September 30, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:49 PM


Morocco's march to democracy rests on king's whim (Neil Macfarquhar, 10/01/05, The New York Times)

[M]orocco has moved further along the reform road than any of its Arab neighbors. Its press is vibrant and outspoken. An 18-month-old family law no longer treats women as male chattel. Voluntary organizations can be formed with relative ease, and scores of them work on everything from improving prison conditions to raising the country's abysmal illiteracy rate.

Yet that entire system of law rests not on a framework of checks and balances but on the whim of the king. Morocco's constitution declares the king both sacred and the "prince of the faithful." Other Arab constitutions do not declare the ruler holy, but an official reverence cocoons virtually every president or monarch in the region. Anyone who challenges the ruler does so at his own peril.

It is a fact that raises a central question here and across the Middle East: What is needed to turn states of despotic whim into genuine nations of law? In Morocco, an essential first step, many reformers believe, is an open reckoning with the abuses that this system spawned in the past. That effort shows the profound limits that real reform faces in even the most forward looking Arab nations.

A few months ago, Marzouki took the extraordinary step of testifying at a public forum about the misery he endured in Tazmamart, whose name has become a catchphrase for the abuses Moroccans suffered under the 38-year rule of the late King Hassan II.

But Marzouki chose not to testify before the official Equity and Reconciliation Commission, established last year by the young king, Mohammed VI, to lay bare what Moroccans often call the terror of his father's rule and to establish reparations for about 13,000 victims.

The commission's public hearings, which started in December, are without precedent in the Middle East. Royal advisers point to them as evidence of how far along Morocco is on the road to democratic transformation.

Yet to many abused prisoners like Marzouki, the commission hearings have proved inadequate.

You needn't satisfy the victims, just the rest of the country.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:10 PM

BACON ON THE HOOF (via Robert Schwartz):

It's Always Fair Game for Wild Pigs (PATRICIA LEIGH BROWN, September 30, 2005, NY Times)

MICHELLE STRAUB knows what it is like to feel deeply and profoundly nervous. Just hearing the grunts of wild pigs behind shrubs, the rustle of grasses signaling they were near, made her knees shake and her French-manicured nails quiver on the trigger. Only she knows the true terror of the heart that comes from holding a 7-millimeter rifle while bushwacking down steep trails made by potentially ferocious marauding wild pigs and having your husband turn to you to say, "I think I hear something."

Her quarry in these golden Mendocino hills was Sus scrofa, a squat, muscular wild boar with coarse dark hair, hairy ears, a thick armor-like hide and skewers for tusks, which is now overrunning the countryside to become the latest plague of California.

Along with states like Texas, Florida and Hawaii, California has become a prime habitat for pigs, so much so that the state Department of Fish and Game has begun offering advanced wild boar hunting clinics to encourage people like Mrs. Straub, a 29-year-old executive secretary from Santa Rosa, to hunt pigs.

The pigs are a nonnative hybrid species that can run up to 25 miles an hour and whose meat is prized by cooks - Mrs. Straub and her husband, Randy, among them. They flourish in all but two counties of the state, and their moonlit sashaying in search of grubs and acorns along Highway 1 near Carmel has become so treacherous to motorists that the state Department of Transportation put up "Pig Xing" signs last year.

This is California in the cross hairs: a maddening pig Interstate where zigzaggy pig trails lead into dense, burr-ridden canyons, and trampled grasses indicate where pigs have been and gone.

"You think of little domestic pigs at the county fair as pink and cute with a curly tail," Mrs. Straub said. She hired Tim Lockwood, a hunting guide from Santa Rosa, to help her unleash her inner Annie Oakley at 5 a.m. one recent Sunday on a 1,252-acre private ranch. "These pigs are not cute."

We used to come upon javelina skulls in the field in West Texas, some with the tusks looped around and grown through the jaw--even dead they were scary.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:45 PM


After New Labour, what's left?: Whatever else the left might have lost, it retains its unsurpassed capacity for self-delusion. (Mick Hume, 9/30/05, Spiked)

What can it mean to be on the left today? Nobody seemed to be asking that question at the annual Labour Party conference, but it screamed out of every staged-managed debate.

Many have commented on the lifeless state of the Labour conference, compared to the heated and controversial affairs of past years. Yet few seem to have understood what has changed. It is not simply about the control now exercised by Tony Blair's party managers and PR people. The rise of these petty bureaucrats has been facilitated by a far more important political process - the death of the left. [...]

The role of chancellor Gordon Brown at the conference, and the reaction to it, perhaps best illustrated the left's demise. Over the years, as its influence and authority has waned, the Labour left has scaled down its aspirations time and again, from the demand to nationalise the commanding heights of the economy to a request to keep the lowest-paid workers above the poverty line. During the New Labour years, the left has increasingly attached its hopes to Brown, as the supposedly 'Real Labour' alternative to Blair, despite the absence of any real evidence to support this claim.

The scale of the left's self-delusion over Brown should have become unavoidably evident to all at this week's conference, when the chancellor gave a defining speech that not only pledged to carry on the New Labour project, but also dipped into Margaret Thatcher's old handbag to offer the dream of a share-owning, property-owning democracy. Brown stands revealed as what he always was, the political equivalent of a bank manager - and a dour Scottish Presbyterian bank manager at that. Some left-wing observers seemed genuinely shocked to be confronted with the Real Brown rather than their fantasy about Real Labour. Yet still they will cling to the dream that he didn't really mean all that, and things will be different once 'our Gordon' takes over. Whatever else the left might have lost over the years, it retains its unsurpassed capacity for self-delusion.

Nobody with eyes to see could now seriously contend that the tension between Blair and Brown is any sort of left v right conflict over political principles. This is more like the feuding, feudal politics of an ancient old royal court, where personal cliques and factions manoeuvre for power and squabble over the succession to the throne. The left's keenness to hitch its three-wheeled wagon to one of these courtly cliques only confirms its own loss of direction and independence.

Nor, we might note in passing, does the left that formally exists outside the Labour Party appear to offer much better prospects for progressive politics.

It's notable that you could write exactly the same piece about the Right in America--indeed, many economic conservatives, libertarians, and paleocons are writing them--even though Labour is in power in Britain and Republicans in America and though both have opponents who are dead in the electoral water. The simple fact is that when Tony Blair, George W. Bush, and John Howard adopted Third Way politics they left behind some considerable portion of the ideology that had defined their own parties for seventy years and more and filched some considerable portion of their opponents' ideology. Each bestrides his nation's politics and has carried his party along with him, but only grudgingly. The rank and file still face a period of adjustment to the new realities and it is not unlikely that the party structures in all three nations will undergo some extensive realignment over the next few years. Thus, those who are remain wedded to notions of the First Way and the Second Way will find themselves aliens in the parties they once controlled.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:29 PM


The IED Tussle: The "improvised explosive device" may seem a humble opponent for the US military, but it is the focus of a battle of innovations pitting high-tech against low cunning (Bartle Bull, October 2005, Prospect)

During lulls in the night fighting in Baghdad’s Sadr City last year, as Muqtada al Sadr’s militia turned Baghdad’s biggest ghetto into the most booby-trapped war zone on earth, it used to look to me like someone was staging Macbeth in hell. With the dark air full of dust and smoke, human figures moved over the pavement like black ghosts while car lights swerved crazily through the smog.

The spectres around me were mostly involved in planting the homemade bombs known as improvised explosive devices, or IEDs—the insurgency’s main weapons in Iraq. The swerving cars were avoiding the Coke cans that indicated the buried bombs. And the youths hunched over the road pouring liquid into the dark bitumen would explain to me that it was kerosene they were dishing out: relatively viscous, it seeps into a road surface, and then, when lit, melts it, making digging easier. Thus the orange flames that flared all night along the boulevards. The ordinance most likely to be buried in the small pits then were 105mm howitzer shells that the guerillas called “Austrians,” after the country where the shells had been made. Wires led from detonation charges into the doorways of small, shabby mosques where other groups of teenagers in black stood around car batteries attached to the wires.

I never had contact with the other side of this battle—coalition forces—back then, but an NBC cameraman I knew told me that from the inside of a 7th Cav Bradley, these young men on the streets looked like video game targets through the thermal night vision screens inside the American armoured vehicles. One night the Bradley my friend was travelling in was hit by twelve IEDs.

The IED might seem like a relatively low-tech piece of weaponry in a military epoch of lasers, unmanned drones and smart bombs. And it might appear a humble opponent for a US military establishment 3m strong that consumes $400bn a year. But it is the defining weapon of America’s war in Iraq, and it has been the focus of a battle of innovations and counter-innovations marshalling high-tech gadgetry and low-tech cunning on both sides.

When military historians write the annals of this struggle, they will remember it as the "IED war." The IED is responsible for 80 per cent of American casualties in Iraq, and it is unprecedented in modern warfare to find a conflict so dominated by a single weapon.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:20 PM


Turkey's future lies in EU, says Blair (Mark Oliver, September 30, 2005, Guardian Unlimited)

Tony Blair today insisted Turkey's future was in the EU as British officials in Brussels worked to dispel a looming crisis over next week's talks on its membership.

In an interview with Turkey's Hurriyet newspaper, the prime minister said he would work hard to help Turkey realise its EU ambitions. [...]

Turkish officials reacted angrily after Austria yesterday blocked an EU agreement on the ground rules for formal talks on the country's entry.

Last December, EU leaders agreed that Turkey - which first applied for membership more than 40 years ago - had taken the necessary steps towards qualifying for the talks to begin.

The negotiations had been due to begin on Monday after EU states said Ankara had worked on its human rights record as well as economic and social reforms.

But while the other 24 other member states were happy with the terms, Austria said it wanted a downgraded and associate EU membership for Turkey to be an option.

Mr. Blair's insistence is understandable, but ultimately represents the triumph of inertia over thought. Why not lock Turkey into a trade and defense pact with Britain, America, Poland, Israel, India, Japan, Taiwan, etc., instead?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:16 PM


Incoming FDNY chaplain questions 9/11 story (CAROL EISENBERG, September 30, 2005, Newsday)

An imam slated to be sworn in Friday as the second Muslim chaplain in Fire Department history said he questioned whether 19 hijackers were responsible for the Sept. 11 terror attacks, and suggested a broader conspiracy may have brought down the Twin Towers and killed more than 2,700 people.

In a telephone interview Thursday, Imam Intikab Habib, 30, a native of Guyana who studied Islam in Saudi Arabia, said he doubted the United States government's official story blaming 19 hijackers associated with al-Quaida and Osama bin Laden.

"I as an individual don't know who did the attacks," said Habib, 30, a soft-spoken man who immigrated to New York in July 2000 after spending six years in Saudi Arabia getting a degree in Islamic theology and law. "There are so many conflicting reports about it. I don't believe it was 19 ... hijackers who did those attacks."

Asked to elaborate on his reasons for doubting that story, he talked about video and news reports widely disseminated in the Muslim community.

This one's a no-brainer--Ms Clinton can make some serious hay out of calling for this nitwit's scalp.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:39 PM


Time For a Saudi "New Deal": The kingdom is the global center of both oil production and the Islamic faith; its politics could endanger worldwide stability (Fahad Nazer, 27 September 2005, YaleGlobal)

Shortly after the death and burial of King Fahd, Saudi tribal leaders, senior religious scholars, and other notables pledged allegiance to the new king Abdullah in a traditional ceremony known as Bayaa – essentially the Saudi version of the social contract. However, in this model, the citizens are expected to defer all political matters to the rulers and religious authorities. For his part, the king is supposed to lead the community in accordance with the laws of God. This "deal," as Bayaa is loosely translated from Arabic, needs some renegotiating.

Just as Franklin Delano Roosevelt felt it necessary to initiate a New Deal with the American people in response to the dramatic changes since the country's founding, Abdullah must now consider similar steps. FDR's New Deal changed the basic assumptions about the obligations of the state, and Abdullah's new deal must be just as drastic.

Since the founding of the Kingdom, Saudi political discourse has revolved around mostly religious concepts, applied in a political setting. The rulers eliminated the prospects for pluralism by claiming that they alone have legitimacy, since they have the support and consent of religious scholars, the ultimate authorities on Islam. Add to that arrangement the claim that the Quran is the constitution of Saudi Arabia, and one is effectively discouraged from ever questioning the political system. The implication is always there: One who supports reforming the system is trying to improve on the Quran, the word of God.

But the ramifications of the Bayaa's rigid hold on Saudi Arabia reach far beyond the country's borders. What happens domestically in the kingdom has implications for the rest of the world. As the birthplace of Islam and the world's largest oil exporter, Saudi Arabia plays a crucial global role. Should Saudi oil production be disrupted as a result of domestic turmoil, the effects on the global economy could be devastating. And as guardian of two of Islam's holiest sites, the Saudi religious establishment – along with its fatwas, or edicts – is extremely influential among Islamic scholars worldwide.

But why is a New Deal necessary? And why should the government willingly reform itself, when it controls virtually every aspect of Saudi society? The simple answer is that a more inclusive, democratic system will not only ensure the stability and prosperity of the country as a whole, but will also likely improve the chances of the royal family surviving what are bound to be turbulent times in the future.

In other words, Saudi Arabia has the New Deal--with the state controlling every facet of life it can get its hands on--but needs to get rid of it--devolving power back to society.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:25 PM


First Trio "Married" in The Netherlands (Paul Belien, 2005-09-27, Brussels Journal)

The Netherlands and Belgium were the first countries to give full marriage rights to homosexuals. In the United States some politicians propose “civil unions” that give homosexual couples the full benefits and responsibilities of marriage. These civil unions differ from marriage only in name.

Meanwhile in the Netherlands polygamy has been legalised in all but name. Last Friday the first civil union of three partners was registered. Victor de Bruijn (46) from Roosendaal “married” both Bianca (31) and Mirjam (35) in a ceremony before a notary who duly registered their civil union.

“I love both Bianca and Mirjam, so I am marrying them both,” Victor said. He had previously been married to Bianca. Two and a half years ago they met Mirjam Geven through an internet chatbox. Eight weeks later Mirjam deserted her husband and came to live with Victor and Bianca. After Mirjam’s divorce the threesome decided to marry.

Victor: “A marriage between three persons is not possible in the Netherlands, but a civil union is. We went to the notary in our marriage costume and exchanged rings. We consider this to be just an ordinary marriage.”

"Costume" is just the right word.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:05 PM


The great jobs switch: The fall in manufacturing employment in developed economies is a sign of economic progress, not decline (The Economist, Sep 29th 2005)

THAT employment in manufacturing, once the engine of growth, is in a long, slow decline in the rich world is a familiar notion. That it is on its way to being virtually wiped out is not. Yet calculations by The Economist suggest that manufacturing now accounts for less than 10% of total jobs in America. Other rich countries are moving in that direction, too, with Britain close behind America, followed by France and Japan, with Germany and Italy lagging behind (see article).

Shrinking employment in any sector sounds like bad news. It isn't. Manufacturing jobs disappear because economies are healthy, not sick.

The decline of manufacturing in rich countries is a more complex story than the piles of Chinese-made goods in shops suggest. Manufacturing output continues to expand in most developed countries—in America, by almost 4% a year on average since 1991. Despite the rise in Chinese exports, America is still the world's biggest manufacturer, producing about twice as much, measured by value, as China.

The continued growth in manufacturing output shows that the fall in jobs has not been caused by mass substitution of Chinese goods for locally made ones. It has happened because rich-world companies have replaced workers with new technology to boost productivity and shifted production from labour-intensive products such as textiles to higher-tech, higher value-added, sectors such as pharmaceuticals. Within firms, low-skilled jobs have moved offshore. Higher-value R&D, design and marketing have stayed at home.

All that is good. Faster productivity growth means higher average incomes. Low rates of unemployment in the countries which have shifted furthest away from manufacturing suggest that most laid-off workers have found new jobs. And consumers have benefited from cheap Chinese imports.

No one who's nostalgic for hard labor actually does any.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:59 PM



More than half of Americans are angry and disappointed with the nation’s judiciary, a new survey done for the ABA Journal eReport shows.

A majority of the survey respondents agreed with statements that "judicial activism" has reached the crisis stage, and that judges who ignore voters’ values should be impeached. Nearly half agreed with a congressman who said judges are "arrogant, out-of-control and unaccountable."

The survey results surprised some legal experts with the extent of dissatisfaction shown toward the judiciary. "These are surprisingly large numbers," says Mark V. Tushnet, a constitutional law professor at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C.

"These results are simply scary," adds Charles G. Geyh, a constitutional law professor at Indiana University School of Law in Bloomington.

Meanwhile, Judiciary Committee Democrats just spent the entire Roberts hearings demanding that he find it in his heart to be a judicial activist and 22 Senators, all Democrats, voted against him after not receiving assurances he would be an activist. And they can't figure out why they're out of power?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:47 PM


Salazar: Bush 'acts like a king' (M.E. Sprengelmeyer, September 30, 2005, Rocky Mountain News)

Saying President Bush sometimes acts "like a king," Sen. Ken Salazar warned Friday that he would vehemently oppose Bush's next Supreme Court pick if it turns out to be one of two controversial U.S. Circuit Court judges or someone else he considers an unqualified ideologue.

Here in 2005, you can tell a moderate Democrat because he calls George Bush a king instead of a fuhrer.


REP. Charles Rangel has scored plenty of headlines in his 35 years in Congress, but lately, he's outdone himself by comparing President Bush to the revolting Southern racist "Bull" Connor, who sicced attack dogs on black protesters in 1963.

"George Bush is our 'Bull' Connor," claimed the Harlem Democrat — New York's most senior member of Congress — as he charged that the Hurricane Katrina response was slow because many victims were black.

But that's not all.

Rangel raised eyebrows by saying the Iraq war to topple Saddam Hussein was as bad as the Holocaust — "This is just as bad as the 6 million Jews being killed" by the Nazis, he said in June.

In July, Rangel got into a flap after the official Congressional Record ran a statement under his name blaming a fictitious 1712 slave-owner, "Willie Lynch," for tactics that destroyed the black family.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:49 PM

MORE MURDER = LESS CRIME? (via Governor Breck):

Bennett Under Fire for Remark on Crime and Black Abortions (Brian Faler, September 30, 2005, The Washington Post)

Democratic lawmakers and civil rights leaders denounced conservative commentator William J. Bennett yesterday for suggesting on his syndicated radio show that aborting black children would reduce the U.S. crime rate.

The former U.S. education secretary-turned-talk show host said Wednesday that "if you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that were your sole purpose -- you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down." Bennett quickly added that such an idea would be "an impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do." But, he said, "your crime rate would go down."

Steve Levitt, in Freakonomics, makes the point that abortion generally will reduce crime and most of the early support for abortion was based on the quite openly discussed idea that it would help control "undesirable" ethnic populations. But one is reminded of the opposite ends of the Laffer Curve: if you took every cent that folks made in taxes you'd get no taxes because no one would bother earning any money; but, if you took no money in taxes you'd up with no money too. Similarly, if you aborted every child you'd reduce crime to near zero because crime is a phenomena closely associated with young people, for obvious reasons. Of course, you'd also do so much damage to your own society that the drop in crime would hardly be worth it. There was a much reported study this week about how societies that don't believe in God are safer than those that do--all it left out is that the former are dying because they've made themselves safer by getting older and not replenishing their societies with young people. Some may consider suicide a "victimless" crime, but it does end with a senseless death. Crime seems a rather small price to pay for not sanctioning abortion and keeping our society vibrant and growing.

MORE (via Michael Herdegen):
All in the family (John Leo, 10.03/05, US News)

In a policy brief released last week, the Washington-based Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, looked at 23 recent studies dealing with family structure and youth crime. In 19 of the 20 studies that found family structure to have an effect, children from nonintact or single-parent families had a higher rate of crime or delinquency. Neighborhoods with lots of out-of-wedlock births have lots of crime. Ominously, one study said that the more single-parent families there were in a neighborhood, the more crime there was among two-parent kids living around them. Again, these studies are controlled for race.

Among the other findings:

- Adolescents in single-parent families were almost twice as likely to have pulled a knife or a gun on someone in the past year. This was after controlling for many demographic variables, including race, gender, age, household income, and educational level of parents.

- In a large sample of students in 315 classrooms in 11 cities, the "single most important variable" in gang involvement was found to be family structure. In other words, the greater the number of parents at home, the lower the level of gang involvement. A study of American Indian families found that living in a two-parent family reduced gang involvement by more than 50 percent.

- Another study concluded that out-of-wedlock childbearing had a large effect on the rate of arrests for murder, an effect that "seems to have gotten stronger over time."

- "Adolescents in married, two-biological-parent families generally fare better than children in any of the family types examined here," one study reported. The other family types studied were single mother, cohabiting stepfather, and married stepfather families.

- One study, judged most important by the institute, found that divorce rates had no relationship to violent crime rates but that out-of-wedlock births had a strong relationship to youth crime--nearly 90 percent of the increase in violent crime between 1973 and 1995 was accounted for by the rise in out-of-wedlock births.

Browse through an archive of columns by John Leo.

The upshot of these studies is that America is confronted by a form of poverty that money alone can't cure. Many of us think social breakdown is a result of racism and poverty. Yes, they are factors, but study after study shows that alterations in norms and values are at the heart of economic and behavioral troubles. That's why so much research boils down to the old rule: If you want to avoid poverty, finish high school, don't have kids in your teens, and get married.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:46 PM


Think Locally On Relief (Jeb Bush, September 30, 2005, Washington Post)

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Americans are looking to their leaders for answers to the tragedy and reassurances that the mistakes made in the response will not be repeated in their own communities. Congressional hearings on the successes and failures of the relief effort are underway.

As the governor of a state that has been hit by seven hurricanes and two tropical storms in the past 13 months, I can say with certainty that federalizing emergency response to catastrophic events would be a disaster as bad as Hurricane Katrina.

Just as all politics are local, so are all disasters. The most effective response is one that starts at the local level and grows with the support of surrounding communities, the state and then the federal government. The bottom-up approach yields the best and quickest results -- saving lives, protecting property and getting life back to normal as soon as possible. Furthermore, when local and state governments understand and follow emergency plans appropriately, less taxpayer money is needed from the federal government for relief.

He's going to be the best president of the three.

Posted by Glenn Dryfoos at 12:08 PM


Here's your Winning Team.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:14 AM


Dangers of a Drunk Dubya (DOUG THOMPSON, Sep 24, 2005, Capitol Hill Blue)

In normal times, such a story in a tabloid like the Enquirer would be dismissed as just another fantasy for the newspaper that normally devotes its front page to gossip about celebrity divorces. But an America with Bush as President is anything but normal and too many warning signs point to the sad fact that Dubya the drunk is back on the bottle. Plus we reported the same thing in a story about Bush’s temper tirades on August 25.

Like the President, I’m a recovering alcoholic. Unlike him, I’ve been sober for 11 years, three months and 16 days. Bush says he quit drinking without help from any organized program. I had a lot of help – from family, friends and Alcoholics Anonymous. As an alcoholic, I can say without hesitation that available evidence tells me that Bush is drinking and drinking heavily.

One underanalyzed aspect of such hysteria is its egocentricity. Bush Derangement Syndrome stems in large part from the sufferer's conviction that he lives in extraordinary times--i.e. the moment that fascism finally descends on the United States.

This brings us to Off Center : The Republican Revolution and the Erosion of American Democracy by Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, which is sure to be a hit with the Looney Left. It's kind of the inevitable sequel to What's the Matter with Kansas--starting from the assumption that the election of Republicans to run Washington is an obvious error it goes on to the logical next step and argues that the exercise of power by those "elected" officials is per se illegitimate and ways must be found to stop them. That's funny enough, but the authors try to scare up support by demonstrating that the modern GOP, including George W. Bush, is not just conservative but so radically to the Right as to be a unique occurrence in the history of our politics. All this requires them to ignore is that the overall set of policies that makes up compassionate conservatism is also being implemented by John Howard and Tony Blair and that if you picked up any newspaper or magazine in the West over the last month or so you'd find that everyone realizes that the same reforms must be undertaken in such places as Japan and Germany. The simple truth is that if George W. Bush didn't exist our political system would have raised up someone rather similar to him, as it is doing throughout the developed world.

The personal hatred that folks harbor towards President Bush blinds them to the entirely orthodox nature of his politics. This is not healthy for them for reasons that are readily apparent. However, if we continue with the logic of such folk the third volume in their trilogy is likely to hold that since the elections of Republicans are illegitimate and governance by Republicans is illegitimate then the laws they pass and the republic itself are illegitimate. The authors of Off Center give us a preview of this line when they get to a hilarious discussion of the "Four Great Obstacles" to reforming the American system so that Republicans won't have power:

(1) "The You Can't Get There From Here" Obstacle--here they acknowledge with no little chagrin that the Constitution of the United States sets up the very procedures of governance that produced the results they despise.

(2) The "Fox Guarding the Henhouse" Obstacle--here they acknowledge that Republicans, having won so many popular elections and control of so much of government, are hardly likely to figure out ways to put their opponents in control instead.

(3) The "Nobody Cares" Obstacle--here they acknowledge that rather little of the American public shares their hysteria so there's no meaningful constituency for reform.

(4) The "Half a Loaf is Worse than None" Obstacle--here they acknowledge that what reforms might be enacted in such a political climate could well benefit Republicans instead of Democrats and so should not be advocated by the Left. Rather convincingly, if unintentionally showing that they aren't pro-reform, just anti-GOP.

In short, what they see as obstacles to the kind of America they want to live in are: the American political system; the American people; and the elected government of America. Dangerous territory this, for it reveals such an estrangement from the realities of the nation -- and, as suggested above, of the sort of Third Way policies that are de riguer throughout the West -- that they may not be capable of reconciling themselves to the End of History. The other group of people that suffers such an extreme derangement is the Islamicists, with whom we are currently at war. Political bitching is one of our birthrights, but when it begins to cross over into such open antagonism for the democratic majority and the choices they make the end results are seldom pretty. Rather than attack the Republic root and main, the Left ought to be developing the next generation of ideas and leaders that may appeal to a majority of the American people and thereby win elections. One suspects that if they did actually manage this feat they'd rather quickly adjust to the notion that those who win elections get to wield power.


    -Jacob S. Hacker (Peter Strauss Family Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Yale University)

    -BOOK SITE: Off Center: The Republican Revolution & the Erosion of American Democracy.
By Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson

    -New America Foundation : Bio - Jacob Hacker

    -ESSAY:The Dispensable Man (Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, September 30, 2005, Washington Post)

    -ESSAY: ‘Economic risk has shifted from the government and corporations to workers and their families’ (Jacob S. Hacker, September/October 2005, Boston Review)

    -ESSAY: Bigger and Better: When it comes to providing broad-based social-insurance programs, it’s the government that’s rational and the market that’s dumb. (Jacob S. Hacker, 05.06.05, American Prospect)

    -ESSAY: Popular Fiction (Jacob S. Hacker & Paul Pierson, 11.08.04, New Republic)

    -ESSAY: Good Medicine: Medicare does need changes. But its expansion is the key to eventual universal coverage. (Jacob S. Hacker and Mark Schlesinger, 10.01.04, American Prospect)

    -ESSAY: Bradley Does Healthcare (Jacob S. Hacker, October 7, 1999, The Nation)

    -ARCHIVES: Jacob S. Hacker (New Republic)

    -ARCHIVES: Jacob S. Hacker (American Prospect)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 AM


When Goodness Won (Robert Conquest, Sep 22, 2005, New Republic)

We are inclined to forget that the Bolsheviks were a small section of a small, and often ill-educated, segment of Russian society. Rosa Luxemburg, from the far left, warned that the Leninist program of suppressing the freedom of ideas would lead to both brutalization and stultification. She was right. The result can be seen in a volume such as this one, in the meanness and the petty-mindedness of the ruling apparat.

After the imposition of this repressive order--largely by what we might now call Cheka death squads--came a more formalized terror state, inflicting on Russia a whole slew of human, intellectual, economic, and ecological disasters. But it is above all the effect of the dictatorship upon the Russian mind that has still not been fully understood in the West. As Anne Applebaum argued recently, it is important that we get this huge section of world history properly into the thinking of the West (and indeed of Russia). This book provides yet another extraordinary insight into the awful post-Stalinist heritage. Not only was genuine thought, as far as possible, destroyed, but something in the nature of Orwell's "newthink" was successfully put in its place.

From the late 1920s on, the country's politics and economy were run on the basis of what is now called "negative selection."

Amidst all the nattering about how Khrushchev's anti-Stalin speech was the key to ending the USSR, it's well to remember that it was, in fact, the dissidents pointing out that Lenin was just as evil that actually brought the whole edifice tumbling down.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:18 AM


West Bank Elects Councils: Preliminary results show Fatah in control of most local bodies, but Hamas wins a third of the vote. Participation is strong at 81%. (Laura King, September 30, 2005, LA Times)

The militant group Hamas captured up to one-third of the votes in Palestinian municipal elections held Thursday, according to preliminary unofficial results, a solid showing that could presage its performance in parliamentary balloting early next year.

The Palestinian commissioner for local elections, Jamal Shobaki, said it appeared that the governing Fatah movement had won a majority on councils in 45 towns or villages and Hamas had captured 22. The initial results in 15 locales were inconclusive.

The turnout was about 81%, Shobaki said.

Throughout the day, Palestinians gathered at schools and municipal centers throughout the West Bank to cast their votes.

Old men leaned on canes as they shuffled toward ballot boxes; little boys chased after one another wearing headbands of satiny green for Hamas or the checkered black-and-white cloth representing Fatah, which is led by Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority.

Democratic elections are still something of a novelty for Palestinians, who went to the polls in January, electing Abbas successor to the late Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat. Municipal votes were also held in January and May, and a fourth round is planned before year's end.

"My vote is important," said Haniyeh Qurt, 54, a veiled woman who emerged beaming from the polling station at the Boys' Secondary School in the West Bank city of Beitunia, outside Ramallah. "You see, I'm a citizen, and this is my right."

And the exercise of their rights imposes responsibilities on those they elect.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:15 AM


Million dollar homes dime a dozen(Jen Haberkorn, September 30, 2005, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

A $1 million home used to be a rare, grand mansion in the hills or on the water.

Today, a $1 million price tag dangles from a three-bedroom Bethesda home close to the Metro and in a good school district. But the bathrooms still sport early 1990s decor.

Or a 1950s home in Arlington that's close to the Metro and has a detached, one-car garage. But it has only two bedrooms.

For the first time, there are more than 1 million owner-occupied homes in the United States worth $1 million or more, according to Census Bureau figures released late last month.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:28 AM


McCain economy bloc (Robert Novak, Sep 29, 2005, Townhall)

The Senate was up to its old tricks Monday evening. It prepared to pass, without debate and under a procedure requiring unanimous consent, a federal infusion of $9 billion into state Medicaid programs under the pretext of Katrina relief. The bill, drafted in secret under bipartisan auspices, was stopped cold when Republican Sen. John Ensign voiced his objection.

The bill's Democratic sponsors railed in outrage against Ensign, a 47-year-old first-termer from Las Vegas, Nev., who usually keeps a low profile. But he was not acting alone. Ensign belongs to, and, indeed, originated, a small group of Republicans who intend to stand guard on the Senate floor against such raids on the Treasury as Monday night's failure. The group includes Sen. John McCain, who long has tried to wean Republicans from ever greater federal spending but attracted little support from GOP colleagues until recently.

Fear has enveloped Republicans who see themselves handing the banner of fiscal integrity to the Democrats. The GOP is losing the rhetoric war, even though Democrats mostly push for higher domestic spending, because Republicans, while standing firm against tax hikes, have also declined to cut spending. Fearing the worst in the 2006 and 2008 elections, Republican senators who would not be expected to do so are looking to McCain to lead the party back to fiscal responsibility.

Of course, the candidates of fiscal responsibility in recent years have been Carter, Mondale, Dukakis, Bush I, Perot, Dole, Gore and Kerry. It's a dog of an issue.

September 29, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:45 PM


Coming Soon: The Ronnie Earle Movie (Byron York, 9/29/05, National Review)

For the last two years, as he pursued the investigation that led to Wednesday's indictment of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Travis County, Texas prosecutor Ronnie Earle has given a film crew "extraordinary access" to make a motion picture about his work on the case.

The resulting film is called The Big Buy, made by Texas filmmakers Mark Birnbaum and Jim Schermbeck. "Raymond Chandler meets Willie Nelson on the corner of Wall Street and Pennsylvania Avenue in The Big Buy, a Texas noir political detective story that chronicles what some are calling a 'bloodless coup with corporate cash,'" reads a description of the picture on Birnbaum's website, The film, according to the description, "follows maverick Austin DA Ronnie Earle's investigation into what really happened when corporate money joined forces with relentless political ambitions to help swing the pivotal 2002 Texas elections, cementing Republican control from Austin to Washington DC."

"We approached him [Earle], and he offered us extraordinary access to him and, to an extent, to his staff," Birnbaum told National Review Online Thursday. "We've been shooting for about two years."

One hates to be too cynical, but it's pretty basic: no indictment, no movie.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:25 PM


Purging the Poor from New Orleans (Naomi Klein, September 27, 2005, The Nation)

New Orleans is already displaying signs of a demographic shift so dramatic that some evacuees describe it as "ethnic cleansing." Before Mayor Ray Nagin called for a second evacuation, the people streaming back into dry areas were mostly white, while those with no homes to return to are overwhelmingly black. This, we are assured, is not a conspiracy; it's simple geography -- a reflection of the fact that wealth in New Orleans buys altitude. That means that the driest areas are the whitest (the French Quarter is 90 percent white; the Garden District, 89 percent; Audubon, 86 percent; neighboring Jefferson Parish, where people were also allowed to return, 65 percent). Some dry areas, like Algiers, did have large low-income African-American populations before the storm, but in all the billions for reconstruction, there is no budget for transportation back from the far-flung shelters where those residents ended up. So even when resettlement is permitted, many may not be able to return.

As for the hundreds of thousands of residents whose low-lying homes and housing projects were destroyed by the flood, Drennen points out that many of those neighborhoods were dysfunctional to begin with. He says the city now has an opportunity for "twenty-first-century thinking": Rather than rebuild ghettos, New Orleans should be resettled with "mixed income" housing, with rich and poor, black and white living side by side.

What Drennen doesn't say is that this kind of urban integration could happen tomorrow, on a massive scale. Roughly 70,000 of New Orleans' poorest homeless evacuees could move back to the city alongside returning white homeowners, without a single new structure being built. Take the Lower Garden District, where Drennen himself lives. It has a surprisingly high vacancy rate -- 17.4 percent, according to the 2000 Census. At that time 702 housing units stood vacant, and since the market hasn't improved and the district was barely flooded, they are presumably still there and still vacant. It's much the same in the other dry areas: With landlords preferring to board up apartments rather than lower rents, the French Quarter has been half-empty for years, with a vacancy rate of 37 percent.

The citywide numbers are staggering: In the areas that sustained only minor damage and are on the mayor's repopulation list, there are at least 11,600 empty apartments and houses. If Jefferson Parish is included, that number soars to 23,270. With three people in each unit, that means homes could be found for roughly 70,000 evacuees. With the number of permanently homeless city residents estimated at 200,000, that's a significant dent in the housing crisis. And it's doable. Democratic Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, whose Houston district includes some 150,000 Katrina evacuees, says there are ways to convert vacant apartments into affordable or free housing. After passing an ordinance, cities could issue Section 8 certificates, covering rent until evacuees find jobs. Jackson Lee says she plans to introduce legislation that will call for federal funds to be spent on precisely such rental vouchers. "If opportunity exists to create viable housing options," she says, "they should be explored."

Malcolm Suber, a longtime New Orleans community activist, was shocked to learn that thousands of livable homes were sitting empty. "If there are empty houses in the city," he says, "then working-class and poor people should be able to live in them." According to Suber, taking over vacant units would do more than provide much-needed immediate shelter: It would move the poor back into the city, preventing the key decisions about its future -- like whether to turn the Ninth Ward into marshland or how to rebuild Charity Hospital -- from being made exclusively by those who can afford land on high ground.

HUD chief foresees a 'whiter' Big Easy (Brian DeBose, September 30, 2005, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)
A Bush Cabinet officer predicted this week that New Orleans likely will never again be a majority black city, and several black officials are outraged.

Alphonso R. Jackson, secretary of housing and urban development, during a visit with hurricane victims in Houston, said New Orleans would not reach its pre-Katrina population of "500,000 people for a long time," and "it's not going to be as black as it was for a long time, if ever again."

Rep. Danny K. Davis, Illinois Democrat and a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, quickly took issue. [...]

Other members of the caucus said the comments by Mr. Jackson, who is black, could be misconstrued as a goal, particularly considering his position of responsibility in the administration.

Why is it desirable for the poor to be re-warehoused in a failed and now drowned city rather than start new lives all over the country in places that are thriving?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:41 PM


Governor says national Dems are too liberal (Associated Press, 9/26/05)

State Democrats should distance themselves from liberal national party leaders whose agenda frequently differs from Wyoming, Democratic Gov. Dave Freudenthal told state party members at a meeting attended by a Democratic National Committee vice chairman.

Wyoming Democrats should instead focus on local issues that relate to Wyoming residents, Freudenthal told about 75 state Democrats Saturday night.

"This is a party that's not afraid of firearms," Freudenthal said. "It's a party where people are interested in whether the governor managed to shoot an antelope with one shot."

"I don't care about Howard Dean," he said, referring to the chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

DNC Vice Chairman Rep. Mike Honda, D-Calif., who attended meeting, acknowledged that the national organizations had slipped.

Does Mr. Honda show up at these things in a hair shirt?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:36 PM


Schwarzenegger vetoes gay marriage bill (MSNBC, 9/29/05)

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger followed through Thursday on his promise to veto a bill to legalize same-sex marriage, leaving the issue up to voters or judges who will likely face the volatile issue in the next year. [...]

Schwarzenegger said the bill by Democratic Assemblyman Mark Leno contradicted Proposition 22, which was approved by voters in 2000 and said only a marriage between a man and woman is valid.

The governor said the state constitution bars the Legislature from enacting a law allowing gay marriage without another vote by the public and that Leno's bill wouldn't provide for that vote.

Let's see the Democratic nominee for Governor run on gay marriage.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:30 PM


Endangered Species Act rewrite passed by House (Erica Werner, 9/29/05, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The House on Thursday passed legislation that could greatly expand private property rights under the environmental law that is credited with helping keep the bald eagle from extinction but also has provoked bitter fighting.

By a vote of 229-193, lawmakers approved a top-to-bottom overhaul of the 1973 Endangered Species Act, perhaps the nation's most powerful environmental law. The law has led to contentious battles over species such as the spotted owl, the snail darter and the red-legged frog.

Amazing even for the Democrats not to have figured out from the eminent domain kerfuffle that Americans are partial to property rights.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:25 PM


Miller Agrees to Testify in CIA Leak Probe (JOHN SOLOMON, September 29, 2005, The Associated Press)

After nearly three months behind bars, New York Times reporter Judith Miller was released Thursday after agreeing to testify about the Bush administration's disclosure of a covert CIA officer's identity.

Miller left the federal detention center in Alexandria, Va., after reaching an agreement with Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald. She will appear Friday morning before a grand jury investigating the case.

"My source has now voluntarily and personally released me from my promise of confidentiality regarding our conversations," Miller said in a statement.

Her source was Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, reported the Times, which supported her contention that her source should be protected.

Mr. Libby had, of course, granted her permission to discuss their conversations quite some time ago. Odd that the Post simply assumes Ms Palme was a covert agent, since the facts don't suggest that to be true.

A CIA-Did-It Defense for Scooter in the Plame Leak Case? (David Corn, 9/30/05, The Nation)

The end of this sub-plot has caused Libby's team to leak his defense to the media. The Post quotes "a source familiar with Libby's account of his conversations with Miller." The odds are that source is Libby or his attorney. This super-secret source says that on July 8, 2003, Miller and Libby talked. This was six days before columnist Bob Novak disclosed the CIA identity of Valerie Wilson and two days after former Ambassador Joseph Wilson wrote an explosive Times op-ed disclosing that his trip to Niger in February 2002 had led him to conclude that President Bush had falsely claimed that Iraq had sought weapons-grade uranium in Africa. In this conversation, Miller asked Libby why Wilson had been sent on this mission by the CIA. (Miller, whose prewar reporting had promoted the administration's case that Iraq was loaded with WMDs, had a personal, as well as professional, interest in Wilson's tale.) Libby, according to this source, told Miller that the White House was, as the Post puts it, "working with the CIA to find out more about Wilson's trip and how he was selected." Libby noted he had heard that Wilson's wife had something to do with it but he did not know where she worked.

Four or five days later, according to the Libby-friendly source, Libby and Miller spoke again. Now Libby knew more. He told Miller that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA and had a role in sending Wilson to Niger. This source tells the Post that Libby did not know her name or that she was an undercover officer at the CIA. That latter point is crucial, for, under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, Fitzgerald can only prosecute Libby if Libby disclosed information about a CIA officer whom he knew was a covert employee.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:00 PM


Legal experts say Earle better have 'smoking gun' (MARY FLOOD, 9/292005 Houston Chronicle)

Most legal experts looking at the conspiracy indictment of U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay said Wednesday that either an insider has turned against DeLay or the prosecutor may have gone too far.

"I can't imagine indicting a majority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives without having a smoking gun, and that means someone who flipped on DeLay," said Buck Wood, an Austin lawyer who filed a related civil lawsuit on behalf of Democratic congressional candidates. "He's got to have corroborating evidence, too, bills and things proving where DeLay was at key times."

Several lawyers and law professors said Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle could have talked the grand jury into a questionable indictment if he hasn't secured key witnesses who were "in the room" with DeLay. Otherwise, this conspiracy case could be too hard to prove with just circumstantial evidence, they said.

For those not keeping score, the Democrats got a partisan prosecutor to make Tom DeLay step down from his leadership post, where he was replaced by a more genial but equally conservative Republican. Meanwhile, a conservative Chief Justice was approved overwhelmingly and the Endangered Species Act was gutted. This counts as a great day for the current pitiable iteration of the Democratic Party.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:25 PM


U.S. insists on keeping control of Web (BRADLEY S. KLAPPER, September 29, 2005, Associated Press)

A senior U.S. official rejected calls on Thursday for a U.N. body to take over control of the main computers that direct traffic on the Internet, reiterating U.S. intentions to keep its historical role as the medium's principal overseer.

"We will not agree to the U.N. taking over the management of the Internet," said Ambassador David Gross, the U.S. coordinator for international communications and information policy at the State Department. "Some countries want that. We think that's unacceptable."

Many countries, particularly developing ones, have become increasingly concerned about the U.S. control, which stems from the country's role in creating the Internet as a Pentagon project and funding much of its early development.

Nothing is more certain to turn even those Americans who aren't entirely hostile to transnationalism into full-throated unilateralists than the idea of the UN controlling the Internet.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:15 PM


Lessons Not Learned: Jonathan Kozol's analysis of American schools is worthy of a third-grader. (ABIGAIL THERNSTROM , September 29, 2005, Opinion Journal)

Jonathan Kozol has a devoted following, and "The Shame of the Nation" will not disappoint his fans. It's vintage Kozol--a jeremiad. His core complaints are familiar: American public schools are segregated, and those that have few whites in them are financially starved. He adds only one new element: The standards, testing and accountability "juggernaut" has crushed the "humane and happy" education we once had. [...]

One hates to argue with religious conviction, but Mr. Kozol's faith-based writing has little grounding in actual evidence. The words "segregation" and "apartheid" run like a mantra through the book, as if repetition will somehow make them true. In fact, American schools are not segregated; their racial composition reflects the nation's changing demographics.

Typically about 30% of the classmates of both blacks and Hispanics are white, but in big-city school districts whites are in short supply. The Los Angeles Unified School District, for instance, is 71% Latino, while a mere 10% of its students are white. Whites constitute only 15% of students in New York City, 10% in Chicago and Houston, and so forth. Mr. Kozol may be the last moral man standing, but his nonstop sermonizing will not change the racial composition of the big-city schools that most black and Hispanic students attend.

Instead of undertaking an analysis that looks at the facts and grapples with the hard reality of dysfunctional families, disruptive kids, undereducated teachers, stifling union contracts and a host of other ills, Mr. Kozol talks dreamily of a new protest movement led by parents and teachers who have nothing to lose but their chains. As Lincoln once famously said about a book: "People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like."

That said, Mr. Kozol is, of course, right about the new segregation and the obvious solution is to voucherize all of public education. We might well still end up with segregated schools but it would be by the pupils' and parents' choice.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 4:18 PM


UN asks employees to take quiz on ethics (Steven Edwards, National Post, September, 29th 2005)

In the wake of management scandals, the United Nations is trying to increase its employees' integrity by asking them to take a multiple-choice ethics quiz and offering certificates featuring images of African Masai tribesmen to those who do well.

The initiative comes as a Congressional committee launches hearings into the UN's plans for overhauling its management after the General Assembly rejected the sweeping reforms proposed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Being big UN boosters, we’d like to help:

1. You are a commander of UN peacekeeping forces in Africa who are accused of preying sexually on local children. Do you:

a) lament the precociousness of African kids and ask UNESCO to study the problem;
b) assure everyone they used condoms, so what’s the big deal;
c) leer knowingly and boast how your troops are “bad-ass Masai tribesmen”; or
d) blame Israel?

2. You are a UN Special Envoy for AIDS who promised to halve AIDS worldwide when you took the position, but it has quintupled and your position is up for renewal. When a U.S. congressman from Kansas calls for your resignation as a consequence, do you:

a) express your sincere hope he will soon come out of the closet;
b) mumble how more people have been killed by religion than anything else;
c) tell him to take it up with George Bush; or
d) release the results of your new study on how AIDS retards global warming?

3. Fox News reports they have discovered you have a multi-million franc Swiss bank account. Do you:

a) claim you just wanted to avoid exchange hassles on ski-trips;
b) accuse the Zionists of planting it;
c) insist it is a rapid response emergency fund for Swiss tsunami relief; or
d) whine about how everyone will give to a dying child but nobody wants to pay for administration?

4. You are the director of a UN division that has racked up $434,629.00 in unpaid New York City parking fines. Do you:

a) smugly invite them to “take it to the ICC”;
b) declare it would never have happened if New York had decent mass transit in accordance with UN Millenium goals;
c) offer to pay it off over two hundred years at zero per cent; or
d) promise to set it off against U.S. subscription arrears from 1982?

5. Genocidal slaughter erupts in Africa again while UN troops stand by under rules of engagement that prohibit bullets. When denying all responsibility, do you attribute the real blame to:

a) not enough U.S. troops;
b) too many U.S. troops;
c) the wrong kind of U.S. troops; or
d) all of the above.

6. For the three hundred and sixty-fifth time, the U.S. refuses to be bound by Kyoto. In briefing notes you prepare for the Secretary-General, do you urge him to:

a) offer a permanent Security Council seat to North Korea;
b) declare all of California a World Heritage Site;
c) nominate Jesse Jackson as his successor; or
d) ask the Masai tribesmen to face the Gulf of Mexico and do their traditional hurricane dance.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:23 PM


Cut-Rate Homes For Middle Class Are Catching On (DEAN E. MURPHY, 9/29/05, NY Times)

Some middle-class families are buying homes at budget prices made possible by government agencies, private developers, not-for-profit groups and employers.

Affordable housing, once shorthand for low rents for the poor, is being stretched like never before to include homeownership for people who are more likely to have Starbucks cash cards than food stamps in their wallets. These middle-income earners, priced out of homes from Burlington, Vt., to Santa Fe, N.M., are being offered financial breaks to live in hot real-estate markets and near their jobs.

"Our thinking is that a healthy middle class is important to the city," said Geoffrey Lewis, assistant director of policy at the Boston Redevelopment Authority, which has overseen the building of hundreds of units reserved for middle-income earners. "We want to keep these people in Boston; they are the glue in the neighborhoods and the glue in the economy as well."

Sometimes called low-cost, work force or inclusionary housing, the cut-price units are most popular in places "suffering from success," as one study described the cities where real estate costs outpaced incomes and where government officials, businesses and housing advocates were struggling to increase homeownership for all but the rich.

Unlike traditional government programs intended for the most disadvantaged, the emphasis is on people with full-time jobs who earn too much to qualify for federal assistance but too little to obtain a conventional mortgage, at least not in the cities or neighborhoods where they want to live.

Typically, those household incomes are 80 percent to 120 percent of the median income, which, in expensive metropolitan areas like San Francisco, Boston and New York, can extend into six figures for a family of four.

Nicolas P. Retsinas, director of the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard, said, "In many places where housing costs have escalated, that historical social contract appears to have been voided, the contract that if you work you can find a decent place to live."

The price breaks are usually not achieved through direct subsidies but a range of cost-cutting programs, including cities making zoning changes for developers, providing land at reduced cost, expediting approvals of building plans and allowing the construction of bigger and more expensive homes elsewhere. [...]

"By creating ownership, you are giving moderate income residents a financial stake in their neighborhoods, so they benefit from the improvement rather than be hurt by it," said Shaun Donovan, the housing commissioner in New York.

The spread of the phenomenon is too new and dispersed to be quantified, government officials and housing advocates say, and so far it occupies only a small piece of the nation's affordable housing pie. Still, it is catching the attention of home builders, city planners, educators and business people across the nation, leading to workshops and seminars on the subject as well as a spate of local laws that make it simpler for developers to offer the units.

This is the kind of cycle of virtue that warms the cockles of a conservative heart.

Norwich Selectboard Backs Affordable Homes (Mark Davis, 9/29/05, Valley News)

The selectboard formally urged the town's planning commission last night to move more quickly to pave the way for an affordable housing development.

After a lengthy discussion, selectmen decided that despite some concern about the propriety of meddling with another committee, they needed to nudge commissioners to approve a boundary line change needed to make it possible for developers to bring an affordable housing project to a gentrified community that has long discussed the need for such homes.

“For many any years, we've said, ‘Oh, we must have affordable housing in the town',” Selectboard Chairwoman Alison May said. “A selectboard has never taken a real lead on this. Here is an opportunity. I think this is a chance for us to take some real leadership.

The selectboard's decision comes at a crucial time for affordable housing in Norwich.

Twin Pines Housing Trust of White River Junction and the Burlington-based Housing Vermont want to build 28 single-family homes and apartments on the old Agway property off Route 5, about a half mile from downtown. But before the project can move forward, the planning commission must vote to extend the boundary line of the town's designated residential area to include the Agway property.

Twin Pines' board recently told the commission that the approval must come soon, because the property will surely attract other bidders.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:53 PM


OBIT: M. Scott Peck, Self-Help Author, Dies at 69 (EDWARD WYATT, September 28, 2005, NY Times)

Dr. Peck is among the founding fathers of the self-help genre of books, which retain their popularity from year to year. "The Road Less Traveled," published in 1978, and its later companion volumes, "Further Along the Road Less Traveled" (1993) and "The Road Less Traveled and Beyond" (1997), have sold more than 5 million copies in North America, according to Dr. Peck's publisher, Simon & Schuster, and have been translated into more than 20 languages.

" 'The Road Less Traveled' really marked the beginning of contemporary self-help," said Jan Miller, a literary agent whose firm, Dupree Miller & Associates, represents other stars in the field, including Dr. Phil McGraw and Joel Osteen. "It was a significant work because he was able to blend the psychology and the spiritual so magnificently."

Unlike the huge best sellers of today, however, which arrive in bookstores accompanied by blaring trumpets of publicity, "The Road Less Traveled" went all but unnoticed when it was released in 1978.

Simon & Schuster initially printed only about 5,000 copies, one of which was sent to Phyllis Theroux at The Washington Post. Ms. Theroux was later quoted as saying that she spent two weeks writing a review "that would force people to buy the book."

That eventually happened, but only after Dr. Peck labored to stimulate sales by copying the review and sending it to several hundred newspapers around the country. The hardcover book sold a respectable 12,000 copies, and the paperback edition sold 30,000 in its first year.

That number doubled in each of the next two years, and in mid-1983, five years after publication, "The Road Less Traveled" reached the New York Times best-seller list for the first time. It has since spent 694 weeks on the list, the equivalent of more than 13 years. [...]

The book focused on Dr. Peck's core belief that, as stated in its opening sentence, "Life is difficult," and that its problems can be addressed only through self-discipline. Humans, however, tend to try to avoid problems, a habit that only creates more difficulties, Dr. Peck said.

To that dose of self-discipline, Dr. Peck added an inseparable spiritual element. "I make no distinction between the mind and the spirit, and therefore no distinction between the process of achieving spiritual growth and achieving mental growth," Dr. Peck wrote in the preface to the original book. "They are one and the same."

Dr. Peck's approach to self-discipline was infused not only with his general belief in the help of higher power, which made his books particularly popular with 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, but also with his specifically Christian personal beliefs, which crystallized relatively late in life.

The religion of science (M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled)

Science is a religion because it is a world view of considerable complexity with a number of major tenets. Most of these major tenets are as follows: the universe is real, and therefore a valid object for examination; it is of value for human beings to examine the universe; the universe makes sense--that is, it follows certain laws and is predictable; but human beings are poor examiners, subject to superstition, bias, prejudice, and a profound tendency to see what they want rather than what is really there; consequently, to examine and hence understand accurately, it is necessary for human beings to subject themselves to the discipline of the scientific method. The essence of this discipline is experience, so that we cannot consider ourselves to know something unless we have actually experienced it; while the discipline of scientific method begins with experience, simple experience itself is not to be trusted; to be trusted, experience must be repeatable, usually in the form of an experiment; moreover, the experiment must be verifiable, in that some other people must have the same experience under the same circumstances.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:49 PM


As Corzine lead wilts,
Clinton gets call
(Kenneth R. Bazinet, 9/29/05, NY Daily News)

Former President Bill Clinton is being called in to help rescue the slumping New Jersey gubernatorial campaign of Jon Corzine, who has given up a double-digit lead and is just 4 points ahead of Republican Doug Forrester in a new poll.

"It's 911 time in the Corzine campaign. Obviously, he's in trouble," said a senior Democratic strategist.

Clinton will campaign with the Democratic U.S. senator today at Kean University in Union, hoping to turn around Corzine's stalled run for the New Jersey statehouse.

A Quinnipiac poll gives Corzine a 48%-to-44% lead over Forrester - a 6-point drop from a month ago

Sort of sad that the only party leader you can bring in is the pumpheaded ex-president.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:26 PM


Graham: Williams ‘seriously considered' (WENDY JEFFCOAT, 9/29/05, The Times and Democrat)

Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Karen Williams of Orangeburg is being "seriously considered" for a slot on the Supreme Court, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham says.

Graham, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Wednesday he fully supports Williams as a candidate for the bench.

"I know she (Williams) is seriously being considered for the Supreme Court," Graham said. "(She) brings the experience and knowledge base required to be on the Supreme Court."

Her opinions upholding the Pledge and calling Miranda into question would have conservatives doing handsprings.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:21 PM


Ban on Corporate Funds Is a Fixture in Texas Election Law (Richard B. Schmitt, September 29, 2005, LA Times)

The Texas law that Tom DeLay is accused of violating dates to the era of the robber barons and has been widely emulated in other states concerned about corporate influence in politics. It bans the use of corporate funds on behalf of state political candidates.

Such laws — including bans at the federal level — have withstood legal challenges that they violate the free-speech rights of corporations.

Nonetheless, it is far from clear whether Rep. DeLay (R-Texas), who is charged with conspiracy to break the law, committed a crime. He has asserted that he played no active role in the affairs of the political committee that raised corporate funds and allegedly funneled them to Texas candidates.

His lawyers are likely to argue that the funds were legally spent. The prosecutor has disclosed little of his evidence.

Such a prosecution, although rare, shows the downside of banning corporate contributions. It leads corporations to find other ways to get money to candidates — or at least that is the argument of some campaign finance reformers.

Corporations aren't citizens, so there's no constitutional problem with banning them from giving directly to candidates or limiting what they can give. But they also have deep pockets so it would seem to make sense to allow them to help fund the parties, which are vital to our system. After that it gets dodgy....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:48 PM


Roberts Confirmed by Senate (Fred Barbash, September 29, 2005, Washington Post)

The Senate confirmed John Glover Roberts Jr. as chief justice of the United States, replacing the late William H. Rehnquist, the mentor for whom he clerked. The vote was 78-22. [...]

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told reporters after the confirmation, "I believe that there's a very decisive bipartisan flavor to this vote. Judge Roberts -- soon to be Chief Justice Roberts -- got half of the Democrats and Senator Jeffords," an independent. "And to come away with 78 votes, considering where the Senate was in such contentious straits earlier this year, I think is really remarkable."

Could Democrats make themselves seem any more marginal to American life?

Posted by David Cohen at 12:47 PM


Bush Reported Near to Nominating Judge (Elisabeth Bumiller, NY Times, 9/28/05)

Republicans said there appeared to be less possibility that Mr. Bush would select Priscilla R. Owen or Janice Rogers Brown, federal appellate judges appointed by the president. Judges Owen and Brown, strong conservatives, set off bitter confirmation fights in the Senate, and Democrats blocked them for years by filibusters until a compromise on their confirmations was reached this year.

On Wednesday, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, and Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, sent Mr. Bush a letter urging him not to name to the court any of the three judges who were part of the compromise - Judge William J. Pryor Jr. and Judges Owen and Brown.

"The nomination of any of these individuals to the Supreme Court would represent an unnecessary provocation and would be met by substantial opposition in the Senate," the letter said.

One of the truly shocking things about the "Gang of 14" sellout was the naivete displayed by its defenders, who claimed that it tied the Democrats up in various ways. How can they say that Brown's nomination would be extraordinary? By saying it. The only person who's choices were limited by this deal is the President, who was put on notice that enough Republicans would defect from the nuclear option that there was no point in the future of nominating an "outspoken" conservative.

It is tempting, on the day of Chief Justice Roberts confirmation, to assume that this is not too harmful. After all, if we can still get Justices like John Roberts, what's the harm. That is still the best possible outcome -- that the deal does no harm. That gets less and less likely, however. Senator McCain has tied us to a deal in which the only group that can't be nominated to the federal bench is outspoken conservatives. That being the case, people ambitious to get onto the bench will learn their lesson -- don't be outspoken.

President Bush will not nominate Janice Brown because he cannot. He will not nominate Priscilla Owen because he cannot. He won't even nominate Michael McConnell, because he cannot. He won't nominate Viet Dinh, because he cannot. Quite the deal Senator McCain brought home for conservatives.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 9:41 AM


Australians do ‘patriotic duty’: Birthrate up (Reuters, September, 29th, 2005)

Treasurer Peter Costello urged Australians to “do their patriotic duty” and have more children but it seems they were doing it anyway, just for fun. A new study shows the birthrate hitting its highest level in seven years.

A study by Australian National University demographer Peter McDonald showed the country’s birthrate at 1.77 per woman in 2004, its highest level since 1997. McDonald believes the rate will stay around 1.8 for the next 5-10 years.[...]

“That kind of public discussion has been pretty prominent and I think that has had its effect,” he said. During a budget speech in May last year, Costello urged Australians to have more children, telling couples to “have one for your husband, one for your wife and one for your country.”

Super idea, but perhaps best not to tell the kids which was which.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:57 AM

BLAIRY-EYED (via Robert Schwartz):

Brown marching towards the sound of guns: Labour’s Left will not like it but the Chancellor made it plain yesterday that his eyes are fixed on the big picture (David Aaronovitch, September 27, 2005, Times of London)

The question of how Britain deals with the new world economy is the big question of modern politics. Other things count, of course, but nothing like so much. So at this point enters the leader-in-waiting of the Labour Party, Gordon Brown. The attitude he takes towards these issues defines where he really stands on the political spectrum. Forward? Back? Stuck in the middle, mouthing platitudes?

It had occurred to some on the Left, even before yesterday’s speech, that the answer was “forward”. The Statesman feared as much. Labour people might be longing, wrote the Editor, for “a true Labour politician, a man with socialism in his bones”, but he worried that “some of his priorities suggest that he would have to work hard to fulfil the hopes that many on the Left, with mounting desperation, are vesting in him”.

Characteristically the magazine then went on to give the Chancellor no clue at all as to what he should do, other than to run a long piece on the paradise that is Sweden. Which is always, in my experience, a bad sign. Lord, but it is difficult these days to find a publication that acknowledges the existence of a Left whose desperation is not mounting.

Back to The Guardian where some were trying hard to keep desperation under control. Yesterday one of its most astute columnists sought to reassure readers about the unexaminable leftness of Brown. He had to sound a bit Blairy, she explained, because, “he has many audiences to address when he speaks to conference this week — party, business, media. He cannot break free to articulate a vision that is truly distinctive without producing stories of a split with Blair and endangering the handover.”

Well, doesn’t a leader always have these pressures to contend with? Besides, it was instructive to see what Mr Brown had elected to put in his speech. Not the populist bits (which were good), nor the codas, but the stuff he wanted to have there. Like his assault on protectionism, his promise to abolish or reform the CAP, his refusal to countenance a return to protectionism in trade, his desire for a flexible Europe. There was China, “now producing almost half the world’s electronic goods and soon half the world’s clothes”, and together with India producing four million graduates.

Then this: “We must meet and master what is now the biggest global industrial restructuring in our economic history . . . Everywhere the pace of innovation is faster than ever before, everyday global competition more threatening . . . We will not make the mistake of the 1930s — there will be no retreat into protectionism . . .”

This is what the Chancellor sees, and he sees it as clearly as the man he is likely to succeed. The debates we engage in with such obsessive repetitiveness and attention to detail, are minor considerations set against the strategic questions of Britain’s stance in the world. Do we face the global competition by retreating into our shells and hoping it will go away, or do we march towards the sound of the guns?

The choice is not about principle versus political positioning, so as to garner short-term centrist votes. It’s about whether Britain is a progressive, successful country, full of plumbers, or becomes a backward-looking, defensive one. Gordon Brown has, I think, made his choice.

Meanwhile, just a whiff of grape and the Tories are on the run.

Posted by pjaminet at 8:55 AM


Russian admiral named patron saint of nuclear bomber force

MOSCOW (AFP) - Historic Russian admiral Fyodor Ushakov -- a hero of Russia's wars against Turkey and Napoleon Bonaparte -- was designated the patron saint of nuclear-armed, long-distance Russian bombers by the Orthodox Church.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:29 AM


New 'Night Stalker' looks to follow in past's creepy footsteps (Suzanne C. Ryan, September 29, 2005, Boston Globe)

Frank Spotnitz will never forget Jan. 11, 1972.

That was the day ABC broadcast ''The Night Stalker," a thriller about a headstrong newspaper reporter, Carl Kolchak, who is convinced a vampire is on the loose in Las Vegas. The film, which starred Darren McGavin, quickly became a cult classic and spawned a short-lived TV series that later inspired ''The X-Files."

''It scared the pants off of me," recalls Spotnitz, a television producer who was 11 years old at the time. ''It seemed so real."

Tonight at 9, Spotnitz, who worked for eight years as a producer and writer on ''The X-Files," is hoping to spook a new generation with the premiere of his ''Night Stalker" remake series on ABC. [...]

''The mythology of the show is good versus evil," Spotnitz says. ''I believe there is evil in the world . . . and evil seems more powerful than good because evil is not handicapped by a conscience or morality or mercy. So how do you win?"

If he has sense enough to answer that question as most Americans would, he could have a hit.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:20 AM


China warns of Xinjiang 'danger' (BBC, 9/29/05)

China's top security official has warned of a new crackdown on "separatism" in the remote north-western region of Xinjiang.

The warning came ahead of ceremonies planned for 1 October to mark half-a-century of Chinese control.

Luo Gan said officers should remain "prepared for danger".

Xinjiang is home to a large population of Muslim Uighurs, some of whom want an independent homeland in the region they call East Turkestan. [...]

The authorities last month accused a prominent Uighur businesswoman-turned-activist, Rebiya Kadeer, who was recently freed from jail under intense international pressure, of planning to sabotage the forthcoming ceremonies.

Ms Kadeer has since gone into exile in the United States.

There is no China.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:16 AM


Venice 'will get protection dam' (BBC, 9/29/05)

Controversial plans to build an underwater dam to protect Venice from flooding will go ahead, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has said.

The 4.5bn euro (£2.9bn) project, dubbed Mose - the Italian name for Moses - is due to be completed by 2011.

"All doubts have vanished - there is no way back," Mr Berlusconi stressed.

Environmentalists have criticised the project, and the mayor of Venice protested against the decision saying the city council had been bypassed.

The plans envisage building 78 hinged flood barriers on the seabed which would be raised when high tides threaten the city.

But some environmentalists say the 28m (92ft) high, 20m (65ft) wide structures will turn Venice into a pond and will cause more damage than the floods which periodically submerge its streets.

Think of it as just the Big Dig done by Italy and you may not stop laughing'til lunch...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:26 AM


EU's biggest economies becoming less competitive (Honor Mahony, 9/29/05, EU Observer)

Nordic countries have once again been ranked as among the world's most competitive economies, according to a >World Economic Forum (WEF) report published Wednesday (28 September).

Finland comes out on top with Sweden and Denmark falling into third and fourth place behind the US. [...]

Estonia, which the WEF says is "by a significant margin the most competitive economy among the 10 countries that joined the EU last year" is ranked 20 while other important movers are Poland which moved up nine places to 51st place and Ireland ranked 26 - up four places from last year.

For other European countries however, the news is bleaker. Many of the big European countries have slipped down the rankings.

Neither of Britain or Germany, the EU's two biggest economies feature in the top ten, with the UK ranked at number 13 and Germany moving down two places to 15.

France, meanwhile, moved from 27th place down to 30th place, while Spain and Belgium moved down six places to 29th and 31st ranking respectively.

Among the worst performing EU countries are Italy and Greece, the lowest ranking EU countries bar Poland.

On all of these lists, one thing always stands out, how odd a fit the United States is in the top ranks. We're so much larger and more diverse than any of our peers -- and not an island -- as to be a complete anomaly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:51 AM


Big Hands on the Little Hands (GLENN COLLINS, 9/29/05, NY Times)

The little-old-watchmaker-guy stereotype is wrong on three counts.

A lot of them aren't little, or old, or guys. In fact, because of a luxury boom, a new generation of young horologists is receiving training in an antiquated art. For despite the sleek, solid-state domination of the quartz watch and the digital display, expensive and intricate mechanical watches are back.

But very few people are qualified to repair them.

Thus, on a recent morning, Harry Papathomas, a 20-year-old mechanical adept from Madison, N.J., was using a jeweler's saw to fashion a brass file-cleaner. As the first step in his education as a watchmaker, it was a personal statement of craftsmanship, to create his own tools.

"This is an art form within the confines of a watch," he said. He is one of six students who have enlisted in a free, but highly selective, two-year, 3,000-hour training program that began this month at a new school established by the Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Education Program, a group set up by the Swiss watch industry to standardize training worldwide.

It is now the fifth such American watchmaking school, joining others in Oklahoma, Seattle, Pennsylvania and Minnesota. The course-completion certificate is the most prestigious worldwide credential for Swiss watchmakers.

"The repairs are there, waiting, as soon as they graduate," said Paul Madden, the course instructor. Potentially 100,000 high-end watchmaking jobs are open in the United States, but only 5,000 experts are available to fill them, according to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, a trade group in Bienne, Switzerland, that represents 90 percent of the country's watchmakers.

When students graduate they can command a starting salary of $55,000 a year, or make six figures in their own businesses, according to the watch federation.

NPR did a story a couple years ago on how much trouble they were having filling these positions, despite the high pay. People weren't willing to do the training.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:28 AM


Agreeing Only to Disagree on God's Place in Science (George Johnson, New York Times, September 27th, 2005)

Modern science is sometimes said to have grown from the Christian belief in a single supreme being who created and sustains an orderly cosmos. Since he could have written the laws any way he wanted, it follows that they can only be discovered empirically, not deduced from first principles as Aristotle tried to do. The Book of Nature must be studied as assiduously as the Book of God.

Historians go on to describe how science shed its theological chrysalis and went its separate way. The result is what the Templeton people call "flat science." Early in the seminars, Denis Alexander, a Cambridge immunologist and Christian, made the radical suggestion that science reclaim its theistic roots, taking as its deepest premise the existence of God.

Another speaker, John Polkinghorne, a Cambridge physicist turned Anglican priest, saw profound significance in the fact that humans - rational, conscious creatures endowed with intentionality and free will - find themselves in a universe with laws they can understand. In "The Faith of a Physicist," he gives his take on the big bang theory with God stepping in to ensure a chemistry "fine tuned" to generate life.

Listening to the reconcilers and reading their books, even an agnostic could appreciate how the beauty of the cosmos might compel one to believe in something transcendent. But what writers like Dr. Alexander and Dr. Polkinghorne are talking about is not just the awe one feels hiking above the timberline or inhaling the ocean air. They are looking to science for something far more specific - the constant, hovering presence of the kind of God described in Sunday school, who watches over us and responds to our prayers.

This is not the God of deism, who cranked up the universe and let it run. In drafting the principles of physics he left trapdoors - what Dr. Polkinghorne calls "causal joints" - through which to intervene, placing the earth in a hospitable orbit or unleashing the cascade of mutations needed for a microbe to evolve into a man. The trick is to do this without appearing to violate his own laws.

Some theologians speculate that this happens on the subatomic level, when a particle appears to dart probabilistically, with a roll of the quantum dice. Maybe it is God doing the shuffling, and what appears to mortals as quantum indeterminacy is divine intervention in disguise.

Others propose that God acts through nonlinear dynamics, in which microscopic fluctuations give rise to potentially earthshaking results - chaos theory's "butterfly effect." Here too the influence would be undetectable. With or without the guiding hand of the creator, reality would appear the same.

Dr. Dawkins has written that "a universe with a supernatural presence would be a fundamentally and qualitatively different kind of universe from one without." If the God hypothesis is meaningful, it should be subject to a test. But the theistic gloss Dr. Polkinghorne and others give to science is immune to this kind of scrutiny. It has, by design, no observable consequences.

The reconcilers insist that the same is true for the belief that there is nothing but matter and energy, that you can be either a materialist or a theist and still do good research. But for many scientists, entertaining supernatural explanations is a violation of the craft. A study reported in Nature in 1998 found that only 7 percent of the members of the elite National Academy of Sciences believed in God. For biologists the figure was just 5.5 percent.

"You clearly can be a scientist and have religious beliefs," Peter Atkins, an Oxford University chemist, has said. "But I don't think you can be a real scientist in the deepest sense of the word because they are such alien categories of knowledge."

The campaign to keep theories of intelligent design or creationism out of science classes is really an effort to silence or even exclude religious teachers.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:24 AM


Melting Arctic sounds alarm bells
(Katherine Harding, Globe and Mail, September 29th, 2005)

Andy Carpenter has only to walk out his front door to see that the Arctic's thick blanket of snow and ice is melting, drip by drip.

"It's impossible not to notice this," said the mayor of Sachs Harbour, a remote hamlet of 120 on the shore of Banks Island in Canada's Western Arctic. "What worries me is that people are starting to get used to it."

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:17 AM


Jean's siren song of freedom (Andrew Coyne, National Post, September 29th, 2005)

After the oath of allegiance, after the musical numbers, after the Prime Minister's introduction, I settled in to hear the new Governor-General deliver her first address to the nation, expecting to hear the usual banal bureaucratese, or worse, the coded appeals to regional and racial chauvinism -- sorry, diversity -- that have become the official language of Ottawa. Indeed, given her own past, I half expected some sly reference to the independence of small peoples or the like.

I had not expected to hear the full-throated song of love to this country that in fact followed, a speech of heartbreaking sincerity and jaw-dropping boldness -- the most ringing endorsement of undifferentiated pan-Canadianism, I'm willing to guess, that the capital has heard in years. Nor could anyone have anticipated precisely how she would choose to convey her message, the points she emphasized, the words she preferred. The gesture of renouncing her French citizenship had been welcome enough. But the speech was note-perfect in tone, and transformative in content.

It was uplifting without being Pollyannaish, tender yet tough-minded, vigorous, audacious, even bellicose in spots.

In place of the usual gooey cliches of Canadian nationalism, the obsession with minor differences, the nursing of ancient grievances, the exaltation of some supposed national predisposition to statism, we heard an invocation of a different Canada, and a different Canadianism -- an older, meatier variety, before the Liberals and their bureaucratic accomplices went to work bleaching the life out of it. It was a speech, perhaps paradoxically, that only an immigrant could have given, or could get away with, for it spoke from and to the reality of the immigrant experience, of what immigrants really see in this country, and cherish about it. It is why they come here, and it is worlds away from what the mythmakers would have us believe about it.

The headline-making passage was, of course, her firm declaration that "the time of 'two solitudes' ... is past." This wasn't a fond hope. It was a brisk directive -- not only to the traditional divisions of French and English, but to "all the solitudes." We must learn, she said, "to see beyond our wounds, beyond our differences, for the good of all." Beyond our wounds? Beyond our differences? But, but ... what about the mosaic? What about the community of communities? What about the Canada "whose strength is its diversity," the Canada that issues weekly apologies for centuries-old slights, that spent 40 years turning itself inside out trying to meet the latest revision of Quebec's "historic demands"? Balls to that, said this descendant of slaves. Get over yourselves. "We must eliminate the spectre of all the solitudes and promote solidarity among all the citizens who make up the Canada of today."

It was quite the show-stopper, as one might expect from a speech that began: "My own story begins as a young child in another country, one 'draped in barbed wire from head to toe’...” In one week, this supposedly feckless and trendy journalist with putative separatist leanings has slammed multiculturalism, renounced her French citizenship and told the whole country to grow up. It reminds one of what completely escapes the anti-immigrant lobby–that without the energy, patriotism and clarity of vision born of near-spiritual gratitude of our immigrants, the Anglosphere would be atrophying like Europe.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Crunching Baseball's Numbers (Carl Bialik, September 29, 2005, Wall Street Journal)

The Oakland A's are a very good baseball team that nonetheless will miss the playoffs, thanks in large part to a stretch of bad play at home late this season.

Just how much of a fluke was that stretch from August 12 to September 7, in which the A's lost five straight three-game series at home? A's manager Ken Macha hazarded a guess last week in a chat with Sacramento Bee sports columnist Mark Kreidler: a 512-to-1 shot. "It sounds high, but since Macha studied civil engineering in college and I studied journalism ethics (or did I only audit that course?), we'll go with his version," Mr. Kreidler wrote.

It seems Mr. Kreidler should have trusted his instincts, because Mr. Macha's calculations appear to misstate the odds against his team's poor play. But examining the numbers more deeply provides an interesting illustration of probability theory, and demonstrates why many statistics and math professors like to use baseball in their lesson plans.

Let's start by assuming the A's have a 50% chance of losing each home game. The games in question were played as a best-of-three series. Each game of that series had two possible outcomes, so for the three-game set, there are eight (2*2*2) possible outcomes. One such outcome is that the A's sweep; another is that their opponent wins the first and third games but loses the middle game, for instance.

In four of the eight possible outcomes, the A's lose the series, because they lost at least two of the three games. Each outcome has an equal probability in this scenario. So the A's have a 4 in 8 (or 1 in 2) chance of losing any particular series.

There were five series, and we've already seen that the A's had a 1 in 2 chance of losing any individual series. To come up with their odds of losing all five series, you multiply the probabilities together (1/2 * 1/2 * 1/2 * 1/2 * 1/2) to get 1/32. In other words, using this method, the odds of the A's losing all five series is 1 in 32 -- far more likely than the 1 in 512 that Mr. Macha estimated.



September 28, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:38 PM


Tories must not swerve to the right, says Davis (Rosemary Bennett, 9/29/05, Times of London)

DAVID DAVIS will not repeat the mistakes of previous Tory leaders by “swerving to the right” to cling on to core Conservative voters, he vowed last night. [...]

[M]r Davis, in an interview with The Times today, says that he is the unifying candidate and will not repeat the mistakes of previous leaders who have made promises to steer a centre course, but then retreated to the right.

So even the conservative Conservative candidate vows to stay to Labour's Left? Mill was certainly right at least as regards Britain's conservatives.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:05 PM


Demoralized Dems: Why the party has so little faith in its political prospects. (Howard Fineman, Sept. 28, 2005, Newsweek)

With George W. Bush’s presidency mired in the muck of hurricanes and doubts about the war, you’d think Democrats would be bursting with energy, eagerly expecting to regain power. But, in a roomful of well-connected Democrats the other night, I was struck by how gloomy they were. They can’t stand Bush, but didn’t have much faith in their own party’s prospects. [...]

The president’s nomination of John Roberts was a ten strike, knocking apart whatever united front the Dems might have been able to muster on judicial issues. However genial and cerebral he may be, Roberts also is a board-certified conservative, blessed by the James Dobsons of the world.

No one doubted that at least a few Red State Democrats would vote for him, but the defection of Sen. Pat Leahy of Vermont (no less), the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, was a stunner—and a demoralizing one for the party faithful.

Democrats are vowing to remain unified over Bush’s next pick—which almost certainly will be a woman, a Hispanic or both. So the party could find itself in a tough political position once again. [...]

The GOP has Rudy, Colin, Arnold, McCain and Condi—just to name a few: big, bold, controversial characters. Good copy if nothing else. The more or less official roster of titular Democratic leaders includes Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Howard Dean and 2004 nominee John Kerry. ‘Nuff said. [...]

What Big Idea would a Democratic presidency be about? No one seems to know, which is perhaps the main reason why the party faithful in that room seemed so lost.

In the end what's the effect of Katrina other than to drown out the Democrats while allowing the president to advance his agenda under the guise of rebuilding? And when all the Democrats have to offer in the wake of the storm is the kind of Great Society programs that made New Orleans a cesspit in the first place, how can it possibly help them?

If your message is a winner, all events, even those beyond your control, will fit within it. If your message is a loser there's no likelihood that events will salvage you. It's instructive that the only exception to this rule was the most significant event of last century, the Great Depression. Would you want to be the Democrats, stuck waiting and hoping for the next one?

House GOP Uses Storms to Ease Energy Laws (H. JOSEF HEBERT, September 28, 2005, AP)

Legislation that would end the longtime ban on energy development along most of the country's coasts and open an Alaskan wildlife refuge to oil drilling advanced Wednesday in the House.

Opponents said Republican leaders were exploiting the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita to pass pro-industry measures that they failed to get included in an energy bill signed into law only two months ago. [...]

The bill will be combined with proposals intended to spur expansion or construction of refineries — an idea being worked on Wednesday by a different House committee.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:51 PM


Parents offered school choice (Samantha Maiden, 29-09-2005, The Australian)

PARENTS will be offered greater choice of public schools under landmark reforms that could include taxpayer-funded vouchers for struggling students to spend in private schools.

