October 31, 2005

Posted by David Cohen at 9:24 PM


Epstein, Sox can't reach new deal: After three years, general manager decides to leave (Ian Browne, MLB.com, 10/31/05)

Theo Epstein, the general manager of the Red Sox for the past three years, has decided to leave the organization instead of accepting a new contract.

"The Boston Red Sox and Theo Epstein today announced that the senior vice president/general manager has declined the club's offer to extend his contract for future years and thus will step down from his post," the club said in a statement. "Epstein will continue, however, to work with the organization for several days to assist in an orderly transition and to prepare further for the upcoming GM meetings and other off-season activities."

Epstein's contract expires at midnight, meaning he will then be free to work with any team in the Major Leagues. There are currently general manager vacancies with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Philadelphia Phillies and Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

I thought Cashman was supposed to leave and Theo was supposed to stay.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:04 PM


A Fight the White House Believes It Can Win (TODD S. PURDUM, 10/31/05, NY Times)

The nomination of Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. to the Supreme Court has given President Bush's conservative backers and liberal opponents just the battle they wanted. And it has given Mr. Bush - battered but not broken by a range of other troubles - a fight that he and the White House believe they can hardly help but win, beginning by changing the subject in Washington. [...]

Just as the left ultimately found it difficult to caricature Judge Roberts, who won 22 Democratic votes on the Senate floor, Judge Alito's supporters inside and outside the White House say his respectful low-key style, son-of-an-immigrant personal story and undisputed credentials will almost certainly make him an acceptable figure to some of the same red-state Democrats who backed Mr. Roberts.

Moreover, the White House and its allies are now squarely united, ready to paint the Democrats as obstructionist and out of step if they try to derail the nomination by extraordinary means. Interest groups on both sides are prepared to spend millions of dollars to make their case.

"We will look to keep Democrats on their heels as they go out to launch some of the more absurd attacks," said a senior White House aide who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid violating the administration's taboo on disclosing internal political planning. "There's no person that this president would pick who could please some of the extreme elements of their party."

The great thing is that by making Ms miers religion a central part of the discussion over ner nomination they opened the trap for Democrats to make Mr. Alito's religion an issue too, which will be suicidal.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:29 PM


The Roberts/Alito Court: How Samuel Alito would push the Court even further right than William Rehnquist. (Mark Tushnet, 10.31.05 , American Prospect)

Worth emphasizing are two cases in which Judge Alito was more conservative than the Supreme Court’s conservatives. In one, he found that the Constitution precluded Congress from requiring state and local governments to provide family medical leave. The Supreme Court, in a decision written by Chief Justice William Rehnquist, upheld the federal statute. Alito’s defenders are going to say that the case he decided presented a slightly different question from the one presented in Rehnquist’s case. That’s true. But cases are almost always distinguishable, and the tenor of the chief justice’s opinion is quite different from Alito’s holding.

Even more striking, Alito, almost alone among all federal judges, would have held that Congress couldn’t use its power to regulate interstate commerce in a way that would make it a crime for a person to possess a machine gun. He took the Supreme Court’s decisions restricting that power and ran with them past where anyone else had -- or would. Last year’s case involving medical marijuana makes it clear that the Supreme Court doesn’t have nearly as restrictive a view of Congress’ powers -- and, conversely, as expansive a view of the Supreme Court’s powers -- as Judge Alito does. And, in the medical marijuana decision, who wrote an opinion explaining why Congress could prohibit the private possession and use of marijuana? Justice Antonin Scalia.

More conservative than Rehnquist and Scalia, then. A Roberts Court with Samuel Alito would be under consolidated conservative control. What then? If we continue to have unified government under Republican control, not much. The Supreme Court would do some of the jobs that, mostly for reasons of time, Congress can’t get around to. It might invalidate some statutes adopted by state legislatures controlled by Democrats instead of using Congress’ power to preempt those statutes. It might eventually overturn Roe v. Wade, although the political implications of doing so are likely to hurt Republicans (and so a conservative Court might not take that step). Basically, the Roberts Court would collaborate with the Republican political branches to advance the Republicans’ substantive agenda, just as the Warren Court collaborated with the Democratic political branches.

A return to unified Democratic government is so unlikely as not to be worth spending time on. If we get divided government again, the Roberts Court could be free to pursue a strongly conservative substantive agenda, confident that its allies in Congress would have enough power to ensure that the Court’s decisions would stick -- and confident that its opponents would fulminate but not be in a position to mount a full-scale attack on the Court. Or, and I think this is more likely, the Roberts Court would, like the Rehnquist Court, drift gradually to the right, changing constitutional law incrementally while awaiting the return of unified Republican government.

Wait'll Stevens retires.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:52 PM


Labor commits to terror laws (Samantha Maiden Steve Lewis, 01-11-2005, The Australian)

KIM Beazley has tried to lock troubled Labor MPs into voting for the Government's anti-terror legislation despite deep reservations about the reforms on both sides of politics.

A marathon meeting of members of Labor's frontbench yesterday backed the Opposition Leader's decision to support the legislation, possibly sight unseen, because it was in the "national interest". [...]

"We will put up propositions about those safeguards. That's what we will do and I stand ready to recommend to caucus that, in the national interest, we support the bill," Mr Beazley said. "That shows you how serious we are about the need to support the security of our community."

There's an important lesson for Democrats in the way Mr. Beazley is working with John Howard, rather than against, and the fact that the Tories in Britain are about to return to the Third Way they'd abandoned to Tony Blair over a decade ago. There's a governing consensus in the Anglosphere now and George W. Bush, Tony Blair and John Howard are astride it. The best future for our nations lies in the opposition parties joining that consensus.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:09 PM


The Left's Cruelest Month: October was supposed to be the month that marked the meltdown of the Bush administration (William Kristol, 10/31/2005, Weekly Standard)

OCTOBER, 2005 will turn out to be the left's cruelest month since . . . well, in a long time. A couple of weeks in, it seemed so promising. October was going to be the month that would mark the meltdown of the loathed Bush presidency. Iraq was failing, gas prices were rising, a weak Supreme Court nominee was under assault, and the White House was under siege from a special prosecutor. What more could a Bush-hater want?

But it was a false dawn for the left. On October 15, the Iraqi people voted for the second time this year, and progress--slow and difficult--gradually became visible on the ground. The economy, it turned out, was chugging along at a 3.8 percent growth rate. Harriet Miers withdrew--and President Bush followed that foul ball with a home run in the impressive person of Judge Samuel Alito. And the special prosecutor produced only one indictment, and one that will lead no further than a trial focused on what Scooter Libby said or didn't say to three journalists.

Even NPR referred to this as the first day of the rest of the Bush Administration.

In this economy, the 'R' word means resilient: Despite major blows, the US sees 10 strong quarters of growth. (Mark Trumbull, 11/01/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

The economy hasn't yet escaped cyclical swings entirely. But observers say the levers of finance and the gears of production have become better managed, more flexible, and less volatile. And for all its agility, the economy also benefits from gargantuan scale - with some $12 trillion in annual output.

"The US economy is this massive thing," not easily knocked off track, says Brian Wesbury, an economist at Claymore Securities in the Chicago area. Now in particular, he adds, "This economy has tremendous momentum."

Consider this: Last week's news marks the 10th straight quarter of 3 percent or greater growth in annual GDP. That's the longest such streak since the mid-1980s.

In the intervening years, business cycles seem to be getting smoother. The economy's slide in 2001 was so shallow that it has been almost 15 years since GDP has shrunk for consecutive quarters. And with the exception of 1991, you have to look back to 1982 to find a time when the economy was smaller at the end of the year than it was at the beginning.

It won't hit 3%, obviously, but even '91 will eventually be revised to show growth.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:04 PM


Bush To Dems: Boo! (Andrew Cohen, Oct. 31, 2005, CBS News)

[H]e is to the right of the Court's current majority when it comes to abortion rights — he voted for a marital notice provision in an abortion law early in his career as a judge — and his ascension to Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's seat would immediately narrow that majority in practical ways.

If he gets to the Court in time, he might even have a say in the pending abortion rights case this term that will determine whether Congress can ban a certain type of late-term abortion procedure.

Alito also could change the Court's fragile balance when it comes to Establishment Clause cases involving religious symbols on public property. He's already on the record as favoring a weakened wall between church and state.

Moreover, he is on the record as favoring a strong executive branch at the expense of both Congress and the judiciary (and many would argue "civil liberties"), which relates directly to the current administration's stance toward the legal war on terror.

If right-wing interest groups were to offer to their constituents a pin-up poster for "Most Promising Justice," Judge Alito's glamour shot would be a best-seller.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:52 PM


Why Bush Picked Alito (MIKE ALLEN, 10/31/05, TIME)

With nomination of Harriet Miers, who had little experience with constitutional law, Bush went for advice that he pick someone from outside the "judicial monastery." This time, the President went with one of the high priests. As assistant to the solicitor general under President Ronald Reagan, Alito argued 12 cases before the Supremes, and has presented at least two dozen before federal courts of appeal. And while a limited paper trail was one of the Democrats' few quibbles with the record of Judge John Roberts as he was being considered for chief justice, Alito has a four-lane highway of writings: opinions on the Commerce Clause; the First Amendment (free speech, establishment clause and free exercise clause); the Fourth, Eighth and Eleventh amendments; and the Fourteenth Amendment (procedural due process and substantive due process). Oh, and then there are his writings on administrative law, criminal law, immigration, the False Claims Act, the Freedom of Information Act, and securities and prison litigation.

The nomination will be seen as a sop to conservatives, but they are thrilled to take it.

Can Dems Say 'Finito' to 'Scalito'? (David Corn, 10/31/05, The Nation)
There is no question that Alito is qualified, in that he has been an assistant solicitor general, a deputy assistant US attorney general, a US attorney and an appeals court judge. He is reputedly intelligent and scholarly. There will be no major disagreement over document releases; there are fifteen years of appeals court decisions for his friends and foes to scrutinize. That leaves the Democrats one avenue of attack: Alito would be bad for America.

The liberal Democratic senators and the progressive groups are already trying to affix a big red "E" to Alito's robe--that's "E" for "Extremist"--and pointing out how conservative he has been on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:44 PM


Chesney: Losing Zellweger Hurts Like Having TV Stolen (Denver Channel, October 31, 2005)

Kenny Chesney told Life magazine that breaking up with Renee Zellweger was "like opening the door to your house and having someone come in and take your big-screen TV off the wall during the big game, and there's nothing you can do about it."

Likewise, modern televisions don't have knobs to fiddle with.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:30 PM


The Last Word: Zalmay Khalilzad: 'Our Goal Is Not To Rule Iraq' (Michael Hirsh, 11/07/05, Newsweek)

Could you talk about which Sunni insurgent groups you are hopeful about winning away?

My philosophy is that we need to isolate two groups from the rest. The first is [Abu Musab] Zarqawi and the jihadists, some foreign and some Iraqis. And the second is the Saddamists, those who want Saddamism to come back. As far as the rest are concerned, our effort has been to win them away. I have been very active with Sunni Arabs, reaching out to them.

On the tribal level?

Across the board. Tribes, yes. Nontribal political leaders, yes. Academics, professionals, yes. Some former government officials who were not criminals, yes. You name it.

What particular successes can you point to?

One is we've got some key Sunnis supporting the Constitution. Second, many more are supporting the political process. Now we have some tribes coming forward, like the Albu Mahal, that are saying they will fight against Zarqawi. So what's happening for maybe the first time since the liberation is a real struggle going on in the Sunni community between those who want to participate in the process and those who want a protracted insurgency.

Some observers say your strategy is exactly right—the only problem is that you're at least a year too late in coming in.

Well, I don't want to look back. But it's very important in my view to engage politically. And to communicate our goals. Our goal is not to rule Iraq. Our goal is not to have permanent bases in Iraq. Our goal is not to take over Iraqi oil or other Iraqi patrimony... It's very important that there is a balance between our various instruments—military, political, diplomatic, economic, cultural. If you have a hammer, pretty soon everything looks like a nail. I believe if I could say one thing, we're rebalancing the instruments.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:07 PM


Sharon Praises Stands Against Iran, Syria (MARK LAVIE, 10/31/05, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Sharon said that for the first time in years, "the United Nations is standing against extremist countries like Iran and Syria that threaten the region." The U.N. Security Council demanded Monday that Syria cooperate with an inquiry into the murder of Lebanese ex-premier Rafik Hariri and might take on the issue of the Iranian nuclear program.

Sharon also said that as a result of its pullout from Gaza, Israel is better accepted on the international stage than before.

At this rate George Bush will have succeeded in making the UN a useful institution by the time he leaves office.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:38 PM


Schumer: Samuel Alito Like Rosa Parks (Newsmax, 10/31/05)

[Senator Charles] Schumer said "Alito, like Rosa Parks, can make history simply by virtue of where he sits.”

