'an on or near an Asian-style squat toilet. The guards found an inmate who admitted that he had dropped his Qur'an near his toilet. According to VanNatta, the inmate then was taken cell to cell to explain this to other detainees to quell the unrest. But the incident could partly account for the multiple allegations among detainees, including one by a released British detainee in a lawsuit that claims that guards flushed Qur'ans down toilets.

After all, if you can't trust our enemies and their advocates who can you trust...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:11 PM


The Wreck of the U.S. Senate: It was foundering even before the filibuster flap. (Dick Meyer, May 22, 2005, Washington Post)

The Senate has managed to conduct the business of confirming or rejecting federal judges with relative efficiency and only occasional controversy for some 200 years. That the Senate is now going nuclear (to use its own vocabulary) over this legislative chore is a symptom of a rather serious illness in the upper body. Face it: Giving or withholding consent for judicial appointments is not akin to reversing global warming or ending world hunger. As overheated as the current standoff may be, it is a solvable problem and, worse, a problem of the Senate's own making. What has created the conditions -- and prevents a solution -- for this uber-partisan debacle is a degradation in the culture of the Senate that has grown acute since 1989.

The change has left the Senate less able to produce legislation on major issues, less able to compromise, less reflective of public opinion (ironically, since these people are obsessed with polls), and less able to produce leaders for both the institution itself and the whole nation. The current filibuster fiasco displays a Senate preoccupied -- no, paralyzed -- with issues that are simply not high priorities for voters but that are important to interests on the left and right. Meanwhile, the issues the majority of voters care most about -- such as securing the future of Medicare and Social Security, fixing the tax code, protecting private pensions and repairing health insurance -- are being punted.

One casualty of the Senate's post-1989 cantankerous culture was Republican Sen. Trent Lott, who was ousted from his job as majority leader in 2002 for making a crack that implied sympathy for the segregation in the old South. "The club is dead," Lott said, a year after his fall. "I'm not sure when it died, but the club is dead."

There are plenty of reasons not to mourn the passing of that club. A white male bastion, it tolerated segregation for far too long, was enamored of its pork barrel, and let its entrenched members linger well into undignified dotage. But the club had its merits. It facilitated compromise, character, competence and the occasional act of conscience, thus presenting a serious counterweight to White House power.

If I had to etch a date on the tombstone of The Senate Club it would be March 9, 1989, the day the Senate rejected, with a 53-47 vote, former four-term Texas senator John Tower to be secretary of defense under the first President Bush. This was only the ninth time in history that a Cabinet-level nominee had been rejected.

The Senate's clubby comity had already been strained by the bitter battle over Robert Bork's nomination to the Supreme Court and by the Iran-contra affair. But the long debate over Tower's misadventures with women and defense contractors and, most of all, his drinking was, if you will, a tippling point. Camaraderie became cat-fighting. That they did it to one of their own only made it worse.

Congressional cannibalism moved to the House. Two months after the Tower vote, the House Democratic whip, Tony Coelho, resigned under pressure over an inappropriate loan deal. Two weeks after that, House Speaker Jim Wright threw in the gavel because of ethics charges.

Odd that Mr. Meyer comes this close to pinning down the moment that the Congress began its descent into irreconcilable partisanship but the misses it and the single person who is most responsible. The proper date is January 3, 1989, the day that George Mitchell, the most partisan leader in modern congressional history, became the majority leader in the Senate.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:14 PM


No 'Fahrenheit 9/11,' film depicts war in Iraq as liberation (Peter Ford, 5/23/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

Twelve months after Michael Moore scooped Cannes' top award with "Fahrenheit 9/11," - a scathing indictment of the Bush adminstration's handling of the war in Iraq - a very different movie director screened a very different view of the war at the world's premier cinematic gathering.

Director Hiner Saleem did not win the Golden Palm this year. But his film "Kilometre Zero" created a good deal of buzz at the competition, which closed on Saturday, not least because of its final scene.

"We're free! We're free!" two Iraqi Kurdish exiles shout exultantly as they hear the news of Saddam Hussein's overthrow on April 9, 2003. "We're free! We're free!"

That joyous reaction to the invasion of Iraq is not likely to go down well with the European audiences who idolized Mr. Moore. But Mr. Saleem, an Iraqi Kurd, is equally worried about being adopted as a standard-bearer by the war's supporters.

"My film is not the opposite of 'Fahrenheit 9/11' because I don't judge George Bush or the United States," Saleem says. " I judge Saddam Hussein and I simply say he was a monster."

As the primary victims of Mr. Hussein's brutality, subjected to poison gas and mass executions, "we Kurds would have been happy if the French or the Swedes had liberated us," he adds. "But it was the Americans who came. For us, the result is positive."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:05 PM


Automatic Signup In 401(k)s Backed (Jonathan Weisman, May 22, 2005, Washington Post)

House Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) will include a provision in his Social Security legislation to help employers make enrollment in 401(k) plans automatic unless workers choose to opt out, according to congressional staff and knowledgeable lobbyists.

The provision could have substantial impact on the nation's savings rate, which has declined from 7.2 percent in 1992 to barely 1 percent today. Recent academic research has shown that employee participation rates soar among companies with automatic enrollment in retirement plans.

Christin Baker, a spokesman for the Ways and Means Committee, said she could not confirm whether any particular provision has been included in the broad package of retirement savings proposals Thomas is assembling. But lobbyists who have met with Thomas say he has given his word on the matter.

"You can take it to the bank," said one Republican lobbyist with close committee ties, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect his relationship with the chairman.

Personal SS accounts would need an opt-out requirement too and for specific age -based redirections.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:41 PM


It's Sputnik Time Again:We take a few facts—a satellite, poor test scores—to concoct grand theories of economic decline. They sound right but are usually wrong. (Robert J. Samuelson, 5/22/05, Newsweek)

Americans are having another sputnik moment: one of those periodic alarms about some foreign economic menace. It was the Soviets in the 1950s and early 1960s, the Germans and the Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s, and now it's the Chinese and the Indians. To anyone old enough, there's no forgetting Oct. 4, 1957, when the Soviets orbited the first space satellite. It terrified us.

We'd taken our technological superiority for granted. Foolish us. Soon there were warnings of a "missile gap" with the Soviets. One senator admonished that Americans should "be less concerned with... the height of the tail fin on the new car and [more] prepared to shed blood, sweat and tears if this country and the free world are to survive."

The missile gap turned out to be a myth, as did many later theories explaining why the Germans and the Japanese would inevitably surpass us. They were said to have better managers, better workers and better schools. They outsaved and outinvested us. It was just a matter of time. Let's see. In 2004, Americans' per capita incomes averaged $38,324, reports the Conference Board. The figures for Germany and Japan were $26,937 and $29,193. The only country with a higher average income was Luxembourg at $53,958.

The American Empire, where the sky is always falling...and hitting rivals in the head.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:25 PM


Nelson sunk by PC raiding party (Andrew Porter, 5/22/05, Times of London)

ADMIRAL NELSON saw off the mighty Franco-Spanish fleet at the battle of Trafalgar but 200 years on, he has been sunk by a wave of political correctness.

Organisers of a re-enactment to mark the bicentenary of the battle next month have decided it should be between “a Red Fleet and a Blue Fleet” not British and French/Spanish forces.

Otherwise they fear visiting dignitaries, particularly the French, would be embarrassed at seeing their side routed.

Don't they have to be used to it by now?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:20 PM


Drama on the Hill: Americans shrug: As the Senate nears a showdown over filibusters, the answer to which party is winning the PR battle may be 'neither.' (Amanda Paulson, 5/23/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

In Washington, the showdown is looming. Republicans and Democrats are filling their PR arsenals and spinning the news before it occurs, trying to liven up arcane subjects like cloture and calling their opponents names that range from Hitler to Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, the latest Star Wars villain.

Inside the Beltway, it's shaping up to be the Great Filibuster Battle of 2005. The rest of America, however, seems to be giving the face-off a collective yawn. Many voters don't even know it's occurring, and many of those who do, don't care - or, worse, see it as more proof that Congress is wrapped up in its own partisan bickering when it should be dealing with issues that matter.

The Democrats have picked three issues to fight on: getting rid of Tom DeLay; not confirming judges; and not reforming Social Security. Who do they think those stances appeal to outside Washington?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:42 PM


Some worry Bush's plan could breed discontent (Larry Eichel, 5/22/05, Philadelphia Inquirer)

Ever since President Bush started talking about reforming Social Security, Democrats have accused him of wanting to destroy it.

At times, those attacks have had an almost hysterical quality to them, as if the very suggestion of change - to a system that needs some - should cause millions of Americans to recoil in horror.

But now that the White House has fleshed out its proposal to some degree, economists are taking a serious, analytical look at what the President wants.

And those of a more liberal orientation are saying that the result, regardless of the intent, would be to threaten the system's existence.

Not this year or next, mind you, but 50 years from now, when today's high school seniors start to retire.

How would it happen?

The economists say that the administration's plan combines voluntary private accounts with dwindling traditional benefits in a way that will make the traditional element look ever-worse to account holders, thereby breeding discontent.

At some point in the future, the argument goes, this discontent could undermine the whole idea of social insurance. In its current form, after all, Social Security does more than protect retirees; it covers the disabled, too, as well as families with young children who lose a parent.

The economists' numerical analysis, which is widely accepted, provides a thought-provoking look at how Social Security would evolve were Bush to get his way.

It's not Evolution--it's Intelligent Design.

Posted by David Cohen at 4:10 PM


Sic transit (Peter Keough, Boston Globe, 5/22/05)

In the spring issue of CommonWealth magazine (which I edit), [David] Luberoff made a provocative case [free registration required] against the environmental rationale for the Big Dig-related transit plans, now the subject of renewed litigation by the Conservation Law Foundation, which extracted the state commitment 14 years ago. Luberoff argues that the state's own analyses have shown that these projects, including the extension of the Green Line through Somerville and into Medford (which the administration continues to support on an even bigger scale), will do very little to clean the air or relieve traffic congestion - the two major environmental goals for the projects - and that they will do so at very high cost.

For a price tag of $621 million, Luberoff shows, based on 2004 state estimates, these projects would eliminate no more pollutants than could be accomplished by giving tune-ups to a couple of hundred automobiles that don't meet current emissions standards. ''In fact," he writes, ''the state probably could identify and replace each of those 200 cars with a Toyota Prius hybrid vehicle for about $5 million, which is less than 1 percent of the cost of the three transit projects."

Luberoff is equally dismissive of the idea that the three transit projects would relieve traffic congestion. They are expected to serve roughly 6,500 people daily, barely making a dent in the 770,000 who drive into Boston every day - despite the outsize cost. At $375 million to carry 3,500 people, the Green Line extension as originally conceived would add $16 million in debt service to the already beleaguered MBTA budget, or $18 a day per new rider for debt, plus $1 to $2 in operating subsidy. Cost per passenger would be a bit lower for the Red-Blue connector, but three times higher for renewed Arborway trolley service.

I am by no means the first person (I may well be the last) to note that, when it comes to modern American liberalism, there is no there, there. Conservatives obsess about defining conservatism, coming up with a unified theory of conservatism, retelling the history of conservatism and, best of all, tossing other people out of conservatism. Liberals have the "tossing people out" thing down pat, but otherwise seem to shy away from examining the underpinnings of their beliefs. Liberalism is, I've said, more of an aesthetic than an ideology.

Now, I think that I have been somewhat unfair. Liberalism is not simply an aesthetic movement. It also has its religious aspects: it is as if some particularly virulent pagan sect had survived alongside Judeo-Christianity over the last three millennia, going through similar reformations, evolutions and growth. That is, liberals are like the United Church of Baal, which rather than seeking to have us sacrifice babies on the idol's fiery alter, seek to have us pay higher taxes for light rail demonstration projects. Nothing will be accomplished, but the god will be propitiated.

Posted by David Cohen at 2:44 PM



When ace reporter Michael Isikoff had the scoop of the decade, a thoroughly sourced story about the president of the United States having an affair with an intern and then pressuring her to lie about it under oath, Newsweek decided not to run the story. Matt Drudge scooped Newsweek, followed by The Washington Post.

When Isikoff had a detailed account of Kathleen Willey's nasty sexual encounter with the president in the Oval Office, backed up with eyewitness and documentary evidence, Newsweek decided not to run it. Again, Matt Drudge got the story.

When Isikoff was the first with detailed reporting on Paula Jones' accusations against a sitting president, Isikoff's then-employer The Washington Post — which owns Newsweek — decided not to run it. The American Spectator got the story, followed by the Los Angeles Times.

So apparently it's possible for Michael Isikoff to have a story that actually is true, but for his editors not to run it.

Not antiwar, just anti-American.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:31 PM


Senate panel takes aim at 'stealth tax' (Donna Smith, May 22, 2005, Reuters)

It is called the "stealth tax" because most U.S. taxpayers are unaware of it, but in a few years, millions of people will pay the so-called alternative minimum tax that only the rich were supposed to pay.

The alternative minimum tax, or AMT, was enacted in 1969 amid reports that 155 taxpayers making more than $200,000, a tidy sum at the time, paid no taxes at all because of deductions and other income tax exemptions.

But what started as a tax to ensure that the wealthiest Americans did not escape paying federal taxes soon will hit more middle-class earners. This year, about 3 million people will pay the AMT and that will grow to 35 million by 2010 unless Congress acts.

A Senate Finance subcommittee opens hearings on Monday on the AMT in preparation for an expected tax reform push by President Bush. A White House commission charged with recommending ways to make the tax code simpler and fairer is expected to publish a report by the end of July.

Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican, and others on the panel are not waiting. Grassley and Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, the top Democrat on the panel, along with Arizona Republican Sen. Jon Kyl and Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden plan to introduce legislation this week calling for repeal of the AMT.

The bill's sponsors say the tax was never intended to cover so many taxpayers or be a major source of revenue.

The need for Democrats to fix the AMT virtually guarantees George Bush a major tax reform package.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:26 PM


Pullout with or without the Palestinians: Israel's Gaza withdrawal is not predicated on the behavior of peace partners (Abraham H. Foxman, 5/22/05, ynet news)

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said recently that if Hamas wins elections in Gaza he did not see how Israel could proceed with its unilateral withdrawal.

Later that day, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was asked by the press what he thought about Shalom's comment. He replied that the disengagement has nothing to do with Palestinian behavior, but rather was in Israel's interest irrespective of what the Palestinians do.

This was a critical explanation by Sharon because so many are forgetting or ignoring the fact that Sharon decided on his proposal more than a year ago not because Israel had a partner for peace but because Israel did not have a partner for peace.

He concluded that Israel was ill-served on many levels - international pressure, ruling over Palestinians, demographics, the growing idea of a one-state solution - by being trapped in Gaza as a result of the reality that there was no partner for peace and hence no peace negotiations.

Hardly surprising that when so many couldn't appreciate the unilateral course that Mr. Bush and Mr. Sharon set out on in the first place they'd not understand it when they keep following it now.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:17 PM


Germany 'set for early election' (BBC, 5/22/05)

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder plans to call an election this autumn - a year early - after his party lost a key powerbase in Sunday's local poll.

His Social Democrat Party made the proposal as exit polls showed the SPD had been ousted after 39 years in power in North Rhine-Westphalia.

The opposition had focused on the huge unemployment in the state.

With five million jobless nationally, the general election may turn on the same issue, says the BBC's Ray Furlong.

The SPD is also lagging behind in national polls.

Mr Schroeder's Social Democrat-led government has not only lost its traditional powerbase, but it has also now lost so many seats in the Bundesrat upper house of parliament that its ability to actively govern is massively diminished, our Berlin correspondent says.

The SPD showing in North Rhine-Westphalia - Germany's most populous state - was far worse than had been expected, our correspondent says.

Strange, Bush, Blair, and Howard all posted historic victories...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:05 PM


Howard Dean, Chairman of the Democratic Party (NBC News MEET THE PRESS, May 22, 2005)

MR. TIM RUSSERT: Our issues this Sunday: 100 days ago, former presidential candidate Howard Dean elected to lead the Democratic National Committee. This morning his first national television interview as chairman. Our guest, Governor Howard Dean of Vermont, returns to MEET THE PRESS. [...]

MR. RUSSERT: You said in December of 2003 that we shouldn't prejudge Osama bin Laden. How can you sit here and have a different standard for Tom DeLay and prejudge him?

DR. DEAN: To be honest with you, Tim, I don't think I'm prejudging him. The things that I just read off--offering the congressman's son campaign money, providing Westar, the energy company, with a seat at the table in exchange for contributions, using the Department of Homeland Security to track down the private plane of political enemies--those are things that he has already been adjudicated for. Now, the question is: Where is this going to end up? I think there's a reasonable chance that this may end up in jail. And I don't think people ought to do these kinds of things in public service. I do not think they ought to do these kinds of things in public service. And I don't think Democrats should, either. [...]

Dr. Dean: [T]he thing that really bothered me the most, which the 9-11 Commission said also wasn't true, is the insinuation that the president continues to make to this day that Osama bin Laden had something to do with supporting terrorists that attacked the United States. That is false. The 9-11 Commission, chaired by a Republican, said it was false. Is it wrong to send people to war without telling them the truth.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:58 PM


The Media in Trouble (John Leo, 5/30/05, US News)

It's official. conservatives are losing their monopoly on complaints about media bias. In the wake of Newsweek 's bungled report that U.S. military interrogators "flushed a Qur'an down a toilet," here is Terry Moran, ABC's White House reporter, in an interview with radio host and blogger Hugh Hewitt: "There is, I agree with you, a deep antimilitary bias in the media, one that begins from the premise that the military must be lying and that American projection of power around the world must be wrong." Moran thinks it's a hangover from Vietnam. Sure, but the culture of the newsroom is a factor, too. In all my years in journalism, I don't think I have met more than one or two reporters who have ever served in the military or who even had a friend in the armed forces. Most media hiring today is from universities where a military career is regarded as bizarre and almost any exercise of American power is considered wrongheaded or evil.

Not long ago, memorable comments about press credibility came from two stars at Newsweek: Evan Thomas and Howard Fineman. During the presidential campaign, Thomas said on TV that the news media wanted John Kerry to win. We knew that, but the candor was refreshing. Fineman said during the flap over Dan Rather and CBS's use of forged documents on the George Bush-National Guard story: "A political party is dying before our eyes--and I don't mean the Democrats. I'm talking about the 'mainstream media' . . . . It's hard to know now who, if anyone, in the 'media' has any credibility." It's worth mentioning here that the unrepentant Rather and his colleague Mary Mapes, who was fired for her role in presenting the forged documents, received a major industry award last week, a Peabody, as well as "extended applause" from the journalists in the crowd. (What's next? A lifetime achievement award for New York Times prevaricator Jayson Blair?)

Instead of trampling Newsweek --the magazine made a mistake and corrected it quickly and honestly--the focus ought to be on whether the news media are predisposed to make certain kinds of mistakes and, if so, what to do about it.

How can an institution that doesn't either reflect America or at least reflect upon it hope to serve it effectively? An if it serves only itself or the interests of its members then why continue to afford it a special status within the Republic?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:51 PM


`Ruinous' path leads to White House: Lawyer, political staffer bucked family tradition in working for GOP (WILLIAM DOUGLAS, 5/22/05, Knight Ridder)

Claude Allen recalls the joy and pain of telling his mother about his decision to work for an N.C. congressional candidate.

"I said he was a Republican, and she was most upset," Allen said. "She said, `Oh, please don't do that, you'll ruin your life.' "

Nearly a quarter-century later, Allen is President Bush's top domestic policy adviser, one of the administration's most senior African American members, and a protege of former Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., the conservative who fiercely opposed affirmative action and a federal holiday for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Allen's political path from a Philadelphia row house to Tobacco Road to a second-floor West Wing office was a long, and sometimes controversial one that few African Americans have traveled.

Republican Party officials and Christian conservatives regard Allen as a star on the rise, a values-conscious bureaucrat who helped reform Virginia's welfare system and championed sexual-abstinence programs at both state and federal levels.

"He's done a real good job, a very able man," said former Virginia Republican Gov. James Gilmore, who hired Allen when Gilmore was the state's attorney general. "He knows how to manage, he has a very good policy compass."

But Allen's critics, especially within the African American community, see a Helms disciple, a conservative ideologue who, as Virginia's health and human resources director, prevented the use of Medicaid funds for an abortion for an impoverished incest victim.

"I don't think his beliefs and the beliefs of the NAACP and black people in general are harmonious," said King Salim Khalfani, the Virginia NAACP's executive director, who clashed with Allen on a number of issues.

They don't call it the National Association for the Advancement of Certain People for nuthin'.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 1:45 PM


Hey, guys, being grown-up is O.K.!
(Henning Sussebach, International Herald Tribune, May 21st, 2005)

One in three German men who reach 40 does not have a child. In a recent survey by the Allensbach Institute, Germans were asked what children meant to them. Only 38 percent said "a full life." Ninety-two percent checked "responsibility" (they have not seen a 4-year-old pretending to play an electric guitar). Asked why they would not have children, only 14 percent said it would be too hard to provide for them. Twenty-seven percent answered, "I don't want to tie myself down."

Another study by the Federal Institute for Population Research shows that 26 percent of men aged 20 to 39 (but only 15 percent of women the same age) say they want no children at all.

Men who marry early or have children are regarded as exotic creatures. The same goes for anyone who might, say, work with young people at a fishing club, or still find some thrill in the migration of frogs. That's so bourgeois, "so yesterday" - at least according to those who set the tone in our cities, where the overarching goal is to be hip and cool.