Warning that parents were lying about where they lived to secure places at prestigious public schools, Education Minister Brendan Nelson called for an end to the geographical "zones" that forced families to move house or miss out on enrolment in high-performing public schools.

"We know that there are parents lying about where they live in order to get their children enrolled in certain government state schools around Australia," Dr Nelson said.

"There are also teachers queued up who want to teach in them. What we have discovered from parents is that what they are looking for is a school with a high level of communication between the school and parents, particularly about the progress of children."

His call for action will be backed today by Labor leader Kim Beazley.

In a speech to an education conference in Sydney, he will unveil reforms to ensure parents have greater choice between public schools in their region and specialist schools targeting trades, maths and science.

Choice will be the centrepiece of the radical rethink of the ALP's education policies, with Mr Beazley warning the premiers they must embrace reform or risk funding cuts.

Each would provoke the ire of his own party -- but that's sort of the point -- if George Bush, Tony Blair, John Howard, and Junichiro Koizumi, at least, were to convene a grand summit on reforming the 20th century welfare state to meet the realities of the 21st century. Responsible leaders in the opposition could be invited and because there'd be a range of parties participating from across the Anglosphere it might help to defuse some of the suspicion and partisan rancor that each of these Third Way leaders currently faces as a result of poaching in his opposition party's territory.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:12 PM


DeLay blames 'fanatic' DA for indictment (R.G. RATCLIFFE and JANET ELLIOTT, 9/28/05, Houston Chronicle)

"I have done nothing wrong ... I am innocent," DeLay told a Capitol Hill news conference in which he repeatedly criticized the prosecutor, Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle. DeLay called Earle a "unabashed partisan zealot," and "fanatic," and described the charges as "one of the weakest and most baseless indictments in American history."

In Austin, Earle told reporters, "Our job is to prosecute abuses of power and to bring those abuses to the public."

As Brother Whited points out, Mr. Earle's statement seems to concede Mr. DeLay's point. Mr. Earle is supposed to prosecute actual violations of the laws.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:38 PM


Oil reserves are double previous estimates, says Saudi (Saeed Shah, 28 September 2005, Independent uk)

Saudi Arabia, the biggest oil producer, and Exxon Mobil, the largest oil company, yesterday declared that the world had decades' worth of oil to come, in an attempt to calm fears about the record prices experienced in recent weeks. [...]

Mr Naimi also said that there were "no takers" for more oil right now, as a result of constrained refining capacity. Roughly a quarter of US refining capacity is still shut after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck the country's southern coast, but global refining capacity - to turn crude oil into petrol and other products - was struggling to keep up with demand even before that.

"Give us the customers and we will pump more oil," the Saudi oil minister told reporters at the 18th World Petroleum Congress, adding that more refineries needed to be built. He said that enough global output would be added in the next three to four years to restore "some margin of safety" to oil markets.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:17 PM

DOES A CONSENSUS REALLY HAVE TO BE 100%? (via Kevin Whited):

Just Vote No: Iraqis should reject the constitution. (Fred Kaplan, Sept. 27, 2005, Slate)

When Iraqis go to the polls Oct. 15 to vote on the constitution, it would probably be best if they rejected it. Elections for a new parliament are scheduled to take place this December in any case. Let them be for a new constitutional assembly (as current law provides in the event of a rejection), and let the process start over again. Further delay may prolong the chaos, but passage of this parchment will almost certainly make things worse—and for much longer still.

I say this with nothing but dismay. The Bush administration wants to withdraw most U.S. ground troops from Iraq by the end of next year, as do I. The official rationale will be: We've done our job; Iraq has a new government and a new constitution; we'll keep a cadre of troops behind for training and essential security, but otherwise the defense of Iraq is up to the Iraqis. But if there is no new constitution, no new government, a major pullout will be harder to justify.

And yet, the whole point of a constitution is to establish a foundation of consensus, to put forth a rule book that's accepted (even if reluctantly) by all the key factions; in short, to lay the groundwork on which politics can legitimately be played out.

Somebody on NPR was saying the same thing yesterday and how the Iraqi constitution was a mistake because only the Kurds and Shi'ites support it so it's illegitimate. Even if we accept the notion that the 20% of Iraq that is Sunni uniformly opposes the constitution as written, it's striking that the 20% of Americans who were slaves likely opposed ours as well. The biggest difference, of course, is that the Sunni oppose theirs because they don't want just an autonomous region of their own in the central portion of Iraq, while most black Americans were actually deprived of all freedoms.

At any rate, no one has yet made a case for why anyone other than the Sunni should want a constitution that they'd be satisfied with and it seems obvious that such a constitution, rather than being opposed by 20% of Iraqis, would be opposed by 80%.

Heart of Darkness: From Zarqawi to the man on the street, Sunni Arabs fear Shiite emancipation. (FOUAD AJAMI, September 28, 2005, Opinion Journal)

It was the luck of the imperial draw that the American project in Iraq came to the rescue of the Shiites--and of the Kurds. We may not fully appreciate the historical change we unleashed on the Arab world, but we have given liberty to the stepchildren of the Arab world. We have overturned an edifice of material and moral power that dates back centuries. The Arabs railing against U.S. imperialism and arrogance in Iraq will never let us in on the real sources of their resentments. In the way of "modern" men and women with some familiarity with the doctrines of political correctness, they can't tell us that they are aggrieved that we have given a measure of self-worth to the seminarians of Najaf and the highlanders of Kurdistan. But that is precisely what gnaws at them.

An edifice of Arab nationalism built by strange bedfellows--the Sunni political and bureaucratic elites, and the Christian Arab pundits who abetted them in the idle hope that they would be spared the wrath of the street and of the mob--was overturned in Iraq. And America, at times ambivalent about its mission, brought along with its military gear a suspicion of the Shiites, a belief that the Iraqi Shiites were an extension of Iran, a community destined to build a sister-republic of the Iranian theocracy. Washington has its cadre of Arabists reared on Arab nationalist historiography. This camp had a seat at the table, but the very scale of what was at play in Iraq, and the redemptionism at the heart of George Bush's ideology, dwarfed them.

For the Arab enemies of this project of rescue, this new war in Iraq was a replay of an old drama: the fall of Baghdad to the Mongols in 1258. In the received history, the great city of learning, the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate, had fallen to savages, and an age of greatness had drawn to a close. In the legend of that tale, the Mongols sacked the metropolis, put its people to the sword, dumped the books of its libraries in the Tigris. That river, chroniclers insist, flowed, alternately, with the blood of the victims and the ink of the books. It is a tale of betrayal, the selective history maintains. A minister of the caliph, a Shiite by the name of Ibn Alqami, opened the gates of Baghdad to the Mongols. History never rests here, and telescopes easily: In his call for a new holy war against the Shiites, Zarqawi dredges up that history, dismisses the Shiite-led government as "the government of Ibn Alqami's descendants." Zarqawi knows the power of this symbolism, and its dark appeal to Sunni Arabs within Iraq.

Zarqawi's jihadists have sown ruin in Iraq, but they are strangers to that country, and they have needed the harbor given them in the Sunni triangle and the indulgence of the old Baathists. For the diehards, Iraq is now a "stolen country" delivered into the hands of subject communities unfit to rule. Though a decided minority, the Sunni Arabs have a majoritarian mindset and a conviction that political dominion is their birthright. Instead of encouraging a break with the old Manichaean ideologies, the Arab world beyond Iraq feeds this deep-seated sense of historical entitlement. No one is under any illusions as to what the Sunni Arabs would have done had oil been located in their provinces. They would have disowned both north and south and opted for a smaller world of their own and defended it with the sword. But this was not to be, and their war is the panic of a community that fears that it could be left with a realm of "gravel and sand." [...]

We have not always been brilliant in the war we have waged, for these are lands we did not fully know. But our work has been noble and necessary, and we can't call a halt to it in midstream. We bought time for reform to take root in several Arab and Muslim realms. Leave aside the rescue of Afghanistan, Kuwait and Qatar have done well by our protection, and Lebanon has retrieved much of its freedom. The three larger realms of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria are more difficult settings, but there, too, the established orders of power will have to accommodate the yearnings for change. A Kuwaiti businessman with an unerring feel for the ways of the Arab world put it thus to me: "Iraq, the Internet, and American power are undermining the old order in the Arab world. There are gains by the day." The rage against our work in Iraq, all the way from the "chat rooms" of Arabia to the bigots of Finsbury Park in London, is located within this broader struggle.

In that Iraqi battleground, we can't yet say that the insurgency is in its death throes. But that call to war by Zarqawi, we must know, came after the stunning military operation in Tal Afar dealt the jihadists a terrible blow. An Iraqi-led force, supported by American tanks, armored vehicles and air cover, had stormed that stronghold. This had been a transit point for jihadists coming in from Syria. This time, at Tal Afar, Iraq security forces were there to stay, and a Sunni Arab defense minister with the most impeccable tribal credentials, Saadoun Dulaimi, issued a challenge to Iraq's enemy, a message that his soldiers would fight for their country.

The claim that our war in Iraq, after the sacrifices, will have hatched a Shiite theocracy is a smear on the war, a misreading of the Shiite world of Iraq. In the holy city of Najaf, at its apex, there is a dread of political furies and an attachment to sobriety. I went to Najaf in July; no one of consequence there spoke of a theocratic state. Najaf's jurists lived through a time of terror, when informers and assassins had the run of the place. They have been delivered from that time. The new order shall give them what they want: a place in Iraq's cultural and moral order, and a decent separation between religion and the compromises of political life.

It's easy enough to understand why the Sunni hate the Shi'a and the neocons hate them for Iran's role in terror against Israel, while much of the Right will just never get past the Embassy seizure in '79. What's really strange is how pathologically the Left hates them. You'd think a historically supressed minority might catch a break, but it seems as if the Left has sunk to the point where it just hates anyone who takes their religious faith seriously.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:17 PM


Spain press slams al Qaeda verdict (AP, 9/27/05)

Spanish newspapers on Tuesday criticized the verdict of Europe's first major trial of suspected al Qaeda members, including three linked to the September 11 attacks, labeling it a failure and a blow to police and prosecutors.

"They (the accused) recruited fanatics but their role in September 11 was pure fantasy," the daily El Mundo headlined its editorial.

"The first major trial against Islamic terrorism in our country has finished with certain a sense of failure in not being able to prove a direct link between the accused and the September 11 attacks," the daily La Razon wrote.

In the verdict Monday, Syrian-born businessman Imad Yarkas was convicted and sentenced to 27 years for leading an Islamic terror cell in Spain and conspiring to commit murder in connection with the September 11 attacks, in 2001. But the sentence was a tiny fraction of the nearly 75,000 years sought for him by prosecutors. (Full story)

Two other suspects charged as accessories to murder in the suicide airliner attacks were acquitted, although one was convicted of collaborating with a terrorist group.

At the trial, the chief state prosecutor had asked for "exemplary sentences" to show terror should be fought in court, not with Guantanamo-style detention camps.

Which goes to show, national security is too important to observe legal niceties.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:11 PM


DeLay Indicted in Campaign Finance Probe (LARRY MARGASAK, September 28, 2005, The Associated Press)

A Texas grand jury on Wednesday charged Rep. Tom DeLay and two political associates with conspiracy in a campaign finance scheme, forcing the House majority leader to temporarily relinquish his post.

DeLay attorney Steve Brittain said DeLay was accused of a criminal conspiracy along with two associates, John Colyandro, former executive director of a Texas political action committee formed by DeLay, and Jim Ellis, who heads DeLay's national political committee.

"I have notified the speaker that I will temporarily step aside from my position as majority leader pursuant to rules of the House Republican Conference and the actions of the Travis County district attorney today," DeLay said.

GOP congressional officials said Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., will recommend that Rep. David Dreier of California step into those duties. Some of the duties may go to the GOP whip, Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri. The Republican rank and file may meet as early as Wednesday night to act on Hastert's recommendation.

It would be especially sweet if the Court tossed Buckley on an appeal by Tom DeLay. Democrats' heads might never stop spinning.

“Dollars for Dismissals”: The prosecutor in the DeLay case dropped charges in exchange for cash to pet cause. (Byron York, 9/28/05, National Review)

Ronnie Earle, the Texas prosecutor who has indicted associates of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay in an ongoing campaign-finance investigation, dropped felony charges against several corporations indicted in the probe in return for the corporations' agreement to make five- and six-figure contributions to one of Earle's pet causes.

A grand jury in Travis County, Texas, last September indicted eight corporations in connection with the DeLay investigation. All were charged with making illegal contributions (Texas law forbids corporate giving to political campaigns). Since then, however, Earle has agreed to dismiss charges against four of the companies — retail giant Sears, the restaurant chain Cracker Barrel, the Internet company Questerra, and the collection company Diversified Collection Services — after the companies pledged to contribute to a program designed to publicize Earle's belief that corporate involvement in politics is harmful to American democracy.

Blunt picked to replace DeLay as US House leader (Reuters, 9/28/05)
Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday unanimously elected Roy Blunt of Missouri as their majority leader, replacing Tom DeLay, who was forced to give up the job after being indicted by a Texas grand jury, lawmakers said.

After a closed-door meeting of House Republicans, lawmakers said Blunt's position was an interim arrangement for the rest of the year and that he would share leadership responsibilities with Rep. David Dreier of California.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:46 PM


Kenneth Clarke is all smoke and no fire (Mark Steyn, 27/09/2005, Daily Telegraph)

The cynical argument in favour of a Clarke leadership victory is that he'd be the final nail in the Tory coffin and open up space for a new party on the Right and a long-overdue realignment in British politics. But it never works out like that, does it? More likely, Ken's men would lose just slightly not too badly enough to linger on ineffectually and diminish British conservatism for another half-decade.

I'd say this is a time for strategy, not tactics, and it's in that department that Mr Clarke fails to meet the minimum qualifications for even the squishiest "conservative" leader.

On Europe, the Conservatives ought to be committed not just to bland assurances not to worry, no need to frighten the horses, old chap, everything's on the back boiler now, but to an explicit reassertion of national sovereignty: over-Europeanisation as represented by, for example, the Convention on Human Rights is an obstacle to the effective defence of the realm, and if Tories won't stand up for national security, what are they for?

Likewise, Mr Clarke is one of the Tory heavyweights most explicitly opposed to the war in Iraq. In some ways, that's admirable: one can be opposed to the Iraq war or in favour of it, but to be - as my colleague Boris Johnson and so many other Tories are - allegedly in favour of it while opposed to Mr Blair's grounds for it puts you in the John Kerry circle of hell reserved for eternally self-twisting pretzels.

So, given that we're in it and thus we have to win it, is an anti-war leader really what a conservative party needs to regain its credibility in this area? I don't subscribe to the view that Blair is Churchill, but Clarke's misplaced faith in the stability and reasonableness of dictatorships qualifies him as a passable Lord Halifax.

"Social conservatism"? Include him out. Liam Fox may be het up about abortion, but on this issue, as on many others, Mr Clarke's attitude remains one of benign neglect. Yet Dr Fox surely has a point when he draws attention to Britain's 180,000 annual abortions.

It would be statistically improbable to have an American presidential election fought, as the German election just was, between two childless candidates. You can't breed at the lethargic rate of most Europeans and then bitch and whine about letting the Turks in: demographically, they're the kids you couldn't be bothered having.

A conservative party ought to be natalist, and ought to support policies - like a flat tax - that help restore the societal architecture vandalised by careless governmental social engineering. As much as Europe and Islamism, social and fiscal policy are now a matter of national survival.

Most Tories don't want to hear this kind of talk.

Tony Blair isn't Churchill in this equation--Mr. Clarke is as wedded to the Second Way as Winston was. Mr. Blair is a Thatcherite.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:31 PM


Speaking Spanish in a new New Orleans (GREGORY RODRIGUEZ, Sep. 28, 2005, Los Angeles Times)

No matter what all the politicians and activists want, African-Americans and impoverished white Cajuns will not be first in line to rebuild the Katrina-ravaged Gulf Coast and New Orleans. Latino immigrants, many of them undocumented, will. And when they're done, they're going to stay, making New Orleans look like Los Angeles.

It's the federal government that will have made the transformation possible, further exposing the hollowness of the immigration debate.

President Bush has promised that Washington will pick up the greater part of the cost for "one of the largest reconstruction efforts the world has ever seen." To that end, he suspended provisions of the Davis-Bacon Act that would have required government contractors to pay prevailing wages in Louisiana and devastated parts of Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. And the Department of Homeland Security has temporarily suspended sanctioning employers who hire workers who cannot document their citizenship. The idea is to benefit Americans who may have lost everything in the hurricane, but the main effect will be to let contractors hire illegal immigrants.

Mexican and Central American laborers are already arriving in southeastern Louisiana. One construction firm based in Metairie, La., sent a foreman to Houston to round up 150 workers willing to do cleanup work for $15 an hour, more than twice their wages in Texas. The men -- most of whom are undocumented, according to news accounts -- live outside New Orleans in mobile homes without running water and electricity. The foreman expects them to stay "until there's no more work," but "there's going to be a lot of construction jobs for a really long time."

Because they are young and lack roots in the United States, many recent migrants are ideal for the explosion of construction jobs to come. Those living in the United States will relocate to the Gulf Coast, while others will come from south of the border. Most will not intend to stay where their new jobs are, but the longer the jobs last, the more likely it is that they will settle permanently.

One recent poll of New Orleans evacuees living in Houston emergency shelters found that fewer than half intend to return home. In part, their places will be taken by the migrant workers.

Latino New Orleans will be a vast improvement.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:27 PM


Did you say dooging or blogging (Jeffrey Goldfarb, 9/28/05, reuters)

Blogs and podcasts may seem to be all the rage, but most of the world has no idea what those words even mean.

A survey of British taxi drivers, pub landlords and hairdressers--often seen as barometers of popular trends in the United Kingdom--found that nearly 90 percent had no idea what a podcast is and more than 70 percent had never heard of blogging.

"When I asked the panel whether people were talking about blogging, they thought I meant dogging," Sarah Carter, the planning director at ad firm DDB London, said Tuesday.

Dogging is the phenomenon of watching couples have sex in semi-secluded places such as out-of-town car parks. News of such events are often spread on Web sites or by using mobile phone text messages.

More people (56 percent) understood the phrase "happy slapping"--a teenage craze that involves assaulting people while capturing it on video with their mobile phones--than podcasting (12 percent) or blogging (28 percent).

"Our research not only shows that there is no buzz about blogging and podcasting outside of our media industry bubble, but also that people have no understanding of what the words mean," Carter said. "It's a real wake-up call."

The blogosphere though is unwakeable.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:04 PM


Shuttle and space station were mistakes, space agency chief tells US daily (AFP, 9/28/05)

The US space agency NASA lost its way in the 1970s when it focused on the space shuttle and International Space Station, NASA chief Michael Griffin reportedly said.

"It is now commonly accepted that was not the right path," Griffin said. "We are now trying to change the path while doing as little damage as we can."

Asked whether the shuttle had been a mistake, Griffin told USA Today: "My opinion is that it was. It was a design which was extremely aggressive and just barely possible."

Asked whether the space station had been a mistake, he said: "Had the decision been mine, we would not have built the space station we're building in the orbit we're building it in."

Let the mission drive the technology, not vice versa.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:47 AM


Filibuster Showdown Looms In Senate: Democrats Prepare For Next Court Pick (Dan Balz and Amy Goldstein, 9/28/05, Washington Post)

Democrats have splintered almost evenly over Roberts's nomination as chief justice, leading to frustration among party activists who think their elected leaders did not put up a serious fight against him. Pollsters have told party leaders that a show of opposition against Bush's next nominee could be crucial to restoring enthusiasm among the rank and file on the left.

In an interview, Dean said Democratic unity is essential in the upcoming battle and that the party "absolutely" should be prepared to filibuster -- holding unlimited debate and preventing an up-or-down vote -- Bush's next high court nominee, if he taps someone they find unacceptably ideological. He cited appellate court judges Priscilla R. Owen and Janice Rogers Brown as two who would be likely to trigger such opposition.

"Those people are clearly not qualified to sit on the Supreme Court, and we're going to do everything we can to make sure they don't," he said. "If we lose, better to go down fighting and standing for what we believe in, because we will not win an election if the public doesn't think we'll stand up for what we believe in."

The possibility of a filibuster comes only a few months after an agreement that supposedly eliminated such threats. The Gang of 14 agreement barred filibusters against judicial nominees except under "extraordinary circumstances." The compromise also blocked Republican threats to change Senate rules to bar the use of filibusters to block judicial nominations, a step considered so drastic it became known as the "nuclear option."

Owen and Brown were cleared for confirmation to the appellate courts as part of that agreement, and Republicans said then that Democratic acquiescence in their confirmation meant the opposition party could not use ideology to bar future Bush nominees.

The Administration must be mighty tempted to use this nomination to further tear apart the Democrats.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:43 AM


Laura Bush Joins Hit Makeover Show as It Focuses on Storm Victims (ANNE E. KORNBLUT, 9/28/05, NY Times)

BILOXI, Miss. [...] Mrs. Bush flew here on Tuesday for a cameo on "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," the blockbuster ABC show that usually does impromptu remodeling for disadvantaged homeowners but is now taking supplies to hurricane victims for segments to be shown later this year. [...]

Part of the appeal, an aide to Mrs. Bush said, is that the segments will not run until at least November, when public interest in the hurricane relief effort may have diminished but the need for donations and volunteers will remain high.

"The coverage will start to die off a little bit, as people are getting into the hardest time," said the aide, Susan Whitson, Mrs. Bush's press secretary. Her intent, she said, is "keeping this message out there as long as possible." [...]

Mrs. Bush later addressed the inherent challenge for the show: selecting just one home to rebuild.

"They haven't chosen one yet," she said. "I'm trying to encourage them to maybe choose a school or a library to do, which would help everybody in the community."

And Tom Forman, the show's creator and executive producer, said he had given no thought to any political reasons the White House might have had for wanting to participate.

"The thing about making this show is I packed up and put away my cynicism a long time ago," he said.

"I think given the scope of the disaster, you throw the rules out the window," he said. "And while we're certainly a nonpartisan show, I don't think she was there as a politician or a politician's wife or even as the first lady. I think she was there as someone who cares."

Man, this hurricane deal is paying off in spades.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:42 AM


Powerful Teachers Union Is in the Thick of Ballot Battles (Jordan Rau, September 28, 2005, LA Times)

Employing a political war chest on a par with those of major parties, the California Teachers Assn. is used to being in the thick of campaigns. But on a muggy Monday morning at the end of July, when most of their peers were on vacation, hundreds of teachers gathered at UCLA were reminded that they were now targets as much as participants.

"There are people in this state who are trying to portray us as something that has nothing to do with children, nothing to do with students and everything to do with greed," the union's president, Barbara Kerr, told organizers and negotiators attending an annual summer training institute. "And they are wrong."

California's largest teachers union is, depending on where one stands, either the epitome of labor's stranglehold on the state Capitol or one of the few lobbies strong enough to champion education against Sacramento's more moneyed interests.

In the Nov. 8 election, the 335,000-member union has more at stake than perhaps any other group.

Why do they have more at stake than the taxpayers who employ them and the students they serve badly?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:35 AM


'Gang of 14' backing Roberts (Charles Hurt, September 28, 2005, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

The "Gang of 14" senators who brokered the end to judicial filibusters has so far stuck together in unanimously supporting the nomination of federal Judge John G. Roberts Jr. to be the next Supreme Court chief justice.

That stamp of approval, Republican leaders say, paves the way for a smoother confirmation of the next Supreme Court nominee.

"The process has been handled very well," Majority Whip Mitch McConnell told reporters yesterday. "The outcome will be largely bipartisan. I think that's very good for the Senate, because in many ways the Senate itself was on trial here."

Specifically, Republican leaders say, the comfortable approval of Judge Roberts means the next nominee should be confirmed without answering specific questions on personal opinions about abortion and other hot-button political issues.

One is obligated to note that even for the Stupid Party it's hard to believe how wrong the critics of the Gang turned out to be--the deal has done nothing but help the President and his nominees.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:27 AM


McCain is 'a warmonger,' Sheehan says after meeting (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 9/25/05)

Peace mom Cindy Sheehan didn't change her opposition to the war in Iraq after meeting Tuesday with one of its supporters, Sen. John McCain, a Vietnam veteran whom she called "a warmonger." [...]

"He tried to tell us what George Bush would have said," Sheehan, who protested at the president's Texas home over the summer, told reporters. [...]

McCain, R-Ariz., also seemed disappointed in the meeting, which he said had been misrepresented as including some of his constituents. Only one person in her small delegation has ties to the state, and that person no longer lives there. [...]

"He is a warmonger, and I'm not," Sheehan said after meeting with McCain.

Let's see Rudy match that. Not just the name-calling from the looney Left but a Bush comparison? You can't buy that stuff.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:21 AM


The Little Engine That Could (OTIS WHITE, 9/28/05, NY Times)

WE'VE learned a lot about evacuating cities in recent days, much of it deeply troubling. But if the failures of New Orleans and the gridlock of Houston show anything, it's that we urgently need a third way out of cities, something other than flying or driving. Fortunately, there is such a way: passenger rail.

If local and federal authorities had worked with Amtrak to make better use of its trains in New Orleans, thousands could have been evacuated before the worst of Katrina hit. And if Houston had gone ahead with earlier proposals to develop high-speed rail links, the same might have been true there.

For decades, two myths have stymied efforts to develop intercity rail systems outside the Northeast: that rail can't compete with cars and airplanes and that the only region where passenger rail has been successful, the Northeast, has unique characteristics. Both are wrong.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:16 AM


Army Investigates Photos of Iraqi War Dead on Web (THOM SHANKER, 9/28/05, Washington Post)

The Army has opened an investigation into whether American troops have sent gruesome photographs of Iraqi war dead to an Internet site where the soldiers were given free access to online pornography, Army officials said Tuesday.

Some photographs on the Internet site show people in American military uniforms standing around what appear to be dead bodies. Other photos include graphic images of severed body parts and what appear to be internal organs spilling from bodies onto the ground.

Exactly how effete are we going to require our military to be?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:09 AM


High Court to Decide Campaign Finance Cases (Charles Lane, 9/28/05, Washington Post)

Campaign finance reform emerged as a major theme of the coming Supreme Court term yesterday, as the justices announced that they will rule on federal and state efforts to regulate campaign-season advertising by advocacy groups and to limit spending by candidates. [...]

A three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court in Washington ruled last year that the Supreme Court's 2003 ruling upholding McCain-Feingold precluded such a case-by-case effort to avoid the law's provisions. The Bush administration urged the Supreme Court to uphold that decision without a hearing, which the high court could have done if five justices had agreed.

McCain-Feingold was upheld 5 to 4 in 2003. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was a member of that majority but will leave the court as soon as a successor is confirmed by the Senate.

"O'Connor was the swing vote" in that case, said Rick Hasen, a specialist in election law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. "This could provide the vehicle for a more conservative court . . . to reverse that aspect" of the 2003 decision. [...]

The second case accepted yesterday involves three consolidated challenges to a 1997 Vermont law that puts a ceiling on how much a candidate for state office can spend. Under the law, candidates for governor may spend no more than $300,000 per two-year election cycle. Candidates for lieutenant governor may spend no more than $100,000, and smaller limits apply to other offices.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, based in New York, upheld the Vermont law last year, ruling that the law was carefully designed to meet compelling needs to avoid political corruption, or the appearance of corruption, and to prevent fundraising from taking too much of politicians' time and attention.

But Vermont's Republican Party and other political activists say the law violates their constitutional right to free speech. They note that the Supreme Court struck down expenditure limits on First Amendment grounds in its landmark 1976 decision Buckley v. Valeo , and they argue that the 2nd Circuit was wrong to find that Buckley left some room for laws like Vermont's.

Supporters of campaign spending limits, including 13 states, a bipartisan group of eight U.S. senators, the NAACP and 17 current and former state judges, urged the court to hear the case.

But Hasen said this strategy may backfire, because it is likely the court took the case to reverse the 2nd Circuit's ruling.

Two other appeals courts had previously struck down expenditure limits, he noted, but the Supreme Court did not decide to review those rulings.

Hopefully Bush appointee's will lead the way in gutting CFR, the one big mistake of his presidency.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:20 AM


The Great Chinese Bank Sale (Jonathan Anderson, September 2005, Far Eastern Economic Review)

The hedge-fund manager sitting across the table shuts his eyes in frustration and slaps his palm to his forehead. “What on earth are they thinking? This is Latin America all over again. Everybody jumps in on a whim, and then they spend a decade digging themselves out. Plus they lose a truckload of our money in the process. This time is no different.”

The place is New York, in one of the countless hedge-fund offices populating east midtown. The time is mid-June 2005, and the reference is to Bank of America’s announcement that it would purchase a 9% stake in the P.R.C.’s China Construction Bank for the princely sum of $3 billion—making it the most expensive banking acquisition (or, for that matter, any acquisition) in China’s history. [...]

According to the press announcements of the overseas banks themselves, this is one of the greatest investment opportunities of the new century: a chance to enter a financial market with $4 trillion in assets, and what’s more, a market that is growing at double-digit rates with no slowdown in sight. Chinese per-capita income is only $1,500, and consumers are just beginning their love affair with mortgage and credit card debt; imagine what riches lie ahead over the next decades as incomes double and double again.

For more cynical observers, of course, this is just the latest in a long string of disastrous banking follies. Perhaps the most engaging read of the past year was Tim Clissold’s Mr. China, a story of two private equity entrepreneurs who collected hundreds of millions of dollars from global investors in order to buy into the “greatest growth story of the century” and transform the Chinese corporate landscape in the process, but ended up pissing away most of the funds down the black hole of mainland economic reality.

So it will be with the banks. According to detractors, Chinese banking problems have simply been glossed over through state bailouts and creative accounting. Nothing has changed in the economy, as civil servants still dutifully shovel money into moribund state enterprises with no regard for repayment prospects. Once the next downturn hits, banks will face a tidal wave of new bad loans, and the foreign giants will be forced to write down tens of billions of dollars in worthless investments in the process.

So which is it? A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, or a pending disaster? In fact, neither. The truth of the matter is that China’s financial system is neither an explosive minefield nor a beckoning gold mine, but rather a profoundly middle-of-the-road investment option.

But there are a billion customers....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 AM


It's Azerbaijan's turn (Farhad Husseinov, 9/28/05, International Herald Tribune )

A country of 8.5 million people - roughly half of whom live in poverty - on the Western shores of the energy-rich Caspian Sea, [Azerbaijan] is preparing for parliamentary elections in early November. Baku, the capital, is the next obvious candidate for a democratic revolution of the kind witnessed in Georgia and Ukraine. At stake are the multibillion-dollar investments of oil giants like BP and Chevron.

The incumbent president, Ilham Aliyev, is a Soviet-educated autocrat who inherited power from his late father, Geidar Aliyev, in late 2003 as a result of rigged elections followed by a ruthless police crackdown. [...]

The greatest hope is invested in the newly forged Freedom Bloc, with the pro-Western Musavat Party as its driving force, which succeeded in holding a series of rallies across the country that the government was compelled to allow because of domestic and international pressure. The last such demonstration was organized in Baku on Sept. 10 and drew about 50,000 people, many of them wearing orange shirts and waving orange flags in an echo of the pro-democracy rallies in Ukraine last year.

In today's globalized world, democracy requires support from without. The Bush administration's "freedom agenda" is a praiseworthy step in this regard. It should, however, also be extended to illiberal countries that possess oil or host a NATO military base. Democratic turnover in the post-Soviet states is not Western imperialism by another name, as some would like us to believe. What they represent, rather, is a shift toward the rule of law, democracy and national reconciliation.

Azerbaijan presents the next opportunity for Western leaders to prove their commitment to the founding principles of their own nation-states. With time, this moral choice will prove to be a smart strategic choice as well.

In Freedom's Century no regime is legitimate unless consensual.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:16 AM


Illegal aliens outpace legals (Stephen Dinan, September 28, 2005, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Illegal immigration into the United States regularly outstrips legal permanent immigration and showed a dramatic increase from 2003 to 2004, according to a new report by the Pew Hispanic Center.

The annual number of legal and illegal immigrants and legal temporary visitors peaked at about 1.5 million in 2000, dropped to 1.1 million in 2003 and has rebounded slightly since, said the authors of the report, which studied immigration trends in the past 13 years.

Illegal immigration topped legal immigration in four of the past 10 years. And much of the 2004 rebound in immigration can be attributed to the number of new illegal aliens -- 110,000 more than in 2003, the report said.

Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, said the high percentage of illegal aliens shows that the immigration system is broken.

"To reverse that trend, immigration reform must be comprehensive and address both enforcement and improved avenues for legal immigration," he said.

Two great immigration stoiries on NPR yesterday, the first about how hard it is to get migrant farm workers in CA because they can make so much more in construction jobs, here they're desperately needed and the other about how French bistros are now being run by Chinese immigrants because the French don't want to work as hard as proprietorship requires:
-California Farm Workers Look to Other Jobs (Richard Gonzales, September 27, 2005, Morning Edition)
California is facing what some are calling a dire shortage of farm workers to harvest the region's fruit and vegetables. Many farm workers have left the fields to take less-grueling, better-paying jobs in construction and other business sectors.

-The Changing Face of France's Bistros (Eleanor Beardsley, September 27, 2005, All Things Considered)
France's multiculturalism is manifesting itself in one of Paris's quintessential establishments, the neighborhood bistro. Ethnic Chinese, hailing from China, Cambodia or Vietnam, are fast replacing French as bistro proprietors.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:12 AM


Immigrants storm Spanish enclave (BBC, 9/27/05)

Hundreds of immigrants have tried to break through the border fences around the Spanish enclave of Melilla in North Africa, police sources say.

At least 18 people - both police and immigrants - were injured.

About 100 people managed to break through into Spanish territory, where they are being questioned.

Melilla and nearby Ceuta are seen as stepping stones to Europe by African immigrants. Spain is doubling the height of the fences around Melilla.

September 27, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:35 PM


Democrats In Disarray (E. J. Dionne Jr., September 27, 2005, Washington Post)

The party splintered over the nomination of John Roberts as chief justice. The newspaper Roll Call reported yesterday that some House Democrats were opposing the decision by their leader, Nancy Pelosi, to boycott a Republican-led investigation of the Katrina disaster. Pelosi favors an independent commission. You know the party has a problem when even the politics of Katrina divides its members. [...]

[C]onsider the lay of the land for the 2006 congressional elections. It takes 218 seats to form a majority in the House of Representatives. Kerry carried only 180 congressional districts, according to the Almanac of American Politics. Put another way, Democrats, according to the Almanac, now hold and have to defend 41 House districts that Bush carried. Republicans are defending only 18 districts that Kerry carried.

The core difficulty for Democrats is that they must solve two problems simultaneously -- and solving one problem can get in the way of solving the other. Over time Democrats need to reduce the conservative advantage over liberals in the electorate, which means the party needs to take clear stands that could detach voters from their allegiance to conservatism. For some in the party this means becoming more moderate on cultural issues such as abortion. For others it means full-throated populism to attract lower-income social conservatives. Some favor a combination of the two, while still others worry that too much populism would drive away moderate voters in the upper middle class. The debate often leads to intellectual gridlock.

But even indeterminate talk of a "national" message makes many Democrats holding those 41 pro-Bush House seats (and Democratic senators from red states) nervous. Such Democrats figure they know their own districts better than any national party leader or consultant, and they often prefer to operate on their own.

Ever notice how every "devastating blow to the Bush presidency" ends up hurting Democrats?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:03 PM


Four more bold years, vows Blair (Philip Webster, 9/28/05, Times of London)

TONY BLAIR gave notice of a four-year programme of relentless change yesterday as he told Labour that it would have to be even bolder in its reforms if it was to win a fourth term in power.

As the Conservative Party’s leadership race was thrown wide open in London, the Prime Minister told his party’s Brighton conference that his conclusion from three election victories was that it could win another if it adapted to the shifting aspirations of the people.

In a clear message to his successor, whom he expects to be Gordon Brown, Mr Blair said that every time he had introduced reforms he wished in retrospect that he had gone farther than he had. Now his prescription was an even tougher dose of change. [...]

Mr Blair said that Labour would win by helping Britain to respond to the urgent pace of globalisation, tackle growing worries over social disorder and by introducing private and other provision into the education and health services. He promised a reappraisal of the criminal justice system, starting from the premise that its primary duty must be to allow law-abiding people to live in safety. [...]

Mr Blair promised that over the next year Labour would:

Publish plans to reform pensions, including incentives to help people to save for a second pension;

Produce proposals for the future of Britain’s energy policy, including civil nuclear power;

Publish plans for changes to transport funding, including road pricing;

Prepare for a shake-up of local government, with new freedoms for good councils, more city mayors and more power to local communities;

Carry out a radical reform of incapacity benefit;

Introduce a radical extension of summary powers to police and local authorities, focusing on binge drinking, drug dealing and organised crime, and development of existing antisocial behaviour law.

But his most controversial pledges again related to health and education. He said that Labour must break down the “old monolith” of the NHS, bring in new providers and give patients more choice.

Here's Tony Blair in a nutshell: he could win the GOP primaries in '08 but not the Democratic.

Meanwhile, the Tories do indeed prepare to attack Blair from the Left, Tory faithful keep their say as Howard's changes rejected by referendum (Rosemary Bennett, 9/28/05, Times of London)

KENNETH CLARKE’S hopes of becoming the next Conservative leader received a significant boost last night when rank-and-file members held on to their voting rights in a party referendum. [...]

[T]he prospect of Mr Clarke becoming the next party leader could spark a frenzy of tactical voting among right-wing MPs who could rally behind another candidate to try to block the pro-European former Chancellor reaching the last two.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:01 PM


How a lowly samurai inspired Koizumi to put rebels to sword: Japan's reforming Prime Minister tells of his great political gamble (Richard Lloyd Parry and Robert Thomson, 9/28/05, Times of London)

WHEN Junichiro Koizumi, the man behind Japan’s political revolution, has time to himself, he seeks refuge in the past, reading about a bloody era of Japanese history known as the Momoyama Period.

Late in the 16th century, after a century of continual civil war, Japan was adrift and in despair. Out of nowhere came a lowly samurai named Oda Nobunaga, who won a series of brilliant victories, overcame the corrupt aristocracy and dominated Japan.

He was an aesthete, art patron and merciless killer. His most notorious act of brutality was to burn down 3,000 Buddhist temples outside Kyoto and butcher their inhabitants. And 400 years later, Oda Nobunaga is a source of inspiration, if not a role model.

“I am learning greatly about the harsh life of a samurai warlord,” Mr Koizumi told The Times in his first interview since winning an election that has turned Japan’s political order on its head. “Every day they faced death. There are a lot of lessons to be learnt.” Like his samurai exemplar, Mr Koizumi has risen from relative obscurity to set in motion a transformation of Japanese politics.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:09 PM


Survey finds Canadians increasingly out of touch (Misty Harris, National Post, September, 2005)

Canadians are suffering from "touch deficit," with a third of the population regularly going an entire day without any human contact, according to a study released yesterday.

Experts say an increased focus on social boundaries, changes in gender roles and greater reliance on electronic communication are making it harder than ever to reach out and touch someone.

"There has been a radical decrease in the amount of touch and obviously an increase in the touch deficit," says Patti Wood, an authority on nonverbal communication and spokeswoman for Vaseline Intensive Care Lotion. "There's fear or concern about what's an appropriate touch."

Conservatives are often accused of simply pandering to nostalgic impulses, but now, thanks to science, we have proof life really was better in the good old days when everyone pawed one another all day long.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:57 PM


High Court Selection Process Winds Down (DEB RIECHMANN, September 27, 2005, AP)

President Bush, close to nominating a successor to retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, has narrowed his list to a handful of candidates that outside advisers say includes federal judges and two people who have never banged a gavel — corporate attorney Larry Thompson and White House counsel Harriet Miers.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Tuesday that Bush had pledged to consult with senators about his selection and said, "I think we were essentially wrapping that process up as early as today." [...]

Bush on Monday hinted he might choose a woman or minority member. But some outside advisers were intrigued by another part of Bush's reply. The president said he had interviewed and considered people from "all walks of life."

That raised speculation that Bush was actively considering people who were not on the bench — such as Miers, a Texas lawyer and the president's former personal attorney, and Thompson, a counsel at PepsiCo, who was the federal government's highest ranking black law enforcement official when he was deputy attorney general during Bush's first term.

"It could be someone outside of the legal judicial field like a Larry Thompson, or it could be a senator," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, a public interest legal group founded by religious broadcaster Pat Robertson.

Sekulow said he's heard Miers' name mentioned "fairly significantly" during the past two days. She doesn't have judicial experience, but she's a "well-respected lawyer — someone the president trusts."

"I think Harriet could certainly be in the mix," he said.

Two other judicial activists, including one with contacts at the White House, said they too had heard Miers' name mentioned, but agreed with Sekulow, who cautioned: "I don't think anybody has that crystal ball but the president."

Miers is leading the White House effort to help Bush choose nominees to the Supreme Court so naming her would follow a move Bush made in 2000 when he tapped the man leading his search committee for a running mate — Dick Cheney.

"Given the Cheney precedent and the president's well-known loyalty to his aides, it's certainly possible the president could turn to Harriet," said Brad Berenson, a lawyer who formerly worked in the counsel's office of the Bush White House.

As fortune would have it, Bantam Dell just sent us two brand-spanking new trade paperback editions of Steven Pressfield novels--Gates of Fire and Virtues of War--so we're well-stocked with prizes....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:48 PM


Iraq's foreign fighters: few but deadly: A new report says foreigners make up 4 to 10 percent of Iraq's 30,000 insurgents. (Dan Murphy, 9/27/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

Much of the US effort in Iraq in recent months has been aimed at stopping the inflow of foreign jihadis. US warplanes have blown up bridges to deny insurgent infiltration routes, troops have occupied small towns thought to be crossing points for foreigners into bigger cities, and spy drones continuously buzz the Syrian border.

Even if the US can seal Iraq's borders, stopping the flow of foreign fighters would do little to eliminate most of the country's insurgents. Only 4 to 10 percent of the country's combatants are foreign fighters, according to a report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies released last week. But while they are a minority, says the report, they are a potent segment largely from Algeria and Syria.

"The fact that there are 3,000 foreign fighters in Iraq is cause for alarm, particularly because they play so large a role in the most violent bombings and in the efforts to provoke a major and intense civil war,'' write coauthors Anthony Cordesman, a former director of defense intelligence assessment for the secretary of Defense, and Nawaf Obaid, a Saudi national and security analyst. Based mostly on Saudi intelligence, they estimate that active members of the insurgency number about 30,000.

The obvious solution is to topple Assad so the foreign fighters can go home to wage jihad.

US is logging gains against Al Qaeda in Iraq: The US military says improved intelligence led to the killing of two key leaders of the group. (Jill Carroll and Dan Murphy, 9/28/05, CS Monitor)

In a succession of intelligence breaks, the US says it has killed two key members of Al Qaeda in Iraq in recent days, including the organization's No. 2 man who is suspected of orchestrating a series of suicide bombings in Baghdad since April.

According to American military officials, the US has either made key arrests or developed informants who have led to a cascade of actionable intelligence over the past month. Since the middle of August, the US has reported killing or capturing at least 16 members of Al Qaeda in Iraq, led by the Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

How big a blow this is to the insurgency in Iraq remains unclear. While US human intelligence has clearly improved, no one has a clear understanding of the internal workings of Mr. Zarqawi's network, which is thought to be only a small portion of Iraq's decentralized and highly complex insurgency.

"By itself these events don't do much to destroy Al Qaeda as much as undermine and undercut it. But this comes after some very successful operations in Tal Afar that wrapped up the Al Qaeda network there,'' says Anthony Cordesman, a former senior intelligence analyst for the US and now an expert on the Iraq insurgency at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:41 PM

THE 51ST STATE (via oswald booth czolgosz):

Feds cloud real plan: Toxic change targets Alberta and lets Ontario go free (Ezra Levant, 9/26/05, Calgary Sun)

Carbon dioxide is a colourless, odourless, harmless gas.

Actually it's not just harmless -- it's necessary for life on Earth, as all green plants require it for photosynthesis.

But on July 16, the federal government announced its intention to classify carbon dioxide as a "toxic chemical" under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

According to the Act, a toxic chemical is defined as "an immediate or long-term harmful effect on the environment," or "a danger to the environment on which life depends" or "a danger in Canada to human life or health". To call carbon dioxide any of these things is to lie. Carbon dioxide is essential not only to plant life, but it's the gas that humans -- and animals -- exhale when we breathe.

Carbon dioxide is not a toxic chemical in science or in common sense, so what's going on? In the same official notice, the explanation was provided: It's the way Ottawa plans to get jurisdiction over the oil patch to implement their Kyoto taxes.

Oil is too important to be left to the wogs in Ottawa.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:37 PM


Playmate appeals to Supreme Court (AP, 9/27/05)

Former Playboy model Anna Nicole Smith is going to the United States' highest court in her fight over the fortune of her 90-year-old late husband.

U.S. Supreme Court justices said Tuesday they would consider Smith's appeal, in which the stripper-turned-reality television star stands to win as much as $474 million that a bankruptcy judge initially said she was entitled to.

Smith has not gotten any money from the estate of J. Howard Marshall II, an oil tycoon who married her in 1994 when he was 89 and she was 26. Marshall, one of Texas' wealthiest men, died in 1995.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:28 PM


Oil turns lower on healthy supply (Reuters, 9/27/05)

Oil edged lower Tuesday on signs that crude supplies remain plentiful, even with all U.S. Gulf of Mexico oil output locked in after Hurricane Rita.

Saudi Arabia said there were no takers for OPEC's spare supplies, while the kingdom may pump less crude in October.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:19 PM


Assessing a Wishlist for the Justice System: Changes on Supreme Court Could Advance Goals Of Reagan-Era Document on Constitution (JESS BRAVIN, 9/27/05, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL)

John Roberts is poised to become the first alumnus of Ronald Reagan's Justice Department to sit on the Supreme Court, with the Senate likely to confirm him as chief justice this week. But will he use his new post to advance that era's blueprint for a conservative judiciary?

In 1988, under Attorney General Edwin Meese III, the department's Office of Legal Policy issued a 199-page report titled "The Constitution in the Year 2000." The document, capping years of administration efforts to reverse liberal legal precedents, envisioned a justice system that upheld "traditional family values," set rigid definitions of private property, and enforced "laws that reflect conceptions of public morality."

The report concluded that the future would depend on "the values and philosophies of the men and women who populate the third co-equal branch of the national government-the federal judiciary."

Nearly a generation later, much of the Constitution 2000 blueprint has been realized, thanks to the people placed on the bench by President Reagan and his Republican successors.

"The criminal-defendants' rights revolution has clearly stalled, there has been a fair amount of laissez-faire in antitrust issues and regulatory issues in general and considerable deference to the executive in administrative law," says Washington lawyer David Rivkin, who helped draft Constitution 2000.

In the 1960s, liberals "were arguing there was a constitutional basis to allow a judicially imposed redistribution of wealth: 'Why should one person live in a hovel and another live in a palace?'," Mr. Rivkin says. "None of it got off the ground."

Still, there are areas where the vision remains incomplete. Constitution 2000 and related Reagan administration documents dismissed the "so-called 'right to privacy' " -- which the court still reads to encompass abortion and homosexual activity -- as "not reasonably found in the Constitution."

Those are among the issues where Judge Roberts's former colleagues hope that he can make a difference. A second Bush Supreme Court nominee, who may be announced as soon as this week, could accentuate that shift, by succeeding retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor -- a Reagan appointee who nonetheless has ruled against some Constitution 2000 ideals.

It's the Stevens resignation that will really clear the decks for an assault on the "right to privacy."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:01 PM


Forget SARS, West Nile, Ebola and avian flu. The real epidemic is fear.: We keep bracing ourselves for one cataclysmic threat after another. Our perceived lack of safety has become an obsession, (LIANNE GEORGE, 9/29/05, MacLean's)

For almost a decade, North Americans have been bracing for one cataclysmic threat after another -- superbugs, bioterrorist attacks, apocalyptic plagues. There have been real threats (Y2K, West Nile, mad cow, SARS, anthrax), but in each case, the amount of paranoia surrounding the threat has been exponentially larger than the threat itself.

So fear has become the epidemic -- and safety, or our perceived lack of it, an obsession. Perhaps what's most unsettling is that the definition of what it means to be safe keeps changing. Six years ago, being safe meant building a subterranean bunker and stocking up on bottled water and duct tape in the event the Y2K bug should destroy the world's computers and bring about global anarchy. More recently, safety has meant slathering oneself with DEET to ward off West Nile-infected mosquitoes; swearing off burgers, those purveyors of mad cow disease; donning paper masks on subways to avoid contracting SARS; and stocking up on Cipro, on the off chance some maniac should unleash anthrax in our midst.

This minute, it means having an ample supply of Tamiflu. Experts are saying that when -- not if -- an outbreak occurs, there will be a critical global shortage of the drug. Governments and multinational corporations are frantically stockpiling it. Ordinary North Americans and Europeans, fearing there won't be enough left for them and theirs at the crucial moment -- and lacking faith in public institutions to protect them -- have taken to creating survivalist flu blogs and building their own anticipatory stashes.

For Fields, who sells Tamiflu prescription-free, it's meant filling orders, 10 per cent of which are coming from Canadians, at a rate of 13,000 boxes (or US$877,500 worth) per week. "It's unbelievable," he says. "Most people buy it for their whole family. Consumers, doctors, professionals -- anyone, you name it." In his office, he's set aside about 80 boxes for personal use since, rumour has it, one course might not be enough. "Better safe than sorry."

There's no denying that avian flu is genuinely scary. As the latest end-of-days hypothetical, the virus has all the makings of a media blockbuster. It's strange and new and it can mutate quickly into unpredictable, ever-more-threatening forms. Thanks to migratory birds and global travellers, it has the potential to blanket the world quickly. Worst of all, there is no known vaccine for the virus, which accompanies a horrifying list of symptoms including a high fever, serious respiratory complications, extreme body aches, multiple organ failure and often death in 72 hours or less.

Eight years ago, the H5N1 strain infected its first 18 people in Hong Kong, six of whom died. This was the first time the virus was found to have been transmitted directly from bird to human. Later, it resurfaced in Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia, resulting in more human deaths and the destruction of millions of chickens. Scientists have been debating ever since the likelihood that it will mutate into a form that is readily transmittable between humans -- a scenario that would produce one of the most deadly viruses humanity has ever seen. Flu epidemics operate in cycles, experts say, and we're well overdue for the next one. In the U.S., scientists are working on developing a preventative vaccine, but since no one can predict what a mutated virus would look like, no surefire vaccine can be developed until an outbreak actually occurs. London-based virologist John Oxford, one of the world's leading flu experts, has likened it to "a tsunami rushing toward us."

For now, though, it all remains hypothetical. In his new book, The Politics of Fear, U.K. sociologist Frank Furedi suggests that the more secure a society is -- in terms of health, wealth and political stability -- the more likely it is to fixate on theoretical menaces. In turn, the more obsessed we become with keeping safe, "the more insecure we become," he says, "because safety becomes this elusive quest you never achieve. Even if you never leave the house, you can always slip in the bathtub."

In life, there is much to fear (even fear itself!), and a certain amount of paranoia is necessary for survival since it compels us to implement reasonable precautions, like condoms and bicycle helmets. But what Furedi is describing is a culture plagued by free-floating anxiety, exacerbated by the dramatic and devastating news events of our time: tsunamis, hurricanes, 9/11. It's not that we're more afraid now than we used to be; it's that the things we fear are less tangible, and the fear itself more diffuse and promiscuous. It will affix itself to global terrorism or earthquakes one day, killer bees the next. And when people feel a sense of general insecurity, says York University sociology professor Donald Carveth, their natural response is to try to identify the source, to give the enemy a face and a name, and exert whatever measures of control they can over it. "To feel threatened by vague, abstract forces -- that's terrifying," he says. "When you've got an enemy, no matter how powerful he is, once he's been identified, you can get him in the sights of your guns." [...]

Whether people realize it or not, fear also serves a real, practical function -- it mobilizes us and informs our political and consumer decisions in all sorts of ways. (Y2K, for instance, generated $100 billion for the global economy -- a boon for computer nerds everywhere.)

Which is why it should be easy and would be fruitful to whip up global warming and oil shortage scares and then use them to modernize the American energy infrastructure.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:48 PM


N.H. Politician Facing Calls to Resign (DAVID TIRRELL-WYSOCKI, 9/27/05, Associated Press)

A member of the powerful state Executive Council is facing calls to resign for hiring a campaign aide he knew was a convicted child sex offender, but he said Tuesday he has no intention of stepping down.

"I don't plan to resign. There's too much work yet to be done," Raymond Burton told The Associated Press in a phone interview.

The aide, Mark Seidensticker, 45, was arrested last month and accused of inappropriate contact with teenage boys. Based on that arrest, Burton said he no longer will employ Seidensticker, who is being held on $50,000 bail at the Merrimack County jail. [...]

U.S. Sens. John Sununu and Judd Gregg and both of the state's congressmen have urged Burton, to resign. All four are Republicans, as is Burton. Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat, also called Monday for Burton to step down.

The reaction nicely illustrates why government works better here, with the bi-partisan call from all the congressmen and all three officials who are elected statewide for Mr. Burton to do the right thing and resign.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:11 PM


Purported al Qaeda Newscast Debuts on Internet (Daniel Williams, September 27, 2005, Washington Post)

An Internet video newscast called the Voice of the Caliphate was broadcast for the first time on Monday, purporting to be a production of al Qaeda and featuring an anchorman who wore a black ski mask and an ammunition belt.

He gave the game away when he closed with the admonition: تشجع, إستجمع شجاعته

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:09 PM


Koizumi on the home straight (J Sean Curtin, 9/28/05, Asia Times)

[A]fter parliament reelected him prime minister last week, Koizumi reaffirmed his commitment to step down from office in September 2006 when his term as LDP party president expires.

Ryoji Yamauchi, President of Asahikawa University and a political commentator said: "I believe he will step down next September, just as he has said. While such an action appears to fly in the face of political logic, it perfectly fits in with Koizumi's personal style."

Most political analysts struggle to explain why Koizumi is so keen to abdicate after winning such a stunning victory that greatly enhanced his authority. Yamauchi has a theory: "Koizumi wants to go out when he is at his peak and basking in glory - that way he can avoid dealing with the chronic problems plaguing Japan like the pensions crisis, the social welfare nightmare and our battered relations with China and Korea, a problem directly caused by Koizumi's insensitive brand of nationalism."

But the deck chairs will be nicely arranged.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:55 AM


In Polish coalition, an uneasy partnership (Graham Bowley, 9/26/05, International Herald Tribune)

The unexpected ascendancy of Law and Justice - after the liberal Civic Platform was well ahead in opinion polls until last week - means the pace of economic change in Poland will be slower than Civic Platform promised.

Law and Justice drew support from the demise of the Democratic Left Alliance after its candidate for president withdrew amid corruption allegations, and Kaczynski won over left-leaning voters with bitter attacks on his would-be partners' program for a flat 15 percent rate for personal, corporate and consumption taxes.

On Monday, Kaczynski promised "lower taxes and pro-investment policies to stimulate the economy." But he ruled out the flat tax, and the divergence in approach to the economy appeared already to be causing friction between the prospective partners.

Law and Justice, which favors a far more interventionist approach to the economy than Civic Platform, says it will seek to scale back the independence of the central bank because it believes interest rates are too high, and wants to slow the privatization of state assets.

Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, a former central bank governor and one of Civic Platform's candidates for finance minister, said Law and Justice's victory "is worrying news for investors," according to Bloomberg.

The news agency quoted her as telling Polish public radio: "This will mean a slower decline in unemployment and less foreign investment. This will make our fight for the flat tax and fast euro-adoption pretty hopeless."

Mateusz Szczurek, an economist at ING Bank in Warsaw, said he thought the two parties were still capable together of pushing through significant economic change despite their differences.

"I can still see very positive developments being done by the new government," he said, adding that Polish zloty had initially weakened on financial markets Monday after Civic Platform's weaker-than-expected showing but had later recovered. "I believe that change is going to happen," he said.

Krzysztof Bobinski of the Unia and Polska Foundation said there could be tensions on European policy because Law and Justice was more skeptical about Poland's role in the European Union.

"This will make Poland's Europe policy more difficult," he said.

There could be further divergences on attitudes toward Germany and Russia, with Kaczynski, and his brother Lech Kaczynski, who is standing for president, urging a more muscular, confrontational approach to Poland's neighbors.

The most interesting dynamic that this series of Western elections brings into play is the possibility that the Tory path back to power lies in running openly to the Left of Blair/Brown Labour.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:51 AM


A Skeptic Under Pressure: A U.S. engineer faces bankruptcy and arrest in Austria as he questions the safety of a component in the huge Airbus A380 jetliner. (Peter Pae, September 27, 2005, LA Times)

Joseph Mangan, 41, is a whistle-blower. As a result he and his family find themselves in a foreign country with unfamiliar laws, fighting a legal battle that has left them almost penniless.

A year ago, Mangan told European aviation authorities that he believed there were problems with a computer chip on the Airbus A380, the biggest and costliest commercial airliner ever built. The A380 is a double-decked engineering marvel that will carry as many as 800 passengers — double the capacity of Boeing Co.'s 747. It is expected to enter airline service next year.

Mangan alleges that flaws in a microprocessor could cause the valves that maintain cabin pressure on the A380 to accidentally open during flight, allowing air to leak out so rapidly that everyone aboard could lose consciousness within seconds.

It's a lethal scenario similar to the 1999 crash that killed professional golfer Payne Stewart and five others when their Learjet lost cabin pressure and they blacked out. The plane flew on autopilot for hours before crashing in South Dakota.

Mangan was chief engineer for TTTech Computertechnik, a Viennese company that supplies the computer chips and software to control the cabin-pressurization system for the A380, which is being assembled at the Airbus plant in France.

In October, TTTech fired Mangan and filed civil and criminal charges against him for revealing company documents. The company said the information was proprietary and he had no right to disclose it to anyone.

Mangan countersued, saying he had been wrongly terminated for raising legitimate safety concerns.

Unlike U.S. laws that shield whistle-blowers from corporate retaliation, Austrian laws offer no such protection. Last year an Austrian judge imposed an unusual gag order on Mangan, seeking to stop him from talking about the case.

Mangan posted details about the case anyway in his own Internet blog. The Austrian court fined him $185,000 for violating the injunction.

And the Vienna police, who are conducting a criminal investigation into the matter, searched the family's apartment for four hours, downloading files from Mangan's computer as his children watched.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:18 AM


CPB Taps Two GOP Conservatives for Top Posts (Paul Farhi, September 27, 2005, Washington Post)

A leading Republican donor and fundraiser was elected chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting yesterday, tightening conservative control over the agency that oversees National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting Service.

Cheryl F. Halpern, a New Jersey lawyer and real estate developer, won approval from the CPB's board. She succeeds a close board ally, Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, who stirred controversy earlier this year by contending that public broadcasting favors liberal views. Tomlinson's term as chairman had expired, but he will remain a member of the board.

The board also elected another conservative, Gay Hart Gaines, as its vice chairman. Gaines, an interior decorator by training, was a charter member and a chairman of GOPAC, a Republican fundraising group that then-Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) used to engineer the GOP takeover of the House in 1994.

With the changes, conservatives with close ties to the Bush administration have assumed control of every important position at the agency, which distributes about $400 million in federal funds to noncommercial radio and TV stations and is supposed to act as a buffer against outside political influence.

Now can they get rid of the Folk revivals and Motown reunions?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:15 AM


Don Adams, Television's Maxwell Smart, Dies at 82 (DOUGLAS MARTIN, 9/27/05, NY Times)

[S]mart's charm lay in his utter humanness, the opposite of Bond's preposterous competence. In an interview with The Saturday Evening Post in 1966, Mr. Adams analyzed Smart: "He's not superhuman. But he believes in what he does and he wants to do his best."

His best was rarely good enough. Smart called into work with a dial phone on the sole of his shoe, and often got a wrong number. He wore jet shoes that shot him up, often into the roof. He was so security-minded that he would often swallow secret messages before reading them.

Donald James Yarmy was born on April 13, 1923, in Manhattan. He said changed his last name to that of his first wife, Adelaide Adams, because acting auditions were often done in alphabetical order.

His father ran a few small restaurants in the Bronx. Mr. Adams grew up hating school and playing hooky at the movies. During World War II, he joined the Marines at 16 by lying about his age. On Guadalcanal, he was shot and contracted blackwater fever, fatal 90 percent of the time.

After the war, he drifted into stand-up comedy, always refraining from dirty jokes, presaging the almost ludicrous uprightness of Maxwell Smart. He cut back on nightclub work to support his family with jobs as a restaurant cashier and as a commercial artist.

His first real success as a comic came when he won an Arthur Godfrey "Talent Scouts" competition in 1954, which led to television variety show appearances on "The Steve Allen Show" and elsewhere.

Mr. Adams created the comedy character Byron Glick, an incompetent house detective, who was a precursor to Max. Mr. Adams tried comedy writing, producing material for Garry Moore and Mr. Allen. When Mr. Adams's friend Bill Dana got a comedy series, he hired Mr. Adams to regularly play Byron Glick.

"Get Smart" was originally the brainchild of the producers Dan Melnick and David Susskind, and was then refined by the writers Mel Brooks and Buck Henry. ABC passed on the show, but NBC loved it. The writers first thought of Tom Poston for the Smart role, but Mr. Adams was under contract to NBC.

The program was immediately a success with viewers, though Jack Gould, reviewing the new show in The New York Times, fretted that Mr. Adams was trying too hard to be funny. Mr. Gould, however, heartily approved of Ms. Feldon, fondly recalling her appearances in Revlon's "Tiger Girl" commercials.

In an interview on NBC's "Today Show" in 2002, Ms. Feldon gave Mr. Adams credit for much of the show's success. "When you got in a scene with Don, it was like stepping onto a surfboard, and you just flew over those waves," she said. "And it was exhilarating."

Don Adams and the Sole of Wit (Washington Post, September 27, 2005)
Once upon a time (in the '60s) there was a television show called "Get Smart." It was a sendup of James Bond spy dramas and featured the bumbling secret agent 86, Maxwell Smart, played by Don Adams, who died Sunday at age 82.

Many of its gags entered the culture permanently, used by people who had never seen the show. For example:

Sorry about that!

The response to a colossal blunder. In 1965 one of the Gemini astronauts used it. It became a favorite of grunts in Vietnam.


And loving it!

Response to a warning of grave danger.

Would you believe . . . ?

Get Smart was pretty dreadful, but he was terrific as Tennessee Tuxedo.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:33 AM


Blair promising to step up reform (BBC, 9/27/05)

Tony Blair will tell the Labour Party it must continue to modernise Britain as he seeks to show he has not run out of steam as prime minister.

He will outline to the party's conference in Brighton a host of reform plans for the public services.

The solution to challenges facing the UK is "not less New Labour but more New Labour", Mr Blair will say.

He speaks after Gordon Brown delivered a speech seen as confirming his status as leader-in-waiting.

Big -time Reform continues to sell...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:30 AM


State posts strong house, condo sales: Median prices climb, but some local agents see market softening (Kimberly Blanton, September 27, 2005, Boston Globe)

Massachusetts single-family home sales posted the second strongest August on record and condominium sales continued their relentless rise last month, the Massachusetts Association of Realtors reported yesterday.

In August, 5,482 single-family homes sold statewide, second only to the August 2001 record of 5,526. The median house price of $375,000 was nearly 5 percent higher than a year ago. [...]

Real estate brokers and analyst say Massachusetts has experienced less speculation than lower-priced housing markets such as Florida or Arizona. Yet, rising inventories of suburban Boston homes are concerning homeowners, amid growing evidence it has become more difficult to sell. The single-family market data also is creating confusion, because no clear trend has emerged: sales have been down three of the past five months and up two, while prices rise steadily.

Maggie Tomkiewicz, president of Massachusetts Association of Realtors, said the single-family market is holding up. She said there is currently 6 3/4 months of supply of single-family houses on the market, while 7 1/2 months to 8 1/2months is a balanced market.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:07 AM


Koizumi resumes reform drive in Diet policy speech (REIJI YOSHIDA, 9/27/05, Japan Times)

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi relaunched his reform offensive Monday, vowing to "boldly scale down" government by privatizing the postal services, cutting personnel costs and reforming state-backed financial institutions.

However, in his policy speech to the special Diet session, he offered neither numerical targets nor a timetable to guide his renewed pledge for small government. Instead, he focused on his plan to privatize the giant state-run mail, postal savings and insurance institution. He began by repeating his vow to slash the number of government workers.

"I will review their salary structures and set a net-reduction target for the number of state government workers," Koizumi said during his address to the Diet. "I will boldly scale down the size of the government by implementing structural reforms like these."

Koizumi's ruling Liberal Democratic Party won big in the Sept. 11 general election by campaigning on the theme of reform. In the wake of their stinging defeat, the opposition parties are also now attacking "inefficient" government workers and services and calling for restructuring.

Koizumi also touched on diplomacy, merely repeating earlier stated polices and offering no new strategies toward Iraq and North Korea.

Due to the limited agenda, the 11-minute speech turned out to be Koizumi's shortest since taking office in April 2001 and the second-shortest in postwar Japan, according to one of his deputies.

Not that reform of the postal system isn't a good thing, but if it's the only reform that comes out of all this it will hardly be enough to change Japan's prospects much.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:30 AM


Katrina Takes a Toll on Truth, News Accuracy: Rumors supplanted accurate information and media magnified the problem. Rapes, violence and estimates of the dead were wrong. (Susannah Rosenblatt and James Rainey, September 27, 2005, LA Times)

Maj. Ed Bush recalled how he stood in the bed of a pickup truck in the days after Hurricane Katrina, struggling to help the crowd outside the Louisiana Superdome separate fact from fiction. Armed only with a megaphone and scant information, he might have been shouting into, well, a hurricane.

The National Guard spokesman's accounts about rescue efforts, water supplies and first aid all but disappeared amid the roar of a 24-hour rumor mill at New Orleans' main evacuation shelter. Then a frenzied media recycled and amplified many of the unverified reports.

"It just morphed into this mythical place where the most unthinkable deeds were being done," Bush said Monday of the Superdome.

His assessment is one of several in recent days to conclude that newspapers and television exaggerated criminal behavior in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, particularly at the overcrowded Superdome and Convention Center.

September 26, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:14 PM


US Household Net Worth Up 1.9% To $49.83 Trillion In 2Q (Campion Walsh, 9/21/05, Dow Jones)

U.S. households saw their total net worth rise 1.9% to a record $49.83 trillion in the second quarter of 2005, the Federal Reserve said Wednesday.

Or, over four times the $11.7 Trillion GDP last year.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:59 PM


Return of the right (The Economist, Sep 26th 2005)

More surprising than who lost was who came out on top. Until a few days before the election, the free-market Civic Platform had led the polls. But it was overtaken at the last moment by another right-wing party, Law and Justice. Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Law and Justice’s straight-talking candidate for prime minister, managed to appeal to both those who want to grasp the opportunities that capitalism and democracy have created, and those who fear change.

Once again an election outside the Anglosphere is won by the party that promises less reform.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:39 PM


Man Takes Citizenship Oath, Wins Lottery (AP, 9/26/05)

A man who immigrated from Kenya to the United States found prosperity beyond his expectations on the day he became a U.S. citizen.

Shortly after Moses Bittok, of West Des Moines, took the oath of citizenship on Friday, he discovered he had a $1.89 million winning ticket from the Iowa Lottery's Hot Lotto game.

"It's almost like you adopted a country and then they netted you $1.8 million," Bittok said Monday as he cashed in his ticket. "It doesn't happen anywhere — I guess only in America."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:21 PM


Bush Drops 'Diversity' Hint About Nominee (JESSE J. HOLLAND, Sep 26, 2005, AP)

President Bush hinted on Monday that his next nominee for the Supreme Court would be a woman or a minority, saying that "diversity is one of the strengths of the country." [...]

Two-thirds of the 100 senators Republican and Democrats alike had already announced their support of Roberts, the conservative federal appeals court judge, as the successor to the late William H. Rehnquist before the Senate even started its final debate Monday afternoon. [...]

A floor vote is planned for no later than Thursday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:14 PM


Bayh says he won't support Roberts nomination (Maureen Groppe, 9/26/05, Indianapolis Star)

Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh said Friday he will vote against the nomination of Judge John G. Roberts Jr. to be the next chief justice of the United States because not enough is known about how Roberts will act. [...]

Bayh was the last Senate Democrat considering a 2008 presidential run to announce how he will vote.

Delaware Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. voted against Roberts and Wisconsin Sen. Russell D. Feingold voted for him when the Senate Judiciary Committee endorsed his nomination Thursday. New York Sen. Hillary Clinton announced her opposition after the committee vote and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry has also said he’ll vote against Roberts when the full Senate takes up the nomination next week.
Women’s groups, which are influential in the Democratic primary process, are opposed to Roberts.

Mr. Bayh's father did so much damage to himself in his presidential bid that he ended up losing his Senate seat to that notorious moron Dan Quayle.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:55 PM


Greenspan: Homeowners could weather price drop (Jeannine Aversa, 9/26/05, AP)

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, softening his concern about a possibly overheated housing market, said Monday that many homeowners have enough equity to cushion the shock if prices drop. [...]

"The vast majority of homeowners have a sizable equity cushion with which to absorb a potential decline in house prices," he said. Less than 5% of home borrowers were highly leveraged, according to one measure, he cited.

An end to the housing boom, meanwhile, could have a silver lining, the Fed chairman added.

Greenspan hypothesized that it probably would be accompanied by a moderation in the growth of consumer spending. That could lead to a boost in Americans' personal savings rate, which has been dismally low, and could curb Americans' insatiable appetites for foreign-made goods, helping to narrow the United States' bloated trade deficit, he said.

Sure, we could be like the Japanese and instead of having equity in homes we could have passbook savings accounts.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:47 PM


Rebuilding Republican credibility (Charles Bloomer, September 26, 2005, Enter Stage Right)

In a recent column, I criticized the Republican leadership for ignoring two topics that have become important to their conservative base – illegal immigration and massive spending. In this column, I want to follow up with some ideas for actions that the party can take to help regain credibility.

The conservative base is not opposed to immigration, so long as it is legal and in the best interest of this country. [...]

The solution is simple, but will cost money. The Republicans in office, including the president and congress, must authorize and fund significant increases in our Border Patrol. [...]

Among fiscal conservatives, the Republicans in office have lost all credibility as the party of smaller government. [...]

At least some Republicans are paying heed to the grumblings of conservatives. The Republican Study Committee in the House of Representatives has responded to the challenge laid down by Tom DeLay. The RSC has come up with a list of recommendations for cuts to offset the funds to be spent on Katrina rebuilding.

The RSC ideas are a good start, but need to go further. Rather than spend billions of tax money to rebuild New Orleans, the administration should encourage private investment in the rebuilding process. Tax incentives on investments in post-Katrina and post-Rita, recovery such as an elimination of capital gains tax on those investments would draw considerable private money. Make the tax holiday on capital gains effective for ten years.

Beyond hurricane relief, the RSC should study ways to seriously cut the fat and pork from the federal budget. A great start would be to eliminate the 6000-plus pork barrel items in the Transportation Bill.

So you can buy off these folks with a vast increase in the federal bureaucracy and small cuts in discrete infrastructure programs but we're supposed to take their griping seriously?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:34 PM


Rice will visit Haiti on Tuesday (The Associated Press, September 26, 2005)

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will travel to Haiti on Tuesday to show support for presidential elections set for Nov. 20.

During her daylong visit, she will meet with members of the interim government that has been in place since shortly after the departure of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February 2004.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:32 PM


Supreme Court may hear abortion case (The Associated Press, September 26, 2005)

The Bush administration has asked the Supreme Court to reinstate a ban on a procedure that critics call "partial birth" abortions, setting up a showdown that could be decided by the president's new choice for the court.

That'll give Justice Gonzales a chance to rule in favor of the pro-life movement before the mid-term election.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:27 PM


Pentagon: Top Zarqawi Aide Killed (CBS News, Sept. 26, 2005)

The No. 2 al Qaeda leader in Iraq was killed Sunday night, U.S. officials say. Abu Azzam, reportedly the deputy to Abu Musab al Zarqawi, was shot during a house rain in Baghdad, according to Pentagon officials.

As the aide to Zarqawi, Azzam was reportedly in control of financing foreign fighters coming into Iraq, CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports.

According to Pentagon officials coalition troops raided the house in response to a tip. When Azzam opened fire, these officials say, he was killed with troops' return fire.

What effect this will have on the insurgency remains to be seen. In the past, key Zarqawi lieutenants have been killed or captured without any decrease in the number of suicide bombings.

We only have to get lucky once, they have to be lucky every minute of every day.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:51 PM


Crime Rate Remains at 2003 Level, Study Says: Justice Department Statistics at Lowest Mark Since 1973 (Mark Sherman, September 26, 2005, Associated Press)

The nation's crime rate was unchanged last year, holding at the lowest levels since the government began surveying crime victims in 1973, the Justice Department reported yesterday.

Since 1993, violent crime as measured by victim surveys has fallen by 57 percent and property crime by 50 percent. That has included a 9 percent drop in violent crime from 2001-2002 to 2003-2004.

The 2004 violent crime rate -- assault, sexual assault and robbery -- was 21.4 victims for every 1,000 people age 12 and older. That amounts to about one violent crime victim for every 47 U.S. residents.

By comparison, there were 22.6 violent crime victims per 1,000 people in 2003. The Bureau of Justice Statistics said the difference between the rates in 2003 and 2004 was statistically insignificant.

Homicide is not counted because the bureau's study is based on statements by crime victims. In a separate report based on preliminary police data, the FBI found a 3.6 percent drop between 2003 and 2004 -- from 16,500 to 15,910. Chicago was largely responsible for the decrease.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:35 PM


Schools voucher plan to end rift (Samantha Maiden, 27sep05, The Australian)

AUSTRALIA'S schools are on the verge of a revolution that will end "the Berlin Wall" between the public and private systems and deliver greater choice to parents, former competition watchdog chief Allan Fels has predicted.

Speaking on the eve of the Schooling for the 21st Century conference, Professor Fels said it was time to debate a voucher scheme that would allow parents to spend a taxpayer-grant at public or private schools.

Parents and students should also be offered greater choice between public schools, including being able to select from a cluster of schools in their region, rather than the current "take it or leave it" option based on residence.

As Education Minister Brendan Nelson steps up his campaign to apply benchmarks to key curriculums in the nation's schools, Professor Fels warned transparent and easily accessible information for parents and students on school performance was the key to driving competition and quality.

"We are going to find that the Berlin Wall between public and private schooling will start to come down," Professor Fels told The Australian.

...and John Howard pulls ahead...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:27 PM


'Intelligent Design' Trial Begins Today: A court case brought by parents in Pennsylvania could have a profound impact on America's debate over religion and its role in public life. (Josh Getlin, September 26, 2005, LA Times)

In the beginning, members of the Dover Area School District board wrangled over what should be required in their high school biology curriculum.

Some were adamant that science teachers should stick with the widely taught theory of evolution and random selection. Others said the teaching of "intelligent design" should also be required, arguing that certain elements of life, like cell structure, are best explained by an intelligent cause.

The debate had strong religious overtones.

"Nearly 2,000 years ago, someone died on a cross for us," said board member William Buckingham, who urged his colleagues to include intelligent design in ninth-grade science classes. "Shouldn't we have the courage to stand up for him?"

Today, a trial begins over the board's decision last year ordering that students be taught about intelligent design and flaws in Charles Darwin's theories.

Several parents, fearing the intrusion of religion into public schooling, filed a lawsuit to block the policy, backed by American Civil Liberties Union attorneys.

Which liberty is it that requires the majority to be silenced?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:18 PM


An ideal husband (Joshua Glenn, September 25, 2005, Boston Globe)

THE ONLY WAY for a married man to ''win the battle of the sexes," insists former Somerville resident and manliness expert Craig Boreth (he wrote ''The Hemingway Cookbook"), is to ''convince your wife that, in reality, she has won." Easier said than done, no doubt, but Boreth's new book, ''How to Iron Your Own Damn Shirt: The Perfect Husband Handbook" , features 50-plus seemingly airtight stratagems for pulling this off.

Husbands, if you haven't figured out how to act like you're listening closely at the breakfast table or apologize convincingly, or pretend not to look at other women, Boreth has solutions. These are, respectively: Practice what therapists call ''active listening" (pay attention to body language, ask questions, summarize); first de-escalate, then semi-apologize, then find out exactly what upset her, then be honest, then negotiate a compromise; and only glance--as though looking at the sun.

Rather than becoming perfect, ''a husband's only goal should be to create the perception in his wife's mind that he's perfect," Boreth said in an e-mail interview. ''If that requires a little subterfuge in order for him to maintain some degree of sanity and manhood, then so be it."

Every study ever done on healthy marriages reveals the same core fact--they depend on the wife winning and the husband having enough sense to realize it's not worth fighting about.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:03 PM


A Shift on Iraq: The Generals Plan a Slow Exit (David Ignatius, September 26, 2005, Washington Post)

Posted on a bulletin board at Centcom headquarters here is a 1918 admonition from T.E. Lawrence explaining what he learned in training Arab soldiers: "It is better to let them do it themselves imperfectly than to do it yourself perfectly. It is their country, their way, and our time is short."

That quote sums up an important shift in U.S. military strategy on Iraq that has been emerging over the past year. The commanders who are running the war don't talk about transforming Iraq into an American-style democracy or of imposing U.S. values. They understand that Iraqis dislike American occupation, and for that reason they want fewer American troops in Iraq, not more. Most of all, they don't want the current struggle against Iraqi insurgents, who are nasty but militarily insignificant, to undermine U.S. efforts against the larger threat posed by al Qaeda terrorists, who would kill hundreds of thousands of Americans if they could.

I had a rare opportunity to hear a detailed explanation of U.S. military strategy this weekend when the Centcom chief, Gen. John Abizaid, gathered his top generals here for what he called a "commanders' huddle." They described a military approach that's different, at least in tone, from what the public perceives. For the commanders, Iraq isn't an endless tunnel. They are planning to reduce U.S. troop levels over the next year to a force that will focus on training and advising the Iraqi military. They don't want permanent U.S. bases in Iraq. Indeed, they believe such a high-visibility American presence will only make it harder to stabilize the country.

No one but neocons and the Left ever thought there were going to be permanent bases.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:59 PM


Oil bubble set to burst?: Some analysts say prices could now retreat after industry dodges severe damage from Rita.

Could the recent spike in oil prices have created a bubble that's about to burst?

With Hurricane Rita causing less damage that originally feared to the oil industry and oil prices treading water Monday, some industry analysts said we may be about to watch a steady, and significant, drop in energy prices.