It's a little early to call him another Rosa Parks.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:32 PM



MSNBC's Chris Matthews: "[I]'m Sitting Here Holding In My Hands, A Pretty Disgusting Document, This Is Put Out Not For Attribution. But It Comes From The Democrats, They're Circulating It. I Can Say That." (MSNBC's "MSNBC Live," 10/31/05)

* Matthews: "[T]hen There Complaint Sheet Against Judge Alito's Nomination. The First Thing They Nail About This Italian American Is He Failed To Win A Mob Conviction In A Trial 20 Years Ago, Or Something Way Back In '88." (MSNBC's "MSNBC Live," 10/31/05)

* Matthews: "In Other Words, They Nail Him On Not Putting Some Italian Mobsters In Jail From The [Lucchese] Family. Why Would They Bring Up This Ethnically Charged Issue As The First Item They Raise Against Judge Alito?" (MSNBC's "MSNBC Live," 10/31/05)

* Matthews: "This Is Either A Very Bad Coincidence Or Very Bad Politics. Either Way Its Gonna Hurt Them. This Document: Not Abortion Rights, Not Civil Rights But That He Failed To Nail Some Mobsters In 1988. This Is The Top Of Their List Of What They've Got Against This Guy. Amazingly Bad Politics." (MSNBC's "MSNBC Live," 10/31/05)

Matthews: "[The Democrats Are] Trying Not To Put A Signature On It, But I Just Did." (MSNBC's "MSNBC Live," 10/31/05)

Rhode Island is 63% Catholic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:29 PM


State Of Fear (Elizabeth MacDonald, 10.31.05, Forbes)

Seems like there's plenty to keep a panicky stock market stuck in a frozen solid trading range of 10,000 to 10,500 for another five years.

Rampant fears over oil prices. The ongoing Middle East mess and the war in Iraq. Fears that incoming U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will excitedly hike interest rates too high to show he's a gung-ho, anti-inflation Rambo. Anxieties that hurricanes have jacked up already high gas prices, exacerbating the troubles of a middle class bogged down by mounting costs for education, housing and health care. White House indictments. Possible tax hikes, if the Democrats regain control of Congress in 2006. [...]

[D]avid Malpass, chief economist at Bear Stearns (nyse: BSC - news - people ), says stop with the hand wringing, this rocket of a U.S. economy won't fall into a recession next year, instead, it will see solid gross domestic product growth in the 3.8% to 4.2% range.

He cites low unemployment, his belief that household and corporate sectors are well insulated from Fed rate hikes, and the fact that the Fed is powerful in combating inflation, which he says is caused not by economic growth and not so much by energy prices, but by monetary accommodation and dollar weakness in 2003 and 2004. He also has reams of data showing the economy was strong going into Katrina, Rita and any other hurricane bound to barrel through.

It's understandable that folks would be kind of jumpy in a world in which it seems like you could be blown up any second for no apparent reason, but you could hardly ask for a bettter economy, especially with gasoline prices falling as fast as they are. The problem has seemed to be for several years now that no bit of news can be as spectacularly good as 9-11 was spectacularly awful, so people are still waiting for the other shoe to drop rather than enjoying a social climate that nearly every people in history, including our own, would envy.

Consumer Spending Rebounds, Incomes Grow (JEANNINE AVERSA, 10/31/05 AP)

Consumers got back into a buying groove and boosted their spending by a solid 0.5 percent in September. Incomes also grew briskly.

The latest figures, released Monday by the Commerce Department, suggested that the economy is holding up well to the double blows of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The 0.5 percent rise in consumer spending in September came after spending fell by that amount in August, reflecting the hit from Katrina.

Americans' incomes, meanwhile, increased by 1.7 percent in September, the largest gain since December 2004.

Housing Boom Fading, Leading Real Estate Economist Says (Steve Brown, 10/31/05, The Dallas Morning News)
A combination of higher interest rates and years of rising prices could soon take some air out of the hot U.S. housing market.

"The boom is showing some signs of tiring," David Lereah, chief economist with the National Association of Realtors, said Friday. "We are looking at about a 4 percent drop in home sales next year.

"We are projecting a significant drop in the price appreciation pace," Lereah said.

But even though the velocity of the housing market will subside, "we are looking for a soft landing," he told real estate agents from across the country who are meeting in San Francisco.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:09 AM


A Time to Regroup: Bloodied by scandal, setbacks and casualties, Bush is looking for fresh troops and a new battle plan (NANCY GIBBS, MIKE ALLEN, 10/30/05, TIME)

The year's successes--an energy bill, the highway bill, bankruptcy reform, a free-trade agreement--all came before the Category 5 bad news of the fall. But a well-received court nominee could help Bush turn the corner. He will be traveling to South America and Asia before the holidays, which is why the White House road map to recovery starts in earnest in January. "It is fundamentally a question of reconnecting with the American people," says a senior member of the Bush team. "One of the good things about being President of the United States is that even when you're down, you have the ability to control your own destiny through the bully pulpit."

Bush officials are literally going back and reading his campaign speeches. Aides say they have a "back-to-basics" strategy focusing on such traditional Republican issues as spending restraint. As part of the search for a fresh agenda, groups of Bush aides are working on new immigration and tax-reform policies for possible rollout. But immigration is an issue that splits the party's base, and the recommendations of Bush's tax-reform commission, most notably doing away with the mortgage-interest deduction, are universally viewed as a nonstarter. To try to lower energy prices, the White House is considering taking steps--legislative, diplomatic or jawboning. But in a global economy, getting prices down is easier said than done.

As for a shift in the lineup, Card could be named Treasury Secretary by the beginning of the year. Among his possible replacements are White House budget director Joshua Bolten, former Montana Governor Marc Racicot and deputy budget director Clay Johnson III. An adviser says the personnel shifts will be gradual: "They don't want to communicate panic because they're not panicked."

In a global economy prices fall regardless of anbything you do, but pretending you caused the drop is good politics.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:05 AM


Specter to be at center of court nominee fight: As Senate Judiciary chairman, the Pennsylvania senator will play a pivotal role in the confirmation of a new justice. (Chris Mondics, 7/03/05, Philadelphia Inquirer)

Specter almost lost the powerful Judiciary Committee chairmanship after his reelection last year, when he suggested that opposition to the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion would disqualify a nominee. He came under enormous criticism from the Christian right and only persuaded fellow senators that he should be named chairman by assuring them that he would not apply ideological litmus tests to judicial nominees.

"Obviously, if he came out against any nominee, that would be the kiss of death, given Democratic opposition," said Alan Lichtman, a history professor at American University.

But Specter offered no clues on his leanings Friday shortly after the O'Connor announcement.

At a news conference in Philadelphia, he sharply criticized Bork as "having the most extreme ideology of any nominee ever," while offering praise for federal appeals court Judge Samuel A. Alito, also a conservative, who has been mentioned as a possible replacement for O'Connor.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:00 AM


The Pledge: A pragmatist president attempts to fulfill his promise to appoint non-pragmatic Supreme Court justices. (Paul Mirengoff, 10/31/2005, Weekly Standard)

Much of the president's domestic policy suggests that he is a pragmatist who, though possessing some conservative instincts, tends to put results ahead of conservative principles: Rarely are conservative principles absent from the president's domestic policy, but often they take a back-seat to short-term problem-solving. [...]

This tendency to synthesize a central tenet of liberalism--that the federal government should expand in an effort to solve problems--with certain core conservative values suggests that Bush is a proponent not of liberalism or of conservatism, but of a "third way." This label was often used during the early 1990s to describe the politics of those who supposedly eschewed both the traditional big government dogma of the left and the anti-big government dogma of conservatives. In these discussions, it was typically liberal politicians such as Tony Blair and Bill Clinton who were going the third way. In reality, though, the only synthesis they produced was between their big government dreams and the limits on their ability to achieve them.

BY CONTRAST, Bush seems genuinely to be striving for something new, and many observers (including Daniel Casse, Jonathan Rauch, and George Will) believe he has found it. They have suggested that Bush is a conservative, but of a different kind--a compassionate conservative, a big-government conservative, a strong-government conservative, an activist-conservative, or a demand-side conservative. However it might more appropriately labeled "domestic policy centrism," "pragmatism," or "third wayism," because (a) it's so different from traditional conservatism; and (b) when push comes to shove, Bush's desire to solve the problem at hand tends to take precedence over the desire to uphold conservative principles.

Note that the two "conservative" gripes with President Bush's Third Wayism are that it solves problems, rather than adhering to utopian ideology, and that Bill Clinton (successful two term president) and Tony Blair (most successful British PM since the 19th century) share it. Of course, it's precisely because it works that two other conservative leaders--John Howard (most successful Australian PM ever) and Junichiro Koizumi (most successful Japanese PM ever)--are likewise Third Wayers and it's no coincidence that the bitterest foes of Mr. Blair and Mr. Clinton are/were on the Left while Mr. Koizumi had to beat down a rebellion on his Right. Just because the Third Way works brilliantly doesn't mean anyone will appreciate you for governing according to it--well, except for the voters that is, who obviously love it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:30 AM


Death of Syrian Minister Leaves A Sect Adrift in Time of Strife (Anthony Shadid, 10/31/05, Washington Post)

These are difficult days for Syria's Alawites, and in their sentiments may be hints of the vulnerability of Assad's government as it faces a crisis over the U.N. investigation. In villages like Bihamra, across forbidding mountains that spring from the Mediterranean coast, there is deep anxiety that in a time of strife, Alawites will bear the brunt of vendettas dating to the decades when they provided the leadership of the government, military and feared security services.

That apprehension comes as frustration surges that the very state they are tied to has abandoned them. The military that ended their historic marginalization is neglected and disrespected, some of their villages remain without running water and, many say, the government, despite its Alawite cast, no longer defends them.

"It's like people don't know we live in the country," said Kharfan Khazin Ahmed, a 61-year-old retired government employee from the Alawite village of Qarir. "Every person sitting in the chair of power cares about money, not about the people."
Rise to the Top

Alawites are a small but pivotal community in Syria's tapestry of sect and ethnicity. Syria is predominantly Arab, with a Kurdish minority in the northeast. But among the Arabs are many Muslim sects: Sunni Muslims are the majority, along with minorities of Alawis, Druze and Ismailis, all of whom trace their origins back to Shiite Islam. The Alawites are the largest of those religious minorities, representing probably about 12 percent of Syria's 18 million people. They are centered in the region around Bihamra.

For centuries, Alawites faced withering discrimination, in part over the suspicions generated by their secretive, loosely Shiite religious traditions. Their secluded mountain villages are a relic of that ostracism, and they were some of the poorest, least educated and most rural of Syria's inhabitants. As with other religious minorities in the Middle East, many Alawites turned to the Baath Party, drawn to its pan-Arab, leftist and secular ideology, hoping it might dilute Syria's Sunni dominance and provide a more inclusive notion of identity. To escape grinding poverty, they joined the military, soon filling the ranks of its senior officer corps. In modern Syria, those two institutions -- party and military -- have ruled for 35 years.

Assad is an Alawite, and during the presidency of his father and predecessor, Hafez Assad, the sect emerged from behind the scenes to command the government's most sensitive positions in the military and security services. While the elder Assad was careful to give a Sunni face to portfolios such as the defense and foreign ministries and to forge alliances with other groups, his inner circle was drawn from his own community, often his own Qalbiyya tribe and family. In that sense, he was not only Syria's strongman, but also the leader of his sect, responsible for its fortunes.

"You will remain eternal in our hearts forever," reads a billboard with the elder Assad's portrait at the entrance to Qurdaha, his home town, about a mile along a winding road of ancient, rounded hills from Kanaan's village of Bihamra.

Under the younger Assad, to a remarkable degree, the circle of Alawite dominance has narrowed to his family. Gone are some of the sect's most powerful men -- former intelligence chiefs such as Ali Duba and Mohammed Khouli, for instance. Kanaan, Syria's point man in Lebanon for two decades and later the interior minister, was one of the last and most prominent. A product of the feared Mukhabarat, or Syrian intelligence, his reputation in much of the country was of a fearsome, hard man; in Bihamra, it was of a charitable one.

"He helped everyone in the village," said a doctor who spoke on condition of anonymity. "He was like a father for this entire place. Any help you needed as a citizen, you could go to him. His door was open to both the poor and princes."

The doctor, Kanaan's relative and others sat in the courtyard of his stucco, red-roofed villa on a cool morning. They snacked on bananas and apples, drank coffee and smoked cigarettes, ignoring the dawn-to-dusk fast of the holy month of Ramadan. The Alawite region is one of Syria's most secular, reflecting the imprint of a Baath Party that saw tribe and religion as barriers to modernization. The veil is hardly seen; missing are the most conservative Arab traditions that discourage interaction between men and women.

Bihamra itself shows the legacy of Kanaan's power and influence: He provided money to build the Jaafar Tayar mosque, opened a library with seven computers and built a community center named for his father, Mohammed Ali. While in Lebanon, he visited every month or two. On his return to Damascus in 2002, he visited at least once every two weeks, more often for funerals. As a young man, the story goes, in one of the myths that can overshadow life's excesses, he gave part of his first lieutenant's salary to villagers.

"The difference is that he would help someone and expect nothing in return," his relative said.

"They're going to feel the emptiness," he added.

Two weeks after his body was found, Kanaan's death remains the talk of Damascus. Most often heard is speculation that he faced disgrace on corruption charges and chose suicide instead. But many speculate that he represented one of the few potential rivals to Bashar Assad, giving rise to a slew of conspiracy theories: that he was forced to kill himself or that he was murdered, possibly poisoned. One well-informed Syrian said that the day after Kanaan died, all the coffee cups from his Interior Ministry office were seized to conceal evidence of foul play.

"They committed his suicide," said a Syrian dissident, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The talk in Bihamra, though, is more visceral and perhaps more telling. In the repercussions of Kanaan's death lies a truth about Syria and its government today: The younger Assad is viewed as less ta'ifi , or sectarian. His outlook is ostensibly more modern, possibly reformist; bucking tradition, he took for his wife a Sunni, not an Alawite. But as he struggles to put a more contemporary veneer on his rule, he faces a society still suffering deep cleavages that reflect unresolved questions of identity. The Baath Party offered one answer: The country is Arab. But other identities still compete -- Alawi, Sunni, Christian and so on -- in a zero-sum game of communal survival.