A friend of mine recently built a house in the suburbs, complete with garden and terrace. For the family, for the children. He would gladly show off his handiwork, but he doesn't dare invite his city friends. He's afraid of their scorn.

Of course, having children has little to do with political or social involvement - except that the lack of both testifies to just not wanting to grow up. [...]

It's true that growing up has gotten harder - which is basically good news. There's no more church or dictatorial state trying to recruit us for their goals. And no one in a globalized world where "flexibility" and "mobility" are the buzzwords dares predict at 30 where and who he might be at 60. But does that justify the mass migration to the spectator seats?

We're not talking here about those who have been denied a path into modern society or dumped by big business. We're talking about men who prefer to exist in some kind of limbo and people who are integrated, who earn well, who are married - but only to their job. Men who think they've made it.

But made what? And for whom? Perhaps we have a crisis not just of the lower classes, who have been orphaned, but of the middle classes, who have been infantilized. It adds up to the same thing: opting out. One man's TV is another's travel, gym and office.

The contemporary plea for getting a late start on life is often linked to an argument that is superficially logical: first you have to "fulfill yourself." This is based on the erroneous view that personal development somehow slows down when you commit yourself - like when you start a family. You go bourgeois, you freeze.

Like many common sense modernists, Herr Sussebach zeros in thoughtfully on a serious problem, and then promptly ties himself up in knots. He knows something is very wrong and that his countrymen need a swift kick, but he is so reluctant to embrace the full implications of his insights that he ends up half-celebrating infantilism as a necessary step on the road to wisdom. Like many sunny progressives, he believes that most men freed from the dictates of duty, tradition, custom and faith will still happily devote their lives to the sacrifices of marriage and family. When faced with evidence that growing numbers prefer to live for themselves and play with their toys, he trusts he can convince them to do a one-eighty with a rousing pep talk.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:33 AM


Don't look back: Oil Can Boyd takes a page out of Satchel's book (AP, May 20, 2005)

Willie James Boyd played against the original Satchel Paige and fathered the closest copy to the Negro Leagues star that baseball has seen since.

His name is Dennis, but he came to be known as Oil Can. With the Boston Red Sox in the 1980s he was a talented but temperamental foil for Roger Clemens, as likely to pitch a shutout as a fit.

Fourteen summers after his last big-league appearance, the Can is in camp with the minor-league Brockton Rox for another comeback try. He is 45 -- older than the still-dominating Clemens, but younger than Paige when he had his best year in the majors.

"Whatever Satchel Paige had in [him], Can's got," Brockton manager Ed Nottle said. "If anybody would let him, there's no doubt in my mind that five years from now when he's 50, he'll be able to pitch like he does now." [...]

The first stop for Boyd this time is the Can-Am League -- that's Canadian-American, not some of the Can's colorful syntax -- among the lowest rungs on the baseball ladder. Here, in the working-class hometown of boxing champions Rocky Marciano and Marvin Hagler, Boyd joins organizational castoffs and undrafteds in search of another shot.

"They asked me, 'Are my grandkids going to be at the game tonight?' I heard it all," Boyd said. "But they're ballplayers, I don't treat them like kids."

He has been around long enough to know that pitching isn't about how fast you get it there. It's about location, and Boyd has found his.

There is still more pepper than salt in Boyd's mustache, more pep in his right arm than a man his age has a right to expect. He has two gold hoop earrings and wire-rimmed spectacles he wears even when he pitches.

At last week's media day, reporters gathered around Boyd and largely ignored his young Rox teammates; if they were unfamiliar with his history, they were about to learn it.

"When I first saw him, I thought he was a coach," said Manny Tejada, a pitcher with a slugger's name and six years in the minors by the age of 23. "Then I was looking at a baseball card and I thought, 'Oh, my God. He was a superstar in the major leagues."'

Brockton catcher Brian Jones, who's 27, grew up in Boston and knew all about the Can.

"When I found out I was going to be able to catch him, it was a treat for me," Jones said. "I don't know if I should tell him I remember seeing him when I was 12." [...]

He claimed during the 1986 World Series to channel Paige on the pitcher's mound. When a game at Cleveland's Municipal Stadium was called because of fog rolling in from Lake Erie, Boyd said, "That's what happens when you build a ballpark on the ocean." With the White Sox in the spring of 1995, Boyd called Michael Jordan "Shoes." [...]

Boyd claims to throw 12-15 different pitches, counting different arm angles; most pitchers at this level are lucky to have two. Like Paige, he gives them names like the "Yellow Hammer" and "Backdoor Screwgie" and he claims to keep a knuckleball in reserve, just so batters need to worry about it, too.

Boyd's catcher with the Red Sox, Rich Gedman, happens to be the manager in Worcester this season, which allowed him to see the Can's comeback in person. Jones, Boyd's current catcher, joked with Gedman before the game that he didn't have enough fingers to signal for all the pitches Boyd can throw.

"Just keep wiggling the fingers," Boyd told him. "That's my changeup."

Gedman also stopped by to tell his ex-teammate, "Can Man, do what you do best."

"It was something he told me 20 years ago," Boyd said.

"He looks like a little kid out there," Gedman said. "He just loves the challenge -- 'Tell me I can't' -- that kind of thing.

"He thinks the game as well as anybody I know. He knows how to pitch, I'll tell you that. He sees things most pitchers don't know how to see."

Boyd sneaks cigarettes between innings of his start, and he works out by pitching almost every other day, year-round -- far more than modern theory recommends. Fifteen years past his prime, he remains lanky and fit.

"He's probably not a half-pound different than he was for Boston," Nottle said. "Yesterday, we're taking pitching drills, and he's the best athlete out there."

Fortunately for Mets fans the Sox didn't listen to him and start him in Game 7.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:15 AM


The New Fusionism (Joseph Bottum, June/July 2005, First Things)

Social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, libertarians, agrarians, communitarians, foreign-policy hawks—who can figure them out? Neocons and theocons and paleocons, to say nothing of soccer-mom Republicans, country-club Republicans, and just plain, garden-variety Republicans: If you read much political commentary, it must seem as though there are more ways to sort conservatives in America than there are actual conservatives to be sorted.

And what about the issues for which these different conservatives care? Abortion, tax cuts, school vouchers, judicial overreach, the government’s bloated budget, bioethics, homosexual marriage, the creation of democracies in the Middle East, federalism, immigration, the restoration of religion in the public square—on and on. They bear no more than the vaguest family resemblance: second or third cousins, shirt-tail kin at best.

Back during the Cold War, conservatives could all be counted upon at least to share an opposition to communism, while various writers—from Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises to Russell Kirk and Michael Oakeshott—sought something resembling a unifying theory through the rich pages of Adam Smith’s economics and the deep prose of Edmund Burke’s traditionalism.

What now remains? Hardly a single concern is common to everyone labeled a conservative, and the chance of finding a meaningful pattern in the Right’s political muddle appears hopelessly remote. It’s true that nearly every conservative ended up voting for George Bush for president in 2004. Even the paleoconservatives opposed to intervention in Iraq finally seemed to admit, for the most part, that the alternative of an openly liberal administration under John Kerry was unendurable. But only in the fevered imaginings of the far Left—or in the speeches of Democratic party activists looking to score partisan jabs—does all this really cohere. Conservatism in America is neither a well-defined political party nor a well-formed political theory. It’s a crack-up waiting to happen.

Except perhaps for this curious fact: Those who believe the murderousness of abortion to be the fundamental moral issue of our times and those who see the forceful defeat of global, anti-Western Islamicism as the most pressing political concern we facepro-life social conservatives and the foreign-policy neoconservatives, in other words—seem to be increasingly voting together, meeting together, and thinking together. If you want to advance the pro-life cause, you will quickly find yourself seated beside those who support an activist, interventionist, and moralist foreign policy for the United States. And, conversely, if you are serious about the war on terror, you will soon discover that you are mingling with those fighting against abortion.

To say the American political scene need not have developed this way is more than an understatement. At any of the levels on which political analysis normally operates, the connection between abortion and terror seems weak, at best—and possibly a perversion that threatens the causes of both partners. How can opponents of abortion dare to allow a setback in the Middle East to ruin the chances of electing pro-life officials? Why would foreign-policy activists risk the loss of political support that a major turn against their social-conservative allies might entail? [...]

Down somewhere in the deepest understanding of what America is for—somewhere in the profound awareness of what it will take to reverse the nation’s long drift into social defeatism—there are reasons that one might link the rejection of abortion and the demand for an active and moral foreign policy. Things could have fallen into different patterns; our current liberal-conservative divisions are not the only imaginable ways to cut the political cake. But neither are they merely accidental.

The opponents of abortion and euthanasia insist there are truths about human life and dignity that must not be compromised in domestic politics. The opponents of Islamofascism and rule by terror insist there are truths about human life and dignity that must not be compromised in international politics. Why shouldn’t they grow toward each other? The desire to find intellectual and moral seriousness in one realm can breed the desire to find intellectual and moral seriousness in another.

There may be several ways to convince Americans to reject Roe v. Wade—but one of them is by remembering that the nation’s founding ideals are true and worth defending against the enemies of freedom around the world. There may be several ways to reawaken a sense of national purpose—but one of them is by summoning the will to undo our judicially ordered abortion regime. In the new fusionism, social conservatives and neoconservatives are not in any immediate contradiction. The wish to restore American patriotism, the struggle against abortion, annoyance at the dated elitism of an overweening judiciary, and the war in Iraq—these all seem to have become curiously interdependent issues.

One of the least edifying spectacles in American conservatism over the years has been the apparent determination, among later converts, to disparage earlier converts. For decades, the soft Left in America has had a bad conscience about its softness: The radicals always seemed to make the moderates feel a little guilty. On the Right, too, there have been bad consciences—but, oddly, these also have to do with Leftness. It seems necessary to nearly everyone on the Right to find a more Rightist group against which to set themselves. If “No Enemies on the Left” is more or less the motto of liberals in America, “Only Enemies to the Right” seems to be the motto of conservatives.

A few figures have tried to hold together the rag-tag collection of refugees. Ronald Reagan, with his “big-tent” Republican party, for instance. And Frank Meyer, who used the word “fusionism” to speak of the libertarian and traditionalist writers he helped work together while he was an editor at National Review in the 1950s and 1960s. And Robert Bartley, who opened to a range of conservatives the op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal he edited through the 1990s.

But mostly, when American politicians and pundits have a conservative impulse, they feel compelled to begin by distinguishing themselves from the rest of conservatism. There was, for instance, a period in the 1980s in which nearly every article in the ostensibly liberal New Republic seemed to open with something like: “I’m not one of those horrible conservatives, and I’d never vote for a Republican, but, gosh, there actually seems to be some merit to the idea of welfare reform”—or a strengthened military, or a mistrust of the United Nations, or any of a dozen other conservative topics.

Thus, the neoconservatives explain what is despicable about libertarians, and the libertarians denounce the social conservatives—and round it goes. In a widely noticed 2003 article in National Review, David Frum declared that the isolationist paleoconservatives “have turned their backs on their country. Now we turn our backs on them.” In a later essay in the Public Interest, Adam Wolfson took much the same line, albeit more gently, in rejecting the conservative credentials of the paleoconservatives.

Some of this is clearly necessary. The handful of anti-Semites and neoconfederates on the fringes of the Right deserves dismissal, and the differences between the paleoconservative followers of Pat Buchanan and the neoconservative analysts at the Project for the New American Century cut to the heart of American policy. But even here you can see the lineaments of the new fusionism. The pro-life movement won’t read out of conservatism any foreign-policy activists, unless they repeatedly trumpet their support for abortion. And the neoconservatives won’t banish any social conservatives, unless they make a loud stink about their opposition to intervention in the Middle East.

One could perhaps make the same point by negative example: The widely cited homosexual activist and blog writer Andrew Sullivan started by being a strong supporter of a forceful American foreign policy after the attacks of September 11. By the 2004 presidential election, however, he had flipped into utter rejection of President Bush’s policies. And though he tried at times to relate his conversion to worries about fiscal matters, it was finally his inability to join any coalition with social conservatives that seems to have forced him into an anti-Iraq stance. It even buried what he once insisted was his pro-life stance, a topic he now seldom discusses.

But mostly one can see the new fusionism in its results. “Neoconservative” is a word whose meaning has undergone some changes over the years. It began life in the 1970s when the socialist Michael Harrington coined it to describe certain writers and public figures who found themselves moving from Left to Right on a variety of issues—often starting with the out-of-control crime rates of the time: “liberals mugged by reality,” in Irving Kristol’s well-known phrase.

By the late 1990s, however, the word “neoconservative” had mostly disappeared, except to describe a historical moment twenty years before when—as National Review’s Jonah Goldberg jokingly described it—“a bunch of citified Jews and intellectual Catholics . . . traded one ideology for another.” And then, suddenly after the attacks of September 11, 2001, the word was back in the vocabulary of the nation’s chattering classes, this time used to describe people (particularly anyone with the least connection to students of the University of Chicago political philosopher Leo Strauss) who pushed for the toppling of Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

But taking the word in both the old sense and the new, we should note at least one visible change: The people called neoconservative are much more opposed to abortion than they were even ten years ago. The shift has occurred across the spectrum. The ones who started out solidly pro-choice are now uneasy, the ones who started out uneasy are now more uneasy, and the ones who started out quietly anti-abortion are now strong pro-lifers.

Maybe it was all the time spent with Catholics, or maybe it was the rise of the worries about biotechnology that Leon Kass and others have brought to light, but—whatever group we use the word to encompass—the neoconservatives have generally grown in their alliance with the social conservatives to accept a central place for the pro-life position in any theory of conservatism.

Meanwhile, the social conservatives have grown up, too. When the Evangelicals burst on the political scene in the 1970s, they hardly knew what the words “foreign policy” meant. But now “one cannot understand international relations without them,” as Allen Hertzke observed in Freeing God’s Children, his 2004 report on American religious impact around the world. From the Virginia congressman Frank Wolfe to the Kansas senator Sam Brownback, the religious conservatives in Washington have led the fight against international sex trafficking and a host of other human-rights abuses.

They achieved real results in southern Sudan, and they are straining to find similar traction in the Darfur region of western Sudan. Far beyond their Democratic counterparts, they have demonstrated seriousness about human rights in North Korea and China. “Members of the Christian right, exemplified by Mr. Brownback,” the left-leaning columnist Nicholas Kristof reluctantly admitted in the New York Times this Christmas, “are the new internationalists, increasingly engaged in humanitarian causes abroad.”

And then there’s Israel. “No one outside the Jewish community has been more supportive of Israel than U.S. evangelical Christians,” the Jerusalem Post bluntly noted in 2002—but the phenomenon has been building for years. Perhaps it began with believers’ interest in apocalyptic biblical prophecy about the Holy Land and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. But to imagine it stops there is to ignore the Religious Right’s record in recent years on human rights and support for democratic reforms. The success of Israel—the Middle East’s only full democracy before the intervention of the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq—is seen by social conservatives as a model that deserves copying.

“The remoralization of America at home ultimately requires the remoralization of American foreign policy, for both follow from Americans’ belief that the principles of the Declaration of Independence are not merely the choices of a particular culture but are universal, enduring, ‘self-evident’ truths,” William Kristol and Robert Kagan wrote in the journal Foreign Affairs back in 1996. “That has been, after all, the main point of the conservatives’ war against a relativistic multiculturalism. For conservatives to preach the importance of upholding the core elements of the Western tradition at home, but to profess indifference to the fate of American principles abroad, is an inconsistency that cannot help but gnaw at the heart of conservatism.”

One needn't look very far to figure out why it's so quintessentially American and conservative to cohere around this values:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security

Perhaps the least noticed part of this Foundational assertion is the "duty" it recognizes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:49 AM

NO MAS HAMA (via Matt Murphy):

Bush Country: The Middle East embraces democracy--and the American president. (FOUAD AJAMI, May 22, 2005, Opinion Journal)

"George W. Bush has unleashed a tsunami on this region," a shrewd Kuwaiti merchant who knows the way of his world said to me. The man had no patience with the standard refrain that Arab reform had to come from within, that a foreign power cannot alter the age-old ways of the Arabs. "Everything here--the borders of these states, the oil explorations that remade the life of this world, the political outcomes that favored the elites now in the saddle--came from the outside. This moment of possibility for the Arabs is no exception." A Jordanian of deep political experience at the highest reaches of Arab political life had no doubt as to why history suddenly broke in Lebanon, and could conceivably change in Syria itself before long. "The people in the streets of Beirut knew that no second Hama is possible; they knew that the rulers were under the gaze of American power, and knew that Bush would not permit a massive crackdown by the men in Damascus."

My informant's reference to Hama was telling: It had been there in 1982, in that city of the Syrian interior, that the Baathist-Alawite regime had broken and overwhelmed Syrian society. Hama had been a stronghold of the Muslim Brotherhood, a fortress of the Sunni middle class. It had rebelled, and the regime unleashed on it a merciless terror. There were estimates that 25,000 of its people perished in that fight. Thenceforth, the memory of Hama hung over the life of Syria--and Lebanon. But the people in the plazas of Beirut, and the Syrian intellectuals who have stepped forth to challenge the Baathist regime, have behind them the warrant, and the green light, of American power and protection.

To venture into the Arab world, as I did recently over four weeks in Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan and Iraq, is to travel into Bush Country. [...]

The weight of American power, historically on the side of the dominant order, now drives this new quest among the Arabs. For decades, the intellectual classes in the Arab world bemoaned the indifference of American power to the cause of their liberty. Now a conservative American president had come bearing the gift of Wilsonian redemption. For a quarter century the Pax Americana had sustained the autocracy of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak: He had posed as America's man on the Nile, a bulwark against the Islamists. He was sly and cunning, running afoul of our purposes in Iraq and over Israeli-Palestinian matters. He had nurtured a culture of antimodernism and anti-Americanism, and had gotten away with it. Now the wind from Washington brought tidings: America had wearied of Mr. Mubarak, and was willing to bet on an open political process, with all its attendant risks and possibilities. The brave oppositional movement in Cairo that stepped forth under the banner of Kifaya ("Enough!") wanted the end of his reign: It had had enough of his mediocrity, enough of the despotism of an aging officer who had risen out of the military bureaucracy to entertain dynastic dreams of succession for his son. Egyptians challenging the quiescence of an old land may have had no kind words to say about America in the past. But they were sure that the play between them and the regime was unfolding under Mr. Bush's eyes.

Unmistakably, there is in the air of the Arab world a new contest about the possibility and the meaning of freedom.

Geez, if any liberals, paleocons, or other Realists read that they're going to need to be sedated, if not restrained.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:11 AM


Leaving the left: I can no longer abide the simpering voices of self-styled progressives -- people who once championed solidarity (Keith Thompson, May 22, 2005, SF Chronicle)

Nightfall, Jan. 30. Eight-million Iraqi voters have finished risking their lives to endorse freedom and defy fascism. Three things happen in rapid succession. The right cheers. The left demurs. I walk away from a long-term intimate relationship. I'm separating not from a person but a cause: the political philosophy that for more than three decades has shaped my character and consciousness, my sense of self and community, even my sense of cosmos.

I'm leaving the left -- more precisely, the American cultural left and what it has become during our time together.

I choose this day for my departure because I can no longer abide the simpering voices of self-styled progressives -- people who once championed solidarity with oppressed populations everywhere -- reciting all the ways Iraq's democratic experiment might yet implode.

My estrangement hasn't happened overnight. Out of the corner of my eye I watched what was coming for more than three decades, yet refused to truly see. Now it's all too obvious. Leading voices in America's "peace" movement are actually cheering against self-determination for a long-suffering Third World country because they hate George W. Bush more than they love freedom.

Like many others who came of age politically in the 1960s, I became adept at not taking the measure of the left's mounting incoherence. To face it directly posed the danger that I would have to describe it accurately, first to myself and then to others. That could only give aid and comfort to Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and all the other Usual Suspects the left so regularly employs to keep from seeing its own reflection in the mirror.

Now, I find myself in a swirling metamorphosis. Think Kafka, without the bug. Think Kuhnian paradigm shift, without the buzz. Every anomaly that didn't fit my perceptual set is suddenly back, all the more glaring for so long ignored. The insistent inner voice I learned to suppress now has my rapt attention. "Something strange -- something approaching pathological -- something entirely of its own making -- has the left in its grip," the voice whispers. "How did this happen?" The Iraqi election is my tipping point.

If you've friends and/or family who've had a similar experience, or had it yourself, you'll recognize the feeling that it's almost as if the scales quite literally fall from one's eyes. He may be a nutter, but he's our nutter now.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:56 AM


On a Christian Mission to the Top (LAURIE GOODSTEIN and DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK, 5/22/05, NY Times)

For a while last winter, Tim Havens, a recent graduate of Brown University and now an evangelical missionary there, had to lead his morning prayer group in a stairwell of the campus chapel. That was because workers were clattering in to remake the lower floor for a display of American Indian art, and a Buddhist student group was chanting in the small sanctuary upstairs.

Like most of the Ivy League universities, Brown was founded by Protestant ministers as an expressly Christian college. But over the years it gradually shed its religious affiliation and became a secular institution, as did the other Ivies. In addition to Buddhists, the Brown chaplain's office now recognizes "heathen/pagan" as a "faith community."

But these days evangelical students like those in Mr. Havens's prayer group are becoming a conspicuous presence at Brown. Of a student body of 5,700, about 400 participate in one of three evangelical student groups - more than the number of active mainline Protestants, the campus chaplain says. And these students are in the vanguard of a larger social shift not just on campuses but also at golf resorts and in boardrooms; they are part of an expanding beachhead of evangelicals in the American elite.