"Price declines could be slow this week, maybe with a bubble burst at some point in the future," said analyst Peter Beutel, president of Cameron Hanover. "It does appear we've turned the corner here in this market. I don't think we'll see prices at these levels again anytime in the next five years." [...]

But before you start cheering Beutel's prediction, understand that part of his forecast is based on the belief that oil is high enough now to spark a global recession, which will significantly cut demand. He also believes that recent oil price records have spurred plans to increase global oil production, which he sees feeding the decline in oil prices.

Beutel sees oil prices falling all the way to the $25 to $35 a barrel range in late 2006 or 2007. Most other analysts aren't willing to follow that forecast, although some agree there could be a pullback in prices, even without a recession, if consumers start to have some breaks go their way.

"I think if the rest of the hurricane season doesn't cause disruptions, and global supplies stay as they are, we should see prices pulling back into in the low to mid-$50's, without a recession," said Sheraz Mian, oil analyst for Zacks Investment Research. "We could be in the high $40's if it's a warm winter."

The Saudis say they want a $20 a barrel drop.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:51 PM


Kerry's not- so-amazing race, on film (Lloyd Grove, 9/26/05, NY Daily News)

I hear that John Kerry loyalists are kicking themselves for cooperating last year with filmmaker Steve Rosenbaum on "Inside the Bubble," a potentially devastating behind-the-scenes look at the Massachusetts senator's failed presidential campaign.

I'm also told that Hillary Clinton partisans are licking their chops to see the film, which "could end up being the silver bullet that kills Kerry's presidential chances for 2008," says a Lowdown spy.

Shouldn't they be kicking themselves for participating in the campaign, not the movie?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:07 AM

SKIMMING (via Jefferson Park):

Korean War pals to attend 45th Division event (Brandy McDonnell, 9/26/05, The Oklahoman)

Ted D.D. Foster Jr. and Johnny H.T. No have been arguing for more than three decades over who saved whose life.

Their friendship was forged in the Korean War. Foster, 80, a retired colonel with the Army National Guard, credits No with guiding their platoon safely through a minefield and helping him communicate with Korean troops and refugees.

"In my mind, his contribution is by far greater," Foster said. "He and I have been together since 1952, so we've been together a hell of a long time."

No, 84, who was a South Korean interpreter in the platoon Foster commanded, counters that Foster sponsored him, and later his family, when he immigrated to Oklahoma more than 30 years ago.

"He claims I saved his life, but once I was in America, he helped me so much," No said. "Everything I have (is) owed to him."

As Mr. Park points out, in fifty years it'll be an American G.I. and his Iraqi interpreter.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:58 AM


Why Kyoto will never succeed, by Blair (Patrick Hennessy and James Langton, 25/09/2005, Daily Telegraph)

Tony Blair has admitted that the fight to prevent global warming by ordering countries to cut greenhouse gases will never be won.

The Prime Minister said "no country is going to cut its growth or consumption" despite environmental fears.

Mr Blair's comments, which he said were "brutally honest", mark a big environmental U-turn and will dismay Labour activists. [...]

His remarks, unreported at the time but now published in a transcript of the conference, are certain to spark wide-ranging criticism that he is again signing up to the agenda of President George W Bush. Under Mr Bush, the US has consistently refused to sign the Kyoto Treaty.

Wonder if he used the same shiv with which he dispatched the EU?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:50 AM


Schröder's Putsch against Reality: The results of the German elections eight days ago are clear: German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's party got 450,000 fewer votes than the political camp supporting his opponent Angela Merkel. But he's still claiming the chancellery for himself. It's a political circus that threatens to make Chancellor Schröder into the lead clown. (Dirk Kurbjuweit , 9/26/05, Der Spiegel)

Schröder has presented himself since the elections as a man with a future, as someone who has scored a last-second goal thus giving himself a shot at overtime. But this is roughly where the sports analogy ends. In soccer, for example, the referee calls overtime when there is a tie. But there was no tie here. Schröder and his Social Democrats lost the election to the Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), by almost 450,000 votes. In politics, like in sports, Schröder should have been out of the game, because it's normal procedure in Germany that the chancellor comes from the strongest party -- that the strongest party leads the ensuing governing coalition.

All that, it seems, is irrelevant to Schröder. He has staged the first putsch in German post-war history, a putsch against reality. On the evening of the election, he announced that he had no intention of allowing Angela Merkel to take the helm of a possible grand coalition between his own party and the CDU.

Berlin has been in an uproar ever since. Since the vote, there is reality and there is Schröder's version of reality. And there is also a major effort on the part of the SPD to ensure that reality conforms to Schröder's concept of reality, to restyle Schröder's revolt as an act of statesmanship.

Suddenly the German political stage has turned into a Las Vegas casino, where everyone furiously plays poker by day and watches Siegfried and Roy, the illusionists, put on their act by night. But in Berlin the illusionists' names are Gerhard Schröder and Franz Müntefering, who, it turns out, have shown themselves adept at transforming mice into elephants, poodles into tigers.

It's no small achievement for American foreign policy to have turned Germany from a stage for Wagnerian tragedy into one for opera bouffe.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:22 AM


Don't Blink. You'll Miss the 258th-Richest American (NINA MUNK, September 25, 2005, NY Times)

THE latest Forbes 400 list of the richest people in America has just hit the newsstands. The idea for the Forbes 400 - rather than, say, 300 or 500 - was inspired by Mrs. Astor's 400, the definitive list of New York high society in the 1890's. It's rumored that Mrs. William Backhouse Astor Jr. limited her social list to 400 because only 400 people could fit into her ballroom, but that may not be true. In any case, they had to be the right 400 people. As her escort, Ward McAlister, explained to reporters in 1888: "If you go outside that number, you strike people who are either not at ease in a ballroom or else make others not at ease."

The first edition of the Forbes 400, dated Sept. 13, 1982, included mainline families like the Rockefellers, the Mellons and the du Ponts. But they found themselves together with self-made men, some of whom were not terribly at ease in a ballroom: William R. Hewlett, who had started Hewlett-Packard in a one-car garage with his classmate David Packard and was then worth $1.3 billion; Robert C. Guccione, the founder of Penthouse magazine, then worth $400 million; Saul P. Steinberg, a corporate raider who had accumulated a $260 million fortune; An Wang, originally of Shanghai, who had started Wang Labs with $15,000 in 1951 and was worth around $400 million in 1982; Meyer Lansky, a mobster whose estimated net worth that year was $200 million; and Laurence A. Tisch, who built a fortune then valued at $600 million by assembling a huge conglomerate, the Loews Corporation. (Note: all net worth figures are in 2005 dollars.) All you needed to join the Forbes 400 list was money.

Right from the start, the Forbes 400 reflected an American ideal: we were a nation of smart, hardworking, resourceful, determined, innovative, daring self-starters. Above all, the Forbes 400 suggested mobility and unlimited opportunity. Every year, more of the old names fell off the list, only to be replaced by names you'd never heard of - names of people who had been inspired to build something from nothing. Inherited wealth, which once dominated the Forbes 400, has over the years come to account for less than 40 percent of the list. The number of Ivy League graduates has dropped, too. And New York City is no longer the epicenter of American wealth.

A few days ago, I read through the newest Forbes 400 list of the richest people in America, hoping to find many names I'd never heard of. They're not there. Through no fault of its own, the list no longer reflects a dynamic and elastic economy; instead, it reflects a growing concentration of wealth and economic power. Warren E. Buffett, Paul G. Allen, Kirk Kerkorian, John W. Kluge, Carl C. Icahn, Michael R. Bloomberg, Ronald O. Perelman, Leona Helmsley, Henry R. Kravis, the Waltons, the Pritzkers, the Newhouses, the Lauders - the same old names, one after another.

It's hard to say when the Forbes 400 list started to stagnate, but 1999 may have been a turning point.

As Mr. Schwartz points out, the chart that accompanies the story put paid to its argument:

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:53 AM


Former rival helps Hu solidify grip on China (Joseph Kahn, SEPTEMBER 25, 2005, The New York Times)

Three years after becoming China's top leader, Hu Jintao has solidified his grip on power and intimidated critics inside and outside the Communist Party with the help of the man once seen as his most potent rival.

Hu, China's president and Communist Party chief, and Zeng Qinghong, vice president and the man in charge of the party's organizational affairs, have tackled the most delicate domestic and foreign policy issues as a team, governing as hard-liners with a deft political touch, former Chinese officials and scholars with leadership connections said.

Their bond is a surprise because Zeng was the longtime right-hand man of the previous No. 1 leader, Jiang Zemin. A skillful back-room political operator considered to have strong military ties, Zeng was long viewed as the only person capable of challenging Hu for power.

Instead, Zeng and Hu joined forces last year to push Jiang to retire and to give up his position as leader of China's military, party insiders said. That cleared the way for Hu to become military chief and weakened the formidable political network Jiang had constructed in his 13 years at the helm.

Their alliance has shored up the Communist Party as it faces enormous stresses, including simmering social unrest and an uphill struggle to curtail corruption. They have quieted talk of serious factional splits and paved the way for Hu to impose his orthodox, repressive stamp on Chinese politics.

Realists and econocons always think the next communist is going to be the reformist one....

China's leaders launch smokeless war against internet and media dissent (Benjamin Joffe-Walt, September 26, 2005, Guardian

China announced a fresh crackdown yesterday on the internet amid further revelations of a plan by Hu Jintao, the president, to suppress dissent.

"The state bans the spreading of any news with content that is against national security and public interest," said a statement from Xinhua, the official news agency. The announcement called for blogs and personal web pages to "be directed towards serving the people and socialism and insist on correct guidance of public opinion for maintaining national and public interests".

The statement was just one of a series of initiatives by the government to root out politically sensitive news from domestic and foreign media. [...]

Providing further evidence of an organised national crackdown, the New York Times reported yesterday that Mr Hu called for a "smokeless war" against "liberal elements" in China during a secret leadership meeting in May

Where there's smokeless there's fear.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:42 AM


Joe Bauman, 83, Who Hit 72 Homers as Minor Leaguer, Dies (RICHARD GOLDSTEIN, 9/22/05, NY Times)

Joe Bauman, who hit 72 home runs in 1954 playing for a minor league team in Roswell, N.M., setting a single-season record for professional baseball that stood for nearly half a century, died Tuesday at a hospital in Roswell. He was 83.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:39 AM


Legal railroading disguised as efficiency (Ira Reiner, September 26, 2005, LA Times)

THE SENATE Judiciary Committee is scheduled to take up the Streamlined Procedures Act of 2005 this week. This legislation, ostensibly designed to make the justice system more efficient, is a Trojan horse whose transparent purpose is to strip the federal courts of virtually all of their jurisdiction to review state criminal court proceedings.

Essentially, the legislation would eviscerate the role of the federal courts in ensuring that innocent people are not mistakenly convicted of crimes and that state courts do not send people to prison in violation of their constitutional rights. It would restrict habeas corpus rights, which are enshrined in the Constitution, date back to the Magna Carta and guarantee that you can go to a court and tell a judge that you are being held illegally.

Why is this the role of the federal courts?

It isn't.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:36 AM


Free trade isn't free of partisan politics (Daniel P. Erikson and Eric Jacobstein, September 26, 2005, LA Times)

BITTER PARTISANSHIP is putting the United States' trade agenda in the Americas in serious jeopardy. Faced with dim prospects for a hemisphere-wide free trade area, the Bush administration has focused on strengthening trade ties with Latin America through the creation of smaller, regional pacts such as the Central American Free Trade Agreement, which was ratified by Congress earlier this year.

The next phase of this strategy encompasses the Andean countries of Colombia, Ecuador and Peru (with Bolivia participating as an observer). But to succeed, the White House must address the way the CAFTA vote crystallized deep divisions between Republicans and Democrats that threaten to undermine economic integration in the hemisphere.

The White House deservedly claims CAFTA as an important triumph, but the nature of the victory confirmed the near-total collapse of a bipartisan trade consensus in Washington. CAFTA was passed by Congress on July 27, but only after House Majority Leader Tom DeLay stayed up past midnight twisting arms to produce a 217-215 vote. More than 90% of Democrats united in opposition to CAFTA; only 15 broke ranks to support the agreement.

And the unions and Left ideologues who run the Party are going to work to defeat those 15.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:31 AM


Bush Again Faces Tough High Court Choice (David G. Savage and Richard B. Schmitt, September 26, 2005, LA Times)

The diversity issue "is being overplayed by the media. I think you should take the president at his word: He wants a judicial conservative, someone who is extremely smart, has a good temperament and a reverence for the Constitution," said Leonard A. Leo, executive vice president of the conservative Federalist Society, who has been advising the White House through Roberts' nomination process.

Washington lawyer Bradford Berenson, who served in the White House counsel's office during Bush's first term, also thinks the nominee will be a true conservative.

"I would predict he will keep his promise and appoint a justice in the mold of Scalia and Thomas, a strong judicial conservative," Berenson said. "I don't buy the argument the president will pull his punches. That's not his style."

U.S. appeals court Judges J. Michael Luttig in Virginia, Michael W. McConnell in Denver and Samuel A. Alito Jr. in Philadelphia remain on the list of possible nominees.

If Bush looks for "another John Roberts," some believe, McConnell could emerge as the nominee.

He is a former University of Chicago law professor known for his scholarly interest in religion and the 1st Amendment. He was also a regular advocate before the Supreme Court before Bush named him to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Denver.

"He is a person of proven legal brilliance and judicial temperament, and he is respected by scholars on the left as well as on the right," said UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh. "He was broadly endorsed by academics when he was nominated before." Still, he added, "there's not much political upside for Bush in nominating him."

Other than a repeat of the hearings where Democrats just humiliated themselves and infuriated their activists.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 AM


Hamas Halts Its Attacks on Israel From Gaza Strip (Laura King, September 26, 2005, LA Times)

In an abrupt reversal after a two-day Israeli campaign of arrests and assassinations, the Palestinian militant group Hamas announced Sunday it would no longer use the Gaza Strip as a staging ground for attacks against Israel.

The declaration, delivered at a late-night news conference in Gaza City by Hamas' top political leader, Mahmoud Zahar, came hours after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon promised a no-holds-barred crackdown on Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other militant organizations.

"The movement is announcing a halt to all its military operations from the Gaza Strip against the Israeli occupation," Zahar told reporters. He said Hamas was acting to protect the interests of the Palestinian people.

Democratic accountability is a marvelous thing to behold.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:09 AM


Bush offers Pentagon as 'lead agency' in disasters (Bill Sammon, September 26, 2005, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

President Bush yesterday said he wants Congress to consider putting the Pentagon, not state and local agencies, in charge of responding to large natural disasters in the future. [...]

"It is now clear that a challenge on this scale requires greater federal authority and a broader role for the armed forces -- the institution of our government most capable of massive logistical operations on a moment's notice," he said.

That would require a change of law, since the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 forbids the military from performing civilian law enforcement duties. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is investigating possible reforms to the act, which Pentagon officials consider archaic. [...]

Mr. Bush's push for greater consolidation of federal power in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita mirrors his successful implementation of the Patriot Act in the wake of September 11. The act, which gives law enforcement officials greater authority to pursue terrorists, has been called overly intrusive by critics.

Similarly, critics are already warning against repeal of Posse Comitatus.

"Washington seems poised to embrace further centralization and militarization at home," cautioned Gene Healy, senior editor at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank. "That has the makings of a policy disaster that would dwarf Hurricane Katrina."

Many Contracts for Storm Work Raise Questions (ERIC LIPTON and RON NIXON, 9/26/05, NY Times)
More than 80 percent of the $1.5 billion in contracts signed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency alone were awarded without bidding or with limited competition, government records show, provoking concerns among auditors and government officials about the potential for favoritism or abuse.

Already, questions have been raised about the political connections of two major contractors - the Shaw Group and Kellogg, Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton - that have been represented by the lobbyist Joe M. Allbaugh, President Bush's former campaign manager and a former leader of FEMA.

...let the hysteria begin.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:03 AM


Polish centre-right nears victory (BBC, 9/26/05)

Centre-right parties with links to the former Solidarity movement in Poland have ousted the left in the country's general election.

With 60% of votes counted, the Law and Justice Party (PiS) polled 27%, ahead of the Civic Platform (PO) on 24%.

The vote is being seen as a major snub to the ruling left, who have been hit by scandal and seen unemployment rocket to 18%, highest in the European Union.

The polls are Poland's first since joining the EU in May 2004.

The elections chose the 460-member lower house of parliament while the country will go back to the polls in two weeks to elect a new president.

Law and Justice leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski is expected to become Poland's next prime minister.

His identical twin brother, Lech Kaczynski, is running for president.

Poles Take a Sharp Right in Election, Exit Polls Say (Ela Kasprzycka, September 26, 2005, LA Times)
Polish voters appeared to take a sharp turn to the right Sunday, with exit polls showing that they had swept out of power former Communist leaders tainted by corruption accusations and had handed an election victory to conservative parties that promised more jobs, lower taxes and clean government.

Exit polls for Polish public television showed the anti-corruption Law and Justice Party leading with 27% support and the pro-market Civic Platform a close second with 24%. The two groups, which have their roots in the Solidarity labor movement, together appeared set to win at least 295 seats in the 460-member Sejm, the powerful lower house of parliament.

They also were expected to control the 100-seat upper house, with the exit polls showing that together they would win more than 80 seats. [...]

The ruling Democratic Left Alliance, which had struggled in preelection surveys just to get more than the 5% of the vote required to win any seats in parliament, performed better than expected, capturing 11%, according to exit polls.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:58 AM


Brown to lead 'as a New Labour PM' (JAMES KIRKUP, 9/25/05, The Scotsman)

GORDON Brown will today declare that he will lead Britain as a New Labour Prime Minister, setting himself on a collision course with trade unions and the old left with a personal manifesto continuing Tony Blair's programme of reform.

In what the Chancellor describes as his vision for Britain for the next decade, Mr Brown will symbolically embrace the Blairite agenda he has often appeared to resist, telling the Labour conference the party "must and will be New Labour."

Mr Brown's deliberate vow to uphold Mr Blair's policies is a calculated attempt to appeal to former Tory voters in the centre-ground who worry that the Chancellor will try to take Labour back to the left when he assumes power in the next two years.

That transfer of power is now all but inevitable, with even the most Blairite ministers at the Labour conference in Brighton yesterday openly discussing an amicable, phased handover which would see Mr Brown appointed unopposed.

Bill Clinton's greatest failure was his inability to recast his party in such a fashion, as witness the near inexplicable fact that his own VP ran as a New Deal/Great Society liberal rather than as a New Democrat, ceding the Third Way to George W. Bush and the GOP.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:25 AM


Fusion Center takes aim at terror: But secrecy alarms civil libertarians (Stephanie Ebbert, September 26, 2005, Boston Globe)

Three miles down the road from Shoppers World, in a nondescript office inside State Police headquarters, a team of young intelligence analysts is launching a new front against terrorism.

Called the Commonwealth Fusion Center, the operation was funded by the state last fall and officially opened in May with a mission: to provide statewide information sharing among local, state, and federal public-safety agencies and the private sector in coordinating intelligence against terrorism.

In a secretive operation that is alarming civil-liberties advocates, 18 civilian analysts examine criminal data and 23 intelligence officers -- State Police troopers who have the power to arrest -- work in the field. Raytheon Co. won a $2.2 million contract to develop intelligence-sharing software for the state that aims to integrate databases and help analysts root out criminal trends. [...]

Fusion centers are an emerging trend nationwide, and at least a half-dozen states have established such centers in recent years. Last year Governor Mitt Romney, who chairs an intelligence-sharing group for the Homeland Security advisory council, called for a national network of state-based fusion centers.

Most governors this side of Bill Richardson have blank spots where you're supposed to list foreign policy/national security experience. This and the Olympics fill that hole a bit for Mr. Romney.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:10 AM


The Wrong Battle: John Roberts is the best Supreme Court nominee a left-wing partisan could hope to get out of this White House. (Eleanor Clift, Sept. 23, 2005, Newsweek)

Here’s a mind game: if the vote to confirm John Roberts were a secret ballot, would most Democrats vote for or against him? My guess is that Roberts would rack up numbers like Ruth Bader Ginsburg (96-3) and Stephen Breyer (87-9)—both appointed by President Clinton—if Democrats didn’t have to placate party activists so angry at President Bush they believe he should be opposed at every turn.

When even Ms Clift notices you're in the grip of Derangement Syndrome it's time to worry.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:41 AM


Let's draw a line through a bill of rights (James Allen, Sydney Morning Herald, September 26th, 2005)

So adopt a bill of rights, as Canada, the US, Britain and New Zealand have done, and you transfer a chunk of power to unelected judges to draw some of these contentious lines, under the cover provided by the amorphous, appealing language of rights.

Without a bill of rights in place, these difficult, debatable social policy lines are drawn on the basis of elections, voting and letting the numbers count. With a bill of rights in place the unelected judges decide - though ironically they, too, decide by voting; four justices' votes beat three. Victory does not go to the judge writing the most moving judgement or the one with the most references to moral philosophy.

What makes a bill of rights, and its transfer of power to judges, appear attractive is the unspoken assumption that the moral lines drawn by judges are somehow always the right lines, that a committee of ex-lawyers somehow has a pipeline to godly wisdom and greater moral perspicacity than secretaries, plumbers and regular voters. A good many judges, human rights lawyers and legal academics may happen to think this. I do not. Most Australians so far do not.

It’s the greatest political con job since the Divine Right of Kings.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:35 AM


China must wait for democracy (Spengler, 9/27/05, Asia Times)

[C]hina must learn to rule cities that are mushrooming into the largest urban concentrations the world has ever known, populated by poor migrants speaking various dialects. By far the largest popular migration in history is in flow tide between the Chinese countryside and coastal cities. In the mere span of five years between 1996 and 2000, China's urban-rural population ratio rose to 36%-64% from 29%-71%, and the UN Population Division projects that by 2050, the ratio will shift to 67%-33% urban. Chinese cities, the UN forecasts, will contain 800 million people by mid-century. By 2015, the population of cities will reach 220 million, compared to the 1995 level of 134 million.

Well over half a billion souls will migrate from farm to city over the space of half a century. All of them will be quite poor. China claims 80% literacy, but as countryside reads less than the city, it is a fair guess that a third of the migrants will be illiterate, and many of them, again perhaps a third, will not be able to understand a political speech in Mandarin, the largest dialect. No historical precedent exists for a population transfer on this scale, and to conduct it peacefully would be a virtuoso act of statecraft. To require China to adopt a Western parliamentary regime in the process is utopian. [...]

The contrast between China and Iran is instructive. As I observed elsewhere (Demographics and Iran's imperial design, September 13) Iran's demographic trainwreck pushes its government toward monstrous measures at home and adventures abroad. Its new president Ahmadinejad recently proposed to forcibly relocate 30 million rural Iranians, reducing the number of villages to only 10,000 from the present 66,000. China requires no such plan, for its high economic growth rate encourages underemployed peasants to find more productive work in cities. China's problem is to constrain migrants from the countryside, where up to 200 million farmers have little effective employment. Iran already suffers from an 11% unemployment rate. Ahmadinejad will dump the footloose young men of Iran into the army, taking a page from Hitler's book.

As long as China's economic growth continues to produce jobs, guiding the country through this great migration will command the undivided attention of the Chinese government. Except for securing supplies of energy and raw materials, nothing that China might undertake in the sphere of strategic policy will mar or bless this, its principal endeavor. It has no incentive to undertake foreign adventures. With no hope of achieving the required economic growth, by contrast, Iran's leaders hope to seize a regional empire, tempted by the oil riches of neighbors who also have a large Shi'ite Muslim population. [...]

The faith that underlies constitutional politics as it originated in the Anglo-Saxon world stemmed from a religious faith. America did not assign democratic rights to its citizens because it aspired for a more efficient market for public goods, but rather because Americans believed in a God who championed the poor and downtrodden, who could not help but hear the cry of the widowed and fatherless. It is possible that an enlightened but non-religious view of the rights of man, on the French model, might produce the same political result, but no sane person would want to repeat the political experience of France.

I do not propose that the Chinese must become Congregationalists before they can practice democracy. But political faith presumes a deeper sort of faith in the inherent worth of the humblest of one's fellow-citizens.

Odd of Spengler to both recognize the importance of demographics and underestimate it in the same breath. not only is the population transfer he refers to destabilizing but the enormous number of excess males makes it more likely that China will need to go to war than that Iran--which has a normal gender ratio--will. Likewise odd is that he underestimates the similarity of Shi'ism to messianic Judeo-Christianity and therefore the degree to which it can serve as a solid foundation for American-style democracy. The comparison of Iran to China would appear to favor the former quite strongly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


My Speech at the Antiwar Rally (Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., September 26, 2005,

I was invited to speak at a peace march and rally in Birmingham, Alabama, sponsored by the Alabama Peace and Justice Coalition, and gladly accepted the offer to speak against the war in Iraq.

Yes, as you might guess, the program was dominated by leftists who rightly oppose the war but want big government to run the economy. I accepted for the same reason I would accept an engagement to speak against taxes even if sponsored by a right-wing group that also favored the war and militarism.

The opportunity to make a difference in favor of freedom should not be passed up, even if one's associates have a mixed-up ideology. After all, most ideologies these days are mixed up, and have been for the better part of a century.

Those who want free markets domestically typically want central planning and socialism when it comes to war and peace, while those who see the merit of diplomacy and minding one's own business in foreign policy can't reconcile themselves to capitalism as the only economic system that lets people alone to live happy, prosperous lives.

What unites the Left and the far Right is their complete indifference to peoples who don't get to enjoy the way of life Mr. Rockwell advocates.

September 25, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:45 PM


ran defiant in face of IAEA criticism over nuclear stance (Daniel Dombey in Brussels and Gareth Smyth in Tehran, September 26 2005, Financial Times)

On Friday, European ambassadors walked out from a military parade in Tehran where missiles bore anti-US slogans.

That's the best you can hope for until National Health starts paying for spine transplants.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:39 PM


Scotland tops list of world's most violent countries (Katrina Tweedie, 9/19/05, Times of London)

A UNITED Nations report has labelled Scotland the most violent country in the developed world, with people three times more likely to be assaulted than in America.

England and Wales recorded the second highest number of violent assaults while Northern Ireland recorded the fewest. [...]

Violent crime has doubled in Scotland over the past 20 years and levels, per head of population, are now comparable with cities such as Rio de Janeiro, Johannesburg and Tbilisi.

The attacks have been fuelled by a “booze and blades” culture in the west of Scotland which has claimed more than 160 lives over the past five years.

The response? Keeping the pubs open 24/7.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:01 PM


Is God Omnipotent?: Surprising answers from the world's religions. (Deborah Caldwell, BeliefNet)

If God is all-powerful, why did he allow Hurricanes Katrina and Rita? Or the Asian tsunami? Or September 11? Or the Holocaust? Or bubonic plague?

Whenever incomprehensible, seemingly random tragedy affects us, we humans try to make sense of it--which is why, as we deal with the wreckage of Katrina and Rita, we ask about God's role. We wonder: If God is all-powerful, couldn't he have prevented the hurricanes? But since he didn’t prevent them, what kind of vindictive God is that? (And who wants such a God?

Then the next thought swirls to the surface: If God isn’t inherently cruel, is it possible He isn’t actually omnipotent?

Given how badly He biffed Creation, one wonders where the notion that He is all-powerful ever arose?
3:1 Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?

3:2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:

3:3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.

3:4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:

3:5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

3:6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

3:7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.

3:8 And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.

3:9 And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?

3:10 And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.

3:11 And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?

3:12 And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.

3:13 And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.

3:14 And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:

3:15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

3:16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

3:17 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;

3:18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;

3:19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

3:20 And Adam called his wife's name Eve; because she was the mother of all living.

3:21 Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.

3:22 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:

3:23 Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.

3:24 So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:58 PM


Spain: A country falling apart (Carlos Alberto Montaner, Firmas Press)

While Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero tries to unify the planet with a fanciful dialogue of civilizations, Spain crumbles dangerously before his frozen indifference.

The two most evident, most immediate fragments are Catalonia and the Basque provinces, the nation's most developed regions. But the centrifugal spasms won't end there, of course. Eventually, once regionalism strengthens, separatist tendencies will increase noticeably in Galicia and the Canary Islands. [...]

Spain, after all, is an abstraction. The country even lacks myths, historical heroes and shared symbols. That was a rightist vision that vanished after Franco's death. There isn't even a clear consensus on the national flag and coat of arms.

That explains the general prevalence among pro-Spain advocates -- the españolistas -- to be as indifferent and hold the same values (small and sweetly homespun) as people in the regions.

What's really important is one's salary, one's car, or the party with friends to watch a game of soccer. The militant españolistas who can quote Miguel de Unamuno's statement that ''Spain hurts me'' don't exceed 20 to 30 percent of the census.

Can this growing process of rupture be halted, or at least be substantially slowed down? Realistically speaking, it is unlikely. It might, if the two major parties, Socialist and Popular, forge a pact to defend the Spanish state. But Zapatero's Socialists prefer to govern with the support of regional separatists, even if they have to surrender increasing chunks of authority. They are even willing to reach secret accords with ETA (Basque) terrorists, rather than move closer to their right-of-center adversaries to buttress the central government.

It seems, therefore, that the political landscape in Spain has entered a critical period that could lead to a truly dangerous alternative: (1) Some regions invoke the right to self-determination, break away from the state and set up their own tents. Or, (2) the government is redesigned into a model where the central power barely retains a symbolic value, with no duties other than printing postage stamps and entertaining foreign ambassadores assigned to Madrid.

Take away a nation's vision, myths, heroes, etc. and why would it cohere?

Zapatero's Spain: Spain's problem with terrorism is Europe's: It does not want to defend itself ( Christopher Caldwell, 05/10/2004, Weekly Standard)

LESS THAN THREE DECADES after the end of Francisco Franco's dictatorship, Spaniards are cautious about saying anything against the democratic process--or even against the results of a particular election. Most in the intellectual and political classes are reluctant to say that al Qaeda terrorism wrested a near-certain electoral victory from the party that al Qaeda hoped would lose, and handed power to the antiwar party that al Qaeda (at least according to its "strategy" document, which was intercepted on the Internet by Norwegian authorities) hoped would win. But this Spanish circumspection, admirable in many ways, has produced a chain reaction of self-interested self-deception: And from there it is only a short step to saying that Spain has no continuing problem with terrorism at all.

The Popular party would have won. It did better in absentee ballots this year--those sent by mail before the March 11 explosions--than in the 2000 landslide that gave it an absolute majority. In the days before this year's election, two prominent Socialists, the charismatic Castilian governor José Bono (whom Zapatero would name defense minister) and European Union foreign-policy chief Javier Solana, were jockeying for support as candidates for the PSOE leadership after Zapatero's inevitable loss. A balanced view was given by the longtime president of Catalonia, Jordi Pujol, whose Convergencia i Unió party backs neither the governing coalition nor the Popular party opposition. "Let us be clear about this," Pujol said in his office in Barcelona in mid-April. "The victory is legitimate. That cannot be discussed. But without the bombing, the other party probably would have won. March 14 was a legitimate victory but it was also a victory for terrorists."

The best indication of the PSOE's slim prospects going into the election was Zapatero himself. He was the kind of candidate a party runs when it has slim hopes of victory. (Similarly the Popular party's candidate, Mariano Rajoy, was a complaisant, bipartisan fellow, meant to bring the country together after eight years of polarizing rule by Aznar.) Zapatero's investiture speech on April 17 proposed a range of boilerplate center-left reforms that Spain somehow got through the 1990s without (handicapped access, gay marriage) and then proposed giving Spain a few things that it already had (secular education and a law on violence against women). Zapatero nominated a record eight female ministers, called for the advancement of women through an equal rights commission, and promised a "new politics of water." This was a bric-a-brac agenda, the kind of governing proposal a European president would call for if he hadn't expected to have to propose one at all.

With one exception. Zapatero had wooed the nearly 90 percent of Spaniards who opposed their country's participation in the Iraq war. He had promised to bring Spain's troops back from their bases near Najaf unless the U.N. took over operations in Iraq. Now he decided not to run the risk that the U.N. might actually do so. In his first act after taking office, he ordered the troops home. When the opposition asked for a parliamentary debate, he scheduled one for after the troops' return. While the act enraged the United States and the Popular party opposition, Zapatero had already paid that price and would have been crazy (in domestic political terms) to do anything else. When, during the investiture debate, a Progressive party deputy asked him, "Can you explain, once and for all, what you want?" he replied simply: "To take Spain out of the Azores photo, take Spain out of the illegal and unjust war that took place."

THE PHOTO IN QUESTION shows Aznar with George Bush and Tony Blair at the meeting Aznar hosted in the Azores on the eve of the Iraq war. The Spanish often talk of it as Americans do of the photo taken of Michael Dukakis in a tank during the 1988 presidential campaign: as a moment when a man with big pretensions steps into a situation in which his surroundings reveal him as too small for the job. But that was wrong. One didn't have to like the Spanish role in Iraq. But there was nothing preposterous about it.

Aznar is said to distinguish privately between politicians who are serious and those who are simpático, simpático being a synonym for unserious. In eight years in office, he had turned Spain from an unserious country into a serious one, in a way that was most obvious in his handling of the economy. Aznar broke the power of unions, froze the salaries of functionaries, privatized dozens of state enterprises, and won the intellectual argument that lowering taxes was sometimes more responsible than raising them. He entered office in 1996 with unemployment at 22 percent and cut it in half. Half the jobs created in Europe since 1996 have been created in Spain. After the dot-com bust, Spain never dipped into negative growth as other European countries did--and Spain is still growing at twice the European rate. Aznar's hopes of joining the G-8 group of major economies sounded absurd when he took office; now it seems absurd that Canada should have that honor and Spain not. It is true that Aznar received the free gift of monetary stability from the establishment of the Euro; but fiscal stability came from his living up to the E.U. stability-and-growth pact (unlike France and Germany) and balancing his country's budget every year. Zapatero has promised not to change economic course, and chose as his economics minister the highly respected Pedro Solbes, for five years the E.U. economics minister in Brussels, who is unlikely to favor such a change.

In this economic climate, Spaniards began to tell pollsters they were more comfortable with a larger role for Spain on the world stage. In Aznar's view, this meant shifting Spain's allegiances from France and Germany to the United States. Aznar drew benefits for Spain from this partnership. U.S. assistance helped the government deal a serious blow to the Basque terrorist group ETA (presumably through communications intercepts). And it was the United States that mediated an end to the Moroccan army's seizure of the Spanish island of Perejil in July 2002, when Spain's E.U. partners, particularly France and Greece, then just starting its six-month term in the E.U. presidency, proved reluctant to alienate the new Moroccan king.

The idea that Aznar's foreign policy was an aberrant personal enthusiasm that could somehow be excised from the rest of his achievements was never true. But that foreign policy cut against other countries' obsession with building the E.U.--and against the grain of what Spain's intellectual elite considers the country's national identity. Spain's experience of right-wing dictatorship has made it a reflexively center-left country--and it is almost certainly the most anti-American country in Western Europe. Spain has reactionaries who resent Theodore Roosevelt for robbing it of its empire in 1898. It has anti-anti-Communists who fault President Eisenhower for propping up Franco in exchange for military bases in the 1953 Pact of Madrid. It has democracy activists who fault the month-old Reagan administration for sitting idly by on February 23, 1981, when army officers sought to topple Spain's new democracy in a coup d'état. (It is to "23-F," as the day is called, that all Spaniards repair when an argument turns to democracy in Iraq.) The Socialist Felipe González won the presidency the following year on an anti-American platform and ruled for a decade and a half. As one former PSOE cabinet member said in an interview, "Our experience of America is like Italy's experience of America turned inside out."

So as Aznar drew closer to the United States, he was vulnerable to the accusation that he was reverting to an "older idea of Spain"--a franquista one.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:49 PM


Chick List: A look at the women who may replace Justice O'Connor. (MELANIE KIRKPATRICK, September 25, 2005, Opinion Journal)

[T]he feminine Big Four are Edith Jones, Priscilla Owen, Janice Rogers Brown and Alice Batchelder, all appeals-court judges. Each is a judicial conservative of intellectual heft and with more experience on the bench than Judge Roberts. None, however, is as bulletproof as Judge Roberts, who managed to pursue a 25-year career in law without leaving much of a public record of his views on hot-button issues. [...]

[Judge Jones] has said and written numerous things that could be used to attack her on ideological grounds. She's particularly vulnerable on Roe v. Wade, which she has called an "exercise in raw judicial power." In a concurring opinion in McCorvey v. Hill last year, a case involving the original defendant in Roe, she wrote of the court's "willful blindness to evolving knowledge" and suggested that Roe be reconsidered in light of modern scientific evidence on the viability of fetuses and the effects of abortion on the health of women.

If anything, Judge Brown is even more outspoken. She once referred to colleagues on the California Supreme Court as "philosopher kings" when it overturned a law requiring parental consent for minors who wanted abortions. She's an advocate for property rights, and she's called big government "the opiate of the masses" and the "drug of choice" for many segments of society. In 2000, she wrote the opinion affirming Proposition 209, which banned racial and sex preferences in state hiring and contracting.

Her credentials aren't as impressive as Judge Jones's, and she might be too libertarian for Mr. Bush. But if nominated, her personal story would complicate matters for liberal interest groups. The NAACP would have to decide whether to oppose the confirmation of a daughter of a sharecropper from Alabama. She was confirmed to the D.C. Circuit earlier this year as part of the filibuster-ending deal in the Senate.

Judge Owen was part of the same pact and now sits on the Fifth Circuit. Before that, she was a judge on the Supreme Court of Texas, where she upheld a parental-notification law and was supposedly accused of judicial activism by Alberto Gonzales. He says his comment was misinterpreted, but that won't stop the left from using it against her. Those who say the mild-mannered Sunday school teacher might not be up for a fight forget she just endured a four-year battle for her appeals-court job.

Finally, there's Judge Batchelder, who's been called a Midwestern Edith Jones. Reagan appointed her to the federal bench in Ohio, and the first President Bush named her to the Sixth Circuit in 1991. She has voted to uphold Ohio's ban on partial-birth abortion, strike down the University of Michigan's affirmative-action program and allow the Ten Commandments to be displayed in a courtroom. Her husband served 30 years in the Ohio statehouse, which means she understands politics. A downside is that, at 61, she's somewhat older than the competition.

If the President really is as Machiavellian as his enemies think, it makes sense to offer up Janice Rogers Brown because Democrats will attack and may be able to defeat her, making it nearly impossible for them to stop whoever he'd name next.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:41 PM


Rouson takes the Republican plunge (St. Petersburg Times, September 25, 2005)

He's been courted by the likes of Jeb Bush, Charlie Crist and legions of Tampa Bay Republican activists. Last week, Darryl Rouson, the never dull former president of the St. Petersburg NAACP, took the plunge and became a Republican.

"It's our heritage, and it can be our legacy," said Rouson, invoking past Republicans including Booker T. Washington, George Washington Carver and Frederick Douglass. "I know it's not a very popular thing among a lot of African-Americans, but I just believe we should be at every table and speak the truth."

The St. Petersburg lawyer and vocal antidrug crusader had already widely been seen as a closet Republican, but he was registered with no party affiliation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:31 PM


It's All Tied Up Approaching the Wire (JOE LAPOINTE, 9/25/05, NY Times)

At the beginning of yesterday's game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium, Jaret Wright gave up a single to right field, a single to left field, a single to center field and a single in the infield to fall behind by a run.

What else could go wrong? Oh, plenty of things, and they added up to a 7-4 Toronto victory that ended the Yankees' winning streak at five games and left them tied with the Boston Red Sox in the American League East. [...]

The Yankees, who have won 11 of their last 13 games, will finish their home schedule today against Toronto before ending their season with a four-game trip to Baltimore and a three-game visit to Boston.

Have two teams ever played each other so often in so short a time in games that mean so much to both?

Down the stretch they come (KEVIN BAXTER, 9/25/05, Miami Herald)

[T]he three division races and the wild-card competition in the American League are almost certain to go down to the final weekend, perhaps to the final pitch. And thanks to either a stroke of genius or a stroke of good luck -- or maybe a little of both -- all four playoff teams will have to beat their nearest rivals face-to-face before they can advance.

The Chicago White Sox, who went into the weekend leading the Indians in the Central by 1 ½ games, will finish the season with three games in Cleveland. And the Yankees, who were leading the Red Sox by a game in the East on Friday, will be in Boston next weekend.

The race in the West could be over by then because Los Angeles, which started Friday three games up on the reeling Athletics, start a make-or-break four-game series in Oakland on Monday.

This is the way the final week should be -- but rarely is, even with the additional suspense of the wild card. In fact, this could mark the first time since the advent of three-division play that the American League has entered the final weekend with more than one championship truly undecided. So after six months, it has come down to this:


These two teams have finished 1-2 in the East every year since 1997, and they're certain to do so again this fall. But whichever one finishes second this year -- and in each of the past seven seasons, that has been the Red Sox -- is almost certain to get an early start on winter....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:11 PM


Capitalism vs. Democracy: We often assume they go hand in hand, but recent elections in Japan and Germany provide a sobering reminder that there are deep conflicts. (Robert J. Samuelson, 9/25/05, Newsweek)

The recent German and Japanese elections deserve more attention than they've got because they illustrate the uneasy relationship between capitalism and democracy. Capitalism thrives on change—it inspires new technologies, products and profit opportunities. Democracy resists change—it creates powerful constituencies with a stake in the status quo.

Capitalism (by which I mean an economic system that relies heavily on markets and private ownership) and democracy need each other. The one generates rising living standards; the other cushions capitalism's injustices and, thereby, anchors public support. But this mutual dependence is tricky because if democratic prerogatives are overused, they may strangle capitalism.

Folk often misunderstand the idea of the End of History as a bit of triumphalism, but, in fact, it will doom most nations because their societies do not have the foundations required to sustain a healthy liberal democracy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:39 AM


Antiwar Rallies in Washington and Other Cities (MICHAEL JANOFSKY, 9/25/05, NY Times)

Vast numbers of protesters from around the country poured onto the lawns behind the White House on Saturday to demonstrate their opposition to the war in Iraq, pointedly directing their anger at President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

Pretty much sums things up--if you hate George Bush and Dick Cheney you oppose the war. If you hate Islamicism you support the war.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:33 AM


Hong Kong Democracy Advocates Visit China (KEITH BRADSHER, 9/25/05, NY Times)

Hong Kong’s chief executive led all but one member of the city’s legislature across the border to mainland China today, starting a two-day trip that marks the first time Beijing authorities have let in prominent Hong Kong advocates of democracy since the Tiananmen Square killings on July 4, 1989.

The trip marks the latest in a series of steps by the Chinese government to tamp down calls for greater democracy here. Democracy advocates have long criticized Beijing, but agreed to the trip today and Monday without conditions. [...]

Leung Kwok-hung, a lawmaker and longtime leftist radical better known in English and Chinese as Long Hair because his hair hangs down to the middle of his back, brought along a large, bright purple gift basket lined with aluminum foil inside and holding five red apples. The apples were to symbolize the exclusion from the trip of journalists from Apple Daily, a pro-democracy newspaper here whose journalists have been banned from the mainland for years.

In an interview here just before boarding the bus, Mr. Leung said that he also planned to hand Zhang Dejiang, the powerful Communist Party secretary of Guangdong province, a letter addressed to Vice President Zeng Qinghong of China. The letter would call for China to come clean about what happened in Tiananmen Square and would ask that China stop interfering in Hong Kong politics, Mr. Leung said.

[The Associated Press reported Sunday evening from Guangzhou that security officers led Mr. Leung away from a meeting room just before the lawmakers were to meet Mr. Zhang. Mr. Leung looked stern, and neither he nor the security officers said why he was being led away, The A.P. said.]

Nervous about possible pro-democracy protests by some lawmakers during the trip, Chinese authorities tightly limited news media coverage. Hong Kong officials disclosed on Friday that only a handful of television camera operators and photographers would be to enter most of the sightseeing locations visited by the lawmakers, and no reporters, who would have listen to soundtracks recorded by the camera operators.

First Li Ao; now Long Hair; it's time for George Bush to go there and Reagan them.

Taiwan author gets a bit too free with his speeches (Robert Marquand, 9/26/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

A leading writer and political maverick from Taipei who ardently supports the unification of China and Taiwan - is confounding authorities in a rampaging lecture tour that ends Monday, by doing something no one here ever does: criticize the Communist Party in public.

In truth, Li Ao, a TV personality, leftist, and prolific author who was born in northern China, attacked the US, Japan, and nearly everything but the moon in rambling speeches that have embarrassed official China.

Mr. Li's broadsides chided the Party for a lack of intellectual freedom in China, told how the early Party allowed feisty debates, and included quotes from Mao about the Party one day ending - all broadcast live on Hong Kong's Phoenix TV, which reaches millions on the mainland.

Such events here are rare.

More broadly, experts say, the improbable Li event underscores how frigid the political climate in China has become.

As the government of Hu Jintao continues to consolidate its power in preparation for a key Party plenum next month, there is little room for the type of debate Li advocates.

If the negative official response is an indicator, Li's speeches were also a surprise.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:28 AM


IMF committee backs debt erasure (BBC, 9/25/05)

A deal by the world's richest states to erase debt of up to $55bn (£31bn) owed by the poorest has been backed by one of the main international lenders.

The International Monetary Fund's panel said in Washington it had approved all elements of the deal, which now goes to its twin institution, the World Bank.

Leaders of the G8 industrialised states proposed the move at the UK-chaired summit in Gleneagles, Scotland in July. [...]

The World Bank and IMF meetings are the first Paul Wolfowitz is attending as head of the World Bank since taking up the post in June.

The former deputy US defence secretary has called for increased development aid to lift millions of people out of poverty.


Benin, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guyana, Honduras, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia

How does this help Paul Wolfowitz corner the world oil market?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:06 AM


Next Court Nominee May Face Challenges From G.O.P. (DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK, 9/25/05, NY Times)

[B]oth socially conservative and more liberal Republican senators say they may vote against confirmation of the next nominee if the pick leans too far to the left or the right on prominent issues like abortion rights.

Bill Keller wouldn't be running the NY Times if he weren't a reliably left-wing ideoilogue, but there was reason to harbor hope for his tenure because he'd written so insightfully about not just George W. Bush but about the central place of religion in George Bush's presidency. After all, journalists needn't approve of conservatism in order to understand it and write intelligently about it. So when the Times announced that they were detailing someone specifically to cover the Right and try to explain what was going on within conservatism there wasn't necessarily a need to greet the idea with skepticism--it could have been a serious effort. Instead, Mr. Kirkpatrick, their designated Marlowe, is a laughingstock, whose every story finds fissures that are about to tear the Right apart, although it mysteriously keeps managing to hold together.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:47 AM

GROAN AND BEAR IT (via Ali Choudhury):

Intelligent design theory + postmodernism = pure science fiction: When the religious Right adopts the epistemology of the multicultural Left -- that truth is relative -- there goes the Enlightenment (Noam Scheiber, 29aug05, The Australian)

IN 1993, journalist Jonathan Rauch published a book called Kindly Inquisitors, in which he catalogued contemporary threats to the Enlightenment tradition of seeking truth through logical or empirical discourse.

One of Rauch's points was that, while this (classical) liberal system for amassing knowledge appeared to be under attack from both the religious Right and the multicultural Left, in fact the two groups were making a version of the same argument: mainstream science didn't accord their beliefs the respect they deserved, whether it was creation science on the one hand or feminist or Afro-centric science on the other.

Rauch's book has held up remarkably well in the 12 years since it was published.

This is particularly so in light of the debate in the US over intelligent design (ID) -- the idea, popular on the Right, that life is too complex to have resulted from random variation. Even US President George W. Bush has suggested, as the creation scientists (and multiculturalists) of the 1980s and 1990s did before him, that both sides of the supposed debate be treated as legitimate in public school curricula.

But there was one thing Rauch didn't anticipate. At the time, he suggested that even though creationists had adopted the tactics of the academic Left -- the demand for equal time -- they still believed in objective truths. They just didn't think all of these truths were discoverable by science.

By contrast, today's IDers have gone further and adopted the epistemology of the Left -- the idea that ostensibly scientific truths may be relative.

Intelligent Design is, of course, just as much nonsense as Darwinism. The central insight of Western philosophy is that Reason is completely dependent on Faith. But, rather than being fatal to either, this insight allows us to base our lives in faith and use reason as a tool. Of course, in the modern era this has really only been accepted in the Anglosphere. The Rationalist French and the continental Europeans could never grasp the implications. This was obvious early on in their rejection of Judeo-Christian faith and later on in their post-modernism, as they rejected reason when they finally figured out that it is anti-rational in and of itself.

Just because science is necessarily relativistic and merely metaphorical does not mean that there is no objective Truth about Creation, nor that it is unknown to us. It's just Revealed, rather than Rational.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:42 AM


Katrina's harsh lessons make Bush all the wiser (Bill Sammon, 9/25/05, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Last night, the president issued a statement declaring major disasters in Louisiana and Texas.

The declaration makes both states, local governments and some private nonprofit groups eligible for federal assistance, including grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other disaster relief.

In Washington, officials said Rita, which made landfall near the Texas-Louisiana state line around 3 a.m. yesterday, was not nearly as devastating as Katrina, which struck Louisiana and Mississippi on Aug. 29.

"The damage is not as serious as we had expected it to be," R. David Paulison, acting director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told reporters. "The evacuations worked."

So it seems the lesson learned here is that: had he engaged in these cheap theatrics last time, the President could have reduced the intensity of Katrina and changed its course.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:32 AM


Is It Better to Buy or Rent? (DAVID LEONHARDT, September 25, 2005, NY Times)

THE thought has occurred to just about everybody who owns a home in a hot housing market: maybe it's time to cash out.

The hard part is figuring out how to do so. Only a few families can actually pick up their life in, say, California and move it to Nebraska. The other option - renting - has long been derided as the equivalent of throwing money away.

But renting might deserve another look right now. After five years in which rents have barely budged while house prices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and elsewhere have doubled, renting has become a surprisingly smart option for many people who never would have considered it before.

Owning a home often ties up hundreds of thousands of dollars that might be invested more safely and more lucratively elsewhere over the next decade. And while real estate brokers may hate to acknowledge it, home ownership involves its own versions of throwing money away, like property taxes and the costs of borrowing.

Add it all up - which The New York Times did, in an analysis of the major costs and benefits of owning and renting, including tax breaks - and owning a home today is more expensive than renting in much of the Northeast, Florida and California. Only if prices rise well above their already lofty levels will home ownership turn out to be the good deal that it is widely assumed to be.

In the Bay Area of California, a typical family that buys a $1 million house - which is average in some towns - will spend about $5,000 a month to live there, according to the Times analysis. The family could rent a similar house for about $2,500, real estate records show, and could pay part of that bill with the interest earned by the money that was not used for a down payment.

Now, if only human nature were to change so drastically that people would stop desiring a home of their own and develop such discipline that they'd actually invest the money they saved by renting the Times might be on to something.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 9:03 AM


Record haul of 20,000 new species expected (Robin McKie and Zoe Corbyn, The Observer, September 25, 2005)

Wildlife on Earth has never looked so bountiful. Scientists believe that 2005 could be a record year for the discovery of new creatures.

A total of 20,000 new species, from beetles to dolphins, and from monkeys to birds, are expected to be uncovered by zoologists.

'The world may seem to get smaller, but we are finding more and more new animals on it every year,' said Andrew Polaszek, executive secretary of the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature. 'We could see a record haul in 2005.'

This year's discoveries include a new species of macaque monkey, Macaca munzala, in India and a new species of mangabey monkey in Tanzania. Other recent discoveries have included the Vietnamese striped rabbit, pinpointed from samples being sold in a local fair, and the discovery of a complete new species of extinct human being, Homo floresiensis - the so-called Hobbit people - in Indonesia.

spe-cies n. pl. species

Biology: A fundamental category of taxonomic classification, ranking below a genus or subgenus and consisting of related organisms capable of interbreeding.

An organism belonging to such a category, represented in binomial nomenclature by an uncapitalized Latin adjective or noun following a capitalized genus name, as in Ananas comosus, the pineapple, and Equus caballus, the horse.

When evolutionary biologists remind us how science is self-correcting, few of us suspect they mean they correct the language to substantiate their theories.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:29 AM


Rebuilding plan paving way for conservative goals (Rick Klein, September 25, 2005, Boston Globe)

Republican lawmakers in Congress have tried repeatedly in recent years to allow children to use federally funded vouchers to attend private schools. They have been defeated seven times since 1998.

At least nine times in the past decade, Republicans sought to repeal or undermine a Depression-era law that requires federal contractors to pay the ''prevailing wage" in the region they are working in. None of the efforts succeeded.

But now the GOP is poised to realize both of those goals. President Bush's reconstruction package for the Gulf Coast region devastated by Hurricane Katrina includes nearly $500 million for vouchers that children can use at private schools anywhere in the nation. And Bush declared a ''national emergency" to waive the prevailing wage law during the cleanup, freeing contractors to pay construction workers as little as the minimum wage, rather than the $8 to $10 prevailing wages in Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi.

As the federal government's response to Katrina takes shape, the White House and Congress are enacting or seeking to pass a wide range of policies that have been consistently rejected by Congress, despite Republican majorities in the House and Senate.

Far from marking the end of uberconservatism (with umlouts and a lightning bolt), Katrina is letting conservatism triumph under cover of compassion.

BTW: If Andrew Moore and ted welter could e-mail me I'll send your books.

Liberals and Conservatives Hitch Wagons to Recovery (Ronald Brownstein, September 25, 2005, LA Times)

Both Democrats and Republicans increasingly view the battered landscape of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast as a giant laboratory for testing their competing domestic policy agendas.

Politicians and policy advocates across the ideological spectrum — John Edwards and Newt Gingrich, the Sierra Club and the Wall Street Journal editorial page — are trying to jump-start new ideas, and revive old ones, by linking them to the massive post-Katrina reconstruction.

For Republicans, the proposals include initiatives such as tax cuts for business, education aid that would follow students to private schools and the relaxation of federal environmental regulations.

For Democrats, the priorities include expanded housing assistance for the needy, more generous income support for the working poor and new efforts to promote renewable energy and mass transit.

What both sides share is that they see the massive reconstruction as a way to demonstrate the value of programs they hope will be adopted nationwide.

"It is once in a generation that an opportunity like this comes along, where the status quo is called into question and where the policy community and Congress can look at it, change it and improve it," said Michael Franc, vice president for government relations at the conservative Heritage Foundation. "Given how hard it is to change that status quo … every policy organization, every think-tanker, every ex-Cabinet officer is going to have a vision, and even a plan, of what we should be doing."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Party of choice?: How pro-choice groups are hurting the Democrats- -- and their own cause (Amy Sullivan, September 25, 2005, Boston Globe)

[M]omentum may be shifting back to the pro-choice side. Their unlikely hero is the pro-life Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada, who has won support for a strategy to lower abortion rates by reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies. But abortion rights groups are blowing this opportunity, using inflammatory rhetoric that alienates moderates and imposing a litmus test on the political party that is, for the foreseeable future, the one most closely aligned with their interests.

According to a recent analysis by the centrist organization Third Way, a consistent 62 percent of voters are what Third Way calls ''Abortion Grays"--people who don't want abortion to be illegal, but who would like fewer abortions to take place. These voters have cast their lot with Republicans in the last three presidential elections, but could be recaptured by an effort that promised to make abortions rare, as Bill Clinton famously put it.

Reid has introduced legislation he calls ''Prevention First," which aims to reduce unwanted pregnancies by improving access to birth control and making it more affordable. The approach is far from new--choice groups have promoted it themselves for years. It provides a lifeline to Democrats, who finally have a win-win issue. If Republicans oppose it, they risk being labeled extremists; if they support it, and it passes, Democrats can rightly claim to have done more to cut abortion rates than their political opponents.

And yet, as the ad against Roberts showed, abortion rights groups have the impressive ability to marginalize themselves in the public debate even when they represent a majority position.

One can almost pity Ms Sullivan, who thinks both that her pro-abortion allies really wish there were fewer pregnancies, rather than more abortions, and that a prevention bill passed by a Republican Congress and President Bush will be credited to Democrats.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Women bypass sex in favour of 'instant pregnancies' (Charlotte Edwardes and Andrew Alderson, 25/09/2005, Daily Telegraph)

Women are increasingly seeking inappropriate IVF treatment because they do not have the time or inclination for a sex life and want to "diarise" their busy lives.

Wealthy career women in their 30s and early 40s, some of whom have given up regular sex altogether, are turning to "medicalised conception" - despite being fertile and long before they have exhausted the possibility of a natural conception.

They are prepared to pay thousands of pounds for private IVF treatments - even though they have unpleasant and potentially harmful side effects - because they believe it offers them the best chance of "instant" pregnancy.

Funny the way the secular are so scandalized by the idea of celibacy in the Catholic clergy, which the Church believes allows them to serve God better, but then end up with a celibacy that serves only the self.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Reading From Left to Right (A. O. SCOTT, 9/25/05, NY Times)

Hunting for ideological subtexts in Hollywood movies is a critical parlor game. Many a term paper has been written decoding the varieties of cold war paranoia latent in the westerns and science-fiction movies of the 1950's. Now, thanks to the culture wars and the Internet, the game of ideological unmasking is one that more and more people are playing. With increasing frequency, the ideology they are uncovering is conservative, and it seems to spring less from the cultural unconscious than from careful premeditation.

Last fall, "The Incredibles" celebrated Ayn Randian libertarian individualism and the suburban nuclear family, while the naughty puppets of "Team America" satirized left-wing celebrity activism and defended American global power even as they mocked its excesses. More recently we have learned that flightless Antarctic birds, according to some fans of "March of the Penguins," can be seen as big-screen embodiments of the kind of traditional domestic values that back-sliding humans have all but abandoned, as well as proof that divine intention, rather than blind chance, is the engine of creation. I may be the only person who thought "The Island," this summer's Michael Bay flop about human clones bred for commercial use, indirectly argues the Bush administration's position on stem cell research, but I have not been alone in discerning lessons on intelligent design and other faith-based matters amid the spooky effects of "The Exorcism of Emily Rose." That movie, by the way, came in a close second behind "Just Like Heaven" at the box office last week, following an initial weekend in which it earned more than $30 million, one of the strongest September openings ever.

The objection to such message-hunting, whether it seeks hidden agendas of the left or the right, and whether it applauds or scorns those agendas, is always the same: it's only a movie. And what is so fascinating about "Just Like Heaven" is that it is, very emphatically, only a movie, the kind of fluffy diversion that viewers seek out on first dates or after a stressful work week. Its central couple - Ms. Witherspoon and Mark Ruffalo - meet cute in a gorgeous apartment to which both lay claim. Their blossoming romance faces the usual obstacles, as well as some that are not so usual. For one thing, they can't stand each other; for another, one of them is a disembodied spirit visible only to her unwilling roommate.

So far, no obvious Republican Party talking points. This is not a movie that, at least at first, wears its politics on its sleeve. It takes place in San Francisco, perhaps the bluest city in one of the bluer states in the union, in a milieu of entitled urban professionals. Mr. Ruffalo, sad, scruffy and sweet as ever, brings a decided alt-culture vibe with him wherever he goes. With his dark, baggy sweaters and his slow, tentative line readings, he represents a new movie type decidedly at odds with the norms of movie masculinity: the shy, passive urban hipster as romantic ideal.

But a movie that looks at first like a soft, supernatural variation on the urban singleton themes of "Sex and the City," by the end comes to seem like a belated brief in the Terri Schiavo case. (If you insist on being surprised by the plot of "Just Like Heaven," it might be best to stop reading now). Elizabeth, as it happens, is not dead, but rather in a coma from which she is given little chance of awakening. To make matters worse - and to set up a madcap climax in which Donal Logue rescues the film's faltering sense of humor - she has signed a living will, which her loving sister, urged on by an unprincipled doctor, is determined to enforce. But Elizabeth's spirit, along with Mr. Ruffalo's character, David, has second thoughts because she is so obviously alive, and the two must race to prevent the plug from being pulled, which means running through hospital corridors pushing a comatose patient on a gurney.

Would I have been happier if Elizabeth died? The very absurdity of the question - what kind of romantic comedy would that be? - is evidence of the film's ingenuity. Who could possibly take the side of medical judgment when love, family, supernatural forces and the very laws of genre are on the other side? And who would bother to notice that the villainous, materialistic doctor, despite having the religiously neutral last name Rushton, is played by Ben Shenkman, a bit of casting that suggests a faint, deniable whiff of anti-Semitism? Similarly, it can't mean much that Elizabeth, the ambitious career woman, is sad and unfulfilled in contrast to her married, stay-at-home-mom sister. Or that the last word you hear (uttered by Jon Heder, first seen in "Napoleon Dynamite") is "righteous."

It's hardly surprising that whenever Hollywood wrong foots itself and has to go back out in search of audiences it is forced to return to the one true myth, nor that every great movie derives from it in some way, shape, or form.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Shiite Leader Urges 'Yes' In Vote on Iraq Charter (Associated Press, September 25, 2005)

The leader of Iraq's largest Shiite Muslim political organization joined the country's most revered and powerful Shiite cleric Saturday in a strong public push for voter support of a new constitution, three weeks ahead of a national referendum.

"It is our religious duty to say 'yes' to the constitution and to go to the ballot boxes," Abdul Aziz Hakim, head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, told more than 2,000 supporters gathered in Baghdad to mark a 1991 Shiite uprising that was crushed brutally by President Saddam Hussein.

The appeal added a key voice of support two days after Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani also directed followers to back the charter. Shiite solidarity is essential if the constitution is to pass in the Oct. 15 vote. If two-thirds of voters in any three of Iraq's 18 provinces reject the document, a new government must be formed and the process of writing the constitution started over.

Minority Sunni Arabs are dominant in four provinces and could defeat the new charter. On Saturday, Sunni clerics and tribal leaders expressed optimism they could do just that.

There's our side and the other side.

September 24, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:00 PM


In Poland, Twins Shoot for Moon: Siblings Run in Pair of National Elections (Craig Whitlock, 9/25/05, Washington Post)

When they were kids, the Kaczynski twins were a pair of tricksters. Friends could barely tell them apart, let alone teachers. Jaroslaw, the older by 45 minutes, would take science tests for his brother, Lech, who would return the favor on language exams.

Today, the Kaczynski brothers are teaming up again, this time in a bid to take over the Polish government. Lech is running for president on Oct. 9. Jaroslaw is mounting a separate campaign to become prime minister in parliamentary elections Sunday.

The brothers' Law and Justice party, of which Jaroslaw Kaczynski is chairman, is locked in a dead heat with its chief rival, the Civic Platform, for control of Parliament, opinion surveys show. Lech Kaczynski, the mayor of Warsaw, is trailing in the presidential contest by a margin of several points, according to recent polls. But analysts say both contests remain highly volatile and that there is a real chance the twins could gain joint control of the country.

The Kaczynskis' chubby faces have been a familiar sight in Poland since 1962, when as 12-year-old actors they hit it big in the movies, playing identical twins in the classic Polish children's movie "Those Two Who Would Steal the Moon."

They returned to prominence in the 1980s, playing key roles in the Solidarity trade union movement that helped end communism in Poland, and have remained active in national politics since then.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:38 PM


What Yale women want (Karen Stabiner, September 23, 2005, LA Times)

IF THE LAST generation of women obsessed about cracking the glass ceiling, a new crop of college undergrads seems less interested in the professional stratosphere than in a soft — a cushy — landing.

The New York Times recently got its hands on a Yale University questionnaire in which 60% of the 138 female respondents said that they intend to stop working when they have children, and then to work part time, if at all, once the kids are in school. A reporter talked to students at other elite East Coast colleges who echoed the same back-to-the-future sentiment: Work is but a way-station; a woman's place is in the home.

The young women think they're doing the right thing for their eventual children, having watched too many of their moms' generation try to juggle career and family. And at least one male student at Harvard finds the whole lord-and-master idea "sexy." This, from excellent students who have clambered over the backs of other, merely good students to gain entry into schools that traditionally have incubated tomorrow's leaders.

Leading the culture out of its atomized dead-end is leadership.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:33 PM


U.S. Hails IAEA Decision on Iran Referral (GEORGE JAHN, 9/24/05, Associated Press)

The U.N. atomic watchdog agency Saturday put Iran just one step away from referral to the Security Council unless Tehran eases suspicions about its nuclear activities in coming months - a move the United States has been pushing for years.

The chief U.S. delegate to the International Atomic Energy Agency hailed the decision, describing it as a wake-up call for Tehran ``to come clean'' or face the consequences.

But his Iranian counterpart blasted the approval of the resolution and warned of retaliation. Tehran maintains its nuclear program is for generating electricity.

Then a thorough inspection regime shouldn't be a proble,

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:28 PM


India toes US line, dumps Iran (CHIDANAND RAJGHATTA, SEPTEMBER 25, 2005, Times of India)

They are five sentences that signal a fundamental change in Indian foreign policy of over
five decades.

In an overt and transparent shift in alignment and emphasis, the Congress-led UPA government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday signed up with the United States on a touchstone issue, asking Iran to be flexible and make concessions to avoid a confrontation with Washington on the nuclear issue.

India’s blunt message, which is also aimed at allaying U.S concerns over New Delhi’s long-standing ties with
Teheran, was conveyed by Prime Minister Singh to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinijad when the latter telephoned him on Friday.

In fact, the UPA government went to unusual lengths to disclose the gist of the conversation between the two leaders in a brief press release sent to select media.

Not that it's a tough standard to meet, but India is already a better ally than Europe.

Biggest Indo-US naval exercise (RAJAT PANDIT, SEPTEMBER 24, 2005, Times of India)

India might still be shy of openly jumping onto the controversial US-led Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) bandwagon but it's certainly steaming ahead to practice mammoth operations with American forces on the high seas.

India's largest-ever naval exercise with any country will kick off on Sunday when Indian and American aircraft carriers, destroyers, guided-missile frigates, fighter and surveillance aircraft undertake combat manoeuvres in the north-west Arabian Sea.

The sheer scale of this 10-day Indo-US exercise, "Malabar-05", can be gauged from the fact that it will involve almost 10,000 officers and sailors from the two nations.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:23 PM


Doc's outrage on disabled
(JOHN COLES, 9/24/05, Daily Sun)

A RETIRED GP sparked fury yesterday by saying disabled kids should be guillotined to save cash.

The outburst by Owen Lister, 79, a Tory councillor and deputy mayor, came in a council meeting over funding to care for such youngsters.

Mr Lister said it was too expensive to look after severely disabled children — and the money should be used elsewhere.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:41 AM


New Tests for Egypt's Opposition: Embattled Nour Puts Hope in Vote For Parliament (Daniel Williams, 9/24/05, Washington Post)

Egypt had barely caught its breath from the presidential vote -- the first time Egyptians could mark ballots listing more than one candidate -- when parties and politicians started gearing up for the November parliamentary elections. The campaign promises to be wide open. With nearly 450 seats at stake, there could be thousands of candidates.

Although [Ayman] Nour won only about 7 percent of the presidential vote, he says he believes he can claim a place as top opposition leader by running his party's candidates in every parliamentary district and winning a significant share of seats. Nour accuses government agents of mounting the challenge to his party leadership and other judicial maneuvers to divert him from organizing and campaigning. [...]

Political observers contend that even with Nour's low vote total, his performance signaled at least one change in Egyptian politics: He pushed aside traditional, docile opposition parties and their geriatric leadership. He won more than twice as many votes as Noman Gomaa, the 71-year-old leader of the Wafd Party, an organization with an 80-year history. "At 40 years old, Nour has emerged as the country's de facto leader of the opposition," said Cairo magazine. Other opposition parties are grappling with leadership changes.

A parallel generational change is underway at the National Democratic Party (NDP), Mubarak's political organization and electoral juggernaut. Mubarak's 41-year-old son, Gamal, and a group of businessmen, technocrats and academicians ran the presidential campaign. Old-line NDP politicians were nowhere to be seen or heard.

The NDP is preparing to run a slate of fresh faces in the parliamentary elections, said Mohammed Kamal, a member of the presidential campaign team. The NDP is trying to change its reputation from a party that mainly provided stuffed ballot boxes at past elections to one that has a genuine mandate to rule Egypt, party officials say. Currently, the NDP holds more than 80 percent of the legislative seats.

Gamal Mubarak's inner circle is playing a key role in picking parliamentary candidates, his associates say. He also heads the ruling party's policies committee, a group that has designed recent free-market initiatives in Egypt. He has steadfastly denied having presidential ambitions, yet his very presence overshadows any other NDP voice.

Quickly developing two main political parties would be a huge boon to the democratization process.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:37 AM


GOING AFTER BYRD (Robert Novak, 9/24/05, Townhall)

Republican leaders have a strong backup candidate to challenge Sen. Robert Byrd's election in West Virginia to a ninth term: former West Virginia University basketball coach Gale Catlett.

The GOP's first choice is still Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, but she has shown reluctance to run. Catlett remains a popular figure with instant recognition in West Virginia.

The 87-year-old Byrd, the Senate's senior member in both age and service, is a living legend in the Mountaineer state. But Republicans believe he is incapable of waging a vigorous campaign and would be vulnerable to a strong challenger. Catlett is 64 years old.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:58 AM


A Million Little Pieces NADER MOUSAVIZADEH, 9/24/05, NY Times)

THE United Nations summit meeting last week should be the last of its kind. It allowed world leaders, once again, to over-promise and under-deliver on behalf of an organization that few of them genuinely wish to equip for success. With the failure of its member states to agree on meaningful reform - even after Rwanda, Bosnia, Iraq and the oil-for-food scandal - it is time for a new approach.

The central, governing structures of the United Nations - the Security Council, the General Assembly and the Secretariat - have each in their own dismal way been allowed to decay to the point where they arguably do more harm than good to the very causes they were founded to serve. They should be dissolved, and their legislative responsibilities transferred to the governing bodies of the United Nations agencies that have demonstrated a capacity to deliver, decade after decade, on the world body's founding ideals - agencies like the High Commissioner for Refugees, the United Nations Development Program and the World Food Program. From coordinating the global relief effort in the aftermath of the tsunami to providing shelter for refugees from southern Sudan and shepherding East Timor to independence, the staff of these frontline organizations have brought meaningful, measurable progress to millions around the world.

On their own, most, if not all, of the major United Nations agencies would stand a fair chance of earning the legitimacy, support and resources necessary to succeed. The United Nations Development Program is already financed by voluntary contributions. Its board is made up of donors and recipient countries - all with a powerful common incentive to sustain an organization that can fight poverty efficiently. Taking one step further toward the model of, say, the World Health Organization (which operates independent of United Nations governing structures, though it is part of the United Nations family) need not disrupt its operations nor damage its finances. To the contrary: freed from the management rules and practices still imposed by the General Assembly, the Development Program would be even more able to attract the right people and improve the lives of the poor.

Each of the United Nations funds and programs could be reconstituted on this stand-alone model: financed by voluntary contributions; governed by a board composed of shareholders with an interest in results, and not just process; and staffed by men and women, hired on the basis of merit, who are given the resources to make a difference. Accountability, transparency - and, ultimately, success - would have a far greater chance of flowing from such a model than from the present one.

The central problem of the UN/League of Nations has always been the delusion that some such central institution can/will eventually form the basis of world governance.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:48 AM


Polish election battle (Jan Repa, 9/24/05, BBC)

Since the break-up of the Soviet bloc 16 years ago political power in Poland has alternated between parties which emerged from the Solidarity movement and the ex-communist Democratic Left Alliance.

Despite this, the general strategy pursued by Poland has been remarkably consistent:

• integration with Western institutions like Nato and the EU
• the creation of a market economy with a strong element of social welfare
• an eastern policy aimed at establishing a belt of friendly countries between Poland and Russia

It was a Democratic Left Alliance leadership which last year brought Poland successfully into the EU and which backed the Orange Revolution in neighbouring Ukraine.

Nonetheless, the ex-communists now face electoral meltdown.

A succession of corruption scandals, the failure to bring down unemployment and suggestions of continuing dubious links with Moscow have appeared to validate opposition claims that, in the end, you cannot trust an old "commie".

That leaves the centre-right parties making all the running.

Civic Platform and Law and Justice have been running neck-and-neck in opinion polls - with a combined opinion poll score of between 60 and 70%.

They have already announced their intention to form a coalition government - with the party that wins more seats getting the post of prime minister.

But in the absence of a strong challenge from the Left, the two parties have, in recent days, taken to attacking each other.

Law and Justice, in particular, has worked hard to capture part of the ex-Democratic Left Alliance vote - stressing its commitment to social welfare and accusing Civic Platform of trying to conduct a "liberal experiment" on the nation.

It's an accusation that's paid political gold outside the Anglosphere.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:40 AM


Labour conference security tight (BBC, 9/24/05)

[M]r Blair - who arrives in Brighton on Saturday - appears determined to use the conference to call for reforms in industry, health, education and welfare.

He said helping Britain meet the challenges of the new global economy would be the central message of the conference, whose theme is "Securing Britain's Future".

He wants to highlight the changing global economy and the increasing power of China and India.

He has also stressed the need to push on with reforming the public sector.

Unions are not only unhappy about greater use of private firms in the NHS, they are also concerned about public sector pension reforms, including a possible raising of the retirement age.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:12 AM


Stillstand in Deutschland: German voters choose stalemate. (Christopher Caldwell, 10/03/2005, Weekly Standard)

WHAT MADE THE ELECTION look like a safe win for the CDU opposition was the steadily worsening quality of life for median Germans. The main problem was that 11 percent of them (19 percent in Berlin) had no jobs. In February, unemployment rose to over 5 million people. That was a record high, but the jobless rate has been in or near double digits since the mid-1990s. Starting with Thatcher's Britain, almost all European countries have fought unemployment through deep and sometimes painful reforms. A quarter-century later, Germany--along with France and Italy--is still holding out.

But Germany has also spent 1.4 trillion euros to rebuild the former East Germany. As the state goes broke, its reputation for high-quality social services wanes. The country had its Sputnik moment in 2003, when the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) ranked the German education system near rock-bottom of 32 developed countries surveyed. To add to the problem, Germans are having children at half the rate they were when the socialist state was built up in the 1950s and 1960s. Since pensions and health care, the most expensive parts of the social system, are pay-as-you-go, battles over the role of the state increasingly pit the old against the young.

You had to be pretty deep inside the conventional wisdom to think the fact that Germany has so far resisted reform would help make it reformist now and that a system where young are pitted against old and there are ever fewer young was going to vote to inconvenience the old.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:31 AM


The Bush Golf Dynasty (Dan Jenkins, October 2005, Golf Digest)

Ike aside, you have to say the Bushes have done their part for the game. As for these Bushes, by the way, they didn't even introduce golf to themselves. They had ancestors who took care of that. One of them was George Herbert Walker, Old 41's maternal grandfather--his mama's daddy.

G.H. Walker, a single-digit handicapper, was president of the U. S. Golf Association in 1920, and that year he decided to donate a cup to an international competition for amateurs. Legend has it that G.H. didn't want the matches or the trophy named after him, but the blue coats and striped ties managed to twist his arm. Two years later, the first Walker Cup between the United States and Great Britain & Ireland was played at the National Golf Links of America on Long Island.

Things were a little different then. The U.S. side invited any country that wanted to compete, but only Great Britain made it. And then there was this: Bernard Darwin, the golf writer for The Times of London, was invited to play when British captain Robert Harris "fell ill." Darwin took out U.S. captain William C. Fownes Jr., but a U.S. team that included Chick Evans, Francis Ouimet and Bobby Jones had more than enough talent to make up for it.

The 41st president and father of the 43rd recalls a story about his grandfather and Jones that once made the family rounds. Supposedly, G.H. bawled out the young Jones one day for losing his temper and throwing a club in a tournament. But after the scolding, G.H. put his arm around Jones' shoulder and told him that if he could control his temper, he could become the greatest player the game had known.

This seems like a convenient place to mention that Prez 41 is an old pal of several years, and he's my chief source for much that's in here. Not to guest-room drop, but at one time or another I've been overnighted at Camp David in Maryland, at the Kennebunkport compound in Maine and in the Houston homestead by Old 41 and the incredible Barbara, the Valerie Hogan and Barbara Nicklaus of first ladies.

It was 15 years ago that the president invited me to join him, former Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton and then-U.S. Congressman Marty Russo, the Congressional golf champion for 10 of the previous 14 years, for a game. After a helicopter ride aboard Marine One and a 15-vehicle motorcade, we ended up at Holly Hills Country Club in Ijamsville, Md., a little under an hour by car from D.C. As I said at the time, the president seemed to take himself far less seriously than any CEO of any plastics company I've ever encountered. He was the friendliest and most relaxed person in every room and on every fairway.

By my scoring that day, the president, who once played to an 11, overcame his objection to the use of mulligans to shoot a three-mulligan 86 or a two-mulligan 88. Payton shot a three-mulligan 85, I shot a three-mulligan 78 or a two-mulligan 80. And Marty Russo shot a one-mulligan 68, which put him at a shocking four under par as well as under arrest.

Fast-forward 15 years. Interestingly, Old 41 remembers hearing that his grandfather had also been a good friend of Dwight F. Davis, the man who donated a cup for tennis back in 1900. However, the 41st president doesn't remember whether G.H. Walker and Dwight F. Davis were friends of Joe Bob America, the gentleman who donated a cup to the sport of yacht racing.

Another ancestor who contributed to the Bush golf dynasty was Prescott Bush, Old 41's father. Prescott Bush was himself a president of the U. S. Golf Association at one time--1935--before he became a U.S. senator from the state of Connecticut.

Prescott Bush was by far the best golfer in the family. He was beyond scratch, an eight-time club champion at Cape Arundel Golf Club in Kennebunkport, where for many years he held the course record of 66. Cape Arundel is also where Old 41 once went 18 holes in about two hours. I know this. I was playing along with him. We had to hurry so we could go for a speedboat ride and take a walk before lunch.

Your Bushes don't throw a lot of grass up in the air when they play. My own assessment of 41's game is that he has a good swing, and there's evidence of a lot of athleticism in the guy. But like most golfers, the short game is his weakness, especially putting.

"I could be great, but I'm allergic to practice and I break out in hives," he says. With such a family pedigree--two presidents of the United States, two governorships (Texas and Florida), a senator (Connecticut) and two presidents of the USGA--you'd think it would help his game.

But as we say in Texas, "A pedigree don't cure a pull hook."

