June 30, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:56 PM


Leading La. Democrats no-shows for Dean (ADAM NOSSITER, 6/30/05, Associated Press)

Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean urged members of his party to "stand up for what you believe in" at a lightly-attended fundraiser Thursday night, but none of Louisiana's leading Democrats was there for the message - not Gov. Kathleen Blanco or Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, or even the chairman of the state party, Jim Bernhard.

Dean afterwards attributed the absences to "schedules"...

Yes, when they heard he was coming they suddenly scheduled root canal work instead.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:38 PM


G.O.P. Backs Blacks to Run to Lure Votes (JAMES DAO, 7/01/05, NY Times)

Lynn Swann, the Hall of Fame former wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers, stood before a nearly all-white Republican crowd at the Holiday Inn here recently and denounced Pennsylvania's Democratic governor, Edward G. Rendell, for failing to reduce property taxes. Then, without prompting, Mr. Swann suddenly turned the subject to race - his own.

"I'm not here to be the poster child for the Republican Party, to say they're being inclusive by running an African-American," said Mr. Swann, 54. "That's not why I'm here. I'm here to win."

Still, to many prominent Republicans, Mr. Swann, a commentator for ABC Sports, is much more than a potentially strong contender for governor in 2006. He is, they hope, part of a new crop of prominent black candidates who could help the Republicans crack, if not break, Democratic domination among black voters in several important states.

In Maryland, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, black Republicans - all of whom have been groomed by the national party - are expected to run for governor or the United States Senate next year. Several other up-and-coming black Republicans are expected to run for lower statewide offices in Missouri, Ohio, Texas and Vermont in 2006. [...]

"This is a very challenging moment for the Democrats," said Donna Brazile, chairwoman of the party's Voting Rights Institute and one of the Democrats' leading strategists on black voters. "For the first time in my history, they are in my community. And that's not a pleasant feeling." [...]

[M]s. Brazile also said several black Republicans could be formidable opponents because they could appeal not only to some black voters, but also to the party's conservative white base.

In Michigan, for example, Keith A. Butler, a former member of the Detroit City Council who is running for the United States Senate, is the founder of a 21,000-member church and is supported by many social conservatives. He also has the endorsement of the Republican attorney general, Mike Cox. Similarly, the Ohio secretary of state, J. Kenneth Blackwell, who is running for governor, is the most conservative candidate in the Republican field and has the backing of many of the state's most influential Christian conservatives.

"All of a sudden," Mr. Blackwell said in an interview, "you have folks who can move the Republican Party into being competitive in a community that has been a cornerstone of the Democratic house."

It's pretty rudimentary electoral politics that blacks will be better served if their votes are in play.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:06 PM


A President’s Promise (Manuel Miranda, Jun 30, 2005, Human Events)

On the left, liberals, mostly emasculated by the filibuster compromise, have laid the groundwork for their next line of attack--that the President must consult with Senators Chuck Schumer (D.-N.Y.) and Teddy Kennedy (D.-Mass.) before he makes a Supreme Court nomination.

Some of us are old enough to remember back to the days when the Right thought the Left had won the filibuster compromise.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:48 PM


Senate approves trade agreement with six Latin American countries (AP, 6/30/05)

The Senate on Thursday endorsed a free trade agreement with six Latin American nations, handing a major win to President Bush, who has promoted the accord as a mark of U.S. commitment to democracy and prosperity in the hemisphere.

The vote was 54-45 in favor of the Central America Free Trade Agreement, setting the stage for a final battle in the House, where the agreement's many critics have vowed to defeat it.

Anyone seen the roll call vote posted anywhere? On C-SPAN it looked like every Democratic leader voted against it and Hillary and all the other '08 contenders. That might be explained by internal party politics, but guys like John Corzine voted against it. Can he explain that to any of his friends on Wall Street? Can anyone explain why any businessman would contribute to the Democratic Party?

The weird one on the GOP side was the two Maine Senators voted against--anyone know why?

Here's the roll call and it does look like not a single one of the Democrat leaders or their '08 hopefuls voted in favor of free trade. Amazing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:40 PM


Warmer air may cause more sea ice cover (June 30, 2005)

A new study says predicted increases in precipitation due to warmer air temperatures may actually increase sea ice volume in the Antarctic's Southern Ocean.

The findings on greenhouse effects point to asymmetry between the two poles and may be an indication that climate change processes may have varying impacts on different areas of the globe.

"Most people have heard of climate change and how rising air temperatures are melting glaciers and sea ice in the Arctic," said Dylan C. Powell, lead author of the study and a doctoral student at the University of Maryland.

"However, findings from our simulations suggest a counterintuitive phenomenon. Some of the melt in the Arctic may be balanced by increases in sea ice volume in the Antarctic."

What could be more quintessentially human than our routine overestimations of our impact on the planet?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:19 PM


The Bush Interview (Gerard Baker, 6/29/05, Times of London)

THERE has probably never been a president, there may not have been a human being, who observes punctuality with the sort of fanaticism that President George W. Bush brings to every aspect of his life.

If you are on time for a meeting with the President you are late, we were told as we prepared for our interview in the Oval Office yesterday to preview the G8 summit at Gleneagles next week.

Sure enough, a full nine minutes before the allotted time for our appointment, the door of the most famous room in the world opens and a genial President steps forward to greet us.

In person Mr Bush is so far removed from the caricature of the dim, war-mongering Texas cowboy of global popular repute that it shakes one’s faith in the reliability of the modern media. [...]

THE TIMES: On the other main G8 topic, climate change, do you believe the Earth is in fact getting warmer and, if so, do you believe that it is man who is making it warmer?

PRESIDENT BUSH: I believe that greenhouse gases are creating a problem, a long-term problem that we got to deal with. And step one of dealing with it is to fully understand the nature of the problem so that the solutions that follow make sense.

There’s an interesting confluence now between dependency upon fossil fuels from a national economic security perspective, as well as the consequences of burning fossil fuels for greenhouse gases. And that’s why it’s important for our country to do two things.

One is to diversify away from fossil fuels, which we’re trying to do. I think we’re spending more money than any collection of nations when it comes to not only research and development of new technologies, but of the science of global warming. You know, laid out an initiative for hydrogen fuel cells. We’re doing a lot of work on carbon sequestration. We hope to have zero emissions coal-fired electricity plants available for the United States as well as neighbours and friends and developing nations.

I’m a big believer that the newest generation of nuclear power ought to be a source of energy and we ought to be sharing these technologies with developing countries. [...]

THE TIMES: Tony Blair has taken great risks and shown great loyalty to you over the last four years, and on occasion at great cost to himself domestically. What have you done for him, and is it enough?

PRESIDENT BUSH: The decisions we have made have laid the foundation of peace for generations. His decision-making was based upon what he thought was best for the free world, for Great Britain and the free world.

What doesn’t happen in our relationship is we sit down here and calculate how best we can help each other personally. Our job is to represent something greater than that.

I admire Tony Blair because he’s a man of his word. I admire Tony Blair because he’s a leader with a vision, a vision that I happen to agree with. A vision that freedom is universal and freedom will lead to peace. I admire him because in the midst of political heat, he showed backbone. And you know, and so he’s been a good ally for America. [...]

THE TIMES: You said you want a strong Europe. What’s your vision of a strong and integrated Europe?

PRESIDENT BUSH: My vision is one that is economically strong, where the entrepreneurial spirit is vibrant.

And the reason I say that is because Europe’s our largest trading partner. We trade a trillion a year.

Secondly, a strong Europe is one where we can work in common cause to spread freedom and democracy.

His vision of Europe is nothing like Europe's.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:14 PM


Bye-bye macro economy (Max Fraad Wolff, 7/01/05, Asia Time)

[P]rofits remain strong notwithstanding serious risk of profit deceleration from a flattening yield curve, over-exposure to highly leveraged consumers and strengthening dollars. One might pause to note that leading American firms have worked ceaselessly over the last 30 years to diversify away from excessive reliance on what used to be called the US economy. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) estimates suggest that more than a quarter of American corporate profits were earned outside the US in 2004. There is consensus that this number will continue robust growth in the years ahead. This might suggest the dangers of conflating profits with domestic economic health.

The news on the other three fronts, representing over three-quarters of the American economy, is terrible! Our general public, larger by over 10 million since 2001, is just recovering the jobs lost across a short and steep recession followed by a protracted and painful "recovery". In May, we finally recovered the March 2001 employment numbers. The stunning growth in employment that has so many crowing is net 0.03% private sector employment growth over 50 months. Since World War II, it has taken an average of 23 months to regain pre-recession employment levels. This time it took 50.

Real median wage and salary growth have under-performed badly. Miraculously, consumer spending has risen by several percentage points as a gross domestic product (GDP) component while wages and salaries have fallen as a national income component. Consumer debt, particularly in the housing area, has grown at super-exponential rates. 2004 marked the all-time high-water mark for corporate profits as a percentage of national income and a 40-year low for wage compensation as a national income share. Before the "new economy", when macro economics referred to more than assets, bubbles and profits, this was called redistribution and viewed with some nervousness. Fortunately our leading lights are busy taking the dismal - and perhaps the science - out of the dismal science.

The federal budget, despite the recently ballyhooed excitement about a mere $350 billion projected shortfall, is dismally in the red. Long-term commitments like prescription drug coverage, $354 billion in underfunded insured pensions and changing population demographics beg for skepticism regarding these projections. In addition, the supplemental spending games and likely high future costs of foreign and domestic security operations mock rosy forecasts. Rapid growth in non-discretionary spending and proposed tax cut extensions render ebullience absurd. So goes another pillar of that strong macro economy.

Americans, even after their increased spending, enjoy record household net worth--a record that gets broken pretty much every quarter. As Mr. Wolff notes, we've gotten back to full employment despite (or because of) adding millions of immigrant laborers and being the only industrialized nation that reproduces at replacement level. The twenty-plus year epoch of economic growth we're in the midst of has been accompanied by debt, deficits, and trade imbalances.

Whatever pillars he's referring to are in as rough a shape as if Samson had a go at them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:43 PM

GAS, THE NEW BREAD (via Luciferous):

Democrats' own mood poll scares them (UPI, Jun. 29, 2005)

A poll on the political mood in the United States conducted by the Democratic Party has alarmed the party at its own loss of popularity.

Conducted by the party-affiliated Democracy Corps, the poll indicated 43 percent of voters favored the Republican Party, while 38 percent had positive feelings about Democrats.

"Republicans weakened in this poll ... but it shows Democrats weakening more," said Stanley Greenberg, who served as President Clinton's pollster.

Greenberg told the Christian Science Monitor he attributes the slippage to voters' perceptions that Democrats have "no core set of convictions or point of view."

We've got a book for the first reference to the predictable "this is the moment for a third party" essay.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:08 PM


Bush Words Reflect Public Opinion Strategy (Peter Baker and Dan Balz, June 30, 2005, Washington Post)

When President Bush confidently predicts victory in Iraq and admits no mistakes, admirers see steely resolve and critics see exasperating stubbornness. But the president's full-speed-ahead message articulated in this week's prime-time address also reflects a purposeful strategy based on extensive study of public opinion about how to maintain support for a costly and problem-plagued military mission.

The White House recently brought onto its staff one of the nation's top academic experts on public opinion during wartime, whose studies are now helpingBush craft his message two years into a war with no easy end in sight. Behind the president's speech is a conviction among White House officials that the battle for public opinion on Iraq hinges on their success in convincing Americans that, whatever their views of going to war in the first place, the conflict there must and can be won. [...]

In shaping their message, White House officials have drawn on the work of Duke University political scientists Peter D. Feaver and Christopher F. Gelpi, who have examined public opinion on Iraq and previous conflicts. Feaver, who served on the staff of the National Security Council in the early years of the Clinton administration, joined the Bush NSC staff about a month ago as special adviser for strategic planning and institutional reform.

Feaver and Gelpi categorized people on the basis of two questions: "Was the decision to go to war in Iraq right or wrong?" and "Can the United States ultimately win?" In their analysis, the key issue now is how people feel about the prospect of winning. They concluded that many of the questions asked in public opinion polls -- such as whether going to war was worth it and whether casualties are at an unacceptable level -- are far less relevant now in gauging public tolerance or patience for the road ahead than the question of whether people believe the war is winnable.

"The most important single factor in determining public support for a war is the perception that the mission will succeed," Gelpi said in an interview yesterday.

Key Bush advisers think the general public has considerable patience for keeping U.S. forces in Iraq, but they are mindful that opinion leaders, including members of Congress, high-profile analysts, editorial writers and columnists, are more pessimistic on that question. And they acknowledge that images of mayhem that people see from Iraq create doubt about the prospects for success.

In studying past wars, they have drawn lessons different from the conventional wisdom. Bush advisers challenge the widespread view that public opinion turned sour on the Vietnam War because of mounting casualties that were beamed into living rooms every night. Instead, Bush advisers have concluded that public opinion shifted after opinion leaders signaled that they no longer believed the United States could win in Vietnam.

Most devastating to public opinion, the advisers believe, are public signs of doubt or pessimism by a president, whether it was Ronald Reagan after 241 Marines, soldiers and sailors were killed in a barracks bombing in Lebanon in 1983, forcing a U.S. retreat, or Bill Clinton in 1993 when 18 Americans were killed in a bloody battle in Somalia, which eventually led to the U.S. withdrawal there.

The more resolute a commander in chief, the Bush aides said, the more likely the public will see a difficult conflict through to the end. "We want people to understand the difficult work that's ahead," said a senior administration official who insisted on anonymity to speak more freely. "We want them to understand there's a political process to which the Iraqis are committed and there's a military process, a security process, to which we, our coalition partners and the Iraqis are committed. And that there is progress being made but progress in a time of war is tough."

They key is recognizing that you can--indeed have to--ignore elite opinion and appeal directly to ordinary Americans. In fact, if you make it us against the intellectuals you're home free.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:38 AM


Rove Crosses Line With Attack On Liberals: Bush Adviser Comes Close To Calling Democrats 'Appeasers' (Helen Thomas, June 30, 2005, Hearst Newspapers)

President George W. Bush has said he wants to change the tone in Washington.

Well, he can start right now by apologizing for the outrageous remarks to the Conservative Party of New York last week by Karl Rove...

He said that six years and googleplex Bush=Hitlers ago.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:26 AM


M for Fake — Welles, Moore and Other Tricksters (Edward Driscoll, 06.30.2005, New Partisan)

F For Fake, released in 1974, was Orson Welles’ last film to play in theaters during his lifetime. It was nominally a documentary on art forger Elmyr de Hory and Howard Hughes autobiography hoaxer Clifford Irving. The documentary footage of both de Hory and Irving was actually shot by others and purchased by Welles, who, in a masterwork of editing and narration, used the footage to launch into a long raconteur-like reflection on trickery and deception.

The movie has just been released onto DVD as part of the Criterion Collection, which has been assembling archival-quality versions of films both offbeat and important since the mid-1980s.

While Welles intended F For Fake to be a warning against the growing popularity of hucksters, I doubt that even he could have foreseen what a surprisingly bright future they would soon have. Since the film’s initial theatrical run in the mid-‘70s, the public has shown an increasing appetite for Hollywood fakers and charlatans who have launched careers with a serious bit of reality manipulation and then parlayed those early efforts into the big leagues of power and stardom.

In a way, that’s what Welles himself did. His 1938 War of the Worlds broadcast was an attempt to create an authentically realistic news radio broadcast to build verisimilitude before he set the Martians loose on New Jersey. The next day, his mouth seemingly melting butter, Welles “apologized” for his broadcast and the ensuing panic, in what must surely have been his best bit of acting ever. (There’s a clip of Welles’ apology on the DVD version of Citizen Kane.)

Welles’ stunt led directly to an offer to direct movies from RKO studios, the first of which was Citizen Kane. And it’s no coincidence that in Kane’s “News on the March” montage, Welles’ first line of dialogue was an emphatic “Don’t believe everything you hear on the radio!”

When he mentioned that the essay tied together Welles and Michael Moore I assumed he was going to write about how much the latter has come to resemble Hank Quinlan.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:17 AM


Seriously Kinky: This Texas Jewboy wants to be the next governor of Texas, and if you think he's kidding, the joke may be on you (Robert Wilonsky, June 30, 2005, Dallas Observer)

Only when pushed, and then prodded and then finally pinned, will Richard Friedman explain why he's running as an independent candidate for Texas governor. Initially, he will offer only the glib, catchy one-liners that befit the songwriter nicknamed Kinky who once proclaimed, "They ain't makin' Jews like Jesus anymore." He will say things like "I'm for the little fellers, not the Rockefellers." He will inform you that people are tired "of the choice between paper and plastic." He will explain that the Capitol building in Austin is seven feet taller than our nation's Capitol, but that ours "was built for giants, and instead it's inhabited by midgets." He has a million of them, and by the time November 2006 comes around--hell, by the time you finish reading this story--no doubt you will have heard many of them several times.

But Friedman, in spite of the punch lines, wants you to know his candidacy is no joke.

People who run such vanity candidacies always take themselves too seriously to be joking. Even William F. Buckley details, in hilarious fashion, how he fell victim to himself.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:12 AM


The Silver Lining in Iran (ABBAS MILANI, 6/30/05, NY Times)

[C]ontrary to the common perception, this election is not so much a sign of the Iranian system's strength as of its weakness. Last week's presidential election is only the most recent example of the tactical wisdom and strategic foolishness of Iran's ruling mullahs. All the reformist candidates, particularly Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, as well as the approximately 70 percent of the electorate who voted for reformists or boycotted the election, sought above all to limit Ayatollah Khamenei's increasing despotism. Rather than accepting this possible outcome, Ayatollah Khamenei and his allies made a grab for absolute power. In the process they may have unwittingly opened the door for democracy - because their hardball tactics have created the most serious rift in the ranks of ruling mullahs since the inception of the Islamic Republic. The experience of emerging democracies elsewhere has shown that dissension within ruling circles has often presaged the fall of authoritarianism.

Mr. Ahmadinejad's presidency will force a crisis not only in Iran's political establishment but also, and even more important, in its economy. Only a huge infusion of capital and expertise, along with open markets, can even begin to address the country's economic problems, which include high unemployment, a rapidly increasing labor force, cronyism and endemic corruption.

Such an infusion requires, more than anything, security and the rule of law. It requires a fairly elected president who inspires the confidence of investors and governments around the world. Instead, through a dubious election, Iran's kingmakers propelled a man into the presidency who has publicly opined that the stock market is a form of gambling with no place in a genuine Islamic society.

Not surprisingly, Mr. Ahmadinejad's election brought about the single greatest plunge in the Iranian stock market's history. The day is already known as Black Saturday, and the president-elect has been scrambling to undo the damage since.

There is no Islamicist way to create a healthy economy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:00 AM


Guantánamo Thorny Issue for Democrats on Committee (NEIL A. LEWIS, 6/30/05, NY Times)

A hearing before the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday provided a stark display of how Democrats and Republicans are reacting in different ways to accusations about abuse at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

For Republicans, the mission was simple and direct: defend the military's detention center at Guantánamo as humane and deserving of admiration throughout the world.

For some Democrats, the task was more complicated: to praise the patriotism and work of the vast majority of military personnel at Guantánamo, while raising questions about abuse of detainees. [...]

Representative Ike Skelton of Missouri, the panel's ranking Democrat, said that Guantánamo was in many ways better than state and federal penitentiaries and that he "applauds every American service member who serves honorably at that facility."

But, Mr. Skelton continued...

...as Americans stopped listening.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:53 AM


Senate Takes On Medicaid Loopholes: Middle-class maneuvers to avoid nursing home expenses are 'legal shenanigans,' some say. (Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, June 30, 2005, LA Times)

Congress is considering a crackdown on financial planning strategies increasingly favored by middle-class families to shift the cost of nursing home care for elderly parents onto the federal government.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) denounced the practices Wednesday as "legal shenanigans" and vowed to help stop maneuvers he said were turning Medicaid into an asset protection program, instead of what it was supposed to be — an insurer of last resort for elderly people too poor to afford care.

Under present law, Medicaid, the federal program providing healthcare benefits to the poor, covers nursing home costs if residents can show that they do not have sufficient assets to pay for their own care — which experts say now averages $50,000 to $70,000 a year.

As costs have risen, it has become commonplace for families to transfer elderly relatives' assets to others — often to adult children or to grandchildren — through gifts or other legal devices, to keep the assets instead of letting them be used for nursing home care. So widespread is the practice that some estate planners hold seminars complete with video presentations, refreshments and spreadsheets.

Tightening the rules could save Medicaid $1 billion to $2 billion over five years, Grassley said, though Medicaid's long-term care bill is projected at $290 billion over the next five years.

Just stop paying for nursing homes. They're anti-family/anti-social anyway.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:50 AM


Cleveland population lowest since 1900 (Rich Exner, June 30, 2005, Cleveland Plain Dealer)

Cleveland, Cincinnati, Dayton and Toledo lost residents last year at a rate that was among the highest in the nation, according to census estimates being released today.

Worst among Ohio's big cities was Cincinnati, which lost 4,031 people, or 1.3 percent of its population. The Queen City's percentage loss trails only St. Paul, Detroit, St. Louis and Boston.

Cleveland's population fell to its lowest level since the 1900 census, dropping 1 percent. The loss of nearly 5,000 residents put the city's population at 458,684. Since 2000, Cleveland has lost nearly 20,000 residents, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates.

City's population falls for fourth straight year (ART GOLAB, 6/30/05, Chicago Sun-Times)
Chicago lost more than 13,000 residents between July 2003 and July 2004, a decline of nearly half a percent, according to population estimates to be released by the Census Bureau today.

The decline, roughly equal to the population of north suburban Winnetka, was the largest in four years of consecutive population downturns since the 2000 census.

During that period, Chicago lost nearly 38,000 people -- or 1.17 percent of its residents -- bringing the population down to 2.86 million.

No cities, no Blue States.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:46 AM

JUST DESSERTS (via M Ali Choudhury):

How 'Stella's' groove got away from her (MARY MITCHELL, 6/28/05, Chicago Sun-Times)

After convincing older women that they can find love with a man half their age, best-selling writer Terry McMillan's Tea Cake has run off -- with a man. Jonathan Plummer was 20 years old and McMillan was 43 when they met while she was staying at a Jamaican resort in 1995. [...]

Her widely read novel How Stella Got Her Groove Back is based, in part, on the steamy affair between McMillan and Plummer. McMillan is now 53. Plummer is 30 -- and he has come out of the closet. McMillan has filed for a divorce, claiming Plummer "lied about his sexual orientation" and that he married her "only to gain U.S. citizenship." [...]

Now, Plummer's calling McMillan "homophobic," and claims she cheated him out of royalties he was entitled to for "Stella."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:05 AM


US millionaire linked to looted relics: A top US businessman and an international network of smugglers and academics are making millions of dollars through their illegal dealings in looted Middle Eastern artefacts, according to a leading stolen antiquities activist. (David Hebditch and Lawrence Smallman, 26.06.2005, Indy Media)

Former self-confessed smuggler and police informant Michel Van Rijn told Aljazeera.net that multi-millionaire James Ferrell, the CEO of America's second largest propane gas company Ferrellgas, is running a London-based business that deals in smuggled relics.

Van Rijn says Ferrell established his network on 29 January 2000 with Hungarian-born antiquities dealer William Veres and academic Henry Kim of Oxford University's Ashmolean Museum.

After just eight months of dealing, a copy of Ferrell's own profit calcuations - provided to Aljazeera.net by Veres - show that the Texan-born tycoon had made a 400% profit on his initial $2.5m investment.

Neither Ferrell nor executive members of his staff have replied to repeated requests by telephone and e-mail for comment.

And even though Van Rijn invited the FBI to investigate evidence he supplied in 2003, the agency declined to investigate allegations of crimes that had not been committed in the US.

Mr. Brand has assured us that this is the big one, the scandal that will take down the Administration, because James Ferrell is a millionaire and one of the "most powerful" men in the country and John Negroponte has been protecting him despite a Hezbollah connection.

In a related story, Spy Czar Gains Clout: Bush gives intelligence chief Negroponte more control over U.S. agents at home and abroad by adopting a panel's recommendations. (Mark Mazzetti, Richard B. Schmitt and Warren Vieth, June 30, 2005, LA Times)

President Bush on Wednesday handed Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte broad authority over America's disparate and often-competing spy agencies, bringing U.S. domestic and foreign intelligence operations more closely under White House control.

Bush ordered the changes three months after a presidential commission issued a withering indictment of the intelligence failures that preceded the Iraq war. The commission said that a poorly coordinated intelligence community in the U.S. was producing work that was becoming "increasingly irrelevant."

The president adopted nearly all of the panel's 74 recommendations and took other steps toward completing the first overhaul of the U.S. intelligence apparatus since World War II.

In one of the most significant moves, Bush ordered the consolidation of the FBI's counterterrorism, intelligence and espionage operations into one National Security Service. The new office will be part of the FBI, but Negroponte will have authority over its budget and priorities — a move intended to reduce barriers between domestic and foreign intelligence-gathering.

Wednesday's changes further defined the post of director of national intelligence. The job was the centerpiece of an intelligence bill adopted by Congress in December, and Bush chose Negroponte for the post in February.

Serving as the president's principal intelligence advisor, Negroponte holds a new job that oversees all 15 intelligence agencies scattered throughout the government, putting him in a position to quickly communicate White House wishes to a wide network of spies.

Any more fallout from that scandal and Mr. Negroponte may replace Dick Cheney.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:29 AM


Canada cracks down on bulk pharmaceutical sales to U.S. (Marguerite Higgins, June 30, 2005, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Canada's health minister yesterday announced plans to crack down on bulk sales of prescription drugs to the United States.

The initiative, which has been widely anticipated for the past few months, is meant to preserve Canada's prescription-drug supply for its citizens, Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh said.

"Canada cannot be the drugstore for the United States of America," Mr. Dosanjh said. Canadian prescription drugs are popular with U.S. patients, especially seniors, because they tend to be about 40 percent cheaper than their U.S. counterparts.

Can't be consistent with WTO rules, can it?

June 29, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:30 PM


Oswalt tosses seven scoreless innings vs. Rockies (AP, 6/29/05)

Craig Biggio's arm guard is headed to the Hall of Fame.

The way Houston Astros manager Phil Garner sees it, the player won't be far behind.

Biggio set the modern record for being hit by pitches and added a solo homer, helping Roy Oswalt win his fourth straight start in Houston's 7-1 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday.

"When you look at where he stands [with] offensive numbers, he's pretty impressive," Garner said. "The guys that are ahead of him are baseball icons that live forever. The guys that he's passed and he continues to pass are baseball icons too. So he's in high cotton he deserves to be there."

Biggio was hit on the left elbow in the fourth inning by Byung-Hyun Kim, breaking Don Baylor's post-1900 record of 267 times hit by pitches. Biggio calmly turned and trotted to first as he had so many other times, but this time he pointed to the ball and asked the ball boy to send it back to the Astros' dugout as a keepsake for his years of pain.

"Anybody that's been hit that many times, you have no understanding about how many times that is and how painful it is over the years," said Biggio, who had two hits to move into 52nd place with 2,718.

Many of the fans at Coors Field gave Biggio a standing ovation, and Cooperstown asked for his arm guard. As for the ball, it's headed home to his kids.

"My kids collect a bunch of stuff, it's amazing," Biggio said. "We have a rotation going on, I don't know if it's my daughter's or my oldest boy's -- somebody is going to get it. They treat everything with respect, they respect the game."

He actually could still get to 3000 fairly easily and has to be the only player who'll ever do so playing three of the four positions up the middle.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:03 PM


Does dirty air cool the climate?: Study adds a factor to climate-change debate. (Peter N. Spotts, 6/30/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

Over the past several decades, industrial countries have made major strides in cleaning up pollutants roiling from smokestacks.

But some researchers now say this progress could have a troubling side effect - accelerating the pace of global warming.

The reason: Tiny pollutant particles, once airborne, can reflect sunlight back into space, easing temperatures in what is known as aerosol cooling. By cleaning up industrial pollution, countries are reducing the effect of this cooling.

Nobody is recommending that nations halt efforts to curb pollution.

Still, when this factor is taken into account, global warming could outpace the level now forecast by climatologists, a team of European climate scientists reports in Thursday's edition of the journal Nature. Already, climate estimates sponsored by the United Nations foresee average temperatures rising by about 10 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100.

Fortunately Carl Sagan offered us the solution to this dilemma--more frequent use of nuclear weapons would create a beneficial winterizing effect.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:24 PM


Senate minority chief offers his court picks (Margaret Talev, June 29, 2005, Sacramento Bee)

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday he is recommending at least three Republican senators, all lawyers with anti-abortion records, as nominees in the event of a Supreme Court vacancy.

Reid's remarks to reporters at the Capitol seemed to catch a wide range of interests off guard, from liberal and conservative social activists preparing to campaign for or against potential nominees, to the senators themselves - Mel Martinez of Florida, Mike DeWine of Ohio and Mike Crapo of Idaho.

While Reid, D-Nev., opposes abortion, he represents a party that supports what it considers a woman's personal choice and aligns itself with activist organizations that have made the upholding of Roe v. Wade a rallying cry when it comes to court nominees.

"There are people who serve in the Senate now, who are Republicans, who I think would be outstanding Supreme Court members," Reid said. "If you want names, I'll give you names."

The Court desperately needs some justices who have real political experience. These are perfect fallbacks in case a first pick fails.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:19 PM


Senate panel narrowly endorses CAFTA (JIM ABRAMS, June 29, 2005, AP)

A Senate committee on Wednesday approved a trade agreement with Latin American nations, moving Congress a step closer to a decision on an accord that may have minimal effects on the U.S. economy but is of considerable political import to the Bush administration.

The Finance Committee approved the agreement by a voice vote, although it was closely divided on the issue. The bill now goes to the full Senate for a vote as early as this week. Passage in the Senate, traditionally more sympathetic to trade agreements, could give the measure some momentum in the House, where there is stiffer opposition.

The Central American Free Trade Agreement, or CAFTA, would end trade barriers now encountered by U.S. goods in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. It also would ease investment rules, strengthen protections for intellectual property and, according to supporters, solidify economic and democratic stability in the region.

But the agreement has run into vigorous opposition from labor groups, and their Democratic allies, who say its provisions on labor rights are weak, and from the U.S. sugar industry, which claims that an increase in Central American imports, while small, could open the door to ruin.

Pity all the poor libertarians who could "never vote Republican again" because of the steel tariffs...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:13 PM


Blueberries get a boost from health studies (Candy Sagon, 6/29/05, Washington Post)

Pity the blueberry, always dwarfed in summer popularity by peaches and strawberries.

That, of course, was before researchers took a closer look and pronounced the magic words: high in antioxidants.

Now what many growers call the ``health halo'' is helping the U.S. blueberry business enjoy a tremendous surge including what government agriculture analysts say may be a record crop this year.

Thanks to studies showing that blueberries can help protect against some forms of cancer and heart disease, as well as offset some of the effects of aging, consumers have been rushing to add the fruit to their daily diets. Blueberries may still trail the mighty strawberry in consumption and production, but sales of blueberries in all forms -- fresh, frozen and dried -- have exploded in popularity in the past three years. [...]

The United States and Canada are the world's biggest blueberry producers. The United States produces more than half of the world's supply. Maine and Michigan lead the country, followed by New Jersey, Oregon, Georgia, North Carolina and Washington state, according to the USDA.

In 2002, for example, 105 million pounds of fresh blueberries were sold in the United States. Last year, the figure jumped to 166 million pounds, according to the Blueberry Council.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:10 PM


Nancy Pelosi's Style as Leader: Admirable but Doomed? (Norman J. Ornstein, June 29, 2005, Roll Call)

Pelosi, an assertive leader determined to get her party back in the majority, has experienced years of frustration, facing a Republican Party that displayed awesome unity on issues ranging from appropriations to tax cuts to energy, operating with more closed and restrictive rules than at any period in our lifetimes and operating almost like a parliamentary majority. Pelosi has often been unable to muster the kind of cohesive opposition that Gingrich achieved in 1993-94.

She is determined to follow the Gingrich model, creating a genuine minority party that opposes, looks for ways to split the majority, highlights its failings and especially its scandals, condemns regularly its arrogance and its excesses of power, and finds ways to make the Republicans’ potentially vulnerable Members more vulnerable.

She has certainly been helped by the overreaching of the majority, its obtuseness on matters of ethics, its penchant for gratuitous humiliation of the minority--witness House Judiciary Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.)--and the emergence of cracks in its remarkable discipline, stemming from a second presidential term and a looming sixth-year midterm election.

Given the nature of our times, Pelosi is the kind of tough-minded and aggressive leader that an embattled minority needs. But such a leader must also show some perspective if the party is to offer any hope of winning seats that might be contestable and that could add up to a majority. That means picking battles carefully and showing sensitivity to the party’s image with voters.

Some issues require a party whip and strict discipline--prescription drugs was one, and the budget is another. Democrats who abandoned the party on these issues were remarkably obtuse. But bankruptcy reform, which is not a key bottom-line party priority, and one on which many Democrats differed from the leader, was not in the same league. Ostracizing Democrats who voted for that bill was not a wise way to build the party’s base. And I say this even though I think the bankruptcy bill was deeply flawed.

Balance also means erasing or at least ameliorating the Democrats’ weakness with voters on national security and homeland security issues. Like it or not, the American public does not see Democrats as sufficiently tough in the era after Sept. 11, 2001. In the vast bulk of potential swing seats that Democrats need to flip, including those once occupied by Blue Dogs, these larger security issues matter a lot.

But there is a real risk that Pelosi’s own instincts on these issues will serve more to reinforce the image of weakness for Democrats than reduce it, and indeed may reinforce a confrontational, partisan approach on the sensitive questions of America’s role in the world at a time when more Americans want Congress to come together to confront larger threats.

Mr. Ornstein, though a partisan Democrat, is one of those who prattles on endlessly about how the Hill is too politicized and rancorous these days. Notice though that he doesn't expect Ms Pelosi to actually help pass any legislation? Even as a minority leader Newt Gingrich was instrumental on issues like free trade, where neither NAFTA nor GATT would have passed without him. Is there no good that Democrats can do for the country by working with the Presiudent?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:59 PM


Bush critics call for more troops in Iraq (NEDRA PICKLER, 6/29/05, Associated Press)

Congressional critics of President Bush's stay-the-course commitment to the war in Iraq argued Wednesday that the administration lacks sufficient troops on the ground to mount a successful counterinsurgency.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:28 PM


Amputating normal limbs OK: philosophers (The Age, June 24, 2005)

Two Australian philosophers believe surgeons should be allowed to cut off the healthy limbs of some "amputee wannabes".

Neil Levy and Tim Bayne argue that patients obsessed with having a limb amputated should be able to have it safely removed by a surgeon, as long as they are deemed sane.

"As long as no other effective treatment for their disorder is available, surgeons ought to be allowed to accede to their requests," the pair wrote in the Journal of Applied Philosophy.

Posted by David Cohen at 9:50 AM


The Jews of New York (Jacob Riis, Review of Reviews 13, 1896: 58-62)

It is a pity that Herr Ahlwardt [a virulently anti-semitic German politician, not to be redundant], our latest German visitor, has made up his mind so firmly about the Jews, or the events in New York of the closing days of the year might have taught him something worth his learning. If it were his purpose to ascertain the true status of the Jews, whom he so hates, in the American community, he could not have arrived at a more opportune moment. The great Hebrew Fair in Madison Square Garden and the strike among the garment workers on the East Side combined to furnish an all round view of this truly peculiar people that to the observant mind was most instructive. On the one side the mayor of America's chief city opening the great fair with words of grateful appreciation of the civic virtues of a prosperous and happy people, wealth and fashion thronging to its doors and the whole community joining in the glad welcome. On the other, this suffering multitude in its teeming tenements, fettered in ignorance and bitter poverty, struggling undismayed to cast off its fetters and its reproach, and winning in the fight against tremendous odds by the exercise of the same stern qualities that won for their brothers prosperity and praise. Truly this is a spectacle well calculated to challenge every feeling of human and manly interest; alas! and of human prejudice as well.

For in the challenge there is no shuffling and no equivocation. New York's Judaism is uncompromising. It is significant that while the census of 1890, which found 130,496 members of Jewish congregations (heads of families) in the United States, records 72,899 as "Reformed Jews," and only 57,597 as orthodox, in New York City that proportion is reversed. Of an enrolled membership of 35,085, 24,435 are shown to be orthodox, and only 10,650 Reformed Jews. At the rate of 5.71 members to the average Jewish family, the census gives a total of 745,132 Jews as living in the country five years ago, and 200,335 in New York city. Allowing for the natural increase in five years (13,700) and for additions made by immigration, it is probable that the Jewish population of the metropolis reaches to-day very nearly a total of 250,000, in which the proportion of orthodox is practically as above, nearly 2 1/2 old school Jews to every 1 who has been swayed or affected by his Christian environment. The Jew-baiter has them at what he would call their worst.

Everyday observation suggests a relationship of orthodoxy and prosperity in this instance that is not one of dependence. Roughly put, the 2 1/2 are of the tenements - for the present - the 1 of the Avenue. Those of the strike, this one of the fair. Those the newcomers, struggling hand to hand with the dire realities of poverty which these, having won home and welcome, are attacking in the rear, faithful none the less, as their problem. Driven from the old world, received in the new, if sometimes with misgivings, less for what they are than for what they were made, it is worth casting up the account to see how it stands, what they have brought us for what they have received.

First, the tenement hordes. They perplex at times the most sanguine optimist. The poverty they have brought us is black and bitter; they crowd as do no other living beings to save space, which is rent, and where they go they make slums. Their customs are strange, their language unintelligible. They slave and starve to make money, for the tyranny of a thousand years from which freedom was bought only with gold has taught them the full value of it. It taught them, too, to stick together in good and evil report since all the world was against New York's ghetto; it is clannish.

As to the poverty, they brought us boundless energy and industry to overcome it. Their slums are offensive, but unlike those of other less energetic races, they are not hopeless unless walled in and made so on the old world plan. They do not rot in their slum, but rising pull it up after them. Nothing stagnates where the Jews are. The Charity Organization people in London said to me two years ago, "The Jews have fairly renovated Whitechapel." They did not refer to the model buildings of the Rothschilds and fellow philanthropists. They meant the resistless energy of the people, which will not rest content in poverty. It is so in New York. Their slums on the East Side are dark mainly because of the constant influx of a new population ever beginning the old struggle over. The second generation is the last found in those tenements, if indeed it is not already on its way uptown to the Avenue.

They brought temperate habits and a redeeming love of home. Their strange customs proved the strongest ally of the Gentile health officer in his warfare upon the slum. The laws Moses wrote in the desert operate to-day in New York's tenements as a check upon the mortality with which all the regulations of the Board of Health do not compare. The death-rate of poverty- stricken Jewtown, despite its crowding, is lower always than that of the homes of the rich. The Jew's rule of life is his faith and it regulates his minutest action. His clannishness, at all events, does not obstruct his citizenship. There is no more patriotic a people than these Jews, and with reason. They have no old allegiance to forget. They saw to that over yonder.

The economic troubles of the East Side, their sweat shops and their starvation wages, are the faithful companions of their dire poverty. They disturb the perspective occasionally with their urgent clamor, but with that restored Jewtown is seen marching on steadily to industrial independence. Trade organization conquers the sweat shop, and the school drills the child, thenceforth not to be enslaved. The very strike of to-day is an instance. It is waged over a broken contract, extorted from the sweaters, which guaranteed to tailors a ten-hour working day and a fixed wage. Under this compact in a few brief months the tenement sweat shop was practically swept from the trade. And it will not be restored. I verily believe these men would starve to death rather than bend their backs again under the yoke.

So it stands with the East Side, sometimes so perplexing: as to the Avenue, how does it appear in the footing? There was the great fair, so fresh in the public mind, at which a fortune was realized for the Jewish charities of the city. It is more than 240 years since the Jews were first admitted, by special license as it were, to the New Netherlands, on the express condition that "the poor among them should not become a burden to the company or to the community, but be supported by their own nation," and most loyally have they kept the compact that long since ceased to have force to bind. Their poor are not, and never were, a burden upon the community. The Jewish inmates of the workhouse and the almshouse can be counted on the fingers of one hand any day. They are not paupers. Of the thousands who received help through the dreadful winter of two years ago, scarce a half dozen remained to be aided when work was again to be had for wages. The Jewish charities are supported with a generosity and managed with a success which Christians have good cause to envy. They are not run by boards of directors who stretch their legs under the table in the board room while they leave the actual management of affairs to paid superintendents and officials. The Jew as a charity director directs. And he brings to the management of his trust the same qualities of business sagacity, of unerring judgment and practical common sense with which he runs his store on Broadway. Naturally the result is the same.

The system of Jewish charities is altogether admirable. There is no overlapping or waste of effort. Before charity organization had been accepted as a principle by Christian philanthropy the Jews had in their United Hebrew Charities the necessary clearing house for the speeding and simplifying of the business of helping the poor to help themselves. Their asylums, their nurseries and kindergartens are models of their kind. Their great hospital, the Mount Sinai, stands in the front rank in a city full of renowned asylums. Of the 3,000 patients it harbored last year 89 per cent were treated gratuitously. The Aguilar Free Library circulated last year 253,349 books, mainly on the East Side, and after ten years' existence has nearly 10,000 volumes. The managers of the Baron de Hirsch Fund have demonstrated the claim that he will not till the soil to be a libel on the immigrant Jew. Their great farm of 5,100 acres at Woodbine, N.J., is blossoming into a model village in which there are no idlers and no tramps. At the New York end of the line hundreds of children who come unable to understand any other language than their own jargon, are taught English daily, and men and women nightly, with the Declaration of Independence for their reader and the starry banner ever in their sight. In a marvelously short space of time they are delivered over to the public school, where they receive the heartiest welcome as among their best and brightest pupils.

Their technical schools prove every day that the boy will most gladly take to a trade, if given the chance, and that at this, as at everything he does, he excels. Eighty per cent of the pupils taught in the Hebrew Technical Institute earn their living at the trade they learned. These trade schools are the best in the land. Most thoroughly do these practical men know that the problem of poverty is the problem of the children. They are the to-morrow, and against it they are trying to provide with all their might. It was a Jew, Dr. Felix Adler, who first connected the workshop with the school in New York as a means of training and discipline. There is not now a Jewish institution or home for children in which the inmates are not trained to useful trades. The Educational Alliance which centres in the great Hebrew Institute, with its scope "Americanizing, educational, social and humanizing," is a vast net in which the youth of the dark East Side tenements are caught and made into patriots and useful citizens. And the work grows with the need of it. The funds are always forthcoming.

Our public schools are filled with devoted Jewish teachers, the ranks of the profession in New York overflow with eminent men professing Judaism. Their temples and synagogues are centres of a social energy that struggles manfully with half the perplexing problems of the day. There is no Committee of Seventy, no Tenement House Committee, no scheme of philanthropy or reform in which they are not represented. Was ever a sermon preached from Christian pulpit like that which stands to-day in Rutgers Square done in stone and bronze? Where the police clubbed the unoffending cloakmakers, gathered lawfully to assert their rights that meant home and life to them, a Jew built a beautiful fountain, the one bright spot in all the arid waste of tenements, "to the City of New York," and nowhere shall the seeker find the name of the giver graven in the stone. It remained for a "Christian" Board of Aldermen to wantonly insult a man whose very name is synonymous with gentleness and benevolence, by refusing through the hot summer to turn on the water because the member from the ward "had not been consulted" and so had suffered in dignity.

On the whole, Mayor Strong spoke fairly for the metropolis and its people when, in the spirit of the letter to the Newport Jews from George Washington, of which a part is here given in @i[fac-simile], and which was the most prized exhibit at the fair, he congratulated them upon their notable achievements and praised their public spirit. The facts bear him out, I think.

I spoke of the orthodoxy of the slum. In more than a physical, sanitary respect is it the salvation of the East Side. Jewish liberalism takes a different course in New York on the Avenue and in the tenement. With still its strong backing of the old faith morality, it runs uptown to philanthropy, to humanitarianism. The work of Dr. Felix Adler, the founder of the Ethical Society, whose congregation is very largely Jewish, is an outgrowth of Judaism. "Religion and humanity" is the watchword of the advanced Jew, sufficiently indicating his spirit. In the slum the loosening of the old ties lets in unbelief with the surrounding gloom and leads directly to immorality and crime. The danger besets especially the young. Whether it be the tenement that corrupts, the new freedom, or the contrast between the Talmud schools, to which the children are sent when young, and the public school, the fact appears to be that crime is cropping out to a dangerous degree among the Jewish children on the East Side. The school explanation was suggested to me by the fact that the Talmud schools, which are usually in dark and repulsive tenement rooms, become identified in the child's mind from babyhood with his faith. By contrast the public school appears so much more bright and beautiful. The child would be more than human did he fail to make a note of it. And these children are very human.

Whatever the explanation the danger is there, but their wise men are preparing to meet it upon its own ground. The Hebrew Free School Association gathers into its classes in the Hebrew Institute these children by thousands every day, while under the same roof the managers of the Baron de Hirsch Fund are giving their teachers instruction in English and fitting them for their task as religious instructors upon an American plan that shall by and by eliminate the slum tenement altogether.

The Jew in New York has his faults, no doubt, and sometimes he has to be considered in his historic aspect in order that the proper allowance may be made for him. It is a good deal better perspective, too, than the religious one to view him in, as a neighbor and a fellow citizen. I am a Christian and hold that in his belief the Jew is sadly in error. So that he may learn to respect mine, I insist on fair play for him all round. That he has received in New York, and no one has cause to regret it except those he left behind. I am very sure that our city has to-day no better and more loyal citizen than the Jew, be he poor or rich - and none she has less need to be ashamed of.

Given American history, nothing is more easily predictable than that the children of the wetbacks will campaign resolutely against the admission of refugees from China's collapse. They don't speak English, they're communists, they are poor and will be a burden on the taxpayer and are in all ways different from the hardworking Mexican immmigrants of yesteryear who wanted nothing more than to be Americans.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:31 AM


Thomas Goes Home for Swearing In: Georgia's new chief justice, a liberal, stirs up civil rights activists by sharing the stage with a conservative from the U.S. Supreme Court. (Ellen Barry, June 29, 2005, LA Times)

When Leah Ward Sears was sworn in Tuesday as chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, at her side was an old friend and fellow Georgian: Clarence Thomas. [...]

Thomas' attendance at Tuesday's ceremony, Sears said, carried tremendous meaning. "Many Americans have the mistaken belief that if people don't agree with each other on every point, they can't be friends," she said. "I hope it sends a message about civil discourse."

The invitation upset some in Atlanta's civil rights community. Sears has gained wide support during her 13 years on the state Supreme Court bench for opinions that, among other things, overturned Georgia's antisodomy law, use of the electric chair and mandatory life sentences. She is the first black woman to serve as chief justice of any state Supreme Court. But when the Rev. Joseph Lowery, one of the elder statesmen of the civil rights movement, learned Monday that Thomas would be at the ceremony, he decided not to attend.

"We didn't want to be misunderstood as affirming what Clarence Thomas represented," said Lowery, a leader of the Georgia Coalition for the Peoples' Agenda, an association of civil rights groups. "Clarence Thomas has been one of the most destructive forces for civil rights and poor people on the court since his appointment." [...]

She got to know Thomas 12 years ago, after discovering that he had grown up in Pin Point.

Natives of the Savannah area, a friend said, have a sense of kinship, staying close even after they've scattered and made their way in their professions.

"Savannah folks do stick together," said Orion L. Douglas, a state court judge who is close to Thomas and Sears. "Wealthy, poor, middle class — if you were African American in those days, you were from the same spatial area. We had no gated communities, put it that way."

Young, who was a friend and ally of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., said that he recently met with Thomas for the first time, and felt certain that whether or not they disagreed, he and the high court justice would have an ongoing relationship.

"The alienation between him and our community has been unfortunate for all of us," Young said.

Why would he accept a nomination to be Chief when it would just be a vilification fest?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:18 AM


The New York Times Shafted My Father: Silence, from Melvin Barnet and then the paper he worked for, destroyed his career. (Michael Cross-Barnet, June 26, 2005, LA Times)

On July 13, 1955, in Room 135-A of the Senate Office Building in Washington, my father tersely recounted his past. He said he had not been a communist since 1942. But when asked about other people, his lips were sealed. Twenty times the committee's attorney provided a name and asked my father if he knew that person "as a communist." Twenty times, my father gave the same reply: "I assert my privilege, sir, under the 5th Amendment." He would identify no one. Not even the man who had informed on him. Not even a dead person. The committee, he believed, did not have the right to ask him.

After the hearing, he went to the Times' Washington bureau, where he was handed a note stating that his conduct "has caused the Times to lose confidence in you as a member of its news staff." His career in journalism was over — he was 40.

It is unfortunate that the Times fired my father for refusing to name names half a century ago. But the country was in the grip of fear and, as a new generation of Americans learned after 9/11, fear is a powerful emotion. What is more puzzling, and in a way more disturbing, is that 50 years later the New York Times won't admit its mistake.

We need only change the facts slightly to see how fatuous this line of argument is and always has been:
On July 13, 2005, in Room 135-A of the Senate Office Building in Washington, my father tersely recounted his past. He said he had not been an active member of al Qaeda since 2002. But when asked about other people, his lips were sealed. Twenty times the committee's attorney provided a name and asked my father if he knew that person "as an Islamicist." Twenty times, my father gave the same reply: "I assert my privilege, sir, under the 5th Amendment." He would identify no one. Not even the man who had informed on him. Not even a dead person. The committee, he believed, did not have the right to ask him.

After the hearing, he went to the Times' Washington bureau, where he was handed a note stating that his conduct "has caused the Times to lose confidence in you as a member of its news staff." His career in journalism was over — he was 40.

The only question is whether today's Times would fire such a person, not whether yesterday's was right to.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:06 AM


Economy's growth is better than expected (JEANNINE AVERSA, 6/29/05, Associated Press)

The economy logged a solid 3.8 percent growth rate in the first quarter of 2005, a performance that was better than previously thought and a fresh sign the expansion is on firm footing.

The new reading on gross domestic product, released by the Commerce Department on Wednesday, marked an improvement from the 3.5 percent annual rate estimated for the quarter just a month ago and matched the showing registered in the final quarter of 2004. [...]

"It was a solid quarter, particularly in the face of high and rising energy prices," said Mark Zandi, chief analyst at Economy.com. "It illustrates the resilience of the economy and the durability of the current economic expansion."
Yes, twenty-plus years of uninterrupted economic growth would seem to be telling us something...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:54 AM


Spain turns its helm in direction of Blair (John Vinocur, JUNE 28, 2005, International Herald Tribune)

To find out which way the European political wind is really blowing, look for the flag of the national leader who is not facing elections in the next 10 minutes. In Spain, a firm gust is pushing the standard of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, last year's anti-Blair and anti-Bush apasionado, toward a course-correction.

With no national voting on the horizon until March 2008 and good economic figures to steady his nerves, Zapatero can look into the future and change headings without excessive embarrassment. Since Tony Blair began his charge at European Union leadership and reform, the Spanish Socialist prime minister has started detaching himself - in what looks like a series of inconspicuous little surgeries - from the Gerhard Schröders and Jacques Chiracs that Spain judges no longer hold Europe in their grip.

For a political epiphany bracketing the changes aflicker in Europe, this is a fascinating one.

Roll back a little more than a year. Zapatero was elected in March 2004 through the combination of a murderous Qaeda train bombing in Madrid and its link in the mind of the Spansh voting public to the support of José Maria Aznar's government for the Iraq war.

Fleeing Blair and Bush, Zapatero quite literally threw himself into the arms of the French-German Righteous Brothers. For the next months, he talked of an us-and-them, Europeans vs. Anglo-Saxons world, a rigid construct of political corridors that stop, windows that look out on walls.

Now Zapatero has joined the Finns, Swedes and Dutch in voting no on the budget with the British at the failed EU summit meeting two weeks ago. His Spain has, with Italy, dodged embracing a German candidacy for a United Nations security council seat; or backing a proposal for another EU summit talkathon, favored by the French and Germans, and meant to slow the momentum of the British presidency that begins Friday

Now Zapatero has scheduled, a bit conspicuously, a meeting with Blair in London late in July.

Of course he can't get the meeting he wants most. Couldn't even get a phone call for quite awhile.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 8:47 AM


Canada approves same-sex marriage (Alexander Panetta, National Post, June 28th, 2005)

It was fought in courtrooms, in legislatures, in street protests, and one of the most turbulent debates in Canadian history was settled Tuesday with a vote in Parliament.

The House of Commons voted 158 to 133 to adopt controversial legislation that will make Canada the third country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage.

Several Liberals marked the occasion by invoking the memory of their party's philosopher king, Pierre Trudeau.

It was the late Liberal prime minister who decriminalized homosexuality in 1969, and whose Charter of Rights and Freedoms became the legal cudgel that smashed the traditional definition of marriage.

Barely two years ago the Liberal government was still fighting same-sex couples in courts across the land.

It changed its tune amid an onslaught of legal verdicts in eight provinces that found traditional marriage laws violated the charter's guarantee of equality for all Canadians.

"(This) is about the Charter of Rights," Prime Minister Paul Martin said earlier Tuesday.

"We are a nation of minorities. And in a nation of minorities, it is important that you don't cherry-pick rights.

"A right is a right and that is what this vote tonight is all about."

A bitter fight it was indeed, but it is striking how little headway opponents of gay marriage made over two years, despite respectably funded organization, a thorough vetting of the issue in the press and extensive public hearings. The slim majority that favoured this measure with varying degrees of enthusiasm held firm throughout and could not be swayed from the argument that the traditional definition of marriage was a huge oppression and an unacceptable violation of a fundamental human right. Few of them seem to have pondered why they would have scoffed at that very notion as recently as a few years ago and just what is was that changed their minds so quickly and dramatically. Equally hard to believe is that, as recently as ten years ago, a lead editorial in one of Vancouver’s gay publications thundered criticism of the movement to domesticate the gay lifestyle and asserted defiantly that it “was not about dental benefits.”

A few perceptive analysts have noted that there has been no stampede to the alter among gays. For many of them, the campaign seems to have been more about weddings than marriage, and most undoubtedly have enough foresight to see the burden beyond the blessing. But is that not now true of most of the heterosexual community? The notion that marriage is exclusively about celebrating erotic love and an ongoing (and cancellable) emotional “commitment”, with children just a by-product of choice, is now so throughly embedded in much of the culture that one suspects that the real reason this measure passed is that most folks were no longer able to verbalize any misgivings or articulate any reason to oppose it.

In the contemporary mind, a successful marriage is entirely a matter of interpersonal chemistry, and is measured by the fulfillment of emotional “needs”. Our ingrained rationalism resists and rejects any notion that its success or failure is connected to the goings-on of the society around it. Entirely a matter of personal choice, it neither requires nor merits any honour or support from the community, to which it contributes nothing in particular, or any preference over equally worthy “alternative” lifestyles. While the state now provides–even insists upon–more and more mediation and therapeutic resources to help divorcing couples weather their storm and spare us all that unseemly friction, it does little or nothing to try and save marriages in distress. If it tried to, many would object to an unwarranted public intrusion into the realm of the private. We have become so haunted by the spectre of being trapped in an unhappy or even tedious marriage, our very definition of the intolerable, we decline to gainsay even the most frivolous reasons for divorce. We tell ourselves it is all so personal and complicated and, as we are all Freudians now, we understand that marriage must rest on the ongoing psycho-sexual fulfillment to which everyone is entitled as a birthright.

Indeed, one could argue that we have not so much expanded the definition of marriage to include gays as simply acknowledged our acquiescence in their notion of what a marriage should be.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:42 AM


The End of the Rainbow (THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, 6/29/05, NY Times)

Ireland's turnaround began in the late 1960's when the government made secondary education free, enabling a lot more working-class kids to get a high school or technical degree. As a result, when Ireland joined the E.U. in 1973, it was able to draw on a much more educated work force.

By the mid-1980's, though, Ireland had reaped the initial benefits of E.U. membership - subsidies to build better infrastructure and a big market to sell into. But it still did not have enough competitive products to sell, because of years of protectionism and fiscal mismanagement. The country was going broke, and most college grads were emigrating.

"We went on a borrowing, spending and taxing spree, and that nearly drove us under," said Deputy Prime Minister Mary Harney. "It was because we nearly went under that we got the courage to change."

And change Ireland did. In a quite unusual development, the government, the main trade unions, farmers and industrialists came together and agreed on a program of fiscal austerity, slashing corporate taxes to 12.5 percent, far below the rest of Europe, moderating wages and prices, and aggressively courting foreign investment. In 1996, Ireland made college education basically free, creating an even more educated work force.

The results have been phenomenal. Today, 9 out of 10 of the world's top pharmaceutical companies have operations here, as do 16 of the top 20 medical device companies and 7 out of the top 10 software designers. Last year, Ireland got more foreign direct investment from America than from China. And overall government tax receipts are way up.

"We set up in Ireland in 1990," Michael Dell, founder of Dell Computer, explained to me via e-mail. "What attracted us? [A] well-educated work force - and good universities close by. [Also,] Ireland has an industrial and tax policy which is consistently very supportive of businesses, independent of which political party is in power. I believe this is because there are enough people who remember the very bad times to de-politicize economic development. [Ireland also has] very good transportation and logistics and a good location - easy to move products to major markets in Europe quickly."

Finally, added Mr. Dell, "they're competitive, want to succeed, hungry and know how to win. ... Our factory is in Limerick, but we also have several thousand sales and technical people outside of Dublin. The talent in Ireland has proven to be a wonderful resource for us. ... Fun fact: We are Ireland's largest exporter."

As we've seen in Ireland, India, Africa, etc., it's common for political elites in former colonies to initially react against the Anglo-American system that was forced upon them, but if they can get that little petty phase over with quickly and recognize that their people have internalized the values of that system then they're primed for success.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:31 AM


Gitmo's 'gourmet fare' (James Langton, June 29, 2005, LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH)

The prison is known more for the accusation that it's a gulag than for goulash, but a new cookbook aims to counter the reputation of the detention center at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Several hundred recipes prepared for the inmates at the camp are to be published next month in "The Gitmo Cookbook," including dishes such as mustard-and-dill baked fish and honey-and-ginger chicken breast.

The recipes -- most of which use fewer than eight ingredients and originally were created to feed up to 100 persons -- were developed by the U.S. Navy cooks in charge of the camp's kitchens.

They must serve food that meets the Islamic halal requirements of the 540 detainees, who mostly are from Afghanistan, Iraq and other Arab nations.

Not only do they live and eat better than we did at Summer Camp, we had to pay for it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:20 AM


Marching in Cairo, because enough is enough (Mona Eltahawy, JUNE 29, 2005, International Herald Tribune)

I arrived in Cairo as another American was visiting. Condoleezza Rice was in town on her first trip as U.S. secretary of state. Saying that peaceful democracy supporters should be free from violence, Rice regretted the assaults of May 25, describing it as a "sad day."

Two days later, I was marching with Alaa, Manal and about 300 fellow Egyptians through the working-class neighborhood of Shubra, shouting "Down down with Hosni Mubarak." Riot police that had confined previous demonstrations to one spot were nowhere to be seen.

Emboldened, protesters who had begun the demonstration on a street corner pushed ahead and for the first time since the anti-Mubarak protests began, took their message to the street.

"You might have a point about Rice's speech," Alaa said, grinning and taking pictures.

I had asked him over lunch if he thought U.S. pressure would help Egypt's reformers. He said he was less concerned with simple regime change to replace Mubarak than with changing Egypt's political system from the bottom up. Only Egyptians could do that, Alaa said.

True, but that did not stop demonstrators from injecting their chants with the humor we Egyptians pride ourselves on: "Give Mubarak a visa and take him with you, Condoleezza."

About 100 Mubarak supporters marched in parallel to us. Only a thin white line of traffic police separated them from us. The police officer's only battle was to help buses full of stunned passengers snake their way through our march. I have never seen anything like it in Cairo.

It reminded me of a photograph of a demonstration in London that has earned a place in our family album. My parents took it when they first arrived in London. They had never seen police lining the streets to open roads for protesters.

But demonstrations and a thriving political culture are there in the collective memory of Egyptians. In returning to Cairo to march with Alaa, Manal and all the other Egyptians who weekly violate emergency laws that bar demonstrations, I was walking in the steps of my grandfather, who was arrested for protesting against the British occupation of Egypt more than 70 years ago.

The Mubarak supporters hurled taunts of "Traitors!" our way. But our shouting drowned out their tired regime line that we were any less Egyptian for calling for reform.

"We're here to help break the barrier of fear," a fellow protester said as he ushered us away from traffic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:14 AM

BUT 40% AGREE WITH US! (via Kevin Whited):

Bush seeks to rally troops (in GOP, not the military) (CRAGG HINES, 6/28/05, Houston Chronicle)

Bush's decision to deliver the speech put in some context Rove's remarks last week at a Conservative Party gathering in New York, in which he belittled the reaction of liberals to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Rove carefully named only a few names but was probably not upset that he was interpreted with a broad brush to mean almost any Democrat you cared to finger.

Rove's comments were at least disingenuous and more likely scurrilous. Recall, please, it was Rove who first publicly called for Republicans to turn the war on terror to their partisan advantage, telling the Republican National Committee, at a January 2002 meeting, the party could "go to the country on this issue" — a refreshingly as well as disgustingly frank admission of what was afoot.

Democratic strategists recognize the repeated success of the technique as much as many of them abhor it.

"There is a very strong incentive for the president to play the same cards he did in 2002 and 2004," said Stanley Greenberg, a Democratic pollster not currently working for any candidate.

As Brother Whited points out, when a "technique" works over and over and over again and no "technique" of your own manages to counter it, maybe you should consider whether your party's problem is philosophical, rather than technical?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:04 AM


India and US sign defence accord (BBC, 6/29/05)

India and US have signed a 10-year agreement to strengthen defence ties between the two countries.

The landmark agreement will help facilitate joint weapons production, co-operation on missile defence and the transfer of technology.

Indian Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee and US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld signed the agreement.

There has been a significant transformation in relations between the two countries in recent years.

It's George Bush's most significant foreign policy achievement.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:54 AM


Think before you flush - mayor's latest message to Londoners (Hugh Muir, June 29, 2005, The Guardian)

In this era of energy austerity, the mayor said responsible citizens will also eschew the wasteful tendency to bathe and will instead take showers, but that even then they will be expected to show moderation. People addicted to power showers will be expected to consider how this appears amid a climate of denial, as will those who brush their teeth or wash vegetables under streams of running water, or run the washing machine half full.

The mayor will also seek legal powers to make the capital more energy efficient. On Friday, when he meets the environment secretary, Margaret Beckett, he will ask for legislation to empower him to impose water metering for the first time. He will also seek an immediate hosepipe ban, a ban on "incredibly wasteful" sprinklers and the introduction of a drought order, which would make it easier to impose immediate restrictions.

He said that without a change in practices and attitudes, the only way London could cope with another dry winter would be to introduce standpipes as early as next year.

Mr Livingstone said a third of London's water was flushed down the toilet. "We are asking people to consider - and obviously it is a matter of personal choice - that if all you have done is take a pee, you don't need to flush the toilet every time."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:47 AM


Bill Clinton: Hillary is Republicans #1 Target (NewsMax, 6/29/05)

Ex-president Bill Clinton has begun actively campaigning for his wife's 2006 Senate reelection, warning supporters in a fundraising letter emailed yesterday that defeating Hillary has become the GOP's top priority.

"She has already been singled out as the Republicans' number one target for defeat next year," the ex-president claimed...

They're actually making no effort to beat her, having recruited no one to run against her.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:43 AM


Chisholm's Doc Graham: One-game flop, but lifetime hero (Larry Oakes, June 29, 2005, Minneapolis Star Tribune)

In the movie "Field of Dreams," the elderly Doc Graham asks a visitor to Chisholm named Ray if there could possibly be enough magic in the moonlight to make long-buried wishes come true.

In real life, that question has no verifiable answer. But this much is true, verifiable and pretty remarkable:

There is indeed enough magic to transform a small town's long-buried doctor into a famous literary and cinematic figure. There is enough magic to resurrect him simply for his poetic nickname and obscure moment in baseball, and then immortalize him for a lifetime of kindness that almost no one knew outside the little mining town he loved.

Today, busloads of Chisholm residents are descending from their home on the Iron Range to the Metrodome, to help the Minnesota Twins honor Archibald (Moonlight) Graham on the 100th anniversary of his single brief appearance in the major leagues.

The travelers will include Veda Ponikvar, the retired Chisholm newspaper editor who barely mentioned Graham's baseball career when she wrote his obituary in 1965 and a separate editorial titled: "His was a Life of Greatness."

"Long before the movie, I recognized that he was someone very special," said Ponikvar, 85, the inspiration for the newspaper editor-character in the movie.

In the past few weeks Ponikvar has fielded questions from television networks and other national media outlets calling about the centennial. She never gets tired of talking about Doc.

She may have said it best in her much-photocopied editorial: "There were times when children could not afford eyeglasses or milk or clothing because of the economic upheavals, strikes and depressions.

"Yet no child was ever denied these essentials because in the background there was a benevolent, understanding Doctor Graham. Without a word, without any fanfare or publicity, the glasses or the milk or the ticket to the ball game found their way into the child's pocket." [...]

The magic in Moonlight's case happened when his nickname intrigued W.P. Kinsella in the 1970s, as he thumbed through the Baseball Encyclopedia.

He was researching his book "Shoeless Joe," which became the movie "Field of Dreams." He later said he wondered what becomes of a man who finally grasps his dream, only to watch it slip away.

On a hot Friday afternoon in the mid-1970s, several years before the book came out, a 1930s-era rumble-seat Ford pulled up in front of the Chisholm Free Press.

The men who got out introduced themselves to Ponikvar as W.P. Kinsella and J.D. Salinger, whom she immediately recognized as the reclusive author of "Catcher in the Rye." They wanted help finding Doc Graham.

They seemed stunned to learn that he'd been dead for a decade.

They hung around for three days, Ponikvar recalled, filling notebooks with anecdotes, discovering that far from fading into embittered nothingness in Chisholm, Graham blossomed into greatness.

Kinsella later said there was no need to fictionalize Doc Graham's life; it was better than anything he could make up.

This is all getting way too meta.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:22 AM


Info Reassures Men Who Think Their Penis Is Small (Reuters Health Information, June 28, 2005)

Men worried about having a small penis are usually pretty average, but have a false idea of what the normal size is, according to a report in the medical journal Urology.

This best way to reassure men with penile concerns is to educate them, the author of the report says. Men should know that a normal-sized penis is 1.6 inches or more when flaccid or 2.76 inches when stretched out.

The findings are based on a study of 92 patients who went to the andrology department at Cairo University Hospital in Egypt over a 2-year period complaining of a small-sized penis. Each subject provided a sexual history and completed a standard erectile function questionnaire. [...]

Study author Dr. Rany Shamloul, at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada, reports that all of the men met the thresholds for normal penis size and did not have erectile dysfunction.

However, on average, they estimated that the "normal" flaccid length should be to be 5.1 inches.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Ice Rink Zamboni Operator Charged With DUI (AP, 6/28/05)

Zamboni operator John Peragallo was charged with drunken driving after a fellow employee at the Mennen Sports Arena in Morristown called police and reported that the machine was speeding and nearly crashed into the boards. [...]

Police said Peragallo's blood alcohol level was 0.12 percent. Levels of 0.08 percent and above are considered legally drunk.

Zamboni privileges were revoked for Peragallo, 63, who has worked for the Morris County park system since 1994.

June 28, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:11 PM


PDF: Assuring Our Credibility: Bill Keller has responded to the Credibility Committee's report with a variety of measures. (Bill Keller, June 23, 2005, NY Times)

Even sophisticated readers of The New York Times sometimes find it hard to distinguish between news coverage and commentary in our pages. While The Times is and always will be a forum for opinion and argument as well as a source of impartial news coverage, we should make the distinction as clear as possible. [...]

Of course, diversifying the range of viewpoints reported — and understood — in our pages is not mainly a matter of hiring a more diverse work force. It calls for a concerted effort by all of us to stretch beyond our predominantly urban, culturally liberal orientation, to cover the full range of our national conversation. This is second nature for many of our reporters, especially on the national staff, and there have been some exceptional successes — the coverage of conservatives by David Kirkpatrick (including the splendid piece on evangelicals in the class series) and Jason DeParle, and a number of recent Magazine pieces. I intend to keep pushing us in this direction.

I also endorse the committee’s recommendation that we cover religion more extensively, but I think the key to that is not to add more reporters who will write about religion as a beat. I think the key is to be more alert to the role religion plays in many stories we cover, stories of politics and policy, national and local, stories of social trends and family life, stories of how we live. This is important to us not because we want to appease believers or pander to conservatives, but because good journalism entails understanding more than just the neighborhood you grew up in.

This is not the end of the conversation. But it is, you will be relieved to learn, the end of this manifesto.

Bill Keller

It's odd; Bill Keller has written most of the few insightful words the Times has run about George W. Bush -- especially Reagan's Son (BILL KELLER, January 26, 2003, NY Times) and God and George W. Bush (Bill Keller, NY Times, 5/17/2003) -- but seems to have no idea how to cover conservatism or religion generally. David Kirkpatrick's pieces lend themselves so easily to caricature that he's considered a joke.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:45 PM


In Search of Pro-Americanism: There has never been a more popular time to be anti–American. From Beijing to Berlin, from Sydney to São Paulo, America’s detractors have become legion. But not everyone has chosen to get on the anti–American bandwagon. Where—and among whom—is America still admired, and why? Meet the pro–Americans. (Anne Applebaum, July/August 2005, Foreign Policy)

Anecdotally, it isn’t hard to come up with examples of famous pro–Americans, even on the generally anti–American continents of Europe and Latin America. There are political reformers such as Vaclav Havel, who has spoken of how the U.S. Declaration of Independence inspired his own country’s founding fathers. There are economic reformers such as José Piñera, the man who created the Chilean pension system, who admire American economic liberty. There are thinkers, such as the Iraqi intellectual Kanan Makiya, who openly identify the United States with the spread of political freedom. At a recent event in his honor in Washington, Makiya publicly thanked the Americans who had helped his country defeat Saddam Hussein. (He received applause, which was made notably warmer by the palpable sense of relief: At least someone over there likes us.) All of these are people with very clear, liberal, democratic philosophies, people who either identify part of their ideology as somehow “American,” or who are grateful for American support at some point in their countries’ history.

There are also countries that contain not only individuals but whole groups of people with similar ideological or nostalgic attachments to the United States. I am thinking here of British Thatcherites—from whom Prime Minister Tony Blair is in some sense descended—and of former associates of the Polish Solidarity movement. Although Lady Thatcher (who was herself stridently pro–American) is no longer in office, her political heirs, and those who associate her with positive economic and political changes in Britain, are still likely to think well of the United States. Their influence is reflected in the fact that the British, on the whole, are more likely to think positively of the United States than other Europeans. Polish anticommunists, who still remember the support that President Ronald Reagan gave their movement in the 1980s, have the same impact in their country, which remains more pro–American than even the rest of Central Europe.

In some countries, even larger chunks of the population have such associations. In the Philippines, for example, the BBC poll shows that 88 percent of the population has a “mainly positive” view of the United States, an unusually high number anywhere. In India, that number is 54 percent, and in South Africa, it’s 56 percent, particularly high numbers for the developing world. In the case of the first two countries, geopolitics could be part of the explanation: India and the Philippines are both fighting Islamist terrorist insurgencies, and they see the United States as an ally in their struggles. (Perhaps for this reason, both of these countries are also among the few who perceived the reelection of U.S. President George W. Bush as “mainly positive” for the world as well.) But it is also true that all three of these countries have experienced, in the last 20 years, political or economic change that has made them richer, freer, or both. And in all three cases, it’s clear that people would have reasons to associate new prosperity and new freedom with the actions of the United States.

These associations are not just vague, general sentiments either. New polling data from the international polling firm GlobeScan and the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland break down pro– and anti–American sentiments by age, income, and gender. Looking closely at notably pro–American countries, it emerges that this pro–Americanism can sometimes be extraordinarily concrete. It turns out, for example, that in Poland, which is generally pro–American, people between the ages of 30 and 44 years old are even more likely to support America than their compatriots. In that age group, 58.5 percent say they feel the United States has a “mainly positive” influence in the world. But perhaps that is not surprising: This is the group whose lives would have been most directly affected by the experience of the Solidarity movement and martial law—events that occurred when they were in their teens and 20s—and they would have the clearest memories of American support for the Polish underground movement.

Younger Poles, by contrast, show significantly less support: In the 15–29–year–old group, only 45.3 percent say they feel the United States has a “mainly positive” influence in the world—a drop of more than 13 percent. But perhaps that is not surprising either. This generation has only narrow memories of communism, and no recollection of Reagan’s support for Solidarity. The United States, to them, is best known as a country for which it is difficult to get visas—and younger Poles have a very high refusal rate. Now that Poland is a member of the European Union, by contrast, they have greater opportunities to travel and study in Europe, where they no longer need visas at all. In their growing skepticism of the United States, young Poles may also be starting to follow the more general European pattern.

Looking at age patterns in other generally anti–American countries can be equally revealing. In Canada, Britain, Italy, and Australia, for example, all countries with generally high or very high anti–American sentiments, people older than 60 have relatively much more positive feelings about the United States than their children and grandchildren. When people older than 60 are surveyed, 63.5 percent of Britons, 59.6 percent of Italians, 50.2 percent of Australians, and 46.8 percent of Canadians feel that the United States is a “mainly positive” influence on the world. For those between the ages of 15 and 29, the numbers are far lower: 31.9 percent (Britain), 37.4 percent (Italy), 27 percent (Australia), and 19.9 percent (Canada). Again, that isn’t surprising: All of these countries had positive experiences of American cooperation during or after the Second World War. The British of that generation have direct memories, or share their parents’ memories, of Winston Churchill’s meetings with Franklin Roosevelt; the Canadians and Australians fought alongside American G.I.s; and many Italians remember that those same G.I.s evicted the Nazis from their country, too.

These differences in age groups are significant, not only in themselves, but because they carry a basic but easily forgotten lesson for American foreign policymakers: At least some of the time, U.S. foreign policy has a direct impact on foreigners’ perceptions of the United States. That may sound like a rather obvious principle, but in recent years it has frequently been questioned. Because anti–Americanism is so often described as if it were mere fashion, or some sort of unavoidable, contagious virus, some commentators have made it seem as if the phenomenon bore no relationship whatsoever to the United States’ actions abroad. But America’s behavior overseas, whether support for anticommunist movements or visa policy, does matter. Here, looking at the problem from the opposite perspective is proof: People feel more positive about the United States when their personal experience leads them to feel more positive. [...]

There is, finally, one other factor that is associated almost everywhere in the world with pro–Americanism: In Europe, Asia, and South America, men are far more likely than women to have positive feelings about the United States. In some cases, the numbers are quite striking. Asking men and women how they feel about the United States produces an 11 percent gender gap in India, a 17 percent gender gap in Poland, and even a 6 percent gap in the Philippines. This pattern probably requires more psychological analysis than I can muster, but it’s possible to guess at some explanations. Perhaps the United States is associated with armies and invasions, which historically appeal more to men. Perhaps it is because the United States is also associated with muscular foreign policy, and fewer women around the world are involved in, or interested in, foreign policy at all. Perhaps it’s because men are more attracted to the idea of power, entrepreneurship, or capitalism. Or it may just be that the United States appeals to men in greater numbers for the same intuitive reasons that President George W. Bush appeals to men in greater numbers, whatever those are.

Men are simply more likely to favor freedom, women to favor security.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:26 PM


Press Release (Freestar Media, June 28, 2005)

Could a hotel be built on the land owned by Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter? A new ruling by the Supreme Court which was supported by Justice Souter himself itself might allow it. A private developer is seeking to use this very law to build a hotel on Souter's land.

Justice Souter's vote in the "Kelo vs. City of New London" decision allows city governments to take land from one private owner and give it to another if the government will generate greater tax revenue or other economic benefits when the land is developed by the new owner.

On Monday June 27, Logan Darrow Clements, faxed a request to Chip Meany the code enforcement officer of the Towne of Weare, New Hampshire seeking to start the application process to build a hotel on 34 Cilley Hill Road. This is the present location of Mr. Souter's home.

Clements, CEO of Freestar Media, LLC, points out that the City of Weare will certainly gain greater tax revenue and economic benefits with a hotel on 34 Cilley Hill Road than allowing Mr. Souter to own the land.

The proposed development, called "The Lost Liberty Hotel" will feature the "Just Desserts Café" and include a museum, open to the public, featuring a permanent exhibit on the loss of freedom in America. Instead of a Gideon's Bible each guest will receive a free copy of Ayn Rand's novel "Atlas Shrugged."

Don't take his house--he doesn't like being on the Court and it's easy to see him retiring to it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:00 PM


President Addresses Nation, Discusses Iraq, War on Terror (George W. Bush, 6/28/05, Fort Bragg, North Carolina)

Thank you. Please be seated. Good evening. I'm pleased to visit Fort Bragg, "Home of the Airborne and Special Operations Forces." It's an honor to speak before you tonight.

My greatest responsibility as President is to protect the American people. And that's your calling, as well. I thank you for your service, your courage and your sacrifice. I thank your families, who support you in your vital work. The soldiers and families of Fort Bragg have contributed mightily to our efforts to secure our country and promote peace. America is grateful, and so is your Commander-in-Chief.

The troops here and across the world are fighting a global war on terror. The war reached our shores on September the 11th, 2001. The terrorists who attacked us -- and the terrorists we face -- murder in the name of a totalitarian ideology that hates freedom, rejects tolerance, and despises all dissent. Their aim is to remake the Middle East in their own grim image of tyranny and oppression -- by toppling governments, by driving us out of the region, and by exporting terror.

To achieve these aims, they have continued to kill -- in Madrid, Istanbul, Jakarta, Casablanca, Riyadh, Bali, and elsewhere. The terrorists believe that free societies are essentially corrupt and decadent, and with a few hard blows they can force us to retreat. They are mistaken. After September the 11th, I made a commitment to the American people: This nation will not wait to be attacked again. We will defend our freedom. We will take the fight to the enemy.

Iraq is the latest battlefield in this war. Many terrorists who kill innocent men, women, and children on the streets of Baghdad are followers of the same murderous ideology that took the lives of our citizens in New York, in Washington, and Pennsylvania. There is only one course of action against them: to defeat them abroad before they attack us at home. The commander in charge of coalition operations in Iraq -- who is also senior commander at this base -- General John Vines, put it well the other day. He said: "We either deal with terrorism and this extremism abroad, or we deal with it when it comes to us."

Our mission in Iraq is clear. We're hunting down the terrorists. We're helping Iraqis build a free nation that is an ally in the war on terror. We're advancing freedom in the broader Middle East. We are removing a source of violence and instability, and laying the foundation of peace for our children and our grandchildren.

The work in Iraq is difficult and it is dangerous. Like most Americans, I see the images of violence and bloodshed. Every picture is horrifying, and the suffering is real. Amid all this violence, I know Americans ask the question: Is the sacrifice worth it? It is worth it, and it is vital to the future security of our country. And tonight I will explain the reasons why.

Some of the violence you see in Iraq is being carried out by ruthless killers who are converging on Iraq to fight the advance of peace and freedom. Our military reports that we have killed or captured hundreds of foreign fighters in Iraq who have come from Saudi Arabia and Syria, Iran, Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, Libya and others. They are making common cause with criminal elements, Iraqi insurgents, and remnants of Saddam Hussein's regime who want to restore the old order. They fight because they know that the survival of their hateful ideology is at stake. They know that as freedom takes root in Iraq, it will inspire millions across the Middle East to claim their liberty, as well. And when the Middle East grows in democracy and prosperity and hope, the terrorists will lose their sponsors, lose their recruits, and lose their hopes for turning that region into a base for attacks on America and our allies around the world.

Some wonder whether Iraq is a central front in the war on terror. Among the terrorists, there is no debate. Hear the words of Osama Bin Laden: "This Third World War is raging" in Iraq. "The whole world is watching this war." He says it will end in "victory and glory, or misery and humiliation."