The growing power and influence of evangelical Christians is manifest everywhere these days, from the best-seller lists to the White House, but in fact their share of the general population has not changed much in half a century. Most pollsters agree that people who identify themselves as white evangelical Christians make up about a quarter of the population, just as they have for decades.

What has changed is the class status of evangelicals. In 1929, the theologian H. Richard Niebuhr described born-again Christianity as the "religion of the disinherited." But over the last 40 years, evangelicals have pulled steadily closer in income and education to mainline Protestants in the historically affluent establishment denominations. In the process they have overturned the old social pecking order in which "Episcopalian," for example, was a code word for upper class, and "fundamentalist" or "evangelical" shorthand for lower.

Evangelical Christians are now increasingly likely to be college graduates and in the top income brackets.

It does seem to be the case that what so terrifies the secular Left these days is that the fundamentalists are their peers and superiors, who can't be dismissed as in the past as ignorant rubes. Meanwhile, the Europeans can't even process the fact that as they fade into oblivion the hyperpower is so overtly Judeo-Christian and has been since the Reagan restoration.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 8:40 AM


Remembering and Forgetting (Richard John Neuhaus, First Things, May, 2005)

The erratic course of forgetting and remembering, of absolving and punishing, can also be explained by reference to another tyranny and those who supported it. In our culture-commanding institutions today, including the leadership of the once influential old-line churches, there are thousands upon thousands who enthusiastically backed Stalin, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, Castro, and others whose victims number in the many millions. After the fall of Saigon in April, 1975, hundreds of thousands of “boat people” fled to their death at sea, while hundreds of thousands of others were driven into reeducation camps, in many cases never to be heard from again. I had been a leader in the “peace movement”—the quotes are now necessary and maybe were then—and helped organize a protest against the brutality of the Hanoi regime. We asked 104 movement leaders to sign the protest and the split was almost exactly even. Those refusing to sign subscribed to the doctrine of “no criticism to the left.” No matter what they did, leftist regimes represented the historical dynamic of progress; they were the wave of the future and therefore above any criticism that might slow their course. It was a pity about the victims, but most of them probably deserved it, and, anyway, “you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs.”

There are things not to be forgotten. At the height of Mao’s cultural revolution in which as many as thirty million died, the National Council of Churches published a booklet hailing China as an admirably “Christian” society. In 1981, 60 Minutes did an hour-long program on the National Council of Churches’ support for Marxist causes, and I spoke with Morley Safer about religious leaders who had become “apologists for oppression.” That was the end of some important friendships, or at least I thought they were friends. I was then a much younger man, learning slowly and painfully what many had learned before. Allegiance to the left, however variously defined, was a religion, and dissent was punished by excommunication. There was for a long time no romance so blinding as that with the Soviet Union. Malcolm Muggeridge wrote witheringly about Lenin’s “useful idiots”—Western progressives on pilgrimage to the Soviet Union, from which they returned with glowing accounts of “the future that works.” There was also Whittaker Chambers’ Witness, Robert Conquest’s The Great Terror, Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago—all of them dismissed as right-wing propaganda. To be sure, there were those who had a change of mind, and even instances of something like public penance. In a famously lucid moment, the late Susan Sontag shocked a Town Hall audience by saying that the readers of Reader’s Digest had a better understanding of Communism than did readers of the New York Review of Books. Much earlier, William F. Buckley had launched National Review with the help of apostates from “the god that failed.” Yet up to the present the hard left, not so reduced in numbers and influence as some claim, is enraptured; not usually by Communism but by a Marxian analysis of oppression and imperialism joined to a more or less consistent anti-Americanism.

Yes, Philip Johnson should have apologized for his repugnant politics, and because he didn’t he should have paid the price of being denied the fame and wealth so uncritically bestowed. But it is almost too easy to excoriate, hunt down, and punish the remaining collaborators with Hitler. That was a long time ago, and they are very old now. Not so with the unrepentant apologists for oppression from the Old Left, the New Left, the Maoists, the cheerleaders for the Sandinistas, and those who make slight effort to disguise their hope for America’s defeat in the war on terror. In many instances they hold positions of influence on the commanding heights of culture. There may not be much that can be done about our circumstance. Nobody should want to revisit the experience of the House committee on un-American activities. And it is impossible to imagine something like South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission that was set up after the end of apartheid, since with the great divide in our society and its politics there is no end in sight. We have to try to get along with one another as best we can, keeping our disagreements within the bounds of civility. But, as was not done in the case of Philip Johnson, we should remember.

If Osama Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and the Taliban had all mastered socialist rhetoric and been seen as leftists, would recent history be different?

Posted by David Cohen at 12:11 AM


Scientists Say Sunshine May Prevent Cancer (Marilynn Marchione, AP, 5/21/05)

Scientists are excited about a vitamin again. But unlike fads that sizzled and fizzled, the evidence this time is strong and keeps growing. If it bears out, it will challenge one of medicine's most fundamental beliefs: that people need to coat themselves with sunscreen whenever they're in the sun. Doing that may actually contribute to far more cancer deaths than it prevents, some researchers think.

The vitamin is D, nicknamed the "sunshine vitamin" because the skin makes it from ultraviolet rays. Sunscreen blocks its production, but dermatologists and health agencies have long preached that such lotions are needed to prevent skin cancer. Now some scientists are questioning that advice. The reason is that vitamin D increasingly seems important for preventing and even treating many types of cancer.

In the last three months alone, four separate studies found it helped protect against lymphoma and cancers of the prostate, lung and, ironically, the skin. The strongest evidence is for colon cancer.

The great thing about science, we're told, is the way it corrects it's errors. And corects them. And correct's them. And corrects tem. and corrects them. And currects them. And corrects hem. And corrects them And korrects them. And correts them. Amd corrects them. And collects them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:02 AM


Bush Keeps Role in Senate Fray Out of Sight, Not Out of Mind (Edwin Chen and Warren Vieth, May 22, 2005, LA Times)

As a White House meeting was breaking up recently, a chipper President Bush sidled up to Vice President Dick Cheney and Vermont Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, who had just discovered a mutual interest in .50 caliber handguns.

"Guess what we have in common," Leahy said to Bush.

"What — you're both bald?" Bush quipped.

Leahy, a liberal Democrat, saw that Bush was in good humor, and he sensed an opening. He pleaded with Bush to help resolve the bitterly partisan Senate impasse over his judicial nominations.

"We can settle this in an hour," Leahy said, citing three other leading senators he thought could work together on an agreement. But Bush wouldn't hear of it, the lawmaker said.

"Well, I hope you keep working on it, but I told [Reid] I was going to stay out of it," the president said, referring to Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

As his rebuff suggested, Bush has assumed a public posture of bystander as the Senate barrels toward a showdown that is likely to have repercussions far beyond the issue of whether every presidential appointment to the federal bench deserves an up-or-down vote. [...]

As much as the president wants to see his nominees confirmed, the White House must guard against heavy-handed tactics that could offend senatorial sensitivities. "They are wisely leaving the Senate to debate its own rules," said Sen. Gordon H. Smith (R-Ore.). "To lobby us would be counterproductive."

For instance, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), an independent-minded moderate who often is the target of heavy lobbying from the White House, has not heard from White House aides on the filibuster issue. "Rightly or not, senators are jealous of their prerogatives," she said.

Paul M. Weyrich, a conservative activist with ties to the White House, said: "Basically what the president is saying is, 'I really need these judges confirmed. How you work that out is up to you.'

The President has nothing to lose in this fight--just consider the potential outcomes:

(1) The moderates cut a deal that gives him the high profile nominees who matter to his base but leave him the obstructionist issue for the '06 midterm.

(2) The filibuster gets taken away for judicial nominees; he gets everybody; and the Democratic base is demoralized.

(3) The filibuster stays and he gets a fired up base and the issue for '06--after which election he stands to have 60 republican Senators anyway.

(4) Democrats just fold because they recognize the issue is deadly for them; he gets his nominees; and their base is distraught.

No wonder he's in such good humor.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:01 AM


Will 'Star Wars' reverse declining cinema attendance? (Gloria Goodale, 5/19/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

Movie theater owners all over the country are hoping that the new "Star Wars" will be a force to be reckoned with. More specifically, they're hoping the film will turn around a box-office slump that has gone on now for nearly three months, the longest straight decline in movie attendance on record. Analysts are predicting a galactic hit ($300 million to $400 million worldwide on opening weekend alone) that will fill theater lobbies.

They're also hoping that the rising tide of "Star Wars" hype will lift all boats, the theory being that a great night out at the cinema will encourage patrons to come back to see other summer blockbusters.

But several trends in consumer habits suggest that it will take more than Yoda and Darth to stem the waning attendance at movie houses across America. Not only are there more entertainment options competing with cinema, but the introduction of DVDs - with their crystal-clear picture and lucrative bonus features - make for a cheap alternative to the cinema in the comfort of one's home.

"People have their DVDs, their video games, their iPods - it just takes a whole lot more than before to get people to come out to the movie theater," says Paul Degarabedian of Exhibitor Relations, a firm that tracks the box office.

The number of households with at least one DVD player is rising and projected to be 80 percent by year's end. Revenue from DVD sales and rentals, which is $21.2 billion per year according to the Digital Entertainment Group, has now surpassed box-office receipts, which stands at a little more than $9 billion a year.

If Americans went to the movies every week, as they did during cinema's heyday in the 1940s, "the national box office would be running about $2 billion a week, which it's not even close to," says analyst Christopher Lanier.

Yet when the government sets out to measure inflation it does things (though I don't know if this is actually part of the market basket) like not consider movie rentals and sales at all and instead track rising ticket costs. Thus do they find inflation in a deflationary world.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Chess Champion Moves to Check Putin's Power: Garry Kasparov enters the game of politics in Russia, planning to use a player's strategy to attack the president and promote democracy. (Kim Murphy, May 22, 2005, LA Times)

Announcing his retirement from chess recently, the 42-year-old master declared that his new vocation was politics, and vowed to take on Russia's increasingly autocratic power structure.

He wants Putin to step down in 2008, as the constitution mandates, and a democratically elected leader to take his place. [...]

Kasparov has been quietly raising his political profile since the 2004 presidential election, when he co-founded a nonpartisan pro-democracy group.

Then, after continuing battles with the international chess federation over administration of the title, he announced in March that he was abandoning the game professionally to pursue politics and write full time.

"I felt that I could use my resources, to apply my philosophy, my strategic vision in my native country, because it's such a crucial, decisive moment in history, and I felt my presence could make some difference," explained Kasparov, who said he had been banned from state-owned TV because he posed a threat to the government.

"I don't have any negative record in the eyes of the Russian people. I don't have any ties to oligarchs, or to [former President Boris N.] Yeltsin's Russia. I'm a person who's been defending Soviet national colors, Russian national colors," he said. "People listening to Garry Kasparov, who is independent … may cause a collision [for] Russians who have had no chance to hear opposite opinions."

Kasparov said he brought another important quality to the table: a chess player's judgment.

He is finishing work on a book, scheduled for publication in 2006, titled "How Life Imitates Chess." In it, he asserts that the sharp reasoning and intuition that guide a superior chess player's moves are the same elements that determine all effective decision-making.

"I have a strange idea that the decisions made by the housewife and the president of the United States consist of similar ingredients," he said. "And at the end of the day, a lot of it is intuition.

"Most of us I don't think trust intuition. We live in an era of modern technologies. We have to touch it. Where in fact intuition is a very important element that helps us to make more sophisticated decisions."

In Kasparov's case, intuition tells him that Russians are losing patience.

Well, he was instrumental in bringing down the USSR.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


US teacher marries boy she raped (BBC, 5/21/05)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Iraq's Sunni Arabs Seek to Unite to Build Political Clout: Prominent leaders hold a congress, unveiling an alliance to promote the community's interests. They demand that the Interior minister quit. (Carol J. Williams, May 22, 2005, LA times)

A newly formed alliance of Sunni Muslim leaders held its first meeting here Saturday to forge plans for gaining a greater voice in Iraq's emerging political culture.

But the session's acrimonious exchanges and demands on the country's fledgling Shiite leadership made it clear that Sunnis had a long way to go before they could recover any of the clout they lost when President Saddam Hussein was toppled by the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

The Sunni congress Saturday, attended by 1,000 delegates, demanded the resignation of newly appointed Interior Minister Bayan Jabr, a Shiite. At a news conference, Jabr rejected the call and said that the failure of most Sunni Arabs to vote in the Jan. 30 national election had resulted in a self-inflicted exclusion.

"Those who didn't vote have no right to ask for this," he said.

The minority community, which accounts for less than 20% of Iraq's population, was favored under the regime of Hussein, who was a Sunni.

Shiites, about 60% of the population, and ethnic Kurds, both oppressed by Hussein's Baathist regime, now hold the reins of power.

20% parties don't get to govern, but they can exercise significant influence in a democracy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


The 10 greatest individual streaks in sports (Elliott Kalb, 5/22/05,

Tiger Woods made news this past week, when he failed to make the cut at the Byron Nelson Championship, breaking a streak that extended to 142 tournaments over seven years. [...]

So how does Woods' record stack up against the greatest individual streaks in all sports? Here's a look at the top 10 sports streaks of all time.

1. Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak [...]

2. Johnny Unitas' 47 consecutive games with a touchdown pass [...]

3. Edwin Moses' 122 consecutive victories in 400-meter high hurdles [...]

4. Wilt Chamberlain's 45 complete games in a row

Between Jan. 5 and March 14, 1962, Wilt Chamberlain played every minute of 45 consecutive NBA games. There is nothing even remotely close to this in the history of the league. Today, if a player plays 48 minutes in one game, it's news. It's remarkable when a player averages 40 minutes per game. In fact, there's not a single NBA player in the league today who has played in 45 complete games in his career. Chamberlain (who had 79 complete games that season) set many records, but this might be the most impressive.

Actually, Chamberlain's most impressive streak -- though he had some help from the men with the whistles -- was that ne never fouled out in 1,045 career games. Meanwhile, DiMaggio's streak is put in perspective by the fact that during those 56 games Ted Williams had a higher batting average.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Manmohan Singh confounds doubters (Soutik Biswas, 5/21/05, BBC News)

When Manmohan Singh became India's prime minister one year ago, many predicted that the affable and shy technocrat-turned-politician would not be able to handle the unusual pressures of his job. [...]

At the end of an eventful year at the helm, Mr Singh has not fared so badly, given the odds, analysts say.

There is considerable virtue in separating policy from pure politics - it allows both Mr Singh and Mrs Gandhi to concentrate on what they can do best
Political scientist Ashutosh Varshney

This despite a widespread perception that his Communist allies are blocking crucial economic policy and a raging controversy over a clutch of "tainted" ministers.

At home, the economy is purring along at a steady clip, inflation is under control despite escalating oil prices, and the moribund domestic aviation sector is being revamped with dramatic results.

"This government shows a sophistication in the management of the economy which is rare in the Third World," says economist Kaushik Basu.

"There is a popular view that the Communists have stymied the government's policies, but if one looks beyond the rhetoric to the actual action, it is clear that on most important matters, the left has eventually gone along with the market-oriented policies."

There has been a systematic, if slightly bureaucratic, engagement with issues of poverty, markedly absent during the previous administration.

Mr Singh had pledged a reform of the country's moth-ridden and corrupt public institutions, and is now trying to make civil servants more accountable. [...]

A year on, a lot remains to be done - labour reforms on the economic front, for example.

"The change that is needed and on which nothing has happened is the reform of labour laws. The economics of this is complicated. What looks like anti-labour is often pro-labour," Mr Basu says.

"This has to be debated much more in public so that a climate of change gets created and then one will need a huge amount of expertise to create the right laws. This cannot be left to politicians alone, left or right."

More importantly, Mr Singh's big-ticket spending to reduce poverty has to start showing results soon as there is a perception that most of it will remain stuck in red tape and will be badly delivered.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Stakes High for Iran Talks: This week's summit in Geneva will focus on containing the nation's nuclear ambitions. The alternative could be a face-off with the U.S. (Alissa J. Rubin and Sebastian Rotella, May 22, 2005, LA Times)

Amid Iranian threats to break off negotiations and European warnings about "irreversible gestures" on Tehran's part, the stakes are high as the two sides prepare to meet over the Islamic Republic's nuclear ambitions.

The outcome of the meeting, scheduled for midweek in Geneva, is crucial not just because of what it could portend for Iran's attainment of nuclear capability. If Iran leaves the negotiating table, the move could raise tensions throughout the Middle East and set the stage for a face-off between Tehran and the United States.

"The immediate concern is that if Iran carries out its threat, the U.S. will bomb them, and people in the region have had enough of wars between the United States and Muslim countries," said Gary Samore, a former advisor to the National Security Council and now director of studies at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. [..]

French diplomats plan to send a message at the Geneva meeting that an Iranian move to restart activity related to uranium enrichment would scuttle the talks and could result in a response by the U.N. Security Council, a French diplomatic official said Friday.

"We will tell them that committing an irreversible gesture makes no sense. It is not in their interest politically, technically or economically. It will put them in the position of being an isolated country. That's not good for their security," said the official, who declined to be identified.

Forget the EU, have the President travel to Iran himself to meet with its leaders about nukes and with reformers about its future.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Cuba dissidents debate democracy (BBC, 5/21/05)

Cuban dissidents have spent the last day of their defiant public meeting in Havana debating democracy bills.

Chanting "freedom" and "democracy now", about 100 dissidents voted for a steering committee to lead the group.

"We are satisfied that each and every one of us has fulfilled our duty to our nation," said Martha Beatriz Roque, the lead organiser of the event.

Cuban authorities did not intervene but had earlier expelled several European politicians who planned to attend.

On the first day, the meeting was attended by about 200 dissidents as well as Western envoys.

The dissidents heard a video message of support from US President George W Bush.

They should start work on a new constitution for a democratic Cuba so we can avoid some of the problems that have plagued post-Saddam Iraq.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


The Senate's Quavering Middle (DAVID BROOKS, 5/22/05, NY Times)

Here's an example of why moderates never accomplish anything in Washington.

Twelve independent and moderate senators - six Democrats and six Republicans - spent much of last week trying to work out a deal to head off a nuclear showdown over judges.

They agreed on the basic approach. The Democrats would allow votes on a few of the blocked judicial nominees (Priscilla Owen, William Pryor and Janice Rogers Brown, I'm told). In exchange the Republicans would drop a couple of the nominees (probably Henry Saad and William Myers).

The Democrats would promise not to use the filibuster, except under extreme circumstances. The Republicans would promise not to exercise the nuclear option except under extreme circumstances.

That was the deal, and a very fair one, too. But of course these are moderates. They can't just shove something through on the rough and dirty the way the partisans do. They can't lock themselves in the room until they reach a deal and then march out and announce it to the press.

They have to shop it around. Some of the 12 felt compelled to check with their leaders and others in their parties, so nobody would feel offended or left out. Some of the 12 had to quibble, fiddle, worry and adjust. One Democrat asked the Republicans if they could move a judge from the D.C. Circuit to the Ninth Circuit. (Huh?) Senator Robert Byrd joined the proceedings with a complicated proposal that threw everybody into confusion.

Then they had these arcane discussions about exactly which words to use. Since even moderates don't really trust one another, they were looking for language that would codify every possible contingency. A few gutless wonders were hoping they could find the words that would protect them when the attacks started coming from the pressure groups on their own side.

Does anybody think the ultrapartisan types would be paralyzed in this way?

You can't base an effective politics on your personal feelings--every man becomes a party of one.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Neil Diamond, Unplugged and Unsequined (JOHN LELAND, 5/22/05, NY Times)

IN the recording studio where Neil Diamond works, one hallway is lined with 37 of his gold and platinum records, opposite a wall of his album covers: four decades of American mainstream pop, facing off with four decades of American male hair.

Last week, Mr. Diamond huddled in this studio with the producer Rick Rubin, best known for his work with hip-hop and alternative rock acts. Mr. Diamond, 64, wore a tan jacket, baseball hat and loafers; Mr. Rubin, 42, wore a giant white T-shirt, sandals and the long hair and beard of a Biblical prophet or a ZZ Top extra.

Even by the corporate-merger models of the contemporary music business, Mr. Diamond and Mr. Rubin make an unlikely couple. Mr. Diamond's glossy, not-quite-rock productions have sold 120 million copies and emboldened men the world over to wear spangled apparel. Mr. Rubin, who spent Mr. Diamond's heyday attending heavy metal concerts on Long Island, had a recent hit with Jay-Z's "99 Problems," which uses language not found in any Neil Diamond song.

Yet here they were, finishing an album, as yet untitled, for release this summer. They were working on a song called "What's It Gonna Be," on which Mr. Diamond plays acoustic guitar, something he has not done on a record for decades. The song was spare and unpolished, and the two were discussing whether it needed a second guitar to steady the rhythm. "I just want to make sure we don't lose the loneliness of it," Mr. Rubin said.

"So you're saying we can leave my guitar in," Mr. Diamond said, describing his playing with a pejorative best omitted here.

"I love your guitar," Mr. Rubin said, repeating the same adjective. "The only person who won't like it is you. People will hear it and say, 'That must be him playing. I never heard that before.' "

If he can produce a Neil Diamond disc that's half as good as the Johnny Cash ones then Mr. Rubin really is a genius.