Could be one reason why he jumps out of airplanes.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 5:20 AM


Jean lamented multiculturalism's 'absurdities' (Kate Jaimet The Ottawa Citizen, September 23rd, 2005)

The government's policy of multiculturalism encourages people to stay in ethnic ghettos and leads to "all sorts of absurdities," governor general-designate Michaelle Jean has said

Ms. Jean made the comments in French at a colloquium in Montreal last April, before she was named the country's next governor general. They were reported in the Canadian Jewish News.

"Citizenship means living together. ... But does 'multiculturalism' really propose us living together?

"We are even given money so that we will each stay in our own separate enclosure. There's a kind of proposition of ghettoization that is there, and that is financed. Yet 'multiculturalism' is proposed as a founding model of Canada," she said at the colloquium held by the Institut de Judaisme Quebecois.

Ms. Jean went on to criticize the leaders of organizations who make their living from multiculturalism.

"It's terrible, when you think about it. My dream is that we reflect much more deeply on citizenship, on belonging, which is not a negation of where we come from or our heritage, whether we are from Abitibi or Haiti or somewhere else.[...]

Ms. Jean, who immigrated from Haiti as a child, will become Canada's first black governor general when she assumes her post next week.

More evidence of how immigrants save us from ourselves.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Seattle's 1-Track Mind Goes Off the Rail: City Council members all but kill a repeatedly voter-backed monorail plan. Trying to keep it alive, supporters wedge it onto the Nov. 8 ballot. (Sam Howe Verhovek, September 24, 2005, LA Times)

Four times in the last eight years, Seattle's voters have been asked whether they want the city to build a monorail line, and four times they have said yes.

Now it looks like they will be asked whether they really, really mean it.

Citing spiraling costs, the City Council voted Friday to all but kill the planned 14-mile monorail project by denying street-use permits for it. Then, with just minutes to go before the deadline for submitting initiatives for the Nov. 8 ballot, the city's monorail authority approved a new measure asking voters to approve a scaled-back, 10-mile plan.

"It's time for the people to decide whether they want to save the people's train," said Kristina Hill, a defiant board chair of the quasi-public Seattle Popular Monorail Authority.

The authority acted after the nine-member City Council, following the wishes of Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, voted unanimously to deny needed permits.

...only pols and bureaucrats keep the automobile culture going.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


A new Moscow erases the old (and history) (Seth Mydans, SEPTEMBER 24, 2005, The New York Times)

With stunning speed in the past few years, the developers have torn down scores of buildings in the city center, ripping the soul out of much of this stolid, quirky city.

They have left those who love Moscow in stunned despair, raising small voices against the forces of money and politics, mostly ignored by a public that has become increasingly cowed and passive at the feet of those with power.

"I'm sad about this, but after five years I'm going to stop being sad because there's going to be nothing left to lose," said Aleksei Komech, director of the Ministry of Culture's State Institute of Arts Research, as wreckers hacked away at a classic building just outside his window.

Last year the city's central district announced plans to knock down or renovate as many as 1,200 buildings in the city center. Preservationists say "renovation" is often a cover for destruction.

In August, Moscow's first deputy mayor, Vladimir Resin, said the city planned to build 60 skyscrapers in the next 10 years, some of them 50 stories high.

"This tiger always needs meat," Komech said. "So we know that from now on we can expect new projects, new ring roads, new tunnels. There's more money than you can imagine in Moscow now." [...]

"Russia is in the midst of a collapse of culture and there is nothing we can do about it," said David Sarkisyan, director of the State Museum of Architecture. "It is a horrible crime. The old generation of cultivated people is dying off. No one is coming to replace them."

The voice of the future, and apparently the voice of the majority, comes from people like Katrina Semikhatova, 27, a public relations representative for a major Moscow developer.

"I don't think Moscow is a beautiful city," she said as she surveyed a vast construction site where a new commercial and residential center was being built on the banks of the Moscow River.

"I think Moscow must be better," she said. "For me, Moscow has very few beautiful landscapes on the average. There is always something ugly. Today we have a chance to build a whole new city."

Skyscrapers are always a mistake, but the notion that losing the city the Bolsheviks built is a bad thing is disturbing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Mandelson extends olive branch on subsidies (James Kanter, 9/24/05, International Herald Tribune)

Europe will have to be prepared to curb subsidies to Airbus if a settlement is reached with the United States in the dispute over government aid to the aircraft maker and its chief rival, Boeing, the top European trade negotiator said Friday.

The candid warning from the European Union's trade commissioner, Peter Mandelson, to his own side signaled a desire to restart talks with Washington, even as a dueling lawsuits at the World Trade Organization inched forward Friday. [...]

If talks do restart, "then European government funding will have to adapt to the outcome of those negotiations," he added, referring to the millions in development loans provided to Airbus - aid that Washington insists be cut off.

Any settlement is preferable to ceding power to the WTO.

September 23, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:59 PM


Orioles Tell Palmeiro Not to Bother Returning (Tim Brown, September 24, 2005, LA Times)

Rafael Palmeiro, his possible Hall of Fame career tainted by a steroid suspension and an ongoing congressional investigation, will not be in uniform again this season, the Baltimore Orioles announced Friday — an action amounting to a paid suspension.

Palmeiro, who turns 41 today and is considering retirement, was expected to return to the club Friday after rehabilitating a sore knee and ankle for three weeks at his Texas home.

Instead, he was told he was not welcome back.

Oriole officials met Friday after published reports that Palmeiro allegedly had told an arbitration panel that teammate Miguel Tejada provided him with a vitamin that might have led to his testing positive for the steroid Stanozolol. At the end, they decided Palmeiro's presence over the final 10 days of the season would be too great a distraction.

At the same time, the Health Policy Advisory Committee, which hears appeals from players who have tested positive for banned substances, issued a statement Friday calling "incorrect" the reports that Tejada provided steroids to Palmeiro, or that Palmeiro claimed it to be so.

"There is no evidence whatsoever supporting any claim that Miguel Tejada has ever provided any illegal substance of any kind to any player," the statement said.

It's like a classic tragedy watching this poor guy destroy himself.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:57 PM


U.S. Says China Must Address Its Intentions: How Its Power Will Be Used Is of Concern (Glenn Kessler, 9/22/05, Washington Post)

Deputy Secretary of State Robert B. Zoellick bluntly warned China last night that it must begin to take concrete steps to address what he called a "a cauldron of anxiety" in the United States and other parts of the world about Chinese intentions. [...]

Among other points, Zoellick said:

· China should openly explain its defense spending, intentions, doctrine and military exercises to ease concerns about its rapid military buildup.

· China shows "increasing signs of mercantilism," seeking to direct markets rather than open them, and such actions must cease before its policies undercut U.S. domestic support for open markets. Zoellick said China's efforts to "lock up" energy supplies are "not a sensible path to achieving energy security."

· China should end its tolerance of "rampant theft of intellectual property and counterfeiting" if it is to be considered a "responsible major global player." China must also do "much more" to allow its currency to adjust to market rates.

· China should adjust its foreign policy to focus less on national interest and more on sustaining peaceful prosperity, including ensuring North Korea's compliance with an agreement to end its nuclear programs, supporting efforts to end Iran's nuclear programs, and pledging more money to Afghanistan and Iraq. China's dealings with Sudan, Burma and other "troublesome states indicates at best a blindness to consequences and at worst something more ominous," Zoellick said.

· China should not attempt to "maneuver toward a predominance of power" in Asia by building separate alliances in Southeast Asia and other areas.

Zoellick also addressed democracy in China, saying it is "risky and mistaken" to believe the Communist Party's monopoly can be secured "through emphasizing economic growth and heightened nationalism." He said closed politics are "simply not sustainable" and that pressure is building for political reform.

"China has one umbrella labor union, but waves of strikes," Zoellick noted. "A party that came to power as a movement of peasants now confronts violent rural protests, especially against corruption. A government with massive police powers cannot control spreading crime."

Zoellick said China should consider elections at the county and provincial level, reform its judiciary and "stop harassing journalists who point out problems."

The Reagan model for toppling the Soviets was quite easy: point out that communism had failed on its own terms and that it would never be legitimate unless it won elections and popular support for its tyranny.

Whither China: From Membership to Responsibility? (Robert B. Zoellick, Deputy Secretary of State, Remarks to National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, New York City, September 21, 2005)

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Mr. Zheng Bijian, Chair of the China Reform Forum, who over some decades has been a counselor to China’s leaders. We have spent many hours in Beijing and Washington discussing China’s course of development and Sino-American relations. It has been my good fortune to get to know such a thoughtful man who has helped influence, through the Central Party School, the outlook of many officials during a time of tremendous change for China.

This month, in anticipation of President Hu’s visit to the United States, Mr. Zheng published the lead article in Foreign Affairs, "China’s ‘Peaceful Rise’ to Great Power Status." This evening, I would like to give you a sense of the current dialogue between the United States and China by sharing my perspective.

Some 27 years ago, Chinese leaders took a hard look at their country and didn’t like what they saw. China was just emerging from the Cultural Revolution. It was desperately poor, deliberately isolated from the world economy, and opposed to nearly every international institution. Under Deng Xiaoping, as Mr. Zheng explains, China’s leaders reversed course and decided "to embrace globalization rather than detach themselves from it."

Seven U.S. presidents of both parties recognized this strategic shift and worked to integrate China as a full member of the international system. Since 1978, the United States has also encouraged China’s economic development through market reforms.

Our policy has succeeded remarkably well: the dragon emerged and joined the world. Today, from the United Nations to the World Trade Organization, from agreements on ozone depletion to pacts on nuclear weapons, China is a player at the table.

And China has experienced exceptional economic growth. Whether in commodities, clothing, computers, or capital markets, China’s presence is felt every day.

China is big, it is growing, and it will influence the world in the years ahead.

For the United States and the world, the essential question is – how will China use its influence?

To answer that question, it is time to take our policy beyond opening doors to China’s membership into the international system: We need to urge China to become a responsible stakeholder in that system.

China has a responsibility to strengthen the international system that has enabled its success. In doing so, China could achieve the objective identified by Mr. Zheng: "to transcend the traditional ways for great powers to emerge."

As Secretary Rice has stated, the United States welcomes a confident, peaceful, and prosperous China, one that appreciates that its growth and development depends on constructive connections with the rest of the world. Indeed, we hope to intensify work with a China that not only adjusts to the international rules developed over the last century, but also joins us and others to address the challenges of the new century.

From China’s perspective, it would seem that its national interest would be much better served by working with us to shape the future international system.

If it isn’t clear why the United States should suggest a cooperative relationship with China, consider the alternatives. Picture the wide range of global challenges we face in the years ahead – terrorism and extremists exploiting Islam, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, poverty, disease – and ask whether it would be easier or harder to handle those problems if the United States and China were cooperating or at odds.

For fifty years, our policy was to fence in the Soviet Union while its own internal contradictions undermined it. For thirty years, our policy has been to draw out the People’s Republic of China. As a result, the China of today is simply not the Soviet Union of the late 1940s:

It does not seek to spread radical, anti-American ideologies.

While not yet democratic, it does not see itself in a twilight conflict against democracy around the globe.

While at times mercantilist, it does not see itself in a death struggle with capitalism.

And most importantly, China does not believe that its future depends on overturning the fundamental order of the international system. In fact, quite the reverse: Chinese leaders have decided that their success depends on being networked with the modern world.

If the Cold War analogy does not apply, neither does the distant balance-of-power politics of 19th Century Europe. The global economy of the 21st Century is a tightly woven fabric. We are too interconnected to try to hold China at arm’s length, hoping to promote other powers in Asia at its expense. Nor would the other powers hold China at bay, initiating and terminating ties based on an old model of drawing-room diplomacy. The United States seeks constructive relations with all countries that do not threaten peace and security.

So if the templates of the past do not fit, how should we view China at the dawn of the 21st Century?

On both sides, there is a gulf in perceptions. The overwhelming priority of China’s senior officials is to develop and modernize a China that still faces enormous internal challenges. While proud of their accomplishments, China’s leaders recognize their country’s perceived weaknesses, its rural poverty, and the challenges of political and social change. Two-thirds of China’s population – nearly 900 million people – are in poor rural areas, living mostly as subsistence farmers, and 200 million Chinese live on less than a dollar a day. In China, economic growth is seen as an internal imperative, not as a challenge to the United States.

Therefore, China clearly needs a benign international environment for its work at home. Of course, the Chinese expect to be treated with respect and will want to have their views and interests recognized. But China does not want a conflict with the United States.

Nevertheless, many Americans worry that the Chinese dragon will prove to be a fire-breather. There is a cauldron of anxiety about China.

The U.S. business community, which in the 1990s saw China as a land of opportunity, now has a more mixed assessment. Smaller companies worry about Chinese competition, rampant piracy, counterfeiting, and currency manipulation. Even larger U.S. businesses – once the backbone of support for economic engagement – are concerned that mercantilist Chinese policies will try to direct controlled markets instead of opening competitive markets. American workers wonder if they can compete.

China needs to recognize how its actions are perceived by others. China’s involvement with troublesome states indicates at best a blindness to consequences and at worst something more ominous. China’s actions – combined with a lack of transparency – can create risks. Uncertainties about how China will use its power will lead the United States – and others as well – to hedge relations with China. Many countries hope China will pursue a "Peaceful Rise," but none will bet their future on it.

For example, China’s rapid military modernization and increases in capabilities raise questions about the purposes of this buildup and China’s lack of transparency. The recent report by the U.S. Department of Defense on China’s military posture was not confrontational, although China’s reaction to it was. The U.S. report described facts, including what we know about China’s military, and discussed alternative scenarios. If China wants to lessen anxieties, it should openly explain its defense spending, intentions, doctrine, and military exercises.

Views about China are also shaped by its growing economic footprint. China has gained much from its membership in an open, rules-based international economic system, and the U.S. market is particularly important for China’s development strategy. Many gain from this trade, including millions of U.S. farmers and workers who produce the commodities, components, and capital goods that China is so voraciously consuming.

But no other country – certainly not those of the European Union or Japan – would accept a $162 billion bilateral trade deficit, contributing to a $665 billion global current account deficit. China – and others that sell to China – cannot take its access to the U.S. market for granted. Protectionist pressures are growing.

China has been more open than many developing countries, but there are increasing signs of mercantilism, with policies that seek to direct markets rather than opening them. The United States will not be able to sustain an open international economic system – or domestic U.S. support for such a system – without greater cooperation from China, as a stakeholder that shares responsibility on international economic issues.

For example, a responsible major global player shouldn’t tolerate rampant theft of intellectual property and counterfeiting, both of which strike at the heart of America’s knowledge economy. China’s pledges – including a statement just last week by President Hu in New York – to crack down on the criminals who ply this trade are welcome, but the results are not yet evident. China needs to fully live up to its commitments to markets where America has a strong competitive advantage, such as in services, agriculture, and certain manufactured goods. And while China’s exchange rate policy offered stability in the past, times have changed. China may have a global current account surplus this year of nearly $150 billion, among the highest in the world. This suggests that China’s recent policy adjustments are an initial step, but much more remains to be done to permit markets to adjust to imbalances. China also shares a strong interest with the United States in negotiating a successful WTO Doha agreement that opens markets and expands global growth.

China’s economic growth is driving its thirst for energy. In response, China is acting as if it can somehow "lock up" energy supplies around the world. This is not a sensible path to achieving energy security. Moreover, a mercantilist strategy leads to partnerships with regimes that hurt China’s reputation and lead others to question its intentions. In contrast, market strategies can lessen volatility, instability, and hoarding. China should work with the United States and others to develop diverse sources of energy, including through clean coal technology, nuclear, renewables, hydrogen, and biofuels. Our new Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate – as well as the bilateral dialogue conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy and China’s National Development and Reform Commission – offer practical mechanisms for this cooperation. We should also encourage the opening of oil and gas production in more places around the world. We can work on energy conservation and efficiency, including through standards for the many appliances made in China. Through the IEA we can strengthen the building and management of strategic reserves. We also have a common interest in secure transport routes and security in producing countries.

All nations conduct diplomacy to promote their national interests. Responsible stakeholders go further: They recognize that the international system sustains their peaceful prosperity, so they work to sustain that system. In its foreign policy, China has many opportunities to be a responsible stakeholder.

The most pressing opportunity is North Korea. Since hosting the Six-Party Talks at their inception in 2003, China has played a constructive role. This week we achieved a Joint Statement of Principles, with an agreement on the goal of "verifiable denuclearization of the Korean peninsula in a peaceful manner." But the hard work of implementation lies ahead, and China should share our interest in effective and comprehensive compliance.

Moreover, the North Korea problem is about more than just the spread of dangerous weapons. Without broad economic and political reform, North Korea poses a threat to itself and others. It is time to move beyond the half century-old armistice on the Korean peninsula to a true peace, with regional security and development. A Korean peninsula without nuclear weapons opens the door to this future. Some 30 years ago America ended its war in Viet Nam. Today Viet Nam looks to the United States to help integrate it into the world market economic system so Viet Nam can improve the lives of its people. By contrast, North Korea, with a 50 year-old cold armistice, just falls further behind.

Beijing also has a strong interest in working with us to halt the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and missiles that can deliver them. The proliferation of danger will undermine the benign security environment and healthy international economy that China needs for its development.

China’s actions on Iran’s nuclear program will reveal the seriousness of China’s commitment to non-proliferation. And while we welcome China’s efforts to police its own behavior through new export controls on sensitive technology, we still need to see tough legal punishments for violators.

China and the United States can do more together in the global fight against terrorism. Chinese citizens have been victims of terror attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan. China can help destroy the supply lines of global terrorism. We have made a good start by working together at the UN and searching for terrorist money in Chinese banks, but can expand our cooperation further.

China pledged $150 million in assistance to Afghanistan, and $25 million to Iraq. These pledges were welcome, and we look forward to their full implementation. China would build stronger ties with both through follow-on pledges. Other countries are assisting the new Iraqi government with major debt forgiveness, focusing attention on the $7 billion in Iraqi debt still held by Chinese state companies.

On my early morning runs in Khartoum, I saw Chinese doing tai chi exercises. I suspect they were in Sudan for the oil business. But China should take more than oil from Sudan – it should take some responsibility for resolving Sudan’s human crisis. It could work with the United States, the UN, and others to support the African Union’s peacekeeping mission, to provide humanitarian relief to Darfur, and to promote a solution to Sudan’s conflicts.

In Asia, China is already playing a larger role. The United States respects China’s interests in the region, and recognizes the useful role of multilateral diplomacy in Asia. But concerns will grow if China seeks to maneuver toward a predominance of power. Instead, we should work together with ASEAN, Japan, Australia, and others for regional security and prosperity through the ASEAN Regional Forum and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

China’s choices about Taiwan will send an important message, too. We have made clear that our "one China" policy remains based on the three communiqués and the Taiwan Relations Act. It is important for China to resolve its differences with Taiwan peacefully.

The United States, Japan, and China will need to cooperate effectively together on both regional and global challenges. Given China’s terrible losses in World War II, I appreciate the sensitivity of historical issues with Japan. But as I have told my Chinese colleagues, I have observed some sizeable gaps in China’s telling of history, too. When I visited the "918" museum at the site of the 1931 "Manchurian Incident," I noted that the chronological account jumped from 1941 to the Soviet offensive against Japan in August 1945, overlooking the United States involvement in the Pacific from 1941 to 1945! Perhaps we could start to ease some misapprehensions by opening a three-way dialogue among historians.

Clearly, there are many common interests and opportunities for cooperation. But some say America’s commitment to democracy will preclude long-term cooperation with China. Let me suggest why this need not be so.

Freedom lies at the heart of what America is… as a nation, we stand for what President Bush calls the non-negotiable demands of human dignity. As I have seen over the 25 years since I lived in Hong Kong, Asians have also pressed for more freedom and built many more democracies. Indeed, President Hu and Premier Wen are talking about the importance of China strengthening the rule of law and developing democratic institutions.

We do not urge the cause of freedom to weaken China. To the contrary, President Bush has stressed that the terrible experience of 9/11 has driven home that in the absence of freedom, unhealthy societies will breed deadly cancers. In his Second Inaugural, President Bush recognized that democratic institutions must reflect the values and culture of diverse societies. As he said, "Our goal… is to help others find their own voice, attain their own freedom, and make their own way."

Being born ethnically Chinese does not predispose people against democracy – just look at Taiwan’s vibrant politics. Japan and South Korea have successfully blended a Confucian heritage with modern democratic principles.

Closed politics cannot be a permanent feature of Chinese society. It is simply not sustainable – as economic growth continues, better-off Chinese will want a greater say in their future, and pressure builds for political reform:

China has one umbrella labor union, but waves of strikes.

A party that came to power as a movement of peasants now confronts violent rural protests, especially against corruption.

A government with massive police powers cannot control spreading crime.

Some in China believe they can secure the Communist Party’s monopoly on power through emphasizing economic growth and heightened nationalism. This is risky and mistaken.

China needs a peaceful political transition to make its government responsible and accountable to its people. Village and grassroots elections are a start. They might be expanded – perhaps to counties and provinces – as a next step. China needs to reform its judiciary. It should open government processes to the involvement of civil society and stop harassing journalists who point out problems. China should also expand religious freedom and make real the guarantees of rights that exist on paper – but not in practice.

Ladies and Gentlemen: How we deal with China’s rising power is a central question in American foreign policy.

In China and the United States, Mr. Zheng’s idea of a "peaceful rise" will spur vibrant debate. The world will look to the evidence of actions.

Tonight I have suggested that the U.S. response should be to help foster constructive action by transforming our thirty-year policy of integration: We now need to encourage China to become a responsible stakeholder in the international system. As a responsible stakeholder, China would be more than just a member – it would work with us to sustain the international system that has enabled its success.

Cooperation as stakeholders will not mean the absence of differences – we will have disputes that we need to manage. But that management can take place within a larger framework where the parties recognize a shared interest in sustaining political, economic, and security systems that provide common benefits.

To achieve this transformation of the Sino-American relationship, this Administration – and those that follow it – will need to build the foundation of support at home. That’s particularly why I wanted to join you tonight. You hear the voices that perceive China solely through the lens of fear. But America succeeds when we look to the future as an opportunity, not when we fear what the future might bring. To succeed now, we will need all of you to press both the Chinese and your fellow citizens.

When President Nixon visited Beijing in 1972, our relationship with China was defined by what we were both against. Now we have the opportunity to define our relationship by what are both for.

We have many common interests with China. But relationships built only on a coincidence of interests have shallow roots. Relationships built on shared interests and shared values are deep and lasting. We can cooperate with the emerging China of today, even as we work for the democratic China of tomorrow.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:34 PM


Supersize Strollers Ignite Sidewalk Drama (STEPHANIE ROSENBLOOM, 9/22/05, NY Times)

ONE recent evening during rush hour on a Washington subway, Jose Rivas found himself cornered by a giant stroller, with no clear path of escape. "She saw us," Mr. Rivas, 33, said of the woman pushing the buggy. "She looked at us. She was basically like: 'You better find a way to get out. It's not my responsibility.' "

When he tried to step around her to reach the door, her look became a glare. The confrontation was like a battle, he said, and the weapon, a long, army-green-colored stroller.

Christopher Peruzzi, 39, of Freehold, N.J., has also had to dodge baby strollers - especially those that are "double wide or triple long" - usually in stores, and he doesn't like it either. "They're blocking off products you want to get to," he said. "I find this particularly annoying in Barnes & Noble and Walden Books. I'm here to read. I'm not here for your kid to slam into me."

Pricey, supersize baby strollers like the Bugaboo and the Silver Cross - nicknamed Hummers - have been derided as symbols of yuppie extravagance. (They cost upward of about $700.) But some critics now say that size is not the only problem. What's worse, they say, is the way some parents use them to bulldoze their way through public places.

"I liken it to the SUV experience," said Elizabeth Khalil, 28, a lawyer in Washington. "It's just your mission to mow down everything in your sight because you can."

Critics - many of them people without children....

An often missed subtext of Blue State and European hatred of SUVs is that there are families in them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:40 PM


Willis gains stature as hitter -- batting 7th (Juan C. Rodriguez, September 23, 2005, Orlando Sun-Sentinel)

Nine years before Dontrelle Willis was born, Expos starter Steve Renko batted seventh in an Aug. 26, 1973 game against the San Diego Padres.

A pitcher hadn't hit higher than eighth since then -- until Thursday.

Manager Jack McKeon slotted Dontrelle Willis in the seven hole against Pedro Martinez and the Mets. Last Saturday, Willis became the second pitcher since 1998 to hit eighth.

"The guy's a pretty good hitter," McKeon said. "You throw a left-handed hitter in the middle of that lineup. One good thing is he puts the ball in play all the time."

Willis, who in his first at-bat worked the count full before David Wright reached into the camera well to catch a foul pop, entered the game batting .250 (21 for 84). He already had the season franchise marks for runs (14), hits and RBI (11) by a pitcher. He added a single in the fourth and finished the night 1 for 4.

Mr. McKeon has also moved superstar outfielder Miguel Cabrera back to 3b, where he played in the minors, and played regular 3b, Mike Lowell, at second. It's nice to be old enough you don't have to worry about second-guessers.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:33 PM


President Bush Is 'Our Bull Connor,' Harlem's Rep. Charles Rangel Claims (MEGHAN CLYNE, September 23, 2005, NY Sun)

Comparing President Bush to the Birmingham, Ala., police commissioner whose resistance to the civil rights movement became synonymous with Southern racism, Rep. Charles Rangel said yesterday of the president: "George Bush is our Bull Connor."

Mr. Rangel's metaphoric linkage of Mr. Bush to the late Theophilus "Bull" Connor - who in 1963 turned fire hoses and attack dogs on blacks, including Martin Luther King Jr., demonstrating in favor of equal rights - met with wild applause and cheering at a Congressional Black Caucus town hall meeting, part of the organization's 35th Annual Legislative Conference.

How long before one of our apologists for such hate speech tells us the congressman was just referring to how much the President likes dogs?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:12 PM


2nd Banana Whose Taste Is Irresistible (JACQUES STEINBERG, 9/23/05, NY Times)

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 21 - Just as there has never been another lead character on television quite like Larry David - it would be hard to imagine Ralph Kramden or Ray Barone picking up a prostitute to qualify for the carpool lane to Dodger Stadium - there has never been a sidekick quite like Jeff Greene, the fictional Mr. David's fictional manager. [...]

Mr. Garlin's Jeff is more than Larry's bumbling enabler. Given how hard it can be, at times, for even loyal fans to watch Larry - in the second episode of the new season, he squares off with a man in a wheelchair over a handicap-accessible toilet - Jeff dilutes Larry's acidity with much-needed base.

"You're dealing with a show where the lead character is making the irritating and uncomfortable choice," said Jon Stewart, a friend of Mr. Garlin since both were stand-up comedians in New York in the late 1980's. "They both do a lot of shameful things. But Jeff is a cushion to Larry's harder floor."

"He is what I consider to be a human Cinnabon," Mr. Stewart added. "You probably shouldn't partake, but you just can't resist."

Mr. Garlin, 43, also plays an important role off camera on "Curb," as one of five executive producers. That title serves, at least in part, as an acknowledgment from Mr. David that the series might not have materialized had Mr. Garlin not broached the rough idea for it over lunch at a Koo-Koo-Roo chicken restaurant in Beverly Hills in the late 1990's.

While that conversation was impromptu, it was consistent with the backstage role that Mr. Garlin has played throughout a two-decade career as a comedian and actor: that of a trusted sounding board for fellow practitioners. In the mid-1990's, Mr. Stewart and Denis Leary extended separate invitations to Mr. Garlin, who trained at Second City in Chicago, to travel with them for several months to winnow stand-up material for HBO specials. (Mr. Stewart's was called "Unleavened"; Mr. Leary's, "Lock 'n' Load.") Mr. Garlin was charged with telling each comic where the laughs were.

"I literally go out with a set of bullet points," Mr. Leary said of his sets. "I start talking. I find spots the audience finds interesting.

"When we'd get done, Jeff would tell me: 'This bit is good. This other bit has nothing to do with what we're talking about.' "

"I'd object," Mr. Leary added. "And like a baseball manager, he'd come right back at me."

By 1999, Mr. Garlin and Mr. David, who knew each other casually, were working in nearby offices at Castle Rock Entertainment. Mr. Garlin had just finished a run on "Mad About You" - he played Marvin, who worked in a sporting goods store - and was working on a pilot. Mr. David had finished "Seinfield" (he was a co-creator and executive producer) and was trying to figure out what was next.

When Mr. David mentioned to Mr. Garlin over lunch that he was mulling a return to the stand-up stage, Mr. Garlin had a ready reply: Mr. David should have it filmed as an HBO special. Implicit in Mr. Garlin's suggestion, both men agree, is that the backstage run-up to that special be a component of the special itself.

"I was very specific as to what the special would be because I had just directed Jon and Dennis," Mr. Garlin said, in an interview at one of his favorite haunts, the sprawling Farmers Market here. "The difference was that mine included a lot more stand-up and Larry's included more behind-the-scenes."

"He was right," Mr. Garlin added. "I could have brought the idea to a million other people, and we wouldn't be talking about a great show."

Mr. David refined that lunchtime conversation into a special in which the real Mr. David prepared a real comedy special while assisted by a fictional wife and manager. Cheryl Hines, a sketch comedy veteran, was cast as his wife. For the manager, Mr. David recalled thinking, "Why not Jeff?"

"Jeff never gives you anything that's off in a scene," Mr. David said. "He also has a great eye for what's wrong in a scene, when he's off camera."

"He is always honest," Mr. David added. "We've gotten in fights about that from time to time."

Having studied improv at Second City and mounted three one-man shows there, Mr. Garlin embraced the structure of "Curb." In lieu of dialogue, the actors are given outlines, sometimes just moments before the cameras roll.

Some actors appearing as guests have vomited with anxiety, Mr. Garlin said. "For me," he said, "being able to act out scenes with Larry David, you can't get more freeing or lucky than that."< /blockquote>

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:52 PM

"WHO'S YO' DADDY?" CONSERVATISM? (via Robert Duquette):

Goodbye to All That: Is this the end of “compassionate conservatism”? (Jonah Goldberg, 9/23/05, National Review)

Here's my silver-lining hope this hurricane season: George W. Bush's compassionate conservatism gets wiped out like a taco hut in the path of a Cat. 5 storm.

Outside of people inside the administration, I've never met anyone who really likes the president's "compassionate conservatism." To the extent conservatives praise it at all, they celebrate the fact that compassionate conservatism got Bush elected. This is no small or insignificant feat, note the realists. Without victory, nothing else is possible. "It's the lady that brought us to the dance," they explain.

Now, don't get me wrong. I actually respect much of the substance of compassionate conservatism.

Which nicely captures why National Review has become so trivial. The libertarian Right--being, by definition, made up predominantly of young single white men-- likes to think its as tough as an Ayn Rand hero and imagines itself always on the verge of turning the clock back to just before the Crash of '29. But the reality is that people want a social safety net so the best that the Right can achieve is to bring free market forces to bear on the provision of those services: work requirements in welfare; school vouchers; personal savings accounts for Health, Retirement, Unemployment, etc; Faith Based charity rather than government bureaucracy, and so on and so forth. Folks like Mr. Goldberg buy the whole package but think "compassion" makes them sound like sissies. So why not just have Frank Luntz come up with a name that doesn't frighten them where they're insecure? Or, we'll send a book to whoever can come up with a vapidly macho name for compassionate conservatism that'll comfort them.

Let's Deploy the 'Little Platoons': A conservative vision of social justice. (IAIN DUNCAN SMITH AND RICK SANTORUM, September 23, 2005, Opinion Journal)

For all the differences between the United States and Europe, we share a common challenge: how to improve the social well-being of our citizens without a massive growth in the size and intrusiveness of government. We're convinced that conservatism--properly understood--offers the surest road to social justice. [...]

Conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond are charting a new vision of social justice. It recognizes that the problems caused or aggravated by the growth in government cannot be corrected by a crude reduction in its size. Policy must also deliberately foster the growth of what Edmund Burke called "the little platoons" of civil society: families, neighborhood associations, private enterprises, charities and churches. These are the real source of economic growth and social vitality.

The social justice agenda we endorse is grounded in social conservatism. That means helping the poor discover the dignity of work, rather than making them wards of the state. It means locking up violent criminals, but offering nonviolent offenders lots of help to become responsible citizens. It endorses a policy of "zero tolerance" toward drug use and sexual trafficking, yet insists that those struggling with all manner of addictions can start their lives afresh.

In America, this vision emerged a decade ago with bold conservative initiatives aimed at empowering individuals and grassroots groups helping the nation's neediest, such as the Community Renewal Act and other antipoverty initiatives. Today's CARE Act is part of the same tradition. Likewise, the Bush administration's plan to create a Gulf Opportunity Zone after Hurricane Katrina would offer tax relief and small-business loans to support a culture of entrepreneurship. [...]

"The most important of all revolutions," Burke wrote, is "a revolution in sentiments, manners and moral opinions." Yet we believe that social-justice conservatism can produce societies that are more humane than anything liberalism could accomplish. As we build a conservative alternative--a vision informed both by idealism and realism--we have evidence, experience and common sense on our side.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:49 PM


Friendship visit by ally of China turns into blistering lecture (Joseph Kahn, SEPTEMBER 23, 2005, The New York Times)

China's leaders may have felt they had no better friend in Taiwan than Li Ao, a defiant and outspoken politician and author who says that Taiwan should unify with Communist China. But when the Chinese government invited Li to tour the mainland this past week, the Communist Party got a taste of its rival's pungent democracy.

During an address at Beijing University on Wednesday, broadcast live on a cable television network, Li chided China's leaders for suppressing free speech, ridiculed the university administration's fear of academic debate and advised students on how to fight for freedom against official repression. [...]

[W]hen he arrived in mainland China, he surprised his hosts with caustic comments aimed not at Taiwanese separatism, but at mainland authoritarianism. Though Li did not criticize Hu directly, he made pointed references to the lack of freedoms in mainland China and suggested that "poker-faced" Communist Party bureaucrats do not have enough faith in their legitimacy to allow normal intellectual discussion.

With several top university officials sitting by his side, he called the administrators "cowardly" for ferreting out professors at the school who are suspected of opposing communism.

Though his arrival in mainland China was covered prominently by the state-run media and his speech was viewed on television by millions around China, the authorities imposed a blackout on reporting about his visit after the speech.

Thereby proving his point.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:49 AM


John McCain (Michael Barone, 9/22/05, US News)

I attended an American Spectator dinner last night featuring John McCain. McCain spent much of the evening casting votes in the Senate, but returned and spoke with impressive energy and at considerable length. He said it was fine if everything was on the record. Those who think that McCain is still smoldering with anger at George W. Bush over the 2000 campaign should think again: McCain spoke fervently and with obvious sincerity about how much he admires Bush and the job he has been doing as president.

McCain addressed two issues that have the potential to divide the Republican base: spending and immigration.

On spending, he said that to offset the spending of Hurricane Katrina and to prevent what "may be the largest deficit in history," Congress should revisit the highway bill—the big transportation bill passed earlier this year—and should consider delaying or repealing the Medicare prescription drug bill. On both of these issues his positions are to the right of the Bush administration's: After all, Bush signed both bills.

Every candidate runs on cutting wasteful spending and the Right laps it up.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:44 AM


Limiting Government's Role: Bush favors one-time fixes over boosting existing programs to help Katrina victims. (Peter G. Gosselin and Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, September 23, 2005, LA Times)

Two days after Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced plans to issue emergency vouchers aimed at helping poor storm victims find new housing quickly by covering as much as $10,000 of their rent.

But the department suddenly backed away from the idea after White House aides met with senior HUD officials. Although emergency vouchers had been successfully used after the 1994 Northridge earthquake, the administration focused instead on a plan for government-built trailer parks, an approach that even many Republicans say would concentrate poverty in the very fashion the government has long sought to avoid. [...]

As President Bush tackles the monumental task of easing the social problems wrought by Katrina, he is proving deeply reluctant to use some of the big-government tools at his disposal, apparently out of fear of permanently enlarging programs that he opposes or has sought to cut.

Instead of depending on long-running programs for such services as housing and healthcare, the president has generally tried to create new, one-shot efforts that the administration apparently hopes will more easily disappear after the crisis passes. That has meant relying on the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which has run virtually all of the recovery effort. [...]

At least in the case of housing, critics say that the president's unwillingness to rely on existing programs could raise costs. Instead of offering $10,000 vouchers, FEMA is paying an average of $16,000 for each trailer in the new parks it is contemplating. Even many Republicans wonder why the government would want to build trailer parks when many evacuees are now living in communities with plenty of vacant, privately owned apartments.

Any time the GOP can voucherize any government service it ought to.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:02 AM


New 'Hobbit' disease link claim (BBC, 9/23/05)

Scientists are to present new evidence that the tiny human species dubbed "The Hobbit" may not be what it seems.

The researchers say their findings strongly support an idea that the 1m- (3ft-) tall female skeleton from Indonesia is a diseased modern human.

No wonder they had to destroy the bones.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:59 AM


Warren Beatty: Schwarzenegger 'Fascist' (NewsMax, 9/23/05)

Actor Warren Beatty leveled a blistering political assault on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Thursday night, accusing him of governing "by show, by spin, by cosmetics and photos ops."

Beatty made his remarks at a convention of the California Nurses Association, an organization that has emerged in the last year as one of Schwarzenegger's most vociferous critics. [...]

But Beatty used most of his address to rail against the Republican governor's "year of reform" ballot initiatives in the Nov. 8 special election. Schwarzenegger is pushing several measures that would curb the power of the Democrat-controlled Legislature and the state's powerful public employee unions.

Beatty, who has criticized the governor several times this year, called the initiatives "union busting" and "fascist."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:48 AM


They're Not Going To Like Us (David Ignatius, September 23, 2005, Washington Post)

I've had a lesson in our unpopularity in Egypt, where I've been hearing anti-American broadsides from activists who should be thanking the Bush administration for its pro-democracy stance. These are people who, but for the administration's pressure over the past few years on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, might well be in prison. But do they appreciate President Bush's help? Not on your life.

Take the pro-democracy speech in June by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. She told an audience at the American University in Cairo that the administration was breaking with a 60-year-old policy that "pursued stability at the expense of democracy" and choosing instead to support democratic activists even when they challenged pro-U.S. rulers such as Mubarak. But the Egyptians remained dubious, to put it mildly. [...]

Another leading democracy activist, Hisham Kassem, said he warned the secretary of state when she was in Egypt not to expect any bouquets. "I told Rice your administration is the most unpopular ever in the Arab world and will remain so until Bush leaves office." He thinks that this anti-Americanism is unfair and that Arab historians will eventually realize the importance of Bush's pro-democracy policies. But not anytime soon.

The Bush administration might do better in this part of the world if it accepted its unpopularity, rather than trying to wish it otherwise. That's especially true in Iraq. Most Iraqis were profoundly grateful that the United States toppled Saddam Hussein in April 2003, but that doesn't mean they like being occupied. The antibodies against the American presence are just too strong. The average Iraqi experiences U.S. occupation as a daily humiliation.

The potency of this anti-Americanism means, among other things, that we can't solve our problems in Iraq by sending in more troops. A bigger U.S. footprint would only increase Iraqi anger and fuel the insurgency. In contrast, fewer American troops may actually make it easier to stabilize the country, if the United States can help the Iraqis create a strong military and government of their own. America may be having trouble defeating Abu Musab Zarqawi, but the Iraqis won't.

The most important lesson of Iraq is that it's inappropriate to occupy a nation whose people were oppressed by the regime we got rid of.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:24 AM


Evolutionary Tools Help Unlock Origins of Ancient Languages (Scientific American, 9/23/05)

The key to understanding how languages evolved may lie in their structure, not their vocabularies, a new report suggests. Findings published today in the journal Science indicate that a linguistic technique that borrows some features from evolutionary biology tools can unlock secrets of languages more than 10,000 years old.

Because vocabularies change so quickly, using them to trace how languages evolve over time can only reach back about 8,000 to 10,000 years. To study tongues from the Pleistocene, the period between 1.8 million and 10,000 years ago, Michael Dunn and his colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics developed a computer program that analyzes language based on how words relate to one another. They developed a database containing 125 "structural language features," which include traits such as verb placement within clauses, for two sets of languages.

Once again, evolution is shown to be the product of intelligent design.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:20 AM


Spain builds own Berlin Wall to stop immigrants (Expatica, 22 September 2005)

Spain announces it is to make its frontier fence with Morocco as high as the Berlin Wall after 12 men are badly injured trying to get across existing fences into Melilla.

In all 70 tried to break through the three metre-high fences which are topped with row upon row of barbed wire.

Twelve suffered broken bones, cuts and other injuries and were being treated in hospital.

One man was captured by TV cameras hanging from the barbed wire in apparent pain.

The latest assault came as Spain announced it is to make the frontier fences higher.

They will be the same height as the Berlin Wall.

Remember all the Euro chirping when Ariel Sharon started building the security wall?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:02 AM


How some senators plan to vote on Roberts (Associated Press, 9/23/05)

All 55 Senate Republicans are expected to vote for John Roberts' confirmation as Supreme Court chief justice next week. The 44 Democrats are less unified.

Democrats who have announced their support for Roberts (8):

Bill Nelson of Florida, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Max Baucus of Montana, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, Kent Conrad of North Dakota.

Democrats who voted for Roberts on the Judiciary Committee (3):

Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, Herb Kohl of Wisconsin.

Democrats can't figure out why they keep losing national elections even though they oppose Roberts as a party but all these guys are forced to support him for purposes of their own re-elections.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:26 AM


Ass Backwards: The media's silence about rampant anal sex. (William Saletan, Sept. 20, 2005, Slate)

There's no delicate way to put this, so I'll just quote the survey report: "For males, the proportion who have had anal sex with a female increases from 4.6 percent at age 15 to 34 percent at ages 22–24; for females, the proportion who have had anal sex with a male increases from 2.4 percent at age 15 to 32 percent at age 22–24." One in three women admits to having had anal sex by age 24. By ages 25 to 44, the percentages rise to 40 for men and 35 for women. And that's not counting the 3.7 percent of men aged 15 to 44 who've had anal sex with other men.

The last time major national surveys asked about this practice, in the early 1990s, only 20 percent of men aged 20 to 39 said they'd had anal sex with a woman in the preceding 10 years. Only 26 percent of men aged 18 to 59 said they'd ever done so. In the first survey, the 10-year limit excluded half the sexual career of half the sample, but that isn't enough to explain a doubling in the percentage saying yes. In the second survey, according to the current report, the inclusion of men aged 46 to 59 might have diluted the sample with "cohorts that were less likely to have had anal sex." But that's the point: Newer cohorts are more likely to have tried it.

Why does this matter? Because anal sex is far more dangerous than oral sex. According to data released earlier this year by the Centers for Disease Control, the probability of HIV acquisition by the receptive partner in unprotected oral sex with an HIV carrier is one per 10,000 acts. In vaginal sex, it's 10 per 10,000 acts. In anal sex, it's 50 per 10,000 acts. Do the math. Oral sex is 10 times safer than vaginal sex. Anal sex is five times more dangerous than vaginal sex and 50 times more dangerous than oral sex. Presumably, oral sex is far more frequent than anal sex. But are you confident it's 50 times more frequent?

A CDC fact sheet explains the risks of anal sex. First, "the lining of the rectum is thin and may allow the [HIV] virus to enter the body." Second, "condoms are more likely to break during anal sex than during vaginal sex." These risks don't just apply to HIV. According to the new survey report, the risk of transmission of other sexually transmitted diseases is likewise "higher for anal than for oral sex," and the risk "from oral sex is also believed to be lower than for vaginal intercourse."

Many respondents likely just confuse doggy-style with actual anal sex, but if only the MSM would be this forthright about why male homosexuality is pathological...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:46 AM


Rewrite of Endangered Species Law Approved: House to Vote Soon; Senate Could in 2006 (Juliet Eilperin, September 23, 2005, Washington Post)

Setting the stage for the most sweeping restructuring of endangered species protections in three decades, the House Resources Committee yesterday approved legislation that would strengthen the hand of private property owners and make it harder for federal officials to set aside large swaths of habitat for imperiled plants and animals.

Committee Chairman Richard W. Pombo (R-Calif.), who has sought to revamp the Endangered Species Act for more than a decade, said the bill would make the landmark 32-year-old law more effective.

"The whole underlying premise of what we're trying to do is recover species," Pombo said, adding that his measure would ensure "individual property owners are not forced to shoulder the financial burden of conserving endangered species for all Americans."

GOP leaders are eager to move the bill and it is expected to pass by a comfortable margin next week. The question remains whether Senate Republicans, who have begun hearings on the issue but have yet to introduce legislation, can pass a bill that would allow the two chambers to reach a compromise next year.

Many Democrats, as well as some Republicans and an array of environmental groups, have voiced concern about Pombo's measure and suggested it would not pass as it now stands.

What areas of legislative concern won't the President and Congress have sweepingly restructured by 2009?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:33 AM


From Patriot to Proliferator: The myth of a Pakistani scientist as his nation's savior long protected him. It took his peddling of atomic know-how to shred it. (Douglas Frantz, September 23, 2005, LA Times)

In spring 2000, Lt. Gen. Syed Mohammad Amjad was in his office at Pakistan's National Accountability Bureau when one of his senior investigators delivered the report he was dreading.

The bureau had been created six months earlier to root out corruption among bureaucrats, politicians and the business elite. Amjad, a career army officer known for his integrity, was given authority to arrest anyone.

The investigator had been quietly verifying the contents of a 700-page dossier on Abdul Qadeer Khan, the scientist whose reputation as the father of Pakistan's atomic bomb made him the country's most revered figure.

It was clear that Khan was living far beyond his modest government salary, the investigator reported. He had stashed $8 million in banks in Pakistan; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; and Switzerland, acquired seven expensive houses, paid monthly stipends to 20 journalists to burnish his image and collected kickbacks on purchases by the government lab he ran.

Corruption was easy to prove, the investigator said, but pursuing Khan would entangle the young bureau in a political struggle it was likely to lose. The scientist was shielded by a largely self-constructed myth that he had almost single-handedly ensured Pakistan's national security by building a nuclear arsenal to counter India's.

"My humble suggestion is not to open a case at this stage," the investigator told Amjad, according to a person who attended the meeting. Amjad reluctantly agreed.

Khan's protective wall did not collapse for nearly four more years.

In February 2004, facing rising international pressure, the government forced Khan to confess that he had run a highly profitable black-market operation that sold nuclear secrets and technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya. His activities made him the single most important figure in the spread of atomic weapons beyond a small clutch of nuclear states.

Much about Khan's network has been discovered since then. Still, mystery surrounds what turned a proud and ambitious man from patriot to proliferator. [...]

In early 2000, Khan summoned Hamid Mir, a prominent Pakistani journalist, to the lab at Kahuta to rage about Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who had taken control of the country in a coup the previous October.

Musharraf had had the gall to cut funding for the lab's program to develop missiles based on the North Korean designs, Khan told him. "Young man, he is trying to appease the Americans by stopping my missile program," Khan said.

Two former senior military officers close to Musharraf said the new Pakistani leader was actually trying to assert control over Pakistan's sprawling nuclear establishment, particularly Khan's operation. But Musharraf had to proceed cautiously because of Khan's enormous popularity and his own tenuous grasp on power.

Amjad's inquiry at the National Accountability Bureau did not lead to Khan's prosecution, and an investigation of two trips Khan made to Dubai later in 2000 also was inconclusive. But Musharraf thought he had enough evidence to take some action.

In March 2001, Musharraf removed Khan as head of the lab and forbade him to set foot inside Kahuta again. He softened the blow by appointing Khan as a presidential advisor.

"Musharraf didn't want a domestic backlash, and he didn't want to belittle him," said the former military officer, who was involved in the decision.

Khan remained defiant. He continued to expand his black-market dealings while denying that he had peddled nuclear technology.

In an interview in fall 2001 for "Stealing the Fire," a documentary about the spread of nuclear technology, Khan denied ever helping anyone other than Pakistan obtain nuclear equipment or weapons.

"We have not indulged in any proliferation," he said, according to a transcript of the session provided to the Los Angeles Times by the film's producers, John Friedman and Eric Nadler. "You cannot buy nuclear weapons. You cannot get a nuclear weapon on a platter."

That, however, was precisely what Khan was offering Libyan strongman Moammar Kadafi. In an agreement reached in 1997, Khan had promised to provide Libya with a complete bomb factory, from uranium enrichment to nuclear warhead. The price tag was $100 million.

But even after he was demoted, Khan was powerful enough to continue using Pakistani government aircraft to fly nuclear goods to Libya.

In the end, Khan and his network were put out of business by one of their own customers, a man long regarded as a terrorist who now wanted to be accepted by the international community.

On Dec. 19, 2003, after months of secret negotiations with British and U.S. officials, Kadafi agreed to abandon his chemical, biological and nuclear programs. As part of the deal, Libya turned over records that directly tied Khan to the sale of nuclear technology and a warhead design.

Musharraf negotiated Khan's final surrender: The scientist would confess on television to unspecified proliferation in exchange for keeping his wealth and strict confinement to his home.

Mir, the journalist, met the defeated scientist at his government office a few days before he began his house arrest in February 2004. Khan railed that U.S. and Pakistani intelligence had caused his troubles, and he lashed out at Musharraf, predicting that he would do the Americans' bidding again by turning over Osama bin Laden just before the U.S. elections in November of that year.

"He thought that nobody could touch him because he is a hero," Mir said. "It was beyond his expectations that Musharraf could arrest him. That shock destroyed his mental health."

Amazing how many otherwise sensible people hate General Musharraf. He's like the new Pinochet or Franco.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:26 AM


Barroso's red-tape-cut not enough, says business (Lucia Kubosova, 9/22/05, EU Observer)

The business community has expressed disappointment over the unofficial list of around 70 laws Brussels wants to scrap due to their negative impact on Europe's economy.

They argue most of the bills are overdue and would have to be shelved anyway.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:22 AM


Free school for one-girl families (Jyotsna Singh, 9/23/05, BBC News)

The Indian government says it will reward girls from single child families with free education and other benefits.

The move is intended to bolster India's dwindling female population and help promote population control.

More girls is good. Rewarding single child families insane.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:20 AM


Mine safety drive fails in China (Daniel Griffiths, 9/23/05, BBC News)

China has admitted that a campaign to get officials to give up illegal stakes in the country's highly profitable but dangerous coal mines has failed.

The country has the world's deadliest mining industry, and thousands die each year in mining accidents.

This campaign was supposed to be part of a major drive to improve safety in its coal mines.

Local officials often have shares in the mines, which have risen in value as coal fuels the booming economy.

But poor safety standards and many illegal operations have led to the deaths of nearly 3,000 miners in the first half of this year alone.

Beijing ordered all local officials to give up their stakes after growing public anger about the problem.

Now, though, it has admitted that those orders have been ignored by many Communist Party cadres.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:55 AM


Our devolving society (Waterbury Republican-American, September 23, 2005)

Seven years ago, Ohio passed a law requiring girls under 18 to get their parents' written consent before having an abortion. Tied up in court since then by American Civil Liberties Union lawyers on behalf of a Cincinnati abortion clinic, the law also requires women seeking abortions to meet face-to-face with a doctor to learn more about the procedure and its risks and alternatives.

U.S. District Court Judge Sandra S. Beckwith now says the law is "legal" because the "evidence does not demonstrate that (the statute) imposes undue burdens on the abortion right." Pro-lifers were too busy hailing the ruling and the ACLU too busy mulling an appeal to realize how well this decision illustrates the devolution of civil society.

In bygone days, many of society's most important laws were unwritten. Paramount among them was that parents were responsible for giving their children a proper upbringing. Among other things, they were to feed, clothe and nurture them, teach them proper manners and discipline them when they got out of line. Parents understood that teenagers are incapable of making reasoned decisions because young brains are not yet wired to consider the full consequences of their actions. The goal of parents was to guide their children and mold them into productive, responsible adults, and the vast majority didn't need a judge to prod them to take their jobs seriously.

So had a 15-year-old showed up at a doctor's office looking for an abortion, any physician worth his diploma would have contacted her parents because it was the right thing to do. And a doctor true to his oath would have counseled a woman seeking an abortion about the many potential physical and psychological traumas; again, it was the right thing to do. But all that changed after abortion became a "constitutional right," and legal and illegal supplanted right and wrong as the barometer of behavior in America.

With virtue and standards taken out of play, the fabric of society unraveled.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:43 AM


Columnist Correction Policy Isn't Being Applied to Krugman (Byron Calame, 9/16/05, NY Times Public Editor's Web Journal)

An Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times who makes an error "is expected to promptly correct it in the column." That's the established policy of Gail Collins, editor of the editorial page. Her written policy encourages "a uniform approach, with the correction made at the bottom of the piece."

Two weeks have passed since my previous post spelled out the errors made by columnist Paul Krugman in writing about news media recounts of the 2000 Florida vote for president. Mr. Krugman still hasn't been required to comply with the policy by publishing a formal correction. Ms. Collins hasn't offered any explanation. [...]

A bottom-line question: Does a corrections policy not enforced damage The Times's credibility more than having no policy at all?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Rove Is Paving Way for Guest Worker Program (Mary Curtius, September 22, 2005, LA Times)

White House political strategist Karl Rove is offering lawmakers new details of an administration-backed guest worker program that would temporarily legalize the status of millions of illegal workers, according to Republicans who have attended the meetings.

The White House effort is seen as its latest step toward reasserting President Bush's leadership on one of the most divisive issues confronting Republicans.

Concerned that increasingly strident anti-immigrant voices within the party were undermining the administration's efforts to reach out to Hispanic voters, the administration formed a coalition of business groups and immigration advocates during the summer to lobby for the sort of comprehensive reform plan Bush has advocated since early in his presidency.

And some lawmakers see the recent White House sessions as evidence that Bush intends to pursue his plan as soon as this fall -- despite the strains Hurricane Katrina has put on the legislative agenda and despite ongoing opposition within his party.

if Democrats were united behind this the President could roll the GOP, but they're likely too beholden to labor.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


House OKs Faith As Head Start Hiring Issue (BEN FELLER, 9/23/05, AP)

The House voted Thursday to let Head Start centers consider religion when hiring workers, overshadowing its moves to strengthen the preschool program's academics and finances.

The Republican-led House approved a bill that lets churches and other faith-based preschool centers hire only people who share their religion, yet still receive federal tax dollars.

Democrats blasted that idea as discriminatory.

Democrats just can't allow themselves out from under their anti-religious millstone.

September 22, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:59 PM


Scalia Defends Government's Right to Deny Art Funds (DANIEL J. WAKIN, 9/23/05, NY Times)

Justice Antonin Scalia of the United States Supreme Court made an unusual appearance at the Juilliard School yesterday and defended the government's right to deny funds for art it disapproves of, elaborating in person on what he has written on the bench.

He told reporters that choosing what art to subsidize is no different than the stances the government takes all the time in other areas.

"The First Amendment has not repealed the basic rule of life, that he who pays the piper calls the tune," Justice Scalia said. "When you place the government in charge of funding art, just as when you place the government in charge of providing education, somebody has to pick the content of what art is going to be funded, what subjects are going to be taught.

"The only way to eliminate any government choice on what art is worthwhile, what art isn't worthwhile, is to get the government totally out of the business of funding," he said.

The point being that we fund education and the arts to serve our ends as a society, not those of teachers unions and artists.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:59 PM


Rabbi Eliyahu changes mind on refusal (yaakov katz and matthew wagner, Sep. 23, 2005, THE JERUSALEM POST)

In a surprise break from his fierce opposition to disengagement and his support of calls for the refusal of IDF evacuation orders, former Sephardi chief rabbi Mordechai Eliahu, in an exclusive interview with The Jerusalem Post, urged members of the national religious camp on Thursday to remain loyal to the state and the army.

This view stands in stark contrast to that espoused by a group of settlement rabbis – such as Zalman Melamed of Beit El, Dov Lior of Kiryat Arba, Elyakim Levanon of Elon Moreh and David Dudkevitch of Yitzhar – who see as their leader former Ashkenazi chief rabbi Avraham Shapira.

In the name of Shapira, these rabbis are calling for a radical revamping of the relationship between religious and secular Zionists.

Eliahu's equanimity, in his first interview with the press since disengagement, was a striking departure from his own previous adamant opposition to the pullout, which he had called a "curse from heaven."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:58 PM


The Danger Next Door (SETH G. JONES, 9/23/05, NY Times)

Unlike the violence in Iraq, the fighting in Afghanistan is not the result of a local population deeply hostile to American forces. A 2004 opinion poll by the Asia Foundation showed that 65 percent of Afghans had a favorable view of the United States government, and 67 percent had a favorable view of the American military - findings supported by my own observations and data from trips to the region during the last three years.

Nor is the fighting in Afghanistan the result of a failing American political and military strategy. American conventional and Special Forces have conducted effective strike operations and civic action programs that have undermined Taliban, Qaeda and Hezb-i-Islami insurgents and their local support network in Afghanistan.

Instead, a complex support network in Pakistan is the key to the Afghan insurgency's survival. Taliban insurgents in southern Afghanistan get supplies and help in Pakistani provinces like North-West Frontier and Baluchistan. Numerous captured Taliban prisoners have said they received training in Pakistani areas like the Mansehra district. Even more troubling, evidence suggests that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence directorate has helped Taliban insurgents.

It's wise to save Western Pakistan until everything else is taken care of because even Democrats have to support operations against al Qaeda.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:24 PM


Poll: Istook trails Gov. Henry by 8 points (Jim Snyder, 9/22/05, The Hill)

A poll paid for by the Oklahoma state GOP shows Rep. Ernest Istook, now in his seventh term, as the strongest contender against Gov. Brad Henry, a Democrat.

Istook is considering running for the chance to take on Henry, who was elected in 2002 with just more than 43 percent of the vote and is among the GOP’s biggest 2006 targets.

The poll measured five potential Republican nominees against Henry.

Istook finished the strongest but would not win, according to the poll. In that race, Henry would beat Istook 44 to 36 percent.

Mr. Istook is probably polling higher than his name recognition. This is the seat Steve Largent biffed in '02 and the GOP should own it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:51 PM


Iraqi Forces Show Signs Of Progress In Offensive (Jonathan Finer, September 22, 2005, Washington Post)

TALL AFAR, Iraq -- The Iraqi soldiers had already searched the house, according to a sticker plastered across its front gate.

But when their commanding general and a U.S. colonel arrived one afternoon last week to praise their performance and observe them in action, the troops wanted to give a demonstration. With theatrical intensity, they charged the two-story structure on the nearly deserted block, rifles at the ready, while other soldiers and two reporters watched from the street.

A fiery explosion -- some soldiers said they saw a man throw a grenade, others said the door was rigged to blow -- erupted from inside, followed by bursts of gunfire. The shouting soldiers stumbled out through a cloud of smoke, covered in blood. The rest of the platoon, which had lost a lieutenant in a grenade attack the day before, appeared dejected, some huddling around the wounded, others sitting with their heads in their hands.

What happened next, commanders here said, suggested significant progress toward the goal of shifting security functions to Iraqi forces so that the United States can begin withdrawing troops from Iraq. When the clashes grew intense, the Iraqi soldiers did not shrink, American officers said.

President Discusses War on Terror and Hurricane Preparation (George W. Bush, The Pentagon, 9/22/05)

Today General Abizaid delivered a detailed brief on the global war on terror, with particular attention on the major battlefronts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In Afghanistan, we have nearly 18,000 American troops who continue to serve as part of a coalition that has made extraordinary progress in delivering freedom and security to the people of that proud nation. This past Sunday, the Afghan people took another vital step toward democracy by electing representatives to their provincial councils and the National Assembly. President Karzai described the moment this way: "After 30 years of wars and interventions and occupation and misery, today Afghanistan is moving forward." And that's positive news for the world.

I mention Afghanistan is not yet complete. The international community is helping Afghanistan become a lasting democracy. There's still terrorists who seek to overthrow the young government. See, they want to return Afghanistan to what it was under the Taliban, a miserable place, a place where citizens have no rights, women are oppressed, and the terrorists have a safe haven to plan and plot attacks. And that's why coalition forces and our special forces and Afghan forces are conducting precision raids against high-value targets in southeastern Afghanistan. Our country will stand with the Afghan people as they secure their freedom and become an ally in the war on terror.

President George W. Bush delivers a statement Thursday, Sept. 22, 2005, on the War on Terror during a visit to the Pentagon. Said the President, " The only way the terrorists can win is if we lose our nerve and abandon the mission. For the security of the American people, that's not going to happen on my watch." White House photo by Shealah Craighead As we work to help defeat the enemies of a democratic Afghanistan we're also working to defeat the enemies of a democratic Iraq. General Casey briefed us about a comprehensive strategy to achieve victory in Iraq. We're going to deny the terrorists a safe haven to plot their attacks. We'll continue to train more Iraqi forces to assume increasing responsibility for basic security operations. Our forces will focus on hunting down high-value targets like the terrorist, Zarqawi. We'll continue working with Iraqis to bring all communities into the political process. Together we'll help Iraq become a strong democracy that protects the rights of its people and is a key ally in the war on terror.

General Abizaid and General Casey extensively talked about how we're going to achieve this victory. The terrorists are concentrated in four of Iraq's 18 provinces. Over the last several months, terrorists have continued to launch suicide attacks and assassinate Iraqis who are working to improve their country. The number of attacks has increased, particularly in the last week, as the terrorists have begun their campaign to stop a referendum on the constitution.

See, they don't care who they kill; they just kill. They kill innocent people. They kill women. They kill children. They kill election workers. And they've had a history of this before. They've had a history of escalating their attacks before Iraq's major political milestones, like the handover of sovereignty in 2004, the free elections this past January, and the drafting of the constitution over the summer.

Recently, Zarqawi, the terrorist, the killer, has called for a total war on Shia Iraqis. His hope is to set off a civil war that will divide the country and derail its march to democracy. Today our commanders made it clear, as Iraqis prepare to vote on their constitution in October and elect a permanent government in December, we must be prepared for more violence.

Standing with President Bush as he delivers a statement Thursday, Sept. 22, 2005, at the Pentagon on the War on Terror are: Vice President Dick Cheney; Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld; Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and General Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. White House photo by Shealah Craighead To defeat the terrorists, we're constantly adapting to their changing tactics and conducting aggressive counterterrorism operations in the areas where they're concentrated. As more and more Iraqi security forces complete their training, they're taking on greater responsibilities in these efforts. Iraqi troops are increasingly taking the lead in joint operations. They're conducting independent operations and expanding the reach and effectiveness of American forces. The growing size and increasing capabilities of the Iraqi security forces are helping our coalition deal with a challenge we have faced since the beginning of the war. It used to be that after we cleared out a city, there were not enough qualified Iraqi troops to maintain control. And so what would happen is, is that the terrorists would wait for us to leave, and then they'd try to move back in. And sometimes, with success. Now the increasing number of more capable Iraqi troops has allowed us to hold on to the cities we have taken from the terrorists. The Iraqi troops know their people, they know their language, and they know who the terrorists are. By leaving Iraqi units in the cities we've cleaned out, we can keep the cities safe, while we move on to hunt down the terrorists in other parts of the country.

We saw the value of large and more capable Iraqi security forces in Najaf and Fallujah last year, when America and Iraqi forces conducted joint operations to clean out terrorist strongholds. We followed up these successful efforts by working with the Iraqi government to ensure that Iraqi forces were able to maintain law and order. We worked with local leaders to improve infrastructure and create jobs and provide hope. As a result, the people of Najaf and Fallujah are safer, and their cities are moving ahead with vital reconstruction. And that's part of our strategy to help develop a secure, safe democracy in Iraq.

We're seeking to repeat this success elsewhere in Iraq, most recently in the country's northwest region. This area was the main route of foreign terrorists entering Iraq from Syria and a major concern of coalition forces. During operations in the key town of Tal Afar, Iraqi security forces outnumbered U.S. forces for the first time in a major offensive operation. Our joint efforts killed, captured or flushed out hundreds of terrorists. As a part of General Casey's strategy, Iraqi forces remain in Tal Afar to ensure that the terrorists are not allowed to return, regroup and hold hostage the innocent residents of that city.

President George W. Bush gestures as he delivers a statement Thursday, Sept. 22, 2005, on the War on Terror during a visit to the Pentagon. President Bush also thanked the leadership of the Pentagon for their help in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. White House photo by Eric Draper Thanks to these operations we're making it more difficult for foreign terrorists to enter through the northwest part of Iraq. Coalition and Iraqi troops are now focusing their efforts in western Iraq where we're trying to stop foreign terrorists from entering through Syria and prevent al Qaeda from establishing a safe haven in the Anbar province.

General Casey is working with his Iraqi counterparts to restore Iraqi control of this region. And when we have completed this task, elements of the Iraqi military will remain to protect Iraq's border and ensure that the enemy does not return to dominate this region and intimidate its citizens.

To ensure that we can maintain this aggressive pace the military operations through the election period, we have temporarily increased our troop levels, just as we have before other major political events. As the Iraqi security forces establish control over more and more of their country, American troops will support these forces and continue to hunt down the terrorists in the remaining problem areas.

Iraqi forces are showing the vital difference they can make. They are now in control of more parts of Iraq than at any time in the past two years. Significant areas of Baghdad and Mosul, once violent and volatile, are now more stable because Iraqi forces are helping to keep the peace.

Iraqis are providing security in Najaf and parts of Diyala province. In all these areas, the Iraqis are gathering useful intelligence. They're forging alliances with civic and religious leaders. As the Iraqi security forces show they're capable of keeping the terrorists out, they're earning the confidence of the Iraqi people and ensuring the success of a free and democratic Iraq.

Listen, there are differences of opinion about the way forward; I understand that. Some Americans want us to withdraw our troops so that we can escape the violence. I recognize their good intentions, but their position is wrong. Withdrawing our troops would make the world more dangerous, and make America less safe. To leave Iraq now would be to repeat the costly mistakes of the past that led to the attacks of September the 11th, 2001. The terrorists saw our response to the hostage crisis in Iran, the bombings in the Marine barracks in Lebanon, the first World Trade Center attack, the killing of American soldiers in Somalia, the destruction of two U.S. embassies in Africa, and the attack on the USS Cole. The terrorists concluded that we lacked the courage and character to defend ourselves, and so they attacked us.

President George W. Bush delivers a statement Thursday, Sept. 22, 2005, on the War on Terror during a visit to the Pentagon. President Bush also thanked the leadership of the Pentagon for their help in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. White House photo by Eric Draper Now the terrorists are testing our will and resolve in Iraq. If we fail that test, the consequences for the safety and security of the American people would be enormous. Our withdrawal from Iraq would allow the terrorists to claim an historic victory over the United States. It would leave our enemies emboldened and allow men like Zarqawi and bin Laden to dominate the Middle East and launch more attacks on America and other free nations. The battle lines are drawn, and there is no middle ground: either we defeat the terrorists and help the Iraqis build a working democracy, or the terrorists will impose their dark ideology on the Iraqi people and make that country a source of terror and instability to come for decades.

The only way the terrorists can win is if we lose our nerve and abandon the mission. For the security of the American people, that's not going to happen on my watch. We'll do our duty. We'll defeat our enemies in Iraq and other fronts in the war on terror. We'll lay the foundation of peace for our children and grandchildren.

Since our country was attacked on the morning of September the 11th, 2001, we have known that the war on terror would require tremendous sacrifice and commitment. Across the world, the brave men and women of our Armed Forces are taking on dangerous and difficult work. Some have given their lives in battle; they did so in a cause that is just and necessary for the security of this country. We're grateful for their service. We pray for their families they left behind. We'll honor their sacrifice by completing their mission and winning the war on terror.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:42 PM


Live sex and drug-taking bring Dutch reality TV to a new level (Jon Henley, The Guardian, September 22nd, 2005)

The country that unleashed Big Brother on an unsuspecting world has taken reality television a step further: a late-night talkshow whose presenters will consume drugs and engage in sex acts on air, then discuss their experiences afterwards.

The live Spuiten & Slikken show - which can be translated either as Inject & Swallow or Ejaculate & Swallow - starts on October 10 on the Dutch youth channel BNN, which last upset viewer sensibilities with a programme entitled This is How You Screw.

"We're not setting out to shock, but to inform," said a show producer, Sjoerd van den Broek. "The idea is to treat these subjects like a piece of theatre, to review them if you like. There's been endless idle chat about these matters, but never an adult critique."

Main presenter Filemon Wesselink, 26, is billed to go on a pub crawl, take heroin in the form of a pill, and try LSD at home on the sofa under the watchful eye of his mother. He will also retire into a locked room and try to establish whether oral sex is better from a man or a woman.

Meanwhile, his co-presenter, Ties van Westing, will interview both Wesselink and guests about their sexual and/or narcotic practices. "We just want to explain really clearly what all this stuff actually does to you," Mr Van den Broek said.

We are standing by eagerly awaiting the comments of our resident libertarians.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:26 PM


Morocco moves gradually to address past repression: The king is boosting political transparency. Critics are cautious about calling it democratization. (Geoff Pingree and Lisa Abend, 9/23/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

When Mohammed VI assumed the throne in 1999, he moved to bring transparency to the political system, curb corruption, and elevate the status of women.

Yet in a country where portraits of the king hang in every business and political opponents are still arrested, democracy is not always easy to recognize. [...]

But supporters of gradual reform in Morocco, perhaps the most promising ally in the Arab world for both the US and Europe, assert that change occurs in increments, and that the process is the best way to avoid political upheaval and assure stability in North Africa and around the Mediterranean.

The changing status of women underscores the contradictory nature of the country's endeavor to become more democratic. Shortly after ascending the throne, Mohammed VI appointed the first-ever female Royal Counselor, and in 2002 he reserved seats for 30 female candidates in parliamentary elections.

The government is most proud of its recent Family Code. Approved in 2003, the law makes wives equal to their husbands, granting them shared ownership of assets and allowing them to divorce. For longtime women's rights activist Nezha Chekrouni, it was a fundamental shift. "It means we're moving from a logic of dominator and dominated, to a logic based on dignity," she says.

But before the law was ratified, Islamist groups vigorously protested its erosion of key Muslim principles governing relations between the sexes. Only after the Casablanca bombings, when such groups felt it necessary to demonstrate their loyalty, did their opposition evaporate, and parliament unanimously approved the code.

Spain's remains the only bombing that served evil rather than good.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:22 PM


In Syria, democrats chomp at bit: Anticipating a new law that will allow the creation of political opposition parties, some Syrians aren't waiting. (Rhonda Roumani, 9/23/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

[I]n June, the Baath Party Congress recommended the establishment of a new political party law that would allow the creation of new nonethnic and nonreligious political parties.

Since then, Samir Nashar, a wealthy businessman from Aleppo, has spent weeks on the road, personally recruiting prominent intellectuals, economists, and businessmen to join the National Free Coalition, a new party that hopes to represent Syria's bourgeoisie.

But in a country where new political parties still remain illegal and gatherings of four or more people may be punishable by jail, Nashar's recruitment drive is proving difficult.

"Because of the security services, people don't know how the government will respond to announcements of political parties," said Nashar. "So even though people like our project, they remain fearful of joining."

While analysts say a new party law could take as long as two years to pass, the mere anticipation of such a law has ignited discussions among activists about what new political parties could look like.

And some of the country's boldest activists are looking to jump start the whole process.

Unlike Hosni Mubarak, there's no way Baby Assad wins a popular election.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:13 PM


German failure (David Warren, 9/21/05, Ottawa Citizen)

The SPD is to Germany as the Liberals to Canada: the party to manage national decline. The long-term success of each has depended on turning "voters" gradually into "clients". >From the humblest welfare recipients, up to big businessmen whose fortunes depend on sweetheart regulatory arrangements, each party pitches itself, as crassly as necessary, to the beneficiaries of state largesse. Their supporters therefore become quite inured to massive corruption, and revelations of ineptitude -- and remain so, as long as they are guaranteed preferred access to the government trough.

The intention of such governments is not to run the economy into the ground, nor even to destroy the moral order through experiments in social engineering. That is simply the natural consequence of their way of doing business. A Social Democrat or Liberal government will do whatever appears immediately necessary to defend its tax base; and since full socialism has been repeatedly shown to lead directly to economic collapse, a kind of "guided capitalism" is favoured. The long-term economic decline becomes a by-product of a political outlook that mechanically ranks national interests below party interests.

Almost every west European country, Canada, and Japan, are in the same rut, from the same basic cause.

Someone needs to explain why Canada stopped being part of the Anglosphere and became part of continental Europe.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:09 PM


After Gaza, some other settlers ready to move: A group in the West Bank wants Israel to start compensation now. (Ilene R. Prusher, 9/23/05, CS Monitor)

In the beginning, it was a small checkpoint. Then it became a well-guarded multilane opening. Soon, it became so jammed that Benny Raz had to wait at least a half-hour to enter Israel proper.

And then, he says, he saw the writing on the wall - and realized he was on the wrong side of it. This settlement, although not far from where internationally recognized Israel ends and the disputed West Bank begins, lies east of Israel's separation barrier, finished here in the past year.

Chances are, Mr. Raz says, such settlements will eventually meet the same fate as the 21 evacuated from Gaza.

The aftermath of the Gaza pullout has changed the Israeli political landscape in more ways than one. By demonstrating the feasible, if difficult, option of dismantling settlements, it has brought the likelihood of further withdrawals out of the realm of the theoretical.

That being the case, Raz wants out - and is spearheading a movement to encourage others to do the same. Their proposal: The government should start offering compensation now to folks like Raz, who came to live here mostly because housing was cheaper - thanks to state incentives - and who are ready to leave of their own accord.

That option could allow people to leave civilly, gradually, privately - in sharp contrast to the national heave-ho that Israel is still smarting from after last month's forced withdrawals.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:39 PM


Bush asks Abdullah to see Sharon, Abbas (NEDRA PICKLER, September 22, 2005, Associated Press)

Sitting next to Bush in the Oval Office, Abdullah thanked Bush for his support for trying to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"I know that you want to find a solution that Israelis and Palestinians can live in peace and harmony," Abdullah said. "I hope, if we can help in that respect, that is a great honor for us."

Abdullah met with Sharon last week at the United Nations, their first talks in months and a further sign of warming relations between the Jewish state and the Arab world after Israel's Gaza withdrawal.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:14 PM


Judiciary Committee Votes to Recommend Roberts's Confirmation (Fred Barbash, September 22, 2005, Washington Post)

John G. Roberts Jr. moved a step closer to becoming chief justice of the United States today as members of the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to send his nomination to the full Senate with a recommendation for confirmation.

The committee vote was 13 in favor of confirmation and five opposed. All the opponents were Democrats, including Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (Mass.), Joseph Biden (Del.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) , Charles Schumer (N.Y.) and Dick Durbin (Ill.)

Democrats who voted in the affirmative were Sens. Patrick Leahy (Vt.) , Herb Kohl (Wis.) and Russ Feingold (Wis.)

What stands out most here is the recognition that WI is becoming a Red State.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:41 AM


Cindy Sheehan Takes on the Democrats, Hillary Clinton (Kristen Lombardi, September 20th, 2005, Village Voice)

[S]heehan isn’t stopping her critique with Bush. On the contrary, she has begun to set her sights on Congress and the Democratic Party as well. When she spoke in Brooklyn on the night before, she took note of the fact that Senator Hillary Clinton voted to authorize Bush to use force in Iraq and– like most Senate Democrats–has done little to bring the troops home. Clinton, in fact, has filed legislation calling for more troops.

In an interview after her speech, Sheehan told the Voice she was “so frustrated” by leading Democrats like Clinton “who should be leaders on this issue, but are not.” Already, she has set up a future meeting with New York’s junior senator this weekend.

Why does Ms Clinton always wear pants if she's going to cave this fast?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:29 AM


Among Democratic Activists, Little Indecision on Roberts (ROBIN TONER, 9/22/05, NY Times)

While many Democratic senators are still wrestling with their vote on Judge John G. Roberts Jr.'s nomination as chief justice of the United States, Democratic activists - in advocacy groups, policy organizations, the party apparatus - do not seem nearly as torn.

The opposition to the Roberts nomination in Democratic circles is vocal, widespread and not confined to the party's left; Bruce Reed, the president of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, urged a no vote this week, even as Howard Dean, the Democratic chairman, declared Judge Roberts "the wrong man for the job." [...]

Ellen Malcolm, a leading fund-raiser who heads Emily's List, a group that backs Democratic women who support abortion rights, said Democrats at the grass roots wanted to see their senators fighting back, even if they lacked the numbers to prevail.

"I'm a realist here. They've got their 55 votes," Ms. Malcolm said of the Republicans. "But people want to see a show of strength and leadership from Democratic senators."

Leadership means going down in flames fighting for abortion?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:54 AM


'Whatever It Takes': Is Bush's big spending a bridge to nowhere? (Peggy Noonan, September 22, 2005, Opinion Journal)

George W. Bush is a big spender. He has never vetoed a spending bill. When Congress serves up a big slab of fat, crackling pork, Mr. Bush responds with one big question: Got any barbecue sauce? The great Bush spending spree is about an arguably shrewd but ultimately unhelpful reading of history, domestic politics, Iraq and, I believe, vanity.

Ms Noonan understandably reveres her former boss, Ronald Reagan, but it's worth noting that if you added $200 billion a year to the budget W would be spending a significantly smaller % of GDP than the Gipper did.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:49 AM


Focus for Supreme Court Pick Is Said to Be on Diversity (ELISABETH BUMILLER, 9/22/05, NY Times)

Miguel A. Estrada, a partner at the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in Washington who has also been mentioned by Republicans as a potential nominee, was said by the strategists not to be interested in the position. Mr. Estrada, an assistant solicitor general in the administration of the first President Bush and the beginning of the Clinton administration, was nominated by the current President Bush to the United States

What a quaint way of describing these events:
Estrada withdrew his name twenty-eight months after being nominated. During the confirmation struggle, Estrada’s wife miscarried; in November, 2004, she died, of an overdose of alcohol and sleeping pills. The death was ruled accidental by the medical examiner. Rove said that Mrs. Estrada had been traumatized by the nastiness of the process.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:45 AM


Next Nominee to Court Could Face More Heat (Jim VandeHei and Charles Babington, September 22, 2005, Washington Post)

Republicans and Democrats warned President Bush yesterday that his next pick for the Supreme Court will face much tougher scrutiny in the Senate, as Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter lobbied the White House to delay the nomination until next year to defuse tension.

But the White House pushed ahead with plans to nominate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's successor as early as the middle of next week from a shortlist that has been expanded beyond the field of candidates examined before the nomination of John G. Roberts Jr. to be chief justice and that includes several women and minorities, according to White House and Republican officials. First lady Laura Bush and a number of Republican senators are among those lobbying the president to nominate a woman or a minority, GOP officials said.

Whatever the nominee's sex or ethnicity, a Republican in close contact with the White House said the choice would be as conservative as Roberts.