The terrorists know that the outcome will leave them emboldened, or defeated. So they are waging a campaign of murder and destruction. And there is no limit to the innocent lives they are willing to take.

We see the nature of the enemy in terrorists who exploded car bombs along a busy shopping street in Baghdad, including one outside a mosque. We see the nature of the enemy in terrorists who sent a suicide bomber to a teaching hospital in Mosul. We see the nature of the enemy in terrorists who behead civilian hostages and broadcast their atrocities for the world to see.

These are savage acts of violence, but they have not brought the terrorists any closer to achieving their strategic objectives. The terrorists -- both foreign and Iraqi -- failed to stop the transfer of sovereignty. They failed to break our Coalition and force a mass withdrawal by our allies. They failed to incite an Iraqi civil war. They failed to prevent free elections. They failed to stop the formation of a democratic Iraqi government that represents all of Iraq's diverse population. And they failed to stop Iraqis from signing up in large number with the police forces and the army to defend their new democracy.

The lesson of this experience is clear: The terrorists can kill the innocent, but they cannot stop the advance of freedom. The only way our enemies can succeed is if we forget the lessons of September the 11th, if we abandon the Iraqi people to men like Zarqawi, and if we yield the future of the Middle East to men like Bin Laden. For the sake of our nation's security, this will not happen on my watch.

A little over a year ago, I spoke to the nation and described our coalition's goals in Iraq. I said that America's mission in Iraq is to defeat an enemy and give strength to a friend -- a free, representative government that is an ally in the war on terror, and a beacon of hope in a part of the world that is desperate for reform. I outlined the steps we would take to achieve this goal: We would hand authority over to a sovereign Iraqi government. We would help Iraqis hold free elections by January 2005. We would continue helping Iraqis rebuild their nation's infrastructure and economy. We would encourage more international support for Iraq's democratic transition, and we would enable Iraqis to take increasing responsibility for their own security and stability.

In the past year, we have made significant progress. One year ago today, we restored sovereignty to the Iraqi people. In January 2005, more than 8 million Iraqi men and women voted in elections that were free and fair, and took time on -- and took place on time. We continued our efforts to help them rebuild their country. Rebuilding a country after three decades of tyranny is hard, and rebuilding while at war is even harder. Our progress has been uneven, but progress is being made.

We're improving roads and schools and health clinics. We're working to improve basic services like sanitation, electricity, and water. And together with our allies, we'll help the new Iraqi government deliver a better life for its citizens.

In the past year, the international community has stepped forward with vital assistance. Some 30 nations have troops in Iraq, and many others are contributing non-military assistance. The United Nations is in Iraq to help Iraqis write a constitution and conduct their next elections. Thus far, some 40 countries and three international organizations have pledged about $34 billion in assistance for Iraqi reconstruction. More than 80 countries and international organizations recently came together in Brussels to coordinate their efforts to help Iraqis provide for their security and rebuild their country. And next month, donor countries will meet in Jordan to support Iraqi reconstruction.

Whatever our differences in the past, the world understands that success in Iraq is critical to the security of our nations. As German Chancellor Gerhard Schr der said at the White House yesterday, "There can be no question a stable and democratic Iraq is in the vested interest of not just Germany, but also Europe." Finally, we have continued our efforts to equip and train Iraqi security forces. We made gains in both the number and quality of those forces. Today Iraq has more than 160,000 security forces trained and equipped for a variety of missions. Iraqi forces have fought bravely, helping to capture terrorists and insurgents in Najaf and Samarra, Fallujah and Mosul. And in the past month, Iraqi forces have led a major anti-terrorist campaign in Baghdad called Operation Lightning, which has led to the capture of hundreds of suspected insurgents. Like free people everywhere, Iraqis want to be defended by their own countrymen, and we are helping Iraqis assume those duties.

The progress in the past year has been significant, and we have a clear path forward. To complete the mission, we will continue to hunt down the terrorists and insurgents. To complete the mission, we will prevent al Qaeda and other foreign terrorists from turning Iraq into what Afghanistan was under the Taliban, a safe haven from which they could launch attacks on America and our friends. And the best way to complete the mission is to help Iraqis build a free nation that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself.

So our strategy going forward has both a military track and a political track. The principal task of our military is to find and defeat the terrorists, and that is why we are on the offense. And as we pursue the terrorists, our military is helping to train Iraqi security forces so that they can defend their people and fight the enemy on their own. Our strategy can be summed up this way: As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down.

We've made progress, but we have a lot of -- a lot more work to do. Today Iraqi security forces are at different levels of readiness. Some are capable of taking on the terrorists and insurgents by themselves. A large number can plan and execute anti-terrorist operations with coalition support. The rest are forming and not yet ready to participate fully in security operations. Our task is to make the Iraqi units fully capable and independent. We're building up Iraqi security forces as quickly as possible, so they can assume the lead in defeating the terrorists and insurgents.

Our coalition is devoting considerable resources and manpower to this critical task. Thousands of coalition troops are involved in the training and equipping of Iraqi security forces. NATO is establishing a military academy near Baghdad to train the next generation of Iraqi military leaders, and 17 nations are contributing troops to the NATO training mission. Iraqi army and police are being trained by personnel from Italy, Germany, Ukraine, Turkey, Poland, Romania, Australia, and the United Kingdom. Today, dozens of nations are working toward a common objective: an Iraq that can defend itself, defeat its enemies, and secure its freedom.

To further prepare Iraqi forces to fight the enemy on their own, we are taking three new steps: First, we are partnering coalition units with Iraqi units. These coalition-Iraqi teams are conducting operations together in the field. These combined operations are giving Iraqis a chance to experience how the most professional armed forces in the world operate in combat.

Second, we are embedding coalition "transition teams" inside Iraqi units. These teams are made up of coalition officers and non-commissioned officers who live, work, and fight together with their Iraqi comrades. Under U.S. command, they are providing battlefield advice and assistance to Iraqi forces during combat operations. Between battles, they are assisting the Iraqis with important skills, such as urban combat, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance techniques.

Third, we're working with the Iraqi Ministries of Interior and Defense to improve their capabilities to coordinate anti-terrorist operations. We're helping them develop command and control structures. We're also providing them with civilian and military leadership training, so Iraq's new leaders can effectively manage their forces in the fight against terror.

The new Iraqi security forces are proving their courage every day. More than 2,000 members of Iraqi security forces have given their lives in the line of duty. Thousands more have stepped forward, and are now training to serve their nation. With each engagement, Iraqi soldiers grow more battle-hardened, and their officers grow more experienced. We've learned that Iraqis are courageous and that they need additional skills. And that is why a major part of our mission is to train them so they can do the fighting, and then our troops can come home.

I recognize that Americans want our troops to come home as quickly as possible. So do I. Some contend that we should set a deadline for withdrawing U.S. forces. Let me explain why that would be a serious mistake. Setting an artificial timetable would send the wrong message to the Iraqis, who need to know that America will not leave before the job is done. It would send the wrong message to our troops, who need to know that we are serious about completing the mission they are risking their lives to achieve. And it would send the wrong message to the enemy, who would know that all they have to do is to wait us out. We will stay in Iraq as long as we are needed, and not a day longer.

Some Americans ask me, if completing the mission is so important, why don't you send more troops? If our commanders on the ground say we need more troops, I will send them. But our commanders tell me they have the number of troops they need to do their job. Sending more Americans would undermine our strategy of encouraging Iraqis to take the lead in this fight. And sending more Americans would suggest that we intend to stay forever, when we are, in fact, working for the day when Iraq can defend itself and we can leave. As we determine the right force level, our troops can know that I will continue to be guided by the advice that matters: the sober judgment of our military leaders.

The other critical element of our strategy is to help ensure that the hopes Iraqis expressed at the polls in January are translated into a secure democracy. The Iraqi people are emerging from decades of tyranny and oppression. Under the regime of Saddam Hussein, the Shia and Kurds were brutally oppressed, and the vast majority of Sunni Arabs were also denied their basic rights, while senior regime officials enjoyed the privileges of unchecked power. The challenge facing Iraqis today is to put this past behind them, and come together to build a new Iraq that includes all of its people.

They're doing that by building the institutions of a free society, a society based on freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, and equal justice under law. The Iraqis have held free elections and established a Transitional National Assembly. The next step is to write a good constitution that enshrines these freedoms in permanent law. The Assembly plans to expand its constitutional drafting committee to include more Sunni Arabs. Many Sunnis who opposed the January elections are now taking part in the democratic process, and that is essential to Iraq's future.

After a constitution is written, the Iraqi people will have a chance to vote on it. If approved, Iraqis will go to the polls again, to elect a new government under their new, permanent constitution. By taking these critical steps and meeting their deadlines, Iraqis will bind their multiethnic society together in a democracy that respects the will of the majority and protects minority rights.

As Iraqis grow confident that the democratic progress they are making is real and permanent, more will join the political process. And as Iraqis see that their military can protect them, more will step forward with vital intelligence to help defeat the enemies of a free Iraq. The combination of political and military reform will lay a solid foundation for a free and stable Iraq.

As Iraqis make progress toward a free society, the effects are being felt beyond Iraq's borders. Before our coalition liberated Iraq, Libya was secretly pursuing nuclear weapons. Today the leader of Libya has given up his chemical and nuclear weapons programs. Across the broader Middle East, people are claiming their freedom. In the last few months, we've witnessed elections in the Palestinian Territories and Lebanon. These elections are inspiring democratic reformers in places like Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Our strategy to defend ourselves and spread freedom is working. The rise of freedom in this vital region will eliminate the conditions that feed radicalism and ideologies of murder, and make our nation safer.

We have more work to do, and there will be tough moments that test America's resolve. We're fighting against men with blind hatred -- and armed with lethal weapons -- who are capable of any atrocity. They wear no uniform; they respect no laws of warfare or morality. They take innocent lives to create chaos for the cameras. They are trying to shake our will in Iraq, just as they tried to shake our will on September the 11th, 2001. They will fail. The terrorists do not understand America. The American people do not falter under threat, and we will not allow our future to be determined by car bombers and assassins.

America and our friends are in a conflict that demands much of us. It demands the courage of our fighting men and women, it demands the steadfastness of our allies, and it demands the perseverance of our citizens. We accept these burdens, because we know what is at stake. We fight today because Iraq now carries the hope of freedom in a vital region of the world, and the rise of democracy will be the ultimate triumph over radicalism and terror. And we fight today because terrorists want to attack our country and kill our citizens, and Iraq is where they are making their stand. So we'll fight them there, we'll fight them across the world, and we will stay in the fight until the fight is won. (Applause.)

America has done difficult work before. From our desperate fight for independence to the darkest days of a Civil War, to the hard-fought battles against tyranny in the 20th century, there were many chances to lose our heart, our nerve, or our way. But Americans have always held firm, because we have always believed in certain truths. We know that if evil is not confronted, it gains in strength and audacity, and returns to strike us again. We know that when the work is hard, the proper response is not retreat, it is courage. And we know that this great ideal of human freedom entrusted to us in a special way, and that the ideal of liberty is worth defending.

In this time of testing, our troops can know: The American people are behind you. Next week, our nation has an opportunity to make sure that support is felt by every soldier, sailor, airman, Coast Guardsman, and Marine at every outpost across the world. This Fourth of July, I ask you to find a way to thank the men and women defending our freedom -- by flying the flag, sending a letter to our troops in the field, or helping the military family down the street. The Department of Defense has set up a website -- AmericaSupportsYou.mil. You can go there to learn about private efforts in your own community. At this time when we celebrate our freedom, let us stand with the men and women who defend us all.

To the soldiers in this hall, and our servicemen and women across the globe: I thank you for your courage under fire and your service to our nation. I thank our military families -- the burden of war falls especially hard on you. In this war, we have lost good men and women who left our shores to defend freedom and did not live to make the journey home. I've met with families grieving the loss of loved ones who were taken from us too soon. I've been inspired by their strength in the face of such great loss. We pray for the families. And the best way to honor the lives that have been given in this struggle is to complete the mission.

I thank those of you who have re-enlisted in an hour when your country needs you. And to those watching tonight who are considering a military career, there is no higher calling than service in our Armed Forces. We live in freedom because every generation has produced patriots willing to serve a cause greater than themselves. Those who serve today are taking their rightful place among the greatest generations that have worn our nation's uniform. When the history of this period is written, the liberation of Afghanistan and the liberation of Iraq will be remembered as great turning points in the story of freedom.

After September the 11th, 2001, I told the American people that the road ahead would be difficult, and that we would prevail. Well, it has been difficult -- and we are prevailing. Our enemies are brutal, but they are no match for the United States of America, and they are no match for the men and women of the United States military.

May God bless you all. (Applause.)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:27 PM


Unions have blunted bids to curb political spending (Andy Furillo, June 27, 2005, sacramento Bee)

It's one thing for a state to pass a law forcing unions to get annual written consent before spending their members' dues money on politics.

But it's another thing entirely to make it work, as four of the five states with so-called "paycheck protection" laws on the books have learned.

With California voters poised to consider an employee-consent law for government workers on November's special election ballot, only Utah is seeing its effort to check union political spending change the public policy world.

In Washington, the unions have blunted employee-consent laws in the courts and are spending money on politics like never before. In Michigan, union political outlays still reach into the millions, while in Wyoming, labor spending increased after passage of employee-consent laws.

Idaho's voluntary contribution law has since been enjoined in federal courts. [...]

Only in Utah has "paycheck protection" reverberated as intended - with a significant impact on public policy, its advocates say.

Since the Utah Legislature sanctioned the "Voluntary Contributions Act" for public employees in 2001, public employee unions - the only ones targeted by the law - have seen their political contributions fall from $285,761 in 2000 to $232,211 in 2002. The total rose to $278,713 in 2004. But Utah's teachers union - the state's biggest - says its employee contributions are off this year by more than 70 percent.

With the teachers union on its heels financially, the Utah Legislature passed a bill this year that provides tuition tax credits for "special needs" students, which teachers opposed as a voucherlike move to undercut public education.

Royce Van Tassell, executive director of the pro-voucher group called Education xcellence in Utah, said the bill never would have become law without "paycheck protection."

"Not a chance," Van Tassell said. "The union just doesn't carry the stick that it used to."

The Utah Education Association said that since voluntary contributions became law, the percentage of union teachers donating money for politics has dropped from 68 percent to 6.8 percent, with its PAC contributions dropping from $143,000 a year to $40,000.

"No doubt the Republican majority is trying to silence opposition to their program," said UEA attorney Michael McCoy. "Not just through winning votes in the House and Senate, but by destroying people and groups who oppose their policies."

Utah's law segregates political contributions from general union dues and bars the state from collecting the political cash and passing it on to the unions. While fighting the state collection provision in court, the Utah teachers union in the meantime has set up an electronic transfer system for employees through their checking or credit card accounts, McCoy said.

Breaking the public sector unions is the key remaining battle.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:46 PM


Ex-presidents Bush, Clinton play golf (JERRY HARKAVY, June 28, 2005, Associated Press)

Former Presidents Bush and Clinton teed off Tuesday for a round of golf on the second day of a get-together by the former political foes at Bush's summer home along the Maine coast.

Chatting briefly with reporters near the first tee at Cape Arundel Golf Club, Bush and Clinton said their friendly relationship should demonstrate to people at home and abroad that political rivalries need not stand in the way of personal friendship.

The two former presidents cemented their friendship earlier this year when the current President Bush appointed them to head up fund-raising to assist victims of the Asian tsunami.

"We found that when we traveled abroad, people said this couldn't have happened in their country. The equivalent of a Republican and a Democrat - this never would happen. Well, it doesn't have to be that way," the elder Bush said.

"You can feel strongly about your principles, and we do, and we differ on a lot of issues, but that's not what tsunami relief was about and it's not what life ought to be about," he added.

Clinton, who just returned from a tour of Latin America, recalled a skeptic there asking him, "Is this deal between you and Bush real?"

When the questioner found it hard to believe that the two really liked each other, Clinton said, the man's personal dislike of his political opponents was "completely dysfunctional."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:40 PM


Why the US and Iran love to hate each other: Despite harsh rhetoric, some say Iran may be the most pro-US nation in the region. (Scott Peterson, 6/29/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

[B]eneath the anti-US façade is a nation that has much in common with its stated nemesis - from an ambitious self-image and public reliance on the divine, to a habit of often defining itself in terms of its enemies.

In some ways, the duel is between two peoples who hold national pride and their own brand of manifest destiny above all else. The result is a clash over nuclear and national ambitions, which both might better understand if they held up a mirror.

The current leaders of Iran and the US have a "common mind-set," says Javad Vaeidi, editor of the conservative Diplomatic Hamshahri newspaper. "They look at the world in black and white; they think they have a duty from God and are on a mission ... and both think they are emperor of the world."

We'll kiss and make up once we all recognize that it's the same mission.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:35 PM


Diplomacy's new muscle under Rice: As secretary of State, she has bridged the divide between State and the White House. (Howard LaFranchi, 6/29/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

In these initial months, two features stand out: First, she has bridged the divide that separated the Bush White House from the State Department, remaining the president's top foreign-policy adviser - and sounding board - even after the transfer to Foggy Bottom.

Second, as she talks to the world about America's global mission of democratization and the spread of freedom as envisioned by her boss, she is deftly using a life story that rings true and genuine even to America's skeptics. For many students who heard her February speech in Paris, or Arab intellectuals who attended last week's talk in Cairo, the tale of an African-American girl from segregated Alabama who rose through a changing society is opening ears and casting the US in a different light.

What has struck foreign diplomats is how Rice has put herself in control of a new building and bureaucracy at the State Department, without giving up much of the power she wielded at the White House as the president's national security adviser.

"She has taken control of the State Department, and she is still in charge [of foreign policy] back at the White House. For her there is no border, no door between the State Department and the [National Security Council]," says a high-ranking European diplomat in Washington. "She is probably the most powerful secretary of State in decades."

At the same time, the Brussels meeting allowed a glimpse of another, tougher side - some say even stubbornly undiplomatic at times. In public remarks, she singled out Syria among neighboring countries that she said need to do more to help stabilize Iraq, then later pulled no punches at a televised press conference when again fingering Syria as responsible for failing to stop extremists from crossing its border into Iraq to kill innocent Iraqis - and American troops.

It was Condi the diplomat, accented by a little reminder of Condi the tough cookie. And it's a combination that is capturing the world's attention.

Isn't she the most powerful woman in history?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:27 PM

WALKER'S GOT COMPANY: (via M Ali Choudhury):

Historian, Novelist Shelby Foote Dies (WOODY BAIRD, June 28, 2005, Associated Press)

Novelist and historian Shelby Foote, whose Southern storyteller's touch inspired millions to read his multivolume work on the Civil War, has died. He was 88. [...]

Foote was born Nov. 7, 1916, in Greenville, a small Delta town with a literary bent. Walker Percy was a boyhood and lifelong friend, and Foote, as a young man, served as a "jackleg reporter" for Hodding Carter on The Delta Star. As a young man, he would also get to know William Faulkner.

During World War II, he was an Army captain of artillery until he lost his commission for using a military vehicle without authorization to visit a female friend and was discharged from the Army. He joined the Marines and was still stateside when the war ended.

"The Marines had a great time with me," he said. "They said if you used to be a captain, you might make a pretty good Marine."

He tried journalism again after World War II, signing on briefly with The Associated Press in its New York bureau.

"I think journalism is a good experience, having to turn in copy against deadline and everything else, but I don't think one should stay in it too long if what he wants to be is a serious writer," Foote said in a 1990 interview.

Early in his career, Foote took up the habit of writing by hand with an old-fashioned dipped pen, and he continued that practice throughout his life.

He kept bound volumes of his manuscripts, all written in a flowing hand, on a bookshelf in a homey bedroom-study overlooking a small garden at his Memphis residence.

Though facing a busy city street, the two-story house was almost hidden from view by trees and shrubs.

"If I were a wealthy man, I'd have someone on that gate," he said.

It's a curious thing--what Mr. Foote really wanted was to be a novelist, like Faulkner or Flaubert, but his fiction isn't very good and his Civil War Trilogy reads like a great epic novel. Indeed, if you're going on a Summer vacation you could do worse than bring the Trilogy along to read.

-ESSAY: Introduction to Anton Chekhov's short stories selections (Shelby Foote, Modern Library)
-INTERVIEW: Shelby Foote (The American Enterprise, January/February 2001)
-REVIEW: of The Correspondence of Shelby Foote and Walker Percy (Scott Walter, American Enterprise)
-OBIT & ARCHIVES: Shelby Foote (NY Times)
-ARCHIVES: "shelby foote" (Find Articles)
-OBIT: Civil War author Foote, 88, dies (Joyce Howard Price, June 29, 2005, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Mr. Foote worked on the Civil War history for 20 years, using his skills as a novelist with six books to his credit to write in a flowing, narrative style.

"I can't conceive of writing it any other way," Mr. Foote once said. "Narrative history is the kind that comes closest to telling the truth. You can never get to the truth, but that's your goal."

Civil War historian John M. Taylor praised Mr. Foote's "delightfully fluid writing style," adding, "No one exceeded his depth of knowledge on the Civil War."

"He had a gift for presenting vivid portraits of personalities, from privates in the ranks to generals and politicians. And he had a gift for character, for the apt quotation, for the dramatic event, for the story behind the story," said James M. McPherson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Civil War historian. "He could also write a crackling good narrative of a campaign or a battle."

Though a native Southerner, Mr. Foote did not favor the South in his history or novels and was not counted among those Southern historians who regard the Civil War as the great Lost Cause. He publicly criticized segregationist politicians and was the principal speaker at a 1993 ceremony in Gettysburg, Pa., that commemorated the 130th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.

"It is an awesome, indeed, a daunting thing to stand here, where, perhaps, the greatest American -- in or out of public office, high or low -- stood 130 years ago and delivered what he later called 'my little speech,' " Mr. Foote said.

In those remarks, Mr, Foote pointed out that he had been required to memorize the Gettysburg Address as a Mississippi schoolboy and was grateful. He described Mr. Lincoln's two-minute speech honoring those killed in the Battle of Gettysburg as an "imperishable page in the highest rank of American prose."

Gabor Boritt, director of the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College who arranged for Mr. Foote's appearance that day, called Mr. Foote "a beautiful writer ... a shy man who became a public figure."

Posted by Jim Siegel at 2:00 PM


Anti-Americanism & the New Anti-Semitism: The New War Against The Jews (HILLEL HALKIN, June 28, 2005, NY Sun)

The scary thing is that once again, 50 years after the Holocaust, the Jews have so many enemies. And make no mistake about it: They are dangerous.

Nor are all of them primitives out of the Middle Ages. Some are very suave, very cultivated gentlemen. They wear three-piece suits and they speak with Oxonian accents and they say things like "bloody nuisance" and "spot on." Some are even leaders of the Anglican Church.

You may have noticed it. The international advisory body of that church voted last Friday in London to urge its congregations, which have 75 million members worldwide, to disinvest in Israel because of its "oppression" of the Palestinians.

These are not benighted Slavophiles. They are sophisticated High Churchmen. With them one can argue. One can say: "Of all the world's 'oppressing' countries - China, which oppresses Tibet; India, which oppresses Kashmir; Russia, which oppresses Chechnya, et cetera, et cetera - the one you've decided to boycott as good Christians is the country of the Jewish people? The country of the same Jews whom you Christians have hounded throughout your history and whom you Anglicans and Englishmen watched as they were slaughtered by the millions in Europe while you did nothing to rescue them and barred the gates of Palestine and England to those of them who might have fled? Have you no shame? No honor? No awareness of your own appalling hypocrisy?"

No, they have no shame, no honor, no awareness of their own appalling hypocrisy. And they are anti-Semites no less than State Prosecutor Ustinov and his 500 imbeciles. In fact, they are State Prosecutor Ustinov's allies.

This cannot be said too often. In an age in which a Jewish state's right to exist is still not recognized by much of the world - in which tens of millions of Arabs and hundreds of millions of Muslims regularly clamor for its destruction - in which a Muslim country now in the process of arming itself with nuclear weapons openly refers to it as an outlaw creation that must be wiped from the face of the earth - anyone deliberately undermining this state's legitimacy, even if he wears a respectable English clergyman's collar, is contributing to another possible genocide of the Jews.

Criticism of Israel? By all means. This is perfectly legitimate. So is concern for the Palestinians. But disinvestment is not criticism. It is an attempt to turn Israel into a pariah state. And Jews, having been treated as pariahs by Christian civilization since the age of Constantine, know exactly what this means.

Half a century after the Holocaust, a new war against the Jews has been declared. We are only now - innocents that we have been, lulled by the world and our own wishful thinking into believing that widespread Jew-hatred is a thing of the past - waking up to its true dimensions.

It is not a war that we Jews will necessarily win, although it is not one that we can afford to lose.

Three ideologies are aligning to create a new strain of anti-Semitism that threatens Jews first in Israel, second in Europe, and third throughout the world:

1. Not only do the destruction of Israel and elimination of the Jewish people obsess Islamic extremists and terrorists, historian Paul Johnson notes in the June 2005 Commentary in his article “The Anti-Semitic Disease” that “over the last half-century, anti-Semitism has been the essential ideology of the Arab world.” This hatred is not limited to the extremist few on the fringe.

2. The Political Hard Left in the United States and Europe has adopted the Palestinians as their cause celebre with the support of allies in the media. It’s easy for articulate university professors to promote a picture of the Middle East conflict which lays all the blame on Israel, the Jews, and a claimed neoconservative (code word for Jewish) cabal that allegedly run United States foreign policy. Political Conservatives have tended to support Israel, as have Evangelical Christians, but well known is Pat Buchanan’s 1990 comment that support for Israel goes too far -- “"Capitol Hill is Israeli occupied territory. In addition, there are campaigns on approximately two dozen university campuses and by at least two mainstream Protestant denominations -- the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the United Church of Christ -- that urge divestment of stock in corporations that do business with Israel. They incorrectly claim that the Middle East situation is similar to apartheid in South Africa.

Both 1 and 2 fail to understand (or intentionally manipulate for their own purposes) that the Arab power elite and Islamic extremists are using Israel and the Jews as a scapegoat for Arab social problems that are actually arising from the resistance to the momentum of modernity throughout the Third World.

3. Arabs and Islamic extremists are funding and supporting Neo-Nazis in United States and Europe

Accompanying this anti-Semitism is a powerful anti-Americanism. Paul Johnson explains: “Anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism have proceeded hand in hand in today’s Europe just as they once did in Hitler’s mind (as the unpublished second half of Mein Kampf decisively shows)….(Among) academics and intellectuals, where it … becoming more virulent, widespread, and intractable ever since the United States began to shoulder the duties of the war against international terrorism.”

I have not seen recent poll data about Americans’ perceptions about the terrorist threat. But I suspect that many Americans have become complacent as we approach the fourth anniversary of 9-11. These people hate us and they want to kill us or control us. Not just all Jews. All Americans. Concessions will not stop them. Hope that they would play by our rules if we only gave them a chance, if only we talked more, will fail. Who can argue that appeasement stopped Hitler? Why would it stop terrorists who rammed jets into the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon? Or chop off heads? Or massacre hundreds of Russian school children? Weakness encourages them.

Stanford professor Russell A. Berman describes what he calls “the psychology of appeasement”:

“In her classic study The Origins of Totalitarianism, the political theorist Hannah Arendt explored a basic component in the psychology of appeasement. Why was it, she wondered, that much of the outside world was long reluctant to believe in the enormity of the crimes of Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia? …. Her answer involves the recognition that the everyday life of democracies lacks the extraordinary violence of totalitarian settings. Because democratic political life assumes that individuals are treated with a modicum of respect within the context of the rule of law, it becomes difficult to imagine that regimes of terror prevail elsewhere. As she wrote, ‘The normality of the normal world is the most efficient protection against disclosure of totalitarian mass crimes.’… Accustomed to such democratic normalcy, the public tends not only to dismiss accounts of extraordinary atrocities but to believe that the totalitarian leaders act in good faith….

”Particularly in Europe, the argument is made that Islamic radicalism is simply about Israel, and if only the West would abandon its support for Israeli democracy—just as the West abandoned Czech democracy in 1938—the terrorists would promptly turn into trustworthy partners. Other elements enter into this European stance, especially a rapidly growing anti-Semitism. At its core, however, the psychology of appeasement involves the profound misjudgment that terrorists act in a rational and utilitarian manner to achieve specific and limited policy goals through compromise.

“Yet nothing indicates that Al Qaeda or associated terrorist groups are susceptible to rational argument or negotiation. It is characteristic that the September 11 attacks were not linked to any particular set of specific demands, hence the extensive and inconclusive speculation regarding the terrorists’ true goals. Eradication of Israel? Islamic rule in Kashmir? The very ambiguity indicates the absence of a rational political agenda. The only constant is a rhetoric of martyrdom: ‘You love life, but we love death,’ as the terrorists claiming responsibility for the Madrid bombing put it with horrifying clarity. Similarly, after the lynching of four American contractors in Fallujah, a militant declared, ‘We are not afraid of death. We are going to heaven’(presumably for mutilating corpses). This fanaticism is not interested in the normal give-and-take of politics. Still, the proponents of appeasement regularly proceed from a blind preference for negotiation and compromise. Arendt’s phrasing is again quite apt: because it is used to a well-mannered normalcy, democratic public opinion ‘indulges in wishful thinking and shirks reality in the face of real insanity.’

Appeasement is the political strategy of pursuing compromise with an uncompromising opponent. It involves a denial of the opponent’s fanatic character and is, therefore, precisely as Arendt put it, a matter of shirking reality. The only real alternative, however, entails subduing the opponent. Such a course of action presupposes the will to use force and to face the attendant costs. Appeasement is a way to avoid recognizing these costs, but only in the short term, until that time in the future when the costs of defeat become unmistakable.

Last year a friend forwarded a letter that a retired attorney wrote in May 2004 to his four grown sons to give them a longer term point of view that “fewer and fewer of (his) generation are left to speak to.” He says: “Our country is now facing the most serious threat to its existence, as we know it, that we have faced in your lifetime and mine (which includes WWII). The deadly seriousness is greatly compounded by the fact that there are very few of us who think we can possibly lose this war (on terrorism) and even fewer who realize what losing really means.” He adds:

“(Americans) have been criticized for many years as being 'arrogant'. That charge is valid in at least one respect. We are arrogant in that we believe that we are so good, powerful and smart, that we can win the hearts and minds of all those who attack us, and that with both hands tied behind our back, we can defeat anything bad in the world. We can't. If we don't recognize this, our nation as we know it will not survive, and no other free country in the World will survive if we are defeated. And finally, name any Muslim countries throughout the world that allow freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom of religion, freedom of the Press, equal rights for anyone - let alone everyone, equal status or any status for women, or that have been productive in one single way that contributes to the good of the World.

”If we don't win this war right now, keep a close eye on how the Muslims take over France in the next 5 years or less. They will continue to increase the Muslim population of France and continue to encroach little by little on the established French traditions. The French will be fighting among themselves over what should or should not be done, which will continue to weaken them and keep them from any united resolve. Doesn't that sound eerily familiar?

”Democracies don't have their freedoms taken away from them by some external military force. Instead, they give their freedoms away, politically correct piece by politically correct piece. And they are giving those freedoms away to those who have shown, worldwide, that they abhor freedom and will not apply it to you or even to themselves, once they are in power. They have universally shown that when they have taken over, they then start brutally killing each other over who will be the few who control the masses.”

Countries where people are free to choose their own constitution and leaders will not choose a dictator who will export terror that threatens the United States. I do not see this as imposing American-style democracy on another country. I see it helping a countries like Afghanistan or Iraq who had been ruled by despots gain the chance to create the form of democracy that fits their culture.

Creating a democratic society following decades of totalitarian rule is bound to be difficult. Stopping terrorists will require patience and perseverance for many years. Those who are dissatisfied that Iraq is not being rebuilt overnight forget the years it took to reconstruct Japan and Germany after World War II. Remember the Marshall Plan? We forget it took ten years for the United States to institute the Constitution with the Bill of Rights following Cornwallis’ surrender at Yorktown. The difficult path ran from the toothless Articles of Confederation which went into effect in 1781, to the 1787 Constitutional Convention, to the battle in the press between the Federalists (for the Constitution) and the anti-Federalists (against) to win ratification by the states in 1788, to the addition of the Bill of Rights and its ratification by the end of 1791. With the tensions, debates and negotiations that characterized the Constitutional Convention, George Washington and James Madison both described the Constitution’s passage as “The Miracle at Philadelphia.” Iraq had an interim constitution a year after the start of war.

The media focus on incidences of violence in Iraq and pretty much ignore a huge amount of tangible progress in terms of infrastructure and the like.

For the latest data on that, Australian blogger Arthur Chrenkoff every two weeks summarizes good news @ http://chrenkoff.blogspot.com/

Source for Paul Johnson quotes is http://www.commentarymagazine.com/article.asp?aid=11906035_1

Source for Russell Berman quote is http://www.hooverdigest.org/043/berman.html

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:48 PM


Senate OKs energy bill; House fight looms (H. JOSEF HEBERT, 6/28/05, Associated Press)

The Senate overwhelmingly approved energy legislation embraced by both Republicans and Democrats Tuesday, but hard bargaining looms with House GOP leaders who favor measures more favorable to industry.

After finishing most work on the bill late last week, the Senate approved the sweeping legislation 85-12. It includes a proposed $18 billion in energy tax breaks, an expansion of ethanol use and measures aimed at increasing natural gas imports to meet growing demand. [...]

President Bush praised the Senate for passing the measure, saying it would help U.S. economic growth by addressing the causes of high energy prices and the nation's dependence on foreign supplies of energy. "I urge the House and Senate to resolve their differences quickly and get a good bill to my desk before the August recess," he said.

Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman also applauded passage of the Senate bill and said he was prepared to try to help resolve the MTBE issue. But for now, he said, he views it as an issue to be resolved by the lawmakers. "We would hope there could be a compromise that could be agreed upon," said Bodman, although adding he didn't know what the solution might be.

When was the last significant energy bill? The 70s?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:37 AM


Tories to host homelessness summit (Matt Weaver, June 28, 2005, The Guardian)

The Conservative party today makes another attempt to ditch its "nasty" image, this time by hosting a summit on homelessness.

The event - which will be hosted by Caroline Spelman, the shadow secretary for local government and communities - will highlight the government's mixed record on the issue.

As Mark Helprin almost said: "If Tony Blair becomes P.M., the armies of the homeless, hundreds of thousands strong, will once again be used to illustrate the opposition's arguments about welfare, the economy, and taxation."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:32 AM


County Might Outsource Hospital: A critical King/Drew audit builds support for the idea. Also, the state could force its closure. (Charles Ornstein and Tracy Weber, June 28, 2005, LA Times)

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors may hand over Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center to a private company after nearly two years of failed attempts to correct patient care lapses and mismanagement at the beleaguered public hospital.

County supervisors, who ordered a study of the idea last month, now are giving it new urgency after yet another federal government inspection found medical errors, misconduct and a troubling death at the 33-year-old hospital south of Watts. A vote could take place as early as August, and at least three of the five supervisors — Mike Antonovich, Don Knabe and Zev Yaroslavsky — express some support for the idea.

Antonovich said county health department leaders for months have assured the board that the millions spent to overhaul King/Drew were paying off.

"And then the [health] inspector comes in and tells the authorities that this is an illusion, you're delusionary," he said Monday. "The only way to save the facility is to outsource it."

Knabe said: "We need to have a Plan B. We've tried everything."

"The only way" to completely fix King/Drew, he added, "is to shut it down for a while, to get new people in there, and to change the culture of the entire hospital."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:27 AM


A right turn on the high court? (Jonathan Turley, 6/27/05, JewishWorldReview.com)

It is a true sign of desperate times when liberals are fretting over of the expected retirement of Chief Justice William Rehnquist. It is not that they have come to love Rehnquist — once called the "Lone Ranger" for his strident conservative dissents on the Warren Court. Yet, liberals have learned that there are actually judges to the right of Rehnquist, a number of whom are on the short list to replace him. It is like Luke Skywalker celebrating the demise of the Emperor only to learn that he was considered the mild-mannered runt of the litter.

Conventional wisdom holds that swapping a Rehnquist, 80, with another conservative simply preserves the current division of the court. This oversimplification ignores the fact that Rehnquist occasionally surprised people, as he did in his 2000 opinion upholding the 1966 Miranda decision and its requirement that police inform arrestees of their rights. Likewise, he joined his liberal colleagues in holding that states could be sued for violating women's rights on family and medical leave — a departure from his own states' rights cases.

Such surprises are not expected from the short-list judges — jurists viewed as the purest among the hard-right faithful. Some of the short-listers hold views rejected by Rehnquist as too extreme.

Even only Rehnquist's retirement might produce some significant changes. For example, Rehnquist voted in 2003 in a 5-4 ruling to reject First Amendment protections for cross burnings.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:12 AM


Democrats report no abuse at Gitmo (Stephen Dinan, June 28, 2005, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Two Democratic senators just back from reviewing U.S. detention facilities and interrogations at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, said they saw no signs of abuse and said it would actually be worse to close the facility and transfer the detainees elsewhere.

"I strongly prefer the improved practices and conditions at Camp Delta to the outsourcing of interrogation to countries with a far less significant commitment to human rights," said Sen. Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrat, who toured the U.S. facility along with Sen. Ben Nelson, Nebraska Democrat. [...]

Their characterization contrasts with critics, including Democratic Party leaders, who have called for the camp to be closed as a bruise on America's human rights record.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California called for a commission to document abuses at Guantanamo and worldwide, while the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, two weeks ago compared interrogation tactics at Guantanamo to those used during the Nazi and Soviet regimes.

Nothing makes a Democrat serious about national security faster than a competitive seat.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:01 AM


Blair poised to say Yes to more nuclear power (JAMES KIRKUP, 6/28/05, The Scotsman)

TONY Blair yesterday gave his clearest signal yet that he will authorise the controversial building of a new generation of nuclear reactors.

To the dismay of environmental campaigners, the Prime Minister answered a question about new nuclear stations by casting doubt on whether wind and wave farms or solar power were viable alternatives.

Mr Blair also tacitly criticised the Scottish Executive's plan to block any new nuclear power station in Scotland, saying it was not "responsible" to rule out a new wave of generators come what may.

The current generation of nuclear stations is due to be wound down over the coming years. Hunterston B, in Ayrshire, is scheduled to close in 2011; Torness, in East Lothian, is due to run until 2023.

Such closures mean Mr Blair, who has committed himself to cutting British emissions, will have to decide over the next year how to replace their energy output.

Nuclear plants generate about 23 per cent of the United Kingdom's electricity, and 40 per cent in Scotland. Renewables account for less than 3 per cent of all UK electricity, and about 11 per cent in Scotland.

The Prime Minister pointedly noted at his monthly Downing Street news conference yesterday that other countries were embracing nuclear power for their future energy needs.

"If you look at how much we are going to need to boost renewable energy by over the next ten to 15 years, it's a lot," Mr Blair said of the prospect that such sources could remove the need to build new reactors. "I'm not saying we can't do it, but I am saying it's a huge investment and it's going to be very tough to do, and there are other countries that are going to make a different choice on nuclear power."

That appeared to be a reference to the United States, which is moving towards much greater use of atomic energy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


On the streets of Tehran, 'we like America' (Michael Slackman, JUNE 28, 2005, The New York Times)

Outside the mosque where Iran's president-elect, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, went to vote Friday, a parade of cars, trucks and scooters rumbles by, day in and day out, right over a picture of an American flag painted on the blacktop road.

The message is unmistakable, that America is still the Great Satan, the enemy of the people of Iran, the nation vilified by the grandfather of this country's Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, and to this day chided by today's supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

But Hamid Reza Solimaai is embarrassed by that flag on the ground. So are Sayed Reza Mirsani, Manochek Janshidi and Mohsen Malek Mohammadi. All work in shops on Samanegan Street, the road in East Tehran where the flag is painted, and all said they see that flag in the road as a relic of an era that has passed.

"The government has imposed this on people's minds, painting flags on the road," said Solimaai, who was working Monday in a closet-sized storefront repairing tires. "Almost all the people hate this."

Mirsani labored over a blast furnace of an oven, baking bread.

"I can recall the good old days, before the revolution, when we had good relations with the United States," he said. "We all lived better. Now we live worse."

In the realm of international relations, the United States and Iran are enemies. American officials attacked Iran's presidential elections as undemocratic, while Khamenei said that the 60 percent turnout "humiliated" the United States. But on the streets of Tehran, from the gritty neighborhoods in the south, to retail areas in the center of town, to the posh northern neighborhoods, America is spoken of more like an estranged cousin, maybe an annoying cousin, but nevertheless one with whom people would like to reconcile.

Having unwittingly abetted it, the President needs to just ignore the election and go over the heads of Ahmadinejad and the mullahs to talk directly to Iranians the way Reagan did to Eastern Europeans.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


The Wind from the South: Anti-White Populism (Steve Sailer, June 26, 2005)

Recently, the rest of the media has started to notice that something is going on down south.

In "Indian movement seeks 'to expel white invasion,'" Martin Arostegui wrote in the Washington Times (June 24):

"SANTA CRUZ, Bolivia -- A growing indigenous movement has helped topple successive governments in Bolivia and Ecuador and, angered by the destruction of Andean coca crops, now threatens the stability of other countries where Indians are in the majority. Drawing support from European leftists and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the long-marginalized Indians are tasting political influence for the first time since the Spanish conquest and beginning to wrest power from South America's white elites. The leader of Bolivia's Movement to Socialism party (MAS), Evo Morales, talks about 'uniting Latin America's 135 Indian nations to expel the white invasion, which began with the landing of Columbus in 1492.'"

This marks a significant change. Latin American politics was long dominated by imported ideologies, such as Marxism in the 1960s and 1970s and laissez-faire in the 1990s. While professing the latest thinking from France, Italy, the U.S., or the Soviet Union made Latin Americans feel au courant, they were largely irrelevant because none of them dealt directly with Latin America's essential political problem: the enduring racial conflict originating in the Conquest of a half millennium ago.

Traditionally, Latin America has had the worst economic disparities in the world. For example, the AP recently reported on a new study of millionaires around the world. In most regions, such as North America, the average millionaire has a little over three million dollars in assets, but in Latin America, the typical millionaire has over twelve million dollars.

In other words, while Latin America isn't very rich, the rich in Latin America have more money than God.

And, despite almost 500 years of intermarriage, the economic elite remains strikingly whiter-looking than the more Indian and/or black-looking people at the bottom. As Vicente Fox's former Foreign Secretary Jorge Castaneda admitted in 1995, Mexico's ruling elite has been getting whiter. Many powerful men in Mexico and throughout Latin America had recent ancestors who clawed their way up out of the darker masses. Over the generations, however, their descendents get whiter-looking as the rich men marry the fair-skinned and fair-haired women -- who are considered the first and last word in beauty in Latin America.

And it's not just skin color. The rich literally look down upon the poor. President Fox, for example, whose paternal grandfather was an Irish-American, is almost six and a half feet tall. He towers over George W. Bush. That makes Fox close to a foot taller than the average Mexican man.

Presumably, as the Indians take over and the "whiter-lookings" flee even the Minutemen will support immigration.

June 27, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:46 PM


Politics: Jeb Bush's Surprise Move (Arian Campo-Flores and Lynn Waddell, 7/04/05, Newsweek)

Jeb Bush's request (that a state attorney investigate alleged discrepancies in Michael Schiavo's statements about how long he took to call 911 after Terri's collapse) startled even his closest confidants. While critics accused Bush of trying to curry favor with cultural conservatives, "this wasn't a position taken for the purpose of pandering," says one political adviser who was surprised by Bush's intervention and who asked not to be named to avoid appearing disloyal. "It's based entirely on his strong personal bias for protecting life." Though some Bush advisers would have preferred he drop the subject, says another who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, his current circle avoided challenging him. "I think this was his impulse," says the adviser, "and the staff amplified it."

Ill-advised or not, Bush's maneuver only fueled speculation about a possible presidential run in 2008. Given a GOP field that lacks a standout contender, Bush "would automatically be the one to beat" were he to enter, says Mac Stipanovich, a former Bush campaign manager.

Especially if John McCain doesn't run, it's just such an easy nomination to grab you'd have to go for it if you've any thought of ever doing so.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:41 PM


Jewish woman is new president of National Rifle Association (Joshua Runyan, Chicago Jewish News)

As a Jewish woman and Harvard-educated lawyer, Sandra Froman admits that, at least on paper, she doesn't seem the natural choice to lead the National Rifle Association. But the Second Amendment, she points out, is all about empowerment.

"I've never met a gun I didn't like," says Froman, 55. "I wish I had more time to practice. My favorite gun is normally the one I was able to take out most recently, but I shoot pistols, rifles, black-powder rifles."

Froman, who became the newest president of the almost 4-million strong NRA in April, explains that she didn't always love the smell of gunpowder or a shotgun's recoil. She grew up in a Jewish home in San Fransisco, raised by parents who didn't own firearms.

"I didn't care about guns. I didn't know anything about them," she says. "The most I knew was from Westerns where the good guys had guns, and the bad guys had bows and arrows."

After attending Stanford University, she headed east for Harvard Law School, returning to the Golden State to practice law with the predominantly Jewish law firm of Loeb and Loeb. It was at her home there, 25 years ago, that someone attempted to break in while she slept.

"The noise woke me up. I came downstairs and saw this man trying to use a screwdriver to break through the lock on the door," she says. "I banged on the door. He stopped for a minute, and then kept trying to break in. I was scared to death. I didn't know what to do."

The would-be intruder left before police arrived, but life would never be the same.

A step down from Moses, but...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:32 PM


GM Halts Stock Trading by Top Executives (Dee-Ann Durbin, 6/27/05, AP)

General Motors Corp. has forbidden senior executives and other employees with access to internal financial information from buying or selling company stock indefinitely, a spokeswoman for the automaker said Monday.

Bad form to have execs selling their stock just before you padlock the doors and go out of business.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:22 PM


In the south, a bid to loosen Baghdad's grip (Steven Vincent, 6/28/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

Crowded into a narrow room beneath an image of the Shiite icon Imam Ali, members of the Garamsha tribe drink tea and discuss current events with visiting journalists. Though reputedly behind most of the car thefts, hijackings, and kidnappings roiling this southern city, the tribesmen seem more interested in politics.

"Baghdad is so violent now, we are uncomfortable linking our fate with it," says Tariq Hamid, as his fellow clan leaders nod. "We support a decentralized form of government, where Basra controls its own affairs."

Like the Kurds to the north, the Shiites of Iraq's southern regions have long bristled under Baghdad's centralized and often brutal control. But with their security relatively stable and newly elected officials in office - particularly the increasingly independent provincial Governing Councils (GCs) - southern Iraqis are pressing the case for decentralization, or federalism.

Kurdistan was always going to be sovereign eventually--why not just cut to the chase and divvy up the place?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:20 PM

LES MISERABLESER (via Robert Schwartz):

My virility doesn't matter - the EU's does (Mark Steyn, 28/06/2005, Daily Telegraph)

The subject under debate was poverty and social disintegration, and pondering the collapse of civility in modern Britain [Frank Field, at a Centre for Policy Studies seminar last week,] gave seven reasons. Number One, he said, was the decline of religion.

At that point, many Britons will simply have tuned out for the remaining six, and the more disapproving ones will be speculating darkly on whether, like yours truly and other uptight squares, he has "casual sex" issues. Religion is all but irrelevant to public discussion in the United Kingdom, and you'd have to search hard for an Anglican churchman prepared to argue in public, as Mr Field does, that material poverty derives from moral poverty.

But the point is: he's not wrong. There aren't many examples of successful post-religious societies. And, if one casts around the world today, one notices the two powers with the worst prospects are the ones most advanced in their post-religiosity. Russia will never recover from seven decades of Communism: its sickly menfolk have a lower life expectancy than Bangladeshis; its population shrinks by 100 every hour, and by 0.4 per cent every year, a rate certain to escalate as the smarter folks figure it's better to emigrate than get sucked down in the demographic death spiral.

And then, of course, there's the European Union. These last couple of weeks, Tony Blair has been giving off an even stronger whiff than usual of a man trembling on the brink of his rendezvous with destiny: why, he's now the EU's self-proclaimed reformer, the man who'll save the continent from a dreary obsolescent cadre of rigid Euro-apparatchiks. "We have to renew," he says. "And we can. But only if we remarry the European ideals we believe in with the modern world we live in."

But, reading the stirring Blairite blather alongside the gloomy news from Russia, it all begins to sound rather familiar. No doubt, in another week or two, the Prime Minister may even have invented some Euro-buzzwords to serve as equivalents to perestroika and glasnost. Mr Blair is attempting the same trick Gorbachev tried - "remarrying" (an odd choice of word) an inflexible ideology with reality. It's unlikely to be any more successful with the EU than with the Soviet Union.

Every day you get ever more poignant glimpses of the Euro-future, such as it is. In East Germany, whose rural communities are dying, village sewer systems are having a tough time adjusting to the lack of use. Populations have fallen so dramatically that there are too few people flushing to keep the flow of waste moving. Traditionally, government infrastructure expenditure arises from increased demand. In this case, the sewer lines are having to be narrowed at great cost in order to cope with dramatically decreased demand.

There's simply no precedent for managed decline in societies as advanced as Europe's, but the early indications are that it's going to be expensive: environmentally speaking, it's a question of sustainable lack of growth. Listen to the European political class defend the status quo on the Common Agricultural Policy, and then tell yourself these are the folks you want tackling the real crises just around the corner.

For Britain and Ireland, two relatively dynamic provinces of a moribund continent, there are only two options: share the pain and expense and societal upheaval, or decide that you're not that "European" after all and begin the process of detachment or at least semi-detachment. When the Continentals bemoan "Anglo-Saxon" capitalism, they have a point. Of the 20 economies with the biggest GDP per capita, no fewer than 11 are current or former realms of Her Britannic Majesty.

Admittedly, some of the wealthiest turf is the pinprick colonial tax havens - Bermuda, Guernsey, the Caymans. But, if you eliminate populations under 10 million, the GDP per capita Top Five are, in order, America, Canada, Australia, Belgium and the United Kingdom. And if you make it territories with over 20 million, the Top Four is an Anglosphere sweep. In other words, the ability to generate wealth among large populations does indeed seem to be an "Anglo-Saxon" thing. That being so, which is more likely? That Blair will transform a Europe antipathetic to Anglo-Saxon ways? Or that Europe will drag its Anglo-Saxons down with it?

So when the wolf pack comes you can't even hide in the sewer?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:13 PM


Eleventh-hour call for EU to halt its talks with Turkey (Anthony Browne, 6/28/05, Times of London)

NICOLAS SARKOZY, the French Interior Minister and a possible future president, has demanded that the European Union close its doors to Turkey, just three months before the entry talks with the Muslim country are due to start.

M Sarkozy called for the “suspension” of future EU enlargement while the union sorts out its internal political crisis by revamping its institutions.

The swipe at Turkey will heighten tensions between France and Britain, which has taken the lead in championing Turkish membership of the EU and which will host the start of the membership talks in October 3. The remarks also brought a swift retort from the German Government, which said that the EU must stick by its commitments.

Why would a nation that has a future hitch itself to a bunch that don't?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:11 PM


Become more macho or risk your extinction, men told (Chris Hastings and Beth Jones, 26/06/2005, Daily Telegraph)

British men are being told to be alert to a condition that could "put them on the fast track to extinction".

Symptoms of the "illness" that has been dubbed "mantropy" include a penchant for pedicures, fruit smoothies and small dogs.

American Maxim, one of the biggest-selling men's magazines in the world, has defined mantropy as "a silent killer which strikes men in the prime of life".

The magazine has been urging American men to be macho rather than manicured and to indulge their passion for cars rather than clothes.

The campaign coincides with research that shows that men and women are being increasingly turned off by media images of well-groomed, feminine-looking men. [...]

This research reinforces the findings of a poll published in April which found that 90 per cent of women preferred a man who was "low-maintenance and easy-going".

Until they want something done around the house, then the Type-A down the street, who polishes his gutters every Saturday, is supposed to be your role model.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:18 PM


BTK killer waives trial, admits 10 slayings (Associated Press, June 27th, 2005)

In a surprise move, Dennis Rader pleaded guilty Monday to 10 counts of first-degree murder before delivering a chilling matter-of fact account of the BTK slayings that terrorized the city beginning in the 1970s.

Rader, 60, of Park City, entered the guilty pleas as his trial was scheduled to begin Monday.

Referring to his victims as “projects,” Rader laid out for the court how he would “troll” for victims on his off-time, then stalk them and kill them.

“I had never strangled anyone before, so I really didn’t know how much pressure you had to put on a person or how long it would take,” he told the court in describing his first killings in 1974, a couple and two children.

No point in getting our knickers in a knot. The cooperative gene may have skipped by him and we may need to dispose of him to keep the survival imperative going, but why else would we get lathered over this one, Dude?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:22 PM


Low Rates Could Be Around for Long Term (EDMUND L. ANDREWS, 6/27/05, NY Times)

Federal Reserve officials, who meet this week, are beginning to suspect that the perplexing decline in long-term interest rates is more than a temporary aberration.

The possibility has major implications for the economy, and it creates new puzzles for Fed officials on how they should respond. [...]

One school of thought holds that low bond yields are a harbinger of slowing economic growth, which would reduce demand for credit in the future. Another school holds that global investors have lower inflation expectations than in the past, which reduces the risk of holding long-term bonds. If either theory is correct, the Federal Reserve would have less need to fend off inflation and could stop raising short-term rates at a much lower level than in the past - perhaps below 4 percent.

But yet another theory holds that long-term interest rates may have been depressed by other factors, including a "savings glut" around the world and efforts by Asian central banks to keep the value of their currencies down by buying United States Treasury securities.

If that is true, the flood of foreign money into the country could be diluting the Fed's effort to prevent inflation. That would imply that the Fed needs to raise rates more than many investors are expecting.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:22 PM

OH, MY (via AWW):

Pooh Mourns Tigger, Piglet (Josh Grossberg, Jun 28, 2005, CNN)

'Twas a sad weekend in Hundred Acre Wood.

Paul Winchell, the early TV pioneer best remembered for creating a string of cartoon voices, most famously Winnie the Pooh's pal Tigger, died Friday. A day later, John Fiedler, the veteran stage and screen actor who voiced Piglet, passed away.

Supposedly, Winchell's last words were: "Piglet still survives..."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:04 PM


High Court Declines to Hear Appeal of Reporters in Plame Case (Richard B. Schmitt, June 27, 2005, LA Times)

The Supreme Court today cleared the way for the Justice Department to jail two reporters who refused to reveal confidential sources to a special prosecutor investigating how the name of an undercover CIA operative ended up in a newspaper column.

The high court declined to hear the appeal of reporters Judith Miller of the New York Times and Matthew Cooper of Time magazine, who had argued that the 1st Amendment protected them from having to identify their sources to prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald in the politically charged case.

Miller and Cooper were held in contempt last year for refusing to cooperate in the investigation, and sentenced to prison, pending appeal. Today's ruling means that the government is now free to seek their incarceration, for up to 18 months.

The reporters have previously indicated that they would go to jail rather than reveal their sources. Fitzgerald has said their testimony is essential to completing his investigation.

Pursue the convictions but then have the President pardon them because this case is so trivial.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:57 PM


Breyer casts decisive vote on religious displays: Justice: Old monuments with Commandments are OK; new displays are not (Tom Curry, 6/27/0-5, MSNBC)

By the barest plurality, the court approved historical exhibits of the Ten Commandments on public property, displays that put the Decalogue in “a museum-like setting,” as Texas attorney general Greg Abbott repeatedly described it when the court heard oral arguments in Van Orden v. Perry on March 2.

Perhaps the best way to look at the cases is through the eyes of Justice Stephen Breyer, the swing vote in the Texas case, in which the court by a 5-4 vote allowed the state of Texas to continue displaying on the grounds of the state capitol in Austin a monument with the Ten Commandments engraved on it.
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As long as the display is pretty old and as long as almost no one has objected to it over the 40 years it has stood on the capitol grounds, then it passes muster, Breyer said.

He did not answer the question of “how old is old?” In other words, how long would a monument engraved with the Decalogue have to have been displayed — 10 years? 15 years? — in order to achieve protected status?

As a result of Monday’s ruling, religious displays will be allowed on state property under a "grandfather clause," as a respectful nod to the past.

A moral message is permissible, said Breyer, and a display of the Ten Commandments does send one.

But in Breyer’s view — and he is the rule-maker by default because he was the deciding vote in this case — the Texas display "conveys a predominantly secular message" and therefore is permissible.

One important factor for Breyer: The Austin Ten Commandments monument was in a park with other historical monuments around it. “The setting does not readily lend itself to meditation or any other religious activity,” Breyer decided.

Hinting at practical political consequences, Breyer also worried that if the court banned long-standing displays of the Ten Commandments, it might spark public outrage, “the very kind of religiously based divisiveness that the Establishment Clause seeks to avoid.”

The obvious question this raises is: exactly what year did the Constitution change? And, applying the same standard to Roe: shouldn't only women born after 1972 have been allowed to get abortions?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:55 AM

JIM DALE AGAIN (via The Mother Judd):

Sweatin' to the classics: Get off your beach blanket. These days, reading is an action-sport for manly multitaskers. (Leah Price, June 26, 2005, Boston Globe)

I used to wonder whether people who browsed Levenger's encyclopedia-sized catalog had time to read anything else, any more than homeowners who could afford incinerator-grade stoves ever have time to cook. Now Levenger's chief executive, Steve Leveen, is wondering that, too. His new book, The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life, says nothing about bookmarks, booklights, bookstands, Book Bungees, or even Booksuits (''the limber bookcover that stretches like a Speedo swimsuit"). Instead, it tells buyers how books themselves can change their life. Leveen writes with the fervor of a self-described ''born-again reader," an average Joe whose midlife crisis caused him to discover that reading makes life more ''electrified and zestful - like living in color rather than black and white."

Normally, a life-changing experience would require you to change your ways. Leveen dispels that fear: Far from being an eccentricity that will cut into your partying, your exercising, or your income, reading becomes the logical extension of the activities that you enjoy already. A library is a ''fueling station for your mind"; book groups are health clubs for, you guessed it, the mind; a good library works like a wine cellar; and like nobodies at a cocktail party, boring books should be quickly abandoned.

You test-drive a car before you buy it, so why not preview a book before you read it? In fact, if you replaced ''books" with ''men," Leveen's advice to ''take charge of your reading life and radically increase the quality of the books in the pool that you select from" could be lifted straight from Rachel Greenwald's bestseller ''Find a Husband After 35: Using What I Learned at Harvard Business School." Living down the road from South Beach, Leveen substitutes pages for calories: my mental spam filter flagged ''just three hours," ''no guilt," and ''transforming results."

So what's the secret? The answer is simple: audiobooks. ''Your Well-Read Life" encourages you to ''risten" while mowing the lawn, doing the dishes, or washing the car.

If you've never listened to audio books, your library likely has a bunch and they're on cd these days and unabridged. they're invaluable for car rides and cubicle jobs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:43 AM


Sonny Rollins: humble, classy, talented (ASHANTE INFANTRY, Jun. 19, 2005, Toronto Star)

[I]t's surprising to see the dedicated musician, a self-described "work in progress" who still practises two hours daily ("I'm trying to get to some unavailable place, I guess"), recently taken to task for his live performances by respected jazz critic Stanley Crouch in a recent issue of The New Yorker.

He writes: "Rollins works at extremes. He is either astounding or barely all right ... When he's on, which is seven or eight times out of ten, Rollins — known as `the saxophone colossus' — seems immense, summoning the entire history of jazz, capable of blowing a hole through the wall. On his off nights, though, he can seem no more than another guy with a saxophone and a band, creeping through a gig."


"It's hard for me to comment because I don't want to sound self-serving," responded Rollins, without a trace of enmity. "It's possible the type of music I'm trying to play is not always going to be where I would like it to be, but I think he may be being a little harsh.

"Stanley is a very conservative guy and he likes things from the '50s. I've had a long career and so he's got an opportunity to compare (newer material) to the things that he likes from the '50s and I think that's why he makes that kind of judgment.

"There's no doubt that I can sound better at times than others, because we're playing spontaneous music and that can happen. But I don't think it's quite as black and white as he said."

He was less diplomatic about Crouch's assertion that when he is faced with a young audience "he often resorts to banal calypso tunes."

"I completely reject that criticism and I think it was based on the fact that he denigrates that type of rhythm and I don't," said the Harlem-born Rollins, whose parents emigrated from the Virgin Islands.

"It's something that I enjoy playing and is a challenge to play, just as much as a lot of the music we play. It's not something I phone in."

The acclaimed improviser, whose collaborators have included Art Blakey, Thelonius Monk and the Rolling Stones, lists saxophonists Joshua Redman, Kenny Garrett and James Carter as favourites on the contemporary scene.

"I think the problem is that jazz itself isn't recognized, isn't promoted, so that these people have a chance to get their stuff heard by more people.

"Jazz has always been the stepchild and it has a lot to do with social issues. It's always been a black art form so therefore it's always been less promoted. I think it's a matter of social attitudes toward the music, which go back unfortunately to times in the past."

How then does he explain the phenomenal success of hip hop, which also began with blacks?

"While I think hip hop is valid music and very good, there are some elements in it which have been criticized — misogyny, elements which people can construe as demeaning to black people. I think that may be why hip hop has the tremendous popularity it has — it might be a way of maintaining a minstrely aspect around black culture."

It's those strong political views (echoed on recordings such as Global Warming), combined with his spiritual pursuits and a tendency to disappear, that cause many to view the yoga-practising, health-conscious country dweller as an enigma.

-Q&A: The Jazz Giant: This week in the magazine, Stanley Crouch writes about the jazz tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins, who, at seventy-four, is in the sixth decade of his remarkable career. Here, Crouch discusses Rollins, jazz, and improvisation with Ben Greenman. (The New Yorker, 2005-05-09)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:41 AM


On the Right Side of the Theater Aisle (JAMES ULMER, 6/26/05, NY Times)

In December, for instance, Walt Disney Studios and Walden Media, owned by the evangelical financier Philip Anschutz, are to release their $150 million "Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," the first in a projected movie franchise based on C. S. Lewis's Christianity-inspired Narnia novels. Walden is also developing its political thriller, "Amazing Grace," about the British evangelical abolitionist William Wilberforce, and Sony Pictures is hoping that the next installment of the apocalyptic "Left Behind" series, "Left Behind: World War III," will usher in its own religiously inspired franchise.

What joins these independent and studio filmmakers, says the conservative author James Hirsen, is a shared sense of being political outsiders in a town in which the term "Hollywood conservative" can sometimes seem an oxymoron. "A lot of them," Mr. Hirsen says, "are feeling left out on the Left Coast."

That sense also binds conservatives who have had long careers in mainstream Hollywood and, like the newer activists, cut a broad political and religious swath, from "right-to-life" Christians and foreign-policy hawks to more middle-of-the-road "family-values" advocates. They include strongly identified Catholics like Mel Gibson and the manager-producer Doug Urbanski ("The Contender"), and evangelicals like Ralph Winter, who produced "X-Men" and "Fantastic Four." One of their leading voices has long been Lionel Chetwynd, a Jewish neo-conservative whose credits include the 1987 pro-Vietnam War feature "The Hanoi Hilton." A collection of what might loosely be styled conservative libertarians includes the actors Clint Eastwood, Drew Carey and Gary Oldman, along with the producers Jerry Bruckheimer and Gavin Polone.

The old guard has been joined by the so-called Sept. 12th Republicans. These include former liberals and centrists like the actors David Zucker, Dennis Miller, James Woods and Ron Silver - who all, in Mr. Bannon's words, "had a Road to Damascus experience" after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

More recently, these familiar faces have been bolstered by new players from both inside and outside the system, many intent on using the documentary form to promote their conservative message. One, Stephen McEveety, 50, who struck gold as a producer of "The Passion of the Christ," recently left Mr. Gibson's Icon Productions to start his own film company. According to two people who have worked with him and who spoke anonymously to protect their industry relationships, Mr. McEveety, who declined to be interviewed, controls a $100 million fund devoted to making and promoting family-oriented movies. (Mr. McEveety did note in an e-mail message that his criterion for making films is whether "my kids would be able to see them," not politics.) He is collaborating with Mr. Bannon, 51, on two new Catholic-themed documentaries, one on cloning, and another on Pope Benedict XVI, which is budgeted at about $1 million.

The two men have also participated in discreet, religiously based outreach and financing initiatives, including gatherings arranged by the Wilberforce Forum, the Virginia-based evangelical public policy group whose chairman is the former Watergate figure Chuck Colson and which has a mission to "shape culture from a biblical perspective," according to its Web site, wilberforce.org. Last September, Mr. McEveety and Mr. Bannon flew to Maryland to meet with top Christian powerbrokers on Capitol Hill in a forum co-sponsored by Wilberforce.

"The idea was to start tying money from Washington's right-to-life movement to key Hollywood players," said a participant who asked not to be named to protect his relationship with Wilberforce. A spokeswoman for Wilberforce confirmed that the organization, along with the Washington nonprofit group Faith and Law, were the hosts.

That was followed by a gathering three months later in Santa Monica in which a half-dozen Christians from the world of politics met with Mr. Gibson, Mr. McEveety, Mr. Bannon and others. "The idea was just to meet conservatives in Hollywood and find out what they're working on," said Mark Rodgers, staff director of the Senate Republican Conference, who attended the events along with Bill Wichterman, policy adviser to Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader.

A co-host for the Santa Monica gathering was Act One, a nonpolitical group of Christian screenwriters based in Los Angeles and led by Barbara Nicolosi, a Catholic activist and former nun. Ms. Nicolosi said one of the goals of the meeting was "for Wilberforce to find some intersection of policy and story ideas" for future Hollywood content.

Ms. Nicolosi added that while religiously motivated filmmakers can "obviously find it difficult enough" working in Hollywood, "some of us think we should stop calling ourselves Christians, it's become such a political liability here." Building political connections hasn't been easy, either. "The Christians in Washington just don't trust us, because we're part of the Great Satan called Hollywood," she said.

And some show business conservatives say they fear that overt political connections will turn off audiences. "It never works when politicians come to Hollywood to try to influence content," said Govindini Murty, a Hindu actress and right-wing advocate who appears frequently on conservative talk shows. "Democrat or Republican, they should just stay away."

Just make good movies and they'll be conservative--there's only one story.

MORE (via b):
NY TIMES CALLING... (Church of the Masses)

[This is a somewhat paraphrased and somewhat literal transcription of an interview I did Sunday night with a NY Times reporter named James. This was the follow-up interview to one he did with me a few weeks ago. That first interview started with the following exchange (after intro comments):

James: So, in the last six months, there have been 37 pairings in the Times of the word "Christian" with words like "scary", "frightening", "theocratic" and "intimidating". My question is, what is it about Christians that makes you so scary?

Barb: (loud, snorting and sneering laughter) Are you kidding me?

James: What?

Barb: I finally get interviewed by the New York Times, and you ask me a question like that?! (more snorting and laughing)

James: (sniffs) Are you laughing because you think it's funny that people find Christians frightening?

Barb: No. I'm laughing because you want me to tell you why you and your friends are scared of Christians -- and I think you should ask your therapist!

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:05 AM


Climate Shock (NY Times, 6/27/05)

The Senate has now completed work on an energy bill that might actually do some good. But that was not the only surprising news from the Senate floor last week: despite ferocious White House opposition, the Senate went on record as favoring a program of mandatory controls of emissions of the gases that contribute to global warming.

It did so in a "sense of the Senate" resolution whose nonbinding nature allowed opponents of aggressive action to dismiss it as meaningless.

The resolution was anything but meaningless.

This is what the progressive movement in America is reduced to? Crowing about a non-binding resolution?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:47 AM


Court: No Ten Commandments in Courthouses (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 6/27/05)

In a narrowly drawn ruling, the Supreme Court struck down Ten Commandments displays in courthouses Monday, holding that two exhibits in Kentucky crossed the line between separation of church and state because they promoted a religious message.

The 5-4 decision, first of two seeking to mediate the bitter culture war over religion's place in public life, took a case-by-case approach to this vexing issue. In the decision, the court declined to prohibit all displays in court buildings or on government property.

The justices left themselves legal wiggle room on this issue, however, saying that some displays -- like their own courtroom frieze -- would be permissible if they're portrayed neutrally in order to honor the nation's legal history. [...]

Souter was joined in his opinion by other members of the liberal bloc -- Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer, as well as Reagan appointee Sandra Day O'Connor, who provided the swing vote.

Nothing quite so helpful as making it clear that your decision is unprincipled.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:34 AM


You ain't seen nothing yet: Christian America's political arm is more complex and more dynamic than it first appears. And it will be hard to stop (The Economist, Jun 23rd 2005)

Why is the religious right as powerful as it is? The question puzzles even Americans. Their country, as a whole, is not getting more religious. The gap between it and European countries has increased, but largely because of Europe's growing godlessness. Most Americans say that religion is very important (60%) or fairly important (26%) in their lives, but Karlyn Bowman, a polling analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, points out that the figures were 75% and 20% in 1952.

What has changed is, first, the make-up of Protestant America and, second, the realignment of religious America's politics. The generally liberal mainline churches have declined, while harder outfits like the Southern Baptists have spurted forward. White evangelicals, who see the Bible as the literal truth (or darned close to it), now make up 26% of the population.

It is not just a matter of numbers but of confidence. Born-again Christians are no longer rural hicks; they are richer and better educated than the average American. There are now 500 Christian colleges in America and evangelical chapters at the Ivy Leagues. Go to one of the 1,000 gleaming megachurches and the people stepping out of the four-wheel-drives in the Wal-Mart-sized car parks are software engineers, doctors and teachers.

Take, for instance, Mr Bush's friend Richard Land, who heads the Southern Baptists' public policy arm. He has stern views on moral issues; but this Princeton and Oxford-educated preacher can happily discuss the Indian economy and the flat tax. Mr Land claims that one in three of the baby-boomers now identify themselves as evangelical.

Nor, to lose another stereotype, are all the righteous white. There are some 25m black evangelicals, who seem to be moving slightly more to the right; and new immigrants, too, provide plenty of recruits. Larry Eskridge, of the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals at Wheaton College, guesses there may be 8m Latino evangelicals. A huge number of Asian-Americans are fervent Christians, too.

The religious right also represents more than just evangelicals. At the last election Mr Bush won the Catholic vote by snaring 72% of self-styled traditionalist Catholics. Private polls also suggest that he won significant numbers of Orthodox Jews. Rather than being split between the parties, religious people of all faiths are now pretty anchored in the Republican Party. A Zogby poll last November put the national figure for “religious traditionalists” at 29%, but they accounted for 58% of Republicans.

The power of organisation

Religious America's switch to the right is rooted in two things: liberal over-reach and conservative organisation. The consistent whinge from the Christian right about “liberal activist judges” exceeding their mandate contains a kernel of truth. In the 1960s and 1970s, judges changed America from a country where every school day began with a prayer, and abortion and pornography were frowned on, to a country where school prayer was banned and both abortion and pornography were protected by the constitution.

The fact that the courts were running so far ahead of public opinion in a generally religious country bolstered the religious right in two ways. It provoked white evangelicals to join the political fray. And it persuaded all religious types to bond together. Protestants and Catholics, who used to be at loggerheads, have now found common ground, especially on abortion.

But conservative organisations have also created their own momentum. Take Focus on the Family, a sprawling empire that employs 1,400 people in Colorado Springs and claims a global audience of 220m people for its TV and radio shows, books, mass e-mails and counselling. Its founder, Jim Dobson, a former child-psychology professor, points out that the focus of his ministry's considerable energy remains family life, but its public-policy arm is growing. Focus set up a political action committee last year that spent $9m on the election, and it hurled another $1.2m at the filibuster issue earlier this year.

Focus exemplifies two of the movement's hallmarks: innovation and competition. This sophistication also extends to politics. On abortion, social conservatives have had much more success now they have stopped screaming for the practice to be made illegal (which few Americans want) and tried to limit it (which most want). There are now laws in 34 states requiring parents to be notified when a minor applies for an abortion. And Congress is considering requiring doctors to tell any woman having an abortion after 20 weeks that it will cause the fetus pain.

“You eat an apple one bite at a time,” argues Mr Land, who points out that with both gay marriage and abortion the religious right's current position is to leave decisions to state legislatures, as they are left in Europe. Messrs Land and Dobson both personally oppose gay civil unions; but their planned federal marriage amendment does not ban them because, in Mr Land's words, “it could then become a civil-rights issue rather than a marriage issue.” Mr Land enjoys turning civil-rights language back on the left, accusing the American Civil Liberties Union, for instance, of “anti-religious bigotry”. [...]

Yet if the polling numbers on matters of faith carry some warnings for the Christian right, they carry many more for the Democrats. If the last election proved anything, it was that middle America found an overtly religious party much less weird than an overtly secular one. Few lines got Mr Bush a bigger cheer on the stump than jeering at Mr Kerry's “Hollywood values”.

Some liberal types now want to claim the mantle of the religious left. Hillary Clinton recently made a speech complaining about the number of abortions. The new Clintonite Centre for American Progress has a faith and progressive policy project. Jim Wallis, a chummy anti-war evangelical who wrote the best-seller, “God's Politics: Why the Right Gets it Wrong and the Left doesn't Get it”, points to the huge audiences he gets around the country as evidence that many Christians want a more varied version of moral politics than just abortion and gay marriage.

There is probably something in this, but it is hard to see the Democrats seizing it. The pro-life Mr Casey in Pennsylvania is a far less typical Democrat than Mr Dean, who casually located the Book of Job in the New Testament when he ran for president. If the Republicans are the party of the over-pious, an aggressive secularism pervades many of their rivals' policies.

It seems that the religious right cannot fail to win. Either the Democrats continue to get more secular, in which case middle America will continue to vote Republican, or they will embrace religion a little more fully, and then the religious right will get a little more of what it wants.

Add in the fact that the secular don't reproduce at replacement level while the religious do and you've got some really ugly trends for the Democrats.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:27 AM


T-ball on White House lawn is a big hit with Chicago kids (LYNN SWEET, June 27, 2005, Chicago Sun-Times)

Wearing red shirts, the nine kids from Chicago scrambled around a makeshift White House baseball stadium, playing their counterparts in blue from the east.

The kids, their parents, other team members traveling with them who did not play Sunday and other team personnel went on a White House tour before the game.

The players and coaches are going back to Chicago with an individual picture with the president and a baseball signed by him.

Talk about a field of dreams. [...]

Since I write about President Bush and Mayor Daley all the time -- and they always have their names in the paper -- before I go on telling you about them being at the game, I want to give you the roster of the team from the South Side of Chicago, Taylor Paige Nevils; Joi Russell; Johnathan Watson; Christian Wright; Kamani Smith; Balieux Robinson; Terreon Hopkins; Jaylen Heard and Owen Johnson.

The coaches were Anthony Frazier and Daron White; manager Tisa Macklin; League president Mason Dorsey and district administrator Verba Kirksey.

Bush, a former managing general partner of the Texas Rangers, was in the temporary stands erected on a portion of the grassy South Lawn of the White House.

The T-ball league he started is in its fifth season. The teams playing Sunday are part of the "Little League Urban Initiative,'' a program to expose city kids at a young age to the game. The team names come from the old Negro Leagues.

Daley was invited to watch the South Side Little League Memphis Red Sox matchup with the Jackie Robinson South Ward Little League Black Yankees.

By the time Bush came to the game, near 3 p.m. Chicago time, to proclaim "Play ball,'' the president had been to church, come home, changed clothes and driven 41 minutes to the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va.

He stayed for almost two hours. Reporters were told the president went for a bike ride.

Bush appeared on the field wearing an open neck, short sleeve shirt and Dockers-like pleated front pants.

Daley was dressed in a white knit short sleeve shirt and beige pants.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:06 AM


Fire in West, hire in East (Asia Times, 6/28/05)

As it proceeds with layoffs of 13,000 workers in Europe and the United States, IBM Corp plans to add about 14,000 positions in India this year, according to a confidential company document made public by a Seattle technology workers' union.

IBM has about 329,000 employees in 75 countries, including about 130,000 in the United States. The company announced last month that it would cut 10,000-13,000 jobs, about a quarter of them in the United States and the rest in Western Europe.

"IBM is really pushing this offshore outsourcing to relentlessly cut costs and to export skilled jobs abroad," said Marcus Courtney, president of the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers, or WashTech, a group that seeks to unionize such workers. "The winners are the richest corporations in the world, and American workers lose." [...]

In an interview with the NYT, however, IBM senior vice president Robert Moffat explained that the buildup in India was attributable to both a surge in demand for technology services in the thriving Indian economy as well as the opportunity to tap skilled Indian software engineers for worldwide project deployment. A third of IBM's workers in India hold PhDs, and 60% of them are engineers. Lower trade barriers and cheaper telecommunications and computing ability allow a distant labor force to work on technology projects, Moffat said, adding that IBM was making the shift from a classic multinational corporation with separate businesses in many different countries to a truly worldwide company whose work can be divided and parceled out to the most efficient locations. Cost is part of the calculation, Moffat told the NYT, but not the most important consideration. "People who say this is simply labor arbitrage don't get it. It's mostly about skills."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:04 AM


June 27 is National HIV Testing Day (Health Central)

Experts at the CDC estimate that up to 280,000 Americans are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, but do not know it -- potentially threatening their own health while encouraging the spread of infection to others.

That's why every year the agency joins hands with the National Association of People with AIDS (NAPWA) to sponsor National HIV Testing Day, slated this year for Monday, June 27.

How about "National No Buggery or Intravenous Drug Use Day" instead?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:59 AM


Parents' Summer Homework (ROSA BROOKS, June 22, 2005, LA Times)

Summer's here, and for most American children, school's out. But it's still appropriate to administer a painless little diagnostic quiz.

Here goes:

1. When I contemplate the prospect of a 10-week school vacation, I feel:

A. Joy.

B. Panic.

If you answered "A," chances are that you're a little kid. Give yourself 10 points for precocity (you're reading the newspaper!) and another 10 just for being a little kid.

If you answered "B," you're probably a parent. Deduct 10 points.

If that strikes you as unfair, you're right, but if you're a parent, you really ought to be used to unfairness by now. For parents, lengthy school "vacations" are no kind of vacation at all. That tenuous stability achieved during the rest of the year — when, barring the usual illnesses and "weather events," you had child care for the better part of each day — is gone, gone, gone.

Today, the overwhelming majority of parents work full time outside the home. That includes most mothers: Women with children are just about as likely to be in the labor force as women without children. As a result, school vacations send most American parents into a tailspin...

Imagine if we were as helpless as the Left thinks we are?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:58 AM


Going the Distance for Choice: For some families, the best schools are those far from home. Students and parents try to make the most of their time on the road. (Jean Merl, June 27, 2005, LA Times)

Early every morning that classes are in session, Laura Aguayo loads her three children into the family minivan and begins the commute to school. Palmdale to Topanga Canyon: 62 miles, four freeways, two twisting canyon roads.

"It's a sacrifice for me, but I don't care," Aguayo said recently before she began a summer hiatus in her trips to the private Calmont School. "I want the best for my children."

Aguayo is hardly alone, judging by the accounts of families who do not let long commutes deter them from enrolling their children in schools they deem best.

"This is one more variation on the growing movement for school choice," said Jennifer Jellison Holme, a researcher at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. "There might be a good school less than three hours away, but people are going to do what they think is best for their kids."

Students making long trips to private and some public schools is nothing new. The Los Angeles Unified School District's magnet program, for example, has for decades drawn students to distant campuses.

Irene Sumida, co-director of Fenton Avenue Charter School in Lake View Terrace, said she was stunned when the mother of two students commuted each day from Bakersfield — about 75 miles away — after the family moved midway through the school year.

About a dozen students live in Palmdale or Lancaster, and one Burbank family recently transferred their son from a private school, Sumida said. Dozens of other parents ride public buses to bring their youngsters to the northeast San Fernando Valley campus.