May 21, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:26 PM


Cricket star knows how to fire up fanatics (Mark Steyn, May 22, 2005, Chicago Sun-Times)

By my reckoning, just five American newspapers mentioned the name of Imran Khan last week. Who? Well, he's a world-famous -- wait for it -- cricketer. No, hang on: Don't all stampede for the exits, this isn't a column about cricket. He is, as it happens, a beautiful cricketer, the first great fast bowler from the Indian subcontinent and -- whoops, no, honestly, it's not a cricket column. But the point is he's a household name in England, Australia, India and everywhere else where the summer game means the thwack of leather on willow.

And in the same week a mere handful of American media outlets mentioned Imran, over a hundred newspapers mentioned Michael Isikoff of Newsweek. Isikoff was the guy who filed the phony-baloney story about some interrogator at Guantanamo flushing a Quran down the toilet. But Imran was the guy who, in a ferocious speech broadcast on Pakistani TV, brought it to the attention of his fellow Muslims, many of whom promptly rioted, with the result that 17 people are dead.

To date, reaction has divided along two lines. Newsweek has been hammered for being so flushed with anti-Bush anti-military fever that they breezily neglected the question of whether their story would generate a huge mound of corpses.

Which is true. On the other hand, there are those who point out it's hardly Newsweek's fault that some goofy foreigners are so bananas they'll riot and kill over one rumor of one disrespectful act to one copy of one book. Christians don't riot over ''Piss Christ'' and other provocations by incontinent ''artists.'' Jews take it in their stride when they're described as ''a virus resembling AIDS,'' which is what Sheikh Ibrahim Mudeiris said a week ago in his sermon on Palestinian state TV, funded by the European Union. Muslims can dish it out big-time, so why can't they take it, even the teensy-weensiest bit?

All of which is also true, but would be a better defense of Newsweek if the media hadn't spent the last 3-1/2 years bending over backwards to be super-sensitive to the, ah, touchiness of the Muslim world -- until the opportunity for a bit of lurid Bush-bashing proved too much to resist. In a way, both the U.S. media and those wacky rioters in the Afghan-Pakistani hinterlands are very similar, two highly parochial and monumentally self-absorbed tribes living in isolation from the rest of the world and prone to fanatical irrational indestructible beliefs -- not least the notion that you can flush a 950-page book down one of Al Gore's eco-crazed federally mandated low-flush toilets, a claim no editorial bigfoot thought to test for himself in Newsweek's executive washroom.

Those toilets were stuffed with their credibility.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:32 PM


Hillary Clinton hangs back in the Senate filibuster fight: Presidential aspirations for '08 may be the reason (BENNETT ROTH, 5/21/05, Houston Chronicle)

When Democrats marched down the Capitol steps earlier this week in support of judicial filibusters, the star of the political party, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, was only a follower.

The former first lady slipped on her sunglasses and stood near the back as congressional leaders took turns blasting Republicans for allegedly eroding minority party rights in their attempt to do away with Senate filibusters on judicial nominations.

Despite her national prominence, Clinton is keeping a low profile on filibusters, an intensely partisan issue that overshadowed other Senate business this week. [...]

[W]hen the media spotlight was almost solely on the filibuster fight this week, Clinton, a senator from New York, was practically invisible.

She declined to speak on the Senate floor during three days of debate over Owen's nomination and stayed away from her Democratic colleagues' daily press conferences to decry what they claimed were Owen's anti-abortion opinions.

Nor has Clinton been involved in the talks among moderates of both parties, led by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz, who are seeking a compromise to avoid the confrontation over the filibuster.

In her biggest piece of official business for the week, Clinton announced that she was co-sponsoring legislation to benefit children of veterans.

That she needs to be seen as keeping her distance from the Party on this issue in order to preserve her presidential viability tells you all you need to know about this fight.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:59 PM

THE MRS. IN '08?:

President Sends His Very Best: Solo Mission to Mideast Further Raises Laura Bush's Profile (Jim VandeHei and Peter Baker, May 21, 2005, Washington Post)

She will tour the pyramids of Egypt and pay respects at Israel's Western Wall, check out the local library and give a high-profile speech here. But as Laura Bush makes her way across the Middle East in the next few days, perhaps her most important mission will be trying to repair America's suffering image abroad.

"We've had terrible happenings that really, really hurt our image of the United States," she said as she launched a five-day solo diplomatic mission to this volatile region on Friday. "People in the United States are sick about it. They're very sorry that that's the image that people in the Arab world got of the United States."

These days, the Bush administration increasingly is turning to one of its most popular envoys to the nation and to the outside world. From late-night comedienne to international goodwill ambassador, Laura Bush has emerged from the first-term bubble of the East Wing to carve out a more prominent role in her husband's second term, finding an independent voice that at times has even diverged somewhat from the official White House line. [...]

The Middle East trip is Laura Bush's second foreign journey without her husband in recent months. It follows a quick visit to Afghanistan in March, when she expressed solidarity with a country still fighting Islamic radicals who segregate women.

In an interview with Fox News before leaving Washington, she said Americans will see more of her in the second term. Little wonder, given polls showing her far more popular than her husband, scoring approval ratings of 80 percent or higher, compared with his numbers in the mid-40s.

She's obviously a better successor than Dick Cheney.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:23 PM


Tory MP apologizes for language (Canadian Press, May 21st, 2005)

Conservative MP Steven Fletcher has apologized for referring to Japanese soldiers as "Japs" and "bastards" at a convention.

The Winnipeg politician's admission of using "language that was inappropriate" came Saturday after some Japanese-Canadians and Canadian veterans said they were upset about the MP's remarks.

Hayden Kent, president of the Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans Unit 283, said he was taken aback by Mr. Fletcher's comments at an annual veterans' convention in Winnipeg last weekend.

According to Mr. Kent and two other sources, the rookie MP was describing his grandfather's wartime experience when he said "the Japs were bastards."[...]

Keiko Miki, past-president of the National Association of Japanese Canadians, had said she was surprised and hurt by Fletcher's comments.

It isn’t easy to guage this kind of thing. Either it is a harbinger of a frightening, totalitarian political correctness or an indication that secular liberals are in decline and now resemble the delicate Victorian ladies who put stockings on piano legs and fainted if anyone used a big, big “D”.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:15 PM


Bush's Indian gambit (The Australian, 21may05)

ITS logic is inescapable yet the idea has been inconceivable: a strategic partnership between the two great democracies, the US and India, long divided by distrust and the Cold War.

Yet it is happening. George W. Bush has reached out to India and one of the coming debates in global politics will be over the manner and meaning of his decision to support India's quest to become a global power.

India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will visit Washington in July, with Bush reportedly saying this will be treated as a "grand event", and at the year's end Bush will visit India.

A round of interviews in New Delhi this week elicited a plethora of views as India's political elite debates how far it should enter the US embrace. But India is being wooed and its pride at this is palpable.

The Bush administration, far more cohesive with Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State, has launched a diplomatic offensive with India that is stunning in its rhetoric and serious in its content. "India's relations with the US are now the best they have ever been," says Rajiv Sikri, the senior official on East Asia at India's external affairs ministry.

When the two leaders briefly met in Moscow this month at celebrations to honour the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, Bush introduced his wife Laura to Singh, saying, "This is the Prime Minister of India and I'm going to take you to his country this Christmas-New Year so you can see the most fascinating democracy in the world."

The message in New Delhi is that Bush and Singh can do business. How much business they do remains to be seen but the US has set the bar very high. [...]

While Bill Clinton's 2000 visit to India symbolised a new outlook, the conceptual change has come under Bush. Ashley Tellis, from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, says it has been shaped by Rice, her new deputy Bob Zoellick and counsellor Philip Zelikow.

Bush initially appointed Bob Blackwill as US ambassador to India to upgrade the relationship and the 2002 National Security Strategy, which said the US sought a "transformation in its bilateral relationship with India".

Now it is going further -- the US has recast decisively its policy towards India and South Asia. The core judgment is that a strong, democratic and influential India is an asset for the US in the region and the world. The US no longer narrowly defines India within the terms of its rivalry with Pakistan and Bush accepts the reality of India as a nuclear power.

Bush's thinking is shaped by India's democratic values in contrast with China's authoritarianism.

100 years from now it is not unlikely that the alliance with India will be considered one of the President's three or four most important achievements.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:23 PM


Gibbons comes out on top in poll of state voters: Congressman beats by double digits any opponents in race for governor (ERIN NEFF, 5/21/05, Las Vegas REVIEW-JOURNAL)

Republican Rep. Jim Gibbons has both the highest name recognition and the best chance to be Nevada's next governor, according to a poll of statewide voters.

Gibbons trounces potential Republican primary opponents and beats both likely Democratic candidates by double digits, according to the survey of 625 Nevada voters commissioned by the Review-Journal and

Voters were polled May 12-14 by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc., based in Washington, D.C. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. For the Republican and Democratic subgroup questions, the margin is 6 percentage points.

On the high end of the scale, Gibbons was recognized by 92 percent of voters, compared with 41 percent of voters who recognized Democrat Richard Perkins, the Assembly speaker.

The 273 Republican voters surveyed put Gibbons way ahead of Lt. Gov. Lorraine Hunt, a declared candidate, and state Sen. Bob Beers of Las Vegas, who is considering a bid. Gibbons would get 60 percent of the vote in a GOP primary, compared with 13 percent for Hunt and 10 percent for Beers.

"I would say it's just insurmountable for Lorraine Hunt and Bob Beers," said Eric Herzik, a Republican and political science professor at the University of Nevada, Reno. "I would be seriously re-assessing my next office choice if I were either one of them."

Robert Uithoven, spokesman for Gibbons' gubernatorial exploratory committee, said he felt voters shared the congressman's message of tax restraint and education -- two areas for which Gibbons has successfully led ballot initiatives.

Would have been helpful if he'd taken out Harry Reid last November, but you can understand him waiting for this race instead.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:10 PM


President Delivers Commencement Address at Calvin College (George W. Bush, May 21, 2005, The Calvin College Fieldhouse, Grand Rapids, Michigan)

2:15 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, President Byker; members of the Calvin faculty; distinguished guests; parents, friends, family -- and, most importantly, the Class of 2005. (Applause.)

President George W. Bush gives a commencement address to the students and faculty of Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan on Saturday May 21. White House photo by Paul Morse Thanks for having me. I was excited to come back to Calvin, and I was just telling Laura the other night about what fun it would be to come to Calvin College. I said, you know, Laura, I love being around so many young folks. You know, it gives me a chance to re-live my glory days in academia. (Laughter.) She said, George, that's not exactly how I would describe your college experience. (Laughter.) She also said one other thing I think the graduates will appreciate hearing, a good piece of advice. She said, the folks here are here to get their diploma, not to hear from an old guy go on too long. (Laughter.) So with that sage advice, here goes.

I bring a great message of hope and freedom to Calvin College Class of 2005: There is life after Professor Vanden Bosch and English 101. (Laughter.) Someday you will appreciate the grammar and verbal skills you learned here. (Laughter and applause.) And if any of you wonder how far a mastery of the English language can take you, just look what it did for me. (Laughter and applause.)

I thank the moms and dads here for your sacrifice and for your love. (Applause.) I want to thank the faculty for your hard work and dedication. (Applause.) And, again, I congratulate the Class of 2005. Soon you will collect your degrees and say goodbyes to a school that has been your home -- and you will take your rightful place in a country that offers you the greatest freedom and opportunity on Earth. (Applause.) I ask that you use what you've learned to make your own contributions to the story of American freedom.

The immigrants who founded Calvin College came to America for the freedom to worship, and they built this great school on the sturdy ground of liberty. They saw in the American "experiment" the world's best hope for freedom -- and they weren't the only ones excited by what they saw. In 1835, a young civil servant and aristocrat from France, named Alexis de Tocqueville, would publish a book about America that still resonates today.

The book is called "Democracy in America," and in it this young Frenchman said that the secret to America's success was our talent for bringing people together for the common good. De Tocqueville wrote that tyrants maintained their power by "isolating" their citizens -- and that Americans guaranteed their freedom by their remarkable ability to band together without any direction from government. The America he described offered the world something it had never seen before: a working model of a thriving democracy where opportunity was unbounded, where virtue was strong, and where citizens took responsibility for their neighbors.

Tocqueville's account is not just the observations of one man -- it is the story of our founding. It is not just a description of America at a point in time -- it is an agenda for our time. Our Founders rejected both a radical individualism that makes no room for others, and the dreary collectivism that crushes the individual. They gave us instead a society where individual freedom is anchored in communities. And in this hopeful new century, we have a great goal: to renew this spirit of community and thereby renew the character and compassion of our nation.

First, we must understand that the character of our citizens is essential to society. In a free and compassionate society, the public good depends on private character. That character is formed and shaped in institutions like family, faith, and the many civil and -- social and civic organizations, from the Boy Scouts to the local Rotary Clubs. The future success of our nation depends on our ability to understand the difference between right and wrong and to have the strength of character to make the right choices. Government cannot create character, but it can and should respect and support the institutions that do.

Second, we must understand the importance of keeping power close to the people. Local people know local problems, they know the names and faces of their neighbors. The heart and soul of America is in our local communities; it is in the citizen school boards that determine how our children are educated; it's in city councils and state legislators that reflect the unique needs and priorities of the people they serve; it's in the volunteer groups that transform towns and cities into caring communities and neighborhoods. In the years to come, I hope that you'll consider joining these associations or serving in government -- because when you come together to serve a cause greater than yourself, you will energize your communities and help build a more just and compassionate America.

Finally, we must understand that it is by becoming active in our communities that we move beyond our narrow interests. In today's complex world, there are a lot of things that pull us apart. We need to support and encourage the institutions and pursuits that bring us together. And we learn how to come together by participating in our churches and temples and mosques and synagogues; in civil rights associations; in our PTAs and Jaycees; in our gardening and book clubs, interest groups and chambers of commerce; in our service groups -- from soup kitchens to homeless shelters.

All these organizations promote the spirit of community and help us acquire the "habits of heart" that are so vital to a free society. And because one of the deepest values of our country is compassion, we must never turn away from any citizen who feels isolated from the opportunities of America. Our faith-based and community groups provide the armies of compassion that help people who wonder if the American Dream is meant for them. These armies of compassion are the great engines of social change, they serve individual and local needs, and they have been found at the front of every great movement in American history.

The history of forming associations dedicated to serving others is as old as America, itself. From abolition societies and suffrage movements to immigrant aid groups and prison reform ministries, America's social entrepreneurs have often been far ahead of our government in identifying and meeting the needs of our fellow countrymen. Because they are closer to the people they serve, our faith-based and community organizations deliver better results than government. And they have a human touch: When a person in need knocks on the door of a faith-based or community organization, he or she is welcomed as a brother or a sister.

No one understood this better than another 19th century visitor to America whose name is well known to Calvin College: Abraham Kuyper. Kuyper was a Dutchman who would be elected his nation's prime minister, and he knew all about the importance of associations because he founded so many of them -- including two newspapers, a political party, and a university. Kuyper contrasted the humanizing influence of independent social institutions with the "mechanical character of government." And in a famous speech right here in Grand Rapids, he urged Dutch immigrants to resist the temptation to retreat behind their own walls -- he told them to go out into their adopted America and make a true difference as true Christian citizens.

Our government is encouraging all Americans to make a difference through our faith-based and community initiative; we're mobilizing Americans to volunteer through the USA Freedom Corps. We'll do our part, but, ultimately, service is up to you. It is your choice to make. As your generation takes its place in the world, all of you must make this decision: Will you be a spectator, or a citizen? To make a difference in this world, you must be involved. By serving a higher calling here or abroad, you'll make your lives richer and build a more hopeful future for our world.

At Calvin College, you take this call to service to heart. You serve as "agents of renewal" across the Earth. You volunteer for Big Brothers/Big Sisters to mentor young people. You work at Bethany Christian Services here in Grand Rapids, one of the best-known adoption services in America. A former Calvin student and professor, Vern Ehlers, serves in the halls of Congress. As the Class of 2005 goes out into the world, I ask you to embrace this tradition of service and help set an example for all Americans. As Americans we share an agenda that calls us to action -- a great responsibility to serve and love others, a responsibility that goes back to the greatest commandment.

This isn't a Democratic idea. This isn't a Republican idea. This is an American idea. (Applause.) It has sustained our nation's liberty for more than 200 years. The Founders knew that too much government leads to oppression, but that too little government can leave us helpless and alone. So they built a free society with many roots in community. And to keep the tree of liberty standing tall in the century before us, you must nourish those roots.

Today, the Calvin Class of 2005 looks out on an America that continues to be defined by the promise of our Declaration of Independence. We're still the nation our Founders imagined, where individual freedom and opportunity is unbounded, where community is vibrant, where compassion keeps us from resting until all our citizens take their place at the banquet of freedom and equality. And with your help, we'll all do our part to transform our great land one person and one community at a time.

Thank you for having me and may God bless you, and may God continue to bless our country. (Applause.)

END 2:30 P.M. EDT

We'd note a few things about the speech:

(1) He does good self-deprecatory

(2) The speech shop is doing pretty well even without Michael Gerson

(3) The man has imbibed his de Tocqueville

(4) He kept it to 15 minutes

(5) Take a look at the care with which he distances himself from the First and Second Ways.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:14 PM


Clerics strip fugitive Taliban leader of power (Tom Coghlan, 20/05/2005, Daily Telegraph)

A crowd of 600 Afghan clerics gathered in front of an historic mosque yesterday to strip the fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar of his claim to religious authority, in a ceremony that provided a significant boost to the presidency of Hamid Karzai.

The declaration, signed by 1,000 clerics from across the country, is an endorsement of the US-backed programme of reconciliation with more moderate elements of the Taliban movement that Karzai has been pursuing ahead of the country's first parliamentary elections, due in September.

Symbolically, the ulema shura, or council of clerics, was held at the Blue Mosque in the southern city of Kandahar, the spiritual home of the Taliban movement.

At the same venue in 1996 the Taliban leader held up a cloak said to belong to the Prophet Mohammed, which is kept in a shrine in the mosque. He was proclaimed Amir ul-Mumineen or Leader of Muslims by the same clerical body, one of the few occasions the title has been granted anywhere in the Islamic world in the modern era.

As afternoon prayers approached yesterday, some 600 clerics, heavily bearded and wearing substantial turbans and flowing robes, from 20 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces, entered the blue-domed mosque's main courtyard, flanked by heavily armed guards.

With the assembled clerics seated on the marble floor before him, the head of shura, Maulvi Abdullah Fayaz, said: "Karzai is elected through free and fair election and religiously we have to obey his orders. None of the orders of the previous Emirs, including Mullah Omar, is accepted."

He said that following the Taliban, "accepting their orders and through their orders killing people and destabilising the country", was "against sharia law".

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:07 PM


'New Democrat' Bloc Opposes Trade Pact (Thomas B. Edsall, May 21, 2005, Washington Post)

Traditionally pro-business and pro-trade House Democrats have announced plans to vote against the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement, a stance putting at risk support from the rapidly growing high-tech community, one of the few major industries that continue to give substantial backing to Democratic candidates.

The four co-chairmen of the 40-member House New Democrat Coalition have declared their opposition to the agreement, provoking an outcry from high-tech lobbying groups. The opposition is a major setback for the Bush administration, which is struggling to get House and Senate votes on the agreement before the Fourth-of-July congressional recess.

In a letter to the New Democrat Coalition last week, the heads of eight high-tech trade associations wrote: "CAFTA makes important progress in areas critical to the long-term success of our industry, and we consider the vote on this agreement to be one of the most important of 2005. We hope that you will reconsider your opposition."

Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), a New Democrat co-chairman, acknowledged that "there is no question, it's a risky step" to oppose the agreement.

What are we to make of a party that has now expunged the last vestige of the New Democrat/Third Way agenda that made Bill Clinton the only successful president they've produced in at least the last sixty years?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:57 PM


What Kind of Education Is Required in a Democracy? (Tom Palaima, 5/02/05, History News Network)

Democracy depends on what the ancient Greeks called paideia. This word is often translated as "education," but, as you might expect from my other columns about ancient Greek ideas and realities, this word needs lots of nuancing. In its root sense, it means something like "the process of child-ing" - i.e., all that goes into making sure that a newborn baby will mature into an adult with the abilities of mind, moral sensibilities, self-discipline, habits, sense of cultural history and tradition, and intellectual skills that a member of a society should possess. It is, then, a flexible tool. The regimented, oligarchic-socialist Spartan state practiced one form of paideia. The radically democratic Athenians could and should have used quite another.

The Greeks meant something much different by "education" than we do. Just as they would not recognize our virulent strain of "government-bashing" - ironically, promoted by the government's leaders - or the notion that government is an entity separate from ourselves, so, too, they would find unimaginable how we discuss our "educational system" as something that we can blame others for getting it wrong. And they would find current proposals for improving this system, such as accountability through overloads of standardized testing, counter to what paideia is supposed to achieve.

So it is easy for us to misunderstand what it takes in the way of education, or we might call it preparation or even nurturing, for citizens to make democracy work. Proper democratic paideia incorporates respectful habits of mind and behavior, the ability to speak clearly and persuasively and listen respectfully in public forums, and a commitment to hard work. It takes dedication to the common good and a corresponding willingness to sacrifice personal desires.