And in that question of survival, villagers say, Alawites lost one of their last, most prominent defenders in Kanaan. In his place, some Alawites say, is a government that cares about the military only to ensure it doesn't rebel; a ruling family most worried about its survival; and a state that promotes not the sect's interest, but networks bound by patronage and power that are growing richer. Even some Alawite intelligence officials are said to be disenchanted over the higher profile of Assad's family at their expense.

If Alawites desert Assad he's a minority of one.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:23 AM


On Patrol in Vt., Minutemen Are the Outsiders: Along the Border, Group Targets Illegal Immigrants (David A. Fahrenthold, 10/31/05, Washington Post)

The Minutemen have now come north, bringing to the woodsy, lightly populated 5,525-mile U.S.-Canada border the same kind of patrols that sprang up to curb illegal immigration from Mexico. Besides the patrols in Vermont, other Minutemen groups have set up watches this month in Washington state and Montana, Minutemen co-founder Chris Simcox said Sunday.

The Minutemen say the patrols here are a natural extension of their movement, which has grown to include chapters in large cities. One of these chapters, in Northern Virginia, has recently announced plans to patrol day-labor sites in Herndon to look for workers who have entered the country illegally.

The United States' northern border, according to the group, bears watching because it also has problems with immigrants being smuggled across, and because it could provide a way for terrorists to infiltrate the country.

"The Canadian border is the forgotten border," Buck said Saturday. "Nobody thinks about it as a problem."

But, as the patrols began this month, many who know the Canadian border well have said they are dubious that the Minutemen will have an impact.

For one thing, there is much less illegal traffic here. Border Patrol statistics show the contrast well: The post covering Vermont has 295 miles of boundary and made about 1,900 arrests last year.

By comparison, the McAllen, Tex., post -- which has about 40 fewer miles of border -- made 134,000 arrests.

"The odds of them seeing anyone are pretty slim," said Deborah Meyers, a senior policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute in Washington.

The terrain is another problem: Lt. Tom Hanlon of the Vermont State Police said the routes the smugglers use in this area are often snowmobile trails hidden in impenetrable backcountry.

"You get 10 feet off the road and you're in a dense forest. You can't see a thing," Hanlon said. "It's not like Arizona, where you can plop down and see for 50 miles."

Nevertheless, the Minutemen have come to Vermont.

They began scouting out potential sites several weeks ago, poking around this hamlet with a downtown almost directly on the border. It was in Derby Line that they had their first problem with the elusive border. On one scouting expedition, member Bob Casimiro said they became, for a moment, illegal visitors in Canada.

Then came their first official patrol two weekends ago, which was dogged by protesters who assembled downtown and shouted slogans such as "Take your hate out of our state." The Minutemen had to patrol a bike path away from town, and then -- as the Boston Globe reported -- got lost and had to ask a local for directions.

Over the weekend, the Minutemen decided to find a spot and stay put. They set up lawn chairs and looked out across a field at the trees. On Saturday afternoon, after several hours of watching, they had seen nobody and nothing suspicious.

"I think I saw a squirrel coming in. That's it," said Craig Courounis, 40, of Farmingdale, N.Y. He joked that the squirrel probably wouldn't be taking anybody's job while in the States.

It seems likely the squirrel can fill in for most of these guys at work.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:24 AM


Bush Selects Alito for Supreme Court (Fred Barbash and Peter Baker, October 31, 2005 , Washington Post)

President Bush today will name appeals court Judge Samuel A. Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court, according to a source close to the White House. Alito, 55, serves on the Philadelphia-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, where his record on abortion rights and church-state issues has been widely applauded by conservatives and criticized by liberals.[...]

While he has been dubbed "Scalito" by some lawyers for a supposed affinity to conservative Justice Antonin Scalia and his Italian-American heritage, most observers believe that greatly oversimplifies his record.

Alito is considered far less provocative a figure than Scalia both in personality and judicial temperament. His opinions and dissents tend to be dryly analytical rather than slashing.

In addition, his appeals court record is not uniformly conservative on the sorts of issues that arise in Supreme Court confirmation battles.

In 2004, he ruled in favor of a complaint brought under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act by a boy badly bullied by his classmates who was seeking legal relief but had been rebuffed by a U.S. District Court.

He also authored a majority opinion granting federal court review to an African American who could not get state courts to hear his claim of racial bias on the part of a juror in his trial. The case involved a juror who used racial epithets outside the confines of the jury room.

His record on the appeals court makes Alito less liable to suggestions made about Roberts, with only two years as a judge, that he is somehow a judicial mystery.

Rather, liberals are likely to focus on his opinions and dissents, most notably in the 1991 case, Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

In that case, Alito joined joined a Third Circuit panel in upholding most of a Pennsylvania law imposing numerous restrictions on women seeking abortions. The law, among other things, required physicians to advise women of the potential medical dangers of abortion and tell them of the alternatives available. It also imposed a 24 hour waiting period for abortions and barred minors from obtaining abortions without parental consent.

The panel, in that same ruling, struck down a single provision in the law requiring women to notify their husband's before they obtained an abortion. Alito dissented from that part of the decision.

"The Pennsylvania legislature," Alito wrote, "could have rationally believed that some married women are initially inclined to obtain an abortion without their husbands' knowledge because of perceived problems -- such as economic constrains, future plans, or the husbands' previously expressed opposition -- that may be obviated by discussion prior to abortion."

The case ultimately reached he Supreme Court, which upheld the appeals court decision, disagreed with Alito and also used the case to reaffirm its support for Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision legalizing abortion.

Unclean! Unclean!

Parties Set Stage for Showdown on Court Choice (DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK, 10/31/05, NY Times)

With the announcement of a new Supreme Court nominee expected as early as Monday, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, warned President Bush on Sunday not to pick one of the candidates said to be on the president's short list, Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr.

"I think it would create a lot of problems," Mr. Reid said on "Late Edition" on CNN.

Rather than selecting a nominee for the good of the nation and the court, President Bush has picked a nominee whom he hopes will stop the massive hemorrhaging of support on his right wing. This is a nomination based on weakness, not on strength.

After insisting that Harriet Miers shouldn't even get a hearing because she couldn't prove she was extreme enough, the far right has now forced the President to choose a nominee that they think has views as extreme as their own.

There are many serious questions about whether Judge Alito is a mainstream nominee fit to fill the seat of Justice O'Connor.

Ted's just tryinmg to repay the many kindnesses W has shown him by getting the Scalito pick in good with the Right.
Catholics move to the center of the bench (TIM UNSWORTH, January 24, 2003, National Catholic Reporter)
[T]here may be four, maybe five Catholics on the court by next spring -- an extraordinary shift. The new justice -- or two -- would join Scalia, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas.

Samuel Alito's conservative views earned him nickname 'Scalito' (DONNA CASSATA, 10/31/05, Associated Press
Samuel A. Alito has been a strong conservative jurist on the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a court with a reputation for being among the nation's most liberal.

Dubbed "Scalito" or "Scalia-lite," a play not only on his name but his opinions, Alito, 55, brings a hefty legal resume that belies his age.

The Front-Runners on Roe: What Bush's shortlist thinks about abortion. (Emily Bazelon, July 5, 2005, Slate)
The hard-liners:

John Roberts

In 1991, as deputy solicitor general for President George H.W. Bush, John Roberts (now a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit) co-wrote the administration's brief in Rust v. Sullivan. Roberts' position, which was adopted by the Supreme Court, barred doctors and clinics receiving federal funds from discussing the possibility of abortion with their patients or referring them to family-planning clinics that do the procedure. The brief said on behalf of the administration, "We continue to believe that Roe was wrongly decided and should be overruled." Roberts could try to distance himself from this stance by arguing that he was merely stating his client's position, but the stark language in the brief could be hard to disown.

Michael McConnell

In 1996, when he was a law professor, Michael McConnell (now a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit) signed a statement supporting a constitutional amendment to ban abortion. "Abortion kills 1.5 million innocent human beings in America every year," the statement read. "We believe that the abortion license is a critical factor in America's virtue deficit."

Emilio Garza

In 1992 and 1997, Judge Emilio Garza (U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit) struck down two Louisiana statutes for restricting abortion more tightly than Roe and Casey allow. But in each case, Garza wrote a concurrence stating his disagreement with those Supreme Court decisions. "I would allow the people of the State of Louisiana to decide this issue for themselves," he wrote in the 1992 case. In 1997, he called Roe and Casey "inimical to the Constitution."

Edith Jones

In 2004, Judge Edith Jones (U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit) agreed with a decision to reject a suit brought by Norma McCorvey, the original plaintiff in Roe, to reverse the Supreme Court's 1973 decision. (McCorvey had undergone a change of heart in the meantime and become a pro-life activist.) In a concurrence, Jones agreed that the 5th Circuit had no choice but to dismiss McCorvey's suit as moot. But that result was "ironic," Jones said, given evidence McCorvey presented about the "long-term emotional damage" suffered by women who have abortions and about the early stages at which "a baby develops sensitivity to external stimuli and to pain." Jones concluded, "[T]he perverse result of the Court's having determined through constitutional adjudication this fundamental social policy, which affects over a million women and unborn babies each year, is that the facts no longer matter."

The regulators:

Samuel Alito

In 1991, Judge Samuel Alito (U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit) dissented from the lower-court decision—affirmed by the Supreme Court in Casey—that struck down a Pennsylvania law that would have required women to inform their husbands before getting abortions. Alito read the Supreme Court's earlier decisions as holding that an abortion regulation did not pose an undue burden unless it banned abortion, gave another person a veto over a woman's choice, or had the "practical effect of imposing severe limitations." A law that had a "heavy impact on a few women" should be upheld, Alito said.

Michael Luttig

In 1998, Michael Luttig (U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit) granted a stay that had the effect of allowing a Virginia ban against partial-birth abortion to go into effect. After the Supreme Court struck down Nebraska's parallel law in Stenberg v. Carhart, Luttig reversed his earlier decision and lifted the stay, which had the effect of throwing out the Virginia restrictions. At that point, he explained that at the time of his initial decision to let the Virginia ban stand, he understood Casey to be "a decision of super-stare decisis"—meaning super respect for precedent—"with respect to a woman's fundamental right to choose." But he also believed that the court would uphold the partial-birth abortion bans, or at least defer to Virginia's interpretation limiting the reach of its statute.

Not even a hard-liner?
The Supreme Court Shortlist: The views of the likely candidates. (Emily Bazelon and David Newman, July 1, 2005, Slate)
Samuel Alito

Age: 55
Graduated from: Yale Law School.
He clerked for: Judge Leonard Garth.
He used to be: deputy assistant attorney general under Reagan, U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey.
He's now: a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit (appointed 1990).

His confirmation battle: Alito has the Scalia-esque nickname "Little Nino" and the Italian background to match it. As the author of a widely noted dissent urging his court to uphold restrictions on abortion that the Supreme Court then struck down, in a decision that reaffirmed Roe v. Wade, Alito could be especially filibuster-prone. Like Scalia, he frequently makes his mark in dissent.

Separation of Church and State
For a unanimous panel, upheld a lower-court order requiring a school district to allow a Bible-study group to set up an information table at an elementary-school back-to-school night. Reasoned that by preventing the group from displaying its literature, the district was discriminating on the basis of viewpoint. (Child Evangelism Fellowship of N.J., Inc. v. Stafford Township School District, 2004)

For a unanimous panel, denied standing to a group seeking to take down a municipal holiday display that included a menorah and a crèche. Alito said that the group couldn't challenge the display as taxpayers because the items were donated rather than bought by the town. (ACLU-NJ v. Township of Wall, 2001)

Dissented from a ruling by the 3rd Circuit as a whole that an elementary school did not violate the First Amendment rights of a kindergartener by taking down (and then putting back up) a Thanksgiving poster he'd made that said the thing he was most thankful for was Jesus. The majority decided to throw out the case on a technicality; Alito protested that the child's claim should go forward. (C.H. v. Oliva, 2000)

Criminal Law
Allowed a federal probation office in Delaware to condition the release of a man who had pleaded guilty to receiving child pornography on his willingness to submit to random polygraph tests about whether he'd had impermissible contact with children. (United States v. Warren, 2003)

Dissented from a refusal to grant police officers immunity from a civil suit brought by a mother and her 10-year-old daughter who'd each been strip-searched because they lived in the home of a suspected drug dealer. Alito felt the police had behaved reasonably because the warrant led them to conclude that there was probable cause to search everyone in the house for drugs. (Doe v. Groody, 2004)

Habeas Corpus
Granted the habeas claim of an African-American defendant who sought to introduce evidence that a juror made a racist remark after the jury reached its verdict. (Williams v. Price, 2003)

Dissented from a decision holding that Pennsylvania could not require women to inform their husbands before getting abortions. Alito argued that because the law only required the husbands to have notice and did not give them a veto over their wives' decisions, it did not pose an "undue burden" for women. This approach was rejected by the Supreme Court. (Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 1991)

Agreed that an immigration judge was within his discretion to find not credible an application for asylum based on China's forced-abortion policy. (Xue-Jie Chen v. Ashcroft, 2004)

One can't help noticing that his most noted opinions are either dissents or for unanimous majorities, suggesting some considerable degree of lightweightedness. Heavyweights write the narrowly divided majority opinions.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:18 AM


Bush's judicial test (Robert Novak, Oct 31, 2005, Townhall)

Bush's blunder on Miers reflects his genuine disdain for Washington and the national government, still intense after nearly five years in office. That is basically why he reaches back to longtime friends and associates (cronies, say his critics) whom he trusts. Having been told that the conservative Republican base would not accept his friend Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on the court, Bush tried to sneak through Gonzales's successor as White House counsel.