"When people commute, not for a job but for their children, that's really something," Sumida said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:35 AM


Rove speech exposes fundamental split (Michael Barone, June 27, 2005, Townhall)

Reading the initial press accounts of Rove's speech, I wished that he had been more specific about which liberals he was denouncing -- except that, as those press accounts failed to mention, he was. "I'm not joking," he went on immediately after the words quoted above. "Submitting a petition was precisely what Moveon.org, then known as 9-11peace.org did. You may have seen it in The New York Times or The Washington Post, the San Francisco Examiner or the L.A. Times. (Funny, I didn't see it in the Amarillo Globe News.) It was a petition that 'implored the powers that be' to 'use moderation and restraint in responding to the terrorist attacks against the United States.'"

One reason that the Democrats are squawking so much about Rove's attack on "liberals" is that he has put the focus on a fundamental split in the Democratic Party -- a split among its politicians and its voters.

On the one hand, there are those who believe that this is a fundamentally good country and want to see success in Iraq. On the other hand, there are those who believe this is a fundamentally bad country and want more than anything else to see George W. Bush fail.

Those who do not think this split is real should consult the responses to pollster Scott Rasmussen's question last year. About two-thirds of Americans agreed that the United States is a fair and decent country. Virtually all Bush voters agreed. Kerry voters were split down the middle.

This is a fundamental split. University and media elites, as Thomas Sowell writes in his forthcoming "Black Rednecks and White Liberals," promote a version of history in which all evils are perpetrated by the United States and the West and in which Third World tyrants are assumed to be the voice of virtuous victims. These elites fail to notice that slavery was a universal institution until opposed only by altruists in the West, in late 18th century Britain and 19th century America.

It comes naturally to those liberal politicians whose worldview is set by these elites to suppose that Saddam's Iraq was the land of happy kite-flyers portrayed in Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" and that, as Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin said in a carefully prepared speech, American actions in Guantanamo are comparable to acts of the Nazis, Soviets and Khmer Rouge.

The Democrats' objections would be easier to take seriously if they hadn't handed over leadership of their party to the likes of Dean, Durbin, Pelosi, etc.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:30 AM


No, not Gonzales! (Robert Novak, June 27, 2005, Townhall)

[S]ources report Rehnquist is not ready to resign and that O'Connor is readying the way for a return to Arizona with her invalid husband. While Bush would consider replacing one of the court's two women with its first Hispanic justice, neither Roberts nor Luttig for O'Connor would be politically correct.

Accordingly, White House judge-hunters are looking for a woman. They have interviewed Appellate Judge Edith Brown Clement (5th Circuit, New Orleans), a conservative who flies under the radar. She was confirmed as a Louisiana district judge in 1991, seven weeks after her nomination by the first President Bush, and was confirmed as an appellate judge in 2001, two and a half months after George W. Bush named her.

Clement would be subject to far more scrutiny as a Supreme Court nominee. So would any other conservative named by Bush, though Democrats may have exhausted scrutinizing Gonzales. The president must choose between a fierce confirmation fight or the alienation of his political base.

Considering how hard the President has worked to avoid his father's mistakes, you have to assume he's asked Mr. Gonzales whether he'd vote to overturn Roe.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:29 AM


Waiters say they were fired for being French (Reuters, 6/27/05)

Three former waiters at New York’s posh 21 Club, where a hamburger costs $30, have filed a $5 million discrimination lawsuit saying they were fired for being French.

In a civil suit made public on Monday at Manhattan Supreme Court, the three men, Rene Bordet, 68, Jean Claude Lesbre, 63 and Yves Thepault, 68, said the restaurant’s management falsely accused them of drinking wine on the job and “created and fostered an environment rife with anti-French sentiment.”

Only fired? They got off lightly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:23 AM


How will these bruises mend? (Judy Dempsey, JUNE 27, 2005, International Herald Tribune)

The decades-long special relationship between Washington and Berlin was punctured during the run-up to the U.S.-led attack on Iraq when Schröder used his opposition to American policy in his campaign to be re-elected in October 2002.

Even after his election victory, Schröder kept up the rhetoric. Together with France and Russia, Germany formed the antiwar camp in Europe, causing some of the sharpest tensions and disagreements inside Europe and in the trans-Atlantic relationship for many years.

"Schröder had put himself in a corner over Iraq," said Kamp. "Bush does not forget easily."

But one man who has spent years trying to redefine and rescue the relationship between Washington and Berlin, says the tensions between both countries go well beyond personalities. They are about a fundamental shift in how the two countries perceive each other.

"It is always easy to see the relationship in terms of personalities," Karsten Voigt, Germany's special U.S. envoy said in an interview. "But the reality is that the German-American relationship is today a relationship operating in a different strategic environment."

"What we are living through is the birth pains of a new type of Atlanticism. In the old one, Germany was at the center of a global crisis which was the Cold War. We would have always been part of the action. Now we are in the center of an area of stability. Early on, we were a consumer of security. Now we are asked to be an exporter of security. We have to decide. We have global values but limited interests and limited military capabilities."

As part of this changing definition of Atlanticism, Voigt says the United States cannot afford to take its allies for granted.

They don't matter anymore but can't be taken for granted?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:57 AM


Nationwide strike in South Africa (BBC, 6/27/05)

Many South Africans appear to be staying away from work in a nationwide strike over unemployment, but the overall response appears patchy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:39 AM


Scout's return to baseball eclipses his run as a player (CONTRA COSTA TIMES, 6/27/05)

Get Mack Babitt going on one of the favorite topics in his life -- the blessings that have come his way -- and you may never get a chance to speak.

He'll tell you about his three children -- daughter, Ashley, 18, and sons Zachary, 15, and Miles, 12 -- and how "they've made it easy for me as any parent can have it." He'll mention the one fledgling year he spent in the major leagues, even though it nearly killed his love for the "sport that's been so good to me."

He'll discuss the myriad individuals who have helped him become a major-league scout, part-time radio host and occasional guest television analyst.

Oh, and he'll also let you know about his father's favorite disc jockey.

"He'd come on the air, and one of his things was, 'Hey Rooty, Booty, Shooty, Doody,' or something like that," Babitt said. "My dad loved it."

Thus was born "Shooty" Babitt. Finding folks who refer to him by any other name would be only slightly less difficult than hitting a major-league fastball.

"Of all the blessings that have come my way, that's as big as any," he said.

Don't look now, but Babitt's profile in the Bay Area has never been bigger, and that's saying something considering he's been here all his life. A Richmond resident now, Babitt grew up in Berkeley and was a two-time prep All-American at Berkeley High School.

These days, Babitt often can be found milling about the batting cage before almost any Oakland A's game at McAfee Coliseum or sitting with a pack of fellow major-league scouts near home plate.

During the season, his voice fills the air waves on "Inside Baseball Saturday Night" along with co-host Marty Lurie, and he occasionally works as the lead analyst during pregame shows on Fox Sports Net.

Much of it, he said, can be traced back to the recognition that has come from having such an unusual moniker. But make no mistake, the success that Babitt, 46, has enjoyed evolved from an unmistakable trait.

"He is an extremely passionate guy," Lurie said. "When you have passion for baseball, and I mean this in a completely complimentary way, you don't think before you speak. People ask you a question, and you shoot from the hip, so to speak. You're going to be seen and heard for who you are. That's what we have here."

Indeed, baseball is one of the two great loves in Babitt's life. But it remains that way, he said, only because the other great love in his life -- his family -- gave him the strength to reconcile the bitterness he had toward the sport long after his playing career was finished.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 5:38 AM


Women Bring Love to March (Astrid Poei, Toronto Sun, June 26th, 2005)

Come hell, high water or a broken ankle, nothing could stop newlyweds Paula Kruse and Ann Hudson from proudly stomping in yesterday's Dyke March.

Same-sex marriage was on the minds of hundreds of women marching together on Church and Yonge Sts., as signs that blared "Just 'Legally' Married" and "If You Knew My Girlfriend, You'd Want To Marry Her Too" hovered above the heads of participants.[...]

Lisa Hayes, co-founder of the event, which started in 1996, explained the need for such a strong title as Dyke March.

"It's about reclaiming the word because the word has been used in the derogatory, demeaning way to describe lesbians so this is about us reclaiming the word and making it into something that we're proud of," Hayes, 37, said.

Being throughly modern and enlightened, we here at Brothersjudd recognize there is no rational connection whatsoever between this innocent, happy celebration and the snake. Neither homophobic nor ophidiophobic, we would reject any allegorical associations as being Biblical claptrap and an abject surrender of reason to the dark and dangerous forces of theocracy and priestly domination. Whether one chooses a hissing viper or Fluffy the poodle to take on a pleasant stroll downtown is entirely a matter of personal taste, and is completely unrelated to character. We see clearly that society’s longstanding prejudice against reptiles is cruel and unscientific. Be assured we understand fully that concrete symbols of objective right and wrong befit ignorant old peasant women, not the learned, critically-thinking characters that are we. We just thought it was one heck of a mind-blowing snake!

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


In quark world, a strange discovery (Byron Spice, June 27, 2005, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Like a grocery shopper peering at a jar of spaghetti sauce in search of flecks of basil, physicists have taken a long look at the proton and have found an extra, if long-suspected, ingredient inside.

Physicists know that the positively charged protons in atomic nuclei are made primarily of two types of elementary particles, the so-called up and down quarks. But now an experiment called G-Zero at Jefferson Lab in Newport News, Va., has confirmed the presence of a third type, or "flavor" of quark, the strange quark.

To find that protons contain strange quarks isn't a major surprise, said Brian Quinn, a Carnegie Mellon University physicist who is part of the international G-Zero collaboration. But what was somewhat startling was the degree to which strange quarks actually affect the structure and behavior of the proton, he added.

"We're showing that they could be a significant part of what makes up the proton," agreed Gregg Franklin, another Carnegie Mellon physicist among the 108 scientists on the G-Zero team.

Gotta admire the faith of folks who can miss an entire quark but still convince themselves the quark is indivisible.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Dressed for the Capitol kill (Stephanie Mansfield, June 27, 2005, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Bo Derek, actress, former sex symbol, activist and Kennedy Center trustee, was on a plane to Washington when she heard the wife of the Kuwaiti ambassador was giving a farewell party for the Swedish ambassador and his wife.

Rima Al-Sabah, the Lebanese-born blonde and glamorous haute hostess, was thrilled when Miss Derek decided to show.

But instead of a cocktail dress, she arrived in a corporate gray business suit.

It was the only thing she had packed to come to Washington besides her bluejeans, and she planned to wear it to Capitol Hill for a lobbying effort.

Funny thing was, no one batted a Maybelline'd eye.

"This is a town where women like to be taken seriously," said Mrs. Al-Sabah, a fashion-conscious wife and mother who gravitates more toward Dolce and Gabbana than Brooks Brothers. "They are feminine, but serious-minded at the same time."

Now comes Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

With her Oscar de la Renta scarlet silk gown, her knee-high boots and long jacket, her pastel Akris suits and jaunty flip, she's making women in Washington watch with a mixture of envy, awe and inspiration.

"I think she's amazing," said Mrs. Al-Sabah. "She is dressing feminine, yet she's serious-minded. I think she's got a lot of style."

Suddenly, people are asking: Why can't Washington women dress, well, more like women?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Italian anger over U.S. terror tactics deepens rift (Stephen Grey and Don Van Natta Jr., JUNE 27, 2005, The New York Times)

The extraordinary decision by an Italian judge to order the arrest of 13 people linked to the CIA on charges of kidnapping a terrorism suspect here dramatizes a growing rift between American counterterrorism officials and their counterparts in Europe.

European counterterrorism officials have pursued a policy of building criminal cases against terrorism suspects through surveillance, wiretaps, detective work and the criminal justice system. The United States, however, has frequently used other means since Sept. 11, 2001, including renditions - abducting terror suspects from foreign countries and transporting them for questioning to third countries, some of which are known to use torture.

The two approaches seem to have collided for an Egyptian cleric, Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, or Abu Omar, accused of leading a militant mosque in Milan.

By early 2003, the Italian secret police were aggressively pursuing a criminal terrorism case against Nasr, with the help of American intelligence officials. Italian investigators said they had told the Americans they had strong evidence that he was trying to build a terror recruitment network, possibly aimed for Iraq if the United States went forward with plans to topple Saddam Hussein.

On Feb. 17, 2003, Nasr disappeared.

When the Italians began investigating, they said, they were startled to find evidence that some of the CIA officers who had helped them investigate Nasr were involved in his abduction.

"We do feel quite betrayed that this operation was carried out in our city," a senior Italian investigator said. "We supplied them information about Abu Omar, and then they used that information against us, undermining an entire operation against his terrorist network."

Do the same folks who are funding the insurgency in Iraq expect us to trust them to dispose of militants properly?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


The Young & the Sexless: A new generation of young men and women is embracing celibate life (Jeff Sharlet, 6/23/05, Rolling Stone)

What if the true face of the Christian right in America is not that of Dr. James Dobson or Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson; not that of an aging, comb-over preacher orange with pancake makeup, smiling orca rows of ungodly white teeth on The O'Reilly Factor or Hardball? Nor that of spittle-flecked Fred Phelps of Topeka, Kansas, roaring that God hates fags? What if the true face of the Christian right is, instead, that of a twenty-four-year-old religious-studies graduate student at New York University?

Matt Dunbar is a handsome young man, though his face is still ruddy with acne. He has rounded cheeks, a soul patch beneath his lips and soft eyes that hold yours like he trusts you. He's not a prude. He will say the word "f***," but he will never, not even in the wedding bed he hopes God has prepared for his future, embody it as a verb. He will make Christian love. What most of us call sex he calls communion, and he believes it can happen only within marriage.

Chastity is a new organizing principle of the Christian right, built on the notion that virgins are among God's last loyal defenders, knights and ladies of a forgotten kingdom. Sex outside of marriage is, in the words of D. James Kennedy, pastor of the influential Coral Ridge Ministries in Florida, "an uprising against God." But if sex is the perfect enemy of the blessed lifestyle, it is also the Holy Grail for those who wait: "A symphony of the soul for married couples," according to John Hagee, author of What Every Man Wants in a Woman.

"Abstinence," says Dunbar, "is countercultural," a kind of rebellion, he says, against materialism, consumerism and "the idea that anything can be bought and sold." It is a spiritual war against the world, against "sensuality," according to one virginity manual popular with men like Dunbar. This elevation of virginity -- especially for men -- as a way of understanding yourself and your place in the world is new. It's also very old. First-century Christians took the idea so seriously that many left their wives for "house monasteries," threatening the very structure of the family. The early church responded by institutionalizing virginity through a priestly caste set apart from the world, a condition that continues to this day within Roman Catholicism. Now, though, the Protestants of the Christian right are reclaiming that two-tiered system, only they're projecting it onto individual lives, making every young man and woman part of an elite virgin corps.

"The world hasn't yet seen what God can do with an army of young men free of sexual fevers," write the authors of Every Young Man's Battle, one volume in a hugely popular series of "purity" manuals. "You can remain pure so that you might qualify for such an army."

It's a never-ending war, and not one that can be fought alone. Which is why virgins like Dunbar tend to travel in packs, to church and to Bible studies but also to parties and even to bars. Dunbar and his friends help one another stay "pure," which they consider "authentic." He lives with three close friends in a warehouse apartment in Williamsburg, a Brooklyn hipster neighborhood of artists and slackers. Two of his roommates are virgins; the other, a Mormon named Edd Lewis, is a "recycled virgin." He's had sex but won't again until he's married.

Everybody's so organized nowadays.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Giant A380 falling short of big billing (David Greising, June 26, 2005, Chicago Tribune)

The A380, the superjumbo jet from Airbus SAS, was billed as "The Queen of the Paris Air Show" by the public address announcer as it promenaded down the tarmac en route to its slow-moving flyover of the Le Bourget airfield.

But on the sales floor, the A380 was the prom queen that couldn't get a date.

The only taker for the A380, a double-decked giant that seats at least 550 passsengers, was start-up carrier Kingfisher Airlines of India. Kingfisher joined the stampede of Indian carriers ordering airplanes in Paris. Its flamboyant chief executive, Vijay Mallya, inked an order for five A380s.

And that was it.

June 26, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:58 PM


The scandal of Christianity (Peter Sellick, June 22, 2005, Opinion Journal)

The scandal of Christianity, despite what the scientists turned theologians say, is that it does not posit a universal God who is detached from the world. Such a God would be quite acceptable because he would be infinitely distant. Thus the scandal at the centre of Christianity is that God has made Himself known to us through this friend of sinners, this man of sorrows from a disreputable corner of the Roman Empire. But what is worse is that this man suffers a criminal’s death abandoned by his friends and, it seems, by God. He is an outcast from proper society, dying shamefully outside the city walls. It is this man who is presented to us as truly God and truly human. It is no wonder that those who pride themselves on their righteousness are scandalised. [...]

[I]t is not only the violent power of Rome that is judged in the death of this innocent man, but also the religious authorities of the day. There is an internal critique of religion found not only in the New Testament but also in the earliest writings of Israel. Read correctly the bible tells us that Jesus is the end of religion as the world knows it and the restoration of the true worship of God that brings life and freedom. This is why Christians cannot just affirm anything that is religious in the way of political correctness. Christianity gives us a critique of religion far more potent than any secular tirade. [...]

The real reason for the offence of Jesus has its basis in the human psyche. The above arguments are just the outer appearance of a deeper fear. They act as intellectual protection for something much more serious - self preservation. For if we acknowledge that Jesus is the one with whom we have to deal, that he stands in our path demanding a response, then we are in real trouble. The fear is that we might have to give ourselves up - this must be the biggest fear of the modern age. When we think of how much we have invested in the concept of the individual, this is no surprise. The self-esteem movement is but the tip of the iceberg. [...]

While reason and doctrine are important we do not come to faith because of them. It is, in the end, not an intellectual decision. I have never won a theological argument with the result that my opponent has come to faith. Rather, it is a matter of coming to understand a story that sweeps all of our self-made stories aside. This displacement happens simply because the Christian story is the best, deepest and truest story around. It produces graceful human beings and truly free selves. In other words, it saves them from stunted and superficial lives informed by a stunted and superficial story.

But...if he's He, I'm not Me....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:55 PM


Boffins create zombie dogs (Nick Buchan, 27-06-2005, NEWS.com.au)

SCIENTISTS have created eerie zombie dogs, reanimating the canines after several hours of clinical death in attempts to develop suspended animation for humans.

US scientists have succeeded in reviving the dogs after three hours of clinical death, paving the way for trials on humans within years.

Pittsburgh's Safar Centre for Resuscitation Research has developed a technique in which subject's veins are drained of blood and filled with an ice-cold salt solution.

The animals are considered scientifically dead, as they stop breathing and have no heartbeat or brain activity.

But three hours later, their blood is replaced and the zombie dogs are brought back to life with an electric shock.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:49 PM


Conundrum: how to get procrastinators to save (Randy Dotinga, 6/27/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

Who'd pass up "free" money? More people than you might think. Nearly a third of American workers fail to take advantage of 401(k) plans.

Never mind that employers typically match a worker's contributions with hundreds or thousands of dollars a year. Never mind that employees don't have to do anything to qualify other than stash money away for retirement. For a variety of reasons, including inertia and ignorance, many workers don't take the perk.

Even of those who do sign up, about 1 in 5 doesn't contribute enough to meet their companies' full match, according to a new survey by the Hewitt Associates human resources firm. [...]

Young people are especially stubborn, with just 46 percent of workers under 30 contributing to 401(k)s, according to the Hewitt Associates survey, which examined the investing habits of more than 2.5 million Americans who have the investment option at work. The rest miss the opportunity to save money, tax-free, until the IRS comes calling during retirement.

...not giving them the initial one.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:46 PM


Iraqi insurgency lacks ingredients for success (Max Boot, 6/27/05, CS Monitor)

The rebels lack a unifying organization, ideology, and leader. There is no Iraqi Ho Chi Minh, Fidel Castro, or Mao Zedong. The top militant is Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian who has alienated most of the Iraqi population, even many Sunnis, with his indiscriminate attacks on civilians.

Support for the insurgency is confined to a minority within a minority - a small portion of Sunni Arabs, who make up less than 20 percent of the population. The only prominent non-Sunni rebel, Moqtada al-Sadr, has quietly joined the political process. The 80 percent of the population that is Shiite and Kurdish is implacably opposed to the rebellion, which is why most of the terrorism has been confined to four of 18 provinces.

Unlike in successful guerrilla wars, the rebels in Iraq have not been able to control large chunks of "liberated" territory. The best they could do was to hold Fallujah for six months last year. Nor have they been able to stage successful large-scale attacks as the Viet Cong did. A major offensive against Abu Ghraib prison on April 2 ended without a single US soldier killed or a single Iraqi prisoner freed, while an estimated 60 insurgents were slain.

The biggest weakness of the insurgency is that it is morphing from a war of national liberation into a revolutionary struggle against an elected government. That's a crucial difference.

Of course, so long as we leave 130,000 troops on the ground they never have to morph.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:38 PM


The Fundamentalist Attack on Separation of Church and State Defames America and Its Founders (Harvey Wasserman, History News Network)

The right-wing's multi-front war on American democracy now aims at our core belief in separation of church and state. It includes an attempt to say the founding fathers endorsed the idea that this is a "Christian nation," with an official religion.

Really? Which one do they say is the official religion?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:33 PM


Will South Korea's economy follow Japan's? (CHRISTOPHER LINGLE, 6/27/05, The Japan Times)

There are reasons to worry that the South Korean economy might emulate its Japanese counterpart and enter into a long slump. For example, South Koreans face heavy debt burdens related to the credit-card bubble that peaked in 2003 and a low rate of job creation. And there is the specter of rising consumer prices following the increase in commodity prices by 5.1 percent in April from a year earlier.

These problems are bad enough. But there are more. For example, China's attempts to rein in its overheated economy along with further expected increases in U.S. interest rates may cause South Korean export growth to falter. With its economic growth depending more heavily upon exports than Japan's, South Korea's domestic demand is even more sensitive to export income. This is all the worse given that many of South Korean exporters enjoy little pricing power.

South Korea's political leaders response to the disappointing economic growth figures have involved a series of ill-advised decisions that are likely to make matters worse. Instead of shaping policies that address structural deficiencies in the domestic economy, they have been focusing upon tweaking cyclical variables.

Recently, the government front-loaded its spending in the first half of the year, while the central bank froze its key interest rate at a record-low 3.25 percent. Such steps are misguided and likely to prove to be counterproductive. This is because the problems facing South Korea's economy are long-term and structural, and will require a considerable amount of restructuring.

While South Korea's central bank has introduced distortions into the real sector by holding interest rates down for a long time, increased government deficits have led to increased public-sector debts and a rising tax burden. Since deficit spending has such a poor record for inspiring corrective measures for cyclical downturns in economic growth, these decisions suggest that short-term political concerns are being placed ahead of long-term economic considerations.

Japan's economy faces the same structural dystopia as does South Korea's. And the application of conventional macroeconomic tools has failed spectacularly in both cases. Despite massive runups of massive public-sector deficits with an ultra-loose credit policy, Japan's economic growth remains feeble.

Completely ignoring the main problem.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:17 PM


Rumsfeld: U.S. Met With Iraq Insurgents (THOMAS WAGNER, 6/26/05, Associated Press)

Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld acknowledged Sunday that U.S. officials met with insurgents in Iraq, after a British newspaper reported two such meetings took place recently at a villa north of Baghdad.

Insurgent commanders "apparently came face to face" with four American officials during meetings on June 3 and June 13 at a villa near Balad, some 25 miles north of Baghdad, The Sunday Times reported.

When asked on NBC's "Meet the Press" about the report of the two meetings, Rumsfeld said, "Oh, I would doubt it. I think there have probably been many more than that."

Three militant groups distanced themselves from the reports, denying that they had ever negotiated with U.S. or Iraqi officials to end the insurgency.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:59 PM


Rights Groups Fault White House for Jailing of Terror Suspects (ERIC LICHTBLAU, 6/26/05, NY Times)

Two leading civil rights groups charge in a new study that the Bush administration has twisted the American system of due process "beyond recognition" in jailing at least 70 terror suspects as "material witnesses" since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the groups are calling on Congress to impose tougher safeguards.

The report, which is to be released on Monday by Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union, found that the 70 suspects, a quarter of them American citizens and all but one Muslim men, were jailed often for weeks or months at a time in American facilities without being charged with a crime. Ultimately, only seven men were charged with supporting terrorism, with four convicted so far, the report said. [...]

With Congress now locked in a fierce dispute over the government's counterterrorism powers under the Patriot Act, the new report reflects an effort by civil rights groups to expand the debate to a range of other legal tools that the Bush administration is using in its campaign against terrorism. Aides to Senator Patrick J. Leahy, ranking Democrat on the judiciary committee, said he would introduce legislation aimed at limiting the government's ability to detain a material witness indefinitely.

The material witness law, enacted by Congress in 1984, allows federal authorities to hold a person indefinitely if they suspect he has information about a crime and may be unwilling to cooperate or poses a risk of fleeing.

The law has been used for many years to compel the testimony of thousands of illegal immigrants whom authorities feared would flee the country rather than cooperate in investigations into border smuggling and other crimes.

Can even the Democrats be stupid enough to latch onto this dog of a non-issue?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:55 PM


Right-wing Swedes "happiest" (The Local, 6/24/05)

One in four Swedes professes to be "very happy", according to a new survey. The happiest people in Sweden have high incomes, are in good health, and pray to God.

The survey, carried out by researchers at Gothenburg University, showed that people who voted for the Christian Democrat or Moderate parties were more likely to think of themselves as happy. This despite seventy years of almost unbroken Social Democratic rule in Sweden.

Happy people were also most likely to be young and be living with a partner or be married. [...]

"Happiness in Sweden is to be healthy, to be married or cohabiting, to believe in a god, to earn good money and to be young," write report editors Sören Holmberg and Lennart Weibull.

Folk on the Left can't figure out why they're so humorless and unhappy as they wage war on marriage, Christianity, and wealth.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:46 PM


Va. Lawmakers to Bar Home Seizure for Private Uses (BOB LEWIS, 6/25/05, Associated Press)

Shocked at a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allows cities to raze homes so developers can build private hotels, malls and office parks on the land, state lawmakers called for legislation to ban the practice Friday.

The high court split 5-4 in a Connecticut case Thursday that under the Fifth Amendment, municipalities could take private property for private development because the project in question met a public purpose: creating jobs and revenue.

But in an impassioned dissent, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote that the court majority had forsaken the middle class and gutted the American principle of individual property rights to further enrich the wealthy.

At least eight states already forbid local governments from using eminent domain to take private property for private development. The high court's majority opinion said states may adopt protections against the practice if they see fit.

Simple enough.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:50 PM


Into the Woods: Economics and declining birthrates are pushing large swaths of Europe back to their primeval state, with wolves taking the place of people. (Stefan Theil, 7/04/05, Newsweek International)

Germans are getting used to a new kind of immigrant. In 1998, a pack of wolves crossed the shallow Neisse River on the Polish-German border. In the empty landscape of Eastern Saxony, speckled with abandoned strip mines and declining villages, the wolves found plenty of deer and rarely encountered humans. They multiplied so quickly that a second pack has since split off, colonizing a second-growth pine forest 30 kilometers further west. Soon, says local wildlife biologist Gesa Kluth, a third pack will likely form, possibly heading northward in the direction of Berlin.

The reality of Europe is grimmer than the fairytales were.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:46 PM


The Good News and Bad News: This is the picture in Iraq: A conflict that the United States cannot easily lose, but also cannot easily win. (Fareed Zakaria, 7/04/05, Newsweek)

I don't see how Iraq's insurgency can win. It lacks the support of at least 80 percent of the country (Shiites and Kurds), and by all accounts lacks the support of the majority of the Sunni population as well. It has no positive agenda, no charismatic leader, virtually no territory of its own, and no great power suppliers. That's why parallels to Vietnam and Algeria don't make sense. But despite all these obstacles, the insurgents launched 700 attacks against U.S. forces last month, the highest number since the invasion.

Since when has the impossibility of winning ever limited an isms willingness to expend the lives of its adherents? The pace of attacks will slow when we leave. Until then we just keep kiling them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:57 AM


To Confirm Their Judge, Republicans Abandoned Their Ideas (Jonathan Rauch, June 24, 2005, National Journal)

Here arises a question for Republicans. If [Janice Rogers] Brown's views were defensible, why not defend them?

Two possibilities present themselves. One is expediency, or, to use the sort of strong language that Brown herself sometimes favors, cowardice. On this theory, Republicans agree with Brown but know her views are controversial, indeed unpopular, and prefer not to make a case for them.

If so, this would not be the first time expediency has won the day in politics, but Republicans should beware. Liberals learned the hard way, with court-approved or court-imposed policies like forced busing and racial quotas, how dangerous it is to put in place policies and nominees that they could not defend in public debate.

If Republicans hope to install small-government judges without publicly embracing small-government views, they are traveling the same road that led Democrats to political purgatory and made "liberal" a dirty word.

A second possibility is that Republicans ran from Brown's views because they regard them with ambivalence, or even embarrassment. On this theory, what Republicans support is not so much Brown's philosophy as her life story and the opportunity to put a conservative black woman on the federal bench. After all, Brown is a small-government ideologue in an age of Big Government conservatism. Republicans control the whole federal government and are not shy about using it. They want to be able to enact the sort of "economic, environmental, consumer, and labor regulations" that DeMint insisted Brown would uphold.

If so, Brown's nomination put Republicans in a bit of a pickle. Endorsing her philosophy would tie their hands; renouncing it would leave everyone wondering why they wanted her on the bench at all. Rather than confronting the tension between Big Government conservatism and small-government nominee, the Republicans pretended there was no tension. They maintained that Brown, like the Washington Republican Party itself, would denounce Big Government without actually doing anything about it.

Either way, Republicans have come a long way from Reagan, who would have spoken as proudly of Brown's ideas as of her childhood. Lott was almost right: The Brown debate was not a proud hour for principled Republicans.

Tell it to Justice Bork. Confirmation fights aren't about ideas, but about vote counts. And Ms Brown's was about her race and gender, not her conservatism. The place to defend the ideas is before the electorate, not the pols.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:48 AM


The strength of [Japan], the weakness of America (The New York Times, JUNE 27, [198]5)

If [Japan]'s attempt to buy an American...company does nothing else, it should, at long last, force the United States to decide how it plans to protect its economy, husband its resources and grow in a world where it is no longer the only economic powerhouse.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:39 AM


Salazar waves red flag at liberals (Mike Littwin, June 25, 2005, Rocky Mountain News)

Allow me a small confession. As a member of the liberal media elite, I actually know some liberals.

And about half of them called me Friday to say they wished there was some way they could take back their vote for Ken Salazar.

The other half just settled for saying they'd never vote for him again.

If you think this bothers Colorado's newest senator, you're not paying attention to Colorado politics.

The issue, this time, was the flag-burning amendment, or, I guess, the anti-flag-burning amendment.

In support of the amendment, which is heading to the Senate, Salazar wrapped himself in the flag, in family, in country - all in one quote. He needed a big quote if he was going to explain his vote and simultaneously announce his latest break with Democratic party regulars.

His brother, of course, had already voted for the amendment in the House. Now it's unanimous in the Salazar caucus.

"For me, what comes to mind very often . . . is a flag-draped coffin of my father and his love for this country," Ken Salazar said.

And what comes to mind when the Left thinks of the flag is burning it in the 60s and 70s.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:33 AM


It's time for the Democrats to embrace CAFTA (William M. Daley, June 26, 2005, Chicago Tribune)

Most Republicans and the business community extol the virtues of trade, depicting it as an engine of economic progress, while most Democrats and unions attack the exportation of American jobs, claiming that trade agreements are destroying our economy.

Washington is gearing up for another fight about global trade and it's looking like a movie we've seen before. Every trade agreement has triggered the same debate, yet all of them eventually passed. This time, however, the outcome could be different. Democrats are more united in opposition, and Republicans more divided, than ever before. The business community, seeing little in the way of serious economic benefit, is not pressing for approval of the Central America Free Trade Agreement the way it has done for previous agreements.

CAFTA's failure would be a tragic result. But it would largely be a product of the poison--and the paralysis--that infects our national politics today.

Democrats oppose free trade for ideological reasons but if they don't vote for free trade it will be because of the atmosphere on the Hill?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:21 AM


U.S. Supreme Court decision affirmed current laws on eminent domain, IU professor says (Indiana University Media Relations)

The recent Supreme Court decision on Kelo v. City of New London basically affirmed current laws pertaining to eminent domain, said Jeffrey Stake, a professor at the Indiana University School of Law-Bloomington. [...]

Although the decision reaffirms existing rules, there are several reasons, according to Stake, why this law should be of concern to property owners.

"The Constitution is supposed to protect the minority from the majority, but failed to do so here," he said. He also noted that the power of eminent domain in this case was exercised by a private nonprofit, rather than the government. "This is a problem because those who decide to take property are not elected. Another hidden problem is that there may be bribery of or corruption in the city government."

The taking of land for public use raises other issues beyond our federal constitution, Stake said, such as whether "in the interests of fairness, owners should get a cut of the profits when the new development is worth more than the sum of its parts ... People should get special compensation, more than market value, when their homes are taken."

Under the law, the owner is supposed to be paid the market value, although the compensation will likely be lower.

As the plaintiffs made a mistake in Brown v. Bd of Ed by arguing for integration instead of equal funding, so too the plaintiffs here made a mistake in arguing against takings, which is obviously and explicitly consistent with American concepts of liberty and justice, instead of for just compensation.

Hawaii leads way to ruling on property seizure (Stewart Yerton, 6/24/05, Honolulu Star Bulletin)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:06 AM


Progress seen at Guantánamo (Liz Sidoti, 6/26/05, Associated Press)

From behind one-way mirrors, lawmakers watched interrogators grilling three individual terror suspects. None of the interrogators touched detainees.

In one session, they questioned a man who defense officials said was a Saudi national and admitted Al-Qaida member who was picked up in Afghanistan and knew nine of the Sept. 11 hijackers. In another, a female interrogator took an unusual approach to wear down a detainee, reading a Harry Potter book aloud for hours. He turned his back and put his hands over his ears.

Bearded detainees in white frocks, flip-flops and skullcaps quietly lingered nearby, although behind fences. At one communal camp for those given privileges because of good behavior, detainees played soccer.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, is one of many Democrats who have called for an independent commission to investigate abuse allegations and said the facility should close. She stopped short of changing her position after the visit, but acknowledged, ``What we've seen here is evidence that we've made progress.''

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:03 AM


Iran fears capital flight after ultra-conservative victory (Iran Focus, 26 Jun 2005)

Iran’s financial markets reacted negatively to the election of ultra-conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as President, raising fears of capital flight and massive sell-off.

“We have faced a lot of uncertainty in the past few weeks”, Hossein Abdoh-Tabrizi, chairman of the Tehran Stock Exchange (TSE), said in a telephone interview. “The markets have reacted negatively, but we hope this is going to be a temporary phenomenon”.

The TSE index lost a record 126 points on Saturday in reaction to news of Ahmadinejad’s victory.

“The recent instability in the capital market is due to psychological factors”, Haidar Mostakhdemin Hosseini, Iran’s deputy Minister of Economy and Finance, said on Saturday.

Ahmadinejad sent shockwaves among investors when he said in a speech, “Stock market activities count as a form of gambling, and Islam has banned gambling”.

Harsh attacks by Ahmadinejad and his close allies on free-market economy, campaign speeches filled with references to “bloodsucking entrepreneurs” and “daylight robbery by profiteers”, and promises of a more ideological approach to foreign investment and relations with the West have frightened the indigenous business community and the dwindling ranks of foreign investors.

Which is why there's no alternative to liberalization.

Iran fears for future as hardline Islamic president takes over: Vote winner is hailed as a champion of the poor by some, but others feel uneasy (Robert Tait, 6/26/05, Sunday Herald)

“Ahmadinejad’s vote comes from two sections of the electorate,” said one Tehran-based analyst. “The first are the genuine hardcore religious voters who rallied behind him when they realised certain people were supporting him in the revolutionary guards. That mobilised hardcore comes partially from the basij and partly from the guards.

“The second part belonged to the forces of tradition, people who have difficulties coping with changes in society. They feel economically impoverished and want somebody to speak their language. They want somebody who appears modest and honest. Many voters didn’t know about Ahmadinejad’s political affiliation. They don’t care about that. They want someone who isn’t flashy and doesn’t spend much money.”

Ahmadinejad tapped into that second group by promising to tackle unemployment – estimated at around 25% – and to redistribute oil wealth, the most prized national asset.

Many voters voiced admiration for his ascetic style, citing his modest house and car. As mayor of Tehran, Ahmadinejad burnished his populist reputation by donning overalls and helping sweep the streets. [...]

Of more immediate concern to secular-minded, affluent Iranians will be his attitude to the modest, hard-won social freedoms granted by the outgoing reformist incumbent, president Mohammed Khatami.

Concerns were being voiced yesterday that Ahmadinejad’s presidency would herald a crackdown on a range of social activities, from mingling of the sexes to women’s dress code.

“I voted for Rafsanjani because I think Ahmadinejad will take our freedom away,” said 19-year-old Ali, a voter in the south Tehran district of Naziabad, an Ahmadinejad stronghold. “This system is terroristic. They have put women under pressure and don’t let us drink alcohol.”

Before Friday’s poll, Rafsanjani aides pointed to an Ahmadinejad statement describing the all-encompassing black chador as the official mode of dress for women.

He represents an Islamic radicalism that wants to take us backward,” said Amir Mohseni, deputy head of Rafsanjani’s campaign in Tehran province.

As mayor of Tehran, Ahmadinejad strictly enforced the Islamic dress code that forbids male municipal employees from wearing short-sleeved shirts, and made lifts gender segregated. There are also fears that, with the new president in control of the culture and guidance ministry, mass closures of liberal-minded newspapers and a crackdown on other artistic activities, such as public concerts, will ensue.

Last week, Ahmadinejad’s handlers attempted to neutralise such fears, insisting there would be no clampdown on private behaviour.

“We will never stop or prevent any movement which has taken Iran forward and we will never move back,” his media spokesman, Dr Nader Shariatmadari, on being asked about the possibility of reversing Khatami’s reforms: “We respect people’s freedoms in the political, cultural and social realms within the framework of the law.

“But we will try to pay more attention to those needs that have been forgotten, for example, the youth. We believe that the young people deeply believe in Islam. According to our beliefs, regulations and laws, people’s private behaviour, as long as it does not harm others, is acceptable.”

Rather than a return to the militant Islam of the revolution’s early days, Ahmadinejad’s team is promising a renewed emphasis on economic disparities and the corruption many see as endemic in Iran. “The main and essential demands of people lie in the economic framework,” added Shariatmadari. “We have problems with unemployment, inflation and social discrimination. A gap has emerged between the social classes which is concerning and we have to find a solution. People feel that opportunities and privileges are not fairly accessible. Those holding management positions get better and easier access to all kinds of opportunities.”

Sadly for the mullahs, there is no Islamicist way to grow an economy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:00 AM


Lack of hero leaves liberals languishing (J.P. Devine, 6/26/05, Kennebec Journal)

"When America was on its knees, he brought us to our feet." So goes the buzz line for Ron Howard's "Cinderella Man," a summer hit describing the 1935 bravura victory of New Jersey's "Irish" Jimmy Braddock over Max Baer.

What I want to know now, Mr. and Mrs. Democratic America, is where our "Cinderella Man or Woman" is when we need him or her.

The Democratic Party is truly on its knees. Who will be our Jimmy Braddock and bring us to our feet?

These are sad, dark days. Even people who truly like us are getting ready to take out the going-to-the-wake blue suit.

Even clear, liberal comics who are on our side, such as Jon Stewart and Bill Maher, are making fun of us.

They're saying the Democratic Party has no plan, no vision and, at this date, no credible candidate who can go up against the Rove Machine. I agree.

If Bush succeeds in loading the Supreme Court with Clarence Thomas clones, the prospect of seeing Democrats actually -- not metaphorically, you understand, but physically -- thrown to the lions in Madison Square Garden is next.

Why? They aren't Christian.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:50 AM


Follow the money: Forget Howard Dean's mouth. The real issue facing the Democrats is dollars. (Chris Suellentrop, June 26, 2005, Boston Globe)

The cliché is that political money is like water: If you try to block it, it will simply divert itself into another stream. But a study by Weissman and Ruth Hassan of the Campaign Finance Institute found that the analogy isn't quite right. They focused on 73 super-size donors, who had given $50 million in soft money to the two parties in 2000 and 2002. After soft money was banned by McCain-Feingold, these donors ended up giving $157 million to 527s in 2004 (mostly, but not exclusively, Democratic groups).

''Clearly what was happening was not only a shift in their soft money giving, from party to 527, but also a vast escalation in their total donations," Weissman and Hassan write.

What explains the phenomenon? One possibility is that 527 donors are getting more bang for their political buck. In 2004, George Soros exerted more influence over the strategy and tactics of America Coming Together than he ever could have over the Democratic Party proper.

''If you were allowed by law to give $20 million to the Democratic National Committee, of course you would get your phone calls returned," says York. ''But I think with a nonparty group like America Coming Together, you get even better service. Because they don't have to worry about keeping you at arm's length." (The same holds true, of course, for such conservative 527s as the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and Progress for America.)

In short, it looks as though McCain-Feingold actually increased the influence that big donors have over progressive politics, even though it diverted their money from the institution of the Democratic Party.

It's all well and good that CFR is anti-Democratic, but it's unacceptably anti-democratic as well.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:33 AM


How the Left gets loonier (Andrew Bolt, 24jun05, Herald Sun)

FIRST they backed Saddam against his victims. Now our cultural elite backs terrorists against Douglas Wood, the Australian they kidnapped.

You say I exaggerate?

I reply: Andrew Jaspan.

Jaspan is editor-in-chief of The Age, Australia's most Left-wing daily newspaper, and on ABC radio on Wednesday said how "boorish" and "coarse" Wood was at his press conference this week when he called his captors "a---holes".

You might wonder whether Jaspan, the Englishman whose paper on that same day published a big picture on page one of naked girls from Big Brother, has the right to call anyone else "coarse".

But far more shocking was his apparent demand that Wood be more grateful to the men who'd snatched him, kicked him in the head, kept him blindfolded and bound for 47 days, shaved him bald, killed two of his colleagues, made him beg for his life, and -- says a fellow hostage from Sweden -- shot several other prisoners in front of him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:15 AM


Hospital nurses head public workers' sick list: Shock figures reveal level of absences costing the NHS £100m a year (Jo Revill, June 26, 2005, Observer)

Hospital nurses take far more days off sick than other public sector workers, leaving wards across Britain seriously understaffed.

A report out tomorrow from the Healthcare Commission, the NHS watchdog, reveals that on average nurses working on hospital wards take 16.8 days of sick leave each year.

But across seven other areas of the public sector workforce, including police and teachers, the average is 11.3 days a year - 48 per cent lower. Another survey, produced last month by the CBI, says the average rate across the public sector is 9.1 days, compared with 6.4 days per private sector employee.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:02 AM


Even math education is being politicized. (DIANE RAVITCH, June 26, 2005, Opinion Journal)

[M]athematics is being nudged into a specifically political direction by educators who call themselves "critical theorists." They advocate using mathematics as a tool to advance social justice. Social justice math relies on political and cultural relevance to guide math instruction. One of its precepts is "ethnomathematics," that is, the belief that different cultures have evolved different ways of using mathematics, and that students will learn best if taught in the ways that relate to their ancestral culture. From this perspective, traditional mathematics--the mathematics taught in universities around the world--is the property of Western civilization and is inexorably linked with the values of the oppressors and conquerors. The culturally attuned teacher will learn about the counting system of the ancient Mayans, ancient Africans, Papua New Guineans and other "nonmainstream" cultures.

Partisans of social-justice mathematics advocate an explicitly political agenda in the classroom. A new textbook, "Rethinking Mathematics: Teaching Social Justice by the Numbers," shows how problem solving, ethnomathematics and political action can be merged. Among its topics are: "Sweatshop Accounting," with units on poverty, globalization and the unequal distribution of wealth. Another topic, drawn directly from ethnomathematics, is "Chicanos Have Math in Their Blood." Others include "The Transnational Capital Auction," "Multicultural Math," and "Home Buying While Brown or Black." Units of study include racial profiling, the war in Iraq, corporate control of the media and environmental racism. The theory behind the book is that "teaching math in a neutral manner is not possible." Teachers are supposed to vary the teaching of mathematics in relation to their students' race, sex, ethnicity and community.

This fusion of political correctness and relevance may be the next big thing to rock mathematics education, appealing as it does to political activists and to ethnic chauvinists.

Having grown up in the 'hood, the Brothers have some considerable experience of ethnomathematics--perhaps we can be of help.

Here's a sample problem:

Orrin and Stephen each have 15 cents for milk money. Tyrone has none. How much money will Tyrone spend at the candy store after school?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:55 AM


Easy call: Race is a runaway (Dan Shaughnessy, June 26, 2005, Boston Globe)

It's OK to say it. Don't worry about jinxing them. The 2005 Red Sox are going to win the American League East. By a landslide. Come late September, this is going to look like Secretariat at the Belmont in 1973.

After looking up at the Orioles for two frustrating months, the Sox moved into first place Friday night and they are there to stay. Stop worrying about the Yankees, Orioles, and Jays. It's not even going to be close.

Trade you my Literary Digest stock for your Boston Globe stock?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:17 AM


The Armstrong Williams NewsHour (FRANK RICH, June 26, 2005, NY Times)

The intent is not to kill off PBS and NPR but to castrate them by quietly annexing their news and public affairs operations to the larger state propaganda machine that the Bush White House has been steadily constructing at taxpayers' expense.

Mr. Rich comes surprisingly close to a genuine insight here. The reality is that NPR and PBS are cogs in the statist propaganda machine. Republicans would be happy to either destroy or co-opt them, but would settle for just neutralizing them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:57 AM


To Replace Oil, U.S. Experts See Amber Waves of Plastic: American crops could be used in place of many products' petroleum base, some scientists say. (Stephanie Simon, June 26, 2005, LA Times)

He operates 90,000 feet of hissing pipes and dozens of enormous churning vats — an industrial jungle with a single, remarkable purpose: "Essentially," plant manager Bill Suehr says, "we've got corn coming in at one end and plastic coming out the other."

In a hot, noisy factory that smells of Frosted Flakes, yeast and wet farm animals, agribusiness giant Cargill Inc. has set out to lead a new industrial revolution — one fed by the green fields of the Midwest rather than the oil fields of the Middle East.

Sprawled across a square mile of prairie, a series of automated assembly lines turns raw corn kernels first into sugary syrup and then into white pellets that can be spun into silky fabric or molded into clear, tough plastic.

The end products — which include T-shirts, forks and coffins — look, feel and perform like traditional polyester and plastic made from a petroleum base. But the manufacturing process consumes 50% less fossil fuel, even after accounting for the fuel needed to plant and harvest the corn.

With oil prices near $60 a barrel, goods made from grain also compare favorably on price. So chemists and engineers are racing to figure out how to substitute Iowa's bounty for Iraq's. The goal: to use crops, weeds and even animal waste in place of the petroleum that fuels much of American manufacturing.

The Energy Department is so enthusiastic that it is aiming to convert 25% of chemical manufacturing to an agricultural base by 2030.

We turn food into the utensils with which we eat food and the wrap with which we store leftovers, yet 13% of the population remains Malthusian, Lord love 'em...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:52 AM


Who May Succeed Rehnquist: If the ailing chief justice steps down, Bush will select a conservative. There are clear differences among a dozen likely candidates (David G. Savage and Richard B. Schmitt, June 26, 2005, LA Times)

[T]he kind of conservative the president selects could determine whether there is an epic, summerlong fight over the Supreme Court.

The White House counsel's office, according to sources who spoke on condition of anonymity, has compiled a list of a dozen possible nominees to the high court — and all of them are considered conservative. Most are judges on the U.S. appeals courts.

All of them can expect to be opposed by liberal interest groups, which have spent the last four years gearing up to fight Bush's court nominees.

Several top candidates could look forward to a relatively easy confirmation in the Republican-controlled Senate. They include: Judges John G. Roberts Jr., 50, a cautious and highly regarded Bush appointee to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.; J. Harvie Wilkinson III, 60, a scholarly veteran judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.; and Michael W. McConnell, 50, a former University of Chicago law professor who sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals in Denver.

If named by Bush, they would be likely to have the support of the Senate's 55 Republicans and stand a good chance of picking up Democratic votes.

The same is true of Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales, 49. A former Texas Supreme Court justice and White House counsel during Bush's first term, Gonzales would be the first Latino to serve on the high court.

But if the president chooses to set off a big fight, he may name a judge who has shown a more hard-edged ideology and a determination to push the law to the right. That could include Judge J. Michael Luttig, 51, an appellate judge in Virginia, or Antonin Scalia or Clarence Thomas — whom Bush has called his favorite justices.

The Democratic Party would actually seem to have become so deranged that they'll be forced to make a battle out of anyone he nominates, but Scalia and Thomas are probably the only ones they'd have to filibuster.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:37 AM


Revealed: secret talks to oust Mugabe (TREVOR GRUNDY AND BRIAN BRADY, 6/25/05, Scotland on Sunday)

BRITISH government diplomats have held secret talks in Zimbabwe aimed at persuading Robert Mugabe to hand over power and return his devastated nation to the Commonwealth, it was claimed last night.

Senior sources in London and Zimbabwe told Scotland on Sunday that the dictator's closest allies have been pressing the British government to relax its stance against Mugabe in advance of an attempted breakthrough in the stalemate at the G8 summit in Scotland this week.

And they claimed that Foreign Office diplomats have already travelled to Zimbabwe to begin clandestine negotiations with representatives of the hated dictator's regime, with a view to returning the nation to the Commonwealth, three years after it was suspended.

But the proposed 'peace plan' for Zimbabwe would require Mugabe to resign from the presidency and withdraw from the public eye - although he could retain an over-arching role as the 'Father of the Nation'.

Ah, Europe, where they want to send Augusto Pinochet to prison but let Robert Mugabe continue in power.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:45 AM


The forces of conservatism are on the march – say hello to the new Left

(Gerard Baker, The Times, June 24th, 2005)

The Left’s new rallying cry is to build a protective system that would impoverish Bulgarians, Romanians, Turks, Indians and Chinese and would, of course, as do all attempts to retreat from the realities of the global market, ill serve its own workers.

And it is not just the European Left. In America, too, anti-globalisation is the turf that many Democrats are eager to defend. As Governor Schwarzenegger has discovered — and as Europeans have long known — the Left is also reactionary in defending the interests of public-sector trade unions against genuine reform and progress.

Besides anti-globalisation, the other main current in the current stream of leftish theory and practice is visceral anti-Americanism, again on both sides of the Atlantic.

Nothing new there, of course. Except that what really rouses the animus today is not America’s supposed global mission to exploit the downtrodden worker, but its ambitious objective of spreading democracy.

In the Middle East the left finds it much easier to side with the mullahs and the jihadists, the persecutors of women and the torturers of dissidents. America’s flaws at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib are viewed by the Left’s political and intellectual leaders as morally indistinguishable from (or perhaps worse than) anything the Islamists and Arab despots have got up to. To be fair, not all on the Left have taken their stand on the side of reaction. But the trends in political debate in the West are strikingly clear. We are well on the way to an inversion of the classic Left-Right divide.

These days if you’re in favour of policies designed to promote global economic integration, policies that have led hundreds of millions in Asia, Latin America, and Africa out of the misery of grinding poverty, and have significantly lifted the standard of living of workers in the West too; if you support change to topple tyrannical regimes and give some hope to people who have suffered in fledgling democracies, you’re now more likely to be considered a conservative. What, exactly, is Left?

Conservatives may have overtaken the Left on freedom, democracy, prosperity and human dignity, but bitter and reactionary as they may be, nobody can emote like they can.

June 25, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:24 PM


Basic Instinct: An anthropological debunking of the "housing bubble" (LIONEL TIGER, June 25, 2005, Opinion Journal)

Economists have an irrational enthusiasm for a rational model of human economic behavior, and therefore they can coolly confuse apples with prickly pears and conclude that all asset classes are the same. Owning a house in which one lives and owning a thousand shares of last season's aerated dot-com are supposed to involve comparable economic decisions. If dot-com shares plummet because their companies do nothing anyone is willing to pay for, then that is fairly a bubble. But it's supposed to be a bubble, too, if housing prices rise persistently.

There are good reasons. The world is ever more efficient and produces more assets nearly everywhere that people want to use. Immigrants come to countries like this and want a deck and a rec room and work like a Dickens character to acquire them--and house their relatives, too. [...]

In his lively study, "The Mystery of Capital," Hernando de Soto shows how seemingly disorganized slums in poor countries maintain a precisely gauged metric of rights and obligations. People know their ground, stand their ground, and enjoy their ground. Mr. de Soto also advises to listen "for where the dogs bark," because that's where the boundaries are. Basic territoriality and allegiance thrive. The cumbersome legalism involved in securing a search warrant to ruffle through your bedroom reflects the severity of a home's importance.

The emotionality of a dwelling is primordial, economically wholly different from ownership of a stash in a Bermuda hedge fund or a tranche of a leveraged buyout or an ormolu desk at which Napoleon or de Villepin wrote poetry. The most popular recreation in America is gardening. People surround their houses with frilly plants and especially with lawns--an astonishingly costly national extravagance. To an anthropologist's eye, lawns suggest a Paleolithic savannah-dweller eager to see fierce beasts and bad guys before they reach the front porch. And what else but emotionally nutritious satisfaction could induce an indolent and sanitized population to grub in mud for weeds and grin with pride at their perky thorny roses and their copious specimens of zucchini, the world's worst vegetable?

All assets are not the same.

When the tech bubble burst, you didn't fiddle about with Pets.com stock anymore. When the housing bubble bursts are you not going to live anywhere anymore?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:17 PM


Kinsella character actually played 100 years ago (Associated Press, 6/24/05)

[O]n June 29, 1905 -- exactly 100 years ago on Wednesday -- Archibald Wright Graham made his lone appearance in the majors.

He never got to hit. Instead, he was left on deck. A late substitute in a lopsided 11-1 win, he played only two innings and there's no proof he ever touched the ball.

"Graham went to right field for New York" was his only mention in the local Evening Telegram's play-by-play account. And, just that fast, the 28-year-old rookie described in the sporting press as being "quick as a flash of moonlight" was gone.

No wonder it took quite a while for his story to get around -- and for author W.P. Kinsella to make Graham such a part of the poetry and romance that celebrate the lore and lure of baseball.

More than a decade after Graham died in 1965, the prize-winning author was leafing through the Baseball Encyclopedia that his father-in-law had given him for Christmas a few days earlier. Among the listings for every player and their lifetime stats, Kinsella came across something that stopped him.

"I found this entry for Moonlight Graham. How could anyone come up with that nickname? He played one game but did not get to bat. I was intrigued, and I made a note that I intended to write something about him," he said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:52 PM


Clinton Honors Graham at Last Revival (RACHEL ZOLL, 6/24/05, AP)

As his final American revival meeting continued Saturday, a fragile Billy Graham was met onstage by former President Clinton, who honored the evangelist, calling him "a man I love."

Clinton spoke briefly before Graham's sermon and recalled how the man known as America's pastor had refused to preach before a segregated audience in Arkansas decades ago when that state was in a bitter fight over school desegregation.

"I was just a little boy and I'll never forget it," said Clinton, who was joined by his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. "I've loved him ever since. God bless you, friend."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:45 PM


Liberals, Conservatives and Aid (DAVID BROOKS, 6/26/05, NY Times)

Karl Rove has his theories about what separates liberals from conservatives and I have mine. Mine include the differences between Jeffrey Sachs and George Bush. [...]

[S]achs is a child of the French Enlightenment. At the end of his new book, "The End of Poverty," he delivers an unreconstructed tribute to the 18th-century Enlightenment, when leading thinkers had an amazing confidence in their ability to refashion reality so that it would conform to reason.

Throughout the book, Sachs comes across as a philosophe for our times. He is, he writes, a "clinical economist," who diagnoses the maladies that affect nations the way a doctor diagnoses and holds life-or-death sway over a human organism. One of the striking features of his book is the absence of individual Africans. There is just the undifferentiated mass of the suffering poor, trapped in systems, and Sachs traveling around the globe prescribing treatments.

Sachs is also a materialist. He dismisses or downplays those who believe that human factors like corruption, greed, institutions, governance, conflict and traditions have contributed importantly to Africa's suffering. Instead, he emphasizes material causes: lack of natural resources, lack of technology, bad geography and poverty itself as a self-perpetuating trap.

This gives him an impressive confidence on the malleability of human societies.

The real difference isn't that between Mr. Sachs and George W. Bush, a Southern Christian conservative, but between Mr. Sachs and Mr. Brooks himself, a liberal Jewish neocon. The hostility Mr. Brooks demonstrates here towards intellectualism, materialism, Reason and the Enlightenment is what makes America generally and American conservatism in particular unique.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:46 PM


Tony Blair's son to work with US Republicans: report (AFP, 6/24/05)

Euan Blair is to spend three months unpaid with the Republican majority on the House of Representatives Committee on Rules, the Sunday Telegraph revealed.

He will reportedly be under the wing of Californian lawmaker David Dreier, the committee's chairman and a member of the lower House of Representatives for the Republican Party of US
President George W. Bush. [...]

Despite the warm relationship between centre-left Labour Party premier Blair and the rightwing Bush, the move astounded US opposition Democrats, traditionally closer to Labour.

"Working on the Rules Committee will be quite a learning process as it has always been one of the most partisan in the House," said Eric Burns, the communications director for congresswoman Louise Slaughter, the leading Democrat on the Rules Committee.

"It is extremely surprising that the son of a Labour prime minister would intern with the Republican majority staff on the committee," he told the paper.

Only if you don't pay a lick of attention to the world around you.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:25 PM


A War of Diplomats (Ralf Beste, 6/26/05, Der Spiegel)

The German foreign minister was the first to bear the brunt of rejection for his country. Just over a week ago, with Joschka Fischer standing at her side at the US State Department building in Washington, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice explained that the Americans had discussed "at length" Germany's wish for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. However, she added, "the only country that we clearly support is Japan."

A week later it was German Chancellor Schroeder's security and foreign affairs adviser Bernd Muetzelburg's turn. While touring the United States to promote Germany's cause at the UN, he opened up the paper in New York last Thursday morning to read that next to Japan the best the US government could do would be to support "a developing nation's" bid for a permanent seat. It was, as the New York Times wrote, "a harsh setback for Germany."

When German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder sits down with US President George W. Bush for lunch at the White House on Monday, he'll experience first-hand just how little support Germany can expect from its major ally in its efforts to land a permanent seat. US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns has already clarified the Bush administration's position on the matter, noting that more than two new permanent members "could be damaging."

The Americans' clear signaling of their plans to block Germany's nomination is the most serious consequence to date in a typically behind-the-scenes diplomatic battle.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:06 AM


How Can a House
Be a Home Without Space for Books?
(Rick Green, 6/24/05, The Hartford Courant)

It was a terrible thing to live with, like finding oneself the unwitting warden of a prison holding all of your best friends.

Most of Donald S. Connery's prized books -- more than six decades worth of collecting, from New York to Moscow and from to Japan to Connecticut -- were languishing in boxes, incarcerated in solitary cardboard confinement. Alas, it is the predicament of book lovers all over:

What to do with them all? Connery's solution was artful and extravagant, befitting a former foreign correspondent who since 1968 has lived at a mountaintop farm in Kent, Conn. Connery and his wife, Leslie, converted the silo attached to their 200-year-old barn into a most unusual home library.

“We had fence posts and rails stored in there, and the roof was leaking like crazy. I kept thinking, What a waste. What is it good for?” Connery recalled during a visit to his silo library. In the late 1980s, after 20 or so years of pondering, he hired a carpenter to rework the old round silo into a three-story cylindrical library. At last count, he and his wife had about 10,000 volumes in the silo, with a few thousand more in the house.

“I just felt they meant so much to me,” said Connery, whose specialty these days is writing about criminal justice and wrongful convictions. “You are with your friends, which is the way I think of books.”

In an age of palatial “media” rooms with nary a book in sight, it would be a stretch to say home libraries are making any kind of roaring comeback. But to the devotee, the home library is a vibrant, sacred space that can be as small as the corner of a room or as profligate as a mountaintop silo.

It's also a retro makeover that can transform a drab, lifeless space into a room of intrigue that reminds visitors that relaxing at home isn't necessarily always about the latest gargantuan flat-screen television.

“I can't imagine living without books. If I go out to dinner at someone else's home, and they don't have books visible, I wonder if I want them as friends,” said Barbara Farnsworth, an antiquarian bookseller in West Cornwall, Conn.

What kind of philistine would leave their own library to go visiting?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:51 AM

Freedom is the right to one's dignity as a man. Archibald MacLeish

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:52 AM


Nigeria comes clean and shows the way for Africa (Daily Telegraph 25/06/2005)

President Olusegun Obasanjo served as military ruler of Nigeria during the period surveyed by the EFCC, but as a civilian head of state he has taken four important steps to tackle corruption. He has set up the commission, under Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, and given it teeth. He has appointed the extremely able Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as finance minister. He has sacked two members of his Cabinet and the national police chief, all of whom have been charged with malfeasance. And he has set up an excess crude earnings account, into which goes all the revenue earned from oil above the $25 a barrel on which Nigeria bases its budget. With the price over twice that sum, the account holds £4.6 billion. Previously, that excess would have disappeared without trace, the main reason for the country's egregious level of embezzlement; now it is open to public scrutiny.

Mr Obasanjo has made a start on rooting out a systemic evil. [...]

[I]t would be helpful if Nigeria could be rewarded with limited debt cancellation and increased aid by the creditor nations, to demonstrate to Africa south of the Sahara that good governance pays. Of greater practical, as opposed to symbolic, importance would be the opening of Western markets to local products.

Nigeria, with its long periods of military rule and the deeply corrupting effect of oil wealth, has been the despair of Africa. Under Mr Obasanjo, who oversaw the transition to an earlier period of civilian rule in 1979 and was twice democratically elected in 1999 and 2003, the country has begun to change for the better. If that continues, the potential is enormous. As a businessman told David Blair: "We are a volcano of opportunities waiting to erupt."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:45 AM


They Still Blame America First: The Democrats fall into the national security trap again. (Fred Barnes, 07/04/2005, Weekly Standard)

DEMOCRATS DON'T HAVE A DEATH wish. It just seems that way. What they actually have is a habit of falling into the national security trap. They did it in 1972. They did it in 1984. They did it in 1994. They did it in 2002. And they're doing it again this year as they prepare for the 2006 midterm elections, in which they hope to produce a breakthrough as sweeping and decisive as Republicans achieved in 1994.

The national security trap is simple. When faced with a choice between supporting or criticizing the use of military force along with a strong national security policy, Democrats often side with the critics. Which is how they fall into the trap, which leads to electoral defeat. When they back a vigorous defense of America's national security, however, the opposite happens. They usually win. Even when Democrats merely neutralize the national security issue--this happened in 1996 and 1998--or the issue is peripheral, they stand a good chance of winning.

Democrats could turn the issue to their favor if they had sense enough to argue that we've won and it's time to come home instead of running against the war and the military.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:36 AM


Senate Approves Nominee to Tend America's Image (STEVEN R. WEISMAN, 6/25/05, NY Times)

The Senate on Friday approved the nomination of Dina Powell as deputy under secretary of state for public diplomacy, three days after a leading Democratic senator dropped his effort to block its approval in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. [...]

Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, the senior Democrat on the committee, had prevented her approval by the committee last week, charging that the White House was trying to remove a Democrat from the board that oversees the United States government's international broadcasting efforts, particularly its Arabic- and Persian-language radio and television networks.

Norman Kurz, a spokesman for Mr. Biden, said the senator remained concerned about the White House's refusal to reappoint the board member, Norman J. Pattiz, to the Broadcasting Board of Governors, but that he had not opposed Ms. Powell's nomination by itself.

The Democrats will let anyone through these days...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:05 AM


Still wild about Harry?: Nearly 11 million copies of the sixth Potter book are coming, though spell may miss older teens. (Scott Martelle, June 25, 2005, LA Times)

When the first two Harry Potter novels came out in the late 1990s, Cinda Webb would sit in the upstairs hallway of her Irvine home and read aloud as her two sons drifted off to sleep, visions of wizards dancing in their heads.

Her younger son, Jon, now 14, quickly became entranced and devoured all five books. But her older son, James, now 17, lost interest around the third volume.

So Webb and Jon will join 200 other bleary-eyed Harry fans at Irvine's Whale of a Tale Children's Bookshoppe for the midnight July 16 release of the sixth book, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince."

James will likely be home, sound asleep.

"It's about a little wizard boy, and when you're a teenager you're just not caring what happens to the guy with the wand," says James, whose diet of nonfiction and the occasional mystery make Harry just so much kid stuff.

Of course, he'll read them again when he grows up and enjoy them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:02 AM


Plugged-In Hybrid Tantalizes Car Buffs: A Southland company comes up with a system that lets Toyota's Prius burn even less gasoline by connecting it to a regular electrical socket. (John O'Dell, June 25, 2005, LA Times)

Toyota Motor Corp. boasts that its hot-selling Prius gasoline-electric hybrid doesn't have to be plugged in.

But a growing number of hybrid buffs interested in further boosting the car's fuel economy are asking, "Why not?"

By replacing the Prius' batteries with a more powerful array and recharging it using a standard electric outlet at home, engineers have enabled the hybrid to get more than 100 miles per gallon of gasoline.

"We want to get people thinking of [plug-ins] as a real alternative" in the country's long-term energy plan, said Felix Kramer, founder of CalCars.org, an advocacy group in Palo Alto.

The idea of plug-in hybrids is generating a lot of buzz in energy circles because of the work of a start-up Monrovia firm, Energy Control Systems Engineering. The firm bought a Prius and converted it with its own system.

Co-owner Greg Hanssen now tools around Southern California in the bright blue plug-in Prius prototype. The car can deliver 150 to 180 mpg for up to 35 miles of low-speed, around-town driving and can average 70 to 100 mpg on longer trips at higher speeds.

June 24, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:18 PM


‘US caused more deaths in Iraq than Saddam’ (AFP, 24 June 2005)

The World Tribunal on Iraq (WTI), a grouping of NGOs and intellectuals opposed to the war in Iraq, on Friday accused the United States of causing more deaths in Iraq than ousted president Saddam Hussein.

“With two wars and 13 years of criminal sanctions, the United States have been responsible for more deaths in Iraq than Saddam Hussein,” Larry Everest, a journalist, told hundreds of anti-war activists gathered in Istanbul.

Shouldn't George W. Bush, who removed Saddam and the sanctions, be their hero?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:01 PM


Washington wins 11th straight at home (AP, 6/24/05)

Tired of being victimized by poor run support, Esteban Loaiza took matters into his own hands.

Loaiza hit a two-run double and pitched six shutout innings, to lead the Washington Nationals, with President Bush in attendance, to a 3-0 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday night, their 11th straight win at home.

Loaiza (3-5) allowed six hits, walked one and struck out five, combining with three relievers on the Nationals' fourth shutout of the season. He was pitching for the first time since being scratched from a scheduled start against Texas on Sunday because of a sore neck.

"I'm glad we had his bat in the lineup tonight," Nationals manager Frank Robinson said. [...]

Bush took in the Nationals' first game at RFK Stadium after a nine-game road trip. He was joined by Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, brother Marvin Bush and the president's nominee as U.S. ambassador to France, Craig Stapleton -- a Bush cousin by marriage. They sat in the front row of an open, mezzanine-level box along the third-base line.

"I didn't even know he was there until (catcher Brian) Schneider told me in the fourth inning. ... I looked up and he was up there. It's really exciting," Loaiza said.

It was the president's second visit to RFK Stadium for a baseball game this year. He threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the team's home opener April 14 and watched several innings of Washington's win over Arizona.

Bush had to be impressed with Loaiza, who staked himself to a 2-0 lead in the second, recording his first RBI since June 2, 1998 for Pittsburgh in an interleague game against Detroit.

Gotta break her football fetish if she's going to be president.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:54 PM


Hardline mayor wins Iran runoff (CNN, 6/24/05)

Tehran Mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- a hard-line conservative who has said Iran should embrace the principles of the 1979 Islamic Revolution -- was declared the winner of Iran's presidential election early Saturday, garnering more than 61 percent of the votes, according to Iranian television.

Al-Alam, a 24-hour news network in Iran, said that according to the Interior Ministry, Ahmadinejad defeated former two-term President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

The state-run IRNA news agency said Ahmadinejad -- a favorite of the working class -- captured more than 61 percent out of the 22 million ballots cast. Roughly 47 percent of the nearly 47 million eligible voters took part in the election, according to IRNA.

Reformists are right, of course, that so long as the Guardian Council can veto candidates and overrule legislation the nation isn't a liberal democracy, but the boycotts seem predictably counterproductive as they now have the worst of the three options in the presidency and no one to blame but themselves. On the other hand, a hard-liner does force the contradictions and delegitimize the regime even further.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:41 PM


Commencement Speeches on American Perspectives (C-SPAN Special Alert!)

This Saturday night, starting at 8 pm ET on C-SPAN, American Perspectives will show commencement speeches from colleges and universities across the country with speakers from the arts and entertainment fields.

8 pm - Tom Hanks - actor and activist for WWII veterans and other causes speaks at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York

8:20 pm - Tom Wolfe - author of many books including his latest, I Am Charlotte Simmons, an account of American college life, speaks at his alma mater, Washington & Lee University, in Lexington, Virginia

8:50 pm - Lonnie Bunch - the president-elect of the Smithsonian's new Museum of African American History speaks at Lake Forest College in Lake Forest, Illinois

9:15 pm - Dana Gioia - the chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts speaks to the graduates of Seton Hall University in East Orange, New Jersey

9:35 pm - Stephen King - the well-known fiction writer speaks at the University of Maine in Orono

9:55 pm - Judith McHale - the president of Discovery Communications speaks at American University in Washington, DC

10:15 pm - Dwight Tierney - the co-founder of MTV speaks at his alma mater, Monmouth College, in Monmouth, Illinois

Posted by Peter Burnet at 3:22 PM


The power of negative thinking (Roger Scruton, The Spectator, June 25th, 2005)

It is fair to say that Sartre’s anti-bourgeois rhetoric changed the language and the agenda of post-war French philosophy, and was the original inspiration for Barthes, Foucault and the phoney psychotherapies of Lacan and R.D. Laing. It was translated into street theatre in May 1968, and fired the revolutionary ambitions of students who had come to Paris from the former colonies. One of those students was later to return to his native Cambodia and put into practice the ‘totalising’ doctrine (expressed in Critique de la raison dialectique, 1960, and in Situations VIII and Situations IX, 1972) that has as its targets the ‘seriality’ and ‘otherness’ of the bourgeois class. And in the purifying rage of Pol Pot it is not unreasonable to see the contempt for the ordinary and the actual that is expressed in almost every line of Sartre’s demonic prose. ‘Ich bin der Geist, der stets verneint,’ says Mephistopheles — I am the spirit who always denies. The same can be said of Sartre, for whom l’enfer, c’est les autres — hell is other people (Huis clos, 1947). Like Milton’s Satan, Sartre saw the world transfigured by his own pride — a pride that caused him to refuse all tributes, from the Légion d’Honneur to the Nobel Prize, since they originated in the Other and not in the Self.

Having got that off my chest and given you a start on the bibliography, I can freely admit that Sartre was a genius who saw to the heart of the modern condition and who brought French romantic literature to a kind of self-conscious and also self-refuting climax. His masterpiece, L’Être et le néant, published in 1943 at the height of the second world war, is one of the great works of contemporary philosophy. Although he begins from the obscure and ultimately untenable ‘phenomenology’ of Edmund Husserl, Sartre unfolds an unforgettable portrait of the predicament in which we are placed by self-consciousness in the world of objects (the predicament of the pour-soi [for-itself] in relation to the en-soi [in-itself]). For the religious world-view, self-consciousness is a source of joy, proof of our apartness from nature, of our special relation to God and of our ultimate redemption, as we leap from the world into the arms of our creator. For Sartre, self-consciousness is a kind of all-dominating nothingness, a source of anxiety: proof of our apartness, certainly, but also of our loneliness, which is a loneliness without redemption, since all the doors on our inner walls have been painted there by ourselves and none of them will open.

Sartre was remarkably ugly, with a flaccid body and the face of a toad; yet he was highly successful with women, one of whom, Simone de Beauvoir, remained his lifelong mentor and companion. Their free arrangement enabled her to watch his many seductions and to enjoy her own, often lesbian, affairs, thereby experiencing, both as participant and observer, the ongoing proof that pour-soi can never unite with pour-soi, whatever the en-soi is up to or up. For Sartre all loves, and ultimately all human relations, are founded on contradiction. As a self-conscious being I necessarily find myself in the position of ‘being for others’. I am a free subject in my own eyes, but a determined object in the eyes of others. When another self-conscious being looks at me, I know that he or she searches in me not for the me-as-object but for the me-as-subject. Hence the gaze of a self-conscious creature has a peculiar capacity to penetrate: it looks into me, and not just at me. It thereby creates a demand: the demand that I reveal myself, so to speak, that I make my free subjectivity present in the world of objects. Unfortunately this is impossible, and when, in sexual desire, we both strive to conjure the pour-soi out of the en-soi, the result is — well, a mess. Sartre’s bleak description of this mess, and of sado-masochism as the last futile refuge of desire and the ‘reef upon which it founders’, is without compare in philosophical literature — a description that Mephistopheles might have whispered into the ear of Faust, as he ruined the innocent Gretchen. [...]

The French have not recovered from Sartre and perhaps never will. For they have had to live with an intellectual establishment that has consistently repudiated the two things that hold the country together: Christianity and the idea of France. The anti-bourgeois posture of the left-bank intellectual has entered the political process, and given rise to an elite for whom nothing is certain save the repudiation of the national idea. It is thanks to this elite that the mad project of European Union has become indelibly inscribed in the French political process, even though the people of France reject it. It is thanks to this elite that the mass immigration into France of unassimilable Muslim communities has been both encouraged and subsidised. It is thanks to this elite that socialism has been so firmly embedded in the French state that no one now can reform it. And it is thanks to this elite that, even today, when the ordinary French citizen has had the anti-bourgeois message up to the eyeballs — ras-le-bol — the intellectual agenda remains unchanged, with transgression as its dominating purpose.

Of course, there have been dissenters. Novelists like Louis Pauwels, philosophers like Alain Besançon and Luc Ferry, essayists like Alain Finkielkraut and André Glucksmann, have done their best to speak up for the French inheritance against its institutionalised detractors. Interestingly, however, it is the Sartrean legacy that is exported. The message that British and American academics wish to hear from France is not that of Louis Pauwels who, in Les orphelins, tells the inner story of 1968 and its moral bankruptcy, but that of Foucault, Deleuze, Derrida and Bourdieu — Sartreans in everything that matters, who have continued the master’s work of hunting down meanings and spearing them with their finely honed negation signs.

However, man cannot live by negation alone. Notwithstanding his heroic attempt to live in recoil from the world of others, Sartre envisaged an ideal community — a Kingdom of Ends in which he would be finally united with les ouvriers, and of which he was already in some mystical way a part. In his later writings, therefore, he comforted himself with the invocation of a new form of society whose only foundation would be authentic choice. In this groupe en fusion the intellectual and the proletarian would be united, without the mediating structures of custom, authority and law. Thus would the intellectual be redeemed, without paying the normal and intolerable price of redemption, which is obedience.

If you look at Sartre’s philosophy in that way, you will see through it to its ultimate origins in Rousseau. Moreover, Sartre’s invocation of the workers recalls Rousseau’s invocation of le peuple, to whom the intellectual is supposedly bound by a compassionate zeal. And just as Robespierre used Rousseau’s philosophy to justify the greatest attack on the people that the modern world had witnessed, so did Sartre use his philosophy to justify the totalitarian regimes that had done most to ruin the hopes of the working class. Whether Sartre was as great a writer or as ingenious a thinker as Rousseau I do not know. But he was certainly as pernicious an influence.

French intellectual history is complex and multi-faceted, but it seems clear that the betrayal of old liberal, Christian France by the establishment in the Dreyfus affair and two world wars ultimately drove the generation that now rules to worship this disgusting little man.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:01 PM

The tyranny of therapism: The authors of One Nation Under Therapy question the notion that uninhibited emotional openness is good for our mental health. (Christina Hoff Sommers and Sally Satel, 6/21/05, Spiked)

In an article in the Wall Street Journal, Jim Windolf, editor of the New York Observer, tallied the number of Americans allegedly suffering from some kind of emotional disorder. He sent away for the literature of dozens of advocacy agencies and mental health organisations. Then he did the math. Windolf reported, 'If you believe the statistics, 77 per cent of America's adult population is a mess.... And we haven't even thrown in alien abductees, road-ragers, and internet addicts.' If we factor in the drowning girls, diminished boys, despondent women, agonised men, and the all-around emotionally challenged, the country is, in Windolf's words, 'officially nuts'.

Our new book One Nation Under Therapy offers a more sanguine view of American society. It points out that there is no evidence that large segments of the population are in psychological freefall. On the contrary, researchers who abide by the protocols of genuine social science find most Americans - young and old - faring quite well.

Of course, we are not suggesting that everyone is perennially happy or possessed of an abiding sense of wellbeing. Many, if not most, human beings are mildly neurotic, at times self-defeating, anxious, or sad. These traits or behaviours are characteristic of the human condition, often emerging in different life circumstances - they are not pathological. And they are certainly not new. What we oppose is the view that Americans today are emotionally underdeveloped, psychically frail, and that they require the ministrations of mental health professionals to cope with life's vicissitudes. The crisis authors offer only anecdotes, misleading statistics, and dubious studies for their alarming findings. Yet they are taken very seriously.

These would-be healers of our purported woes dogmatically believe and promote the doctrine we call 'therapism'. Therapism extols openness, emotional self-absorption, and the sharing of feelings. It encompasses the assumption that vulnerability rather than strength characterises the American psyche and that suffering is a pathology in need of a cure. Therapism assumes that a diffident, anguished, and emotionally apprehensive public requires a vast array of therapists, self-esteem educators, grief counsellors, work-shoppers, healers, and traumatologists to lead it though the trials of everyday life. Children, more than any group, are targeted for therapeutic improvement. We roundly reject these assumptions.

Young people are not helped by being wrapped in cotton wool and deprived of the vigorous pastimes and intellectual challenges they need for healthy development. Nor are they improved when educators, obsessed with the mission of boosting children's self-esteem, tell them how 'wonderful' they are. A growing body of research suggests there is, in fact, no connection between high self-esteem and achievement, kindness, or good personal relationships. On the other hand, unmerited self-esteem is known to be associated with antisocial behaviour - even criminality.

Therapism tends to regard people as essentially weak, dependent, and never altogether responsible for what they do. Alan Wolfe, a Boston College sociologist and expert on national mores and attitudes, reports that for many Americans non-judgmentalism has become a cardinal virtue. Concepts of right and wrong, good and evil, are often regarded as anachronistic and intolerant. 'Thou shalt be nice' is the new categorical imperative.

Summarising his findings, Wolfe says: 'What the Victorians considered self-destructive behaviour requiring punishment we consider self-destructive behaviour requiring treatment.... America has most definitely entered a new era in which virtue and vice are redefined in terms of public health and addiction.'

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:36 AM


White House Stands Behind Rove Comments (JIM ABRAMS, 6/24/05, Associated Press)

A White House official said Friday the administration finds it "somewhat puzzling" that Democrats are demanding presidential adviser Karl Rove's apology or resignation for implying that liberals are soft on terrorism.

"I think Karl was very specific, very accurate, in who he was pointing out," communications director Dan Bartlett said. "It's touched a chord with these Democrats. I'm not sure why."

Congressional Republicans earlier joined the White House in standing solidly behind Rove, saying he shouldn't apologize and that he was outlining a philosophical divide between a president who sought to win the war on terrorism by taking the fight to the enemy and Democrats who questioned that approach.