The only thing we have public schools for we no longer allow them to teach.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:19 PM


Where Have All The Children Gone?: a review of Fewer by Ben J. Wattenberg & The Empty Cradle by Phillip Longman (Eric Cohen, Spring 2005, The Public Interest)

The new demography is best understood in three parts: the less developed countries (LDCs), the more developed countries (especially Europe and Japan), and the United States. Contrary to public perception, the most dramatic fertility declines in recent decades have occurred in the LDCs. From 1965 to 1970, the "total fertility rate" (or TFR, the number of children per woman) for all LDCs was 6.0; from 1985 to 1990, it was 3.8; from 2000 to 2005, it will be below 2.9 and falling. In 20 LDCs, fertility rates are already below replacement levels or soon will be— including Iran, Mexico, and Brazil. Central to this story is China, the world's most populous nation, whose TFR fell from 6.06 between 1960 and 1965 to around 1..8 today. This drop is due largely to China's coercive one-child policy. But it is also clear that the fertility free-fall in the developing world is not predominantly coercive; it is, rather, a spontaneous change in human behavior. And given that many of these nations are still poor, it suggests that modern wealth is not a prerequisite for fertility decline.

Wattenberg and Longman disagree somewhat about the economic and social significance of these changes for the LDCs. Wattenberg believes the decline in fertility rates could have mostly positive benefits, at least for several decades. The high rates of fertility in earlier decades and declining rates of infant mortality have created a large cohort of workers, better educated and more skilled than any previous native generation. This generational cohort is having fewer children and sending more women into the paid workforce. With fewer dependents and more producers, Wattenberg argues, GDP per capita in many LDCs is poised to increase dramatically. And as the local economy expands, the best and the brightest will stay home instead of heading overseas in search of economic opportunity. Wattenberg calls this the "demographic dividend."

But, as Longman points out, there are also reasons to worry. The demographic dividend must eventually be repaid. Today's generation of producers will age, and there will be fewer children (and thus fewer future workers) to support them. The LDCs, Longman says, may get old before they get rich. And so, where Wattenberg sees nations like India and China as prime examples of how the new demography might turn out well in the near future, Longman sees a potential long-term disaster: the coming of "4-2-1 societies," in which "one child must support two parents and four grand-parents," even as the economy drives workers away from the farms where their dependent elders still live.

On the question of Europe, Japan, and other modern democracies, both authors are in agreement: Depopulation is coming, and the economic and social consequences will likely be disastrous. The data are indeed staggering: Since the late 1950s, the TFR in Europe has fallen from 2.7 to 1.38—an astounding 34 percent below the replacement level of 2.1. Japan's fertility rate is 1.32. A large number of nations have TFRs between 1.0 and 1.2, including Russia, Spain, Italy, South Korea, and the Czech Republic. Generations of modern children are growing up without brothers and sisters, and roughly 20 percent of women in the leading nations of Europe have no children at all at the end of their child-bearing years. [...]

LOOKING AT AMERICA, THE FUTURE is more complicated. The United States has virtually the highest fertility rate of any advanced nation at 2.01, with Israel as the most notable exception. Yet there are dramatic differences between different regions (low fertility in the northeast high fertility in the west) and between native-born whites and Hispanic immigrants. Unlike Europe and Japan the American fertility rate has risen (if slightly) over the last two decades. But whether America is truly "exceptional" is unclear: Wattenberg says yes, because we continue to have children near the replacement rate, and we continue to welcome and assimilate working-age immigrants Longman is skeptical, and worries that American over-spending on health care could erase any demographic advantages we might have.

Still, both authors agree that America will confront many of the same problems as Europe and Japan—with fewer workers supporting more dependents, with few economic incentives for having children, with private pensions that threaten to bankrupt large companies, with a growing population of elders in need of long-term care, and an economy dominated by risk-averse retirees. While the Bush administration may overstate the urgency of the Social Security crisis, both Democrats and Republicans understate the urgency of the Medicare and long-term care crisis. How will we care for our ever increasing population of (increasingly disabled) senior citizens?

But if there are reasons to worry, there are also reasons for optimism. America is genuinely different from most other modern countries: It is a more religious nation, and this means that large parts of the population see 'both procreation and caring for the elderly as moral duties. It is a harder working nation, with a labor force that produces more wealth by working more hours and seeking useful employment even in retirement. It is a more self-reliant nation, with individuals more open to funding their own retirements rather than demanding expansions of the welfare state. And it is a more idealistic nation: Americans believe in the future, and the future requires having children.

AND THIS BRINGS US TO THE HEART OF THE MATTER, an issue not adequately considered by either author: Why have children at all (or more than just one or two), especially when there are so many reasons not to do so? Children are, after all, technologically avoidable (thanks in large part to the pill), economically expensive (and more so in cities), and culturally optional (particularly in the West).

In a chapter entitled "The Cost of Children," Longman explains why raising a child in America will cost middle-class families over $1 million, due mostly to the "opportunity cost of motherhood"—that is, the lost wages entailed in raising the young. He describes how our tax system punishes parents, who produce the "human capital" (the future citizens) who make national prosperity possible, but who as parents gain little economic reward for doing so. He also describes how dependent the nation's nonparents have become on other people's children, and how we consume more human capital (future workers) than we produce. As a response, Longman recommends a pro-child reform of the pension system, so that parents would get a one-third reduction in their payroll tax for each child under 18, but receive maximum retirement benefits only if their children graduate from high school.

Longman's analysis is both brilliant and perverse. In the end, he seems to forget the central role of culture in shaping procreation, which was (ironically) the reason he seems to have written the book in the first place—fearing that only the wrong kind of people (religious fundamentalists) will have children while the right kind of people (tolerant secularists) will not. But economic incentives will probably not move many secularists to be more fruitful than they other-wise would be. And while many individuals and couples believe they are having fewer children (or none at all) because of the expense of raising children responsibly, their behavior has much deeper roots: It is not fundamentally an economic issue, but a cultural one. For those who see children primarily as sources of personal fulfillment, other routes to happiness may seem more trouble-free. Children will often lose out in this utilitarian calculus, even if the state makes raising them less expensive.

Demography is the doomsday weapon of the Culture War.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:09 PM


Getting Space Exploration Right (Robert Zubrin, Spring 2005, New Atlantis)

Over the course of its history, NASA has employed two distinct modes of operation. The first prevailed during the period from 1961 to 1973, and may be called the Apollo Mode. The second has prevailed since 1974, and may be called the Shuttle Mode.

In the Apollo Mode, business is (or was) conducted as follows: First, a destination for human spaceflight is chosen. Then a plan is developed to achieve this objective. Following this, technologies and designs are developed to implement that plan. These designs are then built and the missions are flown.

The Shuttle Mode operates entirely differently. In this mode, technologies and hardware elements are developed in accord with the wishes of various technical communities. These projects are then justified by arguments that they might prove useful at some time in the future when grand flight projects are initiated.

Contrasting these two approaches, we see that the Apollo Mode is destination-driven, while the Shuttle Mode pretends to be technology-driven, but is actually constituency-driven. In the Apollo Mode, technology development is done for mission-directed reasons. In the Shuttle Mode, projects are undertaken on behalf of various pressure groups pushing their own favorite technologies and then defended using rationales. In the Apollo Mode, the space agency’s efforts are focused and directed. In the Shuttle Mode, NASA’s efforts are random and entropic.

To make this distinction completely clear, a mundane metaphor may be useful. Imagine two couples, each planning to build their own house. The first couple decides what kind of house they want, hires an architect to design it in detail, and then acquires the appropriate materials to build it. That is the Apollo Mode. The second couple polls their neighbors each month for different spare house-parts they would like to sell, and buys them all, hoping eventually to accumulate enough stuff to build a house. When their relatives inquire as to why they are accumulating so much junk, they hire an architect to compose a house design that employs all the knick-knacks they have purchased. The house is never built, but an excuse is generated to justify each purchase, thereby avoiding embarrassment. That is the Shuttle Mode. [...]

Comparing these two records, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that NASA’s productivity—both in terms of missions accomplished and technology developed—was vastly greater during its Apollo Mode than during its Shuttle Mode.

The Shuttle Mode is hopelessly inefficient because it involves the expenditure of large sums of money without a clear strategic purpose. It is remarkable that the leader of any technical organization would tolerate such a senile mode of operation, but NASA administrators have come to accept it. Indeed, during his first two years in office, Sean O’Keefe (the NASA administrator from 2001 until early 2005) explicitly endorsed this state of affairs, repeatedly rebutting critics by saying that “NASA should not be destination-driven.”

Yet ultimately, the blame for this multi-decade program of waste cannot be placed solely on NASA’s leaders, some of whom have attempted to rectify the situation. Rather, the political class must also accept major responsibility for failing to provide any coherent direction for America’s space program—and for demanding more than their share of random projects that do not fit together and do not lead anywhere.

Advocates of the Shuttle Mode claim that by avoiding the selection of a destination they are developing the technologies that will allow us to go anywhere, anytime. That claim has proven to be untrue. The Shuttle Mode has not gotten us anywhere, and can never get us anywhere. The Apollo Mode got us to the Moon, and it can get us back, or take us to Mars. But leadership is required—and for the last three decades, there has been almost none. [...]

President Bush announced the new policy on January 14, 2004, in a speech at NASA headquarters. As articulated in that speech and an accompanying National Security Presidential Directive, the new policy, dubbed the “Vision for Space Exploration,” included something for each faction. The vision calls for:

Implementing a sustained and affordable human and robotic program to explore the solar system and beyond;

Extending a human presence across the solar system, starting with a human return to the Moon by the year 2020, in preparation for human exploration of Mars and other destinations;

Developing the innovative technologies, knowledge, and infrastructures both to explore and to support decisions about the destinations for human exploration; and

Promoting international and commercial participation to further U.S. scientific, security, and economic interests.

The directive then lists a series of actions and activities to achieve these stated goals. These include returning the space shuttle fleet to flight, using it to complete construction of the International Space Station, and then retiring the shuttle and moving beyond it by “the end of this decade.” The directive also states that NASA should develop “a new crew exploration vehicle to provide crew transportation for missions beyond low Earth orbit,” and should conduct “the initial test flight before the end of this decade in order to provide an operational capability to support human exploration missions no later than 2014.” It also says that NASA shall “acquire crew transportation to and from the International Space Station, as required, after the space shuttle is retired from service.”

Beyond low Earth orbit, the policy instructs NASA to “undertake lunar exploration activities to enable sustained human and robotic exploration of Mars and more distant destinations in the solar system.” By 2008, NASA should begin a series of lunar robotic missions intended to “prepare for and support future human exploration activities.” The first human mission is supposed to commence between 2015 and 2020. And unlike the short, three-day stay on the Moon that is the previous record (set by Apollo 17 in 1972), this would be an “extended human expedition.”

In addition to studying the Moon itself, these lunar activities are meant to “develop and test new approaches, technologies, and systems ... to support sustained human space exploration to Mars and other destinations.” The plan calls for robotic exploration of the solar system—Mars, asteroids, Jupiter’s moons—as well as a search for habitable planets outside our solar system. The knowledge gathered from the robotic exploration of Mars, along with the lessons learned from long-term stays on the Moon, along with new technologies for “power generation, propulsion, life support, and other key capabilities,” are aimed at making possible “human expeditions to Mars” at some unspecified date.

The most obvious problem with the Bush plan is its long, slow timeline. The only activities that the Vision for Space Exploration actually mandates before the end of the Bush administration’s second term are the return of the shuttle to flight, the use of the shuttle to complete the International Space Station, the flight of one lunar robotic probe, and the initiation of a development program for the Crew Exploration Vehicle. The ten-year schedule for the development of the Crew Exploration Vehicle is especially absurd. Technically, it makes no sense: starting from a much lower technology base, it only took five years to develop the Apollo command module, which served the same functions. Politically, it is unwise: the delay makes the development of the Crew Exploration Vehicle reversible by the next administration. And fiscally, it is foolish: the long timeline only serves to gratify the major aerospace industry contractors, which desire a new long-term, high-cost activity to replace the recently cancelled Orbital Space Plane. Stranger still is the decision to set the next manned Moon landing as late as sixteen years into the future—twice as long as it took the United States to reach the Moon back in the 1960s—and to place the Mars mission at some nebulous time in the future. Such a drawn-out timeline is unlikely to serve as a driving force on the activities of this slow-moving bureaucracy.

Still, there are aspects of the new policy that make it a positive step forward. By declaring that Moon-Mars would be the next order of business after the completion of the space station, the Bush vision precludes starting alternative initiatives that would get in the way. More importantly, by declaring that human exploration of the Moon and Mars is the goal of NASA, the new policy makes it legitimate for the space agency to allocate funds for technology development to support this objective. This is very important, since such spending previously could not be justified unless it could be defended as a necessary part of other programs, such as the space station or the robotic planetary exploration program. The mere designation of the Moon-Mars objective broke a formidable dam against the agency’s progress, and the administration rapidly showed its bona fides by requesting several hundred million dollars to support such newly permissible research and development. In addition, it was made clear that funds would be available to demonstrate some of these new technologies using subscale units on robotic missions to the Moon and Mars, starting around the end of this decade. But even this positive news must be viewed with caution. For in the absence of an actual Moon-Mars program—one that develops an efficient mission plan that designates the program’s technology needs—broad R&D expenditures can be quite inefficient.

Relative to the decisive form of leadership that drove the success of the Apollo program, the Bush policy set forth a large vision without the sense of urgency to make it real. But an uncertain trumpet is still better than none at all. Before President Bush’s announcement, the idea of an American program to pioneer the space frontier seemed to many like the stuff of science fiction writers, wistful dreamers, and marginal visionaries. Suddenly, it was a mainstream political idea, and significant social forces began to rally both for and against the plan. [...]

So far we have discussed the problems that have caused NASA to drift for the past thirty years, how those problems came to the fore in the aftermath of the Columbia disaster, and the efforts of the administration to address those endemic problems. As we have seen, the resulting new space policy, while clearly a step in the right direction, includes so many compromises with the old way of doing business that a positive outcome remains in doubt. We must now address the question of how a rational human space exploration initiative should be done.

It is not enough that NASA’s human exploration efforts “have a goal.” The goal selected needs to be the right goal, chosen not because various people are comfortable with it, but because there is a real reason to do it. We don’t need a nebulous, futuristic “vision” that can be used to justify random expenditures on various fascinating technologies that might plausibly prove of interest at some time in the future when NASA actually has a plan. Nor do we need strategic plans that are generated for the purpose of making use of such constituency-based technology programs. Rather, the program needs to be organized so that it is the goal that actually drives the efforts of the space agency. In such a destination-driven operation, NASA is forced to develop the most practical plan to reach the objective, and on that basis, select for development those technologies required to implement the plan. Reason chooses the goal. The goal compels the plan. The plan selects the technologies.

So what should the goal of human exploration be? In my view, the answer is straightforward: Humans to Mars within a decade.

Interesting how you're always likely to develop more effective means more rapidly by focussing on the end, than on the means. Energy and environmental policies would likewise benefit from shifting into Apollo Mode.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:23 PM


Living Life's End (Gilbert Meilaender, May 2005, First Things)

Let us suppose that we can agree on the following points. (Not everyone will agree, of course, but the most fruitful clarifications and discussions often arise among those who already agree on a good bit. Moreover, these points of agreement have been—and, I think, in considerable measure still are—widely shared in our society.)

• We are not “vitalists,” as that term is sometimes used. A vitalist thinks that preserving life (even, as it is sometimes put, “mere biological life”) is always the most important human good—and, hence, that life must always be preserved if it can be, at whatever cost to other goods. If we thought this, we could not have a category of permissible “allowing to die.”

• We come to our deliberations about end-of-life care with some principles in hand, but we also form judgments about particular cases. There are bound to be instances in which our principles suggest one course of action, while our sense of the particulars of the case inclines us in a different direction. In such instances neither the principles nor our response to the particulars always holds trump in moral reasoning. To be sure, some principles we would be reluctant to change: they are so fundamental to everything we believe that changing them would be akin to a conversion. Likewise, there are some cases about which we can hardly imagine changing our mind. But our deliberations always move back and forth between principle and particular response, and adjustment can take place on either pole.

• Among the principles we want to uphold but must explore in relation to cases is that we should never aim at or intend the death of any of our fellow human beings (recognizing possible exceptions in cases where they are themselves threatening the lives of others). A slightly different but related formulation would be that we want to affirm the equal dignity of every human being. Hence, we should not think of ourselves as possessors of another’s life or judge that another’s life is not worthy of our care. (We might add that there is nothing wrong with wishing, hoping, or desiring that a suffering person die; the wrong would lie in acting in a way aimed to bring about that person’s death.)

• Committed to such a principle of equal respect, we are led quite naturally to a certain way of caring for others who are ill, suffering, or dying. On the one hand, we should not aim at their death (whether by action or omission). We shouldn’t do whatever we do so that they will die. On the other hand, because we do not think that continued life is the only good, or necessarily the greatest good, in every circumstance, we are not obligated to do everything that might be done to keep someone alive. If a possible treatment seems useless or (even if useful) quite burdensome for the patient, we are under no obligation to try it or continue it. And in withholding or withdrawing such a treatment, we do not aim at death. We simply aim at another good: the good of life (even if a shorter life) free of the burdens of the proposed treatment. There is nothing terribly unusual about this. All of us, all the time, choose among various life courses open to us. When we are young, we may have many life choices available. The older we get, the more that range narrows. If we become severely ill, the range may be quite narrow. And if we are irretrievably dying, the narrowing process may have left almost no choices at all. Yet, all along the way, we choose a life from among this range of life choices. We may choose a life that is more daring and heroic (though shorter) than some other possibilities. That is not the same as choosing death. Likewise, one might imagine a severely ill patient deciding to forego a painful round of possibly useful treatment—choosing thereby a predictably shorter life, but a life free of the burdens of that treatment.

It is quite possible that we can agree on these points, yet not agree entirely on what is right to do in certain cases. Two sorts of cases, in particular, are baffling. There are patients who seem to be increasingly, or even entirely, beyond the reach of our care. The patient in a persistent vegetative state would be at the furthest boundary—still clearly a living human being, though seemingly unaware of any care we provide, but able to live indefinitely if given tube feedings. There are also patients to whom care might still be given but who are on a trajectory which can only worsen over time. An example (which I owe to Leon Kass) would be a patient with Alzheimer’s disease who has a Stokes-Adams episode (in which a temporary loss of consciousness due to cardiac arrhythmia occurs). One might implant a pacemaker in such a patient, thereby preventing further such episodes, but thereby also making time for further stages of decline from the Alzheimer’s.

These cases may baffle us, even against the background of agreement I sketched above. [...]

Take any case of a person who no longer seems to have much of a life. (I put it this way to capture not how we ought to think but how we often feel.) And suppose this person may die somewhat sooner if not treated but may live an indefinite period of time, in this less-than-desirable condition, if treated. And suppose, finally, that the treatment itself is not painful, is not unusually costly, does not require great inconvenience for the person being treated, and is not so invasive as to seem to make of the person a mere object. The treatment will benefit the life he has, even though one might be tempted to say that it’s not much of a benefit to have that life. If we withhold treatment in such a case, would we simply be shaping or orchestrating the manner of death in a morally acceptable way? Or would it be more accurate and honest to say that withholding treatment in these circumstances would be not merely shaping the manner of dying but choosing and aiming at death—withholding treatment in the hope that he will die as a result?

Whatever our uncertainties, and however precisely we respond to such cases, we need to do so in a way that attempts to hold on to the truth of our human condition. We should not want to think of ourselves as the author of the story of our own life or that of another—nor, therefore, as one who exercises ultimate authority over life. Indeed, when we think that way, or to the degree we think that way, we will almost certainly be unable to come to terms with the fact of death, and our attempt to deal with it is bound to be distorted.

That is thoughprecisely where the divide occurs between the secular --with their insistence on a right to kill -- and the religious --who favor erring on the side of life.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:09 PM


The Size Of Nations (Roger Kerr, 2 February 2005, New Zealand Business Roundtable)

From time to time people question whether New Zealand’s small size and geographical remoteness hold back its economic performance. For example, David Skilling, now chief executive of the New Zealand Institute, has claimed that these factors constrain business growth and make it difficult for businesses to specialise, so limiting investment in human capital and the value added to the primary products that make up a sizeable share of the economy. He speculates that some sort of interventionist industry policy might succeed in overcoming these handicaps and improving the country’s long-term performance.

Against this, Winton Bates, writing for the New Zealand Business Roundtable, has claimed that the appropriate antidote to smallness and remoteness is economic openness, including the continuing integration of New Zealand’s economy with Australia’s. Indeed, smallness and remoteness can even work to our advantage: for example, New Zealand may not need to spend as much per capita on defence than either Australia or the United States. It is also less vulnerable to things like foot and mouth and mad cow disease.

I read the evidence as being on the side of Bates. New Zealand is itself an illustration of the point that small nations can do just fine. In the latter part of the nineteenth century, New Zealand was among the top three countries in the world in per capita income terms. The average New Zealander was richer than the average citizen of the United States. In those days, transport and communication costs were a much greater handicap for New Zealand than they are today. And New Zealand’s prosperity was not just due to its links with Britain and its natural resources. Mostly it was due to its free and open economy: total government spending and taxation at the time was only about 10 percent of national income (compared with about 40 percent today).

The main reason for New Zealand’s subsequent slide in relative incomes, arrested only in the 1990s, was not any disadvantages of size and location. Rather, it was the bad economic policies that were followed for many decades, in particular moves away from economic freedom and towards intrusive government control of the economy. The worst mistakes were protectionism, heavy labour market regulation and much higher levels of government spending and taxation. Tariffs, high taxes and inefficient ports were among the things that added to the costs of distance.

A brief glance around the world today confirms that many small countries are faring very well. The richest member of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is Luxembourg with a per capita income estimated by the OECD (on a purchasing power parity basis) of around US$50,000, more than twice that of New Zealand. It could be argued that Luxembourg is hardly a country, merely a small region within the giant European Union economy. But Norway, Ireland, Switzerland, Denmark, Austria, Belgium, Sweden and Finland, all OECD countries with a population of around 10 million or less, have an average per capita income above the OECD average, while tiny Iceland, with a population of a mere 300,000, is in 10th place in the 30-member OECD.