What the President underestimated is the degree to which an Inside-the-Beltway Right has been institutionalized and can command media attention generally and controls a growing segment of that media.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:04 AM


Bombers fail to derail talks as leaders seal border peace deal (Catherine Philp, 10/31/05, Times of London)

INDIA reached an unprecedented agreement with Pakistan to open their heavily militarised border in Kashmir yesterday just hours after a deadly series of bombs rocked the Indian capital in an apparent attempt to derail the peace process between the rival nations.

The move came in clear defiance of the attackers, who most analysts believe were attempting to scupper warming relations between the countries in the aftermath of the earthquake that struck Kashmir two weeks ago.

And so Spain retains the "distinction" of being the only place where bombing helped the Islamicists.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:02 AM


Home front (Philip Johnston, 31/10/2005, Daily Telegraph)

This Saturday marks the 400th anniversary of one of the most notorious acts of treason in British history. A group of Catholic conspirators, among them a Yorkshireman, Guy Fawkes, tried to blow up parliament.
JAS cartoon

It is a crime that has resonated down the centuries. Nobody then doubted - and few have since - that the 1605 Gunpowder Plot amounted to treason, nor that the penalty would be as inevitable as it was gruesome - lengthy torture, followed by grisly execution. Yet Fawkes would not have considered himself a traitor. He put his religion before his country. During the final few years of Elizabeth's reign he even enlisted in the Spanish army to fight for the cause.

Once more, the cry of "treason" is being levelled against British citizens who put their religion before their country. Another Yorkshireman, Mohamed Sidique Khan, one of the London suicide bombers, left a video in which he accused western governments of ''continuously perpetuating injustice against my people all over the world... Until we feel security, you will be our targets. We are at war, and I am a soldier.''

Fawkes would have understood those sentiments; and there are other parallels between what was happening in 1605 and today. [...]

Although most November 5 bonfires burn Guy Fawkes in effigy, for centuries it was more likely to be the Pope, as it still is in some parts of the country. Yet the vast majority of Catholics under James I were loyal to their king and country and paid an unjustifiably heavy price for the actions of the plotters. As we remember once more the Fifth of November, let us also not forget what a frightened and intolerant society we once were and how far we have come in the intervening 400 years.

And now there's a Catholic PM.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:36 AM


It may be exported, but at least it‘s democracy (Khaled Fouad Allam, 10/31/05. Chiesa)

Today, whether one likes it or not, that world is changing, because the war in Iraq inaugurated what has been called “the American moment,” and it has brought to light the absence of any European political project on the great questions that are found across those societies.

Of course, this is the case of an “imperial democratization,” which is weighed down by some obvious errors: the unmaking of the structure of Iraqi society through the total dismantling of the old apparatus of the state connected to the Ba’ath party; a communitarian perception of the nation, according to which the “building policy” has begun from the presupposition of a society divided along ethnic and confessional lines.

But on second glance, these are errors that Europe probably would have incurred as well.

They are errors that Europe made in Iraq in 1921, with the British repression of the Shiite rebellion, because even back then the Shiites were already claiming rights to political participation. French and British colonialism always backed the Sunnis, because they had been the country’s élite for centuries, although they constituted a minority. And Arab nationalism perpetuated the situation.

But now all of that is gone, or is dying off, definitively. And it must be understood that the reversal underway will produce a large-scale effect in the Middle East and in the Arab world in general.

The pressure exerted on Syria by the United States has already obtained the abandoning of the Syrian protectorate over Lebanon. And this must not be separated from what has happened in Iraq. Both events are the product of a new phase of history, the slow decomposition of political authoritarianism in the Middle East. [...]

While American “imperial democracy” has brusquely inaugurated a new era for the peoples of the Middle East, the left must foster an authentic way of looking at the civil societies of the Arab world, keeping in mind that these are not the same as the countries of Eastern Europe. Lebanon is not Ukraine, and the Arab world, oppressed by authoritarian dictatorships and regimes for over fifty years – and before then by the colonial regimes – has not had its Solzhenitsyn, it has not had its Gulag Archipelago, it has not been able to denounce to the world the barbarities it has suffered.

Of course, in the Arab world there was no system of concentration camps like in the Soviet Union. But many have personally paid the price of denouncing the absence of liberty. It must also be emphasized that Europe has rarely listened to the dissenting voices from that world, the voices crying out about the lack of freedom.

Of course, the question of the legitimacy of an act of war is being posed, and will always be posed. But that question does not freeze history; history continues forward. History is something too serious for one to be able to resolve it through a debate in which the favorable and contrary voices are balanced. The request by Hariri’s son to have the assassins of the former Lebanese prime minister judged by an international tribunal is a manifestation of a history that is changing. And even though Saddam Hussein’s trial is controversial, it will have a strongly cathartic effect on the collective Arab imagination. It will mean the restitution to the Iraqi people of their own history. For this reason, I maintain that it is important that the trial be conducted in Arabic.

Taking all this into consideration leads to the conclusion that democracy is not a luxury for some privileged peoples, and that the geopolitics of the Middle East is definitively leaving behind its configuration in the zones of influence that ensnared it during the twentieth century.

Sure, it'd be nice if Europe were more helpful in the process, but it ultimately doesn't matter much.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:33 AM


Budget bill would boost green cards (Stephen Dinan, October 31, 2005, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

The Senate's budget package includes provisions that would make available hundreds of thousands of green cards for new permanent legal immigrants, in what is shaping up as the next congressional fight over immigration.

The bill's measures would "recapture" 90,000 unused employment-based immigration visas and would exempt family members from counting toward the cap, which is set at 140,000 per year.

Based on past trends, exempting family members would mean an additional 150,000 permanent legal immigrants annually. About 1 million people become legal immigrants each year.

The change is part of the deficit-reducing budget reconciliation bill, which is on the Senate floor today and includes billions of dollars in cuts in Medicaid and other social spending and allows for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

An economy that depends on illegal immigrants doesn't make much sense, so finding ways to legalize them does.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:29 AM


Japan reshuffle hints at next PM (BBC, 10/31/05)

Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has named leading conservative Shinzo Abe as chief government spokesman in a cabinet reshuffle.

The appointment means Mr Abe is well placed to succeed Mr Koizumi if he steps down as party leader next September, which he has pledged to do.

The important foreign affairs portfolio has been given to another conservative, former Home Affairs Minister Taro Aso. [...]

A grandson of former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, he is best known for taking a tough line on North Korea over its abductions of Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 80s.

Mr Abe has also supported Mr Koizumi's visits to the controversial Yasukuni war shrine, seen by China and South Korea as a symbol of Japan's World War II militarism.

New Foreign Minister Taro Aso, 65, has also visited the shrine, and his appointment is unlikely to please China.

But will they continue Mr. Koizumi's Third Way reforms?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:24 AM


Officials: Bush set to name nominee: Miers helps finalize choice to replace her as Supreme Court pick (CNN, 10/31/05)

President Bush is expected Monday to name his nominee to replace Sandra Day O'Connor, who is retiring from the U.S. Supreme Court, senior administration officials told CNN Sunday.

Pick quick.

Brother Whited informs that the Dallas Morning News says she's withdrawn her nomination, demonstrating why W trusted her in the first place.

Miers withdraws as high court nominee (AP, October 27, 2005)

Miers' surprise withdrawal stunned Washington on a day when the capital was awaiting news on another front -- the possible indictment of senior White House aides in the CIA leak case.

Miers notified Bush of her decision at 8:30 p.m., according to a senior White House official who said the president will move quickly to find a new nominee.

In her letter dated Thursday, Miers said she was concerned that the confirmation process "would create a burden for the White House and our staff that is not in the best interest of the country."

She noted that members of the Senate had indicated their intention to seek documents about her service in the White House in order to judge whether to support her nomination to the Supreme Court. "I have been informed repeatedly that in lieu of records, I would be expected to testify about my service in the White House to demonstrate my experience and judicial philosophy," she wrote.

"While I believe that my lengthy career provides sufficient evidence for consideration of my nomination, I am convinced the efforts to obtain Executive Branch materials and information will continue."

Now it gets interesting. He can't really reward his enemies, so his choices are constrained. Judge McConnell would be a similarly Evangelical pick and opposition to him would reveal the whole squabble to be exclusively religious. Alberto Gonzales would be a thumb in their eye and hard to oppose because Latino. Mel Martinez is the most easily confirmable Hispanic. But then he's back to not giving Laura Bush a female justice...

Start guessing...we've got more books....

October 30, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:46 PM


CRISIS OF FAITH IN THE MUSLIM WORLD: PART 1: Statistical evidence (Spengler, 11/01/05, Asia Times)

Radical Islam should be interpreted as a cry of despair in the face of the ineluctable decline of Islamic society. Read carefully, the leading Islamists say precisely this. At the close of the 19th century the Ottoman Empire was the sick man of Europe, and its former territories today comprise the incurables ward of geopolitics. From this vantage point, America's attempt to foist its own form of democracy on the Islamic world seems delusional.

As I have reported before, the demographic position of the Islamic world has set a catastrophe in motion. It is hard enough for rich nations to care for a growing elderly population, but impossible for poor nations to do so. Iran, along with most of the Muslim world, faces a population bust that will raise the proportion of dependent elderly in the population to 28% in 2050, from just 7% today.

If America faces discomfort, and Europe faces crisis, Muslim countries face breakdown. America now has a per capita gross domestic product (GDP) of US$40,000 and a diversified economy. Iran has a per capita GDP of just $7,000 and depends on oil exports for the state subsidies that keep its population fed and clothed - and Iran will no longer be able to export oil after 2020, according to some estimates.

America can ameliorate the impact of an aging population by raising productivity (so that fewer workers produce more GDP), attracting more skilled immigrants (and increasing its tax base), and, in the worst of all cases, tightening its belt. American life will not come to an end if more people drive compact cars instead of SUVs, or go camping for vacation instead of to Disney World. But the Islamic world is so poor that any reduction in living standards from present levels will cause social breakdown.

In 2002, the United Nations' Arab Development Report offered a widely-quoted summation of the misery of the present position of the Arab World, noting:

# The average growth rate of per capita income during the preceding 20 years in the Arab world was only one-half of 1% per annum, worse than anywhere but sub-Saharan Africa

# One in five Arabs lives on less than $2 per day

# Fifteen percent of the Arab workforce is unemployed, and this number could double by 2010

# Only 1% of the population has a personal computer, and only half of 1% use the Internet

# Half of Arab women cannot read.

Negotiating the demographic decline of the 21st century will be treacherous for countries that have proven their capacity to innovate and grow. For the Islamic world, it will be impossible. That is the root cause of Islamic radicalism, and there is nothing that the West can do to change it. [...]

America's fertility rate - the average number of children per woman - has stabilized at just around the replacement level. That is why America's elderly dependency ratio will stabilize around 2030. But the fertility rate of the Muslim world is falling much faster.

To the contrary, there's much that the West (well, really the Anglosphere) can do and is doing. The most important thing is hastening the End of History--forcing the Islamic world to reform along liberal democratic lines, adopting democracy, capitalism, and protestantism--which amounts to a Reformation of Islam itself. This will not only make Islamic societies healthier but will, in the process, refurbish Islam, demonstrating that it can be the basis for those thriving 21st-century societies, is indeed a necessary basis.

At the same time, the dying nations of Europe, whose secular rationalist faith can not provide such a basis, will serve as a safety valve drawing off the excess unemployed in the Islamic world. The success or failure of these European states and of the massive waves of migrants they'll be taking in will depend on a recognition that they must be assimilated into the culture that had made Europe successful until the early 20th Century and that Islam can be integrated into that earlier Judeo-Christian model.

None of this will be easy nor is it certain to work. Even in a best case scenario it requires tremendous upheaval in both the Islamic world and in Europe and a free flow of ideas and peoples that will hardly be welcomed by everyone. But, as Spengler points out, the alternative is abysmal.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:40 PM


Nurses launch legal fight to halt health contracts plan (John Carvel, October 31, 2005, Guardian)

Leaders of the nursing profession will launch legal action against the health secretary, Patricia Hewitt, today to try to make her rethink plans to "privatise" local health services.

The Royal College of Nursing will apply for judicial review of the decision to contract out district nursing, chiropody, family planning and other community health services provided outside hospitals. The college fears that 250,000 health workers' jobs are at risk from a policy that would reduce the NHS to "little more than a logo", organising services provided by other organisations.

And the Left hates logos.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:33 PM


U.N. Is Expected to Pass Measure Pressuring Syria (WARREN HOGE and STEVEN R. WEISMAN, 10/31/05, NY Times)

Diplomats from the resolution's three co-sponsors, Britain, France and the United States, said they expected passage on Monday and did not foresee a veto from either China or Russia, the two countries most reluctant to punish Syria.

The resolution threatens Syria with economic penalties if it does not give full cooperation to the United Nations investigation that has identified high-ranking security officials as suspects in the assassination of a former Lebanese prime minister, Rafik Hariri.

The measure also orders Syria to take into custody and make available to the investigators people they suspect of involvement in the killing.

That provision in particular could pose a problem for Mr. Assad, a relatively inexperienced leader perceived as weak and vulnerable in the power politics of the Middle East. Among the suspects are his brother, Maher Assad, and his brother-in- law, Asef Shawkat, the chief of military intelligence, who is considered the most powerful man in the country aside from the president.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:29 PM


Rock bottom (Michael Barone, Oct 31, 2005, Townhall)

George W. Bush's administration has come through what many have been saying would be its worst week, and it has turned out to be -- well, if not one of the best, then one that is far more encouraging than most of the mainstream media expected.

Four events, or non-events, have put the administration in a position to make progress and advance the standing of the president and his party in public policy and in the public opinion polls.