Karl Rove more and more resembles Abe Saperstein.


Below are excerpts of a speech delivered by White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove at the New York State Conservative Party dinner on Wednesday. Most of the talk focused on changes on the right that have led to the Republicans' recent national success. But it is these comments on the left that have generated controversy. — THE EDITORS [...]

[P]erhaps the most important difference between conservatives and liberals can be found in the area of national security. Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 in the attacks and prepared for war. Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers. In the wake of 9/11, conservatives believed it was time to unleash the might and power of the United States military against the Taliban.

In the wake of 9/11, the liberals believed it was time to submit a petition. I'm not joking. Submitting a petition was precisely what Moveon.org, then known as 9/11peace.org did. You may have seen it in The New York Times or The Washington Post, the San Francisco Examiner or the L.A. Times. (Funny, I didn't see it in the Amarillo Globe News.)

It was a petition that "implored the powers that be" to "use moderation and restraint in responding to the terrorist attacks against the United States. I don't know about you but moderation and restraint is not what I felt when I watched the Twin Towers crumble to the ground, the side of the Pentagon destroyed and almost 3,000 of our fellow citizens perish in flames and rubble.

Moveon.org and Michael Moore and Howard Dean may dominate the Democratic Party and liberalism — but their moderation and restraint is not what America felt needed to be done, and moderation and restraint was not what was called for. It was a time to summon our national will and to brandish steel.

Conservatives saw what happened to us on 9/11 and said we will defeat our enemies. Liberals saw what happened to us and said we must understand our enemies. Conservatives see the United States as a great nation involved in a noble cause of self-defense. Liberals are concerned with what our enemies will think of us and whether every government approves of our actions.

Has there ever been a more revealing moment than this year. when the Democratic senator, Democrat Richard Durbin, speaking on the Senate floor, compared what Americans have done to prisoners in our control in Guantanamo with what was done by Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot — three of the most brutal and malevolent figures of the 20th century?

Let me put in this in really simple terms. Al Jazeera now broadcasts the words of Sen. Durbin to the Mideast, certainly putting our troops in greater danger. No more needs to be said about the motives of liberals.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:06 AM


The Liberal Project Now: Liberals need to remember their first principles, rebuild a majority, and connect to a new generation. (Paul Starr, 05.19.05, American Prospect)

Liberalism is at greater risk now than at any time in recent American history. The risk is of political marginality, even irrelevance. And the reason is not just a shift in partisan control of the federal government. There has been a radical change in the relationship of ideology and power in America. Only by renewing both the principled commitments to liberal ideals and the practical basis of liberal politics does liberalism have any chance of recovery.

Fifty years ago, the absence of ideological divisions was widely thought to be one of the distinguishing features of American politics. [...]

When historians and social scientists in the ’50s said American politics reflected an ideological consensus that was liberal at its foundations, it was the absence of any socialist challenge that they mainly had in mind. Conservatives weren’t offering a clear ideological alternative, and the two major parties seemed to have only minor differences. For decades, even as a conservative challenge emerged and partisan differences widened, liberals had a partnership with power, or at least access to it. Liberalism stood for reform, but it wasn’t oppositional: Liberals did not regard themselves as outsiders looking in on American politics from a hostile distance. As late as the 1990s, they had a friendly administration, a closely balanced Congress, and federal courts that offered a good chance of vindicating their claims.

Only in recent years -- as Republicans have gained control of Congress and the executive branch, sought to bring the courts into line, and taken the conservative movement and its intellectuals into a governing partnership -- have liberals faced the possibility of being totally excluded, not just from power but from any influence or access. And that loss threatens to make the enterprise of liberal reform, and even protest, seemingly irrelevant. For what point is there to reform or protest if power is not susceptible to persuasion, and perhaps not even to pressure?

The liberalism of the 1950s and ’60s, in contrast, was both a governing and a reforming philosophy. Liberals had helped to fashion the domestic order created during the New Deal, and after World War II they had shaped America’s internationalist commitments aimed at containing communist expansion and avoiding war. Liberals also aimed, however, to compel a government that espoused liberal principles to confront its own contradictions and limitations. That meant, among other things, dealing with the national shame of racial oppression, the persistence of poverty, the hidden problems of environmental degradation, and the threat of nuclear catastrophe.

The liberal project of the post–World War II era was to awaken the public to long-ignored problems, to make liberal government bolder, and to get its leaders to take political risks. In the public mind, liberalism was the innovative and outward-looking force in American politics; conservatism, the stodgy and parochial source of resistance. Under those circumstances, liberals had power to the extent that they could bring about change, while conservatives had power to the extent that they could stop it.

Now the relationships have been reversed, and liberalism risks getting defined, as conservatism once was, entirely in negative terms. Liberals certainly need to defend liberal accomplishments and oppose conservative measures, but they cannot allow themselves to become merely defensive and oppositional. That, of course, is how the right would like to cast them. The liberal challenge today is to avoid this trap, to make the case for liberalism’s first principles, and to renew the project of liberal innovation. And in that effort, magazines such as this one -- and intellectuals generally -- have a useful role to play.

Odd to pine for the unanimity of the McCarthy era, but he's right about liberalism's brain death. The notion though that the policies that led to the American 60s and 70s and the continuing collapse of Europe are defensible seems insane.

The Evangelical Conservatism of George W. Bush; Or, How the Republicans Became Red (Wilfred M. McClay, February 23, 2005, EPCC)

What I want to look at is, specifically, how the administration of George W. Bush seems to have marked a sea change in the evolution of Republican politics, in conservatism, in the present and future alignment of our political parties and ideologies, and the role of religion in our public discourse and public action. In addition, however, I want to talk about the ways that, taking a longer-range historical view, what looks like a sea change may in fact merely be the process of this administration and the political party it leads rejoining itself, consciously or not, to certain longer traditions of American political and social reform. And I will also want to ask, in the end, whether these changes or reorientations are entirely a good thing, or whether there are aspects of them that should give pause to Americans in general, and to conservative Americans and evangelical Americans in particular.


Let me ease into the subject with an anecdote, meant to illuminate the meaning of my subtitle. Toward the end of April in 2001, I found myself on a business trip to New York, and thought that I would use the occasion to have lunch with a friend, one of those people one deals with for years by phone and email without ever having met in the flesh. I should add, too that this was and is someone with her feet planted firmly and intransigently on the political Left, with the most dismissive and contemptuous attitude imaginable toward Republicans in general and George W. Bush in particular -- but an otherwise charming and intelligent person who tolerates me as a harmless eccentric. We arranged to meet for lunch at a little place off Union Square. After we’d firmed up the arrangements by phone, she concluded with the following instruction: “Now remember, it’ll be May Day, so be sure to wear a red tie.”

Not wishing to offend, I obliged. But I wondered at the request, which struck me as a bit absurd. I thought I detected in it the scent of nostalgia for a bygone era. It was as if we were still living in those heady days when a May Day visit to Union Square might mean an encounter with fiery labor organizers, or German-speaking radical anarchists, or a garment-workers’ rally -- or maybe an earnest, rousing speech by Eugene Debs or Emma Goldman or Norman Thomas -- instead of an encounter with a swarming beehive of commercial activity, around a Square which now offers the full array of franchise outlets that one would likely find anyplace else in America -- Staples, Barnes and Noble, CVS pharmacy, and so on -- all accompanied by the deafening noise of seemingly incessant construction. And I somehow doubt that “Red Emma,” were she to show up, would regard my red tie as a very impressive sign of my solidarity with the workers of the world.

I can understand a certain nostalgia for the Left’s glory days -- for a time when there was still a plausible sense that it was the Left that stood for the common man and the human prospect, over against the dehumanizing forces of industrialism and finance capitalism and murderous nation-state rivalries and militarism and racial subordination and class arrogance and massive economic inequality, and all the other evils in the long parade of human folly. I’m far from immune to the pull of such concerns myself, as I think many decent people find themselves. It seems to be an especially bitter experience for those who have experienced such glory days to realize that times change and one can’t draw on their moral and intellectual capital forever, which may explain why that realization has been so slow in coming to the aging leadership of the Civil Rights Movement, or the Vietnam-era boomers who currently dominate the major media and the universities.

But how, I wondered, could anyone who had just lived through the 2000 presidential election, and its endless maps of America by state and county, still associate the color “red” with the Left? Particularly when, nearly four years later, after another presidential election and after exposure to another endless succession of maps, the association of “red” and “Republican” seems to have become firmly rooted in our discourse, embraced by both parties. Now we are even treated to learned disquisitions by intrepid reporters from our major daily papers who have donned their pith helmets and ventured out into the far hinterlands, trying to find and comprehend the inner essence of that exotic thing, Red America.

Someday the precise story will be told, by a historian more patient than I, of how the Republican party came to be assigned the color “red” in the mapping of the 2000 electoral results. From what little I have been able to determine, the change seems to have happened gradually, and with no visible conscious intent, and considerable inconsistency along the way. As recently as the 1980 election, the late David Brinkley, then still an anchor at NBC News, was drolly comparing the map representing Ronald Reagan’s landslide victory to a suburban swimming pool -- solid blue, in other words. Time magazine somewhat more generously referred to the 1980 map as “Lake Reagan,” and stuck with a blue-Republican and red-Democratic scheme all through the 1990s. Other networks and news outlets used different color schemes during those years, sometimes replacing blue with white, and even reversing the coloration more or less at will. (I distinctly remember watching the 1980 returns on ABC, and hearing Frank Reynolds turn to Ted Koppel and say, “The country’s going Red, Ted!”)

How and why most of the major media outlets (with the exception of Time) fixed upon the red-Republican and blue-Democratic schema in 2000 remains somewhat mysterious. When a New York Times graphics editor was asked for his paper’s rationale, he responded simply that “both Republican and red start with the letter R.” So chalk one up for Sesame Street.

Of course, for anyone who knows even a smattering of modern European history, this is a truly an astonishing turn of events, whose significance is only barely hinted at by Frank Reynolds’s wisecrack. It’s amazing how willing the democratic Left has been to acquiesce in the loss of one of its most permanent, most universal, and most beloved symbols -- the color Red -- without serious protest. I am not talking here about yielding some of the more or less primordial symbolic meanings ascribed to Red, though those too would seem to be worth hanging on to. Red is the color of life, of love and fidelity, of warmth, of emotional intensity, of power and grandeur. Any political movement or party worth its salt would like to lay claim to such things. But I am thinking more specifically of the political meanings of Red, which may draw upon these more primordial meanings, but also link them to specific historical events and causes and traditions and aspirations. We Americans tend to think, in our own times, of Red in this sense referring exclusively to the history of Communism, but that is a vast oversimplification. Let me be clear in what I’m saying here. I don’t want to be associated with the view that Communism was merely “liberalism in a hurry.” But by the same token, I do want to insist that the range of historical referents to Red would be better described as different expressions of an energetic and idea-driven commitment to systemic progressive reform, expressions that can and do vary widely in the extent of their liberalism or illiberalism, but that have in common a commitment to the general cause of human freedom and human liberation.

Those political meanings of Red emerged fully in the French Revolution of 1848, when socialists and radical republicans adopted the red flag as a symbol of their cause, in contrast to the white flag of the Bourbon monarchists and the more moderate tricolor flag of the liberal Second Republic. From then on, the red flag became firmly associated in French political culture with the progressive socialist cause. Later the softer and more humane image of the red rose would be adopted as a symbol of the French Socialist Party, and was used to especially good public effect in recent memory by Francois Mitterrand. Its enduring power was manifest at Mitterrand’s funeral nine years ago, when throngs of mourners arrived at the Notre Dame Cathedral bearing red roses in their hands.

Similarly, the British Labor Party used a red flag, followed by a red rose, as its symbols. The party early on adopted as its anthem the song “The Red Flag,” which describes the “scarlet standard” as “the people’s flag,” “the hope of peace,” the banner and symbol of “human right and human gain.” Similarly, the color Red (and usually also the red rose) is strongly associated with the Australian Labor Party, the Canadian Liberal Party, the German Social Democratic Party, the Dutch Socialist Party, the Party of European Socialists (located in Brussels) and the Socialist International. Just out of curiosity, I paid a visit to the current websites of each of these organizations, and believe me, you have never seen so much red, and especially so many red roses, outside of the city of Pasadena on New Year’s Day.

So there is a strong and enduring historical association, at least within modern European political culture, between the color Red and the most strongly progressivist, activist, reformist movements in European political life. But, you may well be asking, so what? This is all very interesting, I suppose, but what earthly difference does it make, so far as the United States and the Republican Party are concerned? Isn’t it possible, for example, that American disregard for European color rules is precisely a sign of our superiority, and our exceptionalism?

A reasonable question. My answer would be this. The mutation in the political meaning assigned to the color Red in America seems to have come about largely by chance and careless inattention. Nobody -- not even the devious, all-knowing, and all-powerful Karl Rove -- sought to induce or manipulate this change. But I believe one can make a very strong and suggestive argument that, in fact, this shift in symbolic meaning, even if entirely unintended, is extraordinarily meaningful, and fits in utterly unexpected ways with the historical situation in which we find ourselves. Hegel spoke of the “cunning of reason” in history, a term that indicated the ways in which the concatenation of seeming coincidences and random irrational events in history ends up furthering the cause of great, consequential, and intelligible change. Just such cunning may in fact be in evidence in this instance.

What I am saying, then, is that there is a sense -- a limited sense, but a real sense -- in which the Republican Party of George W. Bush has indeed “become Red” -- if by “being Red” one means, rather than being the standard bearer for the specific agenda of socialism, instead standing for a grand commitment to the furtherance of certain high ideals and goals, an agenda of progressive reform meant not merely for the sake of the nation, but for the general good of humanity. Such are precisely the sort of larger causes that socialism nearly always has championed. But they can no longer be regarded as the exclusive property of socialism, or more generally of the Left. Bush’s administration may well represent the culmination of a change that has been in the works for a quarter-century or so -- perhaps dating back to the days of Reagan, who loved to quote one of the quintessential Red thinkers, Thomas Paine -- an effort to capture the mantle of progressive change for the benefit of the conservative party. These efforts have not been a notable success in the past, and even the most plausible of them, Newt Gingrich’s notion of a “conservative opportunity society,” foundered on the rocks of its creator’s problematic persona. Yet it may be clear to future historians that events of the past quarter-century have slowly been weaving a possible new guiding narrative for the Republican party.

As a result, it entirely plausible, I think, for Republicans to assert that the conservative party in America today is the party of progress, of human liberation, of national and international purpose. And Democrats who snicker at such an assertion do so at their own risk, for it is even more plausible to state that the liberal party is the party of opposition to change -- the party of entrenched interests, of public bureaucracies and public-employee unions and identity-politics lobbies, the party that opposes tax reform, opposes tort reform, opposes educational reform, opposes Social Security reform, opposes military reform, opposes the revisiting of Supreme Court rulings, opposes the projection of American power overseas, opposes the work of Christian missionaries, opposes public accountability for the work of the scientific research community, opposes anything that offends the sensibilities of the European Union and the United Nations, and so on. Indeed, there are times when it seems they are on the verge of adopting the National Review’s famous slogan, about standing athwart history and yelling “Stop.”

Now some of these things may be worth opposing, and I am not here this evening to endorse or condemn the whole slate of either party. But it seems clear that such a shift of party identities may now be upon us, and that the shift of the color Red to the Republican side may provide an interesting symbolic representation of it.

Turnabout is foul play (Charles Krauthammer, 6/24/05, NY Daily News)
What has happened to the Democrats over the past few decades is best captured by the phrase, coined by Kevin Phillips, "reactionary liberalism." Spent of new ideas, their only remaining idea is to hang on to the status quo at all costs.

This is true across the board. On Social Security, which is facing an impending demographic and fiscal crisis, they have put absolutely nothing on the table. On presidential appointments - first, judges, and now, ambassador to the United Nations - they resort to the classic weapon of Southern obstructionism: the filibuster. And on foreign policy, they have nothing to say on the war on terror, the war in Iraq or the burgeoning Arab Spring (except the refrain: "Guantanamo").

A quarter-century ago, Sen. Daniel Moynihan (D-N.Y.) noted how it was the Republicans who had become a party of ideas, while the Democrats' philosophical foundation was "deeply eroded." But even Moynihan would be surprised by the bankruptcy in the Democrats' current intellectual account.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:51 AM

50-0 FILES:

McCain Would Trounce Hillary in ’08 Match-up, 54%-35% (Zogby.com, June 23, 2005)

Arizona Senator John McCain would overwhelmingly defeat New York Senator and former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton in a theoretical 2008 presidential match-up, a new Zogby America poll reveals. [...]

The survey finds that both senators far outdistance their nearest competition for their parties’ nominations—but in a head-to-head match-up, the Arizona Republican bests the New York Democrat by 19 points, leading her 54% to 35%. McCain would also defeat Massachusetts Senator—and former Democratic presidential candidate—John Kerry by a full 20 points, 55% to 35%.

McCain has majority support in every single geographic region of the country. But more telling may be the fact that, even in the states carried by Kerry in 2004, McCain comes out comfortably on top—leading Clinton by 49 to 38% and Kerry by 50% to 40%. Among the states carried by President Bush, the margin is even wider, giving McCain a 58% to 33% lead over Clinton and 59% to 32% lead over Kerry.

McCain leads with most demographics, though Clinton would best him narrowly among Hispanic voters (45% to 38%) and would win African Americans by 80% to 19%. But that 19% would be the highest vote tally for a Republican with African Americans in decades. McCain leads Clinton with every age group except voters under 30, where the two are in a dead heat.

Which is why the nomination is his for the asking.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:40 AM


Somalia's Welcome Warlord: A desperate town invited a businessman to be its military chief. It is now an oasis of stability in the country, which he'd one day like to lead (Edmund Sanders, June 24, 2005, LA Times)

In the 14 years since the collapse of the government of Maj. Gen. Mohamed Siad Barre, Somalia has fractured into a patchwork of feuding fiefdoms, which, like Jawhar, are ruled by warlords and machine-gun-toting militias.

Mogadishu remains a no-go zone for even the interim president and interim prime minister, who serve in a provisional government formed last year in neighboring Kenya. When Interim Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Gedi briefly visited Mogadishu last month, a grenade attack killed eight people during his speech. In October 1993, 18 U.S. troops were killed in the capital during an aborted mission to capture one of Mogadishu's most notorious warlords. It's little wonder that Somalian government leaders have spent most of their time this year in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital.

But for the people of Jawhar, the deal they made to install a warlord appears to be paying off. Today the town is an oasis of stability in war-torn south-central Somalia, and the region is seen by some as a possible model for rebuilding the collapsed state.

Unlike Mogadishu, where gunfire echoes regularly through abandoned downtown streets and bystanders are killed in the cross-fire of rival militias, residents in Jawhar are again free to stroll at night without fear. Illegal road checkpoints disappeared. The hospital director says he hasn't treated a local gunshot wound in two years, thanks to a ban on civilians carrying weapons.

"One of the most impressive things in Jawhar is the peace and humanitarianism," UNICEF's outgoing Somalia representative, Jasper Morch, recently told a gathering in the village. "It's precious. I hope the rest of the country does what you're doing right now."

The rest of Somalia has taken notice. Some leaders in the interim government are proposing Jawhar as a temporary capital. And Jawhar's new warlord is hoping to prove that even an unelected militia leader can transform into a respected politician.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 AM

SENECA FALLS (via Robert Schwartz):

Prophet of Decline: An interview with Oriana Fallaci. (TUNKU VARADARAJAN, June 23, 2005, Opinion Journal)

Oriana Fallaci faces jail. In her mid-70s, stricken with a cancer that, for the moment, permits only the consumption of liquids--so yes, we drank champagne in the course of a three-hour interview--one of the most renowned journalists of the modern era has been indicted by a judge in her native Italy under provisions of the Italian Penal Code which proscribe the "vilipendio," or "vilification," of "any religion admitted by the state."

In her case, the religion deemed vilified is Islam, and the vilification was perpetrated, apparently, in a book she wrote last year--and which has sold many more than a million copies all over Europe--called "The Force of Reason." Its astringent thesis is that the Old Continent is on the verge of becoming a dominion of Islam, and that the people of the West have surrendered themselves fecklessly to the "sons of Allah." So in a nutshell, Oriana Fallaci faces up to two years' imprisonment for her beliefs--which is one reason why she has chosen to stay put in New York. Let us give thanks for the First Amendment.

It is a shame, in so many ways, that "vilipend," the latinate word that is the pinpoint equivalent in English of the Italian offense in question, is scarcely ever used in the Anglo-American lexicon; for it captures beautifully the pomposity, as well as the anachronistic outlandishness, of the law in question. A "vilification," by contrast, sounds so sordid, so tabloid--hardly fitting for a grande dame. [...]

Ms. Fallaci speaks in a passionate growl: "Europe is no longer Europe, it is 'Eurabia,' a colony of Islam, where the Islamic invasion does not proceed only in a physical sense, but also in a mental and cultural sense. Servility to the invaders has poisoned democracy, with obvious consequences for the freedom of thought, and for the concept itself of liberty." Such words--"invaders," "invasion," "colony," "Eurabia"--are deeply, immensely, Politically Incorrect; and one is tempted to believe that it is her tone, her vocabulary, and not necessarily her substance or basic message, that has attracted the ire of the judge in Bergamo (and has made her so radioactive in the eyes of Europe's cultural elites).

"Civilizations die from suicide, not by murder," the historian Arnold Toynbee wrote, and these words could certainly be Ms. Fallaci's. She is in a black gloom about Europe and its future: "The increased presence of Muslims in Italy, and in Europe, is directly proportional to our loss of freedom." There is about her a touch of Oswald Spengler, the German philosopher and prophet of decline, as well as a flavor of Samuel Huntington and his clash of civilizations. But above all there is pessimism, pure and unashamed. When I ask her what "solution" there might be to prevent the European collapse of which she speaks, Ms. Fallaci flares up like a lit match. "How do you dare to ask me for a solution? It's like asking Seneca for a solution. You remember what he did?" She then says "Phwah, phwah," and gestures at slashing her wrists. "He committed suicide!" Seneca was accused of being involved in a plot to murder the emperor Nero. Without a trial, he was ordered by Nero to kill himself. One senses that Ms. Fallaci sees in Islam the shadow of Nero. "What could Seneca do?" she asks, with a discernible shudder. "He knew it would end that way--with the fall of the Roman Empire. But he could do nothing."

no one minds her criticism of Islam--it's the indictment of Europe that is intolerable.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:20 AM


700 militants agree to play security role in Nablus (Greg Myre, JUNE 24, 2005, The New York Times)

About 700 Palestinian militants in the volatile West Bank city of Nablus have agreed in principle to join the Palestinian security forces as part of a campaign to transform the gunmen into government servants, Palestinians officials said Thursday.

The Palestinian leadership has been working on the program for months, and says more than 500 militants in other West Bank cities have already signed up to work in the security forces or take civilian jobs in government.

The deal in Nablus, a hotbed for militants, marks the most comprehensive agreement so far.

"This will be the test case," Samir Huleilah, chief of staff of the Palestinian cabinet, told Reuters.

Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, initiated the campaign as part of his effort to persuade militants to halt attacks against Israel.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:16 AM


At a glance: what they said: Extracts from their speeches show that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were speaking with a single voice on EU reform (Sam Knight, 6/23/05, Times of London)

On the need for change

Blair: "We have to renew. There is no shame in that. All institutions must do it. And we can. But only if we remarry the European ideals we believe in with the modern world we live in."

Of course, much of the problem in Europe traces back to things like British leaders insisting on the propriety of remarriage.

The Rise & Fall of Anne Boleyn<>/a>: She gambled and lost: a review of The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn: "The Most Happy" by Eric Ives (Brooke Allen

Anne Boleyn, claims her biographer Eric Ives, "was the most influential and important queen consort this country has ever had." This would seem a very strong statement when we consider that Anne spent a mere three years as queen. But it is hard to come up with any real alternatives. The most obvious competitor would be Eleanor of Aquitaine, but of course she was a very powerful woman in her own right, the sole owner of large portions of France; Anne was born a commoner. In recent centuries the most influential queen consort was probably the late Queen Mother, wife of George VI, but her influence, while beneficial, did not change the course of history. Anne, on the other hand, was the catalyst for a series of events that would spiritually and politically detach England from Europe and set the country onto the exceptionalist course it would pursue for the better part of five centuries.

Anne has certainly proved one of history's most consistently controversial figures. During her life many thought of her as the "great concubine." Conservatives and pious Catholics considered her marriage to Henry illegal and herself no better than a whore. After her execution she became, if not exactly a martyr, than at least a figurehead for the nascent Protestant movement, as her predecessor Katherine of Aragon had been for the Catholics. Her good looks, and the dignity with which she faced her gruesome and certainly unjust execution, won admiration even from her enemies. In death she became a potent symbol of what is destroyed when royal greed and lust go unrestrained by a legal and constitutional framework. Henry VIII was Leviathan run amok, Anne his tragic victim. [...]

Henry's push for a papal dispensation was doomed from the beginning, if only he had known it. In 1527 the armies of Charles V had sacked Rome, forcing the Medici pope, Clement VII, to cravenly lock himself up in the Castel Sant'Angelo. From then on Clement was more or less a creature of the emperor, who certainly had no wish to disgrace his aunt by allowing her to be cast aside by the upstart English king. Cardinal Campeggio, the papal legate in England, was under strict instructions to stall for time and produce no results.

Cardinal Wolsey, who in better days had ruled the country and seemed to rule the king (he was widely known as alter rex), found himself for the first time impotent. His power had seemed real enough when he had wielded it; now it was exposed for what it had always been, a gift proffered at the king's whim and as easily taken away. Anne, many said, had hated the cardinal since he had broken up her match with Henry Percy years before. Recognizing the force of his character and his ability to rule Henry, she blocked his access to the king. When he failed to produce the desired dispensation, he was done for. In Ives' opinion "the fall of Wolsey was first and foremost Anne's success," and it is certain that the vacuum left by his absence was filled by her own men: as the French ambassador Jean du Bellay wrote, "The duke of Norfolk is made chief of the council and in his absence the duke of Suffolk, and above everyone Mademoiselle Anne."

Ives says of Henry that "The drive to marry Anne was not only to satisfy emotion and desire; it became a campaign to vindicate his kingship." Henry was, in youth, the last medieval monarch of England; in middle age, he became the national avatar of the new age of divine right, a concept which would not be amended until 1688. His whole career can be seen as an exploration of the meaning and limits of kingship. What does it mean to be a king—how far do the monarch's rights extend? Is he, or is he not, appointed by God? If he is, then why should he be subservient to the Pope? "Henry knew absolutely," writes Ives, "that the law of Christ did give him headship of the Church."

With Anne's active prompting, he set about creating a legal framework for what he "knew." Anne read Willian Tyndale's The Obedience of the Christian Man and How Christian Rulers Ought to Govern and marked passages for Henry's edification: "The king is in the person of God and his law is God's law"; for the Church to rule over the princes of Europe is "a shame above all shames and a notorious thing." Thomas Cranmer, theologian at Jesus College, Cambridge, was pressed into service. He suggested that Europe's faculties of theology should be consulted, and helped fashion their response into an argument in favor of divorce. The aged lawyer Christopher St. German drafted legislation to make Henry, as king, the supreme head of the national Church. Thomas Cromwell, Henry's brilliant new "fixer," stage-managed the events.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:00 AM


Predator Provides Close-Air Support To Embattled Marines In Iraq (1st Lt. Tiffany Payette, Jun 24, 2005, AFPN)

An MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle destroyed an anti-Iraqi forces mortar launch site near Al Qaim on June 18 while assisting Marines under enemy fire.

The air strike occurred during Operation Spear in which U.S. and Iraqi security forces in Iraq's Anbar province called in air strikes on terrorist strong holds.

An Air Force joint terminal attack controller, whose unit on the ground was under mortar attack, saw imagery from a nearby Predator assigned to another mission and requested control of the unmanned aerial vehicle.

After positive identification of the launch site, the Predator received clearance to strike with its Hellfire missile against the target.

The controller was able to see the imagery via a remote video system, which is a new technology being used by troops involved with close-air support missions. The system allows battlefield Airmen to watch live video feeds from various sensors such as the Predator.

This capability provides the controller with better situational awareness of the battle space and the potential to save American and coalition troops' lives, officials said.

"(The system) allows us to see threats that may be around a corner, behind, or maybe even on top, of a building," said Marine Lt. Col. Scott Wedemeyer, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing battle captain.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:56 AM


Foreign investment drops sharply in France and Germany (Lisbeth Kirk, 24.06.2005, EU Observer)

Foreign investment in France and Germany, the two largest economies of the European continent, fell sharply in 2004, according to figures released yesterday (23 June) by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris.

In France, inward investment almost halved last year, falling from $43bn to $24 bn.

In the case of Germany, foreign investors actually withdrew about $39bn from the country, reversing the inflow of $27bn recorded in 2003, the OECD said in the report "Trends and recent developments in foreign direct investment".

On the other side of the Channel, foreign direct inflows into the UK more than tripled, coming up to $78.5bn in 2004, according to the report.

The figures adds further to the overall impression that Tony Blair’s Britain and George W. Bush are getting globalisation right, while Germany's chancellor Schroder and France's president Chirac are not.

The US has regained the role as the world’s principal destination for direct investment, said the report.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:53 AM


Spectre of populism hangs over Europe, Polish minister says (Andrew Rettman, 23.06.2005, EUOBSERVER)

The real threat to the EU is the rising tide of populism in key member states rather than the Franco-British clash between deeper political integration and a free trade Europe, according to Polish foreign minister Adam Rotfeld.

"I would say that the spectre that is hanging over Europe [today] is the spectre of populism", the minister told EUobserver on Wednesday (22 June), comparing the trend to the rise of communism in Europe in the 19th century.

He explained that the growth of anti-establishment feeling in countries such as France, Germany and Poland is the largest destabilising factor in Europe's new security environment, which has moved on from the risk of military aggression.

"The main threats are within us, within the countries and not between us", Mr Rotfeld stated.

The minister warned it would be a mistake to lay the blame on right-wing politicians such as Austria's Jorg Haider or the French National Front chief Jean-Marie Le Pen. The main problem is the behaviour of the political elite.

One assumes George Soros has cornered the Zyklon B concession.

Assimilation Nation (Charles Krauthammer, June 17, 2005, Washington Post)

One of the reasons for the success we've enjoyed in Afghanistan is that our viceroy -- pardon me, ambassador -- there, who saw the country through the founding of a democratic government, was not just a serious thinker and a skilled diplomat but also spoke the language and understood the culture. Why? Because Zalmay Khalilzad is an Afghan-born Afghan American.

It is not every country that can send to obscure faraway places envoys who are themselves children of that culture. Indeed, Americans are the only people who can do that for practically every country.

Being mankind's first-ever universal nation, to use Ben Wattenberg's felicitous phrase for our highly integrated polyglot country, carries enormous advantage. In the shrunken world of the information age, we have significant populations of every ethnicity capable of making instant and deep connections -- economic as well as diplomatic -- with just about every foreign trouble spot, hothouse and economic dynamo on the planet.

That is a priceless and unique asset. It is true that other countries, particularly in Europe, have in the past several decades opened themselves up to immigration. But the real problem is not immigration but assimilation. Anyone can do immigration. But if you don't assimilate the immigrants -- France, for example, has vast, isolated exurban immigrant slums with populations totally alienated from the polity and the general culture -- then immigration becomes not an asset but a liability.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:45 AM


In Pitt study, adult stem cells show potential for therapeutic use (Anita Srikameswaran, June 24, 2005, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Stem cells obtained from adult muscle can multiply as often as stem cells from embryos, indicating that adult-derived cells could be cultivated for treatment purposes.

The findings challenge the notion that embryonic stem cells can be grown in the lab for longer periods than adult stem cells and thus have more therapeutic potential, said lead investigator Johnny Huard, a muscle stem cell expert at Children's Hospital.

"The embryonic stem cell is a very interesting topic of research, but the adult-derived stem cell is not so bad, either," he said. "You can do a lot of things with them."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:40 AM


Russia's population falling fast (Steven Eke, 6/24/05, BBC)

Russia's population decline is accelerating, according to the country's official statistics agency.

According to their calculations, the decline is equivalent to 100 people dying in Russia every hour.

The subject has received international attention, with the UN warning that Russia's population could fall by a third by the middle of the century.

Experts have suggested economic growth and better living standards would reverse the slump.

Russian statisticians say the improving economy is having no impact on the country's historically low birth-rate and declining population.

You'd think the experts would be especially embarrassed to argue that it's all about economics when talking about the failed results of a Marxist experiment.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM

Liberty Quote (6/24/05)

"Liberty consists in the power of doing that which is permitted by the law."
-- Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 B.C.) Roman Statesman, Philosopher and Orator

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Officials Say Drug Raids Found Clubs Were a Front (DEAN E. MURPHY, 6/24/05, NY Times)

Federal authorities said Thursday that they had cracked the biggest case ever involving the use of medical marijuana dispensaries in California as a cover for international drug dealing and money laundering, which they said extended to Canada and countries in Asia.

"This organization had been operating for over four years," Javier F. Peña, the special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration in San Francisco, said at a news conference. "It is now dismantled."

In court documents unsealed here, the federal authorities accused a 33-year-old San Francisco man, Vince Ming Wan, of leading a multimillion-dollar operation in the trafficking of marijuana and Ecstasy that used three medical marijuana clubs in the city as a front.

United States Attorney Kevin V. Ryan said that an arrest warrant had been issued for Mr. Wan on charges of conspiracy to distribute more than 1,000 marijuana plants, but that he remained at large. Twenty other people, all from San Francisco and its suburbs, were charged with a variety of crimes, including conspiracy to grow and traffic in marijuana plants, conspiracy to distribute Ecstasy and conspiracy to engage in money laundering.

Mr. Ryan said the two-year investigation was continuing and could result in more arrests and charges. In addition to Mr. Wan, seven other suspects remained at large on Thursday.

"We're not talking about ill people who may be using marijuana," Mr. Ryan said. "We're talking about a criminal enterprise engaged in the widespread distribution of large amounts - millions of dollars, if you base it on historical evidence - of marijuana and other drugs, and money laundering their proceeds from these activities."

Even Claude Rains couldn't feign shock at this one.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Did humans evolve in fits and starts? (Gaia Vince, 6/17/05, NewScientist.com)

Humans may have evolved during a few rapid bursts of genetic change, according to a new study of the human genome, which challenges the popular theory that evolution is a gradual process.

Researchers studying human chromosome 2 have discovered that the bulk of its DNA changes occurred in a relatively short period of time and, since then, only minor alterations have occurred.

This backs a theory called “punctuated equilibrium” which suggests that evolution actually occurred as a series of jumps with long static periods between them.

Evolutionary stages are marked by changes to the DNA sequences on chromosomes. One of the ways in which chromosomes are altered is through the duplications of sections of the chromosomes. These DNA fragments may be duplicated and inserted back into the chromosome, resulting in two copies of the section.

Evan Eichler, associate professor of genomic sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle, US, and colleagues looked at duplicated DNA sequences on a specific section of chromosome 2, to compare them with ape genomes and Old World monkey genomes. They expected to find that duplications had occurred gradually over the last few million years.

Instead, they found that the big duplications had occurred in a short period of time, relatively speaking, after which only smaller rearrangements occurred.

You can't expect them to just keep tinkering.

June 23, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:36 PM


A handbagging (The Daily Sun, 6/23/05)

ALL Tony Blair lacked as he savaged EU leaders yesterday was a big handbag.

For his attack on them had all the ferocity of Maggie Thatcher’s some 20 years earlier.

Mr. Blair mimics their greatest leader on every issue and the Tories wonder why they can't win?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:28 PM


We Are All French Now? (THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, 6/24/05, NY Times)

Ah, those French. How silly can they be? The European Union wants to consolidate its integration and France, trying to protect its own 35-hour workweek and other welfare benefits, rejects the E.U. constitution. What a bunch of antiglobalist Gaullist Luddites! Yo, Jacques, what world do you think you're livin' in, pal? Get with the program! It's called Anglo-American capitalism, mon ami.

Lordy, it is fun poking fun at France. But wait ...wait ... what is that noise I hear coming from the U.S. Congress? Is that ... is that members of the U.S. Congress - many of them Democrats - threatening to reject Cafta, the Central American Free Trade Agreement?

One assumes the Democrats will demand that Mr. Friedman resign now that he's joined Karl Rove in accussing them of Frenchness.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:22 PM


A last crusade in a career that reshaped American religion (Harry Bruinius, 6/24/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

"Finally, the Big One," blared a headline in 1957, when a dashing young evangelist named Billy Graham was poised to launch his first crusade in the largest and, by reputation, most wicked city in the nation. "Save New York!"

The buzz surrounding this famous itinerant preacher's foray into Manhattan was at times more pulp than truly epic, but that crusade still stands as one of the most momentous events in American religious history. It not only marked the first time a preacher reached a significant audience through television, but it also helped establish him as the leading spiritual figure in the country, a pivotal player in the reemergence of US evangelical Protestantism.

Now, this weekend, as he prepares for his perhaps final crusade, the Rev. Billy Graham returns to "the big one," New York City, at the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens.

The octogenarian evangelist, dealing with several ailments, has proclaimed it almost certain that he will not preach in such a public venue again. If true, this Sunday will mark the end of a career that, spanning six decades, has made Mr. Graham one of the best-respected public figures in the nation's history.

It's a fact not without irony, since Graham came of age when evangelists were seen more as Elmer Gantry figures - traveling hucksters, hypocrites out to make a buck. Evangelical Protestants, too, bruised after decades of battles with Darwinism, liberal Christianity, and academic critiques of the Bible, had mostly withdrawn from public life, retreating into a defensive "fundamentalism" that could only react to culture, not shape it.

Like Ronald Reagan and the Pope, he got to live in a world he helped remake for the better--a rare thing in the human experience.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:17 PM


In Paris, Romancing the Deal (DEBORAH BALDWIN, June 23, 2005, NY Times)

ROBYNN ROCKSTAD-REX had a large house in Seattle. But after her husband died two years ago she ached for a little piece of Paris. "It's the one city," she said, "where I could smile again." She found herself hunched over the computer scouring real estate listings until all hours. "It was an obsession for a while," she said.

A place of one's own in the city of light: it may sound like one of those impossible dreams, brought down to earth by the rude realities of doing business in a country where notoriously slow-moving bureaucracies can give apartment hunting a nightmarish hue. But this quest ended happily.

Working with a firm called Paris Real Estate Finders - one of several such services to have sprung up in recent years - Ms. Rockstad-Rex located a pied-à-terre near Montmartre within two weeks. Taking possession took several months, but Finders held her hand the whole time, and Ms. Rockstad-Rex suggested it was actually kind of fun.

Paris, that fantasy destination for so many expats and luxury goods connoisseurs, has become an unlikely destination for Americans hoping to acquire second homes. The prospective buyers are so plentiful, in fact, that they have spawned a cottage industry of local fixers who specialize in ushering Americans through the 7 percent transfer fee, codified inheritance rules, requisite "notaire" and other bewildering rituals of French real estate.

A strong euro has scared away some buyers, but others have clearly decided that it's a sign to buy in. Though the euro has sagged a bit in recent months, many economists see it bouncing back, indicating that now may be the time to buy.

Some buyers are also motivated by prices below those in New York and a conviction that they can only go up. "Let's say there are worse investments you can make," said Ms. Rockstad-Rex, asserting that her apartment has appreciated 50 percent since she bought it in 2003.

Of course, when the alternative is investing in municipal bonds, who wouldn't prefer a private hideaway stocked with French armoires and raw-milk Camembert?

Douglas C. Gaddis, and his partner, Dr. Gary Begin, found themselves lusting over photographs in real estate agency windows during regular trips to Paris. Last year, armed with listings from Paris Real Estate Finders' electronic database, they zeroed in on a one-bedroom in an 1890's building designed by Charles Plumet, and bought it based on photographs alone, like a mail-order bride.

The couple, who live outside Washington, flew to Paris to renovate, hiring a contractor "who came up the stairs with an air-powered jackhammer," Mr. Gaddis said with awe.

Shipping widowed and gay Blue Staters over isn't going to reverse the depopulation problem. The buildings will be filled with nothing but Algerian squatters in a few years.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:30 PM

...AND LOWER...:

Eurozone's growth 'is grinding to a halt' (Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, 24/06/2005, Daily Telegraph)

The eurozone is sliding towards a Japanese-style "liquidity trap" and may have trouble holding monetary union together unless the EU authorities take prompt action, according to a report yesterday by HSBC.

The bank warned that eurozone GDP growth was likely to "grind to a halt" as exports weaken in the second half. "The dangers of a liquidity trap are rising in the region," it said.

"Germany is perilously close to deflation. We believe it is only a question of time before there are generalised price falls in the country. This will in turn raise more questions about the rules governing EMU and the sustainability of the single currency itself."

The bank said the Netherlands and Italy were also in danger.

Italy was in "dire straits" after a "collapse" in productivity and negative growth for five out of the past nine quarters. "Italy has completely failed to adapt to the rigours of the fixed exchange rate," it said

HSBC forecast 1.1pc eurozone growth in 2005, but warned that the bloc may tip into recession as the global trade cycle turns down.

So when you have fewer people and more goods available cheaper you get falling prices? Who'da thunk it...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:22 PM

HANNIBAL HAD A WALK IN THE PARK (via Robert Schwartz):

A New Alpine Melt Theory (Hilmar Schmundt, 5/23/05, Der Spiegel)

The Alpine glaciers are shrinking, that much we know. But new research suggests that in the time of the Roman Empire, they were smaller than today. And 7,000 years ago they probably weren't around at all. A group of climatologists have come up with a controversial new theory on how the Alps must have looked over the ages.

He may not look like a revolutionary, but Ulrich Joerin, a wiry Swiss scientist in his late twenties, is part of a small group of climatologists who are in the process of radically changing the image of the Swiss mountain world. He and a colleague are standing in front of the Tschierva Glacier in Engadin, Switzerland at 2,200 meters (7,217 feet). "A few thousand years ago, there were no glaciers here at all," he says. "Back then we would have been standing in the middle of a forest." He digs into the ground with his mountain boot until something dark appears: an old tree trunk, covered in ice, polished by water and almost black with humidity. "And here is the proof," says Joerin.

Radical new theory

The tree trunk in the ice is part of a huge climatic puzzle that Joerin is analyzing for his doctoral thesis for the Institute for Geological Science at the University of Bern. And he is coming to an astonishing conclusion. The fact that the Alpine glaciers are melting right now appears to be part of regular cycle in which snow and ice have been coming and going for thousands of years.

"The weather changes" is a radical theory?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:26 PM


VIDEO: "Wild Thing" (Republican National Committee)

The GOP wants you to hear what the Democrats said because it helps Republicans.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:12 PM


Biden says Bolton deal now - or never (Joanne Kenen, June 23, 2005, Reuters)

The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Joseph Biden, said on Thursday the White House had to provide information Democrats seek on U.N. nominee John Bolton by the end of the day or the nomination would be dead.

"If they don't have (the documents) by the end of the day, it's finished," the Delaware Democrat said of the bitter dispute over President Bush's choice to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

When the President appoints Bolton next week he should lay the blame directly at Neil's door.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 5:46 PM


Anglicans 'expel' Canada
(Bob Harvey, National Post, June 23rd, 2005)

The fierce battle within the Anglican Church over homosexual clergy and same-sex marriage has brought the Canadian and American branches of the faith to the brink of banishment by the Church's ruling bodies meeting in England.

The controversy flared up at the Anglican Consultative Council session in Nottingham yesterday, pitting the liberal, pro-homosexual Canadian and American congregations against a hardline coalition of African and Asian wings that bitterly opposes homosexual involvement in Church affairs.

At the root of the dispute is the consecration of openly gay clergyman Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire and the decision by the diocese of New Westminster, B.C., to authorize the blessing of same-sex marriage.

The same-sex confrontation in the Church comes as the Parliament of Canada is locked in an equally bitter showdown over government legislation that would make Canada only the third nation in the world to legalize formal same-sex marriage.

Yesterday the Consultative Council rejected the North American rationale for homosexual participation in Church affairs and voted to banish both Canada and the U.S. from the council and its central finance and standing committees.

What trouble?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:21 PM


Dems say Rove should apologize or resign (JIM ABRAMS, 6/23/05, Associated Press)

Democrats said Thursday that White House adviser Karl Rove should either apologize or resign for accusing liberals of wanting "therapy and understanding" for the Sept. 11 attackers, escalating partisan rancor that threatens to consume Washington.

Rove's comments - and the response from the political opposition - mirrored earlier flaps over Democratic chairman Howard Dean's criticism of Republicans, a House Republican's statement that Democrats demonize Christians and Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin's comparison of the Guantanamo prison to Nazi camps and Soviet gulags.

These poor saps, they just don't grasp politics at all anymore. While Democrats had to move quickly to get out from under saying the Republicans are the party of Christians and that the United States is like Nazi Germany, the GOP would like nothing better than to spend time talking about how pusilanimous the Democrats are.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:24 PM


Are Latinos the next Christian right? (Earl de Berge, 6/22/05, Arizona Republic)

mong Arizona Latinos under 25 years of age the Catholic preference falls to 54 percent while those who call themselves Christians rises to 24 and another 22 percent say they identify with no organized religion.

Another interesting fact is that Latinos in Arizona who have moved away from the Catholic religion also have a significantly greater proclivity to choose the GOP for their party affiliation.

It is perhaps ironic that while Democrats are the most likely to defend the benefits of open borders and lenient immigration policies and Republicans the most likely to oppose both, it is the Republican Party which may benefit most in the end, as the emerging Latino middle class gravitates more toward Christian sects and the GOP.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:15 PM


O'Connor, Not Rehnquist?: And Gonzales to replace O'Connor? (William Kristol, 06/22/2005, Weekly Standard)

Warning: THIS IS SPECULATION. Obviously, I think it's somewhat well-informed speculation, or else I wouldn't be writing this. But it is speculation.

(1) There will be a Supreme Court resignation within the next week. But it will be Justice O'Connor, not Chief Justice Rehnquist. There are several tea-leaf-like suggestions that O'Connor may be stepping down, including the fact that she has apparently arranged to spend much more time in Arizona beginning this fall. There are also recent intimations that Chief Justice Rehnquist may not resign. This would be consistent with Justice O'Connor having confided her plan to step down to the chief a while ago. Rehnquist probably believes that it wouldn't be good for the Court to have two resignations at once, so he would presumably stay on for as long as his health permits, and/or until after Justice O'Connor's replacement is confirmed.

(2) President Bush will appoint Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to replace O'Connor. Bush certainly wants to put Gonzales on the Supreme Court. Presidents usually find a way to do what they want to do.

Except that no one understands better than Mr. Rehnquist that it was under cover of the Scalia pick that he was able to sneak into the Chief's seat. Similarly, a truly conservative new Chief would have an easier time amidst the excitement occassioned by the first Latino justice or first black woman or first Asian or what have you.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:10 PM


Still not loved. Now not envied: Anti-Americanism is becoming entrenched, and getting more personal (The Economist, Jun 23rd 2005)

Pew asked its respondents to give favourability ratings to five nations: America, France, Germany, Japan and China. America came bottom of everyone's list everywhere except in India, where it was top, Poland, where it was in the middle and China, where it came above Japan.

The regnant nation isn't popular among the dying ones? Shocker.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:03 PM


Some Politics May Be Etched in the Genes (BENEDICT CAREY, 6/21/05, NY Times)

Political scientists have long held that people's upbringing and experience determine their political views. A child raised on peace protests and Bush-loathing generally tracks left as an adult, unless derailed by some powerful life experience. One reared on tax protests and a hatred of Kennedys usually lists to the right.

But on the basis of a new study, a team of political scientists is arguing that people's gut-level reaction to issues like the death penalty, taxes and abortion is strongly influenced by genetic inheritance.

Well, political science is certainly as scientific as Darwinism, so they may as well take their shot at Just So stories too. Ponder for a moment the hilarity of the idea that some people might have developed an evolutionary predisposition to favoring the abortion of members of their own species.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:52 PM


A Case for Space (The American Enterprise, December 2004)

In popular culture, earthlings have both conquered Mars and been conquered by it. Even Robert Zubrin has taken up this beloved topic of books and films, with his Mars novel First Landing. But his contribution to America's fascination with the Red Planet goes far beyond that. In 1990, as a senior engineer for the Martin Marietta Company, Zubrin showed how to get there. His plan, a version of which has now been adopted by NASA, is described in detail in his book The Case for Mars. Zubrin is also president of The Mars Society, which promotes the importance of manned trips to Mars and engages in technical work to advance the likelihood of success. Zubrin now runs Pioneer Astronautics, a space exploration and research company in Colorado. He was interviewed for TAE by contributing writer David Isaac.

TAE: Why should we send humans to Mars?

ZUBRIN: First for the science, second for the challenge, and third for the future.

First, for science. Mars is the key to letting us know if life is a general phenomenon in the universe. Mars was once a warm and wet planet. We have found the shores of an ancient ocean, thus it was a place where life could have evolved. The question is: Did it? If we go to Mars and find fossils, we'll have shown that the development of life is a general phenomenon. If we go to Mars and drill down to the ground water, which is where life could persist, we'd find out if it has the same biochemical structure that all Earth life has. We all use the same amino acids, the same method of encoding information with RNA and DNA, and the question is: Is that just how we do it? And you're not going to be able to drill down a kilometer with little robotic rovers. You've got to send people.

Second is the challenge. Societies are like individuals. We grow when we're challenged. We stagnate when we're not. A humans-to-Mars program would be a tremendously productive challenge for our society to embrace.

Third, the future. What will people 500 years from now think about what we're doing today? Will they care who was in power in Iraq? What we did to create civilizations on hundreds of other planets, starting with Mars; what we did to transform the human future and open up vast possibilities that otherwise would not have been there--that's what's going to matter.

TAE: You grew up in the '60s and describe yourself as one of Apollo's children. The Apollo missions influenced you as a child, but you say you then fell away from those interests. What took you away?

ZUBRIN: It stopped. The Nixon administration said it's over. We did it. We're done. Goodbye. Here I was in college. And I said, "What do I want to be? Teaching is a noble profession. I'll be a science teacher." So that's what I was for eight years.

Around 1982, I was teaching in Brooklyn and living in northern Manhattan commuting on the A train, reading novels by Herman Melville about sailing the South Seas and wondering, "What am I doing here?"

I applied to graduate school and chose to go to the one that was furthest from New York, which was the University of Washington in Seattle. I enrolled in the nuclear engineering program because at that time the greatest hope for doing something really important in science was controlled fusion.

But the fusion program in the '80s was on a downward slope. This didn't look very good to me, especially as a kind of an inventor, an alternate-concepts type of guy. When you have a program that's in contraction, no one's interested in alternate concepts. They want to try and figure out how to make the single-name concept stay on track. At the same time, I heard about this group of people called the Mars Underground who were holding meetings over at the University of Colorado in Boulder. It was called Underground because it was totally unsanctioned by the space establishment. I went to one of their meetings in '87. People were presenting papers on propulsion technology, life-support technology, human factors, scientific objectives, terraforming, and so forth. I made some contacts at the conference, including a guy who was doing the man-Mars mission design for Martin Marietta, now part of Lockheed Martin, and got myself hired doing preliminary design of interplanetary missions. [...]

TAE: You are president of the Mars Society. What are its main achievements?

ZUBRIN: One is broad public outreach to spread the vision. Second is interacting with the political class to get them to embrace humans-to-Mars as a goal and also to support the robotic program and defend it against cuts. Third has been publication of technical and non-technical ideas that are relevant to the exploration and settlement of Mars.

Fourth has been the building of our own projects that relate to Mars exploration. There, the most important achievements have been the building of two exploration stations: one in the high Arctic, where there is a crew right now 100 miles from the North Pole; and one in the desert in southern Utah. We have a third station that has been built: the European Mars Arctic Station. It's supposed to go to Iceland. Human-Mars analog exploration is not a new idea. It's been around for decades, the idea that you'd build an Arctic or Antarctic station in preparation to learn how to explore on Mars.

Back in 1989 we worked on a design for an Antarctic station for NASA. But no one could ever get funding because Congress viewed it as the camel's nose in the tent. "Oh, this is just a few million dollars, but if you do this you're starting the humans-to-Mars program and we're not paying for it so get out of here."

We raised over a million dollars privately and we built the Arctic station. The paradrop failed. The construction workers left. That was an epic in itself, but since then the ninth crew is now in the station. We've had about 28 crews in the desert station.

TAE: What are your scientific findings?

ZUBRIN: Some of the stuff is so obvious you can ask, "Did you really have to go to the station to know that?" Maybe not, but it has driven home a number of points that make people look at these missions differently.

Observation No. 1: Three days in the station doing stuff and you realize this is a physical activity. You do not want to go to Mars in zero gravity.

Artificial gravity is a requirement for effective human-Mars exploration. What that means is that NASA's entire space medicine program is misdirected. NASA has been spending billions to look at ways to operate at zero gravity. They instead should be avoiding zero gravity through artificial gravity.

TAE: Why does NASA pursue zero gravity even though they know it weakens astronauts?

ZUBRIN: Zero gravity health researchers control NASA's space medicine program. In World War II, when the bombers started flying so high that you could get hypoxia, there were two schools of thought on how to deal with it. One was to supply oxygen to the crew through oxygen masks. The other was to try to cure people through drugs to make it possible for them to breathe less oxygen. There were all these people who insisted that with the right drugs we could alter human metabolism and make it possible for the pilots to make do with less oxygen and it would be so much simpler than to bring oxygen cans with you. Changing human physiology to use less oxygen is a lot more complicated than putting oxygen in a can and putting a mask on somebody. That seems obvious now. And it became obvious by 1943, but for a while these people were dominating things.

What you have here is people who think they can alter human physiology to not be negatively affected by zero gravity, a condition that we are not adapted to and have not been living in since we left the ocean 400 million years ago--as opposed to just rotating a spacecraft. Which is the more difficult scientific problem: spinning a rigid object or changing human physiology?

TAE: Where does the future of space exploration lie? In the private sector?

ZUBRIN: That depends on a number of factors. I believe the near future, in terms of actually getting people to the moon or Mars, will require government action. The government has the money. So, like Columbus and Lewis and Clark, the first to go to these new worlds will have to be government-sponsored.

I do think that the development of Mars will require increased takeover by the private sector. You just can't create a viable society out of a base composed of government employees. You'll probably have groups of people. The Puritans were largely self-funded. Many of them had to liquidate their entire net worth in order to pay for their transportation across the ocean. But they were able to do it. Similarly with the Mormons, or the Zionist settlement movement that sends Jews to Palestine. You get a group of people who collectively can put together resources that are beyond the reach of individuals.

TAE: What is terraforming?

ZUBRIN: Terraforming means transforming another planet into one that is liveable for life from Earth. You cannot make it another Earth. Mars has a gravity that is one third of Earth's. That's not within our capability to change. Changing the planet's atmosphere to make it breathable and raising the temperature to make it liveable is within our means in principle.

TAE: Should we terraform?

ZUBRIN: Mars was once a warm and wet planet and could be made so once again. If you set up factories on Mars for producing greenhouse gases, you'll start to warm the planet up. There are large parts of Mars where the soil is 60 percent water by weight. It's frozen mud. You'll get liquid water on the surface of Mars. You'll get rain. You'll get rivers. Plants will be able to grow in the open and spread. And if humans are spreading them, and perhaps genetically engineering them, you'll cover the planet with plants and you'll start putting large amounts of oxygen in the atmosphere. And eventually it will be breathable by people and other animals from Earth. You'll have a novel living world because of the low gravity. Animals and plants will evolve in new directions.

There are some people who call themselves environmentalists who think that this is wrong, that Mars should be left in its natural lifeless-desert state. It's simply reflexive anti-humanism and perhaps political correctness gone berserk.

TAE: You say terraforming Mars "can create the technological underpinnings for not only a new branch but a new type of human society."

ZUBRIN: I can elaborate by analogy. Human beings are not native to the Earth. We're native to East Africa. We're tropical animals. We have long, thin arms with no fur on them. No human could survive a single winter night here in Colorado without technology.

But then around 50,000 years ago, people started migrating from Africa to Europe and Asia, right into the teeth of the Ice Age. To survive in the winter you had to engage in ice fishing or big-game hunting, both of which are very complex activities. Humanity transformed itself radically from this East African being to homo technologicus, the creature who can cope with all sorts of novel environments through technological creation. That is the basis on which we became a global species.

We go to places like Mars, which are perhaps comparatively hostile to us in the way that Europe was to early tropical man. But we figure out how to address that. Ultimately it leads to the creation of a human story that is richer and vaster in its possibilities. Human societies on thousands of planets orbiting thousands of stars in this region of the galaxy. Innumerable social forms and vast arrays of technologies that are as yet unconceived. A profusion of artistic creation and literatures. So yes, a new type of human civilization. That's the stakes.

Mars is the critical test that will determine whether we become a spacefaring species or whether we continue to be limited to Earth. That's why humans-to-Mars is the most important thing that our society will do when viewed from the future. It's going to be risky when people go to Mars for the first time. But nothing great in human history has ever been accomplished without courage.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:11 AM


Leading fugitive Saudi militant killed in Iraq (SALAH NASRAWI, 6/23/05, AP)

One of Saudi Arabia's most-wanted suspected terrorists was killed by an airstrike during fighting with U.S. and Iraqi forces in northwest Iraq, the leader of the al-Qaida in Iraq group said in a Web statement posted Thursday.

Abdullah Mohammed Rashid al-Roshoud had been No. 24 on a list of the 26 most-wanted terrorist leaders put out by Saudi Arabia two years ago and was one of only three militants on the list still at large.

The Web posting, the authenticity of which could not be confirmed, said he slipped into Iraq in April.

Al-Roshoud was killed in fighting near the town of Qaim, on the border with Syria, said the statement, signed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the most notorious terror leader in Iraq. U.S. forces have launched a series of offensives near Qaim in past weeks against militants slipping into Iraq.

The Saudi militant "was participating in the battles of Qaim ... when the Crusader forces tried to descend on the area," the site said. Al-Roshoud and a group of mujahedeen fought back "and killed some of the Crusaders until the enemies of God had to withdraw."

"When the Crusaders could not enter the area, the only thing they could do was bombard the mujahedeen with warplanes," it said. "Our sheik (al-Roshoud) got what he wished"-- martyrdom.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:33 AM

IRREDUCIBLE (via Robert Schwartz):

'A Different Universe': You Are More Important Than a Quark (KEAY DAVIDSON, 6/19/05, NY Times)

EVERY child knows how to learn what makes a toy work: bust it open. In that sense, we're all born reductionists, whose philosophy holds that anything can be explained by breaking it into its component parts. By analyzing them, one discovers how the parts act together to produce larger phenomena. If you crack open a windup clock, you can examine its gears to see what makes it tick.

Some people resent reductionism because it sweeps away many mysteries. Behind spooky phenomena, reductionists have shown, are the ordinary ticktocks of nature's machinery, the concealed ropes and pulleys of cosmic-scale Penn and Teller tricks. Indeed, reductionism has reinforced the old philosophical suspicion that there is something vaguely unreal about ''reality'': as the Greek philosopher Democritus said, it's all just atoms and the void. To a hyper-reductionist, the invisibly small microworld is more ''real'' than everything else. Bigger objects -- cats, toasters, people, the sun, galactic superclusters -- are just second-order consequences. The atoms or quarks or leptons (or ''strings,'' if you follow the latest trendy theories) are what count, while you and I are just ephemera.

It's a disillusioning view, but so far it has yielded undeniable benefits. By breaking matter into atoms, subatomic particles and subatomic forces, and by disassembling living organisms into such discrete elements as cells, genes, enzymes and so forth, scientists have learned much about how nature works, and how we can make it do our bidding.

Inevitably, reductionism has been overused. Not everything can be reduced to cosmic nuts and bolts. In the emerging sciences of the 21st century, many researchers are dusting off an old saying: ''The whole is more than the sum of its parts.''

A recent example: many molecular biologists once thought the chemical information stored on DNA coded for the full complexity of living organisms. But a few years ago, the Human Genome Project revealed people have far too few genes (not many more than a roundworm) to account for the kaleidoscopic complexity of the human body. By itself, it appears, DNA cannot explain it any more than you can infer the United States Constitution from the traffic laws of Topeka. Somehow, biologists propose, higher-level ''organizational'' or ''emergent'' principles switch on at larger sizes, such as on the scale of proteins.

Even physicists, wizards of the nonliving realm, are talking about emergent properties. Their change of heart is not easy, though, as Robert B. Laughlin, who received a Nobel Prize in Physics, shows us in his important, brain-tickling new book, ''A Different Universe.'' [...]

Talk of emergence makes many scientists nervous. The word, after all, has been co-opted by all kinds of people who have bowdlerized it, along with once precise terms like ''holistic'' and ''paradigm,'' for trivial purposes. More pertinent, emergence seems to defy common sense, just as the notion of the sphericity of the earth once did. There are no emergent principles in money, for example: 100 million pennies equals $1 million, not an emergent $2 million. To our primate brains, the whole is the sum of its parts. But when I once griped about the counterintuitiveness of quantum physics, a scientist at the University of Illinois replied dryly, ''Common sense is a poor guide to the nature of reality.''

Laughlin's thesis is intriguing, if not completely persuasive. I can't help wondering if hard-core reductionists will eventually explain emergent phenomena in reductionist terms; they've pulled rabbits out of hats before. Still, his thesis reminds us of the great value of something most physicists assume they can live without: philosophy. Behind the seemingly concrete principles, practices and instruments of any laboratory, there are certain philosophical assumptions, often unexamined. In the 19th century physicists were hypnotized by the myth of the cosmic ether, an invisible medium through which light rippled, as waves ripple across a pond. In 1905, Albert Einstein, then a young patent clerk, awakened them. Likewise, Laughlin says, physicists face a philosophical ''crisis'' over emergence, ''a confrontation between reductionist and emergent principles that continues today.'' In the history of science, philosophical crises often precede scientific revolutions.

This year is the 100th anniversary of Einstein's revolution. In Laughlin's view, another physics revolution is coming. He mocks speculations in the 1990's about an imminent end of science: ''We live not at the end of discovery but at the end of Reductionism, a time in which the false ideology of human mastery of all things through microscopics is being swept away by events and reason.'' To invoke a familiar metaphor, physicists have fruitfully spent the last century trying to map every twig, acorn and bird's nest in the trees. Now it's time to step back and see the forest.

I've never understood how people could believe in an infinitely large universe/existence but also in a basic particle. Mustn't each particle we discover be made up of smaller ones ad infinitum?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:11 AM


More memos: Brits backed Sunni-led Iraq (KNUT ROYCE, June 23, 2005, Newsday)

The British government, in sharp disagreement with the United States' ultimate position, believed that post-invasion Iraq should be run by a Sunni-led government and not one controlled by the majority Shias.

One of the so-called Downing Street documents, secret internal British memos stirring controversy on both sides of the Atlantic, drafted March 8, 2002, recommended two possibilities for a post-Saddam Hussein government -- one run by a benevolent "Sunni military strongman," and the second, which it clearly preferred, for a "representative, broadly democratic government ... Sunni-led but within a federal structure."

The election process dictated by the United States resulted in the Shias, who represent 60 percent of the population, assuming a dominant role in the executive and legislative branches, as well as in drafting a new constitution.

As Kanan Makiya points out, the one big mistake we made in Iraq was undertaking the occupation and not handing over sovereignty to Iraqis immediately. Trying to keep the Sunni in control though would have delegitimized the war.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:56 AM


Public Broadcasters' Tightrope Over Funds (LORNE MANLY, 6/23/05, NY Times)

"The Brian Lehrer Show" decided to tackle a topic this week that could hardly be knottier for its radio station, devoting about an hour on Monday to the battle over a possible cut in federal funds for public broadcasters like its own station, WNYC.

About a quarter of the way through the program's coverage, Mr. Lehrer went to a break. On came a promotional spot with Laura Walker, the WNYC president and chief executive, explaining how a bill approved by the House Appropriations Committee could severely cut into the station's annual operating revenue and programming.

When he returned to the show, Mr. Lehrer seemed a bit surprised by the spot that had been broadcast. Chuckling a little, he told listeners, "It's just a coincidence it came up now, actually." Then he turned to the first of two station presidents to discuss how the financing cut could affect their operations - Ms. Walker of WNYC.

That jarring juxtaposition of news programming and self-interested promotion exemplifies the fine line that public broadcasters are walking as they mobilize to combat threats to their financing.

It's an odd notion the public radio folks have that running commercials would make them beholden to the business sector but that they can remain perfectly independent while suckling at the government teat.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:53 AM


Patrick upset, confused by comments from Formula One boss (Seattle Times, 6/23/05)

Patrick upset, confused by comments: Danica Patrick is upset at Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone and confused by his comments likening women to "domestic appliances."

Patrick received a telephone call from Ecclestone last week during which he congratulated the Indy Racing League rookie for her performance at the Indianapolis 500. But he also reiterated remarks he had made during an interview at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Among the comments Ecclestone made in the interview and to Patrick was: "Women should be all dressed in white like all other domestic appliances."

Everyone knows they should be dressed in tweed, like Margaret Thatcher...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:45 AM


British may gain an ally in Merkel (Judy Dempsey, 6/23/05, International Herald Tribune)

he woman viewed as the likely next German chancellor will take Tony Blair's side in Europe's rancorous debate over how to finance the European Union, senior party officials said Wednesday.

Angela Merkel, the leader of the Christian Democrats and the challenger of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder in elections expected this autumn, supports the British prime minister's call for changes to the EU budget, including a rethinking of agricultural subsidies, her aides said.

The farm subsidies are vociferously backed by France, Germany's traditional partner at the heart of Europe. A switch in direction by Berlin would be felt quite painfully in Paris, and could also augur a major realignment of loyalties within the Union.

"It is possible for Britain to accept a change in the rebate on the understanding that subsidies in agriculture be reduced over time," said Friedbert Pflüger, the foreign policy spokesman for the Christian Democrats. "There should be a debate about the budget as a whole."

The French thought the Germans safely at their feet...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:41 AM


Malaysia works to sell Islam on trade benefits (Wayne Arnold, 6/23/05, The New York Times)

Now run by [Mahathir bin Mohamad's] more diplomatic successor, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Malaysia's government is pushing Mahathir's message through the Islamic conference itself by shifting the group's traditionally political focus to the promotion of trade and finance as a means of achieving prosperity for its 57 members. The OIC, as the conference is known, is the world's largest Islamic organization.

In the Malaysian capital, the government is using the 30th meeting of the OIC's Islamic Development Bank to push an agenda that would give the organization a more direct role in economic integration and development.

"It is economic strength which can give the OIC greater clout and secure for itself a more influential voice in international affairs," Abdullah told delegates to a two-day OIC trade forum.

Among Malaysia's proposals are the creation of an $11 billion infrastructure fund, a master plan for developing financial services in the Muslim world and the creation of a pan-Islamic trading bloc. If approved, Malaysia's initiatives could mark an important juncture in the life of the OIC, whose members, ranging from oil-rich Qatar to war-devastated Sierra Leone, have little in common but religious faith.

In some ways, Malaysia appears to want the OIC to make the same transition that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations made a generation ago, shifting from an organization based on shared diplomatic interests into an agent for promoting development through trade and investment.

"The OIC has really been quite a political organization, but more and more the feeling is that the emphasis should be more on economic issues and economic integration," said Nor Mohamed Yakcop, Malaysia's top finance ministry official after Abdullah, and who is also finance minister, in an interview.

Nothing would transform their politics like economic development.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:27 AM


Brown warns EU: 'You must follow Britain's example' (JAMES KIRKUP, 6/23/05, The Scotsman)

GORDON Brown last night delivered Britain's economic ultimatum to other European Union nations: reform or die.

The blunt call for more and faster moves to open up the moribund European economy came even as Tony Blair was trying to restore ties strained by his strident calls to overhaul the entire EU budget.

Economic reform would slow the pace at which they're dying, but unlessthey deal with their secularization problem they're still terminal.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Remember, Remember, The Fifth of November?: David Prior of the Parliamentary Archives explains why we should be thinking about the Gunpowder Plot unseasonably early, this year. (David Prior, July 2005, History Today)

About three years ago I, with colleagues at the Palace of Westminster, realized that we were approaching the 400th anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot, when Guy Fawkes and a band of fellow conspirators tried to blow up the King as he attended the Houses of Parliament. To many English children, Bonfire Night, with its fireworks and Guy atop a blazing bonfire, used to be – and perhaps still is – one of the most exciting nights of the year, but the reason for it all is not always that obvious. Why did we take part in these strange rituals? What did the Plot mean in 1605, what does it mean now? All this seemed an ideal subject for investigation in an exhibition, staged on the very site of the planned atrocity.

The Plot stands on top of a major faultline that runs through British history since the Reformation, and is inevitably caught up in the events of the modern world in which we live. This becomes apparent on even a cursory glance at the state of England at the accession of James I in 1603. The Protestant Queen Elizabeth herself had been excommunicated by the Pope and her government had taken a hard line against Catholic recusants, seeing them as potential traitors; but with the arrival of the new dynasty Catholic hopes were high that James Stuart would usher in an age of religous toleration. It was not long, however, before disappointment with the King’s policies triggered talk of conspiracies, and moved some to consider that the only route to restoring England to the Catholic fold was to assassinate James and his ministers during the State Opening of Parliament, seize the young Princess Elizabeth and Prince Charles and establish a friendly government that would restore the Catholic faith.

Of the conspirators it is the former soldier Guy Fawkes who became the most notorious, and who has had, for four centuries, the kind of name-recognition a modern-day celebrity would die for (although it literally had to be wrung out of him, as he insisted for several days of interrogation that his name was John Johnson). Fawkes was the man caught in the act but the mastermind behind the conspiracy was in fact the disaffected Warwickshire Catholic gentleman Robert Catesby. The dramatic circumstances in which Fawkes was caught red-handed with almost a ton of gunpowder in an undercroft under the House of Lords, and the subsequent deaths of several key figures in a bloody confrontation in Staffordshire, have assisted Fawkes’ transformation into an icon of the Plot. That this is one of the best-known events in English history also owes much to the fact that an Act of Parliament in 1606 enshrined November 5th as a day of thanksgiving. In addition, the murky story of the affair, with a large cast of characters, and the mysterious appearance of an unsigned letter warning Lord Monteagle not to attend the State Opening of Parliament, is one with which conspiracy theorists can have a field day.

During the seventeenth century, November 5th became established as a popular day for sermons as well as bell-ringing and bonfires. Hostility towards Catholicism – a central part of the appeal of the commemorations in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries – gradually became just one thread in a tapestry of general rowdiness and celebration; and it was the figure of Fawkes, rather than the Pope or the Devil, that was placed on top of bonfires. In 1859, in an atmosphere of growing religious toleration, the 1606 Act was abolished. By the 1870s there was increased emphasis on private bonfires and firework parties, and children would collect money in the street to finance them. The rhymes that accompanied these events, though, still left no doubt as to why this was happening: ‘Remember, Remember, the 5th of November/Gunpowder, Treason and Plot’. Bonfire Night private and public events continued through the twentieth century. Now, however, 400 years on, the historic English festival faces competition from the brash American import, Halloween, and the Hindu festival of Diwali, as a late-autumn celebration.

Four centuries on, the Plot remains a difficult subject to tackle, given that religious divides and terrorist violence against the state lie at its heart. Despite this, 2005 will see a range of events examining different aspects of November 1605 in the ‘Gunpowder Trail’, a series of activities staged by a range of institutions in and around London to mark ‘Gunpowder Plot 400’.

Why not launch a war with France on November 5th?

June 22, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:10 PM


Korea bans baseball cabbage pitch (BBC)

South Korea's baseball authorities have banned a star pitcher from wearing frozen cabbage leaves in his cap to keep cool during games.

The Korean Baseball Association met in special session after cabbage leaves twice fell from Park Myung-Hwan's cap live on television.

After two hours, the committee ruled that cabbage was a "foreign substance" and therefore banned from the field.

Players may now only wear cabbage by presenting a doctor's note in advance.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:08 PM


Romney eyes penalties for those lacking insurance (Scott S. Greenberger, June 22, 2005, Boston Globe)

Massachusetts residents who choose not to obtain health insurance would face tax penalties and even the garnishing of their wages under a proposal Governor Mitt Romney unveiled yesterday.

Romney says the ''individual mandate" he is proposing, part of his broader plan to cover the roughly 500,000 people who are uninsured, would not cost the state any money. But some healthcare specialists say the approach might cost hundreds of millions of dollars more than state taxpayers currently provide for government health coverage.

Romney's plan would require all residents in Massachusetts to have some form of health insurance or agree to pay their medical bills out of their own pockets. No other state has such a requirement, and if Romney manages to make it law, it would be a compelling accomplishment he could point to if he runs for president.

Currently, people without health insurance often go to hospitals and receive care they never pay for, because the hospital and the state pick up the tab. Under Romney's proposal, uninsured Massachusetts residents would be asked to enroll in a plan when they seek care.

If they refuse, the state could recoup the medical costs in several ways, Romney said yesterday: The state might cancel the personal tax exemption on their state income taxes, which is worth about $175. It could withhold some or all of their state income tax refund and deposit it in what Romney called a ''personal healthcare spending account." Or, it might take money out of the person's paycheck, as it does now to collect child support.

''No more 'free riding,' if you will, where an individual says: 'I'm not going to pay, even though I can afford it. I'm not going to get insurance, even though I can afford it. I'm instead going to just show up and make the taxpayers pay for me,' " Romney told reporters after a healthcare speech at the John F. Kennedy Library.

If you want care and can afford coverage, then pay for it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:14 PM


Lively politics worries China (HARVEY STOCKWIN, 6/23/05, Japan Times)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:12 PM


Doctors Say They're Spiritual (CBS News, June 22, 2005)

A survey examining religion in medicine found that most U.S. doctors believe in God and an afterlife - a surprising degree of spirituality in a science-based field, researchers say.

In the survey of 1,044 doctors nationwide, 76 percent said they believe in God, 59 percent said they believe in some sort of afterlife, and 55 percent said their religious beliefs influence how they practice medicine.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:04 PM


Kanan Makiya (Open Source, June 22nd, 2005)

Not sure if this interview is available on-line--the website stinks--but it was just hilarious listening to the host and every casller tell Mr. Makiya that he had to be wrong about his own country of Iraq because George Bush can't be right.

Iraq Appeals for Help to Build a Democracy Amid an Insurgency: Interim leaders set out their political and economic development goals at aid conference. (Tyler Marshall, June 23, 2005, LA Times)

Leaders of Iraq's transitional government appealed to a gathering of more than 80 nations and international organizations Wednesday for help to build a democratic state and defeat the virulent insurgency gripping the country.

Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari described battling the insurgency as "a struggle between the forces of good and evil."

"We must stand together against terrorism," Jafari told delegates to the session, which was co-sponsored by the United States and the European Union.

After a day of hearing Iraqi leaders set out their political and economic development goals, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said: "Today, Iraq and the international community have turned a page together. We've promised each other we will be full partners in supporting Iraq."

The War is Over, and We Won (Karl Zinsmeister, July 2005, American Enterprise)
Your editor returned to Iraq in April and May of 2005 for another embedded period of reporting. I could immediately see improvements compared to my earlier extended tours during 2003 and 2004. The Iraqi security forces, for example, are vastly more competent, and in some cases quite inspiring. Baghdad is now choked with traffic. Cell phones have spread like wildfire. And satellite TV dishes sprout from even the most humble mud hovels in the countryside.

Many of the soldiers I spent time with during this spring had also been deployed during the initial invasion back in 2003. Almost universally they talked to me about how much change they could see in the country. They noted progress in the attitudes of the people, in the condition of important infrastructure, in security.

I observed many examples of this myself. Take the two very different Baghdad neighborhoods of Haifa Street and Sadr City. The first is an upper-end commercial district in the heart of downtown. The second is one of Baghdad’s worst slums, on the city’s north edge.

I spent lots of time walking both neighborhoods this spring—something that would not have been possible a year earlier, when both were active war zones, where tanks poured shells into buildings on a regular basis. Today, the primary work of our soldiers in each area is rebuilding sewers, paving roads, getting buildings repaired and secured, supplying schools and hospitals, getting trash picked up, managing traffic, and encouraging honest local governance.

What the establishment media covering Iraq have utterly failed to make clear today is this central reality: With the exception of periodic flare-ups in isolated corners, our struggle in Iraq as warfare is over. Egregious acts of terror will continue—in Iraq as in many other parts of the world. But there is now no chance whatever of the U.S. losing this critical guerilla war.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:58 PM


Recess post unlikely for Bolton (TIMOTHY M. PHELPS, June 22, 2005, Newsday)

At midday yesterday, it seemed that John Bolton's nomination to become United Nations ambassador was doomed in the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist told the Associated Press there was nothing more he could do after the Senate failed to cut off debate on the nomination Monday.

At that point, speculation was intense here that President George W. Bush would flout the Senate by giving Bolton a temporary recess appointment that does not require confirmation.

An hour later, after lunching with Bush, an apparently embarrassed majority leader reversed himself, saying, "The president made it very clear that he expects an up or down vote." He said there was no talk at the lunch of a recess appointment.

The problem, according to diplomats at the State Department and the UN, is that Bolton may not be willing to accept a recess appointment.

The more you learn about Mr. Bolton the more filibuster-worthy he seems.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:55 PM


20%: Gitmo Prisoners Treated Unfairly (RasmussenReports.com, June 22, 2005)

A Rasmussen Reports survey found that 20% of Americans believe prisoners at Guantanamo Bay have been treated unfairly. Seven-out-of-ten adults believe the prisoners are being treated "better than they deserve" (36%) or "about right" (34%).

The survey also found that just 14% agree with people who say that prisoner treatment at Guantanamo Bay is similar to Nazi tactics. Sixty-nine percent disagree with that comparison.

As Brother Murphy points out, I was quite wrong about Howard Dean and the current Democratic leadership just trying to protect their core 40% of the electorate. They've apparently decided to halve that.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:52 PM


Democrats Call for Firing of Broadcast Chairman (STEPHEN LABATON, 6/22/05, NY Times)

Sixteen Democratic senators called on President Bush to remove Kenneth Y. Tomlinson as head of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting because of their concerns that he is injecting partisan politics into public radio and television.

"We urge you to immediately replace Mr. Tomlinson with an executive who takes his or her responsibility to the public television system seriously, not one who so seriously undermines the credibility and mission of public television," wrote the senators.

They included Charles E. Schumer of New York, Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, Jon Corzine and Frank R. Lautenberg of New Jersey, Bill Nelson of Florida, Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer of California.

Also on Tuesday, Democratic lawmakers joined other supporters of public broadcasting, including children and characters from PBS children's programs, to protest House Republicans' proposed cuts in financing for the corporation.

As Brother Turley points out, the picture makes the story. The characters shown are an indicator of just how bad the programming has gotten.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 8:59 AM


The wages of fundamentalism (Peter Watson, International Herald Tribune, June 22nd, 2005)

For decades, "big science" - indeed any kind of science - has been led by the United States. There are warning signs, however, that American science is losing its edge, and may even have peaked. One reason is that as religious and political fundamentalism tighten their grip, they are beginning to sap America's intellectual vitality.[...]

Yet history shows that fundamentalism leads only to stagnation and disaster.

Look back at the four great eras of fundamentalism in world history. Under the influence of the Israelite zealots in the centuries before Christ, ancient Israel dropped behind the surrounding civilizations both politically and materially, and provoked the Romans, who annihilated them, sparking a diaspora which lasted 2,000 years. Christianity in the Roman Empire led to half a millennium of dark ages, ending only with the rediscovery of Aristotle in the 12th century. Ascetic Buddhist fundamentalism in China from the fourth century to the ninth century resulted in 4,600 monasteries being destroyed, before the Song renaissance released the finest flowering of Chinese civilization. And Islamic fundamentalism beginning in Baghdad around 1067 led to a millennium of backwardness, which still afflicts the Islamic world.