Outside the OECD, Hong Kong and Singapore are of course well known cases of small, successful countries. In Africa, Botswana is a country with a growth record that has far exceeded much larger countries like South Africa and Nigeria in recent decades. Tiny Mauritius, with its remote location in the Indian Ocean, is another strong performer.

An even more extreme case is Bermuda. Its population is only 60,000, it is a barren island in the mid-Atlantic, and it has no valuable natural resources. Yet its per capita income is above that of the United States and nearly twice that of New Zealand.

Bermuda has prospered through low levels of government spending and taxation (it has no income or corporate taxes), respect for the rule of law (ultimately adjudicated by the Privy Council), limited government intervention in business, strict welfare policies and no welfare dependency. Bermuda is thought to have a higher level of economic freedom than Hong Kong.

Of the ten countries with populations over 100 million, only the United States and Japan are prosperous. Gary Becker, a Nobel laureate in economics, has noted that since 1950 real per capita GDP has risen somewhat faster in smaller nations than it has in bigger ones.

Becker argues that "dire warnings about the economic price suffered by small nations are not at all warranted". He goes so far as to say that smallness can be an asset in the division of labour in the modern world, provided economies are open to international transactions.

If the debate on the economic effects of smallness and remoteness continues, as it no doubt will, it needs to engage with the findings of a recently published book by respected economists Alberto Alesina and Enrico Spolaore, titled The Size of Nations. They begin by reminding us of a fact that many have overlooked in all the talk about globalisation: that globalisation has been accompanied by a substantial increase in the number of countries. Since 1945 the number of independent countries has more than doubled, from 74 to 193. More than half have fewer people than the US state of Massachusetts, which has 6 million inhabitants. Relatively speaking, New Zealand is not as small as it once was.

Why do we need reminding that the number of countries has been rapidly growing under our noses? Because we are used to thinking that globalisation eliminates national borders. In 1990, a book was published titled The Borderless World: Power and Strategy in the Interlinked Economy. Its author, Kenichi Ohmae, viewed the expanding multinational networks as having ever less attachment to any home base, so making national borders increasingly irrelevant. That is the direction in which many people have imagined a globalising world to be moving. And yet, since Ohmae’s book appeared, many thousands of kilometres have been added to the total length of international borders in our so-called borderless world.

The great increase over the last 50 years in the number of countries, and their falling average size, has mostly followed the break-up of empires. Decolonisation of the old European empires added several new countries to the world list, especially in Africa. The collapse of the Soviet Union added 15 more. The continuing demise of communism in Europe led the federation of Yugoslavia to fall bloodily apart, whereas Czechs and Slovaks arranged an amicable divorce. Against the trend, Yemen reunified, and so did Germany. But I would surmise that many former East Germans regret that they did: showered as they have been with largesse by their rich Western relations, they have done far worse than their Polish and Czech neighbours, who had no choice but to sort themselves out as independent countries. This is also the lesson of foreign aid: at best it is a minor factor in helping countries to develop, and works only if institutions and policies in recipient countries are in good shape. At worst it helps prop up corrupt and ineffective governments and holds development back.

The growing number and falling size of nations has often been accompanied by devolution, even within old and well-established countries. In response to growing regional sentiment, Spain has adopted a system of regional government. In the United Kingdom, Scotland and Wales, as well as Northern Ireland, now have their own assemblies.

All these trends share an underlying logic that Alesina and Spolaore articulate in their book. Part of that logic is globalisation: free trade in goods, services and capital makes small countries viable. The book suggests that economists have generally regarded the size of countries as ‘exogenous’, that is, not to be explained but treated as a brute geographical fact. Yet a country’s borders are man-made, and as such they could have turned out differently and are always subject to potential change. At one time New Zealand was a dependency of New South Wales, and later had the option of joining the Australian federation. Occasionally speculation surfaces that it might yet choose that option. From an economic point of view, however, the choice is largely irrelevant. Since around 1993, when New Zealand finally established a generally sound overall framework, our trend growth rate has improved substantially and has more or less matched that of the median Australian state.

Alesina and Spolaore acknowledge the benefits of size can be considerable. Big countries can spread the fixed costs of government over more taxpayers, and so can more easily restrain the size of their public sectors if they so wish. Defence spending in particular is easier for big countries to afford. Bigger economies allow for more specialisation, which contributes to higher productivity. Of course, the size of a country’s market crucially depends on its trade policy. Nowadays, in principle, all countries can trade with the whole world but, to the extent that national barriers to trade survive, bigger countries have an advantage over smaller ones. Big countries can provide regional insurance; since they are more diverse, downturns in some regions can be mitigated by upswings elsewhere.

Some people might argue that another benefit of size is that big countries can more easily redistribute income between regions and individuals. But this is a doubtful benefit. It is certainly not a benefit for richer regions, which are burdened by high taxation and may press for devolution or secession as a result. And, as already noted in relation to East Germany, the largesse showered on poorer regions may of dubious benefit to them. Consider Tasmania. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that tiny Tasmania would now be more prosperous if it had become an independent country trading freely with the rest of the world, rather than being shielded from economic reality as a mendicant state of the Commonwealth of Australia

The costs of bigness are considerable too. The bigger a country is, the more diverse the preferences of its citizens are likely to be, and therefore the more difficult it is for any government to satisfy them. The authors cite studies that claim to have found that people prefer, for better or worse, to live in countries that are homogeneous in terms of income, race, or ethnicity. The more diverse a country is in these respects, therefore, the greater the costs of size are likely to be.

This logic can be illustrated by the changing fortunes of the nation in the twentieth century. The first half of the century included the rise of totalitarian ideologies and dictatorships in countries that were large, aggressive, and militaristic. Such countries tried to maximise their military and other government economies of scale by social engineering of their subjects’ preferences, which they did by ceaseless mobilisation and propaganda, not to mention outright terror. The collapse of totalitarianism and the reassertion of diverse citizen preferences has been a major force making for more but smaller nations. Thus, over the second half of the century, democratisation and globalisation went hand in hand in leading to a world with more but lower borders. Democracy better registers spontaneous preferences with regard to public goods, while free trade allows those preferences to be realised by providing access to the markets needed to sustain them.

The big apparent exception to this explanation is the United States, which is not just the world’s most successful large economy and society but also very diverse while also being highly democratic. No trade-off between size and diversity seems to operate there. The obvious answer to the riddle is federalism: a form of devolution that has enabled the United States to enjoy the benefits of size while allowing considerable leeway for the expression and realisation of diverse preferences. The country would not otherwise stay together.

Besides Spain and the United Kingdom, several other European counties adopted devolution in the 1970s and 1980s in response to taxpayer dissatisfaction with the standard of government services. They include the relatively small countries of Denmark and Sweden. Half of Denmark’s 14 counties have fewer than 10,000 people, yet they collectively control two-thirds of Danish public spending and run transport, secondary schools, hospitals and other health services. A system of what we might call ‘competitive localism’ operates whereby patients can choose a hospital in another county. Subordinate municipalities run primary education. Sweden too has a devolved system, with nearly half of all taxes going to local government. Service standards diverge widely, as do policy models. Under devolution such divergence can be controversial and open to the charge of inequity. However, in Sweden the central government redistributes from richer to poorer municipalities by block grants, and in any case people are free to move among localities to obtain their preferred mix of local taxes and benefits.

The best example of the potential for devolution is Switzerland, another small and rich country and a miracle of diversity with its four language groups. The central government collects less than a third of tax revenues; most services are provided by the cantons. Any system of substantial devolution generates a good deal of local politics; in Switzerland this includes the widespread use of the citizen initiative and referenda, which are also used in some central government policy areas.

The popularity of devolution in continental Europe can be contrasted with widespread dissatisfaction with government services in the United Kingdom, which over the last two decades has gone against the European trend and increasingly centralised the funding and control of public services. Britain has the best-performing economy of the big European ones, but its public services are notoriously poor: its public transport is a shambles, its health system mediocre, its school system slowly disintegrating, and its clear-up rates for crime low and falling. No wonder: service providers are tormented by a permanent drizzle of performance targets issued from the centre. As under the old Soviet system of central planning, such targets can be met only in devious ways that actually reduce service standards and that cause bureaucracies to grow out of control. In New Zealand we have recently seen similar trends towards re-centralisation of services such as health and education, and similar levels of community dissatisfaction.

Economic theory adds some further insights to the points that I have been making about the size of nations. It is true that having a small population means that the gains from specialisation within a country are limited, but the same is true of any other economic area. New Zealand might find it difficult to develop a space industry, but so might Kentucky. In general, however, with an open economy, demand from world markets for the products that a small economy can potentially produce is virtually unlimited, regardless of trade barriers. Similarly, a small economy is not dependent on the savings of its own citizens for investment capital: it can tap into deep world capital markets. Even labour is no longer a major constraining factor: international mobility of labour is increasing, firms can often recruit internationally for specialist talent, and many tasks can readily be outsourced to workers in other countries. In addition, firms can benefit from access to the technology and management skills of parent companies or business partners anywhere in the world.

In many ways it is better to think of the New Zealand economy today not as a self-contained entity (as it was in fortress New Zealand days) but as part of an Australasian economy and indeed the broader world economy. The new era of globalisation is in some ways coming to resemble the earlier pre-World War I era when international movement of goods, capital and labour was even freer than it is today. According to one historian, the early New Zealand settlers saw the country as being part of Britain and firms thought nothing of having their London and Auckland addresses together on their letterheads. Today the national identity of many firms and the goods and services they produce is becoming blurred. And rather than produce for the domestic market and then get into exporting, many New Zealand firms gear their operations to world markets from the outset.

It follows that just as New Zealand’s average per capita income in 1900 was second in the world only to the United Kingdom, we can aspire to match the living standards of the most prosperous countries today. In theory, if there are no barriers to trade between countries with similar endowments, and if all products are tradable, wages and returns to other factors of production would equalise across countries, even if some factors of production (like land) are immobile. Obviously these conditions are not fully met, but more and more activities are becoming globalised. Education and health services, for example, which were formerly thought of as non-traded, have now entered into international commerce with long-distance teaching, consultations and even surgical operations. Only higher transport and communication costs would limit returns to a producer in a small, distant economy and to be competitive, other costs in that economy – such as the costs of land, natural resources and non-traded inputs – would have to be lower to compensate. It is easy to see the same pattern within a country: a farmer on remote land may do as well as an equally competent farmer on better located land, but the price of the remote land may be lower to offset the costs associated with distance. If we could put an outboard motor on New Zealand and push it up to the coast of California, we might all be a bit better off. However, with domestic and international transport and communication costs continuing to fall, the gap between actual and potential incomes and asset values is shrinking all the time.

Let me summarise the implications of what I have said and draw some general conclusions.

First, Alesina and Spolaore’s analysis of the optimal size of nations crucially turns on the optimal size of jurisdictions, and that depends on the kind of service being provided. Many such services can best be supplied in small, local jurisdictions. To that extent, New Zealand benefits from being relatively small, since even its central jurisdictions are correspondingly small. At the local government level, our experience suggests bigger is typically not better: smaller councils tend to be more efficient and more responsive to local preferences. Where economies of scale matter, such as in defence and infrastructure, for example, better solutions than larger jurisdictions are supranational organisations and international alliances on the one hand and commercial structures, joint ventures and private sector participation on the other.

Secondly, the evidence is clear that small economies tend to perform at least as well as large economies, if not better. Moreover, the economic penalty for remoteness allied to smallness seems to be small and reducing. To see why geography is usually relatively unimportant, just think of the relative levels of prosperity of tiny Bermuda and giant Brazil, or of Canada and Mexico, just north and south of the US border.

Thus my third and final point is that what matters most for economic success is the institutions and policies a country adopts. The key to good performance is economic freedom, in particular openness to international transactions. As New Zealand’s ranking rose in the indexes of economic freedom, its economic growth rate picked up. Research suggests that the quality of institutions and policies accounts for 80 percent or more of the differences in standards of living across countries. As one economist has put it:

Economic growth is not a mysterious force that strikes unpredictably or whose absence is inexplicable.

On the contrary, growth is the fruit of two forces: the ability of people to recognize opportunities, on the one hand, and the creation by government of a legal, fiscal and regulatory framework in which it is worthwhile for people to exploit those opportunities.

That framework requires respect for property rights, sound money, effective government limited to its core functions of public goods and a welfare safety net, and public spending, taxation and regulation that does not stifle entrepreneurial activity.

In any case, the bottom line is that New Zealand can do nothing about its location and little about its size. An activist industrial policy certainly wouldn’t help: as New Zealand-born University of Berkeley economist David Teece told the first Knowledge Wave conference, “Governments cannot pick winners, and they shouldn’t even try.” To the extent that geographical factors are handicaps – and they seem minor at most – New Zealand can aspire to better institutions and policies than other countries to offset them. We should spend time worrying about the things we can control, like our policy environment, rather than about things we can’t, like our size. Given superior policies, there is no reason why New Zealand cannot regain its ranking among the highest income countries, which the government tells us is its top priority goal.

While folks fret about China and the EU, the future belongs to smaller political entities, not larger.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:28 PM


3 Years After Independence, Future Looks Bright for East Timor (Tim Johnston, 20 May 2005, VOA News)

East Timor is celebrating the third anniversary of its independence, Friday. The tiny nation has had its difficulties with the legacies of Indonesian rule and trying to kick-start the economy, but recent developments have given the country a brighter future. As a mark of its new maturity, United Nations peacekeepers have left.

The third anniversary of independence marks a milestone for East Timor. It is the last day United Nations forces formally guaranteed the security of the world's newest country. The U.N. mission, which once numbered over 11,000 people, will now be reduced to 130 administrators and police and military advisers.

The situation is looking brighter on other fronts also. East Timor is still desperately poor, but it is about to sign a long-awaited agreement with Australia, which should lead to the development of substantial undersea oil and gas deposits, which could pay the country more than $5 billion over the coming years.

The government is upbeat about the future. Jose Ramos Horta is East Timor's Nobel Prize-winning foreign minister.

"I am very optimistic: optimistic because the economy is picking up. We'll do much better in a year or two," he said. "At the same time, our relations with Indonesia improve further under the leadership of [Indonesian] President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. With investments also coming from Indonesia, Thailand, China, I think we are on the right path."

Thank you, Sister Lourdes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:30 AM


Senate Republicans see Brown as model for fight (AP, 5/19/05)

Janice Rogers Brown, a sharecropper's daughter who became the first black woman and most conservative justice on California's Supreme Court, is a model jurist for U.S. Senate Republicans fighting judicial filibusters.

So while another of President Bush's judicial nominees, Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen, is likely to be the flashpoint for a showdown over whether Democrats should be able to stop appointments to the nation's highest courts, Brown is being debated just as much on the Senate floor this week.

In many ways, Brown's court rulings and speeches mirror the thinking of Bush and conservatives coast to coast.

An outspoken Christian conservative from the segregated South, she supports limits on abortion rights and corporate liability, routinely upholds the death penalty and opposes affirmative action.

Odd choice of tense.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:27 AM


Santorum Regrets Making Hitler Comment (JESSE J. HOLLAND, May 20, 2005, AP) --

Sen. Rick Santorum says he "meant no offense" by referring to Adolf Hitler while defending the GOP's right to ban judicial filibusters as Senate leaders prepared to start a countdown Friday to a vote over whether to stop minority senators from blocking President Bush's judicial nominees.

"Referencing Hitler was meant to dramatize the principle of an argument, not to characterize my Democratic colleagues," Santorum, the No. 3 Republican in the GOP leadership in the Senate, said of his remarks Thursday.

When Republicans do it they apologize.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:17 AM


Bike commuters sail past soaring costs at gas pumps (Kevin Grasha, 5/20/05, Lansing State Journal)

When gas prices soared above $2 a gallon last May and some of his co-workers started to complain and formulate end-of-the-world scenarios, Mike Cox barely noticed.

The senior project manager for the state's Department of Environmental Quality has been riding his Trek to work for three years.

Three to five days a week, the 50-year-old Cox pedals 11 miles to and from his Okemos home, on a 21-gear bike with mahogany fenders and a headlamp.

The journey, mostly traversing major streets with bike lanes, including Kalamazoo Street, takes 47 minutes in the morning and 54 minutes coming home.

It's an efficient use of time, he said. "I do my workout and my commute at the same time."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:13 AM


Islam Can Vote, if We Let It (SAAD EDDIN IBRAHIM, 5/21/05, NY Times)

Clearly, on grounds of principle and pragmatism, Westerners should not be dismayed at the thought of allowing religious parties a role in the emerging political structures of the Arab world. For one thing, as citizens, Islamists are entitled to the same basic rights as others. It would therefore be hypocritical to call for democracy in these countries and at the same time to deny any groups wanting to peacefully contend for office.

Second, Islamists tend to be fairly well organized and popular. Yes, some have created armed wings to their movements, ostensibly to resist foreign occupation (Hezbollah in Lebanon, Islamic Jihad in Palestine) or in response to authoritarian regimes. But in all cases, a moderate, less-violent Islamist core exists. Excluding the religious parties from the political mainstream risks giving the upper hand to the armed factions at the expense of their more moderate centers.

Repression has had high costs. Where Islamist groups are denied access to political space, their cause takes on an aura of mythical martyrdom, and their abstract calls for a return to Islamic principles of governance are not put to the test. A phrase like "the meek are the inheritors of the earth" resonates with the masses, though it is empty of any practical content. As long as these groups don't have to deal with the complicated business of forging actual political policies, their popularity remains untested. The challenge, therefore, is to find a formula that includes them in the system, but that prevents a "one man, one vote, one time" situation.

One fairly successful attempt at such a formula was coordinated by King Hussein of Jordan, after widespread riots in 1989 over food shortages in his traditional stronghold in the south. Needing to engage the people more directly in the tough economic decisions that had to be made, he opted for a new constitutional monarchy. He brought all the political forces in the country together in a national congress, in which the rules of the democratic game were enshrined in a national charter. The Islamists signed on.

Since then, there have been several elections to this body in which Jordan's Islamists have participated, but in only the first did they gain a plurality. Once in power, their sloganeering was put to the test, and voters were not terribly impressed. In the four ministries they held, the Islamists imposed heavy-handed restrictions on female staff members, setting off protests that eventually forced the cabinet members to resign.

Shortly after the Jordanian experiment, King Hassan II of Morocco followed suit with a similar revision of his nation's Constitution, and despite recent terrorist attacks the country seems set on an increasingly democratic path. In 2002, the Turkish Justice and Development Party won the parliamentary elections and formed a government and - to the surprise of many - it wasn't the end of the world. In fact, the Islamists emerged as more pragmatic than their secular predecessors in tackling some of Turkey's chronic problems: they softened restrictions on the Kurds, looked to make compromises over Cyprus and began a successful campaign to make Turkey eligible for eventual membership in the European Union.

And consider what has happened in Iraq. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most revered Shiite cleric in Iraq, has been the savior of President Bush's policy in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein. Without his unwavering backing of the January elections, the Arab world would not have seen the stirring images of millions of men and women braving their way out to vote despite threats and suicide bombers.

Of course, this is not to say that we should expect Hezbollah or Hamas to turn into Western-style democratic parties overnight. While countries opening themselves to democracy should work to bring Islamists into the system, they should not - and the West should not pressure them to - allow those groups unwilling to abide by certain rules into the game.

These principles would include: strict respect for constitutions and the rule of law, including full independence of the judiciary; recognition of the principle of the rotation of power based on free and fair elections with international observers; pledges that elections be held on a schedule that is not subject to tampering by whatever group comes to power; agreement that non-Muslim minorities must be guaranteed full citizenship and cultural rights, including the right to compete for any elected office, to freely exercise their religion rights and to speak their chosen language; and agreement that women must be assured full and equal participation in public life.

Political parties in democratic systems are held accountable for the conditions in their country--that's the surest check on every -ism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:45 AM


Iraq's rebel democrats: Muqtada al-Sadr's populist Shia rebels, who last year battled with US forces in Najaf, are now deeply involved in politics. They provide a case study of a rebel movement tentatively embracing democracy (Bartle Bull, June 2005, Prospect)

Outside Sadr City's Mohsin mosque on a morning in January, with Friday prayers yet to begin, the rows of mats ran hundreds deep. There were about 25,000 men there in all, wearing robes, suits, tracksuits or dark leather jackets; on their heads they wore red and white kaffiyehs and black scarves tied at the back in the style preferred by Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi army. Sandals and shoes lay in piles between the prostrate men, and in front of every mat rested a prayer tablet made of Karbala clay, infused with the blood of the Imam Hussein, martyred there in 680. With Iraq's election only nine days away, the inhabitants of Baghdad's giant slum, Sadr City, had come for guidance: they would go to the polls only if the command came from Muqtada.

I was moving along the outer edge of the crowd when the pre-recorded high-pitched chants came to an end and the deeper bass of the live preacher began. The supplicants let out a collective wail, waving posters and newspapers, flags on thin poles, and framed photographs of Muqtada al-Sadr and his father, Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr. Behind the huge crowd an Apache helicopter cruised from left to right along the flat line of Baghdad's brown rim of smog.

