August 31, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:07 PM


FDA official quits over Plan B pill delay (LAURAN NEERGAARD, August 31, 2005, AP)

A high-ranking Food and Drug Administration official resigned Wednesday in protest of the agency's refusal to allow over-the-counter sales of emergency contraception.

Susan Wood, director of FDA's Office of Women's Health, announced her resignation in an e-mail to colleagues at the agency.

...If the agency charged with guaranteeing the safety of of the nation's food and drug supplies stands for anything it has to stand for access to deadly drugs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:38 PM


A Duel at Safeco Field: It's Randy Johnson vs. Felix Hernandez! (Mike Henderson, 8/31/05, Seattle Weekly))

Let's say we told you that this week Safeco Field featured the four greatest pitchers in Seattle Mariners history. Your obvious response: "Didn't know Gaylord Perry was back in baseball." OK, so make it four of the best five:

• Jamie Moyer, the team's all-time wins leader, who helped make the league-best Chicago White Sox look, for one game anyway, like the Sheboygan Sad Sacks, baffling the South Siders 9-2 on Sunday, Aug. 28.

• White Sox right-hander Freddy Garcia, former M's staff ace and all-star, who that same day seemed to have added a pitch to his repertoire, something low and outside and often consistent with the technical term "wild pitch."

• Randy Johnson, who left the M's in 1998 and is certain to enter the Hall of Fame (probably as an Arizona Diamondback) and was to return Wednesday, Aug. 31, to lead the New York Yankees in the marquee Safeco game of the past three seasons.

• And Felix Hernandez, whose epic, 36-inning big-league career already has some comparing the 19-year-old Venezuelan right-hander with ghosts of Cooperstown. Hernandez's Wednesday start is half of what makes that Yankees game marquee. Team officials, fans, and scribes have saddled the strikeout artist with rainbow-high hopes and expectations. And if he doesn't pan out, hey, we've still got Ryan Franklin.

But "panning out" is scarcely in question. I already see in the poorly nicknamed King Felix (I prefer "Felix Navidad," because he brought an early Christmas to this pitching-poor franchise) signs of a dominating starter.

This was a case where they did neither him nor the franchise any favors by leaving him at AAA for half a year.

Posted by David Cohen at 3:36 PM


Teaching of Creationism Is Endorsed in New Survey (Laurie Goodstein, NY Times, 8/31/05)

In a finding that is likely to intensify the debate over what to teach students about the origins of life, a poll released yesterday found that nearly two-thirds of Americans say that creationism should be taught alongside evolution in public schools.

The poll found that 42 percent of respondents held strict creationist views, agreeing that "living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time."

In contrast, 48 percent said they believed that humans had evolved over time. But of those, 18 percent said that evolution was "guided by a supreme being," and 26 percent said that evolution occurred through natural selection. In all, 64 percent said they were open to the idea of teaching creationism in addition to evolution, while 38 percent favored replacing evolution with creationism. . . .

John C. Green, a senior fellow at the Pew Forum, said he was surprised to see that teaching both evolution and creationism was favored not only by conservative Christians, but also by majorities of secular respondents, liberal Democrats and those who accept the theory of natural selection. Mr. Green called it a reflection of "American pragmatism." . . .

Eugenie C. Scott, the director of the National Center for Science Education and a prominent defender of evolution, said the findings were not surprising because "Americans react very positively to the fairness or equal time kind of argument."

"In fact, it's the strongest thing that creationists have got going for them because their science is dismal," Ms. Scott said. "But they do have American culture on their side."

Creationism is not science, but both science and faith in a Creator are compatible with American culture. Scientism, on the other hand, threatens to rob our lives of meaning, beauty and nobility, and is not compatible with the American experiment. It is interesting that the President, who intuitively struck exactly the note as 64% of the country, understands this while our leftist elite has no clue.

Posted by David Cohen at 2:57 PM


Space Program: Looking Up (Glenn Harlan Reynolds, TCS, 8/24/05)

As I noted earlier, NASA was offering prizes for space elevator research. That's still going on, but there are some new studies suggesting that space elevators may be closer to practicality than previously thought. A cover story in the IEE Spectrum reports:
"A space elevator would be amazingly expensive or absurdly cheap -- depending on how you look at it. It would cost about $6 billion in today's dollars just to complete the structure itself, according to my study. Costs associated with legal, regulatory, and political aspects could easily add another $4 billion, but these expenses are much harder to estimate. Building such an enormous structure would probably require treaty-level negotiations with the international community, for example. A $10 billion price tag, however, isn't really extraordinary in the economics of space exploration. NASA's budget is about $15 billion a year, and a single shuttle launch costs about half a billion dollars.

"The construction schedule could conceivably be as short as 10 years, but 15 years is a more realistic estimate when technology development, budget cycles, competitive selection, and other factors are accounted for."

The first one is the hardest to build, which has an important strategic implication:
"The second elevator would be much easier and cheaper to build than the first, not only because it could make use of the first elevator but because all the R&D and much of the supporting infrastructure would already be complete. With these savings, I estimate that a second elevator would cost a fraction of the first one-as little as $3 billion dollars for parts and construction.
If it were that cheap, why would we need the government?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:35 PM


New Hampshire has high income, lowest poverty rate, census says (Katharine Webster, August 30, 2005, Boston Globe)

New Hampshire had the highest median household income and the lowest average poverty rate in the nation from 2002 through 2004, according to data released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau. [...]

The median household income averaged over three years was $57,352 in New Hampshire, compared to the national average of $44,473 and the low in West Virginia of $32,589, the report found. Four other states had high household incomes that were not "statistically different" from New Hampshire's: New Jersey, Maryland, Connecticut and Minnesota.

The percentage of New Hampshire residents living in poverty was 5.7, compared to the national average of 12.4 percent and the high in Mississippi of 17.7 percent.

"New Hampshire, you're lucky we let you visit."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:16 PM


Most published research findings may be false (Paul Ocampo, Public Library of Science )

"There is increasing concern that in modern research, false findings may be the majority or even the vast majority of published research claims," says researcher John Ioannidis in an analysis in the open access international medical journal PLoS Medicine.

In his analysis, Ioannidis, of the University of Ioannina School of Medicine, Greece, and Tufts University School of Medicine, United States, identifies the factors that he believes lead to research findings often being false.

One of these factors is that many research studies are small. "The smaller the studies conducted in a scientific field, the less likely the research findings are to be true," says Ioannidis.

Another problem is that in many scientific fields, the "effect sizes" (a measure of how much a risk factor such as smoking increases a person's risk of disease, or how much a treatment is likely to improve a disease) are small.

Research findings are more likely true in scientific fields with large effects, such as the impact of smoking on cancer, than in scientific fields where postulated effects are small, such as genetic risk factors for diseases where many different genes are involved in causation. If the effect sizes are very small in a particular field, says Ioannidis, it is "likely to be plagued by almost ubiquitous false positive claims."

Financial and other interests and prejudices can also lead to untrue results. And "the hotter a scientific field (with more scientific teams involved), the less likely the research findings are to be true," which may explain why we sometimes see "major excitement followed rapidly by severe disappointments in fields that draw wide attention."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:50 AM


Hurricane hits just before homosexual event: Christian activist: Act of God prevented 'Southern Decadence' festival (, 8/31/05)

Hurricane Katrina walloped New Orleans just two days before the annual homosexual "Southern Decadence" festival was to begin in the town, an act being characterized by some as God's work.

Southern Decadence has a history of "filling the French Quarters section of the city with drunken homosexuals engaging in sex acts in the public streets and bars," says a statement from the Philadelphia Christian organization Repent America.

It seems more likely the Flood was just the two-by-four He used to get Alan Greenspan's attention, Dow Ends Up 69 on Philadelphia Fed Plan (Ellen Simon, 8/31/05, AP)

Stocks climbed in a seesaw session Wednesday, rising after the president of the Philadelphia Federal Reserve signaled the central bank could change its interest rate policy in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Wall Street moved higher after Philadelphia Fed President Anthony Santomero called increasing oil prices a "tax" and told CNBC it was too early to say whether the Fed would change its interest rate policy in light of the hurricane's wreckage. Many traders took the comment as a signal that the Fed's year-plus streak of rate hikes might end sooner than expected.

"The president of the Philly Fed is saying the Fed has to adapt to changing circumstances," said Todd Leone, managing director of equity trading at SG Cowen Securities. "With what's going on in New Orleans, I don't think the Fed can raise rates."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:54 AM


U.S. Grows More Generous Toward World's Poor: But the nation still ranks 12th among the 21 richest countries, an annual report finds. (Sonni Efron, August 31, 2005, LA Times)

The United States has significantly increased its foreign aid to poor countries but ranks 12th among the 21 richest nations in its overall performance in helping the world's poor, according to a widely watched annual report released Tuesday. [...]

Critics argued that such studies do not give the United States credit for the billions it spends in military operations that provide global security and ostensibly allow other nations' economies to flourish.

Responding to such criticisms, authors of the 2005 index used a revised methodology, said David Roodman, who heads the study at the Center for Global Development, an independent Washington think tank. This year's report gave the United States points for its military contributions to keeping the world's sea lanes open for global trade, among other things, Roodman said. [...]

Although the United States spent more than $18 billion in foreign aid in 2003, J. Edward Fox, deputy administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development, said it was inaccurate to reduce U.S. foreign assistance to dollar terms. Doing so does not reflect the quality of the aid or the variety of ways that the United States helps the developing world, he said.

Not included are $1.2 billion in U.S. food aid to hungry nations, the estimated $34 billion provided each year by the U.S. private sector and the effect of the remittances that migrants working in the United States send to relatives back home, Fox said.

"Throwing money at a developing country is not necessarily the best way to do it," Fox said.

The index subtracted from the U.S. aid total about $1.5 billion in debt repayment that Washington received from the developing world and about $1 billion in debt that was written off, leaving a net total of $15.8 billion in material foreign aid given in 2003, Roodman said.

Even measured by that stricter standard, however, U.S. aid rose sharply, from $12.4 billion in 2001 and $14.7 billion in 2002, Roodman said, crediting the Bush administration.

Still obviously a politically correct measure.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:54 AM


Why high oil prices are a force for good (Eberhard Rhein, 8/31/05, International Herald Tribune)

During the first half of 2005, gasoline consumption in Germany and Belgium - and presumably in many other countries - fell by about 10 percent. We have not seen a drop like this for many years. It shows that the market mechanism continues to function as the most important regulator of supply and demand - and very speedily indeed.

The international community has been laboring for 10 years under the Kyoto Protocol negotiations to agree on a global reduction of energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions of less than 10 percent by 2012. So the market has achieved within a few months what international bureaucrats - hampered by resistance from key consumer countries like the United States, China, Australia and India - have struggled to obtain in a decade.

What does this teach us?

First, there is nothing more effective than the price mechanism to induce human beings to change their consumption habits. [...]

Politicians should be preparing citizens worldwide for a future in which energy prices will remain high, and policy makers should be ready to keep the oil price near the present level by raising the level of excise taxation when necessary. Unfortunately, most politicians are still too myopic or timid to deliver such a message. This needs to change.

The high oil price is a bonanza for advocates of the Kyoto Protocol, who will probably claim for the protocol what the market has achieved: the decline of carbon dioxide emissions.

Why not ratchet up the taxes while the increase will be camoflauged by the other factors contributing to artificially higher prices?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:51 AM

PRIVILEGED POSITION (via Richard Compton):

Galactic survey reveals a new look for the Milky Way (Terry Devitt, August 16, 2005, University of Wisconsin-Madison)

With the help of NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, astronomers have conducted the most comprehensive structural analysis of our galaxy and have found tantalizing new evidence that the Milky Way is much different from your ordinary spiral galaxy.

The survey using the orbiting infrared telescope provides the fine details of a long central bar feature that distinguishes the Milky Way from more pedestrian spiral galaxies.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:24 AM


Starving won't make people live longer-researchers (Maggie Fox, Aug 28, 2005., Yahoo)

Starving -- officially known as caloric restriction -- may make worms and mice live up to 50 percent longer but it will not help humans live super-long lives, two biologists argued on Sunday.

They said their mathematical model showed that a lifetime of low-calorie dieting would only extend human life span by about 7 percent, unlike smaller animals, whose life spans are affected more by the effects of starvation.

This is because restricting calories only indirectly affects life span, said John Phelan of the University of California Lo Angeles and Michael Rose of the University of California Irvine.

Researchers at various universities and the national Institutes of Health are testing the theories but there are groups already cutting calories by up to a third in the hope they can live to be 120 or 125, while staying healthy.

"Our message is that suffering years of misery to remain super-skinny is not going to have a big payoff in terms of a longer life," said Phelan, an evolutionary biologist, in a statement.

But at least you'll be miserable fror a shorter time than you thought.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:07 AM


God Is in the Details (Dana Milbank and Alan Cooperman, 8/31/05, Washington Post)

What strategists call the "religion gap" between Democrats and Republicans may be widening, despite efforts by Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.), Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and other prominent Democrats to talk about their faith and the religious underpinning of their positions.

A Pew Research Center poll released yesterday found that 29 percent of the public sees the Democratic Party as "generally friendly" toward religion, down from 40 percent a year ago and 42 percent in 2003. A 55 percent majority continues to see the GOP as friendly toward religion, according to the poll.

Scott Keeter, Pew's director of survey research, said it appears that during the 2004 presidential race, Republicans succeeded in using Sen. John F. Kerry's support for abortion rights to raise doubts about the sincerity of the Democratic nominee's Catholic faith.

Since then, Keeter said, the charge that Democrats are anti-religious has been repeated in debates over judicial nominees, public displays of the Ten Commandments and the teaching of evolution in public schools. "My own sense is that the Democrats haven't forged a coherent response, and it's a hard charge to rebut individually, because if you start making a show of your personal piety, it can easily backfire," he said.

Opposing the President's Catholic nominee to the Court over abortion and gay rights should help, huh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:03 AM


In the Opera Hall, This Trucker Delivers: Carl Tanner's Career Is Picking Up Speed (T.R. Reid, August 28, 2005, Washington Post)

Interstate 95, as usual, was one long traffic jam. Carl Tanner, as usual, was singing to pass the time, up in the cab of his 16-wheeler. As the trucker inched forward on the exit ramp toward Old Keene Mill Road, he launched into the Puccini aria "E lucevan le stelle."

In the next lane, a woman in a convertible called up to him: "Is that you, or is that the radio?"

"That's me, lady," Tanner replied.

"Well then, you've missed your calling," the woman declared. "You should be singing for a living, not driving."

That proved to be a comment with fateful consequences, sparking Tanner's transformation from trucker to tenor, with a stellar career and now a date with the Metropolitan Opera. But for Carl Tanner, the suggestion was hardly novel. Ever since his junior year at Washington-Lee High School -- when he used to sing the national anthem before football games and then trot out to play center for the Generals -- people had been telling the Arlington native that his voice was his fortune. He even earned a college degree in vocal performance. But that didn't produce any gainful employment.

So Tanner enrolled in the Northern Virginia Trucking Academy and spent the better part of the 1980s driving big rigs for employers like Fairfax Movers and the Northern Virginia Florists' Pool.

To pick up extra money on the side, he moonlighted as a bounty hunter for Arlington area bail bondsmen.

"I was carrying a 9mm Beretta with the extended clip, the one that holds 23 bullets," Tanner recalls. "Ridiculous weapon. You gotta be a pretty bad shot to fire at some guy 23 times and not hit him."

All of this seems immensely far removed from the glamorous world of today's Carl Tanner, an operatic tenor of international stature whose huge but bright voice has been heard from Covent Garden to La Scala, from New York to Berlin to Naples to Washington (he sang the lead in the Washington National Opera's "Samson et Dalila" in May). [...]

In his high school days in Arlington, Tanner says, he knew he was a good singer, but never thought there was a career in that fact.

"Then a teacher told me that this fat guy in Italy named Pavarotti makes $6 million a year singing opera. And I thought, 'Might be worth a try.' "

After graduating in 1980 -- two years before another Washington-Lee star alum, Sandra Bullock -- he made his way to the Shenandoah Conservatory in Winchester to study vocal performance. Tanner was training as a baritone there until a professor, Jackson Sheats, convinced him that his voice was really that of a spinto dramatico , the heroic tenor who sings grand opera roles like Calaf in "Turandot" or Don Jose in "Carmen." (Examples of this "dramatico" style can be heard at his Web site, .)

That switch proved essential to Tanner's singing career -- but it took nearly a decade after leaving Shenandoah to have any singing career at all. He spent those years driving trucks by day and chasing bail-skippers by night, singing only in the shower or in the cab of his rig.

In one sense, that decade was a detour from his operatic destiny. "It definitely slowed everything down," Tanner says. "While my contemporaries were going around to the small [opera] companies, landing roles, getting experience, I was driving a truck."

But in the highly competitive world of contemporary opera, where a stirring spinto dramatico voice is hardly enough to distinguish one ambitious tenor from a dozen others, Tanner's tough-guy background has turned out to be a spectacular marketing device. The trucker-turned-tenor, who spins out lively stories from his former life with practiced flair, is fully aware of the competitive advantage his unusual career path provides.

"I'm a huge name in opera right now," Tanner says in a matter-of-fact way. "There are a lot of other guys out there, a lot of good singers -- but they weren't truck drivers. They weren't bounty hunters who had some juvenile on the lam fire 17 shots at them. They don't have a story to tell, and I do."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Faith binds many on Sox: Evangelical Christians give sport a spiritual context (Bob Hohler, August 31, 2005, Boston Globe)

They gathered in a makeshift house of God -- a brick-walled retreat in Fenway Park otherwise reserved for postgame interviews -- and prayed for dead and dying loved ones. They prayed for American troops in hot spots abroad. And for the poor souls in the path of Hurricane Katrina.

As the Sunday baseball crowd streamed into the park less than an hour before the defending world champions played their 128th game of the season, a dozen members of the Red Sox -- the largest group of evangelical Christians on any team in Major League Baseball -- joined an equal number of coaches and staffers in sharing a bond of faith that is fast becoming the stuff of national renown among religious figures in sports. [...]

''Without question, chapel attendance among the Red Sox has been far and away more than any of the major league teams over the last two years," said Vince Nauss, president of Baseball Chapel.

Trot Nixon, Mike Timlin, Tim Wakefield, Jason Varitek, Curt Schilling, Doug Mirabelli, Bill Mueller, Matt Clement, John Olerud, Mike Myers, Tony Graffanino, Chad Bradford: Each Sox player considers himself an evangelical Christian who believes in the sacred authority of the Bible and the promise of Jesus Christ as his savior.

''In terms of coming to Bible study and chapel, this team has more guys involved than any team I've ever been with," said Olerud, who has played for five teams over 17 seasons in the majors.

The evangelical Sox believe in sharing the ''good news" of their faith, as they demonstrated after their remarkable comeback last October when they climbed out of a three-game chasm against the Yankees in the American League Championship Series and swept the Cardinals in the World Series.

''I wanted to be able to glorify God's name when all was said and done," Schilling proclaimed after he won Game 2 of the World Series while bleeding through his sock because of an experimental medical procedure that enabled him to pitch with a dislocated ankle tendon.

Win or lose, Schilling and his fellow evangelicals said, the message remains the same.

''This is our platform, our place to speak our faith and live our faith," Timlin said. ''This is a special gift from God, to play baseball, and if we can spread God's word by doing that, then we've almost fulfilled our calling."

Christy Mathewson's mom had wanted her son to be a minister, but consoled herself:
Sometimes I find consolation in the thought that perhaps he is a preacher. His work has brought him before the multitude in a kindly manner; his example is a cleanly one. He reaches the masses of the people in his own way and he must give them something through his character.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Dark Ages Primary (Harold Meyerson, August 31, 2005, Washington Post)

[R]ecent polling shows that just 35 percent of Americans believe that evolution is supported by evidence, while another 35 percent believe it is not. In a number of red states, of course, the numbers tip more sharply toward creationism. And should this strain of scientific illiteracy pick up more steam, it may broaden its targets from the merely biological sciences. After all, it's the geologists who've demonstrated that Earth is 4.6 billion years old, and the astronomers who've concluded, after measuring the speed of light (was that calculation really necessary? helpful?), that the universe has been around for roughly 14 billion years. Yet our tax dollars are still going to support that Hubble Space Telescope, which keeps discovering stars that are billions of years older than the universe itself, according to the short-order cosmologists of creationism.

I'm going to assume -- a clear leap of faith on my part -- that none of the Republican presidential hopefuls in 2008, with the possible exception of Rick Santorum, actually believes this stuff. But what they believe and what they feel compelled to say to get through the Republican primaries and caucuses may not be one and the same. Already, to curry favor with the faith-above-science right, Bill Frist has hemmed and hawed about the transmission of AIDS and diagnosed Terri Schiavo as no more than inattentive. Mitt Romney and George Pataki -- Republican governors of the bluest of states, but also budding presidential candidates -- have vetoed bills legalizing "morning-after" pills in their states, lest they incur the wrath of the zealots in the Iowa caucuses or the South Carolina primary. And George W. Bush's Food and Drug Administration simply refuses to make a ruling on those morning-after pills, its data validating the safety of the medication trumped by the political need to placate the religious right.

So let the first presidential primary of the Dark Ages begin!

Hardly the first, both Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush won Republican primaries and two terms as president while openly skeptical about Darwinism. Meanwhile, the numbers are much worse than Mr. Meyerson realizes--you can only get to the 35% number he mentions by including those who believe that God guided evolution in the number. Subtract them and you're down to an even smaller 9-13% (the range over more than two decades of Gallup polling) of Americans who believe in Darwinism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Loving Soren: Romancing the theological: Loving Soren is a romance novel with a twist, combining a learned and thoughtful presentation of religious and philosophical ideas, writes Orrin C. Judd in this interview with the book's author Caroline Coleman O'Neill (Orrin C. Judd, August 30, 2005, Spero Forum)

August 30, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:35 PM


Mississippi drowning: The Times reports from New Orleans, a city facing disaster as floods pour over its broken defences (Jaqui Goddard, 8/31/05, Times of London)

THE tens of thousands of us trapped in New Orleans are witnessing scenes that we never thought we would see in the 21st century in a major western city.

Hurricane Katrina has washed away escape routes and swallowed streets whole. There is no electricity or running water. Telephone lines are down. The mobile phone system has crashed.

The levees surrounding New Orleans have been breached and torrents of water are pouring into the bowl in which the city sits. The pumps have been overwhelmed. Four-fifths of the city is under water, including both airports, and the tide is lapping around the historic French Quarter.

The mayor is talking of bodies floating through the streets, the authorities have imposed martial law, and looters are ransacking shops.

Hospitals are considering evacuation. An estimated 20,000 people have taken refuge in the Superdome. The Times-Picayune, the city’s newspaper, has abandoned its offices. Rescuers are searching the city in boats and helicopters, plucking residents from rooftops. Authorities even reported that a 3ft shark had been spotted cruising the streets. [...]

There is misery, fear, desperation and — for those who did not heed the evacuation warnings — regret. “I wish I had evacuated when I could,” said Anthony Peterson, 27. “I wish I’d listened. Now we’re trapped like rats. I went to bed on Monday night with the streets dry and I woke up this morning to find I’m in Waterworld. The toilet isn’t working, my mobile phone doesn’t work and we only have a few cans of food that we are trying to stretch between four of us.”

Mr Peterson’s home, close to Lake Pontchartrain, is probably under 15 feet of water. “We might have to start our lives all over again when we get out of this,” he lamented. “My only consolation is that I work as a roofer, so I’ll have plenty of customers.”

Much of Gulf Coast Is Crippled; Toll Rises (JOSEPH B. TREASTER and N. R. KLEINFIELD, 8/30/05, NY Times)
A day after New Orleans thought it had narrowly escaped the worst of Hurricane Katrina's wrath, water broke through two levees on Tuesday and virtually submerged and isolated the city, causing incalculable destruction and rendering it uninhabitable for weeks to come.

With bridges washed out, highways converted into canals, and power and communications lines left inoperable, government officials ordered everyone still remaining out of the city and began planning for the evacuation of the Superdome, where about 10,000 refugees huddled in increasingly grim conditions, running out of water and food, and with rising water threatening the generators.

So dire was the situation that the Pentagon late in the day ordered six Navy ships and eight Navy maritime rescue teams to the Gulf Coast to bolster relief operations. It also planned to fly in Swift boat rescue teams from California.

With the rising waters and widespread devastation hobbling rescue and recovery efforts, the authorities could only guess at the death toll in the city and across the Gulf Coast. In Mississippi alone, officials raised the official count of the dead to at least 100.

"It looks like Hiroshima is what it looks like," Gov. Haley Barbour said, describing parts of Harrison County, Miss.

Across the region rescue workers were not even trying to gather up and count the dead, officials said, but pushed them aside for the time being as they struggled to find the living.

As the sweep of the devastation became clear on Tuesday, President Bush cut short his monthlong summer vacation and returned to Washington, where he will meet Wednesday with a task force established to coordinate the efforts of 14 federal agencies that will be involved in responding to the disaster.

The scope of the catastrophe caught New Orleans by surprise. A certain sense of relief that was felt on Monday afternoon, after the eye of the storm swept east of the city, proved cruelly illusory, as the authorities and residents woke up Tuesday to a more horrifying result than had been anticipated. Mayor Ray Nagin lamented that while the city had dodged the worst-case scenario on Monday when the hurricane made landfall east of the city, Tuesday "is the second-worst-case scenario."

It was not the water from the sky but the water that broke through the city's protective barriers that changed everything for the worse. New Orleans, with a population of nearly 500,000, is protected from the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain by levees. North of downtown, breaches in the levees sent the muddy waters of the lake pouring into the city.

Streets that were essentially dry in the hours immediately after the hurricane passed were several feet deep in water on Tuesday morning. Even downtown areas that lie on higher ground were flooded. The mayor said that both of the city's airports were underwater.

Mayor Nagin said that one of the levee breaches was two to three blocks long, and that the Federal Emergency Management Agency was dropping 3,000-pound sandbags into the opening from helicopters, as well as sea-land containers with sand, to try to halt the water.

The mayor estimated that 80 percent of the city, which is below sea level, was submerged, with the waters running as deep as 20 feet. The city government regrouped in Baton Rouge, 80 miles to the northwest.

Last night Col. Terry Ebbert, the city's director of homeland security said that the rushing waters had widened one of the breaches, making the repair work more difficult.

While the bulk of the population of New Orleans had evacuated before the storm, tens of thousands of people chose to remain in the city, and efforts to evacuate them were still under way. The authorities estimated that thousands of residents had been plucked off rooftops, just feet from the rising water.

Even as you pray for them you have to ponder the hubris. Then think of Los Angeles...

Katrina swamps New Orleans' levees; no fix in sight (The Associated Press, 8/30/05)

New Orleans is apt to stay awash for days under oily, filthy water infested with mosquitoes, even if failed levees can be fixed quickly, according to experts assessing the flooding left by Hurricane Katrina. [...]

Murky water, laced with junk and pollutants, coursed through the city, including many downtown streets. Residents and rescuers came across floating bodies, though the city's death toll was still unknown late Tuesday.

Flooding specialists predicted that conditions could worsen as authorities focused first on saving people trapped in buildings. [...]

[E]xperts warned of potential dangers ahead. Louisiana's frequent summer rains — or even another hurricane — could add to flooding in coming days or weeks, they said. The sitting water could collect more contaminants from homes and industries, and mosquitoes could amplify the danger of disease.

"Because it doesn't drain, there's a chance for things to concentrate," said Marc Levitan, another flooding expert at LSU.

Did New Orleans Catastrophe Have to Happen?: 'Times-Picayune' Had Repeatedly Raised Federal Spending Issues (Will Bunch, August 30, 2005, Editor & Publisher)
New Orleans had long known it was highly vulnerable to flooding and a direct hit from a hurricane. In fact, the federal government has been working with state and local officials in the region since the late 1960s on major hurricane and flood relief efforts. When flooding from a massive rainstorm in May 1995 killed six people, Congress authorized the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, or SELA.

Over the next 10 years, the Army Corps of Engineers, tasked with carrying out SELA, spent $430 million on shoring up levees and building pumping stations, with $50 million in local aid. But at least $250 million in crucial projects remained, even as hurricane activity in the Atlantic Basin increased dramatically and the levees surrounding New Orleans continued to subside.

Yet after 2003, the flow of federal dollars toward SELA dropped to a trickle. The Corps never tried to hide the fact that the spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security -- coming at the same time as federal tax cuts -- was the reason for the strain. At least nine articles in the Times-Picayune from 2004 and 2005 specifically cite the cost of Iraq as a reason for the lack of hurricane- and flood-control dollars.

Newhouse News Service, in an article posted late Tuesday night at The Times-Picayune web site, reported: "No one can say they didn't see it coming....Now in the wake of one of the worst storms ever, serious questions are being asked about the lack of preparation."

In early 2004, as the cost of the conflict in Iraq soared, President Bush proposed spending less than 20 percent of what the Corps said was needed for Lake Pontchartrain, according to a Feb. 16, 2004, article, in New Orleans CityBusiness.

On June 8, 2004, Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; told the Times-Picayune: “It appears that the money has been moved in the president’s budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that’s the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can’t be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us.”

Obviously not enough of a security issue.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:45 PM


Science plumbs placebo effect (Robert C. Cowen, 8/31/05, CS Monitor)

When an inert placebo acts like a drug, is it just a psychological illusion? Or is it a real biological effect? Research reported last week suggests that it's both. The mere belief that they had received a pain killer was enough to release the brain's natural painkilling endorphins in the patients tested, scientists say.

This opens a new line of research into the placebo puzzle. The effect has been demonstrated often enough to show that some patients appear to benefit from such belief. But there hasn't been enough evidence to convince skeptics that anything more than the so-called power of suggestion is at work. That's changing. "The findings of this study are counter to the common thought that the placebo effect is purely psychological due to suggestion and that it does not represent a real physical change." says University of Michigan neuroscientist Jon-Kar Zubieta. He is principal author of the study published Aug. 24 in The Journal of Neuroscience.

Some mind/body effects are well known. Adrenaline flows when firefighters go into action. The sight of a lion induces physical changes that prepare a zebra to flee. Humans often experience a similar fight-or-flight reaction to a perceived threat.

But it's been too much of a stretch for many neuroscientists to accept that belief in fake medication can produce medical benefits that can be objectively verified.

Mere belief?

Posted by David Cohen at 5:01 PM


Storms Vary With Cycles, Experts Say (Kenneth Chang, NY Times, 8/30/05)

Because hurricanes form over warm ocean water, it is easy to assume that the recent rise in their number and ferocity is because of global warming.

But that is not the case, scientists say. Instead, the severity of hurricane seasons changes with cycles of temperatures of several decades in the Atlantic Ocean. The recent onslaught "is very much natural," said William M. Gray, a professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State University who issues forecasts for the hurricane season.

From 1970 to 1994, the Atlantic was relatively quiet, with no more than three major hurricanes in any year and none at all in three of those years. Cooler water in the North Atlantic strengthened wind shear, which tends to tear storms apart before they turn into hurricanes.

In 1995, hurricane patterns reverted to the active mode of the 1950's and 60's. From 1995 to 2003, 32 major hurricanes, with sustained winds of 111 miles per hour or greater, stormed across the Atlantic. It was chance, Dr. Gray said, that only three of them struck the United States at full strength.

The cold winter and spring of 2005-2005 was obviously problematic for global warming enthusiasts. The answer the crafted was that global warming causes cooling, too. So, if it's hot: global warming. If it's cold: global warming. The left has truly become the reactionary party: any change is bad. Of course, static weather over the long-term could only result from human interference in the environment, but that would be good interference.

I have to admit, though, that my weather-cynicism, finely honed by years of the local news spending days covering blizzards that never happen, let me down this time. New Orleans and Mississippi seem to have suffered a tragedy as bad as the worst projections of the tv weather ghouls. This Wiki page, found via Michelle Malkin, offers links to aid agencies and fundraising events.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:14 PM


The Unnoticed Statistic (Michael Mandel, 8/29/05, Business Week: Economics Unbound)

[R]ising MFP [multifactor productivity] is like free money--you get added output without having to invest more. An economy with fast-growing MFP will over the long-run always beat one with low-growth MFP.

I didn't see it at the time, but in June the Bureau of Labor Statistics issued early estimates of MFP for 2003 and 2004--and the results were spectacular. According to their numbers, MFP growth was 3.1% in 2003 and 3.3% in 2004.

To put these results in perspective, this was the first time MFP growth had topped 3% since 1976. And it was the first time since the mid-sixties that the U.S. had had two straight years of plus 3% MFP growth.

If MFP keeps rising at this rate--if Americans keep finding ways to work smarter and to advantage of new technology--then the trade and budget deficits are fairly irrelevant.

The Budget's Misguided Parsimony (Michael Mandel, 2/14/05, Business Week)
Of course, right now you're asking: What the heck is multifactor productivity, and why is it so important? MFP is the lesser-known cousin of labor productivity, which is the amount of output that an average worker can produce in an hour. So, for example, if you're digging ditches, your labor productivity is the number of feet of ditches you can dig in an hour.

A rise in labor productivity can happen for a lot of different reasons. Workers can have more and better machinery and equipment to use -- say, a backhoe rather than a shovel, to move dirt. Or the workers can become better trained in using the equipment they already have. In either case, the increase in labor productivity carries a cost: the price of the backhoe or the expense of training the worker.

Multifactor productivity measures something different. When MFP rises, it means output per hour of the average worker goes up without any additional skills or education or a change in equipment. An increase in MFP equals free money, extra production that you don't have pay for.

Multifactor productivity is borne of the essence of technological innovation -- the creation of new products and new opportunities out of ideas and thin air. For example, the spread of the Internet has not only made doing business easier and cheaper but also allowed people to do things that weren't even possible in the past. Think about Amazon (AMZN ), Google (GOOG ), and eBay (EBAY ). Wireless phones aren't just a substitute for landlines; they enable people to organize their activities in very different ways.

The rate of multifactor productivity growth represents the single best indicator of the economy's true strength. When MFP is increasing rapidly, the size of the economic pie expands, real wages rise, profits go up, and everyone feels good. When that figure stagnates, things are tough all around.

For example, multifactor productivity didn't rise at all in 1973-83, a period that included the era of runaway inflation, President Jimmy Carter's famous "malaise" speech, and the deepest recession since the Great Depression. During that stretch, the stock market, adjusted for inflation, fell by 34%, while real hourly wages for production and nonsupervisory workers descended by 11%.

By contrast, the birth of the New Economy can be clearly seen in the sharp acceleration of multifactor productivity growth starting in 1996. From that point to 2002 (the latest year for which figures are available), MFP gained a bit more than 1% a year. From 1995 to today, real wages have risen by 9%, while the inflation-adjusted stock market is up by 68%.

An economy with rapid multifactor productivity growth is potentially quite profitable for investors, which helps explain why the U.S. can attract so much foreign capital to fund its trade deficit. High MFP also generates lots of extra output, useful for paying for, say, military actions or better health-care benefits. It's like having a cushion or a security blanket.

This all has to be false. We know, because we're frequently told, that life was never better than at the apogee of liberalism and that life for the average American began its long decline when Ronald Reagan brought conservatism to power and has sunk rapidly into the slough of despond under George W. Bush and the dictatorship of the plutocrats.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:53 PM


Free Judy Miller (NY Times, 8/29/05)

The New York Times reporter Judith Miller has now been in jail longer for refusing to testify than any reporter working for a newspaper in America. It is a very long time for her, for her newspaper and for the media. And with each dismal milestone, it becomes more apparent that having her in jail is an embarrassment to a country that is supposed to be revered around the world for its freedoms, especially its First Amendment that provides freedom of the press. Ms. Miller, who went to jail rather than testify in an investigation into the disclosure of an undercover agent's identity, has been in a Virginia jail 55 days as of today.

Last week a Paris-based journalists' organization called Reporters Without Borders sent around an impressive petition in support of Ms. Miller. It was signed by prominent European writers, journalists and thinkers including Günter Grass, Bernard-Henri Lévy, the French philosopher, and Pedro Almodóvar, the Spanish filmmaker.

The Timesmen must feel right at home, The Failure of Gunter Grass: Another Nobel bomb (David Pryce-Jones, 10/25/99, National Review):
Grass's Tin Drum, published in 1959, flourishes a vivid style, but in every other respect it is a misleading book, whose success has been pernicious.

The central concept in the novel is that Hitler really was a devil and Nazism essentially the spell he cast, a bewitchment. If that was so, then Germans were the victims of a higher power against which they were defenseless, and they cannot be held accountable. The reasons that Germans became Nazis are open to rational analysis, but The Tin Drum instead encourages the mystification that they couldn't really help themselves. The opposite of the Solzhenitsyn truth-telling that enables people to understand their choices and their fates, Grass's approach smoothly converts Germans from active agents of Nazism into passive victims. The cop-out could hardly be more complete.

Grass went on to argue that the present was a replica of the past in many ways. The post-Nazi enemy was the United States, with its capitalism and its consumerism. The United States was responsible for starting and pursuing the Cold War, he insisted, while the Soviet Union was not oppressing central and eastern Europe with its military occupation, but merely taking legitimate precautions against U.S. aggression. Not a Communist, Grass became a model fellow traveler by default. A speechwriter and longtime campaigner for Chancellor Willy Brandt, Grass took the position that appeasement of the Soviet Union was an imperative. Victimized once more, the Germans were right to feel resentment and self-pity, but this time they had to take measures to help themselves.

Self-pity, Anti-Americanism, and appeasement of evil don't exactly convey moral authority to the rest of us though.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:38 PM


U.S. Warplanes Back Unprecedented Sunni-Led Offensive: Fierce Fighting in Growing Rift Between Zarqawi Insurgents and Sunni Arab Tribes (Ellen Knickmeyer and Omar Fekeiki, August 30, 2005, Washington Post)

U.S. warplanes backed Sunni Arab tribal fighters on Tuesday in what tribal leaders called an unprecedented Sunni-led offensive to drive out Abu Musab Zarqawi's forces.

Three days of ongoing fighting in towns near the Syrian border killed at least 61 people, at least 56 of them Tuesday, said Dr. Ali Rawi, emergency-room director at the hospital in the largest city near the fighting, Qaim, about 200 miles northwest of Baghdad.

Forty-two of them wore the black training-suits and athletic shoes favored by Zarqawi's fighters, Rawi said.

Others appeared to be fighters of a rival tribe or civilians, he said.

Tuesday's bombings and clashes in the towns of Husaybah and Karabilah marked some of the fiercest fighting yet in a growing rift between Zarqawi's insurgents and some tribes of their Sunni Arab base.

The clashes came after insurgents kidnapped and killed 31 men belonging to the Albu Mahal tribe because they had joined the Iraqi security forces, said Sheikh Muhammed Mahallawi, one of the tribe's leaders.

"We decided, either we force them out of the city or kill them," with the support of U.S. bombardment, Mahallawi said.

Fitting that Zarqawi's guys adopted the Heaven's Gate dress code.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:44 PM


Bush cancels vacation to focus on relief (RANDOLPH E. SCHMID, August 30, 2005, Associated Press)

Medical disaster assistance teams from across the country were deployed to the area devastated by Hurricane Katrina. The Red Cross sent in 185 emergency vehicles to provide meals. And President Bush cut short his vacation Tuesday to return to Washington to focus on the storm damage.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the president will chair a meeting Wednesday of a White House task force set up to coordinate the federal response and relief effort.

"We have a lot of work to do," the president said of the storm FEMA director Michael Brown has termed catastrophic.

When God hands you a convenient way out of Crawford it's no wonder you believe in Providence.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:20 PM


Police chief- Lockerbie evidence was faked (MARCELLO MEGA, 8/28/05, Scotland on Sunday)

A FORMER Scottish police chief has given lawyers a signed statement claiming that key evidence in the Lockerbie bombing trial was fabricated.

The retired officer - of assistant chief constable rank or higher - has testified that the CIA planted the tiny fragment of circuit board crucial in convicting a Libyan for the 1989 mass murder of 270 people.

In a surprise announcement today, Vice President acknowledged this bit of subterfuge and announced that the real circuit board from the bombing was actually produced in Syria....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:29 PM


Anti-Israel talk shouldn't be tolerated (SUSAN ESTRICH, 8/24/05, Creators Syndicate)

Did an ABC staffer insert the following lines in an e-mail sent by celebrity anti-war mother Cindy Sheehan?

"Am I emotional? Yes, my firstborn was murdered. Am I angry? Yes, he was killed for lies and for a Neo-Con agenda to benefit Israel. My son joined the Army to protect America, not Israel." That is what Sheehan is claiming.

If you don't believe that explanation - if you don't believe an ABC staffer set about to put anti-Semitic words into Sheehan's mouth - then your hero, my liberal friends, is a raging, ignorant anti-Semite. Sorry, but what are you doing hanging with that crowd?

How much trouble are you in when Ms Estrich can shame you?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:24 PM


The Democrats' Supreme Conundrum (E. J. Dionne Jr., August 30, 2005, Washington Post)

Most Democrats are certain that Roberts is significantly more conservative than Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, whom he would replace, and that he will push the court to the right. But they wonder whether that alone can justify a full-fledged fight against him, let alone a filibuster. [...]

Yet many Democrats are frustrated over the difficulty of establishing exactly what kind of conservative Roberts is -- or, in the case of liberal groups firmly opposed to his nomination, of proving that Roberts is still the conservative ideologue who emerges from his memos as a young Reagan administration official on matters such as civil rights, disability rights and the right to privacy. If trying to stop Roberts is a short-term political risk, letting him through without a fight might be a long-term risk to the judicial principles that liberals care about.

Roberts would not only immediately shift the balance on the court, he is also a potential nominee for chief justice, a post in which his political skills could allow him, in tandem with another Bush appointee, to create a powerful conservative court majority for a generation. If Democrats fail to amass enough votes against Roberts in this round, they will be in a weak position to challenge him as chief justice in the next.

Democrats are also under pressure from their liberal allies to challenge Roberts by way of clarifying what they stand for. "One of the worst consequences politically would be for the majority of Democrats to vote for someone who, in the near future, would overturn well-established precedents on clean air, clean water, privacy, equal opportunity and religious liberty," said Ralph Neas, president of People for the American Way.

You'd be worried to if you faced the prospect of making it clear your party stands for abortion, terrorists' rights, homosexuality, and racial quotas and against Judeo-Christianity.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:15 PM


Consumer confidence rises unexpectedly (ANNE D'INNOCENZIO, 8/30/05, Associated Press)

Consumers reassured by the strengthening job market stayed optimistic in August despite the surging price of gasoline, giving a widely followed measure of consumer confidence an unexpected boost.

The Conference Board said Tuesday its Consumer Confidence Index, compiled from a survey of U.S. households, rose to 105.6 this month up from a revised 103.6 in July. The August figure was better than the 101 analysts expected.

What do Americans have to be optimistic about besides two decades plus of economic growth, full employment, deflation, and low interest rates?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:26 AM


Prof Denies Human Free Will (Julie Geng, 8/30/05, Cornell Daily Sun)

In the midst of a heated national debate about intelligent design and evolution, Prof. William Provine, ecology and evolutionary biology, tackled the question head-on in a discussion attended by over 60 students, faculty and Ithacan community members last night. Sponsored by the Bioethics Society of Cornell, the lecture, titled “Evolution and Intelligent Design: The Implications for Human Free Will” covered topics including Darwinism, the origin of moral responsibility, the social need to assign blame and reductionism.

“I was a vocal opponent to I.D. [intelligent design] even before [the movement] began,” Provine said at the opening. [...]

“Choosing doesn’t imply free will,” he said. “Choices are not made freely — there are all kinds of constraints on it.” In an attempt to discredit the view that lack of free will would “lead society into a downward spiral,” Provine argued that without free will there would be no means of blaming people for their actions. “Blame is useless,” he said. “It just creates a horrible system of criminal justice.”

He added that if society recognized the absence of free will, society would ultimately be much kinder to its less fortunate.

“I hated the idea of human free will,” Provine added. He also argued that humans mostly provide their own moral guidance, and that “ultimate moral responsibility is nonexistent.” He admitted, “Free will is the hardest [preconception] … to give up.”
Though it's always implicit, you rarely hear Darwinists be so explicit that their philosophy is just an attempt to escape morality.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:15 AM


4 years later, still no terror (Paul Campos, August 30, 2005, Rocky Mountain News)

So why haven't they?

Roughly speaking, three answers can be given to this question. The most pessimistic is that Islamic terrorists already in America are in the process of planning an attack that will dwarf 9/11 in scale, and that therefore small-scale attacks like those described above seem trivial to them. Although there's no evidence for this theory, that hasn't stopped people like former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan and Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer from publishing scenarios of death and destruction that, depending on one's point of view, are either sobering cautionary tales or elaborate paranoid fantasies.

The second answer is that those Islamic terrorist groups currently in the country have no capacity to carry out a large-scale attack in the foreseeable future, and that they aren't carrying out small-scale attacks because they don't understand American culture, and therefore fail to grasp how psychologically effective such attacks would be.

The third answer for why we have been free of any Islamic terrorism since 9/11 is that, in part as a consequence of steps taken since that terrible day, there simply are no functioning Islamic terrorist groups in the United States at this time. This theory would seem to be backed by Occam's razor - the logical principle that the simplest explanation that can account for all the available facts is generally best.

While it unfortunately doesn't guarantee that we won't be attacked again, the simple truth is that America isn't an important battlefield in the civil wars within Islam and the foolish decision to attack us anyway cost the Islamicists dearly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:06 AM


Baker picks family over campaign: Says he won't run for governor (Frank Phillips, August 30, 2005, Boston Globe)

Harvard Pilgrim Health Care chief executive Charles D. Baker said yesterday he will not seek the Republican nomination for governor, leaving Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey as the GOP's only declared candidate if Governor Mitt Romney does not seek reelection. [...]

His announcement stunned many of his supporters and others in the political world who were convinced that Baker, who made his reputation in the administrations of governors William F. Weld and Paul Cellucci, would challenge Healey for the party's nomination. Baker said he would not run if Romney ran for reelection, but the healthcare CEO was widely believed to be preparing to resign his $1-million-a-year job to lay the groundwork for a campaign.

Baker's decision marks a major shift in the political dynamics of the 2006 race and a setback for the Democrats, who had hoped for a divisive, resource-draining primary fight among Republicans. The news comes after a well-orchestrated strategy by Healey and her advisers to promote her as Romney's heir apparent.

''This is a big boost for the Republicans," said Senate minority leader Brian P. Lees, a Republican from East Longmeadow. ''This decision by Baker will really solidify Kerry Healey as the candidate for the Republican Party. The Democrats will be slugging it out all spring and summer next year and won't be able to come together until the fall after the primary."

Romney has said he will make a decision on his own reelection plans this fall, but Healey and other Republicans are making plans as if he has decided to forgo a run. Baker's departure from the race means Healey, who has access to her husband's fortune to finance her campaign, is now free to consolidate her candidacy and focus on beating the Democrats. It will also give Healey greater leeway in the choice of lieutenant governor.

If you want the Republican nomination for president you ought to have helped build the party, not just your own resume. Bad enough that Mr. Romney isn't defending his seat and hasn't built the MA GOP, he'd better at least make sure the party keeps the governor's office.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:01 AM


First Read (Elizabeth Wilner, Mark Murray and Huma Zaidi, 8/30/05, MSNBC)

Cindy Sheehan had an odd, little-noticed interview yesterday morning on NPR's Talk of the Nation. When asked about her earlier meeting with President Bush, she said, "Do we have to talk about this?... I have two minutes..." Hearing Sheehan say she had "two minutes," the interviewer noted that "we thought we had more time with you today." Sheehan responded, "Hello? I didn't hear your question?" And then said shortly afterward: "I have to go now, thank you." After she hung up, the interviewer explained to listeners that Talk of the Nation had arranged to speak with Sheehan for the whole hour, and he apologized for the interview being cut short.

She had to go help David Duke get a grass stain out of his hood....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:20 AM


Egypt envoy seeks state for Palestinians (IBRAHIM BARZAK, 8/30/05, Associated Press)

A senior Egyptian envoy told the Palestinian parliament Tuesday that Egypt will not rest until the Palestinians have established a state on land captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast War.

The envoy, Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, spoke in the name of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and used particularly strong language to support the Palestinians.

"It's time to see the suffering ended, to see the prisoners released and to see the Palestinian territories living in security and prosperity," said Suleiman, who was in the region to broker an agreement to monitor the movement of people and goods across the Gaza-Egypt border following Israel's withdrawal from Gaza.

Suleiman said the borders of a future Palestinian state should include the West Bank and Gaza, but he did not specifically mention east Jerusalem, which was also captured by Israel in 1967 and is claimed by the Palestinians as a future capital.

If the Egyptians join with America and Israel in recognizing Palestinian statehood along the lines Mr. Sharon is drawing no one else will be able to gainsay it.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:48 AM


I see (translation: I don't see) (Libby Purves, Timesonline, August 30th, 2005)

Let us now praise famous men! Judge Seddon Cripps, to be precise: a senior circuit judge who also presides over the immigration services tribunal. Last week our hero interrupted a fraud trial in St Albans with a question. What, he asked, is a sofa-bed? When a witness tried to explain, he asked for clarification: “How can a bed be turned into a sofa?” He listened, it seems, attentively. Earlier on he had been fazed by the word “futon”. Modern bedsit furniture is not His Honour’s strong point.

The standard response is to giggle and haul out other judicial questions that have delighted us over the years: Lord Irvine’s ignorance of B&Q; Judge Dunn’s confusion over Pelé; Judge Aglionby who asked “What is a Teletubby?”; and others who at various times have asked enlightenment regarding Gazza, Oasis, Jordan, Linford Christie’s lunchbox, the Rolling Stones and even Barbie. My response differs: it consists of three rousing and un-ironic cheers. Such judges, in their fearlessness and lack of self-preserving subterfuge, show the way to all of us. No human quality is more intelligent, honest and useful than a willingness to ask when you don’t know. We should be less afraid of it.

After all, why should a judge, paid to know the law and reflect on public ethics, be expected to riffle through the style supplements and waste good thinking-time on marshmallow media drivel about soap actors, sporting “heroes”, Jude Law’s nanny, pop musicians and TV for infants? Why should he? He’s not a contestant in some feeble-minded quiz like The Weakest Link, which places cultural dross on the same level as lasting fact. Of course judges need to understand the serious aspects of modernity — like a multiracial society or the weakened status of marriage — but there is no reason to feel embarrassed if they don’t know who Jade from Big Brother is. Indeed sometimes the very question — asked perhaps with sly ingenuity — is the trigger for a clarification of thought. A bewigged figure solemnly inquiring “Who is Madonna?” gives the court and the nation a chance to stop and weigh how important the answer actually is, sub specie aeternitatis.

Excuse the self-reference, but my most embarrassing moment in court came a few years ago when I asked a witness to explain “for Her Honour” what a jet-ski was. The judge gave me a look of withering contempt and assured me she knew exactly what it was, which was too bad because I sure didn’t.

You are all invited to prove your genuine conservative colours by sharing your most humiliating experience involving a public admission or revelation that you didn’t know something about modern culture that absolutely everyone else in the world seems to know.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:21 AM


Intelligent Design to be Taught in Australian Schools - Opponents Furious (, August 29, 2005)

After decades of teaching the theory of Darwinian evolution as though it were established fact, school boards in Australia may rethink their approach. The Intelligent Design (ID) theory is making inroads with formerly skeptical members of the scientific community now that the mathematical improbability of the random and spontaneous generation of life has been more thoroughly analyzed.

Australian Federal Education Minister Brendan Nelson told reporters earlier this month that ID would have a place with Darwinism should parents or schools be interested.

They're even changing the name of the capital of the Northern Territory to Behe.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 5:42 AM


Bush accused of Aids damage to Africa (Jeevan Vasagar, The Guardian, August 30th, 2005)

A senior United Nations official has accused President George Bush of "doing damage to Africa" by cutting funding for condoms, a move which may jeopardise the successful fight against HIV/Aids in Uganda.

Stephen Lewis, the UN secretary general's special envoy for HIV/Aids in Africa, said US cuts in funding for condoms and an emphasis on promoting abstinence had contributed to a shortage of condoms in Uganda, one of the few African countries which has succeeded in reducing its infection rate.

"There is no doubt in my mind that the condom crisis in Uganda is being driven by [US policies]," Mr Lewis said yesterday. "To impose a dogma-driven policy that is fundamentally flawed is doing damage to Africa."

The condom shortage has developed because both the Ugandan government and the US, which is the main donor for HIV/Aids prevention, have allowed supplies to dwindle, according to an American pressure group, the Centre for Health and Gender Equity (Change).[...]

Campaigners accuse Uganda's first lady, Janet Museveni, of being instrumental in the switch towards a policy of abstinence. Ugandan government officials say that her religious beliefs, stemming from being a born-again Christian, are central to her promotion of the message of abstinence. In one poster campaign, signed by the office of the first lady, the slogan alongside the picture of a smiling young woman says: "She's saving herself for marriage - how about you?"

While Uganda needs between 120m and 150m condoms a year, only 32m have been distributed since last October, Change said in a report published yesterday.[...]

Uganda has had extraordinary success in reducing adult infection rates from 30% in the early 1990s to below 6% last year. This success is largely credited to its president, Yoweri Museveni, who spoke out about what was considered a shameful disease and told people how to combat it.

Got that, everyone? Thanks to President Bush and Uganda’s wacky first couple, Uganda has a condom crisis. It doesn’t seem to have an AIDS crisis anymore, but the condom crisis is a catastrophe.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Egyptians press hunt for Sinai terrorists (Michael Slackman and Mona el-Naggar, AUGUST 30, 2005, The New York Times)

Thousands of Egyptian security troops have spread out across a sprawling mountain range in the northern Sinai in an increasingly violent hunt for terrorists.

Two high-ranking Egyptian police officers were killed last week when they drove over a land mine, the worst such incident since an Islamic insurgency in the mid-1990s, according to Egyptian security officials.

A week ago, the Egyptian Interior Ministry issued a statement saying it had captured, killed or identified all of those responsible for the suicide bombing attacks on resorts in Taba in October and Sharm el Sheik in July.

But what was supposed to have been a mopping up operation, with a handful of suspects being sought hiding in the caves and hideaways along Halal mountain, took a surprising turn when Major General Mahmoud Adel and Lieutenant Colonel Omar Abdel Moneim were killed last week and the security forces were forced to temporarily withdraw, officials said.

By Monday, officials said that there were thousands of security agents back on the hunt, aided by armored vehicles and army minesweepers searching for mines planted in the rugged terrain of the mountain range.

"This is a huge mountainous region," said an official in the Interior Ministry. "It is high and rugged with caves and turns. We are coming in from below and they are in control from above. It is expected that we lose some men because it is a war and there are arms being used."

Where many predicted a clash of civilizations, what we have is fundamentally a series of battles within Islam itself and we're just an intensely interested outside party.

Jihadism's roots in political Islam (Bassam Tibi, AUGUST 30, 2005, International Herald Tribune)

Although jihadism may not be Islamic, it is based on the ideology of Islamism, which has emerged from the politicization of Islam in the current war of ideas.

It is difficult to overstate the importance of recognizing this truth. Jihadism will continue to be with us for decades to come, as long as the movement related to it within Islamic civilization continues to thrive and to disseminate its deadly ideas.

Jihadists see themselves as non-state actors waging an irregular war against "kafirun," or unbelievers. They see their struggle as a just war legitimated by a religious, political and military interpretation of the Islamic concept of jihad.

Jihadism's relation to Islamism can be stated in a nutshell: Jihadists read the classical doctrine of jihad in a new mind while reinventing Islamic tradition.

Although the Koran allows Muslims to resort to "qital" (physical fighting) for the benefit of Islam, this is clearly for reasons other than terrorism, because the Koran allows qital only under strict rules, while terrorism, by definition, is a war without rules. The new interpretation of jihad adds an "ism" to it, jihad becoming jihadism (jihadiyya), an irregular war that is a variety of modern terrorism.

It is wrong and even deceitful to argue that jihadism has nothing to do with Islam, because the jihadists believe that they are acting as "true Islamic believers" and learn the Islamist mind-set in mosques and Islamic schools, including those of the Islamic diaspora in Europe.

It follows that the debate over whether these terrorists are "Islamic" or "un-Islamic" is meaningless. The fact is that jihadism is a new direction in Islamic civilization, an expression of the contemporary "revolt against the West" that enjoys tremendous popularity in the ongoing war of ideas. In order to combat the deadly idea of jihadism successfully, it is necessary to seek Muslim cooperation to determine who the jihadists are, rather than engaging in empty arguments.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Oil markets await details of hurricane impact (Sheila McNulty in Houston and Carola Hoyos in London, August 29 2005, Financial Times)

Anan Shihab-Eldin, acting OPEC Secretary-General told an energy conference in Oslo on Tuesday that if economic fundamentals, rather than perceptions of shortages, dominated the oil markets, there could be price stability. “Fundamentals do not justify the current price levels,” he said. “Forty dollars a barrel is a floor, but I could see around $50-55”, he added. “We want to reassure the market that stock levels are building up.” He also backed a proposal by Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahd al-Sabah, the OPEC President, on Monday, to raise output by 500,000 barrels per day at a meeting in September in an attempt to help cool oil prices.

The hope is that markets looked at over a long enough period are rational, but at any given moment emotion predominates.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


A Higher Standard: The Weekly at 10: Sometimes Wrong but Always Right (Peter Carlson, August 30, 2005, Washington Post)

Some left-wingers probably don't read the Weekly Standard because they figure it's a Rupert Murdoch-owned, right-wing, warmongering magazine and, of course, they've got a point. But now -- as the Washington-based mag prepares to celebrate its 10th anniversary -- it's worth noting that the Weekly Standard is a truly excellent right-wing warmongering magazine, no matter what your political persuasion might be.

The Standard is saved from the worst sins of ideological magazines -- crankiness, sectarianism and self-righteousness -- by a delightfully impish sense of humor. It is America's funniest right-wing magazine, although there is not, alas, much competition for that title. [...]

My favorite writers in the Standard's stable are two guys with sharp eyes and cutting wits -- Andrew Ferguson and Matt Labash.

Ferguson's brain contains a highly effective baloney detector, which enables him to identify balderdash in all its myriad manifestations. Over the years, he has published great comic essays on such celebrated cultural icons as Frank Sinatra, Edward R. Murrow and Mikhail Gorbachev. For the Gorbachev piece, Ferguson found Gorby in the same conference room with Shirley MacLaine and Deepak Chopra, which severely strained Ferguson's baloney detector but inspired a hilarious story.

Labash likes to leave the office and explore the weirder aspects of the world, which is a good trait in a reporter. Back in 2001, when a politically correct faction of gym teachers denounced dodge ball as a threat to America's youth, Labash risked his life by venturing out to a Maryland elementary school to play the deadly game. And he lived to tell the tale in a funny piece called "The New Phys Ed and the Wussification of America."

This summer, Labash spent time with the Minutemen -- the controversial organization that patrols the Mexican border, trying to deter illegal immigrants -- and his nuanced piece shows that the Minutemen aren't xenophobic vigilantes, as they are sometimes portrayed.

But my all-time favorite Labash piece is "Welcome to Canada: The Great White Waste of Time," published last March and reprinted in the new anthology. In it, he offers this synopsis of our northern neighbor:

". . . a country that didn't bother to draft its own constitution until 1982, that kept 'God Save the Queen' as its national anthem until 1980, and that still enshrines its former master's monarch as its head of state. Her Canadian title is 'Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom, Canada and Her other Realms and Territories, Queen (breath) Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.' Maybe they should change their national anthem again, to Britney Spears's 'I'm a Slave 4 U.' "

Mr. Ferguson, has a typically excellent piece out now on the Washington Mall. Meanwhile, Priscilla Buckley has a terrific memoir out, Living It Up With National Review, which reminds of how funny that magazine used to be.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Let pupils swear in school, argues parents' group (FIONA MACGREGOR, 8/30/05, The Scotsman)

PUPILS should be allowed to swear in the classroom rather than be punished for their four-letter-word outbursts, Scottish parents' representatives said yesterday.

The Scottish Parent Teacher Council said teachers exacerbate the use of bad language in school by overreacting to commonly used swear words.

The comment comes after a school in England provoked an angry reaction among traditionalists by announcing it would allow the use of swear words up to five times per lesson to encourage pupils to think about their language.

Why worry about bombers when you're bent on wrecking what little remains of the culture yourselves?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Lebanese hold pro-Syria officials (BBC, 8/30/05)

Police in Lebanon have arrested three former pro-Syrian security chiefs, security sources said.

The officials are the former heads of public security, the internal security forces and military intelligence.

The current head of the country's presidential guard, Mustafa Hamdan, has also given himself up.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Kurds first, Iraq second (Bashdar Ismaeel, 8/31/05, Asia Times)

Finally free from the totalitarian grip of Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath regime, the Kurds for the first time in 1991, thanks largely to the establishment of a US-sponsored safe haven - enforced by daily air patrols in the three northern-most Iraqi provinces - have flourished economically, socially and politically with relative freedom and stability.

Ever-grateful for the US liberation, soldiers are hugged and given warm receptions and not targeted in this part of the country. Ghomma Mustafa, a prisoner for nearly nine years, showed typical enthusiasm for the US liberation: "Thanks to the US, now the whole of Kurdistan is free and we are grateful. Right now, without the US presence in Iraq, it would collapse."

The problem in this part of the world, a far cry from the terrorist-ridden and volatile south and central areas, is that people do not feel a part of Iraq, or even want to be associated with any of its traditional customs. In this part of the country, it is the Kurdistan flag and not the Iraqi flag that is ubiquitous. Even the crossing at the Haber border gate between Iraq and Turkey suggest that one is entering a separate country, and not Iraq.

For the Kurds, they have fought with their blood and lives to live this day, and they are determined to not settle for anything less than what they feel they deserve - now federalism, as proposed in the draft constitution submitted to parliament this week, perhaps later full autonomy, even independence.

Why should they settle for less? For a fiction called Iraq? That would be foolish.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Widow of Sudan's Garang Steps In to Continue His Mission: Defying Patriarchal Tradition, She Takes On Public Role (Emily Wax, August 30, 2005, Washington Post)

As soon as the news of his death reached her, Rebecca Garang, a tall and imposing woman in her fifties, began making firm press statements and vigorous speeches. She called for calm and urged people to continue her husband's mission. Within days, she had emerged as an eloquent and powerful force in a place where women rarely have a public role.

"I will not miss my husband as long as you people of Sudan are the watchdogs," she said at the funeral, referring to the peace deal that set up a national power-sharing arrangement. "In our culture we say, if you kill the lion, you see what the lioness will do."

Although hundreds of rioters took to the streets after John Garang's death in an angry spasm of looting and violence that left more than 100 dead in the capital, Khartoum, and this southern city, Rebecca Garang set a tone that helped calm the nation's emotions. Over and over, she told radio listeners that his death had been an accident caused by bad weather.

"It's just his body which is gone," she said on the air. "His vision of peace remains."

President Bush called from the White House to thank her, and even her husband's former enemies in Khartoum recognized her contribution. She was praised at the swearing-in of Salva Kiir Mayardit, the former senior aide to her husband who replaced him as vice president of the new unified government of Sudan.

"After he died, the words from Mama Rebecca's mouth have been like milk," Abdel-Basit Sabdarat, the minister of information, told government and rebel leaders who had gathered for the subdued ceremony. "We were wounded. She was there to heal and became a symbol of the country."

Many Sudanese hope Rebecca Garang's new role will become permanent. Her husband's personality was seen as a dominating force behind the peace deal. Kiir, who was intelligence chief and military commander of John Garang's Sudan People's Liberation Army, lacks his political stature.

Three weeks after her husband's death, Rebecca Garang visited Uganda to demonstrate solidarity between that country and southern Sudan. It was a politically meaningful visit, because her husband was killed in the crash of a Ugandan military helicopter as he returned home from Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni's ranch.

Many southerners believe the crash was a plot by the Khartoum government...

Heck, even Islamophobics here have bought into that one.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


It's a Jerk!: Should men want to watch their wives give birth? (Meghan O'Rourke, Aug. 29, 2005, Slate)

A man who doesn't want to watch his wife give birth is a jerk. This was the overwhelming consensus reached by a host of respected blogs after the publication last Tuesday in the New York Times of a piece by a therapist noting an unhappy trend: A number of his male patients have reported that after witnessing their wives have babies they no longer feel attracted to them. "I mean, how are you supposed to go from seeing that to wanting to be with ...?" one husband asked, unable to finish his sentence.

Why do you think they make us stay?

August 29, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:59 PM


Horror: The Perfect Christian Genre: Scott Derrickson, co-writer and director of the upcoming film The Exorcism of Emily Rose, says horror movies are an excellent way for a Christian filmmaker to address things of faith. (Peter T. Chattaway, 08/30/05, Christianity Today)

Can a Christian make horror movies? Scott Derrickson thinks so. As a screenwriter—and a Christian—he has worked on quite a few films in the genre, including Urban Legends: Final Cut, Dracula 2000 and Hellraiser: Inferno, the last of which he also directed. His newest film as co-writer and director, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, coming to theaters on September 9, looks at first glance like more of the same.

But this movie is a little different. It is based on the true story of a German woman named Anneliese Michel, who died during an exorcism in 1976; the priest who tried to cast the demons out of her was charged with manslaughter. So the film is part horror story, part courtroom drama—and Derrickson says it will get people talking about God.

Derrickson spoke to Christianity Today Movies from his home in Glendale, California.

Why would a Christian get involved in horror films, of all things?

Scott Derrickson: In my opinion, the horror genre is a perfect genre for Christians to be involved with. I think the more compelling question is, Why do so many Christians find it odd that a Christian would be working in this genre? To me, this genre deals more overtly with the supernatural than any other genre, it tackles issues of good and evil more than any other genre, it distinguishes and articulates the essence of good and evil better than any other genre, and my feeling is that a lot of Christians are wary of this genre simply because it's unpleasant. The genre is not about making you feel good, it is about making you face your fears. And in my experience, that's something that a lot of Christians don't want to do.

To me, the horror genre is the genre of non-denial. It's about admitting that there is evil in the world, and recognizing that there is evil within us, and that we're not in control, and that the things that we are afraid of must be confronted in order for us to relinquish that fear.

It's no coincidence that the original Exorcist is one of the greats of the genre nor that America is the last Western nation that recognizes evil.

Behind the lens - A Christian filmmaker in Hollywood (Scott Derrickson, 1/30/02, Christian Century)(

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:09 PM


After Cologne: The Remarkable Lesson of Professor Ratzinger: For Catholics, Christians, Jews, Muslims. A survey of the first trip outside of Italy for the new pope – who, the more demanding he is, conquers minds and hearts all the more (Sandro Magister, August 25, 2005, Chiesa)

He had announced it since his first morning as pope, in the seminal address delivered in the Sistine Chapel on April 20: “The Eucharist will be the centre of the World Youth Day in Cologne in August.”

And what he said, he did. To the million young people gathered from 197 countries for four days in the city that keeps the relics of the Magi – even to those of little faith and the non-baptized – Benedict XVI preached “the inconceivable greatness of a God who humbled himself even to appearing in a manger, to giving himself as food on the altar.”

One of his other early statements was that the pope “must not proclaim his own ideas, but rather constantly bind himself and the Church to obedience to God's word, in the face of every attempt to adapt it or water it down, and every form of opportunism.”

And he kept this promise, too. From August 18-21 in Cologne, Benedict XVI did not bestow upon the crowd a mere theatrical gesture, or nothing more than a striking phrase. He led the young people to look, not at him, but always and only at the true protagonist: that Jesus whom the Magi adored in Bethlehem, the “House of Bread,” and who is now concealed in the consecrated host.

Joseph Razinger took a big risk in Cologne. Cardinal Angleo Scola, one of the many bishops who came to catechize the young people during the first three days of the vigil with the pope, thought he would win them over with a ten-minute recitation from “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac. Benedict XVI, on the other hand, challenged everyone’s attention span with a difficult explanation of “the different nuances of the word ‘adoration’ in Greek and in Latin. The Greek word is ‘proskynesis’. It refers to the gesture of submission, the recognition of God as our true measure. [...] The Latin word is ‘ad-oratio’, mouth to mouth contact, a kiss, an embrace, and hence ultimately love. Submission becomes union, because he to whom we submit is love.”

The theme of this twentieth World Youth Day was: “We Have Come To Worship Him,” the words of the Magi who came following the star. Ratzinger used this episode as the outline for a remarkable lesson that lasted four days – beginning with his arrival on the banks of the Rhine – on “the great procession of the faithful called the Church.” Walking behind the Magi are the saints “in whose lives the Lord has opened up the Gospel before us and turned over the pages.” Their relics “are indeed just human bones,” but of “individuals touched by the transcendent power of God.” And over their reliquary, “the most exquisite reliquary of the whole Christian world,” Cologne “raised above it an even greater reliquary, this stupendous Gothic Cathedral, [...] one of the most important places of pilgrimage in the Christian West,” together with Rome, Santiago de Compostela, and Jerusalem. For this reason, “here in Cologne we discover the joy of belonging to a family as vast as the world, including heaven and earth, the past, the present, the future.” The Church can be criticized, because it contains both grain and darnel, but “it is actually consoling to realize that there is darnel in the Church. In this way, despite all our defects, we can still hope to be counted among the disciples of Jesus, who came to call sinners.”

Benedict XVI spoke the latter of these words at the culmination of the nocturnal vigil in Marienfeld, before an altar beneath a starry sky. And then, all of a sudden, he added: “Dear friends, this is not a distant story that took place long ago. It is with us now. Here in the sacred Host he is present before us and in our midst. [...] He is present now as he was then in Bethlehem. He invites us to that inner pilgrimage which is called adoration.” Silence. The pope blessed the crowd with the host and quickly withdrew into the shadows, without passing through the crowd. He would return the next morning for the Mass, to repeat that it is only through God and the Eucharist that true revolution comes to the world. And he would give two pieces of advice to the young people: that they attend Sunday Mass and study the catechism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:09 PM


Opting out of Arabism in Iraq (Barry Rubin, 8/30/05, THE JERUSALEM POST)

There is one other fascinating definition of identity: the Arabs of Iraq – and not Iraq as a whole – are said to be part of the Arab nation.

THIS DETAIL is psychologically explosive on a regional level. It means that non-Arab groups can opt out of Arabism. Arab nationalism would thus become a form of ethnic sympathy rather than national policy. This would be a real nail in the coffin of the way the Arab world has been organized in the past half century.

Regarding communal relations within Iraq, the constitution is very tolerant. Arabic and Kurdish have joint status as official languages, while Turkoman – a point that should please Turkey – and Assyrian will have equal status in regions where people who speak them live.

It is important to remember that federalism is completely unknown in the Arab world. Strong central governments have been seen – with good reason – to be the only protection against anarchy and the collapse of the state. Therefore, it is understandable that few Arabs think it will work in Iraq, and they might be right.

Still, the constitution has some very original features in regard to federalism. On the important and controversial question of dividing oil revenues, there is to be a commission including members from all national and regional government bodies to set up the system for apportioning wealth. This is also a gesture toward the Sunnis, whose areas have no oilfields. The principle is that the distribution of money should be in proportion to the population in every area of the country.

Another unique feature is that provinces have the right to set up regions, and regions have the right to merge. This can be done by the demand of voters or legislators, and on paper such a decision looks easy. Each region will have a president and a National Assembly that will write a constitution which must not contradict Iraq's national laws or constitution.

By making this process simple, presumably the goal is to make groups feel secure that they can get a degree of local self-rule if they want one. There is nothing to prevent Sunni Arabs from setting up their own region, too.

APPARENTLY, THOUGH, the Sunnis' fear comes not so much from a threat to their communal life as to the centralized system they have dominated in the past. In practice, though, the proposed constitutional order might be far more beneficial to them than a centralized system putting them at the mercy of a Shi'ite and Kurdish majority. Their problem is adjusting to the fact that as a minority – perhaps only 20 percent of the population – they would benefit from a system entrenching minority rights.

If there'd been a census and the Sunni realized how outnumbered they are--contrary to decades of Saddam's propaganda--they might be singing a different tune already.

Saddam supporters denounce charter (Richard Beeston, 8/30/05, Times of London)

THOUSANDS of Sunni protesters took to the streets of Saddam Hussein’s home town of Tikrit yesterday, holding up portraits of the ousted dictator and denouncing Iraq’s proposed constitution as an American-Israeli plot.

Chanting: “We sacrifice our blood and soul for you, Oh Saddam!” about 2,000 demonstrators kicked off what is expected to be an impassioned campaign to destroy the new charter, which they say will deprive Sunni Arabs of their rights in favour of the Shia Muslim majority and their Kurdish allies.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:13 PM


Reading Left to Right (Scott McLemee, 8/16/05, Inside Higher Ed)

[W]hen Political Theory Daily Review started in January 2003, it already looked a little bit old-fashioned, blogospherically speaking. It was a log, plain and simple. There were three new links each day. The first was to a newspaper or magazine article about some current event. The second tended to go to a debate or polemical article. And the third (always the wild card, the one it was most interesting to see) would be academic: a link to a scholarly article in an online journal, or a conference site, or perhaps the uploaded draft of a paper in PDF.

In the intervening years, the site has grown wildly — at least in size, if not in reputation. (Chances are that more bloggers read Political Theory than ever link to it.) The same three departments exist, but often with a dozen or more links in each. By now, clearly, the Review must be a team effort. The sheer volume of material logged each day suggests it is run by a collective of gnomes who tirelessly scour the Web for eruditia.

But in fact, it is all the work of one person, Alfredo Perez, who keeps a pretty low profile, even on his own site. I got in touch with Perez to find out who he is, and how he puts the Review together. (I also wondered if he ever got much sleep, but forgot to ask that part.) Here, in any case, is the gist of our e-mail discussion, presented with his permission.

Mr. Perez always has interesting links.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:46 PM


McCain Backs Gay Marriage Ban (NewsMax, 8/28/05)

More than a year before the general election, U.S. Sen. John McCain is backing an initiative that would change Arizona's Constitution to ban gay marriages and deny government benefits to unmarried couples.

The key thing for Senator McCain in 2008 is that he doesn't have to change any of his views--he is a social conservative--just play them differently.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:29 PM


The Chalabi Comeback: Iraq's "indispensable" man returns to center stage. (ROBERT L. POLLOCK, August 29, 2005, Opinion Journal)

[Ahmed Chalabi] survived a concerted White House campaign last year to undermine him, brokering the Shiite-led electoral list that won the January election and becoming deputy prime minister; because he had become a major player in the constitution-writing process that culminated this past weekend; and because he is rapidly becoming a key figure for U.S. military commanders on the ground here as they contemplate the feasibility of troop drawdowns.

"Very personally courageous," "not afraid to make decisions," and a "hugely important figure in Iraq" are among the phrases I heard U.S. officers apply to him during two weeks I spent in the country earlier this month. Another sums up the stakes thus: "Chalabi is there to talk about protecting strategic infrastructure so they can sell oil so they can fund their own security-force development."

He's referring to the fact that Mr. Chalabi has assumed special responsibility for oil and infrastructure security--a role in which he is widely recognized to be making major improvements on the abysmal performance of L. Paul Bremer's Coalition Provisional Authority and Ayad Allawi's interim government. I watch him in action firsthand shortly after my arrival, chairing a meeting of the Energy Committee he helped create. He suggests that the electrical grid be mapped with GPS, since after a recent attack it took three days to locate the damage. The issue is quickly resolved, as a water ministry official informs the room that such data already exists and that the problem is merely information-sharing. Then Mr. Chalabi offers a gentle reprimand to the Iraqi Army's deputy chief of staff for continued reliance on a local infrastructure protection battalion that has repeatedly failed. What's more important, he asks, keeping some tribal sheikh happy or keeping the lights on in Baghdad?

It doesn't sound like much, but in a society where the modus vivendi for decades has been to tell people exactly what they want to hear, real managerial skills are a rare trait. "Chalabi has emerged as a central figure in the effort to improve infrastructure security," says Gen. David Petraeus, the overseer of Iraqi Security Force training and one of the few officials willing to risk offending the foreign policy mandarins in Washington by going on record about the matter. In particular, Mr. Chalabi is credited with obtaining additional Iraqi funding and focus on the effort, resulting in what one U.S. observer calls "the highest crude oil exports in anyone's memory." Northern exports through the Kirkuk pipeline have resumed, albeit quietly--lest it become an even more tempting target for sabotage.

When we look back at the liberation of Iraq twenty years hence, the biggest error of the Administration will be seen to be the failure to work with Ayatollah Sistani ahead of time and lay the groundwork for the immediate assumption of power by a transitional Shi'ite regime led by Mr. Chalabi in 2003, instead of an American occupation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:38 AM


Measuring the Economy May Not Be as Simple as 1, 2, 3 (Jonathan Weisman, August 29, 2005, Washington Post)

The Census Bureau tomorrow will release the latest statistics on poverty in the United States, the income level of an average household and the number of Americans still lacking health insurance.

Don't believe the numbers.

A growing chorus of experts and politicians is raising questions about the data that frame Americans' understanding of their nation's well-being. [...]

From the conservative Heritage Foundation to the more liberal Brookings Institution, economists agree the government's basic measurement of consumer price changes is overstating inflation. As a result, tax collection has been depressed, since tax brackets rise with inflation. Government spending on programs like Social Security has been excessive, since such programs enjoy annual cost-of-living adjustments based on the current consumer price index. And labor contracts have been distorted by built-in inflation protections.

The Labor Department's standard consumer price index measures the cost of a basket of goods in urban areas as they rise over time. But since 2000, the department's Bureau of Labor Statistics has also tracked more realistic spending patterns, allowing for the substitution of products when prices spike. This "chained" CPI, for example, might substitute a pound of chicken for a pound of beef one month if steak prices have shot upward, said David S. Johnson, assistant BLS commissioner for consumer prices and price index.

Switching to this more sophisticated measurement from now through 2014 would cut $70 billion from Social Security payments while raising income tax collection by $83 billion, according to Brookings Institution economists. Yet Congress has made no effort to change the official inflation measurement, in part because lawmakers have no desire to slow the growth of either tax bracket increases or Social Security benefits.

"This is a political decision, and no one wants to make it," said Fritz Scheuren, president of the American Statistical Association.