By contrast, the very history of modern Europe - the scientific revolution, the Enlightenment, the modernist battles of the 19th century - may be characterized as the victory of rationalism and science over religious dogmatism. Europe is the birthplace of science. It was in the universities of Europe, in the 12th and 13th centuries, that the experiment was conceived and the testing of hypotheses became a rival form of authority to that of the church, creating the accuracy, efficiency and prosperity on which the modern world is founded.

Whatever Europe is, it is emphatically open-minded, especially about science, the most important activity yet invented.

Here in all their pithy, eloquent splendour are the articles of faith of the modern doctinaire rationalist. Never mind the artful sidestepping of twentieth century horrors, so swept up is Mr. Watson in the poetry of his anti-historical fable that he fails to ask himself why Christianity, Judaism and Islam are all thriving while Rome, “the finest flowering of Chinese civilization” and classical European culture are all dead. Still less why America thrives and Europe sputters. Presumably he does this because in the end it doesn’t really matter to him what havoc his beloved rationalism might unleash. The experiment is sweet and must proceed unfettered. If history must be rewritten to show that it was good as well, then rewritten it will be.

At a party the other evening, I met a thoroughly pleasant, British-born chap of mainstream liberal views. At one point the conversation turned to the States, as it always seems to do these days, and he allowed that he was terribly worried about the influence of American fundamentalists, that indigenous American species that strikes terror in the heart of many non-Americans despite their never having met one. Of course, religion generally was perfectly acceptable to him “for those who are into that kind of thing”, but he saw fundamentalism as akin to a black, menacing cloud spreading across the sky on a humid summer afternoon. We jousted guardedly and respectfully and spoke mainly in generalities, but he was completely unable to name one specific thing he feared from the influence of fundamentalism in the States, or anywhere in the West. As I was too polite to suggest he was worried that it might crimp his sex life, the matter was left vague and inconclusive. But, troubled as he may have been by his inability to be concrete, his underlying conviction still held very firm.

Whatever specific legitimate controversies arise about the role of religion in public life, a sweeping, unfocussed condemnation of fundamentalism is often just a cover for modern ideological anti-Americanism. Its irrationality is evidenced by the fact that the same people who express this view will usually then delight in condemning American society as hopelessly materialist and addicted to unrestrained consumption without even pausing to taking a breath. The sentiment is not personal–some of their best friends really are always Americans–and there are plenty of articulate, well-educated Americans only too happy to fuel the prejudice. But the fatuous and dangerous close-mindedness of the Peter Watsons of the world goes pretty much unchallenged in the rest of the West, a fact that leads one to wonder whether much of the burden of saving civilization isn’t currently being carried by revivalist churchgoers in rural Alabama.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:08 AM


No back talk; this could save lives: California legislators propose banning young provisional drivers from using cellphones. (Jeanne Wright, June 22, 2005, LA Times)

When Nicole Arney, 17, was killed last month in a accident as she drove along Highway 36 near Eureka, the teenager had been talking on a cellphone, speeding and not wearing a seat belt, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Traveling 50 to 60 mph in a 20-mph zone, her minivan encountered a sharp curve, flipped over a guardrail and plummeted 300 feet down an embankment. Nicole, of nearby Carlotta, was ejected from the vehicle and died at the scene. The crash was so forceful, the vehicle was "flattened down to about 2 feet," said CHP Sgt. Tom Allen.

Excessive speed, using a cellphone while driving, inattention and her failure to buckle up all likely contributed to the fatal accident, Allen said. Shortly before the crash, the teenager told her friend on the cellphone that her foot was caught on something in the vehicle.

It's tragic accidents such as this that have recently prompted California legislators to propose banning teen provisional drivers from talking on cellphones — including hands-free devices — while on the road. Motor-vehicle crashes are the No. 1 cause of death and serious injury among young people nationwide. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that the number of U.S. motor-vehicle fatalities involving 16- to 20-year olds rose to 7,405 last year, up from 7,353 the previous year.

Legislators in California and a growing number of other states say something has to be done to curtail such tragedies. Proposed solutions include minor citations for young drivers and ticketing their parents.

M.A.D.D. did it backwards--we should raise the driving age to 21. And should ban cell phone use in moving vehicles.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:04 AM


His graduate course in politics: Michael Davidson wants to lead the College Republicans. (Robin Abcarian, June 22, 2005, LA Times)

Michael Davidson, Republican of Berkeley, is standing in the circular, two-story foyer of a Mediterranean dream home in a gated neighborhood in Laguna Niguel, sounding every bit like a headliner at a political fundraiser — which he is.

Davidson, 25, is running for chairman of the College Republican National Committee, a powerful grass-roots organization with thousands of members and a multimillion-dollar budget. He's in the race partly because of a fundraising controversy that has threatened to tarnish the group's reputation. And he has taken on a young man from South Dakota who was, until Davidson declared in February, heir apparent to the chairmanship.

On Saturday, at its biannual convention in Virginia, College Republicans will elect a new leader after months of charges, countercharges, endorsement switches and a blogosphere gone wild.

On this night, however, at the home of GOP activists Wayne and Linda Lindholm, Davidson does not dwell on dirty laundry. He does not mention the infamous "lapel pin letter" that brought the fundraising controversy to the forefront last year. Instead, flanked by four American flags and hand-painted signs, Davidson confidently delivers — seemingly off the cuff — an anecdote-rich speech about his triumphs as a conservative on a liberal campus. In Orange County — where George Bush captured nearly 60% of the vote in 2004 — this theme resonates.

Add to that a dash of Sept. 11 patriotism and Davidson is mining rhetorical gold:

"On Berkeley's campus after 9/11, they told us, 'You can't have red, white and blue ribbons. The American flag is divisive.' So we flipped out to say the least." Dueling press conferences ensued. And then, "The wrath of an angry nation descends upon the chancellor at Berkeley and he blinks." The College Republicans ended up distributing about 5,000 ribbons on the campus.

"Just think what it would have been like if the College Republicans hadn't been there!" says Davidson, who clearly relishes his Daniel-in-the-lion's-den image. Davidson will raise at least $1,000 at this event, but it's barely a dent in the $200,000 he estimates his campaign will cost.

So far, no one has made the leap from College Republican chairman to the Oval Office, but whoever controls the College Republicans — and its 120,000 members on 1,148 campuses — wields clout in real-world races, makes sterling connections and earns a black belt in the art of political combat. Former College Republican bigwigs include party luminaries and operatives such as Karl Rove, Lee Atwater, anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, Ralph Reed and lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Nice dig.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:01 AM


A good Scout returns — for now: Mary Badham, who earned an Oscar nomination for "To Kill a Mockingbird," is back on the screen, 39 years after her last movie. (Susan King, June 22, 2005, LA Times)

Mary Badham gave one of the greatest child performances as the tomboyish 6-year-old Scout in the classic 1962 adaptation of Harper Lee's novel "To Kill a Mockingbird."

It was one of those rare times when character and actor blended seamlessly together. Many film critics say her scenes with Oscar-winner Gregory Peck, who played her widowed father — the principled, honorable attorney Atticus Finch — are among the most tender ever put on screen.

Badham received an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress but lost to another juvenile performer, Patty Duke for "The Miracle Worker." Post-"Mockingbird," the Alabama-born Badham appeared in a 1964 episode of "The Twilight Zone" and two movies in 1966, "This Property Is Condemned" and "Let's Kill Uncle."

Not long after, she willingly retired from the spotlight. She later married, raised two children and had pretty much put the film business behind her — that is until writer/director Cameron Watson managed to coax her out of retirement.

Badham has a cameo in Watson's new family film, "Our Very Own," which premieres today at the Los Angeles Film Festival. The nostalgic drama, which doesn't have a distributor yet, is set in Shelbyville, Tenn., in 1978 and revolves around five star-struck teenagers who set out to meet actress Sondra Locke. Badham's character has a pivotal encounter with Keith Carradine, who plays the troubled father of one of the teenagers (Jason Ritter).

Watson says it was always his dream to entice Badham to come out of retirement. "As a child 'To Kill a Mockingbird' was an important film to me and I always thought ... she gave the greatest childhood performance ever."

One scene in To Kill a Mockingbird has always seemed to sum up America--the one where a rabid dog shows up on the Finch family's street. Scout and Jem run for the housekeeper, Calpurnia, and she summons Atticus, who arrives shortly, Sheriff Heck Tate in tow. The bloodthirsty kids watch eagerly, anticipating that Tate will shoot the dog, but to their bewilderment he asks Atticus to do it. Atticus, who in their eyes is a sort of effete intellectual, turns out to have been the best shot in the county, though he dislikes hunting. Atticus puts the dog down as his children stare at him, mouths agape, a newfound awe and respect evident in their adoring eyes. Humbly, Atticus hands back the gun and heads back to work, an unpleasant duty done.

Posted by Jim Siegel at 7:49 AM


Chronicling Jefferson, Bradbury (GARY SHAPIRO, June 21, 2005, NY Sun)

"He can look at anything and a story idea comes to him," said Sam Weller, speaking Tuesday about 84-year-old science-fiction author Ray Bradbury, whose biography The Bradbury Chronicles: The Life of Ray Bradbury", he has just written. He told the audience at Barnes & Noble in Greenwich Village that the book was not only about a life but also about the "birth of an imagination."

Mr. Bradbury's famous works "The Martian Chronicles" and "Fahrenheit 451" are part of our popular culture, Mr. Weller said. There have been operas and comic books based on Mr. Bradbury's works, and few writers can boast of having a crater on the moon named after one of their works. Mr. Bradbury also wrote scripts for John Huston films and Alfred Hitchcock's television series, and worked on the design of the U.S. pavilion in the World's Fair in 1964. Last November, President Bush presented Mr. Bradbury with the National Medal of Arts, and Mr. Weller accompanied the famed science-fiction author to the White House.

At the talk, Mr. Weller spoke of influences on Mr. Bradbury, including movies ("his visualization is very cinematic") and his Aunt Neva, an artist who was part of a Jazz Age, absinthe drinking set and who helped "usher him into the fantastic." Mr. Weller spoke of Mr. Bradbury's view that neither fear nor too much forethought should interfere with creativity. His mantra is "Jump off the cliff and build your wings on the way down." [...]

The Knickerbocker asked what upcoming works of Ray Bradbury the public might see. Mr. Weller mentioned Mr. Bradbury's sequel to "Dandelion Wine," called "Farewell Summer," would eventually be published. [...]

In his remarks, Mr. Weller also described Mr. Bradbury's relationship with technology. The famed science-fiction author never learned to drive a car. He loves the fax machine and is beginning to enjoy e-mail "but is still opposed to the Internet." Mr. Bradbury did once receive a laptop computer from Arthur C. Clarke, Mr. Weller said, but he gave it away.

After sufficient urging from the Brothers I finally read Bradbury's Dandelion Wine. It was so good I did so with a pen to mark many passages that I would want to go back to again, such as:
“You can depend on me,” said Tom.

“It’s not you I worry about,” said Douglas. “It’s the way God runs the world.”

Tom thought about this for a moment.

“He’s all right, Doug,” said Tom. “He tries.”

And I would add, God needs us to try as well.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:34 AM


Hard words from Schroder against Blair (Honor Mahony, 22.06.2005, EU Observer)

German chancellor Gerhard Schroder has put himself on confrontation course with prime minister Tony Blair following strong comments about his British counterpart on Tuesday (21 June).

While not referring to Mr Blair directly by name, the chancellor said that the EU's "values" were under threat since the collapse of the summit last week.

"There is a special European social model to protect that has developed on the continent," said Mr Schroder.

"Those who want to destroy this model due to national egotism or populist motives do a terrible disservice to the desires and rights of the next generation" the chancellor added.

The words were another reference to accusations levelled at Mr Blair directly after the summit that all London wants out of the EU is a free market zone. [...]

But despite the harsh words emanating from Germany and Luxembourg and supported by France, Mr Blair is holding tough.

In a guest comment for mass-selling German Bild newspaper on Wednesday, the British leader once again outlined why he believes the common agriculture policy is outdated and how more money needs to be spent in other innovative areas.

He also strongly rejected the accusation that he sees Europe just as a free trade zone.

But it is not an entirely lonely front, he has strong support from Sweden, another country that had threatened to veto the talks unless there was some movement on farm subsidies.

Swedish prime minister Goran Persson visited the British leader in London on Tuesday and emerged after the meeting full of praise.

According to Swedish papers, Mr Persson said "He is a world politician, no other European politician can speak to the people in the 25 countries like Blair can".

He also indicated that Stockholm is firmly on London’s side when it comes to the divison between British ideas and the "old ideas" about Europe.

At the point where you're accusing your enemy of playing to popular opinion you've lost.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:23 AM


FINDING MY RELIGION: Music leads pianist to a life of Catholicism (David Ian Miller, June 20, 2005, SF Gate)

Classical pianist Jacqueline Chew rebelled against her Christian upbringing and became an atheist while attending the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in the 1970s. But her love of music eventually led her back to a spiritual life.

Chew was so taken with the work of Olivier Messiaen, a pioneering French composer known for his sacred Catholic music, that after hearing his composition "Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant-Jesus" ("Twenty Contemplations of the Infant Jesus"), she began questioning her belief that God does not exist. The more she learned about the music, the more religious she became. [...]

You told me that hearing Olivier Messiaen's 20-part work inspired you to pursue a spiritual path after becoming an atheist. How did you first hear the music?

Someone at the conservatory where I was studying was playing some of the pieces and asked me to turn pages. I had never heard of Messiaen, or any of his recordings. And there it was -- I was turning pages, and it was just so compelling that I literally couldn't breathe. I knew I had to play it. I think I learned about five pieces, and then I didn't know how to go any further, because, at that time, there wasn't anyone teaching Messiaen in school. That's when I went to [conductor] Kent Nagano. He was doing a survey of Messiaen's pieces with the Berkeley Symphony. Kent said that I should play the whole piece [all 20 parts]. At first, I laughed, because it's over two hours long! And then I went home and I said to myself, "Yeah, I should do that."

Eventually, Nagano invited you to Amsterdam to meet Messiaen and his wife. What was that like?

When I met him, he was already in his late 70s, and his health was beginning to decline. He was well known, but he certainly didn't act like that. He was very quiet and humble, and that made a big impression on me. I really believe that his focus was on his Catholic faith and his beliefs about God. It wasn't about how good he was as a composer or how important he would be in history. It was about what he was doing to give God glory. So I try to think about that when I play his music, too.

What about Messiaen's music moves you?

His music is very extreme. Some of it is very big and fast and just ecstatic, some of it is very slow, and so it covers a lot of ground. Initially, it was the big music that grabbed me. I felt like, "Wow, this is something that can't be contained -- it's too big." And that's what I wanted to be a part of. Then, later on, the slower, contemplative pieces spoke to me. When I played for the Camaldolese monks last Christmas, it was perfect, because they are so used to not moving. They just sat there in silence.

Lots of people listen to music and feel something powerful happen, but not everyone would call that a spiritual experience. What is it about Messiaen's music that you find spiritual?

It's spiritual because it brings me to a place where I can be close to God. Other people might have a different vocabulary for it, but that's the way I feel. His harmonies are very unusual. He imagines certain colors and puts the notes together to match those thoughts. When I hear those harmonies, I feel like I'm in heaven.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:05 AM


Pro Bono: The president and the singer make common cause on Africa. (Fred Barnes, 06/27/2005, Weekly Standard)

THE QUESTION ASKED OF THE president by a British reporter sounded like a setup, aimed at getting Bush to dismiss Bono and reject the U2 singer's pleas for aid to poor, debt-laden countries as mere "rhetoric from rock stars." And, at first, Bush seemed to take the bait. "Part of this world," he said, "we got a lot of big talkers." But Bono, in his view, wasn't one of them. "Bono has come to see me," he said. "I admire him. He is a man of depth and a great heart who cares deeply about the impoverished folks on the continent of Africa. And I admire his leadership on the issue." On top of that, the president took exception to the reporter's condescending reference to rock stars. "I can't remember how you characterized the rock stars," he said, "but I don't characterize them that way, having met the man."

Bush has twice invited Bono to the Oval Office to discuss Africa. The first meeting, in 2002, was joined by several White House aides and Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the Catholic leader in Washington. Bono is a Catholic. The second, in 2003, involved only Bush, Bono, and Condoleezza Rice, Bush's then national security adviser. Bono and Michael Gerson, the president's counselor and speechwriter, have also struck up a friendship. They lunched together in Philadelphia in May, and Gerson and his wife Dawn attended the U2 concert there that evening. Bono dedicated a song to Gerson, who had never been to a rock concert before.

"It was loud," Gerson says.

The Bush-Bono relationship symbolizes the administration's emphasis on aiding sub-Saharan Africa. "It's fair to say the president views this as a major foreign policy focus," a senior Bush aide says.

If Democrats could see through the bile filling their eye sockets they might notice that George Bush is who they thought Bill Clinton was going to be.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:12 AM


White House interviews candidates for Rehnquist post, official says (JAN CRAWFORD GREENBURG, 6/21/05, Chicago Tribune)

Stepping up preparations for the possible retirement of Chief Justice William Rehnquist - perhaps as early as next week - the White House has narrowed its list to a handful of federal appeals court judges and has conducted interviews with leading contenders, a senior administration official said Tuesday.

Senior White House officials and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales have interviewed top candidates and briefed President Bush, but the president has not made a decision, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

White House officials also consider Gonzales to be a possible nominee, according to the official and other sources close to the administration. But the focus has been on the other judges, leaving Gonzales in a separate category because of the president's longstanding familiarity with him, the official said.

Gonzales, 49, would meet fierce opposition from the conservative groups that see him as too moderate to replace the conservative Rehnquist. As a Texas Supreme Court justice, Gonzales voted to strike down some state abortion regulations, and as White House counsel, he opposed taking a hard line against affirmative action.

But Bush has long said he would like to name the first Hispanic to the Supreme Court and likes the idea of the "Gonzales Court," sources close to the White House said. The political calculation for Bush is whether he risks offending his conservative base to make Gonzales chief justice or holds off, gambling that a liberal or more moderate justice - such as John Paul Stevens or Sandra Day O'Connor - would also retire during his presidency.

Supposedly the buzz is that he retires Monday and they've got a nominee ready for Tuesday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Doctors Doubt Darwinism (Drs. Michael A. Glueck & Robert J. Cihak, June 3, 2005, Jewish World Review)

A recent poll by the Louis Finkelstein Institute for Social and Religious Research suggests an answer. The poll finds that 60 percent of doctors reject the mechanistic Darwinian belief that "Humans evolved naturally with no supernatural involvement — no divinity played any role." Only 38 percent of the doctors polled agreed with this statement.

Given their "hands on" experience with individual human beings, doctors appreciate the intricate design implicit in every part of the body. For example, an eye surgeon knows the intricacies of human vision in detail; so vague evolutionary stories about how the eye appeared by a process of random variation and selection do not overawe him.

Darwin himself said, "if it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down."

Notice that Darwin shifts the burden of proof away from his theory.

That is still three times as many believers in Darwinism as in the general population, but then they're more thoroughly indoctrinated.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM

Samuel Johnson's letter to Lord Chesterfield

To The Right Honourable The Earl Of Chesterfield

7th February, 1755.

My Lord,

I have been lately informed, by the proprietor of The World, that two papers, in which my Dictionary is recommended to the public, were written by your lordship. To be so distinguished is an honour which, being very little accustomed to favours from the great, I know not well how to receive, or in what terms to acknowledge.

When, upon some slight encouragement, I first visited your lordship, I was overpowered, like the rest of mankind, by the enchantment of your address, and could not forbear to wish that I might boast myself Le vainqueur du vainqueur de la terre;—that I might obtain that regard for which I saw the world contending; but I found my attendance so little encouraged, that neither pride nor modesty would suffer me to continue it. When I had once addressed your Lordship in public, I had exhausted all the art of pleasing which a retired and uncourtly scholar can possess. I had done all that I could; and no man is well pleased to have his all neglected, be it ever so little.

Seven years, my lord, have now passed, since I waited in your outward rooms, or was repulsed from your door; during which time I have been pushing on my work through difficulties, of which it is useless to complain, and have brought it, at last, to the verge of publication, without one act of assistance, one word of encouragement, or one smile of favour. Such treatment I did not expect, for I never had a patron before.

The shepherd in Virgil grew at last acquainted with Love, and found him a native of the rocks.

Is not a patrons my lord, one who looks with unconcern on a man struggling for life in the water, and, when he has reached ground, encumbers him with help? The notice which you have been pleased to take of my labours, had it been early, had been kind; but it has been delayed till I am indifferent, and cannot enjoy it: till I am solitary, and cannot impart it; till I am known, and do not want it. I hope it is no very cynical asperity not to confess obligations where no benefit has been received, or to be unwilling that the public should consider me as owing that to a patron, which providence has enabled me to do for myself.

Having carried on my work thus far with so little obligation to any favourer of learning, I shall not be disappointed though I should conclude it, if less be possible, with less; for I have been long wakened from that dream of hope, in which I once boasted myself with so much exultation,

My Lord,
Your lordship's most humble,
most obedient servant,

June 21, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:13 PM


The Bell Tolls for Europe: Tide of Reform Needed to Salvage Euro (Desmond Lachman, June 21, 2005, Australian Financial Review)

From its very inception in January 1999, the single European currency made more sense as a political than an economic idea. As a political idea, the euro has brought certain benefits in its wake. Indeed, over the past five years, there can be little doubt that, the euro has helped build European institutions and deepen European political integration. Among those institutions, the European Central bank appears to be the one that functions most cohesively and that enjoys considerable prestige across the union

While the euro might have brought political benefits to the union, it has proved to be far from an ideal currency arrangement for its 12 existing members. This point is underlined by the increasingly divergent economic growth performance amongst its individual members, with all too many of Europe’s member countries now on the cusp of recession.

To many skeptics, Europe’s relatively poor economic performance should come as no surprise. For after all, how could a single monetary policy by the ECB, which a single currency necessarily dictates, be right for countries as economically diverse as Portugal, Greece, and Italy at one end of the spectrum and Germany at the other end?

Robert Mundell, the Nobel laureate, taught us in the 1960s that a successful currency union must satisfy a number of basic conditions. All too sadly, at present these conditions are notable by their absence in the European Monetary Union. These conditions include the requirement that member countries of the union be faced with similar external shocks and that they enjoy labor and product market flexibility that allow them to quickly adapt to differing cyclical conditions. In addition, a union is more likely to thrive if its individual economies are dynamic and if there is a shared identity embedded in common political institutions.

So the only condition it doesn't meet is any of them?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:13 PM


Durbin Apologizes for Nazi, Gulag, Pol Pot Remarks (Sharon Kehnemui Liss, 6/21/05, Fox News)

Sen. Dick Durbin went to the Senate floor late Tuesday to offer his apologies to anyone who may have been offended by his comparison of treatment of detainees at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to Nazis, Soviet gulags and Cambodia's Pol Pot.

"More than most people, a senator lives by his words ... occasionally words fail us, occasionally we will fail words," Durbin, D-Ill., said.

"I am sorry if anything I said caused any offense or pain to those who have such bitter memories of the Holocaust, the greatest moral tragedy of our time. Nothing, nothing should ever be said to demean or diminish that moral tragedy.

"I am also sorry if anything I said cast a negative light on our fine men and women in the military ... I never ever intended any disrespect for them. Some may believe that my remarks crossed the line to them I extend my heartfelt apology," Durbin said, choking on his words.

Always blame the "some", huh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:08 PM


One energy forecast: Oil supplies grow (Ron Scherer, 6/22/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

According to the Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas, the end is near - when the earth's oil reserves start to run dry and scarce petroleum will go to the highest bidder. Seers have written books detailing that time, and websites such as EnergyShortage.com forecast a steady rise in prices - such as Tuesday's oil price of more than $59 a barrel.

Not so fast, maintains a new report issued Tuesday by the widely respected group Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA). Instead of the wells running dry, CERA says petroleum supplies will be expanding faster than demand over the next five years, according to an analysis oil field by oil field. In good news for the SUV set, the new oil will be light, sweet crude - ideal for making gasoline. And since supply will grow, CERA forecasts prices will fall, possibly below $40 a barrel.

"We expect supply to outpace demand growth in the next few years, which would take the pressure off prices around 2007-2008 or thereafter and even lead to a period of price weakness," says Peter Jackson, a coauthor of the report.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:04 PM


Rice's push for Arab reform resonates with activists: A growing number of groups in Egypt are advocating greater freedoms and speedier reform. (Sarah Gauch, 6/22/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

"For 60 years, my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region here in the Middle East - and we achieved neither," Ms. Rice told the crowd at the American University in Cairo. "Now, we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people."

And those are words that may embolden Egypt's increasingly impatient - and vocal - democracy movement.

While the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and the secular Kifaya (or Enough) movement have been the most vocal and public groups demanding democratic reform in Egypt, a number of smaller groups have emerged to join the fray.

It's a sign that the stirrings for democratic reform are reaching beyond a few opposition groups and beginning to mobilize formerly apolitical professionals to demand many of the same reforms that Rice called for: fair elections, freedom of expression, and women's rights.

It seems that every day a new organization emerges. There are Writers for Change, Journalists for Change, and Workers for Change, among others.

An ex-prime minister, Aziz Sedki, even formed a group of former government officials, journalists, and academics earlier this month, denouncing the Egyptian regime's corruption and despotism.

Some analysts thank American pressure for the growth of this civil movement, saying that it was this pressure on the Egyptian government that encouraged these groups to demonstrate, to demand democracy and to refuse another term for Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak. Some also say that American pressure is helping to protect these organizations from Egypt's security forces.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:01 PM


Au Hasard Balthazar (Ron Reed, 06/21/05, Christianity Today)

When the Museum of Modern Art announced "The Hidden God," a major faith and film series featuring titles as diverse as Magnolia, Andrei Roublev and Groundhog Day, the curators said the one film which clearly had to be included was Robert Bresson's masterpiece, Au Hasard Balthazar. The New York Times recently proclaimed, "Forget the Sith, Tom and Katie, the big movie news this summer is the release on DVD of one of the greatest films in history: Au Hasard Balthazar."

Andrew Sarris of the New York Observer writes: "No film I have ever seen has come so close to convulsing my entire being. Bresson's Christian spirituality finds its most earthy, layered and life-giving expression. Grace has never been dramatized more lucidly, or more movingly, than it is here."

Not bad for a donkey movie. This unadorned 95-minute story follows the young colt Balthazar's adoption as a family pet, through the hands of many masters, to the moment of his eventual death. It is a fragmentary portrait of a French village in the mid-sixties, tracing the interwoven lives of eight characters. It's a study of human weakness and cruelty, it's a portrait of Christ the suffering servant, it's the heartbreaking story of a young girl's descent from innocence to despair. But above all, it's a movie about a donkey.

Bresson was a French Catholic who made his greatest and most deeply Christian films in the two decades following World War Two. Afficionados would be hard-pressed to choose his masterpiece—A Man Escaped, Diary of a Country Priest, The Trial of Joan of Arc and Pickpocket all have their advocates—but Au Hasard Balthazar may be his most resonant and profoundly spiritual work. It is certainly his most affecting.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:02 PM


Bush faces hard choices over Bolton: The president could push for a recess appointment if he can't boost Senate support. (Gail Russell Chaddock, 6/22/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

A second failed Senate vote to move the nomination of John Bolton as US ambassador to the United Nations this week leaves President Bush with three options, all costly.

One is to go for another vote. Republicans need 60 votes to end debate on the embattled nominee; by a leadership count, they are short three. Another option is for the president to make a controversial recess appointment, which could come as early as the July 4 break. A third - and the least likely - is to send Congress another nominee.

At the heart of that decision is a calculation that plays in all nomination battles: Is the dispute about the nominee or is it actually a proxy for a fight with the president over policy?

There's a spate of these "tough choice" analyses around, but how can it conceivably hurt the President to ram a recess appointment down the Democrats' throats after they filibustered his nominee?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:42 PM


Gagging Dr. Dean: Why does Howard Dean's own party consider him the most dangerous character in Washington? (Steve Perry, 6/22/05, City Pages)

Two things make Democratic Party powers lose sleep over Dean. The first and less distinct is his taste for the populist rhetorical style. He has a flair for articulating popular anger in popular terms, and he is very good at seeing where to strike. It doesn't matter much that he is sometimes inarticulate or in less than full command of his factual claims for the same reason it hasn't mattered in the far more egregious case of George W. Bush: Rank-and-file Democrats and independents who see Dean tend to like him. The unprecedented war chest he amassed from nickel-and-dime donors before the Iowa Massacre is ample proof of it.

If rank-and-file Democrats like him so much why did they vote against him so relentlessly? Kind of strange to sit inside the far Left bubble and criticize the Beltway bubble.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:22 PM

We can't ignore the Downing Street Memos (Molly Ivins, June 21, 2005, sacramento Bee)

Why not? Everyone else is.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:21 PM


First lady to travel to Africa (The Associated Press, June 21, 2005)

First lady Laura Bush will travel to Africa next month to talk about education, the battle against HIV/AIDS and women's rights, the White House announced Tuesday.

Wolfowitz's World Bank view (David Cook, 6/22/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

Paul Wolfowitz, the new president of the World Bank, is a man of strong views, some of which he is willing to share.

In a breakfast meeting with reporters Tuesday, Mr. Wolfowitz said that "at the top of the list" of things he wants to accomplish is to enable the bank "to do as much as it possibly can to support development in Africa." He returned Sunday afternoon from a six-day visit to Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Rwanda, and South Africa, his first trip as president.,/blockquote>

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:20 PM


Dems raise $22.6M so far, lag behind GOP (The Associated Press, June 21, 2005)

The Democratic National Committee has raised $22.6 million this year through fundraisers, direct mail and online, but still trails the national GOP by a 2-1 margin, Democrats said Tuesday. [...]

The RNC reported it had $32.6 million on hand at the end of May. Democrats had $8.2 million.

Not exactly a snappy slogan for his 2008 presidential bid: "Howard Dean, he's half the man Ken Mehlman is!"

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:08 PM


People power backfires for LA Times (Claire Cozens, June 21, 2005, LA Times)

It was, as the LA Times itself admitted, always a bit of a nutty idea. When the highly respected US newspaper announced last Friday that it was allowing readers to add their thoughts to online editorials, many in the media predicted disaster.

Sure enough, the paper has abandoned the experiment - dubbed "wikitorial" - within days of its launch after readers flooded the site with obscene language and pictures.

The trouble began on Friday, when the LA Times posted an editorial on its website urging a better-defined plan to withdraw troops from Iraq and invited readers to add their thoughts.

Within hours one user had managed to change the headline on several pages to read "F*** USA". Editors scrambled to remove the offensive headline, but lost some readers' comments at the same time.

But the number of "inappropriate" posts soon began to overwhelm the editors' ability to monitor the site and on Sunday they decided to remove the feature.

Yesterday the paper thanked readers who had logged on "in the right spirit" but said the feature would stay offline indefinitely while it looked at what happened and how to fix it.

That's a problem that we've managed -- for the most part -- to avoid here, for which the commenters themselves deserve the credit. We thank you all for trying to maintain a reasonably respectful dialogue, free of profanity and name calling.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:54 PM


Daley says Durbin should apologize for Guantanamo remarks (WQAD, 6/21/05)

CHICAGO Chicago Mayor Richard Daley says Senator Dick Durbin should apologize for comments comparing American interrogators at Guantanamo Bay to Nazis.

Daley says Durbin -- a fellow Democrat -- is a good friend. But he says it's wrong to evoke comparisons to the horrors of the Holocaust or the millions of people killed in Russia under Stalin or in Cambodia under Pol Pot.

And Daley says it's a disgrace to accuse military men and women of such conduct.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:47 PM


The Almighty Dollar is Back: Now there is likely to be a totally different currency model—a world dominated by the dollar in ways not seen since the early 1950s. (Jeffrey E. Garten, 6/27/05, Newsweek International)

Until a few weeks ago, the dollar bull was a rare animal. Most currency watchers thought the dollar was in long-term decline, due to rising U.S. trade and budget deficits. The only question the majority seriously entertained was whether the decline could become a crash, if foreign financiers began to tire of supporting U.S. borrowing, and did so in a stampede.

Yet since January the dollar has risen 12 percent against the euro, and 7 percent against the yen. A growing number of dollar bears are turning bullish, and I'm one of them. This may be the start of something big. For three reasons, we may be seeing a fundamental shift with enormous implications for the United States and the world.

First, for global investors looking for long-term value and security, there is now no real alternative to the dollar. The euro used to be the key option, but after the recent French and Dutch vetoes of the proposed constitution for the European Union, there is talk among financial officials that the agreements that underlie the euro itself may be shaky. Neither the Japanese yen nor the Chinese renminbi is even close to being a major alternative to the dollar. The truth about these Asian giants is that their stock and bond markets are too weak to attract major funds from around the world.

Second, France, Germany and Italy have been stuck for years with anemic growth and double-digit unemployment. They have demonstrated no political will to restructure their economies for global competition, and there is a good chance that the European Central Bank will be strong-armed into lowering interest rates. This could occur at the same time as the U.S. Fed continues to increase American rates. The differential will make America much more attractive to foreign lenders.

Third, Asian governments are unlikely to give up their mercantilist policies, which rely on cheap currencies to stimulate exports. Asians use their enormous savings, denominated in their own currencies, to buy dollars. This drives down the value of the yen and the won, and holds up the greenback. They accumulate billions of dollars, which they then lend to the United States so Americans can buy Asian exports. It's increasingly clear that Asian lenders—particularly central banks that now account for about 70 percent of foreign loans to the United States—don't seem to mind holding U.S. debt as long as the American economy is expanding, which seems likely for the foreseeable future.

Nothing has changed but their perceptions.

Sweden cuts rates as economic growth falters (Rupini Bergström, June 21 2005, Financial Times)

Sweden's central bank on Tuesday cut its key interest rate to a national record low of 1.50 per cent, the first reduction within a major European country in the face of faltering economic growth.

The bank also slashed its 2005 economic growth forecast to 1.9 per cent from a 3.2 per cent and said it expected Swedish consumer prices to rise 0.3 per cent this year instead of the 0.1 per cent rise it had previously predicted.

While the Sveriges Riksbank's decision to cut rates had been well anticipated, many were surprised by the size of the move. Known for its gradualist policy, the Riksbank has only infrequently made 50-basis-point cuts to the cost of borrowing, preferring to move in steps half that size.

Posted by David Cohen at 3:24 PM


Inventor of IC Kilby Dies (Electronic News, 6/21/2005)

Jack St. Clair Kilby, a retired engineer with Texas Instruments who invented the integrated circuit (IC) passed away Monday in Dallas following a brief battle with cancer. He was 81.

Kilby invented the first monolithic IC, which served as the foundation for modern microelectronics and drove the industry into a world of miniaturization and integration that continues today. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2000 for his role in the invention of the IC.

“In my opinion, there are only a handful of people whose works have truly transformed the world and the way we live in it – Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, the Wright Brothers and Jack Kilby,” said TI chairman Tom Engibous in a statement.

But we shouldn't hold that against him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:14 AM


The Right Conversation for America (Fred Hiatt, June 13, 2005, Washington Post)

[T]he Post has published more editorials criticizing Donald Rumsfeld than Abu Musab Zarqawi. That's partly because, to the extent that editorials are meant to educate or explain, there isn't all that much to say about Zarqawi's evil that isn't evident to most Post readers; and to the extent that editorials are meant to influence, there's no point in addressing messages to the beheaders of the world.

But there's more to it. The Post has criticized the administration for failing to give detainees hearings as called for under the Geneva Conventions; for writing memos that toyed with the definition of torture and undermined long-standing Army restraint in questioning prisoners; for prosecuting low-ranking soldiers while giving the brass a pass; for allowing the CIA to hold prisoners beyond the reach of the International Red Cross or any other monitor; and for refusing to empanel a truly independent commission to examine accountability for prison abuse up the chain of command, up to and including the White House.

Rumsfeld does not accept The Post's assessment of these events. But even if he did, as I understand his comment, he would point out that none of these offenses, even if accepted as true, is as heinous as filling a mass grave.

But just invoking such a comparison, even implicitly, amounts to a loss for the United States.

There's no point addressing the beheaders if you're us, but treat them like gentlemen if you're you.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:30 AM


In New York, Billy Graham Will Find an Evangelical Force (MICHAEL LUO, 6/21/05, NY Times)

The change is evident every Sunday at the sprawling campus of the Christian Cultural Center in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn, built in 2000 in the style of a suburban megachurch, with a restaurant, a coffee shop and an outdoor garden with ponds stocked with Japanese koi. More than 10,000 flock there every week to praise God. It is evident at a warehouse in Flushing occupied by Faith Bible Ministry, where six services are held every Sunday, in English and three dialects of Chinese, for more than 700 congregants.

And it is evident in any drive through Harlem and the Bronx, where large charismatic Latino churches, as well as their smaller storefront siblings, spring into view. Among them are La Sinagoga in East Harlem, a historic center of Pentecostalism in the city; John 3:16 in Longwood, the Bronx, a thriving congregation of several hundred; and Fountain of Salvation in Washington Heights, an influential church here as well as in Latin America.

"Even though we live in a city of darkness, within the darkness, there is light as well," said Esther Castro, a longtime member of La Sinagoga.

Mr. Graham, in a recent interview, said pastors in New York had been calling on him to come to the city, assuring him that his audience was eager and growing.

"They just felt after 9/11 there was a search on the part of many people for the purpose and meaning in their lives," he said. "And they felt that a crusade like this could be one thing that could speak to a lot of people. They said their churches are growing, and a thousand new churches have sprung up since I was in New York, especially in various ethnic groups." [...]

[I]t was armed with this portrait of the growing ranks of the faithful that Rev. Robert J. Johannson, of Evangel Church in Long Island City, Queens, and the Rev. Marcos Rivera, of Primitive Christian Church in Manhattan, went last year to Mr. Graham's mountaintop retreat in North Carolina to issue an official invitation.

"We went down and said, 'God is moving in New York,' " said Mr. Johannson. "The church is growing."

But evangelical leaders have been frustrated, he said. Despite what they sense are their growing numbers, evangelicals still can feel invisible in the city, Mr. Johannson said. They see Mr. Graham's visit as a chance to change that.

"He has the ability to give a city an awareness that something is happening," Mr. Johannson said.

The invitation this time contrasts markedly from when Mr. Graham came to New York in 1957 at the behest of a besieged and shrinking cadre of evangelical and main-line denominational leaders, pastors said.

Just think how many folks were certain he was fighting a losing battle in the late '50s...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:11 AM


Brothers 'Get wise, get to church' (DAVE NEWBART, June 21, 2005, Chicago Sun-Times)

In "The Blues Brothers,'' John Belushi's character was so inspired by "preacher'' James Brown he glowed -- radiating in a beam of light -- and then he flip-flopped down the center aisle of the Triple Rock Church.

In real life, on any given Sunday, arm-waving children, dressed in bright purples, blues, yellows and greens, dance enthusiastically at the Pilgrim Baptist Church of South Chicago, where the movie was filmed. Colorful bonnets -- from turquoise to pink to white -- dot the pews.

The music is loud and powerful, and the Rev. Hillard Hudson, holding his hands in the air and wearing a coat laced with crosses, screams, "There is nothing wrong with celebrating for Jesus!'' Parishioners shout back, "Hallelujah!'' and "Praise the Lord!''

It's a scene only slightly less energetic than Brown's over-the-top rendition of "The Old Landmark'' in "The Blues Brothers.'' The scene pays homage to Chicago as the birthplace of gospel.

The 88-year-old Pilgrim Baptist church is still alive and well at 3235 E. 91st, although it has gone through changes since the Blues Brothers went to "get wise'' and "get to church,'' as Cab Calloway, in the role of their orphanage mentor Curtis, urged them to do.

I never understood the Reformation until I listened to the wretched tunes the Catholics have to sit through.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:09 AM


A hint of glasnost for Syria (Sami Moubayed , 6/22/05, Asia Times)

[M]any are starting to draw a parallel between the Ba'ath Party conference of 2005 and the Communist Party conference in the USSR in 1986. Syria must read the details of Mikhail Gorbachev's 1986 conference because they were the cornerstone that created the new Russia that exists today.

Gorbachev attacked the recent past, pointing out that mistakes had been made, but individuals were responsible for them, and not the Communist Party. The Soviet conference called for a more flexible system of economic management, the loosening of outdated bureaucratic laws, encouraging greater openness, less interaction between Soviet citizens and the secret police, and more publicity about the shortcomings of the regime. This was called glasnost. It unwillingly exposed the weakness of the Soviet system and the much-needed reforms in all sectors of life. Censorship eroded, taboos were lifted, banned works were published, and writers were permitted to explore forbidden themes. Through glasnost, Gorbachev attempted to mobilize the intelligentsia to his side, in addition to the Soviet youth, something that Assad has been trying to do since 2000.

The Soviet press became more transparent, and people were allowed to learn of the mistakes of the past. When the reality of failure became so clear to everyone, Gorbachev abolished high school exams in 1988. History books in the USSR had been used to glorify the Communist Party and its role in Russian history. It was pointless to maintain these exams in 1988, since so many of these myths had been challenged or destroyed completely by the openness and transparency of glasnost. Will this take place in Syria? [...]

As the press became more open in the USSR, the Soviets, just like the Syrians today, began to understand why the truth had been kept away from them for so long. The truth is that the USSR was in a mess, and for the first time since 1917, the people were demanding answers to the question: what went wrong, and why? The same mood prevails in Damascus today: Syria is in a mess, and the people want answers.

Recall how Gorbachev ended up...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:56 AM


'Infertility time bomb' warning (Michelle Roberts, 6/21/05, BBC News)

Infertility is set to double in Europe over the next decade, a leading UK fertility expert has warned.

One in seven couples now has trouble conceiving naturally, but Professor Bill Ledger from Sheffield University warned this could rise to one in three.

He told a European fertility conference that women should be offered career breaks so they could have children younger, when they are more fertile.

Obesity and sex infections were also increasing infertility, he said.

The incidence of chlamydia, a sexually transmitted infection which carries a risk of infertility, has doubled over the last decade - and 6% of girls under the age of 19 are currently classed as obese.

A potential rise in male infertility could also affect couples, Professor Ledger said. Both the quality and quantity of sperm appeared to be in decline.

Instead of 1984, schoolkids should be brought up on The Children of Men.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:57 AM


The thoughts of Saddam (Victoria Ward , The Scotsman, June 21st, 2005)

Saddam Hussein would like to be "friends" with George Bush, has no hard feelings towards him and would like to make peace, according to his American guards.

The former dictator told them he had never dealt with Osama bin Laden and claimed that the president of the United States knew he had no weapons of mass destruction. The guards also reported that Saddam is convinced that he is still the president and will return to power in Iraq.[...]

In the article, "Tuesdays with Saddam" by Lisa DePaulo, the guards reveal that the ruthless dictator is a "clean freak", who obsessively washes his hands, carefully wiping his plate and utensils with baby wipes before eating.

"He had germophobia, or whatever you call it," said Specialist Jesse Dawson, 25.

"He'd always tell us he was still the president. That's what he thinks, 100 per cent," said Mr Dawson.

In one remarkable exchange, the dictator even gave Mr O'Shea advice on how to handle women, telling him to find one who could cook and clean and who was "not too smart, not too dumb, not too old, not too young. In the middle."

He loved Doritos crisps and Raisin Bran Crunch cereal, but would not touch Kelloggs' Fruit Loops.

Every drink, whether milk, water or orange juice, had to be room temperature, and he would eat salad only if it came with an Italian dressing, they said. The guards were given strict orders to treat their captive with respect, but to be firm if necessary and not reveal anything about their private lives.

All five have now returned to the US. They were interviewed with permission from their Guard, having signed exit papers prohibiting them from revealing certain information.

"This is the opposite of Abu Ghraib," said Andy Ward, GQ's executive editor. "These young men showed Hussein a respect and courtesy that made possible an unusual bond between captors and captive.

"And because of this, they were able to see a very different side of one of the most controversial figures in modern history."

Ah yes, a multi-dimensional and “controversial” figure, whose affability and commitments to hygiene and sound nutrition are all-too-human counterpoints to his regrettable excesses. One hopes his judges will appreciate the existential complexity of his life and be sufficiently nuanced to grasp that none of us is truly innocent.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:53 AM


Cheer Up, Conservatives!: You're still winning. (JOHN MICKLETHWAIT AND ADRIAN WOOLDRIDGE, June 21, 2005, Opinion Journal)

[I]t is time for conservatives to cheer up. Fixate on a snapshot of recent events and pessimism makes sense. Stand back and look at the grand sweep of things and the darkness soon lifts. There are two questions that really matter in assessing the current state of conservatism: What direction is America moving in? And how does the United States compare with the rest of the world? The answer to both questions should encourage the right.

The Republicans have by far the most powerful political machine in the country. Last November, the Democrats threw everything they had at George Bush, from the pent-up fury of a "stolen election" to the millions of George Soros. Liberals outspent and out-ranted conservatives, and pushed up Democratic turnout by 12%. But the Republicans increased their turnout by a fifth.

Crucially, George Bush won as a conservative: He did not "triangulate" or hide behind a fuzzy "Morning in America" message. Against the background of an unpopular war and an arguably dodgy economy, he positioned himself to the right, betting that conservative America was bigger than liberal America. And it was: The exit polls showed both Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry won 85% of their base, but self-described "conservatives" accounted for nearly a third of the electorate while liberals were only a fifth. Mr. Bush could afford to lose "moderates" to Mr. Kerry by nine points--and still end up with 51% of the vote, more than any Democrat has got since 1964. [...]

The essential conservatism of Mr. Bush's approach is all the clearer if you compare it with the big-government liberalism of the 1960s--or with the big-government reality of European countries that American liberals are so keen to emulate. Mr. Bush is not using government to redistribute wealth (unless you own an oil company), to reward sloth or to coddle the poor. And government in America remains a shriveled thing by European standards. Some 40 years after the Great Society, America still has no national health service; it asks students to pay as much as $40,000 a year for a university education; it gives mothers only a few weeks of maternity leave.

What about values? Back in the 1960s, it was axiomatic amongst the elite that religion was doomed. In "The Secular City" (1965), Harvey Cox argued that Christianity had to come to terms with a secular culture. Now religion of the most basic sort is back with a vengeance. The president, his secretary of state, the House speaker and Senate majority leader are all evangelical Christians. Ted Haggard, the head of the 30-million strong National Association of Evangelicals, jokes that the only disagreement between himself and the leader of the Western world is automotive: Mr. Bush drives a Ford pickup, whereas he prefers a Chevy.

Rather than dying a slow death, evangelical Protestantism and hard-core Catholicism are bursting out all over the place. Who would have predicted, back in the 1960s, the success of "The Passion of the Christ," the "Left Behind" series or "The Purpose Driven Life"? To be sure, liberals still control universities, but, thanks to its rive droite of think tanks in Washington and many state capitals, the right has a firm control of the political-ideas business.

Indeed, the left has reached the same level of fury that the right reached in the 1960s--but with none of the intellectual inventiveness. [...]

The biggest advantage of all for conservatives is that they have a lock on the American dream. America is famously an idea more than a geographical expression, and that idea seems to be the province of the right. A recent Pew Research Center Survey, "Beyond Red Versus Blue," shows that the Republicans are more optimistic, convinced that the future will be better than the past and that they can determine their own futures. Democrats, on the other hand, have a European belief that "fate," or, in modern parlance, social circumstances, determines people's lot in life.

We're not the Stupid Party for nothing.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:41 AM


Thousands celebrate solstice at Stonehenge
(The Guardian, June 21st, 2005)

An estimated 21,000 people today gathered at Stonehenge to watch the sun rise above the ancient monument on the longest day of the year.[...]

Before dawn, King Arthur Pendragon, 51, the head battle chieftain of the British Council of Druids, led a troop of warriors - all anthropology students from the University of East London - in a dance honouring mother nature, whose effigy was held aloft and illuminated by fiery torches.

King Arthur said the summer solstice signified the mythical oak king, who rules the first half of the year, being beaten in battle by the holly king, the ruler of the second half of the year.

And you thought the Resurrection was a mind blower.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Nature must not be worshipped (Dennis Prager, June 21, 2005, Townhall)

It is almost impossible to overstate how radically different Old Testament thought was from the thought of the rest of its contemporary world. And it continues to be, given how few societies affirm Judeo-Christian values and how much opposition to them exists in American society, the society that has most incorporated these values.

Among the most radical of these differences was the incredible declaration that God is outside of nature and is its creator.

In every society on earth, people venerated nature and worshipped nature gods. There were gods of thunder and gods of rain. Mountains were worshipped, as were rivers, animals and every natural force known to man. In ancient Egypt, for example, gods included the Nile River, the frog, sun, wind, gazelle, bull, cow, serpent, moon and crocodile.

Then came Genesis, which announced that a supernatural God, i.e., a god who existed outside of nature, created nature. Nothing about nature was divine.

Professor Nahum Sarna, the author of what I consider one of the two most important commentaries on Genesis and Exodus, puts it this way: "The revolutionary Israelite concept of God entails His being wholly separate from the world of His creation and wholly other than what the human mind can conceive or the human imagination depict."

The other magisterial commentary on Genesis was written by the late Italian Jewish scholar Umberto Cassuto, professor of Bible at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem: "Relative to the ideas prevailing among the peoples of the ancient East, we are confronted here with a basically new conception and a spiritual revolution . . . The basically new conception consists in the completely transcendental view of the Godhead . . . the God of Israel is outside and above nature, and the whole of nature, the sun, and the moon, and all the hosts of heaven, and the earth beneath, and the sea that is under the earth, and all that is in them -- they are all His creatures which He created according to His will."

This was extremely difficult for men to assimilate then. And as society drifts from Judeo-Christian values, it is becoming difficult to assimilate again today. [...]

It is quite understandable that people who rely on feelings more than reason to form their spiritual beliefs would deify nature. It is easier -- indeed more natural -- to worship natural beauty than an invisible and morally demanding God.

What is puzzling is that many people who claim to rely more on reason would do so. Nature is unworthy of worship. Nature, after all, is always amoral and usually cruel. Nature has no moral laws, only the amoral law of survival of the fittest.

Why would people who value compassion, kindness or justice venerate nature?[...]

If you care about good and evil, you cannot worship nature. And since that is what God most cares about, nature worship is antithetical to Judeo-Christian values.

There's the rub: they value only themselves so morality is inconvenient.

June 20, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:34 PM


Study: State immigrant count booming (JENNIFER FENN, 6/20/05, Lowell Sun)

If not for the tens of thousands of immigrants who have settled in Massachusetts over the past 15 years, the state's labor force would have shrunk up to 100,000 people and wreaked havoc on the economy, a new study reports.

The immigrant population in Massachusetts rose by 35 percent from 1990 to 2000, according to Census data analyzed by the Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth. [...]

“People should be aware that we're in the midst of a major immigration boom in the state, and .... were it not for immigrants, our state's labor force would be shrinking quickly,” said Ian Bowles, president and CEO of MassINC, a public-policy think tank. “From an economic standpoint, statewide, we need this community.”

The data in the report come primarily from the 2000 Census of Population and Housing. While it includes both legal and undocumented immigrants, advocates argue immigrants are drastically undercounted in the government survey and play an even more significant role in keeping the state's economy moving.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:12 PM


Blair plans deal to scupper Chirac: Britain assumes the EU presidency next month; the French are already saying it should not be used divisively (Anthony Browne and Philip Webster, 6/21/05, Times of London)

BRITAIN is trying to turn the tables on President Chirac by drawing up plans to trade in its rebate from Brussels in return for guaranteed cuts in farm subsidies.

Tony Blair, who takes over the EU presidency in ten days, is confident that he can win enough allies to force the French President, his main adversary at last week’s Brussels summit, to accept fundamental reforms of Europe’s farming budget. [...]

Under the British plan the Government would agree to scale back its £3 billion-a-year rebate in return for a fundamental review of EU spending in 2008, leading two years later to substantial cuts in the annual €50 billion (£34 billion) Common Agricultural Policy.

The European Commission would be mandated by Britain to draw up reform proposals that would take effect before the end of the next seven-year budget in 2013.

The Government believes that José Manuel Barroso, the Commission president, and other key commissioners are generally supportive of the British campaign to refocus EU spending from agriculture to modern competitive industries and research and development.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:41 PM


Wood 'should pay for rescue' (Matthew Franklin, June 21, 2005, news.com.au)

THE Federal Opposition last night called on freed Australian hostage Douglas Wood to consider repaying taxpayers for his rescue mission from proceeds of the sale of his story to a television network.

No word on whether they think Elie Wiesel should cough up his profits...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:45 PM


Republican: Democrats Demonize Christians (ANDREW TAYLOR, 6/20/05, Associated Press)

A Republican congressman accused Democrats on Monday of "denigrating and demonizing Christians" by concluding there was religious intolerance at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

During debate on a proposal by Democrats that would put Congress on record against "coercive and abusive religious proselytizing" at the academy, Rep. John Hostettler, R-Ind., criticized Reps. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., and David Obey, D-Wis.

"Like a moth to a flame, Democrats can't help themselves when it comes to denigrating and demonizing Christians," Hostettler said.

Democrats leapt to their feet and demanded Hostettler be censured for his remarks. After a half-hour's worth of wrangling, Hostettler retracted his comments.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:10 PM


Geldof Defends Bush on Africa (Victoria Ward, PA, 6/20/05, The Scotsman)

Live 8 organiser Bob Geldof claims George Bush has done more for Africa than any other US president.

He said he had recently defended Bush on the issue in France.

“They refuse to accept, because of their political ideology, that he has actually done more than any American president for Africa,” Geldof told Time magazine.

“But it’s empirically so.”

Geldof and U2 singer Bono have teamed up to recreate the 1985 Live Aid event in a string of free concerts taking place around the world on July 2. [...]

The pair are aiming to appeal to the G8 leaders’ sense of legacy to include debt forgiveness, fair trade and increased aid in their Africa policies.

“The most important and toughest nut is still President Bush,” Bono told the magazine.

“He feels he’s already doubled and tripled aid to Africa, which he has. But he started from far too low a place.

“It’s hard for him because of the expense of the war and the debts. But I have a hunch that he will step forward with something. And it’ll take somebody like him.”

Well, they won't be asked to play Hillary's Inaugural....

Posted by Peter Burnet at 5:56 PM


Have no fear, Big O is here
(Associated Press, June 20th, 2005)

New research indicates that parts of the brain governing fear and anxiety are switched off when a woman is having an orgasm but remain active if she is faking.

In the first study to map brain function during orgasm, scientists from the Netherlands also found that as a woman climaxes, an area of the brain governing emotional control is largely deactivated.

“The fact that there is no deactivation in faked orgasms means a basic part of a real orgasm is letting go. Women can imitate orgasm quite well, as we know, but there is nothing really happening in the brain,” neuroscientist Dr. Gert Holstege said, presenting his findings Monday to the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology.

In the study, Dr. Holstege and his colleagues at Groningen University recruited 11 men, 13 women and their partners.

The volunteers were injected with a dye that shows changes in brain function on a scan. For men, the scanner tracked activity at rest, during erection, during manual stimulation by their partner and during ejaculation brought on by the partner's hand.

For women, the scanner measured brain activity at rest, while they faked an orgasm, while their partners stimulated their clitoris and while they experienced orgasm.

You have to assume that if conservatives ever manage to rein in the pornmeisters, they’ll just all go underground in university science faculties.

Posted by David Cohen at 4:49 PM


Photo in the News: Ultra-Lifelike Robot Debuts in Japan (Ted Chamberlain, NationalGeographic.com, 06/20/05)

Picture: Lifelike robot in Japan

Repliee Q1 (at left in both pictures) appeared yesterday at the 2005 World Expo in Japan, where she gestured, blinked, spoke, and even appeared to breathe. Shown with co-creator Hiroshi Ishiguru of Osaka University, the android is partially covered in skinlike silicone. Q1 is powered by a nearby air compressor, and has 31 points of articulation in its upper body. . . .

Surrounded by machines that draw portraits, swat fast-moving balls, and snake through debris, Q1 is only one of the showstoppers at the expo's Prototype Robot Exposition, which aims to showcase Japan's growing role in the robotics industry.

Like many modern revolutionaries, she's kind of a hottie.

MORE: New Robot Reproduces on Its Own (James Owen, NationalGeographic.com, 5/11/05)

Scientists have created a robot that can replicate itself in minutes. The team behind the machine says the experiment shows that self- reproduction is not unique to living organisms.
When the last Japanese die, will we even notice?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:14 PM


Alberta is about to get wildly rich and powerful: What does that mean for Canada? (STEVE MAICH, June 13, 2005, MacLeans)

At Suncor Energy's Millennium oil sands project, just north of Fort McMurray, Alta., the unmistakable odour of black gold drifts up from the ground and hangs thick in the air. Everywhere around you, water pooled in footprints, tire ruts and potholes carries the telltale rainbow sheen of oil. "The smell of economic progress," jokes Brad Bellows, a spokesman for Suncor, playing host on a damp spring afternoon. But it's much more than that. It's the smell of raw power -- the kind that comes from having plenty of what the rest of the world can't live without. It's the smell of a resource locked in the ground for millions of years and which now has the potential to shape the future of a nation, for better or for worse.

Suncor's extraction plant on the bank of the Athabasca River looks like a science fiction movie set -- hundreds of kilometres of steel pipe twisted into incomprehensible knots around hulking industrial buildings, storage tanks and smokestacks. The whole scene is bathed in a constant haze of steam and exhaust. Two other such plants are now operating within an hour's drive of here, and several more are scheduled to commence operations over the next few years, all to exploit what may be the biggest petroleum deposit anywhere in the world, a sea of oil-saturated soil covering an area the size of New Brunswick.

Already, one million barrels of petroleum a day are being spun out of the sand and pumped south, and that number is projected to triple within the next decade. During that time, the oil sands will generate about 100,000 new jobs and billions of dollars in royalties and taxes to various levels of government, not to mention billions more in dividends to investors. But the significance of the oil sands beyond Canada's borders may be even greater.

Energy has become a central obsession of international politics in recent years, as exploding economic growth in Asia and America's ongoing love affair with gas-guzzling vehicles have accelerated the drain on world petroleum reserves. Terrorism, trade, the war in Iraq, nuclear diplomacy -- all of it, on some level, is related to the international preoccupation with energy, and access to affordable oil. So if Canada is to play a more significant global role in the years ahead, experts agree it will be due to the reeking, doughy black soil in northern Alberta, and the rest of the world's keen desire to share it. "The oil sands give Canada one of the single greatest advantages of any state in the Western world," says Paul Chastko, a University of Calgary historian who recently published a book called Developing Alberta's Oil Sands. "It gives Canada the ability to supply all of North America for the next 50 years without touching a drop of imported oil." It is, in short, an economic engine and political lever that any nation would desperately love to have.

Such strategic reserves are too important to be entrusted to an unreliable state like Canada.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:07 PM


Send Bolton to U.N. now - Bush (Reuters, 6/20/05)
President Bush demanded on Monday an immediate up-or-down Senate vote on John Bolton's nomination as U.N. ambassador, and top aides would not rule out Bush bypassing the Senate by issuing a "recess appointment" giving Bolton the post for 18 months.

"It's time for the Senate to give an up-or-down vote now," Bush said at a news conference with European Union leaders. "Well, put him in. If they're interested in reforming the United Nations, they ought to approve John Bolton."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice hinted on Sunday that Bush could install Bolton to the U.N. post by appointing him during a congressional recess, which would allow him to serve through January 2007 without confirmation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:59 PM


Biden to Seek Presidential Nomination: Senator Says He Plans to Run in 2008 Unless He Has Little Chance of Winning (Dan Balz, June 20, 2005, Washington Post)

Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) said yesterday he plans to seek the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008 unless he decides later this year that he has little chance of winning.

"My intention is to seek the nomination," Biden said on CBS's "Face the Nation." "I know I'm supposed to be more coy with you. I know I'm supposed to tell you, you know, that I'm not sure. But if, in fact, I think that I have a clear shot at winning the nomination by this November or December, then I'm going to seek the nomination."

Biden said he plans to spend the year road-testing a message to see whether his views are compatible with a majority of Democrats while evaluating whether he can raise the money needed to compete in a race that is widely expected to include Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), a prodigious fundraiser.

"I've proceeded since last November as if I were going to run," he said. "I'm quite frankly going out, seeing whether I can gather the kind of support."

Which would explain the string of innovative policy speeches he's been giving on SS reform, health care, taxes, etc. and the legislation he's passed this year.

From the same story comes this bit on John McCain virtually declaring his candidacy as well:

[Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)] will turn 72 in 2008 and would be the oldest person ever elected if he became president that year. He also has been treated for melanoma, a skin cancer, but he indicated that he does not believe either issue presents a serious obstacle to running at this point.

"My health is excellent," he said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "You have had the pleasure of meeting my 93-year-old mother. So my genes, I think, are pretty good. But that would obviously be a factor in this decision-making process. There's no doubt about that."

McCain also sought to counter impressions that he has parted company frequently with Bush on key issues. "I strongly disagree with any assertion that I've been more at odds with the president of the United States than I have been in agreement with him."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:52 PM


Energy: Ignoring the Obvious Fix: Industry lobbying against higher fuel economy standards is fierce. Yet that remains the best way to cut U.S. dependence on foreign oil (Thane Peterson, 6/20/05, Business Week)

The Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) program -- requiring manufacturers to steadily increase the average fuel economy of new cars and trucks they sold -- was first introduced during the mid-1970s energy crisis. "An energy crisis is going to slap us in the face again if we don't do something," predicts John Heywood, director of MIT's Sloan Automotive Laboratory and Center of 21st Century Energy.

Granted, CAFE standards haven't worked as well as they might have. But that's largely because special interest groups succeeded in twisting the rules. For instance, foreign and domestically produced vehicles were treated differently to avoid excessive job losses. The standards were looser for trucks than cars, helping foster the boom in gas-guzzling SUVs. And regulators' ability to update tests and standards was severely limited, which is one reason official mileage estimates are up to 25% higher than what vehicles achieve in real use.

Worse, lawmakers didn't keep the pressure on. Federal mileage standards -- 20.7 mpg for light trucks and 27.5 mpg for cars last year -- are little changed since 1985 (though the light-truck standard is slated to rise to 22.2 mpg by 2008). As a result, the average mileage of U.S. passenger vehicles peaked in 1988 and has fallen slightly since. And because gasoline prices remained low until recently, some of the potential energy savings were eaten up because drivers simply drove more as vehicles got more efficient.

A broad consensus is developing in Washington that the nation must move faster. Indeed, prominent security hawks and neoconservatives such as former National Security Council Director Robert McFarland, former Assistant Secretary of Defense Frank Gaffney, and ex-CIA director R. James Woolsey have joined together with conservative Christian leader Gary Bauer and the environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to form a new coalition called Set America Free (www.setamericafree.org) to lobby for greater national energy independence.

SIMPLE SYSTEM. Unfortunately, the group plans to remain neutral on revising federal mileage standards. "It's a political hot potato. We need to get beyond the CAFE debate," says Anne Korin, Set America Free's co-chairperson. Instead the coalition is backing incentives to promote alternative, hybrid, and flexible-fuel vehicles that would be powered by everything from ethanol and methanol to biomass and electricity. The version of the energy bill passed by the House includes some similar provisions, such as consumer tax credits of up to $4,000 to promote sales of alternative-energy vehicles.

Raising federal mileage standards would be a far more effective -- and free-market-oriented -- approach. Conservative critics may deride CAFE standards as command-and-control big government. But the truth is that as long as the same mileage standard applies to every company, competition will flourish, and executives will have enormous latitude in deciding how to meet the goal. By contrast, using tax credits to favor certain alternative fuels smacks of the government trying to pick winners and losers among the technologies available.

It's ideal--just set a high standard but leave it up to the market how they meet it and start surcharging owners of older cars that stay on the road that don't meet it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:44 PM


Stalin's Blindness: He deceived himself about Hitler, and it cost millions of Russian lives; a review of What Stalin Knew: The Enigma of Barbarossa by David E. Murphy Andrew Nagorski, 06/27/2005, Weekly Standard)

Stalin's apologists have always maintained that he had no choice but to agree to the pact with Hitler, since he needed to buy time to prepare for war. Britain and France's appeasement at Munich a year earlier, and their lack of serious interest in forging an alliance with Russia, left Stalin with no choice, they claimed. In fact, Murphy points out, the Soviet leader was much more than Hitler's reluctant partner. He was enthusiastic about dividing the spoils of Poland, which he attacked from the east 16 days after Hitler's armies attacked from the west, and seizing control of the Baltic states. And, most tellingly, he slipped quite comfortably into the role of defending Germany and vilifying the British and the French.

So comfortably that the case can be made that Stalin may have wondered what kind of outcome he really wanted from the war he helped unleash. In the most controversial part of his book, Murphy offers the first English translation of a speech Stalin allegedly made on August 19, 1939, right before formalizing his agreement with Hitler. In it, he argued that if the West defeated Germany in a long war, that country would be ripe for Sovietization; but if Germany won in a long war, it would be too exhausted to threaten the Soviet Union, and a Communist takeover would be likely in France. Hence a win-win situation for the Soviet Union, and his conclusion that "one must do everything to ensure that the war lasts as long as possible in order to exhaust both sides." [...]

[S]talin let slip similar comments on September 7, 1939, in the presence of several of his top aides. Discussing the war "between two groups of capitalist countries," as he characterized the Western powers and Germany, he asserted: "We see nothing wrong in their having a good fight and weakening each other."

There's not much you can say in Stalin's favor, but he did understand that much better than FDR, who intervened when two totalitarians were weakening each other.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:27 PM


GOD AND COUNTRY: A college that trains young Christians to be politicians. (HANNA ROSIN, 2005-06-27, The New Yorker)

In the last days before the 2004 Presidential election, Patrick Henry College, in Purcellville, Virginia, excused all its students from classes, because so many of them were working on campaigns or wanted to go to the swing states to get out the vote for George W. Bush. Elisa Muench, a junior, was interning in the White House’s Office of Strategic Initiatives, which is overseen by Karl Rove. On Election Day, she stood on the South Lawn with the rest of the White House staff to greet the President and Mrs. Bush as they returned from casting their votes in Texas. Muench cheered along with everyone else, but she was worried. Her office was “keeping up contact with Karl,” and she knew that the early exit polls were worse than expected. Through the night, she watched the results, as Bush’s electoral-vote total began to rise. The next morning, after Kerry conceded, she stood in the crowd at the Bush campaign’s victory party, in clothes she’d been wearing all night, and “cried and screamed and laughed, it was so overwhelming.”

I found Muench in the Patrick Henry cafeteria at lunchtime one day a few months later. She is twenty-one years old and has clear, bright hazel eyes and sandy-brown hair that she straightens and then curls with an iron. Patrick Henry is a Christian college, though it is not affiliated with any denomination, and it gives students guidelines on “glorifying God with their appearance.” During class hours, the college enforces a “business casual” dress code designed to prepare the students for office life—especially for offices in Washington, D.C., fifty miles to the east, where almost all the students have internships, with Republican politicians or in conservative think tanks. When I met Muench, she was wearing a cardigan and a navy skirt. The boys in the cafeteria all had neatly trimmed hair, and wore suits or khakis and button-down shirts; girls wore slacks or skirts just below the knee, and sweaters or blouses. Most said grace before eating, though they did it silently and discreetly, with a quick bow of the head. [...]

Muench, like eighty-five per cent of the students at Patrick Henry, was homeschooled, in her case in rural Idaho. Homeschoolers are not the most obvious raw material for a college whose main mission, since its founding, five years ago, has been to train a new generation of Christian politicians. Politics, after all, is the most social of professions, and many students arrive at Patrick Henry having never shared a classroom with anyone other than their siblings. In conservative circles, however, homeschoolers are considered something of an élite, rough around the edges but pure—in their focus, capacity for work, and ideological clarity—a view that helps explain why the Republican establishment has placed its support behind Patrick Henry, and why so many conservative politicians are hiring its graduates.

Patrick Henry’s president, Michael Farris, is a lawyer and minister who has worked for Christian causes for decades. He founded the school after getting requests from two constituencies: homeschooling parents and conservative congressmen. The parents would ask him where they could find a Christian college with a “courtship” atmosphere, meaning one where dating is regulated and subject to parental approval. The congressmen asked him where they could find homeschoolers as interns and staffers, “which I took to be shorthand for ‘someone who shares my values,’ ” Farris said. “And I knew they didn’t want a fourteen-year-old kid.” So he set out to build what he calls the Evangelical Ivy League, and what the students call Harvard for Homeschoolers.

In fifty years Harvard will be calling itself Henry for Heathens.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:49 PM


Gile Kendall, A Man of Strafford, and His Own Time (Jodie Tillman, 6/20/05, Valley News)

Strafford -- Morning came, and his wife woke up alone. He was not in the kitchen. Not in the barn. Not in the fields.

Gile Kendall had not come home from his night of raccoon hunting.

Being that he was nearly 85 at the time, his wife, Margaret, panicked. She called her son. He knew where his father liked to go on his hunts, and so he drove up the nearby Taylor Valley Road.

“Sure enough,” recalled their son, Babe Kendall, “there he was.”

Sitting in his pick-up truck with his hunting dog, a dead raccoon and a battery that was just as dead. He had left the lights on while he trailed the dog in the dark, got his raccoon a good time later and then come back to a truck that would not go. So he settled in for a night in the woods.

“He was just as unconcerned as anything,” his son said, “like it was an everyday event.”

It was classic Gile Kendall, a lifelong Strafford resident who died in March at age 91: sticking to his way of doing things, unhurried by the world.

He was a constable who'd rather talk than ticket. He was a farmer who'd spend entire afternoons on his FarmAll tractor even into his 90s, chewing on a White Owl cigar and taking naps under shade trees when he felt like it. He was the quintessential old-timer who recognized the changes around his hometown but also remembered what most people either forgot or never knew: where you could find hidden springs and old property lines, when the raccoons were in the beech and when they were in the apple trees, who caught the big fish seen only in faded photographs.

“He had a tremendous amount of wisdom,” Babe Kendall said. “He'd be out in the field, and I'd wonder how he got anything done because there were always people out there talking to him.” [...]

On especially hot summer days, Kendall would get off his tractor and lie under a tree and nap. Because he was pushing 90 years old by then, the sight caused many passersby to stop and worry.

Grandson Gary Kendall said someone came rushing up to his house one time with terrible news that the old man had apparently collapsed and died while haying the field. Gary Kendall jumped in his car and drove out to see.

“I tooted the horn, and he lifted his head up,” Gary Kendall said. “He said … ‘I can't even take a nap?' ”

Kendall was deeply involved in public affairs, and he served as constable for decades, right up until his death.

“Young people used to get up and raise the devil and would run (their cars) into the fence,” said Babe Kendall. “Dad would pay for it, and they had to come up and work it off at the farm.”

Longtime resident Earl Silloway recalled being a teenager and driving around with some pals on Halloween night, dragging an old kitchen stove behind them “just to make some noise.”

All of a sudden, Kendall drove up behind them and put on his lights. He got out, a cigar in his mouth.

We're in trouble, aren't we? Silloway recalled asking.

“I don't know,” Kendall said. “If you don't hitch that thing closer so as you won't hit my truck with it, you will be.” And that was that.

“He seemed to understand that young people were going to sow their oats,” said Campbell. “People trusted Gile, and he trusted them.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:42 PM


Conservatives do not have a party (Peter Hitchens, 6/18/05, The Spectator)

The Tories’ position is hopeless. No man living could conceivably unify the party’s contradictory wings. Europhile or Eurosceptic, pro- or anti-marriage, market enthusiast or moralist — each of these quarrels is fundamental and cannot be settled by compromise. To refuse to resolve them is to ask to be dragged, by events beyond our control, into places we never decided to go.

So David Davis, who is opposed to European integration if he means anything at all, is compelled to seek the support of federalists. This, the modified Molotov–Ribbentrop pact approach, has been tried before — but only by people who forget how that pact ended. Similarly, Kenneth Clarke is seriously put forward as the saviour of a party he plainly hates. While it is hard not to admire Mr Clarke’s lofty scorn for his parliamentary colleagues, the idea is absurd. The issue of the European Union pervades almost every major area of political choice. It is ridiculous to imagine that Mr Clarke’s reasoned support for the EU, which is entirely consistent with his generally Fabian Social Democratic approach to the world, will not swiftly bring him into conflict with those who are committed, just as consistently, to opposing the Union. As for the other compromise candidates being spoken of, they all offer another period of Majorism, neither one damned thing nor the other, yet encouraging bitter divisions by attempting to impose their opaque blandness on all.

It would also be helpful if people would stop referring to ‘Big Beasts in the Jungle’. The metaphor is ridiculous. What survives of the Tory party is more like a decayed municipal park than a jungle, and the little furry creatures that roam about in it may have sharp teeth and ready claws, but they are not big. To be big, they would at least have to have large ideas. But there are none of these. The only argument is, ultimately, about tactics. There is a total lack of original thought, principle or even instinct. Every debate is a pathetic variation on one parasitical theme — shall the Tory party regain its position by becoming more like New Labour, or less like New Labour?

Well, New Labour gained power by aping Thatcher, so turnabout seems fair play.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:19 PM


Bush may bypass Senate, appoint Bolton, Rice hints (Douglass K. Daniel, June 20, 2005, Associated Press)

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is keeping open the possibility that President Bush will bypass the Senate to get John R. Bolton installed as U.N. ambassador temporarily if Democrats persist in holding up a confirmation vote. [...]

Asked on "Fox News Sunday'' whether Bush would consider a recess appointment of Bolton — a temporary placement that does not require Senate approval — Rice said: "We'll see what happens this week.''

The Senate plans to take a July Fourth recess in two weeks. Under the Constitution, a president can make an appointment during a Senate recess without the chamber's approval of the nominee. That appointment lasts only through the next one-year session of Congress — which in this case would mean until January 2007.

It was unclear whether Rice's statement was an indication that the administration would seriously consider a recess appointment for Bolton or whether it was meant to increase leverage for White House bargaining with Senate Democrats.

"What we need to do is we need to get an up-or-down vote on John Bolton,'' Rice said on ABC's "This Week.'' "Let's find out whether, in fact, the Senate — in its whole, in its entirety — intends and wants to confirm him. That's all that we're asking.''

Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., predicted that Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., would fail in an effort late today to end the filibuster. He said Democrats are standing for principle by delaying the vote until the administration provides what they seek.

"Once we get it, we can have an up-and-down vote immediately,'' Biden said on CBS' "Face the Nation.'' "We're not going to let the administration tell us we're not entitled to exercise our oversight responsibility. If we give up on this, we might as well forget about oversight.''

Note that the principle involved is just forcing the executive to yield, not anything to do with what might be in the papers. Since that's the case the President may as well show them he's boss.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:13 PM


Facing the Music (Mark Steyn, 6/20/05, NY Sun)

Been following the latest horrifying stories from what Amnesty International calls the “gulag of our time”? John Kass of The Chicago Tribune was outraged by the news that records by Christina Aguilera had been played at Guantanamo at full volume in order to soften up detainees. He thought they should have used “Dance, Ballerina, Dance” by Vaughn Monroe, over and over and over.

Well, readers had plenty of suggestions of their own, and so the Tribune’s website put together a list of “Interro-Tunes” — the most effective songs for aural intimidation, mood music for jolting your jihadi. A lot were the usual suspects - like the Captain and Tennille’s blamelessly goofy “Muskrat Love”, which, as I recall, put the Queen to sleep at a White House gala, though the Duke of Edinburgh sat agog all the way to the end. Someone suggested Bob Dylan’s “Everybody Must Get Stoned”, which even on a single hearing sounds like it’s being played over and over. I don’t know what Mr Kass has against “Ballerina”, which is very pleasant in the Nat “King” Cole version. But he seems to think one burst of “Dance, ballerina, dance/And do your pirouette in rhythm with your aching heart” will have the Islamists howling for the off-switch and singing like canaries to the Feds. Who knows? I sang “Ballerina” myself once on the radio long ago, and, if it will discombobulate the inmates, I’m willing to dust off my arrangement and fly down to Guantanamo, if necessary dressed liked Christina Aguilera. If they want an encore, I’ll do my special culturally sensitive version of that Stevie Wonder classic, “My Sharia Amour”.

By now, one or two readers may be frothing indignantly, “That’s not funny! Bush’s torture camp at Guantanamo is the gulag of our time, if not of all time.” But that’s the point. The world divides into those who feel the atrocities at Gitmo “must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime — Pol Pot or others” (in the widely quoted words of Senator Dick Durbin), and the rest of us, for whom the more we hear the specifics of the “atrocities” the funnier they are.

So long as they weren't submitted to The Song, it's hard to not find it funny...unless you're not conservative.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:54 AM


While National Treasure is by no stretch of the imagination a great movie and has plot holes you could drive a snowplow through--when the bad guys flee the scene of an explosion at the Arctic Circle without checking to see if they've killed Nicholas Cage, because "Someone might see the smoke and report it," even our 8 year old asked: "Who?"--there's an interesting theme to the film. Cage's character traces his duty to stop the bad guys to the Declaration of Independence and the line: "[W]hen 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." After reading that to his sidekick he says: "Men don't talk like that anymore." But to some considerable extent it's the premise that underlies George W Bush's notion that we are obligated to facilitate Liberty's Century.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:39 AM


A Better Idea Than Censure?: Shouldn't Democrats be asked to remove Dick Durbin from their Senate leadership? (William Kristol, 06/20/2005, Weekly Standard)

Newt Gingrich, my friend Hugh Hewitt, and others have suggested that Sen. Durbin should be censured by the Senate. His comments are, to be sure, deserving of censure. But is this the best action to push for? For one thing, Democrats can explain that resolutions of censure have typically been reserved for ethics violations, not for meretricious statements--thereby perhaps succeeding in confusing the debate and wriggling off the hook. And asking for passage of such a resolution puts the burden on the Republican majority to act--which raises the possibility, maybe a probability, that the attempt will seem partisan if pursued, and if Republicans at some point back off, will then make them look weak as well.

Why not put the burden on the Democrats? When Sen. Trent Lott made a far less damaging, but still deplorable, statement two and a half years ago, his fellow Republicans insisted

he step down as their leader. Shouldn't Democrats insist that Sen. Durbin step down as their whip, the number two man in their leadership? Shouldn't conservatives (and liberals) legitimately ask Democrats to hold their leader to account, especially given the precedent of Lott?

Why would the GOP want any of the Democratic "leaders" to step down?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:33 AM


U.S. nuclear power industry working on quiet comeback (Kathy Kiely, 6/19/05, USA TODAY)

More than 26 years after a near-meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant, the Senate is considering an energy bill that includes financial incentives for construction of nuclear plants. It's the latest sign of the industry's quiet rehabilitation.

Sen. Pete Domenici, a New Mexico Republican who is the chief architect of the bill being debated, has long been an advocate of nuclear energy. And President Bush will repeat his call for boosting nuclear power when he visits the Calvert Cliffs plant in Lusby, Md., this week.

They have some unexpected company:

•Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada said that although he has been "totally opposed to nuclear power" in the past, he's now willing to give it a second look. "You're going to see a move towards nuclear power," he predicted. "If it's done right, it will protect the environment."

•Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., includes incentives for nuclear power in a measure he plans to offer to reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. McCain argues that nuclear power can help solve global warming. "I am a green and I entreat my friends in the movement to drop their wrongheaded objection to nuclear energy," he said in a Senate speech.

•Another recent convert: Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a Democrat whose home state of New Jersey gets nearly 52% of its electricity from nuclear power. "Nuclear issues are being forced on us by the realities of life," he said. "We are being blackmailed by those who produce fossil fuels that we import, and more traditional domestic energy production poses risks to the environment."

Such construction gives the GOP a natural alliance with Labor.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:14 AM


They 'were on a mission from God' (DAVE NEWBART, June 20, 2005, Chicago Sun Times)

A quarter-century ago, "The Blues Brothers" embraced Chicago as no other film has, before or since. The movie tapped directly into the heart of the city, harnessing its energy and will to get things done on a scale bigger than anywhere else. It exploited its sense of humor and willingness to laugh at itself.