Democrats are threatening, Arlen's wobbling, people want a woman, W is giving them a conservative ASAP. Couldn't they have just run another ad in this spot?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:33 AM


The Death of German Conservatism: Amid the post-election noise in Germany, one salient fact has been getting little play. German voters don't trust political parties to the right of the center. It's been a long time coming, but its time to write the obituary of German conservatism. (Charles Hawley, 9/22/05, Der Spiegel)

[I]t's much easier to blame Merkel for the party's election debacle than it is to face the truth exposed on Sunday: The right side of the German political spectrum is in an unfocused freefall. And conservative Germany is a shambles.

For years now, German politicians have been telling voters that a bloated social welfare state is simply no longer feasible -- and surveys indicate that many Germans are prepared to tighten their belts. Yet last Sunday, 51.1 percent of the electorate cast their votes for left-of-center parties. Only 9.8 percent voted for classic conservatism in the form of the business-friendly Free Democratic Party (FDP) and a further 35.2 percent voted for the CDU/CSU, while it talked a tough economic game during the campaign, is hardly comparable with, say, the Republicans in the US. Conservatism, it seems, can't win in today's Germany.

The salient fact abnout European politics is that the sole viable conservative party is Blair and Brown's British Labour.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:25 AM


Fidelity calls for automatic enrollment in 401(k)s (Andrew Caffrey, September 22, 2005, Boston Globe)

Fidelity Investments wants corporate America and its workers to do a better job saving for retirement, and it's starting with its own house.

Beginning Jan. 1, all Fidelity employees will automatically be enrolled in the company's 401(k) retirement plan, a move designed to prod the small percentage of the company's 32,500 employees who haven't yet started a nest egg at work.

''If you force that on people, make it part of what they do every pay period, it will become part of a very successful" retirement system, Fidelity chief operating officer Robert Reynolds said in a speech yesterday morning before the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce.

Reynolds was making a pitch for new measures to increase retirement planning and savings -- ones that would benefit workers in the form of larger nest eggs, and Fidelity itself in the form of more money to manage, and the fees that come with that.

Also, Reynolds said 401(k) or other workplace retirement plans should be able to automatically increase employees' contributions as raises and bonuses increase their paychecks -- a feature Fidelity intends to offer its employees -- or raise their contributions each year until they're at least giving the maximum amount that the company would match with its own contribution.

Moreover, workers should be steered more aggressively into so-called life-cycle mutual funds, which automatically allocate retirement investments among stocks and bonds based on age and expected years to retirement, said Reynolds.

''We need a new generation" of workplace retirement plans, he said, to replace the pension plans that are vanishing from corporate America.

SS reform will need to do similar things to be most effective and should mandate such measures in the private sphere.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:15 AM


Island gives up secret of real Robinson Crusoe (STEPHEN MCGINTY, 22 Sep 2005, The Scotsman)

A GLINT of metal in the soil marked the end of a 13-year quest by a Japanese explorer to locate the base camp of Alexander Selkirk, the marooned 18th-century mariner, whose ordeal inspired the book Robinson Crusoe.

As a teenager, Daisuke Takahashi read the classic novel by Daniel Defoe and when he discovered it was based on the life of a Scottish sailor, an obsession was ignited which has carried him across the globe to the island of Mas-a-Tierra, 416 miles off the coast of Chile, where Selkirk was abandoned in 1704.

An expedition led by Mr Takahashi has now uncovered clinching evidence of the location of Selkirk's base camp, where he spent four years and four months scanning the horizon in hope of rescue.

Excavation of a site, high in the hills along an abandoned trail, has led to the discovery of a bronze tip from a pair of navigational dividers, which have since been dated to the early 18th century and are almost certain to have belonged to Selkirk, a ship's master.

"I have finally reached him," said Mr Takahashi, who previously wrote the Japanese best-seller, In Search of Robinson Crusoe.

"It's a peaceful site, with the sound of a nearby river and birds singing. You can see how Selkirk could have conquered his loneliness here."

The question is why folks are always in such a frenzy to get off of deserted islands.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:06 AM


Jordan's king reaches out to Jews, hits radical Islam (Julia Duin, September 22, 2005, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Jordan's King Abdullah II told a gathering of American rabbis yesterday that Jews and Muslims are irrevocably "tied together by culture and history" and that he is willing to take radical measures to combat Muslim extremists.

"We face a common threat: extremist distortions of religion and the wanton acts of violence that derive therefrom," the king said. "Such abominations have already divided us from without for far too long."

Criticizing al Qaeda terrorists Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab Zarqawi for "abuses of our faith," the king, speaking at a heavily guarded lunch meeting at the Ritz-Carlton in Northwest, made clear he wishes to establish himself as the voice of moderate Islam.

The point being that he has competition for the title.

Hamas chief hints at compromise (BEN LYNFIELD, 9/22/05, The Scotsman)

THE militant Islamic group Hamas could one day accept the existence of the state of Israel and negotiate, one of its political leaders said yesterday in an unprecedented sign of compromise.

For years, Hamas has criticised the ruling Fatah movement of the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, for allegedly selling out claims to all of historic Palestine by recognising Israel and confining the Palestinian struggle to the West Bank and Gaza Strip areas occupied in the 1967 Middle East war.

But Mohammed Ghazal, a respected figure within the movement from the West Bank city of Nablus, said yesterday: "The [Hamas] charter is not the Koran.

"Historically, we believe all of Palestine belongs to the Palestinians, but we're talking now about reality, about political solutions. The realities are different."

The reality is what Ariel Sharon and George Bush made it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:00 AM


A few cigarettes a day 'deadly' (BBC, 9/22/05)

Smoking just one to four cigarettes a day almost triples a person's risk of dying of heart disease, according to Norwegian researchers.

Their work suggests the health impact is stronger for women and that even "light" smokers face similar diseases to heavier smokers, including cancer.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:45 AM


The failed mission to capture Iraqi oil (Michael T Klare, Asia Times, September 22nd, 2005)

It has long been an article of faith among America's senior policymakers - Democrats and Republicans alike - that military force is an effective tool for ensuring control over foreign sources of oil. Franklin D Roosevelt was the first president to embrace this view, in February 1945, when he promised King Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia that the United States would establish a military protectorate over his country in return for privileged access to Saudi oil - a promise that continues to govern US policy today. Every president since Roosevelt has endorsed this basic proposition, and has contributed in one way or another to the buildup of American military power in the greater Persian Gulf region.

American presidents have never hesitated to use this power when deemed necessary to protect US oil interests in the Gulf. When, following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, President Bush Senior sent hundreds of thousands of US troops to Saudi Arabia in August 1990, he did so with absolute confidence that the application of American military power would eventually result in the safe delivery of ever-increasing quantities of Middle Eastern oil to the US. This presumption was clearly a critical factor in the younger Bush's decision to invade Iraq in March 2003.

Now, more than two years after that invasion, the growing Iraqi quagmire has demonstrated that the application of military force can have the very opposite effect: It can diminish - rather than enhance - America's access to foreign oil.

One of the more corrosive rhetorical tools of the modern left is to argue as if life were just one big enactment of Murphy’s Law and that the values revered by most Americans, while perhaps inoffensive or even admirable in themselves, result in the opposite of what their pursuit intends. By linking sweeping and declarative propositions, none of which withstand critical analysis but which flow together with a certain poetic elan, these guys present a world where wealth creates poverty, family breeds abuse and dysfunction, progress destroys the planet, military strength translates into impotence and every accretion of American prosperity and influence sows the seeds of a tragic decline. It all plays on the innate decency of Americans and adds up to an effort to undermine the pragmatic optimism and moral simplicity that undergirds their spirit, a spirit that can indeed lead to naive folly, but which is the source of a success and strength that seems to grow steadily, to the consternation of sages from more philosophical and nuanced lands.

Note how the good professor shows none of the traditional leftist disdain for the idea that oil security is a major foreign policy goal. His argument seems to be that “the younger Bush” is such an ignorant booby he doesn’t know how to attain it. Obviously if he had asked Professor Klare, he would have just lifted the sanctions.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:28 AM


Warnings of decline in growth within EU (Graham Bowley, 9/22/05, International Herald Tribune)

José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, warned European countries on Wednesday that they risked economic decline in the face of globalization unless they modernized their economies, and pledged that Brussels would take steps to cut and streamline regulations that crimp business and economic growth in Europe.

"Does Europe want to be a victim or does Europe want to be a player?" he said at a press briefing.

It wants to be a patient in a retirement home, taken care of and left in peace to live out its final days.

September 21, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:38 PM


Democrats revive filibuster threat (Tom Curry, Sept. 21, 2005, MSNBC)

President Bush’s nominee to the Supreme Court to replace Sandra Day O’Connor appeared to be skating on thin ice Wednesday, even though the president hasn’t yet revealed who the nominee is.

In the war of nerves leading up to Bush's announcement of his next high court nominee, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid and other Democrats were signaling Wednesday that the filibuster — extended debate in order to kill a nomination — is an option they might use.

Here's where Mr. Reid's decision to move further left than even Pat Leahy on the Roberts vote damages his credibility. When 70 Senators say by their votes that Mr. Roberts is mainstream enough to be Chief, but Mr. Reid demurs it is he who is placed outside the mainstream.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:20 PM


GOP to unveil $500 billion savings plan (Carl Hulse, 9/21/05, The New York Times)

Conservative House Republicans plan to recommend today more than $500 billion in savings over 10 years to compensate for the costs of Hurricane Katrina as lawmakers continue to struggle to develop a consensus on the fiscal approach to the disaster.

At the top of a partial list of the potential cuts being circulated Tuesday were previously suggested ideas like delaying the start of the new Medicare prescription drug coverage for one year to save $31 billion and eliminating $25 billion in home-state projects from the newly enacted transportation measure.

The list also proposed eliminating the moon-Mars initiative that NASA announced Monday, for $44 billion in savings; ending support for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, $4 billion; cutting taxpayer payments for the national political conventions and the presidential election campaign fund, $600 million; and charging federal employees for parking, $1.54 billion.

The most important thing Ronald Reagan did for the GOP was to get it to stop being the party of doom and gloom, but there are always back-sliders.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:02 PM


North Korea's capitalist manifesto (The Monitor's View, 9/22/05, CS Monitor)

Kim, who titles himself Dear Leader, appears to know his own political survival is on the line. In 2001, he was invited to China and saw how that communist regime has been able to stay in power while allowing a market economy to thrive. The next year he freed up prices and wages, and loosened many government controls over businesses and individuals.

Local farmers markets have since sprung up, and small service shops are appearing in cities. Last year, a new dictionary was issued, and for the first time it contained the phrase "market economy" (which is a communist way of saying capitalism).

But the reforms were done badly. The nation now has spiraling inflation. Its economy has contracted for the past three years. Great gaps in wealth are appearing, even as North Korea's economy remains a fraction of the size of South Korea's. The 70 percent of the population that still relies on government food has seen their rations greatly reduced.

Last spring, the reform-minded prime minister, Pak Pong-ju, visited China and was spirited to Shanghai, where he saw the missing element for North Korea's economy: foreign investment and an influx of hard currency. He went back and told bureaucracy to learn about foreign markets and trade. The universities began to teach market basics, such as supply and demand.

But to improve its shaky experiment in capitalism, North Korea needs to stop scaring away potential foreign investors with its nuclear belligerence and abandon its long-held ideology of juche, or self-reliance. Both steps are risky for a dictator who has blinded his people to the world around them.

Contrary to the fondest hopes of the Realists and business Right, the lesson China teaches is that economic reform does not suffice to make a communist dictatorship into a decent society. The Party will not allow a complete enough transformation to deprive itself of power. Let the Chinese and South Koreans saddle themselves with North Korea's problems, but keep us out of the mess and keep up the pressure for regime change.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:25 PM


Does increasing democracy undercut terrorists? (Joseph S. Nye Jr., 9/22/05, CS Monitor)

Does increasing democracy diminish terrorism? Some analysts are skeptical. Violent extremists exist in nearly all societies. After all, the terrorist attacks in London were carried out by British citizens in one of the world's oldest democracies. And Timothy McVeigh, an American citizen, carried out the Oklahoma City bombing. Moreover, skeptics argue that even if democracy might reduce terrorist recruitment, the Iraq war was the wrong means to promote democracy, and may have increased the recruitment of new terrorists.

To be fair, it is still too early to give a definitive answer to these questions. A historical assessment of the Iraq war and its effects on the Middle East will take a decade or more. The January Iraq election was a positive step for the region.

As Walid Jumblatt, the Lebanese Druze leader said, "It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq." Columnist David Brooks observed, "If there is one soft power gift that America does possess, it is the tendency to imagine new worlds."

With the invasion of Iraq and his increased rhetoric of democracy, Mr. Bush transformed the status quo. [...]

Democracy will not convert the current crop of extremist jihadis to peaceful change, and too rapid a transition may destabilize governments and enhance the extremists' opportunities to wreak havoc. But over time, the slow, steady progress of democratization and freedom provides a sense of hope for the moderates.

Let's put it this way, if it all were to end up going to heck in a handcart, no one would be able to say W didn't give it our best shot. And if, instead, it continues to work? Well, then he's a world historical figure.

No 'Turning Back' in Egypt (David Ignatius, September 21, 2005, Washington Post)

It's hard to imagine Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak as a change agent. During the 24 years he has ruled this country, he has displayed a military man's passion for stability and a corresponding wariness of democracy. His Egypt has often symbolized the political stasis of the Arab world.

But unlikely as it sounds, the 77-year-old Mubarak won reelection this month on a platform of political and economic reform. The fact that even the pharaonic Mubarak is running as a democrat illustrates the power of the reform movement in the Arab world today. The movement is potent because it's coming from the Arab societies themselves and not just from democracy enthusiasts in Washington.

I can't predict whether Mubarak will deliver on the promises he made during his campaign. I can see all the reasons why he should and all the reasons why he won't. But what's unmistakably clear in the aftermath of Egypt's first semblance of a multi-candidate presidential election is that the country's old authoritarian system has broken apart. I doubt Mubarak could put it back together even if he tried. [...]

During several days of conversations here, I found people remarkably frank in their comments. Just as interesting, political activists across the spectrum described the situation in Egypt in similar terms. Though many see the one-sided election as a joke (Mubarak won with 88 percent of the vote), they all see Egypt as changing, and they all agree it will be hard to stop the momentum of change.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:19 PM


Clean car, but will its fuel be? (Mark Clayton, 9/22/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

It's one of the great conundrums of the hoped-for hydrogen economy. Most of the fuel today is extracted from natural gas, which would still leave America dependent on overseas energy. Domestic coal could be turned into hydrogen, but not without losing the environmental benefits of the technology.

So what's a nation to do?

Enter Francis Lau and his plan to turn agricultural waste like cornstalks, wood chips, or switch grass into hydrogen. Right now, that's expensive. But if he succeeds, it could mean a giant leap toward replacing oil with cheap, clean hydrogen.

All Mr. Lau needs is a breakthrough.

He and a team of scientists from the Gas Technology Institute in Des Plaines, Ill., are trying to invent a very tough, yet permeable, membrane with which to extract hydrogen from gasified wood chips and cornstalks. The system would do this midway through the gasification process, instead of at the end of the pipe, saving considerable time and energy. The expected result: hydrogen that costs 20 to 40 percent less to produce than today's product and roughly in line with Department of Energy goals for 2010.

Best of all, the fuel would come from biomass, making it clean, renewable, and 100 percent American.

"There are challenges, but we do see a path forward," Lau says. The project is funded by the Department of Energy and a private company.

The effects could be huge. In Minnesota alone, where Lau's team is at work outside Duluth, hydrogen made from forest and mill residue, agricultural waste, and energy crops like switch grass could replace 89 percent of the state's gasoline needs, according to a February study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:12 PM


Opposition to CAFTA wanes in Nicaragua: Despite the country's leftist past, backers of the trade pact have gained ground. (Danna Harman, 9/22/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

Marching down Universidad Avenue toward congress came thousands of protesters, throwing their fists into the heavy, humid air, waving anti-American placards. The demonstration against the proposed Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) earlier this month was expected to be about 20,000 people strong.

In fact, more like 4,000 people showed up.

In a country that spent a good number of the last 25 years battling US interests here, the predictable opposition to CAFTA has, in fact, been a little weaker - and the support for the trade pact broader and deeper - than expected. [...]

People like Juan Carlos Pereira, a Harvard Business School-educated Nicaraguan, says CAFTA can bring much-needed jobs to the country, which is way behind other Central American nations when it comes to investment. Honduras and El Salvador each export some $2 billion worth of apparel a year for example. Nicaragua is closer to $600 million. "We lost a decade in the '80s because of the war," says Mr. Pereira. "We are only now starting to catch up and we need CAFTA more than anyone else."

Pereira, who runs Pro-Nicaragua, a government-backed organization that seeks to attract investment says about $400 million worth of projects have come through his office. "That represents about 7,500 jobs that are coming to Central America. I don't know how many will come to Nicaragua, but I will tell you - if we don't have CAFTA, not a single one will come here," he says.

CAFTA's cheerleaders here also point out that Asian countries - which are increasingly inking trade deals in the region - will be more inclined to invest in a country with easy access to the US market and a binding commitment to intra-regional trade.

Those poor Democrats like Chris Dodd, John Kerry, Tom Harkin and Ted Kennedy who backed the Sandanistas and oppose free trade just can't catch a break, huh? Ah, well, they've still got Fidel....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:07 PM


Japan's 'Thatcher' moment? (DAVID HOWELL, 9/22/05, Japan Times)

Prime Minister Junichiro Koziumi's smashing election victory could give him the same kind of political power as that which fell into the hands of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s. Should he therefore follow the Thatcher recipes and methods for structural economic reform, which had such an electric effect on the British economy and from which the British are still benefiting enormously today 20 years later?

Thatcher used her swelling political majority to best advantage, and showed great courage and conviction in overcoming resistance to change, some of which was quite violent.

But it is as well to remember the weaknesses and ultimate failures in the Thatcher approach as well as the successes, since in the end these caused unnecessary bitterness and devalued her achievements in many people's eyes. These problems could have been avoided.

The biggest weakness was the failure to convince the broad public that her reforms would bring benefits to all, not just a lucky few, and that those who had their lives disrupted by change would be properly cushioned and cared for, and not just flung on the scrapheap by the harsh workings of market forces.

In reality, and in the end, years after Thatcher departed from office, these early reforms have indeed probably benefited the vast majority of British people. But at the time that prospect was not at all clear, nor did the language and policies of the Thatcher reform era give much comfort to a lot of very frightened workers.

Interesting that while she was somewhat overshadowed by Ronald Reagan when she was in power, it is Thatcherism that George Bush, John Howard, and Tony Blair successfully pursue and that the Germans, Japanese and the rest must decide whether or not to adopt.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:04 PM


Outlays for welfare set new record at 84 trillion yen (Japan Times, 9/22/05)

Social security spending rose to a record high 84.27 trillion yen in fiscal 2003, up 700.2 billion, yen or 0.8 percent, from the previous year due mainly to snowballing outlays for the aging population, a government research institute said Wednesday.

Expenses for pension, nursing and medical costs for the elderly accounted for 59.32 trillion yen -- 70.4 percent of the total and topping the 70 percent line of overall social security spending for the first time, according to the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, part of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

Spending on children and family support, including child-rearing and childbirth benefits, stood at 3.1626 trillion, yen or 3.8 percent of the overall social security spending, the institute said.

The 0.8-percent year-on-year rise itself is a record low, but the ministry said the curb is temporary and social security expenses will continue rising.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:49 PM


Roberts Picks Up Democratic Support (JESSE J. HOLLAND, 9/21/05, Associated Press)

[S]enate Democratic leader Harry Reid, liberal stalwart Edward Kennedy, former presidential candidate John Kerry and New Jersey gubernatorial candidate Jon Corzine all are opposing Roberts. Their stand is evidence of the split among the Senate's 44 Democrats about whether they can or should mount even symbolic opposition to the successor of the late Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist.

Remember how they picked Mr. Reid to be leader so they could moderate the image of the party that was badly tattered after John Kerry's defeat?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:57 PM


Law School To Cooperate With Military Recruiters (DANIEL J. HEMEL and JAVIER C. HERNANDEZ, 9/20/05, Harvard Crimson)

Harvard Law School will actively cooperate with military recruiters this fall, despite the Pentagon’s refusal to sign the school’s nondiscrimination pledge, Dean Elena Kagan announced this evening.

Kagan’s announcement marks a reversal of her November 2004 decision to bar Pentagon recruiters from using the law school’s Office of Career Services. For most of the last 26 years, the office has only provided its resources to recruiters who promise not to discriminate against gay and lesbian employees and job applicants. The Pentagon’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy prohibits gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military.

In an e-mail to students and faculty this evening, Kagan wrote that the Pentagon had notified the University this summer that it would withhold most federal grants to Harvard unless the Law School altered its policy to allow military recruiters access to the resources of the career services office. Harvard receives more than $400 million per year in federal grants.

Don Rumsfeld takes out another enemy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:18 PM


Roberts battle highlights vast gulf between parties (Robert Bork and David Rivkin Jr., 9/21/05, USA Today)

[F]ar from being about Roberts or any future nominee, the pyrotechnics of the Senate hearings are attributable to the fact that the philosophic gulf between our two political parties has grown vast — and nowhere more so than with respect to the federal judiciary. Most Republicans want courts that are legal institutions, not political bodies. Democrats, on the other hand, insist on courts devoted to specific policy outcomes (invariably items on the liberal agenda).

Not content with helping transform the judiciary into the most important player in domestic affairs, and most certainly in cultural trends, Democrats push for courts that are activist in foreign and defense policy, micromanaging, for example, the treatment of captured enemy combatants.

The hysteria of the Democratic Left is understandable. It has lost confidence in its ability to compete in the political arena and sees a politicized judiciary as its only hope to advance its agenda. The policies it desires, and the Supreme Court has so far advanced, are ones that encourage radical personal autonomy in moral and cultural matters. Activist judges announce principles and reach results that have no plausible connection to the Constitution. Thus, it is increasingly obvious that activist judges are issuing decisions that have no basis other than the judges' personal preferences. There is more than a grain of truth in the statement that the court represents the blue states in their contest with the red states.

You think they're deranged now? Wait'll they lose their last hope.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:11 PM


Mars getting warmer, orbiter data suggests (MARK CARREAU, 9/20/05, Houston Chronicle)

Long-running observations by a NASA spacecraft orbiting Mars are revealing subtle signs of seismic activity on the Red Planet and possibly a slow warming trend, scientists said Tuesday.

Sun's Output Increasing in Possible Trend Fueling Global Warming (Robert Roy Britt, 20 March 2003,

In what could be the simplest explanation for one component of global warming, a new study shows the Sun's radiation has increased by .05 percent per decade since the late 1970s.

The increase would only be significant to Earth's climate if it has been going on for a century or more, said study leader Richard Willson, a Columbia University researcher also affiliated with NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

The Sun's increasing output has only been monitored with precision since satellite technology allowed necessary observations. Willson is not sure if the trend extends further back in time, but other studies suggest it does.

"This trend is important because, if sustained over many decades, it could cause significant climate change," Willson said.

In a NASA-funded study recently published in Geophysical Research Letters, Willson and his colleagues speculate on the possible history of the trend based on data collected in the pre-satellite era.

"Solar activity has apparently been going upward for a century or more," Willson told today.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 12:38 PM


Holding editors to account (Andrew Coyne, National Post, September 21st, 2005)

More to the point, what is to distinguish Mr. Hellyer's belief in a massive, decades-long conspiracy by the American government to conceal the existence of alien visitors to planet Earth from, say, Paul William Roberts' belief in a massive, decades-long conspiracy by the American government to create the very Islamist terror network it is now fighting -- not as an accidental "blowback," but as a deliberate strategy to justify more military spending? The first makes you the butt of an oddly-enough piece on the CP wire. The second is worth a three-page, 5,000-word essay in The Globe and Mail. Yet the one has precisely as little plausibility or supporting evidence as the other.

Mind you, give it time. Experience teaches that any theory, no matter how crackpot, can gain a respectful hearing in this country, so long as it asks us to believe the worst about the Americans or their government: Anti-Americanism inoculates even the worst cranks from serious scrutiny. Paul Hellyer may not have much of a following now, but depend upon it, he will be packing them in at the universities before long.

My colleague Jonathan Kay has already detailed the many factual howlers in the Roberts piece, which somehow "got by" the Globe's fact-checkers. But I rather think something else is at work. The piece would have been planned long in advance. Having written several previous pieces for the Globe, Mr. Roberts would be well-known to the editors, as would his views. For example, readers of his latest book, A War Against Truth, will learn, inter alia, that Saddam Hussein killed many fewer Iraqis than the United States, and with more justification: After all, the hundreds of thousands of Saddam's victims were people "who opposed him in some way." And they will learn the real reason for the failure of Saddam's vaunted Special Republican Guard to show up for battle: They were all vaporized, 40,000 of them at one go, by "some kind of hi-tech bomb" detonated in the warren of tunnels under Baghdad.

"Fact-checking," in the circumstances, would seem beside the point. It isn't that Mr. Roberts' piece was, in that fine old journalistic phrase, "too good to check," or that the Globe editors think fact-checking is a tool of imperialism. It's more that it would be, well, gauche -- like the fellow who objects to modern art because it isn't realistic. It may not be true, but it's "true enough." Likewise, when Linda McQuaig explains that the Katrina disaster is a consequence of FEMA having been "privatized," or when Jeremy Clarkson writes feelingly in London's Sun of seeing New Orleans looters blown to bits by helicopter gunships, it isn't true in a conventional, real-world sense. It is rather true in a transcendent, ecstatic sense.

We are dealing not so much with a factual matter, in other words, as a psychological one. There is an undeniable pleasure in tweaking the conventional wisdom: I confess to indulging in it at times myself. But what begins as a harmless contrarianism can progress by stages into full-blown conspiracy-theorizing, of which anti-Americanism is a particularly malignant example. The sufferer experiences the thrill of having "pierced the veil." He has seen through the official lies that have everyone else in their thrall, and every piece of evidence to the contrary merely confirms him in his belief. At the furthest extreme, it emerges as Holocaust denial.

By all rights, anti-Americanism should be officially recognized as a mental disorder, but the disability claims would bankrupt us.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:14 AM


Roberts Poses Calculus Test for Democrats: Senators Weigh Whether Vote Should Send a Message to Bush, Liberal Base or to Centrists (JEANNE CUMMINGS, 9/21/05, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL)

New York Sen. Charles Schumer has told colleagues that Judge Roberts overall acquitted himself well before the committee. But a yes vote could undermine Mr. Schumer's ability to raise money from anti-Roberts donors for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which he now heads. When asked Tuesday if he had made up his mind, Mr. Schumer answered, "Nope."

Similar battles are bedeviling Democrats not on the committee. Some moderates, such as Florida's Sen. Bill Nelson and Nebraska's Ben Nelson, face re-election next year in Republican-leaning states and are eager to pocket some centrist credentials by voting for Judge Roberts. Mr. Nelson of Nebraska said Tuesday he has "not seen anything that would cause me to vote against" the nominee. Another red-state Democrat, Max Baucus of Montana, said, "I'm inclined to vote for him."

By backing Judge Roberts, some Democrats argue, the party will have more credibility if it takes on the president's nominee for Justice O'Connor's seat, one that arguably is more important because she has played a critical role in rulings on issues such as affirmative action and abortion rights.

"It makes the case that they are mindless obstructionists much weaker," says Ross K. Baker, a professor of political science at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

But liberal activists are near unanimous in opposing Judge Roberts, who they say echoed the pre-appointment positioning of conservative Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. They are pressing Democrats to vote against Judge Roberts to send a message about the party's priorities. Those arguments likely will weigh heavily on Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, who both have presidential ambitions and are trying to juggle the left-leaning voters in the party's primaries with general-election voters, who might favor a more centrist approach. "I have not" decided, Sen. Clinton said Tuesday.

Which came first: losing the support of the electorate or becoming beholden to the special interests and big donors?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:07 AM

WE MAY HAVE A WINNER (via Mike Daley):

Floating Batchelder (Capital Briefs, September 16, 2005, Human Events)

The buzz around the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings for John Roberts last week was that one of the people President Bush may be considering to replace Justice Sandra Day O’Connor is Alice M. Batchelder.

Batchelder is a Cleveland, Ohio-based judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit. She was appointed to that bench by President George H.W. Bush in 1991. Before that she was a federal district judge, appointed by President Ronald Reagan. Her husband, Bill Batchelder, a state judge, formerly served as a conservative state House member and was the Ohio chairman of Reagan’s 1980 campaign. Judge Alice Batchelder was one of two appellate court judges who upheld Ohio’s partial-birth abortion ban in 2003, and last year she issued a powerful dissent from a ruling that ordered a local judge to remove a framed Ten Commandments from his courtroom. Politically, a Batchelder nomination would be a plus because of her conservative credentials and because she is from Ohio"a key swing state, where her views are popular. On the other hand, she is 61 years old.

Mr. Daley developed a Court crush on the judge, who the NY Sun reports is going to meet with President Bush, after listening to this speech, The Judiciary: having "neither Force nor Will, but merely judgement"? (Alice M. Batchelder, Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, Seventh Annual Robert E. Henderson Constitution Day Lecture, September 16, 2005, Ashbrook Center)
Alice M. Batchelder was appointed by President Ronald Reagan to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio in April 1985, after serving for two years as a United States Bankruptcy Judge for the Northern District of Ohio. In December 1991, she was appointed by President George H.W. Bush to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

Judge Batchelder earned her B.A. from Ohio Wesleyan University and taught English in junior high and high school for several years before entering law school. She earned her J.D. from the University of Akron School of Law and practiced for eleven years with the family firm of Williams and Batchelder in Medina, Ohio, before being appointed to the bankruptcy court. After her appointment to the district court, she earned her LL.M. from the University of Virginia School of Law.

Judge Batchelder and her husband, Bill, now a judge on the Ohio Ninth District Court of Appeals but for 30 years a member of the Ohio House of Representatives, live in Medina, Ohio. They have two grown children.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:55 AM


Coalition down but not out (Jim Lobe, 9/22/05, Asia Times)

It was four years ago this week that a little-known group called the "Project for the New American Century" (PNAC) published an open letter to President George W Bush advising him on how precisely he should carry out his brand-new "war on terrorism". [...]

[I]t would be a mistake to believe that because the PNAC and the coalition it represents are down, they must be out, particularly with respect to the other policy initiatives which they recommended four years ago.

Confrontation with Iran, particularly under the leadership of hard-line President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, is something that the coalition remains unified about, particularly with respect to the prospect of Tehran's acquisition of nuclear weapons.

While the PNAC has not explicitly addressed what to do about Iran, there is little question that the coalition - like the hawks within the administration - remains fundamentally united on its own hardline policy and, in any event, an absolute refusal to directly engage the new government.

What to do about Syria is more uncertain, although more hawkish sectors within the coalition clearly favor "regime change", possibly with the help of cross-border attacks in the name of preempting the infiltration of insurgents into Iraq, as has been called for by Kristol, among others.

While realists within the administration argue in favor of engaging Syrian President Bashar Assad, if only because the alternative could be so much worse, the hawks, particularly the neo-conservatives who often refer to Damascus as "low-lying fruit", appear determined to prevent any weakening of their policy of isolation and economic pressure on the assumption that the regime will soon collapse.

As in Iraq, however, the question of what will take its place has not yet been fully thought through.

While no one can hold a candle to Mr. Lobe for being hysterical about the neocons, Diane Rehm does her best. The other day her topic was using the spread of democracy in order to fight terrorism and she asked Reuel Marc Gerecht where such ideas came from. He credited Bernard Lewis and Fouad Adjami in the main--both of whom have been writing and teaching about the Middle East for some decades. She rounded on him and asked if they didn't get their ideas from PNAC, displaying a misapprehension of history and a paranoia worthy of the very best conspiracists.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:17 AM


KGB records show how spies penetrated the heart of India (Michael Binyon, 9/17/05, Times of London)

A HUGE cache of KGB records smuggled out of Moscow after the fall of communism reveal that in the 1970s India was one of the countries most successfully penetrated by Soviet intelligence.

A number of senior KGB officers have testified that, under Indira Gandhi, India was one of their priority targets.

“We had scores of sources through the Indian Government — in intelligence, counter-intelligence, the defence and foreign ministries and the police,” said Oleg Kalugin, once the youngest general in Soviet foreign intelligence and responsible for monitoring KGB penetration abroad. India became “a model of KGB infiltration of a Third World government”, he added.

Such claims have previously been ignored or brushed aside by Delhi. But the revelations from the KGB documents that form one of the biggest Western intelligence coups in recent years provide firm evidence for these claims. The records have been analysed in a new book about the KBG’s global operations, and the first extracts appear today in Times Books.

According to these top-secret records, brought to the West by Vasili Mitrokhin, a former senior archivist of the KGB, Soviet intelligence set out to exploit the corruption that became endemic under Indira Gandhi’s regime.

You can't really overstate the magniude of the change that's been effected as regards India, an objective enemy during the Cold War become an open ally in the WoT.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:14 AM


Barbour steers Mississippi toward recovery (Guy Taylor, September 21, 2005, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Flood-ravaged New Orleans has dominated press coverage and political debate in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, though neighboring Mississippi took the full brunt of the storm's fury, leaving more than 10,000 residents homeless.

"We're not into whining or moping around or victimhood," said Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who has avoided the blame game that started in Louisiana as soon as Katrina made landfall.

The Republican governor remains optimistic, insisting that somewhere in the hurricane's devastation is "an opportunity to build the Gulf Coast back bigger and better than ever before."

Even if it's just the one-eyed man effect, he towers over the pols next door.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:07 AM


Error puts a hole in Big Dig budgeting (Raphael Lewis, September 21, 2005, Boston Globe)

Big Dig officials significantly overestimated the amount of money that could be raised by selling off the project's Kneeland Street headquarters, creating a hole in their financing plan for the megaproject's final stages, officials disclosed yesterday.

The error has forced project officials to withdraw $67 million from a state transportation fund, money that would otherwise pay for smaller highway and transit projects around Massachusetts.

For years, municipal leaders have complained that the $14.6 billion Big Dig has been eating up too much of state construction money, and news that the project is tapping $67 million more intensified their concern.

Experts Say Faulty Levees Caused Much of Flooding (Michael Grunwald and Susan B. Glasser, September 21, 2005, Washington Post)
Louisiana's top hurricane experts have rejected the official explanations for the floodwall collapses that inundated much of New Orleans, concluding that Hurricane Katrina's storm surges were much smaller than authorities have suggested and that the city's flood- protection system should have kept most of the city dry.

The Army Corps of Engineers has said that Katrina was just too massive for a system that was not intended to protect the city from a storm greater than a Category 3 hurricane, and that the floodwall failures near Lake Pontchartrain were caused by extraordinary surges that overtopped the walls.

But with the help of complex computer models and stark visual evidence, scientists and engineers at Louisiana State University's Hurricane Center have concluded that Katrina's surges did not come close to overtopping those barriers. That would make faulty design, inadequate construction or some combination of the two the likely cause of the breaching of the floodwalls along the 17th Street and London Avenue canals -- and the flooding of most of New Orleans.

Imagine what crappy work $50 billion would have bought?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:56 AM


Karzai renews terror rethink plea (BBC, 9/21/05)

Mr Karzai was responding to questions about an interview he gave last week to the BBC in which he said the US needed a new approach to fighting terror in the country.

"The use of air power is something that may not be very effective now."

House searches by US-led troops have been deeply unpopular with many Afghans.

"No coalition forces should go to Afghan homes without the authorization of the Afghan government," he said.

President Karzai's renewed call for a change in approach comes after the country's landmark parliamentary elections on Sunday.

These were the last step towards the restoration of peace and democracy agreed in the Bonn agreement in 2001.

"Afghanistan now has a constitution, a president, a parliament and a nation fully participating in its destiny," President Karzai said.

"We do not think there is a serious terrorism challenge emanating in Afghanistan."

The US has about 18,000 troops fighting remnants of the Taleban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

It's a Western Pakistan problem now.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:45 AM


Top Democrat Says He'll Vote No on Roberts (SHERYL GAY STOLBERG and DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK, 9/21/05, NY Times)

In announcing his decision in a lengthy speech on the Senate floor, Mr. Reid questioned Judge Roberts's commitment to civil rights and said he was "very swayed" by the civil rights and women's rights leaders who testified Thursday in opposition to the nomination - and with whom Mr. Reid met privately that same day. Liberal advocacy groups, who raise millions of dollars to support Democratic candidates and who have been putting intense pressure on Democrats to oppose the nomination, were elated. [...]

Last Thursday, as Mr. Reid was weighing his decision, representatives of about 40 advocacy groups met with him in the Capitol; the reason, they said, was to underscore the threat they believe Judge Roberts poses to Democrats' core causes, racial and gender equality. Hovering in the background was a political argument, that if Democrats vote in favor of Judge Roberts, they will be held liable by voters for the decisions he makes on the court.

"He got the message loud and clear, didn't he?" Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women, said of Mr. Reid on Tuesday.

Recall that Mr. Reid claims to be pro-life.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:33 AM


Blacks in France fight equality bind (John Tagliabue, 9/21/05, The New York Times)

For decades many African countries have sent their young to work or study in France, a nation that boasts of itself as the cradle of human rights and a bulwark against racism, and where the road from Harlem to Paris was wide, welcoming artists like the singer Josephine Baker, the musician Sidney Bechet and the writer James Baldwin.

But French insistence on the equality of man, a fundamental legacy of the Revolution, leaves the African immigrants in a bind, by perpetuating the fiction of a society without minorities, according to black critics of the French system.

In France, it is not permitted for a census to list people by race. Nor is it permitted to ask about race on a job application. Hence while blacks are thought to number about 1.5 million, of a total population of 59 million, no one knows the exact number, which some experts estimate to be far higher.

What the French government sees as a color-blind neutrality, many blacks see as an obstacle to their social progress. Their alienation was only heightened this summer when fires in several crowded apartment buildings in Paris left 48 blacks, mainly children, dead. In neighborhoods like Chateau Rouge that anger spills out.

"It could be a coincidence," said Cheickh, bitterly, "but one question the French have to answer is, of 48 people who died, why were 48 black?"

Corporate offices are virtually bare of blacks, and blacks are in a political vacuum. No black person sits in the National Assembly or in a regional Parliament and only a smattering are found in city councils. While the European Union finances programs for minorities, none of them are in France, for its refusal to recognize minorities. "Such programs are not wanted for ideological reasons," said Dogad Dogoui, 41, a native of Ivory Coast and a business and political consultant. Adding with a note of sarcasm, "France is the only European country without minorities." So today, blacks are not much on the French agenda.

After the recent fires, the interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, proposed enacting a program of positive discrimination in hiring and requiring anonymous résumés for job applications. But the remainder of the cabinet, including the minister for equal opportunity, Azouz Begag, rejected the idea, saying it offended the principle of equality.

"The French like to say, blacks are a social problem, not racial," said Gaston Kelman, 52, a native of Cameroon who has written widely on France's blacks. "So our institutions have no means to overcome it." Until recently, virtually all blacks were on the lowest rung of the social ladder. Gradually, however, a younger generation of blacks is starting businesses and giving birth to a black middle class. They feel the discrimination in French society and are beginning to resist.

Memo to Europe's ethnic populations: now is not the best time to register your ethnicity with the state and make the round-ups easier.

Having a third baby really pays off for French women (Colin Randall, September 21, 2005, LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH)

Middle-class French women will be offered cash incentives to have a third child amid growing concerns that professional couples are having too few children. [...]

Given France's egalitarian ideals, the notion of creating perks to attract professional mothers did not go down well with the socialist opposition.

Although class or racial issues have been sidestepped, there is a suspicion on the left that the ruling center-right regards the existing system as favoring those with little work ethic who live on handouts.

"The poor current level of compensation appeals only to those on lower incomes," said UNAF President Hubert Brin.

"This is not just a French problem but affects Europe in general. In Germany, as many as 40 percent of professional women turn their backs on maternity.

"Ask a professional woman these days to make a definitive choice between having a career and having babies, and she'll choose the former."

Demographic trends in Muslim and non-Muslim communities are rarely mentioned in public debate. France has the largest Muslim community in Europe, estimated at up to 10 percent of its 60 million population.

"France is facing the problem that dare not speak its name," columnist Barbara Amiel wrote in 2004 for the London Telegraph.

"Though French law prohibits the census from any reference to ethnic background or religion, many demographers estimate that as much as 20 [to] 30 percent of the population under 25 is now Muslim. ...

"Given current birthrates, it is not impossible that in 25 years France will have a Muslim majority. The consequences are dynamic: Is it possible that secular France might become an Islamic state?" Ms. Amiel wrote.

A 2004 study on European population trends sponsored by the Pew Research Center said the demographic shift affects all of Europe, which receives 1 million legal immigrants, most from Muslim nations, each year.

"At the same time, Muslims already living on the continent are having three times as many children as their white, European neighbors," the Pew report said.

Meanwhile, America becomes ever less like Europe, Many Women at Elite Colleges Set Career Path to Motherhood (LOUISE STORY, 9/20/05, NY Times)

Cynthia Liu is precisely the kind of high achiever Yale wants: smart (1510 SAT), disciplined (4.0 grade point average), competitive (finalist in Texas oratory competition), musical (pianist), athletic (runner) and altruistic (hospital volunteer). And at the start of her sophomore year at Yale, Ms. Liu is full of ambition, planning to go to law school.

So will she join the long tradition of famous Ivy League graduates? Not likely. By the time she is 30, this accomplished 19-year-old expects to be a stay-at-home mom.

"My mother's always told me you can't be the best career woman and the best mother at the same time," Ms. Liu said matter-of-factly. "You always have to choose one over the other."

At Yale and other top colleges, women are being groomed to take their place in an ever more diverse professional elite. It is almost taken for granted that, just as they make up half the students at these institutions, they will move into leadership roles on an equal basis with their male classmates.

There is just one problem with this scenario: many of these women say that is not what they want.

Many women at the nation's most elite colleges say they have already decided that they will put aside their careers in favor of raising children. Though some of these students are not planning to have children and some hope to have a family and work full time, many others, like Ms. Liu, say they will happily play a traditional female role, with motherhood their main commitment.

A bit of advice: if you want to stay home and play a traditional female role, marry a doctor.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:09 AM


EU limits may lead to big cuts in MRI scans (James Meikle, September 21, 2005, The Guardian)

Scientists claimed yesterday that the use of MRI scans that have revolutionised diagnosis over the last 25 years will be throttled by EU rules that must be adopted in Britain by 2008.

They predicted that the 1 million scans performed each year would soon be dramatically reduced, especially for children, because of new limits on the exposure of medical staff to electromagnetic fields generated by the imaging equipment.

The consequences were "potentially disastrous" and would lead to a brain drain of scientists to the US, possibly followed by patients eager to take advantage of new treatments being developed using MRI techniques.

What children?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:04 AM


U.S. Ambassador Reveals Holocaust Book Brought About 1985 Airlift of Ethiopian Jews (David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, 9-20-05)

A book about America's failure to rescue Jews from the Holocaust helped convince then-Vice President George H. W. Bush to order the U.S. airlift of 900 Ethiopian Jewish refugees to Israel in 1985, a U.S. ambassador has revealed.

John R. Miller, a former Congressman (R-WA), who is now the U.S. ambassador for combating human trafficking, revealed the episode for the first time in public, in a statement presented to more than 200 participants in a September 18 conference at the Fordham University Law School organized by the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies.

Ambassador Miller said that when the Ethiopian Jews became stranded in Sudan in early 1985, he brought a copy of Prof. Wyman's book about America and the Holocaust, "The Abandonment of the Jews," to Vice President Bush. "This is a chance to write a very different history than the history of America's response to the Holocaust," Miller told the vice president. Miller said that in a later conversation with Bush, the vice president confirmed that Wyman's book "was a major influence in his decision to order to the airlift."

He probably just felt guilty that the entire family fortune comes from collaborating with the Third Reich....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:00 AM


What the Regicides Did For Us: Far from being the bogeymen of history, Geoffrey Robertson QC says that the English regicides were men of principle who established our modern freedoms. (Geoffrey Robertson, History Today)

The proceeding against Charles i in 1649 secured the constitutional gains of the Civil War – the supremacy of Parliament, the independence of judges, individual freedom guaranteed by Magna Carta and the common law. But they brought little fame to those who presided over the trial and signed the King’s death warrant. Apart from Cromwell (who later became king in all but name) the regicides are not portrayed on statues or stamps, and their fate is seldom mourned: in 1660, after a rigged trial at the Old Bailey, their heads were stuck on poles and their body parts fed to the stray dogs of Aldgate. British liberty is usually dated from the ‘glorious revolution’ of 1688-89, but forty years earlier the House of Commons had declared 1649 to be ‘The first year of freedom, by God’s blessing restored’.

The King’s trial was, from a modern perspective, the first war crimes trial of a head of state. The arguments in Westminster Hall resonate today in the courtrooms of the Hague and even in the Iraqi Special Tribunal – Saddam Hussein’s opening words to his judge were, in translation, a paraphrase of those of Charles: ‘By what power am I called hither… I would know by what authority, lawful I mean…’. Three centuries before the rulings against Pinochet and Milosevic, this was a compelling argument. Charles had the purest form of sovereign immunity: he was a sovereign, both by hereditary and (as many believed) by divine right. Judges had always said that the king, as the source of the law, could do no wrong: rex is lex is how they had put it in the ship-money case when they found against John Hampden.

As for international law, the ink was hardly dry on its modern foundation, the Treaty of Westphalia (October 1648), which guaranteed immunity to every prince, however Machiavellian. The best thing about the Treaty of Westphalia, however – from parliament’s point of view – was that England was not a party to it. On January 6th, 1649 the purged House of Commons, without waiting for the equivocating House of Lords, passed an ‘Act’ to establish a High Court of Justice ‘to the end that no chief officer or magistrate may hereafter presume traitorously or maliciously to imagine or continue the enslaving or destroying of the English nation, and expect impunity for so doing.’

This was the origin of ‘impunity’ in the sense that Kofi Annan and Amnesty International now use the word, to refer to the freedom that tyrants should never have to live happily ever after their tyranny. Parliament’s brief to end impunity was sent to a barrister at Gray’s Inn, John Cooke, who prosecuted Charles Stuart as ‘the occasioner, author and continuer’ of the civil wars, ‘a tyrant, traitor, murderer and a public and implacable enemy to the commonwealth of England’. ‘Tyranny’ was an apt description of what today would include crimes against humanity and war crimes: Cooke used it to describe the conduct of leaders who destroy law and liberty or who bear command responsibility for the killing of their own people or the plunder of innocent civilians or the torture of prisoners of war.

What was truly astonishing about the trial of Charles I was that it took place at all. In January 1649, a third civil war seemed imminent: the king’s navy, commanded by Prince Rupert and the Prince of Wales, would link up with the waxing royalist army under the duke of Ormonde, whose Irish ‘confederacy’ had just signed a treaty with the perfidious Dutch. ‘Pride’s Purge’ of Parliament in 1648 had been the army’s way of declaring a state of national emergency, and in this atmosphere Charles could, with perfect legality, have been court-martialled as the enemy commander and immediately executed by firing squad. The summary justice of the provost martial had been a feature of ‘turbulent times’ in England since Edward I, and it was visited upon captured leaders on the principle that ‘a man who is dead renews no war’.

By opting, instead, for a public trial, the King’s judges were taking an enormous risk – they were providing the King with a political platform as well as an opportunity to contest his guilt (for this very reason, Churchill strenuously opposed the trial of Nazi leaders at Nuremberg). But these Puritan lawyers and MPs were determined that the King should have justice – whether he wanted it or not. More justice, indeed, than given to ordinary prisoners, who were automatically deemed guilty if, like Charles, they refused to plead. Before the King was convicted, however, the court required the prosecution to prove his guilt.

The ideal mixed regime requires a king, but one of limited powers who is not above the constitution.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Silo Rains on Penguin Pride Parade (Dr. Warren Throckmorton, 9/20/05, Crosswalk)

One of America's A-list gay couples has broken up.

No, it's not Rosie and Kelli. It's Roy and Silo. Roy and Silo are male penguins. Chinstrap penguins to be exact.

About six years ago, Roy and Silo set up housekeeping together in New York's Central Park Zoo. They courted and attempted to mate and by all accounts were fairly inseparable. They even adopted a child together. Roy and Silo hatched little Tango a couple of years ago and raised her as their own.

However, recently Silo has become perhaps the world's first documented ex-gay penguin. He has moved out of his nest with Roy and taken up with Scrappy, a hot little bird who recently moved in from Sea World Zoo in San Diego. I guess he was wishing for a California girl.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


10 Schools Run Out of Time to Catch Up: Nine campuses in L.A. and 1 in Visalia top the No Child Left Behind law's seven-year limit. Their fate is uncertain. (Duke Helfand and Joel Rubin, September 21, 2005, LA Times)

The federal No Child Left Behind education law gave schools seven years to meet achievement goals, laying out increasingly dire consequences — including the removal of school staff — for those that fell short.

But now, 10 schools have exceeded that seven-year timetable, leaving them in undefined territory and spawning renewed criticism by education officials about the fairness of the law. [...]

In an effort to boost achievement at schools serving low-income children, No Child Left Behind established a system of prods and punishments.

These so-called Title I schools are required to meet annual testing targets in English and math for their campuses overall as well as for subgroups that include races, special education students and children from poor families.

The schools also have to test at least 95% of their students each year.

Campuses that fall short of the goals are placed on a watch list for two years.

Those that continue to miss their targets enter a five-year period during which they face "corrective actions" and increasingly severe sanctions.

Initially, the schools have to offer their students transfers to higher-performing campuses and free tutoring.

In cases where schools still falter, their districts are required to develop "restructuring" plans that can include state takeovers or the removal of staff.

The plans are implemented in the seventh and final year of the No Child Left Behind timetable.

Give the kids their vouchers.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Forgetting Reinhold Niebuhr (ARTHUR SCHLESINGER Jr., 9/18/05, NY Times)

Why, in an age of religiosity, has Niebuhr, the supreme American theologian of the 20th century, dropped out of 21st-century religious discourse? Maybe issues have taken more urgent forms since Niebuhr's death - terrorism, torture, abortion, same-sex marriage, Genesis versus Darwin, embryonic stem-cell research. But maybe Niebuhr has fallen out of fashion because 9/11 has revived the myth of our national innocence. Lamentations about "the end of innocence" became favorite clichés at the time.

Niebuhr was a critic of national innocence, which he regarded as a delusion. After all, whites coming to these shores were reared in the Calvinist doctrine of sinful humanity, and they killed red men, enslaved black men and later on imported yellow men for peon labor - not much of a background for national innocence. "Nations, as individuals, who are completely innocent in their own esteem," Niebuhr wrote, "are insufferable in their human contacts." The self-righteous delusion of innocence encouraged a kind of Manichaeism dividing the world between good (us) and evil (our critics).

Niebuhr brilliantly applied the tragic insights of Augustine and Calvin to moral and political issues. He poured out his thoughts in a stream of powerful books, articles and sermons. His major theological work was his two-volume "Nature and Destiny of Man" (1941, 1943). The evolution of his political thought can be traced in three influential books: "Moral Man and Immoral Society" (1932); "The Children of Light and the Children of Darkness: A Vindication of Democracy and a Critique of Its Traditional Defense" (1944); "The Irony of American History" (1952).

In these and other works, Niebuhr emphasized the mixed and ambivalent character of human nature - creative impulses matched by destructive impulses, regard for others overruled by excessive self-regard, the will to power, the individual under constant temptation to play God to history. This is what was known in the ancient vocabulary of Christianity as the doctrine of original sin. Niebuhr summed up his political argument in a single powerful sentence: "Man's capacity for justice makes democracy possible; but man's inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary." (Niebuhr, in the fashion of the day, used "man" not to exculpate women but as shorthand for "human being.")

The notion of sinful man was uncomfortable for my generation. We had been brought up to believe in human innocence and even in human perfectibility. This was less a liberal delusion than an expression of an all-American DNA. Andrew Carnegie had articulated the national faith when, after acclaiming the rise of man from lower to higher forms, he declared: "Nor is there any conceivable end to his march to perfection." In 1939, Charles E. Merriam of the University of Chicago, the dean of American political scientists, wrote in "The New Democracy and the New Despotism": "There is a constant trend in human affairs toward the perfectibility of mankind. This was plainly stated at the time of the French Revolution and has been reasserted ever since that time, and with increasing plausibility." Human ignorance and unjust institutions remained the only obstacles to a more perfect world. If proper education of individuals and proper reform of institutions did their job, such obstacles would be removed. For the heart of man was O.K. The idea of original sin was a historical, indeed a hysterical, curiosity that should have evaporated with Jonathan Edwards's Calvinism.

Still, Niebuhr's concept of original sin solved certain problems for my generation. The 20th century was, as Isaiah Berlin said, "the most terrible century in Western history." The belief in human perfectibility had not prepared us for Hitler and Stalin. The death camps and the gulags proved that men were capable of infinite depravity. The heart of man is obviously not O.K. Niebuhr's analysis of human nature and history came as a vast illumination. His argument had the double merit of accounting for Hitler and Stalin and for the necessity of standing up to them. Niebuhr himself had been a pacifist, but he was a realist and resigned from the antiwar Socialist Party in 1940. [...]

"The combination of moral resoluteness about the immediate issues," Niebuhr commented on Lincoln's second inaugural, "with a religious awareness of another dimension of meaning and judgment must be regarded as almost a perfect model of the difficult but not impossible task of remaining loyal and responsible toward the moral treasures of a free society on the one hand while yet having some religious vantage point over the struggle."

Like all God-fearing men, Americans are never safe "against the temptation of claiming God too simply as the sanctifier of whatever we most fervently desire." This is vanity. To be effective in the world, we need "a sense of modesty about the virtue, wisdom and power available to us" and "a sense of contrition about the common human frailties and foibles which lie at the foundation of both the enemy's demonry and our vanities." None of the insights of religious faith contradict "our purpose and duty of preserving our civilization. They are, in fact, prerequisites for saving it."

The last lines of "The Irony of American History," written in 1952, resound more than a half-century later. "If we should perish, the ruthlessness of the foe would be only the secondary cause of the disaster. The primary cause would be that the strength of a giant nation was directed by eyes too blind to see all the hazards of the struggle; and the blindness would be induced not by some accident of nature or history but by hatred and vainglory."

While Mr. Schlesinger is right that the Left no longer much invokes Niebuhr, or willfully misremembers him, the Right continues to do so rather regularly. Of course, the Left turned against hoim when it tiurned against the Cold War in the late 60s and is hardly likely to pick him up again given that he'd have supported the WoT while they don't.

September 20, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:51 PM


'Whale riders' reveal evolution (Alison Ross, 9/21/05, BBC News)

Scientists have examined the genes of "whale lice" to track whale evolution.

The small parasitic crustaceans were taken off right whales, which have been driven to the brink of extinction in some waters by commercial hunting.

The genetics of the lice reveal their hosts split into three species 5-6 million years ago, and these were all equally abundant before whaling began.

6 million years and they're still just whale lice and right whales--impressive demonstration of stasis.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:55 PM


System's flaws help keep Koizumi on top (GREGORY CLARK, 9/21/05, Japan Times)

From the start of the recent Lower House election campaign it was predictable that Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's theatrics -- his constant references to magic "kaikaku" (reform) and the alleged benefits from postal-service privatization -- would have its inevitable mesmerizing effect on Japan's emotional electorate. But why did the opposition parties fail to stage a de-mesmerizing counterattack? [...]

True, part of Koizumi's electoral support was logical and deserved. He has done much to create a new and better image for his Liberal Democratic Party. Women have been promoted. Decision-making has been centralized somewhat. Factions have been undermined, and with them the former reliance on dubious funds and old boy connections.

The downside though is that we now have a Thatcherite top-down regime where anyone who disagrees is instantly purged or demoted. Indeed, some are even beginning of use the word "Hitleresque" to describe the Koizumi approach. [...]

Especially worrying is the collapse of Japan's main opposition party, the Democratic Party of Japan. It was offering programs more reformist than much of what Koizumi was proposing. But somehow the Teflon-coated Koizumi couldn't be painted into a corner as antireformist.

Talk about not getting your own analysis--the opposition lost precisely because it ran as more reformist than Mr. Koizumi instead of anti-reform. Ms Merkel taught the same lesson.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:41 PM


Latinas for Bush's short list (Linda P. Campbell, 9/20/05, Dallas Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

A Latina on the U.S. Supreme Court.

What a novel concept -- a Latina holding one of the highest ranking federal jobs that has nothing to do with autographing dollar bills.

(Five Latinas have held the post of U.S. Treasurer, all under Republican presidents.) [...]

Bush must decide what he most wants to accomplish with his next appointment.

If, as has been suggested, he's keen on naming the first Latino justice -- and not just to appoint Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, his longtime friend -- why not add more Latinas to the mix?

Judge Sonia Sotomayor, who's sat on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York for seven years, often is mentioned, though far down the list. A Princeton University and Yale Law School graduate, she worked as a prosecutor in New York and was put on the federal bench by President George H.W. Bush. Maybe it works against her that President Bill Clinton promoted her to the appellate court.

If Bush wants his own appeals court judge, he might consider Consuelo Maria Callahan, who has as much time on the 9th Circuit as Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr. had on the D.C. Circuit. Callahan graduated from Stanford University and Pacific McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento (where Justice Anthony Kennedy once taught), then worked as a prosecutor and judge in California.

If he prefers Ivy Leaguers, Bush could try U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga, whom he appointed in 2003. After graduating from Yale Law School, she worked as a Miami-Dade County prosecutor and was appointed to a state circuit court seat by Gov. Jeb Bush before moving to the federal bench.

Altonaga has dealt with a case involving a nativity scene on public property and a lawsuit over same-sex marriage laws. She even sentenced a child pornographer to 100 years in prison.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:28 PM


A push to build new US refineries: Hurricane damage highlights fall in capacity and boosts gas prices. (Mark Clayton, 9/21/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

It took one of the nation's worst natural disasters to do it. But momentum is growing to build new refineries in the United States after a 29-year hiatus.

By shutting down 20 percent of the country's oil- refining capacity in a single day - and boosting prices nationwide by more than 45 cents a gallon on average in a week - hurricane Katrina has exposed just how stretched the nation's refineries are. Now industry and Congress are looking at how to boost capacity.

"The call to establish more refineries is likely to be sounded again," writes Jason Schenker, an economist with Wachovia Securities in a recent analysis of Katrina's impact.

"We need to specifically address our nation's lack of refining capacity and finally do something about it," said Rep. John Sullivan (R) of Oklahoma in a statement last week. "Hurricane Katrina has further underscored the fact that our refining capacity is inadequate."

'Tis well that Katrina was so terrible, else conservatives would learn to love her.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:53 PM


More students are drawn to conservative colleges: Enrollment is up at smaller colleges with Christian values. Some think students hope it will launch political careers. (Adam Karlin, 9/21/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

In these politically polarized times, a rising number of top conservative students are politicizing their school choices. Instead of going to a Princeton or Stanford, they're opting for less costly home-state universities or smaller schools that see themselves as standardbearers of Christian values and laissez-faire governance. Such choices are perhaps a boon to those who intend to pursue careers in politics, since conservative think tanks increasingly are recruiting from these colleges.

"Schools like Grove City, Brigham Young, and Hillsdale are some of our more popular schools," says Elizabeth Williams, intern coordinator for the conservative Heritage Foundation, in an e-mail. "Their students are usually of very high caliber."

That doesn't mean there has been an exodus from established East Coast schools, which consistently draw outstanding students of every stripe.

"We have far more students on the right than I used to know when I was vice president of Boston University," says Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, president of George Washington University in Washington.

But enrollment at several conservative Christian schools is on the upswing. For example: Patrick Henry College in Virginia, whose mission is to "prepare Christian men and women who will lead our nation and shape our culture with timeless biblical values," first opened its doors in 2000 to 87 students. This year, enrollment stands at 330, and the median SAT score for its freshmen has also jumped, from 1170 to 1340 in the same period.

At Franciscan, Ms. Shultis's new school, where a fledgling group of Democrats disbanded because of lack of interest, enrollment has topped 2,000, up 220 in the past four years. Average grade-point scores of incoming freshmen have also risen.

If I were applying to college today -- and had grades that didn't require me to go to a school that my family had donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to -- I'd certainly be interested in such places.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:48 PM


US uses 'Libya model' to boost pressure on Syria: UN report on killing of former Lebanese leader may further isolate Damascus. (Nicholas Blanford, 9/21/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

Once considered key to Middle East stability, Syria is facing growing marginalization as the United States maintains a policy of unrelenting pressure against the Baathist regime.

American and Iraqi officials have stepped up their criticism of Syria in recent days in what some analysts believe is the beginning of an attempt by Washington to repeat the "Libya model" - total political and economic isolation to compel a U-turn in regime behavior.

"They are going to grab Syria by the throat and squeeze and shake, and see what kind of change falls out of the Syrian pockets.... It's going to be the harshest isolation they can manufacture," says Joshua Landis, a professor of Middle Eastern studies at the University of Oklahoma, presently based in Damascus and author of

These are lonely times for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

When Colonel Qaddafi was lonely Ronald Reagan sent him a visitor.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:43 PM


Reid will oppose Roberts' nomination: source (Reuters, September 20, 2005)

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid has decided to vote against the nomination of John Roberts as chief justice of the United States, a party aide said on Tuesday.

Voting against such a clearly qualified nominee, supported by two-thirds of voters in polls and even MSM editorial boards, clears up the question of whether the "moderate" from NV runs the caucus or does.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:39 PM


Europe ships war refugees back home: Germany gets tougher on Afghans, Iraqis, and Kosovars. (Isabelle de Pommereau, 9/21/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

Aferdite Hasanaj looks like any of her high school friends. But there's a difference: Every three months for the past 13 years, since her family fled Kosovo on the eve of the Yugoslavia war, she's had to ask permission to remain in Germany.

As a refugee whose asylum claim was rejected, she was subject to expulsion any time. In April, the government told her to go back "home" to Kosovo, squashing her dreams of going to college in Frankfurt.

"I've never been to Kosovo, I can't speak the language, don't know the culture," the 17- year-old said at a recent rally held to protest her expulsion. "The feeling of not having the right to belong fills me with despair."

Across Germany, 220,000 war refugees denied asylum have shared Aferdite's plight. But in a backdrop of public wariness about their perceived drain on the social system and an improved political situation in their countries, the government is speeding their return.

"How can a country expel a child who's been here for 13 years, who is good in school?" says Volker Ludwig of the GRISP Theater in Berlin, which staged a play about the deportation of a family. "Such a practice is unique in Europe, and it's outrageous."

In a few years we may well consider the ones who got out alive to have been lucky.

Facing up to Germany's fears: (The Monitor's View, 9/21/05)

Observers worry whether Germany - stuck in an economic funk and struggling with a jobless rate of 11.4 percent - can carry out the difficult economic, labor, and social welfare reforms necessary to get its engine purring again.

This won't be possible unless Germany's political leaders - whichever ones prevail - address the population's fear of significant reform. More than anything, this election registered anxiety about losing the perks of the "social market economy." The new, radical Left Party, made up of ex-communists and disaffected Social Democrats, ran against Mr. Schröder's modest reforms and polled a surprising 8.7 percent. It was his reforms - and the Social Democrats' slew of regional election losses - that prompted this early election in the first place. Meanwhile, Schröder's criticism of Ms. Merkel's party as "radically unsocial" turned many voters away from her more market-oriented platform.

How does one calm fears of shrinking pensions, reduced union bargaining power, or more joblessness?

By creating even greater fear of immigrants.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:17 PM


Velvet Revolutions and the Logic of Terrorism (Frederick Turner, 9/20/05, Tech Central Station)

Though one can at a stretch describe the Taliban as traditionalists opposing the corruptions of global market capitalism, al Qaeda is a quintessentially cosmopolitan, big-business financed, historicist, international intellectual movement, as globalist in its own way as Microsoft. [...]

Why did suicide terror metastasize from Israel to the world? What is the basic political enemy of the global terrorist movement? What is it designed to attack? Though it would be tempting to say that the target is the democratic state, the evidence does not quite support it. Many existing democratic states were left alone, and coexisted with, for years before suicide terror emerged, and are so still.

I believe that the evidence points clearly to one target. Thirty years ago it looked as if the totalitarian state was solidly established, successful and immortal. Democratic capitalism had been stopped in its tracks. The nuclear-armed socialist dictatorship could not be attacked or defeated; it could at best be contained, and none of its incremental marginal conquests could be rolled back. Marvelously, however, a new strategy emerged, invented by the world's middle-class populations, that could bring down the totalitarian state: the velvet revolution. Totalitarian governments rely on elites to govern and control the people and defend themselves against outside ideas. Those elites must reproduce themselves, creating a property-owning educated class with great power but without the revolutionary ideology of their parents; and to remain economically viable the state must produce a skilled artisan class, like the shipbuilders of Gdansk, with the capacity to unionize. Out of these materials, generated by totalitarianism itself, comes the velvet revolution.

The velvet revolution (also named the orange revolution, the purple finger, the rose revolution, the cedar revolution) has swept the world. In different ways, nonviolent, non-ideological middle-class and skilled-worker mass movements have unseated tyrants and established democracies in an amazing range of countries: Spain, Portugal, Chile, Argentina, Poland, East Germany, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Russia, Bangladesh, South Korea, Indonesia, the Baltic states, Mexico, Serbia, Albania, Georgia, the Ukraine, the Philippines, Lebanon, even Palestine, all fell to the regimes of popular sovereignty. China nearly fell in 1989, with the Tiananmen protest, and will become a democracy some time in the next twenty years. If there is one defining event that characterizes the end of twentieth century political modernism, it is this one.

The suicide bomb, with the mass terrorism it epitomizes, is the weapon of choice against the velvet revolution. The target is not, as well-meaning critics of terrorism say, indiscriminate: it is exact and precise. The target is any population that might organize a velvet revolution, the potential sovereigns of a democratic state. It is people who are not ideological, who are willing to let others believe what they want, who want to make a living and be independent, and who want a say in their government.

Seen from this perspective, the Islamicists are the last of the True Believer movements. This angle also allows us to see why the Left and far Right, still wedded to the previously defeated movements, would hate George Bush and Tony Blair more than they do Osama and company.

No kids please, we're selfish (Lionel Shriver, September 17, 2005, The Guardian)

To be almost ridiculously sweeping: baby boomers and their offspring have shifted emphasis from the communal to the individual, from the future to the present, from virtue to personal satisfaction. Increasingly secular, we pledge allegiance to lower-case gods of our private devising. We are less concerned with leading a good life than the good life. We are less likely than our predecessors to ask ourselves whether we serve a greater social purpose; we are more likely to ask if we are happy. We shun values such as self-sacrifice and duty as the pitfalls of suckers. We give little thought to the perpetuation of lineage, culture or nation; we take our heritage for granted. We are ahistorical. We measure the value of our lives within the brackets of our own births and deaths, and don't especially care what happens once we're dead. As we age - oh, so reluctantly! - we are apt to look back on our pasts and ask not 'Did I serve family, God and country?' but 'Did I ever get to Cuba, or run a marathon? Did I take up landscape painting? Was I fat?' We will assess the success of our lives in accordance not with whether they were righteous, but with whether they were interesting and fun.

If that package sounds like one big moral step backwards, the Be Here Now mentality that has converted from 60s catchphrase to entrenched gestalt has its upside. There has to be some value to living for today, since at any given time today is all you've got. We justly cherish characters capable of fully inhabiting "the moment", of living, as a drummer might say, "in the pocket". We admire go-getters determined to pack their lives with as much various experience as time and money provide, who never stop learning, engaging, and savouring what every day offers - in contrast to dour killjoys who are resentful and begrudging as they bitterly do their duty. For the role of humble server, helpmate and facilitator no longer to constitute the sole model of womanhood surely represents progress for which I am personally grateful. Furthermore, prosperity may naturally lead any well-off citizenry to the final frontier: the self, whose borders are as narrow or infinite as we make them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:50 AM


Annan has paid his dues: The UN declaration of a right to protect people from their governments is a millennial change (Ian Williams, September 20, 2005, The Guardian)

By the time John Bolton had hacked large parts out of the UN's 60th anniversary draft declaration, and then had to agree to much of it going back in after Condoleezza Rice told him to be nice to US allies, it was no surprise that some observers saw the result as a smack in the face for Kofi Annan.

In fact, Annan scored a major triumph, a positive answer to the question he posed at the millennium summit five years ago: "If humanitarian intervention is indeed an unacceptable assault on sovereignty, how should we respond to a Rwanda, to a Srebrenica - to gross and systematic violations of human rights that affect every precept of our common humanity?"

In the final declaration last week 191 countries, including Sudan and North Korea, went along with a restatement of international law: that the world community has the right to take military action in the case of "national authorities manifestly failing to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity". It comes too late to help Darfur, not to mention Rwanda and Cambodia, but it is a millennial change.

Tony Blair, whose speech did not mention the crucial millennium development goals in case it upset his friend President Bush, welcomed the new development: "For the first time at this summit we are agreed that states do not have the right to do what they will within their own borders." [...]

[T]he egg of "national sovereignty", beloved of American conservatives and Korean communists alike, is now thoroughly shattered and cannot be put together again.

And good riddance. Folks have expressed some curiosity at the fact that an essay by Mr. Annan is included in our forthcoming book, but he's an excellent representative of the idea of humanitarian intervention as a legitimate trump of national sovereignty.

Mr. Williams is quite right that traditional sovereignty will never be put back together again--the question now is what will replace it. The two main contenders are the notion of transnationalism--whereby central laws, institutions and bureaucracies would have powers transcending sovereignty such that they would be entitled to govern many nations irrespective of the consent of the peoples affected--or a standard of liberal democratic legitimacy--which would judge each nation's entitlement to its own sovereignty by its conformity to the values we've determined mark the End of History: a society premised on human dignity and organized roughly around democracy, protestantism and capitalism. Though American sovereignty is threatened by the former--in everything from the WTO to Kyoto to the Supreme Court's invocation of foreign precedent--we are the main proponents of the latter and have been throughout our history, though we've pursued the end only intermittently. The only real change in recent years is that Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have been more open about America's historic role as democracy's evangelist.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:48 AM


Storm Strains Bush's Ties to Black Clergy: Recovery efforts now give the GOP a chance to rebound from initial political missteps. (Peter Wallsten and Tom Hamburger, September 20, 2005, LA Times)

For many of the black ministers who have allied themselves with President Bush and a Republican strategy to boost the party's African American support, the government's slow response to Hurricane Katrina put a severe strain on new and still-fragile bonds of trust.

But just as some ministers had denounced a government recovery effort that seemed to leave many blacks in the gulf region behind, a number of those African American clergy say an aggressive outreach campaign by Bush and senior White House aides in recent days has begun reversing what might have been lasting political damage.

Moreover, the ministers — as well as a cadre of conservative policy analysts who consult with the White House — contend that the Katrina relief response, though tarnishing the GOP image in the short term, could foster a Republican-led battle against poverty that would give the party a list of new selling points for African American voters who have long viewed Democrats as the best advocates for the downtrodden.

With the federal government spending tens of billions of dollars on the recovery, Republicans have a chance not only to appeal to minorities by creating jobs and other economic opportunities but also to use the rebuilding effort as a real-world test of such long-discussed conservative ideas as school vouchers, enterprise zones and the use of faith-based groups to provide social services.

"The strategic question is whether or not the White House senior staff are smart enough to seize this historic and strategic opportunity," said the Rev. Eugene Rivers, pastor of Boston's Azusa Christian Community and one of about two dozen African American ministers Bush has courted heavily. "If they fail to practice the compassionate conservatism that they have preached, history may not be kind to them.

Plenty smart enough.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:50 AM


White House Said to Shift List for 2nd Court Seat (DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK and SHERYL STOLBERG, 9/20/05, NY Times)

The White House is reshuffling its short list of potential Supreme Court nominees with a new emphasis on finding someone who will hold up under the pressure of what is expected to be fierce confirmation battle, several Republican allies close to the process said on Monday. [...]

The shift ... indicates that the administration expects some Democrats' pent-up frustration with what they labeled as Judge Roberts's evasiveness to spill over into the hearings for a new nominee. Republican aides briefed on the search said the White House was looking mainly at female jurists for Justice O'Connor's seat, but it has expanded its short list and it is examining the contenders anew in the expectation of a trial by fire.

Conservative allies of the White House said the new criteria could hurt the chances of Judge Janice Rogers Brown, a 2005 Bush appointee to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and a favorite of the president's conservative base.

Republican strategists close to the White House worry that Judge Brown, an African-American known for her fiery speeches to conservative crowds, might try to fight back against vigorous questioning. Other conservative strategists say that she also lacks experience on the federal bench and that supporting her highly ideological oratory might strain the solidarity of the Senate Republican caucus.

Another judge said to be on the list is Judge Priscilla R. Owen, a friend of the president also recently confirmed to a federal appeals court after a vigorous Senate battle. In her case, strategists say the White House is evaluating whether her reticence and mild manner would be a strength or a weakness under interrogation in the Senate.

Others said to remain under consideration include the contenders for the last vacancy, Judge Edith H. Jones and Judge Edith Brown Clement of the Fifth Circuit, as well as Judge Alice M Batchelder of the Sixth Circuit, Judge Karen Williams of the Fourth Circuit and Judge Consuelo M. Callahan of the Ninth Circuit. Judge Callahan, a Republican appointee, is Hispanic, and President Bush has made clear that he would like to name a Hispanic to the court.

So the champions of feminism on the other side of the aisle have created a climate where only retiring women need apply?

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:29 AM


Shut up and take your pills (Libby Purves, Timesonline, September 18th, 2005)

We look back in patronising horror at the way previous generations treated children. We shake our heads at the misguided ways of our ancestors: babies swaddled and hung on hooks, children of all ages whipped to drive out original sin. We are horrified by tales of chimney-boys and skivvies, but equally by the abuses of richer children: beatings, the backboard, Tom Brown roasted over a fire by Flashman. Looking back, we grow smug. Look at us with our caning ban and our Children Act and our anti-bullying helplines! Aren’t we wonderful?

Yet sometimes I wonder whether future generations may not look back at our habits and shudder in their turn. One of them in particular grates on me: it is reported that prescriptions of the drug Methylphenidate — commonly sold as Ritalin — have risen sharply in a decade. Last year in England there were 359,000, the vast majority to children under 16. This is a mind-altering drug, described by its most bitter opponents as “ prescription crack”; in the United States 6 per cent of all children take it. Here it is less than 1 per cent, but rising fast: for this is the cure-all for the fairly newly defined condition of “ADHD” — attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

The amphetamine-based drug is claimed by its many adherents to improve concentration and calm children’s behaviour. Parents who use it are violently defensive of their decision. The ADHD lobby has claimed, controversially, that one in twenty children today suffers such a behavioural “disorder”. Yet it is routinely prescribed to children whose age or circumstances might just as easily explain their erratic behaviour.

In the US babies have been given the drug: here, it is more likely to be administered to a nursery or school-age child who is not interested in what his teacher says and disrupts both class and home with destructive boisterousness.

I say “his” for good reason. Most children diagnosed with ADHD are boys.

Every civilization has to confront the challenge of natural male aggression. Those on the rise sublimate it through faith, marriage, discipline and no-nonsense male supervision. Those in decline feed the beast sex and drugs..

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:19 AM


Bush Opposes Delay in Medicare Drug Benefit (Joel Havemann and Janet Hook, September 20, 2005, LA Times)

The White House on Monday ruled out a one-year delay in the Medicare prescription drug benefit as a way of offsetting some of the costs of repairing Hurricane Katrina's devastation of the Gulf Coast.

The administration's rejection of one of the chief ideas from fiscal conservatives for covering the tab for Katrina marked another example of how difficult it will be to spend billions of dollars for hurricane relief without increasing the federal deficit.

Postponing the drug benefit, which is to take effect Jan. 1, was one of the most widely discussed options on Capitol Hill to cover Katrina's costs. Two years ago, the House passed the expensive program by only 5 votes after the Republican leadership kept voting open almost three extra hours to twist the arms of the reluctant rank and file.

A senior aide to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a leader of the faction that wants to offset the costs of hurricane relief with cuts in other spending, said that McCain would support postponing the drug benefit, which he voted against in the first place.

"That drug benefit barely passed," the aide said. "No fiscal conservative could say with a straight face that was a good thing to do."

It's wise of the White House to oppose delay or repeal, in the hopes that would trick Democrats into helping repeal it just to get at the President, but even they can't be that deranged. They'd leave the GOP with the HSAs it's fought decades to win and themselves without an entitlement program.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:12 AM


Che Guevara: the killing machine (Alvaro Vargas Llosa, The New Republic, September 20th, 2005)

Che Guevara, who did so much (or was it so little?) to destroy capitalism, is now a quintessential capitalist brand. His likeness adorns mugs, hoodies, lighters, key chains, wallets, baseball caps, toques, bandanas, tank tops, club shirts, couture bags, denim jeans, herbal tea and of course those omnipresent T-shirts with the photograph, taken by Alberto Korda, of the socialist heartthrob in his beret during the early years of the revolution, as Che happened to walk into the photographer's viewfinder -- and into the image that, 38 years after his death, is still the logo of revolutionary (or is it capitalist?) chic.

Che products are marketed by big corporations and small businesses -- such as the Burlington Coat Factory, which put out a television commercial depicting a youth in fatigue pants wearing a Che T-shirt, or Flamingo's Boutique in Union City, New Jersey, whose owner responded to the fury of local Cuban exiles with this devastating argument: "I sell whatever people want to buy."

The metamorphosis of Che Guevara into a capitalist brand is not new, but the brand has been enjoying a revival of late. This windfall is owed substantially to The Motorcycle Diaries. Beautifully shot against landscapes that have clearly eluded the eroding effects of polluting capitalism, the recent film shows the young man on a voyage of self-discovery as his budding social conscience encounters social and economic exploitation. At this year's Academy Awards ceremony, Carlos Santana and Antonio Banderas performed the theme song from The Motorcycle Diaries, Santana showing up wearing a Che T-shirt and a crucifix.[...]

Che's lust for power had other ways of expressing itself besides murder. In 1958, after taking the city of Sancti Spiritus, Guevara unsuccessfully tried to impose a kind of sharia, regulating relations between men and women, the use of alcohol, and informal gambling -- a puritanism that did not exactly characterize his own way of life. He also ordered his men to rob banks, a decision that he justified in a letter to Enrique Oltuski, a subordinate, in November of that year: "The struggling masses agree to robbing banks because none of them has a penny in them." This idea of revolution as a license to re-allocate property as he saw fit led the Marxist puritan to take over the mansion of an emigrant after the triumph of the revolution.