More recently, a debate has begun over the nation's savings rate, which officially hovers just above zero. When Congress returns in September, the House Ways and Means Committee will try to put together legislation to raise personal savings through tax credits and other incentives. But according to David Malpass, chief global economist at Bear Stearns & Co., the United States is accumulating savings hand over fist. The country's pool of liquid savings grew by $1.5 trillion last year, he said, and U.S. households remain the world's largest creditor, with $37 trillion in financial assets.

The problem, Malpass said, is that the official savings rate measure does not consider economic gains from patents, innovation, capital gains or land appreciation.

"We may be throwing billions of dollars at a problem that isn't there," said [Rahm] Emanuel, who has advocated savings proposals.

Nothing costs more than it used to and we all live better than our parents did, so you know the numbers are bogus.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:16 AM


Lessons for Islam from Quebec (Spengler, 8/20/05, Asia Times)

Quebec's "Quiet Revolution" of the 1960s, in which the birth rate of Francophone Canadians fell to among the lowest from the highest in the industrial world, may offer lessons for the future of radical Islam. Quebecois nationalism peaked after the Quebec's demographic fate was sealed, offering an embittered but futile remonstrance against inevitable decline. Last week I observed that Islamists have only one generation in which to establish the theocracy they want, before modernism catches up with the Muslim world and its birth rate crashes to levels associated with the infecund West (The demographics of radical Islam).

If the owl of wisdom flies at night, as Hegel said of philosophy, so does the buzzard of nationalism. When traditional life is placid and content in its faith and family life, nationalism does not require political expression. Europe's nationalist movements sprang up in response to the threat of Napoleon. Quebec's nationalists invented themselves in response to the imminent decline of the Francophone population of Canada. Something analogous may be said of the Islamists.

Islamism wells up from a profound and well-placed sense of fragility.

It's notable that nationalism is returning in Europe as folks realize they've driven over the demographic cliff, but has never managed so much as a toehold in America. To a truly heartening degree, Americans remain free men, as described by Eric Hoffer:
Free men are aware of the imperfection inherent in human affairs, and they are willing to fight and die for that which is not perfect. They know that basic human problems can have no final solutions, that our freedom, justice, equality, etc. are far from absolute, and that the good life is compounded of half measures, compromises, lesser evils, and gropings toward the perfect. The rejection of approximations and the insistence on absolutes are the manifestation of a nihilism that loathes freedom, tolerance, and equity.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:20 AM


Brussels pressures Britain to go metric (Lisbeth Kirk, 8/29/05, EU Observer)

The European Commission has reminded Britain of its legal requirement to set a date for abolishing the imperial system, or the use of pints, miles and acres.

Following lobbying from unnamed groups, Brussels officials over the past few weeks have made a fresh attempt to get the Brits in line with the rest of Europe in using the metric system, UK media report.

The meter is the tool of petty minds.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:16 AM


New perk from drinking coffee found (Randolph E. Schmid, August 29, 2005, The Associated Press

When the Ink Spots sang "I love the java jive and it loves me" in 1940, they could not have known how right they were.

Coffee not only helps clear the mind and perk up the energy, it also provides more healthful antioxidants than any other food or beverage in the American diet, according to a study released yesterday.

Always nice to find out a habit is healthful.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:29 AM


Implausibility isn't a crime in 'Prison Break':
The Fox series about a man attempting to break his brother out of prison is a comic book, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. (Robert Lloyd, August 29, 2005, LA Times)

"Prison Break," premiering tonight on Fox as either the last new series of the summer season or the first new series of the fall, does not waste any time in establishing itself as completely implausible — which is a smart move indeed.

By getting that matter settled at the top — as young Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller, "The Human Stain") contrives to get himself thrown into prison, one particular prison, to break out his brother Lincoln (Dominic Purcell, "North Shore") before his impending execution for the murder of the brother of the vice president of the United States — the show can pretty much go where it wants to afterward. If you're still on board at the end of the two-hour pilot, directed by Brett Ratner ("Rush Hour") — and even without much in the way of action, it holds the interest quite handily — you will have long since stopped peppering the TV screen with inconvenient questions. If the show is not absolutely critic-proof, if it is a convocation of clichés and old tropes, it is forearmed with a response difficult to argue with: "Yeah, so?"

It's a comic book, basically, a B-movie, a pulp fiction, and low enough in the cultural reckoning of things to set its own rules with impunity. It is a low-resolution reality the show inhabits. Though Michael will occasionally frown over some bit of prison violence or unexpected obstacle, he is a fantastic man of steel, or anyway of steel nerves, who strolls into a maximum-security prison as though it were a Kmart, and faces the toughest guys in the world as if he were asking them what aisle to go to for envelopes. Part of the pleasure of the series is that particular pleasure of watching a super-heroic character who can't fail.

Michael has worked out a terribly complicated plan to not only get his brother out of prison but out of the country, with a lot of money. (The plan, which is in a sense the series' main asset, will be revealed only little by little.) It seems to have necessitated a degree of research that would under ordinary circumstances keep an army of librarians and private detectives busy for a year, and, as often is the way with these things, it requires that a host of other characters, whose part in the plan is unwitting and therefore unpredictable, respond predictably. Whatever else happens, Michael does have a head start. He's a structural engineer who, by an Incredible Coincidence, happened to be in charge of an earlier retrofitting of the Very Prison in which he and his brother are confined, and for easy reference — this is the pilot's big reveal, so close your eyes now if you don't want to know — has had them tattooed, in coded heavy-metal images, onto his body.

See, if he had enough back hair he could just have the plans crocheted.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:59 AM


Who designed the Designer? (Marcelo Gleiser, August 29, 2005, Boston Globe)

A hypothesis is scientific if it can be empirically validated. One must ''see to believe" -- exactly the opposite of the ''believe to see" which forms the premise of many religious systems. It's much easier to see miracles everywhere if you believe in them. The scientific ''see to believe" is supported by data acquired in the lab or through observations. If the hypothesis is vindicated, the scientific community, after much debate, accepts it. This doesn't mean it will remain part of the established ''truth." New theories sprout through the cracks of old ones. Science needs crisis to evolve. It needs mysteries. It is always incomplete. Behind our ignorance there is just the science we haven't yet developed. [....]

The ID hypothesis, that we, or a few key steps in the evolution of life, are products of purposeful design is not scientific. There is no way to test it. It cannot be confirmed experimentally.

The best part of the whole kerfuffle is that in order to keep ID out of the classroom they make the case for banning Darwinism as well, Darwin's Influence on Modern Thought (Ernst Mayr, September 23, 1999, Lecture on winning the Crafoord Prize from the Royal Swedish Academy of 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.

As neither is scientific neither belongs in a science class.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:59 AM

AS AMERICA GOES... (via Michael Herdegen):

Global economy to pick up in second half: survey (AFP, 8/23/05)

The slowing global economy is due for a pick-up in the second half of 2005, a quarterly survey released by the International Chamber of Commerce and the German Ifo institute showed. [...]

A rebound was anticipated in North America in particular, with economists revising upwards their opinions concerning the economic situation there at present and for the next six months.

Estimates for growth in Asia remained stable and continued to decline for Europe, though not for the 12-nation eurozone.

Always amusing when folks talk about declining U.S. influence and power, yet even the global economy is completely dependent on us.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:52 AM


In Defense of Pat Robertson (Richard Kim, 8/26/05, The Nation)

Don't get me wrong. I oppose any US attempt to assassinate Hugo Chávez or to destabilize his government (as he alleges the United States did during the 2002 military coup), and I oppose political assassinations generally. But the press ducked the questions of political assassinations and covert operations that Robertson so brazenly put forward. The Houston Chronicle came the closest to a condemnation, but hedged its bets, saying, "No war is imminent between the United States and Venezuela, so there is no need for the illegal alternative of assassination." But what if a war were imminent? Between Venezuela and the United States--or, say, with Iran or Syria? Would those editorial pages endorse a "take-out" of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's new hard-line president?

The reason they didn't address it is because it makes the Reverend Robertson's case. Where is the soul so morally blind as to argue that assassinating Hitler, Stalin, or Mao would have been improper?

Here the Right explains why assassination would be humanitarian, The Chávez Challenge: Venezuela's leader is a regional nuisance (Mark Falcoff, National Review)

Is Venezuela on its way to becoming another Cuba? In spite of superficial similarities and even Chávez's stated intentions, the answer is: probably not. The country is simply too informal, too disorganized, too corrupt — and too vulnerable to foreign, particularly U.S., cultural influences — to be easily pushed into a totalitarian template. Chávez has not even bothered building a political party of his own; the ranks of his regime are drawn from an undifferentiated mass of pocket-lining military officers, opportunists, and leftist ideologues. Nor is there a clear blueprint for where the president intends to take the country. Priorities change without warning, for instance, so that no cabinet minister dares miss the president's Sunday broadcasts: He may not find out what next week's agenda will be.

To be sure, none of this is cause for celebration. Chávez has plenty of money to throw around, and its effects have already been felt in nearby countries like Bolivia, where Venezuelan-funded NGOs and "indigenous" organizations recently brought down a constitutional government. "Anti-imperialist" books and magazines of a type formerly financed by Soviet embassies are suddenly reappearing in other Latin American countries. And security experts around the hemisphere are worrying aloud that some of the weaponry Chávez is buying will end up in the hands of Colombia's FARC guerrillas or Chiapas in Mexico. Such concerns provoked secretary of state Condoleezza Rice's South American trip this past April, intended to isolate Chávez diplomatically from his neighbors. Because the Venezuelan president uses the ballot box so successfully there is a movement afoot, presumably sponsored by our own State Department, to compel the Organization of American States to define more precisely what might represent a departure from democratic practices above and beyond the actual act of electing officials.

But it is difficult to see how such efforts can succeed. A country that supplies oil to half the hemisphere, including the United States (which relies on Chávez's country for as much as 15 percent of its imports), cannot be, by definition, isolated. By providing cheap oil to his hard-pressed Caribbean neighbors, Chávez is now assured of support from the largest bloc of votes at the OAS. Even if this were not so, our long experience with Castro should have taught us by now that the Latins can be expected to hide under tables any time a difficult political decision shows up on the agenda. We can draw some consolation, however, from the fact that Chávez, unlike his Cuban mentor in his great days, enjoys virtually no popular support in the region, even among the Left — many of whose leaders privately refer to the Venezuelan president as a clown. If the clown feels like mindlessly lobbing cash in their direction, the Latins seem to be saying, they'd be crazy not to take it. And who can blame them? But judging by our more than half a century's experience in these matters, you can't buy friends. A policy that holds out more hope for us over the longer term is the effort by our National Endowment for Democracy to help nurture the Venezuelan civic organizations attempting to rebuild the country's shattered democratic political culture. But this cannot be accomplished overnight and certainly not wholly from the outside.

Is the United States vulnerable to a shutoff of Venezuelan oil? Chávez has lately threatened such a measure, particularly if he is the subject of an assassination plot, an invasion, or another coup attempt. In fact, he would find it extremely difficult to carry out such a threat. For one thing, Venezuelan industry is heavily oriented toward the United States and it would take at least two years to redirect it. During that time Chávez would run out of the ready cash on which he is so heavily dependent for power and popularity. Even China, which lately has become a major customer, could not absorb such a large quantity of oil immediately, and in any case, at this point Beijing lacks the ability to refine Venezuelan crude. An oil boycott of the U.S. by Chávez would simply induce other suppliers to step in and replace him in our huge and profitable market.

The United States would therefore be well advised to take a low profile on Chávez and treat his regime as an unpleasant fever that will eventually pass, which it surely will when either oil prices decline or the Venezuelan oil industry begins to fully register the effects of politicization. Most likely, both will happen. To be sure, this may take some years, perhaps even decades. The country will have wasted perhaps the equivalent of five or ten Marshall Plans and have nothing whatever to show for it at the end of the day. Venezuela will not become a better educated, more productive, more socially integrated society no matter how many billions Chávez throws at it. Moreover — again, borrowing a page from Perón's Argentina — when the great man finally does go he will leave behind him a deeply divided society and the prospect of semi-permanent political instability.

To be sure, this is a huge misfortune for Venezuela but merely a moderate inconvenience for the United States.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:21 AM


Delivering a body blow to science
(Matthew Syed, Timesonline, August 29th, 2005)

Three things can happen to a dead body: it can be dumped in a grave to be eaten by worms, cast into a crematorium to be incinerated or donated to the medical profession for the good of mankind. You might have thought that public policy would emphatically favour the latter. But no, the Human Tissue Act, of which the main provisions come into force next year, seems to assign greater value to corpses than to living people in desperate need of an organ donation

Not only has the Government failed to grasp the nettle of “presumed consent” (in which everyone is assumed to have consented to the use of their organs unless they have explicitly registered an objection), but also new draft guidelines advise doctors to allow relatives to veto organ removal, even when the deceased carried a donor card. A pathologist friend of mine told me this week that objections are typically expressed thus: “Oooh, I couldn’t possibly bear the thought of Johnny being cut up like that!” To give legislative weight to such fastidiousness is absurd.

If this sounds cold-hearted, let me give you some statistics that will really chill your blood. Today more than 8,000 people in the UK are waiting for an organ transplant, many in considerable pain. Last year 452 died while waiting in hope. Many lose their lives before they even get on to the waiting list. Why allow the relatives of the recently deceased, who often admit later that they would have made a more rational decision had they not been asked at a time of emotional distress, to trump such vital interests? [...]

The fundamental problem with our approach to ethics, manifested in both our mythologising over corpses and embryos, is our inability to separate emotion from policy. The only factor that should enter our moral and legal deliberations is that of welfare, a concept that is meaningless when applied to entities that lack self-consciousness. Never forget that the research that we are so reluctant to conduct upon embryos and dead bodies is routinely carried out on living, pain-sensitive animals. This double standard will come to be seen by future historians as one of the great barbarisms of the age.

Those now old enough to remember the sensitivity with which the issue of donated organs was originally viewed, and all the soothing assurances about free and informed choice that were given, may be taken aback by Mr. Syed’s vehemence, but they shouldn’t be. His is the enraged voice of thwarted humanism, whose oh-so-respectful tolerance for demurral rests entirely on the assumption that dissenters are an unenlightened breed from a primitive past, not without charm perhaps, but doomed to extinction as rational progress winds its way to inevitable triumph. Let anyone pause for a sober second thought and out come the knives.

Like most of his ilk, Mr. Syed cannot see any connection between how we treat the dead and how we treat the the living because that connection is an irrational one, although very real. It would be fun to ask him whether, starting from the point where they were dead anyway, he would have approved of the Nazis’ use of the bodies of their victims to provide wealth and material comforts for the living or what he thinks the psychological effects on the genocidal killers would have been had they been obliged to give their victims traditional, sacred burials.

More (From Ch 11, Heretics, G.K. Chesterton, 1905)

This total misunderstanding of the real nature of ceremonial gives rise to the most awkward and dehumanized versions of the conduct of men in rude lands or ages. The man of science, not realizing that ceremonial is essentially a thing which is done without a reason, has to find a reason for every sort of ceremonial, and, as might be supposed, the reason is generally a very absurd one--absurd because it originates not in the simple mind of the barbarian, but in the sophisticated mind of the professor. The teamed man will say, for instance, "The natives of Mumbojumbo Land believe that the dead man can eat and will require food upon his journey to the other world. This is attested by the fact that they place food in the grave, and that any family not complying with this rite is the object of the anger of the priests and the tribe." To any one acquainted with humanity this way of talking is topsy-turvy. It is like saying, "The English in the twentieth century believed that a dead man could smell. This is attested by the fact that they always covered his grave with lilies, violets, or other flowers. Some priestly and tribal terrors were evidently attached to the neglect of this action, as we have records of several old ladies who were very much disturbed in mind because their wreaths had not arrived in time for the funeral." It may be of course that savages put food with a dead man because they think that a dead man can eat, or weapons with a dead man because they think that a dead man can fight. But personally I do not believe that they think anything of the kind. I believe they put food or weapons on the dead for the same reason that we put flowers, because it is an exceedingly natural and obvious thing to do. We do not understand, it is true, the emotion which makes us think it obvious and natural; but that is because, like all the important emotions of human existence, it is essentially irrational. We do not understand the savage for the same reason that the savage does not understand himself. And the savage does not understand himself for the same reason that we do not understand ourselves either.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:40 AM


'Senator No' not meant as compliment (Jesse Helms, August 29, 2005, Washington Times)

The Raleigh News & Observer dubbed me "Senator No." It wasn't meant as a compliment, but I certainly took it as one.

There was plenty to stand up and say "No" to during my first of five terms representing the people of North Carolina in the U.S. Senate.

That was why I had sought election in 1972 -- to try to derail the freight train of liberalism that was gaining speed toward its destination of "government-run" everything, paid for with big tax bills and record debt.

My goal, when my wife, Dot, and I decided I would run, was to stick to my principles and stand up for conservative ideals. [...]

My staff wasn't always as thick-skinned as I was. One new aide was all set to fire off a response to a highly critical editorial. I had to tell him, "Son, just so you understand: I don't care what the New York Times says about me. And nobody I care about cares what the New York Times says about me."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Martin Sheen, Sharpton visit anti-war camp (ANGELA K. BROWN, 8/29/05, Associated Press)

Cindy Sheehan hasn't achieved a meeting with the president during her three-week war protest, but she met a man who plays one on TV. Martin Sheen, who portrays the president on NBC's "The West Wing," visited Sheehan's makeshift campsite Sunday.

You have to assume they aren't intentionally making fun of themselves.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


An End to Polarization? (Michael Barone, 8/29/05, Jewish World Review)

For 10 years American politics has been sharply polarized, with just about equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats arrayed angrily against one another. We have come to think of this as a permanent condition. Yet by the next presidential election that may very well change. The reason: The leading candidates for both parties' 2008 nominations are in significant tension with their parties' bases—and, in some cases, outright opposition.

This is most clearly the case on the Republican side. The consistent leaders in 2008 polls are John McCain and Rudolph Giuliani. Of the two, Giuliani is most sharply out of line with the cultural conservatives who have been the dominant force in Republican primaries and provided a large share of the Republican majorities racked up in 2002 and 2004. Giuliani is pro-choice on abortion, opposes the "partial-birth" abortion ban, and opposes a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

McCain's differences with the Republican right are more subtle. He has consistently opposed abortion rights but doesn't seem comfortable talking about the issue. He has taken the lead on campaign finance regulation and on Kyoto-like responses to climate change, in opposition to most of his Republican colleagues. At a critical point in the 2000 campaign, he made a point of denouncing evangelists Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. [...]

A McCain or a Giuliani nomination has the potential to change the regional alignments that have mostly prevailed since the election of 1996, in both directions. Either would almost certainly run better than George W. Bush in the vast suburban tracts of once marginal states like New Jersey and Illinois. But they might fail to draw the huge turnout of cultural conservatives that Bush did in the nonmetropolitan reaches of states like Ohio and Missouri.

The increasing warmth of the McCain/Bush relationship suggests a candidate who recognizes he needs the Right on his side and a president who recognizes that a key to his legacy is not just being succeeded by a Republican but one whose victory will grow the party. With the Bush operation joining the McCain campaign and the Senator being a bit more vocal about abortion--prospective justices in particular--he's home free.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Access to Abortion Pared at State Level (Ceci Connolly, August 29, 2005, Washington Post)

This year's state legislative season draws to a close having produced a near-record number of laws imposing new restrictions on a woman's access to abortion or contraception.

Since January, governors have signed several dozen antiabortion measures ranging from parental consent requirements to an outright ban looming in South Dakota. Not since 1999, when a wave of laws banning late-term abortions swept the legislatures, have states imposed so many and so varied a menu of regulations on reproductive health care. [...]

While national leaders in the abortion debate focus on the upcoming nomination hearings of Judge John G. Roberts Jr. to the Supreme Court, grass-roots activists have been changing the legal landscape one state at a time. In most cases, the antiabortion forces have prevailed, adding restrictions on when and where women can get contraceptive services and abortions, and how physicians provide them.

Antiabortion activists say they have pursued a two-pronged approach that aimed to reduce the number of abortions immediately through new restrictions and build a foundation of lower court cases designed to get the high court to eventually reverse the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision making the procedure legal.

On the other side, a handful of states have approved provisions that make it easier for women to get emergency contraception, known as the "morning after" pill. However, two Republican governors, Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and George E. Pataki of New York, vetoed such bills.

Apparently spadework isn't sexy enough for the Death Lobby to care.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


The knuckleball: a lost art: A masterstroke when on, but teams rarely paint selves in corner developing it (Jack Etkin, August 29, 2005, Rocky Mountain News)

Imagine a pitcher who is practically tireless, capable of working often and can fill a variety of roles. And assume the pitch he relies on puts little strain on his arm, is rarely seen anymore and, at the very least, will be perplexing to hitters.

Considering the dearth of quality pitching, does a possible solution rest in the knuckleball, a trick pitch with few practitioners these days? Should clubs that already go to great lengths to groom conventional pitchers try to develop a knuckleball pitcher?

"We would absolutely love to take a shot at that and we'd be open to it," Colorado Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd said. "But one, we'd have to have a kid in the system that showed the aptitude to do it. And not many do, or not many self-evaluate good enough to know that that's what they should try."

Pitchers who successfully throw a knuckleball often have turned to the pitch with a last-chance, fading-hopes mind-set, having realized their stuff is short and their dream of pitching in the majors is about to be derailed. [...]

Hoyt Wilhelm, who was a reliever for basically all but three seasons of a 21-year career that ended two weeks short of his 50th birthday, had a Hall of Fame career throwing a knuckleball.

Phil Niekro, a starter, used his knuckleball to reach that same exalted destiny. His brother, Joe, also parlayed his ability to throw a pitch that fluttered unpredictably into a successful career.

Left-hander Wilbur Wood was a knuckleball specialist in the 1970s. Tom Candiotti, who relied on his knuckleball less than some other devotees of the pitch, ended up winning 151 games and pitching until he was 41 because he perfected the knuckleball.

While pitching at Class AA Jacksonville in the Kansas City Royals system, Candiotti said manager Gene Lamont, a former catcher, insisted he scrap his knuckleball. It was only when Candiotti left the Royals organization and began throwing the pitch that his career took off.

The knuckleball is an invitation to havoc, maybe even disaster. Passed balls, sometimes a slew of them, come with the territory, as catchers stab at knuckleballs that dart unpredictably. The flip side is a knuckleball with little action, an oh-so-slow offering that wafts toward home plate and a batter salivating at something easy to hit.

The pluses are an utterly baffling pitch that can move every which way and destroy a hitter's timing. Knuckleballers have the ability to throw a lot of pitches, work on far less rest and, in short, save a staff.

The Red Sox won the World Series last year. But they wouldn't have gotten there without Wakefield's efforts against the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series. He pitched 3 1/3 innings in Game 3 of the ALCS, a 19-8 Boston loss, and kept the Red Sox from emptying their bullpen. Wakefield was scheduled to start Game 4 but selfishly opted to pitch a day earlier.

Then in Game 5, Wakefield, with one day of rest, pitched three scoreless innings and was the winning pitcher in Boston's 5-4 victory in 14 innings.

"Whether he's the actual best pitcher on the team - who cares?" Hough said. "But he ends up being one of their key guys every year, whether it's helping out in the bullpen for six weeks or whatever. So when you do happen to stumble into and develop one of those guys, if he's pretty good, there's a huge payoff."

In front-office circles, stumble is not a word typically associated with development, the latter seen as a generally orderly process with little that is haphazard. But it's often different with knuckleballers, where chance and luck weigh heavily and resorting to that pitch might be the only alternative with the real world beckoning.

"It's not worth doing from scratch," Boston general manager Theo Epstein said, referring to developing a knuckleballer. "You'd never draft a guy to be a knuckleball pitcher or sign someone internationally and give someone a lot of money."

Charlie Zink, who turned 26 on Friday, is a converted knuckleballer who has started and relieved this season for Boston's Class AA Portland affiliate, where he made 18 starts last year before being demoted to Class A Sarasota. That's where his season ended in early August when he developed tendinitis in his right shoulder.

"We spend as much time and energy developing Zink as we do all our pitchers," Epstein said. "(Throwing a knuckleball) is a way to get big-league hitters out if you do it the right way. So we don't look at those guys as circus freaks or anything like that. They're just doing it a different way."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Security Department Is Firm on Labor Plan (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 8/29/05)

The Homeland Security Department is seeking to clarify proposed workplace rules that a federal judge said violated its employee rights, but it is standing by its plans to overhaul personnel and pay regulations.

Responding to a Federal District Court ruling two weeks ago, the department said it was continuing to seek expanded management rights and more flexible labor regulations.

It is also still pushing for the creation of a labor relations panel with members appointed by the Homeland Security secretary. That could erode the authority of an independent panel that reviews personnel disputes between managers and unions.

There's not much threat from terrorists, but the damage done by the professional civil service and public employee unions is real.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Indian boost for Afghan democracy (BBC, 8/29/05)

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has laid the foundation stone for a new Afghan parliament building in Kabul on the second day of a historic visit.

On Sunday, Mr Singh and Afghan president Hamid Karzai inaugurated a school renovated by India.

The two sides pledged to fight against terrorism describing it as a threat against democracy.

Mr Singh is the first Indian prime minister to visit Afghanistan in nearly three decades.

The war-ravaged country is a strategically crucial ally for India which is one of Afghanistan's biggest donors.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Birth, death, balls and battles: It has no clear beginning, middle or end, but the first translation of War and Peace for 50 years reaffirms its greatness. Tolstoy brilliantly interweaves the historical and the personal (Orlando Figes, 8/27/05, Times of London)

While clearly still a novel, War and Peace can be understood, at another level, as a novelist’s attempt to engage with the truth of history. Tolstoy’s interest in history developed long before his career as a novelist. But history-writing disappointed him. It seemed to reduce the richness of real life. For whereas the “real” history of lived experience was made up of an infinite number of factors and contingencies, historians selected just a few (eg, the political or the economic) to develop their historical theories and explanations. Tolstoy concluded that the histories of his day represented “perhaps only 0.001 per cent of the elements which actually constitute the real history of peoples”. He was particularly frustrated by the failure of historians to illuminate the “inner” life of a society — the private thoughts and relationships that make up the most real and immediate experience of human beings. Hence he turned to literature.

During the 1850s Tolstoy was obsessed with the idea of writing a historical novel which would contrast the real texture of historical experience, as lived by individuals and communities, with the distorted image of the past presented by historians. This is what he set out to achieve in War and Peace.

Through the novel’s central characters Tolstoy juxtaposes the immediate human experience of historical events with the historical memory of them. For example, when Pierre Bezukhov wanders as a spectator on to the battlefield of Borodino he expects to find the sort of neatly arranged battle scene that he has seen in paintings and read about in history books. Instead, he finds himself in the chaos of an actual battlefield:

“All that Pierre saw to right and left of him was so negative that no part of the scene before his eyes answered his expectations. Nowhere was there a field of battle such as his imagination had pictured: there were only fields, clearings, troops, woods, the smoke of camp-fires, villages, mounds and streams; and try as he would he could descry no military ‘position’ in this landscape teeming with life. He could not even distinguish our troops from the enemy’s.”

Having served as an officer in the Crimean War (1854-56), Tolstoy drew from his own experience to recreate the human truth of this celebrated battle, and to examine how its public memory could become distorted by the medium of written history. As Tolstoy shows, in the confusion of the battle nobody can understand or control what occurs. In such a situation, chance events, individual acts of bravery, or calm thinking by the officers can influence the morale of the troops en masse and thus change the course of the battle; and this in turn creates the illusion that what is happening is somehow the result of human agency. So when the military dispatches are later written up, they invariably ascribe the outcome of the battle to the commanders, although in reality they had less influence than the random actions of rank and file.

As a novelist, Tolstoy was interested most of all in the inner life of Russian society during the Napoleonic wars. In War and Peace he presents this period of history as a crucial watershed in the culture of the Russian aristocracy. The war of 1812 is portrayed as a national liberation from the cultural domination of the French — a moment when Russian noblemen such as the Rostovs and Bolkonskys struggled to break free from the foreign conventions of their society and began new lives on Russian principles. Tolstoy plots this transformation in a series of motifs. The novel opens, for example, in the French language of the St Petersburg salon — a language which Tolstoy gradually reveals to be false and artificial. Tolstoy shows the aristocracy renouncing haute cuisine for lunches of rye bread and cabbage soup, adopting national dress, settling as farmers on the land, and rediscovering native culture, as in the immortal scene when Natasha, a French-educated young countess, dances to a folk song in the Russian style.

On this reading, War and Peace appears as a national epic — the revelation of a “Russian consciousness” in the inner life of its characters. In narrating this drama, however, Tolstoy steps out of historical time and enters the time-space of cultural myth. He allows himself considerable artistic licence. For example, the aristocracy’s return to native forms of dress and recreations actually took place over several decades in the early 19th century, whereas Tolstoy has it happen almost overnight in 1812. But the literary creation of this mythical time-space was central to the role that War and Peace was set to play in the formation of the national consciousness.

When the novel first appeared, in 1865-66, educated Russia was engaged in a profound cultural and political quest to define the country’s national identity. The emancipation of the serfs, in 1861, had forced society to confront the humble peasant as a fellow citizen, and to seek new answers to the old accursed questions about Russia’s destiny in what one poet (Nekrasov) called the “rural depths where eternal silence reigns”. The liberal reforms of Tsar Alexander II (1855-81), which included the introduction of jury trials and elected institutions of local government, gave rise to hopes that Russia, as a nation, would emerge and join the family of modern European states. Writing from this perspective, Tolstoy saw a parallel between the Russia of the 1860s and the Russia that had arisen in the wars against Napoleon.

War and Peace was originally conceived as a novel about the Decembrists, a group of liberal army officers who rose up in a failed attempt to impose a constitution on the Tsar in December 1825. In this original version of the novel the Decembrist hero returns after 30 years of exile in Siberia to the intellectual ferment of the early years of Alexander II’s reign. But the more Tolstoy researched into the Decembrists, the more he realised that their intellectual roots were to be found in the war of 1812. This was when these officers had first become acquainted with the patriotic virtues of the peasant soldiers in their ranks; when they had come to realise the potential of Russia’s democratic nationhood. Through this literary genesis War and Peace acquired several overlapping spheres of historical consciousness: the real-time of 1805-20 (the fictional setting of the novel); the living memory of this period (from which Tolstoy drew in the form of personal memoirs and historical accounts); and its reflection in the political consciousness of 1855-65. Thus the novel can and should be read, not just as an intimate portrait of Russian society in the age of the Napoleonic wars, but as a broader statement about Russia, its people and its history as a whole. That is why the Russians will always turn to War and Peace, as Mikhail Prishvin did, to find in it the keys to their identity.

Before you plunge in it's helpful to have read Isaiah Berlin's The Hedgehog and the Fox: An Essay on Tolstoy's View of History.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


You Hear Him, You Really Hear Him (J.A. Adande, August 29, 2005, LA Times)

The Dodger pregame ceremony Sunday which gathered and honored members of the 1955 World Series champion Brooklyn Dodgers was a good idea, a sentimental home run and, in some ways, not necessary.

If you want to gain an appreciation for the Dodgers' rich tradition or feel a connection to the franchise's New York roots, all you need to do is listen to Vin Scully on a daily basis.

In his sublime way Scully was the star of Sunday's ceremony, even though he never set foot on the field. The old-timers praised him during a video montage before the event. When Scully was introduced the cheer for him was as loud as anything else heard all day.

And the entire time he remained where he has always been: on his chair in the booth.

"I don't want to take a bow," Scully said to Houston Astro announcer Milo Hamilton in the press box dining room before the game. "Never did, never will."

Fifty-six years on the job, a spot in the Hall of Fame, recognition as the top broadcaster in the 20th century by his professional peers isn't enough reason to take a bow?

"I didn't want to go on the field," Scully said later. "I'd rather not. It belonged to them. It was their day, and I really and truly believe it in my heart. That's the way I wanted it."

He's the best thing about's radio package.

August 28, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:58 PM


President Discusses Hurricane Katrina, Congratulates Iraqis on Draft Constitution (George W. Bush, Prairie Chapel Ranch, Crawford, Texas, 8/28/05)

[T]oday Iraqi political leaders completed the process for drafting a permanent constitution. Their example is an inspiration to all who share the universal values of freedom, democracy, and the rule of law. The negotiators and drafters of this document braved the intimidation of terrorists and they mourn the cowardly assassination of friends and colleagues involved in the process of drafting the constitution.

Their efforts follow the bravery of the Iraqis who voted by the millions to elect a transitional government in January. The example of those voters remains a humbling testament to the power of free people to shape and define their own destiny. We honor their courage and sacrifice, and we are determined to see the Iraqis fully secure their democratic gains.

The Iraqi people have once again demonstrated to the world that they are up to the historic challenges before them. The document they have produced contains far-reaching protections for fundamental human freedoms, including religion, assembly, conscience and expression. It vests sovereignty in the people to be expressed by secret ballot and regular elections. It declares that all Iraqis are equal before the law without regard to gender, ethnicity and religion. This is a document of which the Iraqis and the rest of the world can be proud.

The local process now advances to another important stage for a new and free Iraq. In coming months, Iraqis will discuss and debate the draft constitution. On October the 15th, they will vote for a national referendum to decide whether to ratify the constitution and set the foundation for a permanent Iraqi government. If the referendum succeeds, Iraqis will elect a new government to serve under the new constitution on December the 15th, and that government will take office before the end of the year.

This course is going to be difficult largely because the terrorists have chosen to wage war against a future of freedom. They are waging war against peace in Iraq. As democracy in Iraq takes root, the enemies of freedom, the terrorists, will become more desperate, more despicable, and more vicious.

Just last week, the terrorists called for the death of anyone, including women and the elderly, who supports the democratic process in Iraq. They have deliberately targeted children receiving candy from soldiers. They have targeted election workers registering Iraqis to vote. They have targeted hospital workers who are caring for the wounded. We can expect such atrocities to increase in the coming months because the enemy knows that its greatest defeat lies in the expression of free people, and freely enacted laws, and at the ballot box.

We will stand with the Iraqi people. It's in our interest to stand with the Iraqi people. It's in our interest to lay the foundation of peace. We'll help them confront this barbarism, and we will triumph over the terrorist's dark ideology of hatred and fear.

There have been disagreements amongst the Iraqis about this particular constitution. Of course there's disagreements. We're watching a political process unfold, a process that has encouraged debate and compromise; a constitution that was written in a -- in a society in which people recognize that -- that there had to be give and take.

I want our folks to remember our own constitution was not unanimously received. Some delegates at the Philadelphia Convention in 1787 refused to sign it, and the draft was vigorously debated in every state, and the outcome was not assured until all the votes were counted.

We recognize that there's a split amongst the Sunnis, for example, in Iraq. And I suspect that when you get down to it, you'll find a Shiia who disagrees with the constitution and Shiia who support the constitution, and perhaps some Kurds who are concerned about the constitution. In other words, we're watching a political process unfold. Some Sunnis have expressed reservations about various provisions of the constitution, and that's their right as free individuals living in a free society. There are strong beliefs among other Sunnis that this constitution is good for all Iraqis and that it adequately reflects compromises suitable to all groups.

It's important that all Iraqis now actively engage in the constitutional process by debating the merits of this important document and making an informed decision on October the 15th.

On behalf of the American people, I congratulate the people of Iraq on completing the next step in their transition from dictatorship to democracy. And I want to remind the American people, as the democracy unfolds in Iraq, not only will it help make America more secure, but it will affect the broader Middle East. Democracies don't war with their neighbors; democracies don't become safe haven for terrorists who want to destroy innocent life. We have hard work ahead of us, but we're on the -- we're making good progress toward making sure this world of ours is more peaceful for generations to come.

Thank you very much.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:33 PM


The EU can work for Britain - if we quit (Daniel Hannan, 28/08/2005)

The idea that the EU might abandon its founding ideology in order to humour Britain is one of our more enduring self-deceits. It lay behind Harold Macmillan's original application in 1961, which was launched on the basis that "the effects of any eventual loss of sovereignty would be mitigated if resistance to Federalism on the part of some of the governments continues, which our membership might be expected to encourage".

Even in Macmillan's day, this was wishful thinking - although, with the EU not yet five years old, it was perhaps excusable. It is less excusable today, when we have half a century of evidence to the effect that the Treaty of Rome means what it says about "ever-closer union". Yet still we delude ourselves, imagining that the other members are on the verge of coming round to our point of view. [...]

My sense is that most British people want to retain our trade links with the EU, and to accompany them with close inter-governmental co-operation, but not with political assimilation. Is it feasible to have our cake and eat it? Absolutely.

Consider, as an example, the members of the European Free Trade Area (Efta): Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Lichtenstein. Each of these countries has struck its own particular deal with Brussels, but the main elements are the same. They participate fully in the four freedoms of the single market - free movement of goods, services, people and capital. But they are outside the Common Agricultural and Fisheries Policies, they control their own borders and human rights questions, they are free to negotiate trade accords with non-EU countries and they pay only a token sum to the EU budget.

Unsurprisingly, they are much richer than the EU members. According to the OECD, per capita GDP in the four Efta countries is double that in the EU. Euro-apologists are, naturally, quick with their explanations. "You can't compare us to Iceland," they say, "Iceland has fish." So, of course would Britain, but for the ecological calamity of the CFP. "We're nothing like Norway," they go on, "Norway has oil." Indeed; and Britain is the only net exporter of oil in the EU. Then my particular favourite: "But Switzerland has all those banks." Yes. And London is the world's premier financial centre - although it is, admittedly, being slowly asphyxiated by EU financial regulation.

I am not arguing that Britain should precisely replicate the terms struck by these Efta nations. On the contrary, we could do far better. We are a larger country for one thing, and, unlike the Efta states, we run a massive trade deficit with the EU. Indeed, the easiest way to answer Tony Blair's claim about the millions of jobs that depend on the EU is to point to the astonishing fact that the Efta nations export more per head to the EU from outside than does Britain from the inside. Efta stands as a living, thriving refutation of the assertion that we must choose between assimilation and isolation.

No man may be, but some nations actually are islands.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:40 PM


Jackson offers support to Chavez (AP, 8/28/05)

The Rev. Jesse Jackson offered support for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Sunday, saying a recent call for his assassination was a criminal act and the United States and Venezuela should work out their differences through diplomacy.

Has Jesse ever met a Marxist thug he didn't want to keep in power?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:31 PM


Did the Cindy Sheehan vigil succeed? (Linda Feldmann, 8/29/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

Cindy Sheehan's month of fame - or infamy, depending on one's vantage point - is drawing to a close. The grieving mother of a US soldier slain in Iraq will end her vigil at the president's ranch on Wednesday, almost certainly having failed in her stated goal of a face-to-face meeting with Mr. Bush.

However, while she was there the Iraqis wrote a constitution which will make it easier to bring all the troops home promptly. It's all about framing....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:28 PM


Time to hedge bets on McCain bid in '08 (Robert Robb, Aug. 28, 2005, Arizona Republic)

Everyone I know who knows John McCain better than I do thinks he will run for president in 2008.

Until now, my bet has been that, in the final analysis, McCain would decide against it. But McCain's appearance and performance at an East Valley Republican town hall last Thursday has caused me to want to hedge that bet.

The limb gets lonelier.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:20 PM

GENDER IMBALANCE? TRY FORMULA 17 (via Robert Schwartz):

A Tale of Young Love, No Women in Sight (JEANNETTE CATSOULIS, August 26, 2005, NY Times)

A silly-sweet, gay romantic comedy aimed primarily at teenage and college-age audiences, "Formula 17" placed ninth in Taiwan's 2004 ranking of highest-grossing Chinese-language films. Partly because of its bouncy, bubblegum soundtrack and enormously appealing leads, this tiny indie has connected with a generation typically critical of homegrown talent. And by studding her film with signifiers of generic infatuation - like using a mirror to rehearse a kiss, or learning to say "I love you" in different languages - the director, DJ Chen, has breached barriers of sexual orientation with surprising success.

Armed with a red suitcase and his lucky condom, the virginal Tien (the soap star Tony Yang) arrives in Taipei looking for love and a summer job. Tien, whose favorite book is "Love Is a Kind of Faith," is a bit of a priss. "I despise people who toy with love," he tells Bai (Duncan Chow), a smooth playboy with a come-hither gaze and seductively feathered hair.

The two are frantically attracted to each other, but their courtship is hindered by Tien's inexperience and Bai's understandable reluctance to reveal his "serial one-night-stander" dating philosophy. So when Tien's tasteful, soft-focus deflowering precedes the L word, the stage is set for heartache, misunderstanding and more pouting than an episode of "Desperate Housewives."

Ever Farrah Fawcett hasn't thought feathered hair was seductive since some time in the 70s.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:16 PM

PRICKING THE BUBBLE (via Robert Schwartz):

In California Enclave, Cougars Keep the People at Bay (GARY RIVLIN, August 28, 2005, NY Times)

You would think that if you plunked down $10 million for a home, including millions to buy three adjoining properties, you could count on a little freedom to roam. But then the occasional mountain lion traipses across your land and, if you are Barbara Proulx, you feel trapped, afraid to let your two young sons out by themselves because of the dangers lurking outside.

Mrs. Proulx and her husband, Tom, a founder of the software company Intuit, even have a three-hole golf course on their 10-plus acres, yet in recent months it has gotten far less use than in the past.

"I won't let my children go to the tennis court by themselves anymore," Mrs. Proulx said. She does not permit the boys, ages 9 and 11, to walk to the pool on their own, either. Her parents live in a home on her property, but "they're terrified."

"Except to come to my house," she said, "they never go outside."

They are hardly the only ones in the area feeling like prisoners in multimillion-dollar homes. In recent months, there have been a few publicized mountain lion sightings up and down this peninsula just south of San Francisco, especially in the area's rural, more upscale neighborhoods, out of the reach of most people beyond venture capitalists and those made outlandishly wealthy by Silicon Valley's star companies.

Yet nowhere has this fear been more pronounced than in Atherton, the country's second-wealthiest community after Rancho Santa Fe, in Southern California. Here, largely because of the efforts of a single neighbor, vast backyards sit largely unused.

While setting lions loose on them will lower the property values it will also make shelter even more desirable.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:31 PM


In TV tirade, Rangel calls Cheney a 'sick man' (GLENN THRUSH, August 27, 2005, Newsday)

Rep. Charles Rangel, the gravelly voiced dean of the New York State congressional delegation, launched a blistering attack on Vice President Dick Cheney Friday night, calling him a "sick man" who was unfit to lead.

In a rambling interview on NY1, the Harlem Democrat also said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is the "guy who's running the country" - not Cheney or President George W. Bush.

"Sometimes I don't think Cheney is awake enough to know what's going on," Rangel said. "He's a sick man, you know. He's got heart disease but the disease is not restricted to that part of his body. He grunts a lot so you never really know what he's thinking."

You'd think Mr. Rangel would have been around long enough not to play into the President's hand. The announcement that Mr. Cheney is too sick to stay on doesn't come 'til '06.

Posted by David Cohen at 11:44 AM


MIT crew churns out ice cream with sizzle (Jeffrey Krasner, Boston Globe, 8/28/05)

Like many great scientific discoveries, Teresa Baker's breakthrough in MIT's grimy Cryogenic Engineering Laboratory last October was punctuated by a memorable exclamation of victory. She raced upstairs from the first-floor lab and announced to her fellow graduate students: ''I made ice cream, come down and eat it!"

Baker's work involves liquid carbon dioxide, bulky stainless steel cylinders, heat exchangers, and vanilla ice cream mix, and it may change the way ice cream is made in the $20 billion-a-year industry. For consumers, the novel device could popularize a new type of frozen dessert that combines the chill of ice cream with the explosive fizz of soda pop.

The problem: Global warming. The solution: Fizzy ice cream. It's enough to restore our faith in science.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:27 AM


Bush supporters outnumber Crawford critics (Jack Douglas Jr., 8/28/05, Dallas Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

President Bush's supporters poured into Crawford by the thousands Saturday, for the first time outnumbering war protesters led by Cindy Sheehan, who began a vigil here three weeks ago, demanding a personal meeting with the vacationing president to talk about her son's death in Iraq.

With police security tight and the heat intense, tempers flared, and traffic was clogged. But by late afternoon, only two people had been arrested for what the Secret Service described as a minor "attitude thing."

An estimated 3,000 to 4,000 people attended a pro-Bush rally in Crawford, waving flags and pledging allegiance to U.S. troops. At times, they accused Sheehan of dishonoring the death of her son, Casey, who was in the Army.

Anyone expect a batch of stories about the growing pro-war movement?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:36 AM


Winning in Iraq (DAVID BROOKS, 8/28/05, NY Times)

[Andrew] Krepinevich has now published an essay in the new issue of Foreign Affairs, "How to Win in Iraq," in which he proposes a strategy. The article is already a phenomenon among the people running this war, generating discussion in the Pentagon, the C.I.A., the American Embassy in Baghdad and the office of the vice president.

Krepinevich's proposal is hardly new. He's merely describing a classic counterinsurgency strategy, which was used, among other places, in Malaya by the British in the 1950's. The same approach was pushed by Tom Donnelly and Gary Schmitt in a Washington Post essay back on Oct. 26, 2003; by Kenneth Pollack in Senate testimony this July 18; and by dozens of midlevel Army and Marine Corps officers in Iraq.

Krepinevich calls the approach the oil-spot strategy. The core insight is that you can't win a war like this by going off on search and destroy missions trying to kill insurgents. There are always more enemy fighters waiting. You end up going back to the same towns again and again, because the insurgents just pop up after you've left and kill anybody who helped you. You alienate civilians, who are the key to success, with your heavy-handed raids.

Instead of trying to kill insurgents, Krepinevich argues, it's more important to protect civilians. You set up safe havens where you can establish good security. Because you don't have enough manpower to do this everywhere at once, you select a few key cities and take control. Then you slowly expand the size of your safe havens, like an oil spot spreading across the pavement.

Once you've secured a town or city, you throw in all the economic and political resources you have to make that place grow. The locals see the benefits of working with you. Your own troops and the folks back home watching on TV can see concrete signs of progress in these newly regenerated neighborhoods. You mix your troops in with indigenous security forces, and through intimate contact with the locals you begin to even out the intelligence advantage that otherwise goes to the insurgents.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:05 AM


Too Much of a Sacrifice?: While Old Guard Stands by Bunt, 'Moneyball' Crowd Says It Comes Up Short (Dave Sheinin, August 28, 2005, Washington Post)

The sacrifice bunt is evil, say the sabermetricians with their numbers and charts and spreadsheets. The cost of the out given up is greater than the value of the base gained, and they can prove it mathematically. Offer to elaborate about this to Washington Nationals Manager Frank Robinson, to show him the charts and spreadsheets, and a big hand emerges from below his desk and jabs -- palm out, fingers spread -- at the air in front of your face: Stop. Put your charts away, son.

"I don't live by the numbers," Robinson said firmly, "and I don't manage by the numbers. I put on the bunt when the situation calls for a bunt."

Home runs are cooler, and the triple is still the most exciting play in baseball, but inch-for-inch, no offensive play inspires as much passion as the lowly sacrifice bunt.

Its advocates, though dwindling in number, still get a thrill out of a perfectly executed one, and they still cringe at a botched one, which causes them, inevitably, to decry the state of modern baseball fundamentals. Critics of the sacrifice bunt, on the other hand, contend it is a losing play that, mathematically, reduces a team's scoring potential in most situations.

If the sacrifice bunt is indeed evil, then Robinson is the devil himself.

It will come as no surprise that his team has scored fewer runs than any other.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:01 AM


Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire are `frugal Yankees' (Norma Love, August 27, 2005, Associated Press)

For years, New Hampshire's delinquents have sweltered on hot summer nights, locked in un-air-conditioned rooms behind security doors and heavily screened windows in decades-old buildings.

"When the kids go into the rooms at night, we shut the doors. It's very, very warm," said Tricia Lucas, chief of administration at the Division for Juvenile Justice Services. "Kids come off the mattresses to sleep directly on the floor so they can have the coolness of the floor."

Next summer should be different: the state reformatory, the Youth Development Center in Manchester, will be in a new, 144-bed facility with air conditioning.

The long wait for the $33 million complex illustrates the sort of Yankee frugality that has spared state governments in northern New England the debt problems plaguing some other states.

Nationwide, median state debt per capita is $703. New Hampshire's is a low $457, Maine's is $634 and Vermont's is $716, according to Moody's Investors Service, a credit rating firm.

Vermont actually has the highest credit rating accorded to the three states by Standard & Poor's, another rating firm. Vermont's AA+ rating is one notch below the top AAA rating and one notch above New Hampshire's AA score. Maine is one step below New Hampshire at AA- after a slight downgrade this year.

Geoff Buswick, the Standard & Poor's analyst who keeps tabs on the three states, says the ratings are based on the steadiness of a state's revenues, how well a state predicts its income over time, its spending patterns, the amount of its debt, the health of its economy and what kind of work force it has.

Analysts also watch closely to see that states pay their "living expenses" with current income. When states dip into savings, analysts look to see that the money is put back as quickly as possible.

Intangibles -- like being Yankees -- also are considered.

"We talk about that Yankee frugality as something seen as a credit positive," Buswick said.

The Third World starts at the MA line.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:15 AM


Anti-Chavez march turns violent (BBC, 8/28/05)

Six people have been injured in clashes between opponents and supporters of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez.

The fighting broke out as opponents marched in the capital Caracas to demand electoral reform ahead of December's parliamentary elections.

Bottles, rocks, fireworks and tear gas were thrown in the worst violence between the two sides for months.

Venezuela has been relatively calm since President Chavez won a referendum on his rule in August 2004.

But his opponents claim the vote was tainted by fraud, and believe the national electoral board is made up of his supporters - charges the board deny.

Even as much as he's achieved already, if Pat Robertson manages to destabilize the Chavez regime he'd have to want that at the top of his bio.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:11 AM


Show Me the Science (DANIEL C. DENNETT, 8/28/05, NY Times)

[N]o intelligent design hypothesis has even been ventured as a rival explanation of any biological phenomenon. This might seem surprising to people who think that intelligent design competes directly with the hypothesis of non-intelligent design by natural selection. But saying, as intelligent design proponents do, "You haven't explained everything yet," is not a competing hypothesis. Evolutionary biology certainly hasn't explained everything that perplexes biologists. But intelligent design hasn't yet tried to explain anything.

To formulate a competing hypothesis, you have to get down in the trenches and offer details that have testable implications. So far, intelligent design proponents have conveniently sidestepped that requirement, claiming that they have no specifics in mind about who or what the intelligent designer might be.

To see this shortcoming in relief, consider an imaginary hypothesis of intelligent design that could explain the emergence of human beings on this planet:

About six million years ago, intelligent genetic engineers from another galaxy visited Earth and decided that it would be a more interesting planet if there was a language-using, religion-forming species on it, so they sequestered some primates and genetically re-engineered them to give them the language instinct, and enlarged frontal lobes for planning and reflection. It worked.

If some version of this hypothesis were true, it could explain how and why human beings differ from their nearest relatives, and it would disconfirm the competing evolutionary hypotheses that are being pursued.

We'd still have the problem of how these intelligent genetic engineers came to exist on their home planet, but we can safely ignore that complication for the time being, since there is not the slightest shred of evidence in favor of this hypothesis.

But here is something the intelligent design community is reluctant to discuss: no other intelligent-design hypothesis has anything more going for it. In fact, my farfetched hypothesis has the advantage of being testable in principle: we could compare the human and chimpanzee genomes, looking for unmistakable signs of tampering by these genetic engineers from another galaxy.

Sadly for Mr. Dennett, one need only look to his own description of how Natural Selection works to find equally compelling--which is to say, not very--support for ID:
Take the development of the eye, which has been one of the favorite challenges of creationists. How on earth, they ask, could that engineering marvel be produced by a series of small, unplanned steps? Only an intelligent designer could have created such a brilliant arrangement of a shape-shifting lens, an aperture-adjusting iris, a light-sensitive image surface of exquisite sensitivity, all housed in a sphere that can shift its aim in a hundredth of a second and send megabytes of information to the visual cortex every second for years on end.

But as we learn more and more about the history of the genes involved, and how they work - all the way back to their predecessor genes in the sightless bacteria from which multicelled animals evolved more than a half-billion years ago - we can begin to tell the story of how photosensitive spots gradually turned into light-sensitive craters that could detect the rough direction from which light came, and then gradually acquired their lenses, improving their information-gathering capacities all the while.

We can't yet say what all the details of this process were, but real eyes representative of all the intermediate stages can be found, dotted around the animal kingdom, and we have detailed computer models to demonstrate that the creative process works just as the theory says.

All it takes is a rare accident that gives one lucky animal a mutation that improves its vision over that of its siblings; if this helps it have more offspring than its rivals, this gives evolution an opportunity to raise the bar and ratchet up the design of the eye by one mindless step.

Even setting aside the obvious fact that it is mere faith that allows him to believe that this one lucky animal process has worked for every single step in evolution and that each mutation is so overwhelminglt favorable that it forces out all of the unlucky non-mutated, all that ID says is that where Mr. Dennett says luck intervened an intelligent being[s] or a process designed by an intelligent being[s] intervened instead. Neither actually has anything to do with science in the long run. They're just competing faiths.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:40 AM


War Critics Have Backing, but Not Much of a Following (Doyle McManus, August 28, 2005, LA Times)

After a summer of mounting discontent over the war in Iraq, President Bush will face renewed criticism from Democrats and Republicans when Congress returns to work next week. But he appears unlikely to come up against an effective challenge to his policy — because his critics in both parties are deeply divided over what change in course to propose.

"There is an alternative strategy," said Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), a leading foreign policy critic, but "not a united one."

Isn't that their strategy though, just to divide the country? They're anti-Bush, not anti-war. Meanwhile, the Iraqis are poutting their constitution in place, taking over security themselves and we start drawing down trooops late this year or early next--what more could anyone want?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:34 AM


India renews historic Afghan ties (Sanjoy Majumder, 8/28/05, BBC News)

When Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh steps off his aircraft in Afghanistan on Sunday, he will be hoping to strengthen his country's historic ties with that country.

It is the first visit to the country by an Indian prime minister for 29 years.

However, Delhi has been working hard to develop its ties with the new Afghan regime following the overthrow of the Taleban in 2001.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:33 AM


Voice of a nation: Gowdy was team's best (Dan Shaughnessy, August 28, 2005, Boston Globe)

In the years after leaving the Red Sox, Curt [Gowdy] would become the nation's first famous TV sports broadcaster, working for all three major networks and earning plaques in the baseball, football, and basketball halls of fame. He called Super Bowls, World Series, Rose Bowls, Final Fours, and Olympics. He hosted ABC's ''American Sportsman" for 15 years.

But in Scituate and Saugus, Greenfield and Groton, he forever will be the voice of the Red Sox, the man who said goodbye to Ted and hello to Yaz, the man who can still make some of us 10 years old if we hear him say, ''Hi, neighbor, have a 'Gansett."

The Red Sox are honoring Curt before today's game against the Tigers. It's a nice touch by an ownership group that has consistently paid homage to those who came before. On the cover of the 2005 Sox media guide, superimposed over a photo of the celebration in St. Louis (Somebody, grab that ball from Doug!) and an embossed image of the World Series trophy, it reads, ''This championship isn't just about these 25 guys. This is for every fan who has ever been to Fenway Park . . . This championship is for everyone who came so close and for everyone who cared so much."

The Sox never came close when Curt worked at Fenway from 1951-65, but we all cared, and one of the reasons we cared was the brilliance of Curt Gowdy. His voice and delivery went down like a tall glass of lemonade on a hot summer afternoon. He relaxed us while he told the story of a Red Sox game, too often a loss to the Yankees, Tigers, or White Sox.

''It wasn't like it is now," Gowdy, 86, said yesterday. ''But for the types of teams we had, the fans were very good here. On some Thursday afternoon games, we'd get 25,000 fans. That was remarkable. This has always been a great Red Sox city."

He came to us from Wyoming, after two years of broadcasting Yankee games with Mel Allen. He remembers Ted Williams sidling up to him around the batting cage at spring training in 1951.

''He came up to me and said, 'Somebody told me you like to fish,' and I said I'd grown up trout fishing in Wyoming and we were buddies from then on. We fished together a lot in the Florida Keys and sometimes he'd come out to Wyoming."

Gowdy was master of ceremonies on that September day in 1960 when Ted homered in his last at-bat in the big leagues.

''It was one of the big thrills of my life," said Gowdy. ''Before the game, [equipment czar] Johnny Orlando called me over and said, 'This is the Kid's last game. [Owner Tom] Yawkey and [AL president Joe] Cronin gave him permission to skip the last weekend in New York.' Well, Ted hit a long fly to right that didn't quite make it his third time up. Then his last time up, he hit that ball, and I saw it start to soar and get some distance. I got all excited and I said, 'It's going, going, gone!' and then I stopped and said, 'Ted Williams has hit a home run in his last time at bat in the major leagues.' "

Not a great book, but Stephen King's Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon nicely captures our love affair with baseball announcers.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:20 AM


Parliament Unbound (Ken Alexander, The Walrus, July/August, 2005)

While Martin played Santa Claus and merchant of fear—gifts for all and beware of Mr. Harper's "hidden agenda"—in truth, Harper stood naked before the public. Greater provincial autonomy fit with his vision of a radically decentralized state, but by offering no social or fiscal conservative policy options and by initially assuring the electorate that he would honour Liberal budget deals, he had merely proven that his own thirst for power was unquenchable, and worse, that the Liberal big tent was so big that it could include an NDP budget and the Conservative policy manual.

Like Nietzsche's madman shouting, "I seek God! I seek God!" and looking for a way forward, I suspect Harper awoke from a troubled Thursday-night sleep and thought: "Why would I want the top job, if the top job stands for nothing?" In this revelatory moment, Harper may have realized that his "party of principle" had been sucker-punched by the party of tactics and strategy. Being rhetorically offensive but policy-lite, Harper had missed the opportunity to present Canadians with a federal government different than that of cash register for the bleating regions or for this or that interest group. Like the main object of his wrath, his courting of the Bloc Québécois—the one party with a consistent narrative, the end of Canada—had shown that he too was only in search of the winning conditions.

As I watched that group of senior citizens, it struck me that Canada has become the ultimate postmodern state, a state governed by verbal gymnastics, by politicians considering spin first and substance not at all, and that older people can find little to cleave to. After World War II, having made a substantial commitment to the Allied effort, Canada slowly emerged as a player on the world's stage. Its position was nuanced, nowhere near as ardent as the patriotic determinism of the United States, or as ideologically confident as the former Soviet Union, or as grasping for national identity as the damaged states of Europe. Long before Pierre Trudeau articulated it as such, Canada's purpose was to craft a just society not from the ashes of ruin, but as a model of tolerance and equity. Ideas spilled from the regions—universal health care, the special accommodations necessary for Newfoundland and Labrador, official bilingualism—and all were put in the hopper, compromises found, and the role of the federal government rooted in time and place.

During this period of nation-building, Canada's malleable constitutional framework, acceptance of a mixed economy, progressive taxation, hyphenated citizenship, and, in general, a philosophy of accommodation, gave us something to offer a troubled world. Accommodation might well describe the central theme of our historic federal narrative. How paradoxical, then, that at a time when ideological quietude and situational ethics are giving way to dogmatic unilateralism and the unifying of church and state, we would allow a predisposition for moderation to morph into standing for nothing at all.

This plaintive cry from the left will resonate with many conservatives, but the author fails to understand how this sorry state is the necessary endgame of his own creed. Tolerance, equity and accommodation can be virtues, but they are situational virtues that only have real meaning in the face of actual intolerance, inequity and exclusion. When they are raised to the level of timeless collective ideals that define a people, public discourse comes to reflect that paradigm and two things eventually happen. The first is that the political and intellectual elites become addicted to a ceaseless and increasingly frantic search for wrongs to redress and causes to promote through “social action” in order to justify themselves and their influence. Not surprisingly, they find them consistently and in the most unlikely places. The second is that the fatigued general population, raised on relativist language and a relentless disdain for the past, becomes stripped of any philosophical or linguistic ability (or confidence) to challenge the zeitgeist and defend matters of importance to them, such as faith, tradition, family and self-reliance, without being shunted to the margins of polite society. Eventually, most become either rotely supportive toadies or withdrawn sceptics unconsciously resigned to a growing chasm between public speech and private thought. Reality and action become secondary to rhetoric and cant. Just as cynical Soviet workers used to joke: “We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us.”, so much of the Canadian public seems increasingly disposed to say: “You pretend to fight for social justice and we’ll pretend to care.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:01 AM


GOP ratchets upbid to woo blacks (Brian DeBose, August 28, 2005, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

More than a dozen black politicians are running on the Republican ticket in 2006 for Senate and House seats, governorships and other statewide races.

It could turn out to be the most diverse Republican slate since the mid-1990s, said J.C. Watts Jr., chairman of GOPAC, a Republican political action committee. Mr. Watts won a House seat in Oklahoma in 1994, becoming the first black Republican to reach Congress since Sen. Edward W. Brooke III, Massachusetts Republican, who served from 1967 to 1979.

"I've often said that most black people don't think alike, most black people just vote alike, and if Republicans understood black people better, you would have 70 to 75 percent of black people voting Republican," Mr. Watts said.

Mr. Mehlman's mantra that "the party of Lincoln will not be whole until more African-Americans come back home" has created a movement that black Republicans said they will use to make significant gains in the largely monolithic, Democratic-voting base. [...]

Retired Army Lt. Col. Frances P. Rice, chairwoman of the National Black Republican Association (NBRA), said her group aims to "enlighten" black voters about the Republican Party and make the black community one that supports two parties.

She said the Democrats' insistence that blacks rely on socialism -- welfare, public housing, public schools -- is destroying the community.

"Blacks after 40 years of Democrat control are complaining about the same things: poorly performing schools, dilapidated public housing," Col. Rice said. "Socialism has not worked anywhere it has been tried. Why should we do it here?"

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


The Dodgers' Brooklyn Bridge: Don Newcombe, a link to a glorious past, is 79 and still serving the franchise with character and class, attributes of much concern to the organization today (Bill Plaschke, August 28, 2005, LA Times)

It has been nearly 60 years now, and he still takes the ball.

Night after night, in a stadium where he never pitched, representing a Los Angeles Dodger team for which he never won a game, the old man in the silk suit and Panama hat still shows up.

Smiling through the demons. Shaking hands through the bitterness. Standing tall for a sport that once tried to shrink him.

Many players don't know the name. Many fans have forgotten the face. Never does this loosen the grip.

Hand him the autograph pad. Pull out the disposable camera. Call in the Kiwanis Club. Give him the ball.

It was hell to get here, and Don Newcombe is not leaving.

"I still am bitter to a large degree, but then I think about what Jackie Robinson once told me," he said. "He said, 'You've got to change one letter in that word. Change the 'i' to an 'e.' Forget about bitter, try to make things better.' "

So, you want Dodger character?

Cheer it today, at the 50th reunion of the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers, upon the introduction of Don Newcombe. [...]

"To see him standing behind the batting cage before the game, it constantly amazes me," said Bob Grant, the Dodger batting practice pitcher who frequently talks with Newcombe. "All he stood for, everything he fought, and he's still here. He's, like, our treasure."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Underground Chinese bishop dies (BBC, 8/27/05)

Xie Shinguang, a bishop of China's underground Roman Catholic Church who spent 28 years in prison because of his faith, has died.

The bishop of Mingdong was 88 when he succumbed to leukaemia on Thursday. [...]

Monsignor Xie served four separate prison terms and according to the Vatican was kept under surveillance by the authorities until his death.

The Vatican praised him as a "courageous witness to Christ".

Monsignor Xie was ordained in 1949 and became a bishop 1984.

He is reported to have rejected [constant] pressure to join the official Chinese Church.

However, as a result he was jailed first in 1955, again from 1958-1980, from 1984-1987 and finally from 1990-1992.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Wired: First Carl Smith built an archive of Sonny Rollins recorded live. Then he decided to capture the magic himself. (Geoff Edgers, August 28, 2005, Boston Globe)

Carl Smith wore a plaid shirt that night, the dark pattern hiding the $700 microphones sewn into the fabric. He bought four seats in the second row of the Berklee Performance Center, and told his son and two friends to merely pretend to clap. Their presence would provide a sound buffer for his digital recorder.

It was Sept. 15, 2001, and Smith's mission was to capture jazz legend Sonny Rollins as he's rarely heard on record -- live and uninhibited. [....]

Four years later, after a steady campaign to earn Rollins's trust, Smith is moving closer to his greater goal, which is to reveal a different side of the last living jazz giant. On Tuesday, Fantasy Records releases ''Without a Song: The 9/11 Concert," a CD documenting the show that took place four days after the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks.

Not only is this the first of Smith's live recordings to go on sale, it also signals a breakthrough in the once icy relationship with the Rollins camp, which has historically frowned on collectors.

And for jazz fans, the release offers a tantalizing proposition that cuts to the heart of the Rollins conundrum. His greatness, some contend, is best heard during his live shows. But of the few Rollins concerts legitimately released, none captures the energy and excitement of the jazz improviser on a great night.

''The best of Carl Smith's stuff is staggering," says Stanley Crouch, the writer who long urged Rollins to trust Smith. ''It actually creates a kind of a reevaluation of what we consider musical creativity. When you hear this, these chumps in hip-hop and rock, they're jokes compared to Sonny Rollins."

If only he'd had a mike on the bridge.

August 27, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:47 PM


Roberts v. the Future (JEFFREY ROSEN, 8/28/05, NY Times Magazine)

In the wake of the recent London bombings, the New York subway system implemented random bag searches, and the London Underground announced plans to introduce high-tech body scanners that peer through clothing. In the coming years, if technology advances as expected and the threat of terror fails to subside, Western democracies will develop ever more sophisticated and intrusive forms of surveillance, many of which will be challenged in court as a violation of rights to privacy and equality. Not long ago, I visited Marc Rotenberg, the head of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a civil-liberties group, at his office in Washington and asked him what form he thought the new legal battles over surveillance technology might take.

Sketching out a hypothetical situation, Rotenberg imagined, in the near future, a young man walking around the Washington Monument for 30 minutes while waiting for a friend. Meanwhile, sophisticated biometric camera systems (which can register the details of someone's face), connected to data-mining computer programs (which link the face to a database of personal information), monitor the young man. The cameras might also detect, say, a copy of the Koran he is carrying under his arm. Taken together, this information is used to generate a ''threat index'' based on how suspicious the high-tech profiling makes him out to be. ''According to the computer algorithm, pacing around a national monument might be a suspicious activity characteristic of someone intending to commit a terrorist attack,'' Rotenberg said. ''The link between his face and his travel records and magazine subscriptions, maintained by a big commercial database, might generate a citizenship trustworthiness score that suggests further investigation.''

Based on a low trustworthiness score, the young man might be stopped by the police, who might open his backpack and find a bag of marijuana. Would the examination of the backpack amount to an unconstitutional search or seizure?

On the current Supreme Court, Rotenberg noted, a challenge on constitutional grounds to this kind of search might face an uphill battle. In January, in a 6-2 decision written by the court's most liberal justice, John Paul Stevens, the court upheld as constitutional a dog sniff of a driver who had been stopped for speeding. (When the dog barked, the cops opened the trunk and found marijuana.) The dissenting justices, David Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, expressed concern that the majority opinion cleared the way for the police to turn drug-sniffing dogs on large groups of innocent citizens without cause to suspect illegal activity. But even Ginsburg and Souter said there might be nothing wrong with the use of bomb-detection dogs if they were effective in identifying potential terrorists.

According to the court's logic, whether a threat-index system that places citizens in different categories of suspicion violates the Constitution might depend on how accurate the threat indexes turn out to be. But even if the indexes turned out to not be very accurate, Rotenberg suggested, a justice like John Roberts, should he be sitting on the court, might not be inclined to question their use. In two recent cases as an appellate judge, Roberts was very deferential to searches and seizures by the police. In one case, he reluctantly upheld a Washington policy requiring the arrest of a 12-year-old girl who ate a French fry in a Washington Metro station, and in the other, he argued in dissent that the police should have been allowed to search the trunk of a car after stopping the driver for having a broken light. (The officers found a loaded gun in the trunk, a discovery that Roberts's colleagues in the majority contended had to be suppressed because there had been no probable cause to search the trunk in the first place.) ''Roberts seems untroubled by what people would think of as pretextual searches,'' Rotenberg said.

If polls about the U.S.A. Patriot Act are correct (only 22 percent of Americans say it goes too far in restricting people's civil liberties to fight terrorism, while 69 percent are content with it or say it doesn't go far enough), many people may not object to data-mining technology that promises to identify potential terrorists. But if the war against terror escalates further, the government may deploy even more controversial forms of electronic surveillance.

The argument that rather than identify just terrorists it may pick out other types of criminals is a surefire loser. The following though is hilarious:
The guru of digital activism is the Stanford law professor and cyberspace visionary Lawrence Lessig, whom I recently reached by telephone in Spain. ''As life moves increasingly onto the Net and the capacity to control every aspect of our cultural capital increases almost to perfection..."

Has there ever been a guru who didn't think he was leading us to perfection?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:25 PM


Who Controls the Family?: Blind Activist Leads Peasants in Legal Challenge To Abuses of China's Population-Growth Policy (Philip P. Pan, August 27, 2005, Washington Post0

A crowd of disheveled villagers was waiting when Chen Guangcheng stepped out of the car. More women than men among them, a mix of desperation and hope on their faces, they ushered him along a dirt path and into a nearby house. Then, one after another, they told him about the city's campaign against "unplanned births."

Since March, the farmers said, local authorities had been raiding the homes of families with two children and demanding at least one parent be sterilized. Women pregnant with a third child were forced to have abortions. And if people tried to hide, the officials jailed their relatives and neighbors, beating them and holding them hostage until the fugitives turned themselves in.

Chen, 34, a slender man wearing dark sunglasses, held out a digital voice recorder and listened intently. Blind since birth, he couldn't see the tears of the women forced to terminate pregnancies seven or eight months along, or the blank stares of the men who said they submitted to vasectomies to save family members from torture. But he could hear the pain and anger in their voices and said he was determined to do something about it.

For weeks, Chen has been collecting testimony about the population-control abuses in this city of 10 million, located about 400 miles southeast of Beijing, beginning in his own village in the rural suburbs, then traveling from one community to the next. Now he is preparing an unlikely challenge to the crackdown: a class-action lawsuit.

"What these officials are doing is completely illegal," Chen said. "They've committed widespread violations of citizens' basic rights, and they should be held responsible."

It might appear a quixotic crusade -- a blind peasant with limited legal training taking on the Communist Party's one-child policy, which has long been considered a pillar of the nation's economic development strategy and off-limits to public debate. But the Linyi case marks a legal milestone in challenging the coercive measures used for decades to limit population growth in China. [...]

On a recent visit to Maxiagou village, in another rural part of Linyi, he interviewed Feng Zhongxia, 36. She recounted that she was seven months pregnant and on the run when she learned that local officials had detained more than a dozen of her relatives and wouldn't release them unless she returned for an abortion.

"My aunts, uncles, cousins, my pregnant younger sister, my in-laws, they were all taken to the family planning office," she said. "Many of them didn't get food or water, and all of them were severely beaten." Some of the relatives were allowed to call her, and they pleaded with her to come home.

Feng called the family planning officials. "They told me they would peel the skin off my relatives and I would only see their corpses if I didn't come back," she said. The next day, she turned herself in. A doctor examined her, then stuck a needle into her uterus. About 24 hours later, she delivered the dead fetus. "It was a small life," she said quietly.

Afterward, she said, the family planning workers insisted on sterilizing her, too. "I'm a human being. How can they treat me like that?" she asked.

Nothing quite like a government having to defend its anti-humanity.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:33 PM


Depleted Iran cabinet meets after rejection of four by parliament (Reuters, 26 August 2005)

Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad convened his depleted team of ministers for their first meeting yesterday after suffering the ignominy of seeing parliament reject four of his cabinet picks.

Wednesday’s no-confidence vote for Ahmadinejad’s proposed oil, education, cooperatives and welfare ministers marked the first time since a constitutional reform in 1989 that parliament had not endorsed a president’s first cabinet in its entirety.

It left oil policy of Opec’s No. 2 crude exporter in limbo, served an important warning to the young, conservative president and could presage internal power struggles among Iran’s conservative camp, which has swept reformists from all positions of power in the last three years, political analysts said.

“This was a real lesson to Ahmadinejad that he has to listen more. It’s a setback for him,” said one analyst, who declined to be named.

“It showed that, although parliament is mostly conservative, there are rifts developing and the moderate, more centrist camp seems to be getting stronger.”

Ahmadinejad has three months to propose alternative nominees although analysts said he would probably do so much sooner.

“His next picks will have to be more experienced, more moderate figures,” said the analyst, noting that lack of experience and a radical background were the most serious criticisms levelled by lawmakers.

Democracy is messy sometimes, huh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:11 PM


French morale at record low - poll (Reuters, 8/27/05)

French morale was at a record low less than two weeks ahead of the French prime minister's deadline to restore confidence in the population in his first 100 days in office, according to a survey on Saturday.

Less than a third of French people polled were optimistic about their and their children's future, a drop of 28 percentage points since the last poll in December 2004 and the lowest since the first Ifop survey for newspaper Dimanche Ouest-France in February 1995.

Factor out the 17% of the population over 65 years old and the ten percent Muslim and the other optimists are kidding themselves.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:24 PM


Despite heavy coverage, nation's press strangely reluctant to report all she says (David Koppel, August 27, 2005, Rocky Mountain News)

Cindy Sheehan claims the media are "a propaganda tool for the government." A New York Post editorial (Aug. 16) argued that Sheehan's statement was self-evidently false, given the overwhelming and almost exclusively positive media attention paid to her in the last several weeks. But in a broader sense, Sheehan has a point: Almost all the news stories and columns in Denver dailies, like the vast majority of the rest of the mainstream media, have failed to inform their readers about what Sheehan really thinks.

The night before Sheehan began her Crawford, Texas, vigil, she spoke at the convention of Veterans for Peace (transcript at told the crowd about a sympathetic e-mailer who warned that her profanity offended "people on the fence."

In reply, she argued that anyone who supports the war should "get your a-- over to Iraq." Everyone against the war should "stand up and speak out. But whatever side you fall on, quit being on the fence . . . we have to get this country off their butts."

In other words, Sheehan's use of inflammatory rhetoric is an important part of her communication strategy. Yet even as the mainstream media has fawned over her campout, it has neutered her message, refusing to print her statements which are intended to get people off the fence.

For example, on Aug. 16, Sheehan held a media conference call during which she declared "The person who killed my son, I have no animosity for that person at all." Yet her statement was reported only in the National Review Online weblog. In an interview with Mark Knoller of CBS News, she explained that the foreigners who have to come to Iraq to battle the U.S. military are "freedom fighters." (Video at the anti-war Web site dc.indymedia. org/usermedia/video/2/cindyon Conversely, she described last January's vote in Iraq as a "sham election," in her Tuesday entry on her weblog on Michael Moore's Web site (http:// index.php?id=465).

Sheehan hopes that her strong words will get people off the fence, yet the mainstream media fails to report them.

In fairness, the media has to have something to entertain them in Crawford and when they report her views her 15 minutes are over.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:44 AM

EVEN THE WETS CAN FIGURE IT OUT (via Robert Schwartz):

A hard truth: the future of the single currency is now far beyond our Ken (Anatole Kaletsky, 8/25/05, Times of London)

THERE WAS a time when Kenneth Clarke’s admission that “the euro has been a failure” might have dominated the headlines for weeks. It might even have changed the course of Britain’s history. Had Mr Clarke been prescient enough 15 years ago to recognise the fatal flaws in the single currency project, the Tories might have been spared the humiliation of Black Wednesday and the suicidal infighting over the Maastricht treaty; they might still be governing the country.

If the ex-Chancellor had humbly admitted five years ago that he had been wrong about the euro, he would surely now be the Leader of the Opposition and the Conservatives might be vying for power with Labour in a hung parliament. By this week, however, Mr Clarke’s public confession about the failure of the euro was as irrelevant to the future as Macbeth’s final soliloquy comparing himself to “a walking shadow, a poor player who that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more”.

But while Mr Clarke’s regrets about the euro may no longer be of any interest in Britain, they remind us of something extremely significant about the wider world beyond. The euro has been enjoying a political honeymoon in the four years since it was introduced. While the Europe’s economic performance has gone from bad to worse almost since the day when the euro was launched in January 1999, no respectable politician has ever dared to blame the euro or criticise the single currency project in any way. This taboo has now been lifted.

You probably have to look back to a monarch to find the last fallen leader who was vindicated as completely as Margaret Thatcher has been.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:05 AM


Nuñez Trip Hits Heavy Resistance: On Mexican goodwill tour, Assembly chief has to defend bid for state of emergency on border. (Sam Enriquez, August 27, 2005, LA Times)

California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez is one of a new generation of Spanish-speaking politicians who represent an increasingly potent Latino constituency. But somewhere between Sacramento and Mexico City, his goodwill message got lost in translation.

Nuñez landed in Mexico this week with the best of intentions: strengthening ties with the country, California's largest trading partner, and addressing the thorny issue of illegal immigration. He worked with a local public relations man to spread his message to as many people as possible: that immigrants were a precious California resource and that the two nations must work together to protect their future.

But two days into his whirlwind schedule of radio and TV appearances — as well as a private meeting with President Vicente Fox — Nuñez was spending most of his time trying to explain his demand that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declare a state of emergency along California's 142-mile border.

Even worse, Mexicans here say, was the speaker's insistence that Schwarzenegger — who this spring praised the "Minuteman" campaign along the U.S.-Mexico border — was a caring person. [...]

But to many Mexicans, the demand for cheap labor and illegal drugs by Americans on one hand, and the demand to seal the border on the other are at best a contradiction — and at worst, hypocrisy.

But given how well we assimilate immigrants, why shouldn't Mexican-Americans be hypocrites too?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:45 AM


9/11 seen as sparking Arab economic boom (Jim Krane, August 27, 2005, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks are increasingly viewed in the oil-rich Arab countries of the Persian Gulf as the catalyst for an economic boom when Arabs divested from America and reinvested at home.