Folks figured out rather quickly that October has ended pretty well, all things considered.

U.S. Is Ceding More Control to the Iraqis: The military quickens the pace of transferring quiet areas to security forces, whose improving capabilities are key to America's exit plans. (Solomon Moore, October 29, 2005, LA Times)

Seeking to lower the visibility of U.S. troops and grant more authority to Iraqi government forces, the American military has now ceded control of 27 of the nation's 109 bases, U.S. and Iraqi officials said.

Thousands of U.S. troops have been redeployed in recent months from bases in Najaf, Karbala, Tikrit and other cities, and Iraqis are now in charge of patrol areas that include four districts of Baghdad and the town of Taiji, northeast of the capital.

On Friday, American officials announced that the next major military installation expected to be transferred to Iraqi control was former President Saddam Hussein's palace complex in Tikrit. The site has been renamed Forward Operating Base Danger and currently houses more than 6,000 U.S. troops.

Iraqi and U.S. officials said they had quickened the pace of such security transfers in recent weeks and planned to formalize what had been an ad hoc, piecemeal approach.

"We've already handed over nine different areas north of Baghdad as part of a national plan," said Robert Holby, a State Department official assigned to Tikrit. "We want to put an Iraqi face on things. Everybody thinks that if we move away from the cities, this will make the violence go down."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:18 PM


Doubts Cast on Vietnam Incident, but Secret Study Stays Classified (SCOTT SHANE, 10/31/05, NY Times)

The National Security Agency has kept secret since 2001 a finding by an agency historian that during the Tonkin Gulf episode, which helped precipitate the Vietnam War, N.S.A. officers deliberately distorted critical intelligence to cover up their mistakes, two people familiar with the historian's work say.

The historian's conclusion is the first serious accusation that communications intercepted by the N.S.A., the secretive eavesdropping and code-breaking agency, were falsified so that they made it look as if North Vietnam had attacked American destroyers on Aug. 4, 1964, two days after a previous clash. President Lyndon B. Johnson cited the supposed attack to persuade Congress to authorize broad military action in Vietnam, but most historians have concluded in recent years that there was no second attack.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:41 PM


Three Blasts in New Delhi Kill at Least 55: Pakistan Strongly Condemns Attacks (Muneeza Naqvi, 10/30/05, The Washington Post)

Analysts told news agencies that the blasts were possibly linked to groups opposed to the peace process between India and its chief rival, Pakistan.

"It is very likely that the attacks were conducted by a terrorist group opposed to the peace process between India and Pakistan," Rohan Gunaratna, the head of research into terrorism at the Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies in Singapore, told Agence-France Presse.

Immediately after the attacks, Pakistan's Foreign Ministry issued an unusually strong condemnation. "The attack in a crowded market place is a criminal act of terrorism," the ministry said in a statement.

Didn't work in Palestine.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:15 PM


Small US units lure Taliban into losing battles (Scott Baldauf, 10/31/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

It's mid- morning on June 21, and Lt. Timothy Jon O'Neal's platoon has just been dropped onto a dusty field north of a mud-walled village of Chalbar. Their mission: to check out reports that a local Afghan Army commander has defected to the Taliban and burned the district headquarters, and is prepared to fight.

Within minutes, it becomes clear that the reports are true, and the platoon is in trouble. The radio crackles with Taliban fighters barking orders to surround the Americans. Gunfire comes from the hilltops. Lieutenant O'Neal's men are easy targets. The Taliban have the high ground.

This has been the most violent year here since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. The US Army is moving in smaller numbers to lure the Taliban out of hiding for fights they cannot win. The result: More than 1,200 enemy deaths this year, including high-level commanders. But it is also a strategy with profound risks, and one that may be difficult to sustain in Zabul Province - a region so unstable that commanders call it the "Fallujah of Afghanistan" - as current troops return home, their replacements as yet undecided.

Through interviews with soldiers of Chosen Company, of the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, the Monitor has reconstructed two recent battles that illustrate how this strategy works, and how it may have weakened the Taliban movement's effectiveness as a military force - for now.

See NATO taking over this duty?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:11 PM


SCOTUS (Washington Prowler, October 30, 2005, American Spectator)

According to sources in both the White House and Senate leadership, the President is poised to nominate Federal Appeals Court Judge Samuel Alito on Monday morning. [...]

According to White House sources, if Alito does beat out Luttig it will be based on the White House quest for what they are calling "consistency." Those who have evaluated the potential nominees believe Alito is more likely to remain a consistent, conservative judge on the Supreme Court bench than Luttig, who some inside the White House believe would have the potential to "grow" on the bench. As one White House staffer told us earlier in the weekend, "We're not talking about much of a difference. The President could go either way."

Such hair-splitting can hardly make one proud to be a conservative, but if he nominates Luttig he's Rousseau without the abandoned children.

So, Do You Believe in 'Superprecedent'? (JEFFREY ROSEN, 10/30/05, NY Times)

[S]ocial conservatives face a problem: a new theory of "superprecedents" that is gaining currency on the right as well as the left.

The term superprecedents first surfaced at the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Judge John Roberts, when Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, asked him whether he agreed that certain cases like Roe had become superprecedents or "super-duper" precedents - that is, that they were so deeply embedded in the fabric of law they should be especially hard to overturn. [...]

But the idea of superprecedents is more powerful than a simple affirmation of stare decisis. An origin of the idea was a 2000 opinion written by J. Michael Luttig, a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, who regularly appears on short lists for the Supreme Court.

Striking down a Virginia ban on a procedure that opponents call partial-birth abortion, Judge Luttig wrote, "I understand the Supreme Court to have intended its decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey," the case that reaffirmed Roe in 1992, "to be a decision of super-stare decisis with respect to a woman's fundamental right to choose whether or not to proceed with a pregnancy."

Before the Roberts confirmation hearings, Mr. Specter talked informally to several law professors, including this writer, who mentioned the theory of super-stare decisis, noting that Judge Luttig thought it was important that Roe had been repeatedly reaffirmed by different Supreme Courts, composed of justices appointed by presidents from different parties and confirmed by Senates controlled at times by Democrats and Republicans.

And Mr. Specter adopted this theory.

Arlen Luttig?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:42 PM


Democracy's evil twin: You want to bring California government back to its senses? Get rid of the initiatives. (Jules Tygiel, October 30, 2005, LA Times)

IF GOV. ARNOLD Schwarzenegger really wants to "blow up the boxes" in Sacramento, he should sponsor one two-line initiative:

"There shall be no further initiatives.

"All previous initiatives may be modified by a majority vote of the Legislature."

When asked after the Constitutional Convention in 1787 what kind of government the new American nation had adopted, Benjamin Franklin famously replied, "A republic, if you can keep it." In a republic, there is no monarch. More important, representatives elected by the people enact laws on their behalf. [...]

Frustrated by the railroads' and corporations' control of legislative bodies and political parties, agrarian reformers proposed a variation on the republican form of government in the late 19th century — direct democracy. When elected officials ignored the will of the people, they contended, the people should be able to propose their own laws, reject or revise existing ones and remove public officials. The initiative, referendum and recall would be the instruments of the popular will.

The agrarians failed to achieve their goals, but the Progressives picked up their cause in the early 20th century.

Democracy is too much with us.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:27 PM


Our 27 months of hell (Joseph C. Wilson IV, October 29, 2005, LA Times)

AFTER THE two-year smear campaign orchestrated by senior officials in the Bush White House against my wife and me, it is tempting to feel vindicated by Friday's indictment of the vice president's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

Between us, Valerie and I have served the United States for nearly 43 years. I was President George H.W. Bush's acting ambassador to Iraq in the run-up to the Persian Gulf War, and I served as ambassador to two African nations for him and President Clinton. Valerie worked undercover for the CIA in several overseas assignments and in areas related to terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

But on July 14, 2003, our lives were irrevocably changed. That was the day columnist Robert Novak identified Valerie as an operative, divulging a secret that had been known only to me, her parents and her brother.

Correction: You changed it yourself on July 6, 2003, the day you and your wife decided to make public your CIA mission, if not earlier, Fall Of A Vulcan:
How a very smart and very loyal aide to Dick Cheney got indicted for allegedly lying about his role in defending the war (MICHAEL DUFFY, 10/30/05, TIME)
For anyone who has been trying to follow the bewildering saga of Scooter Libby, Karl Rove, Joseph Wilson and his wife CIA officer Valerie Plame, Fitzgerald's indictment is a helpful road map. [...]

Fitzgerald's theory of the case can be broken into three parts: The hunt for the whistle-blower The story begins with a mystery man who was dissing the Bush team from somewhere within the government. In May 2003, shortly after New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof first wrote about a secret CIA mission to Africa by an unnamed U.S. ambassador to assess suggestions by Cheney's office that Iraq had tried to buy uranium yellowcake from Niger, Libby asked Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman to go digging for more information on the mission. It was not an idle inquiry: the 2002 trip, taken by a former U.S. ambassador to Gabon, Joseph Wilson, had turned up no evidence that Iraq sought the uranium ore for its nuclear weapons program, as Cheney's office had suggested. And although Wilson reported his findings to the CIA, the claim about the African yellowcake kept popping up in Administration speeches in the weeks leading up to the war in Iraq. At Libby's behest, Grossman ordered the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (inr) to look into the CIA mission to Africa.

Over the next few weeks, Libby got progress reports from the inr, and Grossman eventually informed Libby that it was Wilson who took the trip, that his wife worked at the CIA and that she may have played a role in sending Wilson on the trip. Fitzgerald's indictment alleges that Libby heard similar reports about Wilson and his wife from a senior CIA official and, on June 12, from Cheney, who by then knew that Wilson's wife worked in the CIA's Counterproliferation Division.

To hard-liners like Libby, who believed that the CIA opposed the war in Iraq and had been quietly undercutting the President for months, it appeared that the CIA was turning on Cheney too. "Scooter thought the CIA was trying to screw us," says a former colleague of Libby's.

And almost on cue, the hard-liners' dark fears were realized: within a week, a June 19 online article by the New Republic quoted an unnamed U.S. envoy, who was clearly Wilson, alleging that the Administration knew the yellowcake story "was a flat-out lie" but had used it in the prewar claims anyway. Not long after, Fitzgerald alleges, Libby spoke with his deputy about the article, and the two aides discussed whether information about Wilson's trip might be shared with the press. Libby demurred, saying such a move would cause "complications at the CIA," but added that he "could not discuss the matter on a nonsecure phone."

Just a few days later, on June 23, Libby met at the Old Executive Office Building with New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who wrote a series of highly controversial, and now largely discredited, stories about Iraq's prewar arsenal of weapons of mass destruction.

It was in that session that Libby groused about "selective leaking" at the CIA and first disclosed that Wilson's wife might work at a bureau of the CIA.

Two weeks later, on July 6, Wilson went public, writing an Op-Ed column in the New York Times, retelling the story of his fruitless trip to Niger and hinting that the Bush team didn't really want to know if the prewar intelligence was accurate or not.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:19 PM


Fanning flames of hatred fuels a diplomatic meltdown (Trevor Royle, 10/30/05, Sunday Herald)

What can done with Iran? The question has been troubling the minds of Western diplomats for the past three years. Ever since President George W Bush and his “coalition of the willing” decided to attack Iraq and depose Saddam Hussein the next issue has always been its unruly neighbour to the east. Should the policy be conciliatory or threatening? Last week it became depressingly clear that the threat of harsher measures was suddenly back on the agenda.

Following Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s ill-advised comments about destroying Israel, Prime Minister Tony Blair is actively advocating a more aggressive line towards Iran. In place of containment and partnership in comes a more pro-active stance which does not rule out the use of force. After weeks of frustration over Iran’s refusal to heed international guidelines on the development of its nuclear industry and amid suspicions that Iraqi insurgents are receiving support and weapons from Iran’s Republican Guards, Britain has decided to take a much tougher line.

“It was a foolish remark for any leader to make about another country, but in the Middle East it’s doubly explosive,” said a senior British diplomat. “Fortunately his outburst hasn’t met with much enthusiasm in the region other than an embarrassed diplomatic silence, but even so, Ahmadinejad may have gone too far on this occasion. He’s also pushed us into a position where many countries will be reconsidering their policy towards Iran.”

The response may not be what the Iranian president was expecting...

Maybe he reads the Western media and thought that the Axis of Good would be deterred by the rather minimal casualties in Iraq?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:47 AM


American Girl's gifts to agency lead school to scrap show: Backing of lesbianism, abortion sets off storm (TOM HEINEN, Oct. 29, 2005, Mikwaukee Journal Sentinel)

A Catholic school in Waukesha County is the first non-profit group in the nation to cancel a coveted American Girl Fashion Show amid concerns that the Wisconsin-based doll company behind the show gives money to a national girls organization that presents abortion, contraception and a lesbian sexual orientation as acceptable.

News of the decision by parent volunteers and the pastor at St. Luke School in Brookfield is being reported in bulletins at Masses this weekend.

"It seemed like a match made in heaven; a motivated Catholic school and an all-American icon," Father Frank Malloy, the pastor, says in his printed explanation. "We seemed poised to raise enough funds for a new playground and a remake of the school library."

But, he concludes, "As for us, it's a bargain we'll just have to pass up. The cost is too high. Our integrity isn't for sale."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:29 AM


If you want to succeed, follow us Down Under (Lynton Crosby, 29/10/2005, Daily Telegraph)

For so long simply seen as an adventure playground for gap year students or a breeding ground for sportsmen, Australia has now graduated into the world of big players.