Before his assassination in 1999, Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr used to preach before Friday crowds ten times the size of this one. He preached in Kufa, a town 60 miles to the south of Baghdad, at a traditionally poor man's mosque. The al-Sadrs are one of the oldest and richest families of the Shia clerical aristocracy that is headquartered in Najaf, yet in 1997 Muqtada's father started using simple slogans like, "Yes, yes to electricity. Yes, yes to clean water." Preaching to the poor from the pulpit at Kufa sealed his alienation from the Najafi establishment. Muhammad Sadiq introduced Friday prayers to Shia Iraq, a populist innovation that must have appeared a rabble-rousing heresy to his estranged cousins among the clerical elite. With a huge popular following established, Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr turned his rhetoric against Saddam during the last year of his life, and that was when the crowds at his Friday prayers hit the hundreds of thousands.

Back then, Sadr City was called Saddam City. The Mohsin mosque where I was watching Friday prayers is reputed to have been the scene of heavy fighting in 1999 when Saddam had Muhammad Sadiq killed in Najaf. There was more fighting two weeks later when the authorities shut down the mosque. It was reopened in 2000 but remained quiet during the last three years of Saddam's rule. Muhammad Sadiq's one surviving son, Muqtada, only 23 at the time of his father's death, had been lying low in a form of house arrest in Najaf. When Saddam fell in 2003, no one outside Muqtada's inner circle knew much about the young preacher. Then, at Najaf, in Sadr City and in the Shia cities of the south, Muqtada led Iraq's only Shia resistance to the US-led occupation on and off from April to September 2004. Ibrahim Jaafari and the Iranian-backed Shia parties, with their histories of bad blood with Muqtada's nationalist father, stayed at home while the Mahdi army fought. Muqtada is now in hiding, a 2004 arrest warrant for murder still on his head, so he preaches through representatives. As with other Shia religious leaders, Muqtada's words reach his people in places like Sadr City through a network of clerics who include his words in their weekly sermons.

The previous Friday I had watched a smaller, less buoyant crowd hear a carefully elusive message from Muqtada's intermediaries: "I personally will not participate in these elections, which I reject because no political activity can be legitimate in the presence of a foreign occupation. We do not support any list or candidate. But if you find someone who truly represents you, an honest man or party, then you must vote." It seemed to me Muqtada was refreshing his anti-occupation credentials while opening the door to participation in a process that appeared to be gathering momentum—and which could hold big prizes for him and his movement.

A few days earlier I was told by Abu Zeinab, a friend who used to run Muqtada's Baghdad office, that the al-Sadr movement had secretly entered the political process. There were signs that Muqtada's office had even placed representatives on the main Shia-dominated electoral list endorsed by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most revered Shia cleric. The strategy had apparently been arranged by Muqtada's political chief, Sheikh Ali Smeisim. (In the autumn I had discovered close links between the movement and Ahmed Chalabi, the secular Shia politician—see Prospect November 2004—and I suspected that he would have had something to do with this strategy. As a friend of Chalabi's told me after this relationship had become more public: "Ahmed has brains but no guns, and the Sadris have the guns but not the brains.")

This populist movement, which derives its identity from political and economic exclusion and whose street support was vehemently against the elections, appeared to be co-operating with those same elections, and to be formally involved in party politicking. As I began to pick up the clues that its leaders were secretly involved in the elections, it became apparent that the transition from rebel fringe to political establishment was challenging the coherence of the movement and testing the support of its base.

The rebellion is inherently incoherent in a Shi'a democracy and the base will adjust.

Radical Cleric Reaches Out: Muqtada Sadr says he wants to reconcile Iraq's Muslim factions. U.S. reaction is cautious. (Carol J. Williams, May 23, 2005, LA Times)

An influential anti-U.S. Shiite Muslim cleric on Sunday joined the campaign to get Arab Sunni Muslim leaders to help quell the sectarian violence roiling Iraq, even as insurgents continued to attack government officials and American troops.

Muqtada Sadr, who commands thousands of militia fighters in the capital's slums, sent a delegation to meet with Sunni leaders and appeal for an end to tensions.

At least 10 Shiite and Sunni clerics have been killed in recent weeks, prompting speculation about tit-for-tat assaults. The head of the Muslim Scholars Assn., a Sunni organization, last week blamed several of the killings of Sunnis on the Badr Brigade, a Shiite paramilitary force linked to the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the nation's largest Shiite political movement.

Sadr, who had been in hiding since a high-profile clash with U.S.-led forces last August, told Al Arabiya satellite television that he had returned to the political scene to try to reconcile Muslim factions.

"Iraqis need to stand side by side at this time," Sadr said, warning that extremists were provoking civil war.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:36 AM


Financiers Put Money on Chess Futures Now (DYLAN McCLAIN, 5/21/05, NY Times)

Al Blowers learned to play chess in his 20's from his future father-in-law, Dal Stauffer. He never became very good, but he respected the game and found that the skills needed to play chess helped him to run his business.

Now, years later, Mr. Blowers, 63, who made millions by selling his company, Tax System Services, a payroll-processing business, is giving back to chess in a way that helps other players. His organization, the HB Foundation, started six years ago to promote scholastic chess, is sponsoring the largest open tournament ever held in the United States this week in Minneapolis.

The total prize fund is $500,000. About 1,600 players are competing in the tournament, the HB Global Chess Challenge, which began Wednesday and ends tomorrow. For years, professional chess players have complained that there has not been enough financial support for high-level chess in the United States.

Mostly, they play in Europe, where there are leagues underwritten by companies that pay players to compete on their teams. There are also many tournaments either with large prizes or that pay appearance fees for top players, or both.

Two of the world's best-known tournaments are in Europe. One in Linares, Spain, started by Luis Rentero, a chess player and retired businessman, attracts the world's top players. Another, the Melody Amber tournament in Monaco, is sponsored by Joop Van Oosterom, a Dutch billionaire and correspondence chess world champion. The tournament, named for Mr. Oosterom's daughter, is also an annual stop for the world's top players.

In the United States, the Continental Chess Association, which was started in 1964 by Bill Goichberg, a chess master, has usually organized the biggest and most successful tournaments, including the World Open, which the association has held every year since 1973 in July in Philadelphia. This year it will have $180,000 in prizes. The Chicago Open, which will be held May 27 to 30, offers $100,000.

Despite its success as an organizer, the Continental Chess Association is a bit of an anomaly. It needs enough tournament participants to cover the prizes. In past years, some of its tournaments have lost money, forcing the association to scale back its prizes and perhaps cut the number of future tournaments.

Which is why this week's HB Global Chess Challenge is unusual.

Brian Molohon, the executive director of the foundation, said it had wanted the tournament to attract attention to the foundation and to promote teaching chess to children. They also hope to turn a profit.

PBS used to do great telecasts of the World Chess Championships; you'd think they or ESPN could do regular coverage.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:57 AM


Dutch No camp takes strong lead (BBC, 5/20/05)

The Dutch public appears on course to firmly reject the European constitution in a referendum on 1 June, according to latest opinion polls.

A poll for RTL television indicated 54% would vote No, with 27% voting Yes.

The Dutch vote is purely consultative, but politicians have said they will take the result into consideration when it comes to a parliamentary vote.

Anybody think the EU project will stop just because the people of Europe oppose it?

Surprise for EU chiefs: voters' urge to say no (Richard Bernstein, MAY 21, 2005, The New York Times)

For a quarter of a century, it has been pretty much axiomatic that in the core half-dozen founding countries of the now 25-member European Union, popular support for ever-higher levels of unity and integration could be almost taken for granted.

Not any more.

The strength and amplitude of the opposition to the constitution in France and the Netherlands - both of which will soon hold referendums to accept or reject the charter - amount to an unprecedented revolt among sizable numbers of Europe's supposed core constituency against the idea that has governed the European project until now: that the bigger it got and the more closely knit it grew, the better.

"It surprised me," Bernard Bot, the Dutch foreign minister, said of the surge in opposition to the constitution, which he helped negotiate. "I was out canvassing the other day and I met a woman who said there was no point in trying to convince her, she was going to vote no.

"I asked her 'Why?' and she said, 'I just feel good saying no for once."'

Bot, interviewed in his office in The Hague, added, "There's a lot of irrational reaction that has to do with the general economic situation in the country, European enlargement and immigration.

"You can take any issue that has come up in the last few years, and it's a reason to vote no."

One size doesn't fit all for rates in euro zone (Mark Landler, MAY 21, 2005, The New York Times)
Spain is in the seventh year of a housing boom that, with interest rates at historically low levels, shows no sign of cresting.

Nearly two decades after joining the European Union, Spain is on the leading edge of an emerging, and troubling, dichotomy between dynamic European countries with fast-rising asset prices, and lumbering countries with moribund markets, most notably Germany. Far from converging into a more homogeneous bloc, the 12 countries that use the euro are dispersing into sprinters and laggards, with different levels of consumer confidence, industrial activity, and economic vigor. Bustling Ireland, with a growth rate of 5 percent, has little in common with becalmed Italy, where output may shrink this year.

This has created a conundrum for the European Central Bank in Frankfurt, which sets interest rates for much of the Continent. For months, the bank has signaled it wants to lift rates. But it is afraid of hobbling weak countries like Germany and the Netherlands.

While the Germans linger on the edge of a recession, Spaniards are taking out cut-rate mortgages to buy and build houses at a furious pace.

"For the Spanish economy, the advantages of being in a monetary union clearly outweigh the disadvantages," said José Luis Malo de Molina, the director of research at Banco de España, the

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:49 AM


The Prudent Irishman: Edmund Burke's Realism (John R. Bolton, Winter 1997/98, The National Interest)

On this side of the Atlantic, Burke is often seen as a friend of the American Revolution, which he most certainly was not. He argued not on behalf of Americans seeking independence, but as a Briton striving, vainly as it turned out, to preserve his country's choicest asset from the foolishness of his own countrymen.

In the first place, Burke argued that it blinked reality for British policymakers to ignore what had happened in America, where "a fierce spirit of liberty has grown up." Not only was Burke undisturbed by the American love of liberty, he feared that London's efforts to reduce that liberty threatened his own:

. . . in order to prove that the Americans have no right to their liberties, we are every day endeavoring to subvert the maxims which preserve the whole spirit of our own. To prove that the Americans ought not to be free, we are obliged to depreciate the value of freedom itself.

Here is the confluence of interest and ideology so typical of Burke. He was not celebrating America's "spirit of liberty" as a pure value, but because his government's threat to America directly and tangibly threatened him.

Second, Burke was appalled at the arguments advanced by the parliamentary supporters of King George III, who seemed determined to justify policies such as taxation of the Americans solely on the basis that they had a sovereign right to do so. In the context of the period, the drumbeat in London about British sovereign rights was nearly an absolute, and would not tolerate objections based merely on practicality and history. Burke, however, disdained the "sovereign right" argument: "I am not here going into the distinctions of rights, nor attempting to mark their boundaries; I hate the very sound of them."

Burke stressed that trade had bound the colonies to England before, and could do so again; taxation had not previously been deemed necessary, and that was reason enough to abandon it now. "These are the arguments of states and kingdoms", he said. "Leave the rest to the schools; for there only may they be discussed with safety." Burke saw correctly that endless disputes with Americans over the abstract concept of sovereignty would "teach them . . . to call that sovereignty itself in question." He warned that "If that sovereignty and their freedom cannot be reconciled, which will they take? They will cast your sovereignty in your face. Nobody will be argued into slavery." To Burke, the theory of sovereignty was manifestly secondary to the practical need of keeping the Americans in the Empire.

As a result, Burke was fully content to allow Americans the fullest measure of liberty (which he called "the high spirit of free dependencies"), not for its own sake, but because so doing maximized Britain's chances for retaining America. His argument illustrated classic cost-benefit reasoning:

In every arduous enterprise, we consider what we are to lose as well as what we are to gain; and the more and better stake of liberty every people possess, the less they will hazard in an attempt to make it more. These are the cords of man. Man acts from adequate motives relative to his interest, and not on metaphysical speculations.

Indeed, Burke cited Aristotle in arguing against "delusive geometrical accuracy in moral arguments, the most fallacious of all sophistry."

Although all this talk about "liberty" might sound suspiciously like "democracy" and "human rights" in today's rhetoric, Burke would disagree. His ideas of "liberty" were just as grounded in reality as his strategy to keep America British. The man who ordinarily disdained broad generalizations said unequivocally that "Abstract liberty, like other mere abstractions, is not to be found. Liberty inheres in some sensible object." For Burke, that "sensible object" was, as it was for the Americans, the measure of taxation.

Indeed, he goes out of his way to note that in "the ancient commonwealths", disputes turned on political issues such as "the right of election of magistrates" because the "question of money was not with them so immediate." Not so in England, says Burke proudly, whose history he correctly summarizes for Parliament in his speech On Conciliation with America as having been the struggle between King and people over money. As for the colonists: "Their love of liberty, as with you, fixed and attached on this specific point of taxing. Liberty might be safe or might be endangered in twenty other particulars without their being much pleased or alarmed. Here they felt its pulse; and as they found that beat, they thought themselves sick or sound."

No mincing of words here--it is the money, not the principle, that measures liberty.

Because Burke's analysis and strategy for dealing with the American problem were so thoroughly rooted in practicalities, it comes as no surprise that in giving them expression he articulated the prudential guidelines that shaped so much of his political life. In the justly famous 1777 Letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol, Burke defends the 1766 Rockingham "plan of pacification" for the colonies as "being built upon the nature of man, and the circumstances and habits of the two countries, and not on any visionary speculations." This was, in fact, a plan of prudence, a quality that Burke characterizes "as the god of this lower world."

Unlike those beating the "sovereign rights" drum, Burke pleaded for "rational, cool endeavors" to bring the colonies back into line. He urged that government from London "ought to conform to the exigencies of the time, and the temper and character of the people with whom it is concerned, and not always to attempt violently to bend the people to their theories of subjection." Against those who saw no problem in unleashing force against the colonists to uphold sovereignty, Burke was nearly contemptuous: "A conscientious man would be cautious how he dealt in blood." Consistent with that approach, Burke was not afraid to shift his tactics or his positions as the need arose and as circumstances changed. When challenged on such changes, Burke answered: "Because a different state of things requires a different conduct."

Handling the American question in Burke's way might not have saved the colonies for Britain, but King George III could hardly have done worse than he did. Burke's approach was grounded in the political reality of his time, addressed to the vital national interests of England, and utilized practical, commercial, non-coercive means. George and his ministers stood on their absolute, abstract, sovereign rights, and lost the best part of their Empire forever.

Had such a wiser head prevailed in Britain the Revolution could have been avoided and much of the mischief that followed.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:43 AM


'I hate conservatives, but I really... hate liberals': Cartman, Kenny, Kyle, Stan and the rest of the South Park gang couldn't spell PC if they tried (BRIAN C. ANDERSON, April 16, 2005, The Press-Enterprise)

South Park has a sharp anti-PC edge. One episode mocks multicultural sentimentality about the supposed wisdom of native cultures. Kyle contracts a potentially fatal kidney disorder, and his naïve parents try to cure it with "natural" Native American methods, with disastrous results. Stan tries to get his friend sent to a hospital, but runs into fierce resistance.

Kyle's mom reassures him: "Everything is going to be fine, Stan; we're bringing in Kyle tomorrow to see the Native Americans personally."

Stan responds: "Isn't it possible that these Indians don't know what they're talking about?"

Stan's mom interjects: "You watch your mouth, Stanley. The Native Americans were raped of their land and resources by white people like us."

To which Stan has a perfectly logical rejoinder: "And that has something to do with their medicines because ... ?"

South Park regularly mocks left-wing celebrities who feel entitled to tell everyone how the world should run. In the episode "Butt Out," actor, producer, and celebrity activist Rob Reiner blows into town on an anti-smoking crusade, and tries to draft the boys in a sleazy plan to frame the local tobacco company for selling cigarettes to minors. In a classic sequence, set in a downscale local bar, Parker and Stone perfectly capture the Olympian arrogance of liberal elites. Reiner begins to sniff the air violently, detecting a faint whiff of cigarette smoke wafting through the bar. He detects the source: a man wearing a "Buds" cap, quietly enjoying a beer and a smoke. "Would you mind putting that death stick out," Reiner hollers.

The man, surprised, responds: "But, uh, this is a bar." Reiner: "Isn't smoking illegal in bars here?" "Not in Colorado," the bartender tells him. "Oh my God! What kind of backward hick state is this," Reiner explodes. The smoker tries to reason with him: "Listen man, I work 14 hours a day at the sawmill. I just got off work and I need to relax." But Reiner will have none of it: "Well, when I relax I just go to my vacation house in Hawaii!"

The Buds man gets angry: "I ain't got a vacation house in Hawaii!" "Your vacation house in Mexico, then, wherever it is," snorts Reiner. The boys eventually put a stop to the "tubby fascist," saving smoking in South Park.

In a 2004 interview, Parker and Stone expanded on just how much they loathed meddling celebrities. "People in the entertainment industry are by and large (tramp)-chasing drug-addicted (expleted)," Parker noted. "But they still believe they're better than the guy in Wyoming who really loves his wife and takes care of his kids and is a good, outstanding, wholesome person. Hollywood views regular people as children, and they think they're the smart ones who need to tell the idiots out there how to be." (This contempt for Hollywood activist lefties was also on display in Parker and Stone's hilarious puppet movie "Team America: World Police.")

Team America is finally out on DVD and is deliciously savage. The scene between Kim Jong-il and Hans Blix is worth the price of admission by itself.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:37 AM


CREATIONISM AND DESIGN (Robert T. Pennock, Annual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics)

In its basic generic sense, creationism refers to any view that rejects evolution in favor of the action of some personal, supernatural creator. Creationism is not limited to Bible-based views because other religions have their own creation accounts that may be in conflict with evolution. For instance, some fundamentalist Hindu sects, such as the Hare Krishnas, reject evolution in favor of their own specific theistic account. Many Native American tribal groups do this as well, as do various Pagan religions.

On the other hand, not all religions are creationist. Many religions and theological
traditions accept the scientific understanding of evolution and therefore are not
forms of creationism. The Catholic Church and most mainline Protestant denominations, for instance, do not consider evolution to be in conflict with Christian faith, holding that God could have ordained the evolutionary mechanism as the process for creating the biological world.

Most forms of creationism arise in fundamentalist or evangelical religious sects,
which tend to hew to a literal or at least a strongly traditional or conservative interpretation of the religion’s creation story. The most common form of creationism today rejects not just evolution but much of geology, cosmology, and other sciences, and it affirms a Bible-based view that takes the world and all its life to have been created in a six-day period 6000 to 10,000 years ago. The Institute for Creation Research (ICR), founded by creationist pioneer Henry Morris but now led by his son John Morris, remains the leading and probably the largest organization promoting this view. Answers in Genesis (AiG), led by Ken Ham, now rivals it in size and influence, and there are many other smaller ministries that take the same line.

Another major category of creationists, however, holds that a literal or traditional
reading of Genesis does not require this belief in a young earth. They accept that the earth is billions of years old. This view is commonly referred to as “old-earth
creationism” in contrast to the “young-earth creationism” of ICR and AiG. Hugh
Ross’s Reasons to Believe is one major creationist organization promoting this
kind of view. Old-earthers and young-earthers disagree with each other’s views as much as they disagree with evolution.

One may find similar factional divisions among creationists regarding other
common Genesis-based commitments. Most hold that a catastrophic, universal
flood engulfed the earth, killing all life except those that were saved on Noah’s
ark, whereas others believe the flood was only local or “tranquil.” Most now accept microevolution within “kinds” of animals, but hold that such changes are strictly limited and can never form newspecies, though previous generations of creationists would have found microevolution unacceptable.

The ID Movement was singled out by the AAAS board resolution as the new
player in the creation/evolution controversy. It coalesced in the late 1980s and
early 1990s under the leadership of Philip Johnson, then a law professor at University of California, Berkeley, and now is unofficially led by members of the
Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. The key feature of ID creationism is its attempt to unite various creationist factions against their common enemy under a banner of “mere creation” or “design” by temporarily setting aside internal differences. As Johnson told Christianity Today, “People of differing theological views should learn who’s close to them, form alliances, and put aside divisive issues ‘til later.” Aiming to quell the battle between young- and oldearthers to redirect their energies in tandem against evolutionists, he continued, “I say after we’ve settled the issue of a Creator, we’ll have a wonderful time arguing about the age of the Earth” (90). The ID Movement calls its strategy for defeating evolution “the Wedge.” Its target is not just evolution, but also the materialist philosophy it believes props up science and is the de facto “established religion” of the West. The organization hopes to affect a renewal in our culture of Judeo-Christian theism, in which man is again understood as created in God’s image.

Because of these and other significant differences among forms of creationism,
precise terminology is essential, so one should include the specific modifier—
young-earth creationism, Hare Krishna creationism, ID creationism, and so on—as appropriate. However, all forms of creationism share certain characteristics—not just the defining characteristics of rejecting evolution in favor of special creation, but also their standard reliance on arguments from ignorance, for example—so one may reasonably use the generic term when the claim is generally applicable.

The generic form is indeed the most appropriate--and includes some 87% of Americans--just as Darwinist is appropriate for all those who believe in natural evolution despite their inability to agree on much of anything beyond the "natural" part.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:12 AM


Dick Staub on the Star Wars Myth: Lucas's stories may have more in common with Hinduism than Christianity, but it's still True Myth, says the author of Christian Wisdom of the Jedi Masters. (Interview by Stan Guthrie, 05/17/2005, Christianity Today)

In the book, you call both Star Wars and Christianity "mythology." What do you mean?

A myth is a story that confronts us with the "big picture," something transcendent and eternal, and in so doing, explains the worldview of a civilization. Given that definition, Christianity is the prevailing myth of Western culture and Star Wars is a prevailing myth of our popular culture. However, one of these myths is actually true and historically based, and that is Christianity. Both C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien loved great myths, but each believed beneath all well-crafted myths there was the one true myth, Christianity.