Arab investors pulled tens of billions of dollars out of the United States. They were angered by perceived American hostility toward Arabs. They worried their assets would be frozen by U.S. counter-terrorism measures. And U.S. markets happened to be plummeting while economies in the Persian Gulf were on the upswing, buoyed by rising oil prices.

The results have been spectacular.

Since late 2001, economies in the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries -- Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia -- have soared, with stock markets up a collective 400 percent. The Standard & Poor's 500 rose 24 percent over that period.

By setting off a wave of forcible regime from without and political liberalization, religious Reformation and economic development within, Osama doomed what little chance his cause may ever have had. That the main beneficiaries of 9-11 have been the Shi'ites is an especially delicious twist.

Natural gas of Gaza to profit Palestinians (David R. Sands and Joshua Mitnick, August 27, 2005, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Major natural gas fields off the coast of the Gaza Strip may prove a vital lifeline for a beleaguered Palestinian economy that has few other resources to exploit.

Israel's withdrawal from Gaza settlements this month has heightened international interests in exploiting the fields, first discovered more than five years ago.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:29 AM


U.S. Demands Spur Crisis Talks at U.N.: New U.S. ambassador John R. Bolton has surprised diplomats with 750 amendments to a reform document key to next month's summit. (Maggie Farley, August 27, 2005, LA Times)

Faced with a last-minute list of demands from Washington, key nations met in crisis talks here Friday to head off a collapse of a U.N. reform summit of 180 world leaders next month.

John R. Bolton, the new U.S. ambassador to the world body, surprised diplomats returning from vacation this week with 750 amendments to the reform document that is supposed to be the focus of the 60th anniversary summit Sept. 14. [...]

The U.S. draft significantly reduces a section on poverty in favor of bolstered sections on strengthening free-market values and spreading democracy. It deletes mention of institutions and treaties the U.S. opposes, such as the International Criminal Court and the Kyoto treaty on global warming.

The draft also deletes a proposal that nuclear powers dismantle their arsenals, while strengthening passages on fighting terrorism. [...]

Despite various objections from other regional groups, the focus is on the concerns of the U.S., in part because of Bolton's reputation for being a U.N. skeptic and a take-it-or-leave-it negotiator.

It is also a moment for Bolton to prove his mettle after the Senate refused to vote on his confirmation, leading the president to install him in a recess appointment without congressional approval.

U.S. officials say the 11th-hour introduction of their many amendments was not an act of sabotage, but simply a result of a lengthy interagency consultation in Washington.

But some criticize the U.S. for being nearly silent during the months of the original negotiations this year.

Which is exactly how the appointment of Mr. Bolton was supposed to work, the only problem being the Democrats dragged their feet.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:01 AM


Shiites and Kurds Halt Charter Talks With Sunnis (DEXTER FILKINS and JAMES GLANZ, 8/27/05, NY Times)

Shiite and Kurdish leaders drafting a new Iraqi constitution abandoned negotiations with a group of Sunni representatives on Friday, deciding to take the disputed charter directly to the Iraqi people.

With the American ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, standing by, Shiite and Kurdish representatives said they had run out of patience with the Sunni negotiators, a group that includes several former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party. The Shiites and Kurds said the Sunnis had refused to budge on a pair of crucial issues that were holding up completion of the constitution.

The Shiites and Kurds reached their decision in meetings that ran late into Friday night, disregarding the Sunnis' pleas for more time.

The Shiite and Kurdish representatives sought to play down the importance of leaving the Sunnis out, saying that with their Baathist links, they had never truly spoken for the broader Sunni population. The Iraqi leaders who drafted the constitution defended it as a document that would ensure the unity of the country and safeguard individual rights.

"The negotiation is finished, and we have a deal," said Ahmad Chalabi, the deputy prime minister and a member of the Shiite leadership. "No one has any more time. It cannot drag on any longer. Most of the Sunnis are satisfied. Everybody made sacrifices. It is an excellent document."

At some point you just have to circumvent a sufficiently truculent and obstructionist minority and impose the popular will on them.

Unyielding Sunnis May Be Overruled (Ashraf Khalil and Noam N. Levey, August 27, 2005, LA Times)

The stalemate over an Iraqi constitution continued Friday without agreement, after Shiite Arab negotiators presented a compromise proposal on regional autonomy to Sunni Arabs in what was described as a final attempt to gain their approval.

Several Iraqi leaders indicated that the current wording would be placed before Iraqi voters in an Oct. 15 national referendum whether or not Sunni representatives approve.

"This draft must be presented to the people," government spokesman Laith Kubba told Al Arabiya news channel early today.

Iraqis differ on charter progress (BBC, 8/27/05)
Negotiators for Iraq's Shia majority say a deal has been agreed on a final draft for the new constitution.

They say the text will be put to the Iraqi parliament for approval within the next two days.

But politicians for the minority Sunni Arabs flatly contradicted the Shia claim, saying there was no agreement despite talks late into the night.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:01 AM


Number of unsold homes surges: Economist sees 'tiny declines' or flat prices ahead (Kimberly Blanton, August 27, 2005, Boston Globe)

''It's a sign that the market is weakening," said economist David Stiff, of Fiserv CWS Inc., a Boston real estate research firm. ''The growth in supply is outpacing the growth of demand."

Reports of higher Massachusetts inventories come as many home buyers and sellers fear that the spectacular rise in real estate values and prices may be ending.

Stiff predicted ''tiny declines" or prices going ''flat for three or four years," perhaps starting nine to 12 months from now.

This week, the Massachusetts Association of Realtors reported single-family home sales in the state decreased 7.4 percent in July from a year earlier, though the median price -- the midpoint price of all the houses on the market -- rose about 7 percent, to $375,000.

Real estate agents say prices haven't fallen yet in response to more supply because owners unable to sell for as much as they want simply hold out, leaving their properties on the market longer -- or they may not sell them at all.
The reason prices aren't coming down is because -- as we've seen in other stories on the phenomenon -- many of these listings are for folks who aren't interested in moving but would sell if they could realize an absurdly high gain.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:01 AM


Greenspan Cites Economic Risks For Consumers (Nell Henderson, August 27, 2005, Washington Post)

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan warned Friday that recent gains in U.S. home prices, stock values and other forms of wealth may be temporary and could easily erode if long-term interest rates rise.

He just can't figure out how to get them to rise in the midst of global deflation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


White supremacists
claim Cindy's cause
: Holding rally: 'We don't want leftist Johnny-come-latelys' to hijack issue (Joe Kovacs, August 26, 2005,

The latest entrants in the saga of Cindy Sheehan vs. the White House are white supremacists, as they plan to rally against the Iraq War this weekend in Crawford, Texas.

Members of are tossing their figurative hoods into the mix, as they invite supporters to come to Camp Casey to "let the world know that white patriots were first and loudest to protest this war for Israel."

The Left/Right Vulcan mind-meld continues.

The Paranoid Style: Iraq: Where socialists and anarchists join in with racialists and paleocons. (Victor Davis Hanson, 8/26/05, National Review)

It is becoming nearly impossible to sort the extreme rhetoric of the antiwar Left from that of the fringe paleo-Right. Both see the Iraqi war through the same lenses: the American effort is bound to fail and is a deep reflection of American pathology.

An anguished Cindy Sheehan calls Bush "the world's biggest terrorist." And she goes on to blame Israel for the death of her son ("Yes, he was killed for lies and for a PNAC Neo-Con agenda to benefit Israel. My son joined the Army to protect America, not Israel").

Her antiwar venom could easily come right out of the mouth of a more calculating David Duke. Perhaps that's why he lauded her anti-Semitism: "Courageously she has gone to Texas near the ranch of President Bush and braved the elements and a hostile Jewish supremacist media."

This odd symbiosis began right after 9/11.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Chavez swipes at 'assassin' Bush (BBC, 8/27/05)

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says US President George W Bush will be to blame if anything happens to him.

...the President isn't going to lose any sleep over that thought.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Ex-rebel becomes Burundi leader (BBC, 8/27/05)

Former Burundi rebel leader Pierre Nkurunziza has been sworn in as president, marking the end of 12 years of war which has left 300,000 dead.

He becomes the first leader chosen through democratic means since 1993.

It marks the end of a five-year peace process designed to end the conflict between Hutu rebels and an army led by the Tutsi minority.

Power will be shared under the peace deal with Tutsis guaranteed a share of power and government jobs.

"I pledge to fight all ideology and acts of genocide and exclusion, to promote and defend the individual and collective rights and freedoms of persons and of the citizen," he said in the Kirundi language in a ceremony attended by several African heads of state.

Burundi's born-again ex-rebel leader (Charles Bigirimana, BBC)
Former rebel leader and born-again Christian Pierre Nkurunziza has been sworn in as Burundi's new president. [...]

He belongs to the younger generation of Hutu leaders, whose political and military careers started after the killing of Hutu President Melchior Ndadaye by disgruntled soldiers in 1993.

Before joining the rebels, he was a teacher, not known for his political activities.

"I was pushed into rebellion by the inter-ethnic massacres that were taking place at the university in 1995," he said on Wednesday.

In the bush, he kept a low profile, despite his rise to take over the FDD leadership.

He joined the FDD after narrowly escaping death in combat in 2001 in the central province of Gitega.

Injured in battle and with the army in hot pursuit, he says he saw those who had gone to kill him were eaten by crocodiles near the Maragarazi river, in central Burundi.

He says the experience is proof that he was pre-destined to lead the FDD.

The son of a former governor, he was born in December 1963 in the northern province of Ngozi. His father was Catholic and his mother Anglican.

Now a born-again Protestant, he is described by those close to him as "religious, cool and a gentleman devoid of religious fundamentalism".

He says he is against tribalism and fought for peace, justice and security for all.

"When I am in church, I pray and devote myself exclusively to God. And when I am in politics, I do the opposite while at the same time acknowledging that God is everywhere," he once said.

August 26, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:40 PM


Sheehan now looks to take on Congress (Reuters, 8/26/05)

Iraq war protester Cindy Sheehan said Friday she plans to expand her focus to Congress, starting with House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a Bush ally and fellow Texan.

Mr. DeLay doesn't need to act presidential and can be honest about what she is.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:08 PM



The Van Zandt County district attorney and the Precinct 2 commissioner have announced they are switching parties from Democratic to Republican, marking the county's third and fourth party switches since June.

District Attorney Leslie Poynter Dixon said the Democratic Party's press release regarding the party switch of Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Ronnie Daniell prompted her to announce her own change of heart.

"I had planned to formally announce my candidacy for re-election in December 2005 during the statutory filing period," Mrs. Dixon said in a written statement. "While, personally, I feel more comfortable discussing party affiliations during the legal election-filing period, I do not want to appear evasive or hesitant to discuss my party."

In a press release issued a few weeks ago, Democratic Party Chairman Vince Leibowitz said Mrs. Dixon and Commissioner David Risner had failed to return the forms necessary to reaffirm their candidacy on the Democratic ticket.

"We have already undertaken a search for opponents for all positions open on the ticket in 2006, and have had several people express an interest in the position of county commissioner," Leibowitz said.

Risner said his reasons had more to do with the local party than Democratic platforms.

"It seems like the Democratic Party was taking a real bad downfall," he said. "It's kind of like the Titanic - it was sinking and it seems like I had a lifeboat to get on."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:32 PM


Italy's Red Cross Aided Insurgents in Exchange for Hostages (Associated Press, August 26, 2005)

Italy's Red Cross treated four Iraq insurgents — with the knowledge of the Italian government — last year and hid them from U.S. forces in exchange for the freedom of two kidnapped aid workers, a top Italian Red Cross official said in an interview published Thursday.

Maurizio Scelli, chief of the Italian Red Cross, told the Turin newspaper La Stampa that he had kept the deal secret from U.S. officials, complying with "a nonnegotiable condition" imposed by Iraqi mediators who helped him secure the release of Simona Pari and Simona Torretta. The women were abducted in Baghdad on Sept. 7 and freed Sept. 28.

"The mediators asked us to save the lives of four alleged terrorists wanted by the Americans who were wounded in combat," Scelli was quoted as saying. "We hid them and brought them to Red Cross doctors, who operated on them."

If you help the enemy you are the enemy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:21 PM

DISCERNING THE HAND OF GOD (via Robert Schwartz):

Space radiation may select amino acids for life (Maggie McKee, 24 August 2005,

Space radiation preferentially destroys specific forms of amino acids, the most realistic laboratory simulation to date has found. The work suggests the molecular building blocks that form the "left-handed" proteins used by life on Earth took shape in space, bolstering the case that they could have seeded life on other planets.

Amino acids are molecules that come in mirror-image right- and left-handed forms. But all the naturally occurring proteins in organisms on Earth use the left-handed forms - a puzzle dubbed the "chirality problem".

"A key question is when this chirality came into play," says Uwe Meierhenrich, a chemist at the University of Nice-Sophia Antipolis in France. One theory is that proteins made of both types of amino acids existed on the early Earth but "somehow only the proteins of left-handed amino acids survived", says Meierhenrich.

Meierhenrich and colleagues have a different theory. "We say the molecular building blocks of life were already created in interstellar conditions," he told New Scientist.

The team believes a special type of "handed" space radiation destroyed more right-handed amino acids on the icy dust from which the solar system formed.

It seems increasingly obvious that life and evolution are shaped by the intervention of forces outside Nature.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:08 PM


Pope Adopts Tough Talk With Muslims: When Pope Benedict XVI met with Muslim leaders in Germany on Aug. 20, he stuck to one issue and gave it a name -- terrorism. (RNS, 8/26/05)

In his historic 2001 visit to Syria, the late John Paul II became the first pope to visit a mosque, where he stressed the common heritage of Christianity and Islam and highlighted the prominence of the Virgin Mary in the Quran.

He also noted a certain "misuse (of) religion itself to promote or justify hatred and violence," but left it undefined.

But when his successor, Pope Benedict XVI, met with Muslim leaders in Germany on Aug. 20, he stuck to one issue and gave it a name -- terrorism.

With a challenge to Muslim leaders to reject and condemn "any connection between your faith and terrorism," Benedict has subtly redefined Vatican relations with Islam, departing from the conciliatory overtures of his predecessor to forge an approach that presses for reform.

The shift, observers say, reflects a growing desire among Vatican officials for the Catholic Church to reassert itself after two decades of dovish dialogue under John Paul II.

Conciliation will be even easier once Islam is Reformed.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:57 PM


For FDA, maggots are a kind of device: Larvae and leeches need prescription, advisers decide (Diedtra Henderson, August 26, 2005, Boston Globe)

What do pacemakers, stents, and artificial hips have in common with leeches and maggots?

According to the Food and Drug Administration, they are all medical devices.

FDA advisers considering how much scrutiny to give to leeches and maggots used for medicinal purposes yesterday decided they should require a prescription.

Leeches have been used by doctors for centuries to control bleeding. Maggot therapy was used hundreds of years ago by indigenous Australians and has been credited with disinfecting the wounds of World War I soldiers who lay untreated for days in battlefields.

With FDA approval, doctors now use maggots to trim dead flesh with more precision than scalpels, and leeches to draw excess blood that can collect when severed fingers are reattached.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:52 PM


More Abortions Than Births in Russia — Health Official (MosNews, 8/23/05)

Russians, whose lives are shorter and poorer than they were under communism, have more abortions than births to avoid the costs of raising children, reported Tuesday quoting the country’s highest-ranking obstetrician.

About 1.6 million women had an abortion last year, a fifth of them under the age of 18, and about 1.5 million gave birth, said Vladimir Kulakov, vice president of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences. “Many more” abortions weren’t reported.

One has to be deeply deluded to believe it natural to propigate the species.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 1:01 PM


At London Zoo, Humans Are Ones on Display (Cassandra Vinograd, Associated Press, August 26th, 2005)

Caged and barely clothed, eight men and women monkeyed around for the crowds Friday in an exhibit labeled "Humans" at the London Zoo.

"Warning: Humans in their Natural Environment" read the sign at the entrance to the exhibit, where the captives could be seen on a rock ledge in a bear enclosure, clad in bathing suits and pinned-on fig leaves. Some played with hula hoops, some waved.

Visitors stopped to point and laugh, and several children could be heard asking, "Why are there people in there?"

London Zoo spokeswoman Polly Wills says that's exactly the question the zoo wants to answer.

"Seeing people in a different environment, among other animals ... teaches members of the public that the human is just another primate," Wills said.

The exhibit puts the three male and five female "homo sapiens" amid their primate relatives. While their neighbors might enjoy bananas and a good scratch, these eight have divided interests, from a chemist hoping to raise awareness about apes to a self-described actor/model and fitness enthusiast.


The other primates are threatening to kill them unless they pay reparations for Chartres.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:55 AM


Gay Advocacy Groups Oppose Roberts' Nomination to High Court: The judge's record shows that he would not protect their civil rights, they say in a statement. (Maura Reynolds, August 26, 2005, LA Times)

Despite John G. Roberts Jr.'s legal help in a landmark Supreme Court victory for gay rights, four leading gay rights organizations said Thursday that they had decided to oppose his nomination to the high court.

The four groups — the Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays — argued that the bulk of Roberts' record suggested he would be unsympathetic to gay rights cases.

We'll send a book to whoever finds the first essay arguing that this is a ploy by the homosexual lobby to sneak one of their own onto the Court--after all folks have argued not just that Roberts is pro-gay rights but that's he's secretly gay and even that his adolscent child is too.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:49 AM


Helms lauded as conscience of Senate conservatives (Ralph Z. Hallow, August 26, 2005, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

From virtually his first day in the Senate in January 1973, [Jesse Helms's] insistence on principle was at times so politically incorrect as to exasperate whoever happened to occupy the Oval Office and to embarrass colleagues on the right whose spines might be less stiff than his.

He tells the story of when the newly inaugurated President Clinton clasped his hand, looked him in the eyes and said: "Senator, I'm so happy to meet you, because we have so much in common."

Mr. Helms recalls his reply: "Mr. President, you must be mistaking me for another senator. My name is Helms. H-E-L-M-S."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:34 AM

OUR GUYS (via Daniel Merriman):

Playing The Shiite Card (David Ignatius, August 26, 2005, Washington Post)

America is finally having its great debate over the Iraq war. In that debate, it's worth listening to a young Iraqi Shiite cleric named Ammar Hakim. He speaks for the people who arguably have gained the most from America's troubled mission in Iraq and, to a surprising extent, still believe in it. [...]

Hakim had a clear message during his visit, and it's one worth mulling carefully as Americans ponder the new Iraqi constitution and the bitter Shiite-Sunni tensions that have surrounded its drafting. If I could sum up his theme in one sentence, it is that the United States should continue to bet on democracy in Iraq -- which of necessity means relying on Iraq's Shiite majority and the mullahs who speak for it. In essence, he was calling for a strategic alliance between Najaf and Washington.

I told Hakim through an interpreter that many Americans were close to despair about Iraq. We see continuing violence and few signs that Iraq's security forces will be strong enough to maintain order once American troops leave. Here's how Hakim responded: "The truth is, this is a grand plan, and any time you are engaged in a grand plan, you will face difficulties. But we will overcome them. We are now in the final quarter of these difficulties." [...]

[A]mericans should ponder the argument that Hakim made to U.S. officials. The way to contain Sunni terrorism and stabilize the Arab world is to develop a strategic relationship with Najaf. Powerful Shiite communities exist in all the region's hot spots: Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria and above all Iran. An American rapprochement with Iran is essential, he would argue, but the real fulcrum should be Najaf.

It's entirely typical that Hakim understands the Abraham Lincoln analogy better than Harold Meyerson does and the grand strategy that the President has been following better than the Post's foreign policy analyst does. The Shi'a have been the key all along because they are most like us and, therefore, most likely to build enduring and vibrant democracies, but you can't be too open about that because the Sunni, who dominate the Arab world hate them, as do most Americans, who haven't moved on from the Iranian embassy tiff. It's why the president has been so circumspect with Iran--they are our inevitable allies and rather sooner than later.

Shiites offer compromise on constitution (QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA, 8/26/05, Associated Press)

Prodded by President Bush, Shiite negotiators Friday offered what they called their final compromise proposal to Sunni Arabs to try to break the impasse over Iraq's new constitution, a Shiite official said.

Bush telephoned a key Shiite leader, Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, on Thursday to urge consensus over the draft, Abbas al-Bayati told The Associated Press.

The Shiites were awaiting a response from the Sunnis, al-Bayati said. Later, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and Kurdish mediator Barham Saleh were seen arriving at a Green Zone residence where top Shiites were huddling.

He said the concessions were on the pivotal issues of federalism and efforts to remove former members of Saddam Hussein's Sunni-dominated Baath Party from public life, adding: "We cannot offer more than that." [...]

"We are trying to put forward the views of others," Vice President Ghazi al-Yawer, a former Iraqi president, told Al-Jazeera television Friday. "We want this constitution to maintain the unity of Iraqi soil and give rights to all Iraqis."

Al-Bayati said the Shiites had proposed that the parliament expected to be elected in December be given the right to issue a law on the mechanism of implementing federalism. He gave no further details.

-Iran thrives on the neo-con dream (Jim Lobe, 8/27/05, Asia Times)
Not only did Washington knock off Tehran's arch-foe, Saddam Hussein, as well as the anti-Iranian Taliban in Afghanistan, but, with the near completion of a new constitution that is likely to guarantee a weak central government and substantial autonomy to much of the Shi'ite south, it also appears that Iran's influence in Iraq - already on the rise after last spring's inauguration of a pro-Iranian interim government - is set to grow further.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:13 AM




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Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:06 AM


If 'Bubble' Bursts, Legacy of Greenspan May Deflate (Bill Sing, August 26, 2005, LA Times)

As central bankers and prominent economists gather today in Wyoming to assess Alan Greenspan's 18-year stewardship of the U.S. economy, the Federal Reserve chairman is expected to win widespread plaudits for fostering solid economic growth while deftly managing several financial crises.

But the final chapter of Greenspan's legacy might be based on how well the central bank manages what many experts say is a crisis looming on the horizon: a housing bubble. [...]

Many economists who praise Greenspan's overall record nonetheless are critical of his handling of the housing market.

"This will have been the most successful period in the history of the Federal Reserve system," William A. Niskanen, a Reagan administration economic advisor and now chairman of the conservative Cato Institute in Washington, says of Greenspan's tenure. But, he says, the Fed chief made three major mistakes, including fostering banking regulations that helped precipitate today's low mortgage rates — "a condition that has contributed to what now looks like a housing bubble." [...]

[Edward Leamer, director of the UCLA Anderson Forecast and one of the first economists to label the current housing market a bubble] adds that today's housing market is different from the dot-com stock mania of the late 1990s, in that soaring Internet stock prices could at least be justified by the perception that technology was changing the world, creating a "new economy." Greenspan was blamed for helping fuel the stock bubble with statements in the late 1990s touting the "new economy."

But "houses are exactly the same now as two years ago. There is no 'new economy' when it comes to homes," Leamer says. Thus, cooling off housing should have been "an easy call to make."

Of course, the reason Mr. Greenspan's tenure is praiseworthy is because he continued to hold inflation under control after Paul Volcker and Ronald Reagan defeated it, one of the main benefits of which has been the ability to keep interest rates low. Mr. Leamer though seems to be saying he should raise rates artificially even into the teeth of a deflationary global economy and that while it was excusable to think that internet stocks that had no intrinsic value should reach ridiculous prices that houses, with obvious permanent value, should not be allowed to achieve what may or may not be unsustainably high prices.

Rates continue to fall on 30-year mortgages (Martin Crutsinger, 8/26/05, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Rates on 30-year mortgages declined for a second consecutive week as low mortgages continued to fuel the country's housing boom.

Mortgage giant Freddie Mac reported Thursday that rates on 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages fell to a nationwide average of 5.77 percent this week, down from last week's 5.80 percent. Rates have fallen for two weeks after hitting a four-month high of 5.89 percent the week of Aug. 11. [...]

Even with the two consecutive declines, analysts said that rates should resume rising in coming weeks as the Federal Reserve continues its campaign to nudge rates higher as a way of making sure that inflation does not get out of control.

If there were any prospect of inflation they wouldn't lend you the money at those rates.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 10:23 AM


Excluded Middle School (Louis Markos, Touchstone, July/August, 2005)

Though public education in the United States has not fully abandoned the concept of ethics and morality, it has quite clearly abandoned what C. S. Lewis dubbed the Tao. As Lewis explained it in The Abolition of Man, the Tao is the universal moral law code known and understood by all peoples at all times through the dual media of natural reason and divinely revealed law codes. Although the Tao has always played a central role in the education of the young, modern Western educators have, in defiance of both our Greco-Roman and our Judeo-Christian heritage, rejected it as the basis for education.

This rejection they have justified on at least three grounds: “scientific” (modern education is to rest on logic, reason, and empirical evidence, not on anything “subjective” and “private”), sociological-anthropological (what we in the West call morality is not universal but culture-specific), and political (a “religious” concept like the Tao has no place in public, state-run education). Even when traditional morality is taught in the classroom, it is not linked to the Tao, but treated as a personal choice that cannot be granted the universal status given to, say, the numerical value of pi or the scientific theory of evolution.

By rejecting the Tao, the educational system has courted disaster. Borrowing a metaphor from Plato, Lewis argued in The Abolition of Man that in all human beings there exists a perpetual war between the head (reason) and the belly (appetite). Through the head we are drawn up toward the angels, and through the belly we are drawn down toward the beasts. In a straight fight between the two, the belly will win every time.[...]

It is not enough to teach young students knowledge of the Tao. In addition to learning how to distinguish virtuous behavior from vicious behavior, the student must be taught how he is to feel about virtue and vice. The student must be trained from a young age to feel good when he performs a virtuous action and to feel a sense of internal disgust (but not self-hatred) when he does something vicious.

It is always amusing to watch secular Darwinists try and juggle their conflicting beliefs that our morality is universal and biologically determined by our common survival needs and that religion is to be rejected because it posits incompatible rights and wrongs in a culturally relativist world. If they are right on the second, there is no morality to teach. If they are right on the first, there is no need to.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 9:21 AM


Bolton throws UN summit into chaos (Julian Borger, The Guardian, August 26th, 2005)

John Bolton, Washington's new ambassador to the United Nations, has called for wholesale changes to a draft document due to go before a UN summit next month aimed at reshaping the world body.

Mr Bolton, a long-standing UN critic who was given a temporary appointment by George Bush three weeks ago after the United States Senate failed to agree on his nomination, has proposed 750 amendments to the draft and called for immediate talks on them.

The 29-page document has been drawn up by a committee under the UN general assembly president, Jean Ping of Gambia, over the past year, during which time several drafts have been circulated.

Critics complained that the US objections had come towards the end of the drafting process, with only three weeks to go before the summit.

But Benjamin Chang, a spokesman for the American team at the UN, said Mr Bolton had simply been restating long-held US opinions. "Those are not new positions; surprise positions," he said. "We've been engaged in this process, since the first meeting." [...]

In a letter to his fellow ambassadors, Mr Bolton was quoted as urging quick action on the American proposals.

"Time is short. In order to maximise our chances of success, I suggest we begin the negotiations immediately - this week if possible," he wrote.

Farhan Haq, a spokesman for the UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan, said ferment over the draft statement was a positive sign. "We actually feel fairly confident that member states are taking UN reform seriously," said Mr Haq. "There is stepped-up activity everywhere, and very serious high-level negotiating."

Obviously the bull-o-meter is overheating on both sides here. Whatever chortles and guffaws we may enjoy watching this slapstick, the President’s decision to defend the UN’s legitimacy and support its reform made a needed, principled attack on the supremacy of international law and multilateralism impossible and was a huge missed opportunity.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:55 AM


Court says Sri Lanka election due (BBC, 8/25/05)

Sri Lanka's Supreme Court has ruled that President Chandrika Kumaratunga's term ends in December, paving the way for elections to be held.

Elections are now expected to be held in October or November.

Ms Kumaratunga won a second six year term after a snap poll a year early in late 1999.

But she has argued that the left-over year from her earlier term should mean that she is entitled to stay in office for another year.

The BBC's Dumeetha Luthra says the decision is a bitter defeat for President Kumaratunga.

Under Sri Lanka's constitution, she cannot stand in elections for a third term.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 8:15 AM


His private Idaho
(Maureen Dowd, New York Times, August 25th, 2005)

President George W. Bush vacationed so hard in Texas he got bushed. He needed a vacation from his vacation. The most rested president in American history headed West on Tuesday to get away from his Western getaway - and the mushrooming Crawford Woodstock - and spend a couple of days at the Tamarack Resort in the rural Idaho mountains.

Bush did manage to work in a speech to a friendly Idaho National Guard audience on Wednesday, but basically, "I'm kind of hangin' loose, as they say," he told reporters.

As The Financial Times noted, Bush is acting positively French in his love of le loafing, with 339 days at his ranch since he took office - nearly a year out of his five. Most Americans, on the other hand, take fewer vacations than anyone else in the developed world (even the Japanese), averaging only 13 to 16 days off a year.

It’s bad enough that he is a dishonest, illegitimate leader who spends his days pursuing immoral and dangerous wars, squeezing the poor to benefit his rich friends, undercutting scientific progress by promoting religious mumbo-jumbo and destroying personal freedom. What is really shocking is that he doesn’t work hard enough at it.

August 25, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:26 PM


The New Iraq: Spiffy, shiny, theocratic, allied with Iran — and we made it happen (HAROLD MEYERSON, 8/26/05, LA Weekly)

[George W. Bush] has spoken at long last about U.S. casualties in Iraq, and, with echoes of Lincoln at Gettysburg, vowed that, “We will finish the task that they gave their lives for.”

But, of course, Lincoln at Gettysburg did not merely pledge to see the cause through. He redefined for all time the cause for which Union soldiers died; he expanded the scope of the Declaration of Independence’s assertion of human equality; he proclaimed that America would emerge from a Union victory as a freer and more democratic nation than it had been before.

But what is the cause for which U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq since they deposed Hussein? If we’re to take the draft constitution seriously, the Iraq we’ve fought and bled to create is to be a loose federation, in which the Shiite South, and perhaps the Sunni center, will be governed by Islamic law, with Shiite senior clerics given special status outside the writ of national law, and Shiite women offered up to the mercies of their friendly local Koranic law judges.

Given that Mr. Meyerson had previously compared President Bush to Jefferson Davis and Nathan Bedford Forrest, the founder of the KKK, the reference to Lincoln at least marks some progress. But it's worth noting how badly Father Abraham comes off in the comparison. There were more than five times as many Americans killed just at Gettysburg than we've lost in the entire Iraq War, and as a percentage of the population the number is even more dramatic. And what was the cause for which they fought, bled and died? That blacks might be subjected to a brutal regime of Jim Crow that was little different than slavery, that greed-driven corporadoes might loot the South during a military occupation and that it might remain economically backwards for a hundred years. It's rather a low bar to clear but Mr. Bush's war, which liberated two oppressed populations in Iraq and actually put them in control of their own destinies while establishing one (or two, or three) of the first constitutional republics in the Arab world, is certain to be a greater achievement purely in terms of human equality than was his predecessors.

N.B.: Mind you, the KKK, which might be considered the Confederate resistance, is still a going concern a hundred and forty years later, which gives the Shi'a a good long while to put down the Ba'athists remnants quicker than we've managed to deal with their parallel here.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:02 PM


China steps up pre-anniversary crackdown on Xinjiang separatists (AFX, 8/25/05)

China has stepped up a crackdown on pro-independence and separatist activities in its Muslim-majority Xinjiang region ahead of the 50th anniversary of its takeover of the area, the country's top official in Xinjiang said. [...]

Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the World Uighur Congress, said he was outraged at the crackdown, saying China has no legitimate right to rule the region.

'This is a political joke, to forcibly impose this so-called autonomous ruling on an ethnic group which has never recognized China,' Raxit told Agence France-Presse.

Uighur separatists, who maintain a distinct ethnic identity from the Chinese, have been fighting to re-establish an independent state of East Turkestan in Xinjiang since it became an autonomous region of China in 1955.

A people who don't think of themselves as Chinese aren't going to be.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:46 PM


Coming Back To Crawford (Cindy Sheehan, 25 August , 2005, Huffington Post)

I'm coming back to Crawford for my son. As long as the president, who sent him to die in a senseless war, is in Crawford, that is where I belong. I came here two and a half weeks ago for one reason, to try and see the president and get an answer to a very simple question: What is the noble cause that he says my son died for?

President Addresses Military Families, Discusses War on Terror (George W. Bush, Idaho Center, Nampa, Idaho, 8/24/05)
We're spreading the hope of freedom across the broader Middle East. In the long run, the only way to defeat the terrorists is by offering an alternative to their ideology of hatred and fear. So a key component of our strategy is to spread freedom. History has proven that free nations are peaceful nations, that democracies do not fight their neighbors. (Applause.) And so, by advancing the cause of liberty and freedom in the Middle East, we're bringing hope to millions, and security to our own citizens. By bringing freedom and hope to parts of the world that have lived in despair, we're laying the foundation of peace for our children and grandchildren. (Applause.)

We're using all elements of our national power to achieve our objectives -- military power, diplomatic power, financial, intelligence and law enforcement. We're fighting the enemy on many fronts -- from the streets of the Western capitals to the mountains of Afghanistan, to the tribal regions of Pakistan, to the islands of Southeast Asia and the Horn of Africa. You see, this new kind of war, the first war of the 21st century, is a war on a global scale. And to protect our people, we've got to prevail in every theater. And that's why it's important for us to call upon allies and friends to join with us -- and they are.

One of the most important battlefronts in this war on terror is Iraq. Terrorists have converged on Iraq. See, they're coming into Iraq because they fear the march of freedom. Their most prominent leader is a Jordanian named Zarqawi, who has declared his allegiance with Osama bin Laden. The ranks of these folks are filled with foreign fighters who come from places like Saudi Arabia and Syria and Iran and Egypt and Sudan and Yemen and Libya. They lack popular support so they're targeting innocent Iraqis with car bombs and suicide attacks. They know the only way they can prevail is to break our will and the will of the Iraqi people before democracy takes hold. They are going to fail. (Applause.)

The stakes in Iraq could not be higher. The brutal violence in Iraq today is a clear sign of the terrorists' determination to stop democracy from taking root in the Middle East. They know that the success of a free Iraq, who can be a key ally in the war on terror and a symbol of success for others, will be a crushing blow to their strategy to dominate the region, and threaten America and the free world. They know that when their hateful ideology is defeated in Iraq, the Middle East will have a clear example of freedom and prosperity and hope. And the terrorists will begin to lose their sponsors and lose their recruits and lose the sanctuaries they need to plan new attacks.

And so they're fighting these efforts in Iraq with all the brutality they can muster. Yet, despite the violence we see every day, we're achieving our strategic objectives in Iraq. The Iraqi people are determined to build a free nation, and we have a plan to help them succeed. America and Iraqi forces are on the hunt, side-by-side, to defeat the terrorists. And as we hunt down our common enemies, we will continue to train more Iraqi security forces.

Like free people everywhere, Iraqis desire to defend their own country. That's what they want to do. They want to be in a position to defend their own freedom and their own democracy. And we're helping to achieve that goal. Our approach can be summed up this way: As Iraqis stand up, we will stand down. And when the Iraqi forces can defend their freedom by taking more and more of the fight to the enemy, our troops will come home with the honor they have earned. (Applause.)

At the same time, we're helping the Iraqi people establish a secure democracy. The people of Iraq have made a choice. In spite of the threats and assassinations, eight and a half million Iraqis went to the polls in January. (Applause.) By casting their ballots in defiance of the terrorists, they sent a clear and unmistakable message to the world: It doesn't matter where you're born; it doesn't matter what faith you follow, embedded in every soul is the deep desire to live in freedom. (Applause.) I understand freedom is not America's gift to the world; freedom is an Almighty God's gift to each man and woman in this world. (Applause.)

That may not sound like a noble cause to Cindy Sheehan, but it did to her son.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:04 PM


Bush's Social Security plan may hinge on the House (Carl P. Leubsdorf, August 25, 2005, Dallas Morning News)

As Ronald Reagan might have put it, there they go again.

Congressional Republicans, persisting in hopes of enacting some form of private Social Security option despite opposition from the public and the Democrats, are considering the same kind of maneuver that enabled them to pass a controversial Medicare drug bill two years ago. [...]

The White House and its congressional allies have gone back and forth on whether to try to pass a Social Security bill first in the Senate or in the House.

But insufficient GOP support in the Senate Finance Committee and a solid wall of Democratic opposition that ensures enough votes to sustain a filibuster have forced them to look first to the House.

Solid Republican discipline there has enabled the party's narrow majority to prevail on vote after vote in recent years, most recently on the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).

None had as torturous a path to enactment as the bill to create a prescription drug program. It only passed in 2003 after three hours of early morning arm twisting and the help of misleading cost estimates that soon proved to have been understated.

Because the Senate had passed a similar bill, Republicans could take the measure to a Senate-House conference. By excluding most Democrats from any role, they crafted the kind of bill they wanted in the first place.

That would appear to be their hope for private Social Security accounts – pass a bill in the House authorizing private accounts, accept any Social Security vehicle in the Senate that gets the issue to conference and write a final version letting the White House proclaim success.

Winning ugly still counts as winning.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:28 PM

You're invited to attend a live chat at 9pm eastern with Victor Davis Hanson on Sorry for the late notice!

Go to and click on the FORUMS link at the top. Create a free ezboard account and then click on "Join Live Chat."


Chris O'Connor - the freethinkers book discussion community

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Posted by David Cohen at 7:44 PM


America and the World War, pp. 244-245 (Teddy Roosevelt, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1915)

Chapter XII

Summing Up

"BLESSED are the peacemakers," not merely the peace lovers; for action is what makes thought operative and valuable. Above all, the peace prattlers are in no way blessed. On the contrary, only mischief has sprung from the activities of the professional peace prattlers, the ultrapacificists, who, with the shrill clamor of eunuchs, preach the gospel of the milk and water of virtue and scream that belief in the efficacy of diluted moral mush is essential to salvation.

It seems necessary every time I state my position to guard against the counterwords of wilful folly by reiterating that my disagreement with the peace-at-any-price men, the ultrapacificists, is not in the least because they favor peace. I object to them, first, because they have proved themselves futile and impotent in working for peace, and, second, because they commit what is not merely the capital error but the crime against morality of failing to uphold righteousness as the all-important end toward which we should strive.... I have as little sympathy for them as they have for the men who deify mere brutal force, who insist that power justifies wrongdoing, and who declare that there is no such thing as international morality. But the ultra- pacifists really play into the hands of these men. To condemn equally might which backs right and might which overthrows right is to render positive service to wrong-doers

Roosevelt begins his book with William Samual Johnson's Prayer for Peace
Now these were visions in the night of war:

I prayed for peace; God, answering my prayer,
Sent down a grievous plague on humankind,
A black and tumorous plague that softly slew
Till nations and their armies were no more --
And there was perfect peace . . .
But I awoke, wroth with high God and prayer.

I prayed for peace; God, answering my prayer,
Decreed the Truce of Life: -- Wings in the sky Fluttered and fell; the quick, bright ocean things
Sank to the ooze; the footprints in the woods
Vanished; the freed brute from the abattoir
Starved on green pastures; and within the blood
The death-work at the root of living ceased;
And men gnawed clods and stones, blasphemed and died --
And there was perfect peace . . .
But I awoke, wroth with high God and prayer.

I prayed for peace; God, answering my prayer,
Bowed the free neck beneath a yoke of steel,
Dumbed the free voice that springs in lyric speech,
Killed the free art that glows on all mankind,
And made one iron nation lord of earth,
Which in the monstrous matrix of its will
Moulded a spawn of slaves. There was One Might --
And there was perfect peace . . .
But I awoke, wroth with high God and prayer.

I prayed for peace; God, answering my prayer.
Palsied all flesh with bitter fear of death.
The shuddering slayers fled to town and field
Beset with carrion visions, foul decay,
And sickening taints of air that made the earth
One charnel of the shrivelled lines of war.
And through all flesh that omnipresent fear
Became the strangling fingers of a hand
That choked aspiring thought and brave belief
And love of loveliness and selfless deed
Till flesh was all, flesh wallowing, styed in fear,
In festering fear that stank beyond the stars --
And there was perfect peace . . .
But I awoke, wroth with high God and prayer.

I prayed for peace; God, answering my prayer,
Spake very softly of forgotten things,
Spake very softly old remembered words
Sweet as young starlight. Rose to heaven again
The mystic challenge of the Nazarene,
That deathless affirmation: -- Man in God
And God in man willing the God to be . . .
And there was war and peace, and peace and war,
Full year and lean, joy, anguish, life and death,
Doing their work on the evolving soul,
The soul of man in God and God in man.
For death is nothing in the sum of things,
And life is nothing in the sum of things,
And flesh is nothing in the sum of things,
But man in God is all and God in man,
Will merged in will, love immanent in love,
Moving through visioned vistas to one goal-
The goal of man in God and God in man,
And of all life in God and God in life --
The far fruition of our earthly prayer,
Thy will be done!" . . . There is no other peace!

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:20 PM


How to effectively confront nuclear threat from terrorists (Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, 8/25/05, USA Today)

[S]top nations such as North Korea and Iran, which on President Bush's watch have greatly expanded nuclear programs, from joining up with the evil ideology of al-Qaeda.

In the past three years, North Korea has withdrawn from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, kicked out the international inspectors monitoring its nuclear activities, and claimed to have reprocessed fuel rods yielding enough plutonium for several nuclear weapons. Iran is working on processes that can produce fuel for nuclear weapons. And neither regime has shown much hesitation in working with terrorists.

Yet, with both Iran and North Korea, the Bush administration has sat by for years and let others deal with the threat. We can no longer outsource national security to the European Union or nations such as China.

Oh, no. We fell for that WMD guff last time and ended up invading a perfectly innocent Iraq. Now we're supposed to fall for the same line from the same folks as regards Iran and North Korea and then have the Democrats bail on us when it turns out they don't have nukes. No, thanks.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:39 PM


Mubarak Campaigns as Skeptics Wonder About Real Reform (MICHAEL SLACKMAN, 8/25/05, NY Times)

Those close to Mr. Mubarak say that the very act of holding a campaign is a step toward awakening a society that has been politically lethargic for decades. They believe it will allow creation of a political class and produce political institutions independent of the government or ruling National Democratic Party.

The incremental progress seems aimed at changing attitudes within Egypt's huge bureaucracy rather than promoting democratic values. The very fact that Mr. Mubarak's speeches as a candidate are not broadcast live on state-run television, or that photographers other than those working for the president are permitted to take his picture, are counted by some of his supporters as reforms.

"What is important is the new dynamics existing now in this society," said Muhammad Abdullah, president of Alexandria University and a leading figure in the ruling National Democratic Party. "The idea of competition, and defeating the idea of the pharaoh, will give way to new steps. We are starting a new real era in our life."

Arab authoritarians have not done as good a of of preparing their countries for democracy as guys like Franco, Pinochet, and Marcos did, so there's some catching up to do. The important thing is to create an expectation of genuine democracy and instill the idea that only representative government is legitimate in the long run.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:38 PM


Reality Denial: a review of The Dragons of Expectation: Reality and Delusion in the Course of History by Robert Conquest (Angelo M. Codevilla, June 2005, The American Spectator)

The second part of the book consists of case studies -- rather, of observations on cases -- of contemporary intellectuals' willful resistance to reality. Since Conquest spent most of his life as an exemplary student of the Soviet Union, the examples are drawn primarily from that fertile field.

The flood of documents from the Soviet Union's collapse by no means caused academics to repudiate their adherence to Communist falsifications. Conquest had shown in his earlier writings that, even when much less information was available, historians who worked honestly had enough to see things as they were. The failure of academics now to bring their judgments into line with today's plenitude of information simply disqualifies them. There never was any evidence, writes Conquest, that Lenin's Bolsheviks ever represented anybody but themselves. Absolutely all the evidence concerning the October Revolution of 1917 shows that, outside the Party, which he controlled, Lenin got outvoted in every venue at every level. If ever there was a case of a gang hijacking a government, the October Revolution was it. Why then is the view to the contrary of British historian Eric Hobsbawm and of so many others still canonical? Why -- long after real economic figures became available and proved that Stalin's massive diversion of social resources to industrialization did not raise the pace of his country's development but rather retarded it -- are the works of E.H. Carr still treated with respect? Because those who so treat it, like Carr, have a fondness for the idea of a planned society and disdain for those who oppose it. Exposure to harsh Soviet realities did not dent their own intellectual identities.

Heck, you don't have to look any further than our comments section to find folks who think the Bolsheviks were popular heroes of the Russian masses.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:51 PM


Tone-Deafness Among Democrats (George F. Will, August 25, 2005, Washington Post)

Sad yet riveting, like a wreck by the side of the road, Cindy Sheehan, a plaything of her own sincerities and other people's opportunisms, has already been largely erased from the national memory by new waves of media fickleness in the service of the public's summer ennui. But before she becomes fully relegated to the role of opening act for more durable luminaries at antiwar rallies, prudent Democrats -- those political snail darters, the emblematic endangered species of American politics -- should consider the possibility that, although she was a burr under the president's saddle for several weeks, she is symptomatic of something that in 2008 could cause the Democratic Party a sixth loss in eight presidential elections. That something is a shrillness unlike anything heard in living memory from a major tendency within a major party.

Many warmhearted and mildly attentive Americans say the president should have invited Sheehan to his kitchen table in Crawford for a cup of coffee and a serving of that low-calorie staple of democratic sentimentality -- "dialogue." Well.

Since her first meeting with the president, she has called him a "lying bastard," "filth spewer," "evil maniac," "fuehrer" and the world's "biggest terrorist" who is committing "blatant genocide" and "waging a nuclear war" in Iraq. Even leaving aside her not entirely persuasive contention that someone else concocted the obviously anti-Israel and inferentially anti-Semitic elements of one of her recent e-mails -- elements of a sort nowadays often found woven into ferocious left-wing rhetoric -- it is difficult to imagine how the dialogue would get going.

He: "Cream and sugar?"

She: "Yes, please, filth-spewer."

Here's all you need to know about the Democrats--President Gore or President Kerry would have had that coffee.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:51 PM

HOW ELSE ARE YOU GOING TO FIT FIVE 52" TV'S? (via Michael Herdegen):

Die, die, monster home! Die!: Homes are bigger than ever. Now there's a backlash against the 'mansionization' of America. (Les Christie, 8/18/05, CNN/Money)

The American home is getting bigger. And fatter. And, to some, uglier. Now, towns are fighting back.

Chevy Chase, Md., an upscale suburb of Washington, recently announced a six-month moratorium on home construction to make time to examine how to deal with the proliferation of oversized single-family houses.

Call them what you will -- starter castles, McMansions, monster homes -- these houses have become increasingly visible in metropolitan landscapes. Many residents hate them. [...]

Are these new homes really so gargantuan that they should attract such fear and loathing?

Back in 1950, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), the average new house clocked in at 963 square feet. By 1970, that figure had swollen to 1,500 square feet.

Today's average: 2,400 square feet. One in five are more than 3,000 square feet.

Oddly, as houses expanded, the number of household members shrank, from 3.1 people in 1971 to 2.6 people today. The average building-lot size contracted also, to about 8,000 square feet from 9,000 in the 1980s.

So you're getting bigger houses on smaller lots with fewer people living in them.

Always amusing when people think their grandparents had "an easier time providing the exact same lifestyle."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:14 PM


With Gaza pullout, Sharon again has right strategy (Victor Davis Hanson, 8/25/05,

"Brilliant tactician, lousy strategist." So goes the conventional wisdom about the old bulldozer Ariel Sharon.

But that assessment is exactly backward. [...]

[S]haron was always a strategic thinker, and we are seeing his accustomed foresight working in the controversial exodus from Gaza.

The Israeli military is crafting defensible borders, not unlike the old Roman decision to stay on its own side of the Rhine and Danube rivers. In Sharon's thinking, it no longer made any sense to periodically send in thousands of soldiers in Gaza to protect less than 10,000 Israeli civilians abroad, when a demographic time bomb of too few Jews was ticking inside Israel proper.

But Gaza itself is only a tessera in a far larger strategic mosaic. The Israelis also press on with the border fence that will in large part end suicide bombings. The barrier will grant the Palestinians what they clamor for, but perhaps also fear — their own isolated state that they must now govern or let the world watch devolve into something like the Afghanistan of the Taliban.

Once Israel is out of Gaza and has fenced off slivers of the West Bank near Jerusalem deemed vital for its security, Sharon can bide his time until a responsible Palestinian government emerges as a serious interlocutor.

Then any lingering disagreements over disputed land can be relegated to the status of a Tibet, northern Cyprus, Kashmir or the Sakhalin and Kurile Islands — all postbellum "contested" territories that do not prompt commensurate attention from the Muslim world, Europe or the United Nations.

The key to understanding the recent history of the Palestine/Israel conflict--since the fall of the Soviet Union--is that it was the Palestinian leadership that was least interested in statehood and that forcing it upon them represents a victory not just for the Palestinian people but for Israel and the U.S. as well.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:06 PM


Fed Up With Housing Misinformation (James J. Cramer, 8/25/2005,

We are at a really and truly bizarre moment where the papers and the television shows are all filled with how buying a condo's now worse than buying eToys common on that secondary in 2000.

We are convincing ourselves -- typically through journalists who couldn't afford or didn't buy homes -- that owning an apartment's dumber than paying $30 for Webvan and owning a beach house is like buying the Viant $100 secondary.

May I suggest that most of this stuff is plain stupid?

You can suggest, but folks are too smart to listen.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:56 PM


Jobless Claims Drop by 4,000 Last Week (Martin Crutsinger, 8/25/05, The Associated Press)

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits declined last week with the four-week average for people receiving benefits dropping to the lowest level in more than four years.

The Labor Department reported that 315,000 newly laid off workers applied for jobless benefits, a decline of 4,000 from the previous week, providing further evidence that solid economic growth is showing up in an improving labor market.

The four-week average for the total number of people receiving benefits dipped to 2.58 million last week, the lowest level for this figure since March 2001, the month the last recession began.

The drop of 4,000 benefit applications last week was slightly better than economists had been forecasting. Since early January, claims levels have remained well below 350,000 at levels that analysts view as signaling a healthy labor market.

Except that it wasn't a recession, just a period of low growth.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:46 PM


High Schools Address the Cruelest Cut (Eli Saslow, 8/22/05, Washington Post)

He arrived 10 minutes before his fate, so Filip Olsson stood outside Severna Park High School and waited for coaches to post the cut list for the boys' soccer team.

Olsson, a sophomore, wanted desperately to make the junior varsity, but he also wanted justification for a long list of sacrifices. His family had rearranged a trip to Sweden so he could participate in a preparatory soccer camp; he'd crawled out of bed at 5:30 a.m. for two weeks of camp and tryouts and forced down Raisin Bran; he'd sweated off five pounds and pulled his hamstring.

Finally, a coach walked by holding a list, and Olsson followed him into the high school. He walked back out two minutes later, his hands shoved deep into his pockets and his eyes locked on the ground.

"It felt," he said later, "like a punch in the stomach."

Thousands of area teenagers suffered similarly last week during high school sports tryouts, an increasingly high-stakes process both coaches and players abhor. As more families invest money into year-round club sports and intensive summer camps in an effort to propel their kids onto top high school teams, the pressure has increased on what remains a subjective tryout process. Because a spot on a varsity or junior varsity team can dramatically impact a teenager's self-confidence and social status, there is little tolerance of mistakes.

In an effort to better explain cuts to players and parents, coaches have started to record player evaluation grades. Few coaches, though, agree on how to decide which players are cut. Fewer still agree on how to cut those players. Only one thing, coaches said, can be universally agreed upon: Tryouts are as imperfect as their punishing end result.

"The day you have to cut kids is the worst day at the school all year," said Andy Muir, the field hockey coach at W.T. Woodson. "Everybody is trying hard to do the right thing -- the kids to make the team, the coaches to pick the right team -- and everyone ends up devastated. It's heartbreaking." [...]

Because of increased complaints from parents, many high school coaches now strive to make cuts more scientific. Until she retired last season, longtime Eleanor Roosevelt girls' soccer coach Kathy Lacey made her players run 1.5 miles in less than 12 minutes to make the team. Mike Bossom, the volleyball coach at Centennial, scores players with a number -- 1 through 5 -- for each drill and then logs the scores on a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet.

For the first time this season, Severna Park Athletic Director Wayne Mook required his coaches to record running times and player evaluation grades, then hand in that paperwork to him. It is an arduous process that many coaches find tiresome, but Mook instituted it for a reason: After a player was cut from the girls' lacrosse team last spring, the family hired lawyers to meet with the school.

"In this day and age, you have to cover yourself a little bit," Mook said. "When I meet with a parent whose kid has been cut, I need something to show them. I need proof."

As Mr. McKim says:
The Greatest Generation has given birth to the Gratingest Generation. In their quest to obliterate adversity from the lives of their progeny, they may inadvertently destroy competitive sport and eliminate many more opportunities for what usta be called "life lessons."

We'd just point out that being told you aren't qualified to play soccer is akin to a fish being told he isn't qualified to swim. Christy Brown was a competent soccer player for crimminy sake.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:11 AM


Dieters Eat Less to Live Longer (Joanna Glasner, Aug. 25, 2005, Wired)

Lisa Walford considers her current weight of 82 pounds to be just about optimal.

Granted, it's not easy to maintain. For much of her adult life, Walford, a petite 4'11", hovered around 95 pounds. Sustaining her new weight requires consuming only about 1,300 calories on most days, 15 percent less than what she used to eat. live it this way?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:00 AM


Divided They Stand (DAVID BROOKS, 8/25/05, NY Times)

"The Bush administration finally did something right in brokering this constitution," [Peter W.] Galbraith exclaimed, then added: "This is the only possible deal that can bring stability. ... I do believe it might save the country."

Galbraith's argument is that the constitution reflects the reality of the nation it is meant to serve. There is, he says, no meaningful Iraqi identity. In the north, you've got a pro-Western Kurdish population. In the south, you've got a Shiite majority that wants a "pale version of an Iranian state." And in the center you've got a Sunni population that is nervous about being trapped in a system in which it would be overrun.

In the last election each group expressed its authentic identity, the Kurds by voting for autonomy-minded leaders, the Shiites for clerical parties and the Sunnis by not voting.

This constitution gives each group what it wants. It will create a very loose federation in which only things like fiscal and foreign policy are controlled in the center (even tax policy is decentralized). Oil revenues are supposed to be distributed on a per capita basis, and no group will feel inordinately oppressed by the others.

The Kurds and Shiites understand what a good deal this is. The Sunni leaders selected to attend the convention are howling because they are former Baathists who dream of a return to centralized power. But ordinary Sunnis, Galbraith says, will come to realize this deal protects them, too.

Galbraith says he is frustrated with all the American critics who argue that the constitution divides the country. The country is already divided, he says, and drawing up a constitution that would artificially bind three divergent societies together would create only friction, violence and civil war. "It's not a problem if a country breaks up, only if it breaks up violently," Galbraith says. "Iraq wasn't created by God. It was created by Winston Churchill."

A unified Iraq was a worthy goal to shoot for, but once Iraqis rejected not one worth fighting for.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:00 AM


Renewed flame from the Welsh dragon (Katrin Bennhold, 8/24/05, International Herald Tribune)

Not long ago, any mention of Wales risked conjuring up images of coal mines, sheep farms and God-fearing traditionalism.

But over the past decade a combination of economic modernization and greater political independence from London has changed the face of Wales and the morale of its three million inhabitants.

"Every day when I wake up, I thank the Lord I'm Welsh," Cerys Matthews of the Welsh pop band Catatonia sang seven years ago. Today all her compatriots seem to be humming along as Wales, long overshadowed by Scotland and Ireland, comes into its own.

Politically, the process started in 1998 with the establishment of the Welsh Assembly, the first Parliament in 600 years in Wales. Unlike the Scottish Parliament, the Assembly has no power to raise taxes or pass primary legislation, but it manages the budget allocated to Wales by Westminster and has taken over most administrative functions.

Despite the Assembly's limited powers, Wales experts say, it was crucial in restoring national self-belief, and not just because of the symbolism of conferring institutional status on Wales as a political entity.

"One key thing the Assembly did for Wales was that it meant we had to take responsibility for our problems," said Geraint Talfan Davies, chairman of the Institute of Welsh Affairs. "We now own our problems and we can no longer just blame others."

The only large state that's succeeding is America--and even we may grow too large for our own good. But it's certain that India and China will have to devolve into numerous smaller entities and that the EU would be a disaster.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:21 AM


Musharraf gets his moment (Syed Saleem Shahzad, 8/26/05, Asia Times)

The first of three stages of local council elections has been completed in Pakistan, with the initial results marking victory for people allied with President General Pervez Musharraf.

The longer-term implications of the results, according to analysts, are that Musharraf can now position himself to further consolidate his power, and at the same time do something to answer international pressure for change in the country.

The local elections involve all of Pakistan's 110 districts. In the first stage 53 districts voted, with the remainder due to cast their votes this week. Then, on September 29 the councilors elected in the first two rounds will elect district chiefs. These chiefs have a power far beyond their local communities: they can influence elections for both national and provincial assemblies, which are due in 2007, the same year that presidential elections will be held.

Thus, by gaining support at the grass-roots level, Musharraf is taking a big step toward ensuring his political future as a democratically elected leader, rather than the military ruler he is now, having seized power in a coup in 1999.

The General understands his own need for democratic legitimacy, even if his Western critics don't.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:54 AM


Colombia helps Afghanistan wage drug war (Rowan Scarborough, August 25, 2005, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Colombia and Afghanistan are becoming counterdrug allies.

Colombia has begun exporting counternarcotics know-how to Afghanistan in a bid to stem that country's record heroin production, which, in turn, bankrolls al Qaeda.

Much of the emphasis will be on Colombia's teaching the Afghans how to find and attack drug labs. Bogota yesterday re-established diplomatic ties with Kabul.

The two countries were brought together in the drug wars by House International Relations Committee Chairman Henry J. Hyde, Illinois Republican. He sent a letter in February to the chief of Colombia's national police, announcing the arrival of congressional staffers in Bogota to start planning an Afghan-Colombian alliance.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:18 AM


Party discomposure (Donald Lambro, August 25, 2005, Washington Times)

In recent polling data, Veteran Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg found growing fissures throughout the Democrats' base -- particularly among Hispanics on social issues -- which could cut into their overall vote in 2006 and 2008.

Reviewing what led to the erosion in the Democrats' Hispanic vote last year, when Mr. Bush won 40 percent of this pivotal minority vote, Mr. Greenberg's findings on key social issues have shocked party strategists.

Hispanics who voted Republican, he said, were "slightly more pro-life and slightly more favorable to pro-life groups. A pro-life Democrat runs better than a pro-choice one, and almost half of Hispanic voters [48 percent] say they would be more likely to support a pro-life Republican."

I'm sure that data, when first reported, surprised party leaders. The pro-choice movement has been one of the Democrats' strongest voter-turnout constituencies, but even now there's a rift opening among that party's subset.

Party strategists say its leading advocacy group, NARAL Pro-Choice America, is bitter Democratic leaders turned on NARAL's incendiary TV ad accusing Judge Roberts of "supporting violent fringe groups and a convicted clinic bomber."

This time, though, Republicans found themselves outgunned by Democrats, who vehemently condemned the ad. "We have to define the reckless left of our party and differentiate ourselves," Clinton White House adviser Lanny Davis told The Washington Post, calling the ad "smear and innuendo."

What's interesting is that this more closely fits the model that Robert Barro described yesterday than does the religious appeal of the GOP. Democrats have to keep their abortion extremism hidden from the public lest they alienate the general population.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:09 AM


A textbook case of competition (Alex Beam, August 25, 2005, Boston Globe)

Call it the Econ 101 smackdown: Two of the country's most prominent economists are joining the battle for a piece of the $100-million-a-year Introductory Economics textbook market.

If you think this is small-potatoes business, think again. First-year econ is one of the most-taught undergraduate courses in the country. The current top dog, Harvard's N. Gregory Mankiw, a former chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisers, has sold 1 million copies of the different editions of ''Principles of Economics" since it was introduced in 1997. Depending on format, it costs between $70 and $120. You do the math.

Now Princeton professor and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, and Glenn Hubbard, Mankiw's predecessor at the CEA and dean of Columbia University's business school, are climbing into the ring. Krugman, a much-decorated trade economist who doubles as the Michael Moore of the Times editorial page needs no introduction. Hubbard was a key architect of the controversial Bush administration tax cuts, which contributed mightily to our current budget deficit.

''As a drunk is to alcohol, the Bush administration is to budget deficits," was a typical, low-key Krugman comment during Hubbard's CEA stint. In a different column, after calling Hubbard ''a highly competent economist," Krugman accused him of publishing ''a ludicrously rigged study" on income mobility during the George H.W. Bush administration.

Hubbard chuckled when I reminded him how Krugman had attacked him. ''Oh, yes, many times," Hubbard recalled. He has read portions of Krugman's textbook and praises it. ''I think Paul is an excellent economist. People don't get into this business for political reasons." I told Hubbard that Krugman's publisher has shot promotional videos of a kinder, gentler Krugman discussing elementary economics with a civility far removed from his fire-breathing op-ed persona. Again, Hubbard chuckled: ''Well, I only have one personality to offer the public."

The economics professors here at Dartmouth all say that Mr. Krugman's economic work is entirely orthodox--indeed, they say there's hardly any variation from the orthodoxy within the profession--and that no one takes his political ravings seriously because they so often can't be squared with even his own economics writings.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:14 AM


Rents Head Up as Home Prices Put Off Buyers (DAVID LEONHARDT, 8/25/05, NY Times)

Rents are rising again across the country, squeezing tenants who are already coping with high gasoline prices and improving returns to landlords after a deep five-year slump.

The turnaround appears to be another sign that the boom in house prices and sales is finally slowing, as homes have become so expensive in many metropolitan areas that some people have decided to rent instead. [...]

With the economy growing and mortgage rates inching up, more people are looking to rent apartments and homes rather than buy them. At the same time, many buildings are being turned into condominiums, reducing the supply of rental property.

And so, when rents get too high and home prices drop what happens?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


CLINTON'S THE MAN!: August's reading list. (Russ Smith, NY Press)

[N]o one could top Columbia journalism professor Todd Gitlin's escape into fantasy published in the Aug. 21 number of the Washington Post. You might argue that it's unfair to pick on poor Gitlin, an aging hippie who clearly wants to revisit his glory years at least one more time before he's too feeble to shout "Right On!" with any conviction, but his regrettable academic status and access to newspaper opinion pages makes him fair game.

He wrote: "A grieving mother—a mother who now has her own ailing mother's concerns at heart—has put the president at bay… Students will be back at school soon, and Sheehan's camp, should it continue, will likely tug at them, offering a focus for their activity. On Wednesday night [Aug. 17], claimed there were more than 1,600 candlelight vigils supporting Sheehan across the country. In the small town of Hillsdale, N.Y., I counted 60 protesters; many passing vehicles honked in support."

Sorry to disturb Gitlin's daydream, but I don't think this is quite convincing evidence of what he claims is a "growing antiwar movement." It's certainly sensible to debate the Bush administration's success in Iraq, a war that won't be over any time soon, but the notion of a 1960s revival of marching and charging in the streets is simply naïve. The prof's exultation at 60 protesters in a small town is understandable, but it doesn't strike me as a harbinger of greater demonstrations to come. To state the obvious, there's no military draft today, and anybody who believes that the students who shut down colleges more than 30 years ago weren't acting out of self-interest are deceiving themselves.

Here's an inconvenient reminder to those mired in the distant past. The huge Vietnam protests, some of which numbered a half million attendees, were a lot of fun for college students and those of us in high school. You got to cut class, meet up with buddies and smoke joints, scope the crowd for easy chicks, and call cops "pigs." Had the frightening specter of a letter from the draft board not existed, the numbers would've been minuscule, although still dwarfing today's extravaganzas. I do remember a large gathering in Huntington a few days after the Kent State killings in 1970, easily a thousand people wandering around, a little dazed that students were actually knocked off, but mounting a spirited rally nonetheless. I ran into an older friend there, a sophomore at Kent State, and asked about his reaction: "Are you kidding me? I got the first bus home."

I don't think it's a coincidence that the antiwar movement petered out after those days in May, even as the war, as prosecuted by Nixon, was still going strong. It was just getting too real for kids who weren't likely to do any time in boot camp or Southeast Asia.

Nothing stops a youth movement quicker than the realization that your parents don't mind having you shot.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


A CIA Cover Blown, a White House Exposed (Tom Hamburger and Sonni Efron, August 25, 2005, LA Times)

Toward the end of a steamy summer week in 2003, reporters were peppering the White House with phone calls and e-mails, looking for someone to defend the administration's claims about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

About to emerge as a key critic was Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former diplomat who asserted that the administration had manipulated intelligence to justify the Iraq invasion.

At the White House, there wasn't much interest in responding to critics like Wilson that Fourth of July weekend. The communications staff faced more pressing concerns — the president's imminent trip to Africa, growing questions about the war and declining ratings in public opinion polls.

Wilson's accusations were based on an investigation he undertook for the CIA. [...]

In the days that followed, they would cast doubt on Wilson's CIA mission to Africa by suggesting to reporters that his wife was responsible for his trip. In the process, her identity as a covert CIA agent was divulged — possibly illegally.

The notion that her husband's CIA trip itself didn't end whatever remained of her covert status is ludicrous on its face.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


US general sees significant withdrawal in Iraq (Peter Spiegel in London and Demetri Sevastopulo in Washington, August 24 2005, Financial Times)

The US is expected to pull significant numbers of troops out of Iraq in the next 12 months in spite of the continuing violence, according to the general responsible for near-term planning in the country.

Maj Gen Douglas Lute, director of operations at US Central Command, yesterday said the reductions were part of a push by Gen John Abizaid, commander of all US troops in the region, to put the burden of defending Iraq on Iraqi forces. [...]

He said: “We believe at some point, in order to break this dependence on the . . . coalition, you simply have to back off and let the Iraqis step forward.

“You have to undercut the perception of occupation in Iraq. It's very difficult to do that when you have 150,000-plus, largely western, foreign troops occupying the country.”

The French didn't wait around to see how we did running our own country.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Hugo, Uncle Ho and Uncle Sam (Curtis A White, 8/26/05, Asia Times)

Whatever Robertson's frustrations with Chavez, they seem to be eerily reminiscent of the unwarranted frustrations the US had with the late Ho Chi Minh of Vietnam.

Millions of Vietnamese lives would have been spared had we just whacked Ho instead and what a quarter of the population of Cambodia?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


On High Court Vote, Centrist Democrats Caught in Middle: Roberts is qualified and likely to be confirmed, but they worry about the judiciary's direction. (Maura Reynolds, August 25, 2005, LA Times)

The outcome appears all but certain, but the nomination of John G. Roberts Jr. to the Supreme Court is still likely to be a nail-biter for the Senate's centrist Democrats.

On the one hand, they would like to reward President Bush for consulting with them in advance and picking a nominee who appears legally better qualified and ideologically more temperate than many had expected.

On the other hand, more than Roberts' fate hangs in the balance. For many Senate Democrats, the debate over Roberts is increasingly a battle over the nature and the direction of the Supreme Court and the president's efforts to narrow or overturn some of its controversial rulings.

That's what happens when you're in the minority.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


China: A maverick dares to challenge the Party line (Jonathan Mirsky, AUGUST 25, 2005, International Herald Tribune)

No one living in China is more daring than the maverick writer Yu Jie. He recently said of the memorial to Japan's war dead: "We criticize the Yasukuni Shrine, but we have Mao Zedong's shrine in the middle of Beijing, which is our own Yasukuni. This is a shame to me, because Mao Zedong killed more Chinese than the Japanese did. Until we are able to recognize our own problems, the Japanese won't take us seriously."

For China's Communist Party, there are two first-degree thought crimes here. First, Mao's huge portrait still looms over Tiananmen Square and China's current leaders claim to be his heirs. Second, Beijing regularly condemns Japanese prime ministers for visiting the Yasukuni Shrine to venerate dead soldiers, including those hanged as World War II criminals. Anti-Japanese demonstrations in Chinese cities are encouraged by the government; any other public protest risks prompt and violent suppression. Yu Jie, therefore, stepped deliberately into China's most dangerous political minefield.

What Yu stated is true. The Japanese behaved with uninhibited cruelty during their war in China from the late 1930s to 1945 and some estimates of Chinese deaths in those years approach 20 million. But because of Mao's ideologically driven agricultural policies, 30 to 50 million Chinese are estimated to have starved to death between 1959 and 1961 alone; in their new biography of the Chairman, Jung Chang and Jon Halliday suggest that during his rule more than 70 million Chinese died - in peacetime.

Mao challenged his comrades, metaphorically, to touch the hind end of a tiger. Few took him up on this dare. Yu Jie does it regularly.

Nothing more surely signals the death of a revolution than the recognition that it was rotten from its inception rather than corrupted later on.

August 24, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:16 PM


Japan to develop rocket for joint defense system (Japan Times, 8/25/05)

The Japanese and U.S. governments have begun arranging for Japan to develop a rocket engine and the United States a warhead for the joint sea-based missile defense system, diplomatic sources said Tuesday.

The missile shield system is scheduled to reach the development phase in fiscal 2006. [...]

The two countries launched the joint missile defense project in 1999, after North Korea fired a long-range missile in August 1998 whose warhead flew over Japan into the Pacific. North Korea claims it was a rocket intended to put a satellite into orbit.

Under the system, Japan would intercept an incoming ballistic missile outside the atmosphere using the SM-3 missile, fired from an Aegis-equipped destroyer.

North Korea's Nodong ballistic missile is believed to have a range of about 1,300 km, which would make it capable of targeting any part of Japan.

There is concern that stepping up Japan-U.S. cooperation on missile defense could antagonize North Korea and China at a time when the six-party talks on Pyongyang's nuclear weapons threat are set to resume next week.

That's its point.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:42 PM


Web site asks donation for possible Dubie Senate bid (David Gram, August 22, 2005, Associated Press)

Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie insists that he has made no decision about what political office he might seek next year. But his Web site invites contributions to "Brian Dubie - Senatorial Exploratory." [...]

Speculation has whirled around Dubie since this past spring, when Sen. James Jeffords, I-Vt., announced he would not seek re-election, and Rep. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., made known his intention to try to succeed Jeffords.

That opened up one of Vermont's two Senate seats and its lone seat in the U.S. House.

South Burlington businessman Richard Tarrant, like Dubie a Republican, announced that his exploratory committee looking at a possible Senate campaign had raised more than $5,000, and that he had filed the required paperwork with the Federal Election Commission.

Mr. Dubie would be better served taking the House seat and letting Mr. Tarrant spend the money that beating Bernie will require.

Posted by David Cohen at 7:13 PM


Autistic boy dies during controversial treatment (Karen Kane and Virginia Linn, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 8/24/05)

A 5-year-old Monroeville boy died this week during a medical treatment that's being touted by some as a cure for autism.

The autistic boy died while receiving chelation -- an intravenous injection of a synthetic amino acid known as EDTA, for ethylene diamine tetraacetic acid. The Food and Drug Administration has approved the practice only to treat heavy metal (such as lead) poisoning. The treatment is becoming increasingly popular, though still controversial, for autism.

Our sympathies go out to the parents, who no doubt thought that they were acting in their son's best interest. On the other hand, those who knowingly lie about a supposed linkage between vaccination and autism have their own circle of Hell waiting for them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:04 PM

BLAMING THE VICTIMS (via Robert Schwartz):

From Genocide to Ecocide: The Rape of Rapa Nui (Benny Peiser, ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT)

Lord May, the President of Britain’s Royal Society, recently condensed Diamond’s theory of environmental suicide in this way: “In a lecture at the Royal Society last week, Jared Diamond drew attention to populations, such as those on Easter Island, who denied they were having a catastrophic impact on the environment and were eventually wiped out, a phenomenon he called ‘ecocide’” (May, 2005).

Diamond’s theory has been around since the early 1980s. Since then, it has reached a mass audience due to a number of popular books and Diamond’s own publications. As a result, the notion of ecological suicide has become the “orthodox model” of Easter Island’s demise. “This story of self-induced eco-disaster and consequent selfdestruction of a Polynesian island society continues to provide the easy and uncomplicated shorthand for explaining the so-called cultural devolution of Rapa Nui society” (Rainbird, 2002).

The ‘decline and fall’ of Easter Island and its alleged self-destruction has become the poster child of the new environmentalist historiography, a school of thought that goes hand-in-hand with predictions of environmental disaster. Clive Ponting’s The Green History of the World– for many years the main manifest of British eco-pessimism – begins his saga of ecological destruction and social degeneration with “The Lessons of Easter Island” (Ponting, 1992:1ff.). Others view Easter Island as a microcosm of planet Earth and consider the former’s bleak fate as symptomatic for what awaits the whole of humanity. Thus, the story of Easter Island’s environmental suicidehas become the prime case for the gloomiest of grim eco-pessimism. After more than 30 years of palaeo-environmental research on Easter Island, one of its leading experts comes to an extremely gloomy conclusion: “It seems [...] that ecological sustainability may be an impossible dream. The revised Club of Rome predictions show that it is not very likely that we can put of the crunch by more than a few decades. Most of their models still show economic decline by AD 2100. Easter Island still seems to be a plausible model for Earth Island.” (Flenley, 1998:127).

From a political and psychological point of view, this imagery of a complex civilisation self-destructing is overwhelming. It portrays an impression of utter failure that elicits shock and trepidation. It is in form of a shock-tactic when Diamond employs Rapa Nui’s tragic end as a dire warning and a moral lesson for humanity today: “Easter [Island’s] isolation makes it the clearest example of a society that destroyed itself by overexploiting its own resources. Those are the reasons why people see the collapse of Easter Island society as a metaphor, a worst-case scenario, for what may lie ahead of us in our own future” (Diamond, 2005).

While the theory of ecocidehas become almost paradigmatic in environmental circles, a dark and gory secret hangs over the premise of Easter Island’s selfdestruction: an actual genocide terminated Rapa Nui’s indigenous populace and its culture. Diamond ignores, or neglects to address the true reasons behind Rapa Nui’s collapse. Other researchers have no doubt that its people, their culture and its environment were destroyed to all intents and purposes by European slave-traders, whalers and colonists – and not by themselves! After all, the cruelty and systematic kidnapping by European slave-merchants, the near-extermination of the Island’s indigenous population and the deliberate destruction of the island’s environment has been regarded as “one of the most hideous atrocities committed by white men in the South Seas” (Métraux, 1957:38), “perhaps the most dreadful piece of genocide in Polynesian history” (Bellwood, 1978:363).

So why does Diamond maintain that Easter Island’s celebrated culture, famous for its sophisticated architecture and giant stone statues, committed its own environmental suicide? How did the once well-known accounts about the “fatal impact” (Moorehead, 1966) of European disease, slavery and genocide – “the catastrophe that wiped out Easter Island’s civilisation” (Métraux, ibid.) – turn into a contemporary parable of selfinflicted ecocide? In short, why have the victims of cultural and physical extermination been turned into the perpetrators of their own demise?

This paper is a first attempt to address this disquieting quandary. It describes the foundation of Diamond’s environmental revisionism and explains why it does not hold up to scientific scrutiny. [...]

Throughout his writings, Diamond maintains that he is reasonably hopeful about the future of humanity. Nevertheless, he does not hesitate to foretell environmental calamity and societal breakdown in the most unhinged imagery: “By the time my young sons reach retirement age, half the world’s species will be extinct, the air radioactive, and the seas polluted with oil ... I have no doubt that any humans still alive in the radioactive soup of the Twenty-second Century will write equally nostalgically about our own era” (Diamond, 1991:285).

It is this profound anxiety about the future and its impact on the environment that stirs Diamond’s writings and imagination. Regrettably, his eagerness to forestall doom often clouds his ability to assess historical and archaeological evidence in an impartial, even-handed approach. This fixation bears a striking resemblance to other authors who have tried to apply other standardised theoretical models to Easter Island history.

In a powerful critique of the methods applied by Heyerdahl and a number of other authors, Bahn has highlighted a fundamental problem of contemporary research on Easter Island: “The authors make their assumptions. They then look for evidence, pick out the bits they like, ignore the bits that don’t fit, and finally proclaim that their assumptions have been vindicated” (Bahn, 1990:24). A similar criticism can be made of Diamond’s eco-biased approach to the question of Rapa Nui’s collapse.

In many ways, Diamond’s methodological approach suffers from a manifest lack of scientific scrutiny.

It's hardly surprising that this lack of scientific scrutiny hasn't kept him from bering the best-selling science writer of the day. What's interesting to note in this essay though is that while Thor Heyerdahl's theory that the islanders had destroyed themselves was a function of his desire to diminish them and elevate Europeans, Diamond adopts the same theory because it elevates the natives and diminishes us. The notion is bogus in both cases but can be used for completely opposite purposes. Such is the beauty of science.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:32 PM


Kean's move to the center could mean a challenge from the right (STEVE KORNACKI, 8/24/05,

It is hard— very hard— to imagine that the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate next year will be anyone but Tom Kean Jr., whose candidacy is being enthusiastically embraced by party leaders in New Jersey and Washington.

But as he quietly goes about raising money and traveling the county GOP circuit, Kean does face something of a balancing act, because the more he flashes the centrist credentials that make him a strategist's dream candidate in the fall, the more he risks provoking a fight within his own party for the nomination.

"I don't think we're going to have an uncontested primary here," said Assemblyman Michael Doherty, one of a handful of conservative Republican lawmakers from the northwest part of the state known collectively as "the mountain men."

"If it gets to November or December and there's only one guy in the race for the nomination, I think someone's going to jump in," said Doherty. "And I think it's going to be a conservative."

Taking on the 36-year-old Kean would seem on paper to be a futile task for a fellow Republican.

The GOP has kept trying to get his father to win one of those Senate seats, hopefully the son can.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:22 PM


McCain sounds like presidential hopeful (C.J. Karamargin, 8/24/05, ARIZONA DAILY STAR)

U.S. Sen. John McCain knows why he wants to be president.

He isn't running for the job - officially. That won't happen, if it happens at all, until after next year's midterm elections.

McCain, who turns 69 on Monday, said "there's no point" in formally announcing his candidacy until after the 2006 congressional elections.