In turn, Chicago opened its arms to the film in a way that seems unlikely now. The end result is a movie that established itself in the minds of many as one of the classic comedies -- indeed movies -- of all time.

Even 25 years later, it plays on television hundreds of times a day, shown in any one of 45 countries, director John Landis said.

"It's really attained some kind of mythic stature," Landis said. It "has become part of the culture."

No one would suggest this musical comedy with cartoon-like characters was on par with "Citizen Kane'' or "Gone With The Wind.'' It's a simple story of a pair of orphaned, misfit brothers -- "Joliet'' Jake and Elwood Blues -- trying to reunite their band in an effort to save their orphanage.

Posted by Matt Murphy at 8:22 AM


The CWS from A to Z (RICH KAIPUST, 6/17/05, Omaha WORLD-HERALD)

A -Arizona State. So you're a Sun Devils fan. You'll be in the minority during a first-round game against Nebraska.

B -Big 12. When the super regional dust settled, the Big 12 had three teams going to Omaha (Nebraska, Baylor, Texas). The SEC and Pac-10 each accounted for two.

C -Cable television is a must if you're not at the ballpark. ESPN or ESPN2 carries every CWS game. The two also expanded their regional and super regional coverage this season. Anybody miss the Stanley Cup playoffs? [...]

W -Remember when George W. popped in a few years back? No presidential visits are scheduled for this weekend, as far as we know.

He'll show up next year. As a fan of America's pastime and a self-admitted follower of one of the greatest amateur baseball tournaments in America, Bush surely knows that we're coming up on the tenth anniversary of a sadly-overlooked Great Baseball Moment. To wit: LSU's Warren Morris, who couldn't swing a bat a week earlier and whose team was down to its final out and final strike in the '96 national championship game, blasting a two-run homer into the right field stands to strike down the evil, godless Miami Hurricanes in front of 24,000 delighted Nebraskans.

It was Morris's first home run of the season.

Posted by orrinj at 8:17 AM


WHAT'S DRIVING GAS PRICES: Ideas for Reformulating a Volatile Fuel Market: Taming pump prices will require curbing demand, boosting supply or changing the way the industry operates, experts say. (Gary Cohn and Elizabeth Douglass, June 20, 2005, LA Times)

Expensive gasoline is a national problem, reflecting the steep cost of crude oil. But the situation is particularly serious in California, which has some of the highest gas prices in the United States because of a series of actions by regulators, oil companies, community groups and others. Step by step over the last decade — starting with mandates for a special cleaner-burning fuel and adding in oil company mergers, community resistance to refinery expansions and unrestrained demand — the Golden State's fuel business has been transformed into a kind of dream market for oil refiners.

The strains on California's fuel sector won't be easily fixed, the experts stressed. Some ideas are likely to be painful and politically unpopular.

Take taxes, which currently add about 55 cents to California's per-gallon gasoline cost, with 18.4 cents going to the federal government and the rest to state and local governments.

"If we were smart about this, we would increase the gas tax substantially — that would reduce demand and get us back to a point at least for a while where we were able to supply our own needs for California," said Severin Borenstein, director of the University of California Energy Institute in Berkeley.

18 cents is a joke.

Posted by orrinj at 8:14 AM


Liberals don't know what to do with nondeferential minorities (Ruben Navarrete Jr., Seattle Times)

In the minds of many liberal Democrats, Hispanics and African Americans must seem to come in only two varieties: deferential or defective. And according to one angry caller — who was, from the sound of it, perfectly at home in a blue state — I fall into the second category. "I think you're deluded," he said, "and maybe insane."

I'm just guessing, but something tells me the caller would probably say the same thing about Janice Rogers Brown, who two years ago was nominated by President Bush to fill a vacancy on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Last week, Brown was finally confirmed but not before Senate Democrats and their accomplices in left-leaning advocacy groups such as People for the American Way did their best to try to paint this black conservative and California Supreme Court chief justice as an "extremist" whose views are outside the mainstream.

Translation: Brown doesn't defer to liberals. So she must be defective.

By the way, here's something I've noticed: When conservatives criticize a person of color, they often insult you. But liberals usually are condescending. They don't say they're upset as much as "disappointed" in you.

And so it was that the caller was disappointed in me. What fired him up was a column I'd written about Alberto Gonzales, the nation's first Latino attorney general. In it, I argued that liberal Democrats weren't really interested in promoting diversity unless they get the credit for it, and that this explained their lukewarm reaction to Gonzales — an American success story whose nomination by President Bush they can't claim credit for.

The Left wants to keep minorities as pets.

Posted by orrinj at 8:08 AM


Rival views on EU are out in the open (Judy Dempsey, 6/20/05, International Herald Tribune)

"There are two ideas of Europe, with some countries wanting to have just a European market with a big and free trade zone and others who want an integrated Europe," said Jean-Claude Juncker, the Luxembourg prime minister who led the summit meeting.

"There are those who believe a free trade area is sufficient but they do not realize it is more complicated. A politically integrated Europe would allow Europe to rise to the challenges facing it. I tried to deal with these two different views."

And in remarks clearly directed at Britain, which succeeds Luxembourg in the EU presidency on July 1, Juncker said, "Some countries were seeking failure."

Wolfgang Schüssel, chancellor of Austria, who will take over the presidency from Britain in January 2006, was just as explicit in his view over how Europe was becoming divided between two rival camps.

"It's about money. Some wanted to get more out or pay less in," Schüssel said on Germany's ARD public television. "And secondly, it's certainly the question of the concept. The British want a different Europe. They want a more market-oriented Europe, a large market but no deeper union."

However, one of the reasons many French voters voted against the EU constitution was their feeling that Europe was already becoming too oriented toward a free market in its economic policies. In Germany, those feelings are widely spread as well.

They might also be referred to as the idea that works, federalism and markets, and the one that doesn't, centralized statism.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:59 AM


Is Europe Dying? Notes on a Crisis of Civilizational Morale (George Weigel, Foreign Policy Research Institute, June, 2005)

Contemporary European culture is not bedeviled by atheistic humanism in its most raw forms; the Second World War and the Cold War settled that. Europe today is profoundly shaped, however, by a kinder, gentler cousin, what the Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor has termed “exclusive humanism”[6]: a set of ideas that, in the name of democracy, human rights, tolerance, and civility, demands that all transcendent religious or spiritual reference points must be kept out of European public life—especially the life of the newly expanded European Union. This conviction led to two recent episodes that tell us a lot about Europe’s crisis of civilizational morale and where that crisis leads politically.[...]

The demographics are unmistakable: Europe is dying. The wasting disease that has beset this once greatest of civilizations is not physical, however. It is a disease in the realm of the human spirit. David Hart, another theological analyst of contemporary history, calls it the disease of “metaphysical boredom”— boredom with the mystery, passion, and adventure of life itself. Europe, in Hart’s image, is boring itself to death.

And in the process, it is allowing radicalized twenty-first century Muslims—who think of their forebears’ military defeats at Poitiers in 732, Lepanto in 1571, and Vienna in 1683 (as well as their expulsion from Spain in 1492), as temporary reversals en route to Islam’s final triumph in Europe-to imagine that the day of victory is not far off. Not because Europe will be conquered by an invading army marching under the Prophet’s banners, but because Europe, having depopulated itself out of boredom and culturally disarmed itself in the process, will have handed the future over to those Islamic immigrants who will create what some scholars call “Eurabia"-the European continent as a cultural and political extension of the Arab-Islamic world. Should that happen, the irony would be unmistakable: the drama of atheistic humanism, emptying Europe of its soul, would have played itself out in the triumph of a thoroughly nonhumanistic theism. Europe’s contemporary crisis of civilizational morale would reach its bitter conclusion when Notre-Dame becomes Hagia Sophia on the Seine-another great Christian church become an Islamic museum. At which point, we may be sure, the human rights proclaimed by those narrow secularists who insist that a culture’s spiritual aspirations have nothing to do with its politics would be in the gravest danger.

It need not happen: there are signs of spiritual and cultural renewal in Europe, especially among young people; the Buttiglione affair raised alarms about the new intolerance that masquerades in the name of “tolerance;” the brutal murder of Dutch film maker Theo van Gogh by a middle-class Moroccan-Dutch has reminded Europeans that “roots causes” do not really explain Islamist terrorism. The question on this side of the Atlantic, though, is why should Americans care about the European future? I can think of three very good reasons.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:25 AM


Northern League launch campaign to revive lira (Lisbeth Kirk, 20.06.2005, EU Observer)

The Italian Northern League party launched a campaign to revive the lira at an 85,000-strong rally of its supporters on Sunday (19 June)

The party, which holds minister posts in Silvio Berlusoni's government, called for a revival of the lira as a "parallel currency" to the euro, which would remain the currency of the state budget, tourism and foreign trade.

Only the Italians could come up with something worse than the euro itself.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:20 AM


Guinea-Bissau votes in key poll (BBC, 6/19/05)

The people of Guinea-Bissau have voted to elect a president in an effort to restore stability to the impoverished, coup-prone west African state.

Among the 13 candidates are two former presidents, including Kumba Yala, who was deposed in a bloodless coup in September 2003.

His government was replaced by a civil administration headed by interim President Henrique Rosa.

Correspondents say campaigning for the election has been lively but orderly.

Long lines formed in several districts of the capital outside polling stations which opened at around 0730 GMT.

Sunday's vote aims to build on the March 2004 parliamentary elections, which were praised as "free, fair and transparent".

Rice urges Egypt to extend change (BBC, 6/20/05)
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has urged Egypt to press ahead with democratic reforms, following talks with President Hosni Mubarak.

She welcomed the recent constitutional amendment that allows for presidential elections with more than one candidate.

But she said the opposition must have access to the media and it is important to have "a sense of competition" in the poll planned for September.

Ms Rice is on a Middle East tour aimed at backing democratic change.

June 19, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:31 PM


A Democratic House Divided: Big Labor has long been the Dems' best friend. But an internal rift could dilute their clout at a crucial juncture. (Howard Fineman, 6/19/05, Newsweek)

[T]he House of Labor is divided against itself, and it's not clear it can stand. For reasons of philosophy, money and ego—the Potomac power mix—the slice of America that used to be called "Big Labor" may soon collapse. A breakup would have broad implications in the workplace, pitting one set of unions, and one vision of unionism, against another. In politics, it would create competing spheres with one of them—the renegades—more willing to work with Republicans and more focused on organizing drives than on electoral politics. "In terms of Democratic politics, it's a disaster," says Rick Sloan, the Machinists communications director. "It would eviscerate our ground capabilities in ways Karl Rove and Tom DeLay will try to exploit."

The family feud has been building for years, and with good reason: the family is falling apart. When the American Federation of Labor and the Council of Industrial Organizations merged in 1955 to create the AFL-CIO, nearly one in three workers was a card-carrying union member. On the golden anniversary of the merger, that number is now less than 10 percent in the private sector, 13 percent if you count the public sector. To protect their clout during the generation-long rise of the conservatives, unions transformed themselves into turbo-charged fund-raising and turnout engines, dedicated (in fact if not by law) to Democrats. Members of union households were 19 percent of the vote in 1992 and rose to 26 percent last year—a tide of about 7 million votes, most of which went into the Democratic column. Yet unions have little to show for all that effort in terms of legislation—and nothing in terms of Democratic control of the Congress.

Posted by orrinj at 11:05 PM


Wood: Rescue shows policy working (CNN, 6/19/05)

The Australian hostage held captive for nearly seven weeks in Iraq before being freed last week has said his rescue by Iraqi troops is a sign that U.S. and Australian policies are working.

"I actually believe that I am proof positive that the current policy of training the Iraqi army -- of recruiting, training and buddying them worked -- because it was the Iraqis that got me out," Douglas Wood told reporters in Melbourne after returning to Australia Monday morning.

The 64-year-old engineer also apologized to U.S. President George W. Bush and Australian Prime Minister John Howard for statements he made at gunpoint in a DVD his captors released to the news media.

Maybe someone is holding a gun to Dick Durbin's head and that's why he doesn't have enough class to apologize?

McCain: Durbin Should Apologize (NewsMax, 6/19/05)

Sen. John McCain called on Sunday for Sen. Dick Durbin to apologize for comparing U.S. troops to the armies of Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot, confounding Durbin's claims that he's being targeted by a right-wing witch hunt.

"I think that Senator Durbin owes not only the Senate an apology ... but an apology because it does a great disservice to men and women who suffered in the gulag and in Pol Pot's killing fields," McCain told NBC's "Meet the Press."

Which is when Mr. McCain's supposed independence comes in handy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:02 PM


Why de Villepin, of all people? (Olivier Gutta, Jun. 19, 2005, THE JERUSALEM POST)

After the rejection of the European Constitution in France earlier this month, President Jacques Chirac could have either resigned or changed his government. Of course resigning was out of the question because Chirac would then have lost his immunity and most probably ended up in jail on corruption charges. Instead, he fired Premier Raffarin and replaced him with the most anti-American politician in his party: Dominique de Villepin.

In order to assess Chirac's choice, one has to closely study de Villepin's history. Indeed, his real name Dominique Marie Francois Ren Galouzeau de Villepin already defines for most people his main trait: obnoxiousness. [...]

Interestingly enough, de Villepin is almost unanimously hated in France, starting with France's First Lady. In fact, Bernadette Chirac has nicknamed him "Nero" after the infamous Roman emperor who murdered his own mother, ruled as an autocrat, estranged the upper classes by executing senators and loved poetry – which by the way de Villepin is famous for. He has even alienated his good friends, such as former premier Alain Juppe, who begged Chirac not to pick Villepin. [...]

[M]ore importantly, he is not popular among the French: A June 1 poll showed that only 36 percent approve of his nomination and 57% think he is not going to restore the confidence of the French people anytime soon. He is haughty and far from the people, and, as the very popular incoming Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy put it: "Villepin never traveled in second class."

So, with almost everyone from the trade unions to the business community disliking de Villepin and 51% of the French people saying Chirac did not get the message after his defeat in the referendum, why in hell did Chirac pick him?

CHIRAC DIDN'T listen to the French people or anyone in his close circle who advocated against de Villepin because, first and foremost, he considers him almost like the son he never had.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:54 PM


Rafsanjani, greying septuagenarian, positions himself as the 'new voice of Iranian youth' (Colin Freeman, 19/06/2005, Daily Telegraph)

In one of the most audacious bids ever to capture a "youth" vote, the conservative Islamic revolutionary rebranded himself for Iran's bitterly-fought presidential election last Friday as a champion of the young, using a Western-style marketing campaign that owed more to Nike than the Koran.

Not only did the 70-year-old former president open a campaign office on Fereshteh's sunset strip, he also hired an army of hip, happening underlings to spread his message across the capital.

With half of Iran's 47 million eligible voters under the age of 25, none of the seven presidential candidates could afford to ignore their power.

Thanks to work by Mr Rafsanjani's supporters in recent weeks, his campaign stickers can be seen all over Teheran, wrapped around lamp-posts and plastered on pavements, cars and motorbikes, even adorning the headscarves of attractive young women.

Leading up to Friday's polls, crowds of young supporters held "spontaneous" rallies in his honour, and celebrated Iran's recent qualifying victory in football's World Cup by chanting his name.

Which, incidentally, is no longer "Mr Rafsanjani", "His Holiness', or "His Excellency". Instead, he now styles himself simply as "Hashemi" - his middle name, and a form of address usually reserved for intimate acquaintances.

Were Michael Howard to campaign as "Mick", cynical western youngsters would laugh him off the stump. In Iran's theocratic regime, however, the elderly, turbaned cleric hoped to make the young electorate, worried about Iran's shaky economy, with unemployment at 11 per cent and rising, and strained relations with the rest of the world, feel empowered rather than patronised.

As the election results came in yesterday, the signs were that the strategy of running on a liberal ticket, presenting himself as a steady leader in uneasy times, was working for Mr Rafsanjani.

He narrowly clinched top spot in the poll and must now contest an unprecedented two-man presidential "run-off" vote next Friday. To widespread amazement in Iran, his opponent will be the unfancied Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the mayor of Teheran and a staunch backer of the hardline religious leadership. Mr Ahmadinejad, whose success was such a shock that he had no podium from which to address his victorious campaign supporters, appeared to have won the votes of Iran's pious poor.

Having shot themselves in the foot--with an assist from George Bush--the reformers have to rally behind Hashemi.

Iran Reformers Weigh Options for Runoff Vote: With no presidential candidate of their own on the ballot, they can boycott, or back a centrist ex-leader whose record they criticize. (John Daniszewski, June 20, 2005, LA Times)

Iran's reformers considered Sunday how to respond to the strong showing of this city's conservative mayor in the first round of presidential voting, debating whether to boycott the runoff or unite behind an establishment candidate whom many of them dislike or distrust.

One human rights activist warned that the limited freedoms obtained in Iran during the last eight years were threatened unless reformers and the rest of society united behind ex-President Hashemi Rafsanjani to keep Tehran Mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from winning Friday's scheduled presidential runoff. [...]

By late Sunday, some reformists were moving toward Rafsanjani despite their previous differences. Two reform groups, the Islamic Iran Participation Front and the Islamic Revolution Mujahedin Organization, called on followers to vote for Rafsanjani to head off a hard-line presidency.

"The country faces a danger of direct involvement by military parties," the Participation Front said in a statement quoted by Reuters. [...]

Emad Baghi, an ex-political prisoner and director of the Organization for the Defense of Prisoners' Rights, said he was breaking his silence on political matters to underscore what he saw as an urgent threat caused by the reform movement's weak showing. He told reporters that the success of Ahmadinejad represented a serious bid for power by a fundamentalist wing based in Iran's Revolutionary Guards and pro-government militias known as the Basijis, who are notorious for beating up pro-democracy activists.

At a news conference held for foreign and Iranian journalists Sunday, Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi boasted about the "very large and exciting" election and the reported turnout of 29 million people, or 62% of voters. The final tally announced Saturday night showed Rafsanjani finishing with 21%, or about 6.2 million votes. Ahmadinejad had 19.5%, or 5.7 million. Kharrazi said sardonically that the remarks of President Bush, who had sharply criticized Iran's electoral system last week on the eve of voting, had actually galvanized voters.

"This proves that Americans are not good politicians and not good forecasters of events," he said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:46 PM


War Rooms (and Chests) Ready for a Supreme Court Vacancy (ELISABETH BUMILLER, 6/20/05, NY Times)

Like hostile nations on the edge of apocalypse, Washington's political right and left are on code red over a Supreme Court vacancy that does not yet exist.

Conservative groups held a briefing last week at the National Press Club and promised to spend more than $20 million promoting whomever President Bush nominates to replace Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, should the ailing chief justice retire at the end of the court's term in June, as many expect. The liberal group People for the American Way countered with the threat of its 45-computer war room on M Street and a coalition of 70 other groups to fight back.

Caught in the middle was the White House, which had its own war plan but would not say so publicly for fear of looking ghoulish. After all, the intentions of the 80-year-old chief justice, who has undergone radiation and chemotherapy treatments for thyroid cancer, remain mysterious. [...]

At the White House, the plan is to run the campaign for Mr. Bush's Supreme Court nominee out of the office of Harriet Miers, the low-profile White House counsel, once described by Mr. Bush as "a pit bull in Size 6 shoes." Ms. Miers will get a heavy assist from the Office of Legal Policy at the Department of Justice, where the attorney general, Alberto R. Gonzales, has himself been widely mentioned as a candidate for the Supreme Court, although probably not for the first vacancy under Mr. Bush.

In the meantime, Republicans close to the preparations say that the White House has assembled research on some 20 Supreme Court candidates, with more intensive research on a handful of the most mentioned, all federal appellate judges and all conservative: J. Michael Luttig and J. Harvie Wilkinson III of Virginia, Michael W. McConnell of Colorado, John G. Roberts Jr. of the District of Columbia, Samuel A. Alito Jr. of New Jersey and Emilio M. Garza of Texas.The White House also plans mock hearings in which the nominee will field aggressive questions from a "murder board," or a phalanx of lawyers and administration officials playing senators on the Judiciary Committee. Such hearings were conducted for Mr. Thomas and have even been conducted for some of the current administration's appellate court nominees, like Mr. McConnell.

The White House plans to name a point person to manage the process and to create an additional war room on Capitol Hill, in the office of Vice President Dick Cheney, Mr. Specter or Senator John Cornyn, a member of the Judiciary Committee and a Texas Republican. Mr. Cornyn's name was recently floated by conservatives as a long-shot possibility for the court; last week he said that it might be better for Mr. Bush to announce his nominee in September and not leave the person "hanging out like a piñata for people to take a whack at during the month we're in recess."

Other Republicans discount that option and say that Mr. Bush will move swiftly to name a nominee once a vacancy is announced, when the White House will switch to all-out campaign mode.

The real fun comes if a Stevens or a Souter retires.

If High Court Vacancy Opens, Activists Are Poised for Battle: With past judicial fights in mind, interest groups have new tactics ready if Rehnquist retires soon. (Janet Hook, June 20, 2005, LA Times)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:49 PM


Church Leads Protest in Spain: The Catholic hierarchy takes on the Socialists in power as priests and nuns march with at least 200,000 against a bill to legalize gay marriage. (Tracy Wilkinson and Michael Moffett, June 19, 2005, LA Times)

Making an unusually forceful foray into Spanish politics, the Roman Catholic Church led an enormous march through the streets of Madrid on Saturday to protest legislation that would legalize marriage for gay couples.

Priests wearing their collars, nuns in gray habits and adults and children from all over the country converged on downtown Madrid. They waved placards declaring, "Marriage = Man and Woman," and applauded Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, the archbishop of Madrid, who walked near the front of the noisy crowd.

"This demonstration is not a reaction. It is not against anyone. We've come to say yes to the family unit as composed by man and woman," said Jesus Sanz, the bishop of Huesca, who traveled five hours by bus to reach the rally.

Right-wing politicians also joined the demonstration, which was organized by a coalition called the Forum for the Family. It was the most coordinated protest to date against the agenda of Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

The gay marriage measure is one of several social policies that have heightened tensions between the Catholic Church and Zapatero's government, which came to power a year ago in an upset electoral victory that ended eight years of conservative rule.

Zapatero also plans to relax restrictions on abortion, divorce and stem cell research. And he has focused on the church itself, which receives public funding in Spain. His government has proposed reducing the church's budget and extending financial benefits to other religions.

Individual priests and bishops in Spain have at times spoken out against violence by Basque separatists and on other issues, but Saturday marked the first time in more than two decades that the Catholic hierarchy mobilized people to take to the streets — and joined them. In 1983, the church similarly fought an earlier Socialist government's decision to legalize abortion.

Some on the left bemoaned what they saw as a flashback to the days of longtime dictator Francisco Franco, who outlawed homosexuality.

They stopped the Left from destroying Spain once, doubtful they can do it again.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:16 PM


Booze, sex shame hits Aussies (Jon Pierik and Bruce Wilson, June 20, 2005, AAP)

AUSTRALIAN cricket has endured its darkest day, with two scandals hitting the national side a few hours after it suffered one of its worst defeats on record.
The world champion cricketers were left embarrassed and shocked after their stunning defeat at the hands of Bangladesh on Saturday.

Last night, Andrew Symonds was slapped with a two-match ban after being dumped for turning up to the match drunk following a night out with teammates.

And Shane Warne has yet again become embroiled in another sex scandal, with claims of a night of passion with a 25-year-old woman in London.

The Australians were still reeling from their five-wicket loss to Bangladesh, considered by many to be unworthy of international status, as they took on England last night.

...and lost.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:48 PM


US deficit shrinks: a vindication for tax cuts? (David R. Francis, 6/20/05, CS Monitor)

Perhaps the most interesting speculation revolves around whether long-term effects of tax cuts are beginning to kick in. Many supply-side enthusiasts certainly believe they are. The new tax revenue numbers are "an eye-popping vindication of the Laffer Curve and the Bush tax cut's real economic value," wrote a Wall Street Journal editorial writer.

The Laffer Curve, named after Arthur Laffer, a White House economic adviser during the Reagan administration, is getting renewed attention. Briefly, it says that the tax on the last dollars earned - the so-called marginal tax rate - has a huge impact on individual effort and enterprise. So, the theory goes, substantial cuts in the marginal tax rate will generate lots of new business and, thus, boost tax revenues. An extreme version of supply-side theory says the gain in revenues could fully offset the revenues lost from the tax cut.

This isn't a new observation. Muslim philosopher Ibn Khaldun wrote in the 14th century: "It should be known that at the beginning of the dynasty, taxation yields a large revenue from small assessments. At the end of the dynasty, taxation yields a small revenue from large assessments." Even President Kennedy in his 1963 economic report urged trimming the then 90 percent marginal tax rate, noting that "reducing taxes is the best way open to us to increase revenues."

Reagan's tax cuts in the 1980s were so large that they stimulated a decades-long debate over their economic and revenue impact. That debate was never fully resolved. The problem is that thousands of factors affect the nation's gross domestic product - its output of goods and services. Even the most sophisticated models of the economy have trouble sorting out what affects what.

Now the Bush tax cuts are stirring the same kind of debate. Is this spring's revenue surprise the start of a supply-side surge?

Start wrapping up the war at the end of this year and they keep shrinking.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:44 PM


Spending on pills moderates, easing healthcare costs: Generic brands and savvy buying practices have helped slow the rise in prescription-drug costs, aiding consumers. (Alexandra Marks, 6/20/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

According to the most recent data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, spending on prescription drugs in 2003 increased 10.7 percent - down from 14.9 percent in 2002. Other independent analysts say that the decelerating trend continues today.

A variety of factors are contributing to the decline. They include the insurance companies and corporations that now use pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) to negotiate steep discounts with drug companies and drugstores; the states that are implementing new legislation to rein in their Medicaid and pension costs; and consumers themselves, who are opting more often for less expensive generics.

"It's very significant: It shows a paradigm shift in healthcare spending," says Mark Merritt, president of the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, which represents the nation's PBMs. "Now, neither the drugstores nor the drug companies can simply charge what they want as they did in the old days."

Twenty years ago, PBMs didn't exist. Now, they represent corporations, unions, and health insurers that are responsible for as much as 75 percent of prescription-drug purchases. By representing multiple buyers, the PBMs are able to win discounts of between 20 and 40 percent, according to Jeff Trewhitt of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. PBMs have also partnered with drugstores and basically told them that if they want business from customers of the PBMs, they have to give a discount.

Among other factors: In the past two years, several major drugs, like the indigestion drug Prilosec, have lost their patent protection, allowing for generic competitors. At the same time, fewer so-called groundbreaking drugs have now come onto the market.

Moreover, safety concerns arose with the expensive and widely promoted pain relievers known as the COX-2 inhibitors, such as Bextra and Vioxx. Several of them were pulled off the market. That prompted millions of consumers to go back to using less expensive alternatives that many physicians had long contended were just as effective.

If only the erectile dysfunction drugs would start killing people we'd have deflation in medical costs too.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:39 PM


From exile to Lebanon's political dynamo: Michael Aoun has solidified his place in Lebanese politics as voters went to the polls for the final parliamentary round. (Nicholas Blanford, 6/20/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

Once one of Syria's most ardent critics, General Aoun has struck electoral alliances with some of Lebanon's most pro-Syrian politicians. Furthermore, Aoun, who has long campaigned to abolish Lebanon's sectarian political system, has found himself the de facto leader of the Christian community.

The seeming contradictions have angered his opponents, who were hoping to form a unified anti-Syrian front in parliament. But his broad appeal has further solidified this 70-year-old former Army commander as a future contender for the country's presidency.

"[The Christians] accepted my nationalist speech," says Aoun in an interview with the Monitor. "They came to me, I didn't change my speech and I didn't make any appeal to them to vote for me because I am a Christian and a Maronite."

Operating from a heavily-guarded villa in the hills above Beirut, the 70-year-old general has mounted an intensive electioneering campaign, adopting the color orange and the Greek letter omega (the symbol of resistance in electrical terms), and publishing a 43-page manifesto outlining a comprehensive overhaul of Lebanon's political, judicial, and economic system, ridding it of 15 years of Syrian influence.

He delivered a stunning blow in the third electoral round on June 12 when his list of candidates routed the opposition alliance in the Christian heartland north of Beirut, raising the stakes considerably for the final stage in the north. Final results will be announced Monday.

"If Aoun wins [in the north] it's going to be the most interesting parliament we have had in a long time," says Timur Goksel, university lecturer in Beirut who served with the United Nations in south Lebanon from 1979 to 2003.

Having felt disenfranchised since the end of the 1975-90 war and the onset of Syrian hegemony, many Christians are looking to the former general to defend their interests in parliament.

"It's good General Aoun did well because now there is an equilibrium. The Christians have a strong leader to match the others," says Habib Abi Khater, a shopkeeper here. Those "others" include Saad Hariri, the son of slain former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who represents the Sunnis; and Nabih Berri, the parliamentary speaker, and Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the militant Hizbullah organization, who together lead the Shiites.

Marriages of convenience are great at any given moment, but sooner or later the place has to devolve back into its constituent parts.

Anti-Syrian bloc wins landslide in N.Lebanon (Lin Noueihed and Alaa Shahine Sun Jun 19, 2005, Reuters)

An unofficial count for north Lebanon showed an alliance led by Saad al-Hariri sweeping all remaining 28 seats, while its rivals conceded they were heading for defeat. [...]

The victory means the 128-seat assembly has an anti-Syrian majority for the first time since the 1975-1990 civil war.

Pro-Syrian Christian former minister Suleiman Franjieh conceded he and his candidates were heading for defeat in the mainly Sunni Muslim north, though they had done well in Christian areas.

"What we feared is happening. I think the north has been divided along sectarian lines," Franjieh told LBC television station. "We have arrived at what we used to warn against."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:46 PM


Time to Toss The Textbook: Greenspan confessed again that he doesn't understand why rates on mortgages and long-term bonds keep falling. This is but one mystery. (Robert J. Samuelson, June 19, 2005, Newsweek)

If economics were a boat, it would be a leaky tub. The pumps would be straining, and the captain would be trying to prevent it from capsizing. Which is to say: our ideas for explaining trends in output, employment and living standards—what we call "macroeconomics"—are in a state of disarray. If you're confused, you're in good company. Only recently Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan confessed again that he doesn't understand why interest rates on long-term bonds and mortgages have dropped, just when the Fed is raising short-term rates. This is but one mystery. [...]

But here's an intriguing irony: the less we understand the economy, the better it does. In the 1960s and 1970s, many economists had confidence. They thought they understood spending patterns, could estimate "full employment" and propose policies to prevent recessions. What we got was high inflation and four recessions (1969-70, 1973-75, 1980 and 1981-82). Since then, we've had lower inflation, only two mild recessions (1990-91 and 2001) and faster productivity growth.

Economists' overconfidence—and the resulting policies—may have weakened the economy. But its improved performance could also have other explanations: lower inflation; the good judgment of two Fed chairmen—Paul Volcker and Greenspan; the economy's self-regulating characteristics, and new technologies. It could be all of the above or just dumb luck. We don't know.

Indeed, neither of those slowdowns ultimately qualifies as a recession. The policies initiated by Volcker and Reagan--deflation, globalization, deunionization, open immigration, and a reversal of tax creep--combined with computerization, pre-tax savings, and the American defiance of the global demographic implosion have put in place the conditions for what is know an economic boom of over twenty years that shows no sign of ending any time soon.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:44 PM


Rogan Stays Out of Race for Cox's Post: The ex-congressman says he doesn't intend to run. Analysts say the field of candidates may increase as election day nears, but not by many. (Jean O. Pasco, June 19, 2005, LA Times)

Just days after the Free Enterprise Fund, a conservative fundraising group in Washington, launched a campaign to draft James Rogan, the former congressman from Glendale said Friday that he was flattered but wasn't in the running.

"I don't anticipate being a candidate, barring some unforeseen event," said Rogan, who also served as undersecretary of commerce during Bush's first term and is best known for being the leading prosecutor on the House Judiciary Committee that impeached President Clinton.

Rogan joked that it would take a personal call from Bush or Cox asking him to run in the national interest to change his mind. "I'm not trying to be coy," said Rogan, now an attorney living in Yorba Linda. "I don't even live in the district. You can't say I'm out [of the race] because I was never in."

The leading Republican candidates remain state Sen. John Campbell of Irvine and former Assemblywoman Marilyn C. Brewer of Newport Beach. Democrat John Graham, a UC Irvine professor who has run against Cox three times, also has announced he'll run if Cox is confirmed as head of the SEC. The U.S. Senate confirmation hearing is expected this summer.

The 48th Congressional District is one of the most Republican in the state, with GOP voters outnumbering Democrats 2 to 1.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:55 PM


Special Election Rattles '06 Races: The governor's 'planned political earthquake' unsettles the budding campaigns of statewide candidates in the hunt for money, attention. (Michael Finnegan, June 19, 2005, LA Times)

The November special election ordered by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has muddled the nascent campaigns of several dozen contenders for statewide office just as the 2006 races are taking shape.

Measures on the November ballot will devour millions of dollars that might otherwise flow to the 2006 candidates. The special election — smack in the middle of their campaigns — is also likely to disrupt efforts by the wide field of early contestants to rouse public attention.

Most significantly, it could eclipse the Democrats vying in the June 2006 primary for a shot at challenging the Republican governor if he seeks a second term.

"It sucks a lot of the energy out of California politics that would naturally be focused on the gubernatorial election," said Jude Barry, manager of state Controller Steve Westly's campaign for governor. [...]

The special election, described by one Schwarzenegger strategist as a "planned political earthquake," only heightens the 2006 campaign's unpredictability.

Schwarzenegger's ballot measures face fierce opposition from Democrats and organized labor. They would give governors more budget power and limit school spending when tax collections waned, restrict teacher tenure and change who draws election district lines. Beyond the governor's agenda, several other ballot measures on subjects such as prescription drug discounts are likely to spur major ad campaigns.

Among the open questions: If voters pass Schwarzenegger's initiatives, will he emerge strong enough to virtually guarantee his reelection? If so, can he carry other Republicans into statewide office, reversing a decade of broad Democratic gains in California?

The GOP is so moribund in CA there's really no downside here.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:49 PM


Refiners Maintain a Firm but Legal Grip on Supplies: Clean-gas mandates thinned the competition a decade ago. Companies that stayed 'take advantage of the crazy rules' and enjoy huge profits. (Elizabeth Douglass and Gary Cohn, June 18, 2005, LA Times)

Some consumer advocates and politicians believe that the state's higher prices stem from unlawful manipulation by California's small band of gasoline producers. Government investigations have questioned some industry practices but have found no proof of illegal activities.

A more likely explanation: California refiners are simply cashing in on a system that allows a handful of players to keep prices high by carefully controlling supplies. The result is a kind of miracle market in which profits abound, outsiders can't compete and a dwindling cadre of gas station operators has little choice but go along.

Indeed, the recent history of California's fuel industry is a textbook case of how a once-competitive business can become skewed to the advantage of a few, all with the federal government's blessing.

"They don't have to collude, they don't have to form a cartel, they don't have to be monopolists," said Stanford University economist Roger Noll. "All they have to do is take advantage of the crazy rules."

Little more than a decade ago, California was awash in relatively cheap fuel.

But in 1996, the California Air Resources Board began requiring a special gas that was the least polluting in the world. Although the change did wonders for California's dirty air, it also was a first crucial step toward permanently eliminating the state's gasoline cushion.

One-third of the state's refineries closed, largely because they couldn't afford to comply with the new fuel rules. In addition, most outside suppliers were shut out of California because they couldn't make the unique blend.

Today, the state's gasoline comes almost exclusively from refiners in California, a group that has grown smaller and more powerful through mergers.

What's more, the gap between gasoline prices in California and the rest of the nation, once about 5 to 10 cents a gallon, has swelled in recent years. At times, the price difference has been as wide as 40 or 50 cents a gallon. That price chasm extracted an extra $3 billion from Californians in 2004 and an additional $1.5 billion so far this year, compared with the U.S. average.

Gas should cost more, not less, but the government should be taking the extra dollars, not rigging the system to benefit the private sector.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:44 PM

TIN-ROOFED FUTURE (via Robert Schwartz):

In Africa, a thriving church: CHRISTIANITY’S mainstream changes course (Joshua Benton, June 17, 2005, THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS)

When the Rev. Humphrey Ani walks out on the poured concrete floor of St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church, he sees the future of Christianity stretched before him.

The pews are packed, even though the slowly turning fans do little to disperse the Sunday-morning heat. More than 2,000 worshippers are sitting under the church’s tin roof, and hundreds more gather outside in the dirt courtyard, eager to hear the four-hour service.

The women are all dressed in conservative, ankle-length dresses and ornate headscarves. The men look a bit scrappier; this is a poor town, but they show up for church.

For centuries, Christianity has been primarily a white, European and North American religion. But the explosive growth of Africa and Asia, combined with the success of evangelization there, will change that forever.

By 2050, it’s expected that only one in five Christians worldwide will be white. And places like St. Joseph’s — a regular parish in an unremarkable Nigerian town — will be the Christian mainstream.

‘‘I’m sure it will be an adjustment for Americans — they are used to being in charge," Ani said during a brief break between services, scarfing down bread before facing thousands more parishioners. ‘‘But I hope we can all realize we are one brotherhood before God."

There is, of course, a rich history of missionary efforts in Africa and Asia, and those efforts have been overwhelmingly successful. But even if missionaries had no further success — if not another soul were converted to Christianity — the high birth rates in the developing world would produce some startling numbers:

• In 1900, 82 percent of the world’s Christians were in Europe or North America. By 2025, that will drop below 30 percent.

• Nigeria had 50 million Christians in 2000; by 2050, it’s projected to have 123 million — more than Germany and France combined. The Congo’s Christian community is expected to more than triple, to 121 million. There will be more Christians in Ethiopia than England, more in India than Italy.

‘‘There is this very strong idea that Christianity is a Western religion that has been on loan to other parts of the world," said Philip Jenkins, a Penn State professor whose book, The Next Christendom, is the central text of those projecting the faith’s demographic future. ‘‘Of course, it’s a Near Eastern and North African religion that has been traveling for the last 2,000 years."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:12 AM


Dean Condemns 'Anti-Semitic Literature' (The Associated Press, June 17, 2005)

A handful of people at Democratic National Headquarters distributed material critical of Israel during a public forum questioning the Bush administration's Iraq policy, drawing an angry response and charges of anti-Semitism from party chairman Howard Dean on Friday.

"We disavow the anti-Semitic literature, and the Democratic National Committee stands in absolute disagreement with and condemns the allegations," Dean said in a statement posted on the DNC Web site.

Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, the senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, organized the forum on Thursday at the Capitol to publicize and discuss the so-called Downing Street memo.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:08 AM


Gitmo remark makes Durbin easy prey (LYNN SWEET, 6/19/05, Chicago Sun-Times)

Six months ago, Senate Democrats picked Durbin (D-Ill.) to be their No. 2 leader because he is one of the most articulate and informed senators on his side of the aisle.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:33 AM


Human Dignity, Human Rights and Moral Responsibility (Cardinal George Pell, Paper presented to the John Cardinal Krol Chair of Moral Theology Symposium on Catholic Moral Teaching in the Pontificate of John Paul II, St Charles Borromeo Seminary, Archdiocese of Philadelphia, 4 October 2003)

Naturally I accept the teaching of the Second Vatican Council and Veritatis Splendor on the crucial role of conscience for us all. However for some years I have spoken and written against the so-called “doctrine of the primacy of conscience”, arguing that this is incompatible with traditional Catholic teaching. Not surprisingly this has in turn provoked a number of hostile public refutations and quite a number of letters from friends and acquaintances attempting to persuade me of the error of my ways.

My basic object is twofold: a) to explain that increasingly, even in Catholic circles, the appeal to the primacy of conscience is being used to justify what we would like to do rather than to discover what God wants us to do; and b) to claim that conscience does not have primacy. One should say that the word of God has primacy or that truth has primacy, and that a person uses his conscience to discern the truth in particular cases. Individual conscience cannot confer the right to reject or distort New Testament morality as affirmed or developed by the Church. To use the language of Veritatis Splendor, conscience is “the proximate norm of personal morality” whose authority in its voice and judgement “derives from the truth about moral good and evil”.

Whatever the pressures for conformity produced by public opinion and the mass media today, there is a healthy rhetoric about respect for the rights of the individual, including the right to private judgement, in the English-speaking democracies. Today we value our freedom of speech, however much it might have been constrained in the distant past. We take it for granted that all citizens have a freedom to choose their career, their home and all adults presume unreflectingly the right to choose a spouse – or now, increasingly in Australia, a temporary partner. Just as people have the right in a democracy to choose their religion so too some Catholics feel they should be able to choose the type of morality they follow and remain “good” Catholics.

Unless all kinds of implicit Christian assumptions are made explicit, the claim to the primacy of individual conscience easily becomes in our cultural context the same as a claim to personal moral autonomy. Indeed most Western moral philosophers since the eighteenth century, with the exceptions of the Marxists and the Christians, have followed Kant in advocating some form of moral self-legislation and government (autonomy), as distinct from heteronomy or rule by others. Even Kant would be appalled by contemporary autonomy liberalism. He believed in objective morality (“practical reason”) which autonomy gives us the means and opportunity to follow, never a self-made morality of private preference.

When a person is autonomous, or independent, or at liberty to follow his will in moral matters, this implies that other persons have some kind of obligation to respect this person’s freedom of judgement and action. What is the nature of the obligation of other people towards the agent? We might look at this from another perspective and ask: what is the extent of the agent’s freedom to follow his own will? In response one can usefully give two versions of moral autonomy. The first emphasises the person’s right to choose in the areas of life generally open to moral evaluation, leaving the limits outside which the agent might curtail his right generally unspecified.

John Rawls has defined the extreme of this version of autonomy with characteristic lucidity. It is “the complete freedom to form our moral opinions so that the conscientious judgement of every moral agent ought absolutely to be respected” . The realities of social life and public order constrain us into recognising the impracticalities of such a principle as a basis for our personal conduct. In any society the only two alternatives are unanimity or the exercise of authority. The second version of autonomy, the more practical version, always spells out in some way the constraints necessary for social life. The principle of autonomy which informs Rawls’ own work, his alternative and more practical meaning, defines acting autonomously as “acting from principles that we would consent to as free and equal rational beings”. I am not arguing this account is adequate; merely that it is one example of the limitations and precisions required.

Those Catholics who appeal to the primacy of conscience cite a number of classical references. The first comes from the Second Vatican Council’s “Declaration on Religious Freedom” (Dignitatis Humanae), which states that religious freedom “has to do with immunity from coercion in civil society”; “The truth cannot impose itself except by virtue of its own truth”. However these advocates often leave unsaid the conciliar teaching from the same paragraph that religious freedom “leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men in society towards the true religion and towards the one Church of Christ”. So while the Declaration explains that in matters religious “no man is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs . . . within due limits”, it also goes on to say that all men are “bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth”.

The American Father John Courtney Murray, S.J., who had such a profound influence in the production of the Declaration wrote in his introduction to the English translation: “The conciliar affirmation of the principle of freedom was narrowly limited – in the text. But the text itself was flung into a pool whose shores are wide as the Universal Church. The ripples will run far. Inevitably, a great second argument will be set afoot – now on the theological meaning of Christian freedom”. In other words Dignitatis Humanae speaks of relationships between state and Church, and between the state and individual. It does not deal with the relationship between the magisterium and the baptised.

A second reference frequently quoted, and indeed cited by the Holy Father himself in Crossing the Threshold of Hope comes from St. Thomas Aquinas, who explains that if a man is admonished by his conscience, even when it is erroneous he must always listen to it and follow it. The supporters of primacy of conscience do not go on to explain, as Aquinas does and John Paul II has done over a life-time of writing, that the binding force of conscience, even mistaken conscience, comes from the person’s belief that the conscientious decision is in accord with the law of God. I also believe that a person following Aquinas’ advice might not only err in an objective sense, but could be guilty for his mistaken views. But more on this later.

A final passage, also frequently cited, is Cardinal Newman’s famous declaration at the end of his Letter to the Duke of Norfolk: “Certainly, if I am obliged to bring religion into after-dinner toasts (which indeed does not seem quite the thing) I shall drink – to the Pope, if you please – still, to Conscience first, and to the Pope afterwards”. Newman was concerned about the Ultramontane claims of extreme infallibilists, facetiously explaining that if the Pope told the English bishops to order their priests to work for teetotalism or to hold a lottery in each mission, they would not be obliged to do so. But there is no doubt also that his understanding of conscience is very specifically Christocentric and God-centred, within the Catholic tradition.

Conscience is not a long-sighted selfishness, nor a desire to be consistent with oneself; but it is a messenger from Him, who, both in nature and in grace, speaks to us behind a veil, and teaches and rules us by His representatives. Conscience is the aboriginal Vicar of Christ, a prophet in its informations, a monarch in its peremptoriness, a priest in its blessings and anathemas, and even though the eternal priesthood throughout the Church should cease to be, in it the sacerdotal principle would remain and would have a sway.

In all Newman’s examples, conscience is not left as an unfenced equivalent of secular autonomy but is closely defined and linked with a proper understanding of Christian and indeed Catholic teaching.

In strictly theological language the claim to primacy of conscience is a cliché, which only requires preliminary examination for us to conclude that it needs to be refined and developed to have any plausible meaning at all. I do not even favour the substitution of the primacy of informed conscience, because it is also possible that with good will and conscientious study a devout Catholic could fail to recognise some moral truth and act upon this failure. It is truth, or the word of God, which has primacy, and we have to use our personal capacity to reason practically, that is, exercise our conscience, to try to recognise these particular truths.

While occasionally at the theological level I feel that all I am doing is forcing my way through an open door, it is at the pastoral level that this espousal of the primacy of conscience has disastrous effect. Let me give you a crass but actual example, recounted to me by a friend who witnessed this encounter. A man asked this question; suppose I have been regularly “sleeping with my girlfriend”. Would it be wrong for me to be receiving Holy Communion? Without hesitation the theologian replied, “Vatican II has taught that in answering any moral question, you must obey your conscience. Just do that”. Such a teaching is insufficient and misleading. Does it mean there are no moral absolutes or authorities? Is it sufficient to follow one’s feelings? Or was Charlie Brown correct forty years ago to claim that “it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you are sincere”?

In many places, even in the Catholic world, the category of mortal or death-bearing sin is now an endangered species, because the unthinking presumption is that everyone is honestly doing his or her “own thing”. Obviously public opinion places limits to this world of easy options, often coterminous with the limits of political correctness, but many areas of sexual conduct and activities such as contraception, abortion, euthanasia, the number of children are “free go” areas, where one opinion is held to be as good as another.

This reflects the fact that there has been a dramatic shift in the tectonic plates of public moral discourse within the Catholic Church, and certainly within the ranks of the other Christian churches. The public disarray in the Anglican churches on the suitability of ordaining active homosexual men and women to the Anglican ministry is one spectacular example of this.

Once upon a time it was pastorally useful, sometimes necessary to explain the possibility of invincible ignorance among those who differed from us, because of the temptation to presume bad faith in opponents. Now for many, tolerance is the first and most important Commandment. Now it is necessary and important for us to argue for the possibility of culpable ignorance, indeed the possibility of culpable ignorance, that usually has been built up through years of sin and is psychologically invincible, short of a miracle. The idea of culpable moral blindness is discussed as infrequently as the pains of hell.

Jesus knew human nature very well and Veritatis Splendor quotes that marvellous saying of Our Lord from St. Matthews gospel: “the eye is the lamp of the body. So if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”

Christian writers at different times have expounded wonderfully on the concept of culpable moral blindness. St. Thomas More wrote his Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation in the final year of his imprisonment in the Tower, speaking there of conscience’s susceptibility to corruption whether by the cynicism and self-love of Father Renard (Father Fox) and Master Wolf, or by conscientious blindness through the stupidity of poor scrupulous Master Ass.

Even earlier, in 1377-78, St. Catherine of Sienna in her Dialogue spoke of the consequences of pride, sensuality, impatience and the consequent lack of discernment. These four chief vices constitute a tree of death. “Within these trees a worm of conscience nibbles. But as long as a person lives in deadly sin the worm is blinded and is so little felt”. [...]

The analogue to the primacy of conscience in the private domain is found in what might be called “the primacy of rights” in the public domain. Just as conscience is claimed to have primacy over truth, rights are claimed to have primacy over justice – in the full sense of that word as it understood in the Catholic tradition. In both cases there is an assertion of the self against truth and against other people, to the detriment of both conscience and rights. In Evangelium Vitae John Paul II warned that the threat posed by human rights turning against themselves in this way particularly endangers the rights of the weakest; and is capable “in the end, of jeopardizing the very meaning of democratic coexistence”. This concern is foreshadowed in Veritatis Splendor when the Holy Father reminds us that “only a morality which acknowledges certain norms as valid always and for everyone, with no exception, can guarantee the ethical foundation of social coexistence,” nationally and internationally. A culture of rights needs to be soundly based on justice. It is doubtful that the relativist and positivist concepts of justice that predominate today can provide this.

Veritatis Splendor emphasises “the risk of an alliance between democracy and ethical relativism, which would remove any sure moral reference point from political and social life, and on a deeper level, make the acknowledgement of truth impossible”. It repeats the words of Centesimus Annus (1991) tracing the violation of human rights to “the denial of the transcendent dignity of the human person” and warning against “a democracy without values” which easily becomes “open or thinly disguised totalitarianism”. The Pope observes that in the face of “fundamental human rights [being] trampled upon and held in contempt” there is a “widespread and acute sense of the need for a radical personal and social renewal capable of ensuring justice, solidarity, honesty and openness”. The basis for this renewal, and “the unshakeable foundation and essential condition of morality”, human rights, justice and “the personal dignity of man” can only be found in the truth: “the truth of God, the Creator and Redeemer, and the truth of man, created and redeemed by him”.

“What is truth?” Pilate’s derisive question to Our Lord was regarded by Nietzsche as the only insight of any value in the whole New Testament. In the post-modern world of the West which Nietzsche did so much to bring about, Pilate’s question is increasingly thrown in the face of the Church as well, sometimes searchingly but more often than not with cynicism and condescension. This incident in the Passion reflects our own situation too, where power sits in judgement on truth and finds it worthy only of condemnation. The arguments against truth take the form of a cascade designed to ensure that it is ruled out of consideration one way or another: there is no such thing as truth; or if there is, we cannot know it with certainty; or if we can, we cannot agree about it. Best then to forget about this problem. Our purported inability to know and live the truth places only one demand before us, that we be tolerant of the views of others. But in the absence of any genuine knowledge about what is intrinsically good or right, tolerance becomes merely one value among many, of equal dignity in fact with intolerance. This helps to explain why what is sometimes described as liberal tolerance so often serves as “a seminary of intolerance” (in Leo Strauss’s apt phrase), especially when it is confronted by values or claims which might impede “the uninhibited cultivation of individuality”.

In the absence of truth, on what basis do we give preference to upholding human rights over trampling them underfoot? There is no basis, of course. We simply have to make a decision one way or the other. For some theorists this is sufficient. At one extreme there is the German legal theorist Carl Schmitt who argued that the essential thing is the decision: it does not matter what you decide for, as long as a decision is made and adhered to resolutely until the end. At the other extreme there is the American philosopher Richard Rorty, who argues that not only is there no truth to guide us in the consideration of equally valid choices, but that the “truth” of a choice adds nothing to it. Truth is not needed, for once a decision has been made, we live it out in any case “as if” it were true. It is decision that animates action, not truth, and while Rorty would prefer that we make our decision in favour of his own secular liberal values, this applies irrespective of whether we decide to respect or violate human rights.

This idea of “decisionism” (as others have called it) is drawn upon in different guises as a way of showing how political and social action might be sustained in a situation of radical ethical relativism. In a democracy Rorty is likely to have greater appeal on this score than Schmitt with his particular historical associations, but Schmitt is perhaps the more instructive case for understanding where this approach can lead. The crucial question is whether a mere decision, even a deadly serious decision, in favour of human rights is sufficient to sustain the commitment and action necessary to ensure that rights are consistently respected. Leo Strauss, for one, suggests that a decision is not enough. “Once we realize that the principles of our actions have no other support than blind choice, we really do not believe in them any more. We cannot wholeheartedly act upon them any more. We cannot live any more as responsible beings. In order to live, we have to silence the easily silenced voice of reason, which tells us that our principles are in themselves as good or bad as any other principles.” If we are unable to find a foundation for the defence of conscience and human rights in reason and truth, our commitment to both can only be based on “fanatical obscurantism” - although obviously we are unlikely to call it by this name.

The denial of truth makes an enduring concept of justice that genuinely serves human life and love impossible. It makes, in short, for nihilism. The practical meaning of this can be seen in the contradiction the Holy Father identifies between a growing awareness of human rights and a repudiation of the fundamental rights of some of the most vulnerable members of the human family. We are so familiar with talk of the “right” to an abortion that it can be difficult for us to recall what a shocking and absurd debasement of the language of rights this is. And now, as medical science continually pushes back the age at which premature babies can be saved, including babies who have survived abortion, abortion activists are beginning to insist that abortion is not just the “right” to terminate a pregnancy, but the “right” to “the extinction of the foetus”. When upholding human rights entails the assertion of the self against others, the entire culture of rights central to democracy is, as the Pope says, directly threatened. And it strongly suggests that without a firm foundation in the transcendent dignity of the human person and the existence of moral absolutes which place limits on the human will, it becomes harder and harder for people to believe in, and maintain a wholehearted commitment to human rights in all their fullness.

To refuse to use the language of rights and conscience in a situation where the secular understanding of rights is beginning to collapse under the weight of its own contradictions, would only deny the Church an opportunity to claw back some ground for an authentic understanding of the person, human freedom and the common good. It is not too farfetched to suggest that the collapse of the secular understanding of human rights raises the prospect of the whole idea of rights disappearing, especially as ideas which are more and more frankly Nietzschean push liberal presuppositions aside.

For the Church to do nothing to salvage and redeem the language of rights, precisely when the assertion of the self against others is becoming more brutal and the confrontation between power and truth is becoming more clear, would not only be counter-productive. It would also be a betrayal of the transcendent dignity and destiny of the person which John Paul II has so powerfully recommitted the Church to defend.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:15 AM


Transhumanism: The World's Most Dangerous Ideas (Francis Fukuyama, September/October 2004, Foreign Policy)

For the last several decades, a strange liberation movement has grown within the developed world. Its crusaders aim much higher than civil rights campaigners, feminists, or gay-rights advocates. They want nothing less than to liberate the human race from its biological constraints. As “transhumanists” see it, humans must wrest their biological destiny from evolution’s blind process of random variation and adaptation and move to the next stage as a species.

It is tempting to dismiss transhumanists as some sort of odd cult, nothing more than science fiction taken too seriously: Witness their over-the-top Web sites and recent press releases (“Cyborg Thinkers to Address Humanity’s Future,” proclaims one). The plans of some transhumanists to freeze themselves cryogenically in hopes of being revived in a future age seem only to confirm the movement’s place on the intellectual fringe.

But is the fundamental tenet of transhumanism—that we will someday use biotechnology to make ourselves stronger, smarter, less prone to violence, and longer-lived—really so outlandish? Transhumanism of a sort is implicit in much of the research agenda of contemporary biomedicine. The new procedures and technologies emerging from research laboratories and hospitals—whether mood-altering drugs, substances to boost muscle mass or selectively erase memory, prenatal genetic screening, or gene therapy—can as easily be used to “enhance” the species as to ease or ameliorate illness.

Although the rapid advances in biotechnology often leave us vaguely uncomfortable, the intellectual or moral threat they represent is not always easy to identify. The human race, after all, is a pretty sorry mess, with our stubborn diseases, physical limitations, and short lives. Throw in humanity’s jealousies, violence, and constant anxieties, and the transhumanist project begins to look downright reasonable. If it were technologically possible, why wouldn’t we want to transcend our current species? The seeming reasonableness of the project, particularly when considered in small increments, is part of its danger. Society is unlikely to fall suddenly under the spell of the transhumanist worldview. But it is very possible that we will nibble at biotechnology’s tempting offerings without realizing that they come at a frightful moral cost.

The first victim of transhumanism might be equality. The U.S. Declaration of Independence says that “all men are created equal,” and the most serious political fights in the history of the United States have been over who qualifies as fully human. Women and blacks did not make the cut in 1776 when Thomas Jefferson penned the declaration. Slowly and painfully, advanced societies have realized that simply being human entitles a person to political and legal equality. In effect, we have drawn a red line around the human being and said that it is sacrosanct.

Underlying this idea of the equality of rights is the belief that we all possess a human essence that dwarfs manifest differences in skin color, beauty, and even intelligence. This essence, and the view that individuals therefore have inherent value, is at the heart of political liberalism. But modifying that essence is the core of the transhumanist project. If we start transforming ourselves into something superior, what rights will these enhanced creatures claim, and what rights will they possess when compared to those left behind? If some move ahead, can anyone afford not to follow? These questions are troubling enough within rich, developed societies. Add in the implications for citizens of the world’s poorest countries—for whom biotechnology’s marvels likely will be out of reach—and the threat to the idea of equality becomes even more menacing.

Transhumanism’s advocates think they understand what constitutes a good human being, and they are happy to leave behind the limited, mortal, natural beings they see around them in favor of something better. But do they really comprehend ultimate human goods? For all our obvious faults, we humans are miraculously complex products of a long evolutionary process—products whose whole is much more than the sum of our parts. Our good characteristics are intimately connected to our bad ones: If we weren’t violent and aggressive, we wouldn’t be able to defend ourselves; if we didn’t have feelings of exclusivity, we wouldn’t be loyal to those close to us; if we never felt jealousy, we would also never feel love. Even our mortality plays a critical function in allowing our species as a whole to survive and adapt (and transhumanists are just about the last group I’d like to see live forever). Modifying any one of our key characteristics inevitably entails modifying a complex, interlinked package of traits, and we will never be able to anticipate the ultimate outcome.

Nobody knows what technological possibilities will emerge for human self-modification. But we can already see the stirrings of Promethean desires in how we prescribe drugs to alter the behavior and personalities of our children. The environmental movement has taught us humility and respect for the integrity of nonhuman nature. We need a similar humility concerning our human nature. If we do not develop it soon, we may unwittingly invite the transhumanists to deface humanity with their genetic bulldozers and psychotropic shopping malls.

Before the war sidetracked him, Mr. Fukuyama was, along with William Kristol and Charles Krauthammer, leading the effort to tie neoconservatism more closely to the Religious Right by focussing on life issues like bioengineering.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:57 AM


Iran Moderate Says Hard-Liners Rigged Election (MICHAEL SLACKMAN, 6/19/05, NY Times)

The race for the presidency in Iran was thrown into turmoil on Saturday when the third-place finisher accused conservative hard-liners of rigging the election and cutting him out of the runoff vote next week, which will be between a former president and the conservative mayor of Tehran.

The accusation of voting irregularities came from Mehdi Karroubi, a cleric and former speaker of Parliament known as a conciliator, who said he would continue to press his case publicly unless the country's supreme religious leader ordered an independent investigation.

It was a bold move in a country that does not generally tolerate such forms of public dissent, and it threw an element of confusion and uncertainty into the race just as the authorities were finalizing the election results, planning for the runoff and pointing to the outcome as a validation of this country's religion-based system of government.

The Interior Ministry issued final figures Saturday night, saying the former two-term president, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, would face off against the hard-line mayor of Tehran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in a runoff it said would probably be held next Friday. It was unclear what, if any, effect the accusations of fraud would have on the planned vote.

Mr. Ahmadinejad's strong showing came as a shock to the political establishment here. He had hovered at the back of the field of candidates in pre-election opinion surveys and his political base was said to be limited to the capital city. An element of the bizarre in the events on Saturday came as Mr. Ahmadinejad announced that he would be in the runoff hours before the ministry issued its own results.

W should have kept his powder dry for this moment, but still needs to call into question the legitimacy of the results.

Rafsanjani allies seek unity for Iran run-off vote (Paul Hughes, 6/19/05, Reuters)

Iranian reformists urged their dejected supporters to rally behind pragmatic cleric Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani to prevent his surprise hard-line challenger Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from winning a presidential run-off.

"We should use our full force to defend Rafsanjani. We should form an anti-fascist front," said Hamid Reza Jalalipour, a leader of the reformist Islamic Iran Participation Front. [...]

A senior Rafsanjani aide urged reformists, secularists and moderate conservatives to unite behind the former president to maintain a political balance against "militarist" tendencies.

"We all can hear the footsteps of fascism," Mohammad Atrianfar told Reuters. "If we create a united front for a national coalition, we will win the Friday election."

He echoed accusations from Moin's camp that Ahmadinejad had used Basij religious militiamen to help get out the vote.

"Using a paramilitary organization to mobilize voters is a very dangerous move," Atrianfar said.

The daily Sharq, which Atrianfar controls, said voting for Rafsanjani was the only way to stop religious hard-liners from gaining a monopoly on Iran's ruling institutions.

"We can call him arrogant and criticize his preference for development over democracy," wrote columnist Mohammad Qouchani, but added: "Now we clearly see that Rafsanjani is the only choice left for preserving democracy in Iran."

Though Rafsanjani does not challenge clerical rule, he is seen as a counterweight to the hard-line anti-Western elite and has called for a "new chapter" in Iran-U.S. relations.

Iran’s reformists face an uneasy choice as conservatives dominate elections: A second ballot to decide Iran’s next president will have huge repercussions (Robert Tait, 6/19/05, Sunday Herald)
Casting their votes at a mosque in the Tehran district of Fereshteh, many young voters – universally accepted as the most important block in a country where around two-thirds of the 70 million population are under 30 – openly said they did not believe in the current system, in which the unelected Khamenei holds sway over the elected president on a range of crucial issues.

Many said they were voting to prevent Iran’s body politic being hijacked by hardliners who want to strengthen the Islamic nature of Iranian society.

“This is the last chance for change within the system,” says Sayed Mehdi Anwar, 23, a politics student at Tehran University, who voted for Rafsanjani in the hope that his status as a political insider would let him deliver change.

“The more the government opens up social freedoms, the more the youth will move away from Westernisation and accept their own culture.”

Those comments sit uneasily with the vaunted “Western” nature of the campaign, particularly given the pseudo-American techniques deployed by Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, a hardline former police chief and Revolutionary Guard air force commander.

A cynic might ask how many Western elections are marred by a series of bombings in the days before polling. Over three days last week, nine bomb blasts were reported in Iran, killing 10 people.

The regime blamed at least four of the bombings, in the southern city of Ahwaz, on separatists in the mainly Arab Khuzestan province. However, responsibility for others, including two in Tehran, has not been established.

Reformists hinted darkly that some of the bombings may have been the work of hardline elements close to the regime hoping to influence the election result.

Less than 24 hours before polls opened, the outgoing reformist president, Mohammed Khatami, in revealingly candid remarks, warned that the election was in danger of being undermined.

“It seems there is an organised movement to hurt the glorious process of the elections,” he said.

Complaining of “disruption of gatherings, beatings, illegal pamphlets and spreading lies to ruin candidates’ reputations”, Khatami called on intelligence and interior ministries to step up their investigations into the bombings and bring the perpetrators to justice.

The remarks, rather than bolster confidence in Iranian democracy, appeared to lend weight to eve-of-poll criticism by US President George Bush that the elections were unfair.

The petering out of Khatami’s once crusading reformist administration has been a primary cause of voter disillusionment and cynicism in Iran. Once hailed as a heroic agent of change, the liberal president and his reform-minded followers lost their credibility as the conservative clerical establishment repeatedly blocked plans to give a more open, less religious face to Iranian society.

Nevertheless, Khatami is credited with advancing social freedoms and bringing about a sea-change in the mentality of the younger generations of Iranians.

“I must say that Khatami’s period was remarkable. He gave some freedom to people but those freedoms have not been allowed to continue,” says Mohammed Hassan Ahmadi, 19, a worker in an arts and crafts shop in Isfahan.

That thirst for freedom was probably behind the scenes that unfolded in the streets late last Wednesday evening.

Amid blaring horns, thousands of young people brought traffic to a standstill as they drove all over the affluent northern part of the city, their cars festooned with election stickers and paraphernalia supporting their favoured candidates. It was an affirmation not so much of the election but of a widespread desire for a party in defiance of the social restrictions that have marked the 26 years of Iran’s Islamic leadership.

The same spirit had asserted itself a week earlier when tens of thousands took to the streets to celebrate Iran’s qualification for next year’s football World Cup in Germany.

In both cases, the authorities – notoriously suspicious of unauthorised public gatherings – did not dare intervene.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:55 AM


Possible Court Nominees Pose a Quandary for Bush: A Conservative Anchor vs. an Ethnic First (Peter Baker, June 19, 2005, Washington Post)

President Bush's advisers are focusing their search for a new Supreme Court justice on a trio of candidates who could present the president with a choice that would help shape his legacy -- pick a reliable conservative to anchor the court for decades or go for history by naming the first Hispanic chief justice at the risk of alienating his base. [...]

Bush and his inner circle have had tightly held deliberations and no one can say for sure whom he might pick for chief justice, but outside advisers to the White House believe the main candidates are federal appeals Judges John G. Roberts and J. Michael Luttig and possibly Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales.

For a time, many officials and analysts in Washington assumed that Gonzales, a longtime Bush confidant and his first-term White House counsel, had been ruled out as a candidate because he took over the Justice Department in February. But in recent days, several advisers with close ties to the White House said Bush appears to be considering Gonzales, after all.

If so, it sets up a delicate conundrum for Bush. A Gonzales appointment would be a politically appealing "first" that could ease the confirmation process among Democrats and help expand the Republican base, according to some strategists. But many conservative leaders see him as too moderate on issues such as abortion and affirmative action, and a Gonzales-for-Rehnquist trade would effectively move the court somewhat to the left.

"He's clearly in the running," said one adviser who, like others, shared insights on the condition of anonymity to preserve relations with the White House. "And that's an easy confirmation -- that's the easy confirmation."

Miguel Estrada would kill both birds.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:22 AM

STILL JUNK (via The Mother Judd):

A Web Hoax, Transformed (AMY HARMON, 6/19/05, NY Times)

"SAVE NPR and PBS," reads an e-mail petition being circulated by MoveOn.org, a liberal advocacy group. "Really. Check the footnotes if you don't believe us."

The group was one of dozens to solicit signatures after a House committee voted to cut federal support of National Public Radio and television shows like "Sesame Street." But many found they had to first persuade a jaded Internet citizenry that their petitions were authentic.

That was necessary because, according to folklorists of the online world, two students at the University of Northern Colorado had sent out a similar "Save NPR/PBS" petition way back in 1995, shortly after Republican legislators began a push to eliminate public broadcasting.

What happened next was in some ways characteristic of what happens to information on the Internet: the students' e-mail campaign soon got out of hand. The petition kept circulating, this time as a hoax, long after the threat to public radio and television had disappeared.

Then, in a reminder of the slippery distinction between digital fact and fiction, current events turned the e-mail's oft-debunked but never killed message into reality. In a classically surreal Internet moment, the new e-mail was taken for the bogus old one, and the old one, for many years a hoax, suddenly became true.

How is the notion that the existence of NPR/PBS is threatened not still a hoax?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:16 AM


Gaza houses 'will be demolished' (BBC, 6/19/05)

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said Jewish homes in the Gaza Strip will be destroyed when Israel pulls out its troops and settlers.

Speaking after talks in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Ms Rice said the move had been agreed by Israel and the Palestinians.

Earlier, Ms Rice said the pull-out would be an "historic" step which could lead to a Palestinian state. [...]

She said it was an "historic step that can lead to the eventual resolution and the eventual ability to get to a two-state solution", as envisaged under the internationally-backed roadmap plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:08 AM


Blair plans assault on 'out-of-date' EU leaders (EDDIE BARNES AND BRIAN BRADY, 6/19/05, The Scotsman)

TONY Blair will this week launch a dramatic offensive in the heart of the European Union, demanding the crisis-stricken EU deliver widespread reform.

After the most acrimonious week in the Union's history, the Prime Minister will enter the European Parliament in Brussels on Thursday, provoking renewed hostility by insisting France and other European nations slash their bloated agricultural subsidies.

Bullish officials in Downing Street claim they have been "vindicated" following last week's EU summit when Britain was joined by four other nations in refusing to sign off its budget.

But despite their confidence, Foreign Office officials returning to London yesterday, warned that Blair's bid was unlikely to succeed, with France leading the group of "enemy" nations hungry for revenge.

At least they finally recognize that they are enemies.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:50 AM


The master plan for party suicide (Wesley Pruden, June 17, 2005, Washington Times)

[T]he Democrats, in their desperate search for an alchemist who can turn Iraq into Vietnam, stumble into one soft cowpie after another. Harry Reid called the president "a loser," and that didn't work. Howard Dean mocked Christians for both race and faith, and fell over backwards. Dick Durbin thought he had the formula, telling how an FBI agent told him interrogators at Guantanamo chained an al Qaeda terrorist to the floor, turned up the air-conditioning, turned on a hip-hop recording and dialed up the decibels. Making someone, even a terrorist, listen to hip-hop may well be beyond the ordinary limits of civilized behavior, but what can Mr. Durbin and his colleagues expect ordinary Americans to make of this: "If I read this [e-mail] to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others -- that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners."

His Democratic colleagues, despairing of buttoning the lip on the fattest mouth in the United States Senate, tried yesterday to avoid the senator and his firestorm, much like embarrassed parents whose four-year-old used the f-word in describing to dinner guests what daddy said to mommy. Harry Reid first hid between a bookcase and the Xerox machine and sent a female aide out to take the heat. She could tell reporters only that Mr. Durbin had "spotlighted" a problem and everyone ought to take "the FBI's concerns" seriously, although the FBI had said nothing at all about "the problem."

Hillary Clinton, having wrapped up the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination and eager not to offend allies before actual campaigning starts, insisted that she hadn't read "the senator's speech." When a reporter read the offending passage to her she could only say, primly, that she had nothing to say.

If true, the senator's revelations that American war crimes at Guantanamo, consisting mostly of irreverent attitudes toward the Koran, had caught up with the atrocities of the Holocaust (9 million dead, including 6 million Jews), Stalin's gulags (2.7 million dead) and Pol Pot's Cambodian attempt at genocide (1.7 million dead) were surely the story of the new century, but the party's friendly press organs tried to look the other way. Neither The Washington Post nor the New York Times found room in yesterday's editions to report the controversy. But there was no press lollygagging in the Islamic world. Al Jazeera, the Arab-language network that regularly broadcasts dispatches from Osama bin Laden's cave, quickly put up the Durbin remarks in fulsome detail.

...if you're going to play Russian Roulette at least empty a few chambers and improve your odds.

Durbin slanders his own country (MARK STEYN, 6/19/05, Chicago Sun-Times)

Throughout the last campaign season, senior Democrats had a standard line in their speeches, usually delivered with righteous anger, about how "nobody has a right to question my patriotism!" Given that nobody was questioning their patriotism, it seemed an odd thing to harp on about. But, aware of their touchiness on the subject, I hasten to add that in what follows I am not questioning Dick Durbin's patriotism, at least not for the first couple of paragraphs. Instead, I'll begin by questioning his sanity.

Last Tuesday, Senator Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, quoted a report of U.S. "atrocities" at Guantanamo and then added:

"If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others -- that had no concern for human beings."

Er, well, your average low-wattage senator might. But I wouldn't. The "atrocities" he enumerated -- "Not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room" -- are not characteristic of the Nazis, the Soviets or Pol Pot, and, at the end, the body count in Gitmo was a lot lower. That's to say, it was zero, which would have been counted a poor day's work in Auschwitz or Siberia or the killing fields of Cambodia.

But give Durbin credit. Every third-rate hack on every European newspaper can do the Americans-are-Nazis schtick. Amnesty International has already declared Guantanamo the "gulag of our times." But I do believe the senator is the first to compare the U.S. armed forces with the blood-drenched thugs of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge. Way to go, senator! If you had a dime for every crackpot Web site that takes up your thoughtful historical comparison, you'd be able to retire to the Caribbean and spend the rest of your days torturing yourself with hot weather and loud music, as well as inappropriately provocative women and insufficient choice of hors d'oeuvres and all the other shameful atrocities committed at Guantanamo.

Just for the record, some 15 million to 30 million Soviets died in the gulag; some 6 million Jews died in the Nazi camps; some 2 million Cambodians -- one third of the population -- died in the killing fields. Nobody's died in Gitmo, not even from having Christina Aguilera played to them excessively loudly. The comparison is deranged, and deeply insulting not just to the U.S. military but to the millions of relatives of those dead Russians, Jews and Cambodians, who, unlike Durbin, know what real atrocities are.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:45 AM


Efforts to curb abortion proliferate at state level: Abortion foes try to chip away at Roe v. Wade, most recently through laws focusing on 'personhood' of a fetus. (Amanda Paulson, 6/13/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

"We've seen more bills [related to abortion] enacted in the first five months of this year [16] than in all of last year," says Elizabeth Nash, state monitor for the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive-rights policy group. "It's hard to measure the impact. But every time we get one of these laws, we say it's just another way to chip away at Roe."

Among the recent efforts:

• Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed a law last week that requires minors wanting an abortion to get written parental consent (as opposed to parental notification, which was previously required). It also bans a woman from getting an abortion after 26 weeks of pregnancy, unless her life is threatened or the fetus is brain damaged.

• Florida Gov. Jeb Bush recently signed legislation giving the state increased oversight of clinics that offer second-trimester abortions. While Governor Bush and others have stressed that it is only intended to ensure safety and quality care at clinics, abortion-rights groups see it as singling out facilities in hopes of closing them.

• A Georgia law approved last month requires a 24-hour waiting period and parental notification for minors. More unusual, it specifies that the doctor must inform the woman of the fetus's age, alternatives to abortion, and the likelihood that the fetus will feel pain during the abortion.

• In a similar focus on the fetus, Indiana now requires abortion doctors to notify patients that they can see an ultrasound image and listen to the fetus's heartbeat. The Michigan House recently passed a bill that requires an ultrasound be done before every abortion. [...]

[Peggy Romberg, CEO of the Women's Health and Family Planning Association of Texas,] says, "we see the erosion bit by bit.... I think the assaults have an overall effect I find disheartening."

Even abortion opponents admit that some of the restrictions have little real effect. But they still see them as important in keeping the issue public, establishing legal precedents that acknowledge a fetus as an individual, and raising awareness of the fetus's personhood for Americans who may be undecided about abortion.

"Even in cases where it may be more symbolic or less effectual in saving lives of unborn children, we have to recognize it has an effect in public relations and helping people to think these things through," says David Bereit, a program director for the American Life League.

Mr. Bereit acknowledges a flip side as well: Incremental gains - like parental consent - could jeopardize the long-term goal of outlawing all abortions. "If abortion is wrong and truly kills an unborn child, it shouldn't matter if a parent says yes or no," he says. "Could it give more legitimacy to abortion in the eyes of the law?"

One tactic gaining popularity is "informed consent" - laws that require abortion seekers to be notified about pain the fetus may experience and medical and psychological risks to the mother. Some tell doctors to cite an increased risk of breast cancer, even though most doctors say no such risk exists. Planned Parenthood recently filed suit against a South Dakota law that requires women to sign a statement saying, among other things, that the abortion will terminate the life of a "whole, separate, unique, living human being."

Critics of these laws aimed at getting women to think of the fetus as an individual - the latest of which is the ultrasound requirement - believe this amounts to legislating what should be the realm of medicine. "It's putting politicians' beliefs into a doctor's office," says Ted Miller, a spokesperson for NARAL Pro-Choice America. "These proposals are coming from people very hostile to individual privacy."

Abortion opponents counter that anything that gets women - and the law - to recognize a fetus as a person is a step in the right direction.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:37 AM


Arrogant Australia humbled in 'the biggest upset in the game's history': Bangladesh 250 for five bt Australia 249 for five by five wickets Remarkable result suggests Aussie juggernaut spluttering badly (Vic Marks, June 19, 2005, The Observer

At the start of the day we wondered whether the Aussie juggernaut was spluttering. By the end, it seemed to be missing several wheels. Australia's five-wicket defeat to Bangladesh is as stunning a result in a cricket match as any I can recall. A freak result, you might say - unless you were here.

The astonishing truth is that Australia, acknowledged as the best side in the world in all forms of the game - except perhaps Twenty20 - were clinically outplayed by the minnows of world cricket. Mashrafe Mortaza was the best bowler on view yesterday. Mohammad Ashraful, who sparkled in the evening sunshine, played the best innings, a brilliant century. Australia dropped more catches than Bangladesh, who, in contrast to their opponents, took all the right decisions - Ricky Ponting's preference to bat first was a mistake, based on the assumption that this match could not be lost.

The Australian bowlers could not bully the Bangladeshis as England's have this summer. The pitch was too slow for that and so is the Australian pace attack when Brett Lee is not playing. The lack of depth in the Australian bowling was also exposed as Ponting anxiously shuffled Brad Hogg, Michael Clarke and Mike Hussey. Where was Shane and some subtlety? Gobsmacked in some Hampshire haven, I guess.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:01 AM


Hot-hitting Young finds trouble inside (Dennis Manoloff, June 19, 2005, The Plain Dealer)

Buffalo Bisons outfielder Ernie Young is the classic “4-A” player — good enough to succeed, even thrive, in Class AAA, but not quite good enough to stick in the major leagues. Regardless, what Young has done with a bat as a professional is noteworthy.

Last Thursday at Indianapolis, Young grounded out to drive in his 1,000th career run as a minor- leaguer. A sizable chunk of them came on 289 homers. Young entered Friday at .306 with 16 homers and 52 RBI as a catalyst for the sizzling Bisons. The homers and RBI led the International League.

A 10th-round pick by Oakland in 1990, Young, 35, has played in more than 1,400 minor-league games but just 288 in the majors (.225 batting average). He appeared in three games for the Indians last season after batting .299 with 27 homers and 100 RBI in 115 games for Buffalo. No player in the storied history of the Bisons ever has posted back-to-back 100-RBI seasons. Incredibly, Young has cracked at least 14 home runs in eight consecutive seasons with a Class AAA club, dating to 1998 when he hit 22 for Omaha in the Kansas City system. Barring injury or recall, Young will make it seven of eight with 20-plus. He has appeared in at least 48 games at Class AAA in nine consecutive seasons.

As to why Young fails to solve major-league pitching, the answer is found in the inner half of the strike zone.

“Big-league pitchers can ride the fastball in on him and tie him up,” an International League scout said. “The bat speed is not sufficient there. Triple-A pitchers generally don’t have the command or the velocity to attack that area consistently, and he’s smart enough and strong enough to hammer mistakes.”

The scout said the ratio of doubles to homers often says a lot about the swing of a player (certain top-flight sluggers excluded). If he has more homers than doubles over a long stretch, a hole likely exists somewhere. Young had 252 minor-league doubles through Thursday.

There's an interesting corollary: a younger guy who hits a ton of doubles is often poised to start hitting the ball over the fence, as with Brian Roberts this year com ing off of an AL-leading 50 last year.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:09 AM


Best, brightest pushed into private schools (Peter A. Brown, May 13, 2005, Orlando Sentinel)

[Harvard President Larry] Summers spoke about schools at a reunion of Neiman Fellows, alumni of a Harvard program that selects 12 American and 12 non-American midcareer journalists for a paid year of study.

In his remarks, Summers explained why the national interest requires that more attention and resources be poured into public schools to improve learning, especially among historically lower-achieving groups.

Hooding Carter III, State Department spokesman during the Iranian hostage crisis, asked Summers to square that notion with the reality that most of those in the room, and a majority of Harvard faculty, send their kids to private schools.

Summers paused, then talked about how parents must do what is best for their children, which is both obvious and beside the point.

In fact, increasing numbers of parents are sending their children to private schools, according to a U.S. Department of Education study. A number choose home-schooling for reasons of finances or faith.

However, many top students attend academically rigorous private schools out of parental concerns that the public schools do not sufficiently challenge them, because of the attention rightly focused on poor learners.

Summers, a public-school product, is one of those parents. While Treasury secretary under Bill Clinton, he sent his three children, two of whom are now in high school and the third in middle school, to a public school in D.C.'s suburbs. After he became president of Harvard in Cambridge, Mass., in 2001, however, he put them in a private school.