Proof? Well, I won't rely on the fact that Australian troops are in Iraq and Afghanistan. I won't brag about our free trade agreements with the US, New Zealand, Thailand and Singapore. Nor even our progress on negotiating a free trade agreement with China - already a market for many Australian products. [...]

The Australian economy is now in the 15th year of the longest economic expansion in 50 years - perhaps, according to John Howard, the Prime Minister, "the longest since the gold rushes of the 19th century". Today this continent, much of it desert, ranks 53rd in terms of world population, but is the world's 13th largest economy; eighth in the world in income per head from 18th two decades ago. [...]

John Howard (and to be fair, in some areas such as currency deregulation, his predecessor Bob Hawke) practised what he preached: the foundation of a nation's success is economic growth, and that growth is rooted in economic stability, free trade and rewarding hard work and investment.

The experiences of the three great states of the Anglosphere suggest that the Third Way works brilliantly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:17 AM


Iran’s President says “2 or 3 hangings” could end market woes (Iran Focus, Oct. 30, 2005)

Iran’s hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the latest cabinet meeting in the Iranian capital that “if we were permitted to hang two or three persons, the problems with the stock exchange would be solved for ever”, according to a Tehran-based newspaper.

Ahmadinejad was addressing a cabinet meeting held to discuss the rapidly deteriorating situation at the Tehran Stock Exchange, the daily Ruznet reported on Sunday. [...]

Iran’s ultra-Islamist President first sent jitters through the country’s markets when he said on the eve of the presidential elections in June that “stock exchange activities are a kind of gambling and we are against them”. Gambling is banned in Islam.

Nervous investors have been transferring their capital to other countries, and Dubai has benefited palpably from the flight of capital from Iran. The Tehran Stock Exchange has lost 20 percent of its value in the past four months.

“At the moment there are no buyers in this market, only sellers”, the newspaper Ruznet wrote. “Economists believe the situation is becoming more difficult to handle day by day”.

Because you can't structure a functioning economy along Islamicist lines it can pose no meaningful threat to liberal democracy. It is self-destructive.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:04 AM


Kurds Reclaiming Prized Territory In Northern Iraq: Repatriation by Political Parties Alters Demographics and Sparks Violence (Steve Fainaru, October 30, 2005, Washington Post)

KIRKUK, Iraq -- Providing money, building materials and even schematic drawings, Kurdish political parties have repatriated thousands of Kurds into this tense northern oil city and its surrounding villages, operating outside the framework of Iraq's newly ratified constitution and sparking sporadic violence between Kurdish settlers and the Arabs who are a minority here, according to U.S. military officials and Iraqi political leaders.

The rapidly expanding settlements, composed of two-bedroom concrete houses whose dimensions are prescribed by the Kurdish parties, are effectively re-engineering the demography of northern Iraq, enabling the Kurds to add what ultimately may be hundreds of thousands of voters ahead of a planned 2007 referendum on the status of Kirkuk. The Kurds hope to make the city and its vast oil reserves part of an autonomous Kurdistan.

Kurdish political leaders said the repatriations are designed to correct the policies of ousted President Saddam Hussein, who replaced thousands of Kurds in the region with Arabs from the south. [...]

Kirkuk, a city of almost 1 million, is home to a combustible mix of multiple ethnicities, a contentious past and enormous potential wealth. Kirkuk's precise demographic makeup is a source of dispute, but Kurds are believed to represent 35 to 40 percent of the population. The remainder is composed primarily of Arabs, ethnic Turkmens and a small percentage of Assyrian Christians.

The Kurds, saying they have a historical claim, hope to anchor Kirkuk to Kurdistan, their semiautonomous region. Kirkuk holds strategic as well as symbolic value: The ocean of oil beneath its surface could be used to drive the economy of an independent Kurdistan, the ultimate goal for many Kurds.

"Kirkuk is part of Kurdistan as Washington D.C. is part of the United States," said Rizgar Ali, president of the Kirkuk provincial council and a top official in the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, one of the two main Kurdish political parties. The other is the Kurdistan Democratic Party.

With the Kurds firmly in control of the provincial government, Kirkuk already shows signs of a remarkable transition. The names of many streets, buildings, schools and villages have been changed from Arabic to Kurdish. Thousands of Kurds who flooded into Kirkuk after Hussein's fall are still living in a soccer stadium, a city jail and vacant lots. The landscape is replete with ubiquitous gray concrete blocks of the new Kurdish settlements.

Best to do the inevitable quickly, rather than drag it out.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 9:58 AM


Pope John Paul II’s car fetches $690,000 (MSN, October 30th, 2005)

A light blue 1975 Ford Escort GL once owned by Pope John Paul II sold for $690,000 Saturday to a Houston multimillionaire who said he plans to put it in a museum he wants to build in his hometown.

“To me, it’’s a piece of history,” said John O’Quinn, 62, a Baptist who said he has a collection of about 600 vehicles. “What a great human being Pope John Paul was.”

Built 30 years ago at a Ford plant in Cologne, Germany, the car sold Saturday in what auctioneer Dean Kruse said was original papal condition —— no hubcaps, no air conditioning, no radio, but with several nicks and dents.

“The car will never be driven,” said O’Quinn, who said that at least temporarily it will be warehoused with his other cars. “But hopefully, in my life, I’ll be able to go back and touch this car and feel the pope’s spirit.”

O’Quinn, a personal injury lawyer who made a fortune in a multibillion dollar Texas tobacco settlement, outbid least seven other would-be buyers.[...]

The seller, Jim Rich, 41, of Sugar Grove, Ill., became emotional about giving up the car to pay bankruptcy debts to his father.

“I’ve been smothered by greed and courts,” he said.

Rich bought the car for $102,000 at an auction in 1996, and said he promised the pope when he received the keys at the Vatican that he would display the vehicle proudly at his Chicago West restaurant and never part with it.

Standing with holes in his shoes and holding a buttonless blue blazer together at the front with his left hand, he pulled a food stamp card from his wallet and said he been using it for about nine months to buy groceries.

“The pope would think this is something I should do under extraordinary circumstances,” he said.

Immensity Itself would tremble at trying to resolve the theological implications of this one.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:36 AM


MAPping the Future: Is the Philippines dying? (Corazon PB. Claudio, October 31, 2005, Philippine Daily Inquirer

"THE REPUBLIC OF THE Philippines is dying. A grand but failed experiment, its American political facade masks a historic Hispanic reality--where wealth and political power in a former colony remains concentrated in the hands of a few families... Today, even if they wanted to, they cannot prevent a complete political 'melt-down,' one provoked in large part by their own failures and successes. The Philippines, like the equally fictive former Soviet Union, will soon disintegrate." (Joseph E. Fallon, author of Deconstructing America: Immigration, Nationality and Statehood.)

That is an excerpt from the opening paragraph of Fallon's foreword in the book of David C. Martinez, "A Country of Our Own, Partitioning the Philippines" (California: Bisayas Book, 2004). [...]

The Philippines, according to Martinez, is not a nation but a fabricated state, artificially united, centrally controlled and ruled by a few hundred powerful families who own or control about half of the country's wealth.

His recommended cure: partition the Philippines into five regions: Luzon, Cordillera, the Visayas, Mindanao, and Bangsamoro.

By doing so, he submits, we could return to our "original sense of culture and community" and become "nations again both in character and in form, nations free to retrieve our plural pasts, recapture our communal identities, and redeem our original values."

Some readers of the book, especially those quoted or referred to in ways that hurt them, will not agree with Martinez's analysis and recommendation. But perhaps, most readers will agree with former Education Secretary Bro. Andrew Gonzales that the book is "immensely stimulating."

Like Indonesia, it makes little sens to try and administer an archipelago so centrally--devolution into smaller polities is inevitable and good.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:35 AM


Anybody read any really good, door-stop-size novels lately? The kind of big and readable book appropriate for a trip.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:19 AM


Miers, the Rebellion's Latest Casualty: Why the Right Never Surrenders, Or Declares Victory (Kevin Merida, October 30, 2005, Washington Post)

"I think for a lot of conservatives, our mind-set is we're not Republicans," [Al Regnery] explained. "We're swimming upstream, we're holding the party accountable, we're on the outside. Our job is always swimming upstream."

It is useful psychology for conservative activists, this idea of the permanent, beleaguered underdog. Ambitions are never quite fulfilled. Justice is never quite done. An aggrieved state of mind is a fertile state of mind. It is the kind of thinking whose roots were planted more than 50 years ago. In Goldwater's case, he owed his 1952 election as an Arizona senator to Ike. And yet when his frustration with Eisenhower's spending peaked, he turned on his friend, calling Ike's administration a "dime-store New Deal."

Democrats certainly have their noisy scrums -- the left is either angry at the center for acting like Republicans or the center is blaming the left for election debacles. But the Republican right seems to have a special, disciplined vigilance when it comes to internal warfare. Where else can you find the ironic spectacle of a House speaker being shown the guillotine by the very crew of conservative revolutionaries he created? That was Newt Gingrich's fate in 1998, forced to resign after leading Republicans to the first House majority in four decades.

After reneging on his read-my-lips pledge of "no new taxes," then-President George H.W. Bush found himself hissed and hounded by conservatives and ultimately undermined as he went on to lose his 1992 reelection bid. Even the beloved Ronald Reagan got smacked from time to time by his brethren on the right. An all-star lineup of conservatives went after him over his dealings with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and his support of a treaty to eliminate intermediate-range nuclear missiles. Howard Phillips, chairman of the Conservative Caucus, went so far as to call the Gipper a "useful idiot for Soviet propaganda." Three decades later, phoning in from the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival, Phillips said: "My loyalty is not to any political personality or any political party."

The problem of conservative ideologues is psychic--you can't both govern a democracy and be ideologically pure. It's funny, the far Right objects to George Bush as a Jacobin, but it is they who behave like fanatical true believers rather than free men.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:49 AM

AND IT'S NOT EVEN IN PRINT (via Tom Corcoran):

Green Gray Areas: Books that question the conventional wisdom on the environment. (MICHAEL CRICHTON, October 29, 2005, Opinion Journal)

3. Man and the Natural World by Keith Thomas (Oxford, 1984).

Don't be put off by the academic title of Keith Thomas's "Man in the Natural World: Changing Attitudes in England 1500-1800." The book's a delight. Mr. Thomas's account is both detailed and charming as he guides the reader from the Tudor view, that nature was made for man to exploit, through the later sense that nature was to be worshipped and cherished (such that trees became pets and aristocrats gave names to their great estate trees and said good-night to them each evening). Still later came the Romantic preference for untouched nature and rough settings, a rarified taste that required "a long course of aesthetic education." At every turn, Mr. Thomas emphasizes the contradictions between belief and behavior.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:03 AM


Eurocrats to splash out millions on 50-day golden jubilee party (Justin Stares, 29/10/2005, Daily Telegraph)

How many Eurocrats does it take to organise a party? Preparations have just begun for the European Union's golden jubilee celebrations: 50 days and nights of back-to-back festivities.:

On March 25, 2007, the Treaty of Rome, the founding document of the EU, will be half a century old. Brussels believes that this is such a key event that planning began last week, 17 months in advance.

The EU, together with the local Brussels government, envisages a massive programme of concerts, carnivals and firework displays.

Roy Mottahedeh explains, in Mantle of the Prophet, the importance of the Shah's decision to celebrate 2500 years of Persian Empire in 1971 and how the opulence of the celebration combined with the disregard for the organic realities of daily life in Iran, chiefly the fact that it is Islamic, to demonstrate just how distant his regime was from the people, no matter how well intended his rule. This celebration sounds like it could do the same thing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:33 AM

AM I MY BROTHER'S KEEPER? (via Robert Schwartz):

The Realist Who Got It Wrong (Charles Krauthammer, October 30, 2005, Washington Post)

In the Oct. 31 New Yorker [Brent Scowcroft] came out strongly against the war and the neocon sorcerers who magically foisted it upon what must have been a hypnotized president and vice president.

Of course, Scowcroft's opposition to toppling Saddam Hussein is neither surprising nor new. Indeed, we are now seeing its third iteration. He had two cracks at Hussein in 1991 and urged his President Bush to pass them both up -- first, after Hussein's defeat in the Persian Gulf War, when the road to Baghdad was open, and then, days later, during a massive U.S.-encouraged uprising of Kurds and Shiites, when America stood by and allowed Hussein to massacre his opponents by the tens of thousands. One of the reasons for Iraqi wariness during the U.S. liberation 12 years later was the memory of our past betrayal and suspicions about our current intentions in light of that betrayal.

This cold bloodedness is a trademark of this nation's most doctrinaire foreign policy "realist." Realism is the billiard ball theory of foreign policy: The only thing that counts is how countries interact, not what's happening inside. You care not a whit about who is running a country. Whether it is Mother Teresa or the Assad family gangsters in Syria, you care only about their external actions, not how they treat their own people.

Realists prize stability above all, and there is nothing more stable than a ruthlessly efficient dictatorship. Which is why Scowcroft is the man who six months after Tiananmen Square toasted those who ordered the massacre; who, as the world celebrates the Beirut Spring that evicted the Syrian occupation from Lebanon, sees not liberation but possible instability; who can barely conceal a preference for Syria's stabilizing iron rule.

Even today Scowcroft says, "I didn't think that calling the Soviet Union the 'evil empire' got anybody anywhere." Tell that to Natan Sharansky and other Soviet dissidents for whom that declaration of moral -- beyond geopolitical -- purpose was electrifying and helped galvanize the movements that ultimately brought down the Soviet empire.