The urge to dispossess others of their property and to claim ownership of others' territory was central to Guevara's politics of raw power. In his memoirs, the Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser recalls that Guevara asked him how many people had left his country because of land reform. When Nasser replied that no one had left, Che countered in anger that the way to measure the depth of change is by the number of people "who feel there is no place for them in the new society."

Che's obsession with collectivist control led him to collaborate on the formation of the security apparatus that was set up to subjugate 6.5 million Cubans. In early 1959, a series of secret meetings took place in Tarara, near Havana, at the mansion to which Che temporarily withdrew to recover from an illness. That is where the top leaders, including Castro, designed the Cuban police state. Guevara himself took charge of G-6, the body tasked with the ideological indoctrination of the armed forces. The U.S.-backed Bay of Pigs invasion in April 1961 became the perfect occasion to consolidate the new police state, with the rounding up of tens of thousands of Cubans and a new series of executions.

In the beginning, the revolution mobilized volunteers to build schools and to work in ports, plantations, and factories. But it was not long before volunteer work became less voluntary: The first forced labour camp, Guanahacabibes, was set up in western Cuba at the end of 1960. This is how Che explained the function performed by this method of confinement: "[We] only send to Guanahacabibes those doubtful cases where we are not sure people should go to jail ... people who have committed crimes against revolutionary morals, to a lesser or greater degree."

The herbal tea is a nice postmodern touch.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Oil hopes swell for Cairn Energy (BBC, 9/20/05)

Oil firm Cairn Energy has raised its estimates of oil at its three key Indian fields, as it unveiled a modest rise in half-year profits.

Cairn said total potential production at the Rajasthan fields was now over 150,000 barrels per day. [...]

The fields at Mangala, Bhagyam and Aishwariya have proved and probable reserves of between 514 million and 685 million barrels, the company said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Bush and the mad scientists: The administration strikes again in its infuriating war against science. (Chris Mooney, September 20, 2005, LA Times)

THE LAMENTATION in the forthcoming New England Journal of Medicine is typical of a growing genre: complaints about the misuse of science by the Bush administration. It is merely the latest jeremiad, from a group of distinguished experts, about the loss of reason by our leaders. This particular editorial, titled "A Sad Day for Science at the FDA," concerned so-called Plan B emergency contraception (the "morning after" pill), but it just as well could have been about the science of global warming or mercury pollution. [...]

[L]et's try to muster whatever's left of our outrage, because the Plan B episode truly demands it. It may represent a historic low for science-based professionalism at the FDA. And it presents an instructive case study in how the political abuse of science plays out in practice. [...]

The scientists writing in the New England Journal of Medicine agree. Although the FDA may previously have been accused of having too much bureaucracy or too close a rapport with the drug industry, they argue, it had at least "resisted political pressure to reflect a particular social policy or ideology."

But not any more — and that's the really nasty thing about the current war on science. If you can get past the complicated details, you'll see that it is undermining our government's most central mission: to serve and protect us.

When someone starts arguing for the primacy of science and reason in public policy you hardly expect to find a fine-tuned moral sense, but it's particularly monstrous to argue that a delay in making an abortifacient freely available represents a failure to "protect us." Plan B is about us, but getting rid of them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Worldview: History, Theology, Implications (Dr. David K. Naugle, Leadership U)

In the introductory remarks to his book Heretics, G. K. Chesterton writes these crucial words about the importance of worldview:

But there are some people, nevertheless — and I am one of them — who think that the most practical and important thing about a man is still his view of the universe. We think that for a landlady considering a lodger, it is important to know his income, but still more important to know his philosophy. We think that for a general about to fight an enemy, it is important to know the enemy’s numbers, but still more important to know the enemy’s philosophy. We think the question is not whether the theory of the cosmos affects matters, but whether, in the long run, anything else affects them.”

I was struck by this quote when I first read it, and I am still struck by it today. After all, what could be more important or powerful than the way individuals conceptualize reality? Is any thing more fundamental than a person’s set of presuppositions and assumptions about the basic make up of the universe? What is more significant than a human being’s foundational system of beliefs? Is there anything more profound or influential than the answers to the deeper questions that the very presence of the universe poses to us all? In agreement, then, with Gilbert Keith Chesterton, I submit that the most practical and important thing about a human being is his or her view of the universe and theory of the cosmos — that is, the content and implications of one’s worldview.

Which is why it was just to persecute Galileo--as science his ideas were rather puny things, but as worldview they are a cancer.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Silence isn't golden for Silver: Embracing conservative politics hasn't furthered Ron Silver's acting career, but it's provided different opportunities. (Maggie Farley, September 20, 2005, LA Times)

Actor Ron Silver says he has had fewer movie offers and dinner invitations since he parted political company with his Hollywood colleagues and spoke at the Republican National Convention last year.

But he is sinking his teeth into his new role: conservative activist. Today, Silver will release a documentary on DVD called "Broken Promises," a scathing criticism of what Silver considers the failures of the United Nations on its 60th anniversary. It follows on the heels of a DVD retort last year by Silver to Michael Moore called "Fahren-hype 911," carefully named so it would be placed on video store shelves right next to Moore's anti-Bush documentary, "Fahrenheit 9/11."

"Broken Promises" has at its root the betrayed vision of an idealistic youth from the Lower East Side.

-U.N. Naysayers Greet 60th Anniversary With Biting Documentary (MEGHAN CLYNE, September 7, 2005, NY Sun)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Nazi-hunter Wiesenthal dies at 96 (BBC, 9/20/05)

Holocaust survivor and Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal has died in the Austrian capital, Vienna, aged 96.

His death was announced by officials at the US-based Simon Wiesenthal Center.

He was credited with helping to bring more than 1,100 Nazi war criminals to justice in the decades following World War II.

They included Adolf Eichmann, an architect of the Holocaust, and Franz Stangl, commandant of the Treblinka and Sobibor death camps in Poland.

Mr Wiesenthal died in his sleep at his home, according to Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which campaigns against anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance.

"Simon Wiesenthal was the conscience of the Holocaust," Mr Hier said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Bush Appointee Is Arrested in Obstruction Case: He is accused of lying about his assistance to indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff while with the General Services Administration. (Walter F. Roche Jr. and Chuck Neubauer, September 20, 2005, LA Times)

A top federal procurement appointee of President Bush was arrested Monday on charges that he made false statements and obstructed a federal probe when he was questioned about a Scotland golfing junket arranged by lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

In a three-count criminal complaint made public Monday, David H. Safavian was accused of lying to an ethics officer in the General Services Administration regarding his dealings with the lobbyist, who flew him to Scotland in August 2002.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Back to Moon via 'Apollo on Steroids': NASA's $104-billion plan to revive manned lunar missions is seen as a step toward Mars trip. (Peter Pae, September 20, 2005, LA Times)

NASA unveiled a 13-year, $104-billion blueprint Monday for sending humans back to the moon as early as 2018, using a modified space shuttle rocket to propel an Apollo-like capsule into space.

Analysts said the design was decidedly retro, harking back more than three decades to the Cold War's moon race.

But they said the new design was safer and more realistic than the current space shuttle, which is scheduled to be retired in 2010 after nearly 25 years of service and two disastrous shuttle losses.

"Think Apollo on steroids," NASA Administrator Michael D. Griffin said during a news conference at the agency headquarters in Washington.

The blueprint unveiled Monday is part of a broader initiative launched by President Bush 18 months ago, in which he called for returning humans to the moon as a steppingstone to a manned mission to Mars, perhaps as early as 2020.

The new capsule, known as the crew exploration vehicle, would be significantly larger than the cramped Apollo capsule, with seating for up to six astronauts instead of three.

Due to launch in 2012, it would initially be used to resupply and transfer International Space Station crews after the shuttle is retired, NASA officials said.

We were none too quick to realize the shuttle was a dead end, huh?

September 19, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:13 PM


Protester Sheehan Presses Clinton To Withdraw Support for War (JACOB GERSHMAN, September 19, 2005, NY Sun)

War protester Cindy Sheehan came to New York last night with a blunt warning for Senator Clinton: End your support for the war in Iraq or else.

Visiting New York City for the first time since leaving her campsite outside President Bush's vacation ranch in Crawford, Texas, Ms. Sheehan told a packed audience in a Brooklyn church that Mrs. Clinton "knows the war is a lie" but because of her political ambitions refuses to voice any opposition.

Mrs. Clinton is "waiting for the best political moment to say" she opposes the war, Ms. Sheehan said during a 15-minute speech. "You say it or you're losing your job," she said, provoking a roar of approval from the audience. Mrs. Clinton, believed to be a possible presidential contender in 2008, has said she supports the war in Iraq and has pushed for a greater troop presence in the country.

In an interview after her speech, Ms. Sheehan said she has requested a meeting with Mrs. Clinton but has not gotten a reply.

How much press coverage would she get if she set up camp in Chappaqua?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:03 PM


Pope bans homosexuals
from ordination as priests
: Applicants with 'gay' tendencies won't be admitted to seminaries (, September 19, 2005)

Pope Benedict XVI has given his approval to a new Vatican policy document indicating that men with homosexual tendencies should not be ordained as Catholic priests, reports Catholic World News.

The policy statement is a direct result of the pope's concern about the pedophilia scandal in the church – especially in the U.S. [...]

The text, approved by Benedict at the end of August, says that homosexual men should not be admitted to seminaries even if they are celibate, because their condition suggests a serious personality disorder that detracts from their ability to serve as ministers, says the CWN report.

Actually, if they are celibate it would seem to demonstrate a great personal victory over their impulse to sin. But given the hysteria the media has whipped up around the very real problem it's understandable to err on the side of zero tolerance for awhile.

Posted by David Cohen at 7:23 PM


EXCLUSIVE: UP IN FLAMES: Tons of British aid donated to help Hurricane Katrina victims to be BURNED by Americans (Ryan Parry, Mirror, 9/19/05)

HUNDREDS of tons of British food aid shipped to America for starving Hurricane Katrina survivors is to be burned.

US red tape is stopping it from reaching hungry evacuees.

Instead tons of the badly needed Nato ration packs, the same as those eaten by British troops in Iraq, has been condemned as unfit for human consumption.

The government is a blunt instrument.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:11 PM


By the time Germans decide, it'll be too late (Mark Steyn, 20/09/2005, Daily Telegraph)

If you want the state of Europe in a nutshell, skip the German election coverage and consider this news item from the south of France: a fellow in Marseilles is being charged with fraud because he lived with the dead body of his mother for five years in order to continue receiving her pension of 700 euros a month.

She was 94 when she croaked, so she'd presumably been enjoying the old government cheque for a good three decades or so, but her son figured he might as well keep the money rolling in until her second century and, with her corpse tucked away under a pile of rubbish in the living room, the female telephone voice he put on for the benefit of the social services office was apparently convincing enough. As the Reuters headline put it: "Frenchman lived with dead mother to keep pension."

That's the perfect summation of Europe: welfare addiction over demographic reality.

Think of Germany as that flat in Marseilles, and Mr Schröder's government as the stiff, and the country's many state benefits as that French bloke's dead mum's benefits.

Of course, being German, they're likely to pry out the corpse's gold fillings and sell the hair on the way to Gotterdammerung.

No kids please, we're selfish: The population is shrinking, but why should I care, says Lionel Shriver. My life is far too interesting to spoil it with children (Lionel Shriver, September 17, 2005, The Guardian)

Allusion to Europe's "ageing population" in the news is now commonplace. We have more and more old people, and a dwindling number of young people to support them. Not only healthcare and pension systems but the working young will soon be overtaxed, just to keep doddering crusties like me alive. Politicians sensibly cite age structure when justifying higher rates of immigration, and not only because Europeans so fancy themselves that they refuse to clean toilets. Even if the job appealed, there are already too few of the native-born of working age to clean all those toilets.

Yet curiously little heed is paid to why the west is "ageing". Our gathering senescence is routinely discussed as an inexorable force of nature, a process beyond our control, like the shifting of tectonic plates or the ravages of a hurricane. To the contrary, age structure is profoundly within human control. Remarkably resistant to governmental manipulation, it is the sum total of millions of single, deeply private decisions by people like me and a surprisingly large number of people I know.

We're not having kids.

Western fertility started to dive in the 70s - the same era when, ironically, the likes of alarmist population guru Paul Ehrlich were predicting that we would all soon be balancing on our one square foot of earth per person, like angels on the head of a pin. Numerous factors have contributed to the Incredible Shrinking Family: the introduction of reliable contraception, the wholesale entry of women into the workforce, delayed parenthood and thus higher infertility, the fact that children no longer till your fields but expect your help in putting a downpayment on a massive mortgage.

Yet all of these contributing elements may be subsidiary to a larger transformation in western culture no less profound than our collective consensus on what life is for.

Statistics are never boring if you can see through the numbers to what they mean, so bear with me. The Total Fertility Rate (TFR) is the number of children the average woman will bear over her reproductive lifetime. The TFR required to maintain a population at its current size is 2.1. ( It takes two children to replace the mother herself and her partner; the .1 allows for the fact that, in a fraction of births, the baby will not survive.) Higher than the European average, the UK's TFR is 1.7. Yet that's well below replacement-rate, so the seven million extra Britons predicted by 2050 will almost entirely comprise immigrants and their children.

The figures on the continent are even more striking. Italy, Greece and Spain, countries once renowned for their family orientation, all have a meagre TFR of 1.3, as does Germany, where a staggering 39% of educated women are having no children whatsoever. The cumulative TFR for all of Europe is only 1.4, expected to translate into a net loss of 10% of the population by 2050, by which time eastern Europe is likely to experience a population decrease of 22%. By 2000, 17 European countries were recording more deaths than births, and without immigration their populations would already be contracting.

Elsewhere, couples still heed the Biblical admonition to be fruitful and multiply. Niger, currently suffering from famine, has the highest TFR in the world at 8.0. By 2050, Yemen - a little smaller than France - is projected to have increased its 1950 population by 24 times, exceeding the population of Russia. At 3.0 (3.5 without China), the poor nations' TFR is twice that in the wealthy west, and these countries will provide virtually all of the extra three billion people expected to visit our planet by mid-century.

As for what explains the drastic disparity between family size in the west and the rest, sure, we have readier access to contraception. But medical technology is only one piece of the puzzle. During the industrial revolution of the 19th century, fertility rates in the west plunged in a similar fashion. This so-called "demographic transition" is usually attributed to the conversion from a rural agrarian economy to an urban industrialised one, and thus to children's shift from financial asset to burden. But what is fascinating about the abrupt decrease in family size at the turn of the last century is that it was accomplished without the pill. Without caps, IUDs, spermicides, vaginal sponges, oestrogen patches or commercial condoms. Whether through abstinence, backstreet abortion, infanticide or rhythm, people who couldn't afford more children didn't have them. Therefore the increased availability of reliable contraception around 1960 no more than partially explains plummeting birth rates thereafter. The difference between Germany and Niger isn't pharmaceutical; it's cultural.

I propose that we have now experienced a second demographic transition. Rather than economics, the engine driving Europe's "birth dearth" is existential.

To be almost ridiculously sweeping: baby boomers and their offspring have shifted emphasis from the communal to the individual, from the future to the present, from virtue to personal satisfaction. Increasingly secular, we pledge allegiance to lower-case gods of our private devising. We are less concerned with leading a good life than the good life. We are less likely than our predecessors to ask ourselves whether we serve a greater social purpose; we are more likely to ask if we are happy. We shun values such as self-sacrifice and duty as the pitfalls of suckers. We give little thought to the perpetuation of lineage, culture or nation; we take our heritage for granted. We are ahistorical. We measure the value of our lives within the brackets of our own births and deaths, and don't especially care what happens once we're dead. As we age - oh, so reluctantly! - we are apt to look back on our pasts and ask not 'Did I serve family, God and country?' but 'Did I ever get to Cuba, or run a marathon? Did I take up landscape painting? Was I fat?' We will assess the success of our lives in accordance not with whether they were righteous, but with whether they were interesting and fun.

If that package sounds like one big moral step backwards, the Be Here Now mentality that has converted from 60s catchphrase to entrenched gestalt has its upside. There has to be some value to living for today, since at any given time today is all you've got. We justly cherish characters capable of fully inhabiting "the moment", of living, as a drummer might say, "in the pocket". We admire go-getters determined to pack their lives with as much various experience as time and money provide, who never stop learning, engaging, and savouring what every day offers - in contrast to dour killjoys who are resentful and begrudging as they bitterly do their duty. For the role of humble server, helpmate and facilitator no longer to constitute the sole model of womanhood surely represents progress for which I am personally grateful. Furthermore, prosperity may naturally lead any well-off citizenry to the final frontier: the self, whose borders are as narrow or infinite as we make them.

Yet the biggest social casualty of Be Here Now is children, who have converted from obligation to option, like heated seats in the car. In deciding what in times past was never a choice, we don't consider the importance of raising another generation of our own people, however we might choose to define them. The question is whether kids will make us happy.

However rewarding at times, raising children can be also hard, trying and dull, inevitably ensnaring us in those sucker-values of self-sacrifice and duty. The odds of children making you happier are surely no better than 50-50. A few years ago the New York Times published the results of a study that found the self-reported "happiness" index was lower among parents than the childless. Little wonder that so many women have taken a hard look at all those nappies, play groups, nasty plastic toys and said no thanks. [...]

Meanwhile, as the west's childless have grown more prevalent, the stigma that once attached to being "barren" falls away. Women - and men, too - are free to choose from a host of fascinating lives that may or may not involve children, and across Europe couples are opting for the latter in droves. My friends and I are decent people - or at least we treat each other well. We're interesting. We're fun. But writ large, we're an economic, cultural and moral disaster.

There has to be something wrong when spurning reproduction doesn't make Gabriella and me the "mavericks" that we'd both have fancied ourselves in our younger days, but standard issue for our age. Surely the contemporary absorption with our own lives as the be-all and end-all ultimately hails from an insidious misanthropy - a lack of faith in the whole human enterprise. In its darkest form, the growing cohort of childless couples determined to throw all their money at Being Here Now - to take that step-aerobics class, visit Tanzania, put an addition on the house while making no effort to ensure there's someone around to inherit the place when the party is over - has the quality of the mad, slightly hysterical scenes of gleeful abandon that fiction writers craft when imagining the end of the world.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:33 PM


Kurt Vonnegut's new collection offers essays that can make you laugh--and cry: a review of A Man Without a Country By Kurt Vonnegut (Ron Silverman, September 11, 2005, Chicago Tribune)

Much of what's here first appeared in various formats (essays, dialogue, even a short note to readers about his thoughts at Christmas 2004) in the left-leaning Chicago magazine In These Times, and Vonnegut sometimes seems to be preaching to the liberal choir.

He's direct in saying what he thinks about the president and his pals ("George W. Bush has gathered around him upper-crust C-students who know no history or geography, plus not-so-closeted white supremacists, . . . plus, most frighteningly, psychopathic personalities, . . . the medical term for smart, personable people who have no consciences"), Americans' dependence on oil ("We are all addicts of fossil fuels in a state of denial"), the war in Iraq, ("our leaders are now committing violent crimes to get what little is left of what we're hooked on"), the damage we've done to the environment ("we . . . have now all but destroyed this once salubrious planet as a life-support system"), and the future of our country ("there is not a chance in hell" it can become "the humane and reasonable America so many members of my generation used to dream of").

Mr. Vonnegut is an elderly man and has suffered from PTSD for sixty years now, so he can perhaps be excused such inanities, but it's kind of sad that references to Republicans as "white supremacists" is indeed straight from the Left's hymnal these days.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:26 PM


Survival of the Species? (Fox News, 9/16/05)

The federal government has given a California group permission to kill one species of owl in an attempt to save the Northern Spotted Owl from extinction, but the process has left some people in the timber industry shaking their heads.

The government recently gave the California Academy of Sciences permission to kill 20 Barred Owls in an effort to learn why they are thriving in the same forests where Spotted Owls continue to decline. [...]

But critics call favoring one species over another "playing God" instead of letting nature run its course, and argue that scientists should have factored in the so-called "enemy owl" before leaving the timber industry nearly extinct.

Fortunately it's not a matter of choosing one species over another.

Posted by David Cohen at 4:42 PM


Iraq 'recruiters' held in France (Hugh Schofield, BBC, 9/19/05)

French police have detained six men in a Paris suburb suspected of recruiting volunteers to fight against US and British forces in Iraq.

The men, who are believed to be all in their twenties, were picked up in the Seine-St Denis area of the city.

Intelligence services believe there has been a steady but limited movement of Islamic militants from France to Iraq over the last year and a half.

Posted by David Cohen at 4:20 PM


Iraq Suicide Bombers Say Al-Qaida Forced Them: Medical Evidence Indicates Man Telling Truth (AP, 9/19/05)

A suicide bomber captured before he could blow himself up in a Shiite mosque claimed he was kidnapped, beaten and drugged by insurgents who forced him to take on the mission. The U.S. military said its medical tests indicated the man was telling the truth.

Mohammed Ali, who claimed to be Saudi-born and appeared to be in his 20s, said he managed to flee after another suicide attacker set off his bomb, killing at least 12 worshippers Friday as they left a mosque in the northern city of Tuz Khormato.

In confession broadcast on state television later that day, Ali told Iraqi interrogators he did not want to bomb the mosque and hoped to go home. . . .

Ali said insurgents kidnapped him from a field near his home earlier this month, then drugged and beat him.

His story was similar to those recounted by other captured militants. The captives routinely claim they were either coerced or fooled by insurgent leaders who promised them a role in the holy war against the U.S. military, only to find themselves as would-be suicide bombers sent to attack civilians.

No modern example better illustrates the power of the Big Lie than the left's shameful pretense that we are losing an ignoble war.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:04 PM


Specter seeks another Roberts-like nominee (HOPE YEN, September 19, 2005, AP)

With Roberts' rise from appeal courts to the high court all but assured, Bush has begun early consultations on filling the vacancy created by retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

Bush plans to meet on Wednesday with Specter, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee.

Leahy, appearing with Specter on CBS' "Face the Nation," said he expects to hear specific names from the president at the White House breakfast meeting.

Possible replacements include federal appellate judges Edith Clement, Edith Hollan Jones and Emilio Garza. Also mentioned have been judges J. Michael Luttig, Samuel A. Alito Jr., James Harvie Wilkinson III and Michael McConnell, lawyer Miguel Estrada, former deputy attorney general Larry Thompson and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

"I would hope that we could see the court have less 5-4 decisions and speak with more clarity," Leahy said.

If Justices Stevens and Ginsburg were to leave we'd get a lot of 7-2s.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 3:59 PM


Danes take care of disabled to new level (National Post, September 18th, 2005)

Danish activists for the disabled are staunchly defending a government campaign that pays sex workers to provide sex once a month for disabled people.

Opposition parties call the program, officially known as ''Sex, irrespective of disability,'' immoral.

''We spend a large proportion of our taxes rescuing women from prostitution. But at the same time we officially encourage carers to help contact with prostitutes,'' said Social-Democrat spokesperson Kristen Brosboel.

Responded Stig Langvad of the country's Disabled Association: ''The disabled must have the same possibilities as other people. Politicians can debate whether prostitution should be allowed in general, instead of preventing only the disabled from having access to it.''

As this flows perfectly logically from the principles that sex is a necessity and the state must ensure equal access to necessities, the decision was no doubt an easy one, but it would have been fun to sit in when they were arguing about frequency.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:42 PM


IPod people, this culture isn't alien (Chris Pasles, September 18, 2005, LA Times)

THE Naxos record label has joined politicians, talk radio hosts and broadcast evangelists in reaching out to people through podcasts — audio programs that can be pulled off the Internet and downloaded onto an iPod for listening to at one's leisure. The label has five free mini-documentaries on classical music already available, and more are on the way.

"They're not really sales pieces," says Naxos spokesman Raymond Bisha, who writes, narrates and produces the 'casts. "We designed them to help people get involved, learn about and appreciate classical music. It gets kids thinking about classical music too, using a medium that younger people are tuned in to."

Topics include composers William Boyce, Benjamin Britten, Peter Boyer and Thomas Tallis, plus a talk on some little-known timpani concertos. Each podcast lasts about 20 minutes and includes history and music. [...]

Streaming versions can be accessed by going to and clicking on "podcasts." For downloadable versions, go through the iTunes Music Store.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:38 PM


Roberts's qualities (Boston Globe, September 19, 2005)

BARRING THE revelation of an outrageous scandal, Judge John Roberts is about to become the next chief justice of the United States, and based on his testimony last week, he deserves to be confirmed. In the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, Roberts called himself a ''modest judge" and appeared smart and even-tempered.

Editorial: Confirm Roberts/'I am not an ideologue' (Minneapolis Star-Tribune, September 16, 2005)
This week's Senate Judiciary Committee hearings have been fascinating on several fronts, not the least for their jab-and-parry-exchanges between senators and Supreme Court nominee John Roberts. Whether you liken the proceedings to a fencing match or a "subtle minuet," as did Chairman Arlen Specter, they ultimately -- if messily, and sometimes testily -- accomplished their purpose. They showed that Roberts is both qualified and fit to serve as chief justice of the United States. Barring any last-minute bombshells, the Senate should confirm his nomination.

The merely liberal media isn't leaving the Democrats much wiggle room on the Roberts bote.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:02 PM


Guerrilla Negotiating: The North Korea talks are in trouble—and this time we can't blame George Bush. (Fred Kaplan, Sept. 16, 2005, Slate)

The North Korean nuclear talks may be headed toward a collapse, and this time anyway, it isn't George W. Bush's fault.

What's the problem? And can anything be done to solve it? [...]

Clinton's emissaries had to sit through 50 negotiating sessions to hammer out the Agreed Framework. Bush's will have to endure the same, if not more. As the North Koreans realize, Bush has no good alternatives to talking. His advisers have long deemed a military attack as too risky. The U.N. Security Council is unlikely to approve sanctions, as certainly China and probably Russia would veto such a move.

The danger—not just for us but for the North Koreans as well—is that Kim and his emissaries will hold out for too long. "They're terrible judges of timing," Pritchard said.

Nearly as bas as Mr. Kaplan, though, in fairness, predicting the behavior of a psychotic isn't always easy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:33 PM

JUST BAN ALL THINGS FRENCH (via Robert Schwartz):

A Chicago Alderman's Proposal to Ban Foie Gras Stirs Up a Debate (GRETCHEN RUETHLING, 9/14/05, NY Times)

This city is considering a proposal to trim fatty goose and duck livers from the menus of Chicago restaurants, stirring debate over whether it has a right to tell people what they can put on their plates.

"Our laws are a reflection of our culture," said Joe Moore, an alderman who has proposed banning the sale of foie gras in the city, as he addressed the council's health committee on Tuesday. "Our culture does not condone the torture of innocent and defenseless creatures. And we as a society believe all God's creatures should be treated humanely."

Foie gras, which means "fatty liver" in French and is most commonly served in upscale restaurants, is produced by force-feeding grain to ducks and geese several times a day through a pipe that is inserted in their throats, causing their livers to expand up to 10 times their normal size within weeks.

Mr. Moore's sentiments are noble and on the day after Chicago bans abortion and euthanasia within the city limits it should take up the treatment of geese.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:17 PM


Democrats stray: Vulture who resembles a sparrow leads party to the extreme fringe (Paul Jackson, 9/18/05, Calgary Sun)

It would be hard to find a nastier piece of political work than Nancy Pelosi, the shrieking Democratic leader in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Which is saying something considering failed Chappaquiddick lifeguard Teddy Kennedy is still haunting the halls of Washington preaching high morality to one and all. [...]

Surely a lot of Democrats are bitter because they have lost seven of the past 10 presidential elections.

Yet, for that, they do not blame their own policies or off-the-wall personalities. No, they just think the mass of rank-and-file voters who cast ballots for the Republicans are dumb. They need to be educated. How's that for arrogance?

Pelosi claims Bush is "in denial" about what his policies are doing to the United States.

That, economically the U.S. under Bush has created a staggering two-million new jobs over the past 12 months alone escapes the likes of Pelosi, Dean, Kennedy and others of their raucous ilk who see nothing but despair and depression coming out of the Bush White House.

Real Estate Moms: Are they the new swing voters? (MICHAEL BARONE, September 18, 2005, Opinion Journal)
Last weekend I, like so many of my neighbors, went into the house two doors down from me and looked around. It was the first weekend the property was on the market, and we were curious about how much the sellers were asking--and whether they'd get it. I won't tell you the number, but it was higher than what similar houses had gone for in the neighborhood just last year, and much higher than any of us would have imagined five years ago. Many readers will have had similar experiences. I started thinking . . . what might this mean politically?

In the 1990s, we in the political commentariat talked a lot about Soccer Moms, the group targeted so successfully by Bill Clinton in 1996--women who wanted their children protected and nurtured, who favored Mr. Clinton's education and V-chip and family-leave programs. And in the past few years we've talked a lot about Security Moms, who seem to have voted for George W. Bush in 2004--women who want their families protected against terrorists. I now have another group we should talk about, and probably should have been talking about all along--Real Estate Moms, women who have seen their families' net worth climb thanks to rising home prices.

We were forced to violate all kinds of rules this weekend take the youngest to A Day Out With Thomas at Edaville Railroad--speaking purely anecdotally; if this is what the Depression looked like it's no wonder they were all singing "Happy Days are Here Again."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:06 AM


Reconstruction tab poses risks: Spending likely to spur economy but swell deficit (William Neikirk, September 18, 2005, Chicago Tribune)

In fiscal 2006, the deficit could reach $400 billion once again as a result of Katrina spending, said Robert Reischauer, head of the Urban Institute and a former director of the Congressional Budget Office. After that, he said, federal money going to New Orleans will begin to taper off and reduce pressure on the deficit.

But Riedl said he expects the deficit to take a leap in the next few years, rising to a record $500billion in 2008. He cited the cost of repealing the alternative minimum tax, a levy that will increasingly hit middle-class Americans, along with paying for new spending already built into the budget, such as the Medicare prescription drug program and the Iraq war. The continuing conflict and rebuilding costs in Iraq eventually will total $300 billion to $600 billion, he predicted.

Relatively speaking, Bush isn't the biggest-spending president since World War II. The deficit totaled 7.2 percent of gross domestic product in 1946 under Harry Truman and 6 percent in 1983 under Ronald Reagan.

The red ink is 2.7 percent of GDP this year and could rise to 3.5 percent next year, Riedl said. Bush's budget this year totals about 20 percent of GDP, compared with Reagan's 23.5 percent in 1983, the highest percentage since World War II.

And what did the free-spending Ronald Reagan give us other than the end of the Cold War and twenty plus years of economic growth?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:18 AM


The real line dividing cultures (Henry Fountain, 9/18/05, The New York Times)

There are...cultural differences in how people behave while in line, according to social scientists and park designers. Those differences have even led to physical changes in so-called queuing areas at some parks.

Rongrong Zhou, an assistant professor of marketing at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, who has studied the psychology of queuing in Hong Kong, although not at theme parks, said the differences went beyond a Hong Kong-mainland split.

Zhou said there was a tendency among Asians and others in more collective cultures to compare their situation with those around them.

This may make it more likely that they will remain in a line even if it is excessively long.

Zhou said this finding was rooted in a somewhat paradoxical observation: that it is the people behind a person in line, rather than in front, that determine the person's behavior.

"The likelihood of people giving up and leaving the queue is lower when they see more people behind them," Zhou said. "You feel like you are in a better position than the others behind you."

By contrast, she said, Americans and others in more individualistic societies make fewer "social comparisons" of this sort. They do not necessarily feel better that more people are behind them, and dislike having too many people in front of them. Lines in these cultures tend to be self-limiting.

In a place like Hong Kong, however, the lines may just grow and grow. "The longer the line, people think the service is more worthwhile to get," Zhou said.

The most insidious attack Ronald Reagan made on the Soviet Union was to make it a regular butt of his jokes--jokes borrowed from the people of the USSR themselves. One that's apropos:

Slava resignedly gets in a bread line that stretches around the block, but, two hours later, just as he gets to the front, they run out of bed.

He walks down the street and gets on an equally long toilet paper line, but once again they run out after he's waited two hours and it's about to be his turn.

So he goes down the street and stands in fron of the next door he comes to. Soon there's a line stretching around the block behind him. When the door remains closed the guy in back of him asks what's being sold there. Slava says, "Nothing. I just wanted to be first in line for once."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:49 AM


Little Violence as Afghans Cast Votes: Turnout in the parliamentary poll appears strong, but less than October's balloting for president. A huge security force is in place. (Paul Watson, September 19, 2005, LA Times)

Afghan voters defied insurgent threats and elected their parliament for the first time in more than three decades Sunday as a massive security operation foiled Taliban attempts to disrupt the poll.

There were 19 attacks across the country, but they were "very minor," said Peter Erben, chief electoral officer. Three voters were injured in different incidents in the eastern province of Kunar, he said. [...]

In Sunday's vote, Afghans elected 249 members of the National Assembly's lower house, called the Wolesi Jirga, or House of the People. They also cast ballots for 34 provincial councils. Election workers are set to start counting ballots Tuesday, and final results are not expected for at least two weeks.

It was the first time Afghans had elected the lower house of their National Assembly in 36 years, and only the third parliamentary election since 1964, when the Afghan king introduced democratic reforms.

"We are making history," Karzai said as he cast his ballot. "It's the day of self-determination for the Afghan people. After 30 years of wars, interventions, occupations and misery, today Afghanistan is moving forward, making an economy, making political institutions."

Despite the Left's apparent hopes that they'll fail, just so W gets his comeuppance.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:41 AM


German vote deadlock hits markets: Investors have expressed dismay at the inconclusive outcome to Germany's general election, sending the euro and share prices lower on Monday. (BBC, 9/19/05)

Economists believe sweeping reforms are needed to tackle Germany's economic problems and that Sunday's result - in which the opposition Christian Democrats (CDU) secured three more seats than the Social Democrats - has not provided a clear mandate for change.

"The hopes were not high for a clear winner based on polls last week but the poor showing of the CDU suggests the German people were against further pro-business reforms," said Greg Gibbs, an analyst at Royal Bank of Canada.

Combined with the "no" votes on the EU constitution it demonstrates how little interest continental Western Europe has in the reforms everyone recognizes it needs if it is to have much of a future.

Electorate puts off hard decisions (Judy Dempsey, 9/18/05, International Herald Tribune )

As an east German who spent 36 years living in a Communist-run centralized economy, Merkel had felt the deep urge to redefine the role of the state in a united Germany. For some Germans, even inside her own Christian Democratic Union party, it was too much and too soon.

Gero Neugebauer, a political scientist at the Otto-Suhr-Institute in Berlin, said, in discussing Merkel's pro-market stance, that she "is more suited for a really liberal party which does not exist in Germany. She is too liberal for the Christian Democrats. There is a deep social element, indeed almost social democratic in character, which is inside the Christian Democrats and its sister party in Bavaria, the Christian Social Union."

"The Christian Democrats are not ready for reforms," Neugebauer said. "Perhaps the Germans are not ready for them either."

During the election campaign, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and Joschka Fischer, a Greens leader and foreign minister in Schröder's coalition, had played on the public's fears of reforms.

"The voters rejected the cold, asocial policies of Merkel," Fischer said Sunday night. "They did not want a government that would introduce such policies that were unsocial and would not protect the environment."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:34 AM


N Korea to 'give up nuclear aims' (BBC, 9/18/05)

North Korea has agreed to give up all nuclear activities and rejoin the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, in a move diplomats called a breakthrough.

In return, the US said it had no intention of attacking the North, which was also promised aid and electricity. [...]

Mohammad El-Baradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] also welcomed the development, saying that UN inspectors should return to North Korea as soon as possible.

"The earlier we go back the better," he said.

The chief US negotiator at the talks, Christopher Hill, praised the development as a "win-win situation", adding: "We have to seize the momentum of this."

But he promptly urged Pyongyang to end operations at its main nuclear facility at Yongbyon.

"The time to turn it off would be about now," Mr Hill said.

Even the NorKs have served to isolate Iran.

West steps up pressure over Iran (BBC, 9/19/05)

Western nations are expected to press for a tough line on Iran at a meeting of the UN's nuclear watchdog in Vienna.

The US and the EU want Iran to be referred to the UN Security Council, following its decision to resume the conversion of uranium for nuclear fuel.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:28 AM


Schumer is no match for Roberts (ROBERT NOVAK, September 19, 2005, Chicago Sun-Times)

Democratic Senators Charles Schumer of New York and Dianne Feinstein of California had tried to hide their frustration while questioning Judge John G. Roberts Jr. for the second time last week. But once the confirmation hearing ended, they betrayed their emotions in the confines of a Russell Senate Office Building elevator, oblivious to who was overhearing them. The two senators bitterly complained that Roberts simply was not answering their questions.

Feinstein sounded like a sympathetic sidekick, but this was more serious for Schumer -- a crushing defeat in his campaign to establish a new standard for confirmation of Supreme Court nominees. Ever since President Bush's election, Schumer has been planning how to force nominees to take broad policy positions. In his elevator conversation with Feinstein, Schumer grumbled that Roberts was getting away with incorrectly claiming he was following precedent set by liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her confirmation hearing (though in private conversation last week, Ginsburg disagreed with Schumer).

Schumer may be the Senate Judiciary Committee's best lawyer, but Roberts is an even better one. "If this were a fight, the referee would have stopped it," Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham told me in assessing the Schumer vs. Roberts confrontation. Beyond their legal duel, the outcome should set a new standard for Supreme Court confirmations. It is unlikely any future nominee can be drawn into an inquest of their policy positions.

If Mr. Schumer, [regarded as one of the biggest blowhards in the Senate], is really the sharpest knife in their drawer it's no wonder they ended up with it stuck in their own backs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:59 AM

NO CARD, NO VOTE (via Robert Schwartz):

Election Overhaul Is Urged: Politicians should give up voting oversight to nonpartisan pros, a bipartisan panel says. (James Gerstenzang, September 19, 2005, LA Times)

In a report to be presented today to President Bush and congressional leaders, former President Carter and former Secretary of State James A. Baker III are recommending a widespread overhaul of election practices to make it easier for Americans to vote and to guarantee that their votes are counted.

Seeking to overcome the flaws that brought election turmoil to Florida in 2000 and to Ohio last year — and that cast doubt on the outcome nationally — they are calling for election oversight to be removed from politicians and given to nonpartisan election professionals. [...]

After Carter and Baker present the 91-page report to Bush and then to Congress, it will be posted at . The two men hope that some of their goals can be achieved before the 2008 presidential election.

"The American people are losing confidence in the system, and they want electoral reform," Carter said in a statement accompanying the report. He said the changes the commission had proposed "represent the best path toward modernizing our electoral system."

Baker said he hoped the report would "help transform the sterile debate between Democrats and Republicans on election reform issues and provide the impetus for our federal and state leaders to take action now, when we still have plenty of time before our next presidential election."

Baker played a central role for Bush during the Florida vote recount in 2000, building the Supreme Court case that stopped the tally with Bush leading by 537 votes.

If the states adopt the recommendation that nonpartisan officials run elections, the process would be removed from offices such as that led in 2000 by then-Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, who was at the same time a co-chair of Bush's Florida campaign. [...]

Among the commission's other recommendations:

• Establishment of a "universal voting registration system." States, rather than local jurisdictions, would be responsible for the accuracy of voter lists. State lists should be interchangeable so that "people would need to register only once in their lifetime, and it would be easy to update their registration information when they move."

• A greater role for states in registering potential voters. In addition, states should make it easier for ex-felons who have met their sentencing and parole requirements to register to vote, with the exception of registered sex offenders.

• Implementation of a uniformly accepted photo identification system to ensure that a would-be voter is the person on a voting list. States should establish more offices, including mobile facilities, to make it easier for non-drivers to register and receive photo IDs.

The report reflects the tensions among Democrats, Republicans, civil liberties groups and others interested in the election system. For instance, civil libertarians have expressed concern that a voter registration card could lead to establishment of a national ID card. But the panel contends that discrimination against minorities could be reduced if poll workers were not permitted to apply a variety of standards and were instead required to recognize one card.

Creating a new election bureaucracy would be a mistake, but requiring the presentation of a national identity photo card in order to vote makes good sense.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:49 AM


Prochoice, out of touch (Joan Vennochi, September 18, 2005, Boston Globe)

HELLO, NARAL? It is getting easier to ignore you. The same is true of Planned Parenthood.

These abortion rights advocates have not adjusted their tone or message to 21st century political realities.

First obvious reality: George W. Bush, not John Kerry, won the last presidential election.

With Bush in the White House, the best-case scenario for abortion rights supporters is a Supreme Court justice who agrees, at minimum, that there is a constitutionally protected right to privacy. That is the underpinning of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision, which extended the privacy right to abortion.

During last week's confirmation hearings, John Roberts said there is such a privacy right. It is also true that Roberts refused to state whether he believes that privacy right specifically includes a woman's right to abortion. But did NARAL Pro-Choice America or Planned Parenthood Federation of America really expect a Bush nominee to do that? Again, they got the best they could expect. Regarding Roe, Roberts said, ''It's settled as a precedent of the court, entitled to respect under principles of stare decisis" (Latin for ''to stand by that which is decided").

Next political reality: Respect for precedent is not an absolute commitment to it. With conservatives controlling all three branches of government, expect greater restrictions on abortion at the national level. That makes every state an important battleground. Electing prochoice legislators and governors becomes vitally important to protecting a woman's right to an abortion. Access to abortion can end up being an accident of geography.

But the biggest political reality is how much the abortion conversation is changing on the pro-choice side -- and how little prochoice groups like NARAL and Planned Parenthood seem to understand the change and the challenge.

The right-to-lifers contend they have God on their side. Minus a deity, the left needs something. How about reason and logic, the opposite of hysteria?

She's quite right that reason and logic are the opposite of God's side.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:44 AM


Tax cuts key to sustained economic growth (CHRISTOPHER LINGLE, 9/19/05, The Japan Times)

Political officials around the world, even in European welfare states, have discovered that offering tax cuts are not just a vote winner that can swing the outcome of an election. They are also a good way to spark sustained economic growth. So it is not surprising that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has pledged to reduce both corporate and personal taxes to encourage increased investment in Indonesia.

Clearly he is looking beyond the bogus claim that cutting taxes benefits only the rich. Perhaps he and his advisers were impressed by the experience of other countries. For example, several economies that had veered far off their long-term growth paths during the early 1980s were revived by reductions in the marginal tax rate (amount of tax imposed on an additional unit of income).

For example, Turkey reduced its minimum marginal tax rates from 40 to 25 percent and the maximum from 75 to 50 percent in 1983 to 1984. Real economic growth was about 7 percent over the following four years and rose to 9 percent in 1990.

South Korea cut tax rates and expanded deductions three times, sparking a surge in economic growth that averaged 9.3 percent a year from 1981 to 1989. More recently, Ireland became known as the "Celtic Tiger" after a round of tax cuts.

And then there is the U.S. experience with cutting marginal income-tax rates in 1981 and in 1986. These sparked nearly two decades of relatively high growth into the late 1990s, interrupted only by a mild recession in 1990-91.

And the 90-91 slowdown -- despite coming at the historically difficult point when an economy transitions off of a war footing -- turns out to have been so mild it won't even qualify as a recession.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:42 AM


Flawless Roberts holding Dems scoreless (Mark Steyn, 9/19/05, Jewish World Review)

Ever since prolonged attendance at "the world's greatest deliberative body" during the Clinton impeachment trial, my general line on the U.S. Senate has been to commend the example of New Zealand: They had a Senate, and they abolished it.

But, until that blessed day, I'd have been quite content for the John Roberts confirmation hearings to go on for another six months, couple of years, half a decade, until the last registered Democrat on the planet expired in embarrassment at the sheer maudlin drivel of it all. It was obvious on the first day about 20 minutes in — i.e., about halfway through Joe Biden's first question — that the Democrats had nothing on Roberts. But they're game guys and, like the fellow in a tight spot in a caper movie, they stuck their right hands in their pockets, pointed them through the material and pretended they had a real gun in there. By the second day, their pants had fallen down, but they bravely stood there waggling their fingers at the nominee and insisting they had enough firepower to blow his head off.

One wishes only that the GOP had enough sense to just stop asking questions of their own while Mr. Roberts was administering that ritual drubbing to the Committee's Democrats.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:21 AM


Roberts vote holds risks for Democrats: Strategists weigh political message, fallout for '08 race (Nina J. Easton and Rick Klein, September 19, 2005, Boston Globe)

The decision on whether to support Judge John G. Roberts Jr.'s nomination to the Supreme Court could be a defining moment for the Democratic Party, as strategists have begun weighing the political risks either of alienating the party's liberal base by supporting a conservative nominee, or of leaving the party open to attack for opposing a nominee solely on ideological grounds.

As Democratic senators began weighing their decisions this weekend, many party strategists looking to the potential fallout for the 2006 midterm elections and the 2008 presidential election are counseling lawmakers to cast a ''no" vote.

''If you're running for president and you vote for this guy, you're going to come to regret it," said Paul Begala, the party strategist and commentator.

Sadly for the Democrats, keeping their base happy only estranges them from the bulk of the country.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:09 AM

SILENT, BUT DEADLY? (via Robert Schwartz):

Tremors may mean 'Big One' on its way (MARK HUME, September 14, 2005, Globe and Mail)

A silent tectonic event, so powerful it has shifted southern Vancouver Island out to sea, but so subtle nobody has felt a thing, is slowly unfolding on the West Coast.Scientists who are tracking the event with sensitive seismographs and earth orbiting satellites warn it could be a trigger for a massive earthquake -- some time, maybe soon. But they are quick to add that the imperceptible tremors emanating from deep beneath the surface are sending signals scientists are not yet able to comprehend fully and "the Big One" might yet be 200 years off. What they do know is that the earth is moving this week on the West Coast as two massive tectonic plates slip past each other.

"Southern Vancouver Island is sort of sliding towards the west right now. We're moving towards Japan," said John Cassidy, a seismologist with Natural Resource Canada at the Pacific Geoscience Centre near Sidney, B.C. "It's a very small amount. We've moved about three millimetres to the west over the past couple of days."

The event, known as an episodic tremor and slip, is a predictable, cyclical phenomenon that is adding pressure to a zone where the Juan de Fuca Plate and the North American Plate are locked, just off Vancouver Island. While the two plates are slipping in some areas, in another they remained locked. That locked zone is where the next megathrust earthquake is expected to come from when it suddenly releases. Mr. Cassidy said a slip event occurs every 14 months, and when it does, scientists believe the chance of an earthquake the size that triggered the Asia tsunamis increases. One researcher has likened the event to going up a step on a staircase, at the top of which sits a megathrust earthquake. But nobody knows where the top is or where we are on the staircase.

The geological record on the West Coast has shown that megathrust earthquakes occur roughly once every 500 years. The last one struck on Jan. 26, 1700, which leaves a window of possibility 200 years wide.

"We know there will be another megathrust earthquake, but we don't know when," Mr. Cassidy said.

But everyone's prepared, right?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Kurds dream of real power (Sami Moubayed, 9/20/05, Asia Times)

Kurds living in countries such as Syria,Turkey and Iran now dare to dream as they observe the new-found privileges their brothers in Iraq now enjoy. But theirs is a much harder battle.

It took an American invasion of Iraq to open the door to the freedoms now enjoyed by Kurds in that country. Their fellow Kurds face other unique obstacles and circumstances in the countries they live in. And though they see Iraqi Kurds as their benchmark to greater freedom, they all have different views of how their futures might look. Whatever autonomy they envision in the short term, most see such freedoms as a stepping stone to a real Kurdistan.

The Kurds of Syria have long complained that many of them were deprived of their citizenship in a controversial census conducted by the pre-Ba'ath regime of president Nazim al-Qudsi in 1962. Since then, Syrian Kurds have been demanding citizenship, rather than autonomy like their brothers in Iraq. In March 2004, wanting to make their voice heard, they rioted throughout Syria, vandalizing private and public property.

Support for Kurdish self-determination in Syria is an easy way to turn the screws on the regime.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Mayor rekindles tensions between Detroit and suburbs (AP, 9/19/05)

Facing a tough re-election fight, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick last week fed the long-standing rivalry between the city and its suburbs.

The mayor singled out two school districts in neighboring Oakland County as having higher rates of drug use than Detroit's.

"In Birmingham and Bloomfield Hills and all these places, they do more meth, they do more Ecstasy and they do more acid than all the schools in the city of Detroit put together," Kilpatrick said Thursday during the first of three planned debates with challenger Freman Hendrix.

County and school district officials lashed out at the mayor Friday, saying the statement was irresponsible, and requested a public apology.

"Those comments insulted the residents of Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, insulted the students and impugned the reputation of two of our finest, exemplary school districts," said Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson.

Patterson said Kilpatrick's comments were reminiscent of longtime Detroit Mayor Coleman Young, whom Patterson said refused to develop any kind of relationship with the surrounding communities.

In his January 1974 inaugural speech, Young enraged suburban officials when he encouraged the city's criminals to "hit Eight Mile Road" and leave the city by way of the suburbs. Eight Mile Road is the dividing line between predominantly black and low-income Detroit and its largely white and affluent northern suburbs.

Unfortunately it takes a disaster for us to disperse an inner city underclass.

MORE (via Robert Schwartz):
GULF COAST CRISIS: A FRESH START: Evacuees see a new land of opportunity in Houston (Deborah Horan, September 18, 2005, Chicago Tribune)

Robert Washington, a hefty construction worker with a do-rag covering his hair, earned a decent wage in New Orleans, often as much as $10 an hour. Problem was, there wasn't always work, sometimes not for weeks.

So when the flood unleashed by Hurricane Katrina washed away almost everything he owned, Washington, 29, decided to view the destruction as an opportunity in disguise, a chance to escape the grinding poverty that lurked beyond the jazz bars of Bourbon Street.

It may not have been the ideal way to make a fresh start--on a borrowed boat with few belongings as the floodwaters rose--but Washington figures Houston, where he was later bused with thousands of other evacuees, just might turn out to be a better place to be.

"Hopefully I can get ahead here," Washington said in a tent outside Houston's Astrodome last week, where he was filling out an employment application. "They got better jobs, better pay rates, more opportunity. I figure I'll find more work out here."

Around him, other hurricane survivors talked about finding hope in Houston and getting a chance to break free from the poverty that trapped them in New Orleans.

They had been truck drivers, restaurant workers and hotel managers before the storm forced them out of their homes.

"I think God used this [storm] as a setup for many of us to turn things around," said Eddie Walker, 25, a bespectacled hotel parking manager who was laid off from his job two weeks before the hurricane hit. Exhausted and traumatized, he hoped to find work at a hotel in Houston.

And Walker was far from alone.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


OPEC May Lift Quotas (Stephen Voss and James Cordahi, September 19, 2005, Bloomberg News)

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries may agree to offer customers every barrel of oil that members can produce, effectively suspending the group's quota system.

OPEC has 2 million barrels of production capacity idle, Sheikh Ahmad Fahd Sabah, the OPEC president and Kuwaiti oil minister, said in Vienna, where OPEC meets today. [...]

The oil ministers for the United Arab Emirates, Mohamed bin Dhaen Hamli, and Venezuela, Rafael Ramirez, said such a decision may not lead to lower gasoline prices because of bottlenecks in the refining system.

OPEC today will start its two-day meeting to deliberate an increase in the official output ceiling, now at 28 million barrels a day for the members outside of Iraq. Those members produced 28.55 million barrels a day last month.

"The market is very well supplied," the United Arab Emirates' Hamli said.

...but it might have some good psychological effect.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Many gas guzzlers are gathering dust (Don Aucoin, September 19, 2005, Boston Globe)

In May, Holly Kennedy bought an SUV. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

That very month, gasoline prices started to climb. And climb. And climb some more. By July, it was costing Kennedy $70 a week to fill her tank. Something had to give. So Kennedy parked her SUV and clambered aboard her mountain bike each day for her 10-mile commute from her Arlington home to the Burlington software company where she works. Even though her commute time lengthened from 15 minutes one way to 40, she found herself wishing she had tried the two-wheeled approach a lot sooner.

''It gives you time to unwind on the way home, and it gives you time to wake up on the way to work," she said. [...]

Of course, if you live in a suburb and work in a suburb, as many do in high-tech Massachusetts, mass transit can be an elusive option. That's where 24-year-old Matt Severance finds himself. Each day, he drives 45 miles from his home in Northborough to his job at Putnam Investments in Andover.

''I'm dropping 60 bucks a week just driving to work, not to mention going other places, which brings it to 85 bucks a week," said Severance. ''It's definitely hurting my bank account. You're spending an hour or two in a car, which is depressing enough. And then to pay through the nose for gas."

He is considering carpooling with a co-worker who lives in Uxbridge.

Darwinism may be false as regards evolution, but it remains true in the science that he borrowed it from, economics.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


By Hook or by Crook, Surviving Storm: Miss. Officials Used Ingenuity -- and the Occasional Misdeed -- to Get Job Done (Sally Jenkins, 9/19/05, Washington Post)

Hurricane Katrina has transformed Mississippi's mayors into car thieves, and senators into blockade runners. Isolated by the initial hit of the storm and failed by the slow federal response, citizens have fended for themselves in some original and not entirely legal ways. Brent Warr, the Republican mayor of Gulfport, even ordered his police chief to hot-wire a truck.

"When you send your law enforcement out to steal things, that's when you know you're in a different situation," Warr says.

In Gulfport, Warr did everything by the book, right up until he started stealing. His force of 225 police officers and 190 firefighters stayed on the job in 24-hour shifts. Fire Chief Pat Sullivan went into the storm to cut away felled trees from the roads leading to the hospitals. In the city's sea-blue antebellum City Hall, Warr worked without power.

But Gulfport was still without help three days after the storm, and Warr's control over the situation was slipping. Looting broke out downtown. When Warr drove a utility vehicle down U.S. 90, he watched as his longtime family business, Warr's Men's Clothing, was ransacked.

Worst of all, the city was running out of fuel. Generators were about to fail, rescue vehicles were running out of gas. One local hospital radioed that it was on backup power and had no water, and that looters were circling.

Warr turned to his chief of police, Stephen T. Barnes. There was a private fuel transport vehicle -- Warr doesn't remember whose -- parked in a lot behind a chain-link fence. Warr had the lock cut. "Can we hot-wire it?" he asked.

Barnes said, "I wasn't cut out to be a crook; that's why I went into law enforcement."

"Well, can we get someone from the jail to do it?" Warr asked.

Thirty minutes later, the truck was sitting in the City Hall parking lot. That was just one episode in Warr's life of petty crime over the past three weeks. long as you're successful, everything is justified in retrospect.

September 18, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:59 PM


WAITING FOR THE MAHDI, Part 1: Sistani.Qom: In the wired heart of Shi'ism (Pepe Escobar, 8/31/05, Asia Times)

Secular voices in Tehran are adamant: Ninety percent of the political power in Iran is in Qom. One may be tempted to add that at least 70% of the political power in Iraq is also situated in Qom.

It's only a small room, one of its walls plastered with blue cabinet files containing e-mail printouts from all over the world. Behind a glass wall, five youngsters scan documents non-stop. Appearances are deceptive.

This is the room housing, arguably the nerve center of Shi'ite Islam today, run by a soft-spoken, scholarly looking man, Ali Shabestari. Some grand ayatollahs may be grander than others. Since the war, invasion and occupation of Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani - based in Najaf, 160 kilometers south of Baghdad, but born in Sistan-Balochistan province in Iran - has become the paramount voice of Shi'ism. The victory of the Shi'ite-led coalition in the January elections in Iraq was basically a Sistani victory. Most of his closest aides are based in Qom, in Central Iran about 200 kilometers south of Tehran. Sistani's unquestioned moral authority has put the limelight on nothing less than a silent battle for the core of the Shi'ite soul. [...]

The figure of the marja'a - a source of imitation by the faithful - is at the center of Shi'ism. The marja'a represents Imam al-Mahdi, the hidden Imam who will reappear one day to save mankind. Marja'as are also at the center of the barely disguised rivalry between the holy cities of Najaf in Iraq and Qom in Iran. Zadeh says that previously Najaf was the center "because there were more marja'as. Under repression by Saddam Hussein, most of them migrated to Qom, and now they are mostly here. Imams predicted in books that the center [of the Shi'ite faith] would move to Qom."

According to Zadeh, there are now eight marja'as, all of them grand ayatollahs. Only Sistani is based in Iraq, in Najaf. The others are Khamenei, Makaram Shirazi, Fazel Lankarani, Tabrizi; Bahjat, Safi Golpaygani, and Shirazi. All the Iranians are close followers of the late Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, father of the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979. Zadeh adds that "in each time there is a supreme marja'a. Now it is Ayatollah Khamenei." But who were they before Khomeini? Zadeh points to a list of all marja'as since the 7th century.

Zadeh says, "All marja'as have a duty to establish an Islamic government. And this government should be established according to the will of the people. Imam Khomeini was ready; people wanted it." This implies that Sistani in Iraq was just delivering what the Shi'ite majority of the population wanted. Iraq may not become an Islamic republic, but at least none of its laws shall contradict Sharia, or Islamic law.

Zadeh explains that velayat-e-faqih (the ruling of the jurisprudent) is "the duty and belief of all marja'as. The fiqh [Islamic jurisprudence] should be running political and social life." The devil, of course, is in the details. "Shi'ites in practice believe that state and religion go together." Does that mean the absolute preeminence of Sharia law? "Islam says we have solutions for all aspects of life. And all Iranians accept this." But it's important to remember that when the concept of velayat-e-faqih was erected as the basis of Iran after the revolution, it was opposed by Ayatollah Khoei in Najaf (a traditionalist), Ayatollah Shariatmadari in Qom (a liberal) and Ayatollah Taleqani in Tehran (a "leftist", meaning progressive). Even with different positions, they all agreed that the marja'a should not mess around with politics.

In the long run, the fact that the practice won't work and that it violates the orthodoxy will make it rather easy for them to ditch Islamicism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:53 PM


New health secretary is first Haitian-American agency head (DAVID ROYSE, Sep 15, 2005, AP)

Dr. M. Rony Francois will become the state's new secretary of health, the first Haitian-American to head a Florida state agency, Gov. Jeb Bush announced Thursday.

Bush named Francois to replace Dr. John Agwunobi, who was nominated by President Bush to be assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Francois, an assistant professor at the University of South Florida's College of Public Health in Tampa, was born in Haiti and came to the United States in 1979 to pursue an education.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:43 PM


Political clout could steer relief (Andrea Stone, 9/19/05, USA TODAY)

New Orleans' broken levees and mass evacuation have focused most attention on Louisiana. But Mississippi may be in a better position to collect federal dollars from the Republican-controlled White House and Congress once the media spotlight dims. Consider:

•Mississippi's senior senator, Republican Thad Cochran, chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, which gives out federal funding. Louisiana's senior senator, Democrat Mary Landrieu, attacked the administration's response.

•Mississippi's junior senator is former majority leader Trent Lott, a Republican who chairs the rules committee that decides which bills get voted on. Louisiana Republican David Vitter, a freshman elected last year, gave the federal government a grade of "F" for its handling of the disaster. When federal officials wanted to send the Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort to Louisiana, Lott intervened to reroute the ship to his hometown of Pascagoula.

•Haley Barbour was a former chairman of the Republican National Committee and one of the most well-connected lobbyists in Washington when he was elected governor of Mississippi in 2004. He has defended the federal response. Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco, a Democrat, initially criticized Washington's handling of relief efforts and refused to hand over control of the Louisiana National Guard to the federal government.

Barbour's comments were meant "to gain a little more credibility and gratitude of the Republicans running Congress when they start putting the money together," American Enterprise Institute congressional expert Norm Ornstein said.

Some Republicans have blamed Blanco and other local officials for initial missteps. "It's not Louisiana vs. Mississippi," said Kevin Madden, spokesman for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas. "It's what went right in Mississippi in planning and recovery vs. what went wrong in Louisiana."

The biggest thing that went right in Mississippi was the gubernatorial election, as was the biggest thing that went wrong in LA.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:08 PM


Musharraf: Israel must leave W. Bank (David Horovitz, Sep. 18, 2005, THE JERUSALEM POST)

In a landmark, unprecedented address to American Jewish leaders late on Saturday night, just days after he had shaken hands with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at the UN General Assembly, Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf urged Israel to show its "courage," and the Jewish community to use its influence, to solve the "Palestinian dispute once and for all."

He said this required Israel to pull out of the West Bank and agree a solution in Jerusalem that respected the city's "international character."

Resolution of the conflict, which Gen. Musharraf asserted lay "at the heart of terrorism in the Middle East and beyond," would "usher in a period of peace and tranquility in the Middle East and perhaps the whole world."

Among other things, it would certainly enable Pakistan to formalize full diplomatic relations with the Jewish state, he indicated.

Speaking briefly to The Jerusalem Post shortly before making his address, Musharraf said he had no timetable for such ties. "We need to sit down and talk more [with the Israelis]," he told The Post, "and see how to move forward. We ought to be taking more steps."

An address which offers the delightful prospect of the neocons going after him and the Left suddenly perceiving the wisdom of our working with the General instead of against.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:05 PM


Iran's President Does What U.S. Diplomacy Could Not (Dafna Linzer, September 19, 2005, Washington Post)

Five weeks ago, Iran's new president bought his country some time. Facing mounting criticism after walking away from negotiations with Europe and restarting part of Iran's nuclear program, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad asked the world to withhold diplomatic pressure while he put together new proposals.

On Saturday, dozens of international diplomats, including the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany, gathered at the United Nations to hear how Ahmadinejad planned to stave off a crisis.

Instead his speech, followed by a confused hour-long news conference, was able to do what weeks of high-level U.S. diplomacy had not: convince skeptical allies that Iran may, in fact, use its nuclear energy program to build atomic bombs.

Why would they believe him--none of them believe any of Saddam's WMD claims anymore...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:59 PM


In Germany's Election, Germans Lose: With Angela Merkel failing to get a clear-cut victory for the CDU, the result will be a coalition that won't be able to tackle the real issues (Jack Ewing, 9/19/05, Business Week)

Germans have a reputation for being averse to change. Based on the results of Sept. 18 national elections, it appears there's something to that stereotype. German citizens gave far fewer votes than predicted to Angela Merkel and the center-right Christian Democratic Union, after Merkel ran a campaign based on the premise that painful change is needed to preserve Germany's standard of living.

It's not a function of being German.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:58 PM


Donn Clendenon, 70, M.V.P For the 1969 'Miracle Mets,' Dies (RICHARD GOLDSTEIN, 9/18/05, NY Times)

Donn Clendenon, the most valuable player in the 1969 World Series, when he hit three home runs to help propel the team known as the Miracle Mets to a five-game triumph over the Baltimore Orioles, died yesterday in Sioux Falls, S.D. He was 70.

His death was announced by the George Boom Funeral Home in Sioux Falls. He had had leukemia for many years.

When the Mets stunned the baseball world in 1969, winning the National League pennant by overtaking the Cubs after a ninth-place finish in a 10-team league in 1968, the bizarre seemed almost commonplace.

One of the strangest moments came at Shea Stadium in the sixth inning of Game 5 in the World Series, with the Orioles ahead by 3-0.

Cleon Jones, leading off, was allowed to take first base when Mets Manager Gil Hodges proved to the home-plate umpire, Lou DiMuro, that Jones had been hit by a low curveball. Hodges did it by showing how the pitch delivered by Dave McNally was smudged with polish from Jones's shoe.

Clendenon, the Mets' first baseman and the next hitter, hit a home run off the auxiliary scoreboard of the left-field loge seats to make it 3-2. The Mets tied it in the seventh inning on a homer by Al Weis, a little-noticed infielder, and scored two in the ninth for a 5-3 victory and the World Series championship.

Clendenon had hit home runs in Games 2 and 4, and he finished the Series with 5 hits in 14 at-bats for a .357 batting average, 4 runs batted in and 4 runs scored. His three home runs and 15 total bases set records for a five-game World Series.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:54 PM


Roberts's Sterling Showing (David S. Broder, September 18, 2005, Washington Post)

The question of whether Judge John Roberts is qualified to be chief justice of the United States has been rendered moot by his performance in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings. He is so obviously -- ridiculously -- well-equipped to lead government's third branch that it is hard to imagine how any Democrats can justify a vote against his confirmation.

Start with his intellect. This is a man whose knowledge of constitutional law goes well beyond his intimate familiarity with seemingly every Supreme Court decision. It is rooted in a thorough understanding of American history. He quotes Hamilton in the Federalist Papers not to show off his erudition but to buttress a point completely pertinent to current debates.

Next, his temperament. He has a quick wit, one that repeatedly disarmed even the prickliest of his questioners. You don't have to be an expert on reading "body language," as Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma claimed to be, to see that he is perfectly comfortable in his own skin, immune to pressure.

What was most impressive to me was the depth of his appreciation of what it means to be a judge.

Goodness, he's almost drooling...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:06 PM


Gerhard Schroeder insists he wants to remain chancellor (Expatica, 18 September 2005)

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder made clear Sunday that he intended to remain chancellor, even though his Social Democratic Party (SPD) emerged in second place in the German elections.

"I regard myself as confirmed in office by our country and intend that there will be stable government under my leadership," Schroeder told SPD supporters.

"We have achieved what many in this country regarded as completely impossible," he said, referring to opinion polls published by the media suggesting he would lose. [...]

Schroeder ruled out a coalition with the Left Party. The position he staked out appeared to indicate he would aim at a coalition of the SPD, their Greens partners in the current government and with the liberal FDP.

The Greens and the FDP have both, however, ruled out such a 'traffic light coalition', and repeated their position after the election results started coming in.

Challenger Angela Merkel earlier declared victory despite failing to win enough votes in Germany's general election to set up a conservative-led government.

One would hope the Christian Democrats have sense enough to simply refuse to help form a government with the Left.

Hung parliament looms in Germany (BBC, 9/18/05)

Germany's ARD television puts with Christian Democrats in the lead with 36% of the vote - much worse than expected.

Their preferred coalition partner, the pro-business Free Democrats, did well with 10%, according to unofficial exit polls - but apparently not enough to secure a joint majority.

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats are estimated to have won about 34% of votes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:44 PM


The Supreme Court's Private Life (ROBERT P. GEORGE, 9/18/05, NY Times)

WHEN John Roberts, President Bush's nominee for chief justice of the Supreme Court, told the Senate Judiciary Committee last week that "the right to privacy is protected under the Constitution in various ways," some saw this as contradicting a memo he wrote while serving in the Reagan administration in which he referred to the "so-called 'right to privacy.' " The confusion may stem less from Judge Roberts's lack of candor than from the political and legal morass brought on by a string of dubious decisions by the Supreme Court over the last 40 years.

While the word "privacy" does not appear in the Constitution, this does not mean privacy rights are not protected. Certain provisions plainly protect people against governmental intrusion, like the Fourth Amendment's ban on "unreasonable searches and seizures." And these provisions have implications that extend beyond what the framers could possibly have envisioned; by logical extension, the Fourth Amendment protects people's electronic files just as it protected the parchment letters of the late 18th century.

Nearly everyone recognizes these privacy protections. Where dispute breaks out is on the question of whether the Constitution contains a generalized right to privacy of the type used by judges to invalidate laws prohibiting contraception, sodomy and abortion.

The idea of a general constitutional right to privacy has wide public support, especially in liberal circles where people approve of the uses to which it has been put. But even supporters have to admit that judges who have invoked this putative right have been unable to identify a constitutional basis for it. Tellingly, none has asserted that the framers and ratifiers intended to create a generalized privacy right in whose name abortion, for example, could be immunized from legal regulation. Before the Supreme Court's decision to inject itself into the abortion fight, it was widely considered the right of legislatures to determine such matters.

Well, the Senators were so concerned about stare decisis in privacy cases it seems safest to return to the status quo ante Griswold.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:40 PM


A Bushian Laboratory (DAVID BROOKS, 9/18/05)

On Oct. 5, 1999, George Bush went to the Manhattan Institute and delivered the most important domestic policy speech of his life. In what was mostly a talk about education, he made it quite clear he was no liberal. But he also broke with mainstream conservatism as it then existed.

He distanced himself from the cultural pessimists, the dour conservatives who were arguing that America was sliding toward decadence. Then he bluntly repudiated the small government conservatism that marked the Gingrich/Armey era.

It's not enough to cut the size of government, Bush said, or simply get government out of the way. Instead, Republicans have to come up with a positive vision of "focused and effective and energetic government."

With that, Bush set off on a journey to define what he called "compassionate conservatism" and what others call big government conservatism. [...]

On Thursday, President Bush went to New Orleans and gave the second most important domestic policy speech of his life. Politically it was a masterpiece, proof that if the president levels with the American people and admits mistakes, it pays off.

But in policy terms, the speech pushed the journey toward Bushian conservatism into high gear. The Gulf Coast will be a laboratory for the Bushian vision of energetic but not domineering government.

Bush proposed an Urban Homestead Act, which will draw enterprising people to the area, giving them an opportunity to own property so long as they're willing to work with private agencies to put up their own homes. He proposed individual job training accounts, so much of the rebuilding work can be done by former residents. Children who have left flooded areas will find themselves in a proto-school-choice program, with education dollars strapped to each individual child.

This is an effort to transform the gulf region, which had become a disaster zone of urban liberalism. All around the South, cities are booming, but New Orleans never did. All around the country, crime was dropping, but in New Orleans it was rising. Immigrants were flowing across the land in search of opportunity, but as Joel Kotkin has observed, few were interested in New Orleans.

Now the Bush administration is trying to change all that. That means trying to get around the corruption that made the city such a rotten place to do business. The White House is trying to do this by devising programs in which checks and benefits flow directly to recipients, not through local agencies.

That means challenging the reigning assumptions.

With the Left insisting there's no role for anyone but government in the recovery and the Right insisting there's no role for government, the President could hardly be positioned better.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:36 PM


Bolton and U.N. Are Still Standing After His First Test (WARREN HOGE, 9/18/05, NY Times)

When President Bush greeted Secretary General Kofi Annan on Wednesday, he gestured toward John R. Bolton, the United States ambassador, and asked, "Has the place blown up since he's been here?"

The internal United Nations television sound boom that picked up the jest did not record any response from the Secretary General, who simply smiled.

But the same question, in less explosive form, has been posed repeatedly around the United Nations since the Aug. 1 arrival of Mr. Bolton, who famously once said that the headquarters building was filled with such sloth and incompetence that it would not matter if 10 of its 38 floors were lopped off.

In response, his fellow ambassadors say they are impressed with Mr. Bolton's work ethic, his knowledge of his brief, his clarity in declaring it and his toughness as a negotiator.

Sad day when the UN striped pants set is more mature about such matters than the Democrats.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:22 PM


New plans shift health costs to workers (AP, 9/17/05)

Mark Galvin, founder of Whaleback Systems Corp., bypassed the traditional low-deductible health insurance plans he used for his three previous companies and bought a health savings account plan from Patriot Healthcare.

Gavin found he could save money for his high-tech Portsmouth company - half the $1,300 to $1,400 monthly premium for each employee. The trade off was a $10,000 deductible for the workers.

Galvin used some of his savings to fund $5,250 tax-free savings accounts for his 18 employees and agreed to pick up the slack if anyone had medical expenses that fell between that amount and the $10,000 deductible.

"The math just works out so much better," Galvan said. "The savings allowed us to fund everyone's health savings account to the maximum by law and still have some money left over." [...]

Health savings accounts are plans in which employees pay pared-down premiums in exchange for deductibles of $1,000 or more. The accounts work by letting employees set aside pretax income into an investment account that can be used for medical expenses.

To take advantage of the account, the worker must be signed up for a health insurance plan that has a minimum deductible of $1,000, or $2,000 for a family, and they cannot set aside more than $2,650 per individual, $5,250 per family.

Either workers or employers - or a combination - can contribute to the accounts. Some accounts roll over year after year and workers can transfer them to another job. Older employees also are allowed to make catch up contributions.

The accounts first became available in 2004 as part of the federal Medical Reform Act and some New Hampshire insurers began selling them late last year.

Patriot Healthcare, founded by former Health and Human Services Commissioner Nick Vailas, bases nearly all coverage on health savings accounts.

Offerings in New Hampshire should grow next year when Harvard Pilgrim introduces its health savings account plan and other insurers revamp prices to make them competitive, say brokers.

Don Mullen, a marketing manager for Anthem in the Northeast said so far the accounts represent a fraction of the overall market - perhaps 2 percent of Anthem's business in the state.

The theory behind health savings accounts is that high deductibles encourage consumers to be more price-savvy and comparison shop.

George Bush will be long gone by the time conservatives figure out that this was the key to the prescription drug bill.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:15 PM


Mexican Workers Step Right Up: Country Fairs in the Northeast Depend on Their Manpower (Jodie Tillman, 9/18/05, Valley News)

The little boy froze, shrieked and demanded to be let out of the jungle-themed obstacle course.

The man who had silently taken his pink tickets moments earlier could not understand what the boy was saying. But he understood what he meant.

Francisco Leyva Martinez gestured to the boy's mother that she could go and fetch him. He smiled and pointed the way as she hurried past.

And then Martinez seemed to fade back into painted trees and birds of the jungle, tapping his foot lightly to Hakuna Matata blaring over the speakers, watching the parade of parents holding their children's hands and their children holding their tickets pass him by at the Tunbridge World's Fair yesterday.

Martinez and the other 40 Mexicans who ran rides and games at the fair this weekend cut a low profile among a Tunbridge Fair work force filled with entrepreneurs and community organizers and 4-H kids, relying instead on their quiet watchfulness to bridge the language and cultural divides.

They have also helped supply the manpower for popular rides like the Cobra and the Sea Dragon at Northeastern fairs like the one in Tunbridge for the last six months, staying on short-term visas that allow them to travel with an entertainment company and make about $300 each week that they can wire to their families in Mexico or take with them when they return home next month.

“Here the money is not much, but in Mexico that's maybe (worth) double,” said 21-year-old Lucio Hernandes Monfil, one of a handful of the workers who speaks fluent English.

The Mexicans, as well as about 30 Americans, work for the Pittsfield, Mass.-based Gillette Shows from May to October, said Jerry Gillette. The company runs all the rides and many of the games at the Tunbridge fair.

Gillette started hiring Mexicans on temporary work visas about five years ago, he said, when he could not find enough Americans willing to work the six-month circuit.

“They work until their job is done,” said Gillette. “They're excellent workers.”

What about all the mothers who dreamt of their kids growing up to be carnies?

Posted by Peter Burnet at 10:17 AM


Men find solace in backyard shed (Greg Roberts, The Australian, September 17, 2005)

The backyard shed, it seems, means a lot more to men than somewhere to get away from the missus and practise the creative arts of the home handyman.

The separation of men from sheds has been identified as a factor in the depression many experience when they move into aged accommodation.

"They do a lot of thinking in their shed; it's their retreat from the world as well as a learning centre," gerontologist Leon Earle said.

"It gives them a sense of purpose. Most men have a personal quest to be creative and resourceful in their shed for as long as possible."

When it's time to move into aged accommodation, the loss of the shed is a blow to many men.

Especially the ones who never had one.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 9:39 AM


'Ditch the US alliance' (Paul Kelly, The Australian, September 17, 2005)

Former Labor leader Mark Latham believed the US alliance should be ditched and called it "the last manifestation of the White Australia mentality".

The Latham Diaries reveal his in-principle support for the alliance during last year's election was completely insincere and driven by electoral politics.

Mr Latham mocks public support for the alliance and dismisses with contempt anybody who thinks it serves a purpose. The Diaries verify the judgment President George W. Bush made of Mr Latham - that his election would have put the alliance in serious jeopardy. "It's just another form of neo-colonialism," Mr Latham says of the alliance.

Writing after the election, Mr Latham says that he should go public and question the long-term need for the alliance, but laments that this "would turn the party upside down" and that "the Big Mac faction would go ballistic".

The Diaries reveal an extreme view of foreign policy and of Australia's role in the world. Mr Latham opposes every war Australia has fought, except World War II. He blames the US alliance for dragging Australia into unnecessary conflicts. His preferred foreign policy model is based on New Zealand's.

He writes that if Australia prefers being "an American colony under (John) Howard, that's a nation not worth leading".

He accuses the Prime Minister and Mr Bush of being cowards, saying "they wouldn't fight themselves, of course, but they readily send other people's children to fight in their name".

The steady stream of accusations from the left that conservative leaders are lying is undoubtedly sincere and heartfelt because so many of them assume that such is natural and justified when they do it. This was a close call.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:57 AM


The Case For a 'No' Vote on Roberts (E. J. Dionne Jr., September 17, 2005, Washington Post)

[T]he doubts about Roberts have nothing to do with his good heart. The issue is the power about to be put in his hands and into the hands of President Bush's next appointee -- power both will enjoy for life. The Senate and the public have a right to far more assurance about how Roberts would use that power than they have been given in these hearings. The Senate is under no obligation to give the president or Roberts the benefit of the doubt.

If senators simply vote "yes" on Roberts, they will be conceding to the executive branch huge power to control what information the public gets and doesn't get about nominees to life positions. The administration has stubbornly refused to release a share of Roberts's writings as deputy solicitor general. This is a dare to the Senate, and the administration is assuming it will wimp out. A "yes" on Roberts would be a craven abdication of power to the executive branch.

In keeping with Roberts's painstaking evasions, he wouldn't even express a view Thursday as to whether his deputy solicitor general writings should be released. That was the administration's decision to make, he said. "This was not your decision," Schumer replied. "But you carry its burden." Or at least he should.

The only reason to oppose the confirmation of Judge Roberts is that you aren't reconciled to the results of recent American elections and believe the appointment of any conservative to the Court to be illegitimate. There's nothing wrong with the Left feeling that way, but it just serves to marginalize them even further.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:51 AM


I Will Rebuild With You, Mr. President (Donna Brazile, September 17, 2005, Washington Post)

On Thursday night President Bush spoke to the nation from my city. I am not a Republican. I did not vote for George W. Bush -- in fact, I worked pretty hard against him in 2000 and 2004. But on Thursday night, after watching him speak from the heart, I could not have been prouder of the president and the plan he outlined to empower those who lost everything and to rebuild the Gulf Coast.

Bush called on every American to stand up and support the rebuilding of the region. He told us that New Orleans and the entire Gulf Coast would rise from the ruins stronger than before. He enunciated something that we all need to remember: This is America. We are not immune to tragedy here, but we are strong because of our industriousness, our ingenuity and, most important, because of our compassion for one another. We are a nation of rebuilders and a nation of givers. We do not give up in the face of tragedy, we stand up, and we reach out to help those who cannot stand up on their own.