But the Arizona Republican didn't skip a beat Tuesday when asked why he would want to run for the White House in 2008.

"Because we live in a time of great challenges," McCain said in an interview with Arizona Daily Star editors and reporters.

Chief among them is the war on terror, a "transcendent issue" likely to last for years, he said. But there is "a broad variety of domestic challenges" as well.

Sounding much like a candidate ticking off the priorities of his platform, McCain said they include immigration, Social Security, global warming, rising health-care costs and the "obscene" spending practices of Washington.

Pretty much all that's left to do is pick the Deputy Undersecretary of Commerce.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:14 PM


The Political Power Of The Pew: A new study shows how churchgoing affects voting preferences (Robert J. Barro, 8/22/05, Business Week)

A forthcoming article in the Quarterly Journal of Economics -- "Strategic Extremism: Why Republicans and Democrats Divide on Religious Values," by Edward L. Glaeser, Giacomo A.M. Ponzetto, and Jesse M. Shapiro -- develops a model to explain why religion and politics are so intertwined. In the model, politicians sometimes cater to extreme positions, such as the ardently pro-life views of the Religious Right or the ardently pro-choice views of the secular left. A successful appeal yields a large response by the targeted group in voter turnout or campaign contributions. This part is straightforward. The new idea is that a successful appeal has to be somewhat private. Otherwise, catering to an extreme -- say, pro-life -- has the downside of encouraging too much voter turnout and campaign contributions from the opposite pole -- pro-choice.

THE GLAESER ET AL. STUDY analyzes which groups end up with sizable political influence. The membership cannot be too small because then any perceived catering to the group loses too many votes from the bulk of the population relative to the small number gained. But the membership cannot be too large, because then targeted messages are impossible. The research shows that the most effective groups comprise a little less than half the population. The membership also has to be cohesive enough to facilitate private communication. U.S. churches fit with both characteristics. U.S. labor unions fit once upon a time, as well, but have since become too small.

The study applies the theory internationally by examining how monthly attendance at formal religious services predicts self-described right-wing orientation. The data show that more religious people are more likely to be right-wing. However, the link between religiousness and political outlook is weak when countries have very low or very high religious participation. For instance, whether in Scandinavia and Russia, where few people attend church, or highly religious nations like the Philippines and Bangladesh, an individual's attendance predicts little about political orientation. Instead, religiousness predicts the most about politics in countries where roughly half the population attends formal religious services at least monthly -- places such as the U.S., Turkey, India, and Argentina.

Pretty hard to argue that given his own openness and the efforts of the Democrats and the media to portray him as extremist that George W. Bush's appeal to the religious has been private.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:36 PM


Robertson apologizes for assassination call (CNN, August 24, 2005)

After two days of criticism, Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson apologized for his controversial suggestion that the United States should assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

"Is it right to call for assassination? No, and I apologize for that statement," Robertson said. "I spoke in frustration that we should accommodate the man who thinks the U.S. is out to kill him."

But he compared Chavez to Iraq's Saddam Hussein and Adolph Hitler and quoted German Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer: "[That if a madman were] driving a car into a group of innocent bystanders, then I can't, as a Christian, simply wait for the catastrophe and then comfort the wounded and bury the dead. I must try to wrestle the steering wheel out of the hands of the driver."

Bonhoeffer was hanged by the Nazis for his involvement in a 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler.

Does anyone deny that Bonhoeffer was morally right?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:53 PM


July new home sales rise to record (Reuters, 8/24/05)

Sales of new U.S. homes jumped 6.5 percent to a record high in July, defying economists' expectations for a decline, as purchases soared in the Northeast and West and median prices dropped, a government report showed on Wednesday.

The Commerce Department said new single-family home sales rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.410 million units from a downwardly revised 1.324 million unit rate in June. The July sales pace was 27.7 percent higher than a year earlier. [...]

The median price of a new home dropped for the third consecutive month, down 7.2 percent to $203,800 from $219,500 in June and off 4 percent from the price a year ago, the Commerce Department report said. The July sales price was the lowest since December 2003, when it hit $196,000.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:42 PM


Water returns to Iraqi marshlands (BBC, 8/24/05)

The marshlands of Iraq, which were drained during the early 1990s, are returning to their original state.

Under Saddam Hussein, the area of marsh was reduced to a tenth of its former size, as the government punished people living there for acts of rebellion.

The latest United Nations data shows that nearly 40% of the area has been restored to its original condition.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:45 PM


Fetuses May Not Feel Pain in Early Months (LINDSEY TANNER, August 23, 2005, The Associated Press)

A review of medical evidence has found that fetuses likely don't feel pain until the final months of pregnancy, a powerful challenge to abortion opponents who hope that discussions about fetal pain will make women think twice about ending pregnancies. [...]

The authors include the administrator of a UCSF abortion clinic, but the researchers dispute the claim that the report is biased.

In a related story, a study conducted by Richard Speck reports that nurses don't feel pain.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:36 PM


Stem cell alliance emerges: Feinstein bill would protect state's new research agency (Gary Delsohn, 8/24/05, Sacramento Bee)

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein joined forces Tuesday to urge Congress to ban human cloning in all 50 states at the same time it protects California's multibillion-dollar stem cell research initiative.

Surrounded by patients and stem cell advocates at the UCLA medical school, the Republican governor and the Democratic senator called on the public to lobby Congress on three pieces of legislation pending in Washington.

"The people have spoken and they have said in California we want you to go ahead with any and all stem cell research that's possible because it has hopes for a cure for literally millions of Americans," Feinstein said of last year's Proposition 71, the state's $3 billion stem cell initiative.

"But this research is in danger. If some in Washington get their way, this research will be stopped in its tracks and scientists will face criminal sanctions. This cannot be allowed to happen."

Pass the law and then explain to these folks that SCNT is cloning.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:23 PM


Cindy: Terrorists 'freedom fighters': Sheehan's comment to CBS, others seems to have evaporated in news coverage (Joe Kovacs, August 23, 2005,

Cindy Sheehan, the so-called Peace Mom seeking a second meeting with President Bush in connection with the Iraq War death of her son, says terrorists killing Americans are "freedom fighters."

She made the remark during her trek earlier this month to Crawford, Texas; but her equating the enemy with freedom fighters has not been highlighted by the mainstream media, despite her telling it directly to a reporter for CBS News.

Sheehan's comments were recorded on video by Veterans for Peace, a group pushing for Bush's impeachment. (Editor's note: The video of Cindy Sheehan is approximately 30 minutes long, and requires several minutes to load, even with a high-speed connection.)

In fairness to Ms Sheehan, they are fighting for their oppress the majority Shi'ites.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:12 PM


Seattle, Seventh Heaven: For the religious right, that is. (Knute Berger, 8/25/05, Seattle Weekly)

Seattle likes to think of itself as a bastion of deep blue, a liberal city that keeps the beacon of progressivism lit in the dark days of Bush. We've long patted ourselves on the back for our technological and culture exports, too, from Boeing jets and Microsoft software to artisan coffee, beer, and outdoor gear.

But our chief export these days is right-wing extremism.

A poster child for this is local right-wing radio rabbi Daniel Lapin, who founded Toward Tradition, a national organization devoted to forging ties with the Christian right. Among Lapin's influential pals are Tom DeLay, Ralph Reed, and Grover Norquist. His devoted followers include the conservative cultural critic Michael Medved.

As a promoter of "Judeo-Christian" values, Lapin uses a politically charged phrase. [...]

If you read The New York Times Sunday, Aug. 21, you might have seen a story about another conservative gift that has, uh, evolved in Seattle. It was a profile of the Discovery Institute, the local think tank founded by former Seattle City Council member Bruce Chapman. Discovery is also the headquarters of the "intelligent design" movement that is aimed at undermining the scientific theory of evolution. It seeks to replace the idea of random mutation with the notion that "a creator" is running the evolutionary process. [...]

Another example of local influence is the crusade against sex slavery led by former Seattle GOP Congressman John Miller. [...]

It is truly a sign of Seattle's intellectual liberalism that we are the incubator of powerful ideas. Even bad ones.

Just in case there was any question that the Left has been reduced to mere reactionism--Mr. Berger here characterizes co-operation between Jews and Christians, opposition to sex slavery, and the creation beliefs of over 80% of his fellow citizens as bad ideas.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:28 PM


Accept Australian values or get out (Michelle Grattan, August 25, 2005, The Age)

A day after the Prime Minister's summit with Muslim leaders, the Government stepped up its push to get "Australian values" — epitomised, it says, by the Anzac story of Simpson and his donkey — taught comprehensively to Muslim children.

On Tuesday Treasurer Peter Costello said people thinking of coming to Australia who did not like Australian values and preferred a society that practised sharia law should go elsewhere.

Dr Nelson said he would soon meet the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils to discuss programs to ensure those in Islamic schools and all other children fully understood Australian history and values.

"We don't care where people come from; we don't mind what religion they've got or what their particular view of the world is. But if you want to be in Australia, if you want to raise your children in Australia, we fully expect those children to be taught and to accept Australian values and beliefs," he said.

"We want them to understand our history and our culture, the extent to which we believe in mateship and giving another person a hand up and a fair go. And basically, if people don't want to be Australians and they don't want to live by Australian values and understand them, well basically they can clear off."

Dr Nelson said if the country lost sight of what Simpson and his donkey represented, "then we will lose the direction of the country". John Simpson Kirkpatrick, carrying wounded soldiers on his donkey, is the iconic image of Gallipoli. "He represents everything at the heart of what it means to be Australian."

Folks who are most hostile to their own culture never seem to grasp this, but one vital aspect of a free society is that those who can't conform are free to leave it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:28 AM


It's all about-face for the Democrats (Kevin Drum, August 24, 2005, LA Times)

For their part, members of the antiwar left have an easy role: They should continue to push establishment Democrats to support withdrawal from Iraq, but they should also make it clear that no one will be punished for doing so, regardless of their past support for the war. However angry they are, doves can best serve their cause by not demanding tortured explanations and tearful apologies. A change in position should be enough.

The hawks have a much harder job. They're the ones who need to publicly change their position, an act that carries the risk of being tarred forever with the dreaded label that killed Kerry's presidential campaign: "flip-flopper." Besides, mainstream Democratic politicians and their advisors genuinely think immediate withdrawal is a bad idea that likely would plunge Iraq into a savage civil war.

And then there's this: Democrats with long memories know perfectly well that similar demands for withdrawal during the Vietnam War wrecked the party's reputation on national security issues for a generation. The American public tended to associate Democratic doubts with the nation's first-ever military defeat, and regardless of whether that conclusion was fair or not, no one is eager to repeat it.

What's a mainstream Democrat to do? Have the courage to break ranks and advocate the course that's probably the most sensible anyway: a gradual, phased withdrawal based on specified interim goals and a hard end-date two years from now. After all, in December 2007 we will have been in Iraq for nearly five years, and the plain reality is that by then we'll either leave because we've won or we'll leave because it's clear that we can't. So why not say so?

There are many reasons such a public stance makes sense.

As Brother Whited points out, the main reason this makes sense is because it would bring Democrats back on board with the strategy the President has followed from the beginning and make them seem like patriotic hawks again.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:12 AM


Israel, Egypt reach deal on Gaza border (Associated Press, 8/24/05)

Israel and Egypt have reached an agreement to have 750 Egyptian troops take control of a volatile Egypt-Gaza border area from Israeli forces, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said Wednesday.

The transfer of border supervision to the Egyptians is key to ending Israel's 38-year occupation of the Gaza Strip. An agreement had been held up by Israeli concerns that weapons and explosives would be smuggled across the border from Egypt's Sinai Peninsula into Gaza once its troops leave as part of the Gaza evacuation.

Under the new agreement, Egyptian troops will be responsible for the security tasks Israeli soldiers used to conduct on the Gaza side of the border.

"This agreement ultimately gives comprehensive - and I emphasize comprehensive - responsibility to the Egyptians regarding the prevention of weapons smuggling in the Philadelphi corridor in tunnels and above ground, into the Gaza Strip," Mofaz told Army Radio.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:02 AM


9 States in Plan to Cut Emissions by Power Plants (ANTHONY DePALMA, 8/24/05, NY Times)

Officials in New York and eight other Northeastern states have come to a preliminary agreement to freeze power plant emissions at their current levels and then reduce them by 10 percent by 2020, according to a confidential draft proposal.

The cooperative action, the first of its kind in the nation, came after the Bush administration decided not to regulate the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. Once a final agreement is reached, the legislatures of the nine states will have to enact it, which is considered likely.

Enforcement of emission controls could potentially result in higher energy prices in the nine states, which officials hope can be offset by subsidies and support for the development of new technology that would be paid for with the proceeds from the sale of emission allowances to the utility companies.

The regional initiative would set up a market-driven system to control emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, from more than 600 electric generators in the nine states. Environmentalists who support a federal law to control greenhouse gases believe that the model established by the Northeastern states will be followed by other states, resulting in pressure that could eventually lead to the enactment of a national law.

If the states do it on their own the only reason to have a national law is because you've made it a fetish. What will determine whether other states join will be the potential economic benefits these states realize from improved efficiency and innovation. If those don't materialize then there's no justification for a national law anyway.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:57 AM


Alarm and disarray on rise in China (Howard W. French, AUGUST 24, 2005, The New York Times)

There is a growing uneasiness in the air in China, after months of increasingly bold protests rolling across the countryside.

For reasons that range from rampant industrial pollution that recalls the shock of Minamata disease in Japan in the early 1960s to widespread evictions and land seizures by corrupt local governments working with increasingly powerful property developers, ordinary Chinese seem to be saying they are fed up and will not take it anymore.

Each week brings news of at least one or two incidents, with thousands of villagers in a pitched battle with the police, or bloody crackdowns in which hundreds of protesters are tear-gassed and clubbed during roundups by the police. And by the government's own official tally, hundreds of these events each week escape wider public attention altogether.

No one is ready to predict that this is the beginning of any great unraveling of an authoritarian state that has, over the last two decades, largely brought social peace and a reprieve from demands for political change by delivering breakneck economic growth.

If oil prices rise everytime a refinery anywhere in the world stops production for an hour, what will they do when the shooting starts in China?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:38 AM


Higher mileage levels eyed (Patrice Hill, August 24, 2005, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

The Bush administration, facing a public outcry over record high gasoline prices, yesterday proposed a 6 percent increase in fuel efficiency for sport utility vehicles, minivans and pickup trucks.

The plan is expected to yield savings of 10 billion gallons of gas by 2011 -- the equivalent of about a month's worth of fuel consumed by motorists in the United States. The savings would be achieved at a cost of about $6 billion to consumers and the auto industry.

Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta said the fuel savings, which would be concentrated primarily in America's current vehicle of choice -- smaller SUVs -- would be a boon to consumers facing gas prices near $3 a gallon in major cities.

Having ceded the argument that CAFE standards work, it's time to start cranking them higher, though some gradualism is certainly reasonable.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:27 AM


A new Korean goal: Having a big family (Norimitsu Onishi, International Herald Tribune, August 22nd, 2005)

After decades of promoting smaller families, South Korea - like several other affluent Asian countries facing plummeting birthrates - is desperately seeking ways to get people to have more babies.

In South Korea, the decline has been so precipitous that it caught the government off guard. Medical treatments like vasectomies and tubal ligations were covered under the national health plan until last year, as part of policies devised to discourage more than two children. This year, the plan began covering reverse procedures for those two operations, as well as care for a couple's third or fourth child.

"I'd been thinking about getting the operation for a while, but was concerned about the cost," said Park, 37, who runs the Samsung Electronics store in this seaside town on the southern shore of the Korean peninsula.

In sharp contrast to countries like China or India, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong have experienced quick economic growth and social changes that have produced disturbingly low birthrates that are transforming their societies and threatening their economic strength. In an ethnically homogenous nation like South Korea, as in Japan, there is no support for the kind of immigration that has increased birthrates in some Western nations.

"In the next two or three years, we won't be able to increase the birthrate," said Park Ha Jeong, a director-general in the Health Ministry. "But we have to stop the decline, or it will be too late."

Young couples in Seoul and other cities are choosing to have few babies, but the low birthrate has hit rural places like Wando County hardest. Within less than a decade, it has transformed South Korea's rural landscape - shuttering schools, shrinking class sizes and setting off village-wide celebrations for the rare birth of a baby.

Growing up here, Park Pil Soo has watched family sizes shrink to fewer than two children from as many as eight, and Wando's population decreases year by year. People have grown richer here. At his Samsung store, residents began buying air-conditioners four years ago, and they expect television sets in each room and a refrigerator just for kimchi.

"People now want a higher living standard instead of children," he said, as he and his wife attended to customers on a recent Saturday.

Wando's was the first local government to supplement the national health insurance to make reverse vasectomies and tubal ligations free. So far, five men and two women have had the surgeries, said Hwang Dae Rae, the county official who came up with the idea.

Hwang, the official, regularly calls the couples to inquire about possible "good news." None has been reported so far.

It is going to be very amusing, in a tragi-comic sort of way, to watch bureaucracies in Europe and Asia scramble to come up with creative initiatives to make their comfortable, secularized and self-regarding populations re-discover the joys of duty and delayed gratification.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:46 AM


From pastor to political activist: His church booming, he wants to spread the word statewide (Maria Cramer, August 24, 2005, Boston Globe)

On a recent Sunday, about 30 worshipers packed the altar of Congregacion Leon de Juda in Roxbury, swaying to the contagious music of the choir and band as though they were at a rock concert. At least 100 sat in the congregation, singing along and smiling, while well-dressed women walked around with boxes of tissues to dab the eyes of the most emotional.

Pastor Roberto Miranda strode to the pulpit, one hand in his pinstripe suit, and preached to the rapt audience about the value of hard work, the strength one can derive from tragedy.

''God does not want to create parasites," he said.

In two decades, Leon de Juda, or Lion of Judah, a largely Hispanic evangelical Christian church, has grown from five members to 1,200, representing the rise of evangelical, Pentecostal congregations in a state long dominated by Catholics. With as many as 800 worshipers attending Sunday services, Leon de Juda also exemplifies the dramatic increase of Hispanics around Greater Boston.

But Miranda is not satisfied. He has written a master plan to ''reclaim the state of Massachusetts for Jesus Christ" and penetrate a culture he feels is being lost to promiscuity, activist judges, and the legalization of same-sex marriage. He is organizing Protestant ministers and Christian activists around the state and encouraging them to bring modern marketing techniques to the church.

The 17-page treatise appeals to evangelical leaders to work together to ''proceed systematically to penetrate and reconquer" institutions of culture, business, and politics in a state that he said has become ''saturated with a godless, secular outlook."

Funny how completely the activists of both parties misunderstand the dynamics of immigration.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:45 AM


Ariel Sharon's Statesmanship (NY Times, 8/24/05)

This page has never been shy about criticizing Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. But this week the last Jewish settlers left Gaza, completing Israel's withdrawal from the desert it took control of 38 years ago. And yesterday, Israeli soldiers completed the evacuation of four much smaller settlements among the hundreds on the West Bank. This is the first time Israel has abandoned communities in lands the Palestinians claim for their future state, so it is incumbent upon us - and all of Mr. Sharon's many critics - to reflect on this extraordinary accomplishment.

This recognition is a helpful step, but should be followed by an apology to Mr. Sharon and George Bush for the several years of criticism the Timesmen have aimed at them for not negotiating their way to this point and instead imposing it unilaterally, a strategy that they now admit has worked brilliantly. Instead, they add the following:
Real peace talks are unlikely before those elections are settled, but such talks are needed to build on the Gaza withdrawal, which we hope is a sign of readiness to negotiate rather than a final gesture. In a region where there have been too many dark days, this flicker of sunshine deserves to be nurtured.

In the reality-based community negotiations are an end in themselves. In the reality-changing community--led by President Bush and Prime Minister Sharon--the end is a state for the Palestinians and a more secure Israel. The Times will still be calling for more negotiations after the latter has been realized.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:42 AM

(Shawne K. Wickham August 22nd, 2005)

The state’s director of travel and tourism development, Alice DeSouza, had an enviable problem when she tried to come up with a new marketing slogan: New Hampshire has too much to offer to easily sum up in a phrase. [...]

DeSouza said she wanted the new motto to somehow encompass all aspects of New Hampshire life: “I keep using the expression, ‘live, work and play.’ You can’t put them in vertical silos and say someone who works here wasn’t once a visitor, and vice versa.”

Indeed, she declared, “The things people like visiting here for are the very same reasons we all love living here.”

The slogan the creative folks at Rumbletree, a Portsmouth ad agency hired by the state, came up with seemed to do the trick nicely:

“New Hampshire. You’re going to love it here.”

We'll let Mark Steyn do the comment on this one: A sign of decline: the Granite State has the all-time great motto and one very pertinent for our times - "Live free or die." It looks great on license plates and on signs on the state border. So of course the state's director of tourism couldn't wait to lavish money on the "creative folks" at some ad agency to come up with a new slogan. The result - "You're going to love it here" - is generic pap unworthy of a great state and almost on a par with the feeble license plate of my native province Ontario: "Yours to discover." Couldn't we have come up with some suitable compromise between rugged North Country self-reliance and bland tourist boilerplate? "Live free or die in America's four-season vacation playground"?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:42 AM


President Bush's Loss of Faith (NY Times, 8/24/05)

It took President Bush a long time to break his summer vacation and acknowledge the pain that the families of fallen soldiers are feeling as the death toll in Iraq continues to climb. When he did, in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Utah this week, he said exactly the wrong thing. In an address that repeatedly invoked Sept. 11 - the day that terrorists who had no discernable connection whatsoever to Iraq attacked targets on American soil - Mr. Bush offered a new reason for staying the course: to keep faith with the men and women who have already died in the war.

"We owe them something," Mr. Bush said. "We will finish the task that they gave their lives for." It was, as the mother of one fallen National Guardsman said, an argument that "makes no sense." No one wants young men and women to die just because others have already made the ultimate sacrifice.

It may be understandable that a grieving mother is that self-absorbed, but what are the Timesmen talking about? The task in question wasn't the sacrifice, but the constitutional republic run by Shi'ites and Kurds instead of the Ba'athists that the Iraqi people are putting the finishing touches on even as the President speaks. That was certainly worth the lives of a few Americans and to not help the Iraqis complete the task would dishonor those dead.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:39 AM


Frank doctor in trouble with authorities over advice (AP, 8/24/05)

As doctors warn more patients that they should lose weight, the advice has backfired on one doctor with a woman filing a complaint with the state saying he was hurtful, not helpful.

Dr. Terry Bennett says he tells obese patients their weight is bad for their health and their love lives, but the lecture drove one patient to complain to the state.

"I told a fat woman she was obese," Bennett says. "I tried to get her attention. I told her, 'You need to get on a program, join a group of like-minded people and peel off the weight that is going to kill you.' "

He says he wrote a letter of apology to the woman when he found out she was offended.

If she really minded being told she was fat she'd lose some weight.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:30 AM


Vatican to Begin U.S. Seminary Investigation: The problem of accepting homosexuals into the priesthood has become so common that it is now widely and openly considered a "gay profession." (, 8/24/05)

Catholic News Service has announced that Rome is set to start its long-awaited "apostolic visitation," or systematic investigation and evaluation of the formation offered to prospective priests in seminaries.

With many bishops studiously ignoring what has become the ecclesiastical equivalent of the elephant in the drawing room, Rome may be planning to force the issue at last. [...]

Faithful Catholics in the United States have said for years that the sex abuse scandals have been caused or seriously exacerbated by the laxity in formation of priests in seminaries which, in the 1960's adopted a more secularist and psychological approach to moral formation.

The problem of accepting homosexuals into the priesthood has become so common that it is now widely and openly considered a "gay profession." The USCCB's own report on the sex abuse crisis showed that since 1950 over 80% of victims of clerical sexual abuse were male.

If nothing else, the seminaries established once and for all that letting gay men supervise boys is like leaving the foxes to guard the hens.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:28 AM


Soviet bloc workers flocking to Britain (Philip Johnston, The Telegraph, August 24th, 2005)

Nearly a quarter of a million workers from the east European countries that joined the EU in 2004 have arrived to work in Britain over the past year - more than 15 times the Home Office estimate, official figures showed yesterday.

Half the new workers are from Poland and are predominantly in their 20s.
Britain has proved attractive to nationals from the eight former Soviet-bloc countries, not only because of its buoyant economy but also because other EU members exercised an option to restrict access to their labour markets for up to seven years. Normally, all EU nationals are free to move anywhere in the Union to look for work and settle.

The Government said at the time that there would be little impact on economic migration and ministers dismissed suggestions of a major influx. The Home Office forecast an increase of up to 13,000 workers a year.

Figures published yesterday, however, showed that between May 2004 and June 30 this year there were 232,000 applicants for work under the special registration scheme established by the Government to defuse a political row over its unwillingness to impose restrictions. Ministers said that with unemployment at its lowest for a generation, Britain needed the workers to fill job vacancies, particularly in the service sector.

By far the largest number of workers has come from Poland, with 131,000, though as a proportion of the population, Lithuania has supplied most with 34,000, representing 0.8 per cent of its total workforce. Most are young - between 18 and 34 - and 60 per cent are men.

Few have brought dependants and hardly any have claimed any benefits, which was one cause of the controversy that blew up before the accession last year.

A separate report from the Department for Work and Pensions suggests that the influx of east European workers has had a positive impact on the economy. It said that despite fears that the incomers would displace existing workers and depress wages, their arrival had allowed certain sectors to expand, creating more jobs and leaving pay levels unchanged.

More: Press Release (British National Party, June 17th, 2005)

The Slovakian government have recently decided that in a bid to cut Slovakian unemployment figures, they will ship thousand of jobless Slovaks to Britain and other neighbouring EU member states. As things stand at the moment, Slovakia’s unemployed are being given train tickets to Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic. However, a spokesman for the Slovakian employment ministry recently stated “If it is a success, we will extend it to other countries further afield, such as the United Kingdom”.

Bearing in mind that Slovakia has a population of 5.4 million- 17.5% of which are unemployed- this means that Britain is looking at having to take a huge share of the estimated 875,000 unemployed that are going to be looking at leaving Slovakia in search of an easy life at the expense of the hardworking British taxpayer.

As the consistently reasonable David Cohen points out frequently, the left and the nativist right share the fallacy that people are essentially liabilities that consume and deplete our finite economic, social and cultural capital. This thinking predominates in the countries of continental Europe, which is one reason why their future is so gloomy. The future of the Anglospheric countries will hinge on whether their majorities continue to understand that people are assets that create such capital.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:20 AM


Animal rights activists condemned as guinea pig farm gives up fight (Jonathan Brown and Robert Dex, 24 August 2005, Independent)

Scientists have furiously condemned the animal rights movement after the closure of a controversial guinea pig farm which it was claimed would seriously hamper medical research in Britain.

The owners of the Darley Oaks Farm in Newchurch, Staffordshire, finally caved into pressure after a bitter and often illegal six-year battle with activists which culminated in the unsolved theft of the remains of the owner's late mother-in-law.

Hundreds of people were terrorised by the protesters. Threats had been made against anyone who was associated with the family who own the farm, who were themselves the subject of paedophilia smears.

In what was described as a "guerrilla terrorist campaign" hundreds of properties were damaged in the local village, mainly in night attacks, and electricity supplies were cut.

The closure is a blow to the police, the scientific community and the Government, which have fought tooth and nail to keep the operation running.

That's what happens when you don't have a 2nd Amendment.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:18 AM



A batboy who accepted a dare Sunday by trying to drink a gallon of milk without throwing up has been suspended by the Marlins for his actions.

The unidentified batboy will not be allowed to work the upcoming, six-game homestand at Dolphins Stadium against the Cardinals and Mets from Aug. 29 through Sept. 4.

The Marlins refused to comment on the suspension.

But Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Brad Penny, who offered $500 to the batboy if he could drink a gallon of milk in less than an hour before Sunday's game, was angry about the decision.

''It's kind of ridiculous that you get a 10-game suspension for steroids and a six-game suspension for milk,'' Penny said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:02 AM


Glee and Anger Greet Iraq's Draft Charter: Shiites Welcome And Sunnis Fear A Loose Union (Ellen Knickmeyer and Bassam Sebti, August 24, 2005, Washington Post)

A new draft constitution that would transform Iraq into a loose federal union sparked celebrations Tuesday in the streets of the Shiite south and an angry rally in the Sunni Arab heartland, where some chanted for the return of Saddam Hussein. [...]

"The draft that was submitted is approximately the draft that will be implemented," said Laith Kubba, spokesman for Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari, whose Shiite coalition holds a majority of seats in the assembly.

"The idea is to try to sell this draft to the Sunnis," Kubba said of the three-day delay on the vote. "That's what this is all about."

"During coming days, we will have a dialogue to convince them, in fact, that federalism is not to divide Iraq," said Humam Hamoudi, the Shiite chairman of the constitutional committee.

Many Sunni Arabs want Iraq to remain under a strong central government. Sunnis dominated the country until the overthrow of Hussein by U.S.-led forces in 2003, and extremists among them are the mainstays of Iraq's two-year-old insurgency.

Even for the MSM it's incredible that it took them this long to realize the entire Iraq war is about whether the Sunni should get to continue to tyrannize the majority or not.

Iraq Vote May Rest on Swing Provinces: Sunni Arabs who still have doubts are gearing up to defeat the draft charter in October (Edmund Sanders and Noam N. Levey, August 24, 2005, LA Times)

There are no red states or blue states. Ballots won't have hanging chads. But the fight over Iraq's constitution appears headed for an election day showdown that — similar to recent U.S. presidential elections — will be decided by one or two battleground provinces.

A draft of the charter is almost certain to win approval this week in the transitional National Assembly, which is dominated by Shiites and Kurds. But Sunni Arabs have strong reservations about the document and, with negotiations still stalled Tuesday, they are gearing up to defeat the charter in an Oct. 15 referendum.

The constitution, which requires the approval of a majority of Iraqis, can be defeated if at least two-thirds of the electorate in three of Iraq's 18 provinces vote "no."

Political strategists predict a hard-fought campaign that will focus on a handful of ethnically and politically divided provinces, with regions around Mosul and Baqubah playing the swing roles that Florida and Ohio, respectively, did in the 2000 and 2004 U.S. presidential contests.

If the constitution were to lose the sensible next step would be to simply declare Kurdistan and Shi'astan independent states.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Chavez assassination row erupts (BBC, 8/24/05)

A row has erupted over a call by US religious broadcaster Pat Robertson for the US to assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Visiting Cuba, Mr Chavez would not be drawn but his deputy said Mr Robertson had made "terrorist" remarks and the country was studying its legal options.

C'mon, when he's meeting with Castro they're givibng us a free shot at a two'fer.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


TV Ad Using Steele Irritates Democrats (John Wagner, August 24, 2005, Washington Post)

Maryland Democrats are steaming over a new public service ad in which Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, a likely Republican candidate for U.S. Senate next year, offers tips on avoiding car thefts.

The television spot featuring Steele, who formed a Senate exploratory committee in June, is airing on Comcast cable stations in Maryland's Washington suburbs, where law enforcement officials say car thefts have been most prevalent.

"This is the first Steele-for-Senate campaign ad, as far as I'm concerned," Derek Walker, a spokesman for the Maryland Democratic Party, said yesterday. "It's clear that the exploratory committee is designed to find new and innovative ways to waste taxpayer money to promote the lieutenant governor."

Steele spokeswoman Regan Hopper called that assertion "ridiculous on its face" and said Steele started working on the issue of car thefts long before he expressed any interest in the Senate race.

When I worked on the NJ gubernatoirial in 1985, Governor Tom Kean was omnipresent with those "NJ and you, perfect together" ads. Bitching about it didn't get them off the air.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


House sales slip again; condos surge (Kimberly Blanton, August 24, 2005, Boston Globe)

The July decline in sales of single-family homes in Massachusetts mirrored nationwide figures. Sales of existing homes across the country slowed last month as mortgage interest rates, which dipped in early summer, edged up to 5.8 percent. The 2.6 percent decline is the largest since July 2004, the National Association of Realtors reported yesterday. Despite the decline, July 2005 was the third highest on record, and sales continued at a still-strong clip of 7.16 million homes annually.

Analysts noted that the condo and single-family markets are coming off record sales in 2004, and prices continued upward in July. The median single-family price of $375,000 was 7.1 percent higher than July 2004. Condo prices also rose 7.4 percent in July, to $287,900, a record price.

From 2000 to 2003, Massachusetts home values rose 50 percent, the greatest increase in the nation.

But state and national numbers suggest that the era of double-digit increases in home prices in the Boston area may be over.

''The guy who is expecting the house he bought five years ago -- for maybe $300,000 -- who was expecting to sell it for $800,000, may be happy with about $500,000," said Gary Bigg, an economist for Bank of America Corp. ''Expectations may be dampened for those who are expecting to make a killing on their house."

When not getting a double-digit annual return is considered a crisis you know folks have gone silly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Summer Fading, Hollywood Sees Fizzle (SHARON WAXMAN, 8/24/05, NY times)

With the last of the summer blockbusters fading from the multiplex, Hollywood's box office slump has hardened into a reality that is setting the movie industry on edge. The drop in ticket sales from last summer to this summer, the most important moviegoing season, is projected to be 9 percent by Labor Day, and the drop in attendance is expected to be even deeper, 11.5 percent, according to Exhibitor Relations, which tracks the box office.

Multiples theories for the decline abound: a failure of studio marketing, the rising price of gas, the lure of alternate entertainment, even the prevalence of commercials and pesky cellphones inside once-sacrosanct theaters. But many movie executives and industry experts are beginning to conclude that something more fundamental is at work: Too many Hollywood movies these days, they say, just are not good enough.

The question is: are they even trying to make good ones? At the point where you're cranking out remakes of The Bad News Bears, The Dukes of Hazzard and Bewitched it seems safe to assume you just don't care about the quality of the product any more.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


The value of private charity (John Stossel, August 24, 2005, Townhall)

I once thought there was too much poverty for private charity to make much of a difference. Now I realize that private charity would do much more -- if government hadn't crowded it out. In the 1920s -- the last decade before the Roosevelt administration launched its campaign to federalize nearly everything -- 30 percent of American men belonged to mutual aid societies, groups of people with similar backgrounds who banded together to help members in trouble. They were especially common among minorities.

Mutual aid societies paid for doctors, built orphanages and cooked for the poor. Neighbors knew best what neighbors needed. They were better at making judgments about who needs a handout and who needed a kick in the rear. They helped the helpless, but administered tough love to the rest. They taught self-sufficiency.

Mutual aid didn't solve every problem, so government stepped in. But government didn't solve every problem either. Instead, it caused more problems by driving private charity out. Today, there are fewer mutual-aid societies, because people say, "We already pay taxes for HUD, HHS. Let the professionals do it." Big Government tells both the poor and those who would help them, "Don't try."

Private charity develops a sense of personal responsibility for recipients, and it does something similar for donors, too. If I hadn't thought the government would take care of Cheech, I would've had to decide whether I thought he was worth my money -- money I could spend on myself and my family, or on promoting freedom, or on any number of charitable causes.

When you rely on the government to help those who need it, you don't practice benevolence yourself. You don't take responsibility for deciding whom to help. Just as public assistance discourages the poor from becoming independent by rewarding them with fixed handouts, it discourages the rest of us from being benevolent. This may be the greatest irony of the welfare state: It not only encourages the poor to stay dependent, it kills individuals' desire to help them.

The Left likes to claim that such things only become obvious in hiundsight and, therefore, conservatives are merely sniping. To the contrary, as with all the damage liberalism has done, the Right was there at the beginning telling them they were making a huge mistake.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Malaysians embrace English (Baradan Kuppusamy, 8/25/05, Asia Times)

English, once shunned as the language of colonialism, is now regarded as the passport to success in the modern world and is rapidly replacing Islamic studies and the sciences.

"My parents say English is the key to the future and that we have to master it," Hafsiah said after her session. "But [English] is so strange to the tongue."

Apparently, the difficulties that Malays have in competing in a rapidly globalizing world is being attributed by the older generation to their failure to master English, and even to turning their backs on the language in 1970 in a wave of nationalism.

Malays form slightly more than 50% of Malaysia's 23 million people. The economically dominant ethnic Chinese form 22% and are concentrated in the urban centers where the English language has survived better. Indians, who form another 7% of the population, are also largely urban.

The frenzy to catch up with English in rural Malaysia is more than just palpable and nowadays second only to the craze for English football and the popular "Malaysian Idol" contest, a reality-type TV show.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Judge Roberts's family secret (Scot Lehigh, August 24, 2005, Boston Globe)

In introducing Roberts last month, President Bush mentioned the judge's wife and children, yet when the cameras panned to the family, his spouse stood alone.

Several networks soon aired troubling footage revealing why. Young Jack, the couple's 4-year-old son, had proved such a pint-sized pinball, ricocheting about so persistently as the president spoke, that his mother finally felt compelled to remove the kids from public view.

Now, daughter Josie, 5, was perfectly behaved, and Mrs. Roberts eventually did corral Jack, so there are evidentiary crosscurrents at play here. Still, the incident constitutes at least prima facie evidence that the Robertses could be members of a philosophical sect whose fusion of liberal and laissez-faire tenets should strike fear into the hearts of all reasonable Americans.

They might just be Doting Indulgent Modern Parents (DIMPIES).

There, alas, they would hardly be out of the American mainstream. On behalf of a dwindling contingent of (barely) sane adults, this space has occasionally lamented that US children too often behave like legions of little Grendels intent on visiting chaos upon the meadhall that is America.

It's revealing how deeply the Left resents the fact of the Roberts family.

August 23, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:20 PM


US fertility rate remains high (Press Trust of India, August 23, 2005)

As India continues to top the fertility rate, the US is the only major economic power now with fertility rates high enough to keep the size of its work force relatively constant as the population ages.

Too high a birth rate leads to poverty. Too low a birth rate leads to the economy going downhill. Ideally, it should be at the replacement rate of two per couple or 2.1, says the Population Reference Bureau, a Washington-based think tank.

The fertility rate or the number of lifetime births per woman, of major economies is now: India 3, US 2, France 1.9, U.K. 1.7, China 1.6, Russia 1.4, Germany, Japan and Spain 1.3 and South Korea 1.2. [...]

"The US is one of the few states where the fertility rates have been holding steady," William Butz, director of the bureau which is funded by the Ford and Gates foundations, among others, told The Wall Street Journal.

And Japan dies, Decline in population sparks fears for economy (Leo Lewis, 8/24/05, Times of London)
JAPAN’S population is on track to show its first annual decline, raising fears over the outlook for the world’s second-biggest economy and the ability of its welfare system to cope. [...]

Economists fear an unstoppable era of population decline. Many analysts believe that as the problem becomes more acute the social security system will come under intolerable strain. [...]

For economists and social scientists, the warning signals of the impending demographic crisis have been there for decades. Japan’s rate of population growth began slowing in the late 1970s and reached a record low last year. The present Japanese birth rate of 1.29 children born to each woman is well below the replacement level of 2.08, and the problem is spectacularly acute in Tokyo, where the rate is 0.99.

The dramatic fall in Japanese birth rates and the ageing of the population has been well documented, but few policy initiatives have had any impact.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:44 PM

OWNERSHIP (via Mike Daley):

Crawford: Joan Baez Talks to The Buzz (Eric Pfeiffer, 8/23/05, NRO: The Buzz)

While I was at "Camp Reality," Joan Baez and a camera crew stopped by to interview the Bush supporters. To Ms. Baez's credit, she was quite
respectful and diplomatic when talking with the supporters, even though they
have very different views on the war and President Bush. Baez even showed
more respect for President Bush than many on the left, referring to
President Bush as "my president." She was also kind enough to answer a few
questions for The Buzz.

When the United States withdrew forces from Vietnam, Baez received much
criticism from the left for stating a vital truth: Even though the war in
Vietnam was "over" from the U.S. military's point of view, thousands of
innocent Vietnamese were still being murdered by the communist regime. So, I
asked Baez if she's concerned a similar situation would transpire were U.S.
forces to withdraw from Iraq:

"As Gandhi once said, yes there will be chaos, but it will be our chaos.
Yes, there will be massive chaos, but nothing is going to stop the massive
chaos. That's my answer."

I then asked Baez what she thinks the U.S. and international community could
do to ensure a peaceful transition if and when the U.S. leaves Iraq:

"There's no way to ensure a peaceful transition. There's already been so
much chaos and unnecessary violence. Much of that has been created by us.
But there was already this disgusting level of chaos and violence with
Saddam Hussein."

Giving the Kurds and Shi'ites a chance to control their own chaos, instead of being controlled by Saddam, is nothing to shake a stick at.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:31 PM

MORE MONKEY CHOW, PLEASE (via Michael Herdegen):

Folate May Reduce Risk of Alzheimer's Disease (Patti Connor, August 15, 2005, WebMD Medical News)

Diets high in folate may help reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease.

During a nine-year study, researchers showed that older adults whose diets were high in folate reduced their risk of Alzheimer's disease by half compared with those whose diets contain less than the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA).

The study appears in the inaugural issue of Alzheimer's and Dementia: the Journal of the Alzheimer's Association. [...]

Folate has also been shown to lower blood levels of homocysteine, a risk factor for heart disease. High homocysteine levels, as well as decreased folate and vitamin B-12 levels, have also been associated with stroke and Alzheimer's disease.

The American Heart Association does not recommend widespread use of folic acid supplements to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. They recommend a healthy, well-balanced diet that includes at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

Foods rich in folate include oranges and bananas, leafy green vegetables, asparagus, broccoli, liver, and many types of beans and peas, as well as fortified bread.

If we'd been smart we'd have stayed apes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:06 PM


The less-than-momentous side of the Roberts papers (Warren Richey, 8/24/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

A significant amount of Roberts's time was taken up researching appropriate responses, if any, to letters sent to President Reagan.

Roberts took an active role in preventing presidential correspondence with pop superstar Michael Jackson. He nixed an attempt by journalist Charles Kuralt's publisher to obtain a few kind words about Kuralt to help promote a forthcoming book. And he recommended against the president returning to his former profession for a cameo in an animated movie of Charles Schulz's Peanuts cartoon strip, "This is America, Charlie Brown."

To Roberts such efforts amounted to a presidential endorsement of a commercial venture, "a clear violation of White House policy."

When the Rock Creek Foundation, a Washington, D.C. charitable organization, asked if the president's box at the Kennedy Center could be auctioned off in a fundraiser, Roberts said "no."

In an October 1984 memo, he noted that White House participation even in a charitable auction "is basically selling the prestige of the Office [of the presidency], and that is not for sale, not for any price, not for any cause."

In fairness to Roberts, his memos make clear he wasn't trying to be mean, just consistent, and thus fair (or unfair) to everyone. Indeed, many of the Roberts memos suggest a strong emphasis on ethics and a desire to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.

...than be known for being a stickler on ethical considerations.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:02 PM


Why Iraq's Sunnis fear constitution: Parliament is likely to approve the constitution by Thursday's deadline, despite Sunni objections. (Dan Murphy and Jill Carroll, 8/24/05, CS Monitor)

[A]t root of the Sunni rejection of the constitutional process is fear itself. The psyche of this community, from which Saddam Hussein's most fervent supporters were drawn and who enjoyed privileged positions until his regime was toppled, has been badly damaged in the past few years.

Many fears about the new Iraq are expressed throughout Baghdad's Sunni neighborhoods. They fear that Iraq's new masters will punish them for supporting Mr. Hussein's regime; they fear they don't have leaders or social cohesion; and they fear their former status will never be regained.

Where were all the hand-wringers in the media and on the left when the Afrikaaners felt this way?

Meanwhile, guess who gets it?

The vacationing president called reporters to a mountain resort 100 miles north of here to address efforts in Iraq to reach agreement on a constitution. He issued a blunt warning to the Sunni minority, which has yet to agree to a draft of the constitution. "The Sunnis have got to make a choice," Bush said. "Do they want to live in a society that's free, or do they want to live in violence?"

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:04 PM


Israel Completes Evacuation of Gaza and West Bank Settlers (STEVEN ERLANGER, 8/23/05, NY Times)

Israeli soldiers and police completed the evacuation of 25 settlements in Gaza and the West Bank today and said that all settler homes would be reduced to rubble within the next 10 days.

The political battle to approve this pullout was intense. But it was done with little significant violence and considerable care on the part of the security forces. The Palestinians, too, largely held their fire, keeping a pledge from their president, Mahmoud Abbas, that the Israeli pullout would not take place under a hail of rockets and mortars.

Israeli officials and commanders insisted that the evacuation of nearly 10,000 Israelis people from all of Gaza and four settlements on the West Bank was providing "a hand to a brother," not warfare at all. But the evacuation's rapid conclusion in six days after predictions of three weeks or more took Israel by surprise and seemed a softer version of the famous Six-Day War of 1967, when Israel won a lightning victory over Arab foes.

What the heck is that comparison supposed to mean? Are the settlers really equivalent to Israel's enemies in the minds of Timesmen?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:42 PM


Japan's population may shrink faster than expected (Reuters, 8/23/05)

Deaths exceeded births in Japan by 31,034 in the first half of the year, the Health Ministry said on Tuesday, raising the possibility that the population will start to shrink in 2005, two years earlier than previously forecast.

Japan's falling birth rate and ageing population have fuelled concerns about future growth in the world's second-largest economy, and experts have previously said the population was likely to start shrinking in 2007. [...]

The ageing population has raised concerns about the sustainability of Japan's pension system, which the government is trying to reform by cutting benefits and raising the contribution rate for individuals.

Japan's fertility rate -- the average number of children a woman bears in her lifetime -- hit a postwar low of 1.288 in 2004. Demographers generally consider a level of 2.1 as the "replacement rate" needed to keep a population from declining.

Their population actually declined last year, though it's something of a technicality--they count students studying overseas and folks working abroad in the decrease.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:28 PM


August Straw Poll: The Big One (Patrick Ruffini, August 2005)

It's straw poll time again.

This one should be fun. It's pretty much all the likely candidates as they stand today in a main ballot, and a bonus ballot with the opportunity to vote for four of your favorite fantasy contenders. Once you get to the results page, you'll see exactly which likely candidates the fantasy candidates take the most from.

Here's another reason why this one's the Big One. On your ballot, you'll have the opportunity to mark your state. If this poll is as big as the last one (@13,000 responses), we'll have a statistically valid sample of online activists not just nationally, but in most of the fifty states. On the results page, you can filter the results by state, by region, or by Red vs. Blue states.

Hard to think of a less representative sample than people who read blogs, which skew heavily libertarian, but amusing nonetheless.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:24 PM


Can Merkel Make It?: Germany's likely next chancellor is the prisoner of her own party. Reform? Shush. Don't even think about it. (Stefan Theil, 8/29/05, Newsweek International)

Gerhard Schröder was at it again. "Take the military options off the table," he roared at a campaign rally in Hannover. "We've all seen they're no good!"

Bashing George W. Bush worked the last time the German chancellor was locked in an uphill election battle, in 2002 on the eve of the Iraq war. So he was understandably tempted to try it again, this time hoping to ride to victory in next month's ballot by denouncing possible U.S. military action in Iran. And like last time, the salvo appeared to catch his opponent, now Angela Merkel, off guard. More than 80 percent of Germans support Schröder's antiwar stance, she knew, and reject her own pro-U.S. foreign policy. What to do? Waffle, obviously. A spokesman lashed out at Schröder and called for unity with Washington, while Merkel herself said she agreed with Schröder.

This election should have been a slam dunk for Merkel. Her opponent, after all, presides over record 12 percent unemployment, five straight years of close-to-zero economic growth and an epidemic of angst over Germany's prospects. Even some of his own cabinet ministers treat the chancellor like a lame duck, openly speculating about political alliances in a post-Schröder era. By rights, these should be ideal circumstances for any opposition. Why, then, are Merkel and her Christian Democrats in such disarray?

Amid intramural bickering, the party has seen its once resounding majority in the polls continue to melt away, down from a 20-point margin in June to just 12 today (42 percent for the CDU to the SPD's 30 percent). Meanwhile, in Germany's depressed east, the CDU is running neck and neck with the Linkspartei, a new anti-establishment protest group that's grown out of the old East German communists and now speaks for 10 percent of the nation's voters. That arithmetic makes it practically impossible for Schröder to come out on top. But it also puts the odds near even that Merkel will fail to get her own majority and be forced to rule in a paralyzing "grand coalition" with Schröder's dysfunctional SPD.

She's not a prisoner of her party but of her people. Why would a dying Germany vote for interventionism abroad and welfare reform at home? Meanwhile, cute the way they refer to the new National Socialists as anti-establisment, huh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:46 AM


Text of Proposed Iraq Constitution (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 8/23/05)

Chapter One

Article One

The Republic of Iraq is an independent state.

Article Two

The political system is republican, parliamentary, democratic and federal.

1. Islam is a main source for legislation.

-- a. No law may contradict Islamic standards.

-- b. No law may contradict democratic standards.

-- c. No law may contradict the essential rights and freedoms mentioned in this constitution.

2. This constitution guarantees the Islamic identity of the Iraqi people and guarantees all religious rights; all persons are free within their ideology and the practice of their ideological practices.

3. Iraq is part of the Islamic world, and the Arabs are part of the Arab nation.


a. Arabic and Kurdish are the two official languages, and Iraqis have the right to teach their sons their mother language like the Turkomen and Assyrian in the government educational institutes.

b. The language used orally in official institutions such as the Parliament and the Cabinet as well as official conventions should be one of the two languages.

c. Recognizing the official documents with the two languages.

d. Opening the schools with two languages.

Article Three

Federal institutions in Kurdistan should use the two languages.

Article Four

The Turkomen and Assyrian languages are the official languages in the Turkomen and Assyrian areas, and each territory or province has the right to use its own official language if residents have approved in a general referendum vote.

Article Five

Power is transferred peacefully through democratic ways.

Article Seven

1. Any organization that follow a racist, terrorist, extremist, sectarian-cleaning ideology or circulates or justifies such beliefs is banned, especially Saddam's Baath Party in Iraq and its symbols under any name. And this should not be part of the political pluralism in Iraq.

2. The government is committed to fighting terrorism in all its forms, and works to protect Iraqi soil from being a center or passage for terrorist activities.


Article 35

-- a. Human freedom and dignity are guaranteed.

-- b. No person can be detained or interrogated without a judicial order.

-- c. All kinds of physical and psychological torture and inhumane treatment are prohibited, and any confession is considered void if it was taken by force, threats and torture. The person who was harmed has the right to ask for compensation for the financial and moral damage he/she suffered.

Article 36

The State guarantees:

1. Freedom of expression by all means.

2. Freedom of the press, printing, advertising and publishing.

Article 37

Freedom to establish political groups and organizations.

Article 39

Iraqis are free to abide in their personal lives according to their religion, sects, beliefs or choice. This should be organized by law.


Article 66

A presidential candidate should:

1. Be Iraqi by birth and the offspring of two Iraqi parents.

2. Be no less than 40 years old.

3. Have a good reputation and political experience, and be known as honest and faithful to the nation.

Article 75

The prime minister should have all the qualifications as the presidential candidate and should have a university degree or its equivalent and should not be less than 35 years old.

Article 104

A general commission should be set up to observe and specify the central (government) revenues, and the commission should be made up of experts from the central government, regions, provinces and representatives.


Article 107

Federal authorities should preserve Iraq's unity, security, independence and sovereignty and its democratic federal system.

Article 109

Oil and gas are the property of all the Iraqi people in regions and provinces.

Article 110

The central government administers oil and gas extracted from current wells, along with governments of the producing regions and provinces, on the condition that revenues are distributed in a way that suits population distribution around the country.


Article 114

1. A region consists of one or more provinces, and two or more regions have the right to create a single region.

2. A province or more has the right to set a region according to a referendum called for in one of two ways:

-- a. A demand by one-third of all members of each of the provincial councils that aims to set up a region.

-- b. A demand by one-tenth of voters of the provinces that aim to set up a region.

Article 117

A region's legislative authority is made up of one council, named the National Assembly of the region.

Article 118

The National Council of the region drafts the region's constitution and issues laws, which must not contradict this constitution and Iraq's central laws.

Article 120

The executive authority of the region is made up of the president of the region and the region's government.

Article 128

The region's revenues are made up from the specified allotment from the national budget and from the local revenues of the region.

Article 129

The regional government does what is needed to administer the region, especially setting up internal security forces, such as police, security and region guards.

Article 135

This constitution guarantees the administrative, political, cultural and educational rights of different ethnic groups such as Turkomen, Chaldean, Assyrians and other groups.


Article 144

The Iraq Supreme Criminal Court continues its work as a legislative, independent commission to look into the crimes of the former dictatorial regime and its symbols, and the Council of Deputies has the right to annul it after it ends its duties.

Article 145

a. The Supreme National Commission for de-Baathification continues its work as an independent commission, in coordination with the judicial authority and executive institutions and according to laws that organize its work.

b. Parliament has the right to dissolve this commission after it ends its work, with a two-thirds majority.

Article 151

No less than 25 percent of Council of Deputies seats go to women.

Article 153

This law is considered in force after people vote on it in a general referendum and when it is published in the official Gazette and the Council of Deputies is elected according to it.

Somewhat lost in all Sunni whining is just how astonishing it is for an Islamic nation to be drafting and adopting a written constitution to form the basis of a consensual government. The one lesson you'd think folks would have learned by now though is that you can't have a president and a prime minister.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:06 AM


Back the 'Grow Accounts,' Mr. President (Donald Lambro, Aug 22, 2005, Human Events)

Contrary to the belief that President Bush's investment accounts plan is dead, one half of his reform proposal is alive and kicking in the House -- the far less controversial part. The so-called "grow accounts" bond investment bill has the full support of House Republican leaders, including Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), who is pushing for an early vote.

The only thing that's missing right now is Bush's support. The White House has been cool to the idea, but conservative strategists say the bill would "pass the House in a heartbeat" with the president's backing. While its prospects remain uncertain in the Senate, a roll call vote on its merits would put Bush back onto the offensive on one of his toughest issues, throw the Democrats into a thorny political situation, and, if it fails, give Republicans a great issue to run on in 2006.

"Grow accounts take Republicans out of the weeds on Social Security," said Larry Hunter, vice president and chief economist of the Free Enterprise Fund, which advises Republicans on economic issues. [...]

The Republican plan, sponsored by Ways and Means Social Security subcommittee chairman Jim McCrery of Louisiana, would allow workers to invest some portion of their payroll taxes in such bonds, backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government. Here's how it would work:

The Social Security payroll tax system takes in billions of dollars more than is needed to pay out monthly retirement checks. The government takes this huge cash surplus and uses it as general revenue to pay its other bills. In return, the feds give the Social Security's so called "trust fund" Treasury bonds that promise to pay back the borrowed money in future years.

Under the grow accounts proposal, workers who sign up would own a share of these bonds and the interest payments that would accrue from them over their working years. Instead of having nothing but promises that they will get their future benefits, they would own secure, tangible assets that no one could take away from them when they are ready to retire, and which could be left to their heirs.

"It's a very positive first step," said Social Security analyst David John at the Heritage Foundation. "The way the accounts are structured, there's no risk. You would own the bonds. It would be your money and could not be spent on highways or other things."

Just create accounts of any kind and you're on your way.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:03 AM


Birthday means nothing to Franco: He doesn't care he's oldest (DAVID O'BRIEN, 08/23/05, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

The oldest player in baseball turns 47 today, but Julio Franco won't be eating cake or opening presents.

"Just another day," said the Braves first baseman, who has no special plans. "Cakes? I don't eat cake. I don't celebrate birthdays. Thanksgiving, Mother's Day, Father's Day, the Christmas tree at Christmas time. ... All man-made holidays.

"I don't need to wait for someone to tell me it's a holiday or a day to eat turkey; I eat turkey almost every day. I don't need to wait to buy something for someone. If I see a bouquet of flowers I want to buy for my wife, I buy it."

No one ever said the spiritual Franco was a conventional thinker.

The man gets up to drink a protein shake at 3 a.m., one of eight meals he spreads throughout the day. He believes diet, exercise, discipline and — most importantly — the Lord are his keys to longevity.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:53 AM


The $10,000 Question (JOHN TIERNEY, 8/23/05, NY Times)

I don't share Matthew Simmons's angst, but I admire his style. He is that rare doomsayer who puts his money where his doom is.

After reading his prediction, quoted Sunday in the cover story of The New York Times Magazine, that oil prices will soar into the triple digits, I called to ask if he'd back his prophecy with cash. Without a second's hesitation, he agreed to bet me $5,000.

His only concern seemed to be that he was fleecing me. Mr. Simmons, the head of a Houston investment bank specializing in the energy industry, patiently explained to me why Saudi Arabia's oil production would falter much sooner than expected. That's the thesis of his new book, "Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy."

I didn't try to argue with him about Saudi Arabia, because I know next to nothing about oil production there or anywhere else. I'm just following the advice of a mentor and friend, the economist Julian Simon: if you find anyone willing to bet that natural resource prices are going up, take him for all you can.

The initial bet that Mr. Tierney proposed is even safer:
I proposed to him a bet using what Julian considered the best measure of a resource's value: how it compares with the average worker's wage. I offered to bet that the price of oil would not rise faster than the average wage, meaning that future workers would be able to afford oil more easily than they could today.

There's a reason none of us work harder than our ancestors did.

Betting on the Planet (JOHN TIERNEY, December 2, 1990, NY Times Magazine)

In 1980 an ecologist and an economist chose a refreshingly unacademic way to resolve their differences. They bet $1,000. Specifically, the bet was over the future price of five metals, but at stake was much more -- a view of the planet's ultimate limits, a vision of humanity's destiny. It was a bet between the Cassandra and the Dr. Pangloss of our era.

They lead two intellectual schools -- sometimes called the Malthusians and the Cornucopians, sometimes simply the doomsters and the boomsters -- that use the latest in computer-generated graphs and foundation-generated funds to debate whether the world is getting better or going to the dogs. The argument has generally been as fruitless as it is old, since the two sides never seem to be looking at the same part of the world at the same time. Dr. Pangloss sees farm silos brimming with record harvests; Cassandra sees topsoil eroding and pesticide seeping into ground water. Dr. Pangloss sees people living longer; Cassandra sees rain forests being decimated. But in 1980 these opponents managed to agree on one way to chart and test the global future. They promised to abide by the results exactly 10 years later -- in October 1990 -- and to pay up out of their own pockets.

The bettors, who have never met in all the years they have been excoriating each other, are both 58-year-old professors who grew up in the Newark suburbs. The ecologist, Paul R. Ehrlich, has been one of the world's better-known scientists since publishing "The Population Bomb" in 1968. More than three million copies were sold, and he became perhaps the only author ever interviewed for an hour on "The Tonight Show." When he is not teaching at Stanford University or studying butterflies in the Rockies, Ehrlich can generally be found on a plane on his way to give a lecture, collect an award or appear in an occasional spot on the "Today" show. This summer he won a five-year MacArthur Foundation grant for $345,000, and in September he went to Stockholm to share half of the $240,000 Crafoord Prize, the ecologist's version of the Nobel. His many personal successes haven't changed his position in the debate over humanity's fate. He is the pessimist.

The economist, Julian L. Simon of the University of Maryland, often speaks of himself as an outcast, which isn't quite true. His books carry jacket blurbs from Nobel laureate economists, and his views have helped shape policy in Washington for the past decade. But Simon has certainly never enjoyed Ehrlich's academic success or popular appeal. On the first Earth Day in 1970, while Ehrlich was in the national news helping to launch the environmental movement, Simon sat in a college auditorium listening as a zoologist, to great applause, denounced him as a reactionary whose work "lacks scholarship or substance." Simon took revenge, first by throwing a drink in his critic's face at a faculty party and then by becoming the scourge of the environmental movement. When he unveiled his happy vision of beneficent technology and human progress in Science magazine in 1980, it attracted one of the largest batches of angry letters in the journal's history.

In some ways, Simon goes beyond Dr. Pangloss, the tutor in "Candide" who insists that "All is for the best in this best of possible worlds." Simon believes that today's world is merely the best so far. Tomorrow's will be better still, because it will have more people producing more bright ideas. He argues that population growth constitutes not a crisis but, in the long run, a boon that will ultimately mean a cleaner environment, a healthier humanity and more abundant supplies of food and raw materials for everyone. And this progress can go on indefinitely because -- "incredible as it may seem at first," he wrote in his 1980 article -- the planet's resources are actually not finite. Simon also found room in the article to criticize, among others, Ehrlich, Barry Commoner, Newsweek, the National Wildlife Federation and the secretary general of the United Nations. It was titled "Resources, Population, Environment: An Oversupply of False Bad News."

An irate Ehrlich wondered how the article had passed peer review at America's leading scientific journal. "Could the editors have found someone to review Simon's manuscript who had to take off his shoes to count to 20?" Ehrlich asked in a rebuttal written with his wife, Anne, also an ecologist at Stanford. They provided the simple arithmetic: the planet's resources had to be divided among a population that was then growing at the unprecedented rate of 75 million people a year. The Ehrlichs called Simon the leader of a "space-age cargo cult" of economists convinced that new resources would miraculously fall from the heavens. For years the Ehrlichs had been trying to explain the ecological concept of "carrying capacity" to these economists. They had been warning that population growth was outstripping the earth's supplies of food, fresh water and minerals. But they couldn't get the economists to listen.

"To explain to one of them the inevitability of no growth in the material sector, or . . . that commodities must become expensive," the Ehrlichs wrote, "would be like attempting to explain odd-day-even-day gas distribution to a cranberry."

Ehrlich decided to put his money where his mouth was by responding to an open challenge issued by Simon to all Malthusians. Simon offered to let anyone pick any natural resource -- grain, oil, coal, timber, metals -- and any future date. If the resource really were to become scarcer as the world's population grew, then its price should rise. Simon wanted to bet that the price would instead decline by the appointed date. Ehrlich derisively announced that he would "accept Simon's astonishing offer before other greedy people jump in." He then formed a consortium with John Harte and John P. Holdren, colleagues at the University of California at Berkeley specializing in energy and resource questions.

In October 1980 the Ehrlich group bet $1,000 on five metals -- chrome, copper, nickel, tin and tungsten -- in quantities that each cost $200 in the current market. A futures contract was drawn up obligating Simon to sell Ehrlich, Harte and Holdren these same quantities of the metals 10 years later, but at 1980 prices. If the 1990 combined prices turned out to be higher than $1,000, Simon would pay them the difference in cash. If prices fell, they would pay him. The contract was signed, and Ehrlich and Simon went on attacking each other throughout the 1980's. During that decade the world's population grew by more than 800 million, the greatest increase in history, and the store of metals buried in the earth's crust did not get any larger.

It's no coincidence that Darwin's eureka moment came when he read Malthus.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:56 AM


Stem Cell Advance Muddles Debate: Work May Stall Efforts To Lift Research Limits (Ceci Connolly, August 23, 2005, Washington Post)

A Harvard University advance in generating embryonic stem cells may have the unintended consequence of hindering congressional efforts to lift research restrictions imposed by President Bush four years ago, leaders on both sides of the issue said yesterday as details of the discovery traveled through the scientific and political communities.

The news that Harvard scientists have successfully converted human skin cells into embryonic stem cells -- without using a human egg or new embryo -- is likely to muddle the already complex debate over federal stem cell research policy.

By "muddle" Ms Connolly means, make it even harder to justify morally dubious science.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:50 AM


Continental Christophobia Cubed: a review of The Cube and the Cathedral: Europe, America, and Politics Without God by George Weigel (Daniel Gallagher, Books & Culture)

The title of the book refers to the stark architectural contrast between two Parisian monuments: La Grande Arche de la Défense and the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Even a cursory glance at these structures reveals two polarized visions of the relationship between faith and culture. The cathedral embodies the subtle intricacy and richness of Catholic social thinking, while the cube was erected to celebrate the humanitarian ideals embraced by French revolutionaries and extolled in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen. The potential of the agenda it strives to represent, argues Weigel, may be as vacuous as the space contained within it.

While some are heaving a sigh of despair that Europe simply forgot its Christian roots somewhere along the way, Weigel demonstrates that apathy alone is not the cause of empty churches, plummeting birthrates, and defunct welfare programs on the European continent. Nor is it a matter of Europe deciding that God isn't so important, after all, for public life. Rather, it is the overt and occasionally militant attitude that Christianity is actually harmful to political stability and social progress. Europe is not suffering so much from amnesia as from a severe case of what Joseph Weiler calls "Christophobia." Those who campaigned against the inclusion of any reference to Christianity in the EU constitution stood on the following platform: "not only can there be politics without God, there must be politics without God." Weigel points out that the sinking morale across Europe suggests "that the winners of the European constitutional debate are seriously mistaken." [...]

The book does not leave the reader without a sense of hope. More than advancing his own personal plan for revitalization, Weigel exposes points of light that are already shining. Numerous lay ecclesial movements and religiously inspired free associations are burgeoning in Europe. Weigel makes specific mention of Focolare, Opus Dei, the Sant'Egidio Community, the Emmanuel Community, and Regnum Christi. The effectiveness of movements like these—an effectiveness that baffles secular political pundits—simply proves that John Paul II was right: culture matters. Culture is the underlying fabric that supports a just and free society. Culture also holds the potential of toppling regimes that aim to trample justice and freedom underfoot. Any culture, however, is bankrupt without a memory to sustain it. And that is precisely what Europeans have jeopardized by failing to include, among the 70,000 words that make up the EU constitution, the one word which, more than any other, expresses the key to their civilization.

David Rieff's essay today points up what happens to a Europe that has no God and therefore no culture. Nice though the way the cube invokes Dostoevsky:
You believe in a crystal edifice, forever indestructible; that is, in an edifice at which one can neither put out one's tongue on the sly nor make a fig in the pocket. Well, and perhaps I'm afraid of this edifice precisely because it is crystal and forever indestructible, and it will be impossible to put out one's tongue at it even on the sly.

The fig makers have certainly won the argument.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:38 AM


Televangelist calls for Chavez' death (Associated Press, 8/23/05)

Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson suggested on-air that American operatives assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to stop his country from becoming "a launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism."

"We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability," Robertson said Monday on the Christian Broadcast Network's "The 700 Club."

"We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator," he continued. "It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."

That's why God gave us Predators.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:31 AM


Bubble fever (Bruce Bartlett, August 23, 2005, Townhall)

Financial bubbles have fascinated economists for hundreds of years. One of the earliest and best documented occurred in the early 1600s in Holland, where investors became obsessed with buying and selling tulip bulbs -- the rarest and most beautiful tulips sold, for the equivalent today of thousands of dollars each.

A brilliant financier named John Law, who induced huge investments in Mississippi land, engineered another bubble in France in the early 1700s. It eventually came crashing down in one of the most spectacular market collapses in history, wiping out the wealth and savings of thousands of Frenchmen.

At about the same time, something similar was going on in Britain involving the South Sea Company, which held a monopoly on Britain's trade with the Americas and also owned a big chunk of its national debt.

Since then, there have been many other cases where bubbles have emerged, and economists continue to study them. Most recently, millions of Americans had direct experience with the huge run-up in the stock market in the late 1990s and subsequent crash in the 2000s.

A classic episode of a children's show explains the difference In Arthur Rides the Bandwagon, our aardvark hero gets caught up in the mania to own a silly kids toy, called a woogle. As the fever grips the young of Ellwood the woogles become scarce, richer kids start hoarding them, their prices skyrocket, and desperate youngsters will do anything to get ahold of one. Then the next craze comes along; everyone realizes that the woogle has no intrinsic value; and you can't give them away. The same thing can and did happen with tulips and internet stocks, but do you think when the housing market corrects you'll be able to get houses for free?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:27 AM


‘The Kurdish Problem’: An insurgency group in Turkey is responding favorably to the prime minister’s overtures. But after 20 years, is peace possible? (Sami Kohen And Owen Matthews, Aug. 22, 2005, Newsweek)

Has the Kurdistan Worker's Party, better known as the PKK, finally given up insurgency against the Turkish state, which has claimed over 35,000 lives over 20 years? Last week the PKK announced a one-month unilateral ceasefire after a recent resurgence of attacks against Turkish army patrols and a series of bomb attacks on tourist resorts.

The unexpected ceasefire was prompted by a bold reconciliation initiative by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. ''The Kurdish problem" can only be solved by "more democracy, more civil rights, more prosperity,'' Erdogan told heavily policed crowds in Diyarbakir, the heartland of Kurdish nationalism, earlier this month. [...]

[E]rdogan's initiative is the boldest move to reconcile Turks and rebellious Kurds in a generation. If Erdogan [can] convince extremists on both sides—and Europe—that he can truly build up Kurdish rights while not undermining the unity of the Turkish state, he has the chance to become a historic peacemaker.

He may be able to convince them but this is a necessary step towards disintegration. Kurds don't consider themselves part of Turkey, so they won't be.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:15 AM


The rejection of materialism (Dennis Prager, August 23, 2005, Townhall)

The Marxist worldview is based on a materialist understanding of life. In popular jargon, "materialism" means an excessive love of material things. But philosophically, "materialism" means that the only reality is matter, that there is no reality beyond the material world.

That is why, for example, to most leftists it is a great wrong that amid Latin American poverty, the church would build expensive cathedrals. In their view, all that gold and treasure should be spent on the poor. To a person with Judeo-Christian values, on the other hand, while feeding the hungry is a primary value, there are many other values, including the need to feed the soul. Moreover, the fact that many of the world's poor people would prefer having a cathedral to distributing whatever money selling such edifices would provide has disturbed the Left since Marx. To a materialist, the notion that poor people would place non-material concerns over material ones is absurd, if not perverse.

The recent best seller What's the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America, by liberal author Thomas Frank, perfectly illustrates this point.

The main reason that the three bearded-godkillers failed in their task was because each based his ism on a falsehood, unlike Judeo-Christianity which originates in the obvious truth of the Fall.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Warned, but Worse Off (STEVEN WOLOSHIN, LISA SCHWARTZ and H. GILBERT WELCH, 8/22/05, NY Times)

[W]e just don't know if lung cancer screening does more good than harm. While the benefits of screening are unproven, the harms - one familiar, the other less so - are certain.

The familiar harm is caused by false alarms. CT scans are great at finding abnormal areas of the lung. But while relatively few people have lung cancer, many have other lung abnormalities. After a positive CT scan, many are biopsied, and most will turn out not to have cancer. A lung biopsy is not a trivial procedure. Although serious complications are rare, the procedure may result in hospitalization (largely for a collapsed lung), and there have been deaths.

The less familiar, but more worrisome, harm comes from overdiagnosis and overtreatment. In the largest study to date, Japanese researchers using CT scans found almost 10 times the amount of lung cancer they had detected in a similar group of patients using X-rays. Amazingly, with CT screening, almost as many nonsmokers were found to have lung cancer as smokers.

Given that smokers are 15 times as likely to die from lung cancer, the CT scans had to be finding abnormalities that were technically cancer (based on their microscopic appearance), but that did not behave in the way most people think of cancer behaving - as a progressive disease that ultimately kills. So here's the problem. Because we can't distinguish a progressive cancer from a nonprogressive cancer on the CT scan, we tend to treat everybody who tests positive. Obviously, the patients with indolent cancers cannot benefit from treatment; they can only experience its side effects. Treatment - usually surgery, but sometimes chemotherapy or radiation therapy - is painful and risky. Some 5 percent of patients older than 65 die following partial lung removal, and nearly 14 percent die with complete removal.

But wait a minute. Don't those compelling five-year survival statistics of 80 percent vs. 15 percent prove that CT screening works? The short answer is no. You have to consider exactly how a five-year survival rate is figured. It is a fraction. Imagine 1,000 people diagnosed with lung cancer five years ago. If 150 are alive today, the five year survival is 150/1000, or 15 percent. Yet even if CT screening raised the five-year survival rate to 80 percent, it is entirely possible that no one gets an extra day of life.

Dr. Welch is a hero.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM

Word of the Day (WordSmith, 8/23/05)

legerity (luh-JER-i-tee) adjective

Nimbleness; agility.

[From French légèreté, from léger (light), from Vulgar Latin leviarius,
from Latin levis (light).]

August 22, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:06 PM


Help! I`m A Hollywood Republican! (Robert J. Avrech, 8/18/05, Jewish Press)

I’m a Republican. A heretofore secret Hollywood Republican. I know men and women who are heavy drug addicts and they have no problem finding employment in Hollywood. I know men and women who are gambling addicts and they work pretty regularly. There’s even a director who was arrested for child molestation and yet was hired by Disney — yes, Disney — to helm a picture, and people defended this decision by saying even child molesters have a right to work. I would bet my bottom dollar that all these people are on the correct side of the political spectrum. They are liberal democrats.

Me, I’m a Republican. [...]

The political divide in Hollywood is now being felt in the most important quarter: the war against Islamic terrorism. Basically, Hollywood denies that such a war exists.

Script #1: I was recently hired to write a movie for a cable station about the war on terrorism. I was flown to New York where I had a long meeting with the head of the network about what he wanted. He described it thus: “I want a hard-hitting multi-character story about terrorism, with one storyline that emphasizes how someone can be reached through education.”

Okay, that sounded pretty good. My juices were flowing. This is the kind of material I specialize in. Humanistic but with some good action scenes.

And then the head of the network started talking about President Bush. He accused him of being anti-Semitic.

I was flabbergasted. You may disagree with President Bush’s policies, you may not like his speeches or the way he butchers the English language, but gee willikers, no American president has shown such friendship to Jews and to Israel as this fine man. I tried to lay out a few facts, but the head of the network — Jewish, naturally — just brushed them aside. Don’t bother me with facts, he was saying, I believe what I believe and that’s the end of the conversation.

I should have interpreted this as a warning of what was to come and not taken the job. But I did.

After handing in the first draft, I was told that the character of the Islamic suicide bomber was not acceptable. I was told that my portrayal was “insensitive.” After the second draft I was ordered to remove the mosque where a dissident group was vying for control from the more moderate Muslims. And now, five drafts later, here’s what the screenplay has turned into: The Islamic terrorists who properly dominated the original draft are now minor players. American militia members, ala Timothy McVeigh, are now the bad guys.

When I tried to explain that American militia members are hardly a threat to anyone now that the back of the militia movement has been broken through a series of lawsuits, the executives stared right through me. When I confront these people with the truth they look at me as if I am some visitor from some foreign planet.

Which I guess I am.

This film is no longer about terrorism. It’s no longer about…anything. It’s a mess. A jumble of conflicting story lines that can never cohere because the network executives, all proud Democrats, refuse to admit that Islamic terror exists. I was actually told in one meeting that “Jewish terrorists” in Israel are just as dangerous as Arab terrorists. I stared at the executives and felt my blood pressure rise. Jewish terrorists? What Jewish terrorists? What universe are these people living in? Are they just making this stuff up as they go along? Are they even aware that they are lying? Do they even care? Or do they truly believe the nonsense they spout? If they do, then I am truly frightened.

Further, I was lectured that I was anti-Islamic and my screenplay proved it because most of my Islamic characters were terrorists. I tried to calmly and rationally explain that it was Islamic terrorists who sawed off Daniel Pearl’s head; Islamic terrorists who brought down the Twin Towers; Islamic terrorists who blew up the USS Cole; and Islamic terrorists who routinely butcher Israeli men, women and children.

“Israel is different,” the Jewish producers self-righteously lectured me. “If not for the occupation, blah, blah, blah....Besides, we don’t deal in stereotypes...”

In fact, these Hollywood executives do not deal in or care about truth.

Nor, apparently, do they care about making movies that Americans want to see.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:00 PM


The dream of multiculturalism is over (David Rieff, AUGUST 23, 2005, The New York Times)

The attacks on the London Underground last month have compelled Europeans of all faiths to think with new urgency about the Continent's Muslim minority. Such a reckoning was long overdue.

Some left-wing politicians, like London's mayor, Ken Livingstone, have chosen to emphasize the proximate causes of Muslim anger, focusing on the outrage widely felt in Islamic immigrant communities over the war in Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But the harsh reality is that the crisis in relations between the European mainstream and the Islamic diaspora has far deeper roots.

Indeed, the news could scarcely be worse. What Europeans are waking up to is a difficult truth: The immigrants who began coming to Europe in the 1950s because European governments and businesses encouraged their mass migration, are profoundly alienated from European society for reasons that have little to do with the Middle East and everything to do with Europe. [...]

The multicultural fantasy in Europe - its eclipse can be seen most poignantly in the Netherlands, that most self-definedly liberal of all European countries - was that, in due course, Islamic and other immigrants would eventually come to "accept" the values of their new countries.

It was never clear how this vision was supposed to coexist with multiculturalism's other main assumption, that group identity should be maintained. But by now that question is largely academic: The European vision of multiculturalism, in all its simultaneous good will and self-congratulation, is no longer sustainable. And most Europeans know it.

What they don't know is what to do next.

The fundamental premises of multicultural were never plausible nor its realization desirable. A decent society must have a higher end than getting along. The bitter pill the Europeans have to swallow is that the monocultural U.SA. has produced genuine tolerance.

Grooming Politicians for Christ: Evangelical programs on Capitol Hill seek to mold a new generation of leaders who will answer not to voters, but to God. (Stephanie Simon, August 23, 2005, LA Times)

In the blue and gold elegance of the House speaker's private dining room, Jeremy Bouma bowed his head before eight young men and women who hope to one day lead the nation. He prayed that they might find wisdom in the Bible — and govern by its word.

"Holy Father, we thank you for providing us with guidance," said Bouma, who works for an influential televangelist. "Thank you, Lord, for these students. Build them up as your warriors and your ambassadors on Capitol Hill."

"Amen," the students murmured. Then they picked up their pens expectantly.

Nearly every Monday for six months, as many as a dozen congressional aides — many of them aspiring politicians — have gathered over takeout dinners to mine the Bible for ancient wisdom on modern policy debates about tax rates, foreign aid, education, cloning and the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

Through seminars taught by conservative college professors and devout members of Congress, the students learn that serving country means first and always serving Christ.

They learn to view every vote as a religious duty, and to consider compromise a sin.

That puts them at the vanguard of a bold effort by evangelical conservatives to mold a new generation of leaders who will answer not to voters, but to God.

"We help them understand God's purpose for society," said Bouma, who coordinates the program, known as the Statesmanship Institute, for the Rev. D. James Kennedy.