The preference for stability at the expense of our fellow men is antithetical to the American ethos.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:08 AM


Occupational Hazards: a review of The Assassins Gate by George Packer (FAREED ZAKARIA, 10/30/05, NY Times Book Review)

Packer begins his absorbing account with the ideas that led the United States to war. A few neoconservatives, most prominently Paul Wolfowitz, had long believed that ousting Saddam Hussein would pave the way for a grand reordering of the Middle East, pushing it away from tyranny and anti-Americanism and toward modernity and democracy. Others, including Douglas Feith, explained that eliminating Hussein would be particularly good for Israel's security. But the broadest reason to intervene in Iraq was that it was a bold use of American power that mixed force with idealism. Many neoconservatives were Reaganites who believed in an assertive, even aggressive, American posture in the world. For them the 1990's - under Bush père and Clinton alike - had been years of retreat. "They were supremely confident," Packer writes, "all they needed was a mission."

But they wouldn't have had one without 9/11. As one of the neoconservatives Packer interviewed correctly points out, "September 11 is the turning point. Not anything else." After 9/11, Bush - and many Americans, including many liberals - were searching for a use of the nation's power that mixed force with idealism and promised to reorder the Middle East. In Iraq they found it.

Packer collects his articles from The New Yorker but goes well beyond them. His book lacks a tight thesis or structure and as a result meanders at times, petering out in its final sections. But this is more than made up for by the sheer integrity and intelligence of its reporting, from Washington, New York, London and, of course, Iraq. Packer provides page after page of vivid description of the haphazard, poorly planned and almost criminally executed occupation of Iraq. In reading him we see the staggering gap between abstract ideas and concrete reality.

Hard as it is to believe, the Bush administration took on the largest foreign policy project in a generation with little planning or forethought. It occupied a foreign country of 25 million people in the heart of the Middle East pretty much on the fly. Packer, who was in favor of the war, reserves judgment and commentary in most of the book but finally cannot contain himself: "Swaddled in abstract ideas . . . indifferent to accountability," those in positions of highest responsibility for Iraq "turned a difficult undertaking into a needlessly deadly one," he writes. "When things went wrong, they found other people to blame."

Packer recounts the prewar discussions in the State Department's "Future of Iraq Project," which produced an enormous document outlining the political challenges in governing Iraq. He describes Drew Erdmann's memo, written for Colin Powell, analyzing previous postwar reconstructions in the 20th century. Erdmann's conclusion was that success depended on two factors, establishing security and having international support. These internal documents were mirrored by several important think-tank studies that all made similar points, specifically on the need for large-scale forces to maintain security. One would think that this Hobbesian message - that order is the first requisite of civilization - would appeal to conservatives. In fact all of this careful planning and thinking was ignored or dismissed.

Part of the problem was the brutal and debilitating struggle between the State Department and the Defense Department, producing an utterly dysfunctional policy process. The secretary of the Army, Thomas White, who was fired after the invasion, explained to Packer that with the Defense Department "the first issue was, we've got to control this thing - so everyone else was suspect." The State Department was regarded as the enemy, so what chance was there of working with other countries? The larger problem was that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (and probably Dick Cheney) doggedly believed nation-building was a bad idea, the Clinton administration has done too much of it, and the American military should stop doing it. Rumsfeld explained this view in a couple of speeches and op-ed articles that were short on facts and long on polemics. But how to square this outlook with invading Iraq? Assume away the need for nation-building. Again, White explains: "We had the mind-set that this would be a relatively straightforward, manageable task, because this would be a war of liberation, and therefore reconstruction would be short-lived." Rumsfeld's spokesman, Larry Di Rita, went to Kuwait in April 2003 and told the American officials waiting there that the State Department had messed up Bosnia and Kosovo and that the Bush administration intended to hand over power to Iraqis and leave within three months.

That the main idea has worked out brilliantly is demonstrated from the polling places for the Iraqi constitution to Libya to Palestine to Lebanon to Syria to Pakistan, to the UN and so on and so forth. The one failure came in the form of mounting an Occupation rather than turning power over to an interim government acceptable to Ayatollah Sistani ASAP.

'The Right War?' and 'A Matter of Principle': Everybody Is a Realist Now (JAMES TRAUB, 10/30/05, NY Times Book Review)

A decade ago, the question of humanitarian intervention, above all in Bosnia, split both left and right into antiwar "realists" and prowar moralists, or "Wilsonians." What is clear from these two volumes is that 9/11 fused the two arguments into one, for enemies embodying a totalitarian and obscurantist culture had reached out to deal us a terrible blow. This Islamofascist culture was as dangerous to us as to its domestic victims. President Bush, who entered office as a realist vowing to put "interests" ahead of "values," became the chief exponent of a revived Wilsonianism. "We support . . . democracy in the Middle East," he said, "because it is a founding principle, and because it is in our interest."

Debate on the war is now, in effect, organized around this view - whether it is valid, whether it can be applied to Iraq, whether the Bush administration has hopelessly botched the execution. "Democracy promotion" has cleaved opinion on both sides, as humanitarian intervention did before. On the right, the "paleos" dismiss the project as a dangerous pipe dream - a form of "democratic imperialism," in Patrick Buchanan's phrase. [....]

The debate inside the left is of course a very different one, but also involves an absolutism that will not take account of individual cases. The absolutism, in this case, is an abhorrence of American power - an abhorrence greatly magnified by hatred for George W. Bush and all his works. The journalist Ian Buruma, though not a supporter of the war, has accused the fashionable left of practicing a form of moral racism, in which the brutalities of the West provoke outrage but the far greater crimes of third-world monsters like Saddam Hussein are passed over in silence. A magisterial nonchalance marches under the banner of moral superiority. Apropos the novelist Julian Barnes's comment that the war wasn't worth the loss of a single life, Norman Geras, a British political theorist, mordantly observes, "Not one, eh? So much for the victims of the rape rooms and the industrial shredders." But of course to admit otherwise would be to credit the Americans, and even the Bush administration, with moral insight and the capacity for good. How much more satisfying to revel in the administration's richly deserved comeuppance!

"A Matter of Principle" will be sobering reading to many American liberals, especially those who took comfort in the near-universal European opposition to the war. Among the most powerful essays in the volume are those by French or German scholars taking their own countrymen to task. With the threat of the cold war over, writes Richard Herzinger, an editor of Die Zeit, the old cry of "Never again!" had lost its meaning of never again submission in favor of never again war - as if force itself were the great peril, and thus America, the most forceful nation, the chief enemy of peace. This is what Robert Kagan means when he describes the Kantian paradise Europeans have sought to take refuge in. They, no less than the Americans, and perhaps more, fit 9/11 into the world as they already understood it, and as they wished it to be.

Do we truly know what is required in order to defend democratic principles in the face of attack from those who consider themselves divinely inspired? (I am referring, of course, to Islamic fundamentalists, not the Bush administration.) "A Matter of Principle" includes a backbone-stiffening contribution from Adam Michnik, a political philosopher, a founder of Solidarity in Poland and an authentic hero of the democratic left. Asked whether it isn't "paradoxical" to advocate violence as a means to advance human rights, Michnik snaps, "I can't remember any text of mine where I said one should fight Hitler without violence; I'm not an idiot. . . . In the state of Saddam, the opposition could find a place only in cemeteries."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:46 AM


The King of the Wonks comes to his throne: nothing can go wrong. Can it? (Niall Ferguson, 29/10/2005, Daily Telegraph)

This is not the first era in modern history when monetary policy has been entrusted to unelected technocrats. In the 1920s, the world's principal central banks were run by a group of wise men, some of whom made no secret of their impatience with democratic institutions. Montagu Norman at the Bank of England, Hjalmar Schacht at the German Reichsbank, and Benjamin Strong at the Federal Reserve managed the international monetary system in a state of blissful independence from political constraints.

Yet what happened? Disastrous blunders (admittedly after Strong's death and Schacht's resignation) turned a US recession into the global Great Depression. As one economy after another fell off a cliff, central bankers almost without exception urged that interest rates be raised rather than lowered. Only a handful of wonks - John Maynard Keynes among them - understood that the gold standard was a "barbarous relic" and that floating currencies were the only way to counter deflation. Alas, Keynes was a geek at the time. As a rule, he only wonked in wartime.

Happily, Ben Bernanke is an expert on the subject of what went wrong in the Great Depression, having co-written at least two learned articles on the subject. Back in 2002 he argued that the Fed should be prepared to do everything in its power to prevent a recurrence of deflation - if necessary dropping banknotes out of helicopters to encourage people to spend.

Deflation now seems less of a threat than a recurrence of inflation, with US consumer prices rising last month at an alarming annual rate of 4.7 per cent.

In fact, Mr. Bernanke takes over a deflationary economy. Is there anything you think will cost more a couple months from now than it does today? Thankfully, no one is likelt to understand deflation and the fact that interest rates are too high than Mr. Bernanke.

Betting on Ben: The likely new chairman of America’s Federal Reserve Board is a first-rate academic. Will he be a similarly good central banker? (The Economist, 10/27/05)

For all the superficial differences, the bearded academic has much in common with the owlish Washington insider he will probably succeed. Both believe in an activist Fed; both focus on the link between the pace of aggregate demand and inflation; and both prefer shifts in interest rates to be gradual and well-signalled.

Neither man believes the central bank should be in the business of puncturing asset-price bubbles. Mr Bernanke, if anything, is more committed to this view than Mr Greenspan. At the height of the stockmarket bubble in 1999, he co-authored an influential paper with Mark Gertler of New York University which argued that central banks should focus on asset prices only insofar as they are likely to influence consumer prices. Targeting asset prices directly, his paper claimed, would create more, not less, instability. This suggests that a Bernanke Fed might be even less inclined to fret about soaring house prices than Mr Greenspan, who has only recently worried aloud about them.

Mr Bernanke will be more than just a safe pair of hands. He comes to the job with a series of big ideas about monetary policy and scant fear of stating them. At the Fed, he quickly earned a reputation as its resident intellectual, attracting attention with unconventional ideas on how to beat deflation, the benefits of inflation targeting and the idea of a global saving glut.

This willingness to question conventional wisdom is also Greenspanesque. The maestro, after all, heralded America’s 1990s productivity boom long before anyone else. The difference is that Mr Greenspan couched his big ideas in caveats and conspicuous vagueness, while Mr Bernanke speaks in plain English.

That has advantages. Everyone knows that Mr Bernanke, unlike Mr Greenspan, is a long-standing supporter of the idea that the Fed should set a public target for inflation against which it can be held accountable, as many central banks do. He has written a book and endless papers advocating the practice.

Mr Bernanke will doubtless nudge the Fed towards inflation-targeting. But the change is likely to be evolutionary rather than radical. The central bank has already moved in his direction. It has become more transparent, releasing minutes of Fed meetings speedily as well as publishing two-year economic forecasts. While there is no explicit inflation target, the Fed’s “comfort zone”—of core inflation between 1% and 2%—comes pretty close to one. Equally, Mr Bernanke has become less dogmatic, and he is unlikely to go on an inflation-targeting crusade.

His initial task will be to prove his inflation-fighting credentials and shake off a lingering reputation for dovishness. Soon after Mr Bernanke went to the Fed in 2002, America saw a brief deflationary scare as the economy remained sluggish while core inflation kept falling. More than any other central banker, he made clear that the Fed had “non-traditional” tools to forestall deflation, such as buying long-term bonds or, metaphorically, throwing money from helicopters. The idea of “Helicopter Ben” stuck with traders, and with it the notion that he might be just a little softer on inflation than his predecessor.

Another big Bernanke idea that is widely misinterpreted is his contention that America’s current-account deficit is caused by a global saving glut rather than by profligacy at home. His thesis was more subtle than the sound-bite suggests, but he is now seen by some as a bit nonchalant about the scale and cause of America’s external imbalances. If the dollar were to crash on his watch, that reputation would not help to calm markets.

Core inflation is running at .3%

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:40 AM


Galloway hit by US criminal investigation (EDDIE BARNES, 10/30/05, Scotland on Sunday)

GEORGE Galloway is under criminal investigation over allegations that he lied to the US Senate about his role in the Saddam Hussein oil-for-food bribery scandal, American prosecutors have disclosed.

The controversial MP now faces the full weight of the US justice system. Scotland on Sunday can reveal that Galloway has been referred to the US Department of Justice, two federal prosecutors and to the district attorney in Manhattan, New York, over claims that he has committed perjury.

How many jars of Pruno would you trade for a cellmate named Gorgeous?

Posted by Peter Burnet at 4:41 AM


Last Chance to See... Penguins? (Thinking for Food, October 19th, 2005)

Depressing news from the Antarctic... ocean temperatures are rising much faster than expected, with potentially devastating effects on the marine wildlife.[...]

This doesn't really surprise me.... the arctic and antarctic regions of this planet have been seeing some of the strongest effects of global warming, with average air temperatures rising and glaciers showing signficant melt. It only makes sense that the warming would affect the ocean water itself. Unfortunately, these effects are not going to limit themselves to just the polar extremes.... its tempting for some to think that we are just going to lose a few obscure animals in a place that no one ever visits, so who is going to care? However, the Antarctic and Arctic oceans are important food resources for birds and mammals (particularly whales) that migrate there to feed before returning to more temperate water. Extinctions at the extremes of the globe will have effects that reach far into our own familiar territory.

The worst part is that there isn't much we can do about it now... we've passed a point of no return in global warming. Not much to do now but enjoy the worlds largest experiment in organismal adaptability.

Good advice.


October 29, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:35 PM


Prince Charles to plead Islam's cause to Bush (Andrew Alderson, 29/10/2005, Daily Telegraph)

The Prince of Wales will try to persuade George W Bush and Americans of the merits of Islam this week because he thinks the United States has been too intolerant of the religion since September 11.