Many observers have viewed the impersonal Force of Star Wars as a popular presentation of dualism or Hinduism, with both sides locked in a perpetual struggle, and neither one ultimate. In Christianity, light and dark are locked in a similar struggle, but good—being grounded in a personal God—is ultimate, while evil is merely a perversion of the good. Why then have you chosen the George Lucas mythology as a vehicle to convey Christian truth?

Christian Wisdom of the Jedi Masters was born after a conversation with a young Microsoft guy. We had seen one of the prequels, and over coffee afterwards he commented that he wanted to go deeper in his faith, but wouldn't ask most guys my age for advice, because we were all idealists in the '60s and then sold out and never really did the radical Christian deal. I said, "Oh, so you want to be a Jedi Christian and my generation didn't produce a Yoda!" As I thought more about the themes of Star Wars, the connection to helping the next generation become "Jedi Christians" just started falling into place.

My book is not a theology of Star Wars, but rather is a look at Luke's development from a directionless young man who discovered his life purpose after encountering Obi-wan and Yoda and learning from them about the "unseen Force." Today, many young people are seeking meaning, and my generation has failed to pass on the authentic and radical adventure offered by Jesus. This book is written for the next generation and those who love them. I hope it inspires people my age to step up and become the kind of followers of Jesus who inspire the next generation by example. I also hope the younger generation will desire a deeper, authentic faith, and that as they seek out more mature Yoda's to help them on the path, they will find them.

George Lucas, to my knowledge, has never made explicitly Christian claims for Star Wars. How would you compare his fantasy world with those of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien?

As you mentioned, the Lucas story is more theologically attuned with Hinduism. In Jedi mythology, the highest good is achieved by balancing light and dark, whereas Jedi Christians believe the highest good is achieved when darkness is defeated. In Jedi Christian lore, the dark side is not just the opposite of light, but is an unequal opponent of God, who, in Star Wars terms, is the Lord over the Force.

In Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, there is a ring over the other rings, and then there is a Lord of the Rings. The wizards Sauron and Gandalf represent the dark and light sides, but Tolkien's title reveals his Christian belief that above all the rings and all manner of powerful wizardry, there is a Lord of the Rings who rules over all, and who will bring history to a just and good conclusion. Tolkien said of his work, "The Lord of the Rings is a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; it is about God, and his sole right to divine honor."

Lewis also recognized the ultimate rule and authority of God over the "forces of good and evil." As Lewis put it, we must ultimately decide whether Jesus was a liar, a lunatic, or who he said he is, the Lord. The first chapter of Christian Wisdom of the Jedi Masters draws this important distinction between the Star War's Hindu, monistic worldview and Christianity, which teaches that there is one who is wholly other and Lord over all.

The worst sin for a storyteller is not understanding his own tale.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


When Cash Crosses Over (LA Times, May 21, 2005)

There is a bank in India that sends out ATM machines to roam the countryside, allowing villagers to withdraw some of the cash earned by their relatives in places like the Middle East, Britain and California. It's a modern twist on a venerable tradition. Depending on your village, Wednesday could be cash day at the market.

Remittances is jargon not only for those hard-earned sums flowing into India but also for the money sent home by Mexican maids in Los Angeles and their Filipino counterparts in Hong Kong. It's a phenomenon obsessing global bankers and social workers alike.

Nobody planned it this way, but that money sent home by migrant workers around the world has become one of the most important means of alleviating poverty.

This north-south flow of money is closing in on $100 billion a year. In the case of Latin America, the roughly $45 billion in remittances, coming largely from the United States, now exceeds all foreign direct investment and development aid combined. And unlike investment or aid that often fails to reach its intended recipients, remittances flow straight to those in need.

One of the great ironies of nativism is that were it possible to place limits on immigration and this flow of cash to be reduced it would create explosive pressures within neighboring countries and eventually force even more immigration, this time of a desperate nature.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license. -John Milton

May 20, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:09 PM


Cold war chess: The rise and fall of chess in the 20th century was intimately linked with the cold war and the Soviet Union's giant investment in the game. But deprived of the atmosphere of menace that characterised that era, chess has dissipated much of the capital it built up over more than a century (Daniel Johnson, June 2005, Prospect uk)

Chess has always been a simulacrum for political and military confrontation, with its gambits and endgames, stalemate and checkmate. We imagine diplomats or generals facing each other across a board. The game has been internationally popular for more than two centuries, but, like the literary genre of the spy thriller, it came into its own in the cold war. To take one of many examples: the opening scene of one of the first James Bond films, From Russia with Love, is a chess match between two grandmasters. And in real life, it was the Fischer-Spassky match of 1972—when an eccentric American genius smashed 25 years of Soviet chess hegemony—that marked the beginning of the end of the cold war.

Chess provided a mega-metaphor for this psychological war, one that derived added significance from the game's important role in Soviet communist society. The Russians might have lagged behind in military technology or economic competition, but over the chessboard they reigned supreme. A battlefield that for the first time in history was genuinely global could be metaphorically translated on to the 64 squares.

Chess provided one of the safety valves that kept the lid on the cold war. But how did chess come to play this role: both symbol of the war and its antithesis? And how does chess illuminate the process by which the west triumphed over communism? [...]

Communist supremacy had both an ideological ("theoretical") and practical basis. The "Soviet school of chess" was supposed to have raised the theory of the game, in strategy and tactics, to a much higher level than had been possible in the bourgeois culture of the west: "If a culture is declining then chess too will go downhill," Botvinnik wrote. There was a nationalistic strain in this ideology: openings were renamed after Russian masters, and non-Russian masters denigrated or written out of the script.

But the real basis of the Soviet school was its colossal infrastructure, creating a pool of millions. As the huge Soviet training campaign bore fruit, and literally hundreds of players achieved master or grandmaster strength between the 1940s and 1960s, a vast system of rewards and punishments was built up, with endless in-fighting and denunciations. The life of a chess professional was a privileged one: stipends were much higher than average wages, and foreign travel allowed. Botvinnik and his successor Vassily Smyslov were awarded the Order of Lenin, the highest civilian Soviet honour—no British professional has received so much as a knighthood.

But the pressure to conform was intolerable for some, and a steady stream of chess refugees fled to the west, the most prominent being Viktor Korchnoi, who twice played matches for the world championship in 1978 and 1981 against Anatoly Karpov. Korchnoi, now a Swiss citizen, claimed that his Soviet opponents used dirty tricks to defeat him. Although Korchnoi lost both matches, he is still, in his mid-70s, playing chess at the highest level. Boris Spassky, too, went into voluntary exile in France after his defeat by Bobby Fischer. Another dissident was the Czech grandmaster Ludek Pachman, who was imprisoned for his part in the 1968 Prague spring. This Marxist turned anti-communist almost died in the torture cellar to which he was dragged in the middle of the night. To escape further torture he tried to kill himself, and his wife was told he would not survive. I remember playing against him in a simultaneous display at the same time as about 20 other juniors in 1972, just after he was allowed to go into exile. Pachman actually lost this hard-fought game, but was gracious in praising the gawky teenager before him. He looked far older than his 48 years: under a noble domed forehead, his face still bore the unmistakable marks of the mental as well as physical torment he had endured.

Just as chess reflected the cold war, so it also marked the fall of communism. In 1972, Bobby Fischer, the American wunderkind, became the first westerner to challenge a Soviet world champion, Boris Spassky. The match took place in Reykjavik (like their Viking ancestors, Icelanders are chess fanatics). The story of that extraordinary match has been told many times : how Fischer's demands kept threatening to abort the event before it had started; how Henry Kissinger phoned Fischer—"This is the worst player in the world calling the best player in the world"—to persuade him to play; how the British capitalist Jim Slater doubled the prize money; how Fischer finally appeared, lost the first game, forfeited the second, kept everyone guessing, won the third game (the first time he had ever beaten Spassky), and never looked back. With hindsight, it is clear that détente had already taken the sting out of the cold war, and that the new electronic technologies, civilian and military, that were beginning to transform the west had already doomed communism. At the time, however, this was not yet obvious, and Fischer's victory over Spassky struck a psychological blow. Fischer himself saw the match as "the free world against the lying, cheating, hypocritical Russian… It's given me great pleasure as a free person… to have smashed this thing."

Mr. Johnson has a book coming out on the topic so it's understandable if he exaggerates a bit, but by the end of the '70s, eight years after Fischer's win, many (including three presidents and their secretaries of state) thought the Soviets had won or were winning the Cold War. Perhaps the 1980 Olympic hockey game marks a more significant turning point? As for chess, it was the 1984 Karpov-Kasparov match and the need of the Soviets to step in and save their hero that really showed the writing on the wall.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:52 PM


As Dems shore up base, GOP goes 'raiding' (Jill Lawrence, 5/19/05, USA TODAY)

National party chairmen Howard Dean and Ken Mehlman have the same job titles but different jobs. One is on a mission to rebuild, the other to expand.

Their itineraries tell the tale.

Mehlman, chairman of the Republican National Committee, is courting black and Hispanic voters on a regular basis. Beyond the usual run of speeches, fundraisers and meetings with donors, he has visited Latino neighborhoods and historically black campuses. He has attended black-oriented receptions and ceremonies, spoken to minority chambers of commerce and raised money for Otto Banks of Harrisburg, Pa., a black city council candidate new to the GOP.

Dean, who reaches Day 100 as Democratic National Committee chairman Monday, is for the most part speaking to diehard Democrats who are the backbone of their party.

The Democrats' mission has to be to stop the bleeding at 40% or they risk a third party challenge.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:45 PM


Ultraloose monetary policy intact, for now (HIROKO NAKATA, 5/21/05, Japan Times)

The Bank of Japan will keep its ultraloose monetary policy intact -- but may be inching toward tightening as concerns over the once-shaky financial system recede.

After its two-day meeting ended Friday, the BOJ Policy Board left its policy untouched, but stated that it would tolerate a reduction in financial market liquidity below its target range.

The BOJ said it aims to keep the outstanding balance of banks' deposits at the central bank within a range of 30 trillion yen to 35 trillion yen.

Since March 2001, the BOJ has maintained this so-called quantitative easing monetary policy, in which the bank injects excess funds into the financial market in pursuit of an economic recovery. Interest rates have been glued near zero for four years.

Even with ultraloose money and rates that have actually been negative at times they haven't managed to reflate--though they face phenomena we don't, like declining population, Chairman Greenspan might want to take note.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:39 PM


Bush administration comes calling (Greg Sheridan, May 21, 2005, The Australian)

IN mid-March one of the most remarkable diplomatic scenes involving Australia took place in the White House. Our outgoing ambassador to the US, Michael Thawley, went there with his wife to pay his scheduled farewell call on the President.

Thawley was in for a surprise. Instead of a momentary grip and grin, an extraordinary scene unfolded in the Oval Office. After a few minutes the President said he had a couple of others who wished to farewell the Australian. He went out and returned with Vice-President Dick Cheney, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz, national security adviser Stephen Hadley, White House chief-of-staff Andy Card and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers.

There are very few heads of state who would command a group such as that in Washington, much less ambassadors. Their presence was a personal tribute to Thawley, who has been a brilliant ambassador, but also a measure of George W. Bush's view of the Howard Government.

Part of Thawley's success has been his closeness to John Howard. The Americans knew that Howard would cash any cheque Thawley wrote. Australia's ability to take serious decisions quickly, as in the Asian tsunami, is supremely valued in Washington.

Some relationships matter and some don't. that with Australia does. That with, for example, France doesn't.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:32 PM

ALL THE NEWS THAT'S FIT TO SLANT (via Robert Schwartz):

Clone of Silence: Stem cells, loaded words, and the New York Times. (William Saletan, May 19, 2005, Slate)

Last week, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney proposed four amendments to a bill supporting stem cell research. The Boston Globe headlined the story, "Romney urges changes to stem cell bill—Adds amendment to prohibit cloning." The Globe's fourth paragraph explained, "The governor has echoed the hopes of many that stem cell research may one day find treatments for diseases, and he shares the conviction that the research is important to the state … But the governor has split with a large majority in the Legislature over cloning human cells." If you read the Globe, you get the impression Romney supports stem cell research but opposes cloning.

That isn't the impression you get if you read the New York Times. The Times' report on the same proposal never mentioned cloning. "New Limits Are Proposed for Research on Stem Cells," said the headline. The lede paragraph explained only that Romney proposed "excluding a type of embryonic stem cell research" (ESCR). The story never mentioned that Romney supported ESCR apart from cloning.

The difference is enormous. In a poll taken two months ago by advocates of therapeutic cloning (also known as somatic cell nuclear transfer, or SCNT), 70 percent of likely Massachusetts voters supported ESCR, but 84 percent opposed cloning to produce a human birth. The word "cloning" was so radioactive that the pollsters omitted it from their questions about SCNT. They called the product of SCNT an "altered egg" and emphasized that "no sperm is used." When they asked voters to choose between pro-SCNT and anti-SCNT arguments, they left out the bottom line of the anti-SCNT argument: that cloned embryos would be destroyed. Instead, they said the argument's bottom line was that SCNT would "lead to cloning babies"—an empirical claim most voters rejected. Politically, "stem cells" is a winner. "Cloning" is a loser.

This is why the Times' terminology matters.

As Mr. Schwartz says, when even the Left is accusing you of liberal bias the wheels are really coming off.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:04 PM

HIGHER (via Tom Morin):

HIGHER RISK: Crystal meth, the Internet, and dangerous choices about AIDS. (MICHAEL SPECTER, 2005-05-23, The New Yorker)

Tina is crystal methamphetamine, a chemical stimulant that affects the central nervous system. It is hardly a new drug, and it has many other names: biker’s coffee, crank, speed. It has also been called redneck cocaine, because it is available on the street, in bars, and on the Internet for less than the price of a good bottle of wine. Methamphetamine is a mood elevator, and is known to induce bursts of euphoria, increase alertness, and reduce fatigue. In slightly less concentrated forms, the drug has been used by truckers trying to drive through the night, by laborers struggling to finish an extra shift, and by many people seeking simply to lose weight. Crystal first gained popularity in the gay community of San Francisco in the nineteen-nineties, where it became the preferred fuel for all-night parties and a necessity for sexual marathons. Its reputation quickly spread. Crystal methamphetamine is highly addictive, but its allure is not hard to understand; the drug removes inhibitions, bolsters confidence, supercharges the libido, and heightens the intensity of sex. “The difference between sex with crystal and sex without it is like the difference between Technicolor and black-and-white,” one man told me at Tina’s Café. “Once you have sex with crystal, it’s hard to imagine having it any other way.” The first thing people on methamphetamine lose is their common sense; suddenly, anything goes, including unprotected anal sex with many different partners in a single night—which is among the most efficient ways to spread H.I.V. and other sexually transmitted diseases. In recent surveys, more than ten per cent of gay men in San Francisco and Los Angeles report having used the drug in the past six months; in New York, the figure is even higher.

After years of living in constant fear of aids, many gay men have chosen to resume sexual practices that are almost guaranteed to make them sick. In New York City, the rate of syphilis has increased by more than four hundred per cent in the past five years. Gay men account for virtually the entire rise. Between 1998 and 2000, fifteen per cent of the syphilis cases in Chicago could be attributed to gay men. Since 2001, that number has grown to sixty per cent. Look at the statistics closely and you will almost certainly find the drug. In one recent study, twenty-five per cent of those men who reported methamphetamine use in the previous month were infected with H.I.V. The drug appears to double the risk of infection (because it erases inhibitions but also, it seems, because of physiological changes that make the virus easier to transmit), and the risk climbs the more one uses it. Over the past several years, nearly every indicator of risky sexual activity has risen in the gay community. Perhaps for the first time since the beginning of the aids epidemic, the number of men who say they use condoms regularly is below fifty per cent; after many years of decline, the number of new H.I.V. diagnoses among gay men increased every year between 2000 and 2003, while remaining stable in the rest of the population.

In San Francisco, I spoke with several men about the thrills and the dangers of crystal methamphetamine. Their stories, often eerily similar, tend not to end happily. “I used to have the house and the Mercedes and the big job,” a lawyer named Larry told me at Tina’s Café. “Then I fell into crystal. Oh, my God, it was great. I felt young and powerful and wonderful. And the sex. I was having the type of sex I could have only fantasized about before.” He sat for a moment and sipped from a can of Diet Coke. “Crystal destroyed my life,” he said. “I sold everything I could put my hands on. What I didn’t sell, I lost: my house, my career. The more I used it, the more I needed it. At one point, I broke into my own house to try and steal furniture. Crystal tells your brain to go back and get more, more, more. The logical side of your mind is saying, ‘I can’t keep doing this,’ but you are still on your way to the dealer’s house.” Larry has been off methamphetamine for three years, but he says the struggle begins anew every day. “Crystal motivates everything. The sex. The desire. Everything.” He shook his head. “I wish I had never heard of it, but I can’t say it wasn’t great.”

It's a bizarre notion that gay men lose their common sense after taking drugs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:27 PM


GOP Files Cloture Motion to End Debate (William Branigin, May 20, 2005, Washington Post)

The Senate's Republican majority today began a countdown to a vote that has been dubbed the "nuclear option," a decision on whether to end the ability of the chamber's minority to use filibusters to block the appointment of federal judges.

After a third day of debate on one of President Bush's most controversial judicial nominees, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) filed a cloture motion to end the debate and put the nomination to a vote. The cloture vote, scheduled for Tuesday, would trigger a series of steps leading to the "nuclear option" -- unless a bipartisan group of moderate senators succeeds in negotiating a compromise to head it off. [...]

After submitting the cloture motion, which was signed by 18 senators, Cornyn said there would be a fourth day of debate Monday on the nomination of Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla R. Owen to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in New Orleans. [...]

As described by Senate sources, the nuclear option would be triggered if, as currently expected in the absence of a compromise, the Republicans fall short of the 60 votes they need to end debate on Owen on Tuesday. At that point, Frist would rise to make a point of order that debate on a judicial nominee should be limited and call for an end to the Democratic delays.

Vice President Cheney, as the presiding officer of the Senate, would rule in Frist's favor, prompting Democrats to appeal. Frist would then move to table the appeal, and the Senate would vote on that motion, which is not subject to debate. If the motion passed by a simple majority, the Senate would then vote at a specified time on the nomination of Owen, with a simple majority required to confirm her. If the motion failed, the nomination would not come to a vote.

Thus, the vote on the motion would set a new precedent for ending filibusters, effectively circumventing the Senate requirement of a two-thirds vote -- 67 senators -- to change the body's rules. This de facto rule change would be the "nuclear option" so dreaded by Democrats and some Republicans.

Poll: Most Want Assertive Senate on Judges (WILL LESTER, May 20, 2005, The Associated Press)

More than three-quarters of Americans say the Senate should aggressively examine federal judicial nominees and not just approve them because they are the president's choices.

That's one of the few aspects of this divisive issue that gets widespread agreement, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll released Friday.

Respondents favored conservative over liberal judges in general, 47 percent to 39 percent. As for a possible Supreme Court nominee, 52 percent said they felt comfortable that President Bush would pick the right kind of justice; 46 percent said they did not feel comfortable he would.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:17 PM


Could New York Vote 'Red' In 2008? (Dana Blanton, May 20, 2005, FOX News)

While Sen. Hillary Clinton easily tops several Republican opponents in hypothetical 2006 U.S. Senate match-ups, New York voters are fairly evenly divided when it comes to possible 2008 presidential candidates, according to a FOX News Poll. [...]

In the 2004 presidential election, the state backed Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., over President Bush by 58 percent to 41 percent. Even so, when asked if the 2008 presidential election were held today almost half (49 percent) of New York State voters say they would vote for Giuliani over Kerry (42 percent).

Giuliani also has a slight 2-percentage point advantage over Sen. Clinton on presidential vote preference (compared to her 10-point advantage in the Senate race). If the Republican candidate were Arizona Sen. John McCain against Clinton, the state’s voters were sharply divided — 42 percent McCain and 41 percent Clinton, with 17 percent undecided.

"New Yorkers have become very comfortable with Mrs. Clinton as their senator, and she will be very difficult to beat in a re-election race. A race for the presidency, however, is a completely different ballgame and even among her supportive constituents in New York there are some who are not sure she is right for that job," comments Brad Coker, managing director of Mason-Dixon Research, Inc.

Senator McCain's proven ability to make inroads in Blue states makes him the likely GOP choice in '08.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:09 PM


How to Save the Subways—Before It’s Too Late (Nicole Gelinas, City Journal)

As New Yorkers learned in January, when a fire in a signal-relay room knocked out service for the half-million people who ride the A and C trains daily, Gotham’s subways are in deep trouble. Bad enough that the inferno showed that any bum (or terrorist) with a lighter could paralyze New York; worse still was New York City Transit chief Larry Reuter’s announcement that this critical lifeline for Brooklyn and Queens residents would be out for three to five years. When transit officials responded to riders’ outrage by getting most service up and running within two weeks, public relief mingled with anxiety that transit brass didn’t understand how their system worked or that they were responsible for keeping it going, no matter what.

Perhaps most troubling of all was the revelation that this essential element of the region’s economy depends on fragile technology that predates the Great Depression. And further, though all this equipment desperately needs updating, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), the state agency that runs New York City Transit and the region’s commuter trains, doesn’t have the money to replace it or even maintain it properly, and will have even less wherewithal for vital infrastructure investments over the coming decade. The MTA faces bills now coming due for decades’ worth of poor operational a