Just read the Preamble.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:48 PM


How Rainbow Warrior was played down (Paul Brown and Rob Evans, August 23, 2005, The Guardian)

Margaret Thatcher refused to sanction official criticism of the French over the blowing up of the British-registered Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior even after Paris had admitted being behind the bombing, newly released documents show.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:30 PM


Wealth gap threatens stability in China (Richard Spencer, 23/08/2005, Daily Telegraph)

China risks social meltdown within five years because of the stresses provoked by its economic boom, government officials were warned yesterday.

The country was now in a "yellow-light" zone, the second most serious indicator of "social instability", according to an official report focusing on the growing gap between rich and poor.

"We are going to hit the red-light scenario after 2010 if there are no effective solutions in the next few years," said the report, commissioned by the labour and social security ministry.

As if to bear out its warnings, police admitted that rioting had broken out in a town in the eastern province of Zhejiang, the latest in a wave of violent protests in the region. Buildings and police cars were set alight in clashes led by parents who accused a battery factory of giving their children lead poisoning.

Such unrest is now common in many Chinese towns, often triggered by protests against the mixture of corruption and environmental degradation that the dash for development has brought.

But there are a billion of them....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:22 PM


The Pearly Gates Are Wide Open: A new Newsweek/Beliefnet poll shows a stunning level of acceptance of other people's faiths. (Steve Waldman, Belief Net)

[6]8% of “born again” or “evangelical” Christians say that a “good person who isn’t of your religious faith” can gain salvation, according to a new Newsweek/Beliefnet poll.

This is pretty amazing. Evangelicals are among the most churchgoing and religiously attentive people in the United States, and one of the ideas they’re most likely to hear from the minister at church on a given Sunday is that the path to salvation is through Jesus. Apparently, rank-and-file evangelicals have a different view.

Nationally, 79% of those surveyed said the same thing, and the figure is 73% for non-Christians and an astounding 91% among Catholics. The Catholics surveyed seemed more inclined to listen to the Catechism's precept that those who "seek the truth" may gain salvation—rather than, say, St. Augustine's view that being "separated from the Church" will damn you to hell "no matter how estimable a life he may imagine he is living.” [...]

Most American families have experienced religious diversity up close. We attempted to assess a typical American’s exposure to other faiths or spiritual approaches. In all 42% of Americans either have a different approach from their childhood, saw a sibling shift approaches, or married someone of a different faith. These overall numbers don’t explain how these changes might have affected them but it does mean that a large number of Americans have had very personal and direct experience with some religious approach that’s different from their original spiritual practice.

We are all intelligent designers. Eighty percent of the population believe that the universe was created by God; only 10% do not. This would seem to indicate that many of those who advocate the teaching of evolution in school do, nonetheless, believe that the universe was created by God.

In Search of the Spiritual: Move over, politics. Americans are looking for personal, ecstatic experiences of God, and, according to our poll, they don't much care what the neighbors are doing. (Jerry Adler, 8/29/05, Newsweek)
[O]nly a generation ago it appeared from some vantage points, such as midtown Manhattan, that Americans were on their way to turning their backs on God. In sepulchral black and red, the cover of Time magazine dated April 8, 1966—Good Friday—introduced millions of readers to existential anguish with the question Is God Dead? If he was, the likely culprit was science, whose triumph was deemed so complete that "what cannot be known [by scientific methods] seems uninteresting, unreal." Nobody would write such an article now, in an era of round-the-clock televangelism and official presidential displays of Christian piety. Even more remarkable today is the article's obsession with the experience of a handful of the most prestigious Protestant denominations. No one looked for God in the Pentecostal churches of East Los Angeles or among the backwoods Baptists of Arkansas. Muslims earned no notice, nor did American Hindus or Buddhists, except for a passage that raised the alarming prospect of seekers' "desperately" turning to "psychiatry, Zen or drugs."

History records that the vanguard of angst-ridden intellectuals in Time, struggling to imagine God as a cloud of gas in the far reaches of the galaxy, never did sweep the nation. What was dying in 1966 was a well-meaning but arid theology born of rationalism: a wavering trumpet call for ethical behavior, a search for meaning in a letter to the editor in favor of civil rights. What would be born in its stead, in a cycle of renewal that has played itself out many times since the Temple of Solomon, was a passion for an immediate, transcendent experience of God. And a uniquely American acceptance of the amazingly diverse paths people have taken to find it.

Nice hit on TIME, but entirely accurate--who understands America less well than intellectuals? You can take the poll here and see how your answers compare.

MORE (via Matt Murphy):
Scientists Speak Up on Mix of God and Science (CORNELIA DEAN, 8/23/05, NY Times)

At a recent scientific conference at City College of New York, a student in the audience rose to ask the panelists an unexpected question: "Can you be a good scientist and believe in God?"

Reaction from one of the panelists, all Nobel laureates, was quick and sharp. "No!" declared Herbert A. Hauptman, who shared the chemistry prize in 1985 for his work on the structure of crystals.

Belief in the supernatural, especially belief in God, is not only incompatible with good science, Dr. Hauptman declared, "this kind of belief is damaging to the well-being of the human race." [...]

Since his appearance at the City College panel, when he was dismayed by the tepid reception received by his remarks on the incompatibility of good science and religious belief, Dr. Hauptman said he had been discussing the issue with colleagues in Buffalo, where he is president of the Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute.

"I think almost without exception the people I have spoken to are scientists and they do believe in the existence of a supreme being," he said. "If you ask me to explain it - I cannot explain it at all."

But Richard Dawkins, an evolutionary theorist at Oxford, said that even scientists who were believers did not claim evidence for that belief. "The most they will claim is that there is no evidence against," Dr. Dawkins said, "which is pathetically weak. There is no evidence against all sorts of things, but we don't waste our time believing in them."

Hard to believe any Darwinist, even Mr. Dawkins, could say that with a straight face. The story nicely illustrates how isolated the more fanatical rationalists are becoming.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:58 PM


President Honors Veterans of Foreign Wars at National Convention (George W. Bush, Salt Palace Convention Center, Salt Lake City, Utah, 8/22/05)

In the long run, victory in the war on terror requires changing the conditions that give rise to violence and extremism. So the third part of our strategy in the war on terror is to spread the hope of freedom across the broader Middle East. Free societies are peaceful societies. By standing with those who stand for their liberty, we will lay the foundation of peace for our children and our grandchildren.

As we work to spread freedom in the Middle East we have cause for optimism. The rise of liberty in Iraq is part of a wider movement in the region. The tide of freedom ebbs and flows, but it is moving in a clear direction, and freedom's tide is rising in the broader Middle East.

In Afghanistan, men and women have formed a free government after suffering one of the most brutal tyrannies on Earth. America is proud to call Afghanistan an ally in the war on terror. In Lebanon, people took to the streets to demand their sovereignty. They have now gone to the polls and voted in free elections. As freedom takes root in these countries it is inspiring democratic reformers in places like Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Across the region, a new generation desires to be free, and they will have it. And the world will be more peaceful because of it. (Applause.)

In the heart of the Middle East a hopeful story is unfolding. After decades of shattered promises and stolen lives, peace is within reach in the Holy Land. The Palestinian people have expressed their desire for sovereignty and peace in free and fair elections. President Abbas has rejected violence and taken steps toward democratic reform. This past week, Prime Minister Sharon and the Israeli people took a courageous and painful step by beginning to remove settlements in Gaza and parts of the northern West Bank. The Israeli disengagement is an historic step that reflects the bold leadership of Prime Minister Sharon.

Both Israelis and Palestinians have elected governments committed to peace and progress, and the way forward is clear. We're working for a return to the road map. We're helping the Palestinians to prepare for self-government and to defeat terrorists who attack Israel, and terrorists who oppose the establishment of a peaceful Palestinian state. We're providing $50 million in direct assistance to the Palestinians for new housing and infrastructure projects in Gaza. We remain fully committed to defending the security and well-being of our friend and ally, Israel, and we demand an end to terrorism and violence in every form, because we know that progress toward peace depends on an end to terror.

We'll continue working for the day when the map of the Middle East shows two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and security. (Applause.)

As more nations replace tyranny with liberty and replace hatred with hope, America will be more secure. Our nation has accepted a mission, and we're moving forward with resolve. Spreading freedom is the work of generations, and no one knows it better than you. Freedom has contended with hateful ideologies before. We defeated fascism; we defeated communism; and we will defeat the hateful ideology of the terrorists who attacked America. (Applause.)

Each of these struggles for freedom required great sacrifice. From the beaches of Normandy to the snows of Korea, courageous Americans gave their lives so others could live in freedom. Since the morning of September the 11th, we have known that the war on terror would require great sacrifice, as well. We have lost 1,864 members of our Armed Forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and 223 in Operation Enduring Freedom. Each of these men and women left grieving families and loved ones back home. Each of these heroes left a legacy that will allow generations of their fellow Americans to enjoy the blessings of liberty. And each of these Americans have brought the hope of freedom to millions who have not known it. We owe them something. We will finish the task that they gave their lives for. We will honor their sacrifice by staying on the offensive against the terrorists, and building strong allies in Afghanistan and Iraq that will help us win and fight -- fight and win the war on terror. (Applause.)

As veterans of foreign wars, you know that the rise of liberty is critical to our national security. You understand the power of freedom because you've witnessed it with your own eyes. In a single lifetime, many of you have seen liberty spread from Germany and Japan to Eastern Europe, to Latin America, to Southeast Asia and Africa and beyond. You've seen that democracies do not fight each other, and that liberation leads to peace. With your courage and commitment to freedom, you have lifted lives of millions around the globe, and you made this country and our world more secure.

The generation of men and women who defend our freedom today is taking its rightful place among the heroes of our nation's history. Once again, America has found patriots who are selfless and tireless and unrelenting in the face of danger. Once again, the American people have been steadfast and determined not to lose our nerve. And once again, we have confidence in our cause, because we know that freedom is the future of every nation, and that the side of freedom is the side of victory.

I want to thank you for the example you have set for all who wear our nation's uniform. I want to thank you for your bravery and your decency. May God bless this nation's veterans, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.

The correspondent on NPR said that it was one of bthe few times the President has mentioned specific casualty numbers. Perhaps he did so, before this audience, because that's less guys than were killed on just D-Day? Ask them if their war wasn't worth it because mothers lost sons.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:38 PM


Egypt abuzz with presidential campaign: Candidates press the flesh in the country's first-ever multi-candidate presidential elections set for Sept. 7. (Charles Levinson, 8/23/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

Most expect Mr. Mubarak to secure another six-year term easily on Sept. 7, and critics contend that these elections are yet another staged performance to placate domestic and international calls for democracy. But Egyptians are enraptured by the unfolding process, and, for the first time, are discussing their right to choose who rules them. Intended or not, the process is signaling a shift in the country's collective mind-set.

"The people on the street are so keen to know what's happening, but they are still afraid to approach us," says Gemila Ismail, Nour's wife. "All this has happened in five months. We never even thought we would have elections, so think about this for a simple Egyptian."

The changes are largely seen to be the work of the ruling National Democratic Party's so-called reformers, the same gang of media-savvy officials who are also at the helm of Mubarak's reelection campaign. They are young, smartly dressed, fluent English speakers, many of them have degrees from the West's leading universities. Convincing voters to support their candidate seems of secondary concern to their campaign. The far more daunting task is to convince the international community that these elections will truly be free and fair.

"Some people are still skeptical about this experience, so we are trying to assure them that this is serious, that this is real change," says Mohamed Kamal, a leading Mubarak campaign official who has a PhD from Johns Hopkins University and once spent a year working as a US congressional staffer.

With US pressure for reform mounting, the public face of Egypt's authoritarian government has undergone a significant makeover in the past week. State television, once all but off limits to the opposition, has begun giving equal air time to each candidate. Government newspapers, traditional citadels of regime propaganda, are publicizing the election platforms of Mubarak's opponents.

At opposition campaign rallies in Cairo and outlying governorates, the massive security forces, long a mainstay at public gatherings, are nowhere to be seen. Instead, a handful of traffic police escort the candidates and their caravans through traffic, and help block off streets so marchers can proceed peacefully.

To skeptics, however, the increased margin of freedom is not designed to ensure fair elections, but is simply another tenet of the government's campaign.

"The government's message is not directed at the Egyptian people, and is not about voting for Mubarak," says Magdy Mihana, a leading independent columnist and political pundit. "The message is directed to the outside world that there are elections and that they are free and that there is real competition between more than one candidate."

Mikhail Gorbachev lost the Soviet Empire that way.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:36 PM


Base closings hint at new air strategy: A third of Air Guard flying units would lose all planes, but the US could gain in global reach. (Brad Knickerbocker, 8/23/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

[B]eyond the political turf squabble, Air National Guard issues now being considered by the nine-member Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) also involve the future of the Air Force, including the ability - and possibly the intention - of the United States to project and use its military power worldwide.

This round of base changes "represents the last opportunity we will have for a generation to reset our forces," Gen. John Jumper, Air Force chief of staff, told commissioners over the weekend.

While they may be busy fighting wars on several fronts today, Air Force planners are looking ahead 30 years at what they call "Future Total Force," including Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard forces.

"The Future Total Force will allow us to provide combat capabilities in a way that only a global power can provide them: striking with little notice, anywhere in the world, with precision; moving our armed forces and their equipment to any location, at any time, to support our national objectives," Michael Dominguez, assistant secretary of the Air Force for manpower and reserve affairs, said at a recent seminar in Washington. "As the single global power, we can't be content with dominating local commons - the planet is our commons. And, for good or ill, the world looks to us to enforce the rules, maintain the security, and sustain the stability of the global commons."

With different equipment and extended missions at a time when the United States is likely to remain the world's only superpower for decades, the Air National Guard will probably see its structure, location, and mission change as a result.

You can't overstate the degree to which the Iraq war has been a distraction from Don Rumsfeld's historic mission.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:28 PM


Jordan: Rocket attack prime suspect arrested (AP, 8/22/05)

A Syrian linked to an Iraq-based terrorist group has been arrested as the prime suspect in the rocket attack that barely missed U.S. warships docked in the port of Aqaba, the Jordanian government said Monday.

The government statement, read on state television, said the suspect, Mohammed Hassan Abdullah al-Sihly, plotted and carried out the attack along with two of his sons and an Iraqi.

There's no one you'd rather have holding a terrorist than the Jordanians:
Abu Nidal's group was best known for its role in two bloody gun and grenade attacks on check-in desks for El Al, the Israeli airline, at the Rome and Vienna airports in December, 1985. At his peak, Abu Nidal threatened the life of King Hussein of Jordan—whom he called "the pygmy king"—and the King responded, according to the former intelligence officers, by telling his state security service, "Go get them."

The Jordanians did not move directly against suspected Abu Nidal followers but seized close family members instead—mothers and brothers. The Abu Nidal suspect would be approached, given a telephone, and told to call his mother, who would say, according to one C.I.A. man, "Son, they'll take care of me if you don't do what they ask." (To his knowledge, the official carefully added, all the suspects agreed to talk before any family members were actually harmed.) By the early nineteen-nineties, the group was crippled by internal dissent and was no longer a significant terrorist organization. (Abu Nidal, now in his sixties and in poor health, is believed to be living quietly in Egypt.) "Jordan is the one nation that totally succeeded in penetrating a group," the official added. "You have to get their families under control."

abu Nidal himself died in Baghdad, although Saddam, of course, had no ties to terrorism....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:17 PM


Urine Battery Turns Pee Into Power (John Roach, August 18, 2005, National Geographic News)

Before you next flush the toilet, consider this: Scientists in Singapore have developed a battery powered by urine.

Yeah, but a gallon of bottled water costs more than a gallon of gas.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:29 PM


Draft Constitution Would Fundamentally Change Iraq: Sunni Demands Rejected, Making it Unlikely They Will Accept Charter (Ellen Knickmeyer and Jonathan Finer, August 22, 2005, Washington Post)

Shiites and Kurds were sending a draft constitution to parliament on Monday that would fundamentally change Iraq, transforming the country into a loose federation, with a weak central administration governed by Islamic law, negotiators said.

The draft, slated for action by a Monday deadline, would be a sweeping rejection of the demands of Iraq's disaffected Sunni minority, which has called the proposed federal system the start of the breakup of Iraq. Shiites and Kurds indicated they were in no mood to compromise.

"We gave a choice -- whoever doesn't want federalism can opt not to practice it," said Shiite constitutional committee member Ali Debagh. Debagh acknowledged the Sunni minority would be unlikely to accept such a draft in a national vote scheduled for October, saying, "We depended upon democracy in writing the constitution and will depend upon it in the referendum."

If democracy means anything it means that sometimes the minority is disappointed. The key is that if they conform they're entitled to the same rights as everyone else.

Iraq's draft constitution delayed - again: Just before the midnight deadline, negotiators pulled the draft saying they need three more days to resolve major disputes. (Dan Murphy and Jill Carroll, 8/23/05, CS Monitor)

Shortly before missing a second deadline in a week for finishing a draft constitution, Iraq's top political leaders executed a legal maneuver to buy more time for negotiations without explicitly calling it another delay.

At about 11:50 p.m. Hajim al-Hassani, the chairman of Iraq's parliament, told Iraqi lawmakers at a hastily convened session that a draft constitution was ready. But then he explained there were three outstanding constitutional issues that will hopefully be resolved in the next three days. No drafts were handed either to legislators or journalists.

This appeared to be an attempt to fulfill rules set last week that required a draft be submitted to parliament by midnight Monday by taking advantage of the semantic ambiguity of the word "submitted" and avoiding the embarrassment of a further official delay.

Sunnis get last chance for deal (Rory Carroll, August 23, 2005, The Guardian)
Iraq's ruling coalition submitted a new constitution to parliament last night but delayed a vote for three days to try to win over Sunni Arabs who said it could lead to civil war.

Shia and Kurdish leaders said they had reached a compromise between themselves and delivered a thinly veiled ultimatum to the Sunni minority to sign up to the deal by Thursday or retreat deeper into the political wilderness.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:58 AM


Million Father March escorts children to school (Brian DeBose, August 22, 2005, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Cities across the country are calling on a million fathers to take a little time out of their busy morning routine, get to work a little late if necessary, so they can walk hand in hand with their children to the schoolhouse doors on the first day.

The Million Father March, a pro-family and fatherhood initiative created by the Chicago-based Black Star Project, a black family advocacy group, is entering its second year, with 100 cities participating -- up from 25 cities in 2004, said Phillip Jackson, the organization's executive director. The marches began in Atlanta on Aug. 8, the earliest first day of school in the country and will continue through Oct. 1.

"This has already had national implications, and it will get stronger and stronger and stronger; everybody is looking for the magic bullet in education, and this is it -- fatherhood support and involvement," Mr. Jackson said. "And there are other cities doing their own unrelated marches like one in St. Louis."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:56 AM


The demographics of radical Islam (Spengler, 8/23/05, Asia Times)

General staffs before World War I began war planning with demographic tables, calculating how many men of military age they might feed to the machine guns. France preferred an early war because its stagnant population would not produce enough soldiers a generation hence to fight Germany. Only Israel’s general staff looks at demographic tables today, to draw prospective boundaries that will enclose a future Jewish majority.

Demographics still provide vital strategic information, albeit in quite a different fashion. Today’s Islamists think like the French general staff in 1914. Islam has one generation in which to establish a global theocracy before hitting a demographic barrier. Islam has enough young men - the pool of unemployed Arabs is expected to reach 25 million by 2010 - to fight a war during the next 30 years. Because of mass migration to Western Europe, the worst of the war might be fought on European soil.

Although the Muslim birth rate today is the world’s second highest (after sub-Saharan Africa), it is falling faster than the birth rate of any other culture. By 2050, according to the latest UN projections, the population growth rate of the Muslim world will converge on that of the United States (although it will be much higher than Europe's or China's).

No one truly believes the Islamicist vision could prevail, but the really interesting question is whether Islam generally, or more likely Shi'ism specifically, will be able to avoid the fate of most of the West, which has been unable to stop such demographic decline at some kind of equilibrium point. Only Christian America has managed the feat, but the similarities of Shi'ism to Christianity afford some hope that those nations will duplicate it.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:51 AM


Parents urge rethink as baby Charlotte improves
(The Guardian, August 22nd, 2005)

Charlotte Wyatt, the baby clinging to life in a hospital oxygen box, has confounded doctors by making "remarkable progress".

Doctors treating Charlotte sent a letter to her parents, dated August 11, which said they had been encouraged by her remarkable progress to date, but insisted there was no change in her underlying condition.

The parents now plan to use the letter to seek to overturn a court order not to resuscitate the 22-month-old girl if she stops breathing.

Doctors at St Mary's hospital, Portsmouth, won the legal right last October not to resuscitate Charlotte after arguing that her brain and other organs were so seriously damaged that she had "no feeling other than continuing pain".

But against the odds and medical opinion, she survived the winter and now responds to loud noise and bright images - and she even smiles.

Charlotte still spends most of her time in an oxygen box but is taken out to be cuddled by her parents when they visit.[...]

A spokeswoman for Portsmouth hospitals NHS trust said: "This is part of the trust's efforts to keep communication with the family about Charlotte's progress.

"As explained in the consultant's letter, Charlotte's underlying condition remains the same."

Every lawyer whose client faces a problem with bureaucracy knows how crucial it is to find the locus of decision-making within (no small feat) quickly and persuade it before any formal position is on the record. Reversing a public stance, no matter how crazy it is or however compelling the aggrieved’s case, is often a herculean and futile task, for it implies that which a bureaucracy will go to extraordinarily self-protective lengths to avoid–-an admission of error. Most folks, lacking the knowledge to support an informed medical opinion, assume that a case like Charlotte’s will be determined on the basis of ongoing cutting-edged science underpinned by a unanimous humane impulse to try and save her at the first sign of hope. Asking them to understand that “underlying condition” is simply a code phrase for keeping exclusive decision-making authority within the health bureaucracy and that Charlotte’s fate may be determined by its lawyers, not its doctors, is probably an act the general implications of which only a minority can bear.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:47 AM


Sex and the Cinema: In the New Hollywood, it's a liability (Edward Jay Epstein, Aug. 15, 2005, Slate)

In the early days of Hollywood, nudity—or the illusion of it—was considered such an asset that director Cecil B. DeMille famously made bathing scenes an obligatory ingredient of his biblical epics. Nowadays, nudity is a decided liability when it comes to the commercial success of the movie. In 2004, none of the six major studios' top 25 grossing films, led by Spider-Man 2, Shrek 2, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and The Incredibles, contained any sexually oriented nudity; only one had a restrictive R rating—Warner Bros.' Troy—and that was mainly due to the film's gory violence, not its sexual content. The absence of sex—at least graphic sex—is key to the success of Hollywood's moneymaking movies.

If you ever want to see how much America has gone backwards over the last twenty-five years just rent a movie--almost any movie--from the 70s or late 60s. The profanity, drugs, nudity and sex are really jarring.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:34 AM


Common in China, Kickbacks Create Trouble for U.S. Companies at Home (Peter S. Goodman, August 22, 2005, Washington Post)

For multinational companies grappling with stagnant sales, China has become a magnet for investment and a huge potential market beckoning with growth. Yet the lure of China profits combined with pervasive local corruption is tempting foreign companies and managers and bringing them into conflict with U.S. anti-bribery laws.

In interviews, China-based executives, sales agents and distributors for nine U.S. multinational companies acknowledged that their firms routinely win sales by paying what could be considered bribes or kickbacks -- often in the form of extravagant entertainment and travel expenses -- to purchasing agents at government offices and state-owned businesses.

The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of jeopardizing their businesses, said such payments are usually funneled through distribution companies or public-relations firms to minimize the chance of prosecution by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission, which enforce the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

"It's normal industry practice," said a salesperson at a unit of a major U.S.-based technology company with a substantial retail presence in China.

American business leaders often describe their China operations idealistically, suggesting that their presence here will compel Chinese competitors to adopt more ethical business practices. But in one key regard, the dynamic operates in reverse, with U.S. companies adopting Chinese-style tactics to secure sales, as they compete in a market in which Communist Party officials routinely control businesses, and purchasing agents consider kickbacks part of their salary.

At least we won't have to feel sorry for them when their busineeses fall apart.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:28 AM


UN envoy makes inroads in Myanmar (Marwaan Macan-Markar, 8/23/05, Asia Times)

The surprise visit by former Indonesian foreign minister Ali Alatas to Myanmar last week has turned the spotlight on the Southeast Asian statesman considered best qualified to bring political change to the military-ruled country.

Senior General Than Shwe, chairman of the Myanmar State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), met Alatas on Friday morning at the parliament building in Yangon. So far, neither has disclosed the details of their meetings.

A decision by Yangon's junta to permit Alatas to fly into Myanmar in his capacity as a special envoy of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is significant, especially when such accommodation included a meeting with Myanmar Foreign Minister Nyan Win on Thursday when the envoy arrived at the start of his three-day visit. [...]

Yangon has over the past year been increasingly averse to engaging with the international community, given the pressure exerted on the junta from many quarters, including the UN, to loosen its iron grip on power. Annan has increased the tempo on the Myanmar generals to free pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from continued isolation and house arrest.

The SPDC is also facing economic heat from an unprecedented decision by members of the International Labor Organization to impose punitive sanctions on Myanmar for continued use of forced labor.

The Myanmar government will be more receptive to Alatas because of his stature in the region as an elder statesman, said Withaya Sucharithanarugse, an Indonesian expert at the Bangkok-based Institute of Asian Studies. "There is no one in Thailand or the Philippines to match him and I think Malaysia has antagonized the SPDC with criticism about lack of political reform."

Here's a case where kofi Annan could be useful--make a joint appearance with George Bush, Tony Blair, John Howard, Manmohan Singh, Junichiro Koizumi, and a few other democratic Asian leaders and demand that the junta liberalize or face concerted action.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:17 AM


The C.I.A. Goes Gentle Into the Spooky New Night (FRANCIS X. CLINES, 8/22/05, NY Times)

When the end came, eight former czars of central intelligence gathered in the Langley, Va., headquarters for an eerie moment of nostalgia - and devotees of the fact and fiction of the Central Intelligence Agency were already walking back the cat (spy talk for retrospectively figuring out how a careful scheme turned disastrous). Porter Goss, the former spy and congressman who was awarded the intelligence directorship last year, generously summoned his predecessors and two of their widows on Tuesday to a cafeteria celebration to bid adieu to the agency's tattered primacy. The agency director, once the morning briefer of presidents, is now a secondary player under the umbrella of the new director of national intelligence, John Negroponte. In the wake of 9/11, the agency that once swaggered romantically as "the Company" has been subsumed like the loser in a corporate takeover.

It's a mark of the cancerous power that bureaucracies wield over the merely elected government that the CIA wasn't simply closed.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:07 AM


Drumbeat grows louder for fuel efficiency (Patrice Hill, August 22, 2005, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

The biggest gains in fuel efficiency were attained in the 1970s and 1980s, when oil prices soared to unprecedented levels and the government imposed fuel efficiency standards that require the fleet of cars to average a minimum of 27.5 miles per gallon.

The Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, standards, helped cause the price drops and oil gluts of the late 1980s and 1990s. But they have not been raised in two decades, despite the introduction of gas-guzzling SUVs and new technologies such as fuel-efficient electric hybrids.

Though the CAFE standards are opposed by the auto industry and many Republicans for distorting markets and inhibiting free consumer choice, "there is a case for raising the CAFE standards," and narrowing the difference between cars and SUVs, which with other light trucks are required to average only 20.9 miles per gallon, said Mr. Lichtblau.

Raising the standard for SUVs and light trucks to the same level as cars would cut fuel imports by 5 percent and shave world oil prices by about 2 percent, not adjusted for inflation, over 15 years, according to the Energy Information Administration.

Much stiffer fuel-efficiency requirements for cars and trucks would yield more dramatic savings, and the deflationary effect might be strong enough to spur economic growth, the agency found.

A poll by Yale University found that 93 percent of Americans want cars and SUVs to be more fuel efficient.

This is one issue on which the President and the GOP are quite wrong. Conservatives are right to despise central planning but imposition of standards does not require such. Raise the fuel efficiency standards and then let car makers meet them any way they can figure out. You're basically just forcing innovation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


The Cindy Sheehan you don't know (Cathy Young, August 22, 2005, Boston Globe)

She is not simply against the war in Iraq (and, as she told talk show host Chris Matthews on CNBC, against the war in Afghanistan as well). She has thrown in her lot with the hardcore Michael Moore left, and this less savory aspect of her crusade has been largely ignored by the respectful media.

In her public appearances, Sheehan has not only called Bush ''the biggest terrorist in the world" but suggested that his ''band of neocons" deliberately allowed the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 to happen: ''9/11 was their Pearl Harbor to get their neo-con agenda through," she told a cheering crowd at San Francisco State University last April.

That crowd, by the way, was holding a rally in support of Lynne Stewart, a radical New York attorney convicted in 2003 of aiding and abetting a terrorist conspiracy. Sheehan compared Stewart -- who served as a liaison between her incarcerated client, terrorist mastermind Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, and his network outside -- to Atticus Finch, the lawyer in ''To Kill a Mockingbird" who heroically defends a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman in the Jim Crow South.

Even more troubling opinions have surfaced in an e-mail Sheehan sent to ABC News last April: ''Am I emotional? Yes, my first born was murdered. Am I angry? Yes, he was killed for lies and for a PNAC [Project for the New American Century, a neoconservative think thank] Neo-Con agenda to benefit Israel. My son joined the army to protect America, not Israel."

After some media outlets publicized these comments, which smack of blaming the Jews for drawing the U.S. into the war in Iraq, Sheehan disavowed them: she claims the offending lines were inserted into her email by an ABC News staffer. (The original email has been lost due to an Internet virus attack.) But this latest conspiracy-mongering is hard to believe, especially given the general anti-Israel tenor of Sheehan's public statements: for instance, she railed against the notion that ''it's okay for Israel to have nuclear weapons, but Iran or Syria better not get nuclear weapons."

The Left is now fretting about how the "Republican attack machine" will be turned on Ms Sheehan, but, as with Howard Dean, the Right would like nothing better than for Americans just to listen to her own words.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Political Leaders' Silence on Iraq War Is a Dereliction of Duty (Ronald Brownstein, August 22, 2005, LA Times)

Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a slain soldier who has been camping outside President Bush's Texas ranch, is an impassioned witness but an imperfect messenger. Her leftist foreign policy agenda is as unlikely to draw majority support as the militant unilateralism of the hard-core neoconservatives.

But Sheehan will have done the nation a service if she inspires, or shames, both parties to resume debate over the direction of the Iraq war.

Few mainstream analysts in either party believe Sheehan's solution — withdrawing all U.S. troops immediately — is the right answer.

But no one should expect a grieving mother camping in a field to "solve" the Iraq war. She's not a military strategist. She is a citizen with an inherent right to demand answers from her government. And she is doing so at a time when too many others have stopped asking questions.

The problem for Democrats is that she's an almost perfect example of those who oppose the war--anti-Bush, anti-American, anti-Zionist, etc.. That's why they can't afford to discuss the war publicly.

Democrats Split Over Position on Iraq War: Activists More Vocal As Leaders Decline To Challenge Bush (Peter Baker and Shailagh Murray, August 22, 2005, Washington Post)

Democrats say a long-standing rift in the party over the Iraq war has grown increasingly raw in recent days, as stay-the-course elected leaders who voted for the war three years ago confront rising impatience from activists and strategists who want to challenge President Bush aggressively to withdraw troops.

Amid rising casualties and falling public support for the war, Democrats of all stripes have grown more vocal this summer in criticizing Bush's handling of the war. A growing chorus of Democrats, however, has said this criticism should be harnessed to a consistent message and alternative policy -- something most Democratic lawmakers have refused to offer.

The wariness, congressional aides and outside strategists said in interviews last week, reflects a belief among some in the opposition that proposals to force troop drawdowns or otherwise limit Bush's options would be perceived by many voters as defeatist. Some operatives fear such moves would exacerbate the party's traditional vulnerability on national security issues.

As the neocons found out a generation ago, if you're serious about liberating folks from an ism and about spreading American values you don't have a home in the Democratic Party.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Technology to mimic Mother Nature: Researchers look to tap into a whole world of possibilities (Ken Howard Wilan, August 22, 2005, Boston Globe)

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Mother Nature is smiling broadly. The science of imitating nature -- an approach called biomimetics -- is reaching out in deeper and more varied ways that ultimately seek to improve current technologies or create completely new ones.

Biomimetics work includes moving lab-grown tissue inspired by the real thing into the body to fix organs, and building robots that process information more like humans do, in order to better identify objects.

Advocates also attempt to lift processes from the human body, such as how it heals itself, and introduce these processes into inanimate objects: Think of self-healing TVs that would put the TV repairer out of business.

Biomimetics, or the mimicking of biological processes, is nothing new.

Indeed, who is to say that biology is not simply biomimetics.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Harvard scientists advance cell work: Technique doesn't destroy embryos (Gareth Cook and Carey Goldberg, August 22, 2005, Boston Globe)

Harvard scientists have created cells similar to human embryonic stem cells without destroying embryos, a major step toward someday possibly defusing the central objection to stem cell research.

The team showed that when a human skin cell was fused with an embryonic stem cell, the resulting hybrid looked and acted like the stem cell. The implications: It may eventually be possible to fashion tailor-made, genetically matched stem cells for patients using such a cell fusion technique, rather than by creating and then destroying a cloned embryo. That use of early embryos is the main sticking point for opponents of stem cell research.

The Harvard researchers cautioned that the fusion technique, described in this week's issue of the journal Science, is inefficient and deeply flawed at this point, and emphasized that it should not deter embryonic stem-cell research that involves embryos, nor diminish support for such research.

''Our technology is not ready for prime-time yet," said Kevin Eggan, the paper's senior author and an assistant professor at Harvard. ''Our results do not offer an alternative now."

There's no rush.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Sunnis Call for Delay in Charter: Seeking U.S. and U.N. intervention, the group says it has been excluded by Shiites and Kurds from closing efforts to draft Iraq's constitution. (Edmund Sanders and Ashraf Khalil, August 22, 2005, LA Times)

Political groups representing Iraq's minority Sunni Arabs called Sunday for new delays in approving a national constitution, complaining that they had been cut out of final-hour negotiations between Shiites and Kurds and appealing to U.S. and U.N. officials to intervene.

The nation's transitional National Assembly is scheduled to approve a final draft of Iraq's first democratic constitution today after missing the original deadline last Monday, when its members voted instead to give themselves one more week to seek compromise on key issues.

Shiite Muslims and Kurds, both long oppressed during Saddam Hussein's regime by a strong central government dominated by Sunni Muslims, have written a draft that creates a federal system allowing for greater regional autonomy.

Want power? Win elections.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Synthesizer innovator Robert A. Moog dies (NATALIE GOTT, 8/22/05, Associated Press)

Robert A. Moog, whose self-named synthesizers turned electric currents into sound, revolutionizing music in the 1960s and opening the wave that became electronica, has died. He was 71. [...]

The instrument allowed musicians, first in a studio and later on stage, to generate a range of sounds that could mimic nature or seem otherworldly by flipping a switch, twisting a dial, or sliding a knob. Other synthesizers were already on the market in 1964, but Moog's stood out for being small, light and versatile.

The arrival of the synthesizer came as just as the Beatles and other musicians started seeking ways to fuse psychedelic-drug experiences with their art. The Beatles used a Moog synthesizer on their 1969 album, "Abbey Road"; a Moog was used to create an eerie sound on the soundtrack to the 1971 film "A Clockwork Orange."

Keyboardist Walter (later Wendy) Carlos demonstrated the range of Moog's synthesizer by recording the hit album "Switched-On Bach" in 1968 using only the new instrument instead of an orchestra.

Among the other classics using a Moog: the Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again," and Stevie Wonder's urban epic, "Livin' for the City."

"Suddenly, there was a whole group of people in the world looking for a new sound in music, and it picked up very quickly," said Deutsch, the Hofstra University emeritus music professor who helped develop the Moog prototype.

"The Moog came at the right time," he said Monday.

The popularity of the synthesizer and the success of the company named for Moog took off in rock as extended keyboard solos in songs by Manfred Mann, Yes and Pink Floyd became part of the progressive sound of the 1970s.

"The sound defined progressive music as we know it," said Keith Emerson, keyboardist for the rock band Emerson, Lake and Palmer.

Along with rock, synthesizers developed since Moog's breakthrough helped inspire elements of 1970s funk, hip-hop, and techno.

Hardly his fault, but no one did more to destroy popular music.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


More young blacks ready to embrace GOP: Some cast aside traditional loyalties (Kaitlin Bell, August 22, 2005, Boston Globe)

Adam Hunter, an ambitious law student with bright eyes, an easy smile, and plenty of charisma, seems practically destined for politics.

A half century ago, his grandfather helped register blacks living in rural South Carolina to vote. Hunter's father, born on a tobacco farm and taught in segregated schools, was inspired by the civil rights movement to join the Democratic Party. His parents have both headed the local Democratic committee in their New Jersey town, and Hunter himself worked as a campaign volunteer before he was old enough to vote.

Hunter, 22, is a first-year law student at Howard University, a historically black campus with a long record of liberal activism. He has political ambitions of his own -- but not with the Democrats.

Instead, Hunter, who as an undergraduate headed Howard's chapter of College Republicans, sees himself as part of a younger generation of African-Americans. He is ready to cast aside traditional loyalties to the Democratic Party and forge his own political identity.

''My father and I are not that different, ideologically, but if you look at the time period we grew up in, that's where we're different," Hunter said. ''My foundation doesn't make me beholden to the Democratic Party. To me there's nothing more undemocratic than the idea that you have to vote for a Democrat or don't vote at all come Election Day."

It is the fact that you can not change your ideology and join the GOP that forecasts the trend.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM

LONG DRIVE OFF A SHORT BRIDGE (via David Hill, The Bronx):

Senate Democrats Are Split on Tactics for Questioning Roberts (DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK, 8/22/05, NY Times)

[A]s Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and other liberal stalwarts on the Judiciary Committee step up their criticism of Judge Roberts's record, other Democrats are reluctant to join them.

"I am turned off by senators trying to act like they have already found the guy out and they know what he is like," said Senator Russell D. Feingold, a Democratic committee member from Wisconsin who spent last week focused instead on calling for a pullout from Iraq. "I am not part of any Democratic effort to 'set the table' " for the hearings by laying the groundwork to criticize Judge Roberts, he said.

Several Democratic senators said the hearings on Judge Roberts were shaping up as a risky balancing act. Failing to press him could look weak to their liberal base. But attacking too hard could draw Democrats into a losing battle on the treacherous turf of abortion, race and religion at a time when Republicans appear vulnerable on other fronts.

Mr. Feingold said that he considered a Supreme Court nominee too important to evaluate in only political terms, but that in those terms, a protracted confirmation fight "could take away time from issues where Democrats have a much better position politically, on things like health care, the economy, and, yes, Iraq."

Former Senator John Breaux, a Louisiana Democrat, said the hearings were a test of his party's independence. "The interest groups are going to be out there, and this is their issue, and they are going to fight it until the dead warm over, but gas prices, health care costs and Iraq are the things that motivate most people," he said. In a Supreme Court fight, "we are not expanding the base, and even if we get 100 percent of the base, we do not win a national election."

Even Democrats ought not to listen when Ted Kennedy says, "Follow me..."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Public willing to trade civil liberties for security (epolitix, 8/22/05)

A new poll reveals that almost three quarters of the public believe it is right to give up civil liberties to boost security against the terrorist threat.

The Guardian/ICM poll shows that 73 per cent of respondents back feel it is a price worth paying, with only 17 per cent rejecting the trade-off outright.

August 21, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:44 PM


The New Spanish Martyrs (Robert Royal, Catholic Herald)

Most Americans who have even heard of the Spanish Civil War have been led to believe that it was a conflict between democratic, freedom-loving Republicans on the one hand, and Fascists led by General Francisco Franco on the other. Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls and George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia portray the war in that light, though both have the decency to admit that widespread murder of Catholics took place.

Thousands of idealists from other nations volunteered to fight on the side of the Republicans in "International Brigades." Franco’s forces were characterized as reactionary and authoritarian Catholics. But at the time, no western nation supported the Republicans, precisely because of their anti-religious atrocities. Only the Soviet Union, then closely allied with the Spanish Republicans, and Mexico, itself perpetrating atrocities against its own church at the time, backed Republican Spain.

The other countries of the world were right. In Spain, one of Europe’s most staunchly Catholic countries, large numbers of Catholics were butchered during the 1936-1939 Civil War solely for being Catholic. Unlike the martyrdoms in most parts of the world, whole sectors of the religious community were liquidated. At least 6,832 priests and religious were martyred, including 13 bishops. In the 20th century, probably no country witnessed so much bloodshed among its clergy.

The male religious martyred included 259 Claretians, 226 Franciscans, 204 Piarists, 176 Brothers of Mary, 165 Christian Brothers, 155 Augustinians, 132 Dominicans, and 114 Jesuits. The toll among the female orders was lower, but still shocking when we recall that these women could have had virtually nothing to do with the political struggle: 30 Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, 26 Carmelites of Charity, 26 Adoratrices, and 20 Capuchins, along with many others.

But perhaps the greatest fury fell upon diocesan clergy, though it varied a great deal from one place to another. Pamplona, a Nationalist and pro-Catholic stronghold, had no diocesan casualties. Barbastro in Aragon saw 123 of its 140 priests lost to Republican anarchists who were violently anti-clerical. Elsewhere, too, the pattern reflected the fortunes of war. Seville was captured early by the Nationalists and therefore lost only 4 priests. But the other large cities that remained in Republican hands for the duration of the civil war had far higher casualty figures: Barcelona, 279; Valencia, 327; Madrid-Alcalá, 1,118. In percentage terms, these represented 22, 27, and 30 percent of the diocesan clergy in the respective cities.

Remarkably, most of the murders were carried out in only the first six months of the civil war. Probably half of all clergy were, within a week of the uprising, protected in areas controlled by the Nationalists. Without the Nationalists, the slaughter could have been much greater. As it was, about a quarter of the male clergy in Republican-controlled areas disappeared. Almost none of them gave up the faith when they were threatened with death.

Nothing so became Orwell as his regret at having fought on the "Republican" side.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:29 PM


The man who would be king
: For 20 years, Garry Kasparov remained virtually unbeaten on the chess board. Now he's planning his most audacious move ever - to topple Vladimir Putin. (Andrew Anthony, August 21, 2005, The Observer)

Garry Kasparov is currently putting the finishing touches to a book with the provisional title How Life Imitates Chess. As he is almost certainly the greatest chess player in history, nobody can doubt his authority concerning the board game. But it's on the broader matter of life where questions of expertise might be raised. For while professional chess players may understand the black-and-white world of the chess board, they are not renowned for their competence in negotiating the grey uncertainties of everyday existence.

We think of Bobby Fischer, the paranoid anti-Semite raging at imagined enemies, or Paul Morphy, the 19th-century champion, found dead in his bath surrounded by women's shoes. We recall Wilhelm Steinitz, the Austrian who thought he was in electrical communication with God. Even 'normal' professionals, like our own Nigel Short and Jonathan Speelman, tend to betray curious eccentricities. Short speaks English as though it were a foreign language and Speelman looks, in his clothes and grooming, like a mad professor plotting to blow up the world.

It should be said in his defence that Kasparov, though a genius at the game, has never particularly looked the part. Whereas Anatoly Karpov, the man he beat to take the world title back in 1985, possessed the cadaverous pallor and puny physique of someone who had spent his life in airless rooms lifting nothing heavier than a wooden chess piece, Kasparov by contrast was all simian movements and saturnine stares. His opponents spoke of his physical presence as if he were an athlete or a boxer rather than what they were, chess nerds. He trained for big matches with a fitness regime and careful diet. Short referred to his 'weightlifter's energy' and that was before Kasparov crushed him in their 1993 World Championship match.

And while chess players tend by nature to be self-absorbed, distracted, reclusive, Kasparov was an extrovert with no interest in concealing his high opinion of himself. As he put it in his 1987 autobiography, Child of Change, he was 'not one to hide my light under a bushel'. In the book he described his triumphs with an undisguised pride bordering on glee. He quoted praise at length and gave short shrift to criticism. Dubbed by his rivals the 'Beast of Baku', he later outlined his relationship with his fellow chess professionals. 'Most of the other players hate me because I beat them regularly,' he explained. 'Most of them have a devastatingly bad record against me.'

Everything about Kasparov, including his impenetrably thick hair, seemed to speak of the indomitable. He produced moves that teams of grandmasters would take days to unravel. And for 20 years, give or take the occasional blip, he could not be beaten. Then, earlier this year, having won the prestigious Linares tournament in Spain, he announced his retirement. Not for him the obscurity or notoriety that his predecessors encountered after chess, not for him the struggle against dwindling powers and memory. Instead, Kasparov informed the world that he was ready for a whole new challenge. He was going into politics. [...]

Kasparov was probably the most aggressive player in modern chess. Though nearly all chess players like to talk about 'destroying' or 'crushing' their opponent, very often the way they play can appear more like boring their opponent to a standstill. Not Kasparov. He relished a fight. He moved his pieces as if they were weapons. He once said that he learned about politics through chess, and if that's the case then Kasparov's current tactics make a kind of chess sense. He has decided to target the King. He wants to take out the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin. But to succeed he will have to play the game of his life against an opponent loaded with almost every advantage. When he was a small boy, he once recalled, he saw a chess game 'in which small pawns were victorious over what looked like a more powerful enemy. This captivated me, and I have loved to attack ever since childhood.' But for Kasparov to defeat the Putin regime would be more like the equivalent of a solitary white knight vanquishing a near full set of black pieces.

The end game is likely to be more interesting than the opening.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:21 PM


One Simple Rate: A flat tax would unleash a stupendous economic boom. (STEVE FORBES, August 21, 2005, Opinion Journal)

My flat tax plan has one simple rate, on the federal level: 17% on personal income and 17% on corporate profits. There would be generous exemptions for individuals: $13,200 for each adult; $4,000 for each child or dependent, and a refundable tax credit of $1,000 per child 16 or younger. A family of four would pay no federal income tax on its first $46,165 of income. Exemptions for a family of six--mom, dad, four kids--would be $65,930. No anti-risk-taking capital gains levy; the capital gains tax would go to zero. The abusive Alternative Minimum (really maximum) Tax would be abolished. No more death tax: You'd leave the world unmolested by the IRS. No taxation without respiration!

Corporate profits would be taxed at a rate of 17%. Companies could expense all investments at once: no more depreciation schedules. If these instant write-offs produce a loss, that could be carried forward to use against future profits for as many years as necessary to use it up. And businesses would be taxed only on income made in the U.S.

The economic boom the flat tax would unleash would be stupendous, ushering in a long-term, noninflationary expansion of historic proportions. The current expansion would pale in comparison. Once again, we would be the clear global leader in high-tech and medical innovations--unlike today, when our lead, thanks in no small part to the tax code, is now under increasing assault.

How would a flat tax do this? What so many "experts" can't grasp is that taxes are not only a means of raising revenue for governments but also a price and a burden. The tax you pay on income is the price you pay for working; the tax on profits is the price you pay for being successful, and the levy on capital gains is the price you pay for taking risks that work out. When you lower the price of good things, such as productive work, success and risk taking, you get more of them. The flat tax does that dramatically.

If Mr. Forbes wants his proposal to be taken up he should win the soon to be open NJ Senate seat and introduce a bill in Washington.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:33 PM


'Left of left' in Congress writes Bush on Sheehan (, August 21, 2005)

Cindy Sheehan is getting some help from far left Democrats in Congress, who are urging President Bush to meet with the so-called "Peace Mom."

Rep. John Conyers of Michigan penned a letter to Bush making that request, and it was signed by 38 other members of the House of Representatives, all of whom are Democrats with the exception of Vermont's Bernard Sanders, who is an Independent.

"We write to respectfully urge you to meet with Cindy Sheehan and other relatives of fallen soldiers who request a meeting to discuss their deep concerns about the war in Iraq," Conyers writes.

Recall the sentiments these Democrats now officially associate themselves with, Cindy Sheehan (Military Families Speak Out; Goldstar Families for Peace; her son Casey was killed in the Iraq War) (Transcript of Pro-Stewart Rally, April 27, 2005)
The following is a transcript of comments made by featured speakers at a pro-Lynne Stewart rally held on Wednesday, April 27, 2005 at San Francisco State University. Among the sponsors of the event were the National Lawyers Guild, Campaign to End the Death Penalty, the International Socialist Organization, and the Campus Antiwar Network.

First, I want to give my little story about Lynne. Of course, you all have read To Kill a Mockingbird. Lynne is my human Atticus Finch. He did what he knew was right, but wasn’t popular. And that’s what Lynne is doing. {applause}

We are not waging a war on terror in this country. We’re waging a war of terror. The biggest terrorist in the world is George W. Bush. {applause}

How many more people are we going to let him kill before we stop him? I’m going to talk about free speech and recruitment. Do you know that it costs $66,000 to recruit one recruit? That’s continuing all of their – you know, the recruiter’s salary, the recruiter’s bonus, the place that they rent to recruit and things like that. All the perks they get and everything. That’s not even training the recruit. It costs our government about $6,000 a year on each child in California. $46,000 a year to house a prisoner in our state. Our priorities are seriously screwed up, as I mentioned.

I really want to thank you guys for doing this, especially the young people. It gives me so much hope to know that there’s young people who care more about who’s our next American Idol – less about that. You guys care more about people being killed. There’s too many that care more about the next American Idol. Too many people in our country that don’t even really know we have a war going on. You know, they never have to think of the war, and I’ll never, ever forget this war. I can never forget it, even when I’m sleeping {tears} I know that we’re in a war and I know that George Bush and his band of neo-cons and their neo-con agenda killed my son. And I’ll never, ever, ever forget.

I take responsibility partly for my son’s death, too. I was raised in a country by a public school system that taught us that America was good, that America was just. America has been killing people, like my sister over here says, since we first stepped on this continent, we have been responsible for death and destruction. I passed on that bull**** to my son and my son enlisted. I’m going all over the country telling moms: “This country is not worth dying for. If we’re attacked, we would all go out. We’d all take whatever we had. I’d take my rolling pin and I’d beat the attackers over the head with it. But we were not attacked by Iraq. {applause} We might not even have been attacked by Osama bin Laden if {applause}. 9/11 was their Pearl Harbor to get their neo-con agenda through and, if I would have known that before my son was killed, I would have taken him to Canada. I would never have let him go and try and defend this morally repugnant system we have. The people are good, the system is morally repugnant. {applause}

Please – teach your babies, teach your babies better than I taught my babies. When Congress gave George Bush the right to go to war, they abrogated their constitutional responsibilities and they basically made our constitution null and void. We have no checks and balances in this country. We have no recourse. If they’re going to what they did to Lynne, they don’t have backs they call names, what we need to be is, we the people, we’re their checks and balances. We’re the only checks and balances. We have to stand up and say, Not only is this our school, this is our country. We want our country back and, if we have to impeach everybody from George Bush down to the person who picks up dog **** in Washington, we will impeach all those people. Our country needs to {unintelligible} we need to start over again.

I just want to say that you students, Students Against War, you have all my support and all my organization’s support. I told Kristen if you have any actions and you need a ringleader, that I only live about an hour away. I’ll be here. If I can sleep on somebody’s floor, we can have this, we can camp out, do whatever we need.

And I just want to way to George Bush and I want to say to the people who are here, that are still sheep {unintelligible} and following him blindly: if George Bush believes his rhetoric and his bull***, that this is a war for freedom and democracy, that he is spreading freedom and democracy, does he think every person he kills makes Iraq more free? It doesn’t make us more free. It damages our humanity. The whole world is damaged. Our humanity is damaged. If he thinks that it’s so important for Iraq to have a U.S.-imposed sense of freedom and democracy, then he needs to sign up his two little party-animal girls. They need to go this war. They need to fight because a just war, the definition of a just war, and maybe you people here who still think this is a just war, the definition of a just war is one that you would send your own children to die in. That you would go die in yourself. And you aren’t willing to send your own children, or if you’re not willing to go die yourself, then you bring there rest of our kids home now. It is despicable what they’re doing. {applause}

What they’re saying, too, is like, it’s okay for Israel to have nuclear weapons. But Iran or Syria better not get nuclear weapons. It’s okay for the United States to have nuclear weapons. It’s okay for the countries that we say it’s okay for. We are waging a nuclear war in Iraq right now. That country is contaminated. It will be contaminated for practically eternity now. It’s okay for them to have them, but Iran or Syria can’t have them. It’s okay for Israel to occupy Palestine, but it’s – yeah – and it’s okay for Iraq to occupy – I mean, for the United States to occupy Iraq, but it’s not okay for Syria to be in Lebanon. They’re a bunch of f***ing hypocrites! And we need to, we just need to rise up. We need a revolution and make it be peaceful and make it be loving and let’s just show them all the love we have for humanity because we want to stop the inhumane slaughter.

{wild applause}

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:25 PM


Strongman sorry for Prague Spring (AFP, August 22, 2005)

FORMER Polish communist strongman, Wojciech Jaruzelski, has apologised to the Czech Republic and Slovakia for Poland's role in the Soviet-led invasion in August 1968 that crushed a pro-democracy movement.

"I have felt bad, I have been tormented by that," said Jaruzelski during a broadcast on Czech public television, 37 years to the day after the invasion of then Czechoslovakia.

Troops from the Soviet Union and four former Warsaw Pact countries squashed the so-called "Prague Spring", a movement led by Slovak reformer Alexander Dubcek that tried to put "a human face on socialism" through democratic reforms to the totalitarian regime in power in Prague.

"It was a stupid political act," said Jaruzelski, 82, who was Poland's defence minister at the time.

"I now make my apologies."

Perhaps the key to understanding communism is that the blood-drenched General Jaruzelski was the very best man it could produce.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:10 PM


Limits on building permits = higher home prices (David R. Francis, 8/22/05, CS Monitor)

In June, the term "housing bubble" was used 312 times in American magazines and newspapers. That's up sixfold from a year earlier.

If chatter alone pricked a price bubble, we'd hear a bang, or at least hissing. [...]

Harvard University economist Edward Glaeser reserves judgment.

"It could happen," he says. "But I don't know."

His relative calm stems from research with two other economists indicating that the main reason house prices have flown aloft in the past 20 or 30 years, particularly on the two coasts, is the increasing difficulty in getting regulatory approval to build new homes.

That situation won't change anytime soon. Last week, the Census Bureau reported the July annual rate of housing starts as barely exceeding 2 million. That sounds like a lot, but the rate of growth in overall housing has fallen. In a sample of 120 metropolitan areas, the housing stock expanded 40 percent in the 1950s. In the 1990s, it rose only 14 percent. Further, housing growth in that decade was just about 7 percent in San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles, notes Mr. Glaeser.

Cities have changed from "urban growth machines to homeowners' cooperatives," he notes. Developers probably are less able to "bribe" or otherwise get city officials to grant them zoning changes or permits for unpopular new housing. More affluent, more educated residents use their political clout to block such developments, which could damage their own house values or the beauty and convenience of their district.

In what Princeton University economist Paul Krugman has called the "flatland" (the Midwest), it is easier for builders to turn farms into housing than in the "zoned zone" (heavily zoned areas on the coasts), where it is generally hard to obtain land to build on. So home prices are far lower in flatland.

Nonetheless, the "man-made scarcity" of new and old housing has been spreading, Glaeser finds.

I'm no economist, but in our High School economics course the one thing I did learn is that when demand far exceeds supply it has an effect on prices.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:04 PM


Three generations, one home: Growth rate doubles for dwellings with grandparents, parents, and kids - bucking independent-living trend. (Sara B. Miller, 8/22/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

Multigenerational households still represent a small percentage of US living arrangements. But the increase - more than double the growth of US households overall - shows that many Americans are starting to reverse the long-term pattern of living independently, experts say.

Both the longevity of seniors and their desire to live in age-integrated communities plays a role in multigenerational living. Many times unmarried mothers will move back with their parents. Immigration from countries where the cultural norm is to live with extended families is also a factor.

But many experts say it is a trend that, even with positive byproducts, is driven in large part by financial strain.

The trend should be accelerated by ending subsidies to nursing home care.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:00 PM


Prisoner release gives hope for W. Sahara peace: The Polisario Front freed 404 Moroccan prisoners of war held captive for, in some cases, 20 years. (Lisa Abend and Geoff Pingree, 8/22/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

This desert region has been controlled by Morocco since 1975. For the Saharawi people, it is their home, a place for which the Polisario Front has fought for decades. For the Moroccans, however, Western Sahara - the "southern provinces," as the government prefers to call the area - is an integral part of their national territory.

Western Sahara became a source of contention in the mid-1970s, when Spain officially ceded sovereignty of the territory, and the Polisario Front sought to secure the land as an independent state for the Saharawi people. Although the International Court of Justice had established the Saharawi's right to self-determination, Morocco sent a massive force to occupy Western Sahara in 1975, initiating a war with the Polisario.

In 1991, the United Nations brokered a cease-fire - the terms of which required a self-determination referendum for Western Sahara - and installed a peacekeeping force, called MINURSO. After political wrangling delayed the referendum, UN special envoy James Baker attempted in 1997 to negotiate a solution. But his efforts failed when Morocco rejected the plan in 2003.

Today, Moroccan officials profess willingness to discuss a solution to the 30-year conflict, but they refuse to negotiate an open referendum. Laayoune councilman Moulay Ould Errachid backs a federalist approach to the problem, one that would allow greater autonomy to Western Sahara. "But," he says, "we will not debate Moroccan sovereignty with anyone."

Morocco's refusal to hold the referendum is, for Brahim Gali, the Polisario's representative in Spain, a violation of international law and a clear indication that Morocco fears such a vote.

"We don't know if a majority of Saharawi would vote for independence," says Mr. Gali, "but we're not afraid of elections. The one who is afraid is the one who won't let the vote go forward."

Ali Lmrabet, a Moroccan journalist, takes a more forceful position. "If you believe the official Moroccan press, then only a few Saharawi want independence. If that's the case, then why not hold the vote? Because the truth is that most Saharawi don't want to be Moroccans. Personally, I'd prefer that Western Sahara remain part of Morocco, but the important thing is that the Saharawi choose for themselves. I can't force anyone to be a Moroccan."

Any people who think of themselves as sovereign will be.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:54 PM


Does it matter if you call it a civil war?: Iraq's constitution could be seen as a draft 'peace pact' for warring parties. (Dan Murphy, 8/22/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

Finding a way to head off civil war is at the heart of all the major initiatives - including the talks over a new constitution - in Iraq. But by most common political-science definitions of the term, "civil war" is already here.

"It's not a threat. It's not a potential. Civil war is a fact of life there now,'' says Pavel Baev, head of the Center for the Study of Civil War at the Peace Research Institute in Oslo, Norway. He argues that until the nature of the conflict is accurately seen, good solutions cannot be found. "What's happening in Iraq is a multidimensional conflict. There's international terrorism, banditry, the major foreign military presence. But the civil war is the central part of it - the violent contestation for power inside the country."

What this means in practical terms, is that an immediate US withdrawal isn't likely to bring peace to Iraq, say analysts. Nor is simply "staying the course," if it isn't matched by a political peace treaty among the warring parties - a role that a new constitution, facing a midnight tonight deadline, could fill.

Indeed, what our withdrawal would do--and why it should have come in 2003--is to clarify the lines of the Civil War. Once the Shi'ites and Kurds fully control their respective regions their putting down of the Sunni insurgency will be more obviously a standard suppression of an anti-democratic minority.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:50 PM


Of Minds and Metrics (Michael Barone, 8/21/05, US News)

Metrics are hard to come by in the war on terrorism. We can know the number of improvised explosive devices that go off in Iraq and the number of suicide bombers there, but we can only guess at whether these numbers represent the last throes of a terrorist movement or its continuing growth. We can count the number of days the Iraqi parliament has moved the deadline for drafting a constitution--seven, as this is written--but cannot be sure what the effect of a finally drafted constitution will be. We can note that some 220,000 Iraqis took part in deliberations over the constitution and that the Iraqi electricity supply now exceeds that of prewar levels.

But the most important changes occurring, not just in Iraq but across the Muslim world, are changes in people's minds. These are harder, but not impossible, to measure. George W. Bush has proclaimed that we are working to build democracy in Iraq not just for Iraqis but in order to advance freedom and defeat fanatical Islamist terrorism around the world. Now comes the Pew Global Attitudes Project's recent survey of opinion in six Muslim countries to tell us that progress is being made in achieving that goal. Minds are being changed and in the right direction.

Most important, support for terrorism in defense of Islam has "declined dramatically," in the Pew report's words, in Muslim countries, except in Jordan (which has a Palestinian majority) and Turkey, where support has remained a low 14 percent. It has fallen in Indonesia (from 27 to 15 percent since 2002), Pakistan (from 41 to 25 percent since 2004), Morocco (from 40 to 13 percent since 2004), and among Muslims in Lebanon (from 73 to 26 percent since 2002). Support for suicide bombings against Americans in Iraq has also declined. The percentage reporting some confidence in Osama bin Laden is now under 10 percent in Lebanon and Turkey and has fallen sharply in Indonesia.

Similarly, when asked whether democracy was a western way of doing things or could work well in their own country, between 77 and 83 percent in Lebanon, Morocco, Jordan, and Indonesia say it could work in their country--in each case a significant increase from earlier surveys.

Of course, for the vast majority of Americans the only metric they actually care about, quiite sensibly, stands at zero; the number of fellow citizens killed in Islamicist attacks on our soil since 2001.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 10:14 AM


Thompson goes out with a bang (Globe and Mail, August 21st, 2005)

With a deafening boom, the ashes of Hunter S. Thompson were blown into the sky amid fireworks late Saturday as relatives and a star-studded crowd bid an irreverent farewell to the founder of "gonzo journalism".

As the ashes erupted from a tower, red, white, blue and green fireworks lit up the sky over Thompson's home near Aspen.

The 15-story tower was modeled after Thompson's logo: a clenched fist, made symmetrical with two thumbs, rising from the hilt of a dagger. It was built between his home and a tree-covered canyon wall, not far from a tent filled with merrymakers.

"He loved explosions," explained his wife, Anita Thompson.

The private celebration included actors Bill Murray and Johnny Depp, rock bands, blowup dolls and plenty of liquor to honor Thompson, who killed himself six months ago at the age of 67.

Give the man credit, he at least took his beliefs seriously.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:49 AM


'Peace Mom's' marriage a metaphor for Dems (MARK STEYN, 8/21/05, Chicago Sun-Times)

[W]hy is Elizabeth Edwards sending out imploring letters headlined "Support Cindy Sheehan's Right To Be Heard"? The politics of this isn't difficult: The more Cindy Sheehan is heard the more obvious it is she's thrown her lot in with kooks most Americans would give a wide berth to.

Don't take my word for it, ask her family. Casey Sheehan's grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins put out the following statement:

"The Sheehan Family lost our beloved Casey in the Iraq War and we have been silently, respectfully grieving. We do not agree with the political motivations and publicity tactics of Cindy Sheehan. She now appears to be promoting her own personal agenda and notoriety at the expense of her son's good name and reputation. The rest of the Sheehan Family supports the troops, our country, and our President, silently, with prayer and respect."

Ah, well, they're not immediate family, so they lack Cindy's "moral authority." But how about Casey's father, Pat Sheehan? Last Friday, in Solano County Court, Casey's father Pat Sheehan filed for divorce. As the New York Times explained Cindy's "separation," "Although she and her estranged husband are both Democrats, she said she is more liberal than he is, and now, more radicalized."

Toppling Saddam and the Taliban (Mrs. Sheehan opposes U.S. intervention in Afghanistan, too), destroying al-Qaida's training camps and helping 50 million Muslims on the first steps to free societies aren't worth the death of a single soldier. But Cindy Sheehan's hatred of Bush is worth the death of her marriage. Watching her and her advanced case of Bush Derangement Syndrome on TV, I feel the way I felt about that mentally impaired Aussie concert pianist they got to play at the Oscars a few years.

Yet in the wreckage of Pat and Cindy Sheehan's marriage there is surely a lesson for the Democratic Party. As Cindy says, they're both Democrats, but she's "more liberal" and "more radicalized." There are a lot of less liberal and less radicalized Dems out there: They're soft-left-ish on health care and the environment and education and so forth; many have doubts about the war, but they love their country, they have family in the military, and they don't believe in dishonoring American soldiers to make a political point. The problem for the Democratic Party is that the Cindys are now the loudest voice: Michael Moore, Howard Dean,, and Air America, the flailing liberal radio network distracting attention from its own financial scandals by flying down its afternoon host Randi Rhodes to do her show live from Camp Casey. The last time I heard Miss Rhodes she was urging soldiers called up for Iraq to refuse to go -- i.e., to desert.

On unwatched Sunday talk shows, you can still stumble across the occasional sane, responsible Dem. But, in the absence of any serious intellectual attempt to confront their long-term decline, all the energy on the left is with the fringe. The Democratic Party is a coalition of Pat Sheehans and Cindy Sheehans, and the noisier the Cindys get the more estranged the Pats are likely to feel.

Sorry about that, but, if Mrs. Sheehan can insist her son's corpse be the determining factor in American policy on Iraq, I don't see why her marriage can't be a metaphor for the state of the Democratic Party.

You don't even want to know what her mother's stroke is a metaphor for...

Peacenik paper fawns over antiwar mom (Patrick Frey, August 21, 2005, LA Times)

[I]n its apparent zeal to portray Sheehan as the Rosa Parks of the antiwar movement, the Los Angeles Times has omitted facts and perspectives that might undercut her message or explain the president's reluctance to meet with her again.

For example, The Times uncritically reported Sheehan's claim that the president had behaved callously in a June 2004 meeting with her and her husband, refusing to look at pictures of Casey or listen to stories about him. The Times claimed without qualification that Sheehan "came away from that meeting dissatisfied and angry."

But the article failed to mention that Sheehan had previously described Bush as sincere and sympathetic in the meeting. According to an interview with her hometown paper, the Vacaville Reporter, Sheehan had said that although she was upset about the war, she decided not to confront the president — who clearly left a favorable impression: "I now know he's sincere about wanting freedom for the Iraqis…. I know he's sorry and feels some pain for our loss. And I know he's a man of faith."

Of that trip, Sheehan said: "That was the gift the president gave us, the gift of happiness, of being together." In the 11 articles and columns about Sheehan that The Times had run on its news pages as of Friday, there is no hint of her previous praise for the president.

Ironically, columnists Jonathan Chait and Margaret Carlson evidently assumed that The Times had informed its readers about Sheehan's contradictions, and ran columns that unconvincingly tried to reconcile Sheehan's varying versions. But even the Washington Post — no bastion of the fabled vast right-wing conspiracy — saw discrepancies between Sheehan's former and current descriptions of her meeting with the president.

Did they hire a NY Post headline writer?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:45 AM


West Bank pullout approved (Agence France-Presse, August 21, 2005)

THE Israeli cabinet has given the final green light for the evacuation of four small settlements in the northern West Bank as well as for the last three Jewish communities in Gaza, officials said.

The vote to dismantle the West Bank settlements of Ganin, Kadim, Homesh and Sanur was passed overwhelmingly by 16 votes to four. Ganin and Kadim have already been fully emptied of all settlers.

The decision should seal Sharon's place in the history books as the first Israeli leader to sanction the pullout from any part of an area known by Jews as northern Samaria, the heart of Biblical Israel.

The vote also gives the government clearance to evacuate settlers from three settlements in the nothern Gaza Strip – Dugit, Nissanit and Elei Sinai – as Israel pushes ahead with its operations to dismantle its 38-year occupation of the Palestinian territory.

So much for it being a ruse so he could keep the rest of the territory.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:41 AM

JUST GET DARREN (Via Robert Schwartz):

No squirrels allowed, Paso Robles schools say: Paso Robles Public Schools may put an end to its overpopulation of the rodents with a $2,000 extermination system that involves propane (Monika Tjia, 8/18/05, The Tribune)

On any given day, a dozen squirrels scamper on the field at Pat Butler Elementary in Paso Robles, slipping in and out of holes the size of softballs. That may soon end.

The Paso Robles Public Schools is considering buying squirrel extermination systems called the Rodenator Pro for its more than 10 campuses.

The $2,000 system exterminates the critters by releasing a mixture of propane and oxygen into a hole and lighting a fire. It was demonstrated by a Pinedale, Calif., distributor at Pat Butler Elementary last week.

Growing up in the 'hood, our school had a simpler and cheaper approach--the teachers would send for Darren when there was a rat in the classroom. Darren had gotten his growth spurt early and was a kind of 5th grade version of Lawrence Tayler. He'd go borrow a hammer from the janitor and take care of the rat.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:38 AM


Hold the Health, Serve That Burger: Restaurant Chains Find Low-Fat Means Lean Sales (Margaret Webb Pressler, August 18, 2005, Washington Post)

The national restaurant chain Ruby Tuesday added a low-fat Blueberry D'Lite yogurt parfait to its menu more than a year ago to capitalize on the apparent growing appetite among consumers for healthful fare. The parfait joined more than 40 better-for-you offerings, along with listings of calorie and fat contents for everything on the menu. French fry portions were trimmed. Heavy advertising touted the chain's Smart Eating program.

But diners didn't bite. So Ruby Tuesday has eliminated the Blueberry D'Lite, along with several other healthful dishes ditched after a lengthy period of slumping sales at the chain. Calorie and fat information was dropped except on the healthful items that survived and were moved to the back of the menu.

Now the chain is aggressively promoting its biggest burgers, and in the last three months, burger sales are up 3 to 4 percent. It has also restored its larger portions of french fries and pasta.

Like many restaurant chains in the past two years, Ruby Tuesday has discovered that while customers say they want more nutritious choices, they rarely order them.

You can't change the people, only the food. Change things like the size, fat content and nutritional value but market them as super belt-busting greasy delights.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:26 AM


Machine Dreams (MATT BAI, 8/21/05. NY Times Magazine)

If you needed any more proof that Democratic politics were in a profound state of upheaval, consider this: on the eve of the 2004 election, there were three especially powerful groups, aside from the Kerry campaign itself, working to turn out votes for the party in critical states, and those were the Democratic National Committee, the A.F.L.-C.I.O. and a lavishly endowed start-up known as America Coming Together. Nine months later, not one of these institutions has emerged entirely intact. First, Howard Dean staged a hostile takeover of the D.N.C. Then big labor unraveled on its 50th birthday. And finally, earlier this month, ACT announced that it was suspending most of its operations and closing down its state offices, effectively shuttering the largest independently financed turnout drive in history after a single outing.

It was hard not to think of ACT's demise as a kind of political version of ''Titanic'' -- a story of hubris and oversize ambition.

The premise of the emerging Democratic majority was that ypou could cobble together a number of groups that didn't actually share any general ends, bercause they'd see it as a means to their own special end. Now they can't even hold the individual special interest groups together. The politics of the self is necessarily atomizing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:13 AM


Toy story: Four decades ago, two California entrepreneurs made a killing selling Superballs, Hula Hoops, and other simple, iconic toys to America's children. Can aimless summer fun still sell in the age of hyperscheduled kids and achievement-oriented parents? (Joanna Weiss, August 21, 2005, Boston Globe)

A LITTLE MORE THAN 40 years ago, a Southern California chemical engineer approached a local toy company called Wham-O with an idea. It stemmed from a substance he had stumbled on by accident while designing an industrial valve. It didn't teach anything, or require batteries purchased separately, or appeal to a carefully-studied demographic group. But formed into a ball, it bounced--higher than anyone had seen a ball bounce before.

The folks at Wham-O, who had an eye for this sort of thing, signed him up.

After some tinkering, some practice play, and a christening with the requisite catchy name, Wham-O introduced the Superball to the world in 1965. By the end of the year, some 6 million were sold, and the company could boast another giant success. Wham-O had already introduced the Frisbee in 1957 and the Hula Hoop in 1958, and would later give the world Slip 'N Slide, Silly String, and Superelastic Bubble Plastic. It was a hothouse for simple, iconic, runaway hits.

Kids know a good thing, and the Superball and its ilk represented a particular kind of summertime fun--open-ended, free, and undisciplined. Wham-O's toys didn't need a guiding purpose so much as an air of originality. Founder Richard Knerr called it the ''wow" factor: ''If you're playing with it and showing it off and everybody says, 'What's that? What's that?"'

Then again, kids were different in those days--or, at least, their lives were different. Those endless, lazy summer afternoons are increasingly a thing of the past. A recent study by the market research firm Mintel shows that between 1981 and 1997, the percentage of childrens' days considered ''free-time" dropped from 40 to 24. Studies also show that, in the past two decades, structured sports participation has increased by some 50 percent; another Mintel report found that in 2003, a whopping 86 percent of boys aged 9 to 11 took part in an organized team sport.

And when kids aren't submitting to a regimen of scheduled activities, they're often subjected to academic exercises in the guise of play. Today's toy industry offers video games designed to teach preschoolers math, electronic ''books" that teach reading comprehension, craft kits designed to turn play time into productive time. If Wham-O had a gift for speaking to kids, many toy companies seem to be aiming their pitch directly at parents, selling them on the magnetic idea of achievement.

A new incarnation of Wham-O now hopes to speak to both, marketing a line of ''classic" toys to appeal to parents' nostalgia and kids' own longing for freestyle fun. It's the sort of synergy the toy industry always aims for, though parents and kids don't have a perfect history of seeing eye-to-eye when it comes to play.

All you need is a coffee can and a neighborhood full of kids.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:58 AM


The Swift Boating of Cindy Sheehan (FRANK RICH, 8/21/05, NY Times)

True to form, the attack on Cindy Sheehan surfaced early on Fox News, where she was immediately labeled a "crackpot" by Fred Barnes. The right-wing blogosphere quickly spread tales of her divorce, her angry Republican in-laws, her supposed political flip-flops, her incendiary sloganeering and her association with known ticket-stub-carrying attendees of "Fahrenheit 9/11." Rush Limbaugh went so far as to declare that Ms. Sheehan's "story is nothing more than forged documents - there's nothing about it that's real."

But this time the Swift Boating failed, utterly, and that failure is yet another revealing historical marker in this summer's collapse of political support for the Iraq war.

When the Bush mob attacks critics like Ms. Sheehan, its highest priority is to change the subject. If we talk about Richard Clarke's character, then we stop talking about the administration's pre-9/11 inattentiveness to terrorism. If Thomas Wilson is trashed as an insubordinate plant of the "liberal media," we forget the Pentagon's abysmal failure to give our troops adequate armor (a failure that persists today, eight months after he spoke up). If we focus on Joseph Wilson's wife, we lose the big picture of how the administration twisted intelligence to gin up the threat of Saddam's nonexistent W.M.D.'s.

The hope this time was that we'd change the subject to Cindy Sheehan's "wacko" rhetoric and the opportunistic left-wing groups that have attached themselves to her like barnacles. That way we would forget about her dead son. But if much of the 24/7 media has taken the bait, much of the public has not.

Mr. Rich's notion that her hatred of America has nothing to do with the story is just silly. Ms Sheehan is benefitting right now from it being August, when folks don't pay much attention. But even with that her numbers are already terrible, Cindy Sheehan: 35% Favorable 38% Unfavorable (, August 19, 2005
Cindy Sheehan, the grieving mother who maintained an anti-War protest outside of President Bush's ranch, is viewed favorably by 35% of Americans and unfavorably by 38%.

Sheehan is viewed favorably by 34% of men and 35% of women. Forty-two percent (42%) of men and 34% of women have an unfavorable view.

In general, people see in Sheehan what they want to see. Opinion about her is largely based upon views of the War, rather than views about the woman herself. Democrats, by a 56% to 18% margin, have a favorable opinion. Republicans, by a 64% to 16% margin, have an unfavorable view. Those not affiliated with either major party are evenly divided.

People who think we should withdraw troops from Iraq now have a positive opinion of Sheehan (59% favorable, 12% unfavorable). Those who do not think we should withdraw troops at this time have a negative view (15% favorable , 64% unfavorable).

Among those with family members who have served in the military, Sheehan is viewed favorably by 31% and unfavorably by 48%.

Once the GOP attacks start to sink in the Democrats will treat her like radioactive waste.

Anti-War Mom Opposition Mounting (CBS News, Aug. 21, 2005)

A Utah television station is refusing to air an anti-war ad featuring Cindy Sheehan, whose son's death in Iraq prompted a vigil outside President George W. Bush's Texas ranch.

Also, a patriotic camp with a "God Bless Our President!" banner sprung up in downtown Crawford, Texas Saturday, countering the anti-war demonstration started by Sheehan. The camp is named "Fort Qualls," in memory of Marine Lance Cpl. Louis Wayne Qualls, 20, who died in Iraq last fall.

The anti-war ad began airing on other Salt Lake City-area stations Saturday, two days before Bush was scheduled to speak in Salt Lake City to the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

However, a national sales representative for KTVX, a local ABC affiliate, rejected the ad in an e-mail to media buyers, writing that it was an "inappropriate commercial advertisement for Salt Lake City."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Politicized Scholars Put Evolution on the Defensive (JODI WILGOREN, 8/21/05, NY Times)

Financed by some of the same Christian conservatives who helped Mr. Bush win the White House, the organization's intellectual core is a scattered group of scholars who for nearly a decade have explored the unorthodox explanation of life's origins known as intelligent design.

Together, they have mounted a politically savvy challenge to evolution as the bedrock of modern biology, propelling a fringe academic movement onto the front pages and putting Darwin's defenders firmly on the defensive.

Like a well-tooled electoral campaign, the Discovery Institute has a carefully crafted, poll-tested message, lively Web logs - and millions of dollars from foundations run by prominent conservatives like Howard and Roberta Ahmanson, Philip F. Anschutz and Richard Mellon Scaife. The institute opened an office in Washington last fall and in January hired the same Beltway public relations firm that promoted the Contract With America in 1994.

"We are in the very initial stages of a scientific revolution," said the center's director, Stephen C. Meyer, 47, a historian and philosopher of science recruited by Discovery after he protested a professor's being punished for criticizing Darwin in class. "We want to have an effect on the dominant view of our culture."

For the institute's president, Bruce K. Chapman, a Rockefeller Republican turned Reagan conservative, intelligent design appealed to his contrarian, futuristic sensibilities - and attracted wealthy, religious philanthropists like the Ahmansons at a time when his organization was surviving on a shoestring. More student of politics than science geek, Mr. Chapman embraced the evolution controversy as the institute's signature issue precisely because of its unpopularity in the establishment.