The president called on every American to reach out to my neighbors in New Orleans and throughout the Gulf Coast. The great people of this country have already opened their hearts in the immediate aftermath of the storm, and their tremendous generosity has done more than just provide extra comfort -- it has saved lives. Now the crisis of survival is over. But the task of rebuilding remains, and the president made it clear that every single one of us has a role to play.

Each of us belongs to some group -- a church, a union or a fraternal organization, or even a book club -- that can make a difference. It is those groups that can pool resources and then reach out to their counterparts in the stricken states and ask, "What can we do?" Schools, Girl Scout troops, Rotary clubs -- this is the time for every community group to step forward to lend a helping hand. We need it.

The president also laid out the federal government's goal for rebuilding. It is unprecedented in its scope and ambition, matching destruction that is unprecedented as well. He made the challenge clear: This will be one of the biggest reconstruction projects in history. But he also made it clear that we can and will do this. New Orleans, Biloxi, all of the Gulf Coast will rise again. And the residents are ready to pitch in and do their part.

I know, maybe better than anyone, that there are times when it seems that our nation is too divided ever to heal. There are times when we feel so different from each other that we can hardly believe that we are all part of the same family. But we are one nation. We are a family. And this is what we do. When the president asked us to pitch in Thursday night, he wasn't really asking us to do anything spectacular. He was asking us to be Americans, and to do what Americans always do.

Not yet a Republican....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:33 AM


Afghans go to polls in historic vote (Farah Stockman, September 18, 2005, Boston Globe)

As polls opened today, an unprecedented election season drew to an end in Afghanistan. Millions were expected to vote for the lower house of the National Assembly, a 249-seat body roughly equivalent to the US House of Representatives, and a host of provincial councils.

The election brings much to celebrate less than four years after US forces and their allies launched a war that drove the fundamentalist Taliban regime from power and routed Al Qaeda from its terror training camps in the Afghan countryside. Sixty-eight seats are reserved for women and 10 for the nomadic Kuchi tribe, groups long denied a say here; and the assembly will provide a democratic check on the authority of President Hamid Karzai.

The vote is a logistical triumph, with specialized pictorial ballots for the largely illiterate population delivered by helicopter and donkey to the most remote areas.

The stunning reality of our success in the WoT lies in the ordinariness of elections in even Afghanistan.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:27 AM


Working class exodus feared in New Orleans (Raja Mishra and Sasha Talcott, September 18, 2005, Boston Globe)

Even as the nation unites to rebuild this stricken region, New Orleans's longstanding race and class divides appear to persist. The haves are beginning to pick up the pieces of their former lives, while many have-nots may be forced to simply pick up and leave.

Recovery is well underway in the French Quarter and in the tony Garden District and Uptown, which largely were spared when the levees broke because they sit on

But their lower-lying and often poorer counterparts may remain unsafe and may be uninhabitable for a year or longer, with entire neighborhoods slated for the wrecking ball, said state and federal officials.

And with each passing week, former residents of these communities, evacuated around the country, are more likely to start life anew elsewhere, said federal officials and urban affairs specialists.

Their absence could forever change this iconic city, once a potent cultural stew that gave rise to jazz and jambalaya, indelibly shaping American culture. A massive swath of the city's longshoremen, musicians, cooks, nurses, and myriad other workers are in scattered exile, their economic and cultural energies gone with them.

Some business analysts predict a smaller, less diverse New Orleans may emerge in the coming years, with key industries like tourism and shipping permanently shrunken. Others said many evacuees, poor and unskilled, may be replaced by a better trained workforce imported to Louisiana to do the work of reconstruction, dramatically changing the character of the city in the process.

Actually, all that should be restored is the shipping and tourism.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:59 AM


U.S. pornography looks to go mobile (Matt Richtel and Michel Marriott, The New York Times, September 17th, 2005)

With the advent of advanced cellular networks that deliver full-motion video from the Internet - and the latest wave of phones featuring large, bright color screens - the U.S. pornography industry is eyeing the cellphone, like the videocassette recorder before it, as a lucrative new vehicle for distribution.

In recent months, that prospect has produced a cadre of entrepreneurs hoping to follow the lead of counterparts in Europe and Asia, where consumers already spend tens of millions of dollars a year on phone-based pornography.

The major American cellular carriers have so far been adamant in their refusal to sell pornography from the same content menus on which they sell ring tones and video games. But there are signs that they may soften their stance. The cellular industry's major trade group is drafting ratings for mobile content - akin to those for movies or video games - signaling that phones, too, will be a subject of viewer discretion.

Roger Entner, a wireless-industry analyst for Ovum, a market research firm, said the emergence of content ratings, coupled with easier use of the Internet on phones, made it inevitable that phone-based pornography would become a fixture.

"It has every component that has proven conducive to the consumption of adult entertainment - privacy, easy access, and, on top of it, mobility," Entner said.

Just about every prediction made by social conservatives during the great obscenity debates of the 50's and 60's has come to pass, but no one foresaw how the majority’s fear of being labeled prudish would become so strong that it would simply sit by and watch it all happen. Whether through empirical study or simply acknowledging what every man instinctively knows, we understand very well how destructive it is socially and personally. Unlike in the heyday of liberalism, hardly anyone even pretends anymore that there are any benefits to it. Yet even many people who wouldn’t touch the stuff will recite rote libertarian cant about choice or express silly fears of a censored Shakespeare as they watch it ravage the lives of many in the growing underclass, fuel crime, corrupt children and degrade women. The advent of the Internet has added a kind of “you can’t stop progress” fatigue that has left many convinced nothing can be done about it before they even try. This collective ennui says a lot about modern morality, but it also makes a mockery of our cherished belief that we are in control of our destiny and can choose what kind of society we wish to live in.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:04 AM


How the penguin's life story inspired the US religious right (David Smith, The Observer, September 18th, 2005)

It is an odyssey to rival Scott's in the Antarctic, albeit with a happier ending. Fierce snowstorms rage, icy blasts flick across the screen. March of the Penguins, an epic nature documentary with a cast of thousands, was the surprise usurper of summer blockbusters at the American box office and is tipped to be the hit family film in Britain this Christmas.

To many, it will be no more nor less than a life-affirming portrayal of Mother Nature, reminiscent of Sunday-evening television with Sir David Attenborough whispering from the undergrowth. To some, however, the mesmerising images of birds waddling, mating and nurturing their young have become cinema's most politically charged parable since Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/1.

Conservatives in America claim to have seen God in the emperor penguin. They have rejoiced in the way the film shows penguins as monogamous upholders of traditional family values. They presumably welcomed the screenwriters' decision not to pursue arguments about climate change. They have even pointed to the heroically resourceful penguins - blinded by blizzards, buffeted by gales, yet winning against the odds - as proof of 'intelligent design', the religious belief system that aims to challenge Darwin's theory of evolution.

Audiences and critics of the £4.4 million French-made film have found themselves uplifted by the sight of emperor penguins trudging 70 miles, in single file, to their breeding ground during the harsh Antarctic winter in temperatures of -40C. The creatures' comical gait and tuxedo-like plumage have amused children, while their fortitude and tenderness in raising their offspring have had parents sighing in recognition. One reviewer gushed: 'It's impossible to watch the thousands of penguins huddled together against the icy Antarctic blasts ... without feeling a tug of anthropomorphic kinship.' [...]

Scientists in Britain, where the film will premiere at next month's London Film Festival, with general release in December, dismissed the intelligent design lobby's expropriation of the film. Steve Jones, professor of genetics at University College London and an atheist, said: 'I find it sad that people with intrinsically foolish viewpoints don't recognise this as a naturally beautiful film, but have to attach their absurd social agendas to it.

'The problem with intelligent design is that there is no conceivable observation in nature that can disprove the idea. It's not part of science, which is why scientists are not interested in it. A group of penguins standing upright looks like co-operation, but in fact the ones on the outside are struggling to get in and those on the inside are trying to stand their ground: it's a classic Darwinian struggle. The idea that the life of a penguin is any more beautiful than that of a malaria virus is absurd.

'Supporters of intelligent design think that if they see something they don't understand, it must be God; they fail to recognise that they themselves are part of evolution. It appeals to ignorance, which is why there is a lot of it in American politics at the moment.'

The value of Intelligent Design does not lie in its scientific capacity to prove anything. It value is in its artistic capacity to unmask the pomposity of so many darwinists and reduce them to a state of blustering incoherence.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:01 AM


Moderates Raise Voices to Influence the Young: They hope a close-knit Muslim community can provide an anchor for youths in a pluralistic society. (John Daniszewski, September 18, 2005, LA Times)

Long before the deadly attacks, the continent's once-homogenous societies struggled with assimilating their large, and rapidly growing, Muslim populations. In turn, many new immigrants struggled with fitting in while quietly preserving their traditions.

Today, however, some young Muslims reject a pluralistic, secular continent, opting to retreat into the confines of what they feel is a purer, truer form of strict Islam as taught by radical clerics and websites.

The attack of July 7 and attempted reprise on the 21st, and similar bombings in Madrid last year, suggest that a small portion of Europe's new generation of Muslims may already be lost to extremist clerics and hate-filled Internet dogma.

But arrayed against fanaticism, there is a strong current of moderation within Europe's Muslim population that has become increasingly vocal in the wake of the London bombings.

Munaf Zeena, who runs the North London center, believes that if there is a solution to defeating extremism, it is a sense of community.

Like three of the July 7 bombers, Zeena is the Yorkshire-born son of immigrants. But far from attacking the country that bore him, the 45-year-old has embraced it. He is not only British, he says, but English — because England is the only home he has ever known, even if he is a Muslim and has an Indian name.

He is aware of the eerie parallels between his life and those of some of the bombers. As a young man, he faced racism from British nationalists. Like them, he sometimes felt a yawning gulf between his own, British-born generation and his parents' generation.

"What turned them into terrorists and what turned me into a man of peace?" he asked rhetorically. "That needs to be looked at so we can protect young people…. We need to look at it, we need to analyze it."

His center, Zeena believes, is an anchor in a confused and conflicted world. He is convinced that what sets his boys apart from the young bombers from Leeds is that they have a strong community around them, shaping them, grooming them, with supervisors and mentors who have taught them the correct meaning of Islam and citizenship.

He also believes the role of the mosque must be limited. "Mosques are places of worship," he said, insisting that they should not take the place of schools, community centers or other institutions. "Those that want to see mosques being used for the purposes that Prophet Muhammad used the Medina mosque should be aware that we live in a different age."

The center, in a pair of tawny brown Victorian row houses just off Stoke Newington High Street, looks out to an ethnic checkerboard of a neighborhood, the "new Britain" in microcosm.

Across the street is a Jewish primary school. One nearby restaurant, the Motherland, is African; another sells Middle Eastern kebabs. At the mosque next to the center, Muslim men in long robes, bushy beards and skullcaps chat on the sidewalk, while nearby walk Hasidic Jews with side locks and black broad-brimmed hats, coats, breeches and stockings.

Every day after school or work, the Muslim boys of the neighborhood congregate at the center, a few dozen of them at any one time, ranging in age from about 10 to 25. Inside, the place has an institutional feel, its bulletin board plastered with numbers to call for energy assistance, warnings about bowel disease and a note on the Islamic method for brushing teeth.

The youths rush past, upstairs to play pool and snooker in a game room, or down to the basement to surf the Internet or study Arabic or math. But for most, cricket and soccer are the mainstay of their lives, after religion. About 7 p.m., they dutifully go say their late-afternoon prayers at the mosque next door, then return to their sports in the park a few blocks away.

In a sense, their lives mirror those of Shahzad Tanweer, Mohamed Sidique Khan and Hasib Hussain, the young men who blew themselves up this summer, killing dozens of commuters. But unlike them, the boys of the North London Muslim Community Center say they have not fallen under the spell of militant anti-Western preachers.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Police struggle to cope as hidden sex offender list tops 30,000 (RICHARD GRAY AND MURDO MACLEOD, Sun 18 Sep 2005, Scotland on Sunday)

IT IS barely eight months since teenager Karen Dewar was brutally murdered in the peaceful Fife coastal town of Tayport.

The case shocked the nation - and led to demands for reform of a failed system when it emerged her killer, Colyn Evans, a repeat sex offender, had been living alone and unsupervised in the community. He had been placed there in temporary accommodation by Fife Council.

Now Scotland on Sunday can reveal that the same system has led to scores more dangerous sex offenders being dumped in Fife, where they move freely and without daily monitoring.

Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show Fife Council is currently housing 65 convicted sex offenders in single-tenancy accommodation.

Even more disturbing, it is understood a review of the controversial policy promised after the Dewar murder has been suspended - and also that many of the offenders have been housed since the killing.

Scotland on Sunday also reveals today that Scotland's police chiefs are seeking more cash to allow them to monitor non-registered and suspected sex offenders. Police keep a 'shadow' register of such people, which now contains 30,000 names.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


A passage to Israel for lost tribe of India (SHAIKH AZIZUR RAHMAN, 9/18/05, Scotland on Sunday)

AFTER almost three millennia in exile the Bnei Menashe Jews of India believe they are about to be returned to the Promised Land.

More than 7,000 mainly impoverished Indian Jews will convert to orthodox Judaism in the coming weeks, thereby gaining the right to live in Israel.

In April Shlomo Amar, the Sephardic chief rabbi, announced in Jerusalem that he accepted the Bnei Menashe, which means "Children of the Messiah", as one of the 10 lost tribes of Israel.

A Beit Din, or rabbinical court, arrived in India last week on a mission to convert the Bnei Menashes of India's Mizoram and Manipur states to orthodox Judaism, giving hope to thousands of a new life in Israel. [...]

Shavei Israel, a Jerusalem-based organisation that has been trying to locate descendants of lost Jewish tribes around the world and bring them to Israel, believes that all Chins in Burma, Mizos in Mizoram and Kukis in Manipur - three prominent tribes of the region - are descendants of Menashe.

According to the organisation there are up to two million Bnei Menashes living in the hilly regions of Burma and north-east India.

After an Assyrian invasion in around 722BC, Jewish tradition says 10 tribes from Israel were enslaved in Assyria. Later the tribes fled and wandered through Afghanistan, Tibet and China.

In around 100AD, one group moved south from China and settled around north-east India and Burma. These Chin-Mizo-Kuki people, who speak Tibeto Burmese dialects and resemble Mongols in appearance, are believed to be the Bnei Menashes.

According to Shavei Israel, there are more than one million ethnic Bnei Menashes in India. Because they lived for centuries in north-east India, mingling with local people, many of their Jewish traditions became diluted. And after Welsh missionaries arrived in the area in 1894, nearly all Bnei Menashes, Kukis and Mizos were converted from their animistic beliefs to Christianity.

DNA studies at the Central Forensic Institute in Calcutta conclude that while the tribe's males show no links to Israel, the females share a family relationship to the genetic profile of Middle-Eastern people.

Rabbi Eliyahu Birnbaum, a dayan or rabbinical court judge who is leading the Beit Din conversion mission in India, said the decision to accept Indian Bnei Menashes as a lost Jewish tribe followed a careful study of the issue.

"After the conversion the Bnei Menashes can apply for immigration to Israel under the Law of Return, which grants the right of citizenship to all Jews," said Birnbaum.

Interesting gender-based genetics, those.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


In Baseball Now, More Teams Pray Before They Play (Laura Blumenfeld, 9/18/05, Washington Post)

In 300 ballparks across the country, volunteer chapel leaders hold English and Spanish services for major and minor league teams. Baseball Chapel, the Christian ministry that organizes the prayers, estimates that nearly 3,000 people worship each week in services held in bullpens, under the stands, while sitting on towels in the showers, or huddled in the laundry room reciting the gospel to the thump of dryers.

Once derided as a sign of weakness by managers and trainers, Christian prayers are now accepted and even encouraged before baseball games. In lockers, you'll find Bibles next to the Ambien and Skoal. Participants say the stress to perform, the uncertainty of injuries, and the lack of control over being traded or cut are lightened by their bond with God.

"It's about guys needing Christ," Moeller said. "It could be the security guard, or it could be [first baseman] Nick Johnson. RFK becomes a church on Sundays."

Even the team doctor, Bruce Thomas, supports weekend prayers and Wednesday Bible study. "If a player has total wellness -- their mind, body and their spiritual side -- they perform better," he said.

September 17, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:59 PM


Two bridges, two lifelines (CONOR BERRY, 9/17/05, Cape Cod Times)

State officials say they're confident a regional evacuation plan for hurricanes and other serious disasters will function properly despite storm-related road closures that crippled both Cape bridges Thursday afternoon.

As remnants of Hurricane Ophelia sweep through the region today, bringing heavy rainfall, high winds and the possibility of coastal flooding, the bridge closures and related traffic jams have raised concerns about emergency planners' ability to evacuate the Cape. ''We have full confidence that the plan will work,'' said James Mannion, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

Thursday's overlapping bridge closures on the Upper Cape delayed drivers, frazzled nerves, and tested people's patience. The Bourne Bridge was shut for more than two hours due to a weather-related construction accident, while the Sagamore Bridge was partially closed for more than an hour because of flooding on the Cape side of the span. [...]

[MassHighway spokesman Eric] Abel said the concrete approach slab on the north side of the bridge has not been rehabilitated since the bridge was built in the early 1930s. Excavation work on the bridge's north side will create a roughly 18-inch gap between the surface of the highway and the bridge itself, making it impossible to open and close bridge lanes on a daily basis, MassHighway officials said.

Meanwhile, Thursday's situation on the Upper Cape could prompt MEMA officials to take a fresh look at their evacuation plan.

''It's a living plan that's constantly changing, constantly updated,'' said Mannion, a MEMA spokesman.

Mannion said the weather-related bridge closures did not trigger a review of that plan, ''but we very well could look at it again.''

''This isn't the first time this question has come up, and it is of great concern.''

If a powerful hurricane were to require a full-scale evacuation all four lanes of each bridge would be opened to traffic streaming off Cape, according to Mannion.

''If this was a situation where we had to get people off, we'd go above and beyond,'' he said.

Oh, okay then....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:50 PM


Japan to go boldly backward for a while (BRAD GLOSSERMAN, 9/18/05, Japan Times)

Oddly, the new picture looks a lot like the old Japan: domination by a single party -- the familiar Liberal Democratic Party (LPD) -- without a credible opposition. The election itself was strangely familiar, too, in that it was driven by personalities -- at least the prime minister's -- rather than by any serious discussion of policies. The result is not likely to be great change.

However, with Koizumi remaining as prime minister, the ship of state will maintain its present course. Things will get interesting in a year, when the time comes to pick a successor -- if the prime minister keeps his oft-repeated promise to step down when his term is up. [...]

Koizumi took office promising to reform the LDP or smash it. He ended up smashing the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ): It lost about a third of its seats in the ballot, plunging from 175 to 113. DPJ President Katsuya Okada dutifully resigned when the results were known. The front-runners to replace him are two former party presidents, Naoto Kan and Yukio Hatoyama, neither of whom was able to turn the party's fortunes around in the past. This time is unlikely to be any different. The question now is whether the damage to the DPJ is fatal. [...]

With nearly 300 members in the Lower House, policy coordination will be more difficult than ever and, as noted previously, Koizumi has destroyed the factions that performed that internal function.

Optimists counter that Japanese policymaking will become more transparent. Again, I'm skeptical. The only certainty is that it will take time for a new mechanism to emerge, whether it be some new "backroom" where deals are made or a more transparent means of policy formulation.

That delay means the U.S. must be patient as it tries to restructure its alliance with Japan. Tough decisions will not be made as politicians throughout the country try to figure out how to assert their interests in the new political environment. Ironically, then, the "mandate" for the prime minister -- which should facilitate bilateral relations -- means that Washington is going to have to cool its heels for a while.

Japan's neighbors, especially China, must also reconcile themselves to this new political reality.

It's a great personal victory for one man, but hard to see how it will make much real difference in the long run.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:30 PM


Dog shoots man (Daily Telegraph, September 16, 2005)

A TUSSLE over prey between a Bulgarian hunter and his hound ended when the dog shot the man.

The man lost his temper and began beating his Deutsch-Drahthaar hunting dog with a rifle when the animal refused to release a killed bird it had brought back.

But the dog's paw caught the trigger and the hunter was blasted with buckshot.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:46 PM


British MP Galloway: Canada complicit in Iraq war (CP, 9/17/05)

Despite its refusal to fight in Iraq, Canada is complicit in the United States' war against terrorism and should withdraw from Afghanistan, an outspoken left-wing British MP said Saturday.

George Galloway was given a standing ovation before and after he spoke at the 6th annual conference of the Islamic Circle of North America and the Muslim Association of Canada. .

Posted by David Cohen at 3:05 PM


Johnny Wiseman (, 9/17/05)

Johnny Wiseman, who has died aged 89, was awarded an MC in 1943 for leading an SAS assault on a coastal battery during the invasion of Sicily. . . .

After landing on Cape Moro di Porco, Wiseman led his men up the cliffs while mortars provided covering fire. He reached the perimeter of the enemy position without being detected and cut through the wire. As soon as the mortar fire was lifted, he and his section attacked.

Wiseman achieved complete surprise and his small force captured, killed or wounded 40 of the enemy without sustaining a single casualty. Wiseman's CO, Paddy Mayne, then got him on the wireless to order him to remove his men from the battery because sappers were coming to destroy the guns. Wiseman mumbled, and Mayne had to tell him to speak up.

"I managed to tell him that I had lost my false teeth," said Wiseman. "It was amusing afterwards, but it didn't seem so at the time." He had been hit in the mouth playing cricket at Cambridge and had worn false teeth ever since. He had been shouting orders when they flew out of his mouth into the long grass. . . .

John Martin Wiseman was born on January 27 1916 at Kingston-on-Thames, Surrey, and educated at St Paul's before going up to Pembroke, Cambridge, to read History and Modern Languages. He went into the family optical instrument business in 1937.

The company had been founded by his father, Max, who arrived from Germany in the 1920s and started selling spectacle frames. . . .

Wiseman and Mayne did not always see eye to eye. Wiseman said afterwards that Mayne, one of the most highly decorated soldiers in the war, was a great warrior but a difficult man to serve under. A man of considerable physical strength, on one occasion Mayne wrestled Wiseman to the ground, pinned him there with his knees and called for a cut-throat razor. He then shaved half of Wiseman's beard without using soap or water.

Posted by David Cohen at 2:44 PM


Blair ‘shocked’ over BBC Katrina coverage (Joshua Chaffin and Aline van Duyn,, 9/17/05)

Tony Blair was shocked by the BBC's coverage of Hurricane Katrina's devastation of New Orleans, describing it as “full of hatred of America”, Rupert Murdoch, chairman and chief executive of News Corporation, revealed on Friday night.
If the coverage had been anti-German, would he have shut the BBC down?

Posted by David Cohen at 2:36 PM


Son of Florida Gov. Bush Arrested (AP, 9/17/05)

The youngest son of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was arrested early Friday and charged with public intoxication and resisting arrest, law enforcement officials said.

John Ellis Bush, 21, was arrested by agents of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission at 2:30 a.m. on a corner of Austin's Sixth Street bar district, said commission spokesman Roger Wade.

When did we become so judgmental about the cultural heritage of other peoples?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:00 AM


The most important words in the text, while the best known, are too often disassociated from the whole:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:54 AM

I READ IT IN '72, MUST BE TRUE... (via Gene Brown):

Fuel For Thought: Cars that run on vegetable oil? Do-it-yourselfers and entrepreneurs alike fill 'er up with the nation's fastest-growing propellant (Frances Cerra Whittelsey, September 2005, Smithsonian)

Skeptics have questioned whether it takes more fossil fuel to produce biodiesel—to fertilize crops, transport them and press them for their oil—than the resulting biodiesel replaces. But Jim Duffield, an agricultural economist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), says the "few lone voices" who still make that point have not kept up with improvements in agriculture and biodiesel technology. Indeed, a study by the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Energy in 1998 and another in 2002 for the French government show that soybeans and canola oil yield three to four times more energy than is needed to make the fuel. (Similar skepticism has also dogged ethanol, a corn-based fuel mixed with gasoline to create gasohol. But USDA and other studies show that today's ethanol provides up to 30 percent more energy than it takes to make it.)

Another benefit of burning biodiesel is cleaner air. Compared with fossil fuels, it emits less carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons, as well as sulfur compounds related to acid rain. Pure biodiesel also substantially reduces overall emission of carbon dioxide, a major contributor to climate change, because the plants from which the oil was extracted absorbed atmospheric carbon dioxide while they were growing. A bus running on pure biodiesel would emit 32 percent less particulate matter, which has been implicated in the dramatic increase in asthma cases in cities. The only air pollution downside of pure biodiesel, according to the 1998 U.S. study, is a slight increase of smog-inducing nitrogen oxides.

Those lone voices may be deep in their bunkers, surrounded by their stacks of Krugerands, waiting for the world to cross over Humbert's Peak, but they still find time to comment here....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:49 AM


Martin tells it like it is at U.N. (TIM HARPER, 9/17/05, Toronto Star)

Prime Minister Paul Martin took to the world podium yesterday, telling a gathering of global leaders that the United Nations is at a crossroads, bogged down in a tired status quo and empty rhetoric. [...]

Martin was particularly blunt on the need for management changes, and the need for a human rights body that really recognizes human rights, not one that has become politicized and ineffective.

But he saved his harshest indictment for the Security Council — which he said spends too much time talking and too little time acting.

"Too often, we have debated the finer points of language while innocent people continue to die," Martin said.

"Darfur is only the latest example."

How many peacekeepers did Canada send to Darfur and which Canadian helped negotiate the end of the civil war in Sudan's south?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:24 AM


Constitution goes to the front of the class
(Justin Pope, September 17, 2005, Associated Press)

At first, some grumbled and noted the irony. A new federal law requiring schools to teach about the Constitution didn't seem to fit the spirit, at least, of the document they were supposed to celebrate.

But when the day came, schools and colleges showed there are as many ways to honor the nation's founding charter as there are to interpret it.

A law passed last year requires the federal government and any school receiving federal funding to organize Constitution-related activities on or near Sept. 17, the day the document was adopted in 1787. With that day falling on a Saturday this year, many events took place yesterday.

What irony? The public school system was created for the express and sole purpose of preparing an increasingly diverse American population to be good republicans. The time spent in class on other pursuits is wasted.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:07 AM


NZ Labour heading for likely third term (Sydney Morning Herald, September 17, 2005)

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark will almost certainly be able to form a third term government after the general election gave her Labour Party one more seat than National.

Labour has 50 seats and National 49 in the 122-member Parliament, which has increased by two because the Maori Party won four electorate seats, more than its proportion of the party vote entitled it to.

Miss Clark still has to crunch the numbers and come up with a majority, but New Zealand First with seven seats is committed to first negotiating with the party that has the most seats.

So is United Future, which ended up with three seats.

The Greens, with six seats, are a committed Labour ally.

She also has Jim Anderton, leader of the Progressive Party and its only MP in the next Parliament.

National has only one potential partner, the ACT Party.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:03 AM


Frenchman lived with dead mother to keep pension (Reuters, 9/17/05)

A Frenchman in his sixties lived for five years with the body of his dead mother to keep receiving her 700 euros (473 pounds) monthly pension, judicial sources said on Saturday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:58 AM



RED Americans feeling under served by the entertainment industry have less to whine about these days. If they were to stay up Monday nights just an hour past the president's bedtime, they'd find that NBC's hit show "Medium" is giving them a ringing endorsement from the Other Side.

The show — which starts its second season tonight — is based on the cases of real-life medium Allison Dubois, who serves as a consultant to the series.

In a twist from the usual snickering at conservative characters and notions, the first episode had a defense attorney balking over the Texas Rangers questioning his molester-murderer client.

After the Rangers and their consultant (Dubois, played by Patricia Arquette) bulldoze past him, the lawyer calls after them futilely, "Don't make me call The New York Times!" This was a laugh line — and not only was the joke on a defense lawyer, it reduced the Paper of Record to a punch line.

Why not make the NBC Nightly News an openly conservative alternative to the other networks and position the whole network to the Right? Roughly 60% of the viewers are there.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:28 AM


Bush to Meet With Senators Over Second Vacancy on Court (DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK, 9/17/05, NY Times)

[C]onservative allies of the White House say they do not expect him to select someone until the full Senate votes on the confirmation of Judge John G. Roberts Jr. as chief justice later this month. The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on the Roberts nomination on Thursday. Justice O'Connor has said she will continue to sit with the court until her replacement is confirmed.

Senate aides said Mr. Bush has invited Senator Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican who is chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the committee's ranking Democratic member, as well as Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the majority leader, and Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader. [...]

Mr. Bush previously met with Democratic and Republican senators before he nominated Judge Roberts. Democratic aides say Mr. Bush listened to their suggestions but did not seek their views on specific names under consideration.

His choice of Judge Roberts, who was initially picked to succeed Justice O'Connor and then re-nominated to be chief justice after the death of Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, came as a surprise to senators on both sides of the aisle.

Gotta love how he can score points just for meeting with them then not listen to a word they said. That's the chief value of diplomacy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:19 AM


A curious tale of George's creators (Mark Feeney, September 17, 2005, Boston Globe)

Mayor Thomas Menino has proclaimed today Curious George Day in Boston. This is one thing Maura Hennigan would likely agree with him on. What's there not to like? Curious George is the Johnny Damon of children's literature: fun-loving, hairy, always on the go.

The reason for the proclamation is that today is the 64th birthday of everyone's favorite mischievous monkey. The event will be celebrated from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Boston Public Library in Copley Square. More specifically, it will be celebrated in the Rey Children's Room, which is named in honor of Margret and H.A. Rey, Curious George's creators. George and his friend The Man in the Yellow Hat will be on hand, as will chef Ming Tsai (who'll be offering up birthday cake at 2:30 p.m.) and children's book author Louise Borden. Borden's latest book is ''The Journey That Saved Curious George: The True Wartime Escape of Margret and H.A. Rey." It chronicles how the Reys fled the Nazi invasion of France in 1940, and how they came to the United States.

The Reys wrote and illustrated seven Curious George books, and another 20 have been done by other hands. Few characters can match George for popularity. His books have sold 30 million copies and been translated into 16 languages. In February, a feature-length cartoon will be released, with Will Ferrell as the voice of The Man in the Yellow Hat. And PBS plans to start broadcasting a Curious George cartoon series in fall 2006.

''Everyone knows who Curious George is and loves the character," Borden said Thursday over tea at the Lenox. ''Now I hope they'll fall in love with Margret and H.A. Rey and find out who they were, too."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:09 AM


Far From Home, They Feel They've Arrived: In shelters across the nation, grateful New Orleans evacuees aren't looking back. Instead they're relishing the chance for a fresh start in a new city. (Stephanie Simon, September 17, 2005, LA Times)

Struggling residents from one of the poorest cities in America say New Orleans no longer looks like a good place to rebuild their lives. They see an opportunity for a second chance elsewhere.

"You know that old saying, 'If I knew then what I know now?' Well, now's my chance to apply it," said Byron Hughes Sr., 39.

"God did this for a reason," said his wife, Ruth Sanders, 44.

Similar conversations are taking place in shelters across the nation — in Houston and Des Moines and San Diego; in Bluffdale, Utah, and Opelika, Ala.; by the beaches of Cape Cod in Massachusetts and in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains in New Mexico.

"I can start all over and make something of myself here," said Trenise Nafziger-Lewis, 23, who liked the job prospects in Aurora.

She worked two part-time jobs back home, as an office assistant and a gas-station cashier, and could barely pay her rent. At a job fair here last week, recruiters were offering $10- and $11-an-hour jobs, "with benefits from day one," they promised. Suddenly Nafziger-Lewis was dreaming of homeownership.

"Any chance I can, I'll save," she vowed.

Hughes said he never realized how rundown the New Orleans public schools were until he enrolled his son in second grade here. "I was amazed how clean it was," he said. He was astonished, too, when his son whipped through math problems he was struggling to comprehend back home.

Thomas Sowell has pointed out that black immigrants--from Africa, Haiti, Jamaica, etc.--follow the same successful pattern as their peers in other ethnic groups, suggesting that the persistence of the black under class in America is a peculiar function of the effects of historic racism, rather than of current racial barriers. In effect, we denied black America its first immigrant generation and thereby permanently warped its development to some degree. It would not be surprising then if the experience of being forced to begin anew outside of New Orleans turns out to be a tremendous positive for these families and particularly for the next generation.

President's Remarks at National Day of Prayer and Remembrance Service (George W. Bush, Washington National Cathedral, Washington, D.C., 9/16/05)

On this Day of Prayer and Remembrance, our nation remains in the shadow of a storm that departed two weeks ago. We're humbled by the vast and indifferent might of nature, and feel small beside its power. We commend the departed to God. We mourn with those who mourn, and we ask for strength in the work ahead.

The destruction is immense, covering a city, a coastline, a region. Yet the hurt always comes down to one life, one family. We've seen the panic of loved ones separated from each other, the lonely pain of people whose earthly possessions were swept away, and the uncertainty of men and women and children driven away from the lives they knew. Many did not survive the fury of the storm. Many who did ask, why -- and wonder, what comes next.

In this hour of suffering, we're prayerful. In a wounded region, so many placed their faith in a God who hears and helps. And so many are bringing their grief to a Savior acquainted with grief. Our nation joins with them to pray for comfort and sorrow, for the reunion of separated families, and a holy rest for the ones who died.

Through prayer we look for ways to understand the arbitrary harm left by this storm, and the mystery of undeserved suffering. And in our search we're reminded that God's purposes are sometimes impossible to know here on Earth. Yet even as we're humbled by forces we cannot explain, we take comfort in the knowledge that no one is ever stranded beyond God's care. The Creator of wind and water is also the source of even a greater power -- a love that can redeem the worst tragedy, a love that is stronger than death.

In this hour of suffering, our nation is thankful. We have been inspired by acts of courage and goodness: Coast Guardsmen and military personnel reaching out of helicopters and lifting victims from rooftops; firefighters wading through mud and debris to search for victims and survivors; doctors and nurses defying danger so their patients might live. Many of those who saved others lost their own homes and were separated from their own families. And many stories of heroism and rescue will never be told because they are known to God alone.

We're thankful for a spirit seen across the Gulf Coast that faces the worst and chooses to hope. We're thankful, as well, for the many ordinary citizens who heard the cries of neighbors and answered them. Across the country, Americans saw the hungry and gave them something to eat; saw the thirsty and gave them something to drink; saw strangers and invited them in. One man who was rescued and given shelter after the storm said, "I didn't think there was so much love in the world."

In this hour of suffering, our nation is also mindful of the work ahead. Through this tragedy great duties have come to our nation. The destruction of this hurricane was beyond any human power to control, but the restoration of broken communities and disrupted lives now rests in our hands. And we accept this responsibility not as a burden or a chore, but as an opportunity to serve our fellow Americans, as they would do for us.

This task will measure our unity as a people. Americans of every race and religion were touched by this storm; yet some of the greatest hardship fell upon citizens already facing lives of struggle -- the elderly, the vulnerable, and the poor. And this poverty has roots in generations of segregation and discrimination that closed many doors of opportunity. As we clear away the debris of a hurricane, let us also clear away the legacy of inequality. Let us deliver new hope to communities that were suffering before the storm. As we rebuild homes and businesses, we will renew our promise as a land of equality and decency. And one day, Americans will look back at the response to Hurricane Katrina and say that our country grew not only in prosperity, but in character and justice.

On this National Day of Prayer and Remembrance, we pledge ourselves to the demanding work of revival, and renew the faith and hope that will carry that work to completion. In the worst of storms, and in the rush of flood waters, even the strongest faith can be tested. Yet the Scriptures assure us, "many waters cannot quench love; neither can the floods drown it."

So now we go forward, confident in the good heart of America, and trusting that even among the ruins, the love of God remains at work.

May God bless and keep the souls of the lost. May His love touch all those in need, and may He always watch over the United States of America. God bless.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:05 AM


Southland Not Ready for Disaster: A major quake or act of terrorism could displace hundreds of thousands, officials say. Relief agencies concede they would be stretched thin. (Sharon Bernstein, September 17, 2005, LA Times)

Despite millions of dollars spent in crisis management drills and dozens of plans to deal with earthquakes and other calamities, Southern California emergency preparedness agencies have done little to plan for mass displacement and destruction across a broad swath of the region on the scale of Hurricane Katrina, according to interviews with state and local authorities.

Because the region is so huge and most damage from earthquakes and fires typically is relatively localized, most of the region's planning is based on the assumption that damage will be confined to one or two areas, several officials said.

Detailed plans to deal with a massive emergency — one that displaces more than 300,000 people — have not been developed since the end of the Cold War, said Stephen Sellers, head of Southern California operations for the state Office of Emergency Services.

Now that Katrina has given us all our wake-up call we should expect radical changes in Southern California so that it will be prepared to face such a disaster, right?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:59 AM


Who Are The 75,000 Body Bags For? (Lynn Landes, 16 September, 2005,

Questions mount over Hurricane Katrina's death count. Estimates are now well below 10,000 with the death toll currently standing at 648 for Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida. So, why did the Bush Administration order 75,000 body bags?

Crazy as the Left is become, it's most deranged aspect must be how it revels in dead Americans.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:57 AM


Treaty record for Liberian leader (BBC, 9/17/05)

Liberian President Gyude Bryant has endorsed 103 international treaties at the UN summit in New York, a record for a single state at any one time.

Eighty-three of the treaties have become law, while the remaining 20 require ratification.

The treaties were part of a decades-old backlog which includes agreements on trade, human rights, corruption and nuclear proliferation.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the signings were a landmark.

Meanwhile World Bank Liberia director Mats Karlsson described them as "absolutely extraordinary".

September 16, 2005

Posted by Matt Murphy at 6:24 PM


John Roberts: The Nominee (William L. Taylor, 10/06/05, NY Review of Books)

The most intriguing question about John Roberts is what led him as a young person whose success in life was virtually assured by family wealth and academic achievement to enlist in a political campaign designed to deny opportunities for success to those who lacked his advantages. It is a question of great relevance to Roberts's candidacy for the Supreme Court. [...]

Roberts was first employed in 1981 and 1982 as a special assistant to the attorney general, William French Smith. He went from there to the Reagan White House in November 1982, where he served as associate counsel to the President for three and a half years. During this period, Roberts played an important part in the administration's efforts to curtail the rights of African-Americans, to deny assistance to children with disabilities, and to prevent redress for women and girls who had suffered sex discrimination. He also justified attempts by the state of Texas to cut off opportunities for the children of poor Latino aliens to obtain an education. Roberts was in favor of limiting the progress of African-Americans in participating in the political process and of making far-reaching changes in the constitutional role of the courts in protecting rights. [...]

The issue that has had the most far-reaching implications for civil rights was given the unilluminating name "court stripping." It was part of the continuing legal struggle over enforcing the Supreme Court's landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education to end mandated racial segregation in public schools. Efforts to implement Brown had stalled until 1964, when Congress passed the Civil Rights Act, which declared school desegregation to be national policy and provided the means for enforcing it. There followed Supreme Court decisions adding legal content to the act, which then led to widespread desegregation of public schools throughout the South.

In 1980, segregationists in Congress led by Senator Jesse Helms responded with bills to prohibit the Justice Department from bringing action in the courts to desegregate schools, and to bar the courts from issuing remedies that would require the busing of students for that purpose. Similar bills were proposed in cases involving school prayer and abortion rights.

A fierce debate followed at the Justice Department and in the Reagan White House. Some lawyers recognized that a great deal was at stake in these bills—that they were an assault on the Supreme Court's role as the final arbiter of what the Constitution means as well as an assault on the separation of powers. [...]

But it was in the second major civil rights battle of the early Reagan administration that Roberts, winner of an undergraduate history award at Harvard College, revealed a surprising ignorance of America's racial past. The issue in 1981 was whether Congress should renew key provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and overturn a 1980 Supreme Court decision that threatened to undermine the gains that African-Americans were making in securing their right to vote.

If I'm reading this right, Mr. Taylor thinks having Congress limit the judiciary is a violation of the separation of powers in one case, and completely necessary in the other. The opening lines clearly demonstrate that the author simply wants the judiciary to advance his political beliefs but, sheesh, you'd think he could do a better job of pretending to give a damn about the law.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:30 PM


Cheney to Have Surgery (Mary Ann Akers, Sep. 16; 2005, Roll Call)

Vice President Cheney is scheduled to undergo surgery next weekend to treat an aneurysm, his spokesman confirmed to Roll Call today.

You'd want to leave the schedule clear for the hearings on John McCain's appointment as vice president.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:58 PM


Bush sends base-closing plan to Congress (ROBERT BURNS, September 15, 2005, AP)

President Bush has endorsed and sent to Congress a plan to close 22 major military bases and reconfigure 33 others - the first consolidation of the Pentagon's far-flung network of bases since 1995.

Bush could have sent the controversial plan back to the independent base-closing commission that developed it, but as expected he chose instead to forward it to Congress. The plan will become final in 45 days unless Congress acts to reject it in full. In all past base-closing rounds Congress has allowed it to proceed.

"This list is going to become law," said Loren Thompson, defense analyst with the Lexington Institute. "This process had created winners in addition to losers in many communities. The legislative majority required to reject the recommendation certainly isn't there." [...]

The commission said its recommendations would mean annual savings of $4.2 billion, compared with $5.4 billion under the plan it received in May from Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld had recommended closing 33 major bases and realigning 29 others, but the commission decided after a series of hearing to modify his plan. [...]

Congress reluctantly authorized this round of closures only after the White House threatened to veto an entire defense bill if it did not give the Pentagon the go-ahead.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:53 PM


Judicial Tourism: What's wrong with the U.S. Supreme Court citing foreign law. (MARY ANN GLENDON, September 16, 2005, Opinion Journal)

What has been overlooked in these debates is the crucial difference between the legitimate use of foreign material as mere empirical evidence that legislation has a rational basis, and its use to buttress the court's own decision to override legislation. Take Lawrence v. Texas, the decision striking down criminal penalties for homosexual sodomy, where Justice Kennedy, joined by Justice Breyer, wrote, "The right petitioners seek . . . has been accepted as an integral part of human freedom in many other countries. There has been no showing that in this country the governmental interest in circumscribing personal choice is somehow more legitimate or urgent." The remarkable implication is that it is up to our legislatures to justify a different view of human rights from that accepted elsewhere. This gives short shrift to the fundamental right of Americans to have a say in setting the conditions under which they live--the right that is at the very heart of our unique democratic experiment. Contrast the responsible use made of foreign law by Chief Justice William Rehnquist in Washington v. Glucksberg, to support Washington state's legislative prohibition of assisted suicide in an opinion noting that in "almost every state--indeed, in almost every western democracy--it is a crime to assist a suicide."

The importance of the distinction between these two modes of use cannot be exaggerated. It is not only a question of respecting the separation of powers. Those who believe the Washington legislature got it wrong can work to change the law through the ordinary democratic processes of persuasion and voting. But in the U.S., unlike in countries whose constitutions are easier to amend, the court's constitutional mistakes are exceedingly hard to correct. The unhealthy ripple effects of judicial adventurism are many: Legislatures are encouraged to punt controversial issues into the courts; political energy, lacking more constructive outlets, flows into litigation and the judicial selection process.

Few judges have understood the distinction between legitimate and problematic uses of secondary authorities so well as the late Henry Friendly, one of the most respected judges never to sit on the Supreme Court. In the 1970s, when judicial citation of social science materials was being hotly debated, Judge Friendly defended their use, but cautioned that when judges use social science or foreign material to substitute their own judgment for that of the legislature, their legitimacy is at its lowest ebb. For all who hope the next Supreme Court justice will possess interpretive skill and respect toward authoritative sources of law, it is an encouraging sign that John Roberts received his first lessons in judging as law clerk to Henry Friendly.

Rescrambling the betting pool...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:03 PM


Keep Your Eyes on Japan:
The World Has a Huge Stake in Koizumi's Financial Reforms (R. Glenn Hubbard, September 16, 2005, Business Week)

The financial reforms championed by Koizumi can raise the growth rates for both Japanese productivity and the economy. That faster pace would, in turn, reduce Japan's looming fiscal stresses. And successful financial reforms in Japan can offer a road map for economic restructuring in China, whose creaky financial system requires modernization if the mainland is to keep growing at a rapid rate.

The economy Koizumi inherited in 2001 had been languishing since the crash of Japanese equity and property markets in 1990. Banks struggled with nonperforming loans, racking up taxpayer bailout costs and channeling loans to large but insolvent businesses while strangling the abilities of new entrepreneurial businesses to obtain credit. And the '90s saw a big increase in public-works spending, benefiting the politically connected construction industry more than Japan's long-term growth.

Koizumi has made substantial progress in banking reform. Japan's bank regulator is no longer a captive of its regulated clients. Nonperforming loans have been reduced. And wasteful public-works spending has been trimmed. Those developments have helped taxpayers and borrowers alike.

But Koizumi faces a far bigger challenge in his bid to break up and introduce competition for the postal system, Japan Post, whose $3.3 trillion worth of deposits and life insurance policies lie at the heart of Japan's financial restructuring and growth ills.

It's extraordinarily unlikely that Mr. Koizumi's reforming momentum can survive his retirement next year just as the Democrats couldn't stick to the Third Way once Bill Clinton was gone.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:18 AM


Tony Blair Pulls the Plug on Kyoto at Clinton Summit (James Pinkerton, 09/16/2005, Tech Central Station)

Kyoto Treaty RIP. That's not the headline in any newspaper this morning emerging from the first day of the Clinton Global Initiative, but it could have been -- and should have been.

Onstage with former president Bill Clinton at a midtown Manhattan hotel ballroom, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said he was going to speak with "brutal honesty" about Kyoto and global warming, and he did. And Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had some blunt talk, too.

Blair, a longtime supporter of the Kyoto treaty, further prefaced his remarks by noting, "My thinking has changed in the past three or four years." So what does he think now? "No country, he declared, "is going to cut its growth." That is, no country is going to allow the Kyoto treaty, or any other such global-warming treaty, to crimp -- some say cripple -- its economy.

Looking ahead to future climate-change negotiations, Blair said of such fast-growing countries as India and China, "They're not going to start negotiating another treaty like Kyoto." India and China, of course, weren't covered by Kyoto in the first place, which was one of the fatal flaws in the treaty. But now Blair is acknowledging the obvious: that after the current Kyoto treaty -- which the US never acceded to -- expires in 2012, there's not going to be another worldwide deal like it.

So what will happen instead? Blair answered: "What countries will do is work together to develop the science and technology….There is no way that we are going to tackle this problem unless we develop the science and technology to do it." Bingo! That's what eco-realists have been saying all along, of course -- that the only feasible way to deal with the issue of greenhouse gases and global warming is through technological breakthroughs, not draconian cutbacks.

Sometimes these guys just need to be shown the Third Way, but then they take it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:42 AM


US inflation less than expected (BBC, 9/15/05)

[W]hen volatile fuel and food costs were excluded price growth fell to just 0.1%.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:18 AM


Mr. Bush in New Orleans (NY Times, 9/16/05)

President Bush said three things last night that desperately needed to be said. He forthrightly acknowledged his responsibility for the egregious mishandling of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He spoke clearly and candidly about race and poverty. And finally, he was clear about what would be needed to bring back the Gulf Coast and said the federal government would have to lead and pay for that effort.

Once again, as he did after 9/11, Mr. Bush has responded to disaster with disconcerting uncertainty, then risen to the occasion later. Once again, he has delivered a speech that will reassure many Americans that he understands the enormity of the event and the demands of leadership to come.

Epiphany for a president (Henry C K Liu, 9/16/05, Asia Times)
On Thursday night, the president of the United States, the strongest nation in the world, spoke with the forceful leadership worthy of the awesome power of his office. For the first time in his presidency, George W Bush told the American people and the world that the American spirit of courage, community, equity and unbound optimism is alive and well, and he intends to galvanize that spirit towards a noble national purpose of reconstruction. "I as president am responsible for the problem, and for the solution," he said.

President Seeks to Revive a Region -- and His Image (Doyle McManus, 9/16/05, LA Times)
[A]mong many Republicans, the fiscal cost of rebuilding the Gulf Coast appeared modest compared with the potential political cost of appearing tight-fisted in the face of suffering.

"He can come down firmly on the side of bold dramatic change, in which case he will be in the Teddy Roosevelt tradition, or he can tolerate bureaucratic inadequacies and defend the indefensible, in which case the Democrats will win in 2006 and 2008," said Newt Gingrich, a former speaker of the House.

"He has to be a problem-solver, and if it requires money, you have to do it," said Kenneth M. Duberstein, who served as chief of staff to President Reagan. Appearing unresponsive, he added, is "the last thing they can risk."

"If some of your base gets unhinged — well, you can always make the argument that it's better for a Republican to do it than a Democrat," Duberstein said.

But there was little sign of dissent from most of Bush's Republican base in Congress, where members have been increasingly nervous about their party's fortunes in next year's midterm election.

Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas, the House Republican leader, even suggested that deficit spending on public works would be good for the economy — a sentiment that once was thought to define the Democratic Party, not the GOP.

"It is right to borrow to pay for it," DeLay said. "But it is not right to attack the very economy that will pay for it." [...]

[T]he president and his aides offered considerable detail on the menu of new programs they planned to propose to help the people of the Gulf Coast rebuild their homes and businesses — an enterprise zone stretching across three states.

Those proposals include a Gulf Opportunity Zone, offering tax incentives and loans for small businesses; Worker Recovery Accounts, providing as much as $5,000 a person for education, job training and child care; and an urban homesteading initiative, giving federally owned property to aspiring homeowners through a lottery.

Those ideas are, in effect, disaster-relief versions of proposals Bush made during his first term and in his 2004 campaign — proposals for urban enterprise zones, home-ownership subsidies for low-income families and job-training accounts.

Those programs, known collectively as the "ownership society," have not fared especially well in Congress so far. The first phase, Bush's proposal for sweeping changes in Social Security, appears to be dying a quiet legislative death.

Hurricane Katrina may have offered the ideas a new lease on life.

You'd think the cock would eventually figure out that the sun comes up every day and stop acting so surprised.

President Discusses Hurricane Relief in Address to the Nation (George W. Bush, Jackson Square, New Orleans, Louisiana)

Good evening. I'm speaking to you from the city of New Orleans -- nearly empty, still partly under water, and waiting for life and hope to return. Eastward from Lake Pontchartrain, across the Mississippi coast, to Alabama into Florida, millions of lives were changed in a day by a cruel and wasteful storm.

In the aftermath, we have seen fellow citizens left stunned and uprooted, searching for loved ones, and grieving for the dead, and looking for meaning in a tragedy that seems so blind and random. We've also witnessed the kind of desperation no citizen of this great and generous nation should ever have to know -- fellow Americans calling out for food and water, vulnerable people left at the mercy of criminals who had no mercy, and the bodies of the dead lying uncovered and untended in the street.

These days of sorrow and outrage have also been marked by acts of courage and kindness that make all Americans proud. Coast Guard and other personnel rescued tens of thousands of people from flooded neighborhoods. Religious congregations and families have welcomed strangers as brothers and sisters and neighbors. In the community of Chalmette, when two men tried to break into a home, the owner invited them to stay -- and took in 15 other people who had no place to go. At Tulane Hospital for Children, doctors and nurses did not eat for days so patients could have food, and eventually carried the patients on their backs up eight flights of stairs to helicopters.

Many first responders were victims themselves, wounded healers, with a sense of duty greater than their own suffering. When I met Steve Scott of the Biloxi Fire Department, he and his colleagues were conducting a house-to-house search for survivors. Steve told me this: "I lost my house and I lost my cars, but I still got my family ... and I still got my spirit."

Across the Gulf Coast, among people who have lost much, and suffered much, and given to the limit of their power, we are seeing that same spirit -- a core of strength that survives all hurt, a faith in God no storm can take away, and a powerful American determination to clear the ruins and build better than before.

Tonight so many victims of the hurricane and the flood are far from home and friends and familiar things. You need to know that our whole nation cares about you, and in the journey ahead you're not alone. To all who carry a burden of loss, I extend the deepest sympathy of our country. To every person who has served and sacrificed in this emergency, I offer the gratitude of our country. And tonight I also offer this pledge of the American people: Throughout the area hit by the hurricane, we will do what it takes, we will stay as long as it takes, to help citizens rebuild their communities and their lives. And all who question the future of the Crescent City need to know there is no way to imagine America without New Orleans, and this great city will rise again.

The work of rescue is largely finished; the work of recovery is moving forward. In nearly all of Mississippi, electric power has been restored. Trade is starting to return to the Port of New Orleans, and agricultural shipments are moving down the Mississippi River. All major gasoline pipelines are now in operation, preventing the supply disruptions that many feared. The breaks in the levees have been closed, the pumps are running, and the water here in New Orleans is receding by the hour. Environmental officials are on the ground, taking water samples, identifying and dealing with hazardous debris, and working to get drinking water and waste water treatment systems operating again. And some very sad duties are being carried out by professionals who gather the dead, treat them with respect, and prepare them for their rest.

In the task of recovery and rebuilding, some of the hardest work is still ahead, and it will require the creative skill and generosity of a united country.

Our first commitment is to meet the immediate needs of those who had to flee their homes and leave all their possessions behind. For these Americans, every night brings uncertainty, every day requires new courage, and in the months to come will bring more than their fair share of struggles.

The Department of Homeland Security is registering evacuees who are now in shelters and churches, or private homes, whether in the Gulf region or far away. I have signed an order providing immediate assistance to people from the disaster area. As of today, more than 500,000 evacuee families have gotten emergency help to pay for food, clothing, and other essentials. Evacuees who have not yet registered should contact FEMA or the Red Cross. We need to know who you are, because many of you will be eligible for broader assistance in the future. Many families were separated during the evacuation, and we are working to help you reunite. Please call this number: 1-877-568-3317 -- that's 1-877-568-3317 -- and we will work to bring your family back together, and pay for your travel to reach them.

In addition, we're taking steps to ensure that evacuees do not have to travel great distances or navigate bureaucracies to get the benefits that are there for them. The Department of Health and Human Services has sent more than 1,500 health professionals, along with over 50 tons of medical supplies -- including vaccines and antibiotics and medicines for people with chronic conditions such as diabetes. The Social Security Administration is delivering checks. The Department of Labor is helping displaced persons apply for temporary jobs and unemployment benefits. And the Postal Service is registering new addresses so that people can get their mail.

To carry out the first stages of the relief effort and begin rebuilding at once, I have asked for, and the Congress has provided, more than $60 billion. This is an unprecedented response to an unprecedented crisis, which demonstrates the compassion and resolve of our nation.

Our second commitment is to help the citizens of the Gulf Coast to overcome this disaster, put their lives back together, and rebuild their communities. Along this coast, for mile after mile, the wind and water swept the land clean. In Mississippi, many thousands of houses were damaged or destroyed. In New Orleans and surrounding parishes, more than a quarter-million houses are no longer safe to live in. Hundreds of thousands of people from across this region will need to find longer-term housing.

Our goal is to get people out of the shelters by the middle of October. So we're providing direct assistance to evacuees that allows them to rent apartments, and many already are moving into places of their own. A number of states have taken in evacuees and shown them great compassion -- admitting children to school, and providing health care. So I will work with the Congress to ensure that states are reimbursed for these extra expenses.

In the disaster area, and in cities that have received huge numbers of displaced people, we're beginning to bring in mobile homes and trailers for temporary use. To relieve the burden on local health care facilities in the region, we're sending extra doctors and nurses to these areas. We're also providing money that can be used to cover overtime pay for police and fire departments while the cities and towns rebuild.

Near New Orleans, and Biloxi, and other cities, housing is urgently needed for police and firefighters, other service providers, and the many workers who are going to rebuild these cities. Right now, many are sleeping on ships we have brought to the Port of New Orleans -- and more ships are on their way to the region. And we'll provide mobile homes, and supply them with basic services, as close to construction areas as possible, so the rebuilding process can go forward as quickly as possible.

And the federal government will undertake a close partnership with the states of Louisiana and Mississippi, the city of New Orleans, and other Gulf Coast cities, so they can rebuild in a sensible, well-planned way. Federal funds will cover the great majority of the costs of repairing public infrastructure in the disaster zone, from roads and bridges to schools and water systems. Our goal is to get the work done quickly. And taxpayers expect this work to be done honestly and wisely -- so we'll have a team of inspectors general reviewing all expenditures.

In the rebuilding process, there will be many important decisions and many details to resolve, yet we're moving forward according to some clear principles. The federal government will be fully engaged in the mission, but Governor Barbour, Governor Blanco, Mayor Nagin, and other state and local leaders will have the primary role in planning for their own future. Clearly, communities will need to move decisively to change zoning laws and building codes, in order to avoid a repeat of what we've seen. And in the work of rebuilding, as many jobs as possible should go to the men and women who live in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.

Our third commitment is this: When communities are rebuilt, they must be even better and stronger than before the storm. Within the Gulf region are some of the most beautiful and historic places in America. As all of us saw on television, there's also some deep, persistent poverty in this region, as well. That poverty has roots in a history of racial discrimination, which cut off generations from the opportunity of America. We have a duty to confront this poverty with bold action. So let us restore all that we have cherished from yesterday, and let us rise above the legacy of inequality. When the streets are rebuilt, there should be many new businesses, including minority-owned businesses, along those streets. When the houses are rebuilt, more families should own, not rent, those houses. When the regional economy revives, local people should be prepared for the jobs being created.

Americans want the Gulf Coast not just to survive, but to thrive; not just to cope, but to overcome. We want evacuees to come home, for the best of reasons -- because they have a real chance at a better life in a place they love.

When one resident of this city who lost his home was asked by a reporter if he would relocate, he said, "Naw, I will rebuild -- but I will build higher." That is our vision for the future, in this city and beyond: We'll not just rebuild, we'll build higher and better. To meet this goal, I will listen to good ideas from Congress, and state and local officials, and the private sector. I believe we should start with three initiatives that the Congress should pass.

Tonight I propose the creation of a Gulf Opportunity Zone, encompassing the region of the disaster in Louisiana and Mississippi and Alabama. Within this zone, we should provide immediate incentives for job-creating investment, tax relief for small businesses, incentives to companies that create jobs, and loans and loan guarantees for small businesses, including minority-owned enterprises, to get them up and running again. It is entrepreneurship that creates jobs and opportunity; it is entrepreneurship that helps break the cycle of poverty; and we will take the side of entrepreneurs as they lead the economic revival of the Gulf region.

I propose the creation of Worker Recovery Accounts to help those evacuees who need extra help finding work. Under this plan, the federal government would provide accounts of up to $5,000, which these evacuees could draw upon for job training and education to help them get a good job, and for child care expenses during their job search.

And to help lower-income citizens in the hurricane region build new and better lives, I also propose that Congress pass an Urban Homesteading Act. Under this approach, we will identify property in the region owned by the federal government, and provide building sites to low-income citizens free of charge, through a lottery. In return, they would pledge to build on the lot, with either a mortgage or help from a charitable organization like Habitat for Humanity. Home ownership is one of the great strengths of any community, and it must be a central part of our vision for the revival of this region.

In the long run, the New Orleans area has a particular challenge, because much of the city lies below sea level. The people who call it home need to have reassurance that their lives will be safer in the years to come. Protecting a city that sits lower than the water around it is not easy, but it can, and has been done. City and parish officials in New Orleans, and state officials in Louisiana will have a large part in the engineering decisions to come. And the Army Corps of Engineers will work at their side to make the flood protection system stronger than it has ever been.

The work that has begun in the Gulf Coast region will be one of the largest reconstruction efforts the world has ever seen. When that job is done, all Americans will have something to be very proud of -- and all Americans are needed in this common effort. It is the armies of compassion -- charities and houses of worship, and idealistic men and women -- that give our reconstruction effort its humanity. They offer to those who hurt a friendly face, an arm around the shoulder, and the reassurance that in hard times, they can count on someone who cares. By land, by sea, and by air, good people wanting to make a difference deployed to the Gulf Coast, and they've been working around the clock ever since.

The cash needed to support the armies of compassion is great, and Americans have given generously. For example, the private fundraising effort led by former Presidents Bush and Clinton has already received pledges of more than $100 million. Some of that money is going to the Governors to be used for immediate needs within their states. A portion will also be sent to local houses of worship to help reimburse them for the expense of helping others. This evening the need is still urgent, and I ask the American people to continue donating to the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, other good charities, and religious congregations in the region.

It's also essential for the many organizations of our country to reach out to your fellow citizens in the Gulf area. So I've asked USA Freedom Corps to create an information clearinghouse, available at, so that families anywhere in the country can find opportunities to help families in the region, or a school can support a school. And I challenge existing organizations -- churches, and Scout troops, or labor union locals to get in touch with their counterparts in Mississippi, Louisiana, or Alabama, and learn what they can do to help. In this great national enterprise, important work can be done by everyone, and everyone should find their role and do their part.

The government of this nation will do its part, as well. Our cities must have clear and up-to-date plans for responding to natural disasters, and disease outbreaks, or a terrorist attack, for evacuating large numbers of people in an emergency, and for providing the food and water and security they would need. In a time of terror threats and weapons of mass destruction, the danger to our citizens reaches much wider than a fault line or a flood plain. I consider detailed emergency planning to be a national security priority, and therefore, I've ordered the Department of Homeland Security to undertake an immediate review, in cooperation with local counterparts, of emergency plans in every major city in America.

I also want to know all the facts about the government response to Hurricane Katrina. The storm involved a massive flood, a major supply and security operation, and an evacuation order affecting more than a million people. It was not a normal hurricane -- and the normal disaster relief system was not equal to it. Many of the men and women of the Coast Guard, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the United States military, the National Guard, Homeland Security, and state and local governments performed skillfully under the worst conditions. Yet the system, at every level of government, was not well-coordinated, and was overwhelmed in the first few days. It is now clear that a challenge on this scale requires greater federal authority and a broader role for the armed forces -- the institution of our government most capable of massive logistical operations on a moment's notice.

Four years after the frightening experience of September the 11th, Americans have every right to expect a more effective response in a time of emergency. When the federal government fails to meet such an obligation, I, as President, am responsible for the problem, and for the solution. So I've ordered every Cabinet Secretary to participate in a comprehensive review of the government response to the hurricane. This government will learn the lessons of Hurricane Katrina. We're going to review every action and make necessary changes, so that we are better prepared for any challenge of nature, or act of evil men, that could threaten our people.

The United States Congress also has an important oversight function to perform. Congress is preparing an investigation, and I will work with members of both parties to make sure this effort is thorough.

In the life of this nation, we have often been reminded that nature is an awesome force, and that all life is fragile. We're the heirs of men and women who lived through those first terrible winters at Jamestown and Plymouth, who rebuilt Chicago after a great fire, and San Francisco after a great earthquake, who reclaimed the prairie from the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Every time, the people of this land have come back from fire, flood, and storm to build anew -- and to build better than what we had before. Americans have never left our destiny to the whims of nature -- and we will not start now.

These trials have also reminded us that we are often stronger than we know -- with the help of grace and one another. They remind us of a hope beyond all pain and death, a God who welcomes the lost to a house not made with hands. And they remind us that we're tied together in this life, in this nation -- and that the despair of any touches us all.

I know that when you sit on the steps of a porch where a home once stood, or sleep on a cot in a crowded shelter, it is hard to imagine a bright future. But that future will come. The streets of Biloxi and Gulfport will again be filled with lovely homes and the sound of children playing. The churches of Alabama will have their broken steeples mended and their congregations whole. And here in New Orleans, the street cars will once again rumble down St. Charles, and the passionate soul of a great city will return.

In this place, there's a custom for the funerals of jazz musicians. The funeral procession parades slowly through the streets, followed by a band playing a mournful dirge as it moves to the cemetery. Once the casket has been laid in place, the band breaks into a joyful "second line" -- symbolizing the triumph of the spirit over death. Tonight the Gulf Coast is still coming through the dirge -- yet we will live to see the second line.

Thank you, and may God bless America.

-Bush Pledges Historic Effort To Help Gulf Coast Recover (Jim VandeHei and Peter Baker, 9/16/05, Washington Post)

Even as he embraced a spending program the scale of which few Democratic presidents ever advanced, Bush signaled that he would shape its contours with policy ideas long sought by conservative thinkers. He proposed creation of a "Gulf Opportunity Zone" that would grant new and existing businesses tax breaks, loans and loan guarantees through 2007. And in documents released before the speech, Bush called for displaced families that send children to private schools, including religious ones, to be eligible for federal money.

Eighteen days after Katrina smashed through the levees here, flooding the city, killing hundreds and displacing more than 1 million, Bush endorsed most of the criticism of the government's stutter-start response to the storm and vowed to investigate and retool its emergency plans, calling in particular for "a broader role for the armed forces" in future domestic crises. He ordered his Cabinet to reexamine disaster plans for every major American city. But he seemed to embrace a Republican plan for a GOP-majority congressional inquiry rather than the independent commission sought by Democrats.

During his 26-minute speech, the president evoked the horror that Katrina wrought on the region, recalling scenes of the abandoned seeking food and water, survivors victimized a second time by looters, and "bodies of the dead lying uncovered and untended in the street." Bush likened Katrina to the worst disasters of American history, including the Chicago fire of 1871 and the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. "Every time the people of this land have come back from fire, flood and storm to build anew -- and to build better than what we had before," he said. "Americans have never left our destiny to the whims of nature, and we will not start now."

Harking back to the "compassionate conservative" rhetoric of his early presidency, Bush infused his address with religious overtones. The trials of the last few weeks, he said, "remind us of a hope beyond all pain and death, a God who welcomes the lost to a house not made with his hands." The language reflected not only Bush's own faith but also his decision to bring back Michael J. Gerson, his first-term speechwriter and now a policy adviser, to help draft perhaps his most important address since launching the Iraq war in 2003.

Biblical citations and imagery are common touchstones for the president when he tries to connect with African Americans, who polls show have been especially aggrieved by the slow federal response because the victims left behind were disproportionately poor and black. "As all of us saw on television," Bush said, "there is also some deep, persistent poverty in this region as well. That poverty has roots in a history of racial discrimination, which cut off generations from the opportunity of America. We have a duty to confront this poverty with bold action."

-Evacuees Find Comfort and Encouragement in Speech (SUSAN SAULNY, 9/16/05, NY Times)
< blockquote>Evacuees at a shelter here said they took comfort Thursday night from both the substance and the symbolism of the speech President Bush gave in the city many of them had fled.

When Mr. Bush talked about breaking the cycle of poverty and increasing the rate of home ownership on the Gulf Coast, one evacuee shouted, "Thank you! Thank you!" Others at the shelter, at the civic center in Houma, a small city southwest of New Orleans, nodded in approval at several points during the speech.

"I feel very encouraged because he's accepted responsibility, and in doing that, I feel that he has stepped up to the plate," said Evelyn Green, 58, a retired health care worker from the New Orleans area. "He touched me. I know now he's going to be there to help us rebuild our cities and towns. I take him at his word. I want to see everything he said tonight fulfilled."

Another evacuee, Muhammad Abdullah Ali, a 52-year-old security officer from New Orleans, said: "I feel that now he's going to take control and do the best he can. I felt good about the speech. It was a good speech. Now I want to see some action." [...]

Senator Mary L. Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana, described Mr. Bush's proposals as "innovative and bold" and said: "The president picked a very inspiring spot to make this speech. The image is worth many words in terms of what Jackson Square and the cathedral mean to New Orleans and what New Orleans means to the nation."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:11 AM


Frustrated by Roberts, and Unsure How to Vote (SHERYL GAY STOLBERG, 9/16/05, NY Times)

Judge Roberts's unflappable performance during three days of questioning has clearly put Democrats in a quandary. Some say a strong vote against his nomination could prod the White House into naming a centrist to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, a crucial swing vote. Others say that supporting the Roberts nomination could make Democrats appear reasonable, giving them more credibility to oppose the next nominee.

Despite Mr. Durbin's remark, the Democratic leader, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, said the vote on Judge Roberts "shouldn't be message time."

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, the New York Democrat whose vote will be among the most closely watched in the Senate because of her possible White House bid in 2008, agreed.

"I have found it is very difficult for Democrats to influence this White House on anything, and so I don't count on them paying attention to our legitimate concerns," Mrs. Clinton said, adding, "They will do what they think is in their interest, however they define it."

Folks may not like Ms Clinton, but as comments like that one make clear, she's just about the only congressional Democrat with a clue.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:05 AM


Matt Drudge May Boot NY Times Columnists (NewsMax, 9/14/05)

Cyber-newsman Matt Drudge is threatening to boot the New York Times’ columnists from his popular Drudge Report Web site after the Times announced it will begin charging for access to their columns.

Color us dubious that they can successfully charge for content--the money to be made on-line seems more likely to come from ads.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:03 AM


The Anti-Fascist (Clifford D. May, September 15, 2005, Townhall)

Jalal Talabani doesn't look much like Che Guevara. With his ample girth, white moustache and bemused smile, he more resembles a favorite uncle who can be counted on to buy ice cream and dispense sound advice.

But don't be misled: Talabani is a revolutionary. As a teenager in 1946, he founded an illegal student's organization; he joined his first revolt against an Iraqi regime in 1961.

Today, at 72, he serves as president of what he calls “the world's youngest democracy.” No less remarkable: Talabani is Kurdish, a member of a severely persecuted Iraqi minority. To grasp how ground-breaking it is for a Kurd to be Iraq's president, try imagining a woman governing Saudi Arabia or a Coptic Christian as Egypt's head of state.

Iraqis are, right now, the freest people in the Muslim Middle East.

Which amply demonstrates that freedom is not a fit end in itself.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:51 AM


Campaigning wraps up for NZ poll (BBC, 9/16/05)

Labour Prime Minister Helen Clark wants to wrap up a third election victory, but is being pushed to the wire by the National Party's Don Brash. [...]

New Zealanders vote on Saturday, with the latest opinion polls showing the two leading parties neck-and-neck.

Mr Brash, a former central bank governor, has only been in parliament for three years, but has shaken up the establishment by vowing to soften New Zealand's ban on nuclear-powered vessels in its ports, and to discard some privileges for the country's native Maori.

He says the long-standing nuclear ban is stifling relations with the United States, and its renegotiation could help with a free trade deal.

Ms Clark said: "What [that] tells me is that they really don't share the deep-held values of New Zealanders to be nuclear-free and proud and independent. They see it as just a bargaining chip for something else. I think that's wrong."

Mr Brash has also pledged to do away with the seven seats reserved for Maori MPs and welfare policies aimed at the indigenous group.

The challenger, who also promises tax cuts, said he was planning to visit New Zealand's three major cities of Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch on Friday.

Neither party is expected to win an outright majority, but will probably have to rely on smaller parties to make up a coalition.

In the Anglosphere you can actually run on reform.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:48 AM


Delaying babies 'defies nature' (BBC, 9/15/05)

Women who wait until their late 30s to have children are defying nature and risking heartbreak, leading obstetricians have warned.

Over the last 20 years pregnancies in women over 35 have risen markedly and the average age of mothers has gone up.

Writing in the British Medical Journal, the London-based fertility specialists say they are "saddened" by the number of women they see who have problems.

They say the best age for pregnancy remains 20 to 35.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:29 AM


The Other Side of Charity's Coin: Crisis Prompts Aid for Evacuees, but Area's Homeless Feel Left Behind (Sue Anne Pressley, 9/16/05, Washington Post)

[E]ager generosity toward Katrina victims also offers a contrast to American society's general inattention to other homeless people, say these scholars and advocates for the poor.

"What crises do is bring out this human instinct for compassion and the desire to help -- what can you do? . . . Why don't we care about ongoing poverty? It seems to me it is much more abstract. 'The poor are always with us, it's such a big problem.' You feel like you can do something when there is a crisis," said Elizabeth Boris, director of the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy at the Urban Institute.

The element of worthiness -- or lack of it -- is also at work.

"Certainly a piece of this is the attribution of blame, that Katrina victims are unlucky, they were living in the wrong place at the wrong time," said Sam Marullo, chairman of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Georgetown University. "The institutional poor we have here in D.C. and every other city around the country, there is a sense that they are at fault . . . they didn't do something right, they didn't get an education, they didn't follow the rules."

Advocates say the homeless have noticed -- and many resent -- the difference in perception and treatment. "Local homeless people are saying, 'Nobody cares about us -- we were here all the time,' " said Imagene Stewart, who has 17 homeless families from the area at her House of Imagene in Northwest Washington.

It's the difference between being a victim of disaster or of self-victimization.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:25 AM


Vatican bid to find gays in seminary stirs concern (Michael Paulson, September 16, 2005, Boston Globe)

An effort by the Vatican to look for evidence of homosexuality in Catholic seminaries is alarming gay rights advocates but is pleasing conservatives, who are hoping that Pope Benedict XVI will soon issue a ban on gay men as future priests.

The planned search for homosexuality is part of a Vatican review prompted by the clergy sexual abuse crisis of 229 American seminaries, theology schools, and other institutions that train priests. It is set to begin this month.

The chairman of the Boston College theology department, the Rev. Kenneth Himes, sharply criticized the review yesterday, saying that if the bishops really want to understand what caused the sexual abuse crisis, they should investigate their own offices.

''What really created the sexual abuse crisis was not poor formation [of priests] in the seminaries, but poor personnel management in the chanceries," Himes said. ''Now we are having an investigation of the seminaries, but I wonder when the Vatican and the American bishops will investigate their own chanceries."

Of course there was a management problem when they were admitted, even recruited, in the first place.

Married Americans remaining faithful (Cheryl Wetzstein, September 16, 2005, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

More than 90 percent of married Americans said they were faithful to their spouses in 2002, according to a new federal report on sexual behavior that includes data on men for the first time.

The data -- and many more facts about Americans' sexual behaviors, attractions and orientations -- is designed to help researchers and policy-makers respond to public health matters, said William D. Mosher, lead author of the report released yesterday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). [...]

The previous five NSFGs were of women only and focused on fertility, childbearing and reproduction.

The 2002 NSFG included answers from 5,000 men and asked new questions about sexual attraction, sexual orientation and sexual practices, such as oral and anal sex.

The NSFG found, for instance, that when people ages 18 to 44 were asked for their sexual identification, 4 percent of men and 4 percent of women said they were either homosexual or bisexual. Those percentages would translate to a total of 4.5 million self-identified homosexuals and bisexuals ages 18 to 44 in the U.S.

However, when everyone in the NSFG survey group, ages 15 through 44, was asked about their sexual partners in the past year, smaller proportions -- 1.6 percent of men and 1.3 percent of women -- said all of their sexual partners were of the same sex as them.

Noting that "a mutually monogamous relationship" is one way to reduce STD risks, the NSFG asked married people how many opposite-sex sexual partners they had had in the past year. About 93 percent of wives and 92 percent of husbands said they had had only one partner.

About 5 percent of husbands and 4 percent of wives said they had had more than one sexual partner in the previous year, and smaller portions declined to answer the question, but these statistics "are not certain evidence of infidelity," according to the report.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:05 AM


Senators save breath for next court debate (Kathy Kiely, 9/15/05, USA TODAY)

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said Bush aides asked her about Edith Clement, a judge on the U.S. appeals court that covers Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi. Clements' lack of controversial writings on abortion could make her an appealing candidate.

"She would be very high in my book," Landrieu said.

That'll scramble the betting pools.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:41 AM


Seinfeld Who? NBC Pursuing the Heartland (JACQUES STEINBERG, 9/16/05, NY Times)

For a network that dominated the prime-time ratings for a decade with sophisticated urban comedies like "Cheers," "Seinfeld," "Frasier" and "Friends," only to tumble to fourth place last season without them, Ms. Grant's show is a radical departure. "Three Wishes" is aimed, in no small part, at a churchgoing rural and suburban audience. And its marketing plan, evocative of a red-state presidential campaign, bears scant resemblance to any NBC has crafted before.

In advance of the new prime-time television season, NBC sent more than 7,000 DVD's of the show's first episode to ministers and other clergy members, along with a recorded message to their congregants from Ms. Grant. ("At its core, 'Three Wishes' is faith in action," she tells them.) The network has also booked Ms. Grant - a pop singer who vaulted to fame singing Christian songs, crossed over to mainstream radio and recently released an album of hymns titled "Rock of Ages" - for interviews on Christian radio and taken out advertising in small-town newspapers.

And, perhaps most seductively, NBC has been stuffing cash registers at stores here like Goody's and others in or around Nashville, Salt Lake City, Des Moines and Milwaukee with tens of thousands of $1 bills used for groceries and other basics. The dollars are affixed with yellow stickers (removable, consistent with Treasury Department guidelines) that ask, "What's your wish?," and implore people to watch the show. All told, the network expects to give away 150,000 of those dollar bills in 15 cities and towns.

Though NBC hopes the show will have broad appeal - it also took its dollar bill campaign to New York and Los Angeles - Barbara Blangiardi, the network's vice president of marketing and special projects, said that "absolutely the Christian community was a target audience."

They've come a long way from making fun of Hillbillies.

TV review: Three Wishes: This reality shows allows TV producers to choose three deserving souls and grant their wishes (Gene Edward Veith, World)

Reality TV falls into three basic categories: voyeur shows (Big Brother, The Anna Nicole Show), game shows (Survivor, The Amazing Race), and feel-good shows (The Nanny, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition).

Three Wishes (NBC, 9:00 ET) may be the ultimate feel-good reality show. Representatives of TV-land descend upon a small town, set up a tent, and listen to the people who line up with their supplications. The producers choose three deserving souls and grant their wishes.

A mother wishes for facial reconstructive surgery for her little girl injured in a horrible accident. The high-school cheerleading squad wishes for a new football field, the dream of a coach stricken with leukemia. A boy wants his stepfather to adopt him. The Hollywood visitors "work their magic," as they say, and grant the wishes. Everyone feels good. Everybody cries.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:33 AM


Why is Bush facing this flood of vitriol? (BRIAN MONTEITH, 9/16/05, The Scotsman)

THERE was a time in the 1980s when anything that went wrong was immediately blamed on Margaret Thatcher. One only had to look out the bedroom window in the morning and, if it was raining, you would expect Michael Fish to blame the precipitation on the PM.

Her critics found it hard to deal with her and so every possible opportunity to blame her was seized upon with relish. Such behaviour revealed, to Thatcherites like me, just how once seemingly balanced broadcasters were in fact communists that slept under their beds instead of in them.

I've just come back from Fiji (via Los Angeles) where my only source of information about the appalling Hurricane Katrina has been CNN and BBC News 24 and, if you were to rely on their reports, President Bush should be impeached for dereliction of duty - if not simply thrown to the mercy of the mob in New Orleans (not that they would accept any mobs existed).

It did seem surreal that while Santa Monicans were going about their everyday business in the same country, a natural disaster on a huge scale - a flood the size of Britain - was unravelling. It is easy to forget just how vast the United States is and how difficult it actually was to comprehend the scale of the problem.