Summers said that when he used to attend meetings of senior Clinton aides, he was one of only two sending their kids to public schools. Clinton, you may remember, disappointed many supporters, who see private education as somehow un-American, when he chose to send his daughter, Chelsea, to a private school.

Summers said he recently talked to the other official, whom he did not identify, who had been sending his kids to public school. Summers said that man was reconsidering his decision, because the reading requirement in his son's honors English course had been cut in half to make it possible to triple the number of students able to take the course.

Some may wonder why the country should care if those with the financial means to afford private education do so.

Obviously, any child attending private school is one fewer to be educated on the taxpayer's dime.

Yet it is not just the wealthy who are sending their children to such private schools. I am among the many middle/upper-middle-class parents, some receiving financial aid, who are investing in their children, even though they would rather spend the money on a new car or nice vacation.

Why not pull everyone via vouchers?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:07 AM


Failed Summit Talks Expose Union Abyss (ELAINE SCIOLINO, 7/18/05, NY Times)

Something shattered in Europe on Friday night.

The leaders of the 25 European Union nations went home after a failed two-day summit meeting in anger and in shame, as domestic politics and national interests defeated lofty notions of sacrifice and solidarity for the benefit of all.

The battle over money and the shelving of the bloc's historic constitution, after the crushing no votes in France and the Netherlands, stripped away all pretense of an organization with a common vision and reflected the fears of many leaders in the face of rising popular opposition to the project called Europe.

Their attacks on one another after they failed to agree on a future budget - for 2007 through 2013 - seemed destructive and unnecessary, and it is not at all clear that they will be able to repair their relationships. Even if they do, the damage to the organization is done.

Most embarrassing for the European Union was a last-minute attempt by its 10 newest members to salvage the budget agreement late on Friday night. They offered to give up some of their own aid from the union so that the older and richer members could keep theirs.

For the new members, that offer was an opportunity to prove their worth. Criticizing the "egoism" of countries driven by national interests, Prime Minister Marek Belka of Poland said, "Nobody will be able to say that for Poland, the European Union is just a pile of money."

But for the older members, it was a humiliation.

Aren't they past the point where they can be humiliated?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:01 AM


What's Bad for G.M. Is . . . (GREGG EASTERBROOK, 6/12/05, NY Times)

Many factors contributed to the General Motors decline - health care costs, corporate bureaucracy and detachment from the market. (Toyota, Honda and others have long focused their marketing research on California, to be close to the pulse of car culture. G.M. does its big thinking in Michigan, which is a little like studying fashion in Toledo.) Company executives bet heavily that gas prices and poor fuel economy would not dampen enthusiasm for G.M.'s S.U.V.'s and pickup trucks; now, that is happening. [...]

There is also great pressure to hold prices down, which is bad for companies like G.M. with vast amounts of overhead. According to the consumer price index, new cars and light trucks today cost less in real-dollar terms than in 1982, despite having air bags, antilock brakes, CD players, power windows and other features either unavailable or considered luxury options back then.

This means that during the very period that General Motors has declined, American car buyers have become better off. Competition can have the effect of "creative destruction," in the economist Joseph Schumpeter's famous term, harming workers in some places, while everyone else comes out ahead.

Nothing is more expensive today than it was yesterday...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Our Father Is No 'It' or Gal God (Dennis Prager, June 19, 2005, LA Times)

Father's Day provides a fine opportunity to talk about our Father in Heaven. Why do Judeo-Christian religions insist on God being a father and not a mother? Is it still important to use masculine images and vocabulary to describe God? Or is that all a vestige of sexist religion?

That is the charge of "progressives" within Christianity and Judaism. Because men and women are equal, their argument goes, describing God, the highest being, in male terms is pure sexism. It simply discriminates against women and places men in a superior position. These arguments have great appeal in an age that confuses equality with sameness. So it is worth briefly sketching some of the arguments for preserving male depictions of God. [...]

First, God is the source of moral rules. As the feminist thinker Carole Gilligan argued years ago, men think more in terms of rules, and women think more in terms of feelings/compassion/ intuition. There is a great human need for both. But, first and foremost, the Judeo-Christian God is a moral ruler (giver of moral rules and moral judge of humanity)...

That's the whole shooting match.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


What is science for?: The scientific method, in the words of its greatest practitioners. (Dr Simon Singh, spiked)

When spiked asked various folk which bit of science they would most like to teach the world, there was one response that was given over and over again: the scientific method. In other words, it seems that scientists wanted to explain the nature of science to non-scientists. So, what is science?

When I spoke at the spiked event at the Royal Institution that followed the survey, I tried to describe the scientific method by giving an example, which involved taking a historical look at the Big Bang model of the universe. I discussed how it had been developed through theory and experiment, through prediction and verification, through measurement and observation.

Hypothesis, predictions, experiments, and answers: the scientific method. But many sciences do not and can not work this way. As a paleontologist and evolutionary biologist, my trade is the reconstruction of history. History is unique and complex. It cannot be reproduced in a flask. Scientists who study history, particularly an ancient and unobservable history not recorded in human or geological chronicles, must use inferential rather than experimental methods.
-Stephen Jay Gould, The Panda's Thumb

Darwin's Influence on Modern Thought: This article is based on the September 23, 1999, lecture that Mayr delivered in Stockholm on receiving the Crafoord Prize from the Royal Swedish Academy of Science (Ernst Mayr)
[D]arwin introduced historicity into science. Evolutionary biology, in contrast with physics and chemistry, is a historical science - the evolutionist attempts to explain events and processes that have already taken place. Laws and experiments are inappropriate techniques for the explication of such events and processes. Instead one constructs a historical narrative, consisting of a tentative reconstruction of the particular scenario that led to the events one is trying to explain.

June 18, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:49 PM


Strayhorn announces candidacy for governor (R.G. RATCLIFFE, 6/17/05 Houston Chronicle)

With the Capitol as a backdrop and a scorching sun beating down, Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn turned the political heat up on Gov. Rick Perry today, formally announcing as a challenger to his re-election.

Strayhorn, saying she will run against Perry in next year's Republican primary, wasted no time in attacking her new opponent.

"You know that Texans cannot afford another four years of a governor who promises tax relief and delivers nothing," she said.

"Now is time to replace this do-nothing drugstore cowboy with one tough grandma," Strayhorn told a cheering crowd. [...]

Strayhorn has been able to brag in her statewide elections in 1996 and 2002 that she was the top vote-getter among Republican candidates in the general election.

But both times Strayhorn has been on the Republican primary ballot at the same time as the governor, Perry has received more of the primary vote. When she was running for re-election in 2002 and Perry was seeking election as governor, Perry received 80,000 more GOP primary votes than Strayhorn.

The GOP primary race was clarified on Friday when U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison announced she would seek re-election rather than join the contest to unseat Perry.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:43 PM


The Merkel factor: Never mind the summit: wait for September’s victory on the German plains (Times of London, 6/17/05)

Angela Merkel, the leader of the German Christian Democrats, has become a useful ally of the British Government, even though her likely election as Chancellor is still some months away. By recognising that budget reform is necessary, and by conceding that she understands Britain’s concerns over the rebate, she has already shown more leadership than most of the prime ministers gathered around the table in Brussels last night. For too many of those leaders, the budget wrangle has been an excuse not to focus on broader economic and political issues, including the resounding defeat of the EU constitution in France and the Netherlands.

At a moment when they should be responding to the discontents and anxieties that those votes exposed — about political arrogance, remote institutions, stagnating economies and faltering social models — Europe’s leaders have taken refuge in old disputes about farm payments, the British rebate, or how much regional aid prosperous Spain is to continue to claw out of Brussels even though the needs of the Union’s new members are manifestly greater. It is for all the world as though nothing seismic had occurred.

The institutional EU has its own version of Cartesian logic: “I spend, therefore I exist.” President Chirac’s interests lie in demonstrating France’s power to resist any radical transformation of the EU’s spending priorities. Germany’s do not; and yet Gerhard Schröder seems to think the best final service he can do Europe as Chancellor is to pretend that Franco-German interests are indivisible and their influence is still paramount.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:17 PM


The new science of race
(CAROLYN ABRAHAM, June 18, 2005, Globe and Mail)

Henry Harpending is about to titillate the world's conspiracy theorists with one of the most politically incorrect academic papers of the new millennium.

Why, he and his colleagues at the University of Utah asked, have Jews of European descent won 27 per cent of the Nobel Prizes given to Americans in the past century, while making up only 3 per cent of the population? Why do they produce more than half the world's chess champions? And why do they have an average IQ higher than any other ethnic group for which there's reliable data, and nearly six times as many people scoring above 140 compared with Europeans?

Prof. Harpending suggests that the reason is in their bloodline — it's genetic.

The 61-year-old anthropologist's explanation is not easily dismissed, but it crosses into the territory scientists fear most.

His group's theory is that during 1,000 years of persecution, social isolation and employment restrictions in Europe that kept Ashkenazi Jews from farming, they were forced into (then disreputable) jobs such as trade and finance, which demanded mental agility. Success in these fields could lead to food, shelter and family. Under such pressures, the paper suggests, genetic traits related to intelligence became more prevalent among central and northern European Jews.

Two U.S. journals refused the paper, an unusual experience for this widely published scholar. “We finally had to send the paper to England, where they're not so obsessed with political correctness,” Prof. Harpending said.

The danger of bolstering bigots is what has scientists so nervous. If a complex trait such as intelligence can be inherited, for instance, and you say one ethnic or racial group tends to have more of it than others, does it follow that another group has less? [...]

It was not supposed to be this way.

When the Human Genome Project was completed in 2000, its most touted result was that it showed no genetic basis for race. In fact, some scientists went so far as to dub race a “biological fiction.”

The project was a 13-year international drive to map all of the three billion chemical bits, or nucleotides, that make up human DNA. Particular nucleotide sequences (represented by the letters A, C, G and T) combine to form the estimated 25,000 genes whose proteins help to produce human traits, from the way your heart beats to the wave in your hair.

The map indicated that humans as a species are 99.9 per cent genetically identical — that, in fact, there are greater differences between two frogs in a pond than between any two people who find themselves waiting for a bus.

A teeny 0.1 per cent, a mere genetic sliver, helps to account for all the profound diversity within the human race, with its freckles, dimples, afros and crimson tresses, its shy and bombastic types, its Donald Trumps and Dalai Lamas, Madonnas and Mr. Dressups, Bill Gates, Billie Holidays, George W. Bushes and Osama bin Ladens.

It was a message of harmony: Hardly a hair of code separates us.

But five years later, one of scientists' main preoccupations has become to chart the genetic variations between and within racial groups — to parse that 0.1 per cent.

Make them do math and they develop mathematical minds.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:10 PM


A Just-in-Case Short List of Solid Conservatives DEB RIECHMANN Associated Press Writers (Nancy Benac, 6/17/05, AP)

President Bush's best bets for filling a potential vacancy on the Supreme Court include six solidly conservative federal judges, each of whom has unique qualities that could make all the difference. [...]

One name that consistently pops up is J. Michael Luttig, a Texan who was named in 1991 by the first President Bush to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Richmond, Va.

Luttig, then 37, became the youngest federal appellate judge. At 51, he still has a boyish look and playful manner that belie his judicial experience on what is considered the most conservative of the appeals courts.

"I think the president would hit it off with him," Long said. "They are both from Texas, have a similar sense of humor and share the same judicial philosophy." [...]

J. Harvie Wilkinson III is one of Luttig's colleagues on the 4th Circuit. The 60-year-old also figures prominently in Supreme Court speculation, particularly if Bush were to fill a vacancy in the chief justice's seat with an outsider rather than elevating one of the associate justices, such as Thomas or Antonin Scalia. [...]

If Bush wants to make history by appointing the first Latino justice, Judge Emilio Garza of the 5th Circuit, based in New Orleans, is a leading candidate. Nearly 15 years ago, the first President Bush gave serious thought to appointing Garza, now 57, to the high court.

Strategists say the historic nature of such an appointment could be an important factor when Bush has a number of solid conservatives to choose among.

Garza would be sure to be questioned closely about his writings suggesting that the Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion should be overturned.

Three others circulating as candidates for the court are Judges John Roberts of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit; Michael McConnell of the 10th Circuit; and Samuel Alito of the 3rd Circuit.

Roberts has been given more prominence of late. Low-key, staunchly conservative and with a relatively short paper trail, Roberts is very much considered the safe, establishment candidate in Washington. He has generally avoided weighing in on disputed social issues. Abortion rights groups, however, have maintained that he tried during his days as a lawyer in the first Bush administration to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Others seen as plausible picks by the president, especially given his penchant for picking a wild card, include:

-former Solicitor General Theodore Olson.

-former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson.

-Judge Edith Jones of the 5th Circuit.

-Judge Danny Boggs of the 6th Circuit.

-Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez.

-Lawyer Miguel Estrada, who withdrew his nomination to the D.C. Circuit when he ran into a Democratic filibuster.

We just established the fact that Janice Rogers Brown is an ordinary nominee and not filibusterable.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:42 PM


‘Living With Sheep' (6/17/05, Valley News)

Some people say that sheep are dumb as dirt piles, but on a recent scorcher of a summer day, Chuck Wooster's flock had it made in the shade.

In the greater Upper Valley, humans were bustling about and sizzling like fried eggs.

Wooster's sheep were watching the pasture grow. They lay serenely, woolly little Buddhas under cover of a shelter similar to a carport, meditating on the taste of grass and waiting for a cloud to block the sun.

When the cloud came, they'd go out for a bite.

Until the cloud came, they were cooling their heels, or hooves.

Now it's true that they weren't discussing globalization or the impending Michael Jackson verdict, or anything that humans would say constitutes higher intelligence.

But on that day, they were chewing grass and humans were mowing lawns. The latter risked heat stroke -- so who is it, really, who's dumb?

Wooster defends sheep smarts in his new book, Living With Sheep, which promises in its subtitle to reveal Everything You Need to Know to Raise Your Own Flock. A generous offering of color photographs, ranging from adorable to pastoral, are by Geoff Hansen of Tunbridge, who has done several books and is photo and graphics editor at the Valley News.

One of the first issues Wooster addresses is sheep-think. We are predators, he explains, and sheep are prey, and that affects everything about how we and they see the world. (And explains why we understand cat-and-dog behavior, that of our fellow predators, better.) “Their main deal is, they stick together,'' he said in a recent interview at his 100-acre farm in Hartford, where the flock currently includes 10 ewes, a ram and eight lambs.

That stick-to-itiveness makes a lone sheep look silly if it gets isolated from the flock and panics, Wooster said, and sheep don't take directions well. They move, en masse, “like a liquid,'’ said Wooster. “They’re amazingly good at it.’’

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:26 AM


Where's Waldo? (Phillip Matier, Andrew Ross, June 13, 2005, SF Chronicle)

Waldo the pill-dispensing robot apparently went berserk this past week at UCSF Medical Center, sending a doctor and patient running for cover.

Whacked-out Waldo is one of three battery-operated, rolling robots that dispense pills at the hospital. The other two are named Elvis and Lisa Marie.

All three are about the size of a large TV and are programmed to roam from floor to floor, distributing medications to nursing stations.

At the end of their rounds, the robots are supposed to roll into the basement pharmacy for refills.

But Tuesday, Waldo shot past the pharmacy and barged uninvited into the examination room in the radiation oncology department, where -- according to an anonymous caller -- a doctor was examining a cancer patient.

According to the caller, Waldo wouldn't leave, and the startled doctor and patient felt obliged to flee the room.

Can't you just see the last few elderly Japanese cowering in terror as their robot masters rampage?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:22 AM


Porn Industry Sues To Prevent New Child Porn Rules (Denver Channel, June 17, 2005)

A coalition representing the porn industry asked a federal court Thursday to block new regulations requiring pornographers and distributors to maintain records of their performers, arguing the rules could stop the distribution of material produced since 1992.

The regulations, which were approved by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in May, requires producers to keep detailed information that verify the identify and age of their performers, including their date of birth, legal name, and copy of a picture identification card. The rules were approved in an effort to stop child pornography and ensure the performers are not minors.

Producers have 30 days to comply with the changes, which take effect June 23, or face up to 5 years in prison for the first offense and 10 years for each subsequent violation.

The Free Speech Coalition, its chapter in Colorado, a pornography distributor, and adult film producer filed the lawsuit seeking an injunction in U.S. District Court.

Because, after all, if the First Amendment doesn't protect child pornography then what was the Revolution all about?

Posted by orrinj at 8:32 AM


Europe 1, American Right 0: Conservative pundits aghast at European voters’ EU snub don’t want to grapple with what those voters might be saying about unchecked capitalism. (Jim Sleeper, 06.16.05, American Prospect)

“Ranting like yours against capitalism is so over,” a vaguely neoconservative friend and writer of learned essays chided me last winter as I ranted, indeed, against proposals to privatize Social Security. Recently, another writer-acquaintance, David Brooks, chided French and Dutch voters for rebuffing “higher living standards” (more jobs and consumer goods) by refusing to ratify the European Union’s proposed constitution, in an effort to defend their outmoded social-welfare networks and their ineffable “quality of life.”

But if resistance to global capitalism isn’t as “over” over there as EU elites thought, couldn’t its cheerleaders be missing something over here, too? I don’t mean a demand for socialism, thank you, but, far more modestly, stirrings of a civic republicanism that has often had to save capitalism from itself, both here and abroad. Maybe the European majorities -- not just the French and Dutch but also the Danes and the Brits, who’ve kept out of the Euro currency -- are sending signals worth heeding. How can my opinion-maker friends tout “democracy” abroad but call it backward-looking whenever it rears its head? Yet they’re pouncing so defensively on every doubt about the global cornucopia of competitiveness that you begin to wonder if there’s something they’re trying to hide.

Actually, I think I know what that is. But first, consider the signals from abroad. Shouldn’t patriotic American conservatives, of all people, loathe the EU’s unelected, post-nationalist, corporatist bureaucracy, whose sway Brooks once mocked as “Belgian cultural hegemony”

Wha'happen? Is there anyone on the Right who isn't doing a victory dance over the corpse of Europe?

Posted by orrinj at 8:26 AM


JAMES WEINSTEIN, 79: Leftist adopted Chicago as home, started In These Times magazine (Stephen Franklin, June 17, 2005, Chicago Tribune)

In the 1970s James Weinstein had a dream for a socialist magazine unlike any other in the country, a magazine that would speak to average people. But he wasn't sure where to launch it.

New York was too tainted by the old and the New Left. And California was too California.

So, he came to Chicago, a place where he had no roots but which appealed to him because of its heartland nature, its rich social and populist history and people of all kinds who might heed his message.

Thus, In These Times magazine was born in Chicago in 1976 in a classic display of Mr. Weinstein's personal quest not to fit any mold.

A former member of Communist front groups in the 1950s, he preferred to call himself more of a Groucho Marxist influenced as much by "Duck Soup" as "Das Kapital," according to Miles Harvey, a former managing editor of In These Times.

Indeed, Mr. Weinstein thrived on humor, a gift that sometimes baffled his more intense colleagues, some of them said.

No word from its tens of millions of victims on whether they too thought Communism a lark.

Posted by orrinj at 8:19 AM


Sacrificing Herself for Her Cause: Myanmar's freedom fighter lives in forced isolation, refusing to yield. Her nation, ruled by a junta, suffers nearly the same fate. (Richard C. Paddock, June 18, 2005, LA Times)

She is known simply as The Lady. She lives in isolation in her old family home on a quiet lake in the northern part of the city. Armed guards make sure she doesn't leave. Her only known visitor is the doctor who checks on her monthly. She is said to spend her time meditating and reading.

The world's only imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi has spent nearly 10 of the last 16 years under house arrest or behind bars. There is no sign that Myanmar's brutal military regime plans to free her any time soon.

Sunday, the devout Buddhist, who received the prize in 1991 for her nonviolent struggle for democracy in Myanmar, will turn 60. Supporters around the globe will hold protests and concerts in more than a dozen cities, but no public celebration is planned here for fear of government retribution.

Myanmar, formerly called Burma, has been under military rule since a coup d'etat in 1962. In 1988, amid violent protests, the army massacred thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators in the capital Rangoon, now called Yangon, and other cities, leading to another coup.

The new military leaders held national assembly elections in 1990 in which the National League for Democracy, which Suu Kyi helped found, won 82% of the seats. But the junta refused to hand over power. A committee of generals has run the country ever since.

The United States and other nations imposed economic and political sanctions aimed at securing Suu Kyi's freedom. But they have helped cripple the economy, and the dictatorship headed by Sr. Gen. Than Shwe remains firmly in command. Once one of the wealthiest nations in Southeast Asia, Myanmar is now one of the poorest.

The country is mostly isolated from the outside world. There are none of the McDonald's, Starbucks or KFC outlets here that have become ubiquitous in Southeast Asian cities. Instead, workers crowd into dilapidated buses carrying shiny, metal cylinder lunch boxes with separate trays for their rice, curry and vegetables. Women commonly walk down the streets of central Yangon carrying goods on their heads.

Secret police and a network of informers watch over the populace. Listening to overseas radio broadcasts or watching foreign shows on satellite television can result in seven years in prison. Foreign journalists are rarely allowed to visit.

Dissidents are arrested in the middle of the night and vanish into the prison system. There are more than 1,300 political detainees, rights groups say, including other leaders of Suu Kyi's party. Members of the public interviewed for this article asked not to be identified out of fear for their safety.

Around the world, Suu Kyi (pronounced Sue Chee) is celebrated for her advocacy of nonviolence to achieve democracy. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Thursday that instead of being under house arrest, she should be "out amongst the people and her supporters, pushing for stability and … democratization of her society."

If we're serious let's change the regime by force.

Posted by orrinj at 8:16 AM

"WHAT'S BEST FOR ME" (via Robert Schwartz):

School official’s son may transfer: Columbus board president braces for political fallout if teen goes to private school (Bill Bush, June 17, 2005, THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH)

Stephanie Hightower could be pulling her son out of the Columbus school district to send him to a private school, the school-board president confirmed yesterday. [...]

"I have to start thinking about what’s best for me," she said. Though she has been rumored to be a potential candidate for Columbus mayor, she said she has no current plans to seek any other office. Walter Cates, an East Side political activist and a 1960 graduate of East High, said he understands that Hightower is trying to prepare her son for his future, but "clearly it’s an indictment" of the district’s high schools.

"I know damn well it doesn’t look good from a political standpoint, it doesn’t look good from a community standpoint," Cates said.

If Hightower’s son goes to a private school, the move would follow a pattern of parents rejecting the district when it comes time for their children to go to high school, according to a recent study.

Only 7 percent of potential eighth-graders leave Columbus schools for charter schools, but that number jumps to 18 percent by the 10 th grade, said Mark Real, president of KidsOhio, a children’s advocacy group. Numbers weren’t available to show how many students leave Columbus for private schools.

"To me, the lesson . . . is there needs to be better choices inside Columbus schools," Real said.

Pull the kid and run for mayor on a platform of universal vouchers.

Columbus spends $6631 per pupil annually, which is substantially more than a superior parochial school education would cost.

Posted by orrinj at 7:52 AM


EU leaders and voters see paths diverge (Judy Dempsey and Katrin Bennhold, JUNE 18, 2005, International Herald Tribune)

When three European Union leaders announced that ratification of the EU constitution would be "postponed for a period of reflection," they blamed neither the document's architects nor themselves. They blamed the European public.

The French and Dutch voters who said no to the charter did not really reject the constitution, the EU officials said Thursday night, they just failed to understand it. The comments, after nearly three weeks of soul-searching about Europe's direction, spoke less of a crisis atmosphere than of a surreal disconnect between Europe's leadership and its voters.

The fact that none of the three officials had been elected by Europeans as a whole, but were appointed to their posts, only strengthened the sense of detachment between voters and EU institutions.

Yikes. Even the Times has figured it out.

Posted by orrinj at 7:49 AM


NO DALEY CALL (Robert Novak, June 18, 2005, Townhall)

Former Commerce Secretary William Daley supports President Bush's uphill fight for Congressional approval of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) but declined a request to phone Democratic members of Congress and solicit their votes.

Daley managed approval of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and Chinese trade during the Clinton administration. But he said a call from a former Cabinet member could hardly counteract organized labor's pressure on Democrats to vote no. Daley agreed, however, to write an op-ed article supporting CAFTA.

A footnote: Daley believes that CAFTA is in trouble because of intense partisanship in Washington that he said is worse than the atmosphere during the Clinton impeachment.

Can anyone help us process this story? He supports a treaty that would benefit the country but won't help pass it. Oh, and he thinks the Hill is too partisan...

Posted by orrinj at 7:43 AM


Europe divided by two opposing philosophies (Honor Mahony, 18.06.2005, EUOBSERVER)

Following a bitter and failed summit on the future funding of the EU, veteran politician and current head of the EU Jean-Claude Juncker has concluded that Europe is divided into two opposing camps - a free trade camp and a political Europe camp.

Sounding an extremely pessimistic note after a meeting of EU leaders that left the constitution's future uncertain and no agreement on money, Mr Juncker said that some member states want a free trade Europe and nothing else while others want a "politically integrated Europe".

He added that only political integration would allow Europe to overcome the challenges facing it.

Speaking of the "two philosophies" Mr Juncker said "I knew the time would come when all of this would come out". [...]

[T]he opposing philosophies have been simmering for the last months - particularly in the run up to the French referendum on the constitution.

A large part of the reason that the French voted No was fears of a free-market Anglo-Saxon model of Europe, which they felt would cost jobs and social security.

Months? Try centuries.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:30 AM


President Attends National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast (George W. Bush, Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, Washington, D.C., 6/16/05)

We come from many faiths. In America, every religion is welcome. That's the great thing about our country: every faith is important. In America, people of faith have no corner on compassion, but people of faith need compassion to be true to the call to "Ame al projimo como a sí mismo," love your neighbor like you'd like to be loved yourself. That's a universal call.

For Hispanic Americans, a love of neighbor is more than a gospel command -- it's a way of life. We see the love of neighbor in the strong commitment of Hispanic Americans to family and the culture of life. For Hispanic Americans, families are a source of joy and the foundation of a hopeful society. We're working to support and defend the sanctity of marriage and to ensure that the most vulnerable Americans are welcomed in life and protected in love. (Applause.)

We see the love of neighbor in the tireless efforts of Hispanic American faith-based and community organizations that work daily to bring hope to harsh places. In Boston, the León de Judá Congregation mentors inner-city teens so they have a chance to realize the great dreams of America. In St. Louis, Acción Social Comunitaria helps immigrants and their children adapt to American life. In the archdiocese of Miami, Catholic Charities ministers to people with HIV/AIDS; inner-city Philadelphia, Cortés runs a fantastic program to help lift the spirits of every single child. (Applause.)

"In America, people of faith have no corner on compassion, but people of faith need compassion to be true to the call to "Ame al projimo como a sí mismo," love your neighbor like you'd like to be loved yourself. That's a universal call," said the President. White House photo by Eric DraperMany in the Hispanic community understand that by serving the least of -- nuestros hermanos y hermanas -- that we're serving a cause greater than ourselves. And by doing so, we're helping all citizens have an opportunity to realize their dreams here in America.

Finally, we see the love of neighbor in tens of thousands of Hispanics who serve America and the cause of freedom. One of these was an immigrant from Mexico named Rafael Peralta. The day after Rafael got his green card, he enlisted in the Marine Corps. Think about that. While serving in Iraq, this good sergeant wrote a letter to his younger brother. He said, "Be proud of being an American. Our father came to this country, became a citizen because it was the right place for our family to be." Shortly after writing that letter, Sergeant Peralta used his own body to cover a grenade an enemy soldier had rolled into a roomful of Marines.

This prayer breakfast, we remember the sacrifices of honorable and good folks like Sergeant Peralta, who have shown their love of neighbor by giving their life for freedom.

Hispanic Americans answer the call to service willingly, because you understand that freedom is a divine gift that carries with it serious responsibilities. And as you go about the work of repairing broken lives and bringing love into the pockets of hopelessness and despair, be strong, because you're sustained by prayer. Through prayer -- (applause.)

One of the most powerful aspects of being the President is to know that millions of people pray for me and Laura. People that I'll never have a chance -- (applause.) Think about a country where millions of people of all faiths, people whom I'll never have a chance to look face-to-face with and say, thank you, take time to pray. It really is the strength of America, isn't it? Through prayer we ask that our hearts be aligned with God's. Through prayer we ask that we may be given the strength to do what's right and to help those in need.

I want to thank you for the fine tradition you continue here today. This is an important tradition to continue right here in the heart of the nation's capital. I want to thank you for what you do for our nation. Que dios les bendiga, and may God continue to bless our country. Thank you very much.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


You scored as Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan. You are an evangelical in the Wesleyan tradition. You believe that God's grace enables you to choose to believe in him, even though you yourself are totally depraved. The gift of the Holy Spirit gives you assurance of your salvation, and he also enables you to live the life of obedience to which God has called us. You are influenced heavly by John Wesley and the Methodists.

Neo orthodox


Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan


Roman Catholic








Classical Liberal


Modern Liberal


Reformed Evangelical


What's your theological worldview?
created with QuizFarm.com

June 17, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:37 PM


Iran's Presidential Race Appears Headed for Run-Off (John Daniszewski, June 17, 2005, LA Times)

As polls closed four hours late Friday on Iran's most closely fought presidential election in the 26 years since the Islamic revolution, it appeared that none of the seven candidates would win a majority, resulting in an unprecedented run-off vote likely to pit pragmatic ex-President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani against reformist candidate Mostafa Moin.

Aides to Moin voiced confidence that his come-from-behind campaign had edged out the three main conservative contenders, in a major blow for hard-line factions that had hoped to keep all reformers off the ballot and to win back the presidency after eight years of President Mohammad Khatami, who had constantly battled for greater freedoms inside Iran.

No official returns were expected until late Saturday and there was no way to verify the Moin camp's optimism, reflected in a buoyant mood at its headquarters here, where smiling aides rushed back and forth beneath posters of the bald former education minister. Moin hopes to become the first non-clerical president of Iran since the early days of the revolution.

One of Moin's campaign supporters, Mohsen Safaee Farahani, former head of the Iranian soccer federation, read off numbers from a small slip of paper in his hand of returns he said he had obtained from a remote town in the Central Province where votes had already been counted. In one, he said, Moin had obtained 10,003 votes out of 15,030 votes cast; in another 218 of 340; in a third, 104 of 140.

"This is unbelievable for us," he said with a grin. "We did not advertise in this area because we could not afford it. It shows that our message has reached outside of Tehran."

"Some people boycotted because they have lost confidence that things will get better. But if Moin gets to the second round, I believe most of those who boycotted will come back to him."

Now they can turn the run-off into a real challenge to the mullahs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:33 PM


FOX Poll: Congress 'Out of Touch'; Majority Supports Renewing Patriot Act (Dana Blanton, June 16, 2005, FOX News)

Over half of voters think Congress is out of touch with the country, and fewer than one-in-five believe Congress has passed legislation this year that would improve the quality of life for Americans. Clear majorities think the Patriot Act is good for the country and support extending the legislation, which is set to expire at the end of the year. In addition, more than twice as many voters oppose closing the military prison at Guantanamo Bay as support closure. These are just some of the findings from the latest FOX News nationwide poll of voters.

Once again, Democrats staking their future on the 30% positions.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:24 PM


EU Talks on Its Future Budget Collapse (BETH GARDINER, 6/17/05, ASSOCIATED PRESS) -

Talks on the European Union's budget collapsed in acrimony Friday, abruptly ending a summit that diplomats had hoped would pull the EU out of its constitutional dilemma. Top European leaders blamed each other for the breakdown but agreed the bloc was "in a deep crisis."

The failure to agree on a budget for 2007-2013 reinforced impressions that the 50-year process of EU integration has lost direction after the French and Dutch referendums in which voters rejected a proposed EU constitution. Leaders of the bloc's member states failed to resolve strident disputes over spending and did not present a clear plan to save the constitution.

Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker said early Saturday that in coming weeks EU diplomats and others "will tell you that Europe is not in crisis. It is in a deep crisis," he said after the two-day summit. ,/blockquote>
Fortunately it doesn't matter and no one cares.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:29 PM


A cleric's journey: from Idi Amin's Uganda to York (Stephen Bates, June 18, 2005, The Guardian)

If racegoers catching a lunchtime train to the Royal Ascot races at York yesterday noticed a short, slight, clerical passenger squeezed into the last available second-class seat in a smoking compartment, they probably did not realise quite what a seismic event they were witnessing for the Church of England. John Sentamu, the church's first black archbishop, was on his way to visit his new province.

The Ugandan-born Sentamu, 56 - currently Bishop of Birmingham - was named yesterday by Downing Street, in the quaint tradition of senior appointments in the established church, as the new Archbishop of York. He will become Primate of England and Metropolitan, second ranking bishop in the Church of England and overseer of the 14 dioceses from Carlisle to the Midlands.

Yesterday, the new archbishop designate, in keeping with his evangelical roots, vowed nothing less than to re-energise the Church of England and convert the population to Christ. In remarks strikingly contrasting with those of the smooth white men who usually gain preferment, he said: "It is imperative that the Church regains her vision and confidence in mission, developing ways that will enable the Church of England to reconnect imaginatively with England." [...]

He fulfils the relatively recent tradition of having an evangelical in charge of York to complement a High Church Anglican at Canterbury and vice-versa and meets the stipulation of the York diocese that they wanted a theologically conservative figure.

Married with two grown-up children, he follows David Hope, the ascetic bachelor archbishop who announced his early retirement last year in order to return to being a parish priest in Ilkley.

Sentamu will move from the comfortable suburban villa of bishops of Birmingham into the partly medieval if somewhat scruffy splendour of Bishopthorpe Palace on the banks of the Ouse outside York, a stone's throw from the starting gates on the nearby racecourse.

More to the point as far as the Anglican communion, bitterly divided over homosexuality, is concerned, his appointment to balance the more liberal Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, may temporarily mollify African primates muttering grimly about setting up new structures of authority to bypass the more tolerant North American and British churches. The new archbishop takes a conservative, orthodox stance on the issue, and yesterday called on the fractious church not to split: "I hope the communion will rediscover holy conversation. It is not the Christian way to stand on the banks of the river shouting. I don't believe that is the way of Jesus."

The current Archbishop of Uganda, Henry Orombi - a hardliner on the gay issue - greeted the announcement saying: "We are jubilant at the news of our fellow countryman's appointment ... he was forced to go into exile. Like the biblical patriarch Joseph, what was meant for evil, God has now used for good."

The new archbishop said yesterday: "My late parents always said to me whenever you meet a group of people who may be interested in hearing what you have to say, always tell them how grateful we are for the missionaries who risked their lives to bring the good news of God's salvation to Uganda. It is because of that missionary endeavour that I am standing in front of you. A fruit of their risk-taking and love."

Only fair that the mission work flow the other way now that the Heart of Darkness has shifted North.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:39 PM


A new era for Iran’s democracy: Iran’s presidential election is a stage in the renewal of Iranian politics towards secularism, democracy, human rights and non-violence. Mehrdad Mashayekhi tells the story of an epoch-making shift. (Mehrdad Mashayekhi, 16 - 6 - 2005, OpenDemocracy)

Iranian society is in the midst of an epoch-making renaissance in its political culture and discourse. This transformation in political values, norms, symbols and everyday codes of behaviour is most evident in educated circles, especially amongst the opposition political elite.

Since the “Islamic” revolution of 1978-79, two distinct political models have assumed hegemonic positions in the opposition movement; first, the anti-imperialist/revolutionary paradigm, dominant in the 1970s and early 1980s, which I have elsewhere referred to as “the problematic of dependency”; and second, the Islamic-reformist paradigm, assuming prominence in 1997 and leading the challenge to the clerical establishment from within the system until 2003.

Since 2003, there are strong indications that a new political paradigm is emerging. The new model of political dissent is democratic, secular and characterised by republican values.

The purpose of this essay is to explain the political and intellectual context within which the new democratic framework is emerging in Iran. [...]

Iranian history since the mid-19th century has witnessed sporadic attempts by political elites, intellectuals and circles of activists to introduce the idea of jomhouriyat (republicanism). Although the 1979 revolution ended 2,500 years of monarchy and formally introduced an “Islamic republic,” the fundamentalist Islamist faction within the regime made incessant assaults against the “republican” dimension of the new system. Since 1997, its core idea of an “Islamic government” has circulated widely in Iran.

In response, the reformists tried to revive the system’s republicanism, but they failed to embody in practice what they promoted in public discourse. After eight years in office, Khatami sarcastically dubbed himself the system’s “office coordinator” (tadarokatchi) – a system that continues to operate around the supreme leader (vali-e faqih) and all the (parallel) clerical institutions tied to his office.

In this light, the recent emergence of secular and democratic republican ideas in opposition circles is highly significant. It derives broadly from six developments:

• the strengthening of the institution of velayat-e-faqih and the concomitant weakening of the system’s republicanism, symbolised by the ineffective role of the president and other elected officials in the political process.

• an explosion of secular trends in Iranian society and culture, most evident in arts, literature, gender relations, the media and intellectual discourses, entertainment and the decline of religious values and practices.

• the failure of the Islamic reformists’ project to democratise Iranian society and politics, which led to the search by young people, student activists, intellectuals and other civil society forces to seek political alternatives.

• the 2002 publication of ex-reformist Akbar Ganji’s Republican Manifesto represented a break with the reformists’ camp; he urged Iranians to fight for a democratic republican system by boycotting the political process and its elections.

• the impact of the post-9/11 international context on Iran was evident in a more aggressive American foreign policy that attempted to destabilise the Islamic republic. Iranian monarchist circles in the US, encouraged by the new American mood, intensified their efforts to exploit the new international climate. Their messages, regularly broadcast to Iran through satellite television programmes, also alarmed many republicans.

• the establishment in May 2003 of Ettehad-e Jomhorikhahan-e Iran (Unity for a Democratic and Secular Republic in Iran, EJI), the largest expatriate anti-regime Iranian political organization, represented an advance in the ideas of secular republicanism. These ideas have since gained more support on Iranian college campuses and among intellectuals.

The new secular republican paradigm is still in the making. It can be characterised as both “post-revolutionary” and “post-reformist”. In a sense, what has happened is that the failure of the earlier two paradigms in Iran has resulted in a new synthesis: non-violent and civil in its methods of creating social change, while seeking fundamental structural changes in the system’s economic, political and (some) cultural institutions.

The aim of this combination could be designated as “structural reform”, “velvet revolution”, or (in Timothy Garton Ash’s formulation) “refolution”. Whatever term is most apposite, it is evident that the new paradigm is attempting to define itself distinctly and overcome the intellectual and programmatic weaknesses of its predecessors.

Open Democracy has an Iran election blog too.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:30 PM


Scream 2: The Sequel (Howard Fineman and Tamara Lipper, 6/17/05, Newsweek)

Something of a loner politically, he "doesn't have the Rolodex or the contacts that other people have," says Steve Grossman, a former DNC chairman and close ally. Dean is surrounded at the DNC with a new but rather small palace guard of people who believe in his vision and attitude—and who distrust the generation of Democrats that preceded them. [...]

But Dean's real problem may not be his mouth but his mind-set. He and his aides seemed genuinely mystified at the idea that his characterization of the GOP was a political mistake. But by labeling the other party a bastion of Christianity, he implied that his own was something else—something determinedly secular—at a time when Dean's stated aim is to win the hearts of middle-class white Southerners, many of whom are evangelicals. In a slide-show presentation at the DNC conference last weekend, polltaker Cornell Belcher focused on why those voters aren't responding to the Democrats' economic message. One reason, he said, is that too many of them see the Democrats as "anti-religion." And why was that? No one asked Dean, who wasn't taking questions from the press.

George W. Bush and Karl Rove are pretty savvy pols anyway, but they've been blessed by grotesquely incompetent opponents.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:47 PM


The Case for Impeaching George W. Bush (Walter C. Uhler, 6/15/05, BuzzFlash)

If intentionally deceiving the U.S. Congress is an impeachable offence, then President Bush deserves impeachment—because every time he assured congressmen that he hoped to avoid war, he deceived them. And if commencing war without receiving Congressional approval is an impeachable offense—which it certainly is—then President Bush merits impeachment. For, strictly speaking, Bush took America to war in May 2002 when he authorized the intense bombings designed to degrade Iraq defense capacity, if not provoke a response by Saddam.

Finally, as the August 2002 top secret National Security Presidential Directive proves, Bush had committed America to an invasion of Iraq before seeking Congressional approval.

The evidence presented above contains examples demonstrating "fixed" intelligence. Moreover, we know the following:

(1) Cheney had contempt for the intelligence establishment,

(2) Cheney abused intelligence,

(3) Cheney and his crew in the Office of the Vice President pressured intelligence analysts,

(4) Notwithstanding its obsession with Iraq, the Bush administration never requested the CIA to conduct a full blown National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq (the October NIE on Iraq's WMD was conducted at the request of three U.S. Senators),

(5) Although the secret October NIE was hastily crafted, it contained many caveats not found in the alarmist unclassified White Paper and

(6) When, on December 21, 2002, Bush was given "'The Case' on WMD as it might be presented to a jury with Top Secret security clearance," he turned to Tenet and said: "I've been told all this intelligence about having WMD and this is the best we've got?" Which compels two questions: "Why another intelligence briefing after the NIE?" and "What did Bush make of the NIE intelligence used to persuade Congress to agree to war?"

All six pieces of evidence indicate contempt for serious intelligence. And that contempt freed the "principals" to "fix" the intelligence according to their own preconceived biases. To the extent that such "fixed" intelligence influenced Congress to vote for war, Bush must be impeached.

The decision to go to war also was made before President Bush sought the approval of the United Nations. Absent an imminent threat or actual attack, going to war without UN approval is a war crime. Thus it's important to recall Lord Goldsmith's warning that "if the sponsors of the U.S.-UK draft resolution sought a vote at the [UN Security] council and failed to get it, serious doubts would be cast on the legality of military action against Iraq. This explained the joint decision of Blair, Bush and [Spain's] Aznar to withdraw their draft resolution from council." Better to be suspected of war crimes than branded a flagrant war criminal.

Given the information provided above, who can doubt that talk about the threat posed by Iraq's WMD was a smokescreen to disguise Bush and Cheney's long-held obsession to take Saddam out. Consequently, after his impeachment and removal from office, President Bush and his co-conspirators should be prosecuted for war crimes.

If misleading Congress, having contempt for the Intelligence agencies and ignoring the U.N. were impeachable offenses there would be no Federal officials.

Democrats Play House To Rally Against the War (Dana Milbank, June 17, 2005, Washington Post)

In the Capitol basement yesterday, long-suffering House Democrats took a trip to the land of make-believe.

They pretended a small conference room was the Judiciary Committee hearing room, draping white linens over folding tables to make them look like witness tables and bringing in cardboard name tags and extra flags to make the whole thing look official.

Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) banged a large wooden gavel and got the other lawmakers to call him "Mr. Chairman." He liked that so much that he started calling himself "the chairman" and spouted other chairmanly phrases, such as "unanimous consent" and "without objection so ordered." The dress-up game looked realistic enough on C-SPAN, so two dozen more Democrats came downstairs to play along.

The session was a mock impeachment inquiry over the Iraq war. As luck would have it, all four of the witnesses agreed that President Bush lied to the nation and was guilty of high crimes -- and that a British memo on "fixed" intelligence that surfaced last month was the smoking gun equivalent to the Watergate tapes. Conyers was having so much fun that he ignored aides' entreaties to end the session.

"At the next hearing," he told his colleagues, "we could use a little subpoena power." That brought the house down.

As Conyers and his hearty band of playmates know, subpoena power and other perks of a real committee are but a fantasy unless Democrats can regain the majority in the House. But that's only one of the obstacles they're up against as they try to convince America that the "Downing Street Memo" is important.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:28 PM


US spins the UN merry-go-round (Siddharth Srivastava, 6/17/05, Asia Times)

The prospects of UN reform have unexpectedly taken a new momentum, with the US administration saying it will support the addition of two new permanent members to the UN Security Council (UNSC). According to a senior official in the George W Bush administration, of the two new members Washington will back, one will be Japan and the other will be from the developing world - either Brazil or India, with the prospects of India considerably higher, given the criterion of selection.

Nicholas Burns, under secretary of state for political affairs, in making the announcement, also said that when the US introduced its proposal next week at the United Nations, it would oppose offering veto power to any new permanent members.

If the US does back India, it will be the first time, in the face of Pakistan's resistance against any such move. The situation further muddies the water for China, which has backed India in the past but is dead set against Japan entering the UNSC. Of the nations bidding for permanent membership on the council - Germany, Japan, India and Brazil - the US has endorsed Japan, emphasizing that the country gives more money to the world body than current members Britain, France, Russia and China put together. The US opposes Germany. Its refusal to back Berlin's bid is a rebuff to a major European ally.

It's not major, not an ally and won't be European in a couple decades.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:19 PM

OUTED (via Robert Schwartz):

Fed Official Moves Up and Into Politics (EDMUND L. ANDREWS, June 17, 2005, NY Times)

For years, some of his closest friends did not know that Ben S. Bernanke was a Republican. [...]

But now Mr. Bernanke (pronounced ber-NANK-ee) is moving directly into the political arena, taking over next week as chairman of President Bush's Council of Economic Advisers. He is also on the short list of potential candidates to succeed Alan Greenspan as chairman of the Federal Reserve. [...]

Mr. Bernanke built a sterling reputation while at Princeton, and has won widespread praise for his cogent analyses while at the Fed.

But he has studiously avoided partisan political issues, at least in public. He has said little about issues at the top of Mr. Bush's agenda, like Social Security and tax cuts, and his economic writing betrays few hints of political ideology.

"If you read anything he's written, you can't figure out which political party he's associated with," said Mark L. Gertler, a professor of economics at New York University who has written more than a dozen papers with Mr. Bernanke. Mr. Gertler, who said he did not know his close friend's political affiliation until relatively recently, added: "He's not ideological. I could imagine Ben working with economists in the Clinton administration."

Alan S. Blinder, a longtime colleague at Princeton who has advised numerous Democratic presidential candidates, also said he had worked alongside Mr. Bernanke for years without having any sense of his political views.

"We wrote articles together and sat at the same lunch table thousands of times before I knew he was a Republican," Mr. Blinder recalled. "We never talked politics."

As Bill Clinton noted, his administration was Eisenhower Republican on economics.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:16 PM

JETS.COM (via Robert Schwartz):

Will Airbus Be the Next Lucent? (FLOYD NORRIS, 6/17/05, NY Times)

THE A380, Airbus's new megajet, is an amazing sight. It is even beautiful in a sense, with curved wings that seem almost birdlike when viewed from behind the plane. But while the A380 inspires awe, its eventual success is not assured.

That is not because Airbus lacks orders. It has plenty, even if no American or Japanese carriers have bought passenger versions. The risk Airbus is running is the same one that devastated two other industries: telecommunications and genetically altered food. In each case, companies' sales rose rapidly, only to plunge because the customers had their own business problems.

In telecommunications, the stock market bubble financed companies that ordered equipment based on business models that did not work. Lucent shares went from $64 to $1 as its customers defaulted and tried to unload what they had bought.

No airport in America will ever take the A380.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:12 PM


What Europe Really Needs: The Continent has turned its back on both the past and the future. (PAUL JOHNSON, June 17, 2005, Opinion Journal)

That Europe as an entity is sick and the European Union as an institution is in disorder cannot be denied. But no remedies currently being discussed can possibly remedy matters. What ought to depress partisans of European unity in the aftermath of the rejection of its proposed constitution by France and the Netherlands is not so much the foundering of this ridiculous document as the response of the leadership to the crisis, especially in France and Germany.

Jacques Chirac reacted by appointing as prime minister Dominque de Villepin, a frivolous playboy who has never been elected to anything and is best known for his view that Napoleon should have won the Battle of Waterloo and continued to rule Europe. Gerhard Schröder of Germany simply stepped up his anti-American rhetoric. What is notoriously evident among the EU elite is not just a lack of intellectual power but an obstinacy and blindness bordering on imbecility. As the great pan-European poet Schiller put it: "There is a kind of stupidity with which even the Gods struggle in vain." [...]

The rise of anti-Americanism, a form of irrationalism deliberately whipped up by Messrs. Schröder and Chirac, who believe it wins votes, is particularly tragic, for the early stages of the EU had their roots in admiration of the American way of doing things and gratitude for the manner in which the U.S. had saved Europe first from Nazism, then (under President Harry Truman) from the Soviet Empire--by the Marshall Plan in 1947 and the creation of NATO in 1949.

Europe's founding fathers--Monnet himself, Robert Schumann in France, Alcide de Gasperi in Italy and Konrad Adenauer in Germany--were all fervently pro-American and anxious to make it possible for European populations to enjoy U.S.-style living standards. Adenauer in particular, assisted by his brilliant economics minister Ludwig Erhardt, rebuilt Germany's industry and services, following the freest possible model. This was the origin of the German "economic miracle," in which U.S. ideas played a determining part. The German people flourished as never before in their history, and unemployment was at record low levels. The decline of German growth and the present stagnation date from the point at which her leaders turned away from America and followed the French "social market" model.

There is another still more fundamental factor in the EU malaise. Europe has turned its back not only on the U.S. and the future of capitalism, but also on its own historic past. Europe was essentially a creation of the marriage between Greco-Roman culture and Christianity. Brussels has, in effect, repudiated both.

And the gods have in turn repudiated Europe.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:13 AM


A lively contest—but will it matter?: Mostafa Moin, a leading reformist, is putting up a strong challenge to Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the conservative front-runner in Iran’s presidential election. But whoever wins, it is unclear if Friday’s vote will change the way the Islamic Republic is run (The Economist, June 16th 2005)

Iran today is indeed a less stiflingly repressive place than it was in the early years following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, in which a pro-western monarchy was swept away by puritanical Shia Muslim clerics who despised America—“the Great Satan”. Young Iranians have rather more freedom in how they dress in public, in their contact with the opposite sex and in the music they enjoy.

However, it has seemed increasingly clear during the two terms in office of the current, moderately reformist president, Muhammad Khatami, that for all the outward signs of democracy, ultimate power continues to rest with the mullahs—in particular the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Time and again, President Khatami saw his liberalising laws passed by the elected parliament, only for them to be overruled by the unelected Council of Guardians, a hardline group of clerics and Islamic jurists.

So it is unclear how much will really change, whoever wins the presidency this time. [...]

As for the religious hardliners, they may now be regretting not uniting around one candidate, since none of the three remaining hardliners in the race has done well. The worst case for them would be a run-off between the liberal Mr Moin and the independent-minded Mr Rafsanjani, the candidate most able to challenge the ayatollahs. Some suspect that bombs in Tehran and elsewhere in the final days of the campaign, which killed several people, were the work of conservatives trying to scare voters from the polls; but the various attacks may in fact have unrelated causes.

In a country whose minimum voting age is 15 and where half of the 67m population is under 25, the main candidates have been keen to demonstrate that they understand young Iranians’ frustration at their lack of personal freedoms and gloomy job prospects. [...]

With growth faltering, unemployment officially at 11% (the true figure may be almost twice as high) and inflation at 14%, the economy is the issue that most concerns Iranians. Since the Islamic Revolution, statist Iran has been greatly overtaken by liberalising Turkey, its big rival to the north-west. Freeing Iranians’ entrepreneurial spirit and making it easier for foreign firms to invest in the country’s colossal oil reserves would do more to improve the lot of its citizens than building nuclear bombs. Mr Rafsanjani and Mr Ghalibaf have talked of privatising inefficient state firms but, once again, whoever wins the presidency would face fierce resistance from the clergy.

Some Iranians see signs of an unstoppable popular desire for liberty, and dream of a Ukrainian-style revolution to free their country from the mullahs’ grip. The more pessimistic fear a drift towards becoming the next North Korea—a regime that brandishes nuclear weapons at the outside world while its people slide into penury. For all the recent signs of liberalisation, the clerical regime is determined to hang on and can still crush its opponents with impunity.

The impunity has become doubtful.

A Not So Totalitarian Iran (Christopher de Bellaigue, June 15, 2005, LA Times)

[I]t is heartening that the lexicon of reform has been adopted by many of the candidates, including one heavily tipped conservative, Mohammed Baqer Qalibaf, and a prominent centrist, former President Hashemi Rafsanjani. Neither is a democrat by conviction, but both know which way the wind is blowing.

Clearly, Iran is no totalitarian regime, but what is it? Is it an "emerging democracy," as European officials liked to say during Khatami's hopeful early years, before his reform program was derailed by the conservative establishment? I would hesitate before attaching such a label to a regime whose longevity, now that Iranians' adherence to the official ideology has waned, depends on its ability to read and manipulate the public mood.

This ability was in evidence after Iran's soccer triumph against Bahrain on June 8, securing Iran's place in the 2006 World Cup finals. Reluctant to sour the preelection public mood, the authorities did not intervene to stop riotous celebrations that followed the match. Young men and women thronged the streets, dancing to Western music, with some young women throwing off the mandatory head covering.

A few days earlier, in another gesture to public opinion, the hard-line judiciary released Iran's most outspoken political prisoner, Akbar Ganji, ostensibly for medical treatment. But these are merely gestures. After the elections, official attitudes will again harden. There may be reports of a "crackdown" on un-Islamic dress. Ganji is already back in jail.

Nevertheless, the scenes of joy will not be easily forgotten. Ganji's call for Khamenei to present himself for election cannot be unsaid. Whoever wins, Iran will continue to evolve.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:08 AM


Moses's oily blessing: Two seekers for oil in Israel may be getting close to the prize (The Economist, Jun 16th 2005)

In the 1980s John Brown, a Catholic Texan cutting-tools executive, and Tovia Luskin, a Russian Jewish geophysicist and career oilman, both had religious epiphanies. Mr Brown became a born-again Christian, while Mr Luskin joined the orthodox Jewish Lubavitch movement. Soon after, each found inspiration in chapter 33 of the book of Deuteronomy , in which Moses, nearing death after guiding the tribes of Israel to the border of the promised land, leaves each tribe with a blessing.

The most lavish goes to Ephraim and Manasseh, the two tribes descended from Joseph (he of the technicolour coat). Their land, says Moses, will yield the “precious fruits” of “the deep lying beneath”, of the “ancient mountains” and of the “everlasting hills”. In this text Mr Luskin saw, says his company's lawyer, “a classic description of an oil trap”. Where geological sediments are bent into an arch, the boundary at the top between an older layer (the “ancient mountain”) and a newer one can trap oil—the “precious fruits”. Mr Luskin named his company Givot Olam—“everlasting hills”. Mr Brown had a more mystical revelation, but one that pointed to the same area: the biblical territories of Ephraim and Manasseh, between today's Tel Aviv and Haifa. He registered his firm as Zion Oil.

Both men spent the following years raising capital and grounding their visions in science. Seismic studies confirmed the arched rock layers that Mr Luskin was looking for. Mr Brown pinpointed an area with evidence of buried Triassic-era coral reefs, which are usually porous and store oil well.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:05 AM


Nader's very unpleasant N-gagement (Lloyd Grove, June 17, 2005, NY Daily News)

If Ralph Nader doesn't stop dropping the N-bomb, Al Sharpton is going to wash out his mouth with soap.

"Nader is not a racist by any stretch of the imagination," Sharpton told me yesterday. "He has a good track record. But he ought to be sensitive that he does not sanitize that word."

Speaking Wednesday night at a Washington fund-raiser to retire the debt from his 2004 presidential campaign, Nader complained that Democratic Party powerbrokers had kept him off the ballot in such Southern states as Georgia and Virginia - which reminded him of the oppressive Jim Crow laws that denied African-Americans equal rights.

"I felt like a [n-word]," remarked the 70-year-old white multimillionaire graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School.

Washington gadfly Evan Gahr reported Nader's comments on his chimpstein.com Web site.

"If Ed Koch had said what Ralph Nader said, we'd be marching," Sharpton noted. "This [scolding] doesn't rise to the level of a march. It rises to the level of a wrist slap."

Yesterday, Nader told me he was using the word in the same spirit as the Black Panthers of the 1960s - "as a word of defiance."

But Sharpton retorted: "He's not a Black Panther."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:57 AM


Cosmic Struggles of Cultural Proportions (CARYN JAMES, 6/17/05, NY Times)

LIFE is complicated enough without having to keep track of "Star Wars" mythology, in its infinite nerdiness, or the history of Batman. (Now he's campy, now he's not.) But the darkly psychological "Batman Begins" is a summer fantasy film for people who don't like summer fantasy films, and "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith" - well, what can you say except at least it has an idea in its head.

Both films concern how heroes and villains take shape, and they include astonishingly similar transformation scenes that hinge on a life-changing moral question: to behead or not to behead?

In "Batman Begins," Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is urged by his mysterious mentor - part spiritual adviser, part ninja master - to behead an enemy who is at his mercy. When Bruce refuses, he is on his way to becoming the heroic Batman, complete with a black mask and cape.

In "Revenge of the Sith," Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) is urged by his mysterious mentor to chop off the head of his enemy, Count Chocula - sorry, that's Count Dooku - and does. That is his crucial turn toward the dark side, and soon he's the villainous Darth Vader, complete with a black mask and cape to call his own.

The films' conflicts are not simply about good guys and bad guys, or even good versus evil, always the elements of broadly framed fantasies. With spiritual overtones, and an emphasis on an eternal struggle between equally matched forces of darkness and light, the films suggest a kind of pop-culture Manichaeism. And as crowd-pleasing movies so often do, they reflect what's in the air, a climate in which the president speaks in terms of good and evil, and religion is increasingly part of the country's social and political conversation.

There are similar Manichaean echoes in lesser-known movies that have come and gone (the recent Keanu Reeves disaster "Constantine" ) or are coming up (an ambitious Russian fantasy trilogy that begins with "Night Watch"). But "Batman" and "Star Wars" reveal most clearly that the zeitgeist lurks in apparent summer fluff.

None of these quasi-spiritual films assume that some people are simply bad seeds. Their premise is that good and evil are warring in each of us, and that an individual must consciously choose darkness or light.

It is, of course, Christian rather than Manichean because good is always more powerful than evil. Indeed, the key to George Lucas's rather muddled theology comes when Obi Wan Kenobi tells Darth Vader--who turned to the Dark Side in search of power--that: "If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could ever imagine."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:43 AM


RNC Nets $52.9M in First 5 Months of Year (AP, 6/17/05)

The Republican National Committee has taken in $52.9 million from January through May, maintaining its strong fundraising despite a ban on six-figure donations.

The RNC raised $10.3 million last month alone, it said Friday. The committee started June with $32.6 million on hand.

Check out the photo accompanying the story.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:33 AM


Syria's Baathists Fear Evolution and Extinction (Reza Aslan, June 17, 2005, LA Times)

Last week, when Syria's President-for-life, Bashar Assad, convened the 10th Baath Party congress in Damascus, he promised to loosen the party's monopoly on power to encourage greater political participation among the country's disaffected population. But Assad's concession was less a sign of noblesse oblige than a reflection of just how weak and isolated the nearly 60-year-old party has become.

Ever since the U.S. invasion of Iraq put an end to the only other Baathist regime in the region, Syria's Baath Party has been forced to cast aside what little remained of the quixotic, transnationalist ideals that gave birth to the movement seven decades ago in favor of a far more modest domestic agenda of political and economic reform. [...]

A new generation of Baath leaders has been struggling to redefine traditional Baathism as an ideology of nationalism, patriotism and even democracy. Many of these so-called neo-Baathists initially looked to Bashar Assad to lead the party reforms. But despite increasing international and domestic pressure, Assad has thus far taken few steps toward reform. Still, there are many Syrians who confidently predict an eventual voluntary "de-Baathification" of the country, one that would match the forced de-Baathification of Iraq. Whether this will happen under the younger Assad's rule, however, remains to be seen.

The problem is that de-Baathification would be followed by de-Alawitification, so Assad won't lead the process.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:16 AM


Reformists Are Optimistic as Iranians Vote for President: Polls show a former leader still favored, but one candidate's camp claims a surge of support. Large field is likely to lead to a runoff. (Nahid Siamdoust and John Daniszewski, June 17, 2005, LA Times)

With seven candidates in the race, it seemed likely that Iran would be forced to hold a runoff for the first time since the 1979 revolution. A second round will be held if no candidate wins 50%.

Hours before the balloting began at 7 a.m., President Bush sharply criticized the election, saying it fell short of democracy because candidates needed to be cleared by the Council of Guardians to get on the ballot.

"Power is in the hands of an unelected few who have retained power through an electoral process that ignores the basic requirements of democracy," Bush said in a statement. "The June 17th presidential elections are sadly consistent with this oppressive record."

Initially the Guardian Council, an unelected panel answerable only to the country's unelected supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had ruled that no reformers could run. But the ayatollah intervened, ordering the council to reverse its decision and put Moin and a less-known reformer on the ballot.

Samak Baqeri, an election supervisor at a school in northern Tehran, predicted this morning that Bush's comments would increase voter turnout.

But Dr. Mohsen Janati, the head of the school who also was serving as an election supervisor there, said that young people were yearning for more democracy. He said that was the main issue in the election, but that young people were discouraged. He predicted only half of them would vote.

Compared with those in other Mideast countries, an Iranian election is a brash and Western-style affair, with rallies, heavy advertising and imaginative campaign gimmicks. The hard-line clerics have a history of recognizing the democratic results even when they are unpalatable to them, such as the surprise victory of current President Mohammad Khatami, a reformist, in 1997. He was reelected in 2001.

When given the choice in recent years, voters have almost always sought reform and liberalization.

The key is just to get Moin into the runoff and then crank up turnout once folks see they can elect a real reformer. For whatever reason, Khamenei has made a reformist victory a real possibility.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:07 AM


Immigration boom swells local ranks of Catholics (Gary Emerling and Matthew Cella, June 17, 2005, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

A population and immigration boom has flooded Northern Virginia with residents who are filled with the Holy Spirit, officials with the Catholic Diocese of Arlington said.

The diocese -- which encompasses 21 counties and seven cities in Northern Virginia -- has experienced a 42 percent increase in registered Catholics over the past decade. The increase has prompted the creation of a new parish and two new missions that would serve more than 2,500 Catholics in Prince William, Loudoun and Rappahannock counties. [...]

Officials said an influx of Hispanics and other immigrants also has increased the need for expansion in the diocese, which offers Mass in Spanish in more than 30 of its 67 parishes.

U.S. census figures show the population of Hispanics, who are predominately Catholic, more than doubled in Northern Virginia from 97,559 in 1990 to 198,535 in 2000.

"Our diocese has been immeasurably enriched by a vibrant and growing Hispanic presence," Bishop Loverde said.

Pat Buchanan must just be mad because he can't find a parking space at Mass.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:58 AM


Israel's Deadly Delusions a review of THE OSLO SYNDROME: Delusions of a People Under Siege By Kenneth Levin (Edward Alexander, June 13, 2005, NY Post)

In this massively researched, lucidly written and cogently argued narrative, Kenneth Levin tells the appalling story of what has been called the greatest self-inflicted wound of political history: Israel's embrace of Yasser Arafat and the PLO in the Oslo Accords of September 1993 and its dogged adherence to its obligations under them even as its "peace partner" was blatantly flouting its own.

The book is divided into two sections. The first recounts Jewish political failure in the Diaspora, where Jews lived with a constant burden of peril, as the background for the self-deluding rationales that engendered Oslo. The second traces the same self-delusions in the history of Israel itself.

Levin shows how a tiny nation, living under constant siege by neighbors who have declared its very existence an aggression, was induced by its intellectual classes to believe that its own misdeeds had incited Arab hatred and violence, and that what required reform was not Arab dictatorship and Islamicist anti-Semitism, but the Jews themselves.

That core idea is the most compelling feature of the book, that Jews have throughout their history fallen prey to the idea that they could escape the hatreds of their enemies by changing their own behaviors. In essence this requires them to treat themselves as enemies too.

The Oslo Syndrome (Jamie Glazov, November 25, 2005, FrontPageMagazine.com)

Frontpage Interview's guest today is Kenneth Levin, a clinical instructor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, a Princeton-trained historian, and a commentator on Israeli politics. He is the author of the new book The Oslo Syndrome: Delusions of a People Under Siege. [...]

FP: What inspired you to write this book?

Levin: It was obvious to me at the start, as it was to many others, that the Oslo agreements could only lead to disaster. I said as much in a Jerusalem Post op.ed. a few days before the 1993 signing of the first accords on the White House lawn. That there was something very deluded about the thinking of Israel's leaders and their pro-Oslo constituency became more evident as Oslo proceeded. Arafat and his Palestinian Authority immediately used their media, mosques and schools to promote hatred of Israel and violence against Jews and continued to make clear their objective remained Israel's destruction. The level of terrorism increased to unprecedented dimensions. Yet Israel responded with more concessions.

During this period, there were many cogent critiques of the Oslo process. But none addressed why Israel's leaders, supported by the nation's academic and cultural elites and much of the broader population, were pursuing a course that was demonstrably placing the nation, including their own families, at dire risk. It seemed to me then, as it does now, that, given the irrationality of Israel's course, the explanation had to lie in the realm of psychopathology.

Israel's Oslo diplomacy was also reminiscent of aspects of the political life of Diaspora Jewish communities that likewise reflected a self-destructiveness inexplicable except in psychiatric terms.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:49 AM


US Willing To Talk To India About Supplying Missile Defence (AFP, Jun 16, 2005)

A US official said Thursday his government was willing to talk to India about supplying missile defence systems, but urged New Delhi to spell out regulatory mechanisms for controlling exports of sensitive technologies. [...]

India was a Cold War ally of the Soviet Union and maintains close ties with Iran, which the United States accuses of developing nuclear weapons and supporting Middle Eastern extremist groups.

Traditionally, it has bought most of its military equipment from Russia, France and Britain, but recently has shown interest in the military hardware of US defence firms.

The United States and India signed a landmark agreement last January to share advanced technology, including in peaceful nuclear applications.

Indian navy on the crest of a wave (Sudha Ramachandran, 6/18/05, Asia Times)

India's naval power projection and maritime security have received a big boost with the commissioning of a giant new naval base - Indian Naval Ship (INS) Kadamba - on its Arabian Sea coast. INS Kadamba, which is India's third operational naval base after Mumbai and Vishakapatnam, is the first to be controlled exclusively by the Indian navy.

INS Kadamba is Phase I of the Indian navy's ambitious US$8.13 billion Project Seabird. Situated at Karwar, 100 kilometers south of Goa, in the southern Indian state of Karnataka, INS Kadamba is being described as the biggest base of its kind this side of the Suez.

When completed, it will be Asia's largest naval base, with the capacity to berth more than 22 ships, including the 44,000-ton aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov purchased from the Russians (and renamed INS Vikramaditya), as well as the indigenous nuclear-powered submarine, the Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV). Spread over 11,200 acres, Project Seabird will include a naval base, an air force station, a naval armament depot, a ship-lift system, missile silos and a full-fledged ship repair yard.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:43 AM

WHAT IF YOUR 100 YARD DASH TAKES 6 MINUTES? (via Michael Herdegen):

Fitness in 6 Minutes a Week: A Few Intense Sprints as Good as an Hour of Jogging, Study Says (Daniel DeNoon, June 3, 2005, WebMD Medical News)

If you don't exercise because it takes too long, find another excuse.

Just six minutes of intense exercise a week can keep people as fit as three hour-long jogs, Canadian researchers report in the June issue of the Journal of Applied Physiology.

Is there a catch? Of course. Those six minutes come from four 30-second bursts of all-out effort with four-minute rests in between each sprint. This "sprint interval training" adds up to three 20-minute sessions a week, says Martin J. Gibala, PhD, associate professor of kinesiology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.

"Interval-type training is effective for improving health and fitness in a relatively short period of time," Gibala tells WebMD. "Whether you are already active or just getting into it, you can benefit. People can choose whether they want to exercise faster or exercise longer."

If you're thinking of trying this, Gibala says, first check with your doctor. But he adds that with proper medical supervision, all kinds of people -- even those with heart disease -- can benefit from this approach.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:37 AM


Session to focus on 'gay agenda': Gathering aims to create a plan of action for sexual minorities in 21st century (ALLAN TURNER, 6/16/05 Houston Chronicle)

Formally known as The Conference of the Futures of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgenders, Intersexed, Questioning and Allied Residents of the Greater Houston Metropolitan Area, the three-hour session will consider resolutions dealing with key health, educational, domestic and legal issues facing the group.

"It even surprised me that we came up with something so comprehensive, sober, rational, caring and professional," longtime activist Phyllis Fry said of the proposed resolutions. "It's going to be great. ... The next time a bigot is drooling about the 'gay agenda,' we will have one."

Among resolutions on the table are ones calling for freedom to marry and divorce, affordable care for senior citizens, safe schools for sexual minority youths, secure shelters for homeless youth, more money for HIV/AIDS programs and protection from hate crimes.

So all they're really asking is that they be treated differently?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:19 AM


Was Enron Just a Dream? (Jonathan Chait, June 17, 2005, LA Times)

Remember Enron?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:01 AM


The Decisive Day is Come: The Battle of Bunker Hill (Bernard Bailyn, Mass Historical Society)

"The story of Bunker Hill battle," Allen French wrote, "is a tale of great blunders heroically redeemed." The first blunder was the decision of the Massachusetts Committee of Safety to fortify Charlestown heights and attempt to hold it against the British, cooped up in Boston after their withdrawal from Lexington and Concord. The ultimate aim was, in the abstract at least, sensible enough: to tighten the encirclement of Boston by commanding the heights both north and south of the town—Dorchester as well as Charlestown—and to deny those commanding hills to the British. But in fact the Americans did not have guns capable of reaching Boston effectively from Bunker Hill. And in addition, forces installed there were almost certain to be cut off since the British warships controlled Boston harbor and its confluence with the Charles River, and could easily keep the slim neck that joined Charlestown to the mainland under heavy fire. Nor, once committed, did the American commanders choose their ground wisely. The high point of the mile-long Charlestown peninsula was Bunker Hill—it rose 110 feet, and adjoined the only route of retreat, the roadway back to Cambridge. But the spot chosen for fortification was not Bunker Hill but Breed's Hill, only 75 feet high and 600 yards farther from the neck, controllable from the higher ground at its rear and isolated from the sole route of retreat. And even in the best positions the ill-equipped, altogether untrained troops of the New England army could hardly be expected to hold out against sustained attacks by British regulars led by no less that four general officers experienced in warfare on two continents.

That for two and a half hours of intense battle, greatly outnumbered, they did just that—held out until, their powder gone and forced to fight with gun butts and rocks, they were bayoneted out of the stifling, dust-choked redoubt they had thrown up on Breed's Hill—was the result not only of great personal heroism but also of the blunders of the British. In complete control of the sea, they could have landed troops on the north side of Charlestown neck and struck the rebels in the rear while sending their main force against them face-on. But in an excess of caution they chose instead to land at the tip and march straight up against the fortified American lines. Such strategy as they had was confined to sending a single column along the thin strip of beach on the north shore of Charlestown peninsula hoping to reach the rear of the entrenchments by land and thus begin an overland encirclement. But this effort was doomed from the start. A delay in beginning the attack gave the Americans time to throw a barrier across the beach and to place behind it a company of New Hampshire riflemen capable of stopping the encircling column. The British attack therefore was altogether a frontal one, two ranks moving on a front almost half-a-mile long toward the set battle line, a line formed on the Boston Bay side by the deserted houses of Charlestown, the redoubt on Breed's Hill, its breastwork extension and a fortified rail fence, and completed on the far beach by the New Hampshiremen and their barricade.

No one of the thousands who crowded the housetops, church steeples, and shore batteries of Boston to watch the spectacle ever forgot the extraordinary scene they witnessed.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Profound questions from the Schiavo case (Katherine Kersten, June 16, 2005, Minneapolis Star Tribune)

"Brother Michael Gaworski and I founded the Franciscan Brothers in 1982," says Brother Paul, a gentle, soft-spoken man, speaking in his friary's spartan, book-lined living room in St. Paul. "We wanted to work with the poor and vulnerable -- the homeless, the elderly, the unborn."

In 1991 Brother Michael was stricken with bacterial pneumonia at the age of 32. His fellow brothers cared for their beloved founder, in a condition similar to Schiavo's, for more than 12 years at the friary until he died in 2003.

Shortly after Brother Michael's death, Brother Paul met Bobby Schindler. "Bobby showed me a video of Terri," says Brother Paul, "and the similarities with Brother Michael were striking. We quickly became very close." When the Schindlers' court battles drew media attention, Brother Paul went to Florida to offer support and eventually became the family spokesman.

Schiavo's case was wrenchingly complex. Brother Paul said Wednesday that the autopsy report, indicating that Schiavo's brain damage was so severe no improvement in her condition was possible, makes no difference.

"She was not dying, she was not on life support," he said. Terri needed just food and water -- what anyone needs to live -- like thousands of other incapacitated people with no hope of improvement: among them, adults with advanced Alzheimer's and children with severe cerebral palsy. [...]

"People contemplate a seriously disabled person" -- like a quadriplegic --"and say, 'Who would want to live that way?' The answer, of course, is no one. But when people actually become disabled, they often discover a meaning in life that they never could have anticipated."

People of goodwill may disagree about Terri Schiavo's case. Yet as our society strays from its traditional belief in the essential dignity of every human life, we all must grapple with the implications of the notion that some lives are "not worth living."

Today, assisted suicide is lawful in Oregon. In the Netherlands, according to the New York Times, prosecutors no longer pursue cases against doctors who kill severely impaired babies after birth. The temptation to deal with the defective and incompetent by eliminating them is likely to grow as our society ages. Today, approximately 4.5 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease. In coming decades, projections suggest that about 40 percent of us will spend roughly 10 years in an infirm, demented condition. The way we deal with this situation will say much about us as a society.

Currently, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., is staging an exhibit that offers food for thought on this issue. The exhibit is called "Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race." It examines the idea of "lebensunwertes Leben" -- lives not worthy of life --which the Nazis used to justify their elimination of thousands deemed unfit to live: the retarded, the defective and the seriously ill.

Wouldn''t want to get in the way of the march of Reason and Science.

June 16, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:55 PM


'Fetus eater' loses medical license (Jill Stanek, June 14, 2005, WorldNetDaily.com )

It is so hard to find a good abortionist these days. Most seem to meet with one of three professional demises: imprisonment for sexual assault; medical license revocation for malpractice; or death, alone in their beds, while watching porn flicks after overdosing on heroin.

On June 11, it was career end No. 2 for abortionist Krishna Rajanna, proprietor of the now defunct Affordable Medical and Surgical Services in Kansas City, Kan. [...]

Rajanna first got noticed publicly in September 2003 when he called police to investigate alleged employee theft. Detective William Howard of the Kansas City Police Department responded, and was so appalled by what he and his partner found ("I thought I had heard and seen every vile, disgusting crime scene, but was in for a new shock when I started this investigation.") that he contacted the local district attorney plus three state agencies.

Topping the list of horrors was an employee's account that she and others witnessed Rajanna "microwave one of the aborted fetuses and stir it into his lunch," as Howard recalled earlier this year when testifying before a Kansas House committee.

If abortion doesn't take the life of a human being there's no coherent objection to consuming the healthy portion of protein left behind.

The overselling of stem cell research (Jonah Goldberg, June 17, 2005, Townhall)

The moral status of embryos - like the status of fetuses or teenagers - is ultimately a matter of faith, of first principles. Those who make utilitarian arguments for euthanasia, abortion or, for that matter, genocide can be perfectly "rational" in the sense that they can employ logic with the best of them. They simply start from different moral assumptions. Nazis and Communists killed millions and they could be very logical in their justifications - but logical in that whole evil genius sense. On the other side of the spectrum, pro-life, Buddhist vegans - who literally wouldn't hurt a fly - can be very logical, too. They just follow a different set of assumptions. One could say it's a sign of moral progress that we've at least shunted our debates over who has a right to life to murderers, the unborn and the very, very ill.

Or maybe not. Regardless, the moral debate often overshadows more practical arguments.

During the 2004 presidential campaign, John Kerry and his supporters complained that President Bush had "banned" embryonic stem cell research. John Kerry proclaimed, "Here in America we don't sacrifice science for ideology" - a deeply ideological point itself, when you think about it. Ronald Reagan Jr., a very liberal former dog show announcer and ballet dancer who happens to share the name of his late father, was proclaimed a walking profile in courage for exploiting his father's memory in order to support the Democrats on the issue of embryonic stem cell research. At the Democratic Convention, he suggested that if Democrats were in power, then perhaps in a decade or so you could have your very own "personal biological repair kit waiting for you at the hospital." People with Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, or various other calamitous and heartbreaking diseases could simply get an injection and be "cured." It's not "magic," Reagan promised, but simply the "medicine of the future."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:10 PM


The backstreet bruiser hoping to knock sense into the Tories: He lived in a slum, was adopted at 11 and married an invisible wife: David Davis's personal and political journey towards the leadership is chartered by our correspondent (Andrew Pierce, 6/17/05, Times of London))

An illegitimate child, he had been brought up in York in a prefabricated bungalow dominated by the politics of his grandfather, Walter Harrison, a Communist who led the 1936 Jarrow hunger march from York to Aldermaston.

His father had vanished within days of learning that his married mother, Betty Brown, was pregnant. After four years in York, he moved to London when his mother married Ronald Davis, a shop steward at Battersea power station, who adopted him at the age of 11. They lived in a flat in South London which Mr Davis describes as a “slum”. They later moved to a council house in Tooting which the boy thought was luxurious: it had an indoor bathroom and electricity.

At Bec School Mr Davis excelled at science, even managing to set the chemistry lab alight. He passed A levels in physics and chemistry but failed zoology the first time after walking out of the house the night after yet another confrontation with his stepfather. Barry Trowbridge, who used to walk to school with Mr Davis, said: “He was a tough kid who knew how to look after himself. He had a reputation for getting into scraps.” That label has followed him into the Commons where many Tory MPs resent his bombastic style.

Mr Davis, who had a boxer dog named Winston, was a popular figure at school. A scruff, whose tie was always crooked and whose hair looked like it had never seen a comb, he was outspoken in current affairs debates. In a survey of the classmate most likely to be Prime Minister by 25, he was top.

Freddie Hore, 89, who was Mr Davis’s headmaster until the sixth form, said: “The school recruited bright boys from underprivileged backgrounds. David Davis exemplified what we were trying to do. He was conscientious and an admirable scholar.” Mr Hore was a feared disciplinarian. “I had simple rules. If the boys broke them they were caned.” Mr Davis was caned once.

The school, whose old boys include the actor Art Malik and the former England rugby captain Bob Hiller, was amalgamated with a neighbouring comprehensive in 1970. In 1971 it was renamed Ernest Bevin after the socialist Foreign Secretary. Margaret Thatcher, the Education Secretary at the time, has not been forgiven by the Old Boys.

Mr Davis was a prop forward in the school rugby team. He broke his nose three times, the school magazine noting that the “2nd XV have pounded their way to victory, suicidally led by D.M. Davis”. He broke his nose twice more, once in an accident in a swimming pool and again in a fight on Clapham Common.

A further sign of the now carefully cultivated action man image came when he joined the Territorial Army SAS for two years. It was not just about derring-do antics but to finance his education at Warwick University. His parents had refused to help.

While at university between 1968 and 1971, he met Doreen, a fellow molecular science student. They married in July 1973. Their daughter Rebecca came the next year, Sarah in 1977, and son Alexander, who is still at home, in 1987.

Doreen Davis is a rare politician’s wife. She is never seen at Westminster or party conferences; there are few photographs of them together. A request for one was politely declined. Unlike Sandra Howard, there will be no interviews or solo television appearances.

Yet behind the scenes she is a huge influence. Mrs Davis, who gave up her career to look after the children, runs the constituency office in their Yorkshire farmhouse.

In 1971 he went to London Business School and, at a time of radical student activism, became chairman of the deeply unfashionable Conservative Association. At the London School of Economics, a left-wing hotbed, John Blundell, now the head of the Institute for Economic Affairs, the free-market think-tank, was elected to the same Tory post. They have been friends ever since. In 1973 Mr Blundell backed Mr Davis for the chairmanship of the Federation of Conservative Students. He won and his first act was to ally it to Amnesty International, a move he would be unlikely to repeat today.