"When someone says there's one thing you can't talk about, that's what I want to talk about," said Mr. Chapman, 64.

As much philosophical worldview as scientific hypothesis, intelligent design challenges Darwin's theory of natural selection by arguing that some organisms are too complex to be explained by evolution alone, pointing to the possibility of supernatural influences. While mutual acceptance of evolution and the existence of God appeals instinctively to a faithful public, intelligent design is shunned as heresy in mainstream universities and science societies as untestable in laboratories.

This is all likely to get very ugly as the faithful are forced to retreat ever further into their ivory towers. The arrogant never handle losing very well, especially to those they hold in contempt.

MORE:Present at the re-creation of Intelligent Design (WILLIAM SAFIRE, 8/20/05, Houston Chronicle)

"The term intelligent design came up in 1988 at a conference in Tacoma, Wash., called Sources of Information Content in DNA," recalls Stephen Meyer, director of the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute in Seattle, who was present at the phrase's re-creation. "Charles Thaxton referred to a theory that the presence of DNA in a living cell is evidence of a designing intelligence. We weren't political; we were thinking about molecular biology and information theory. This wasn't stealth creationism. The phrase became the banner that we rallied around throughout the early '90s. We wanted to separate ourselves from the strict Darwinists and the creationists."

At about that time, the traditional creationists took up the phrase. "We are a Christian organization and use the term to refer to the Christian God," says John Morris, president of the Institute for Creation Research in Santee, Calif. "The modern intelligent design movement looks at Dr. Phillip E. Johnson as its founder. ... His book, Darwin on Trial, kind of started it all in the early '90s. We were using intelligent design as an intuitive term: a watch implies a watchmaker." (That mechanical analogy was first used by the philosopher William Paley in his 1802 book, Natural Theology, a pre-Darwinian work holding that the complexity of nature implies an intelligent creator — namely, God.)

The marketing genius within the phrase — and the reason it now drives many scientists and educators up the walls of academe — is in its use of the adjective intelligent, which intrinsically refutes the long-standing accusation of anti-intellectualism. Although the intelligent agent referred to is Divine with a capital D, the word's meaning also rubs off on the proponent or believer. That's why intelligent design appeals to not only the DNA-driven Discovery Institute complexity theorists but also the traditional God's-handiwork faithful.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Interesting to compare the unrelentingly antagonistic tone of this interview, The Man Behind Jeanine Pirro: He thinks she’s “the protoypical model for a successful statewide Republican.” (Greg Sargent, New York Magazine)

Despite that lost speech page at her Waldorf press conference, the Pirro campaign is off! Meet her brand manager, Kieran Mahoney, the former Pataki packager who previously ran her successful campaigns for Westchester D.A. Greg Sargent spoke with him.

Pirro says Hillary Clinton treats her job as a stepping-stone to the White House. But isn’t her own run a means toward greater fame—or a Fox News gig?
If she wanted a career in broadcast journalism, she could have it today. Pirro’s running to win.

Many think the part-time-senator attack line won’t be enough.
Those people have never won a New York statewide election. I’ve won many. Plus, we’ve also said Pirro has a record of fighting for the underprivileged and will be part of the Senate’s vital center.

But the suburbs are trending Democratic and upstate’s losing population.
Democrats like to say demographics favor them. But the real growth is among moderates and independents—people who like what Republicans have done fiscally and on terror and what Democrats have done on health and the environment. Pirro will have great appeal for them.

to this one or this one.

August 20, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:38 PM


Armstrong, Bush Ride 'Tour de Crawford' (NEDRA PICKLER, 8/20/05, Associated Press)

It's no yellow jersey, but President Bush on Saturday presented Lance Armstrong with another shirt to show off his biking experiences - a red, white and blue T-shirt emblazoned "Tour de Crawford."

The leader of the free world and the world's biking master rode for 17 miles on Bush's ranch for about two hours at midmorning. Bush showed Armstrong the sites of the ranch that he calls "a little slice of heaven," including a stop at a waterfall midway through the ride.

They were accompanied by a small group of staff and Secret Service agents and a film crew from the Discovery Channel, Armstrong's Tour de France sponsor, which had exclusive media access for the ride. Footage was shot for a program on Armstrong to air next week.

Neither Bush nor Armstrong spoke to reporters, although White House spokesman Trent Duffy said the president was impressed with the seven-time champ's skills.

Isn't the pertinent question whether the obverse was true?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:29 PM


Sufis Under Attack as Sunni Rifts Widen (EDWARD WONG, 8/21/05, NY Times)

Sufism, generally considered a branch of Sunni Islam, is divided into orders, the most famous being that of the Mevlevi, or whirling dervishes. Sufis seek, through dance, music, chanting and other intensely physical rituals, to transcend worldly existence and perceive the face of the divine. Their mysticism has contributed to their pacific reputation.

But in Iraq, no one is ever far removed from war. In a sign of the widening and increasingly complex rifts in Iraqi society, Sufis have suddenly found themselves the targets of attacks. Many Iraqis believe those responsible are probably fundamentalist Sunnis who view the Sufis as apostates, just one step removed from the Shiites.

Sheik Ali al-Faiz, a senior official at this Sufi shrine, or takia, rattled off a list of recent assaults - the leader of a takia in the insurgent stronghold of Ramadi was abducted and killed this month; a bomb exploded in a takia in Kirkuk earlier this year; gunmen beat Sufi worshipers at a mosque in Ramadi in January; a bomb exploded in the kitchen of a takia in Ramadi last September and a bomb in April 2004 destroyed an entire takia in the same city.

The early attacks were frightening, but until this spring there had been few Sufi deaths. Then, on June 2, a suicide bomber rammed a minivan packed with explosives into a takia outside the town of Balad, 40 miles north of Baghdad, killing at least 8 people and wounding 12.

The attack took place in the middle of a ritual. The minivan hurtled through the front gate, then exploded when people ran toward it, said a neighboring farmer who gave his name as Abu Zakaria. "I hurried there with my brothers in my car," he said. "It was a mess of bodies. I carried bodies to the car without knowing whether they were dead or alive."

Five days later, at a gathering of mourners in an assembly hall fashioned from reeds in the village of Mazaree, the head of the takia, Sheik Idris Aiyash, lamented the loss of his father and three brothers. "If we keep on like this, we might really face civil war," he said.

It began as a Civil War, with our displacing the Sunni Ba'athists in favor of Kurds and Shi'ites and other oppressed sects. The only question all along has been whether the more fundamentalist Sunni insist on continuing the war to it's bloody but inevitable conclusion.

Sunnis Complain of Being Cut Out of Talks (QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA, 8/20/05, Associated Press)

[A] Shiite politician, Khaled al-Attiyah, was upbeat and said the negotiations were in the final stage. He said the Shiites submitted a new proposal on the distribution of Iraq's oil wealth, one of the remaining obstacles to a deal by the Monday night deadline.

Sunni Arabs also object to demands by Kurds and the largest Shiite party for a federal state, and oppose a major role for Shiite clergy in Najaf.

On Saturday, it appeared that only Kurds and Shiites were negotiating. Sunni Arabs were not present at the deliberations and al-Mutlaq said "things are not good."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:56 PM


New party braces for battle (Japan Times, 8/21/05)

With a snap general election set for Sept. 11, the conflict within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party over postal-service privatization has entered a new stage with the formation of a new party led by antireform old guards.

Here we call the antireform old guards the Democrats.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:36 PM


Falling Costs of Big-Screen TV's to Keep Falling (DAMON DARLIN, 8/20/05, NY Times)

In consumer electronics, as in much of life, good things happen to those who wait - good things as in plunging prices.

The cost of big-screen televisions, which have been steadily dropping by about 25 percent a year, are now expected to fall even more sharply this autumn, according to industry analysts. The coming markdowns reflect a singular confluence of business trends that will benefit consumers going into the holiday season.

"Prices are pretty much in a free fall," said David Naranjo, who tracks the television industry for DisplaySearch, a market research firm.

The best evidence of this is the expectation of analysts that in the next few weeks the Panasonic unit of the Matsushita Electric Industrial Company will announce that it is dropping prices as much as $500 on plasma-screen TV's that retail for around $3,500.

Panasonic officials refused this week to confirm or deny the speculation, but because it sells the most plasma screens in the United States, a potential downward adjustment would be considered a harbinger of a price war for all varieties of big-screen TV's.

Imagine if anyone could pass on oil prices....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:31 PM


Gaddafi invites Bush, Rice to visit Libya--senator (Reuters, 8/20/05)

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, keen to improve ties with the West, has invited President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to visit his country, a visiting U.S. senator said on Saturday.

U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar, ending a two-day trip to Libya, told a news conference he had held talks with Gaddafi on normalizing relations after decades of estrangement, following Tripoli's decision to abandon weapons of mass destruction.

Lugar, an Indiana Republican, flew to Libya on Friday after representing Bush in Morocco and Algeria for the release of 404 prisoners of war who were held by Western Sahara's exiled Polisario Front independence movement.

They should not just go there but to Syria and Iran as well and call for political liberalization in all three. like Reagan's trrip to the USSR and speech at Moscow State:
Before I left Washington, I received many heartfelt letters and telegrams asking me to carry here a simple message - perhaps, but also some of the most important business of this summit - it is a message of peace and goodwill and hope for a growing friendship and closeness between our two peoples.

First I want to take a little time to talk to you much as I would to any group of university students in the United States. I want to talk not just of the realities of today, but of the possibilities of tomorrow.

You know, one of the first contacts between your country and mine took place between Russian and American explorers. The Americans were members of Cook's last voyage on an expedition searching for an Arctic passage; on the island of Unalaska, they came upon the Russians, who took them in, and together, with the native inhabitants, held a prayer service on the ice.

The explorers of the modern era are the entrepreneurs, men with vision, with the courage to take risks and faith enough to brave the unknown. These entrepreneurs and their small enterprises are responsible for almost all the economic growth in the United States. They are the prime movers of the technological revolution. In fact, one of the largest personal computer firms in the United states was started by two college students, no older than you, in the garage behind their home.

Some people, even in my own country, look at the riot of experiment that is the free market and see only waste. What of all the entrepreneurs that fail? Well, many do, particularly the successful ones. Often several times. And if you ask them the secret of their success, they'll tell you, it's all that they learned in their struggles along the way - yes, it's what they learned from failing. Like an athlete in competition, or a scholar in pursuit of the truth, experience is the greatest teacher.

We are seeing the power of economic freedom spreading around the world - places such as the Republic of Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan have vaulted into the technological era, barely pausing in the industrial age along the way. Low-tax agricultural policies in the sub-continent mean that in some years India is now a net exporter of food. Perhaps most exciting are the winds of change that are blowing over the People's republic of China, where one-quarter of the world's population is now getting its first taste of economic freedom.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:43 AM


Case of the hovering parents: Universities laying ground rules to give freshmen more independence (Sarah Schweitzer, August 20, 2005, Boston Globe)

Suzanne Alund would dearly like to follow the ground rules suggested by Northeastern University administrators at orientation for parents of incoming freshmen. The 49-year-old from Albany, N.Y., has committed them to memory: Do not call a student, let her call you; do not e-mail in lieu of calling; do not call the university president when a roommate situation flares.

But eyeing her daughter as the two sat side by side during an orientation break, Alund said her motherly instincts guide otherwise.

''How well I am going to stick to the plan, I don't know; it's a big hole in here," she said, patting her heart. ''I know I'm going to be tempted to IM her."

Parents have long suffered the pangs of separation when a child ventures out of the nest and onto a college campus. But college and university administrators say that parental overinvolvement, from overcalling a student to overcontacting administrators, has become a pressing issue. Schools have even adopted measures to keep parents from intervening unnecessarily.

We had one phone for 60 guys in our fraternity--it seldom got answered. I kind of feel progressive.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 10:35 AM


When you care enough to risk everything ... (Alex Johnson, MSNBC, August 17th, 2005)

It is a greeting card, decorated with a depiction of purple flowers. Inside:

“My soul has been searching for you since I came into this world”.

“All my life I have had this emptiness inside, like a part of me was missing and I was incomplete ...”

“And now I can’t imagine my life without you ... Even if I have to share you.”

Even if I have to share you?

This, clearly, is not a card for the wife — not the sender’s wife, at least.

In fact, it is specifically for anyone but the wife. Called “My Lover,” the card is one of 24 in the Secret Lover Collection, published by a former advertising executive in Bethesda, Md., named Cathy Gallagher. If you are having an extramarital affair, Secret Lover cards can make it an affair to remember.

Gallagher hit upon the idea a couple of years ago. Like most couples, she and her husband had friends whose marriages had been affected by extramarital affairs, with all their attendant “conflict and emotional intensity,” she said in an interview.

“I’m thinking, ‘So how do these people communicate? It’s a secret love affair,’” Gallagher said. “So I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, what better can you do than give someone your sentiments in a greeting card? How special is that?’”


Posted by Peter Burnet at 10:27 AM


Lesser Israel, Greater Palestine (Saul Singer, Jerusalem Post, August 20th, 2005)

Greater Israel is dead; long live Greater Israel, says the New York Times. Let me explain.

In a "news analysis" on Tuesday headlined, "Dream of 'greater Israel' lured too few," veteran Times reporter Ethan Bronner explains that the settlement movement's "cherished goal - the resettlement of the full biblical land of Israel by contemporary Jews - is not to be."

One might think that now, 12 years after Oslo and five years after Ehud Barak put a Palestinian state on the table at Camp David, is a bit late for such a journalistic epiphany. A decade ago this newspaper editorialized plainly: "The process begun in Oslo two years ago... inexorably leads to the creation of a Palestinian state in Judea, Samaria and Gaza." The almost five years of terror that came after Israel formally offered such a state might have been expected to derail such a process but did not, and everyone knew it.

It was during this terror war that President George Bush and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made explicit their nations' commitment to Palestinian statehood, thereby hammering more nails into the coffin of Greater Israel long after it had been buried.

Yet reading the Times editorial in the same Tuesday paper one might think there was nothing more alive and menacing than the "threat" of Greater Israel. After briefly praising Israel for "finally" taking such an obvious step, the paper frets that "Sharon seems to think that withdrawing from Gaza will buy Israel time to consolidate in the West Bank... Sharon's own chief political strategist has said that a central purpose of the Gaza withdrawal plan is to take Palestinian statehood off the table indefinitely."

After noting that the Palestinians must clamp down on terrorism, the Times returns to its main concern: "Bush must make clear to Sharon that the Gaza withdrawal is the first step... [Sharon] must be forewarned: If there is to be a chance for peace, there are many more steps that must be taken."

In the Times's eyes, the night during which soldiers gathered to evict settlers was the night of the living dead, when the ghost of Greater Israel returned to haunt the region, a ghost so powerful that its exorcism must be Bush's top peacemaking priority.

Could we return to earth for a moment, please?

Settlements and Greater Israel are no longer the principal obstacle to peace, if they ever were. Another dream is: Greater Palestine.

According to the Times, Sharon is only mouthing support for the two-state solution while cleverly plotting the opposite. Meanwhile, when the Palestinian leadership mouths support for a Palestinian state "with Jerusalem as its capital," this can be taken at full face value on the assumption that the Palestinian dream of Greater Palestine - i.e. destroying Israel - has been abandoned.

Yet there could hardly be a more striking contrast between the mountain of evidence marking Greater Israel's extended and deepening demise and the near-total lack of evidence of the abandonment of Greater Palestine.

The success of the left in presenting Israel as an ongoing threat and keeping it's right to exist a question for perpetual debate is one of the greatest and most pernicious propaganda coups of modern history.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:21 AM


Roberts's Rules of Decorum: No Hobnobbing With Celebs, and Absolutely No Michael Jackson (Dana Milbank, August 20, 2005, Washington Post)

Now it's getting personal.

Last week, researchers found several memos from the summer and fall of 1984 in which future Supreme Court nominee John Roberts, working as a Reagan White House lawyer, argued against sending presidential thank-you notes to Michael Jackson for his charitable works. But it turns out this was just the beginning of what appears to be the young lawyer's concerns about the star. Three new memos uncovered by Post reporters show Roberts described Jackson as "androgynous," "mono-gloved" and a balladeer of illegitimacy.

On April 30, 1984, Roberts wrote to oppose a presidential award that was to have been given to Jackson for his efforts against drunk driving. Roberts particularly objected to award wording that described Jackson as an "outstanding example" for American youth.

Roberts wrote: "If one wants the youth of America and the world sashaying around in garish sequined costumes, hair dripping with pomade, body shot full of female hormones to prevent voice change, mono-gloved, well, then, I suppose 'Michael,' as he is affectionately known in the trade, is in fact a good example. Quite apart from the problem of appearing to endorse Jackson's androgynous life style, a Presidential award would be perceived as a shallow effort by the President to share in the constant publicity surrounding Jackson. . . . The whole episode would, in my view, be demeaning to the President."


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:15 AM


Koizumi lays out bold policy vision (Martin Fackler, AUGUST 20, 2005, International Herald Tribune)

TOKYO Laying out a new policy agenda ahead of national elections next month, Japan's governing party outlined a vision for the country's future on Friday that called for shrinking the size of government, taking a more assertive stance in Asia and strengthening the Japanese military.

The list of 120 policy proposals by the Liberal Democratic Party helps draw the battle lines in Sept. 11's lower house elections, which were suddenly called by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi last week after lawmakers rejected by a narrow margin his bill to privatize Japan's massive postal system.

The elections are widely seen here as a referendum on the future course of Japan, both the sorts of measures the country will take to rejuvenate its low-growth $5 trillion economy, and whether it will alter a pacifist foreign policy adopted after defeat in World War II.

Some of the Liberal Democrats' proposals aim to bolster the status of the Self-Defense Forces, as Japan calls its military. The party platform calls for revising constitutional restrictions originally written by American occupiers after World War II that have barred a full-fledged armed forces.

The party also aims to upgrade the Defense Agency, currently under the Cabinet Office, to the status of a full ministry, and to pass a new law making it easier to send Japanese troops overseas to join multinational operations. [...]

Koizumi, who will also be running, is staking his political career on a plan he has pushed to privatize the 250,000-employee postal system, which not only delivers mail but also runs an insurance company and a savings institution whose $2 trillion in deposits make it the largest bank in the world in terms of assets.

Koizumi has made privatizing the postal system the centerpiece in his cautious reform agenda, which he has billed as an effort to shift more functions from the government to the private sector. His reform plan would turn the postal system into four separate companies, including a bank and insurance company that would become private by 2017. [...]

While the Democratic Party opposes Koizumi's plan to privatize the post office, it offered an alternative plan for reducing government by cutting public spending on projects like building dams by 10 trillion yen, or almost $100 billion, over the next three years.

The Democratic Party also offered a very radically different approach to foreign policy, vowing to pull Japanese troops out of occupied Iraq by December, to revise an agreement on the status of U.S. military forces in Japan and to adopt a more conciliatory stance toward demands by other Asian countries that Japan show more remorse for atrocities committed by its soldiers during the 1930s and 1940s.

One focus of the election will be on whether the Democratic Party can gain enough seats to become a viable alternative to the Liberal Democrats, who have virtually monopolized Japanese politics for most of the past half-century.

He deserves full credit for trying, but even in what has been a virtual one party state it seems unlikely that the aging populace of a moribund society is going to choose a more adventurous foreign policy and riskier welfare state.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:08 AM


When the War Won't Stay at Bay: With Bush and the public insulated from Iraq, Cindy Sheehan has moral authority. (Peter Beinart, August 18, 2005, Washington Post)
Cindy Sheehan's allies (Robert Novak, August 20, 2005, Townhall)

At Cindy Sheehan's side since Aug. 6 when she began her antiwar protest outside President Bush's Texas ranch have been three groups that openly support the Iraqi insurgency against U.S. troops: Code Pink-Women For Peace, United for Peace & Justice, and Veterans For Peace.

Those organizations were represented at a mock "war crimes" trial in Istanbul that on June 27 produced a joint declaration backing the insurgency. Based on the United Nations Charter, it said "the popular national resistance to the occupation is legitimate and justified. It deserves the support of people everywhere who care for justice and freedom."

The Istanbul statement also rejected U.S. efforts to leave behind a democratic government in Iraq, asserting: "Any law or institution created under the aegis of occupation is devoid of both legal and moral authority."

It's not actually fair, but if you follow their arguments to their logical conclusion, to be a liberal these days is to believe that the elected government of Iraq has no moral authority but those supporting the Ba'athists and al Qaeda do.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:49 AM


Next Time, Sunnis Intend to Be Heard: Many regret boycotting the parliamentary election in Iraq. They say they won't repeat the mistake when it comes to a new constitution. (Edmund Sanders, August 20, 2005, LA Times)

In stark contrast to the Jan. 30 parliamentary election, when Sunni Arab turnout was as low as 2% in some areas, Iraq's once-ruling ethnic minority is mobilizing for a much stronger showing this time around.

The January boycott, now widely viewed as a political blunder, left Sunnis underrepresented in the National Assembly and with a limited role on the committee charged with crafting a new constitution. Instead, both bodies have been dominated by Shiites and Kurds.

Determined to regain some of their clout, leading Sunni clerics who once called elections under occupation a farce and condemned voting as an act against Islam, are using the same mosque pulpits to urge followers to register.

Sheik Mohammed Salih, cleric at Baghdad's Bilal al Habashi Mosque and once a staunch critic of elections, Friday called upon "every honest and honorable Iraqi citizen to go to these centers and register" and then to "participate in the elections and referendum with enthusiasm."

The Iraqi Islamic Party, the country's leading Sunni political party, this time is pushing an aggressive get-out-the-vote campaign, blanketing its newspaper and broadcast outlets with information about registration, lobbying tribal leaders, and passing out registration pamphlets door to door.

Party officials are even pressing for permission to set up a registration booth in the Abu Ghraib prison, where they are betting that the votes of thousands of detainees — mostly young Sunni men — would go in their favor.

"We are making a great effort to push people to register," said Alaa Makki, a senior party official.

Unfortunately, they're bound to be disillusioned because their numbers are smaller than they grasp.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:46 AM


Advance made in stem-cell debate (Joyce Howard Price, August 20, 2005, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

A team of Texas and British researchers says it has produced large amounts of embryoniclike stem cells from umbilical cord blood, potentially ending the ethical debate affecting stem-cell research -- the need to kill human embryos.

The international researchers said the cells -- called cord-blood-derived-embryoniclike stem cells, or CBEs -- have the ability to turn into any kind of body tissue, like embryonic stem cells do, and can be mass-produced using technology derived from NASA.

"It looks very promising," said Dr. Randall Urban, an endocrinologist at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. He stressed more research has to be done. [...]

The researchers' findings come less than a month after Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist surprised Capitol Hill by endorsing a bill to make more embryonic stem-cell research eligible for federal funding, breaking with Mr. Bush, who has said he would veto the legislation.

Mr. Frist, a physician, expressed qualified support for House-passed legislation that allows federal funding for an unspecified number of new lines of stem cells derived from embryos left over at in vitro fertilization clinics. Senate action on the stem-cell issue is still being worked out.

He gets to keep that lovely mess of pottage though, as a consolation prize for blowing the 2008 nomination.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:43 AM


Tebbit: 'Cricket test' could have stopped bombings (Edward Davie, 8/19/05, e-politix)

Former Conservative chairman Lord Tebbit has said that if his 'cricket test' comments had been acted upon, the London bombings would have been "less likely".

In 1990, while an MP, Tebbit suggested Britain's ethnic minorities should support the England cricket team rather than the team of the country their family originated from. [...]

"What I was saying about the so-called cricket test is that it was a test of whether a community has integrated.

"If a community was looking back at where it had come from instead of looking forward with the people to whom they had come to then there is going to be a problem sooner or later."

Lord Tebbit also condemned multiculturalism for undermining British society and said London was "sinking into the same abyss that Londonderry and Belfast sank".

He said: "I've been opposing the concept of a multicultural society for 10 years or more and that's because a multicultural society is an impossibility.

"A society is defined by its culture. It is not defined by its race, it is not a matter of skin colour or ethnicity, it is a matter of culture.

"If you have two cultures in one society then you have two societies. If you have two societies in the same place then you are going to have problems, like the kind we saw on July 7, sooner or later."

The Conservative peer also criticised Islam, saying "the Muslim religion is so unreformed since it was created that nowhere in the Muslim world has there been any real advance in science, or art or literature, or technology in the last 500 years".

Too few countries play cricket--though it's an effective way to single out Pakistanis and Indians--it should be a soccer test.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Islam, Federalism and Oil: What's at stake in the Iraqi constitutional negotiations. (BARTLE BREESE BULL, August 20, 2005, Opinion Journal)

On a broader level, the key subtext to these negotiations is about what has happened since I spent time with the Kurdish commanders 14 months ago. Back then, it was the supreme Shiite leader, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who had, via a personal letter to Kofi Annan, very nearly driven the Kurds out the entire project of a unified Iraq by seeing to it that the TAL was not even mentioned in the Security Council Resolution that ratified the current incarnation of the Iraqi state. Since then, much has changed. For one thing, the TAL has emerged as a real document. Its schedule for Iraq's democratic process, initially considered by many to be a mere paper formality, has proved to be more real in terms of practical politics than the car bombs of the Baathists and Wahhabis.

Perhaps more important, the leadership of Iraq's Kurds and Shiites, who only a year ago were so at odds that the Kurds very nearly abandoned the entire enterprise, have come to agreement on the basic principle that there can be no Iraq if any major group is forced to give up its present freedoms. If the Sunnis don't sign up to this dispensation, with its long and successful precedent under the Ottomans, they will be stuck with the status quo or left in an oil-less, landlocked Sunnistan of their own making, with little succor to expect from an America that is as weary of war as it is of Sunni intransigence.

Even their capacity to dominate a Sunnistan seems dubious.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Initiatives to Promote Savings From Childhood Catching On (Amy Goldstein, 8/20/05, Washington Post)

In today's economy, a savings account "is as fundamental as land was back in the 18th and 19th century," said Ray Boshara, of the New America Foundation, a centrist think tank that is a main advocate of children's accounts.

Involving several hundred children in a dozen communities around the country, SEED (Saving for Education, Entrepreneurship, and Downpayment) -- a four-year experiment being conducted by local social service agencies, studied by researchers and paid for by several nonprofit foundations -- is a modest version of the ultimate goal.

Legislation has been introduced in Congress that calls for the government to open a KIDS Account of at least $500 for every baby born in the United States. And President Bush's first Treasury secretary, Paul H. O'Neill, has been giving speeches around the country, promoting an even bolder plan he has devised for children's accounts that he says would guarantee every American at least $1 million by age 65, eventually eliminating the need for Social Security.

Fostering savings from childhood is, in a sense, a spillover from the debate over whether to establish private investment accounts in Social Security, the nation's fragile retirement system. But unlike the partisan rancor that runs through the Social Security debate, children's accounts are gaining proponents across the ideological spectrum. Conservative Republicans construe them as a form of the market-oriented "ownership society" that Bush touts. Liberal Democrats view them as an extension of the Great Society of the 1960s that created government programs to lift people from poverty.

"It's a simple kind of merging of the stereotypes of the parties," said Rep. Harold E. Ford Jr. (D-Tenn.), sponsor of a bill that would create KIDS Accounts. "You give to people; you put some responsibility on people to save, as well."

Despite bipartisan cheerleading, such accounts have skeptics on the right, who are disdainful of a new government handout, and on the left, who fear the expense would drain money from other social needs. So far, White House officials are unenthusiastic, saying that any available money should be used to prop up Social Security and that it would be wasteful to give an account to every baby, including ones born into families that are rich.

The O'Neill plan is even better.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Modestly priced condos grow rare (Kimberly Blanton, August 20, 2005, Boston Globe)

In the current red-hot condominium market, modestly priced units in downtown Boston are growing scarce.

Sales of condos priced under $500,000 are declining in the city's core neighborhoods but not because demand for these units has slowed. Sales fell because properties are appreciating so fast there are fewer available in that price range, according to a downtown market analysis by Boston real estate brokerage Otis & Ahearn.

When has demand of a scarce product ever kept its price low?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


'Three Stooges' Action Lands Boy in Court (The Associated Press, August 7, 2005)

A 15-year-old boy who pinched and twisted the nipples of a 13-year-old has been sentenced to three days of community service for harassment.

David Thumler, 15, said the "titty-twister" was just horseplay. The mother of 13-year-old Matthew Cox counters that the incident was humiliating for her son, who saw it as an assault from an older, bigger bully. [...]

Ken Chapman, a Jackson County juvenile probation supervisor, said Oregon law defines physical harassment as "offensive physical touching."

That includes such adolescent antics as "wet-willies," "wedgies," "swirlies," "noogies" and all other forms of "Three Stooges" behavior, Chapman said.

According to David, the two boys were in line at a local deli when Matthew jokingly made an embarrassing remark to the female clerk about David. In retaliation, David counterattacked with the "titty-twister," the 15-year-old said.

"It's a thing of camaraderie," David said. "If he's going to assume our friendship is on that level, then so am I."

Talk about political correctness run amok--if he didn't at least get a pink elephant he has no right to complain. Sissy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Speed of Gaza pullout boosts Sharon: As evicted settlers lick their wounds, opponents of the withdrawal policy have been left reeling (Chris McGreal, August 20, 2005, The Guardian)

It turns out that Jews do expel Jews after all, and without the descent into anarchy predicted by leaders of Israel's once indulged settlers. Following dire warnings that the forced removal of 8,000 settlers from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank would provoke civil war, bring down the government and open an irreversible rift between the army and the people, opponents of the pullout have been left reeling by its speed and relative ease.

The army originally said it would take six weeks to clear the 21 settlements in the Gaza Strip and four smaller ones in the West Bank. As more families signed up to take the money and leave, the military revised its estimate down to three weeks.

In the end it took less than three days to clear all but a handful of the doomed settlements. Kfar Darom, among the most religious and militant of Israel's Gaza colonies, made a relatively violent stand but it was still emptied in less than a day. [...]

A minority screamed jibes of Nazi at the security forces and teenage girls lectured them on democracy, religion and how "Jews don't expel Jews". The security forces surprised everyone by reacting with dignity, patience and sympathy in the face of this verbal onslaught. Sometimes the taunts degenerated into racism against Ethiopian-born soldiers.

Mr Sharon seemed to speak for most of the country when he said: "I'll remember the faces of the men and women soldiers who stood silently and did not react to the curses and insults lashed at them."

If the settlers had listened to themselves they'd have realized that if jews don't expel Jews they certainly don't resist expulsion in any serious way.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


State Adds 29,900 Jobs Last Month: The jobless rate declines to 5.1%, its lowest since May 2001. The Bay Area, previously lagging behind other regions, also posts gains in July. (Bill Sing, August 20, 2005, LA Times)

California employers revved up their hiring engines in July, adding a net 29,900 jobs while driving the unemployment rate to its lowest level in four years, the Employment Development Department reported Friday. [...]

The job increase was nearly double the revised 16,600 net jobs added in June and topped the average 17,500 monthly increases for the last two years. It also beat the 28,900-a-month average during the 1993-2001 boom, said Employment Development Department spokesman Kevin Callori.

July's 5.1% jobless rate, down sharply from June's 5.4%, was the lowest since May 2001. California now has the fewest unemployed since June 2001, another milestone in the state's recovery from the 2001 recession, which hit California harder because of its dependence on the battered technology sector. In May, the Golden State hit another milestone by surpassing the employment level in January 2001, the peak from the last cycle.

The state's jobless rate now is only 0.1 percentage point higher than the nation's — closer than it ever was during the roaring 1990s, said Stephen Levy, director of the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy in Palo Alto. California's jobless rate has consistently towered over the nation's because of the state's larger proportion of younger workers and immigrants, who tend to have higher unemployment levels, Levy said.

So they cured that immigrant problem?

August 19, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:24 PM


Kurd: Islam may get bigger role in Iraq (QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA, August 19th, 2005, AP)

The United States is pressuring Kurds to accept demands of majority Shiites and Sunnis on the role of Islam in government in order to reach agreement on a draft constitution, a Kurdish official taking part in the negotiations said early Saturday.

Those demands would give the Muslim religion a bigger role in Iraqi society at the expense of women's rights and civil liberties, said the official, who refused to allow his name to be used because of the sensitivity of the issue.

He told The Associated Press that Kurdish leaders who support more secular policies are bowing to American pressure - dropping among other things their demand for self-determination, or the right to secede.

That would be a bad deal and the Kurds shouldn't take it. Better to just go their own way now and have an independent Kurdistan immediately.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:14 PM


EPA: Summer smog problem easing in East (JOHN HEILPRIN, August 19, 2005, AP)

EPA said that the amount of nitrogen oxides emitted from power plants and other industrial sources in the 19 states had fallen to 593,000 tons in 2004, a nearly 50 percent drop from the 1.2 million tons emitted in 2000. That reduced summer ozone over the four years by 10 percent, EPA said. [...]

The Clinton administration in 1998 ordered ground-level ozone in the East cleaned up. That EPA regulation affected the District of Columbia and 19 states: Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

EPA officials said further improvements should result from a new program the agency announced in March requiring states in the East, South and Midwest, plus the District of Columbia, to reduce power plant pollutants that form smog and soot and drift downwind.

Just set the limits and let them meet them however they choose to.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:53 PM


U.S. questions Jordan rocket strikes (The Associated Press, August 19, 2005)

The Bush administration was trying to determine Friday whether rocket strikes from Jordan that narrowly missed a U.S. Navy ship were aimed at U.S. interests and how seriously to take the claim of responsibility from an al-Qaida linked group.

"We condemn all such attacks," said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino, who is with the vacationing President Bush here. "We are investigating the matter and will cooperate with local Jordanian officials on the attacks."

Early Friday, three rockets were fired that Israeli and Jordanian authorities said were launched by militants from a warehouse.

One sailed over the bow of the USS Ashland, docked at the Jordanian Red Sea port of Aqaba, and slammed into a Jordanian army warehouse nearby, killing a Jordanian soldier. That warehouse is also used by the U.S. military to store goods bound for Iraq, according to Jordanian authorities.

Another rocket fell close to a nearby airport in neighboring Israel, officials said. The third landed near a public hospital about a mile away, according to a Jordanian officia

It sounds about like what post-Osama al Qaeda has been reduced to--ineffective rocket lobbing within a Muslim country.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:49 PM


United in hate (Douglas Davis, 8/20/05, The Spectator)

Politics makes strange bedfellows. Stranger still when the odd couple are fundamentalist Islam and the secular Left. The evolving Black–Red alliance is growing in France, Germany and Belgium. But, based on the successful British model, it is now going global to declare war on the war on terror.

No fewer than three international conferences have been convened in Cairo, presided over by the former president of Algeria, Ahmed Ben Bella, under the auspices of the International Campaign Against US and Zionist Occupations. One outcome is ‘The Cairo Declaration Against US Hegemony, War on Iraq and Solidarity with Palestine.’ British signatories included Tony Benn, Jeremy Corbyn and, of course, the indefatigable George Galloway, whose ‘fiery’ participation won honourable mention in Egypt’s semi-official newspaper, Al-Ahram.

If Iraq was the catalyst for the Black–Red alliance, the Stop the War coalition provided the cauldron in which the union was consummated. The result is a pure gestalt: the coalition allows its constituent parts to pack a far greater collective punch than they could have dreamt of on their own. Putting a million people on to the streets of London is not, after all, small potatoes. The steering committee of the Marxist–Islamist alliance consists of 33 members — 18 from myriad hard-Left groups, three from the radical wing of the Labour party, eight from the ranks of the radical Islamists and four leftist ecologists (also known as ‘Watermelons’ —green outside, red inside). The chairman is Andrew Murray, a leading light in the British Communist party; co-chair is Muhammad Aslam Ijaz, of the London Council of Mosques. Among the major players from the Left are Lindsey German, who resigned as editor of the Socialist Workers’ party newspaper to become convenor of the Stop the War coalition; John Rees, also of the SWP, and, of course, George Galloway. Indeed, the first proud progeny of the alliance is Galloway’s Respect party, which fought and won the London seat of Bethnal Green and Bow, with its substantial Muslim electorate.

Similarly Cindy Sheehan has won the support of everyone from Al-Jazeera to David Duke to to the Socialist Party USA--their hatred of the actual America is stronger than their discordant dystopian dreams for its future.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:43 PM


The Times Showed Up Late to Air America Story (Public Editor's Web Journal, 8/17/05, NY Times)

Readers of The Times were poorly served by the paper's slowness to cover official investigations into questionable financial transactions involving Air America, the liberal radio network. The Times's first article on the investigations finally appeared last Friday after weeks of articles by other newspapers in New York and elsewhere.

The Times's recent slowness stands in contrast to its flurry of articles about Air America in the spring of 2004, when the network was launched. "Liberal Voices (Some Sharp) Get New Home on Radio Dial," read the headline on The Times's article the morning of March 31 when the network went on the air. The article noted that the network had a staff headlined by comedian Al Franken and hopes of establishing a counterpoint to conservative radio personalities such as Rush Limbaugh.

Two months later, The Times reported that the network had come close to running out of money in April but had received an infusion of an undisclosed amount of cash from sources that weren't identified. The article noted that Evan M. Cohen, a primary early backer and the chairman of the network, had resigned.

Yet The Times was silent as other publications reported that city and state investigators were looking into whether the Gloria Wise Boys and Girls Club in the Bronx had made improper loans of as much as $875,000 to Air America. Mr. Cohen, it turned out, had served simultaneously as a top executive at Air America and as the club's development director. And since the club operated largely with grants from government sources, any money passed to Air America may have come from the public till.

It has become clearer in the past week or so that Air America hasn't yet fully repaid the "loans" from the club, and its financial condition remains murky even in The Times's article Friday. So the future of the radio network seems to be a key question for The Times to answer.

"We were slow in the first place and need to do more," Rick Berke, an associate managing editor at The Times, told me Monday. While it's no excuse for such a belated response to the brewing scandal, it's true that pieces of the unfolding story fell in the domains of three different parts of the newsroom: the metropolitan desk, the business desk and the culture desk. There was, my inquiries suggest, a lack of coordination and awareness of what the paper's competitors across town were writing.

But it seems to me that this story is still unfolding, and The Times, for the sake of all its readers, needs to get to the bottom of any improper conduct and assess Air America's future.

There's another reason to get to the bottom of the scandal. It's the perception problem — a perception of liberal bias for which I haven't found any evidence after checking with editors at the paper.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:52 PM


Frist backs 'intelligent design' teaching (ROSE FRENCH, 8/19/05, Associated Press)

Echoing similar comments from President Bush, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said "intelligent design" should be taught in public schools alongside evolution.

Frist, R-Tenn., spoke to a Rotary Club meeting Friday and told reporters afterward that students need to be exposed to different ideas, including intelligent design.

"I think today a pluralistic society should have access to a broad range of fact, of science, including faith," Frist said.

Frist, a doctor who graduated from Harvard Medical School, said exposing children to both evolution and intelligent design "doesn't force any particular theory on anyone. I think in a pluralistic society that is the fairest way to go about education and training people for the future."

Desperately trying to get back in the good graces of the Right after his embryo debacle.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:14 AM


Treasury blocks move to flat rate inflation (George Jones and George Trefgarne, 19/08/2005, Daily Telegraph)

The Treasury has suppressed arguments in favour of introducing a flat tax - a radically simplified system charging the same rate on all income - documents passed to The Daily Telegraph show.

The system is being backed by free market reformers worldwide but a Treasury paper released under the Freedom of Information Act last month had key sections detailing the advantages blacked out.

As a result, it was interpreted as showing that the Government had dismissed as "misleading" arguments for abolishing all exemptions and charging the same rate of tax on all personal and corporate income.

The uncensored paper seen by The Daily Telegraph presents a more balanced picture, acknowledging that a flat tax could increase economic activity and tax revenue, making Britain more attractive to foreign investors. It could create a "mini-economic boom" and would "eliminate distortions", the paper says.

And who would want that?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:04 AM


Property Rights Advocate Arrested in China: Detainee, Deceived Into Custody, Led Suit Challenging State Seizures of Oil Wells (Philip P. Pan, August 19, 2005,
Washington Post)

Police in China's northern Shaanxi province have arrested one of the nation's leading advocates of private property rights after officials posed as journalists and forged an e-mail from a prominent Hong Kong reporter to lure him out of hiding, friends and relatives said.

The arrest is a major setback for the plaintiffs in a landmark lawsuit against the government that analysts said has emerged as an important test of President Hu Jintao's willingness to promote rule of law and private property rights. The governing Communist Party has endorsed those principles as part of its drive to build a market economy.

A police official in Yulin, a city in Shaanxi, confirmed the arrest of Feng Bingxian, 60, a businessman who has led investors throughout the country in a civil suit that accuses the Shaanxi government of illegally seizing thousands of oil wells from them worth as much as $850 million. But the police official declined to discuss the methods used to apprehend Feng or the charges against him.

The Shaanxi case is one of the largest class-action lawsuits ever brought against the Chinese government. It involves some 60,000 investors who dug and developed oil wells in a 400-square-mile area around Yanan, the former revolutionary base of Mao Zedong, beginning in the mid-1990s. Local authorities allegedly approved the oil exploration, then confiscated the wells in 2003 after they began showing steady profits.

Feng's detention is the latest sign that Shaanxi officials have decided to maintain state control of the oil and quash the lawsuit. In May, police stunned the Chinese bar by arresting Zhu Jiuhu, a prominent Beijing attorney representing the investors, and charging him with disturbing social order through illegal assembly, apparently referring to meetings he held with his clients.

With Feng's arrest, police have also detained 13 of the 15 businessmen serving as lead plaintiffs in the case. The local authorities had made a priority of capturing Feng, a former party official from Inner Mongolia province who often traveled to Beijing to lobby for help and acted as an unofficial spokesman for the investors.

interesting to compare the hysterical reaction to Vlad Putin cracking down on the genuinely criminal oligarchs versus the quiescence when the Chinese crack down on innocent dissidents. It's as if the West's political/business elites have so brainwashed themselves into believing that China is going to be a liberal success story that they can't process any contradictory signs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:10 AM


The Conservative Critique of Social Engineering (Daniel J. Mahoney, September/October 1998, American Enterprise)

Most conservatives now agree we should strive to improve man’s lot through technological innovation and economic growth. Yet they remain skeptical about thrusting centralized planning on irreducibly complex societies. Conservatives don’t reject reason outright but rather what the English political philosopher Michael Oakeshott called "rationalism in politics"—a style of politics that ignores the wisdom latent in tradition. Political rationalists don’t foresee the unintended consequences of uprooting long-established institutions and social practices that have well-served human needs. This sort of rationalism forgets, too, that societies can best reform their evils by pursuing possibilities for improvement that already inhere in their established ways of life.

Conservatives, by contrast, have tended to support traditional ways of life and localism for their own sake. They know that a world dominated by aggressive rationalism is one that will have little room for personal independence or for the local color that gives life so much of its charm. There is a risk, though, that the conservative critique of rationalism will go too far and become a full-fledged critique of reason. It is best to say that reason itself shows the limits of reason and hence the dangers of scientism and social engineering.

Aristotle provides the first, and perhaps unsurpassed, rational critique of the misapplication of the rationalist spirit to human affairs. He carries out his critique of scientism in the name of both true science and healthy politics. In his Ethics, he reminds the party of reason that science must respect the imprecision built into its subject matter. The study of politics, for example, can never be as precise as geometry. In his Politics, he gently mocks the first systematic city planner, the eccentric Hippodamus of Miletus, who formulated a detailed plan for a mathematically ordered "best regime."

Aristotle reserves his harshest criticism for Hippodamus’s advocacy of a law honoring those who discovered something new for the city—especially new laws. Aristotle does not deny that some political reform is good, precisely because old laws are sometimes foolish. But he also insists that law-abidingness depends upon habits that arise from deeply rooted customs; habits that the reckless pursuit of political change will surely undermine. Hippodamus characteristically divided everything—the population, laws, and land—into threes because he wrongly thought that human nature was amenable to mathematical manipulation. A true science of man, Aristotle counters, takes its bearing from that mix of reason and passion, wisdom and custom, that is characteristic of human life.

In the spirit of Aristotle, conservatives are rightly skeptical of utopian politics. They deny that progress, however desirable, can ultimately transform human nature. They know that the most important initiatives for change and conservation come from below, from a vigorous, independent civil society. And above all, they fear the "experts" who think they know better than ordinary folks how to run their lives. More than liberals, they are aware of what C. S. Lewis famously observed in The Abolition of Man: "What we call Man’s power over Nature turns out to be a power exercised by some men over other men with Nature as its instrument." Conservatives instead defend the good sense of ordinary people who are in touch with the stuff of life.

A brilliant new book, Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed, beautifully articulates the case against social engineering. Its author, James C. Scott, is no political conservative but his is, nonetheless, a deeply conservative critique of what he calls "high modernist" ideology. High modernism distrusts local and practical knowledge and seeks to exchange the prudence of ordinary people for an administrative ordering of nature and society by experts. When linked to totalitarian collectivism, high modernism can lead to immense social disasters, such as the experiments with collectivizing agriculture in the Soviet Union and Maoist China that together took the lives of 50 million people.

When state intervention ignores the utility of long-established institutions, when planners "map" society in a way that abstracts from the real concerns and activities of ordinary people, when the state adopts a belligerent attitude toward those it sets out to help, modernization becomes an instrument of totalitarian manipulation and control.

The essential conservatism of the American people is perhaps most visible in their loathing for intellectuals.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:16 AM


100 drown trying to reach U.S. (Toronto Star, August 19th, 2005)

Last week, 113 men, women and children boarded a tiny fishing boat with dreams of a new life in the United States. Today, only nine were believed alive after clinging for days to debris in the Pacific Ocean, watching their companions let go — one by one — and slip below the water.

Pedro Diaz, a heavyset 28-year-old farmer, cried bitterly as he recalled the final words of his sister-in-law before she let go of the plastic barrel keeping them afloat.

"Carmen said to me, `Save yourself if you can so you can tell this story,' " he said.

The group assembled before sunrise on Aug. 12 in Esmeraldas, 200 kilometres north of Manta. The 20-metre fishing boat was built for only 10 people, Ecuador's navy said, but the smugglers loaded 113 aboard for the journey to Guatemala, expected to last six or seven days.

The passengers then planned to continue north by land from Guatemala, crossing Mexico and entering the United States illegally in search of jobs that paid decent wages. The trip to Guatemala cost them $10,000 US apiece, relatives said.

Poor wretched fools. If only they had listened to the right people.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:39 AM


Pope Warns of Increase in Anti-Semitism (DAVID McHUGH, 8/19/05, Associated Press)

Pope Benedict XVI warned Friday of rising anti-Semitism and hostility to foreigners, winning a standing ovation from members of Germany's oldest Jewish community during a visit to a rebuilt synagogue that had been destroyed by the Nazis.

With the shrill sound of a ram's horn and a choir chanting in Hebrew "peace be with you," Benedict became only the second pope to visit a synagogue, praying and remembering Holocaust victims.

"Today, sadly, we are witnessing the rise of new signs of anti-Semitism and various forms of a general hostility toward foreigners," he said.

Benedict said progress had been made, but "much more remains to be done. We must come to know one another much more and much better."

He did not elaborate on his warning except to call for more vigilance, receiving loud applause from the audience after his remarks.

Why would he need to elaborate in a country whose political landscape is being reshaped by the rise of a new National Socialism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:29 AM


Editor Explains Reasons for 'Intelligent Design' Article (Michael Powell, August 19, 2005, Washington Post)

Evolutionary biologist Richard Sternberg made a fateful decision a year ago.

As editor of the hitherto obscure Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, Sternberg decided to publish a paper making the case for "intelligent design," a controversial theory that holds that the machinery of life is so complex as to require the hand -- subtle or not -- of an intelligent creator.

Within hours of publication, senior scientists at the Smithsonian Institution -- which has helped fund and run the journal -- lashed out at Sternberg as a shoddy scientist and a closet Bible thumper.

"They were saying I accepted money under the table, that I was a crypto-priest, that I was a sleeper cell operative for the creationists," said Steinberg, 42 , who is a Smithsonian research associate. "I was basically run out of there."

An independent agency has come to the same conclusion, accusing top scientists at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History of retaliating against Sternberg by investigating his religion and smearing him as a "creationist."

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel, which was established to protect federal employees from reprisals, examined e-mail traffic from these scientists and noted that "retaliation came in many forms . . . misinformation was disseminated through the Smithsonian Institution and to outside sources. The allegations against you were later determined to be false."

"The rumor mill became so infected," James McVay, the principal legal adviser in the Office of Special Counsel, wrote to Sternberg, "that one of your colleagues had to circulate [your résumé] simply to dispel the rumor that you were not a scientist."

There's no good reason that the Darwinist faith should allow departures from its rigid orthodoxies. The cult is becoming so marginalized so fast it can ill afford to have its shaky tenets questioned.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:26 AM


Singer sensed the danger: Unreal scene was suddenly all too real when gun was fired (Gwen Florio, August 19, 2005, Rocky Mountain News)

It was, at first, just a weird feeling.

"An abstraction," Marc Cohn called it.

"There was a sense of danger. Something was unstable where we were."

Cohn, the Grammy-award winning musician, was heading back to the Monaco Hotel on 16th Street after he and his band had performed at the Denver Botanic Gardens on Aug. 7. It wasn't even midnight; far too early for things to feel so creepy.

Then Cohn heard the footsteps, sprinting, coming on fast. Almost as soon as he'd registered the guy, Cohn saw the gun in his hand, and nothing was abstract anymore. Not the shot. Not the van's windshield shattering around him. And not the blood, so much blood.

"It was all over my hands. And my clothes. And I realized I was the one who'd been hit," said Cohn, best known for his hit song Walking In Memphis.

Twelve days after he was shot in the head, Cohn is talking publicly about what happened to him in Denver.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:26 AM

AND THIS IS AUGUST (via Kevin Whited):

Democrats fail to gain traction from Bush slip (Donald Lambro, August 19, 2005, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Democrats hoped they would be scoring political points in this year's election cycle as a result of increasing terrorist violence in Iraq and skyrocketing gasoline prices that have combined to send President Bush's job-approval ratings plunging into the low 40s.

But things are not turning out as they hoped. The Democrats are beset by internal division over the lack of an agenda, carping from liberals who say party leaders are not aggressive enough in challenging Mr. Bush's nomination of Judge John G. Roberts Jr. to the Supreme Court, bitterness among abortion rights activists after criticism by Democratic leaders that forced them to pull a TV advertisement attacking Judge Roberts, and complaints from pollsters that they have no coherent message to take into the 2006 elections.

Independent pollster John Zogby says that although Mr. Bush is not doing well in the polls, the Democrats aren't doing any better.

"The Democrats aren't scoring points in terms of landing any significant punches on Bush or in terms of saying anything meaningful to the American people," Mr. Zogby said.

They're reduced to hoping their prayers for another Great Depression are answered.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:22 AM


Bush, blacks and the GOP (Harry Jackson, August 19, 2005, Washington Times)

Monday, July 25 was a watershed moment for me. I met with the president of the United States in a small meeting with other leading African-American community activists and religious leaders. The efforts listed below will have a strong appeal to the "New Black Church" that is emerging in America. [...]

First, Medicare drug benefit: The president mentioned the Medicare drug prescription benefit which will help 42 million Americans. This kind of practical action sits well with concerned black leaders because their constituents are disproportionately affected by the inequities in the health care system. Recent polls have shown that the black community has become skeptical of the president's social security reform. I am convinced that part of this concern has been anchored in the fear of change and awareness that the health care is a pressing need for those at or above the poverty line.

Second, corporate funds for faith based groups: The president announced a White House summit which will be held in March of 2006 to discuss removing barriers which prevent faith-based organizations from receiving corporate and foundations funds. This summit has the potential of allowing the black community's most adept social entrepreneurs access to income streams that can multiply their effectiveness in the community.

Third, compassionate work in Africa: The president's ideas about Africa are very refreshing. In the past, blacks have had the distinct impression that any crisis in Europe had weight. Africa's dilemmas, however, was never deemed urgent enough to address. Mr. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice are changing that perception...

...but the first was a quota hire.

Seeking black votes: Emphasizing values, GOP renews efforts to reach out position (Carl P. Leubsdorf, 8/19/05,

For more than a generation, Republican leaders have talked of cutting the overwhelming Democratic support among black voters. Now, under new chairman Ken Mehlman, they're trying again.

He hopes to expand on the modest 2004 increase in President Bush's black support, which stemmed in part from the values-based appeal that also solidified the backing of white religious conservatives.

In Ohio, where a gay marriage ban was on the ballot, exit polls show his share of black voters nearly doubled.

Since becoming chairman in January, Mehlman has made a major effort to reach out to African-Americans. He has repudiated the GOP's "Southern strategy" of a generation ago, spoken to major national black organizations, held a series of town meetings with black Republicans and enlisted the 16,000 black team leaders in Bush's re-election campaign.

Next year, Republicans may field black candidates for top offices in five Northern states, including several religious conservatives who contrast sharply with traditionally liberal black Democratic candidates.

Two main issues attract black voters, the GOP chairman said: "a belief that faith ought to have a place in public life" and that "we offer policies that are the path to opportunity."

African-American-owned firms increase (Jim Hopkins, 8/17/05, USA TODAY)
Cherie Ransom struggled to find work after Bethlehem Steel went bust in 2001, zapping her accounting job near Buffalo during the recession.

Ransom moved home to Virginia, but full-time permanent jobs were elusive, and some employers said she was overqualified. Ransom started a bookkeeping service from her Virginia Beach home, focusing on small-business customers.

Now, Ransom, 35, says she has enough work to consider hiring her first employee. "I was so busy last year, it was crazy," she says.

Her business is one of about 375,000 started by African-Americans from 1997 to 2002, new Census data show. That was surprising growth, given that African-Americans trailed Asians and Hispanics five years before, the last time the Census tracked the numbers.

The 45% jump in black-owned firms, to 1.2 million, was the highest growth rate among the largest minority groups, the Census says.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:14 AM


Dusting Off a Dictator: Ferdinand Marcos is enjoying a renaissance in the Philippines. As some push for a hero's grave, others gasp at their short memories. (Bruce Wallace, August 19, 2005, LA Times)

He doesn't look like he could cause much trouble anymore, flat on his back in an airtight glass box, toes up, eyes waxed shut. Dead.

But almost 16 years after dying in exile and infamy, deposed dictator Ferdinand Marcos — or at least his reputation — is being resurrected in the Philippines. And it's causing a commotion.

Filipinos are no longer sure how to remember the man they drove from power in a massive but peaceful street revolution in 1986, turning him into an international byword for dictatorship and corruption.

These days, watching their tired cast of politicians fiddle while poverty deepens and Asia's economy takes off without them, many exasperated Filipinos look at the Marcos era as happier times, the good old days before their hard-won democracy turned into what they now call "democrazy."

Was Marcos really a tyrant? they ask. Or just another Asian strongman imposing order on a country desperate for stability? A crook who stole from his own people and stuffed billions into Swiss bank accounts? Or a politician no different from the rest, in a country where everyone knows corruption is the oxygen of politics?

They can't even agree on how to bury him.

The ex-president has never had a funeral. Though he died in 1989, a standoff over where his final resting place should be divides Filipinos, exposing the cleft between those who feel a rosy nostalgia for the Marcos era, and those with unhealed wounds from his rule. [...]

Marcos ruled — and defined the Philippines to the world — for 21 years. Twice elected president, he turned to martial law in 1972, when communists and other opponents were jailed and tortured. [...]

The hole has already been dug. All that is needed for a state burial is the permission of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the sitting president.

"Marcos deserves it," Imelda says with customary defiance. She cites his record: the roads and hospitals built; the diplomatic overtures to the Soviet Union and communist China, which she claims "knocked down the Iron Curtain and the Bamboo Curtain at the height of the Cold War"; the deals struck with foreign governments to allow thousands of Filipinos to work abroad and send home the foreign currency that is now a pillar of the economy.

Above all, she says, there was "Marcos' greatest achievement:" choosing exile over further bloodshed, and refusing to allow loyal elements of the armed forces to use their guns against the civilians massing against him in the streets.

But what might otherwise be dismissed as a political widow's relentless attempt to polish history has found some surprising traction with the public.

A nationwide poll last month rated Marcos the best of the last five Philippine presidents. He ranked not only far ahead of Arroyo, who is battling allegations of corruption and electoral fraud, but even topped Corazon Aquino, who led the revolution that toppled his dictatorship.

For Imelda, sitting ramrod-straight on her sofa, paintings by Picasso and Gauguin framing her like epaulets, the poll is an auspicious sign: Forces may be aligning at last to give her husband a burial with honors.

"Was Marcos the greatest president? No doubt about it," she says. "He was a mother to the nation; he could not destroy his country and his children. He sacrificed himself.

"Eventually," she is sure, "they will see it that way." [...]

But politics is fluid; alliances shift. Facing impeachment and desperately seeking allies, Arroyo had a private dinner with Imelda last month and, when news got out, the president told reporters she wanted to "have a healing of the wounds" caused by the anti-Marcos revolution.

The Manila media pack swiftly concluded that Arroyo was preparing to give Marcos the presidential burial, and church and civic leaders pounced on her.

"Every time there is a political crisis in this country, people say maybe we should go back to dictatorship — they are looking for quick fixes," says Monica Feria, 51, who was jailed twice under Marcos and now edits a lifestyle magazine in Manila. "People have forgotten what it was like to have no free press, to have people killed in detention. Torture was standard operating procedure.

"It bothers me when people say nothing has changed."

But reaching out to the Marcos family is tempting for Arroyo, who is desperate to weaken the coalition of forces gnawing at her presidency.

Many old Marcos associates are back in positions of influence in politics and business. Among the prominent Arroyo critics accusing her of corruption and electoral fraud are Marcos' son, Ferdinand "Bong Bong" Marcos Jr., 47, the second-term governor of Ilocos Norte, and daughter, Imee Marcos, 49, an articulate congresswoman who has become a champion of the arts and is enough of a celebrity to appear on the cover of Philippine magazines.

The Marcos family and their allies now find themselves part of an anti-Arroyo coalition that includes the same church leaders and civil rights groups that helped bring down the elder Marcos.

"Yes, the Marcoses are on the side of the progressives," says Satur Ocampo, a leading Arroyo critic, acknowledging the irony. "We find ourselves in a tactical alliance with the remnants of the junta ousted by popular power. But we are accommodating them, not forgetting what Marcos did.

"Look, Imee is quite an adept politician," he continues. "We are not attributing the sins of the father to her. But people expect them to realize the degree of suffering under her father. And Imelda and the children have not owned up to any responsibility."

Nonetheless, this region of farmers, fishermen and soldiers is solid Marcos turf. There's even a Marcos cult that can point to biblical passages they say prove the ex-president was a messenger from God.

A onetime presidential residence is open to the public, everything of value sold off by the Aquino government, its bookshelves empty but for a few political books written by Marcos ("Today's Revolution: Democracy").

An Imelda-funded museum will open here in September. The walls are already papered with floor-to-ceiling photographs of Marcos shaking hands with long-forgotten dignitaries.

But for Imelda, only her husband's burial at Libingan will completely rescue the Marcos name.

It's hard to imagine the Phillipines would be in as good a shape as it is today without the heavy hand of Marcos. He may not have understood what he was doing as well as a Franco or Pinochet did, but it worked.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


In the Long Run, Sleep at Home and Invest in the Stock Market (MOTOKO RICH and DAVID LEONHARDT, 8/19/05, NY Times)

When Marti and Ray Jacobs sold the five-bedroom colonial house in Harrington Park, N.J., where they had lived since 1970, they made what looked like a typically impressive profit. They had paid $110,000 to have the house built and sold it in July for $900,000.

But the truth is that much of the gain came from simple price inflation, the same force that has made a gallon of milk more expensive today than it was three decades ago. The Jacobses also invested tens of thousands of dollars in a new master bathroom, with marble floors, a Jacuzzi bathtub and vanity cabinets.

Add it all up, and they ended up making an inflation-adjusted profit of less than 10 percent over the 35 years.

That return does not come close to the gains of the stock market over the same period. The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index has increased almost 200 percent since 1970, even after accounting for inflation.

So much for buying stock indexes with our SS money being a risky scheme, eh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Busted: Thirty years after Jaws changed the face of cinema, blockbusters are dying at the box office. Is our taste for reality outstripping our love of big-budget epics? Or is there something better on TV? (Tom Shone, August 19, 2005, The Guardian)

"I don't remember more anxiety, a bigger sense of uncertainty in this business in the 25 years that I've been doing it," producer Walter F Parkes told ABC News after the $120m Michael Bay action movie, The Island, took a paltry $12m in its first week in America. Other notable casualties of the summer include XXX: State of the Union which took only $13m in its first week; Ridley Scott's $130m Kingdom of Heaven which opened with a measly $19m; and Stealth, which debuted with only $13.5m. Studio revenues and admissions are down from last year, making 2005 the worst summer since 2001, when Pearl Harbor performed such balletic hara-kiri on itself.

"The box office isn't in a slump, it's in a slide," reported the Los Angeles Times at the end of July, as the box-office slump entered a record-breaking 19th week - a 1985 slump of 17 straight weekends had been the longest - and the media scurried after the story. "A hundred years of moviegoing, but will there be 100 more?" asked the Salt Lake Tribune. The news digest magazine The Week featured a cover showing the Titanic sinking as a boy slept in an empty theatre, and asked: "The end? Why movie attendance is on the decline." The Associated Press blamed "celebs for overshadowing their movies" - a reference to Tom Cruise's sofa-jumping antics on the Oprah show while plugging War of the Worlds. The rightwing critic Michael Medved blamed the problem on liberal bias in the movies, concluding: "It's the values, stupid." Others pointed to the dent in cinema admissions made by DVDs, and the ever-shrinking window between a movie's theatrical release and its DVD release - from six months to four, and now just three - which prompted one top executive to warn of what he called "Hollywood's death spiral". Audiences seem content to sit out all the hullabaloo that surrounds a movie's theatrical release to catch it later in their homes. Which means that big-budget movies now have even less time in which to perform before they are yanked from the screens by nervous theatre owners.

During WWII Hollywood helped the government fight the Axis. During the Cold War it blacklisted Communists and fellow travelers. Come the war against Islamicism and its stars and directors are in near lockstep against their own government. Doesn't explain the whole slump--bad movies are mostly to blame--but it can't help.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Weld Tries Again to Be Governor, but in New York (PATRICK D. HEALY, 8/19/05, NY Times)

William F. Weld, the colorful former Republican governor of Massachusetts, said yesterday that he planned to run for the same job in New York next year, hoping his platform of tax cuts and social liberalism will make him the first two-state leader since Sam Houston.

Mr. Weld, a native New Yorker who is now an investment adviser in Manhattan, said he had been encouraged to run by former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, an old friend, among others. Karl Rove, the White House political adviser, who worked for Mr. Weld in the 1990's, had also told him to consider running against Eliot Spitzer, the likely Democratic nominee, and the two men agreed that Mr. Spitzer was beatable, according to New York Republicans told about the exchange. [...]

Mr. Weld would face several challenges, political analysts say. His liberalism helped him in heavily Democratic Massachusetts, but it could drive away conservative upstate and suburban voters who can be crucial in statewide races in New York. Just yesterday, in fact, Mr. Weld came under attack from both the right and the left for his past support of gay marriage, which he says he now opposes beyond Massachusetts.

Yet Mr. Weld's underdog victory as governor in 1990, and his landslide re-election in 1994, matter more than specific policy issues right now to New York's Republican leaders. Mr. Pataki has talked with Mr. Weld once and plans to meet with him soon, a Pataki spokesman said, and the state party chairman, Stephen J. Minarik, will meet with Mr. Weld today.

To party officials, Mr. Weld is seen as a possible blend of their biggest success stories of late: Mr. Pataki, Mr. Giuliani and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (who grew up in Massachusetts).

Like those three men, Mr. Weld supports abortion rights and equal rights for gay people, and he also shares Mr. Pataki's fervor for environmental protection and lower taxes. He is also a former federal prosecutor and is seen by Republicans as strong on criminal justice and counterterrorism, two issues that Mr. Spitzer is likely to run on next year.

Like Mr. Bloomberg, Mr. Weld also has a distaste for ideological warfare, and his friendly style is gilded with the playful wit of a 60-year-old bon vivant who loves to quote the Grateful Dead. He got along well with the Democratic-controlled Legislature in Massachusetts, and he held a series of civilized, widely praised debates in 1996 in his race against Senator John Kerry, who defeated Mr. Weld. [...]

Yet people close to Mr. Weld acknowledge that he is also a largely unknown figure locally who, while wealthy, also does not have Mr. Bloomberg's personal fortune to use on television advertisements. And as a former Brahmin-like Bostonian, Mr. Weld does not have a natural ethnic or geographic base of support in New York, which has tended to favor Roman Catholic and Jewish candidates in statewide races.

Perhaps Mr. Weld's most remarkabl;e legacy is that he's been succeeded by Republican governors in MA. Now he could help Mr. Pataki duplicate the feat.

August 18, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:00 PM


Get Real (GIDEON ROSE, 8/18/05, NY Times)

For more than half a century, overenthusiastic idealists of one variety or another have gotten themselves and the country into trouble abroad and had to be bailed out by prudent successors brought in to clean up the mess. When the crisis passes, however, the realists' message about the need to act carefully in a fallen world ends up clashing with Americans' loftier impulses. The result is a tedious cycle that plays itself out again and again. [...]

Seen in proper perspective, in other words, the Bush administration's signature efforts represent not some durable, world-historical shift in America's approach to foreign policy but merely one more failed idealistic attempt to escape the difficult trade-offs and unpleasant compromises that international politics inevitably demand - even from the strongest power since Rome. Just as they have so many times before, the realists have come in after an election to offer some adult supervision and tidy up the joint. This time it's simply happened under the nose of a victorious incumbent rather than his opponent (which may account for the failure to change the rhetoric along with the policy).

BEING fully American rather than devotees of classic European realpolitik, the realists-today represented most prominently by Ms. Rice and her team at the State Department-offer not different goals but a calmer and more measured path toward the same ones. They still believe in American power and the global spread of liberal democratic capitalism. But they seek legitimate authority rather than mere material dominance, favor cost-benefit analyses rather than ideological litmus tests, and prize good results over good intentions.

it's funny enough that Mr. Rose declares the triumph of Realism at a time when, just to pick some examples off the top of my head, the following are occurring:

* Ariel Sharon is creating a Palestinian state

* The Iraqis are finishing a constitution

* The Indonesians cut an autonomy deal with Aceh

* The Egyptians have started their first presidential election campaign

* The new king of Saudi Arabia has released political prisoners

* An American businessman has returned to Haiti to run for president

* We're stepping up the pressure on Belarus to liberalize

* Japan is preparing to change its constitution so it can arm against China

* The Sudanese smoothly replaced John Garang after his tragic death

* The North Koreans are offering to give up their nuclear program if we just stop being mean to them

* Afghanistan has just begin a parliamentary election campaign

* Taiwan is deploying cruise missiles pointed at China

* Feel free to add your own

But even funnier is that he's reduced to declaring Condi Rice a Realist in order to make his case.

The basic idea of Realism is quite simple: Stability Uber Alles. The Realists prefer a regime that can keep its own people quiet and get along with its neighbors, no matter how repressive that regime may be. However, as the list above demonstrates, there is almost nowhere in the world that we are willing to accept such tyranny in exchange for stability. Meanwhile, even as regards the few where we're willing to accept it for more than a brief period of convenience -- perhaps only Pakistan and China at this time -- we're forging entirely new strategic alliances so as to be in a position to tackle them militarily when the time comes. Ms Rice is in the thick of all this--travelling to Iraq, Palestine, Egypt, India, etc.

To call this a return to Realism is to admit defeat at the hands of American idealism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:41 PM


For security's sake, old rift with New Zealand overlooked by US: In training to find WMD, 13-nation military exercises are under way in the waters off southeast Asia. (Janaki Kremmer, 8/19/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

Since New Zealand was thrown out of the ANZUS alliance, in which the US guarantees the security of New Zealand and Australia, New Zealand has mostly been out in the cold - missing out on the technological breakthroughs and experience of the past 20 years. [...]

Since 9/11, the US has increased cooperation with countries who can help in the fight against terrorism. New Zealand sent troops to Afghanistan, and for a short time helped with the reconstruction of Iraq.

New Zealand's Prime Minister Helen Clark has been strongly advocating opening negotiations with the US. The new US trade representative, Robert Portman, is regarded as being more sympathetic to Wellington than his predecessor.

Experts say these changes are more step-by-step than a revolutionary shift. "I regard the continuing exclusion of New Zealand as very strange," says former New Zealand cabinet minister, Derek Quigley, a visiting fellow at the Australian National University's Defense and Strategic Institute in Canberra. While the US is happy to have New Zealand personnel in the line of fire, he adds, they are largely excluded from training with the US.

Other experts say that the significance of the 13-nation exercises in the South China Sea are being underplayed. "Earlier cooperation was based on operations, but these are exercises where you learn testing procedures, and capabilities, and have debriefings," says Peter Cozens, director of the Center for Strategic Studies in Wellington. He adds that obdurate attitudes both in Washington and in Wellington are giving way to a new security relationship. "Since Sept. 11, it's now all hands on the pump."

They were safe from the Soviets.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:31 PM


Diaper sparks bomb alert (Reuters, 8/19/05)

An "electronic nappy" used to monitor wetness sparked a bomb alert in a German post office when it arrived in a parcel ticking suspiciously, police in the southwestern city of Heilbronn said Thursday.

"They suspected it was a bomb so they put the package into an empty room and called the police," said a police spokesman. "It was supposed to respond to wetness with bleeping sounds but this one ticked."

Lucky it wasn't at Heathrow--the Brits would have pumped a half dozen rounds into the kid.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:06 PM


A Progressive's Progress (Steven F. Hayward, August 18, 2005, The Claremont Institute)

"I wake up every day to a sensation of pervading disgust and annoyance," Christopher Hitchens explains at the outset of Love, Poverty, and War, his new collection of essays. In due course, he offers a corollary: "There can be no progress without head-on confrontation."

Contrarianism is not a bad way to approach the modern world, because you will seldom be wrong. Hitchens has refined contrarianism into a high art that transcends mere iconoclasm, though one may doubt whether his name will be made into an adjective after the fashion of his hero, George Orwell. Hitchens would be among the first to admit that the cadences are incommensurate: "Hitchensian" doesn't roll off the tongue as neatly as "Orwellian." He shares two important traits with Orwell, nonetheless: his loving skill with the English language, and his revulsion at the smelly little orthodoxies of the Left.

As successful as this combination is, he may not be entirely well-served by channeling his disgust and annoyance into a confrontation with the first person or idea he sees over his morning coffee. Yet he seems to advance from triumph to triumph. What's the secret of his success? He offers a clue in the middle of the book: "No serious person is without contradictions." Sure enough, Hitchens's affection for the United States redeems his chronic indignation and makes his overall project worthy of deep admiration.

Many of the pieces included in this collection are either literary essays from The Atlantic or miscellany from Vanity Fair. As such they might be considered his hackwork. The world could use more such hackwork. In fact, Hitchens's real calling may be literary rather than political. His Atlantic essays, mostly new encounters with old books and authors such as Joyce, Borges, Proust, Kinsgley Amis, and Waugh, read surprisingly fresh. But like Orwell--and Lionel Trilling, Joseph Epstein, and Norman Podhoretz--one suspects that Hitchens's literary sensibility is closely related to his political pilgrimage, which now finds him allying himself mostly with the Right after a generation's fealty to the Left.

And, unlike Orwell, he seems healthy enough to last a couple more decades, which means we'll get to see him -- like Waugh -- finish the journey and become an orthodox Catholic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:39 PM

FACESPITE, ANYONE? (via Robert Duquette):

Iran Holds Big Bargaining Chips in Dispute: Tehran May Use High Oil Prices, Iraqi Turmoil As Leverage in Nuclear Talks With the West (NEIL KING JR. in Washington and FARNAZ FASSIHI in Beirut, Lebanon, 8/18/05, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL)

President Bush says the world is "coalescing around the notion" that Iran must be barred from getting nuclear weapons. But two factors -- soaring oil prices and chaos in Iraq -- are giving Tehran new muscle in its diplomatic standoff with Europe and the U.S. [...]

Iran, which shares a long border with Iraq, has huge sway over much of Iraq's now-dominant Shiite population, and it could disrupt the constitutional process if it so chose. Western diplomats in Tehran say Iranian officials have been blunt in recent weeks on that point, threatening to cause problems in Iraq if the Bush administration tries to punish Iran with international sanctions.

The most influential man in Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, a Shiite leader whose approval has been central to every political twist and turn, is Iranian. When Iran's foreign minister, Kamal Kharazi, visited Iraq recently he visited Mr. Sistani -- an audience so far denied to top U.S. officials. "It didn't exactly please us to see the Iranians getting face time with Sistani," said a senior American diplomat in Iraq.

At the same time, oil prices have become a domestic thorn for President Bush, and any move that might push them higher could cost him support. Oil hit a nominal record of more than $66 a barrel last week before slipping slightly to $63.25 a barrel yesterday in New York trading.

Iran pumps around 3.5 million barrels a day, or about 4% of global oil production. It is the second-largest producer of oil in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and has the world's second-largest natural-gas fields. Analysts are divided over whether Tehran would openly use its energy leverage in a diplomatic standoff, if only because the Iranian government is so dependent on oil revenue.

Officials in Tehran, however, have suggested that they might move to crimp tanker flows through the crucial Strait of Hormuz, which would have far-more-serious consequences. Around 15 million barrels of oil a day, and a large percentage of the world's gas supplies, flow through Hormuz. The Energy Department calls the strait "by far the world's most important oil chokepoint."

"We have told the Europeans very clearly that if any country wants to deal with Iran in an illogical and arrogant way...we will block the Strait of Hormuz," said Mohammad Saeedi, a spokesman for Iran's Center for Nuclear Energy, which runs the country's nuclear facilities and uranium-enrichment program.

This is a deeply silly story. Iran's interest in Iraq is identical to ours--the defeat of the Sunni extremists who despise Shi'ites and the establishment of a stable Shi'a dominated regime. Meanwhile, not only is Iran dependent on oil revenue but its new government has been elected precisely to get the economy growing, which would obviously be impossible under this scenario. Most importantly though, Iran can't afford to give us the pretext we're looking for to take out their nuclear facilities, which these actions would. Scare mongering like this always depends on the idea that when our foes behave as if we're at war we'll react not just benignly but as if we were helpless, a notion unsupported by the historical record (excluding the godawful 1970s).

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:12 PM


Saudis: Country's Al Qaeda Leader Killed in Shootout (AP, August 18, 2005)

Al Qaeda's leader in Saudi Arabia was killed Thursday during clashes with police in the western city of Medina, the Interior Ministry said.

Saleh Mohammed al-Aoofi was among six Al Qaeda militants reported killed during police raids on numerous locations in the holy city and the capital, Riyadh, security officials told The Associated Press.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:54 PM


Austria to extend work ban for EU newcomers (Lucia Kubosova, 18.08.2005, EU Observer)

Austria is to extend a ban for workers from new EU countries for another three years, with a possibility of applying a maximum transition period of seven years until 2011.

According to the Austrian economy minister Martin Bartenstein, who confirmed the postponement until 2009, the next decision will depend on his country’s employment situation, APA agency reported.

Vienna is one of 12 West European capitals applying the allowed measures against the free movement of newcomers to their labour markets.

But while some countries – like Germany - announced right away that they would use the whole seven years period, Austria chose to evaluate its job situation gradually and move along the scheme agreed at the EU level (2-3-2 years of the transitional measures).

On the other hand, the UK, Ireland and Sweden have opened their borders to new member state workers, and have seen quite a significant increase of migrants from new member states.

Observing Europe these days is like watching a remake of a really bad movie. We all know how it ends: the reasonably decent countries --England and Spain -- expel their immigrants; the indecent ones -- Germany and France -- feed their into ovens; and Italy -- whatever it decides to do -- turns it into opefa bouffe.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:55 AM


China sets up riot police units (BBC, 8/18/05)

China is setting up special police units in 36 cities to put down riots and counter what the authorities call the threat of terrorism.

Chinese state media said one of the first such forces, comprising 500 officers, had just been set up in Zhengzhou in central Henan province.

Correspondents say unrest has become more frequent in China, often due to land disputes or economic inequality.

There has also been increased coverage of such events in the Chinese press.

When China goes bung you'll get a free tank of gas with every NFL glass you purchase.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 11:45 AM


Fetal skins cells offer burn treatment breakthrough (Sheryl Ubelacker, Globe and Mail, August 18th, 2005)

In a procedure that could revolutionize burn treatment, doctors have used fetal skin cells to successfully heal young children with severe scalding injuries, avoiding the need to remove a patch of their own skin for a graft.

The skin cells, taken from an aborted fetus and grown in the lab into a sheet-like covering, acted as a “biological Band-Aid,” said lead researcher Dr. Patrick Hohlfeld, a professor of gynecology and obstetrics at the University Hospital of Lausanne in Switzerland. [...]

A woman gave them permission to biopsy four square centimetres of skin from her 14-week-old fetus that had been aborted for “medical-social” reasons. The doctors then divided and multiplied the cells, which were seeded into a collagen “construct,” producing nine-by-12-centimetre sheets of bioengineered skin.

The procedure is bound to raise ethical flags because the skin was obtained from an aborted fetus, a source that raises the spectre of women agreeing to truncated pregnancies to provide new body parts for the old or ailing.

Dr. Hohlfeld said such a scenario would never happen because it wouldn't be necessary.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:29 AM


TV Show Host Scarborough Weighs Senate Bid (BRENDAN FARRINGTON, 8/17/05, Associated Press)

Congressman turned political talk show host Joe Scarborough has a choice to make: renew his contract with NBC or challenge Katherine Harris for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate.

Scarborough said Wednesday that he has already talked with Sen.
Elizabeth Dole, who heads the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and plans to meet with Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman and White House officials next week about whether to get into the race to unseat Democrat Bill Nelson.

Either can beat Nelson and a good primary fight would serve the winner well.