Still, the sheer bile coming out from politicians like the Reverend Jesse Jackson (that it was a plot against black people) and the tone of news reports displayed an ignorance or mendaciousness that I thought unwarranted.

You can't radically transform a political culture and be well-liked.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:26 AM


Disability allowances (Leo McKinstry, the Spectator, September 17th, 2005)

An insidious paradox lies at the heart of the modern thrust for disability rights. This agenda is supposed to promote equality and fair treatment, goals to which no one could object. Yet the official definition of disability is now so wide, so all-embracing, that it includes the feckless, the antisocial, even the criminal. In the madhouse of today’s Britain, even the crack addict and the violent thug can be classified as disabled under anti-discrimination regulations.

Such absurdities have arisen because of the influence of the psychiatric profession, which has decided that almost any selfish or dangerous conduct can now be categorised as mental illness. In this twisted world all concepts of morality and personal responsibility have been lost, replaced by a determination to medicalise every behavioural problem. So an ill-tempered, wilful child is said to be suffering from something called ‘Oppositional Defiant Disorder’, while the aggressive bully is treated as a victim of a ‘Bipolar Disorder’. And because all types of mental illness are regarded as a form of disability, so those with difficult personalities are treated as disabled. Those who were once regarded as immoral or destructive are now seen as worthy of our support. Any attempt to tell them to behave in a civilised manner is a form of discrimination in itself.

This is not how the general public, of course, would view the battle for the rights of the disabled. Most people would imagine that the term disability is meant to cover those suffering a permanent physical or mental impairment, such as those with multiple sclerosis, blindness, cerebral palsy or Down’s syndrome. But in reality, such conditions apply to only a small proportion of the disabled. Despite all the signs dotted around our public spaces, for instance, just 5 per cent of the disabled are actually wheelchair-bound. The term has become so loose that, according to one government survey, some 11 million people — one quarter of the adult population — could be described as disabled. This grand army of 11 million includes those with stress problems, asthma, bad livers, poor nerves, and pains in the back or neck.

The ever-expanding definition of disability is no frivolous matter. For it has allowed those with personal problems, like alcoholism or drug addiction, to wallow in a permanent sense of grievance, regarding themselves as victims of a medical condition. And, in the name of challenging discrimination, this has created limitless opportunities for the pursuit of vexatious claims against employers. Under two recent Disability Discrimination Acts, in 1995 and 2005, companies and public bodies have a duty to ‘make reasonable adjustments’ to remove any barriers to the employment of disabled people.

It is easy to rail against the greediness of the caring professions and the fecklessness of the weak, but why wouldn’t a rational person in a relativist, secular world do anything lawful to pin the responsibility for taking care of him or her on someone else?

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:07 AM


Against Eternal Youth (Frederica Mathewes-Green , First Things, August/September, 2005)

The well-meaning parents of the 1950s confused vulnerability with moral innocence. They failed to understand that children who were always encouraged to be childish would jump at the chance and turn childishness into a lifelong project. These parents were unprepared to respond when their children acquired the bodies of young adults and behaved with selfishness, defiance, and hedonism.

The World War II generation envisioned a sharp contrast between childhood and adulthood: Childhood was all gaiety, while adulthood was burdened with misery and toil. The resulting impulse was to place children in a hermetically sealed playroom. Childhood, once understood as a transitional stage, was now almost a physical place—a toy-filled nursery where children could linger all the golden afternoon. Parents looked on wistfully, wishing their dear children could stay young forever.

As they say: Be careful what you wish for. When conservatives get nostalgic for the Ozzie-and-Harriett parenting of the 1950s, they should remember how the experiment turned out. The children got older, but they never grew up. They continued to show the same self-centered and demanding behavior that had fit so well with their parents’ desire to pamper and protect. They continued to expect that life would be arranged to please them, as it had been in the playroom. They ridiculed their parents’ values, slept around, and trashed all forms of authority.

Of course, when all the authorities have been trashed, the world doesn’t feel very secure. Anxiety hangs over a culture when adults act like children. The Baby Boomers rejected not just grownup life but grownups. They rejected the parents who had worried so much over them. If something looked like what grownups would do, Boomers wanted no part of it.[...]

Future historians will have to sort out our plight—how a whole generation could forget to grow up, while still attempting to raise a younger generation and lead the most powerful nation in the world through times of war and terror. The skills of adulthood are not ones we know how to use. Being kittenish, or obscene, or adorably perplexed—we can do that. But gathering the gravity and confidence that signals full maturity is beyond our capabilities. It’s not youth that passed us by, but adulthood.

In Chaim Potok’s wonderful novel, The Chosen, a brilliant Hasidic teenager grows up with a pious father who will not speak to him and acts like he isn’t there. The story tracks his unsurprisingly painful difficulty in understanding and coping with this. At the end, the mystery is resolved in an extremely poignant reconciliation when the father tells him that, when he was very young, he (the father) could see he was brilliant but that he was also selfish and hard-hearted. After much prayer, the father made the heartbreaking decision to deprive him of his father’s love so he would know and come to understand the pain of others around him. The book ends with the boy beginning his studies to be a psychologist–one with an obviously fierce sense of vocation.

The fact that it is almost impossible for the modern mind to see this as other than outrageously cruel and abusive is an indication of how the self-indulgent, inward-looking life is so prized by our culture and has come to define our notions of maturity, courage and strength.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Reform the Country, But Don't Tell the Voters (Der Spiegel, 9/16/05)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Good news from Iraq (Brian P. Golden, September 16, 2005, Boston Globe)

Can constitutional democracy work here? Bernard Lewis, a premier historian of the Middle East, identifies the West as originator of harsh authoritarianism here, from Napoleon's dictatorship in Egypt in the 19th century, to the arrival of European-style fascism in the 20th century. Lewis insists that prior to European approaches the region produced far less menacing leaders. Lewis sees hope in history because these earlier leaders -- while not democrats -- governed through consultation and consensus among the major stakeholders in society. Looking at the political posters throughout Baghdad left over from the January election, I realize there may be a historical and cultural foundation that accepts democracy.

And look at what's happened in practice. January's election turnout was astounding; it will certainly be surpassed this fall. A recent poll in the Arabic newspaper Al Hayat reports that 88 percent of Iraqis plan to vote in the October referendum. The Kurds and Shi'ites, comprising 80 percent of the population, embrace the draft constitution. Even disgruntled Sunni Arab leaders are redoubling their efforts to register voters. Many Sunnis will vote in opposition, but opposition in a democracy isn't a bad thing; it's a victory.

And what does this mean for the insurgency? It's a disaster. The insurgency is despised because Iraqi civilians suffer most at their hands. Recently, even the spiritual leader of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the terrorist leader, demanded that attacks on civilians cease. And in the spring, Leslie Gelb of the nonpartisan Council on Foreign Relations took a tour of Iraq and met with local leaders. He observed that while Iraqis are often frustrated with the Americans, they absolutely hate the insurgency and its murderous destruction. Despite threats, Iraqis will continue to defy the insurgency by voting.

Capable people comprise the constructive forces in Iraq. While Saddam Hussein's policies devastated education in the 1990s, older Iraqis grew up in one of the most literate countries in the Middle East. They can produce goods and services and run businesses.

Since the prewar period, there has been a 250 percent growth in the use of telephones. Electric power generation has grown above prewar levels, even in the midst of insurgent attacks, and after 40 years of complete neglect by Saddam. Every day schools are renovated (3,100 in the past year), and greater numbers of Iraqis receive medical treatment (healthcare spending is 30 times higher than in the prewar period).

The minister of defense is a former general who was once sentenced to death by Saddam. With a PhD in psychology, he now oversees an Iraqi Army of 88,000 soldiers. It is a brand new entity with flaws. But some units are assuming significant responsibilities, with the special forces regarded as exceedingly well-trained and capable. In the next six months, the Iraqi Army should be conducting a majority of the operations in Iraq. As the Iraqi Army matures, greater numbers of US soldiers will come home.

The future is uncertain, but there is concrete evidence of progress.

September 15, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:48 PM


Galloway and Hitchens slug it out (James Bone, 9/15/05, Times of London)

GEORGE GALLOWAY, the anti-Iraq war Respect Party MP for Bethnal Green, is guilty of “sinister piffle”. On the other hand, Christopher Hitchens, the pro-intervention polemicist who writes a column for Vanity Fair, practises “Goebbellian tricks”.

The two rivals in the raging row over Iraq engaged in an intellectual prize fight in New York on Wednesday night. Before a jeering crowd of more than 1,000 people in a college auditorium, the two master rhetoricians — once allies on the Left — hurled invective at each other for almost two hours.

A scruffy, sweating Mr Hitchens accused Mr Galloway of being an apologist for dictators, fresh from Damascus, where he had praised the 145 attacks a day by Iraqi insurgents on coalition troops. “The man’s hunt for a tyrannical fatherland never ends,” he said. “The Soviet Union let him down; Albania’s gone; the Red Army’s out of Afghanistan; Saddam’s been overthrown . . . But on to the next, in Damascus.”

Mr Galloway, tanned and looking worthy of his “Gorgeous George” nickname in a well-pressed beige suit, denounced Mr Hitchens as an ex-Trotskyist stooge for a reactionary government in Washington bent on dominating the Iraqi people. “People like Mr Hitchens are willing to fight to the last drop of other people’s blood,” he said to wild applause.

While folk like Mr. Galloway are willing not to fight to the last drop of Iraqi blood. There's a perfectly rational argument to be made that no number of dead Iraqis is worth a single Brit or American life, but it's nothing more than rational and, consequently, quite despicable.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:00 PM


Flight 93 hijacked - again (MARK STEYN, 9/14/05, THE JERUSALEM POST)

FOUR YEARS on, plans for the Flight 93 National Memorial have now been revealed. The winning design, chosen from 1,011 entries, will be built in that pasture in Pennsylvania where those heroes died. The memorial is called "The Crescent of Embrace."

That sounds like a fabulous winning entry – in a competition to create a note-perfect parody of effete multicultural responses to terrorism. Indeed, if anything, it'stoo perfect a parody: the "embrace" is just the usual huggy-weepy reconciliatory boilerplate, but the "crescent" transforms its generic cultural abasement into something truly spectacular. In the design plans, "The Crescent of Embrace" looks more like the embrace of the Crescent – ie, Islam. After all, what better way to demonstrate your willingness to "embrace" your enemies than by erecting a giant Islamic crescent at the site of the day's most unambiguous episode of American heroism?

Okay, let's get all the "of courses" out of the way – of course, the overwhelming majority of Muslims aren't terrorists; of course, we all know "Islam" means "peace" and "jihad" means "healthy-lifestyle lo-carb granola bar"; etc, etc. Nevertheless, the men who hijacked Flight 93 did it in the name of Islam and their last words as they hit the Pennsylvania sod were no doubt "Allahu Akhbar."

ONE WOULD like to think that even today one would be unlikely to come across an Allied D-Day memorial called the Swastika of Embrace. Yet Paul Murdoch, the architect, has somehow managed to conceive a design that makes a splendid memorial to the hijackers rather than their victims.

This would seem to be a more fitting memorial, Bruderhof Peace Barn - A Flight 93 memorial. Civil society once again outdoing the government.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:19 PM


Germany's new Left Party has momentum going into Sunday's vote (Andreas Tzortzis, 9/16/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

Part populist, part socialist, the Left Party currently commands between 7 and 9 percent of the vote, ahead of the conservatives' possible coalition partner, the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP) and Schröder's junior coalition partner, the Green Party. Should they retain their lead, they could force the CDU and the SPD into a "grand coalition," with Merkel as chancellor and Schröder's party as her junior partner - a prospect experts predict would halt the CDU's planned pro-market reforms because of political infighting.

Nothing would please the Left more.

Fundamentally, the Left Party is offering a radically different answer to the question of how Germany should reform its lethargic economy to remain competitive and grow jobs. Until now, the major parties have been telling Germans that cuts to the country's bloated social welfare system, tax reform, and a more flexible labor market are crucial to reviving the "sick man of Europe."

The Left Party, on the other hand, invokes terms like "social economic justice" to comfort voters like Geppe by suggesting alternatives to liberal reform.

"There need to be fundamental changes in the system," says Bernd Ihme, a Left Party official. "We don't want big business to think that it's not responsible for the well-being of the people."

The Left is strongest in the economically depressed East, where current polls show them commanding around 30 percent of the vote, several points ahead of both the CDU and SPD. The party's push for further tax hikes on the rich in order to finance employment programs, the education system, and the continuation of Germany's welfare system resonates with a region that lived under a socialist economy for more than 40 years.

Of course, the Left Party is also running on anti-immigrant nationalism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:13 PM


Bout 1: over. Bout 2: huge.:
With Roberts unscathed by grillings, Democrats turn gaze to court's 'swing' seat. (Gail Russell Chaddock, 9/16/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

After four days in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, John Roberts appears headed for confirmation as the 17th chief justice of the United States, even as Democrats and outside groups gear up for the next, even more critical, fight.

Steady and nuanced - with flashes of dry wit - Judge Roberts held a consistent line through more than 20 hours of questioning: He supports the rule of law. He will decide issues in light of the court's precedents and facts of the case, with an open mind. He refused to comment on issues likely to come before the court - and even on some that won't, such as the 2000 case Bush v. Gore.

Democrats now must decide whether or not to oppose the nomination, knowing they face a second confirmation battle, possibly as soon as Roberts's nomination is settled, legal analysts say. [...]

"If this were a fight, they'd have called it," says Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) of South Carolina, challenging Democrats to explain why they'd vote against Roberts in light of the fact that Republicans voted overwhelmingly for Clinton nominee Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of the most liberal justices on the high court.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on Roberts's nomination Sept. 22, and a floor vote would follow Sept. 26.

If Ted Kennedy had always show this kind of determination even after all hope was lost he'd be a former president.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:09 PM

IT WON'T BE HARD TO TARGET (via Thomas A. Corcoran):

Kim Jong Il: We Want Clinton Nuke Deal (NewsMax, 9/15/05)

Negotiators for North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il insisted on Wednesday that the U.S. honor ex-President Clinton's promise to give them a nuclear reactor in exchange for giving up their nuclear weapons program. [...]

But [U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher] Hill noted that North Korea has pursued a nuclear program for 25 years and used it solely to make weapons-grade plutonium for atomic bombs - not for generating electricity.

The North was slated to get two such reactors under the Clinton plan. Other assistance promised by the U.S. at the time would have turned Pyongyang into the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid in the Pacific rim.

The Agreed Framework collapsed, however, in late 2002, when Kim Jong Il's government admitted it was making nuclear bombs. "As it turns out, they were cheating," Clinton Secretary of State Madeleine Albright later explained.

Why not start the reactor, make sure the rest of their program is terminated, and then Osirak the whole shebang?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:00 PM

EITHER/OR (via Tom Corcoran):

The JFK Question: Sens. Specter and Feinstein impose an unconstitutional religious test. (MANUEL MIRANDA, September 15, 2005, Opinion Journal)

Article VI of the Constitution prohibits a religious test from being imposed on nominees to public office. The clause was motivated by the experience of Catholics in the Maryland colony and Baptists in Virginia who had been the targets of Great Britain's two Test Acts. These infamous laws of intolerance sought to prevent anyone who did not belong to the Church of England from holding public office. The Test Acts did not say that Catholics could not hold office; the bigotry was more subtle. Officials questioned would-be public servants to determine whether they believed in particular tenets of the Catholic faith.

While questioning John Roberts on Tuesday, Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter asked: "Would you say that your views are the same as those expressed by John Kennedy when he was a candidate, and he spoke to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in September of 1960: 'I do not speak for my church on public matters, and the church does not speak for me.' "

Hours later, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California made it worse: "In 1960, there was much debate about President John F. Kennedy's faith and what role Catholicism would play in his administration. At that time, he pledged to address the issues of conscience out of a focus on the national interests, not out of adherence to the dictates of one's religion. . . . My question is: Do you?"

How insulting. How offensive. How invidiously ignorant to question someone like Judge Roberts with such apparent presumption and disdain for the religion he practices.

To the contrary, this isn't offensive but a necessary question for the Left to ask. What it demonstrates is that you can't be faithful to the tenets of the Catholic religion and at the same time conform to the social policies of their party. Folks have to choose between being faithful to their religion or being members in good standing of the Democratic Party.

Reading the Mind of John Roberts (Patrick O'Hannigan, 9/14/2005, American Spectator)

Catholicism makes room for "prudential judgment," as Vischer notes, and good thing, too. That kind of discernment applies to areas where the church has said nothing. You can't settle arguments over the designated hitter rule or the likelihood of Darwinian "descent with modification" by pulling out a copy of the catechism.

Prudential judgment may also be invoked at those times when theologically informed partisans argue about whether it's a sin to build a nuclear weapon, or when economists of the Sowellian bent can drive figurative trucks through the ignorance of pastoral letters on subjects like the "living wage."

But Alice herself can't skip blithely down that rabbit hole when bishops are on their home turf, championing what John Paul II famously called "the culture of life," not least because prudential judgment requires a "well-formed conscience" which in turn must be cognizant of unbroken teaching rooted in 2,000-year-old mission statements like "I came that you may have life, and have it more abundantly" as recorded in John 10:10.

Per the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and its "Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life": "...those who are directly involved in lawmaking bodies have a 'grave and clear obligation to oppose' any law that attacks human life."

This obligation weighs more heavily on legislators than on judges, but it is not something that any practicing Catholic in public life can shirk.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:01 AM


In Syria, regime change by other means (Ehsan Ahrari, 9/16/05)

The United States has not abandoned the option of regime change. This time, the objective is to oust the Bashar Assad regime of Syria, but by using "other" means.

This use of other means includes a combination of old tactics used to topple Saddam Hussein, and also uses a number of new tactics aimed at ensuring that the European Union - or its major members, the ones that were derided in the past by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld as part of "old Europe" - does not oppose it, and that even the United Nations Security Council goes along with it. At least in principle, that is a deft approach.

Why has Syria become the target of America's fury?

To get a sense of how drastically we've transformed the Middle East in just four years it's helpful to look at a map, which reveals precisely why Syria is now in our sights:

Where once it was just another illiberal regime in the midst of many it is now surrounded by democracies and emerging democracies--having forced regime change in Palestine, Lebanon, and Iraq, it's the one nail sticking up and we've got a hammer.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:19 AM


Say it Slowly: 'Zukunftsangst': Germany is haunted. My countrymen see ghosts everywhere as they go to the polls this Sunday. (Gabor Steingart, 9/15/05, Wall Street Journal)

When neo-Nazis are elected to a regional parliament, many fear a resurgence of Hitler. When a left-wing splinter party gains strength, scores believe they see the ghost of communism. Because Angela Merkel, leader of the opposition Christian Democratic Union, has proposed a larger dose of reform policy than Gerhard Schröder, the current chancellor, millions see her as the reincarnation of Maggie Thatcher. No wonder pollsters have found a level of fear in this election campaign that is greater than anything we've ever experienced since the war. A balance of terror has emerged: Fear of unemployment competes with fear of an overly radical fight against it. Empty state coffers cause the same horror as the budget cuts designed to overcome them. Some call for a serious increase in genetic research, which leads others reflexively to cringe.

Everyone is terrified of everyone. As if of its own accord, the word "fear" attaches itself to the word "future" -- Zukunftsangst permeates the German mind. Fear of reform, fear of stagnation, fear of a failure of democracy and now -- as the frantic climax of this collective neurosis -- the fear of a further growth of fear.

The result is political exhaustion on all sides. On Sunday, Europe's largest industrialized country will most likely elect the weakest of all postwar governments -- assuming the result even allows a government to be formed.

While I'm inclined to think the Atlanticists were actually serious about saving Europe, there's a school of thought that holds this was the aim of America's WWII/Cold War policy, to enervate Europe so completely that it could never threaten our peace again. At any rate, they certainly have been put out of our misery.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 5:42 AM


The march of the machines (Camilla Cavendish, Timesonline, September 25th, 2005)

The insidious drip, drip of global governance fatally dissipates the energies of elected national leaders. The European Parliament has spent the past week arguing about a “sunshine directive” that would have made EU employers responsible for the health effects of sunlight on their staff. Beetroot-red builder’s bottom has now been preserved for the nation, apparently, after a battle that should never have been fought — with our money — in the first place. There is a similar air of unreality in New York. One newcomer to summitry says he is amazed by the industry of pre-meetings and pre-pre-meetings. On Sunday a diplomat commented that the atmosphere in the room was as if there were ten days to the end of the negotiation, not two working days before world leaders were due to arrive. But technocrats have all the time in the world: when the summit ends, the machine will lumber on.

When the UN and the EU were set up, the challenge was to create big institutions that could underpin peace and prosperity. Today the challenge is to tame institutions that have acquired an internal momentum far beyond democratic control. Sure, jaw-jaw is better than war-war. But the UN has prevented war on precious few occasions in its 60-year history. The EU relied on America to intervene in Yugoslavia, and its attempts to dissuade Iran from going nuclear have been a miserable failure. Jaw-jaw can drown out reality.

The UN is inevitably a hostage to compromise — which is why it has stood still while 200,000 have been killed in Sudan’s genocide, and why Kosovo was saved by Nato, in violation of the UN Charter. The UN’s failure to agree a definition of terrorism, four years after 9/11, makes it hard to believe that it can do much about collective security, despite the fashionable belief that the new terrorist threat requires global co-operation. And its credibility has been damaged by the Oil-for-Food scandal, perhaps the largest ever fraud. It is strange that expectations of the UN are so wildly overblown when it is so unaccountable and when its scope for action on big issues is deliberately limited by the vetoes that are the price for security council members turning up. [...]

Judicial creep is the inevitable result of federalism. Like the US Supreme Court, the ECJ’s duty is to interpret the spirit of the treaties — which are generally integrationist. The court’s rulings on cross-border tax disputes are slowly eroding national vetoes on tax. It has ruled that public health is covered by single market legislation because health is a service, and services can be traded. The can is open, and lawyers will worm their way into more areas of national life.

Monarchs grandstanding in New York seems so last century. Maybe we should turn down the volume and listen more carefully to the whirring of the machines. If we don’t get wise to where the real power is, we will sacrifice any hope of changing the world.

One of the reasons the left is so addicted to a never-ending global crisis mentality is that, in order to destroy democracy and replace it with an unaccountable bureaucratic oligarchy, the general population must be made to feel so insecure they cease believing they are capable of deciding what is best for them on their own.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 5:37 AM


Britons accept gas prices of nearly $7 (Thomas Wagner, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, September 14th, 2005)

Peter Welsh, one of many Britons who ignored a call for nationwide fuel price protests Wednesday, figured out long ago how to cope with gasoline that has soared to nearly $7 a gallon - more than twice as much as Americans pay.

He drives a motorbike to work. His wife drives their two children to school in their Alfa Romeo, then returns home and takes public transportation to her government job. Beyond that, their car only gets out of the garage during local drives on weekends.

"OK, rising oil prices are a worldwide problem now. We know that. But in England, about half of what we pay for petrol is a British tax. If the government dropped the price and raised our sales tax or our income tax, we working people would still be hurt, wouldn't we?" said Welsh, 41, who delivers parcels to companies and businesses for the Royal Mail.

Poor enslaved Brits. We North Americans would never compromise our fundamental rights and freedoms by making “working people” budget the use of their Alfa Romeos.

Posted by Matt Murphy at 2:50 AM


End of the Bush Era (E.J. Dionne, 9/13/05, Washington Post)

The Bush Era is over. The sooner politicians in both parties realize that, the better for them -- and the country.

Recent months, and especially the past two weeks, have brought home to a steadily growing majority of Americans the truth that President Bush's government doesn't work. His policies are failing, his approach to leadership is detached and self-indulgent, his way of politics has produced a divided, angry and dysfunctional public square. We dare not go on like this.

The Bush Era did not begin when he took office, or even with the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. It began on Sept. 14, 2001, when Bush declared at the World Trade Center site: "I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you. And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon." Bush was, indeed, skilled in identifying enemies and rallying a nation already disposed to action. [...]

If Bush had understood that his central task was to forge national unity, as he seemed to shortly after Sept. 11, the country would never have become so polarized. Instead, Bush put patriotism to the service of narrowly ideological policies and an extreme partisanship.

So Dionne is back to favoring the concept of national unity as a solution to the usual partisan ferment? I'm having real trouble keeping up with this guy -- it's like trying to break a particularly perplexing line of code.

Luckily, he provides us with a handy decoder ring a little later in his column:

The breaking of the Bush spell opens the way for leaders of both parties to declare their independence from the recent past.

He rejoices in the sort of bipartisanship that allows Democrats and Republicans to oppose Bush.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Bush Plans Speech; Death Toll Rises: Aides say his address tonight will announce rebuilding efforts with a strong role for the private sector. Katrina fatalities reach 710. (Lianne Hart and Janet Hook, September 15, 2005, LA Times)

As the death toll from Hurricane Katrina climbed to 710 on Wednesday, White House aides said President Bush's address to the nation tonight would call for reconstructing the Gulf Coast using conservative blueprints and private-sector initiatives.

In preparing for his speech to be delivered from New Orleans, the president consulted widely with Republican leaders and conservative thinkers. [...]

A federal emergency bill passed Wednesday night in the Senate would provide emergency housing vouchers averaging $600 a month for as many as six months for more than 350,000 displaced Gulf Coast families.

The measure offered by Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D-Md.) was attached on a voice vote to an unrelated spending bill. The Senate is slated to pass the overall bill today, but a final version needs to be worked out with the House, which passed its own version in June. [...]

At the White House, officials readied for Bush' national address from New Orleans. Aides billed the speech as Bush's chance to recover from lost political momentum and wed conservative ideals to the pressing need to redesign the broken city. The televised speech, to be delivered at 6 p.m. PDT, is expected to last about 30 minutes.

"The president wants people to think big," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. "Most importantly, he believes that it should be driven locally, in terms of the vision and the planning, with the full support of the federal government."

Advisors also want the speech to hew to conservative notions of small government and ample business opportunities. Aides have broached ideas with Republican leaders in Congress and analysts at conservative think tanks.

Ideas they discussed include a strong role for the private sector and charitable organizations along with a package of housing and education vouchers and tax breaks to encourage business activity in the region.

"Bush has a very well defined vision of what government should do and how it should do it," said Michael Franc, a vice president of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research organization consulted by the White House. "This is a moment to teach or explain to the American people how his values apply to this catastrophic situation."

When you can get Paul Sarbanes to propose housing vouchers the Third Way has won.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Blanco takes blame for state response (Melinda DeSlatte, September 15, 2005, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco yesterday took responsibility for failures and missteps in the immediate response to Hurricane Katrina and pledged a united effort to rebuild areas ravaged by the storm.

"We all know that there were failures at every level of government: state, federal and local. At the state level, we must take a careful look at what went wrong and make sure it never happens again. The buck stops here, and as your governor, I take full responsibility," Mrs. Blanco told lawmakers in a special meeting of the Louisiana Legislature.

Mrs. Blanco's statement came a day after President Bush said he would "take responsibility" for federal failures in dealing with Katrina. The Democratic governor, who has criticized the response of federal officials to the storm and subsequent flood that deluged New Orleans, yesterday told legislators that Mr. Bush is "a friend and partner" in Louisiana's recovery effort.
When the wagons start circling you better get inside the ring.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM

AND YOU CAN"T MAKE US WORK (via Robert Schwartz):

Europe’s Not Working (Olaf Gersemann, October-December 2005, American Enterprise)

Adjusted for differences in price levels, per capita income in the United States now exceeds France by close to 40 percent. Germany and Italy lag even further behind. [...]

Nearly every top politician in Germany is on record giving a grave, smug warning about the danger of letting “American conditions” seep into the German economy. In Germany’s economic debate, “American conditions” is code for stiff economic competition, low taxes, minimal state intrusion, and limitedduration welfare payments. Ireland and Britain have adopted many of these policies themselves, rocketing past Germany and France in living standards in the process. But for political opportunists in continental Europe, the quickest way to dismiss any talk of market freedom or reduction in the size of government is to ooze concern about American economic brutalism.

Even Kajo Neukirchen, widely considered to be Germany’s toughest business executive, has said that he does “not want American conditions, with hiring and firing being the order of the day.” And during British attempts to talk France and Germany into some economic reforms this summer, even Blair cabinet member Jack Straw made it a point to insist that his country does not have “a far-right economy” like the U.S.

While condemning American-style capitalism, Europe’s politicians continue to present their own continent as an economic beacon. [...]

When a majority of French voters rejected the proposed European constitution this summer, they could have been acting for any number of good reasons. Start with the fact that at over 60,000 words—touching everything from the “right to good administration” to the “right to be heard” to the promise of “a free placement service” for every worker—this is a bureaucratic monster rather than a constitution. Yet when the French said “non,” polls showed it was not out of any qualms over the megalomaniacal document itself. It was because the average Frenchman wanted to punish the European Union for its role in opening up Europe’s economies somewhat. The typical French voter was not upset because her economy is too centralized and manipulated; she said she wanted France’s economy to be more statist than even Brussels allowed.

Likewise, the backlash against Gerhard Schroeder solidified not when his socialist nostrums ran the German economy further into the ground over six years, but when he finally put forth some timid reforms—such as cautiously cutting unemployment benefits—to try to slip out of his economic mess. A majority of Germans pronounced these reform steps as going in the “wrong direction”—as if Germany could possibly survive going any further in the social democratic direction.

The attitude still most widely held in Europe is that it is the job of politicians to distribute and redistribute society’s goods—be it jobs, income, or wealth. There is a deep zero-sum mentality in Europe which starts from the idea that politics, not competition, should govern economics. Asked in April 2005 whether competition is good for economic growth and employment, only 45 percent of Germans strongly agreed. In both France and Italy, the share was only 29 percent.

Do not be surprised, then, if Angela Merkel, the leader of Germany’s Christian Democrats, and likely successor of Gerhard Schroeder as German chancellor, behaves little better in the economic realm. Consider government finances. Germany’s federal government currently taxes away about 44 percent of the nation’s output, and the Schroeder government has long insisted this is not enough. When introducing its draft for next year’s budget during this summer, the Schroeder administration complained that “with the current financial endowment, an adequate public infrastructure, a good public education systemÉ can’t be guaranteed any more.”

You might expect that Ms. Merkel, as the head of Germany’s supposed conservative party, would want to change course. Yet her fiscal platform is remarkable mainly for two things: She has proposed a reduction of payroll taxes—but only in exchange for an increase of the Value Added Tax from 16 to 18 percent on purchases. Furthermore, this year Merkel abandoned a whole host of tax-cutting proposals that her party had demanded previously in its status as the opposition. With the announcement of the special national elections on September 18, and the chance to regain power, the Christian Democrats abandoned many of the economic principles that had served to separate them from the Social Democrats. Prominent, allegedly pro-capitalist German pundits applauded, with one of them explaining that “there is simply no room for a lasting tax relief.”

Events have caught up to Mr. Gersemann's essay and Mr. Schroeder has tightened the noose of Reformer that Ms Merkel foolishly draped around her own neck.

In German voters, the voice of anger (Katrin Bennhold, 9/14/05, International Herald Tribune)

Many feel betrayed by an economy that has allowed big companies to reach record profits at a time when unemployment remains at 11.4 percent. They are angry at a government that, despite imposing painful reforms, has not kept its promises to cut that joblessness.

At the same time, 69 percent of voters, according to a survey by the Allensbach polling institute, say they think Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats - whom other surveys say will take the biggest chunk of votes this weekend - will also have trouble solving Germany's economic problems. Sixty percent, the Allensbach survey indicated, have lost faith in politicians altogether. [...]

In East and West alike, nostalgia abounds - along with acute worry for the next generation in a country where the notion that children will be better off than their parents was the defining motivation of the postwar years.

Back in Leipzig, in the working-class housing project of Grünau, Peter Wilhelm said he would happily trade his right to vote for the resurrection of the wall that once separated the East from the West. "At least then everyone had work and we could afford what is in the supermarket," said Wilhelm, 48, a furniture mover who earns 6.50 an hour. He and his wife pay 500 a month for their apartment.

"If I had known what would become of this country, I would not have had children," he said, stroking the hair of his 3-year-old daughter, Jessica. "They grow up to be unemployed, and if they find a job they are still poor. It's no life."

Painful reforms?

September 14, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:59 PM


Roberts's testimony alarms conservatives (Charlie Savage, September 15, 2005, Boston Globe)

One writer on the conservative site wrote that yesterday's questioning by Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., Democrat of Delaware, had ''exposed Roberts" as a moderate.

The notion that folks posting comments at FreeRepublic or Kos or wherever reflect anything broader than their own lunatic views is complete nonsense. To cite these ravings as if they were part of the mainstream conversation does a disservice to our politics. Everyone doesn't actually think everyone who disagrees with them is a Nazi.

Posted by Matt Murphy at 10:23 PM


Reuters thinks this photograph deserves public attention.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:04 PM


Turkish vote may throw Schröder lifeline (Roger Boyes, 9/15/05, Times of London)

AYFER DURUR is one of the most fashionable hairdressers in Berlin and a natural Christian Democratic voter — an entrepreneur worried about taxes, high labour costs and the sluggish economy.

However, the 38-year-old is going to vote for the Social Democrats — one of 600,000 Turkish Germans who could throw a lifeline to Gerhard Schröder, the Chancellor, if the general election on Sunday turns out to be a dead heat, as the latest opinion polls suggest.

“Will the Turks decide the election?” the mass-circulation Bild asked yesterday, a question regarded as provocative, even racist, by immigrants in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin. They do, after all, have German citizenship and are not, as one greengrocer put it, “some kind of alien invaders”.

The German Right is poised to pull off an unbelievable electoral feat, losing the socialist, nationalist, and Turkish votes to the Left.

Posted by John Resnick at 6:25 PM


Inventor fuels car with dead cats (Wednesday, September 14, 2005, Reuters via CNN)

A German inventor has angered animal rights activists with his answer to fighting the soaring cost of fuel -- dead cats.

Christian Koch, 55, from the eastern county of Saxony, told Bild newspaper that his organic diesel fuel -- a homemade blend of garbage, run-over cats and other ingredients -- is a proven alternative to normal consumer diesel.

"I drive my normal diesel-powered car with this mixture," Koch said. "I have gone 170,000 km (106,000 miles) without a problem."

The best two-fer yet: Eliminate any need for higher gas taxes AND the annoyance of cats in one fell swoop? Pinch me.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:58 PM


The beauty products from the skin of executed Chinese prisoners (Ian Cobain and Adam Luck, September 13, 2005, The Guardian)

A Chinese cosmetics company is using skin harvested from the corpses of executed convicts to develop beauty products for sale in Europe, an investigation by the Guardian has discovered.

Agents for the firm have told would-be customers it is developing collagen for lip and wrinkle treatments from skin taken from prisoners after they have been shot. The agents say some of the company's products have been exported to the UK, and that the use of skin from condemned convicts is "traditional" and nothing to "make such a big fuss about". [...]

[T]he Guardian has learned that the company has exported collagen products to the UK in the past. An agent told customers it had also exported to the US and European countries, and that it was trying to develop fillers using tissue from aborted foetuses.

When formally approached by the Guardian, the agent denied the company was using skin harvested from executed prisoners. However, he had already admitted it was doing precisely this during a number of conversations with a researcher posing as a Hong Kong businessman. The Press Complaints Commission's code of practice permits subterfuge if there is no other means of investigating a matter of public interest.

The agent told the researcher: "A lot of the research is still carried out in the traditional manner using skin from the executed prisoner and aborted foetus."

Makes dandy lamp shades too.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:28 PM


Adam Smith, political pundit (Michael Barone, US News)

Last night I was reading (actually, rereading) Gertrude Himmelfarb's luminous The Roads to Modernity: The British, French, and American Enlightenments, and came across this quotation from Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations, published in 1776.

"In every civilized society, in every society where the distinction of ranks has once been completely established, there have always been two different schemes or systems of morality current at the same time, of which the one may be called the strict or austere; the other the liberal, or if you will, the loose system. The former is generally admired and revered by the common people; the latter is commonly more esteemed and adopted by what are called people of fashion."

In crystal clear prose and with her characteristic deftness, Himmelfarb shows us Smith's argument.

"The 'liberal' or 'loose' system, favored by 'people of fashion,' was prone to 'vices of levity'—'luxury, wanton and even disorderly mirth, the pursuit of pleasure to some degree of intemperance, the breach of chastity . . . ' The 'strict or austere' system, generally adhered to by 'the common people,' regarded such vices, for themselves at any rate, with 'the utmost abhorrence and detestation,' because they knew—or at least 'the wiser and better sort' of them knew—that these vices were almost always ruinous to them; a single week's dissipation could undo a poor workman forever. This is why, Smith explained, religious sects arose and flourished among the common people, for they preached the system of morality conducive to the welfare of the poor."

Ruinous to the poor: Smith anticipated the New York City of the Lindsay administration, which I wrote about in its first month in office. As Myron Magnet has explained in The Dream and the Nightmare: The Sixties' Legacy to the Underclass, published in 1993, 117 years after Smith's book, the "loose" morality promoted by affluent liberal New Yorkers may not have hurt them very much, but it hurt the poor of New York and all our major cities very much indeed. The "common people" were onto Lindsay. In two general elections for mayor he lost the four outer boroughs of New York City. He was elected, with pluralities rather than majorities, because he carried Manhattan, especially its affluent neighborhoods, by wide margins. It was a contest between the beautiful people and the dutiful people, and the beautiful people won—with horrifying results for the city.

It's pretty remarkable that we've learned nothing of importance since 1776.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:40 PM


Unions threaten 'biggest strike since 1926' (Matthew Tempest, September 14, 2005, The Guardian)

Union leaders today warned the government that pushing through a rise in the public sector retirement age to 65 could provoke the biggest industrial action since the General Strike of 1926.

Industrial action by eight unions protesting to the plan was only narrowly averted before the general election by the promise of talks. Alan Johnson today apologised to unions at the TUC conference in Brighton for the failure to consult them on that occasion.

Dave Prentis, the leader of Britain's biggest union, Unison, and Mark Serwotka, the leader of the public and commercial services union, said they now had a further five unions, 13 in all, prepared to ballot for strike action if the government forced through a mandatory higher retirement age.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:10 PM


Judge: Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional in public schools (DAVID KRAVETS, September 14, 2005, AP)

Reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools was ruled unconstitutional Wednesday by a federal judge who granted legal standing to two families represented by an atheist who lost his previous battle before the U.S. Supreme Court.

U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton ruled that the pledge's reference to one nation "under God" violates school children's right to be "free from a coercive requirement to affirm God."

Karlton said he was bound by precedent of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which in 2002 ruled in favor of Sacramento atheist Michael Newdow that the pledge is unconstitutional when recited in public schools.

The Supreme Court dismissed the case last year, saying Newdow lacked standing because he did not have custody of his elementary school daughter he sued on behalf of.

Newdow, an attorney and a medical doctor, filed an identical case on behalf of three unnamed parents and their children. Karlton said those families have the right to sue.

Gotta love how the Court tried to dodge the legal issue but just kept it alive as a political one.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:04 PM


Google launches blog search (Juan Carlos Perez, 9/14/05, IDG News Service)

Google Inc. has added to its menu of search alternatives the option to search through the ever-popular online journals called Web logs, or blogs.

The new search service, which went live on Wednesday, is in test, or beta, form, and can be accessed through a variety of Web addresses, including and

“Google is a strong believer in the self-publishing phenomenon represented by blogging, and we hope Blog Search will help our users to explore the blogging universe more effectively, and perhaps inspire many to join the revolution themselves,” a frequently-asked-questions (FAQ) page on the new service reads.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:39 PM


Swann lacks experience, but celebrity status a plus (Greg Garber, 9/14/05,

If anyone can navigate his way through the sometimes Byzantine, 67-county Pennsylvania political system, it's probably Swann. He has a 500-watt smile, a formidable work ethic, a firm handshake and a degree in public relations from USC's School of Journalism.

The Keystone State is composed of approximately 46,000 square miles and 12 million people. The charismatic Swann seems intent on covering and connecting with all of them.

There are approximately eight million registered voters in Pennsylvania, including 3.8 million registered Democrats and 3.3 million registered Republicans. Swann's appearances on the rubber chicken circuit of modest GOP country gatherings the last six months have produced record attendance figures.

Swann is a rare creature, indeed. The son of Democrats is an African-American Republican, something once thought to be an oxymoron. His potential ability to excite both suburban conservatives and urban African-Americans intrigues national GOP operatives. A year from November, Swann arguably could be the nation's highest ranking elected Republican African-American -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was, of course, selected by President George Bush. From that platform, it would not be inconceivable to imagine a run at the presidency in 2012.

But that's getting ahead of the game.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 2:24 PM


Global warming: Adapting to a new reality
(Elisabeth Rosenthal, International Herald Tribune, September 12th, 2005)

When Dr. Giancarlo Icardi, health director for the Italian city of Genoa, got a call this summer that his young nephew was ill with a fever, headache and watery eyes after a day at the beach, global warming was not the first diagnosis on his mind. He suspected an out-of-season flu.

But 128 other beachgoers turned up at Genoa hospitals with similar symptoms that July weekend, forcing the closure of area beaches in the midst of a heat wave. Even though the health problems cleared up within a day, scientists quickly announced disturbing news about the culprit: a toxic warm-water alga that now grows in an increasingly warm Mediterranean Sea and had not previously bloomed in an Italian resort so far north.

"This is the first time that we've had this problem in Liguria," Icardi said, referring to the northern Italian region that includes Genoa. But scientists "discovered what it was quickly," he said, because in recent years disease-causing algae had cropped up at beaches in the Italian regions of Tuscany and Puglia, and in Spain.

As countries across Europe reduce production of greenhouse gases in order to fight climate change, scientists and citizens are discovering that effects of warming are already upon us. Irreversible warming is already happening, they say, and will continue for a century even if polluting emissions are controlled by the Kyoto Protocol, the international treaty aimed at limiting greenhouse gases.

To this end, they say, government and citizens must prepare for a steamier future, adapting to a climate that is hotter and stormier. [...]

Sometimes adapting to climate change is simple: The Swedish government is encouraging foresters to plant new species of trees that grow better in a slightly warmer climate, for example. In Hamburg and Rotterdam, new docks are being built to accommodate the likelihood of rising sea levels.

In other cases, adaptation would be so expensive that the authorities may opt to let nature take its course. Along the British coast in Norfolk and Essex, local governments are contemplating letting marginal coastal farmland, already beset by frequent flooding, simply sink into the sea as the water level rises.

"The most sensible thing may be for man to withdraw and change the coastline," Klein said.

"You won't have to pay subsidies. And these fields could probably become a healthy salt marsh, rather than poor farmland."

The general awareness that the climate may be warming is unlikely ever to be matched by a genuine scientific consensus as to what is causing it or, still less, what if anything could be done to reverse it. As even thoughtful leftists are coming to realize, the modern fixation with preventing any intrusion by nature into our lives has more in common with the rigid fatalism of traditional peasants who believed it was impossible to change anything for the better than with modern thinking of any stripe. Is modern Western man becoming so neurotically fragile that the very idea of losing a favourite beach resort or having to grow new crops is an unbearable trigger of mass panic and despair?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:13 PM


Europe Learns the Wrong Lessons (Karl Zinsmeister, American Enterprise)

For evidence that obstruction of the U.S. is more important to many European elites than making progress in the world’s most dangerous flashpoints, look no farther than Afghanistan. The Afghan war was not controversial in Old Europe. It was universally agreed that the Taliban was a blight on central Asia, and that the al-Qaeda cells incubating in Afghanistan were a menace to the entire globe. Europeans accepted the urgent necessity of rooting out both entities militarily, and then rebuilding the Afghan government and civil society.

But once U.S. forces had done the dirty work of eliminating Afghanistan’s fanatical ruling cliques, did our European allies live up to their promises to help update that nation’s infrastructure, train its police, build up its courts, revive its social sector and economy? Scandalously, no.

As we’ve been pointing out for two years (see TAE’s January/February 2004 issue, SCAN), the Europeans immediately fell way behind on their financial pledges. Their troop commitments were not met. The German promise to train the Afghan police became a joke. European offers to reconstruct the justice system went nowhere. In all of these areas, America had to step into the breach to help suffering Afghans, and stave off disorder and a re-emergence of terror cells.

Truth be told, continental Europeans have been making themselves scarce during times of crisis for more than two generations. Their current claim is that lack of a U.N. mandate is what has prevented Europe from standing shoulder to shoulder with the U.S. since the 9/11 attacks. But the Old World’s failure to make any proportionate contribution to the war on terror is actually part of a long historical pattern. Consider their response the last time a large U.N.-commanded force went to war—in Korea.

After North Korea invaded South Korea in 1950, the U.N. responded militarily. Of the 340,000 troops sent under U.N. control, how many of these do you suppose were European? About 5 percent. In the crunch, only Britain provided meaningful help, sending 14,198 soldiers at the Korean War’s peak. The next biggest European contribution? Greece, with 1,263. Francefollowed, providing all of 1,119 troops.

The U.S., meanwhile, provided more than 300,000 fighters. Do the math and you’ll see something interesting: The Korean War alliance included 16 nations, and America supplied 88 percent of the military manpower. The Iraq War coalition included 32 nations, and 85 percent of the G.I.s were Americans. (Poland, Holland, and the Ukraine each contributed more soldiers to the Iraq War coalition than the French did to the Korean War.) See a pattern?

Having for years refused to fund their militaries, and lacking sufficient numbers of young men with patriotic martial spirit, the continental European nations could not project much righteous military power today even if they did have the will. You will often hear gassy rhetoric at European conclaves about how, as Spanish prime minister Zapatero recently put it, “Europe must believe that it can be in 20 years the most important world power.” But the stark reality is that only 3 to 5 percent of the 2.5 million personnel under arms in Europe today can be deployed, even for a short time. Due to its military weakness and diplomatic vacillation, “Europe is nearly irrelevant to the great issues of the future” in today’s conflict zones, notes my colleague Tom Donnelly in a new book.

Even without effective military forces, Europeans could exert much more productive influence on world events if they applied their other substantial resources. Writer Thomas Friedman suggested earlier this year that, “If the European Union said to the Iranians: ‘You will shut down your nuclear-weapons program and put all your reactors and related facilities under international inspection, or you will face a total economic boycott from Europe’ É. that is the kind of explicit threat that would get Tehran’s attention. But, alas, Europeans would rather live with a nuclear Iran—that Europe can make all kinds of money off of— than risk losing Iran’s business to prevent it from going nuclear.”

German businessman Mathias Doepfner (see page 45) says that at least since the time of Hitler, European elites have lacked the courage to stand up to dictators. Apart from the British, Euros have consistently left this job to the U.S. Today perhaps more than ever, they assume that the U.S. will always be there to deter crazy Iranians, and dangerous al-Qaedans, and unstable North Koreans. So why shoulder the expense and danger of acts of solidarity with the Americans?

It hardly seems fair to blame them for becoming the national security equivalent of welfare queens, after all, we have won all their wars for them over the past century. How would they not become dependent on us?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:57 PM

REPACKAGING DERANGEMENT (via David Hill, The Bronx):

The Democrats' dilemma: An independence versus capitulation wrestling match (Howard Fineman, 9/13/05, MSNBC)

If I am hearing Simon Rosenberg right (and he is worth listening to), a nasty civil war is brewing within the Democratic Party, and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton – the party’s presumptive 2008 nominee – needs to avoid getting caught in the middle of it.

“It’s not a fight between liberals and conservatives,” Rosenberg told me the other day. “It’s between our ‘governing class’ here and activists everywhere else.” [...]

Rosenberg rejects that notion that the bloggers represent a new “Internet Left.” It’s not an ideological rift, he says, but a “narrative” of independence versus capitulation: too many Democrats here are too yielding to George W. Bush on the war in Iraq, on tax policy, you name it. “What the blogs have developed is a narrative,” he told me the other day,” and the narrative is that the official Washington party has become like Vichy France.”

In the 1980s, he said, a generation of Democratic strategists reacted to the rise of Ronald Reagan by looking for ways to co-exist with his brand of conservatism. The result was the Democratic Leadership Council, founded in 1985, which mixed cultural traditionalism with pro-market economics and hawkish foreign policy. It worked: Bill Clinton became chairman of the DLC in 1990, and used it as a launching pad to the presidency.

But, in the view of the Blogosphere, the DLC model is outmoded and dangerously accomodationist, in the manner of the allegedly independent, but in reality pro-Nazi, regime of wartime of France.

Yeah, that narrative about how Bill Clinton and Joe Lieberman are crypto-Nazis is a sure winner, huh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:36 PM


Whose Victory, Exactly? (Anne Applebaum, September 14, 2005, Washington Post)

Last week my son's elementary school raised several thousand dollars for hurricane victims by washing cars. My other son's preschool announced without fuss that a boy from New Orleans would be joining the class. My employer is organizing help for the company's Gulf Coast employees, my local bookstore is collecting money for the Red Cross and my favorite radio station raised $54,000 last weekend. Every church or synagogue attended by anyone I know is, of course, raising money, housing evacuees or delivering clothes to victims.

To put it differently, nearly every institution with which I come into daily contact -- my library, my grocery store, my search engine -- has already donated time or money to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, and I don't think this makes me or my community unique. [...]

[C]onsider the effectiveness of the relief strategies so far. With great fanfare, the federal government announced it would distribute debit cards to Katrina victims. The result was chaos, anger and expectations of fraud. Quietly, the Red Cross has been paying evacuees' hotel bills. The result is that 57,000 people have time to plan what to do next. Massive government efforts to get people into massive shelters have led to dissatisfaction, delays, long lines and frustration. But private initiatives -- ranging across the political spectrum from's, which is advertising space in thousands of private homes, to First Baptist Church in Athens, Tex., which has just installed six new showers -- are helping people find better housing faster. Over the longer term, it's also pretty safe to bet that people who relocate thanks to a church, find a job thanks to a charitable Web site, and get by thanks to their extended families are going to do a lot better, economically and psychologically, than the people who hang around waiting to be helped by a government jobs program and a government trauma counselor.

I'm not saying anything radical here: I'm not calling for the abolition of FEMA, and I certainly think there's a role for government in disaster and evacuation planning. But it is true that the worst failures of the past two weeks have been big government failures. The biggest successes, by contrast, have come out of this country's incredibly vibrant, amazingly diverse and fantastically generous civil society. Sooner or later, it will be impossible not to draw political lessons from that paradox.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:41 PM


...mightn't the GOP want to consider just not asking any more questions of Judge Roberts? He's handling the Democrats so deftly that there's really no need to rehabilitate him, which is what the majority usually uses its time for. Just let the Democrats bury themselves and keep one Republican on hand if needed.

John Roberts Is So Humble (Dahlia Lithwick, Sept. 13, 2005, Slate)

John Roberts is putting on a clinic.

He completely understands that he needs only to sit very quietly, head cocked to signal listening-ness, while senator after senator offers long discursive rambling speeches. Only when he's perfectly certain that a question has been asked does he offer a reply; usually cogent and spare. Here's a man long accustomed to answering really hard questions from extremely smart people, suddenly faced with the almost-harder task of answering obvious questions from less-smart people. He finds himself standing in a batting cage with the pitching machine set way too slow.

It's increasingly clear that Senate Democrats are giving up. They are taking a cue from the petulant Joe Biden, who telegraphs exactly who these hearings are really for when he refuses to let the nominee answer any of his questions. When Sen. Arlen Specter growls at Biden to let Roberts finish just one answer, Biden growls back: "I don't have much time." Later when Biden complains of Roberts, "But he's filibustering!" it's without any sense of irony. How dare this man use our own childish games against us?

Whereas Biden and Patrick Leahy made at least some effort to develop lines of questioning, Herb Kohl and Dianne Feinstein give up entirely. Knowing there will be no Perry Mason moment—there won't even be a Lionel Hutz moment—they dully read their questions from a script and avoid the follow-up altogether. "Oh, so you aren't opposed to environmental protection? OK. Let's move on." The hunters have become the hunted. The lion is draped across a chaise longue, picking his teeth with their arguments.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 12:23 PM


Washington Has Beef with Europe's Katrina Aid (Spiegel, September 12th, 2005)

Last week, a German military cargo jet carrying 15 tons of food labored into the air bound for the United States. The goal, of course, was to feed needy victims of Hurricane Katrina. But the food supplies never made it. Refused permission to land, the plane was forced to turn around and head back to Cologne, still fully loaded. Food from other countries has likewise been banned.

Why was the aid not accepted? As it turns out, the US Department of Agriculture had rejected the rations -- originally prepared for NATO troops -- out of fear they may be tainted with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), the agent thought to cause mad cow disease. Despite intensive efforts on the part of Germany's foreign ministry, the US government refused to give the plane flyover rights.

But officers at a US base in Pensacola -- where previous German aid planes had landed -- believe there was another reason. In reality, the critics said, the Bush government was trying to avoid embarrassing images of Europeans making food relief deliveries to the States. After all, the meals had already been certified by NATO as BSE-free. Additionally, the same types of meals have been used in common deployments in Afghanistan, and they've also been consumed by American troops. Startled by a query from SPIEGEL on Friday evening, the US Embassy here in Berlin said the ban on the pre-prepared meals delivered from Germany would be lifted. Indeed, the shiny, new US Ambassador to Germany, William Timken, had only recently thanked the German government for the first 20,000 donated meals -- all of which have already been eaten by Katrina victims.

Mmm...NATO rations. What an unexpected surprise that Germany had an excess supply of NATO rations.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:52 AM


The McCloy Memo: A New Look at Japanese American Internment (Greg Robinson, 9/13/05, History News Network)

The removal and confinement of some 120,000 American citizens and permanent residents of Japanese ancestry from the Pacific Coast during 1942, popularly (if inaccurately) known as the Japanese American internment, remains a powerful event in the nation’s consciousness. In the decades since the war, historians have exhaustively documented the primary role of anti-Japanese prejudice and war hysteria by West Coast Army officers and civilians in bringing about the issuing of Executive Order 9066, which authorized removal.

Yet in recent times a small group of internment revisionists led by journalist Michelle Malkin, ignoring this evidence, have loudly argued that mass removal was a justified and positive example of ethnic profiling. The keystone of their argument is that a few White House and War Department authorities, notably Assistant Secretary of War John McCloy, made the decision to confine West Coast Japanese Americans based on their reading of the MAGIC Intercepts, top-secret Japanese diplomatic messages decoded by American cryptographers. The MAGIC cables, these revisionists claim, provided clear evidence of mass espionage by aliens and American citizens during the prewar period. Although the revisionists’ evidence is predominantly old and discredited, in the current mood of insecurity and wartime nationalism they have attracted significant attention.

A few years ago, I was at the Library of Congress researching my book By Order of the President, about Franklin Roosevelt’s role in the wartime removal. I discovered some documents in the papers of Robert Patterson, the then-Undersecretary of War. Among them was a file copy of a memorandum, dated July 23, 1942, that John McCloy sent Patterson in response to inquiries about the feeding of Japanese American “internees.” McCloy noted that since 70 percet of those in the camps were citizens, and most were women and children, the government should provide them sufficient food. This was neither novel nor relevant to my project, so I filed the document without thinking. Recently, I was surprised to discover that the memo also included a handwritten postscript. There, McCloy admitted that military security was not a primary factor in triggering the removal of West Coast Japanese Americans:

These people are not 'internees': They are under no suspicion for the most part and were moved largely because we felt we could not control our own white citizens in California.

Since the revisionists credit McCloy as the chief decision-maker on removal, his admission fatally discredits their argument about national security.

The only hysteria andf racism that ultimately mattered was FDR's.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:43 AM


Cheap Gas Is a Bad Habit (Robert J. Samuelson, September 14, 2005, Washington Post)

What this country needs is $4-a-gallon gasoline or, maybe, $5. We don't need it today, but we do need it over the next seven to 10 years via a steadily rising oil tax. Coupled with stricter fuel economy standards, higher pump prices would push reluctant auto companies and American drivers away from today's gas guzzlers. That should be our policy. The deafening silence you hear on this crucial subject from the White House, Congress and the media is a sorry indicator of national shortsightedness. [...]

Until oil's geography changes, a prudent society would respond to this unavoidable insecurity. After the first oil "crisis" in 1973, Americans did. Congress created a Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) and mandated fuel economy standards. Drivers were sobered by high prices. From 1970 to 1990, average fuel economy for cars rose from 13.5 miles per gallon to 20 mpg. For "light trucks" (a category covering pickups, sport-utility vehicles and minivans), the gains were from 10 mpg to 16 mpg. But in the 1990s, there was massive backsliding. Fuel economy stagnated as millions of Americans shifted to SUVs and pickups. The SPR languished. In 1992 it had oil equal to 83 days of imports; by 2000 that was only 52 days. [...]

To keep total gasoline consumption constant, average fuel efficiency must improve by roughly 50 percent. [...]

Hence the need for a stiff oil tax. Government needs to foster a market for fuel efficiency. The tax should be introduced gradually -- paralleling tougher fuel standards -- and, perhaps, tempered if global oil prices rise sharply. One way or another, Americans should know that the era of cheap gasoline is history. Some drivers will want hybrid versions of their present vehicles; others will downsize. It's not a national tragedy for someone to trade an Expedition for a Taurus.

At times, individual freedom must be compromised to improve collective security.

America's best economics columnist explains it best.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:13 AM


President Addresses United Nations High-Level Plenary Meeting (George W. Bush, United Nations Headquarters, New York, New York, 9/14/05)

Mr. Secretary General, Mr. President, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen: Thank you for the privilege of being here for the 60th anniversary of the United Nations. Thank you for your dedication to the vital work and great ideals of this institution.

We meet at a time of great challenge for America and the world. At this moment, men and women along my country's Gulf Coast are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters in American history. Many have lost homes, and loved ones, and all their earthly possessions. In Alabama and Mississippi and Louisiana, whole neighborhoods have been lifted from their foundations and sent crashing into the streets. A great American city is working to turn the flood waters and reclaim its future.

We have witnessed the awesome power of nature -- and the greater power of human compassion. Americans have responded to their neighbors in need, and so have many of the nations represented in this chamber. All together, more than 115 countries and nearly a dozen international organizations have stepped forward with offers of assistance. To every nation, every province, and every community across the world that is standing with the American people in this hour of need, I offer the thanks of my nation.

Your response, like the response to last year's tsunami, has shown once again that the world is more compassionate and hopeful when we act together. This truth was the inspiration for the United Nations. The U.N.'s founding members laid out great and honorable goals in the charter they drafted six decades ago. That document commits this organization to work to "save succeeding generations from the scourge of war," "reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights," and "promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom." We remain committed to those noble ideals. As we respond to great humanitarian needs, we must actively respond to the other great challenges of our time. We must continue to work to ease suffering, and to spread freedom, and to lay the foundations of lasting peace for our children and grandchildren.

In this young century, the far corners of the world are linked more closely than ever before -- and no nation can remain isolated and indifferent to the struggles of others. When a country, or a region is filled with despair, and resentment and vulnerable to violent and aggressive ideologies, the threat passes easily across oceans and borders, and could threaten the security of any peaceful country.

Terrorism fed by anger and despair has come to Tunisia, to Indonesia, to Kenya, to Tanzania, to Morocco, to Israel, to Saudi Arabia, to the United States, to Turkey, to Spain, to Russia, to Egypt, to Iraq, and the United Kingdom. And those who have not seen attacks on their own soil have still shared in the sorrow -- from Australians killed in Bali, to Italians killed in Egypt, to the citizens of dozens of nations who were killed on September the 11th, 2001, here in the city where we meet. The lesson is clear: There can be no safety in looking away, or seeking the quiet life by ignoring the hardship and oppression of others. Either hope will spread, or violence will spread -- and we must take the side of hope.

Sometimes our security will require confronting threats directly, and so a great coalition of nations has come together to fight the terrorists across the world. We've worked together to help break up terrorist networks that cross borders, and rout out radical cells within our own borders. We've eliminated terrorist sanctuaries. We're using our diplomatic and financial tools to cut off their financing and drain them of support. And as we fight, the terrorists must know that the world stands united against them. We must complete the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism that will put every nation on record: The targeting and deliberate killing by terrorists of civilians and non-combatants cannot be justified or legitimized by any cause or grievance.

And the world's free nations are determined to stop the terrorists and their allies from acquiring the terrible weapons that would allow them to kill on a scale equal to their hatred. For that reason, more than 60 countries are supporting the Proliferation Security Initiative to intercept shipments of weapons of mass destruction on land, on sea, and in air. The terrorists must know that wherever they go, they cannot escape justice.

Later today, the Security Council has an opportunity to put the terrorists on notice when it votes on a resolution that condemns the incitement of terrorist acts -- the resolution that calls upon all states to take appropriate steps to end such incitement. We also need to sign and implement the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, so that all those who seek radioactive materials or nuclear devices are prosecuted and extradited, wherever they are. We must send a clear message to the rulers of outlaw regimes that sponsor terror and pursue weapons of mass murder: You will not be allowed to threaten the peace and stability of the world.

Confronting our enemies is essential, and so civilized nations will continue to take the fight to the terrorists. Yet we know that this war will not be won by force of arms alone. We must defeat the terrorists on the battlefield, and we must also defeat them in the battle of ideas. We must change the conditions that allow terrorists to flourish and recruit, by spreading the hope of freedom to millions who've never known it. We must help raise up the failing states and stagnant societies that provide fertile ground for the terrorists. We must defend and extend a vision of human dignity, and opportunity, and prosperity -- a vision far stronger than the dark appeal of resentment and murder.

To spread a vision of hope, the United States is determined to help nations that are struggling with poverty. We are committed to the Millennium Development goals. This is an ambitious agenda that includes cutting poverty and hunger in half, ensuring that every boy and girl in the world has access to primary education, and halting the spread of AIDS -- all by 2015.

We have a moral obligation to help others -- and a moral duty to make sure our actions are effective. At Monterrey in 2002, we agreed to a new vision for the way we fight poverty, and curb corruption, and provide aid in this new millennium. Developing countries agreed to take responsibility for their own economic progress through good governance and sound policies and the rule of law. Developed countries agreed to support those efforts, including increased aid to nations that undertake necessary reforms. My own country has sought to implement the Monterrey Consensus by establishing the new Millennium Challenge Account. This account is increasing U.S. aid for countries that govern justly, invest in their people, and promote economic freedom.

More needs to be done. I call on all the world's nations to implement the Monterrey Consensus. Implementing the Monterrey Consensus means continuing on the long, hard road to reform. Implementing the Monterrey Consensus means creating a genuine partnership between developed and developing countries to replace the donor-client relationship of the past. And implementing the Monterrey Consensus means welcoming all developing countries as full participants to the global economy, with all the requisite benefits and responsibilities.

Tying aid to reform is essential to eliminating poverty, but our work doesn't end there. For many countries, AIDS, malaria, and other diseases are both humanitarian tragedies and significant obstacles to development. We must give poor countries access to the emergency lifesaving drugs they need to fight these infectious epidemics. Through our bilateral programs and the Global Fund, the United States will continue to lead the world in providing the resources to defeat the plague of HIV-AIDS.

Today America is working with local authorities and organizations in the largest initiative in history to combat a specific disease. Across Africa, we're helping local health officials expand AIDS testing facilities, train and support doctors and nurses and counselors, and upgrade clinics and hospitals. Working with our African partners, we have now delivered lifesaving treatment to more than 230,000 people in sub-Sahara Africa. We are ahead of schedule to meet an important objective: providing HIV-AIDS treatment for nearly two million adults and children in Africa. At the G-8 Summit at Gleneagles, Scotland, we set a clear goal: an AIDS-free generation in Africa. And I challenge every member of the United Nations to take concrete steps to achieve that goal.

We're also working to fight malaria. This preventable disease kills more than a million people around the world every year -- and leaves poverty and grief in every land it touches. The United States has set a goal of cutting the malaria death rate in half in at least 15 highly endemic African countries. To achieve that goal, we've pledged to increase our funding for malaria treatment and prevention by more than $1.2 billion over the next five years. We invite other nations to join us in this effort by committing specific aid to the dozens of other African nations in need of it. Together we can fight malaria and save hundreds of thousands of lives, and bring new hope to countries that have been devastated by this terrible disease.

As we strengthen our commitments to fighting malaria and AIDS, we must also remain on the offensive against new threats to public health such as the Avian Influenza. If left unchallenged, this virus could become the first pandemic of the 21st century. We must not allow that to happen. Today I am announcing a new International Partnership on Avian and Pandemic Influenza. The Partnership requires countries that face an outbreak to immediately share information and provide samples to the World Health Organization. By requiring transparency, we can respond more rapidly to dangerous outbreaks and stop them on time. Many nations have already joined this partnership; we invite all nations to participate. It's essential we work together, and as we do so, we will fulfill a moral duty to protect our citizens, and heal the sick, and comfort the afflicted.

Even with increased aid to fight disease and reform economies, many nations are held back by another heavy challenge: the burden of debt. So America and many nations have also acted to lift this burden that limits the growth of developing economies, and holds millions of people in poverty. Today poor countries with the heaviest debt burdens are receiving more than $30 billion in debt relief. And to prevent the build-up of future debt, my country and other nations have agreed that international financial institutions should increasingly provide new aid in the form of grants, rather than loans. The G-8 agreed at Gleneagles to go further. To break the lend-and-forgive cycle permanently, we agreed to cancel 100 percent of the debt for the world's most heavily indebted nations. I call upon the World Bank and the IMF to finalize this historic agreement as soon as possible.

We will fight to lift the burden of poverty from places of suffering -- not just for the moment, but permanently. And the surest path to greater wealth is greater trade. In a letter he wrote to me in August, the Secretary General commended the G-8's work, but told me that aid and debt relief are not enough. The Secretary General said that we also need to reduce trade barriers and subsidies that are holding developing countries back. I agree with the Secretary General: The Doha Round is "the most promising way" to achieve this goal.

A successful Doha Round will reduce and eliminate tariffs and other barriers on farm and industrial goods. It will end unfair agricultural subsidies. It will open up global markets for services. Under Doha, every nation will gain, and the developing world stands to gain the most. Historically, developing nations that open themselves up to trade grow at several times the rate of other countries. The elimination of trade barriers could lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty over the next 15 years. The stakes are high. The lives and futures of millions of the world's poorest citizens hang in the balance -- and so we must bring the Doha trade talks to a successful conclusion.

Doha is an important step toward a larger goal: We must tear down the walls that separate the developed and developing worlds. We need to give the citizens of the poorest nations the same ability to access the world economy that the people of wealthy nations have, so they can offer their goods and talents on the world market alongside everyone else. We need to ensure that they have the same opportunities to pursue their dreams, provide for their families, and live lives of dignity and self-reliance.

And the greatest obstacles to achieving these goals are the tariffs and subsidies and barriers that isolate people of developing nations from the great opportunities of the 21st century. Today, I reiterate the challenge I have made before: We must work together in the Doha negotiations to eliminate agricultural subsidies that distort trade and stunt development, and to eliminate tariffs and other barriers to open markets for farmers around the world. Today I broaden the challenge by making this pledge: The United States is ready to eliminate all tariffs, subsidies and other barriers to free flow of goods and services as other nations do the same. This is key to overcoming poverty in the world's poorest nations. It's essential we promote prosperity and opportunity for all nations.

By expanding trade, we spread hope and opportunity to the corners of the world, and we strike a blow against the terrorists who feed on anger and resentment. Our agenda for freer trade is part of our agenda for a freer world, where people can live and worship and raise their children as they choose. In the long run, the best way to protect the religious freedom, and the rights of women and minorities, is through institutions of self-rule, which allow people to assert and defend their own rights. All who stand for human rights must also stand for human freedom.

This is a moment of great opportunity in the cause of freedom. Across the world, hearts and minds are opening to the message of human liberty as never before. In the last two years alone, tens of millions have voted in free elections in Afghanistan and Iraq, in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, in Kyrgyzstan, in Ukraine, and Georgia. And as they claim their freedom, they are inspiring millions more across the broader Middle East. We must encourage their aspirations. We must nurture freedom's progress. And the United Nations has a vital role to play.

Through the new U.N. Democracy Fund, the democratic members of the U.N. will work to help others who want to join the democratic world. It is fitting that the world's largest democracy, India, has taken a leadership role in this effort, pledging $10 million to get the fund started. Every free nation has an interest in the success of this fund -- and every free nation has a responsibility in advancing the cause of liberty.

The work of democracy is larger than holding a fair election; it requires building the institutions that sustain freedom. Democracy takes different forms in different cultures, yet all free societies have certain things in common. Democratic nations uphold the rule of law, impose limits on the power of the state, treat women and minorities as full citizens. Democratic nations protect private property, free speech and religious expression. Democratic nations grow in strength because they reward and respect the creative gifts of their people. And democratic nations contribute to peace and stability because they seek national greatness in the achievements of their citizens, not the conquest of their neighbors.

For these reasons, the whole world has a vital interest in the success of a free Iraq -- and no civilized nation has an interest in seeing a new terror state emerge in that country. So the free world is working together to help the Iraqi people to establish a new nation that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself. It's an exciting opportunity for all of us in this chamber. And the United Nations has played a vital role in the success of the January elections, where eight and a half million Iraqis defied the terrorists and cast their ballots. And since then, the United Nations has supported Iraq's elected leaders as they drafted a new constitution.

The United Nations and its member states must continue to stand by the Iraqi people as they complete the journey to a fully constitutional government. And when Iraqis complete their journey, their success will inspire others to claim their freedom, the Middle East will grow in peace and hope and liberty, and all of us will live in a safer world.

The advance of freedom and security is the calling of our time. It is the mission of the United Nations. The United Nations was created to spread the hope of liberty, and to fight poverty and disease, and to help secure human rights and human dignity for all the world's people. To help make these promises real, the United Nations must be strong and efficient, free of corruption, and accountable to the people it serves. The United Nations must stand for integrity, and live by the high standards it sets for others. And meaningful institutional reforms must include measures to improve internal oversight, identify cost savings, and ensure that precious resources are used for their intended purpose.

The United Nations has taken the first steps toward reform. The process will continue in the General Assembly this fall, and the United States will join with others to lead the effort. And the process of reform begins with members taking our responsibilities seriously. When this great institution's member states choose notorious abusers of human rights to sit on the U.N. Human Rights Commission, they discredit a noble effort, and undermine the credibility of the whole organization. If member countries want the United Nations to be respected -- respected and effective, they should begin by making sure it is worthy of respect.

At the start of a new century, the world needs the United Nations to live up to its ideals and fulfill its mission. The founding members of this organization knew that the security of the world would increasingly depend on advancing the rights of mankind, and this would require the work of many hands. After committing America to the idea of the U.N. in 1945, President Franklin Roosevelt declared: "The structure of world peace cannot be the work of one man, or one party, or one nation." Peace is the responsibility of every nation and every generation.

In each era of history, the human spirit has been challenged by the forces of darkness and chaos. Some challenges are the acts of nature; others are the works of men. This organization was convened to meet these challenges by harnessing the best instincts of humankind, the strength of the world united in common purpose. With courage and conscience, we will meet our responsibilities to protect the lives and rights of others. And when we do, we will help fulfill the promise of the United Nations, and ensure that every human being enjoys the peace and the freedom and the dignity our Creator intended for all.

Thank you.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:11 AM


Minority Retort: This is your moment, Democrats. Don't blow it. (John Dickerson, Sept. 13, 2005, Slate)

Democrats were furious that President Bush didn't take responsibility for the Katrina relief catastrophe. Now they're furious that he did. President Bush's careful admission that he is responsible for the botched federal response to Hurricane Katrina "to the extent that the federal government didn't do its job right" is a familiar Washington gambit: "turning the page." Bush's acceptance of responsibility answers cable news' echo-room charge that someone needs to be held accountable. Now the president—having embraced his inner Truman—can move on and change the message.

Liberal pundits had already declared the end of his presidency, but with this rhetorical feint Bush muddies the discussion. He's giving away lots of federal goodies. He's making a prime time speech from Louisiana on Thursday night. Pretty soon, the media and the country might start letting Bush off the hook. Now any Democrat who carps on those federal failures can be brushed off as a hack merely playing politics. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), not immune to playing politics, warned Monday during John Roberts' nomination hearings that "Katrina victims should not be used to score political points."

Still, Democrats have been given their best chance in five years to win back the country. Are they going to blow it? [...]

How do Democrats keep Katrina and the tragically late federal response front and center? By making Katrina part of a larger argument about leadership and national security.

What leadership? Mayor Nagin's? Governor Blanco's? Both of them have a vested interest in defending the response and portraying events from here forward in glowing terms.

Harry Reid's? All the congressional leadership has done is whine.

The argument is a still-born loser.

Hurricane Katrina, Act II - starring George Bush (Dick Morris, 9/13/05, The Hill)

Our national political/journalistic complex is obsessed with blaming President Bush for failing to respond quickly to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina. After weeks of media pounding and casualty figures that were, apparently, wildly and widely exaggerated, polls suggest that the public has no choice but to agree with the critique.

The CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll of Sept. 8-11 shows that only 44 percent of Americans approve of the job Bush did immediately after the storm. But so what? The same survey shows that 58 percent approve of the work he has done since then in helping New Orleans and the Gulf Coast to recover from the effects of the disaster.

The low job approval of Bush’s efforts in the week after the storm will fade into history and take its place alongside similar criticism of his slowness to act after the planes hit on Sept. 11 or after the tsunami struck late last year. What counts for the future is that the ratings on his recent performance are 20 points higher than his overall job approval.

This positive affirmation of the president’s role in the past few weeks is the leading indicator Washington should be following.

Bush Accepts Blame for Slow Hurricane Response: President acknowledges flaws at all levels of government. Louisiana death toll reaches 423. (Nicholas Riccardi, Ashley Powers and Josh Meyer. September 14, 2005, LA Times)
With water now covering less than 40% of New Orleans, there were more heartening signs of revival. The Army Corps of Engineers said it was pumping out about 9 billion gallons per day, and that the city should be drained of floodwaters in about a month.

The first passenger flights returned to Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. Port officials said they expected the first cargo ship to arrive next week. And Mayor C. Ray Nagin said he hoped to reopen the historic French Quarter and the city's central business district next week, along with the Algiers and Uptown neighborhoods, which mostly escaped storm damage.

"We are bringing New Orleans back. We are bringing its culture back, we are bringing its music back," Nagin said. Glancing up at military helicopters thudding overhead, he added: "I'm tired of hearing these helicopters. I want to hear some jazz."

Nagin also acknowledged that Katrina's knockout blow had exhausted the city's cash reserves. "I don't think we will have to" declare bankruptcy, Nagin said. "There are so many people who want to help us." He added that he was "working furiously" to obtain lines of credit from banks and the federal government. [...]

By accepting personal responsibility, Bush appeared to try to shift the debate away from finger-pointing to the reconstruction of New Orleans, a formidable task that could repair his frayed image as a leader if it succeeded. Widespread public dismay with federal efforts has translated to Bush's lowest polling numbers in his five years as president.

Bush's admission drew immediate praise from one of his harshest critics.

"The president's comments today will do more to move the country forward from this tragedy than anything that has been said by any leader in the past two weeks," said Sen. Mary L. Landrieu (D-La.). "Accountability at every level is critical, and leadership begins at the top."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:07 AM


Bush Takes Responsibility For Failures Of Response (Jim VandeHei and Jonathan Weisman, 9/13/05, Washington Post)

Bush already has dispatched his top strategist, Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, and other aides to assemble ideas from agencies, conservative think tanks, GOP lawmakers and state officials to guide the rebuilding of New Orleans and relocation of flood victims. The idea, aides said, is twofold: provide a quick federal response that comports with Bush's governing philosophy, and prevent Katrina from swamping his second-term ambitions on Social Security, taxes and Middle East democracy-building.

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), a Bush ally, said the recovery effort provides conservatives with an unusual opportunity to test ideas that have been hard to sell on a national scope, including vouchers to cover education for dislocated students and tax incentives for business investment. "There are a whole host of ideas being looked at," Kyl said.

In what may become the next major post-Katrina policy, the White House was working yesterday to suspend wage supports for service workers in the hurricane zone as it did for construction workers on federal contracts last week, administration and congressional officials said. This possible move, described by administration officials as being under debate, already provoked preemptive Democratic protests. [...]

Behind the scenes, the president's inner circle is working with more than a dozen new task forces, run through the domestic policy counsel, to solicit ideas from federal agencies and outside groups such as the Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute. Several aides said agency officials are under pressure to provide estimates of what money their agencies need, as well as ideas for solving the myriad problems the relief effort presents. Advisers have studied housing issues, for instance, trying to determine the best way to build temporary accommodations for relief workers and construction workers and avoid unintentionally encouraging people to never return.

Office of Management and Budget Director Joshua B. Bolten is overseeing the largest-ever federal expenditure on a natural disaster, but officials said he is relying on a beefed-up inspector general's office at the Department of Homeland Security to monitor how the money is spent. At a private House Republican leadership meeting yesterday, several lawmakers expressed concern about a repeat of the waste and fraud that many believe took place with the budget for rebuilding Iraq, according to a participant.

Republicans are lining up behind plans to use vouchers to help displaced students find new schools, including private ones, and a mix of vouchers and tax breaks to help flood victims pay for health care expenses, from insurance to immunization. A draft Senate GOP plan for post-Katrina policy includes both ideas, according to Republicans who have read the document.

So might an ill wind blow much good...

Chertoff delayed federal response, memo shows (Jonathan S. Landay, Alison Young and Shannon McCaffrey, 9/14/05, Knight Ridder Newspapers)

The federal official with the power to mobilize a massive federal response to Hurricane Katrina was Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, not the former FEMA chief who was relieved of his duties and resigned earlier this week, federal documents reviewed by Knight Ridder show.

Even before the storm struck the Gulf Coast, Chertoff could have ordered federal agencies into action without any request from state or local officials. Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Michael Brown had only limited authority to do so until about 36 hours after the storm hit, when Chertoff designated him as the "principal federal official" in charge of the storm.

As thousands of hurricane victims went without food, water and shelter in the days after Katrina's early morning Aug. 29 landfall, critics assailed Brown for being responsible for delays that might have cost hundreds of lives.

But Chertoff - not Brown - was in charge of managing the national response to a catastrophic disaster, according to the National Response Plan, the federal government's blueprint for how agencies will handle major natural disasters or terrorist incidents. An order issued by President Bush in 2003 also assigned that responsibility to the homeland security director.

But according to a memo obtained by Knight Ridder, Chertoff didn't shift that power to Brown until late afternoon or evening on Aug. 30, about 36 hours after Katrina hit Louisiana and Mississippi.

The Hurricane gives the President a golden opportunity to keep the Civil Service reforms he won when this bureaucratic monstrosity was created but get rid of the Department of Homeland Security

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:03 AM