His unexpected victory underlines the extent of his political journey. Mr Davis, the current standard-bearer of the Thatcherites, was the candidate of the Left against the rightwinger Neil Hamilton.

Mr Blundell said: “Then David was a Heathite managerial Tory but he won the vote of the free-marketeers because, having read Hayek and Friedman, he was open to ideas.”

When a delegation from the federation was booked in to see Mrs Thatcher about student grants, Mr Davis took no chances. Mr Blundell recalled: “We had a 30-minute slot but he made a dozen of us swot all weekend so we were fully briefed.” Another friend was Michael, now Lord, Forsyth, the former Scottish Secretary. Mr Blundell said: “We joked that I would become director-general of the IEA, Michael would be Scottish Secretary and David would be leader of the Conservative Party. So far it’s two out of three.”

How can he possibly get support from the wets?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:54 PM


Europe turns on France as Britain wins new allies (Philip Webster and Anthony Browne, 6/17/05, Times of London)

JACQUES CHIRAC suffered a double blow as the EU summit opened last night when he was forced to admit defeat over the European constitution, and Tony Blair won powerful allies for his campaign to cut French agricultural subsidies.

Mr Blair feared isolation in his battle over Britain’s £3 billion rebate unless there was a thorough overhaul of EU farm spending as well.

But Dutch and Swedish leaders backed the Prime Minister’s call for the £600 billion budget to be reduced, and Mr Blair received a surprise incentive to stall in negotiations when the conservative politician expected to be Germany’s next leader told France to cut back its agricultural subsidies.

Angela Merkel, favourite to replace Gerhard Schröder in September, said that it was unreasonable to expect Britain to surrender its rebate if France would not cut farm subsidies.

As one of the most momentous summits in years opened in Brussels, EU leaders agreed to put the constitutional treaty rejected by France and the Netherlands into deep freeze.

It runs deep in the German blood, the compulsion to smack down the French...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:33 PM


Government Hits One-Day Tax Revenue High (AP, Jun 16, 2005)

After totaling it all up, the Treasury Department announced Thursday that it had collected $61 billion on Wednesday. That surpassed the old one-day record of $56 billion set on Dec. 15, 2000.

The bulk of the revenue — $49 billion — came from corporate tax payments, also a one-day record for such receipts. The old mark was $46 billion set last Dec. 15. Wednesday's date, June 15, and Dec. 15 are both deadlines for corporations to make quarterly tax payments.

The government's coffers have been swelling this year as tax receipts from both individuals and corporations have been on the rise, reflecting an improving economy. Because of those increases, this year's federal deficit is expected to fall to around $350 billion, down from the $413 billion record in dollar terms set in 2004.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:20 PM


Boyle Nomination Sent to Senate for OK (JESSE J. HOLLAND, June 16, 2005, The Associated Press)

The GOP-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday sent North Carolina judge Terrence Boyle's nomination to the U.S. Appeals Court for confirmation on a party-line vote, leaving Boyle vulnerable to a possible Democratic filibuster.

Boyle, a U.S. District Court judge who wants a seat on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., advances to the full Senate for confirmation on the 10-8 partisan vote in committee. [...]

Boyle has been trying to win an Appeals Court seat since 1991, when he was nominated by the first President Bush.

After Democrats killed the nomination, Helms blocked all of President Clinton's judicial nominations from North Carolina for eight years. In retaliation, former Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., refused to let the Judiciary Committee consider the nomination of Boyle from 1998-2004.

Edwards's hold ended after he was replaced by freshman Sen. Republican Richard Burr.

Of course, when we did it we weren't filibustering...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:17 PM


Vermont Lt. Gov. Dubie eyes House, Senate races (Jonathan Singer, 6/14/05, The Hill)

Vermont Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie is being pulled in two directions — by House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), who would like him to run for the House, and by Senate Republicans urging him to seek the seat being vacated by Sen. Jim Jeffords (I-Vt.).

Hastert met earlier this month in Vermont with Dubie while the Speaker was attending a fundraiser for Republicans. Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is leaving the House to run for Jeffords’s seat.

Meanwhile, Dubie was expected to be in Washington yesterday attending a candidate school organized by the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC).

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) also contacted Dubie, lobbying the Vermonter to run for the Senate seat. Brownback spokesman Aaron Groote did not return calls.

Dubie said in an interview that White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card had called him but did not say what race, if any, Card urged him to enter.

“There are opportunities in both the Senate and the Congress, and I don’t want to close any doors,” said Dubie, who is also a pilot for American Airlines and a colonel in the Air Force Reserve.

Strange how little the national party has done to exploit the wide cultural divide that has opened in Vermont.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:17 AM


Factories cranking out the goods (Chicago Sun-Times, June 16, 2005)

Inflation remained docile in May while the pace of business activity at the factory level shifted into high gear, two new government reports showed Wedneday.

A third report, a nationwide survey of business conditions for the Federal Reserve, described the economy as expanding at a healthy pace.

Together the reports depict an economy shaking off the effects of an oil price surge in the early spring and resuming solid growth.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:15 AM


Romney oiling his presidential campaign machine (ROBERT NOVAK, June 16, 2005, Chicago SUN-TIMES)

Any real doubt that Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will run for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination should have been resolved by his performance Monday in suburban Oakland County, Mich. He did not merely drop into his native state for a political fund-raising speech. He spent a 12-hour candidate's day working a key presidential primary state.

Romney's public exposure was less than two hours at the Marriott Hotel in Pontiac for the 13th annual event sponsored by Rep. Joe Knollenberg. But in closed-door meetings starting at 8 a.m., he conferred with Republican politicians and donors. Although Romney sought no commitments and made no promises of his candidacy, the assumption by everybody here is that he will not seek re-election as governor in 2006.

Indeed, Romney's preparation for 2008 is more advanced than any of his potential GOP rivals. While he recently spoke in his neighboring state of New Hampshire, Romney's Commonwealth fund has raised and distributed $225,000, concentrated in three early primary states: Iowa, South Carolina and Michigan.

This early campaign is being put together by famed political consultant Mike Murphy, who is California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's closest political adviser and who worked for Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign in 2000.

Romney began his long day over breakfast with Ed Levy, a nationally known leader in the Jewish community. That was followed by meetings with Romney's older brother, Scott, a prominent Michigan Republican, and builder John Rakolta, a major party contributor. He met about 20 Republicans for lunch and in the afternoon, including Dick DeVos (of the Amway family), the probable Republican nominee for governor. Romney talked about the need to elect DeVos and Republican candidates for governor elsewhere in '06, and the Republicans expressed fear of Hillary Clinton in '08.

Michigan is central to Romney's presidential hopes

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:12 AM


As Brother Driscoll notes, SS Reform is just the warm-up act for the Big Show

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:55 AM


Europe in search of a new rationale (Katrin Bennhold, JUNE 16, 2005, International Herald Tribune)

The European Union, whose foundations were laid after World War II with the principal aim of safeguarding peace and stability, needs a new raison d'être, they say, and can find it in the challenge of globalization.

"Today, Europeans don't have the perception of a common threat, just a diffuse concern about globalization and declining levels of welfare," Ana Palacio said.

The head of the Spanish Parliament's joint committee on European affairs added, "We need to market Europe as an answer to globalization." [...]

Beyond communication, a key question is how to make economic globalization work for Europe.

At the moment, there are two camps: Those, notably in Britain and the Nordic countries, who have lobbied for more deregulation in Europe and favor enlargement; and those, notably in France and Germany, who are pushing for more political integration and have traditionally taken a cooler view on the union's expansion.

It's the protestant North, favoring liberty, vs. the statist continent.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:40 AM


Sabine, Herald of Liberty (Veronique de Rugy, 06/16/2005, Tech Central Station)

The European Union is becoming increasingly uncompetitive in the world economy. The average tax burden consumes almost 45 percent of GNP, and regulatory red tape makes it very difficult for the private sector to create jobs. With this track record, it is not surprising that per capita income in the EU is much lower than it is in the United States. To make matters worse, many European governments face huge unfunded liabilities for pensions, so it is likely that the burden of government will climb rather than fall. So should the European Union get an economic face lift?

That's the question asked to Sabine Herold at an American Enterprise Institute event earlier this week. Sabine is the spokeswoman for Liberte Cherie a French association founded in 2001 in reaction to unemployment rates, falling living standards, strikes, and the lack of free market ideas in the political debate in France. Two years ago, Sabine became famous for leading a demonstration in Paris against strikes by government workers. To the surprise of the organizers themselves, the event attracted more than 80,000 angry Parisians fed up with the almost daily government employees' strikes.

She explained to her Washington audience "I am here today to tell you about my experience as a French and European young woman. The problems you read about in your newspapers are my daily life. I put up with the strikes. I suffer from decreasing standards of living. So, yes, the European Union needs a face lift."

...it's their butts that are dragging.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:14 AM


Annihilating Terri Schiavo
(Paul McHugh, Commentary, June, 2005)

Terri Schiavo was examined by qualified neurologists. Most of them concluded that she fit into the rather amorphous group of severely brain-injured patients defined as being in a “persistent vegetative state” (PVS). This diagnostic category encompasses individuals with cerebral diseases of various kinds who, though only dimly wakeful, retain the life-sustaining functions of respiration, blood circulation, and metabolic integrity.

It is perhaps because such patients display so lowered a state of vigilance that, in striving to define their condition, neurologists lighted upon a metaphor contrasting vegetation with animation. I remember teasing the admirable clinician who first coined this term that I had seen many patients but few carrots sleeping, waking, grunting, or flinching from pain. Although the term “vegetative” does distinguish what is lost from what remains in such a patient’s capacities, it can also have the unfortunate effect of suggesting that there is something less worthy about those in this condition.

As for the adjective “persistent,” it is perfectly precise, and makes no prognostic claim (as would, say, the term “permanent”). It simply describes the patient’s history. What we know from experience is that, as with most neurological impairments, patients “persisting” in this state of blunted consciousness for more than eighteen months are generally unlikely to recover.

The neurologists who coined the diagnostic category PVS did so out of the best of clinical motives. In particular, they wanted to distinguish it from the “brain-dead” state, where no functional capacities—to breathe, to swallow, or to respond—remain. With “brain death,” a patient evinces no response to any stimulus. Brain monitors show no activity. Heart and viscera can carry on their automatic activity only with the aid of mechanical, ventilator-driven respiration, and will cease when it is discontinued.

By definition, then, PVS is not death hidden by machinery. It is human life under altered neurological circumstances. And this distinction makes all the difference in how doctors and nurses think about it and treat its sufferers. [...]

As soon as Terri Schiavo’s case moved into the law courts of Florida, the concept of “life under altered circumstances” went by the boards—and so, necessarily, did any consideration of how to serve such life. Both had been trumped by the concept of “life unworthy of life,” and how to end it.

I use the term “life unworthy of life” advisedly. The phrase first appeared a long time ago—as the title of a book published in Germany in 1920, co-authored by a lawyer and a psychiatrist. Die Freigabe der Vernichtung lebensunwertes Leben translates as “Lifting Constraint from the Annihilation of Life Unworthy of Life.” Terri Schiavo’s husband and his clinical and legal advisers, believing that hers was now a life unworthy of life, sought, and achieved, its annihilation. Claiming to respect her undocumented wish not to live dependently, they were willing to have her suffer pain and, by specific force of law, to block her caregivers from offering her oral feedings of the kind provided to all terminal patients in a hospice—even to the point of prohibiting mouth-soothing ice chips. Everything else flowed from there.

How could such a thing happen? This, after all, is not Nazi Germany, where the culture of death foreshadowed in the awful title of that book would reach such horrendous public proportions. But we in this country have our own, homegrown culture of death, whose face is legal and moral and benignly individualistic rather than authoritarian and pseudo-scientific. It has many roots, which would require a long historical treatise to unravel, with obligatory chapters considering such factors as the growth of life-sustaining and life-extending technologies and the dilemmas they bring, the increasingly assertive deprecation of medical expertise and understanding in favor of patients’ “autonomous” decision-making, the explosion in rights-related personal law and the associated explosion in medical-malpractice suits, and much else besides.

All this has resulted in a steady diminution in the bonds of implicit trust between patients and their doctors and its replacement, in some cases by suspicion or outright hostility, in many other cases by an almost reflexive unwillingness on the part of doctors to impose their own considered, prudential judgments—including their ethical judgments—on the course of treatment. In the meantime, a new discipline has stepped into the breach; its avowed purpose is to help doctors and patients alike reach decisions in difficult situations, and it is now a mandatory subject of study in medical and nursing schools.

I am speaking of course about bioethics, which came into being roughly contemporaneously with the other developments I have been describing. To the early leaders of this discipline, it was plain that doctors and nurses, hitherto guided by professional codes of conduct and ancient ideals of virtue embedded in the Hippocratic oath or in the career and writings of Florence Nightingale, were in need of better and more up-to-date instruction. But, being theorists rather than medical practitioners, most bioethicists proved to be uninterested in developing the characters of doctors and nurses. Rather, they were preoccupied with identifying perceived conflicts between the “aims” of doctors and the “rights” of patients, and with prescribing remedies for those conflicts.

Unlike in medicine itself, these remedies are untested and untestable. They have multiplied nevertheless, to the point where they have become fixtures in the lives of all of us, an unquestioned part of our vocabulary, subtly influencing our most basic attitudes toward sickness and health and, above all, our assumptions about how to prepare ourselves for death. The monuments to the bioethicists’ principles include Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders, the euphemistically named Living Wills, and the legalization of physician-assisted suicide in the state of Oregon. These are not all the same thing, to be sure, and sophisticated arguments can be advanced for each of them; cumulatively, however, they are signposts of our own culture of death.

Hospital administrators are generally pleased with bioethicists and the rationalizations they provide for ceasing care of the helpless and the disabled. By the same token, their presence is generally shunned by doctors and nurses, whose medical and moral vocabulary draws from different sources, and whose training and experience have disposed them in a different direction. To most doctors and nurses, in any case, the idea that one can control the manner and pace of one’s dying is largely a fantasy. They have seen what they have seen, and what they know is that at the crucial moments in this process, no document on earth can substitute for the one-on-one judgment, fallible as it may ultimately be, of a sensible, humane, and experienced physician.

Contemporary bioethics has become a natural ally of the culture of death, but the culture of death itself is a perennial human temptation; for onlookers in particular, it offers a reassuring answer (“this is how X would have wanted it”) to otherwise excruciating dilemmas, and it can be rationalized every which way till Sunday. In Terri Schiavo’s case, it is what won out over the hospice’s culture of life, overwhelming by legal means, and by the force of advanced social opinion, the moral and medical command to choose life, to comfort the afflicted, and to teach others how to do the same. The more this culture continues to influence our thinking, the deeper are likely to become the divisions within our society and within our families, the more hardened our hatreds, and the more manifold our fears. More of us will die prematurely; some of us will even be persuaded that we want to.

One of the unfortunate results of our preoccupation with the modern lodestar of evil–Nazi Germany-is a difficulty in recognizing evils that do not conform to its stereotype. We have all been trained to keep our eyes well-peeled for psychopathic racist demagogues with funny moustaches and perhaps also thuggish commissars trying to wipe out demonized social classes. But the modern war on the dependent and inconvenient does not fit into these models and many have difficulty it understanding its source, which is not a hatred of class or race, but the increasingly closely-held and defiant conviction that we have an absolute right to enjoy our individual material freedom to the fullest and that there is something grossly unjust and hateful about anything or anyone that thwarts us.

This week’s release of Terri’s autopsy results is being heralded as a vindication of her former husband and proof she would not have recovered. Few ever held out much hope she would, which is why so many were praying for her. The horror felt by so many was that so many others thought that was the sole issue and could see nothing beyond it. And as Dr. McHugh so eloquently explains, that wasn’t the issue for those dwindling members of the medical profession who believe they are called to save and protect life as they find it, not to destroy it through pseudo-scientific, amoral bafflegab. The thought that we may ever live see the day when when such moral grounding and nobility of vocation is gone with the wind is almost too chilling and depressing to bear.

There were, of course, no mobs trashing the streets and howling for Terri’s death, no political jeremiads against the terminally ill and no sick jokes about omelettes and broken eggs. That isn’t the way the culture of death, which is a logical endpoint of our broader therapeutic culture, operates. Its cold-hearted, selfish rationalism always comes wrapped in ersatz empathy and compassion (certified professionally in courses and workshops) for those it seeks to destroy or marginalize. Its tools are not storm troopers and secret police, but the mis-use of scientific language to confuse the decent, open and scrupulously well-documented bureaucratic process, psychological manipulation through ceaseless counseling and dialogue and, ultimately, judicial fiat. Unlike with the totalitarian horrors, the victims of the culture of death can often take comfort in knowing their executioners will be there holding their hand and weeping at the final moment, assuring them everyone is praying for them and that theirs was indeed a tough and tragic case. But die they must, and die they will.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:44 AM


The left gets a memo (Michael Kinsley, 6/16/05, CS Monitor)

[E]ven on its face, the memo is not proof that Bush had decided on war. It states that war is "now seen as inevitable" by "Washington." That is, people other than Bush had concluded, based on observation, that he was determined to go to war. There is no claim of even fourth-hand knowledge that he had actually declared this intention. Even if "Washington" meant administration decisionmakers, rather than the usual freelance chatterboxes, C was only saying that these people believed that war was how events would play out.

Of course, if "intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy," rather than vice versa, that is pretty good evidence of Bush's intentions, as well as a scandal in its own right. And we know now that this was true. Fixing intelligence and facts to fit a desired policy is the Bush II governing style, especially concerning the Iraq war. But C offered no specifics, or none that made it into the memo. Nor does the memo assert that actual decisionmakers told him they were fixing the facts. Although the prose is not exactly crystalline, it seems to be saying only that "Washington" had reached that conclusion.

Of course, you don't need a secret memo to know this. Just look at what was in the newspapers on July 23, 2002, and the day before. [...]

Then there's poor Time magazine (cover date July 22 but actually published a week earlier), which had the whole story. "Sometime last spring the President ordered the Pentagon and the CIA to come up with a new plan to invade Iraq and topple its leader." Originally planned for the fall, the war was put off until "at least early next year" (which is when, in fact, it occurred).

Unfortunately, Time went on to speculate that because of a weak economy, the war "may have to wait - some think forever," and concluded that "Washington is engaged more in psy-war than in war itself."

There was never any chance that President Bush was going to leave oiffice before settling Saddam's hash--9-11 just gave him a pretext.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:38 AM


Castro's Black Prisoner: A follower of Martin Luther King and Gandhi in Fidel's custody for 22 more years (Nat Hentoff, June 9th, 2005, Village Voice)

Congressman Charles Rangel—a frequent, forthright defender of civil liberties on national television—has long been a paladin of black political and human rights in this country. He also worked to help remove South Africa's apartheid government, and he has been arrested at the Sudanese embassy in Washington for protesting the continuing genocide in Darfur.

Because of his record, I was surprised when—as nonviolent Cubans had the courage to gather in Havana on May 20 for the first public mass meeting for their freedom during Castro's 46-year dictatorship—Rangel was among the only 22 members of the House of Representatives who voted against a resolution (392 in favor) supporting this "historic meeting."

Then, as noted in last week's column, Rangel attacked American politicians who "refuse to give the [Castro] government the respect that it deserves." And he dismissed the Cubans defying the dictator—who, in 2003, locked up for long sentences more than 70 dissenters.

Said Rangel: "I don't think it helps to be supporting insurgents overthrowing the [Castro] government."

In view of this strange position for a passionate opponent of repressive governments, I asked several people who know Rangel if they could explain it. They were as surprised as I was, and couldn't.

But since Rangel also recommended reaching out to Fidel rather than "isolating" the people of Cuba, I have a suggestion as to how he himself can do just that. Surely Fidel would welcome this supportive, highly visible, anti-Bush-administration congressman if Charles Rangel were to go to Cuba to ask about one of the dissidents whom Amnesty International designates "a prisoner of conscience"—and who was named president of honor at the May 20 meeting of the Assembly to Promote Civil Society in Havana.

In its March 18, 2005 report on these prisoners, Amnesty cites "Oscar Elías Biscet González, 43. Sentence: 25 years . . . Prison: Combinado del Este Prison, Havana."

Best not to hold your breat waiting for the Left to oppose Castro.

Feeling the Heat in Havana (The Monitor's View, 6/16/05, CS Monitor)

Last month, some 150 dissidents in Cuba met openly to plan for a peaceful transition to a post-Castro era. It was the first large-scale meeting in 46 years not authorized by the communist dictator. Such courage signals Cuba's inevitable transition to a pluralistic democracy.

Yet the reaction in Europe to this political assemblage, unlike in the US which welcomed it, was striking. Last week, the European Union decided to continue barring opponents of Fidel Castro from visiting the embassies of EU members in Havana. And it did this despite the fact that Cuba expelled two EU politicians who came to Havana to address the May 20 pro-democracy assembly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:34 AM


Red China: Ultrasounds Used to Kill Girls (Gary Bauer, Jun 16, 2005, Human Events)

In the United States, ultrasound image technology has been instrumental in establishing the unborn child as a living, breathing, sensing person. [...]

In China, however ultrasound technology functions as the means to a much different end. There, because of the Communist government’s brutal 25-year one child policy, and since boys are considered more valuable than girls—as they carry on the family name and are expected to care for aging parents—ultrasound machines are employed to determine the sex of the baby. Then, if the baby is a girl, abort her.

How revealing that the very same technology—used in one nation to save lives—is exploited in another to snuff out the existence of those lives deemed unfit or less valuable.

The contrasting uses of ultrasound highlight the profound ideological cleft that separates America from China.

American democracy holds that every person possesses an inherent, God-given and inalienable dignity and value. While our legal and political institutions have sometimes failed to recognize these self-evident truths, the United States, because of its foundation in faith, usually ultimately overcomes the temptation to regard utility as the sole criterion for measuring anyone’s worth.

Chinese communism, on the other hand, values efficiency and utility.

There's nothing more chilling than hearing someone boast that their "morality" is utilitarian or pragmatic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:31 AM


Church and state in Italy (International Herald Tribune , JUNE 16, 2005)

The failed referendum to ease Italy's restrictive assisted-fertility law was the first test of the new pope's willingness to inject himself into politics, and the results were discouraging. Italian law, which defines every union of egg and sperm as the beginning of a human life, places severe limits on the creation and use of embryos, not only in the field of stem cell research but also in standard treatments for infertile couples. Heeding a call from the Italian bishops' conference, supported by Pope Benedict XVI, enough voters boycotted the referendum to render it invalid. The Catholic Church has every right to create its own doctrine on such issues for the faithful, to enforce them within the church, and to make its views public. But using the power of the pulpit to urge people to stay away from the ballot box is not a religious act, but an antidemocratic one. It is unacceptable interference.

It'd be helpful if the same folks didn't then complain that the Church didn't do enough to stop the last Holocaust.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:27 AM


Heart Pill Intended Only for Blacks Sparks Debate (Denise Gellene, June 16, 2005, LA Times)

A tiny biotechnology company today will seek a crucial advisory panel endorsement for BiDil, a heart pill that could become the first drug approved for a single race.

The Food and Drug Administration panel will consider evidence from NitroMed Inc. that its pill — a combination of two old generic drugs — improves the life expectancy of African Americans, the only racial group included in the company's study.

NitroMed tested the cardiac drug in blacks after the FDA rejected BiDil for general use. The Lexington, Mass., firm said the study was warranted because early evidence suggested that African Americans might benefit from the pill.

But some scientists say it's doubtful that only African Americans will respond to BiDil.

"It is not like one group has all the bad genes," said Neil Risch, a UC San Francisco geneticist. "They are pretty well distributed."

Really? How many blacks have Tay-Sachs?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:24 AM


Senate Gives Ethanol an Added Boost: Farm-state lawmakers push through a measure to double the amount in the gas supply by 2012. The potential effect on prices is unclear. (Richard Simon and Warren Vieth, June 16, 2005, LA Times)

For years, Congress has showered tax breaks on ethanol, portraying the fuel that is derived mostly from corn as a homegrown alternative to oil imports.

But even the Corn Belt could not have imagined its good fortune Wednesday as the Senate voted to double the amount of ethanol, to 8 billion gallons, that must be added to the nation's gasoline supply by 2012.

"The Senate is poised to make ethanol a cornerstone of America's energy policy," said Sen. John Thune, a Republican from ethanol-producing South Dakota.

The provision was added on a 70-26 vote to a far-ranging energy bill moving through the Senate. It is widely regarded as critical to getting Congress to adopt a new national energy policy, a priority of President Bush's. [...]

Bush applauded efforts to boost the ethanol requirement, saying it was a key element of a broader strategy to reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil. "We're pretty good about growing corn here in America, and we've got a lot of good corn growers," he told industry officials at an energy efficiency conference in Washington.

Bush said he looked forward to the day when a future president would say, "Show me the crop report," instead of asking, "How many barrels of crude oil are we importing?"

Although he did not endorse a specific amount, Bush said it was important for Congress to approve a renewable fuel standard requiring a minimum amount of ethanol and biodiesel, which can come from soybeans as well as recycled waste products such as cooking grease.

The president prodded the Senate to set aside partisan politics and pass an energy bill quickly, saying the public's patience, not to mention his own, was wearing thin.

"My advice is, they ought to keep this in mind: Summer is here, temperatures are rising, and tempers will really rise if Congress doesn't pass an energy bill," Bush said.

Bush's call for action reflected a more confrontational approach than his past public comments on presidential priorities that stalled in Congress.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) called the ethanol mandate something "we've been waiting for for a long time," and warned that if the provision was stripped out during House-Senate negotiations on a final bill, "there won't be an energy bill, period."

The energy bill passed by the House in April would require that 5 billion gallons of renewable fuel be added to gasoline by 2012, virtually assuring that an ethanol mandate of some amount would be in the final version of the legislation. [...]

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) also complained about additional government support for the ethanol industry. "How much is enough?" he asked after voting against the measure.

Looks like he'll skip the Iowa caucuses again.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:19 AM


U.S. Puts U.N. Reform First, Official Says: Annan hopes the question of expanding the Security Council is resolved by September, but the White House focuses on five changes. (Maggie Farley, June 16, 2005, LA Times)

An official overseeing reform efforts, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs R. Nicholas Burns, said the administration embraces the majority of ideas put forth Wednesday by a bipartisan congressional task force on U.N. reform. The panel was led by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Republican, and former Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell, a Democrat, and included staunch critics and supporters of the U.N. [...]

Officials say the administration wants to focus on five specific reforms:

• Disband the Human Rights Commission, whose board members often include the very countries it is trying to condemn. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has proposed creating a smaller human rights council with a revamped selection system that would keep more violator countries out.

• Support a democracy fund and democracy initiatives.

• Change budgetary, management and administrative processes to make the Secretariat, which runs the U.N. bureaucracy, more accountable and transparent. The White House is particularly interested in changing the budget system to allow the U.S., the top contributor, to have more influence over how the U.N.'s money is spent. The administration also supports more extensive independent oversight to stem corruption and mismanagement.

• Create a peace-building commission. One of the most popular of Annan's proposals, such an agency would help post-conflict countries such as Iraq recover and build civil institutions.

• Adopt a comprehensive convention on terrorism that defines such actions as harming innocent civilians. A global treaty on terrorism has been stalled by disagreement over whether the definition should include actions taken by states as well as violent struggles against occupation.

The White House also said Wednesday that it opposed a bill by Rep. Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.) scheduled for a House vote today that would withhold half of the U.S. dues until the U.N. implements 39 specific changes.

"We are the founder, host country and leading contributor to the U.N. We don't want to put ourselves in a position where we are withholding 50% of American contributions to the U.N. system," Burns said. "We believe that it's possible to make progress and reform the U.N. without withdrawing financial support."

The White House stance appears likely to hinder Annan's goal for U.N. member states to decide how to reform the Security Council before a September summit that will help mark the world body's 60th anniversary.

When you can make John Bolton the good cop you've almost broken the suspect already.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:08 AM


Durbin won't apologize for Guantanamo comments (MEGAN REICHGOTT, 6/16/05, Chicago Sun-Times)

Sen. Dick Durbin refused to apologize Wednesday for comments he made on the Senate floor comparing the actions of American soldiers at Guantanamo Bay to Nazis, Soviet gulags and a ''mad regime'' like Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot's in Cambodia.

Durbin's comments created a buzz Wednesday on the Internet, fueled by sound bites of his speech on radio talk shows. By Wednesday afternoon, Illinois Republican Party Chairman Andy McKenna asked Durbin to apologize.

''Senator Durbin's comments come as a great disservice to our military personnel in Guantanamo,'' McKenna said in a statement. ''They are also a great disservice to all U.S. soldiers and veterans who have fought, and continue to fight, to overcome evil regimes and spread democracy around the world.''

Durbin did not plan to apologize for the comments, spokesman Joe Shoemaker said.

Does the Democratic Party have any adult supervision?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:00 AM


The 'devil' you know (Charles Recknagel, 6/17/05, Asia Times)

Polls in Iran have limited reliability but consistently have shown Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani to be the front-runner. He is a high-ranking conservative cleric who is often termed a pragmatic politician and pro-business centrist.

Rafsanjani already has served two terms as Iran's president from 1989 to 1997 and is branding himself as the only one of the eight candidates with the stature to deliver on his campaign promises.

The former president, 70, heads Iran's top political arbitration body - the Expediency Council. He says he wants to integrate Iran into the global economy. And last month, he hinted that could include opening negotiations with the United States.

"We cannot ignore the US - the fact is that the US is a world superpower. Actually, we should act wisely with this superpower in a way that steers it away from adventurism. We should let the US understand that adventurism in the Middle East region cannot serve its interest," Rafsanjani said.

This week he said, "I am going for a policy of relaxation in tension and detente, and this is a policy that I will apply towards the United States as well." [...]

Among the reformists, the front-runner is Mustafa Moin, 54, a former minister for higher education. He is joined by running mate Mohammad Reza Khatami, the younger brother of outgoing President Mohammad Khatami.

Moin's platform emphasizes liberalizing the economy and easing tensions with Washington. He also champions greater intellectual freedom and cultural diversity and has said he would be prepared to give up uranium enrichment for a period of time if it were in Iran's national interest to do so.

Those are positions that should please the West. But some analysts say they may not be enough to make Moin, or another reformist candidate, the West's first choice as a new negotiating partner.

Faulks said the reformists now labor under the shadow of Khatami's inability to push through their initiatives during his two terms in office. For part of that time, reformists dominated both Iran's legislative and executive branches, yet were stymied by resistance from the conservative establishment, including crackdowns.

"It's a strange situation where you find that European governments and Western governments find themselves perhaps hoping that a pragmatic conservative triumphs over a reformist who espouses ideals such as democracy and human rights. But, of course it is difficult to see that Moin could be any more effective than Khatami was and would very probably be less effective. He is after all facing a reactionary, conservative majlis [parliament] and very probably you would see a kind of stasis in policymaking, much as you do under Khatami, probably worse, unfortunately," Faulks said.

It'd be interesting to see if a run-off between the two would re-energize the currently dispirited reform movement.

Bridging the gap (Maggie Mitchell Salem, 6/17/05, Asia Times)

During the past decade, Washington and Tehran have shown tantalizing signs that the vast void between them could indeed be bridged if both put their interests before ideology.

"Crisis communication" - from the USS Vincennes felling of an Iranian airbus to the September 11, 2001, terror attacks to stabilizing Afghanistan to the Bam earthquake - all were opportunities to bypass hardliners and sustain dialogue.

Former president Bill Clinton began his first term with "dual containment" and ended his second with an appearance at Khatami's UN speech. Khatami was not authorized to shake Clinton's hand.

The handshake came in November 2001, between former secretary of state Colin Powell and Iran's foreign minister.

After September 11, Iran provided substantial assistance to the US to defeat their common enemy - the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Then, in January 2002, Iran's international adventurism once again short-circuited constructive engagement. Israeli forces seized a ship loaded with 50 tons of arms bound for the Palestinian Authority. Both Washington and Tel Aviv accused Iran of funneling the weapons to Islamic militants.

Less than a month later, Bush identified Iran as part of the triple crown of evil. The relationship has failed to recover.

The slowly escalating conflict over Iran's nuclear program is just the latest installment in an unnecessarily tortuous relationship.

What's next? There is no reason to believe that Rafsanjani will shake off the hardliners. Some will be eager to hem him in.

The question remains: will Washington stop rewarding the hardliners' bad behavior by engaging in direct, if carefully calibrated dialogue with Tehran. Gary Sick, a former national security adviser who covered Iran during the revolution and hostage crisis, had this to say in January 2004: "I don't see any immediate or miraculous breakthrough, where Iran and the United States embrace or set up formal diplomatic relations. On the other hand, all it would really take for a very rapid movement in that direction would be an expression of will on the part of an Iranian or American leader. Up to now, that has not been present."

Unfortunately, the deficit of determined leadership remains more than 18 months later.

There are ample reasons to do better, roughly 34 million of them.

American values - not necessarily policies - are popular among Iran's under 35 set, a majority of the country. Bush is right to reach out to them. But phony broadcasting and White House entreaties are only tactics, and weak ones at that. He could start by formulating a strategy that pushes the right buttons in Tehran - and doesn't push likely allies into the arms of hardliners.

Rafsanjani, a seasoned veteran of infighting and related international intrigue, may be looking to take the revolution he helped install and sustain to the next level: Islamic Iran as a full member of the international community. He can't do that without Bush's consent. And both Bush and Rafsanjani may find good reason to come together to stabilize Iraq - most recently, the bombings in the neighboring, oil-rich Iranian province of Khuzestan.

Not Our Man in Iran (DANIELLE PLETKA, 6/16/05, NY Times)


One of Iran’s most influential ruling cleric called Friday on the Muslim states to use nuclear weapon against Israel, assuring them that while such an attack would annihilate Israel, it would cost them "damages only".

"If a day comes when the world of Islam is duly equipped with the arms Israel has in possession, the strategy of colonialism would face a stalemate because application of an atomic bomb would not leave any thing in Israel but the same thing would just produce damages in the Muslim world", Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani told the crowd at the traditional Friday prayers in Tehran.

Analysts said not only Mr. Hashemi-Rafsanjani’s speech was the strongest against Israel, but also this is the first time that a prominent leader of the Islamic Republic openly suggests the use of nuclear weapon against the Jewish State.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:54 AM


Chinese writer tests the power of his press (Chris Buckley, JUNE 16, 2005, International Herald Tribune)

When Chinese government officials confiscated 906 books that Wang Yi had privately printed to give to friends across the country, it seemed unremarkable in a country where censorship is pervasive and rarely challenged.

But for Wang, a law lecturer and writer with a reputation for trenchantly criticizing the government, the confiscation was the opening shot in a battle he plans to wage against what he calls China's increasingly harsh suppression of reports about corruption and social problems and of discussion of political reform.

In a rare show of defiance of China's censors, Wang is suing to have his books returned and to have the right to self-publish respected.

"We have a very pervasive censorship system, and it's becoming tighter and more sophisticated," he said in an interview in Beijing.

"The chances of victory aren't high, but even if the courts let us present our case, let us play the game; that will be a victory, because then we can speak out against this censorship in the public arena."

Hard to take seriously a regime that fears words.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


The Gioia of Jazz: The National Endowment for the Arts' head champions "one of the great American inventions." (NAT HENTOFF, June 15, 2005, Opinion Journal)

No one with government funds to dispense has done more to bring jazz to American audiences than Dana Gioia, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. [...]

The chairman is involved in expanding audiences for all the arts, but he is especially driven to "expand the country's awareness of jazz, to use it to combat the cultural impoverishment that threatens us." In an era of "reality" television, and a music scene where even Merle Haggard is hardly heard on commercial country music radio stations, Mr. Gioia doesn't consider it necessary to define "cultural impoverishment."

He has launched "NEA Jazz Masters on Tour," sending Jazz Masters across the U.S. to nonprofit organizations--from, the NEA declares, "the Maine Center for the Arts in Orono, Maine, to the Anchorage Concert Association in Anchorage, Alaska." The co-organizer is Arts Midwest, and the sponsor is Verizon with additional support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. Verizon also sponsors other NEA jazz initiatives.

Also, the NEA was a partner in an hourlong television program, "Legends of Jazz," which will be shown on various PBS stations beginning Thursday and throughout July and August. (Check local listings.) The program is hosted by pianist Ramsey Lewis, a wide-ranging contributor to jazz history. Included are NEA Jazz Masters James Moody, Nancy Wilson, Jon Hendricks, Paquito D'Rivera and jazz impresario and pianist George Wein, designated a 2005 Jazz Master.

After this premiere showing, a 13-week series of "Legends in Jazz" will follow on PBS. The NEA will not be involved in that continuance, which is historic in that it will be the first national weekly jazz series in some 40 years. That absence may not have been "the wasteland" Newton Minow once called television, but it sure was a cultural deficit.

Mr. Gioia has also helped regenerate a valuable National Public Radio series, "Jazz Profiles," which was illuminatingly researched and set a standard for broadcast jazz biographies. New productions were halted by NPR in 2002 when it reduced cultural coverage in favor of higher ratings for news. In partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, NPR resurrected the series this year with one-hour profiles--both updated and new--of NEA Jazz Masters. While the series ends on June 29, there is hope that there will be yet more "Jazz Profiles" to come on NPR.

What may be the most long-lasting Gioia project for raising this nation's consciousness of its most original contribution to world culture is NEA Jazz in the Schools, which the chairman heralds as a way of enlivening "American history in exciting, soulful and insightful ways."

This Web-based curriculum and DVD toolkit are, says the NEA, "designed for high school teachers of social studies, history and music." Included will be "a teacher's guide of five curricular units with teacher tips, cross-curricular activities and assessment methods."

In each kit, along with a timeline poster and student materials, there will be "a CD, and a DVD featuring video and musical excerpts along with all print materials in digital form."

To get the first curricular unit, public, private and charter schools that are interested can download it from www.neajazzintheschools.org. The complete kit will be available at no charge this September. While designed for high schoolers, the Jazz in the Schools curriculum can bring educational pleasures to middle-school students as well. And after seeing strongly appreciative letters from elementary schools after jazz musicians quickened the rhythms of their classrooms, I would suggest that teachers of earlier grades should also click on to the swinging Web site.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


'Hoop Dreams' stars still living a dream (CAROL SLEZAK, 6/16/05, Chicago Sun-Times)

Before the documentary ''Hoop Dreams'' made them famous, Arthur Agee and William Gates were just a couple of kids who shared a friendship. They didn't know -- who would have guessed? -- that the story of their lives would hit the big screen and become a sensation. They didn't know -- who could have fathomed? -- that even now, 11 years after the film was released, people would still approach them on the street and ask them about each other.

''Hey, Will, how's Arthur doing?''

''Hey, Arthur, seen Will lately?''

Like Jordan and Pippen, like Butch and Sundance, like Abercrombie & Fitch, you can't say one without the other.

Agee and Gates, both now in their early 30s, have moved on in their lives. But they realize they will always be connected by ''Hoop Dreams.'' And that's just fine with them.

''When we see each other, no matter how much time has gone by, it's like we see each other every day,'' Agee said.

''We talk about every three to four months,'' Gates said. ''And at one point in a year we make sure to see each other. And when we do, it takes us, oh, about two minutes to catch up with each other. I don't think basketball or anything else would have been able to tie us together the way the movie did.''

Lately they've been seeing more of each other, because ''Hoop Dreams'' has been released on DVD (Criterion). They've been making appearances for the DVD, which includes an audio commentary by them. The film's director, Steve James, calls the Agee-Gates audio the highlight of the release.

''One thing that was heartening was listening to their commentary track,'' said James, who along with producers Frederick Marx and Peter Gilbert added an audio commentary of his own to the film. ''You get a sense of their closeness when they talk. One thing that comes out is the sense that this experience was for the most part really a positive experience for them.''

June 15, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:15 PM


REVOLT ON HIGH: The Indians of Bolivia's El Alto lead a drive for social change that has toppled two presidents. (Héctor Tobar, June 16, 2005, LA Times)

This Indian metropolis on the wind-swept plateau of the Bolivian Altiplano exports two things to the capital city in the rocky valley below: cheap labor and social revolution.

Most mornings, the streets in El Alto's downtown fill with men and boys in modern clothes and women in the bowler hats and wide, silk dresses of the Aymara people. They pass stubby brick office towers, Internet cafes and market stalls, and squeeze into minibuses for the short commute to La Paz.

Other days, at the edge of El Alto, in neighborhoods where children play around muddy pools of water and potato gardens grow between adobe brick homes, people gather to debate where they will build their barricades and bonfires. Within hours, they will have sealed off La Paz.

El Alto is the crucible of Bolivia's Indian uprising, a sometimes explosive, always simmering challenge to this Andean country's centuries-old social order. Last week, an Indian-led rebellion forced President Carlos Mesa to resign and prevented two of his would-be successors from taking office. Just 20 months earlier, Mesa's predecessor was ousted in similar fashion.

"We will triumph because the people of El Alto have willed it, because Bolivia has willed it," Abel Mamani, leader of the Federation of Neighborhood Assemblies of El Alto, told 400 activists at a meeting last week. "The people of El Alto began this mobilization, and they cannot lower their guard."

Democracy doesn't always improve a nation, but it always comes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:57 PM


Iran politicians woo the young: Presidential hopefuls reach out with music and rallies before Friday's vote to sway the under-30 majority. (Scott Peterson, 6/16/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

Tapping into that widespread discontent, some youth leaders and prominent dissidents are calling for an election boycott, describing the reform project as a "failure" that proves the Islamic Republic can't be changed from within.

But the cheering, sometimes tearful, young supporters of Mr. Moin and other candidates - these days, a distinct minority who say they will vote - make clear that a strain of youth politics persists. And every campaign is targeting young people, recognizing the latent political power in the hands of the majority under 30 years old, who can vote from the age of 15.

"We are here for democracy, and Moin is just a tool to take us there," says Mohsen Pahlavizadeh, a student whose thick stubble and narrow face is the very image of a hard-line militiaman.

"We had many revolutions, and we don't want any more," says Mr. Pahlavadeh, referring to the violent revolution of 1979 that brought clerical rule to Iran. "We don't want any more violence. We want change from within."

"We want to continue the way of Khatami," adds Hamid Baharlou, another student with a headband painted with the party slogan: 'Again we make our country.' "But we want it to be more strong, and more precise."

Polls show that Moin is gaining ground on front-runner Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, which could lead to a second-round runoff if no candidate gets 50 percent of the vote.

To reach that threshold and boost his credentials with youths, Mr. Rafsanjani, a two-time former president, has even created a TV segment that shows him in a panel discussion with young people.

The septuagenarian cracks a joke about nudity, and says that people should follow their taste in clothes, according to reports. "In the Islam I know ... no one would feel limited in their instincts," said Rafsanjani, a supporter of the Shiite practice of temporary marriage.

The cleric drew laughs when he admitted to "doing things as a young man that I would not confess to."

Forget the boycott. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei handed them an opportunity when he forced the Guardian Council to let Moin run--carpe diem.

The Vote That Roared: In Iran’s surprisingly competitive election, the contest may be more important than the outcome. (Hadi Semati, June 2005, Foreign Policy)

[T]he upcoming presidential contest is producing surprises for even the most informed readers of Iranian politics. And, in the last few weeks, it appears that Iranian voters are tuning in as well.

For starters, cracks are appearing in the conservative establishment. The powerful Guardian Council misread the public mood when it disqualified reformist candidate Mostafa Moin, the former minister of higher education and a favorite of the intelligentsia and students. Facing public outrage, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei demanded that the Guardian Council approve Moin’s candidacy. His reappearance has energized the campaign and sparked a round of alliance building and elbow throwing. [...]

Rafsanjani, a self-styled pragmatic conservative, has given himself a modest makeover to accommodate a changing Iranian society and popular pressure for political openness and greater participation in the global community. More than any other candidate, his campaign plays up his resolve to tackle the tough foreign-policy issues that Iran faces, particularly tension with the Bush administration. In recent interviews and speeches, Rafsanjani has suggested he is ready to reach out to Washington—if he is extended a hand. He emphasizes respect for individual liberty and the sanctity of the private sphere in both foreign and domestic policies.

For his part, Moin focuses on political reform as the key to Iranian domestic and foreign policy. His campaign agenda includes a grandiose set of policies that are more aspirational than practical. During the race, he has radicalized significantly and has broken taboos on every front, including outright criticism of the conservative establishment. On foreign policy, he proposes the continuation of Khatami’s overall approach, but with more determination, resolve, and transparency to build trust between Iran and international community.

A reformist or a Rafsanjani victory would mark a hawkish shift and a deterioration of Iranian policy on key issues—U.S.–Iran relations, the Arab–Israeli peace process, and the nuclear program—less likely. But it is still doubtful, given the consensus-driven foreign-policy machinery of the Islamic Republic, that the election will produce a significant change in direction. Nevertheless, a victory for either Rafsanjani or Moin could give Washington an excuse to take a fresh look at Iran, which may be more receptive to dialogue than ever before.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:49 PM


A murder stirs Kurds in Syria: Syria's 1.7 million Kurds are impatient over their rights, and key to Syrian stability. (Nicholas Blanford, 6/16/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

A moderate Islamic cleric who once worked with the Syrian government to temper extremism, Sheikh Khaznawi was emerging as one of its most outspoken critics. He advocated Kurdish rights and democracy, galvanizing many of the 1.7 million Kurds against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. At the same time, Kurds were gaining political power in Iraq, Lebanon was casting Syrian troops out, and the US was criticizing Syria's government.

"[Syrian intelligence] wrote a report saying he ... should be stopped. They said he would start a revolution," says Sheikh Murad Khaznawi, the eldest of Sheikh Mohammed's eight sons.

On May 10, the cleric disappeared in Damascus. Three weeks later, he was found dead.

His murder sent shock waves through Syria's marginalized Kurdish community, sparking mass demonstrations earlier this month and mobilizing a community that represents the most potent domestic threat to President Assad.

"The sheikh was a symbol for the Kurdish people and he wanted all the people to unite and struggle peacefully," says Hassan Saleh, secretary-general of Yakiti Party, a banned Kurdish group.

The Syrian authorities deny involvement in Khaznawi's killing. But analysts and diplomats note that the cleric's death coincides with a crackdown by Damascus against internal political dissent.

"The stability of Syria is in the hands of the Kurds," says Ibrahim Hamidi, correspondent of the Arabic Al Hayat daily. "They have a unique position. They are organized, they have an Islamic identity, regional support through the Kurds in Turkey, Iraq and Iran, international support with some European countries lobbying for them, and political status because of [the Kurdish empowerment in] Iraq."

Syria's 1.7 million Kurds comprise the largest non-Arab group in Syria, making up about 9 percent of the population. [...]

Khaznawi's disappearance spurred some 10,000 Kurds to demonstrate in Qamishli on May 21, calling on the government to reveal his whereabouts. But the government denied any knowledge of the kidnapping.

On June 1, Khaznawi's family was informed that their father had been found dead in Deir ez-Zor. His body, which was buried in a cemetery on the edge of town, showed signs of torture. "The security told us he had been buried for 12 days," says Sheikh Morshed Khaznawi, another of Khaznawi's sons. "We didn't believe them because the depth of the grave was only 70 centimeters [two feet] and Deir ez-Zor is very hot. He should have decayed very badly."

The Syrian authorities blamed the cleric's murder on a "criminal gang." Two gang members were arrested and were shown confessing on television.

Tens of thousands of mourners attended Khaznawi's burial and some 10,000 (mostly Kurd) protesters took to the streets of Qamishli on June 5. The demonstration turned violent when police and Arab tribesmen beat the protesters, including women, then looted dozens of Kurdish-owned shops.

"We have exceeded the culture of fear that the regime planted in us," says Machal Tammo, of the Tayyar Mustaqbal, a Kurdish Party.

Time for W to meet with a Syrian Kurd.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:47 PM


How Buffett tripped over the dollar: The greenback's big rally against other currencies has proved Warren Buffett -- and other dollar bears -- wrong. Here's what Buffett missed. (Jon D. Markman, 6/15/05, MSn Money)

Six months ago, the value of the U.S. dollar was on the firing line as it plunged to a record low vs. the euro. Amid fears that a united Europe would surmount the spendthrift United States as a safe haven for financial assets in a tumultuous world, investors worldwide -- led by noted Nebraska sourpuss Warren Buffett -- heaped scorn on our currency and scolded U.S. lawmakers to get the federal deficit under control.

But a funny thing happened to all those dollar bears. Their contempt for U.S. economic freedoms hasn’t amounted to a hill of bill of beans, and their positions have been smoked. The dollar has rallied massively since the start of the year against all other currencies, reflecting a swift, stunning paradigm shift in the way that global political risks are priced.

Buffet, who reportedly lifted his bet against the buck to a position of $22 billion and counting in the first quarter this year, isn’t sounding quite so smug anymore. Normally an equity investor with liberal social views who rarely made forays into the foreign exchange markets, he has had his head handed to him by more experienced currency players. Although his anti-dollar attack worked from 2002 through 2004, since then he has been forced to pay for attempting to mix politics and money. [...]

Buffett has told shareholders that he took his original position based on a belief that Bush policies had led to unsustainable twin deficits in the federal budget and the balance of our trade with the world. But guess what? Due to improved tax collection, higher payroll earnings, a modest decline in overall government spending and better-than-expected corporate earnings, estimates of the U.S. budget deficit are steadily on the decline. The 12-month federal deficit has narrowed to $339 billion, or 2.8% of GDP, according to Ned Davis Research. Receipts have been growing twice as fast as spending over the past 12 months, as both corporate and individual tax contributions have been stronger than estimated. [...]

A country’s currency can be considered in a way to be analogous to a company’s stock. When central banks and trading partners are positive on a country and its ability to be an effective store of value, they simultaneously buy its currency and sell the currency of other countries. When they believe that a country’s ability to pay its debts is eroding, either due to loss of vitality or inflation, then they sell the currency.

The bottom line now is that, according to Bloomberg data, holdings of U.S. government debt by international investors and central banks rose by $93.2 billion, or nearly 5%, to $1.9 trillion last quarter. As the dollar has risen in value, it has helped foreign investors retain the value of their U.S. assets. The dollar’s strength has also kept inflation down -- further preserving the value of bonds’ coupon payments.

Our recent confluence of happy events -- stronger dollar, higher U.S. bond prices, lower bond yields and lower inflation -- has further widened the gap between our economy and that of the disorganized, disrupted and disturbed Europeans. [...]

What Buffett and his cohorts failed to understand as they thumbed their nose at the dollar was that it’s impossible for Europeans to sustain a single currency without a commitment to a single European political and economic policy.

On the one hand, you can admire him for putting his money where his moth is and betting on the future of socialism against that of capitalism. On the other, what the heck was he thinking?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:35 PM


Bush remains mum about potential political plans (Gary Fineout, 6/15/05, Tallahassee Democrat)

Gov. Jeb Bush, the Miami developer turned the most powerful governor in Florida history, said Tuesday that he does not know what he will do with his life once his second term in office ends in January 2007.

Bush has consistently ruled out running for president in 2008. He told a group of 300 high school girls gathered in the House chamber of the Capitol that while he remains unsure about his own future, he plans to return to his hometown of Miami.

His remarks come at a time that national publications continue to tout him as a potential Republican candidate for president, or even vice president.

"My plans are really up in the air," said Bush, who is barred from seeking a third consecutive term as governor. "I really take my job seriously. I love my job. It's like the greatest thing I ever had a chance to do, so I want to finish strong."

He added: "I happen to believe that God has a plan for all of us." [...]

When asked after the session about whether he would be willing to run for vice president in 2008, as suggested Tuesday by a columnist writing for the Washington Post, Bush sighed and then said, "I've got 565 days, and I intend to work as hard as I can to do my job."

When asked again about whether he would turn down a vice presidential spot, Bush then said, "Please, leave me alone. I'm not going to say anything more than what I've said, and I've said it pretty consistently."

They're a ticket.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:24 PM


Ford faces family trouble amid Senate bid (MATT GOURAS, June 15, 2005, AP)

Just a day after Rep. Harold Ford Jr. announced he was running for the Senate, the FBI arrested his lawmaker uncle back home in Tennessee on corruption charges.

Ford has spent much of his career trying to distinguish himself from his powerful - and occasionally scandalous - Memphis political family. Now many wonder how the congressman, a rising star among the Democrats, will deal with this latest embarrassment. [...]

Overcoming the Ford family reputation is not the only challenge facing the younger Ford, who is 35. A black candidate has never won a major statewide office in Tennessee. And no Southern state has elected a black senator since Reconstruction.

The Democrats saw Ford's potential five years ago when then-presidential candidate and fellow Tennessean Al Gore asked him to deliver the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention. As always, the young, handsome, well-spoken Ford impressed.

He used to be Barack Obama, but he should have had sense enough to switch parties before running statewide.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:20 PM


Republican commissioner resigns from FEC (SHARON THEIMER, June 15, 2005, AP)

A Republican who drew frequent criticism from government watchdogs for opposing campaign finance restrictions announced Wednesday that he is resigning from the Federal Election Commission.

In a letter to President Bush, Commissioner Brad Smith said he views the commission as a "fairer, more efficient, more streamlined organization" that it was when he joined it five years ago.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:18 PM


Blue City Conservatives: Meet Seattle's biggest closet cases: the Republicans next door. (Matt Rosenberg, 6/15/05, Seattle Weekly)

Seattle's liberals and "progressives" need to grow up. Seattle's conservatives need to speak up. So far, the latter looks more likely. And what follows could prove worrisome for local Democrats. Their grip on Seattle politics might loosen considerably over the next decade. Especially if a low-key GOP marketing campaign now under way in Seattle helps more Republicans and others who vote for them to brave the tangible social risks of "coming out." [...]

Gradually, the political hooliganism of the Loud Left will become less intimidating to Seattle's quiet and mild middle, especially as Republicans continue to build their ground game. "The party will grow in the city," predicts ex-Texan Beeman over coffee at Starbucks on 12th Avenue, hard by Seattle University. "Not because we will convert Democrats, but because we will discover each other." Beeman helped organize a 37th District GOP election night party at Piecora's Pizza on Capitol Hill, in the belly of the Democratic beast. An encouraging crowd of 40 showed up to celebrate as Bush locked up a second term and, for the first time in 20 years, a Republican seemed on the verge of capturing the governor's mansion in Olympia. There were the old, the young, students, couples, party stalwarts, and newcomers. "There is a lot of opportunity here in the city for Republicans. You can do a little bit and shine," says Beeman. Peterson, the former state legislator, recounts a lot of positive feedback while waving signs for Bush in Seattle last fall, from "guys in plumbing trucks" and "folks bringing us coffee and pizza."

There have been other rays of hope in the recent past. Despite well-documented financial support from suburban Republican business interests, former city attorney and tough-talking law-and-order mayoral candidate Mark Sidran lost by only six-tenths of 1 percent in 2001 to regular Democrat Greg Nickels in the nonpartisan contest. Thanks to his reign as city attorney, conservative Democrat Sidran had been roundly reviled during the campaign by liberal Seattle interest groups as another Rudy Giuliani (read: heartless Republican). Yet Sidran, who spoke compellingly about Seattle's dangerous political isolation in Puget Sound, obviously struck a chord with local voters. Since last year, Republicans have been building organizational muscle in Seattle. At regular GOP meetings in Seattle's 34th, 36th, 37th, 43rd, and 46th state legislative districts, they're organizing right now around the candidacy of Irons.

More importantly for the long term, they're continuing to grow the ranks of the precinct committee officers (PCOs) who identify local R's as they come out of the woodwork or move in from other locations. Like counselors to gay and lesbian youth in red America, Seattle Republican PCOs tell stories of encountering "questioning" individuals, wondering if, in fact, despite discouraging social strictures, they might not actually be Republican. They are looking for more information and a local support group with which to discuss their concerns and perhaps affirm their identities.

It's also clear from the Seattle Republicans I've been meeting over the last several months that they'll draw energy and inspiration from the King County vote-counting debacle that they believe robbed Republican Dino Rossi of the governor's office. The Irons candidacy is especially important right now to Seattle Republicans, who, like their brethren elsewhere in the county, remain appalled at the sloppiness counting votes in the Christine Gregoire–Rossi nail-biter. Irons, currently in his second term as a County Council member, optimistically predicted to me in Magnolia that he'll pull close to vulnerable incumbent Democrat Ron Sims in fund-raising and take 50 percent of the Seattle vote while defeating the county executive this November. If anything, Rossi's loss—just confirmed in court—will heighten grassroots zeal for Irons-backing GOPers countywide.

Does Seattle have catacombs?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:46 PM


Magna Carta and Its American Legacy (National Archives)

Before penning the Declaration of Independence--the first of the American Charters of Freedom--in 1776, the Founding Fathers searched for a historical precedent for asserting their rightful liberties from King George III and the English Parliament. They found it in a gathering that took place 561 years earlier on the plains of Runnymede, not far from where Windsor Castle stands today. There, on June 15, 1215, an assembly of barons confronted a despotic and cash-strapped King John and demanded that traditional rights be recognized, written down, confirmed with the royal seal, and sent to each of the counties to be read to all freemen. The result was Magna Carta--a momentous achievement for the English barons and, nearly six centuries later, an inspiration for angry American colonists.

Magna Carta was the result of the Angevin king's disastrous foreign policy and overzealous financial administration. John had suffered a staggering blow the previous year, having lost an important battle to King Philip II at Bouvines and with it all hope of regaining the French lands he had inherited. When the defeated John returned from the Continent, he attempted to rebuild his coffers by demanding scutage (a fee paid in lieu of military service) from the barons who had not joined his war with Philip. The barons in question, predominantly lords of northern estates, protested, condemning John's policies and insisting on a reconfirmation of Henry I's Coronation Oath (1100), which would, in theory, limit the king's ability to obtain funds. (As even Henry ignored the provisions of this charter, however, a reconfirmation would not necessarily guarantee fewer taxes.) But John refused to withdraw his demands, and by spring most baronial families began to take sides. The rebelling barons soon faltered before John's superior resources, but with the unexpected capture of London, they earned a substantial bargaining chip. John agreed to grant a charter.

The document conceded by John and set with his seal in 1215, however, was not what we know today as Magna Carta but rather a set of baronial stipulations, now lost, known as the "Articles of the barons." After John and his barons agreed on the final provisions and additional wording changes, they issued a formal version on June 19, and it is this document that came to be known as Magna Carta. Of great significance to future generations was a minor wording change, the replacement of the term "any baron" with "any freeman" in stipulating to whom the provisions applied. Over time, it would help justify the application of the Charter's provisions to a greater part of the population. While freemen were a minority in 13th-century England, the term would eventually include all English, just as "We the People" would come to apply to all Americans in this century.

While Magna Carta would one day become a basic document of the British Constitution, democracy and universal protection of ancient liberties were not among the barons' goals. The Charter was a feudal document and meant to protect the rights and property of the few powerful families that topped the rigidly structured feudal system. In fact, the majority of the population, the thousands of unfree laborers, are only mentioned once, in a clause concerning the use of court-set fines to punish minor offenses. Magna Carta's primary purpose was restorative: to force King John to recognize the supremacy of ancient liberties, to limit his ability to raise funds, and to reassert the principle of "due process." Only a final clause, which created an enforcement council of tenants-in-chief and clergymen, would have severely limited the king's power and introduced something new to English law: the principle of "majority rule." But majority rule was an idea whose time had not yet come; in September, at John's urging, Pope Innocent II annulled the "shameful and demeaning agreement, forced upon the king by violence and fear." The civil war that followed ended only with John's death in October 1216.

To gain support for the new monarch--John's 9-year-old son, Henry III--the young king's regents reissued the charter in 1217. Neither this version nor that issued by Henry when he assumed personal control of the throne in 1225 were exact duplicates of John's charter; both lacked some provisions, including that providing for the enforcement council, found in the original. With the 1225 issuance, however, the evolution of the document ended. While English monarchs, including Henry, confirmed Magna Carta several times after this, each subsequent issue followed the form of this "final" version. With each confirmation, copies of the document were made and sent to the counties so that everyone would know their rights and obligations.

Once the principle was established that even the King was bound by the law, and that people had certain rights that he could not violate, the rest was easy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:30 PM


The End of Europe (Robert J. Samuelson, June 15, 2005, Washington Post)

Europe as we know it is slowly going out of business. Since French and Dutch voters rejected the proposed constitution of the European Union, we've heard countless theories as to why: the unreality of trying to forge 25 E.U. countries into a United States of Europe; fear of ceding excessive power to Brussels, the E.U. capital; and an irrational backlash against globalization. Whatever their truth, these theories miss a larger reality: Unless Europe reverses two trends -- low birthrates and meager economic growth -- it faces a bleak future of rising domestic discontent and falling global power. Actually, that future has already arrived. [...]

It's hard to be a great power if your population is shriveling. Europe's birthrates have dropped well below the replacement rate of 2.1 children for each woman of childbearing age. For Western Europe as a whole, the rate is 1.5. It's 1.4 in Germany and 1.3 in Italy. In a century -- if these rates continue -- there won't be many Germans in Germany or Italians in Italy. Even assuming some increase in birthrates and continued immigration, Western Europe's population grows dramatically grayer, projects the U.S. Census Bureau. Now about one-sixth of the population is 65 and older. By 2030 that would be one-fourth, and by 2050 almost one-third.

No one knows how well modern economies will perform with so many elderly people, heavily dependent on government benefits (read: higher taxes). But Europe's economy is already faltering. In the 1970s annual growth for the 12 countries now using the euro averaged almost 3 percent; from 2001 to 2004 the annual average was 1.2 percent. In 1974 those countries had unemployment of 2.4 percent; in 2004 the rate was 8.9 percent. [...]

Consider some contrasts with the United States, as reported by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. With high unemployment benefits, almost half of Western Europe's jobless have been out of work a year or more; the U.S. figure is about 12 percent. Or take early retirement. In 2003 about 60 percent of Americans ages 55 to 64 had jobs. The comparable figures for France, Italy and Germany were 37 percent, 30 percent and 39 percent. The truth is that Europeans like early retirement, high jobless benefits and long vacations.

The trouble is that so much benevolence requires a strong economy, while the sources of all this benevolence -- high taxes, stiff regulations -- weaken the economy. With aging populations, the contradictions will only thicken. Indeed, some scholarly research suggests that high old-age benefits partly explain low birthrates. With the state paying for old age, who needs children as caregivers? High taxes may also deter young couples from assuming the added costs of children. [...]

[E]urope is immobilized by its problems. This is the classic dilemma of democracy: Too many people benefit from the status quo to change it; but the status quo isn't sustainable. Even modest efforts in France and Germany to curb social benefits have triggered backlashes. Many Europeans -- maybe most -- live in a state of delusion.

And the difference between our two political parties is that the Democrats want to make us more like Europe while the GOP wants to make us more American. Doesn't seem a tough choice.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:16 PM


Australian Rescued by Iraqi, U.S. Forces (PATRICK QUINN, 6/15/05, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Iraqi and U.S. forces, acting on a tip, raided a dangerous Sunni neighborhood Wednesday and freed an Australian hostage who was hidden beneath a blanket, officials said. Elsewhere, 38 people died in insurgent attacks, including 25 killed when a bomber dressed in Iraqi army uniform blew himself up in a mess hall.

Douglas Wood, a 64-year-old engineer who is a longtime resident of Alamo, Calif., said he was "extremely happy and relieved to be free again," according to a message read by Australia's counterterrorism chief Nick Warner. [...]

The raid took place as part of Operation Lightning - a broader counterinsurgency operation that began in Baghdad on May 29, Warner said. He added there "was specific intelligence and tips that provided a hint at what might be found at that location."

Wood was freed by the Iraqi army's 2nd battalion, 1st Armored Brigade, with assistance by U.S. forces in Ghazaliya - one of the most dangerous Sunni Arab neighborhood of Baghdad, Warner said. He added that "no ransom was paid" despite a request for a "very large" amount of money.

Posted by Bryan Francoeur at 4:03 PM


Giscard regrets constitution sent to French people (Lisbeth Kirk, 15.06.2005, EU Observer)

It was a crucial mistake to send out the entire constitution to every French voter, the architect of the EU's first constitution Valéry Giscard d'Estaing has said in an interview.

In an interview with the New York Times, his first since the French rejection of the constitution two weeks ago, the former French president apportions most of the blame to president Jacques Chirac for failure in the referendum campaign.

One crucial mistake was to send out the entire three-part, 448-article document to every French voter, said Mr Giscard.

Over the phone he had warned Mr Chirac already in March: "I said, 'Don't do it, don't do it'".

"It is not possible for anyone to understand the full text".

Mr Giscard d'Estaing also puts the blame on the present generation of political leaders.

Stupid public, how dare they take part in their future?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:15 PM


Bush Meets Dissidents In Campaign For Rights (Peter Baker and Glenn Kessler, June 15, 2005, Washington Post)

At the end of a private Oval Office meeting this week, President Bush asked a North Korean defector to autograph his book recounting a decade in a North Korean prison camp.

"If Kim Jong Il knew I met you," Bush then asked, referring to the North Korean leader, "don't you think he'd hate this?"

"The people in the concentration camps will applaud," the defector, Kang Chol Hwan, responded, according to two people in the room.

Bush lately has begun meeting personally with prominent dissidents to highlight human rights abuses in select countries, a powerfully symbolic yet potentially risky approach modeled on Ronald Reagan's sessions with Soviet dissidents during the Cold War. Besides Kang, Bush played host to a top government foe from Venezuela at the White House and met Russian human rights activists during a trip to Moscow last month. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met opposition leaders from the former Soviet republic of Belarus.

The sessions -- which come at a time when the Bush administration has itself come under international criticism for abuses at the prison facilities in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and elsewhere -- represent a personal follow-through on Bush's inaugural address in January, when he vowed to activists around the world that "we will stand with you" in battles against repression.

"He likes to talk to people who have experienced these things firsthand," said Michael J. Gerson, Bush's strategic policy adviser, who sat in on the Kang meeting Monday. "But there clearly is a signal here and a symbol that human rights is central to our approach, that there is a kind of moral concern."

As Bush himself acknowledged to Kang, such meetings, although heartening to activists, will surely aggravate the leaders of repressive countries.

And it wouldn't be surprising if the President is personally telling reporters about the meetings to make sure they get covered.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:48 PM


Special election win could shift power to GOP (Dion Nissenbaum, 6/15/05, Contra Costa TIMES)

[T]he new fight the Republican governor officially launched Tuesday has the potential to fundamentally change the balance of power in California.

If Schwarzenegger emerges victorious from the 153-day special election campaign ahead, he will not only give his re-election chances a major boost, he could cripple the state's Democratic power base for years to come. [...]

[T]he ballot measure that could have the most far-reaching impact is one Schwarzenegger has yet to endorse. It would compel public employee unions to get approval each year from members to use their dues for political purposes.

If approved, the proposal would undermine the strength of the powerful labor unions -- including prison guards, teachers and firefighters -- that have long provided the financial muscle and grassroots support for Democrats.

Schwarzenegger has voiced support for the idea in principle but has so far sought to use his potential endorsement of the measure as leverage to drive Democrats to the negotiating table.

Aides to the governor contend that the proposal won't have the money or momentum it needs to pass unless Schwarzenegger backs it.

But Grover Norquist, a leading conservative champion of the union dues check-off movement, said Tuesday that he is confident the initiative will have the money it needs to pass no matter what Schwarzenegger does.

"The resources will be there to win this fight," said Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform in Washington. "The California business community recognizes the importance of this and how completely doable it is."

Norquist and conservatives tried in 1998 to convince California voters to embrace a similar measure but were soundly rebuffed. But the tables could be turned if Schwarzenegger decides to throw his support behind the proposal.

Either way, Democrats and their union allies understand the stakes.

Break public employee unions and you break the Left.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:06 PM


Chinese Peasants Attacked in Land Dispute: At Least 6 Die as Armed Thugs Assault Villagers Opposed to Seizure of Property (Philip P. Pan, June 15, 2005, Washington Post)

SHENGYOU, China -- Hundreds of men armed with shotguns, clubs and pipes on Saturday attacked a group of farmers who were resisting official demands to surrender land to a state-owned power plant, witnesses said. Six farmers were killed and as many as 100 others were seriously injured in one of China's deadliest incidents of rural unrest in years.

The farmers, who had pitched tents and dug foxholes and trenches on the disputed land to prevent the authorities from seizing it, said they suspected the assailants were hired by corrupt local officials. They said scores of villagers were beaten or stabbed and several were shot in the back while fleeing.

Reached by telephone, a spokesman for the provincial government said he could not confirm or discuss the incident. "So far, we've been ordered not to issue any information about it," he said.

Large contingents of police have been posted around Shengyou, about 100 miles southwest of Beijing, but bruised and bandaged residents smuggled a reporter into the village Monday and led him to a vast field littered with abandoned weapons, spent shell casings and bloody rags. They also provided footage of the melee made with a digital video camera.

Despite the attack, the farmers remained defiant and in control of the disputed land. They also occupied the local headquarters of the ruling Communist Party, where they placed the bodies of six of their slain compatriots.

You bet, just a tweak here and there and they'll be a powerhouse for centuries to come...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:44 PM

BLUE VALUES (via Lisa Fleischman):

Mother of mauling victim feared family dog: Shut boy in basement while she ran errands (AP, June 13, 2005)

SAN FRANCISCO, California (AP) -- The mother of a 12-year-old boy killed in his own home by one of the family's two pit bulls says she had been so concerned about one of the dogs that she shut her son in the basement to protect him.

Maureen Faibish said she ordered Nicholas to stay in the basement while she did errands on June 3, the day he was attacked by one or both of the dogs.

She said she was worried about the male dog, Rex, who was acting possessive because the female, Ella, was in heat.

"I put him down there, with a shovel on the door," Faibish said in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle. "And I told him: 'Stay down there until I come back.' Typical Nicky, he wouldn't listen to me." [...]

Faibish found her son's body in a bedroom. He was covered in blood from several wounds, including a major head injury.

No charges have been filed.

"It's Nicky's time to go," she said in the interview. "When you're born you're destined to go and this was his time."

Ah, San Francisco, where Rex is king and stupid Nicky's time had come...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:24 PM

DICK DURBIN (via Reg Jones):

Senator Richard Durbin, June 14, 2005, Congressional Record

“…When you read some of the graphic descriptions of what has occurred here--I almost hesitate to put them in the RECORD, and yet they have to be added to this debate. Let me read to you what one FBI agent saw. And I quote from his report:

On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold. ..... On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night. On another occasion, not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room, and had been since the day before, with the detainee chained hand and foot in the fetal position on the tile floor.

If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags , or some mad regime --Pol Pot or others--that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners.

No air conditioning and loud music? It sounds more like a Jersey Shore beach house than the Killing Fields.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:03 PM


Abstinence programs alter kids' attitudes toward sex, study says (Regina McEnery, June 15, 2005, Cleveland Plain Dealer)

Elementary and middle school students exposed to four different abstinence-until-marriage programs reported being less supportive of teen sex than youths who had no abstinence education at all, according to a large survey commissioned by the federal government.

But results of the survey, spread over 178 pages and released on Tuesday by the Department of Health and Human Services, did not examine behavioral outcomes, and critics of the abstinence movement doubt the programs, and others like them, will translate into reductions in sexual diseases or delayed sexual activity during teenage years.

Just getting them to make the moral judgement is a significant success.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:59 AM


McCain May Be Bush's Ticket (E. J. Dionne Jr., June 14, 2005, Washington Post)

McCain-Bush in 2008?

That would be John and Jeb, the most logical Republican ticket if the party remains in the polling doldrums. If President Bush and his political maestro, Karl Rove, decide that the only way to create a political legacy is to nod toward the Arizona senator with whom they have battled and feuded, they will go for the guy who can win.

This scenario was outlined to me recently by a shrewd and loyally Democratic political operative with personal ties to the McCain camp before Mark McKinnon, one of the president's top media advisers, publicly confirmed that he would help a McCain presidential run if it materialized. [...]

Courted hard by John Kerry as a potential running mate, McCain said no. He decided he wanted to be president and that it was unlikely he would ever get a Democratic nomination -- and implausible that he could win as an independent. His one shot was as a Republican.

Once this choice was made, everything else fell into place. McCain joined the Bush crowd. He gave a powerful speech endorsing the president at last year's Republican National Convention in New York. The address was perfect for both McCain and Bush. Unlike the speeches bashing Kerry and the Democrats by Zell Miller, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Rudy Giuliani, McCain's stuck to policy and praised Bush for his decision to go to war in Iraq. [...]

Bush has been battling, with Rove's help, for a long-term political realignment in favor of the Republicans. The president could well come to see McCain as the only Republican with a chance to push a Republican era forward. McCain, in turn, knows that his only way around the Republican right is to run with Bush's open blessing, if not his outright endorsement.

And here is where Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the president's brother, could be the deal-closer. Jeb Bush has said he will not run in 2008. But that does not rule him out as a vice presidential candidate. If McCain won, Jeb would be the No. 2 to a president who will turn 72 on Aug. 29, 2008, and might well serve only a single term.

Only the most stubborn of folk still insist Senator McCain isn't running.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:11 AM


The Inside Story: How Fox's newest series, "The Inside," found its way to television and reinvented the crime drama along the way. (Jonathan V. Last, 06/14/2005, Weekly Standard)

Minear's version of The Inside bears virtually no resemblance to the original. Gone are the drugs, the cliques, the parents, and the high school. Peter Facinelli, who bears an uncanny resemblance to the young Tom Cruise, has been replaced by the 62-year-old Peter Coyote. And instead of being a show about G-men chasing the bad guys, The Inside is now about the battle for a young woman's soul.

In the new pilot, which aired last week, we are introduced to an FBI Violent Crimes Unit, which operates out of the Bureau's Los Angeles field office. The unit is lead by Supervisory Special Agent Virgil Webster (Coyote), a man from whom menace is projected in waves. When a member of his team turns up dead, Webster replaces her the next morning with Agent Rebecca Locke (Nichols), who is fresh from a stint as an analyst at the Department of Homeland Security. Locke is bright and self-contained, but she has a secret: As a child, she was abducted and held hostage for 18 months until she escaped from her captors. Webster observed her from afar and, without her knowledge, personally saw to it that she was accepted to the FBI Academy, even though her psychiatric evaluations should have kept her out.

Agent Locke is the pretty face of The Inside,

but the show is really about Webster. His subordinates despise him and suspect that he may be up to no good. His number two, the upright Paul Ryan (Jay Harrington), bitterly says that the unit tackles only the cases which Webster picks, and that they pursue them only to his satisfaction. "Which may or may not be to completion," Ryan explains. "He gets bored sometimes."

The Inside has many virtues, not the least of which is an embarrassment of acting riches in the cast. In addition to Coyote's cool devilry, there's Adam Baldwin's congenital malice as Danny Love (watch Baldwin masticate his chewing gum as if William Wrigley Jr. had murdered his father) and Katie Finneran's pitch-perfect Melody Sim rounding out the squad. But the show's most important virtue is its sense of off-kilter mystery--just a few episodes in we can tell that not everything is quite right with The Inside.

There is the vaguest hint of the supernatural hanging about the show. Not quite Lost, not quite Twin Peaks, not quite The X-Files, there are, nonetheless, larger forces at work in Virgil Webster's office. Let's hope The Inside survives so that we can find out what they are.

The Inside isn't just great TV--it might even be good enough to save the procedural crime genre from its own success.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:47 AM


Study counters beliefs about illegal immigrants (Jessie Mangaliman, 6/15/05, San Jose Mercury News)

Jeffrey S. Passel, senior research associate for Pew and author of the report, found that one quarter of illegal immigrants in the U.S. have some college education and another quarter completed high school. [...]

The Pew report also found that an estimated 13.9 million people -- one-third are children -- live in households where one head of household or a spouse is undocumented. More than one-fourth are U.S. citizens. [...]

Passel's report dismantled another widely held assumption: Only 3 percent of the undocumented immigrants work in agriculture. The greatest numbers, 33 percent, work in the service industry.

The rest work in construction, production, installation and repair, sales and administration, transportation and material moving, and management and business.

Their construction skills are more worthwhile to society than most college degrees.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:42 AM

THE 40% STRATEGY (via Kevin Whited):

Howard Dean's the man for a tough rebuilding job: Party chair telling it like it is, speaking for progressives (STAN MERRIMAN, 6/14/05, Houston Chronicle)

We Democrats failed to convey a belief system on key voter concerns such as security, an ill-conceived and unjustified war, an economic plan to fund basic citizen survival services and a clear differentiation from Republican social and economic policy. Last November, we were not an opposition party with a better idea for America.

Berg's suggestion that our 2004 campaign was injured by angry language was surprising. It was as if he and I were participating in two entirely different campaigns. The Kerry campaign was timid, unfocused and devoid of a passionate commitment to a belief system.

Concerning Howard Dean's rhetoric: His Democratic critics misunderstand Dean's strategy. Moderate Republicans and independents are not the target group Dean has in mind to rebuild and move our party to the winning column once again. Nor is that group the responsibility of an opposition party offering a better solution. In this period of renewal, our target is the 40 percent of the electorate who have opted out of the system because we Democrats are not speaking to and for them.

My math isn't so good, so I may have this wrong, but it would seem that remaining the Security Party -- which, as Mr. Merriman notes, attracts only 40% of the electorate in a nation that favors Liberty -- doesn't win you many elections.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:40 AM


The hype behind India's Japan ties (B Raman, 6/16/05, Asia Times)

Addressing an Asian Security conference at New Delhi in January, Indian Defense Minister Shri Pranab Mukherjee said, [...] "...Indo-Japan relations, which plummeted after India's 1998 nuclear tests, are now positive and robust. The fillip to Indo-Japanese relations was provided by the August 2000 visit of prime minister Yoshiro Mori, the first by a Japanese prime minister to South Asia in a decade. In his speech he declared, 'Today Indo-Japanese relations also have a strategic importance, which is quite obvious when we glance at the world atlas'. Despite the geographical distance between the two, there is a growing acceptance that India and Japan share a certain affinity on a number of issues. India and Japan have a convergence on energy issues and have joint concerns about the security of sea lines of communications and vital choke points in the Indian Ocean. We also share similar concerns about WMD [weapons of mass destruction] proliferation. Concerns about WMD terrorism are also equally shared. India and Japan also have views about the restructuring of the UN and the Security Council in particular."

Mukherjee thus identified five areas of strategic convergence between India and Japan. These could be divided into the following three components:

Political: A common objective of securing the permanent membership of the UN Security Council.

Economic: Cooperating instead of competing with each other in meeting each other's energy requirements to keep their economies sustained and growing.

Security-related: Shared concerns over maritime and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) terrorism and WMD proliferation. Mukherjee did not name any countries while talking of WMD proliferation, but it was apparent that he had Pakistan and North Korea in mind.

The Indo-Japanese common objective of securing permanent membership of the UN Security Council, for which they have been cooperating with each other as well as with the other two aspirants, Germany and Brazil, cannot really be described as a strategic objective with an enduring vision. Once their present exercise for this purpose culminates in success or failure in the coming months, this objective will cease to be a politically binding factor. Unless, in the meanwhile, they find or identify other, more enduring common objectives, the relationship will become bereft of any long-enduring political glue.

What could be such political glue? This question has not received much attention so far from the strategic analysts of the two countries - governmental and non-governmental. The search for it has to be started and intensified.

One doesn't like to be harsh, but that's the stupidest question we've read in some time. Flesh it out a little and it becomes: What political glue will hold together two U.S.-allied democracies on the Eastern and Western flanks of a crumbling xenophobic nuclear-armed dictatorship?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:33 AM


How much is a hostage worth? (Pepe Escobar, 6/16/05, Asia Times)

Last Saturday, at 11am Baghdad time, the door of an underground cell was opened and "number 5 and number 6" were ordered to go the toilet - the same ritual they had been following since January 5. But only a few seconds later a guard muttered what they must have interpreted as a magic spell: "Today, Paris". Florence Auben