Posted by David Cohen at 9:41 AM


Funding of Palestinian Propaganda By U.N. 'Unacceptable,' Bolton Says (Jacob Gershman, New York Sun, 8/18/05)

The United Nations' funding of a Palestinian Arab propaganda campaign timed to coincide with Israel's pullout from the Gaza Strip has increased tensions between the U.N. and American officials.

America's newly installed ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, labeled "inappropriate and unacceptable" the United Nations Development Program financing of materials bearing the slogan "Today Gaza, Tomorrow the West Bank and Jerusalem."

Mr. Bolton said yesterday that the UNDP had failed to explain why it funneled money to the Palestinian Authority to back the production of banners, bumper stickers, mugs, and T-shirts bearing the provocative slogan as well as UNDP logos.

Too bad that lack of Democrat approval robs him of the moral authority needed to deal with the United Nations.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:00 AM


A dysfunctional society in a beautiful economy (Mike Steketee, The Australian, August 17th, 2005)

In 1973, the Whitlam government spent 20.4 per cent of its first budget on social security and welfare. This year, the Howard Government set aside 42.5 per cent of its total spending for the same purpose. Or if you prefer that in actual dollars, Canberra's welfare bill was $2.2 billion in 1973 and is $88 billion this year.

That points not only to how the economy has changed but also society. Overall, we are much richer but also much more vulnerable. Marriage breakdowns, drug taking, gambling, suicides, child abuse, mental health problems and crime rates have soared.

Unemployment has come down to 5per cent but is still well above the 2per cent or less which applied for most of the 1960s and early '70s.

As well, there are now more people receiving disability support pensions than unemployment benefits, including older people who lost jobs and are judged unlikely to find work again. In short, governments are picking up many more of the pieces left by a retreating society, one in which families, churches, clubs and neighbourhoods used to play a bigger part. Little of this has loomed large in the political debate. But it inevitably will.

For the most part, neither the left nor much of the right has any idea how to respond to this conundrum, if they recognize it at all. The left, spitting in the face of 20th century history, splutters with poetic indignation about poverty and inequality and then concludes with dreary predictability that government cheques and planning will usher in a new Jerusalem. The urbane on the right, especially those of a libertarian bent, insist that economic prosperity is the cure for all ills, have inoculated themselves ideologically against the primacy of collective moral and social responsibilities and refuse to accept that material freedom is not the plinth of a healthy, resilient society, but rather the prize for getting the rest of it right.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:51 AM


Costly Gasoline: Inflation Foe?: Expensive energy can make it harder to boost prices on other goods. Some say that should make the Fed more cautious in raising rates. (Bill Sing, August 18, 2005, LA Times)

How can expensive energy limit inflation? It can make it harder to boost prices on other goods and services. With more of their budgets going to gasoline, consumers have less to spend on other stuff. And that means sellers must think twice before raising prices — on products as diverse as T-shirts at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and computers at Dell Inc. — even if higher energy bills are driving up their costs.

By cutting into sales of gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles, higher pump prices contributed to the recent steep price discounting by the Big Three U.S. automakers, suggests John Lonski, chief economist at Moody's Investors Service.

"That's a prime example of where higher energy prices can rein in core [non-energy] inflation," Lonski said.

In addition, energy price increases don't have the same inflationary effect as two or three decades ago, in part because the economy is relatively less dependent on energy. And when adjusted for inflation, energy prices are lower than two decades ago.

Also, fiercer competition has limited businesses' ability to raise prices.

Except that gas prices are artificially high.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:49 AM


At a Crossroads, Saudi King Tests the Winds of Reform (Anthony Shadid and Steve Coll, August 18, 2005, Washington Post)

Ibrahim bin Abdullah Mubarak is a gruff man. On the phone, the lawyer forgoes florid Arabic salutations for a curt "thank you," then abruptly hangs up. At 61, he holds papers close to his eyes, his hand trembling. Defending cases in an often arbitrary system of justice has left him weary. But in the ascent of King Abdullah, Saudi Arabia's sixth monarch, he sees change -- vague, perhaps gradual, but nevertheless hopeful.

"Anyone who assumes the throne wants to distinguish his rule," Mubarak said in a sparse office in downtown Riyadh, with tomes on Islamic jurisprudence, embossed in gold, behind his desk. "The king wants to make his mark."

On Aug. 8, Abdullah freed three clients Mubarak helped defend -- prominent political dissidents jailed last year for signing a petition and holding meetings advocating a constitution for the kingdom. In his office, Mubarak had just listened to Abdullah's first speech to the nation, a short declaration in which he welcomed advice and promised to "dedicate my time to enhancing the pillars of justice."

Mubarak narrowed his eyes and nodded his head. "His words tell us what he is planning for his rule," the lawyer said. [...]

The country Abdullah inherits stands warily at a crossroads, uncertain whether real change is in the offing. From the conservative northern tribal regions to the liberal business capital of Jiddah on the Red Sea, ordinary Saudis are speaking tentatively about topics previously taboo, testing the culture of silence and intimidation that smothers so much political discourse here.

Then they're the only ones who don't know that real change is coming.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:31 AM


Roberts Battle Adds to Democrats' Divide (Dan Balz, August 18, 2005, Washington Post)

The public tug of war among Democrats this week over the Supreme Court nomination of Judge John G. Roberts Jr. underscores the conflicting pressures facing Democratic leaders as they try to satisfy a growing cadre of activists anxious to battle President Bush while avoiding the appearance of being captives of their most vocal constituencies.

The debate over what to do about Roberts is the latest in a series of disagreements over the past three years pitting the party's Washington-based leaders against traditional liberal advocacy groups or the newer world of grass-roots activists stitched together through e-mail and Web logs.

The disputes reflect the frustration and uncertainty of a party that has been routed from power in all three branches of government during the Bush years. There have been disagreements over policy, with widespread anger among activists at Democrats who backed Bush's tax cuts and voted for the war in Iraq.

There are also abiding tensions over what political strategy might be most effective in carrying the party back to power. Some elected officials, according to critics, have been slow to appreciate how the power balance in the Democratic coalition has shifted -- away from established interests and toward citizen activists who tend toward a more aggressive brand of politics.

Left and Right are eternal and if the Democrats won't be the party of the Left then they'll be replaced. Because they haven't moved as far Left as they'll need to, they are nowhere near the ebb of their tide yet.

Take this for exampe, When the War Won't Stay at Bay: With Bush and the public insulated from Iraq, Cindy Sheehan has moral authority. (Peter Beinart, August 18, 2005, Washington Post)

So, as we posted earlier, this is the voice of the Left's moral authority:

I take responsibility partly for my son’s death, too. I was raised in a country by a public school system that taught us that America was good, that America was just. America has been killing people, like my sister over here says, since we first stepped on this continent, we have been responsible for death and destruction. I passed on that bull**** to my son and my son enlisted. I’m going all over the country telling moms: “This country is not worth dying for. If we’re attacked, we would all go out. We’d all take whatever we had. I’d take my rolling pin and I’d beat the attackers over the head with it. But we were not attacked by Iraq. {applause} We might not even have been attacked by Osama bin Laden if {applause}. 9/11 was their Pearl Harbor to get their neo-con agenda through and, if I would have known that before my son was killed, I would have taken him to Canada. I would never have let him go and try and defend this morally repugnant system we have. The people are good, the system is morally repugnant. {applause}

Please – teach your babies, teach your babies better than I taught my babies. When Congress gave George Bush the right to go to war, they abrogated their constitutional responsibilities and they basically made our constitution null and void. We have no checks and balances in this country. We have no recourse. If they’re going to what they did to Lynne, they don’t have backs they call names, what we need to be is, we the people, we’re their checks and balances. We’re the only checks and balances. We have to stand up and say, Not only is this our school, this is our country. We want our country back and, if we have to impeach everybody from George Bush down to the person who picks up dog **** in Washington, we will impeach all those people. Our country needs to {unintelligible} we need to start over again.

What they’re saying, too, is like, it’s okay for Israel to have nuclear weapons. But Iran or Syria better not get nuclear weapons. It’s okay for the United States to have nuclear weapons. It’s okay for the countries that we say it’s okay for. We are waging a nuclear war in Iraq right now. That country is contaminated. It will be contaminated for practically eternity now. It’s okay for them to have them, but Iran or Syria can’t have them. It’s okay for Israel to occupy Palestine, but it’s – yeah – and it’s okay for Iraq to occupy – I mean, for the United States to occupy Iraq, but it’s not okay for Syria to be in Lebanon. They’re a bunch of f***ing hypocrites! And we need to, we just need to rise up. We need a revolution and make it be peaceful and make it be loving and let’s just show them all the love we have for humanity because we want to stop the inhumane slaughter.

{wild applause}

America-hating, Jew-baiting, and self-loathing calls for revolution aren't generally popular politics in this country.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:22 AM


Bar association gives high-court nominee Roberts top rating (Jesse J. Holland, , August 18, 2005, Associated Press)

Supreme Court nominee John Roberts received a "well qualified" rating from the American Bar Association on Wednesday, clearing another hurdle in his path to the nation's highest court.

The rating - by unanimous vote of an ABA committee - was revealed as the Senate Judiciary Committee announced its plans for Roberts' Sept. 6 confirmation hearings.

There goes their last hope of attacking him on an issue that doesn't only appeal to their own Left.

Leading liberal groups likely to fight Roberts (Rick Klein and Charlie Savage, August 18, 2005, Boston Globe)

Leading liberal groups, looking to engage the public, say they will probably fight the Senate confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Judge John G. Roberts Jr. before hearings begin on Sept. 6 -- a campaign that could include statements and television ads portraying him as a conservative with extreme views on abortion, affirmative action, civil rights, and equal rights for women.

No American political figure ever suffered when attacked by abortionists, feminists, and quota queens.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:04 AM


Governor expected to offer his apology for failing to report golf outings, meals (Alan Johnson and Mark Niquette, August 18, 2005, THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH)

Gov. Bob Taft is expected to admit in court today that he failed to disclose thousands of dollars in free golf, meals and other favors.

Ohio’s 67 th governor is scheduled for an 11 a.m. appearance in Franklin County Municipal Court, where sources said he will plead "no contest" to four misdemeanor ethics violations. Taft failed to list 52 golf outings and other gifts dating to 1998 on his annual financial-disclosure statements.

A no-contest plea would mean that Taft would be admitting to the facts of the charges, leaving the verdict and sentencing to Judge Mark S. Froehlich, a Democrat and former four-term mayor of Obetz.

Each misdemeanor charge is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and six months in jail. As a first-time offender, however, Taft is not expected to get jail time.

He will "apologize to the people of Ohio," said Senate President Bill M. Harris, R-Ashland, after talking with officials in Taft’s office yesterday.

Spokesman Mark Rickel reiterated that Taft will not resign.

Admitting guilt and apologizing are good steps, but do the honorable thing and resign.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


The Interpreter: The Rise of Fareed Zakaria: Muslim, Heartthrob, Super-Pundit (Joy Press, August 16th, 2005, Village Voice)

Zakaria is good at straddling worlds. Asked how a neocon who edited the journal Foreign Affairs ended up as a favorite of the Daily Show crowd, he protests that he is no longer a diehard Reaganite but a firm centrist. "And anyway, in America the entire spectrum has shifted to the right. I still like the same kinds of people I always did—conservative Democrats, moderate Republicans, call them what you will. But we're an increasingly embattled phenomenon in a country with a president talking about intelligent design." Jon Stewart's viewers probably don't have an inkling of Zakaria's political background, since they rarely chat about economic or domestic affairs. Mostly Zakaria is applauded for his willingness to call out our government's missteps in Iraq. (He initially supported the invasion but within a few weeks began lambasting the Bush administration in Newsweek pieces with titles like "The Arrogant Empire.") "I feel that's part of my job," he says, slightly defensively, "which is not to pick sides but to explain what I think is happening on the ground. I can't say, 'This is my team and I'm going to root for them no matter what they do.' "

He's neo enough to not be theo and smart enough to know that real media power lies in selling out the Right, or "growing," as they call it inside the Beltway.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM

JUST THE CASH, PLEASE (via Bruce Cleaver):

Minor League Team To Host 'Hairiest Back' Contest (AP, August 17, 2005)

The Potomac Nationals of the Carolina League are ready to let the fur fly later this month.

The Class-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals will hold its first-ever "Hairiest Back at the Ballpark" contest before their game against a team from Salem, Va., on Aug. 25.

According to the team's press release, the winner will receive a complimentary laser hair removal service valued at $2,500.

What kind of shriekin' sissy would want to go through life without his back hair?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Europe quotas on China textiles backfire (FT.COM, 8/17/05)

Shiploads of sweaters are piling up on Europe's doorstep, while European retailers and their customers are facing a "sweater-buying season" with far less choice than usual. Scores of European trading companies are facing bankruptcy or severe financial losses. Many jobs are likely to be lost.

Such are the consequences of the import restrictions on a number ofChinese textile products that came into effect on July 12. More precisely, they are consequences of the way in which these restrictions were introduced, without proper regard for the realities of modern commerce.

The prevailing thinking in the EU seems based on an outdated concept of trade in which foreign companies produce goods which they then try to sell to overseas customers. Importers buy a certain quantity and have it shipped to their home market. In this simple world, safeguard actions, anti-dumping duties and retaliatory measures are, at least in the short run, mainly detrimental to the exporting country.

Modern commerce is different. More and more European companies are heavily involved in the production of the goods they import. That is because they have set up production facilities in other countries or have otherwise outsourced production of what they can no longer produce profitably. By doing so and by concentrating on activities in which they have a competitive edge they survive and often prosper. Outsourcing is a growing trend. Many people in Europe and the US perceive it as a big threat. Wrongly so, we believe. Trying to stop imports and outsourcing amounts to economic suicide.

They're just now noticing that Europe is suicidal?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Roberts' Ind. Hometown Draws Scrutiny (TOM COYNE and ASHLEY M. HEHER, 8/17/05, Associated Press)

Like many towns across America, the exclusive lakefront community where Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr. grew up during the racially turbulent 1960s and '70s once banned the sale of homes to nonwhites and Jews.

Just three miles from the nearly all-white community of Long Beach, two days of looting and vandalism erupted when Roberts was 15, barely intruding on the Mayberry-like community that was largely insulated from the racial strife of that era.

It was here that the 50-year-old Roberts lived from elementary school until he went away to Harvard in 1973, and that decade — as well as the rest of his life — is receiving intense scrutiny as the Senate gears up for its Sept. 6 confirmation hearings on President Bush's first Supreme Court nominee. [...]

Roberts' father, a manager at a Bethlehem Steel mill in nearby Burns Harbor, moved the family to Long Beach in the early 1960s.

The family purchased land a few blocks from the beach in 1966 and built an unassuming tri-level house. The Roberts property did not include a racially restrictive covenant, according to LaPorte County deed records, and the restrictions had begun fading away by then.

They've tried trotting out the restrictive covenant issue before, as Orrin Hatch humorously detailed in his book:
In 1986, with the retirement of Warren Burger, President Reagan nominated Justice William Rehnquist to be the next Chief Justice of the United States. Although he had been sitting justice since 1972, when he was appointed by Richard Nixon, and had been praised by Justices William Brennan and Thurgood Marshall as the leading intellect on the Court, Rehnquist’s confirmation was anything but smooth. At the time, I nicknamed it “the Rehnquisition.”

His hearings focused less on the specific decisions he had made on the Court than on matters largely unrelated to his judicial temperament or ability. For days, the nominee was boxed around, forced to answer questions that ranged from the substantive to the inexplicable.

For example, he was questioned about a memorandum he had written in the 1940s, when he was a Supreme Court law clerk for Justice Robert Jackson. In the memorandum, he had explained the Court’s horrible but historic position that “separate, but equal” facilities for African Americans were constitutional. Judge Rehnquist answered by explaining that he was summarizing Justice Jackson’s views on the issue, as he was expected to do in his capacity as a clerk.

One would think that the decisions and opinions of a sitting Supreme Court Justice would be a better indication of his beliefs about civil rights than a memorandum he wrote as a clerk four decades past.

Unsuccessful on this line of attack, Senators Kennedy and Metzenbaum tried to shift the focus to restrictive covenants on two pieces of land, one of which Justice Rehnquist currently owned and the other he had owned some years before. These covenants, which preclude the sale of the land to certain races or ethnic groups, can be found in most deeds to older pieces of property. They are a distasteful reminder of our nation’s discriminatory past. They are also illegal and have been found to be unenforceable by the Supreme Court. Most homeowners are unaware that these covenants even exist, because they are included at the time the deed is first written. The few who are aware of their presence often have little interest in paying the legal costs associated with removing them, since they have no legal effect whatsoever.

The deed for Justice Rehnquist’s vacation home in Vermont contained a restrictive covenant precluding sale to Jews. Similarly a property the justice had once owned in Arizona forbade the sale of the land to someone other than a Caucasian. No one asserted that Mr. Rehnquist had requested that these covenants be included in the deeds. No one claimed he even knew about them. In fact, he did not. Nonetheless, the implication was made that he must implicitly agree with their prohibitions, because he had not had them expunged.

Amazingly, this ridiculously contrived issue hung over the nomination until it was discovered that the deed to former President John F. Kennedy’s home in the elite Washington, D.C. neighborhood of Georgetown also contained a restrictive covenant. Once this awkward fact became public, the issue magically evaporated.

Even Teddy balked at calling his own sainted brother a racist and, if memory serves, it turned out several justices and senators likewise had them on their houses, as President Bush later turned out to have one on a house he bought and sold. They're unpleasant, but just relics and generally unenforceable.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Alternative to embryo research found (LOUISE GRAY, 8/19/05, The Scotsman)

SCIENTISTS have found a way of deriving stem cells from umbilical cords which may end the need to clone human embryos in an attempt to cure diseases.

The discovery of stem cells in umbilical cord blood with the potential to transform into a wide range of other cell types - in the same way as those in an embryo - could allow scientists to sidestep the ethical issues that surround the creation and destruction of embryos. [...]

Pro-life and religious groups have argued that human life should not be created and then destroyed to provide new ways of treating patients, but this method avoids this ethical dilemma completely.

...he says he won't be needing your soul after all.

August 17, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:32 PM


B-grade Gipper (John McCaslin, 8/17/05, Washington Times)

We're here to report a rather bizarre, if not disturbing incident combining Hollywood and Washington, specifically this month's special film-industry screening of "The Killers," a 1964 movie starring Ronald Reagan in his final big-screen role.

On hand in Hollywood for the Aug. 4 event was a prestigious crowd of actors, actresses, writers, reviewers, scholars, researchers and film preservationists -- including "L.A. Confidential" director Curtis Hanson -- that actually erupted in cheers when Mr. Reagan "the actor" was shot and killed. [...]

The audience also broke into "malicious cheers," one man in attendance tells Inside the Beltway, when Mr. Reagan was threatened at gunpoint and pushed out of a speeding car.

Then again, was it any surprise? Consider that when the words "Also Starring Ronald Reagan" appeared on the screen during the opening credits, many in the audience booed. (There were supporters of Mr. Reagan in the crowd, given some scattered applause.)

The recent screening was part of an industry retrospective salute to director Don Siegel, who made two pictures with Mr. Reagan. The event at which the jeering took place was sponsored by the UCLA Film and Television Archive and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Mr. Hanson, who is chairman of the UCLA Film and Television Archive, introduced the film and then took a seat in the audience. Afterward, he led a discussion about the movie, joined by actor Clu Gulager, who also appeared in the film.

Mr. Gulager, says the attendee, discussed the making of the picture, including how actor Lee Marvin boasted that he intended to "bury" his fellow actors with his intimidating performance. After scenes with Angie Dickinson and Norman Fell, Mr. Marvin held up two fingers indicating he had "destroyed" them.

But Mr. Gulager told the audience that when it came to Mr. Marvin's scene with Mr. Reagan, he was taken aback at the future president's professionalism and the way Mr. Reagan couldn't be shaken like the other actors.

Mr. Gulager, the source added, appeared surprised by the audience's reaction to Mr. Reagan. "I thought Reagan was great," Mr. Gulager said.

And Hollywood wonders why it can't make movies that Americans want to watch.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:23 PM


Cindy Sheehan (Military Families Speak Out; Goldstar Families for Peace; her son Casey was killed in the Iraq War) (Transcript of Pro-Stewart Rally, April 27, 2005)

The following is a transcript of comments made by featured speakers at a pro-Lynne Stewart rally held on Wednesday, April 27, 2005 at San Francisco State University. Among the sponsors of the event were the National Lawyers Guild, Campaign to End the Death Penalty, the International Socialist Organization, and the Campus Antiwar Network.

First, I want to give my little story about Lynne. Of course, you all have read To Kill a Mockingbird. Lynne is my human Atticus Finch. He did what he knew was right, but wasn’t popular. And that’s what Lynne is doing. {applause}

We are not waging a war on terror in this country. We’re waging a war of terror. The biggest terrorist in the world is George W. Bush. {applause}

How many more people are we going to let him kill before we stop him? I’m going to talk about free speech and recruitment. Do you know that it costs $66,000 to recruit one recruit? That’s continuing all of their – you know, the recruiter’s salary, the recruiter’s bonus, the place that they rent to recruit and things like that. All the perks they get and everything. That’s not even training the recruit. It costs our government about $6,000 a year on each child in California. $46,000 a year to house a prisoner in our state. Our priorities are seriously screwed up, as I mentioned.

I really want to thank you guys for doing this, especially the young people. It gives me so much hope to know that there’s young people who care more about who’s our next American Idol – less about that. You guys care more about people being killed. There’s too many that care more about the next American Idol. Too many people in our country that don’t even really know we have a war going on. You know, they never have to think of the war, and I’ll never, ever forget this war. I can never forget it, even when I’m sleeping {tears} I know that we’re in a war and I know that George Bush and his band of neo-cons and their neo-con agenda killed my son. And I’ll never, ever, ever forget.

I take responsibility partly for my son’s death, too. I was raised in a country by a public school system that taught us that America was good, that America was just. America has been killing people, like my sister over here says, since we first stepped on this continent, we have been responsible for death and destruction. I passed on that bull**** to my son and my son enlisted. I’m going all over the country telling moms: “This country is not worth dying for. If we’re attacked, we would all go out. We’d all take whatever we had. I’d take my rolling pin and I’d beat the attackers over the head with it. But we were not attacked by Iraq. {applause} We might not even have been attacked by Osama bin Laden if {applause}. 9/11 was their Pearl Harbor to get their neo-con agenda through and, if I would have known that before my son was killed, I would have taken him to Canada. I would never have let him go and try and defend this morally repugnant system we have. The people are good, the system is morally repugnant. {applause}

Please – teach your babies, teach your babies better than I taught my babies. When Congress gave George Bush the right to go to war, they abrogated their constitutional responsibilities and they basically made our constitution null and void. We have no checks and balances in this country. We have no recourse. If they’re going to what they did to Lynne, they don’t have backs they call names, what we need to be is, we the people, we’re their checks and balances. We’re the only checks and balances. We have to stand up and say, Not only is this our school, this is our country. We want our country back and, if we have to impeach everybody from George Bush down to the person who picks up dog **** in Washington, we will impeach all those people. Our country needs to {unintelligible} we need to start over again.

I just want to say that you students, Students Against War, you have all my support and all my organization’s support. I told Kristen if you have any actions and you need a ringleader, that I only live about an hour away. I’ll be here. If I can sleep on somebody’s floor, we can have this, we can camp out, do whatever we need.

And I just want to way to George Bush and I want to say to the people who are here, that are still sheep {unintelligible} and following him blindly: if George Bush believes his rhetoric and his bull***, that this is a war for freedom and democracy, that he is spreading freedom and democracy, does he think every person he kills makes Iraq more free? It doesn’t make us more free. It damages our humanity. The whole world is damaged. Our humanity is damaged. If he thinks that it’s so important for Iraq to have a U.S.-imposed sense of freedom and democracy, then he needs to sign up his two little party-animal girls. They need to go this war. They need to fight because a just war, the definition of a just war, and maybe you people here who still think this is a just war, the definition of a just war is one that you would send your own children to die in. That you would go die in yourself. And you aren’t willing to send your own children, or if you’re not willing to go die yourself, then you bring there rest of our kids home now. It is despicable what they’re doing. {applause}

What they’re saying, too, is like, it’s okay for Israel to have nuclear weapons. But Iran or Syria better not get nuclear weapons. It’s okay for the United States to have nuclear weapons. It’s okay for the countries that we say it’s okay for. We are waging a nuclear war in Iraq right now. That country is contaminated. It will be contaminated for practically eternity now. It’s okay for them to have them, but Iran or Syria can’t have them. It’s okay for Israel to occupy Palestine, but it’s – yeah – and it’s okay for Iraq to occupy – I mean, for the United States to occupy Iraq, but it’s not okay for Syria to be in Lebanon. They’re a bunch of f***ing hypocrites! And we need to, we just need to rise up. We need a revolution and make it be peaceful and make it be loving and let’s just show them all the love we have for humanity because we want to stop the inhumane slaughter.

{wild applause}

No wonder her son wanted to be half a world away from her.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:08 PM


Sobbing settlers' resistance fades as troops clear homes (Ian MacKinnon, 8/18/05, Times of London)

ISRAEL’S forcible evacuation of its settlers from the Gaza Strip began with harrowing scenes of its troops dragging screaming Jews from their homes and synagogues yesterday, but with much less violence than expected.

By late in the day commanders heading the army’s biggest peacetime operation predicted that it could be all but completed by tonight, weeks ahead of schedule, after much of the fight appeared to have gone out of the resistance.

There's always a certain strangeness to folks who manage to blindside themselves with the inevitable.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:15 PM


A US CEO makes a bid to run Haiti: A Haitian-American Wednesday said he will run for president. (Danna Harman, 8/18/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

Dumarsais Siméus, the most successful Haitian-American businessman in the US today, is going home to run for president of Haiti.

"I wanted my fellow native sons and daughters of the Artibonite Valley to hear it from me first.... I am a candidate for president of Haiti," Mr. Siméus, the son of illiterate peasants, announced Wednesday in his rural hometown of Pont-Sondé. "Today marks the start of a new beginning for our country ... in a time of crisis."

After months of speculation, the CEO of one of the largest black-owned businesses in the US told supporters he will start campaigning for the November election, the first since Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted following a violent rebellion in February 2004.

"What a contender!" says James Morrell, director of the Haiti Democracy Project in Washington. "Here is the richest and most successful Haitian around - running to lead a country where nothing works. This has to look awfully good. Here is evidence of someone who can get things done."

But the hurdles ahead are many.

Working awfully well here.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:50 PM


Einstein's Legacy -- Where are the "Einsteinians?" (Lee Smolin, Logos)

Einstein’s single goal in science was to discover what he called theories of principle. These are theories that postulate general rules that all phenomena must satisfy. If such a theory is true, it must apply universally. In his study of physics he identified two existing theories of principle: the laws of motion set out by Galileo and Newton, and thermodynamics. [...]

So what is Einstein’s real legacy? Are any of us his followers? In this centennial year, there will be many who claim the mantle. That includes the community of relativists, but many of them rarely look beyond the theory. Instead they study it by finding solutions on computers or by looking for gravity waves. There are also a few physicists who follow Einstein in rejecting quantum theory and in searching for an alternative. Einstein would have been happy that some scientists agree with him, but he likely would have been critical that most work in that area ignores the problem of unification.

Some string theorists will claim to be Einsteinians, and certainly Einstein would have approved of their search for a unification of physics. But here is how Brian Greene, in his last book, describes the state of the field: “Even today, more than three decades after its initial articulation, most string practitioners believe we still don’t have a comprehensive answer to the rudimentary question, What is string theory? . . . Most researchers feel that our current formulation of string theory still lacks the kind of core principle we find at the heart of other major advances.”

Einstein’s whole life was a search for a theory of principles. It is hard to imagine he would have sustained interest in a theory for which, after more than 30 years of intensive investigation, no one is able to put forward any core principles.

He may in this regard have been happier with approaches to quantum gravity that stay closer to the core principles of relativity. For example, loop quantum gravity preserves his discovery that space and time have no fixed background, and it also provides an answer to Einstein’s questions of how to go beyond the continuum. But Einstein would have found unacceptable all approaches to quantum gravity that take quantum mechanics as fundamental, including string theory and loop quantum gravity. Einstein never wavered from his rejection of quantum mechanics. His motive for making a unified field theory was not to extend the domain of quantum mechanics; it was rather to find an alternative to quantum mechanics. No research program that accepts quantum mechanics as a given can count itself to be within Einstein’s legacy.

I think a sober assessment is that up until now, almost all of us who work in theoretical physics have failed to live up to Einstein’s legacy. His demand for a coherent theory of principle was uncompromising. It has not been reached—not by quantum theory, not by special or general relativity, not by anything invented since. Einstein’s moral clarity, his insistence that we should accept nothing less than a theory that gives a completely coherent account of individual phenomena, cannot be followed unless we reject almost all contemporary theoretical physics as insufficient.

May as well, no one buys it anyway.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:09 PM

CHUNKY, NOT HUNKY (via Robert Schwartz):

Playgirl's hunks? The hairy, chubby & poor! (RIVKA BUKOWSKY, 8/16/05, NY DAILY NEWS)

Forget waxed chests and rock-hard abs. A new survey finds ladies like their men scruffy, a wee bit chubby - and definitely not a metrosexual.

Playgirl asked 2,000 of its readers what they find sexy in a man and the answers were surprising: 42% said they thought love handles were kind of sexy and 47% approved of chest hair.

The mag, which often features toned, hairless males in its beefcake photo spreads, is now searching for a man who meets readers' standards.

Average Joes everywhere can send photos to to compete for a shot at a pictorial in a future issue.

Rich playboys need not apply - only 4% of women said the size of a man's wallet mattered. Metrosexuals are also out: 73% want a guy who is "rough around the edges."

"This survey shows that the guy who's most attractive to our readers is not your average Hollywood hunk," said Playgirl editrix Jill Sieracki. "It's the average Joe who came up on top. Women are practical about their choices, and they're smart."

Demonstrating, if there was any doubt, that The Wife is the smartest person on the planet.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:06 PM


Disengagement Mystery (HILLEL SCHENKER, August 16, 2005, The Nation)

The truth is that all of these explanations are just guesses. Sharon has simply not given a clear explanation for his actions, and is not giving any serious indication of his future plans, if he has any, other than his desire to remain in power.

I'll give a book to anyone who can find a more willfully ignorant essay today.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:45 PM


Taft facing four criminal charges for failing to report gifts (Alan Johnson and Mark Niquette, August 17, 2005, The Columbus Dispatch)

Gov. Bob Taft is expected to be charged this afternoon in Franklin County Municipal Court with four criminal misdemeanors for failing to disclose golf outings and possibly other favors.

The charges are to be outlined at a press conference this afternoon with Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien and Columbus City Attorney Richard C. Pfeiffer Jr.

If convicted on the first-degree misdemeanor charges, Taft faces a maximum fine of $1,000 and up to six months in jail on each count. [...]

While it is not expected, the criminal charges could lead to Taft's impeachment under the Ohio Constitution.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:00 PM


New plan for the Great Plains: Bring back the Pleistocene (Peter N. Spotts | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Elephants roaming North Dakota? Free-range camels and lions a couple hours' drive from Denver or Oklahoma City?

That's the vision behind a new call to "re-wild" parts of North America's Great Plains. Since people are leaving the region's rural areas, the logic goes, why not create large ecological reserves with animals that are kin to the mammoths, mastodons, and cheetahs that roamed the region 13,000 years ago?

The approach echoes other proposals and projects to restore habitat in the Great Plains - with a twist. It would use the Pleistocene fossil record as a rough guide for restoration, rather than the historical record from Europeans' first contact. It might also provide a haven for large animals that are struggling to survive in their home habitats in Africa and Asia.

Researchers summarized their proposal in today's edition of Nature. Some call it "Pleistocene Park." [...]

[O]ver time the grasslands involved could reach a level of ecological and evolutionary health not seen in the region since the end of the last ice age.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:06 AM


Meese's Influence Looms in Today's Judicial Wars (LYNETTE CLEMETSON, 8/17/05, NY Times)

It was July 1985 and the newly confirmed attorney general, Edwin Meese III, was preparing to address the American Bar Association. Trouble was, he was conflicted about what to say.

A 17-day hostage crisis involving a hijacked American airliner had just ended, and Mr. Meese felt obliged to discuss terrorism. But the Supreme Court had just delivered a series of decisions that infuriated conservatives and reinforced President Ronald Reagan's resolve to steer the judiciary rightward.

In the end, Mr. Meese gave what many say was the speech of his career. Helping lay the foundation for the judicial wars that continue today, he advocated a "jurisprudence of original intention." The philosophy he promoted, one of strict adherence to what proponents say were the intentions of the writers of the Constitution, inspired a generation of conservatives - including, some say, a young lawyer named John G. Roberts Jr., now a Supreme Court nominee.

"He certainly fits the kind of excellent judges that we were looking for and that President Bush is looking for," Mr. Meese said of Judge Roberts in an interview.

Vilified by liberals as an ideologue and embroiled in frequent disputes with more moderate figures within the Reagan administration, Mr. Meese is now lionized by conservatives for his role in reshaping the judiciary. At 73, he is still at it.

Want to know why the Democrats are a minority party? The former Attorney General who's done most to reshape their positions is Ramsey Clark.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:01 AM


Don't sell Harris short in '06 (David Hill, 8/16/05, The Hill)

Last week, GOP Rep. Katherine Harris of Florida kicked off her campaign to unseat Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. While this should be a much-ballyhooed quest in Republican circles, too few GOP insiders seem to be excited by Harris’s launch. This is a mistake.

Katherine Harris is going to win this election for reasons that I’ll outline in this column. But before making the case that needs to be made, let me make a few disclosures. Yes, I did poll for Harris’s successful bids for secretary of state and Congress. But since 2003, I have not served Harris, providing me an opportunity for an objective view of her candidacy.

Harris’s advantages start with her celebrity status, coupled with the low expectations that surround her bid. Let’s face it: Voters today are more interested in celebrities than in politicians. More Americans read People than Time. More people follow “American Idol” than C-SPAN’s “Road to the White House.”

Celebrity commands attention. When Katherine Harris comes to town, people will want to get in on the action. And because of the nature of criticism that the media have aimed at Harris, people will expect her to disappoint.

But when voters see Katherine as she really is — a smart, vivacious and engaging woman — they will be shocked. Pleasantly shocked. There is no way that Katherine Harris won’t exceed expectations, and that’s a major plus.

Rick Perlstein wrote in a huff the other day because on a Fox News appearance Ms Harris stood at an angle that showed her assets to good effect. He was apparently serious.

Fla. GOP courts Joe Scarborough (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 8/17/05)

Two local businessmen active in Republican Party politics say the GOP is courting cable TV host Joe Scarborough to replace U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris in the 2006 Senate race against incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson.

Scarborough, a former U.S. representative, has met with senior Republican officials, Collier Merrill, a Pensacola businessman told the Pensacola News Journal in a report for Wednesday's editions.

The other businessman, Eric Nickelsen, said he had contacted Scarborough and encouraged him to run, and he corroborated that other party leaders wanted the cable talk show host to challenge Harris.

Scarborough declined to comment late Tuesday. He was sent to Congress four times from the Pensacola area, beginning in 1994.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:00 AM


A knitter's nightmare: Iraq's constitution must weave together a patchwork of interests and ideologies, including the Kurds' (Brendan O'Leary, August 14, 2005, LA Times)

Like the Kurds, many Shiites want regional control over Iraq's oil to ensure that locals benefit. While most of Iraq's black gold is in the southern provinces, Kurdistan also has a lot, especially if the Kurds control the region of Kirkuk. The central government abused its control of oil. Geology and politics thus favor a deal on natural resources between Kurds and Shiites.

So Kurds and Shiites may agree on a viable constitution that would represent the combined interests of more than 80% of Iraq's citizens. Which leaves the Sunni Arabs.

The mostly Sunni insurgents are at war with the majority Shiites, and in their dreams would reconquer Kurdistan. They don't want to be — and cannot be — part of the new constitution. The success of the constitution must be measured by their eventual defeat.

Among the non-insurgent Sunnis, there are no obvious leaders with whom to bargain. A few are liberals, democrats and human rights activists. More are nostalgic for Hussein. Some want to postpone the constitutional negotiations until after new elections to get more Sunnis to participate.

What the Kurdistan Alliance and the Shiite-dominated United Iraqi Alliance must do is to make a deal with sufficient protections — for human rights, regional self-government, security arrangements and the distribution of resources — to ensure that enough Sunni Arabs will not oppose the proposed constitution in the October referendum.

But outsiders are not making that sensible bargain easy to strike. Baghdad is awash with foreigners offering advice on how to make Iraq a nation-state. It is unclear that the external organizations are helpful, because they don't see the bargain that must be made.

When Iraqi sovereignty was restored in the spring 2004, the Bush administration was in control. It's not now. But the U.S. ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, is trying his best to be an authoritative back-seat driver. To finish his job effectively, however, he will have to depart from Washington's script.

The Bush administration wants a centralized Iraq for only two reasons that make any sense. First, to have a counterweight to Iran. (The U.S. had hoped it would also be secular.) That cause is lost. Iran and Shiite Arab Iraq, at least, will be at peace. Second, the administration wants to appease Turkey, which fears an independent Kurdistan. But the best way to discourage an independent Kurdistan is to promote an Iraq that Kurdistan accepts, namely a democratic, pluralist and federal Iraq.

The administration has been neither a competent imperialist nor an intelligent democracy exporter. If it had been run by the ruthless oil-stealing imperialists its opponents imagine, dividing up Iraq and making Kurdistan and "Shiastan" supply the world with oil would have been its strategic choice. If, as it claims, the administration had been interested in promoting a democratic Iraq and transforming the political landscape of he Middle East, it would have supported the Kurdistan Alliance and the United Iraqi Alliance, while encouraging them to make a settlement that was fair to Sunni Arabs, rather than backing the unreformed Sunnis' unappeasable demands.

As negotiations for a constitution near the deadline in Baghdad, the administration must end its incompetence.

A centralized, multi-ethnic, multi-religious Iraq might have been the ideal, but it's not an ideal world. Take the deal that's there to be made and that represents an enormous accomplishment.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:24 AM


Median county house price slips for 1st time in year (Margaret Steen, 8/17/05, San Jose Mercury News)

The median price of a single-family home in Santa Clara County declined slightly in July, falling to $700,000 from $705,000 in June, according to DataQuick Information Systems, which gathers data from public records of completed sales. It was the first monthly decline in a year.

Still, it's not clear whether the drop means the market has reached its peak or merely has entered a normal summer slowdown. Prices also declined slightly from June to July 2004, then zoomed to record highs.

The volume of sales also declined: 1,887 single-family homes were sold in the county in July, down from 2,175 the previous month. The sales numbers also were down from July of last year, when 2,045 houses were sold. Nonetheless, last month tied for the third busiest July in the 18 years DataQuick has collected real estate information, said John Karevoll, a company analyst.

That's what the bursting of the housing bubble is going to look like in most places.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:16 AM


Koizumi: A modern-day samurai? (Hisane Masaki, 8/18/05, Asia Times)

When he roared into office in April 2001, Koizumi vowed to "destroy" the LDP if it refused to reform. On August 8, the time seemed to have finally come for him to follow through on his campaign pledge to "destroy" the party that has ruled Japan almost uninterrupted for 60 years since the end of World War II.

Koizumi's political gamble in calling a snap election is apparently aimed at transforming the LDP into a truly reformist party, even if it means a loss of power. His expulsion of rebellious LDP lawmakers by not endorsing them as official party candidates drew criticism from them as "Koizumi cleansing", "political crackdown on opponents" or "political genocide".

Some LDP politicians, including even those who support the bills, had believed that his threat to call a new vote was nothing more than a bluff aimed at discouraging LDP opponents from voting against the bills. But they were wrong. Koizumi showed no hesitance at all to call a new vote, even at the risk of losing power to the largest opposition, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ).

The lionesque-haired Koizumi apparently wanted to demonstrate that he truly deserves his nickname "Lionheart" and that he is not a "paper tiger" or a "toothless tiger". If he had reneged on his vow to call a snap election, he would probably have been reduced to a lame duck, more than a year before the expiration of his term as LDP president - and thereby as prime minister - in September next year.

When Koizumi dissolved the Lower House, many pundits said the prime minister's political fortune was doomed to death, with some even describing his decision as political suicide.

To be sure, the LDP's deep division has given the main opposition DPJ a windfall chance to oust the LDP from power. The day after the dissolution of the Lower House, the elated DPJ leader Katsuya Okada went so far as to declare that he would step down if his party failed to grab the opportunity to take power

. But as things now stand, the astute Koizumi seems to be gaining some ground in what was initially seen as a losing battle for the reins of government, making it even more difficult to predict the outcome of the vote.

Opinion polls suggest that Koizumi's gamble of turning on rebels within his own LDP is paying off. A majority of respondents approved of his decision to dissolve the Lower House for a snap election and his public approval rating has also risen sharply. The surveys by the Mainichi and Asahi dailies show that his cabinet approval rating rose nine points to 46% and five points to 45%, respectively.

The political drama scripted by Koizumi himself has received wide media coverage. In the drama, a spotlight has been put on the LDP leadership and rebellious LDP lawmakers engaged in the fierce internal feuding. As a result, the DPJ has been pushed to the backstage and left invisible to the audience. This has helped boost the LDP prospects in the election at the expense of the DPJ.

According to a survey taken by the Yomiuri newspaper immediately after the dissolution of the Lower House, public support for the DPJ was 18.3%, less than half the 40.1% for the LDP.

The DPJ is becoming increasingly concerned about the lack of public attention for the party. Former DPJ leader Naoto Kan frankly acknowledged on a TV program: "Internal fighting within the LDP is interesting. Regrettably, it has overshadowed the DPJ."

Koizumi has made it clear that the LDP will make postal privatization a major issue. "Although the diet concluded that postal privatization is not necessary, I would like to ask the public again: which will you choose - reformists or standpatters?" Koizumi asked shortly after calling the election.

The prime minister apparently wants to make postal privatization effectively the only election issue to keep his LDP on the offensive. He said on August 15 that the poll would be the first referendum on whether to privatize the country's postal savings system and reiterated his 2001 campaign pledge that he would "destroy the old LDP and create a new LDP" through the vote.

The LDP takes the DPJ and other opposition parties, as well as rebellious LDP lawmakers, to task for killing the postal bills in the diet. Koizumi apparently hopes to produce the evolving political drama as a battle between reformist forces, represented by the LDP and New Komeito, and anti-reformist ones, represented by the DPJ, other much smaller opposition parties and rebellious LDP lawmakers.

Koizumi has skillfully manipulated the political drama now on air to make voters sympathetic to him rather than to opposition lawmakers and the rebels within his own party. If it plays into the hands of the shrewd and tactful Koizumi, the DPJ might not be able to perform as strongly as expected, some analysts say.

A politician's best friend is an incompetent opposition.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:07 AM


The silence of the Bush Boom (Larry Kudlow, August 17, 2005, Townhall)

Breaking down the major components of the economy, business spending on equipment and software is now contributing close to 30 percent of the increase in gross domestic product. (Prior to the Bush tax cuts on capital gains, dividends, and personal incomes, cap-ex was a net drag on economic growth.) The business surge has caused industrial production to rise by nearly 9 percent in the past couple of years, or 4.1 percent annually.

In this supply-side model, it is investment and production that create jobs. Not surprisingly, the total U.S. employment of 142 million workers stands at an all-time high. Since May 2003, non-farm payrolls have grown by 4 million, while the Labor Department’s household survey (which includes the self-employed) has surged by 4.5 million. The unemployment rate is 5 percent with real worker compensation growing by nearly 4 percent. Interest rates and core inflation are running at four-decade lows.

Liberal economists like Paul Krugman ridicule the Bush boom as nothing more than a housing bubble destined to burst. But if the numbers-challenged Krugman would do some homework he would find that the GDP contribution of residential investment has dropped from 15 to 8 percent in the last two years. For that matter, the consumer contribution to GDP has slowed from 90 to 75 percent. By taxing investment less, the economy is generating more of it.

With comparable economic numbers in 1983 and 1984, President Reagan enjoyed a tremendous “morning in America” popularity that won him a 49 state landslide. Similarly, the economic boom of the late 1990s helped President Clinton withstand the political slings and arrows of impeachment. But for some reason this economy is not working for Bush.

Most pundits blame rising gas prices and Iraqi war difficulties for Bush’s slump. While these are involved, they’re not the whole story. The unwillingness of the Bushies to communicate and market an economic-recovery message is also to blame.

It seems entirely possible that in a world where you can theoretically be blown up at any moment folks just feel to jumpy to appreciate the actual ease of their lives.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:05 AM


Democrats Feel Heat From Left On Roberts (Charles Babington and Dan Balz, August 17, 2005, Washington Post)

Major liberal groups accused Democratic senators yesterday of showing too little stomach for opposing John G. Roberts Jr.'s Supreme Court nomination, saying newly released documents indicate he is much more conservative than many people first thought.

The response was quick and pointed, as two key senators unleashed their sharpest criticisms yet of Roberts and sought to assure activists that the battle is far from over.

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the Judiciary Committee's ranking Democrat, said in a statement: "Those papers that we have received paint a picture of John Roberts as an eager and aggressive advocate of policies that are deeply tinged with the ideology of the far right wing of his party then, and now. In influential White House and Department of Justice positions, John Roberts expressed views that were among the most radical being offered by a cadre intent on reversing decades of policies on civil rights, voting rights, women's rights, privacy, and access to justice." [...]

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), the committee's senior member, also took his criticisms of Roberts to new heights yesterday in a letter to colleagues.

So much for the Democratic strategy of not being defined by their far Left--Ted Kennedy inside the Beltway and Ms Sheehan outside.

Sheehan Feeling the Glare of the Spotlight: Some Are Focusing Anger on Protester (Michael A. Fletcher, August 17, 2005, Washington Post)

Cindy Sheehan rode into town 10 days ago, a forlorn mother with a question for her president: Why did my son die in Iraq?

But now the same wave of publicity and political anger that she rode to become a nationally known symbol of the antiwar movement threatens to crash down on Sheehan herself.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:00 AM


A Nation of Big Spenders (Robert J. Samuelson, August 17, 2005, Washington Post)

The personal savings rate is derived by subtracting Americans' total consumption spending from their total after-tax income (i.e. "disposable income''). By definition, the rest is "saving." In 1984 the personal savings rate -- savings as a share of disposable income -- was 10.8 percent. It's drifted down ever since. It was 4.6 percent in 1995 and 1.8 percent in 2004. It hit zero in June. These low figures are not inconsistent with huge 401(k) and IRA contributions. Suppose you put $4,000 into a 401(k) account. You think you've "saved." But then you borrow $4,000 to go to Vegas or pay college tuition. Now your savings rate is zero. Ditto if you'd sold $4,000 of stock. Borrowings and stock sales offset much retirement saving.

The trouble with the official savings rate is that it excludes some items that people intuitively count as savings, notes Susan Sterne of Economic Analysis Associates. A big omission is the capital gains -- aka profits -- on housing or stocks, both realized (if you sell) or on paper (if you don't). If your home or stocks increase $10,000, you may feel comfortable borrowing $4,000 to spend. You've still got an extra $6,000 in savings. But the savings statistics ignore these value changes; all they show is that you've saved less by spending another $4,000.

Over two decades, these value changes have soared. Lower interest rates -- mainly reflecting lower inflation -- have driven up stocks and home prices. Stocks became more appealing next to interest-bearing deposits; lower mortgage rates made higher home prices more affordable. From 1985 to March of this year, Americans' mutual funds and stocks rose from $1.3 trillion to $10 trillion; over the same period, real estate values jumped from $4.6 trillion to $17.7 trillion. Once you consider these value changes, most Americans don't look so irresponsible. Sure, they've borrowed heavily. But their net worth -- what they own minus what they owe -- continues to grow. Compared with income, it's higher than in most years since 1950.

Mr. Samuelson sometimes seems like the only responsible economics writer in the MSM. The idea that a nation with a household net worth of more than four times GDP is undersaving is either lunatic or intentional disinformation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:55 AM


Gaza: Tomorrow's Iraq (Richard Cohen, August 16, 2005, Washington Post)

It is the solemn obligation of a columnist to connect the dots. So let's call one dot Iraq and another the Gaza Strip, and note that while they are far different in history and circumstance, they are both places where Western democracies, the United States and Israel, are being defeated by a common enemy, terrorism. What is happening in Gaza today will happen in Iraq tomorrow.

In both cases politicians will assert that it is not terrorism that has forced their hands. President Bush says this over and over again: denunciations of evil, vows to get the job done, fulsome praise for Iraq's remarkably brave democrats. But the fact remains that Iraq is coming apart -- the Kurds into their own state (with their own flag), the Sunnis into their own armed camps, and the dominant Shiites forming an Islamic republic that will in due course become our declared enemy.

Similarly, Israeli politicians assert that it is not terrorism that has chased Israel from Gaza but the realization that a minority of Jews (about 8,500) cannot manage a majority of Arabs (more than 1 million), and this is surely the case. But it was terrorism that made that point so powerfully.

Count us skeptical that Sunni terrorism will chase the Shi'ites from Iraq.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:49 AM


Abortion Rights Group in Va. Skips Gubernatorial Endorsement (Michael D. Shear, August 17, 2005, Washington Post)

The Virginia chapter of NARAL Pro-Choice America said Tuesday that it will not endorse any candidate in this fall's governor's race, citing a lack of support for abortion rights among the two leading candidates.

The group endorsed Democrats for lieutenant governor, attorney general and most delegate races but said Democratic Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine failed to earn its backing for governor because of his support for some abortion restrictions.

Another good indicator of how much the issue has shifted Right.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:45 AM


Bush's blind spot on Iran (Robert Scheer, August 16, 2005, LA Times)

WE DON'T respect or understand any religious or nationalist fervor other than our own. That myopic distortion has been a persistent historical failure of U.S. foreign policy, but it has reached the point of total blindness in the Bush administration.

The latest exhibition of this approach was President Bush's thinly veiled threat this weekend to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities or even invade the country as a last resort, sparked by Tehran's troubled negotiations with the West over its nuclear program. [...]

[A]s the head of the only nation to have used nuclear weapons on human beings and the one currently devising the next generation of "battlefield" nukes, it would seem that Bush should be a little more careful about trying to seize the moral high ground. This is especially the case because Washington has accommodated the nuclear programs of three allies (Pakistan, India and Israel).

Mr. Scheer is certainly right that we should attack Pakistan if necessary to rid it of nuclear weapons (N. Korea, China and France, too), but the idea that America, Israel and India are morally equivalent to fascist, communist and Islamicist regimes just demonstrates why the Left is perceived to hate America.

How Bush would gain from war with Iran (Dan Plesch, August 15, 2005, The Guardian)

President Bush has reminded us that he is prepared to take military action to prevent Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. On Israeli television this weekend, he declared that "all options are on the table" if Tehran doesn't comply with international demands.

In private his officials deride EU and UN diplomacy with Iran. US officials have been preparing pre-emptive war since Bush marked Iran out as a member of the "axis of evil" back in 2002. Once again, this war is likely to have British support.

A plausible spin could be that America and Britain must act where the international community has failed, and that their action is the responsible alternative to an Israeli attack. The conventional wisdom is that, even if diplomacy fails, the US is so bogged down in Iraq that it could not take on Iran. However, this misunderstands the capabilities and intentions of the Bush administration.

America's devastating air power is not committed in Iraq. Just 120 B52, B1 and B2 bombers could hit 5,000 targets in a single mission. Thousands of other warplanes and missiles are available. The army and marines are heavily committed in Iraq, but enough forces could be found to secure coastal oilfields and to conduct raids into Iran.

Only the Axis of Good should be permitted nukes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:43 AM


Nun stages Da Vinci Code protest (BBC, 8/16/05)

A Roman Catholic nun has staged a protest over the filming of the Da Vinci Code at Lincoln Cathedral.

Sister Mary Michael knelt in prayer outside the building for 12 hours to object to the production of the film, which stars Tom Hanks.

The 61-year-old believes the film, based on a book written by Dan Brown, contains heresy.

Tom Hanks and the Sony Pictures film crew are believed to have witnessed the nun's protest.

Sister Mary Michael said she did not care about the effect on them.

"It matters to me what God thinks, not what the film crew think.

"When I face almighty God at my final judgement, as we all will, I can say I did try my best. I did try my best to protest," she said.

Producers were barred from filming at Westminster Abbey because the book suggests the church is covering up the truth about Jesus' life. [...]

The Dean of Lincoln Cathedral, the Very Reverend Alec Knight, stepped in and allowed production there.

The film company reportedly offered a donation of £100,000.

The Very Rev Knight said: "It's (the book) been attacked as blasphemous because it argues the notion that Jesus's humanity included an element of sexuality.

"My view is that the book isn't blasphemous, it doesn't denigrate God in any way, but it is speculative, far fetched and heretical."

The book is hateful rubbish and the Reverend Knight should be at least defrocked for aiding in heresy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:15 AM


Conservative Compassion (EDMUND MORRIS, 8/17/05, NY Times)

CINDY Sheehan's attempt to have President Bush tell her - again - how sorry he is about the death of her son in Iraq is escalating into a protest more political than personal. As such, it is a legitimate expression of antiwar sentiment. But the individual cry for attention at the heart of it - "Mr. President, feel my pain!" - is misguided. Ms. Sheehan cannot expect a commander in chief to emote on demand.

I once spent two days at Ronald Reagan's side, for the purpose of seeing what it was like to be president of all the people, all the time. (At least, from his morning emergence out of the White House elevator until the equally prompt moment when, tapping his watch and chuckling, he would say to the host of his evening function, "The fellas tell me it's time to go home.")

Long before that moment - in fact, within a couple of hours - I was so emotionally exhausted that I could hardly stand. It was not that Mr. Reagan, 30 years my senior, set the pace that some hyperactive presidents have kept. What drained me was my writer's tendency to feel what people in the room are feeling.

It's worth recalling that both Jimmy Carter's disastrous Desert One rescue attempt and Reagan's decision to provide Iran with parts were motivated by compassion.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Euthanasia law forces woman to starve to death (Paul Marinko, August 4, 2005, The Guardian)

A woman who was born with a debilitating disease has gone on hunger strike in an attempt to end her life.

Kelly Taylor, from Bristol, said that starving herself to death was the only legal way she could end the pain and misery resulting from her rare heart condition.

Mrs Taylor, who cannot walk more than a few metres and is dependent on pure oxygen to breathe, had been waiting nearly 10 years for a heart and lung transplant, but was taken off the list two years ago after doctors told her that a match would not be found.

She was told that her condition would deteriorate and that there was no medication or treatment which could help her.

The 28-year-old said she was determined to take her own life and starvation was the only way she could kill herself legally.

"I decided this was the only way I could do it because of the laws in this country, which are against euthanasia," she said.

"It just felt like the right time to do something about my life and because there was no law to help me die, I thought I would have to help myself."

Fears that her husband, Richard, 47, could be prosecuted in the UK for helping her die led Mrs Taylor to reject travelling to a country where assisted suicides are legal.

She said: "The law needs to be brought into the 21st century.

"People want to die with dignity. That's all I want: some control and dignity."

Woman ends 'right to die' food protest (Richard Savill, 13/08/2005, Daily Telegraph))
A 28-year-old terminally ill woman who went on hunger strike as an act of voluntary euthanasia has ended her protest after 19 days because of intense pain. [...]

Mrs Kelly ended her protest on Thursday night by eating a small amount of apple-puree baby food.

She told the Bristol Evening Post: "It has become too uncomfortable and I would not wish what I have been going through on my worst enemy.

"I feel disappointed in myself. I really wanted to die and that seemed to be my only option. I regret that I have to stop what I am doing because I still want to die. But starvation, as it turns out, is very undignified."

It seemed like so much fun when I wanted to kill others that way.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


A repugnant, divisive suggestion (ROYSON JAMES, 8/17/05, Toronto Star)

If Toronto city Councillor Michael Thompson is trying to make a name for himself, he certainly has. Around city hall yesterday, the rookie politician was being called Uncle Tomson.

When it comes to name-calling, that's as offensive as it gets for a black man. And yet, this black man has brought it on himself.

By advocating that police target and stop young black men in neighbourhoods plagued by gun violence, and search them for guns, the rookie councillor has made an ass of himself.

"It's offensive, rude," said criminal lawyer Aston Hall, reacting at a conference of black law enforcement officers. "Whoever thought of that is a complete idiot."

Complete or not, Thompson wasn't backing down yesterday.

"I'm fed up with the violence that's taking place," he said. "We need a drastic hammer on the situation. Is it offensive to some? Absolutely.... As a black city councillor, it's for me to speak out."

His idea was so racist he deserves to be called an Uncle Tom?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Islamic group flaunts its clout in Egypt (Michael Slackman, August 17, 2005, The New York Times)

As Egypt has prepared to begin its first multicandidate presidential campaign Wednesday, leading to a Sept. 7 election, and as it experiments with new boundaries for political speech, the Muslim Brotherhood has re-emerged as a crucial player. Political organizations and party members are turning to it for help, even endorsements, and the nascent democracy movement helps it bring its members out to the streets.

"The point behind these demonstrations is to make people on the street feel like there's political activism," said Ali Abdel Fattah, a Brotherhood member who has pushed the organization to become more confrontational with the government. "The Egyptian street never saw this kind of movement before." [...]

he Brotherhood remains clear about what it stands for. While its leaders say they support democracy and a Parliament that sets laws, they also express confidence that if it were given the chance, their group would dominate Parliament and be able to legislate its agenda.

In a pamphlet titled "Initiative," the Brotherhood spells out its mission as "working to establish God's law as we believe it to be the real effective way out of all sufferings and problems." It added that "the mission could be achieved through building the Muslim individual, Muslim family, Muslim government and the Muslim state that leads Islamic countries, gathers all Muslims, regains Islamic glory, gives lost Muslim land back to its owners and carries the flag of the call to God, thus making the world happy via the teachings and right of Islam."

It is a message with a wide following in Egypt, one that is so appealing that emerging political leaders, like Ayman Nour, have courted the Brotherhood. Nour, leader of the centrist Tomorrow Party and one of the best known of the nine candidates approved by the government to challenge Mubarak, has met with the Brotherhood's leaders, seeking their endorsement.

Starting from a much worse economic position, the Islamicist phase in Egypt is likely to be among the shortest in the region.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Paisley's Pattern: On 'Time Well Wasted,' the Country Showman Offers More Beef, Less Corn (Bill Friskics-Warren, August 17, 2005, The Washington Post)

Brad Paisley's multi-platinum claim upon the country mainstream hinges on a nimble mix of sincerity and showmanship. On the one hand, this has resulted in a string of heart-tugging pledges of fidelity dating back to "He Didn't Have to Be," his 1999 single about a stepdad who embraces his new wife's kid as his own. On the other, it's accounted for some of the punchiest, most dexterous guitar playing this side of Dwight Yoakam's early hits -- and for Paisley's sometimes irksome penchant for corn-pone humor.

It's all here on "Time Well Wasted," the 32-year-old West Virginia native's fourth and best album. There's everything from "Waitin' on a Woman," a wry profession of undying love worthy of Alan Jackson, to the stratospheric "Time Warp," a dazzling flight of cowboy jazz in the spirit of '50s daredevil pickers Speedy West and Jimmy Bryant. (As a guitarist, Paisley is equally adept playing bluegrass, honky-tonk and rock-and-roll.) [...]

Paisley's reach as an entertainer harks back to a time when country singers worked a little bit of everything into their vaudeville-derived acts. In Paisley's case, though, this ecumenism has also contributed to the lack of respect he gets from alt-leaning listeners, many of whom came to country from rock and expect more depth from Paisley than his lyrics typically afford.

With Time Well Wasted, however, Paisley gives his detractors less to complain about.

Entertainment Weekly liked it too.

August 16, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:50 PM


Couples to choose sex of baby to 'balance' family (Mark Henderson, 8/17/05, Times of London)

COUPLES could choose the sex of their children to balance their families under a radical overhaul of fertility laws being considered by the Government.

Families with a number of sons or daughters may get the right to select an embryo of the opposite sex in the first review of assisted reproduction for 15 years, ministers said yesterday.

The dramatic reversal by the Government has reignited controversy over sex selection. Critics fear that sons may be favoured over daughters and predict that the move will make it harder to prevent the selection of traits such as looks or intelligence, should the technology become available.

And they're worried about what a few imams might do to their society?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:35 PM


Meet President George W Ahmadinejad (Arang Keshavarzian, 8/16/05, Asia Times)

Iran now has a 49-year-old devout president with a doctorate in engineering rather than a seminary education. He has been shaped as much by the eight-year Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s and the military establishment as by the 1979 revolution and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's circle of students (Khomenini died in 1989).

To date, Ahmadinejad has been active only in local affairs (Tehran municipal and Ardebil provincial governments), not in national politics. In his campaign he was able to combine his loyalty to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his staunch social conservatism with a Robin Hood-style populist, anti-corruption message and a promise to bring oil revenue to the home of every Iranian. Thus, in a remarkable move Ahmadinejad maintained and mobilized his very close ties with the conservative establishment - such as the office of the supreme leader, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard and the volunteer groups of mobilizers (basij) - while convincing the "common folk" that he was "one of them".

Unlike traditional conservatives, (principally the merchant class and the clerical hierarchy), Ahmadinejad and Iran's neo-conservatives have cobbled together an electoral base comprising the revolutionary military establishment, war veterans and the economically disenfranchised to trumpet a message that is as threatening to capital interests as it is to supporters of democratization and pluralism. [...]

Whatever Ahmadinejad's true intentions, a pragmatic foreign policy is the probable outcome. To begin with, the Islamic republic tends to moderate ideologically driven politicians be they democrats, Islamist radicals, supporters of a centrally planned economy or privatization fans. As the lead article by Saeed Laylaz in the reformist newspaper Sharq explained, the Islamic republic's system has the tendency of transforming radicals, revolutionaries and fundamentalist forces into pragmatists and moderates. [5] This is likely to also be the case for the new administration, which, despite its mission to implement sweeping managerial changes, will face a bureaucratic machine full of overlapping institutions and competing interests. Any government fueled by oil revenues tends to sideline long-term plans and ideologies in favor of stopgap measures and personal gain. Hence, despite his supporters' aspirations and Washington's fears, Ahmadinejad's cabinet will face the same institutional dead ends that its more reformist predecessor faced.

Even if Ahmadinejad and his loyal supporters prove impervious to these structural forces, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is controlled by Supreme Leader Khamenei, and there is little opportunity for the new and inexperienced president to act independently. In fact, for much of the last eight years, those who sought to downplay Khatami's political powers and importance - such as the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and the American Enterprise Institute - pointed out that foreign policy in Iran is not implemented, let alone dictated, by the president.

The Iranian constitution places foreign relations exclusively in hands of the supreme leader. Thus, if Iran has taken a generally more pragmatic approach to regional and international affairs since the mid-1990s, we have Khamenei to thank as much as Rafsanjani and Khatami. Considering that Ahmadinejad is so closely allied with Khamenei and supporters of the preeminence of his office, it seems unlikely that the new administration will do much more than follow the official line laid down by the supreme leader, as was Khatami's general pattern. [...]

With a seemingly subservient president and potentially fewer domestic critics and rivals in authoritative positions, Khamenei may find greater political opportunity to begin a rapprochement with the US. Under Khatami, achieving major breakthroughs in US-Iranian relations was a difficult task because the Islamic republic's ideological and tactical differences came to the surface and fueled contentions by critics of US-Iranian detente that the Islamic republic would collapse if Khatami had his way.

Since Khatami was susceptible to criticism from government conservatives that he was not anti-imperialist enough, making too many foreign concessions was politically risky. However, with a unified conservative Islamic republic, the prospects for meaningful and serious US-Iranian negotiations may increase. Some argue that peace in Israel and Palestine is more likely when hardliners, such as Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and fundamentalist group Hamas, are part of the bargaining process. Likewise, governments driven by neo-conservative leaders in Washington and Tehran, rather than administrations headed by the US Democratic Party and Iranian reformists who can easily be labeled as soft and accommodationist, may enable credible concessions and discussions to take place. Of course, this would require the Bush administration to sincerely engage in deliberations and to compromise on various issues.

There is, of course, no bargaining process in Palestine. Ariel Sharon understood that by acting in his own nation's best interest he could force the Palestinian leadership to act in the best interest of its people. It's likely that the President can similarly poke the Iranians to make the kjinds of political and economic reforms they need without ever negotiating. The first thing he should do is give a speech about Iran's post-Islkamicist furture just like the one he gave about post-Arafat Palestine and Ronald Reagan gave about post-Soviet Russia. It would be a nice touch to make it somewhere in the Middle East.

Mother Knows Best (ZEV CHAFETS, 8/16/05, NY Times)

Last Friday...on the eve of the Gaza withdrawal, in an interview with the daily newspaper Yediot Aharonot, Mr. Sharon gave a strikingly succinct explanation of his diplomacy. "I've reached a deal with the Americans," he said. "I prefer a deal with the Americans to a deal with the Arabs."

American presidents since 1967 have been trying to get Israel to make a deal that includes leaving territories it occupied in the Six-Day War. Until now, not one of them has been successful. But George W. Bush has pulled it off.

This diplomatic success was possible only because Mr. Bush won Ariel Sharon's trust. Previous administrations tried to bribe or pressure Israel into making territorial concessions. The president used different tools - common sense and credibility.

As a master politician, Mr. Bush realized that there were political limits on what Mr. Sharon could do. Neither Mr. Sharon nor any conceivable Israeli prime minister would ever evict the hundreds of thousands of Israelis who now live in East Jerusalem and the major settlement blocs of the West Bank. Asking for that would be an automatic deal-breaker. Same for the Palestinian demand that millions of Arab refugees and their descendants be "returned" to Israel. And Israel would never relinquish its option to respond militarily to armed aggression.

Mr. Bush acknowledged these Israeli truths in an official letter he sent to Mr. Sharon in April of 2004. In exchange for that recognition, however, the president asked for - and got - Mr. Sharon's agreement to do what he could do. Evacuating Gaza was one of those things.

The American vision for Middle East peace sees exit from Gaza as a first step. Next comes an Israeli withdrawal from those settlements in the West Bank that aren't already de facto parts of Israel, and then the creation of an independent Palestinian state.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:17 PM


Vassar Clements dies (Ron Wynn, August 16, 2005, Nashville City Paper)

Vassar Clements was an extraordinary fiddler, a self-taught virtuoso who appeared on more than 2,000 albums and also played viola, cello, bass, mandolin, guitar and tenor banjo.

Clements died Tuesday at his home in Goodlettsville at age 77 after a battle with lung cancer.

“He was one of the most famous fiddle players of all time, and his style and capability as a player enabled him to be as effective playing the blues, doing R&B, jazz, anything,” famed WSM-AM announcer Eddie Stubbs said. “But even if you didn’t like Vassar Clements’ music, you had to like the man. He never had an unkind word to say about anybody, and I never heard anyone say anything bad in his presence.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:04 PM


Officer Says Pentagon Barred Sharing Pre-9/11 Qaeda Data With F.B.I. (PHILIP SHENON, 8/16/05, NY Times)

A military intelligence team repeatedly contacted the F.B.I. in 2000 to warn about the existence of an American-based terrorist cell that included the ringleader of the Sept. 11 attacks, according to a veteran Army intelligence officer who said he had now decided to risk his career by discussing the information publicly. The officer, Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, said military lawyers later blocked the team from sharing any of its information with the F.B.I.

Colonel Shaffer said in an interview that the small, highly classified intelligence program known as Able Danger had identified by name the terrorist ringleader, Mohammed Atta, as well three of the other future hijackers by mid-2000, and had tried to arrange a meeting that summer with agents of the F.B.I.'s Washington field office to share the information.

But he said military lawyers forced members of the intelligence program to cancel three scheduled meetings with the F.B.I. at the last minute, which left the bureau without information that Colonel Shaffer said might have led to Mr. Atta and the other terrorists while the Sept. 11 plot was still being planned.

"I was at the point of near insubordination over the fact that this was something important, that this was something that should have been pursued," Colonel Shaffer said of his efforts to get the evidence from the intelligence program to the F.B.I. in 2000 and early 2001.

He said he learned later that lawyers associated with the Defense Department's Special Operations Command had canceled the F.B.I. meetings because they feared controversy if Able Danger was portrayed as a military operation that had violated the privacy of civilians who were legally in the United States.

It's a mistake at any rate to let this topic get sidetracked onto the specific question of Atta and 9-11--the simple question is why we aren't making full use of basic data-mining techniques even after 9-11. Recall the hysteria surrounding Admiral Poindexter and Total Information Awareness? Hopefully the feds threw him to the wolves and went ahead with the project quietly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:31 PM


Poll: Latinos divided on driver's license restrictions (AP, 8/16/05)

A majority of Latinos born in the United States don't think illegal Hispanic immigrants should be given drivers' licenses, according to a new poll.

Most foreign-born Latinos disagree, according to the polling for the Pew Hispanic Center.

Six in 10 Latinos born in this country approve of measures to prohibit illegal immigrants from getting drivers' licenses, while two-thirds born in another country disapprove of such measures.

The difference between foreign-born Latinos and native-born Latinos on the driver's license issue highlights the disparity between the two groups on several issues.

Foreign-born Latinos take a more positive view than native-born Latinos on whether immigrants strengthen the United States. Almost nine in 10 foreign-born Latinos say immigrants strengthen the country, while two-thirds of Latinos born in the United States feel that way, according to the poll.

The only real question aboput the current wave of Latino immigrants is where the next wave of immigrants will be from--who they'll, in their turn, try to keep out.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:50 PM


Fuel Costs Drive Consumer Prices Slightly Higher in July (VIKAS BAJAJ, 8/16/05, NY times)

Consumer prices increased 0.5 percent in July after being unchanged in June, the Labor Department reported. But excluding food and energy prices, the core inflation rate was up just 0.1 percent in July, the same percentage increase as in June. Compared with July 2004, the consumer prices were up 3.2 percent and the core rate was up 2.1 percent.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:43 PM


First step toward democracy: a five-hour wait in the sun: Voters in Congo registered this week, preparing for the first multiparty elections in four decades (Abraham McLaughlin, 8/17/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

Nationwide elections are slated for the Democratic Republic of Congo next year. Registration began on July 24 and will end this Sunday. Yet many obstacles remain. There's far more history here of kleptocracy than democracy. And in a country as large as Alaska and Texas combined - with few roads - electioneering involves a logistical effort as daunting as D-Day.

Still, many citizens see voting as integral to peace and economic revival in a land where up to four million people died during a 1998-2003 war.

"It's very important for building the country," says Leonie Uyewa Uzele, a diminutive mother of seven, who's just spent five hours in the broiling sun, waiting to register, with her youngest child strapped to her back. But she's willing to wait, if democracy means putting the war behind her. She says she once spent an entire month hiding inside her thatched-roof house to avoid rape or murder at the hands of marauding militias.

Mrs. Uzele is one of the 40,639 people who had registered in Bunia by last week. Officials expect some 1.6 million people - out of 6.5 million total population - to register in the country's remote Ituri province, one of the most violent areas in recent years. Congo's national population is roughly 60 million, and 28 million are expected to register.

As Uzele walks past the long line of people still waiting to register, she flashes her newly minted registration card - and a wide smile.

The mere fact that registration is occurring at all in the country's remote eastern provinces is a major feat.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:48 PM


In the Hospital, a Degrading Shift From Person to Patient (BENEDICT CAREY, 8/16/05, NY Times)

Entering the medical system, whether a hospital, a nursing home or a clinic, is often degrading. At the hospital where Ms. Duffy was a patient and at many others the small courtesies that help lubricate and dignify civil society are neglected precisely when they are needed most, when people are feeling acutely cut off from others and betrayed by their own bodies.

Larger trends in medicine have made it increasingly difficult to deliver such social niceties, experts say. Many hospital budgets are tight, and nurses are spread thin: shortages are running at 15 percent to 20 percent in some areas of the country. Average hospital stays have also shortened in recent years, making it harder for patients to build any rapport with staff, or vice versa.

Some hospitals have worked to address patients' most serious grievances. But in interviews and surveys, people who have recently received medical care say that even when they benefit from the expertise of first-rate doctors, they often feel resentful, helpless and dehumanized in the process.

In a nationwide survey of more than 2,000 adults published last fall, 55 percent of those surveyed said they were dissatisfied with the quality of health care, up from 44 percent in 2000; and 40 percent said the quality of care had gotten worse in the last five years. The survey was conducted by Harvard University, the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the Kaiser Family Foundation, an independent nonprofit health care research group.

"The point is that when they talk about quality of health care, patients mean something entirely different than experts do," said Dr. Drew Altman, president of the Kaiser Foundation. "They're not talking about numbers or outcomes but about their own human experience, which is a combination of cost, paperwork and what I'll call the hassle factor, the impersonal nature of the care."

It is practically a patient's birthright to complain about arrogant doctors, foul hospital food and the sadistic night nurse. These are real problems at some places, and since at least the early 1980's, medical schools and hospitals have worked to solve them, giving doctors classes in bedside manner and including patient representatives on staff, among other things.

Yet the deeper psychological transformation from citizen to patient that occurs in almost any medical setting can be more jarring, and anthropologists say it begins immediately at admission.

At the point where you stop paying for a service yourself you stop being a person who matters.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:38 PM


Raising the Dead: At the bottom of the biggest underwater cave in the world, diving deeper than almost anyone had ever gone, Dave Shaw found the body of a young man who had disappeared ten years earlier. What happened after Shaw promised to go back is nearly unbelievable—unless you believe in ghosts. (Tim Zimmermann, August 2005, Outside)

Ten minutes into his dive, Dave Shaw started to look for the bottom. Utter blackness pressed in on him from all sides, and he directed his high-intensity light downward, hoping for a flash of rock or mud. Shaw, a 50-year-old Aussie, was in an alien world, more than 800 feet below the surface pool that marks the entrance to Bushman's Hole, a remote sinkhole in the Northern Cape province of South Africa and the third-deepest freshwater cave known to man.

Shaw's stocky five-foot-ten body was encased in a black crushed-neoprene drysuit. On his back he carried a closed-circuit rebreather set, which, unlike traditional open-circuit scuba gear, was recycling the gas Shaw breathed, scrubbing out the carbon dioxide he exhaled and adding back oxygen. He carried six cylinders of gas, splayed alongside him like mutant appendages. On the surface, Shaw would barely have been able to move. But in the water, descending the shot line guiding him from the cave's entrance to the bottom, he was weightless and graceful, a black creature with just a flash of skin showing behind his mask, gliding downward without emitting a single bubble to disrupt the ethereal silence.

Only two divers had ever been to this depth in Bushman's before. One of them, a South African named Nuno Gomes, had claimed a world record in 1996 when he hit bottom, on open-circuit gear, at 927 feet. Gomes had turned immediately for the surface. But Shaw, a Cathay Pacific Airways pilot based in Hong Kong and a man who had become one of the most audacious explorers in cave diving, didn't strive for depth alone. He planned to bottom out Bushman's Hole at a depth that no rebreather had ever been taken, connect a light reel of cave line to the shot line, and then swim off to perform the sublime act of having a look around. At that moment late last October, cocooned in more than a billion gallons of water, Dave Shaw was a very happy man.

Shaw touched down on the cave's sloping bottom well up from where Gomes had landed, clipped off the cave reel, and started swimming. There was no time to waste. Every minute he spent on the bottom—his VR3 dive computer said he was now approaching 886 feet—would add more than an hour of decompression time on the way up. Still, Shaw felt remarkably relaxed, sweeping his light left and right, reveling in the fact that he was the first human ever to lay line at this depth. Suddenly, he stopped. About 50 feet to his left, perfectly illuminated in the gin-clear water, was a human body. It was on its back, the arms reaching toward the surface. Shaw knew immediately who it was: Deon Dreyer, a 20-year-old South African who had blacked out deep in Bushman's ten years earlier and disappeared. Divers had been keeping an eye out for him ever since.

Shaw turned immediately, unspooling cave line as he went. Up close, he could see that Deon's tanks and dive harness, snugged around a black-and-tan wetsuit, appeared to be intact. Deon's head and hands, exposed to the water, were skeletonized, but his mask was eerily in place on the skull. Thinking he should try to bring Deon back to the surface, Shaw wrapped his arms around the corpse and tried to lift. It didn't move. Shaw knelt down and heaved again. Nothing. Deon's air tanks and the battery pack for his light appeared to be firmly embedded in the mud underneath him, and Shaw was starting to pant from exertion.

This isn't wise, he chastised himself. I'm at 270 meters and working too hard. He was also already a minute over his planned bottom time. Shaw quickly tied the cave reel to Deon's tanks, so the body could be found again, and returned to the shot line to start his ascent.

Approaching 400 feet, almost an hour into the dive, Shaw met up with his close friend Don Shirley, a 48-year-old British expat who runs a technical-diving school in Badplaas, South Africa. After Shirley checked that Shaw was OK and retrieved some spare gas cylinders hanging on the shot line below, Shaw showed him an underwater slate on which he had written 270m, found body. Shirley's eyebrows shot up inside his mask, and he reached out to shake his friend's hand.

Shirley left Shaw, who had another eight hours and 40 minutes of decompression to complete. As Shirley ascended, it occurred to him that Shaw would not be able to resist coming back to try to recover Deon. Shirley would have been content to leave the body where it was, but Shaw was a man who dived to expand the limits of the possible. He had just hit a record depth on a rebreather, and now he had the opportunity to return a dead boy to his parents and, in the process, do something equally stunning: make the deepest body recovery in the history of diving.

"Dave felt very connected with Deon," Shirley says. "He had found him, so it was like a personal thing that he should bring him back."

When Shaw finally surfaced in the late-afternoon African sun, he removed his mask and said, "I want to try to take him out."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:17 PM


Tax-free weekend a gift to retailers (Michael Levenson, August 15, 2005, Boston Globe)

From Braintree to Peabody, Springfield to Cambridge, malls that are normally quiet this time of year teemed with buyers snapping up iPods, language instruction tapes, refrigerators, sheets, tools, and clothing. Shoppers came from out of state to make long-delayed purchases and to hunt for a deal with no particular item in mind. Some retailers said they could hardly keep up with the foot traffic, though most said they were ecstatic with the brisk sales.

''There is no question that overall sales amounts are going to rival the weekend before Christmas and a lot of stores are going to do better than that," said Jon B. Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts. ''You're getting people into the stores at a time when they don't normally shop, they don't normally spend money."

A normal weekend in the middle of August might generate about $150 million in sales, Hurst said. Last year, when the state for the first time suspended the 5 percent sales tax for a single day, a Saturday, sales jumped to about $400 million, he said.

This year, the numbers could top $500 million, once they are tallied in a few weeks. That would make it the busiest weekend of the year, Hurst said.

''They're buying pretty much anything that's on their shopping lists," said Jose Lopez, manager of Cambridge SoundWorks at the CambridgeSide Galleria. He said business was up 50 to 60 percent over a normal August weekend at his shop, driven by sales of televisions and high-end stereo systems.

''It is kind of like Christmas in August," Lopez said.

Of course, in NH it's like Christmas every day.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:14 PM


Score-Celebration Injuries Among Soccer Players: A Report of 9 Cases (Bülent Zeren, MD* and Haluk H. Öztekin, MD, , From the * Center for Orthopaedics and Sports Traumatology, Karsiyaka, Izmir, Turkey, and the 2nd Clinic of Orthopaedics and Traumatology, Atatürk Research and Training Hospital, Izmir, Turkey)

Methods: Over the course of 2 seasons (1996–1998), 152 soccer players were evaluated at an orthopaedic clinic for injuries incurred during matches. Nine players (6%) had injured themselves while celebrating after scoring goals in a match. The type of celebration, injury type, treatment, and mean duration of recovery were noted.

Results: Seven of the 9 patients were male professional soccer players with ages ranging between 17 and 29 years (mean age, 24 years). The injuries occurred when the playing ground was natural turf in 8 cases; most injuries occurred in the second half of the game. The types of celebration maneuvers were sliding (prone or supine) and sliding while kneeling in 5 cases, piling up on jubilant teammates in 3 cases, and being tackled while racing away in 1 case. Injuries included ankle, clavicle, and rib fractures; medial collateral ligament sprain; low back strain; hamstring and adductor muscle strain; quadriceps muscle sprain; and coccyx contusion. The mean duration for recovery was 6.2 weeks. Rival team players were usually not responsible for such trauma.

Conclusion: Exaggerated celebrations after making a goal, such as sliding, piling up, and tackling a teammate when racing away, can result in serious injury. In addition to general measures for preventing soccer injuries, coaches and team physicians should teach self-control and behavior modification to minimize the risk of such injuries. More restrictive rules, which penalize such behavior, may assist in the prevention of score-celebration injuries.

...act like you've made it to the endzone before?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:12 PM


Bush Salts His Summer With Eclectic Reading List
: He is tackling three historical sagas while on vacation, impressing even the authors (Warren Vieth, August 16, 2005, LA Times)

According to the White House, one of three books Bush chose to read on his five-week vacation is "Salt: A World History" by Mark Kurlansky, who chronicled the rise and fall of what once was considered the world's most strategic commodity.

The other two books he reportedly brought to Crawford are "Alexander II: The Last Great Tsar" by Edvard Radzinsky and "The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History" by John M. Barry. [...]

Kurlansky said he was surprised to hear that Bush had taken his book to the ranch: "My first reaction was, 'Oh, he reads books?' "

The author said he was a "virulent Bush opponent" who had given speeches denouncing the war in Iraq.

"What I find fascinating, and it's probably a positive thing about the White House, is they don't seem to do any research about the writers when they pick the books," Kurlansky said.

Barry, author of "The Great Influenza," said that he too had been a Bush critic. But his views have not deterred the administration from seeking his advice on the potential for another pandemic like the 1918 outbreak that claimed millions of lives worldwide.

Although Barry was not aware that the president planned to read the book, he said he had been consulting off and on with senior administration officials since its release in February 2004. He had lunch with Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt two weeks ago.

The administration, Barry said, was investigating what steps public officials could take to lessen the severity of a flu pandemic. A central theme of Barry's book is that the 1918 outbreak was exacerbated in America by the government's attempts to minimize its significance, partly to avoid undermining efforts to prevail in World War I.

"One lesson is to absolutely take it seriously," Barry said. "I'm not a great fan of the Bush administration, but I think they are doing that. The Clinton administration I don't think paid much attention to it as a threat."

Bush's choice of "Alexander II" appears to reflect his interest in books about transformational political leaders. Among those he has perused since becoming president are biographies of George Washington, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, Theodore Roosevelt, Richard the Lionheart and Peter the Great.

But Radzinsky's portrait of Alexander II may have special relevance to Bush, who obtained an advance copy of the English translation scheduled for publication in November. Alexander II, who ruled Russia from 1855 to 1881, was known as the "Czar Liberator" because he freed 23 million Russian slaves in 1861, two years before Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

But his governmental reforms ultimately were his undoing. On the right, they provoked a conservative backlash. On the left, they contributed to a radical political movement that used targeted violence to accomplish its aims, including a wave of killings and bombings.

When he decided to halt the reform process, the violence intensified. Alexander II became, in effect, the first world leader to declare a war on terrorism. He would not be the last.

"We, Russia, created the first great terrorist organization in the world," Radzinsky said in a phone interview from Moscow. "We are the father of terror, not Muslims."

After surviving six attempts on his life, Alexander II was assassinated by a group of anarchists who tossed home-made bombs at the emperor as he was riding in his carriage on the streets of St. Petersburg. They had plotted the attack for weeks, operating out of an apartment across the hall from the writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

Radzinsky said he assumed Bush had drawn the connection to the terrorists of today. "Very noble young people who dreamed about the future of Russia became killers, because blood destroys souls," Radzinsky said. "That for me is the most important lesson."

Posted by Peter Burnet at 1:38 PM


Thais try soccer to 'tame' Muslim youths (The Australian, August 17th, 2005)

Getting restless Muslim youths to watch more English Premier League soccer is the latest Thai Government initiative to quell an Islamic insurgency in the country's south, a key government minister said yesterday.

Under the plan, Thailand's Interior Ministry will bear the cost of installing 500 television sets at community tea and coffee shops, where cable operators will televise every English Premier League match. The commentary and narration will be in Yawi, the dialect of Muslims living in the restive area.

The ministry "will tame these young people, getting them to think of sports and watch the league on television rather than going out and killing people", Interior Minister Kongsak Wanthana told reporters.

"We are confident the league games will draw the attention of the young to the area of sports and they'll have no time to think of violence and causing trouble," Mr Kongsak, who is charged with national security, said.

What is really exciting is how this will be a cross-cultural bridge to like-minded Westerners.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:17 PM


Prodigy on a grand scale (Nora Zamichow, July 23-24, 2005, LOS ANGELES TIMES)

Marc [Yu] plays Bach on the piano from memory. On cello, he glides through Vivaldi. He practices at least six hours a day.

He has memorized more than 15 works, including a piece more than 20 pages long. He has composed 10 short pieces.

Marc is six.

His grandparents, emigres from China, had wished that Marc would play soccer and videogames and watched television. They had hoped he'd be, well, like other boys. And in some ways he is.

He loves spaghetti and meatballs. His favorite color is red. He likes to play hangman. He wears jeans and wire-rim glasses. When he thinks something is funny, he wrinkles his nose and flashes a wide, gap-toothed grin.

He stands 1.2 meters tall and weighs 18 kilograms. His hands are too small to cover an octave on the piano. His legs are too short to reach the pedals - he uses a special extender. But when he plays, music pours effortlessly from the instrument.

Marc is a prodigy. He began piano at the age of three and cello a year later.

"In Marc's case, he could be the next household name pianist,'' says Jeffrey Bernstein, director of choral music at Occidental College and assistant conductor of the Pasadena Symphony in southern California. "Plenty of music majors at college don't have his facility at the keyboard. I believe anything is possible for him.''

Bernstein met Marc when the boy and his mother, Chloe, began attending rehearsals of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony last autumn. The 2½ hour sessions usually ended at 10pm. Marc sat rapt. After a few rehearsals, he asked Bernstein for a copy of the score. One night, he played a Mozart piece for Bernstein.

"It blew me away,'' Bernstein recalls. "I never heard someone this accomplished at this age. It's startling.''

History is punctuated by prodigies, children who perform at an adult level before the age of 10. Coached, everyone wonders, or born gifted?

"You really can't make a prodigy,'' says Ellen Winner, professor of psychology at Boston College. "Prodigies have a precocity and a rage to master - a very intense drive, a passion.'' [...]

Marc and Chloe live in a tiny two-bedroom home with a stamp-sized lawn in Monterey Park, a largely Asian community 13 kilometers east of Los Angeles. The living room is taken over by two pianos perched perpendicular to each other. Chloe, who is separated from Marc's father, traded houseplants, some furniture and a small refrigerator for the second piano, a used Yamaha. A glass dining table is littered with Marc's maths and writing workbooks and his latest stash of library art books. Bars cover the windows and closed blinds banish the sunlight. There are no toys in this room.

On a recent morning, Marc got up at 6.30am, took a shower and practiced for about 45 minutes before eating breakfast.

He's six and he showers?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:06 PM


Stocks or real estate for China's middle class? (Min Xu, 8/17/05, Asia Times)

China is one of the most savings-oriented nations in the world: total personal savings deposits amount to over 12 trillion yuan (US$1.48 trillion), or around 50% of income. For thousands of years people have been accustomed to putting money under the mattress, and the intermediating role of a banking system has been well suited to the traditional, conservative mentality of saving at a risk-free rate for the future. This mentality, however, is rapidly changing.

The low savings deposit rates - the one-year deposit rate is now 2.25% and the five-year rate is 3.60% - give those who are profit-oriented an incentive to explore alternative investment channels.

Who would know better than the Chinese not to invest in their own economy?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:34 PM


Bush makes history - a five-year streak without saying 'no' (Josh Burek, 8/16/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

Like pardons and executive orders, vetoes are among the cherished privileges of the Oval Office. Ike liked them. So did presidents Truman and Cleveland - and both Roosevelts.

But apparently not George W. Bush. In fact, well into the fifth year of his presidency, he has yet to issue a single veto.

It's a streak unmatched in modern American history, one that throws into question traditional notions of checks and balances.

Although the streak could end next month - Mr. Bush is threatening a veto if Congress eases his restrictions on federal funding for stem-cell research - the Bush era thus far underscores a historically high-water mark of collegial cooperation between Congress and the White House, experts say.

Along with the near complete lack of corruption and the transformative nature of the policies enacted it's a truly remarkable first 5 years.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:39 AM


S.C. Proposing to Redefine Medicaid (KEVIN FREKING, 8/16/05, Associated Press)

On the left, they're calling it radical. On the right, the buzzword is bold. Either way, South Carolina is proposing major changes in Medicaid, the giant federal-state health insurance program for the poor and disabled.

The state says its proposal to establish personal health accounts for most of the state's 850,000 Medicaid recipients will "redefine health care in the United States." The account would be used to purchase private health insurance, or pay for care directly. And the amount of money allocated to each account would depend on the person's age, sex and physical condition. [...]

States have to get waivers from the federal government whenever they want to use federal Medicaid funds in ways not authorized in federal law. But the implications of South Carolina's waiver request, contained in a 42-page document submitted to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in June, extend far beyond the Palmetto State.

If South Carolina's plan is approved, analysts believe other states will seek similar changes. Eventually, the experiment could influence national policy, said Nina Owcharenko, a senior health care analyst with the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

"Remember, welfare reform didn't come from Washington the first time around," she said. "It came from states like Wisconsin, which received waivers, and their work later encouraged new federal policy."

South Carolina's request is based on the belief that Medicaid has created little incentive for frugality. Rather, it has created incentives for beneficiaries to seek health care services without regard for the costs.

Governor Sanford has never been bashul about boldness.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:34 AM


Have You Heard? Gossip Turns Out to Serve a Purpose (BENEDICT CAREY, 8/16/05, NY Times)

Gossip has long been dismissed by researchers as little more than background noise, blather with no useful function. But some investigators now say that gossip should be central to any study of group interaction.

People find it irresistible for good reason: Gossip not only helps clarify and enforce the rules that keep people working well together, studies suggest, but it circulates crucial information about the behavior of others that cannot be published in an office manual. As often as it sullies reputations, psychologists say, gossip offers a foothold for newcomers in a group and a safety net for group members who feel in danger of falling out.

"There has been a tendency to denigrate gossip as sloppy and unreliable" and unworthy of serious study, said David Sloan Wilson, a professor of biology and anthropology at the State University of New York at Binghamton and the author of "Darwin's Cathedral," a book on evolution and group behavior. "But gossip appears to be a very sophisticated, multifunctional interaction which is important in policing behaviors in a group and defining group membership."

When two or more people huddle to share inside information about another person who is absent, they are often spreading important news, and enacting a mutually protective ritual that may have evolved from early grooming behaviors, some biologists argue. [...]

Sneaking, lying and cheating among friends or acquaintances make for the most savory material, of course, and most people pass on their best nuggets to at least two other people, surveys find.

This grapevine branches out through almost every social group and it functions, in part, to keep people from straying too far outside the group's rules, written and unwritten, social scientists find.

Can't you just hear the darker moths warning each other about the light colored ones with "jungle fever?"

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:25 AM


Abortion's changing landscape (Joan Vennochi, August 16, 2005, Boston Globe)

WHEN A RAP singer is urging a young woman ''to make the right decision and don't go through with this knife incision," America's abortion wars are in a different psychological place. [...]

Consider the song and video ''Can I Live?" by rap singer Nick Cannon, which I learned about in a recent column by Globe writer Renee Graham. It tells the story of a young mother-to-be who goes to a women's clinic with the intention of ending her pregnancy. She is visited by the apparition of her would-be son, who begs her not to go through with the abortion. The teenager runs out of the clinic, into the sunshine, where a chorus of children sing ''Can I live? Can I live?" That is a powerful, emotional message aimed directly at a young, hip audience.

These results from a recent CBS News poll also speak to a changing abortion debate. When 1,222 adults nationwide were asked if the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade was a ''good thing" or a ''bad thing," 60 percent of all respondents said the constitutional right for women to obtain legal abortions is a ''good thing."

However, when asked to describe their personal feeling about abortion, 28 percent said abortion should be permitted in all cases; 15 percent said it should be permitted, but subject to greater restrictions; 33 percent said it should be permitted only in cases such as rape, incest, and to save a woman's life; and 15 percent said it should be permitted only to save a woman's life. Five percent said abortion should never be permitted.

Quick on the uptake, eh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:30 AM


Roberts Unlikely To Face Big Fight (Mike Allen and Dana Milbank, August 16, 2005, Washington Post)

Although they expect to subject President Bush's nominee to tough questioning at confirmation hearings next month, members of the minority party said they do not plan to marshal any concerted campaign against Roberts because they have concluded that he is likely to get at least 70 votes -- enough to overrule parliamentary tactics such as a filibuster that could block the nominee.

"No one's planning all-out warfare," said a Senate Democratic aide closely involved in caucus strategy on Roberts. For now, the aide said, Democratic strategy is to make it clear Roberts is subject to fair scrutiny while avoiding a pointless conflagration that could backfire on the party. "We're going to come out of this looking dignified and will show we took the constitutional process seriously," the aide said.

"This was a smart political choice from the White House," said one prominent Democratic lawmaker, who like several others interviewed for this article requested anonymity because they were departing from the Democrats' public position. "I don't think people see a close vote here."

Gotta let the rich white straight Christian male skate so they can really go after Janice Rogers Brown.

Memo Cited 'Abortion Tragedy': Roberts Backed Service for Fetuses (Amy Goldstein and Jo Becker, August 16, 2005, Washington Post)

As a senior legal adviser to President Reagan, John G. Roberts Jr. concluded that a controversial memorial service for aborted fetuses, organized by a group of California doctors who opposed Roe v. Wade , was "an entirely appropriate means of calling attention to the abortion tragedy."

The words of the Supreme Court nominee, contained in a 1985 memo in which he approved a telegram from Reagan supporting the service, provide the clearest insight to date into Roberts's personal views on abortion at a time when both proponents and opponents of Roe have a keen interest in whether he would tip the court's balance on one of the nation's most volatile social issues. [...]

The memo about the Los Angeles service for aborted fetuses is part of a pattern in the documents issued yesterday by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library: During his tenure from 1982 to 1986 in the Reagan White House, Roberts staked out conservative positions on a broader array of issues than has previously been known.

He called a federal court decision that sought to guarantee women equal pay to men "a radical redistributive concept." He wrote that a Supreme Court case prohibiting silent prayer in public school "seems indefensible."

And he once advised two Methodist ministers how to skirt the U.S. Flag Code in order to display religious flags and insignia above the American flag, writing, "If some church gives its flag the place of prominence over the Stars and Stripes, the pastor is hardly going to be sent up the river."

Ed Whelan, president of the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center, said of the new files that "those who try to paint Judge Roberts as a squishy moderate will not find any supporting evidence in these documents." [...]

On another heated matter of the day, Roberts weighed in on the issue of whether women should be given equal pay for work comparable to that performed by men. In a Feb. 20, 1984, memo, Roberts took sharp issue with a request by three female Republican lawmakers -- then-Rep. Olympia J. Snowe (Maine), then-Rep. Claudine Schneider (R.I.) and Rep. Nancy L. Johnson (Conn.). They had urged the administration to accept a U.S. District Court decision requiring such pay in the state of Washington and wrote a letter to the White House saying "support for pay equity . . is not a partisan issue."

Roberts pulled no punches in his response. "I honestly find it troubling that three Republican representatives are so quick to embrace such a radical redistributive concept" as equal pay for comparable worth, he wrote. The pay gap can be explained by seniority of male workers and the fact that women leave the workforce for extended periods, he added.

Comparing the lawmakers' letter to Marxist dogma, Roberts said "their slogan may as well be 'From each according to his ability, to each according to her gender.' "

Roberts papers hint at his views on church-state issue (Charlie Savage, August 16, 2005, Boston Globe)
The Supreme Court nominee Judge John G. Roberts Jr. denounced as ''indefensible" a 1985 Supreme Court ruling striking down a moment of silence in public schools, according to memos released yesterday from his years as a legal aide in the Reagan administration. [...]

The memos showed that he had embraced the view of William H. Rehnquist, now the chief justice of the court, who has long argued that the court in recent decades has demanded a higher wall between church and state than the First Amendment requires.

The memo was among more than 5,000 pages of documents released yesterday. Some of the data also offered further insights into Roberts's views on such matters as equal pay for women in the workplace, the rights of terrorists, and even the merits of Michael Jackson and Prince.

The Supreme Court has been sharply divided on matters of church-and-state separation, often deciding the cases by 5-to-4 votes. Retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, whom Roberts will replace if confirmed, has often been a key swing vote in these cases.

Rehnquist has argued that the Constitution does not demand absolute neutrality or even ''hostility" to religion. O'Connor has been more skeptical, particularly in cases such as school prayer and displays of the Ten Commandments on government property. The documents released yesterday suggest that Roberts's view may be closer to Rehnquist's than to O'Connor's.

In his files, Roberts kept a copy of Rehnquist's dissent from the 1985 ''moment-of-silence" case, espousing the future chief justice's oft-stated view that the Constitution only prevents Congress from declaring an official national religion.

Files From Roberts' Reagan Years Are Released: The nominee supported keeping records secret, prayer in schools and an antiabortion cause. (David G. Savage and Henry Weinstein, August 16, 2005, LA Times)
Besides the Alabama school prayer case, Whelan pointed to Roberts' memo in the memorial service for fetuses and to a Jan. 4, 1983, memo questioning the "exclusionary rule" for criminal evidence. This rule requires that if the police violate a suspect's rights in obtaining evidence, it must be excluded from trial.

In this instance, Roberts was reacting to a December 1982 story in the Los Angeles Herald Examiner about a National Institute of Justice report that said the exclusionary rule had resulted in the release of 29% of felony drug arrestees in Los Angeles in one year. Roberts described the 29% as a "far cry from the highly misleading 0.4% usually bandied about." He said the study should be "highly useful in the campaign to amend or abolish the exclusionary rule."

In another memo, Roberts criticized the concept of "comparable worth." In September 1983, U.S. District Judge Jack Tanner found that the state of Washington was violating civil rights laws because it paid higher salaries for state jobs that were held mostly by men, when compared to jobs held mostly by women.

"It is difficult to exaggerate the perniciousness of the 'comparable worth' theory," Roberts wrote in February 1984. "It mandates nothing less than the central planning of the economy by judges. Under the theory judges, not the marketplace, decide how much a particular job is worth, and restructure wage systems to reflect their determination."

In September 1985, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a decision written by future Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, overruled Tanner's decision. The appeals court said an employer could follow prevailing market wages in setting salaries, even if those wages underpaid women.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 9:24 AM


“No-Fly List” can target tots (Associated press, August 15th, 2005)

Infants have been stopped from boarding planes at airports throughout the U.S. because their names are the same as or similar to those of possible terrorists on the government's “no-fly list.”

It sounds like a joke, but it's not funny to parents who miss flights while scrambling to have babies' passports and other documents faxed.

Ingrid Sanden's 1-year-old daughter was stopped in Phoenix before boarding a flight home to Washington at Thanksgiving.

“I completely understand the war on terrorism, and I completely understand people wanting to be safe when they fly,” Ms. Sanden said. “But focusing the target a little bit is probably a better use of resources.”

The government's lists of people who are either barred from flying or require extra scrutiny before being allowed to board airplanes grew markedly since the Sept. 11 attacks. Critics including the American Civil Liberties Union say the government doesn't provide enough information about the people on the lists, so innocent passengers can be caught up in the security sweep if they happen to have the same name as someone on the lists.[...]

Well-known people like Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., and David Nelson, who starred in the sitcom The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, also have been stopped at airports because their names match those on the lists.

The Transportation Security Administration, which administers the lists, instructs airlines not to deny boarding to children under 12 — or select them for extra security checks —even if their names match those on a list.

But it happens anyway. Debby McElroy, president of the Regional Airline Association, said: “Our information indicates it happens at every major airport.”

One big reason why people tend to become more conservative as they get older is that they have seen firsthand how the timeless laws of bureaucracy work and have lived through madness the young won’t believe until they live through it themselves. No doubt each individual throughout the chain of command that resulted in this comedy had a perfectly rational and justifiable reason for doing whatever he or she did.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:15 AM


Moseley Braun may be planning mayoral run (FRAN SPIELMAN, August 16, 2005, Chicago Sun-Times)

Is former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun (D-Ill.) laying the groundwork to run for mayor in 2007 -- either against Mayor Daley or if mounting corruption scandals cause Daley to walk away?

If she isn't, why did her brother -- a Chicago Police sergeant -- call the Fraternal Order of Police and ask about the timing of the FOP's mayoral endorsement?

An FOP official said Monday that Joe Braun, the former senator's brother, placed the call and told FOP officials in no uncertain terms that his sister would be a candidate for mayor.

There's a prospect that'll get him the GOP nod.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:09 AM


Warrior at Peace With Himself Over Decision (Laura King, August 16, 2005, LA Times)

Whether as hard-charging army general or backroom politician, Sharon has always considered his life's mission to be that of defending the Jewish people. And he has been unwavering in his contention that relinquishing Gaza is part and parcel of that.

"There are people who can't stand him, and people who criticize him for all kinds of emotional reasons … and people who have real questions about his character and judgment," said Abraham Diskin, a Hebrew University political scientist. "But I truly think he is convinced, convinced utterly, that these are the right moves for Israel." [...]

The Gaza initiative was foreshadowed during Sharon's most recent campaign for prime minister, when he repeatedly warned supporters within his conservative Likud Party that "painful concessions" were in the offing.

Yet the pullout plan caught his traditional constituency by surprise. They responded at first with bafflement, then with blossoming outrage.

Sharon had personally championed the creation of the Gaza settlements decades earlier, part of a defensive strategy he pioneered in the wake of the 1967 Middle East War.

In his autobiography, "Warrior," Sharon described prowling the length and breadth of the newly seized territory, trying to figure how best to defend it.

"I spent … months walking through Gaza's orange groves and refugee camps," he wrote. "I'd get up in the morning, pack a lunch and a canteen of water, take my chief of intelligence … and head off to that day's sector. I did it methodically, walking every square yard of each camp and grove."

The plan Sharon conceived in the early 1970s is imprinted on the maps that security forces evacuating Gaza are poring over today: Jewish communities thrust like "five fingers" to divide the narrow seaside strip into segments. That this measure would isolate and impoverish the territory's Palestinian inhabitants was not part of Sharon's strategic thinking.

"Standing with Cabinet members on a high hill of dunes, I pointed out exactly what I thought we needed if in the future we wanted in any way to control this area," he wrote. "I told them we would need to establish a Jewish presence now."

Sharon succeeded in securing Gaza, but never in subduing it. The territory, dotted with sprawling slums and fetid refugee camps, was the birthplace of the Palestinians' first intifada, from 1987 to 1993, and became a stronghold of Palestinian militant groups such as Hamas throughout the current conflict, which erupted in the fall of 2000.

The settlements, claiming a fifth of Gaza's arable land, half its Mediterranean coastline and a disproportionate share of its scarce freshwater, were a constant and festering source of grievance to the Palestinians. As military deaths in defense of the settlements mounted, Sharon gradually came to view the Israeli presence in Gaza as a security liability, not an asset.

More crucially, he saw Gaza as a demographic time bomb. Israel, he believed, could not maintain both its democratic character and its Jewish majority if it held fast to the territory.

History is littered with tragic stories of those who couldn't bring themselves to stop defending the indefensible. Ariel Sharon decided Israel shouldn't join that heap.

Dream of a 'greater Israel' lured too few (Ethan Bronner, 8/16/05, The New York Times)

Their cherished goal - the resettlement of the full biblical land of Israel by contemporary Jews - is not to be. The reason: Not enough of them came.

"We have had to come to terms with certain unanticipated realities," acknowledged Arye Mekel, the Israeli consul general in New York. "Ideologically, we are disappointed. A pure Zionist must be disappointed because Zionism meant the Jews of the world would take their baggage and move to Israel. Most did not."

David Kimche, who was director general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry in the 1980s, said: "The old Zionist nationalists' anthem was a state on 'the two banks of the River Jordan.' When that became impractical, we talked about 'greater Israel,' from the Jordan to the sea. But people now realize that this, too, is something we won't be able to achieve."

The failure has two main sources. First, contrary to the expectations of the early Zionists, as Mekel noted, most of the world's Jews have not joined their brethren to live in Israel. Of the world's 13 million to 14 million Jews, a minority - 5.26 million - live in Israel, and immigration has largely dried up. Last year, a record low 21,000 Jews immigrated to Israel.

Of course, Israel is a remarkably successful country, a democracy with a high standard of living and many proud accomplishments. Yet the misery that Zionists expected Jews elsewhere to suffer has not materialized. More than half a century after the establishment of the Jewish state, more Jews live in the United States than in Israel.

The second explanation for the shift in settlement policy is that the Palestinian population has grown far more rapidly, and Palestinians have proved far more willing to fight, than many on the Israeli right had anticipated.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:14 AM


Liberia gears up for peace poll (BBC, 8/16/05)

Campaigning has started for Liberia's first general elections since the end of a 14-year civil war.

Among the best-known candidates in the October poll are ex-footballer George Weah, rebel leader Sekou Conneh and economist Ellen Sirleaf Johnson.

Some 15,000 UN peacekeepers are in Liberia, tasked with ensuring stability in the volatile country.

Voters will be asked to choose a successor to transitional President Gyude Bryant, who took office in October 2003, succeeding Charles Taylor.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:53 AM


Roberts criticized equal pay decision: `Comparable worth' theory ridiculed (Jan Crawford Greenburg and Naftali Bendavid, August 16, 2005, Chicago Tribune)

As a young lawyer in the Reagan White House, Supreme Court nominee Judge John Roberts Jr. helped shape the debate on some of the era's most controversial issues, including abortion and school prayer. And he held nothing back when analyzing the revolutionary theory of "comparable worth," a proposal to pay women the same salaries as men even when they were in different jobs.

The theory, supported by the Carter administration to achieve pay equity, was one of the more contentious labor issues of the time. When a federal judge approved it in Washington state in 1983, Roberts harshly criticized the novel ruling as giving judges, not the market, the power to decide the value of different jobs, according to new documents released Monday.

The judge in the "comparable worth" case had ruled that certain state jobs done primarily by women, such as laundry work, should be paid at the same rate as jobs done by men, such as driving trucks, if their worth to society was roughly the same.

"It is difficult to exaggerate the perniciousness of the `comparable worth' theory," Roberts, then an associate White House counsel, wrote to White House Counsel Fred F. Fielding in early 1984. "It mandates nothing less than the central planning of the economy by judges."

But not everyone saw the issue that way, including three female Republican House members. In a letter to the White House, they urged the administration not to challenge the judge's decision, which they said would enable women to make substantial gains nationwide. One of them, Olympia Snowe of Maine, is now a U.S. senator who will vote on Roberts' confirmation.

"I honestly find it troubling that three Republican representatives are so quick to embrace such a radical redistributive concept," Roberts wrote in another memo to Fielding on the decision, which ultimately was reversed on appeal. "Their slogan may as well be, `From each according to his ability, to each according to her gender.'"

Good one.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


As gasoline prices rise, businesses get creative: Firms offer telecommuting, van pools, and more to help workers spend less. (Ron Scherer and Adam Karlin, 8/16/05, CS Monitor)

As gasoline breaks the $2.50 a gallon barrier, creative energy-saving ideas are beginning to flow from US business that could help Americans spend less at the pump.

• More companies are helping employees cut out-of-pocket fuel expenses through telecommuting programs.

• A campaign in Atlanta pays commuters $3 a day for three months if they switch to "clean commutes," such as bicycles and van pools.

• The car-sharing companies that are springing up offer a significant number of gas-sipping hybrids.

• The owner of some Milwaukee gasoline stations is giving a discount to cabdrivers who buy his brand of gas.

Yes, Americans, even with their long love affair with the SUV, are also starting to look for ways to cut down on gasoline expenses that are hitting as high as $500 a month.

"We are on the cusp of change," says Mark Routt, a senior consultant at Energy Security Analysis Inc. in Wakefield, Mass. "Looking back over the last year, Americans have had a taste of higher oil prices that have only gone up, and now they are starting to dial in lifestyle changes."

Indeed, the catalyst to this newfound interest in conservation is the soaring price of oil, which was close to a record $67 a barrel on the futures exchange Monday.

Conservatives love the notion of creative destruction until it puts a crimp in their driving.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Weld puts out feelers in gov race (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, August 16, 2005)

Former Massachusetts Republican Gov. William Weld is considering a 2006 run for the governorship of his native New York, the head of New York's politically influential Conservative Party said yesterday.

Michael Long, the Conservative Party chairman, said Weld telephoned him last week to discuss such a candidacy. "He said he was giving consideration to the governor's race," Long said. "I got a sense he wasn't just exploring it; he was taking a very serious look at it."

Long said he agreed to meet with Weld sometime in the next few weeks to discuss the former Massachusetts governor's possible New York candidacy.

Long said Weld had indicated he had also discussed his interest in the race with New York's state GOP chairman, Stephen Minarik.

The more competitive they can make the NY races the better for the GOP elsewhere in '06.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


US bid to keep tabs on tuition irks colleges: Schools object to proposal to rank their cost increases (Kaitlin Bell, August 16, 2005, Boston Globe)

Colleges are accustomed to being ranked on the basis of everything from the quality of their libraries to the vibrancy of campus party scenes. But a proposal to have the federal government compare schools by how much they increase tuition has administrators and higher-education groups objecting.

Such a ranking, proposed as part of legislation to renew higher-education programs, would require public and private colleges to report their tuition and fees annually to the US Department of Education. The federal agency would then assign each school a ''college affordability index" based on the rate of increase, and make the information public.

If tuition rose at more than double the rate of inflation over a three-year period, schools would have to submit detailed reports justifying the increases, and could face the risk of a government audit.

Congressional backers of the provision in the House version of the bill maintain that college tuition has spiraled out of control in recent decades and that pressure from the federal government is necessary to force schools to cut costs.

''When the federal government is spending tens of billions of dollars on higher education, and we're asking for a little accountability, then there's no reason why these schools can't provide us with information about why their tuition and fees are increasing," said Vartan Djihanian, a spokesman for Representative Buck McKeon, Republican of California. ''If a college or university is receiving federal aid and their tuition and fees are continuing to skyrocket at hyperinflationary rates, then students, parents, and taxpayers deserve to know why."

How about ranking them according to their graduates' return on their dollar? That'd lower tutions.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Oil Falls for 2nd Day on Speculation U.S. Supplies Are Adequate (Bloomberg, 8/16/05)

Crude oil fell for a second day, its biggest two-day drop in a month, on speculation the U.S. is accumulating sufficient stockpiles of winter fuels.

A U.S. Energy Department report tomorrow may show supplies of distillates, including heating oil and diesel, rose for a 13th consecutive week, according to a Bloomberg survey. Crude inventories also probably increased last week. Gasoline demand is poised to drop next month as the peak summer driving period ends.

``The U.S. isn't that badly placed'' in terms of inventories, said Peter Luxton, an analyst with Informa Global Markets in London. ``Refineries have been switching to production of distillates for more than a month. At some stage that is going to kick into prices and there could be a sharp drop.''

Hopefully Mr. Krugman is banging away at that oil bubble column so the Gray Lady doesn't miss the story altogether.

August 15, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:19 PM


The Right Fight: It took the Bush administration to bring a truce between the postmodern left and the scientific community. (Chris Mooney, 08.15.05, American Prospect)

[D]espite some undeniable academic excesses, the "science wars" were always somewhat overblown. The sociological, historical, philosophical, and cultural study of science is a very worthwhile endeavor. If scholars engaged in such research sometimes take a stance of agnosticism toward the truth claims of science, perhaps that's simply their way of remaining detached from the subject they're studying. But it doesn't necessarily follow that these scholars are absolute relativists, to the extent of thinking that concepts like gravity are a mere matter of opinion. Social Text founding Editor Stanley Aronowitz has himself written that "[t]he critical theories of science do not refute the results of scientific discoveries since, say, the Copernican revolution or since Galileo's development of the telescope."

When it comes to the field of science studies, meanwhile, much scholarly work in the area lends itself not to left-wing attacks on science but rather to defenses of science from forms of abuse prevalent on the political right. To cite just one example, leading science-studies scholar Sheila Jasanoff's 1991 book, The Fifth Branch: Science Advisers as Policymakers, presents a potent critique of demands for unreasonable levels of scientific certainty before political decisions can be made, especially when it comes to protecting public health and the environment.

So perhaps it's no surprise that the science wars of the 1990s have almost entirely subsided, and, as the scientific community has increasingly become embroiled with the Bush administration across a wide range of issues (from evolution to climate science), a very new zeitgeist has emerged. The summer issue of The American Scholar, a leading read among academic humanists and the literary set, provides a case in point. "Science matters," blazons the cover. Inside, Editor Robert Wilson explains to readers that although "the attack on science has always been our game … the enemy of our enemy is most definitely not our friend." The right's attack on science, Wilson continues, "is an attack on reason, and it cannot be ignored, or excused, or allowed to go uncontested."

With those words, I think it's safe to say that peace has officially been made in the science wars of the 1990s. And not a moment too soon. The evolution deniers (and other reality deniers) are gathering momentum. On matters like this, the university community -- composed of scientists and scholars alike -- really ought to be on the same page.

It's perhaps fortunate that Stephen Jay Gould didn't live to see this moment. The science war that Mr. Mooney discusses here -- over the validity of Cartesian Reason -- is really only one battle in the wider war and not the most important from the Left's perspective. The one that mattered, and in which Mr. Mooney implicitly concedes surrender, occurred within Darwinism, as Tom Bethell ably described several years ago, Against Sociobiology (Tom Bethell, January 2001, First Things)
To future generations, the Sociobiology Wars may come as something of a puzzle. The shared beliefs of the disputants were so much more impressive than their disagreements that historians may wonder what the fuss was about. Perhaps the controversy will come to resemble the Wars of the Roses, all of whose contestants believed in the divine right of kings. Their differing opinions as to succession seem rather trivial by comparison. In the case of sociobiology, all the principal actors accept the premise of materialism, sometimes called naturalism. They believe, or at least for the purposes of doing science they believe, that matter in motion is all that exists, and that mind and consciousness are merely special configurations of that matter.

Anyone who believes this must, as a matter of logical necessity, also believe in evolution. No digging for fossils, no test tubes or microscopes, no further experiments are needed. For birds, bats, and bees do exist. They came into existence somehow. Your consistent materialist has no choice but to allow that, yes, molecules in motion succeeded, over the eons, in whirling themselves into ever more complex conglomerations, some of them called bats, some birds, some bees. He “knows” that is true, not because he sees it in the genes, or in the lab, or in the fossils, but because it is embedded in his philosophy.

Sociobiology extended Darwinian insights about bodies to behavior, and may be thought of as having revived the old controversy about nature and nurture. Its participants were, mostly, Harvard professors, and included some of the best science writers of our day. Its two main antagonists, Edward O. Wilson and Richard C. Lewontin, both born in 1929, occupied offices one floor apart in Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology. For a while, they didn’t speak in the elevator. Oddly enough, Wilson, the naturalist, was on the side of the genes, while Lewontin, the geneticist, was on the side of the environment (to oversimplify). A frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books, Lewontin has recently published under that imprint a collection of his essays, It Ain’t Necessarily So: The Dream of the Human Genome and Other Illusions. His best–known supporter, Stephen Jay Gould, is the author of many books on evolution and natural history. Richard Dawkins of Oxford is only one of the many biologists who have sided with Wilson.

The conflict, therefore, should be thought of as a dispute between like–minded professors whose understanding of life on earth differed in detail, but agreed on a key premise: any reference to a creator or designer must be excluded from biology from the outset, as a matter of principle. [...]

The left–wing animus against sociobiology becomes understandable once we look at its major defect in a political light. Sociobiology “explains” (in a very weak sense of that word) whatever exists. But as Marx said, the left wants to change the world, not explain it. The world that exists, filled as it is with injustice, must be replaced by something better; a world without inequality, for example. Existing qualities of human nature—the dissimilar attitudes of men and women toward sexual intercourse, for example—can be explained by the usual, unvarying, and unfalsifiable formula. The trait arose by accident, then was selected for. But the raison d’être of the left is to champion states, conditions, and attitudes that do not exist—gender egalitarianism, say. The sociobiologists’ retort that these things don’t exist either because the requisite genes never did exist, or (fatal flaw) were not selected for, puts the left on the defensive. So the whole field of sociobiology suffers from a bias against the potential and in favor of the actual, and in that sense it’s true that it does have a “conservative” bias.

We can see the same thing in the assignment of costs and benefits in kin selection. In a plain–language section of his famous article, William Hamilton wrote as follows: “The alarm call of a bird probably involves a small extra risk to the individual making it by rendering it more noticeable to the approaching predator, but the consequent reduction of risk to a nearby bird previously unaware of danger must be much greater. We need not discuss here just how risks are to be reckoned in terms of fitness: for the present illustration it is reasonable to guess that . . . [mathematical symbols follow].”

The point to notice here is not just that the relevant costs and benefits have not been measured, but that there is no way of measuring them other than by observing the behavior that they are said to determine. The fact that the bird emits the alarm call itself demonstrates that the benefits (to the bird’s genes) exceed the costs to those genes. QED. The theory is “proved,” but it never really gets off the page and out into the measurable world. Not for nothing was it published in the Journal of Theoretical Biology.

The critics of sociobiology were using arguments that threatened to undermine the whole of Darwinian evolution, since the physical, the mental, and the behavioral are (in the materialist’s world) parts of one material whole. Phillip E. Johnson, the U.C. Berkeley law professor whose most recent book on the problems of evolution is The Wedge of Truth: Splitting the Foundations of Naturalism (InterVarsity Press; reviewed in this issue), thinks that the critics may have “burned down the Darwinist house in order to roast the sociobiological pig.” They were certainly playing with fire. The same critical scrutiny “might have far–reaching consequences if it were ever applied to the generally accepted Darwinian theory that complex adaptive organs came into existence through the accumulation of micro–mutations by natural selection,” Johnson writes. “Here, too, the prevailing practice is to assume that stories of adaptive evolution require no confirmation from genetics, or paleontology, or anything else except the adaptationist community’s prevailing sense of plausibility.”

But the critics of sociobiology also accepted the premise of materialism, and that put them in a weak position. How else did minds appear, if not by evolution? Lewontin gave points to the opposition when he conceded the “undoubted truth” that “behavior must, like morphology and physiology, be subject to the forces of natural selection.” (More recently, he has written: “No biologist now doubts that organisms are chemico–electrico–mechanical systems.”) Gould makes a similar concession: “How can an evolutionary biologist deny that Darwinian processes can work on behavior as well as form?” Game and set to Wilson!

The critics of adaptive rape were similarly weakened. Thornhill and Palmer had written: “When one considers any feature of living things, whether evolution applies is never a question. The only legitimate question is how to apply evolutionary principles. This is the case for all human behaviors—even for such by–products as cosmetic surgery, the content of movies, legal systems, and fashion trends.” The critics were disarmed by their shared worldview. “If Thornhill and Palmer want to lump rape together with tummy tucks and Titanic as evolutionary phenomena, God (or Darwin) bless them,” Jerry Coyne wrote, his frustration showing. But he was not about to quit the Church of Materialism either, so what alternative could he offer?

After a while, Stephen Jay Gould seemed to pull back. He surely saw the danger—that an attack on sociobiology could damage Darwinism itself. This was far from what he wanted. The overriding impression created by Gould’s work is that Darwin is his hero because his theory of evolution has provided intellectuals with a wonderful battering ram in the war against religion. Gould has himself been very much a leader in America’s culture war. Here, his antagonist in the sociobiology skirmish, the aggressively atheistic Richard Dawkins, is his natural ally. By 1994, when Wilson’s book Naturalist was published, Gould was cited in the acknowledgments, along with Hamilton, Trivers, and others, for “reading portions of the manuscript and generously providing help and advice.”

Lewontin was not in that number, however. Unlike Gould, he has at times given the impression that he wouldn’t mind if the Darwinian house did burn down—provided the materialist order could be preserved intact. As a committed leftist, Lewontin was ambivalent. On the one hand he could see that “evolution by natural selection bears an uncanny resemblance to the political economy theory of early capitalism. . . . What Darwin did was take early nineteenth century political economy and expand it to include all of natural economy.” Darwin had admitted as much when he acknowledged the influence of Thomas Malthus. In Bertrand Russell’s caustic phrase, Darwinism was “laissez–faire economics applied to the animal and vegetable kingdoms.” On the other hand, Lewontin could also see that Darwinism had done the job—it had completed “the unfinished Cartesian revolution that demanded a mechanical model for all living processes.”

To those outside the materialist citadel, Lewontin is interesting not just because he is willing to treat Darwinism with a disdain that is rarely found in the Halls of Biology. He seems primarily committed to a remade political order—to a new society based on egalitarian ideals (a recipe for disappointment, surely). He sees a thoroughgoing materialism as indispensable to science, and in an oft–quoted passage (the New York Review article in which it appeared has not been reprinted, alas) he wrote that that materialism must be absolute, “for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.” Nature, as he sees it, “is at constant risk before an all–powerful God who at any moment can rupture natural relations. For sufficient reason, He may just decide to stop the sun, even if He hasn’t done so yet. Science cannot coexist with such a God. If, on the other hand, God cannot intervene, he is not God; he is an irrelevancy.” Few biologists in our day have spoken so forthrightly.

Now, around these parts we're pretty skeptical of the Left's politics, but we respect the attraction it holds for at least 40% of the population at all times and for a majority under certain conditions. And while liberal politics do not require God they are certainly not incompatible with the idea of God. Indeed, it's easy enough to ground a social justice ethic in the religious teachings of any of the three branches of monotheism, a very useful feature in a nation where some 80% of the citizenry confesses faith in God.

But for a variety of reasons the Left has conceived a particular hatred of religious faith and of the values that typify the faithful, such that even their own operatives are warning that they risk so distancing themselves from middle America that they won't be able to contest national elections. But if the political professionals on the Left have grasped how perilous is their current path, the ideologues seem rather oblivious. So here we find Mr. Mooney celebrating a phenomenon that has seen them forfeit even the political values that had already made them a minority party in order to cozen favor with scientists whose views on Darwinism are so extreme that they manage to narrw that 20% down to just 13%. That kind of political prostitution and self-marginalization would seem an awfully high price to pay just to try and push the Divine Foot out of the door.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:14 PM


Dean's latest (Greg Pierce, August 15, 2005, Washington Times)

Howard Dean, the Democratic National Committee chairman who was the hero of his party's anti-war wing before his gaffe-prone 2004 presidential candidacy crashed and burned in Iowa, still doesn't think the Iraqis are better off with dictator Saddam Hussein out of power and in prison.

Appearing on CBS' "Face the Nation" yesterday, the fiery former Vermont governor said, "It looks like today, and this could change, as of today it looks like women will be worse off in Iraq than they were when Saddam Hussein was president of Iraq."

At some point you have to wonder if he has a bunch of Sunni Ba'athist friends.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 PM


Increase in deaths adds to pressure over late drinking (Rosemary Bennett, 8/16/05, Times of London)

MINISTERS came under renewed pressure yesterday to abandon plans for round-the-clock drinking after figures showed a sharp rise in alcohol-related deaths.

Deaths from liver disease, alcohol poisoning and other illnesses caused by heavy drinking have increased by 18.4 per cent over the past five years in England and Wales.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:59 PM


Someone who watches tv more will likely be able to reconstruct this better than I, but I saw an ad for a new show that seems to star a grown up Doogie Howser and one of the lines they feature is: "I am so going to blog this." or "This is so going in my blog." Whichever it is, it's a bad sign.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:11 PM


CBO predicts drop in budget deficit (ANDREW TAYLOR, August 15, 2005, AP)

The federal budget-deficit picture turned brighter Monday as congressional scorekeepers released new estimates showing the level of red ink for the current fiscal year would drop to $331 billion.

The new report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which does budget analysis for lawmakers in Washington, gave the latest proof that surging revenues and a steadily growing economy are combining to bring the deficit down from a record $412 billion posted last year. CBO predicts a $314 billion deficit for the budget year starting Oct. 1.

How about Big Dig II?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:07 PM


Roberts backed efforts for school prayer (HOPE YEN, August 15, 2005, AP)

As a young government attorney, John Roberts advised the White House to support congressional efforts to allow school prayer, arguing that a Supreme Court ruling striking down the practice "seems indefensible."

In a Nov. 21, 1985 memo released Monday by the National Archives, Roberts was responding to a move by Congress to permit "group silent prayer or reflection in public schools." He said he would not object if Justice Department officials announced that President Reagan had no formal role in passing an amendment to that effect, but said he would support such a move.

The Supreme Court's conclusion that "the Constitution prohibits such a moment of silent reflection - or even silent 'prayer' - seems indefensible," Roberts wrote in a memo to White House counsel Fred Fielding

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:59 PM


Antiabortion Effort in Europe, With U.S. Money, Widens Its Conservative Agenda (ELISABETH ROSENTHAL, 8/14/05, NY Times)

For most of July, pedestrians in Lodz found themselves face to face with 14 grisly billboards pairing images of aborted fetuses with photographs of blood-spattered bodies - victims of genocide in Srebrenica and Rwanda, or toddlers killed in the Oklahoma City bombing.

Placed by a Polish antiabortion group, the traveling exhibition, which moved on to Lublin, exemplifies an aggressive, well-financed and growing conservative movement across Europe that opposes not only abortion but often other things related to sex, like sex education, contraception and artificial insemination.

Encouraged by the Roman Catholic Church, enabled by the election of conservative governments in many countries and financed in part by antiabortion groups in the United States, the conservative push has made powerful inroads in countries where policies guaranteeing a wide range of reproductive services had been long entrenched.

While only Ireland, Portugal, Malta and Poland have placed strict legal limits on abortion, many countries are considering new limits on the practice, or are restricting payment for abortion and contraception by national health plans.

As in the United States, access to abortions is also increasingly stigmatized, and doctors are increasing unwilling - or afraid - to perform them.

Ironically, it's likely to be Muslim majorities, or at least pluralities working with Christians, that put an end to Europe's culture of death.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:27 PM


Has the GOP Lost Its Soul? (Mark Tapscott, August 13, 2005, Townhall)

President Reagan often said it’s hard to recall that you came to drain the swamp when you’re up to your armpits in alligators. Republicans like Rep. Don Young of Alaska would rather use your tax dollars to build a scenic bridge to the swamp.

Hard as it is to believe, Young is more in tune with the GOP that rules Congress today than the former president who restored the party to national power in 1980 when he won the White House and a Republican Senate.

Their differences are nowhere more evident than on limiting government and reducing federal spending. Reagan said in his first inaugural speech that “government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.” Today, Young crows about the $286.4 billion transportation bill to The New York Times, saying he “stuffed it like a turkey.”

In 1985, five years into the soulful Reagan presidency, federal government spending was 22.9% of GDP. In 2005, five years into the soulless Bush presidency, federal government spending will be roughly 19% of GDP. Now, before we start castigating Ronald Reagan for not measuring up to his successor, it's important to recognize that the entire difference comes just in military spending, where the Gipper had to finish off a fifty year war as opposed to W's rather easier war on terror.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:15 PM


New Iraqi Constitution Due in Seven Days (Fox News, August 15, 2005)

Iraqi lawmakers have been given a seven-day extension to finish up their work on a draft constitution before sending the document to the 275-member National Assembly for approval.

After Barham Saleh, minister of planning and a former deputy prime minister, said the draft would not be ready for approval for another five to 10 days, the country's parliament unanimously agreed on a week-long extension. Iraqi lawmakers had pushed back Monday's deadline to submit the document to the National Assembly several times already. [...]

Nasar al-Rubaie, a member of the drafting committee, said the two unresolved issues were women's rights and self-determination, which the Kurds have demanded as a guarantee of autonomy and the right to secede someday.

"Those are two tough issues and they really go to the heart of what that country's going to be like," former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger told FOX News. "If the new Iraq is going to go into the 21st century at all sensibly and begin to make a difference in terms of the Muslim world, they're going to have to face that women's rights issue and they're going to have to get it right … [they can't] go on treating them like second- or third-class citizens."

Other controversial issues have been the role of Islam and federalism.

"An agreement has been reached on the constitution and it was signed and it will be handed to parliament," said Jalaldin al-Saghir, a Shiite member of parliament, said before Saleh's announcement. "There are two points that the National Assembly will have to solve."

When the Founders were in a similar situation Benjamin Franklin offered the following thoughts:
The small progress we have made after four or five weeks' close attendance and continual reasonings with each other--our different sentiments on almost every question, several of the last producing as many noes as ayes--is, methinks, a melancholy proof of the imperfection of the human understanding. We indeed seem to feel our own want of political wisdom, since we have been running about in search of it. We have gone back to ancient history for models of government, and examined the different forms of those republics which, having been formed with the seeds of their own dissolution, now no longer exist. And we have viewed modern states all round Europe, but find none of their constitutions suitable to our circumstances.

In this situation of this assembly, groping, as it were, in the dark, to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings. In the beginning of the contest with Great Britain, when we were sensible of dangers, we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection. Our prayers, sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending Providence in our favor. To that kind Providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful Friend? Or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance?

I have lived, sir, a long time, and, the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth--that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, sir, in the sacred writings, that 'Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.'

I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without His concurring aid we shall succeed, in this political building, no better than the builders of Babel. We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded; and we ourselves shall become a reproach and by-word down to future ages. And, what is worse, mankind may hereafter, from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing governments by human wisdom, and leave it to chance, war, and conquest.

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

But Alexander Hamilton objected that were they to take such a course the public might, rightly, perceive them as having become so desperate that they feared only God could help them. At any rate, it took them another two and a half months to produce the Constitution. Seems to have been worth the wait.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:49 PM


Cindy Sheehan's Sinister Piffle: What's wrong with her Crawford protest. (Christopher Hitchens, Aug. 15, 2005, Slate)

Here is an unambivalent statement: "The moral authority of parents who bury children killed in Iraq is absolute."

And, now, here's another:

Am I emotional? Yes, my first born was murdered. Am I angry? Yes, he was killed for lies and for a PNAC Neo-Con agenda to benefit Israel. My son joined the army to protect America, not Israel. Am I stupid? No, I know full well that my son, my family, this nation and this world were betrayed by George Bush who was influenced by the neo-con PNAC agendas after 9/11. We were told that we were attacked on 9/11 because the terrorists hate our freedoms and democracy … not for the real reason, because the Arab Muslims who attacked us hate our middle-eastern foreign policy.

The first statement comes from Maureen Dowd, in her New York Times column of Aug. 10. The second statement comes from Cindy Sheehan, whose son Casey was killed in Iraq last year. It was sent to the editors of ABC's Nightline on March 15. In her article, Dowd was arguing that Sheehan's moral authority was absolute.

If you weren't of age during the Reagan era you unfortunately may not be able to savor the spectacle of Mr. Hitchens castigating the anti-war Left for its hostility to Israel. If the RNC isn't funding the Crawford Carnival it should be.

Meanwhile, the White House may as well have written the opening of this article, Shotgun Blast Jars Bush Protesters (Warren Vieth, August 15, 2005, LA Times)

President Bush might have made his peace with the antiwar encampment outside his Texas ranch, but his next-door neighbor has taken up arms.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:34 PM

MECCA ON THE POTOMAC (via Timothy Goddard):

American Hajj: Toward an Open Society (Nathan Smith, 08/15/2005, Tech Central Station)

Which of the following best fits the label "the open society": a) the United States, or b) Saudi Arabia? (Hint: It's a trick question.)

Annually, almost twenty-four million foreigners travel to the United States -- equal to about 8% of the US population. (Some may be double-counted.) Just over two million travel to Saudi Arabia, also about 8% of the Saudi population. Tie.

But in the US case, those 24 million are less than one-tenth of the 300 to 350 million who are inspected by the INS, and no one knows how many more don't bother to apply because they expect rejection. Saudi Arabia tries to accommodate all religious pilgrims, and I could find no evidence that getting tourist or business visas is difficult. Saudi Arabia 1, US 0.

Thirty-four million foreign-born persons live legally in the US, about 12% of the population. (Another 10 million or so live here as illegal immigrants.) The Saudi government estimates that seven million foreigners live in Saudi Arabia, almost 30% of the population. Saudi Arabia 2, US 0.

In 2001, foreign workers sent an estimated $28.4 billion a year in remittances to their home countries from the United States. This amount was about 0.3% of US GDP. Foreign workers sent about $15.1 billion of remittances home from Saudi Arabia. This amount was about 6% of Saudi GDP. Saudi Arabia 3, US 0.

As an open society, by these indicators, Saudi Arabia has the US beat.

Mr. Smith has built an ingenious frame through which to examine the immigration controversy.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 2:11 PM


Why Lennon lives on (The Observer, August 15th, 2005)

On the western edge of New York's Central Park, a sun-dappled mosaic circle on the ground contains the single word 'Imagine'. This is the still, calm centre of Strawberry Fields, a rechristened corner of the park that has become a mecca for the curious and the faithful who come daily in a constant stream of murmuring devotion to remember John Lennon, the city's most famous adopted son.

Today, like every day for the last 14 years, the 'Imagine' site is tended by a native New Yorker called Gary, a 41-year-old self-appointed keeper of the Lennon flame in ragged ponytail, baggy shorts and faded Led Zeppelin T-shirt. 'John came to me in my sleep and told me to do it,' he says, when I ask why he has covered the circle with petals. 'I do it every day, man. I've done it with rose petals and leaves. I've done it with pumpkin seeds and pine kernels. One time, when I couldn't get no flowers in the winter, I covered it with bagels and green bananas. I think,' he says, without irony, 'that John would have liked that.'

Gary bids me sit on a nearby park bench beside his wife, who shares his devotion to the late Beatle. 'I'm a hippy, man,' he says, as if that explains everything, even the bagels. 'I used to be a regular guy, watching the Monday night football game, until Howard Cossell came on and told the world John Lennon was dead. It was too much to take in. Then, years later, John visited me in a dream and I've been here every day since.'[...]

And yet, three years ago, Lennon was the only musician to make it into the Top 10 Greatest Britons voted for by BBC viewers, taking his place alongside Churchill, Darwin and Shakespeare. And back in 1999 his most well-known - and, some would say, most asinine - song, 'Imagine', was voted the nation's favourite pop lyric in another BBC poll. As the 25th anniversary of his death approaches, Lennon is destined once again to be feted as arguably the greatest rock star of them all, a position that only the equally iconic figures of Bob Dylan or Elvis Presley have the historical clout to contest. His commercial resurrection is already under way in the unlikely environs of Broadway where a multimillion dollar musical, called simply Lennon, has just opened with the blessing of Yoko Ono. If it signals Lennon's late commodification by the showbiz mainstream, it shows too, in its hamfisted way, how Lennon and his songs defy this kind of reductionism. 'He's too big for that kind of treatment,' as Paul McCartney succinctly put it recently.

Among today's pop stars, Lennon remains one of the touchstones of greatness, both as a songwriter and social commentator. U2's Bono, lead singer of the biggest pop group since the Beatles, and one of the few contemporary rock stars to run with Lennon's notion of the rock lyric as slogan, as a catalyst for capturing, then igniting, the public consciousness, acknowledges him as his prime influence. 'I remember listening to the Imagine album when I was 12,' he tells me from a car en route to a U2 concert in Madrid. 'It changed the shape of my bedroom, it changed the shape of my head and it changed the shape of my life. It just widened the aperture so much it was as if I was seeing the world for the first time. I learnt off the lyrics to 'Just Gimme Some Truth' and that, in a way, was the template for all that followed.'

Yes, Bono, we believe you. John Lennon thought his wildly overstated talent validated his personal dissolution and inane and destructive political views, and that we thus owed it to him to listen and follow. As we said, we can easily believe you.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:38 AM


Andean countries say U.S. trade deal vital (TYLER BRIDGES, 8/15/05, Miami Herald)

A 2002 trade deal that has allowed hundreds of products from the four Andean countries to enter the United States tariff free has produced billions of dollars in exports and created hundreds of thousands of jobs, officials from the four countries say.

But failure to reach a broader free-trade agreement with the United States before the accord expires at the end of 2006 would cause most of the exports and jobs to disappear, added officials from the four countries: Peru, Colombia, Bolivia and Ecuador.

Negotiations for a new U.S.-Andean Free Trade Agreement are ongoing, but the talks have fallen behind schedule. And the U.S. Congress isn't in a particularly pro-free-trade mood after a free trade accord with the Dominican Republic and the Central American nations barely squeaked by in July.

''It would be disastrous [if the new Andean trade pact doesn't materialize],'' Pedro-Pablo Kuczynski, Peru's finance minister, said in an interview. ``We have to have a trade agreement. We would benefit immensely.''

The current agreement -- formally known as the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act -- expanded an earlier accord in place since 1991 and has aimed to spur exports, encourage production of non-coca crops and strengthen democracy in a region where the elected presidents of all countries have faced restive populations.

Cast it as an anti-drug measure and Democrats can't afford to oppose it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:40 AM


Why nations die (Spengler, 8/16/05, Asia Times)

Why people read a certain book often contains more information than the book itself, and there is rich information content in the brisk sales of Jared Diamond's Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. Diamond picks out of the rubbish bin of history a few cases of nugatory interest in which environmental disaster overwhelmed a society otherwise desirous of continued existence. According to the publisher's notice (I do not read such piffle), Diamond avers that the problem was in breeding too fast and cutting down too many trees.

The silly Vikings of Greenland refused to eat fish, disdained the hunting techniques of the Inuit, and consumed too much wood and topsoil. As a result their colony collapsed during the 15th century and they all died. One feels sorry for the Greenlanders, though not for their cousins on the Scandinavian mainland, who just then stood at the cusp of their European power.

Something similar happened to the Easter Islanders, who chopped down all their palm trees and the Mayans of Central America, who burned their forests to build temples. Diamond thinks this should serve as a warning to the inveterate consumerists of the United States, who presumably also face extinction should they fail to erect legal barriers to suburban sprawl.

Ideological reflex is too mild a word for this sort of thinking; perhaps the term "cramp" would do better. Given that America returns land to the wilderness each year, the danger to American survival from deforestation must be on par with the risks of being hit by a large asteroid. The world is not breeding too fast - birthrates are everywhere falling - and the industrial countries (except for the Anglo-Saxons) fail to reproduce at all.

Why should the peculiar circumstances that killed obscure populations in remote places make a geography professor's book into a bestseller? Evidently the topic of mass extinction commands the attention of the reading public, although the reading public wants to look for the causes of mass extinction in all but the most obvious place, which is the mirror. Diamond's books appeal to an educated, secular readership, that is, precisely the sort of people who have one child or none at all. If you have fewer than two children, and most of the people you know have fewer than two children, Holmesian deductive powers are not required to foresee your eventual demise.

After rejecting revealed religion, modern people seek an sense of exaltation in nature, which is to say that they revered the old natural religion.

They're looking for revealed nature.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:46 AM


Taiwan Begins Deployment Of Cruise Missiles: Report (AFP, Aug 12, 2005)

Taiwan has begun deploying home-made cruise missiles on mobile launchers that are capable of hitting major military targets in southeast China, a newspaper here reported Friday.

The China Times said the Hsiung Feng missiles, which have a range of 1,000 kilometers (600 miles), were deployed across the island by the defense ministry's new missile command. [...]

In a bid to beef up Taiwan's defense capabilities, the cabinet has approved a revised arms deal worth some 15.5 billion dollars to buy weapons from the United States, its largest arms supplier.

The arms package over a 15-year period from 2005, pending approval by parliament, includes eight conventional submarines, a modified version of the Patriot anti-missile system and a fleet of anti-submarine aircraft.

Even when folks were terrified of the Soviet Union they wouldn't fly Aeroflot.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:37 AM


Durbin offered proof of column (Charles Hurt, 8/15/05, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

A law professor who used Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin as a source for a column last month about federal Judge John G. Roberts Jr. -- a column that Mr. Durbin later disputed -- has a taped phone message that he says proves the accuracy of his reporting. [...]

"I don't know who was his source," Joe Shoemaker, Mr. Durbin's spokesman, said the day the column ran. "Whoever the source was either got it wrong or Jonathan Turley got it wrong."

After Mr. Turley named Mr. Durbin as his source and Mr. Shoemaker as the second, confirming source, Mr. Durbin's office acknowledged Mr. Durbin's involvement. But still, the Durbin office maintained that Mr. Turley had gotten his facts wrong even though he was taking notes as the senator spoke.

In an Aug. 4 letter to Mr. Durbin, Mr. Turley laid out his detailed recollection of the situation and quoted extensively from a taped telephone message from Mr. Shoemaker.

"While speculation continues as to what was said in your meeting, I wanted to establish that everything said in my article was taken directly from my notes, confirmed by your staff, and never questioned on any point on accuracy," Mr. Turley wrote. "I stayed out of this controversy for over two weeks as your staff has insisted that the account was inaccurate. However, it is grossly unfair to present this matter as an error on our part when we specifically confirmed the account with your staff and never heard a single objection on accuracy until the story ran."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:05 AM


Biblical Pool Uncovered in Jerusalem: The reservoir served as a gathering place for Jews making pilgrimages and is said in the Gospel of John to be the site where Jesus cured a blind man (Thomas H. Maugh II, August 9, 2005, LA Times)

Workers repairing a sewage pipe in the Old City of Jerusalem have discovered the biblical Pool of Siloam, a freshwater reservoir that was a major gathering place for ancient Jews making religious pilgrimages to the city and the reputed site where Jesus cured a man blind from birth, according to the Gospel of John.

The pool was fed by the now famous Hezekiah's Tunnel and is "a much grander affair" than archeologists previously believed, with three tiers of stone stairs allowing easy access to the water, said Hershel Shanks, editor of the Biblical Archaeology Review, which reported the find Monday.

"Scholars have said that there wasn't a Pool of Siloam and that John was using a religious conceit" to illustrate a point, said New Testament scholar James H. Charlesworth of the Princeton Theological Seminary. "Now we have found the Pool of Siloam … exactly where John said it was."

A gospel that was thought to be "pure theology is now shown to be grounded in history," he said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:02 AM


NZ bachelor on rabbit sex charge (LES KENNEDY, 8/13/05, Sydney Morning Herald)

A man faced an Australian court yesterday charged with having sexual relations with a rabbit and the sadistic killing of 17 other rabbits whose carcasses were found dumped in a lane.

Brendan Francis McMahon, 36, North Sydney, appeared briefly before Central Local Court Magistrate Allan Moore yesterday charged with having allegedly committed the offences over the past three weeks.

Killing them afterwards isn't even permissible in MA.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:59 AM


New Homeland Security Work Rules Blocked (Stephen Barr, August 15, 2005, Washington Post)

The Department of Homeland Security, after more than two years of work on new workplace rules, may have to scrap the plan after a federal judge questioned whether it protects union and employee rights.

The rules were scheduled to begin today but were blocked by U.S. District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer in a ruling released Friday night. A spokesman for the department, Larry Orluskie, said officials are to meet today and "consider next steps." Talk about an appeal or other options would be premature until government lawyers study the decision, he said.

The workplace rules would have dramatically reduced the clout of unions in the department, which has about 160,000 employees. Bush administration officials see the proposed rules as a key to moving forward -- and sidestepping union objections -- to more ambitious changes that would affect how employees are paid, promoted and disciplined.

Of course they'll take it to the Court--getting rid of public sector employee rights and reducing the power of their unions is the most important domestic initiative of this presidency.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:53 AM


Occupied zones (Howard Zinn, Le Monde Diplomatique, August, 2005)

But more ominous, perhaps, than the occupation of Iraq is the occupation of the US. I wake up in the morning, read the newspaper, and feel that we are an occupied country, that some alien group has taken over. Those Mexican workers trying to cross the border, dying in the attempt to evade immigration officials (trying to cross into land taken from Mexico by the US in 1848), are not alien to me. Those 20 million people who are not citizens and therefore, by the Patriot Act, are subject to being pulled out of their homes and held indefinitely by the FBI, with no constitutional rights, are not alien to me.

But this small group of men who have taken power in Washington (Bush, Richard Cheney, Rumsfeld and the rest of their clique), they are alien to me.

I wake up thinking: the US is in the grip of a president who was first elected in November 2000, under questionable circumstances and largely thanks to a Supreme Court decision. He remains, since his re-election last November, a president surrounded by thugs in suits who care nothing about human life abroad or here, who care nothing about freedom abroad or here, who care nothing about what happens to the earth, the water, the air, or what kind of world will be inherited by our children and grandchildren.

More Americans are beginning to feel, like the soldiers in Iraq, that something is terribly wrong, that this is not what we want our country to be. More and more every day the lies are being exposed. And then there is the largest lie, that everything the US does is to be pardoned because we are engaged in a “war on terrorism”, ignoring the fact that war is itself terrorism, that barging into people’s homes and taking away family members and subjecting them to torture is terrorism, that invading and bombing other countries does not give us more but less security.[...]

The Amnesty International Report 2005, notes: “The detention facility at Guantánamo Bay has become the gulag of our times . . . When the most powerful country in the world thumbs its nose at the rule of law and human rights, it grants a licence to others to commit abuse with impunity and audacity.”

The report highlights US attempts to play down the importance of torture: the US is trying to redefine torture to create loopholes in the current ban. But, the report stresses, “torture gains ground when official condemnation of it is less than absolute”. Despite the public indignation prompted by torture at Abu Ghraib, neither the US government nor Congress have called for an independent inquiry.

The “war on terrorism” is not only a war on innocent people in other countries, but is a war on the people of the US. A war on our liberties, a war on our standard of living. The wealth of the country is being stolen from the people and handed over to the super-rich. The lives of the young are being stolen.

The war in Iraq will undoubtedly claim many more victims, not only abroad but also on US territory. The Bush administration maintains that, unlike the Vietnam war, this conflict is not causing many casualties (1). True enough, less than 2,000 service men and women have lost their lives in the fighting. But when the war finally ends, the number of its indirect victims, through disease or mental disorders, will increase steadily. After the Vietnam war veterans reported congenital malformations in their children, caused by Agent Orange, a highly toxic herbicide sprayed indiscriminately over the country.

Officially there were only a few hundred losses in the Gulf war of 1991, but the US Gulf War Veterans Association recently reported 8,000 deaths among its numbers in the past 10 years. Some 200,000 veterans, out of 600,000 who took part, have registered a range of complaints due to the weapons and munitions used in combat. We have yet to see the long-term effects of depleted uranium on those currently stationed in Iraq.

The power of government, whatever weapons it possesses, whatever money it has at its disposal, is fragile. When it loses its legitimacy in the eyes of its people, its days are numbered. We need to engage in whatever actions appeal to us. There is no act too small, no act too bold. The history of social change is the history of millions of actions, small and large, coming together at points in history and creating a power that governments cannot suppress.

Way to tell ‘em, Howard, but it's really too bad the editor cut the part about the McDonald’s plot to kill all our children. It rounded out your argument so nicely.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:53 AM


All the president's men (Safa Haeri, 8/16/05, Asia Times)

Iran's President Mahmud Ahmadinejad has presented the conservatives-controlled majlis (parliament) a 21-member cabinet in which all key posts are in the hands of middle-ranked, moderate conservatives.

Breaking with the practice of the past decades, in which all incoming presidents simply took on incumbents and rotated only posts, the new president has brought in new faces. The common denominator of the new cabinet is that most of the members have intelligence and military records, and can be considered as "sons" of Iran's top guide, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, meaning that they are faithful Muslims but not ultra-radicals, as an Iranian political analyst told The Asia Times Online.

"The bad news is that most of the new ministers are former sepahi [Revolutionary Guards] or Basiji [volunteer militias] of etela'ati [intelligence and security]. The good news is that unlike the so-called reformists, who were not much different from the conservatives but had put on a reform-seeking hood in order to have a share in the cake, the new ministers have no mask; they are what they are and represent the true image of the regime," commented Amir Abbas Fakhravar, an outspoken activist student in Tehran. [...]

Fakhravar does not believe that the new government will crack down on what social and cultural gains Iranians made under the moderate Khatami. "Iranian society is not that of the first years of the Islamic revolution [1970]. Iranian society has changed and will stand up to any limitations of its gains, and international conditions are also different," he stressed. He added that the "homogenization" of governance under the leadership of the conservatives would also improve unity between the different factions of the home-grown opposition.

The demand for improved living standards--like those they can see in the West--and the impossibility of delivering them under a totalitarian regime, will be the most important moderating influence.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:47 AM


Three-way pull in Iraq (Ehsan Ahrari, 8/16/05, Asia Times)

The new Iraqi constitution risks beginning an era of the virtual carving up of Iraq. The Kurds and the Shi'ites are operating on the basis of a zero-sum game, whereby any one group's gains would approximately equal another group's losses. The Kurds are determined to get the autonomous oil-rich northern section. Not to be outmaneuvered by the Kurds, the Shi'ites want an autonomous southern portion. That would leave the Sunnis with the impoverished central section. They are watching, in horror, a process that might be the beginning of the end of a unified Iraq that was created between 1921 and 1932. With all its intentions of democratizing and stabilizing the "new Iraq", the Bush administration may be presiding over the process of the disintegration of Iraq.

Why would the Sunni get a section at all? They're likely a minority even within the central zone. Meanwhile, it seems not all unlikely that this portion of the country will benefit precisely from its lack of oil., which has generally done developing nations more harm than good.

Sadr City now a success story (AP, August 15, 2005)

The capital's Sadr City section was once a hotbed of Shiite Muslim unrest, but it has become one of the brightest successes for the U.S. security effort.

So far this year, there has been only one car bombing in the neighborhood, and only one American soldier has been killed. [...]

Life in Sadr City, a slum of 2.5 million people, is dominated by the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose face is on posters everywhere. At police checkpoints, unarmed men loyal to Sadr enforce security, keeping car bombs and foreign fighters out.

"They're hoping they can minimize the coalition's contribution to security," said Lt. Col. Gary Luck, whose U.S. Army unit is responsible for security in Sadr City.

Think Mookie views Baghdad as the capital of a Sunni state?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:43 AM


Standing on the Shoulders of Perjury Law (Richard B. Schmitt, August 15, 2005, LA Times)

Patrick J.] Fitzgerald, 44, has a history of invoking perjury laws and related statutes to buttress his investigations. [...]

Fitzgerald's tendency to invoke the laws against lying comes from two things, colleagues say: the particular way he uses grand jury testimony when he conducts an investigation, and his deep-seated aversion to being lied to.

Many prosecutors go before a grand jury only after they have a case pretty well wrapped up. But Fitzgerald's approach is to use the grand jury as a tool for compelling witnesses to disclose information. And if he thinks a witness has fiddled with the truth, associates say, he becomes indignant.

"He is an aggressive prosecutor," said Joshua Dratel, a New York lawyer who represented El-Hage. "If he feels someone is lying to him, he takes it personally."

Perjury charges can buttress an overall prosecution. They also enable prosecutors to bring charges against people when it may be difficult or impossible to prove them guilty of what are seen as their underlying crimes.

Of course, in this case there isn't even an unerlying crime to be proven.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:40 AM


Mother's Grief-Fueled Vigil Becomes Nexus for Antiwar Protesters (ANNE E. KORNBLUT, 8/13/05, NY Times)

The toll of her son's death has carried over into Ms. Sheehan's marriage: She said she and her husband separated a few months ago as a result of the war, and of her activism. Although she and her estranged husband are both Democrats, she said she is more liberal than he is, and now, more radicalized.

So Middle Eastern democracy isn't worth a single American life but her self-indulgent Bush-hatred is worth wrecking her marriage?

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:33 AM


The myth of control (James Bowman, The New Criterion, Summer, 2005)

I seem to remember that the 9/11 hijackers were also said by many to have had their provocations in something or some things we in America were thought to have done to offend them. Why is it that connections to our own previous acts are visible all over the place when we are being attacked while connections to the enemy’s previous actions are thin to the point of vanishing when we are the ones doing the attacking? Bush is a madman or a criminal for attacking innocent Iraqis, and yet the attacks on innocent Londoners are said, in the words of Nick Megoran, to be “inexcusable but not inexplicable.” But as the French proverb reminds us, to explain is to excuse, and the eagerness with which the Left has seized upon the actions of George W. Bush as an explanation for all the evil in the world sometimes almost provokes the doubtless unjust suspicion that the terrorists are being excused for the sake of Bush’s being attacked. Yet if sometimes his detractors simply forget to mention, pro forma, that they well understand it is terrorists who are guilty of terrorism and not those responsible for the terrorists’ real or imagined grievances, there may be an explanation for that too.

I think it is because the most cherished of all the myths of the Left is the myth of control. For those whose political starting point is the need to change the world, obviously the first article of faith must be that the world can be changed by the leaders they elect and the decisions those leaders take and the laws they pass. It is therefore fundamental to them to suppose that when bad things happen to Americans, or Britons, someone in political power in America or Britain must be to blame. “It is no accident, Comrade,” the Communists used to say, because in essence for Communists there were no accidents. And the habit of thought lives on even after the demise of doctrinaire Marxism. A less deterministic view of the world might allow the terrorists to be responsible for the acts of terrorism they commit against Americans or Britons and President Bush or Tony Blair to be responsible only for such more or less adequate responses to terrorism as their wit and martial might are between them able to come up with. But to the lefty habit of mind, Bush and Blair must be responsible for both, because Bush and Blair belong to the same polity as they do—which, they imagine, could be and should be reformed by their own ideal system so as to eliminate all such unhappy contingencies of life.

The conservative point of view is that misfortunes will come, like wars and the necessity for wars, and are not to be avoided by the best-designed, nor even by a hypothetically perfect political system. When we are attacked, we have to fight back, not look around for means of placating an enemy willing to kill Americans or Britons indiscriminately. The trouble with Bush’s War on Terrorism from the outset was that not very many of the terrorists could be found for us to go to war with them. Like many on the Left, I thought at the time that there was no point in attacking Saddam Hussein for what someone else entirely had done. But Bush turned out to be right, and I turned out to be wrong. The Iraq War brought the terrorists out of the woodwork and made it possible for us to get at them like nothing else that we could have done. And we deposed a vicious, murdering tyrant and dictator as a lagniappe, and gave his people their first chance in half a century to live under a free and democratic government. For such deeds I can well believe that, as The Times’s correspondent wrote, London was attacked. But that just shows us that Bush and Blair were on the right track all along and spotted the link between Iraq and 9/11 before there was one.

Put another way, Bush is reviled by the left because he is presumed to have the power and control over everyone and everything that they dream of having themselves.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:12 AM


41 Days in Jail and Counting (NY Times, 8/15/05)

As of today, Judith Miller has spent more time behind bars to protect privileged information than any other New York Times journalist. Reporters from other news organizations have endured longer jail time in the same important cause over the years, but for us and we hope for others, it should be clear after 41 days in a Virginia jail that Ms. Miller is not going to change her mind. She appears unwavering in her mission to safeguard the freedom of the press to do its job effectively.

If she is not willing to testify after 41 days, then she is not willing to testify. It's time for the judge and the prosecutor to let Ms. Miller go.

How long would President Bush have to refuse to follow a court order before the Times called for the matter to be dropped?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:05 AM


Social Security Lessons (PAUL KRUGMAN, 8/15/05, NY Times)

Just a few months ago the conventional wisdom was that President Bush would get his way on Social Security.

What convention was he at? Barring a 60 seat GOP Senate the first bit of reform is destined to be gradual--so long as it has any form of pewrsonal accounts and some means-testing it'll be a huge victory.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:03 AM


Flaws are found in validating medical studies: Many see need to overhaul standards for peer review (Michael Kranish, August 15, 2005, Boston Globe)

They are two of the most widely publicized pieces of medical research in recent years: Reports in prestigious journals declared that women who underwent hormone replacement therapy, and people who ingested large amounts of Vitamin E, had relatively low rates of heart disease.

Each study was vetted by peer review, the basic process for checking medical research, in which other researchers judge whether papers meet scientific standards.

But after research contradicted those studies -- frustrating anyone who had followed their recommendations -- some specialists began looking at whether peer review had failed to identify serious flaws in the research.

But the specialis