The Prince, who leaves on Tuesday for an eight-day tour of the US, has voiced private concerns over America's "confrontational" approach to Muslim countries and its failure to appreciate Islam's strengths. [...]

Prince Charles has done more than any other member of the Royal Family in history to understand Islam. He said in 1994 that when he became Supreme Governor of the Church of England, he would rather be "defender of faiths" than "defender of the faith".

Pity the poor Anglicans, with a crypto-Catholic PM and and a crypto-Muslim king-in-waiting.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:02 PM


Kidnapped (Masterpiece Theatre,
Airing Sundays, October 30 + November 5, 2005 on PBS)

The boy at the center of this swashbuckling adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's Kidnapped, an epic tale of triumph over adversity, is fifteen-year-old Davie Balfour.

In an effort to claim his inheritance -- the House of Shaws, a great landed estate -- Davie finds himself trapped on a ship and headed for slavery in the New World. But thanks to the intervention of a swashbuckling highlander, Alan Breck, Davie eludes his captors and joins Breck on a wild flight through the Scottish highlands, pursued by notoriously ruthless English bounty hunters.

On a quest for justice, through perilous encounters with friend and foe, Davie gradually learns about the difference between right and wrong. But there are still difficult moral decisions to be made, right up until the story's final, enthralling chapter...

Iain Glen (Kingdom of Heaven, Wives & Daughters) stars as the legendary Scottish rebel Alan Breck, with James Anthony Pearson as Davie Balfour. Also appearing are Adrian Dunbar (The Crying Game) as Davie's loathsome Uncle Ebenezer and Kirstin Coulter Smith as Catriona, a crack-shot Highland lass who wins Davie's heart.

First published in 1886, Kidnapped -- a gripping adventure story full of drama, poignancy, heroism and danger -- surpasses even Treasure Island as a sophisticated literary work masquerading as a ripping yarn for young readers.

'Kidnapped' likable matinee fare (Matthew Gilbert, October 29, 2005, Boston Globe)
PBS's ''Masterpiece Theatre" usually delivers adaptations that don't involve a lot of chasing through forests and crossing of swords. If there's any heavy breathing in the franchise's hollow mansions, it's probably the result of villainous words or eye-poppingly tight corsets. The action sequences, such as they are, generally require only teacups, spoons, and silver tongs.

''Kidnapped," a two-parter premiering tomorrow at 9 p.m. on Ch. 2, is based on Robert Louis Stevenson's adventure yarn set in 1751, after England's occupation of Scotland. It's not your typical ''Masterpiece Theatre," but then neither was last week's spin on Sherlock Holmes starring Rupert Everett. It's the PBS version of a youth-market grab, a jaunty buddy movie whose heroic pair aren't quite models for teeth-whitening products. ''Kidnapped" has a lot of good energy and likable acting; but it might be more appropriate as a family matinee rather than as a Sunday-night feature. It has rainy Sunday afternoon written all over it.

Nice snear.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:26 PM


The White House Criminal Conspiracy (Elizabeth de la Vega, The Nation)

According to a Washington Post/ABC News poll conducted in June, 52% of Americans now believe the President deliberately distorted intelligence to make a case for war. In an Ipsos Public Affairs poll, commissioned by AfterDowningStreet.org and completed October 9, 50% said that if Bush lied about his reasons for going to war Congress should consider impeaching him. The President's deceit is not only an abuse of power; it is a federal crime. Specifically, it is a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371, which prohibits conspiracies to defraud the United States.

So what do citizens do? First, they must insist that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence complete Phase II of its investigation, which was to be an analysis of whether the administration manipulated or misrepresented prewar intelligence. The focus of Phase II was to determine whether the administration misrepresented the information it received about Iraq from intelligence agencies. Second, we need to convince Congress to demand that the Justice Department appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the administration's deceptions about the war, using the same mechanism that led to the appointment of Patrick Fitzgerald to investigate the outing of Valerie Plame. (As it happens, Congressman Jerrold Nadler and others have recently written to Acting Deputy Attorney General Robert McCallum Jr. pointing out that the Plame leak is just the "tip of the iceberg" and asking that Fitzgerald's authority be expanded to include an investigation into whether the White House conspired to mislead the country into war.)

Third, we can no longer shrink from the prospect of impeachment. Impeachment would require, as John Bonifaz, constitutional attorney, author of Warrior-King: The Case for Impeaching George Bush and co-founder of AfterDowningStreet.org, has explained, that the House pass a "resolution of inquiry or impeachment calling on the Judiciary Committee to launch an investigation into whether grounds exist for the House to exercise its constitutional power to impeach George W. Bush." If the committee found such grounds, it would draft articles of impeachment and submit them to the full House for a vote. If those articles passed, the President would be tried by the Senate. Resolutions of inquiry, such as already have been introduced by Representatives Barbara Lee and Dennis Kucinich demanding that the Administration produce key information about its decision-making, could also lead to impeachment.

These three actions can be called for simultaneously. Obviously we face a GOP-dominated House and Senate...

She goes on to argue this nonsense with an apparently straight face.

One wonders if she's ever read the resolution that authorized the use of force and that Congress passed in October 2002, well before most of the events in the conspiracy that she alleges was designed to obtain the authorization:

Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq

Whereas in 1990 in response to Iraq's war of aggression against and illegal occupation of Kuwait, the United States forged a coalition of nations to liberate Kuwait and its people in order to defend the national security of the United States and enforce United Nations Security Council resolutions relating to Iraq;

Whereas after the liberation of Kuwait in 1991, Iraq entered into a United Nations sponsored cease-fire agreement pursuant to which Iraq unequivocally agreed, among other things, to eliminate its nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons programs and the means to deliver and develop them, and to end its support for international terrorism;

Whereas the efforts of international weapons inspectors, United States intelligence agencies, and Iraqi defectors led to the discovery that Iraq had large stockpiles of chemical weapons and a large scale biological weapons program, and that Iraq had an advanced nuclear weapons development program that was much closer to producing a nuclear weapon than intelligence reporting had previously indicated;

Whereas Iraq, in direct and flagrant violation of the cease-fire, attempted to thwart the efforts of weapons inspectors to identify and destroy Iraq's weapons of mass destruction stockpiles and development capabilities, which finally resulted in the withdrawal of inspectors from Iraq on October 31, 1998;

Whereas in 1998 Congress concluded that Iraq's continuing weapons of mass destruction programs threatened vital United States interests and international peace and security, declared Iraq to be in "material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations" and urged the President "to take appropriate action, in accordance with the Constitution and relevant laws of the United States, to bring Iraq into compliance with its international obligations" (Public Law 105-235);

Whereas Iraq both poses a continuing threat to the national security of the United States and international peace and security in the Persian Gulf region and remains in material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations by, among other things, continuing to possess and develop a significant chemical and biological weapons capability, actively seeking a nuclear weapons capability, and supporting and harboring terrorist organizations;

Whereas Iraq persists in violating resolutions of the United Nations Security Council by continuing to engage in brutal repression of its civilian population thereby threatening international peace and security in the region, by refusing to release, repatriate, or account for non-Iraqi citizens wrongfully detained by Iraq, including an American serviceman, and by failing to return property wrongfully seized by Iraq from Kuwait;

Whereas the current Iraqi regime has demonstrated its capability and willingness to use weapons of mass destruction against other nations and its own people;

Whereas the current Iraqi regime has demonstrated its continuing hostility toward, and willingness to attack, the United States, including by attempting in 1993 to assassinate former President Bush and by firing on many thousands of occasions on United States and Coalition Armed Forces engaged in enforcing the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council;

Whereas members of al Qaida, an organization bearing responsibility for attacks on the United States, its citizens, and interests, including the attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, are known to be in Iraq;

Whereas Iraq continues to aid and harbor other international terrorist organizations, including organizations that threaten the lives and safety of American citizens;

Whereas the attacks on the United States of September 11, 2001 underscored the gravity of the threat posed by the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction by international terrorist organizations;

Whereas Iraq's demonstrated capability and willingness to use weapons of mass destruction, the risk that the current Iraqi regime will either employ those weapons to launch a surprise attack against the United States or its Armed Forces or provide them to international terrorists who would do so, and the extreme magnitude of harm that would result to the United States and its citizens from such an attack, combine to justify action by the United States to defend itself;

Whereas United Nations Security Council Resolution 678 authorizes the use of all necessary means to enforce United Nations Security Council Resolution 660 and subsequent relevant resolutions and to compel Iraq to cease certain activities that threaten international peace and security, including the development of weapons of mass destruction and refusal or obstruction of United Nations weapons inspections in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 687, repression of its civilian population in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 688, and threatening its neighbors or United Nations operations in Iraq in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 949;

Whereas Congress in the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution (Public Law 102-1) has authorized the President "to use United States Armed Forces pursuant to United Nations Security Council Resolution 678 (1990) in order to achieve implementation of Security Council Resolutions 660, 661, 662, 664, 665, 666, 667, 669, 670, 674, and 677";

Whereas in December 1991, Congress expressed its sense that it "supports the use of all necessary means to achieve the goals of United Nations Security Council Resolution 687 as being consistent with the Authorization of Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution (Public Law 102-1)," that Iraq's repression of its civilian population violates United Nations Security Council Resolution 688 and "constitutes a continuing threat to the peace, security, and stability of the Persian Gulf region," and that Congress, "supports the use of all necessary means to achieve the goals of United Nations Security Council Resolution 688";

Whereas the Iraq Liberation Act (Public Law 105-338) expressed the sense of Congress that it should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove from power the current Iraqi regime and promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime;

Whereas on September 12, 2002, President Bush committed the United States to "work with the United Nations Security Council to meet our common challenge" posed by Iraq and to "work for the necessary resolutions," while also making clear that "the Security Council resolutions will be enforced, and the just demands of peace and security will be met, or action will be unavoidable";

Whereas the United States is determined to prosecute the war on terrorism and Iraq's ongoing support for international terrorist groups combined with its development of weapons of mass destruction in direct violation of its obligations under the 1991 cease-fire and other United Nations Security Council resolutions make clear that it is in the national security interests of the United States and in furtherance of the war on terrorism that all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions be enforced, including through the use of force if necessary;

Whereas Congress has taken steps to pursue vigorously the war on terrorism through the provision of authorities and funding requested by the President to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations or persons who planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001 or harbored such persons or organizations;

Whereas the President and Congress are determined to continue to take all appropriate actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations or persons who planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such persons or organizations;

Whereas the President has authority under the Constitution to take action in order to deter and prevent acts of international terrorism against the United States, as Congress recognized in the joint resolution on Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107-40); and

Whereas it is in the national security of the United States to restore international peace and security to the Persian Gulf region;

Now, therefore, be it resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, [...]


(a) AUTHORIZATION. The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to

(1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and

(2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions regarding Iraq.

The supposed continued presence of WMD in Iraq was an element but only an element of our elected representatives' decision to authorize the resumption of the 1991 war, the cease fire terms of which Saddam was violating eight ways from Sunday, including the specific WMD provisions.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:20 PM


Iran’s zealot in chief does Bush a favour (Tony Allen-Mills, New York and Ramita Navai, Tehran, 10/30/05, The Sunday Times of London)

THE situation was tailor-made for an undiplomatic outburst by John Bolton, the blunt-spoken US ambassador to the United Nations. Iran’s new president had just called for the destruction of Israel and Bolton has rarely minced his words when assailing the enemies of America and its allies.

Yet the ambassador last week restricted himself to a brief declaration of comparatively modest dismay and conspicuously failed to support Israel’s call for Iran to be expelled from the UN.

Behind the scenes US officials could barely contain their glee. For once President George W Bush’s administration did not need to unleash its rhetorical artillery against the ayatollahs of Iran — the rest of the world, led by Tony Blair, was doing it for them.

...you've just had a pretty good week.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:15 PM


Prosecutor, White House at Odds Over Libby: White House Portrays Libby, Accused of Lying in Leak Probe, As Dedicated Worker With Bad Memory (LARRY MARGASAK, 10/29/05, The Associated Press)

Fitzgerald's probe initially sought to determine whether anyone in the administration violated the law by knowingly disclosing the identity of a covert CIA employee.

"You didn't have that, so why did you charge him?" Schertler suggested Libby's defense would assert.

Fitzgerald spent 22 months on the investigation at a cost of more than $1 million. In the end, Libby was charged with five felonies alleging obstruction of justice, perjury to a grand jury and making false statements to FBI agents. If convicted, he could face a maximum of 30 years in prison and $1.25 million in fines. [...]

The indictment alleges Libby had information from at least seven government officials, including the vice president, about Plame and her CIA status. Libby said he heard it first from reporters. The indictment said Libby spread the information to the media.

Fitzgerald summed up the charges:

"At the end of the day what appears is that Mr. Libby's story that he was at the tail end of a chain of phone calls, passing on from one reporter what he heard from another, was not true. It was false. He was at the beginning of the chain of phone calls, the first official to disclose this information outside the government to a reporter. And then he lied about it afterward, under oath and repeatedly."

Mr. Fitzgerald is well within his rights to prosecute a guy who lied so frequently during the investigation, but from the defensive tone of that press conference yesterday you have to figure that in a case of lesser profile he'd not have charged anyone and the charges here seem calculated to get a quick and minimal plea so the whole matter just goes away along with Mr. Libby.

It May Be Wrong, but Is It Perjury?: For Prosecutors, That Is Often the Challenge (ADAM LIPTAK, 10/30/05, NY Times)

[T]he special prosecutor in the case, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, has amassed a wealth of details about what Mr. Libby knew and when he knew it. Mr. Fitzgerald described those details in the indictment at a news conference on Friday, and he clearly believes they are sufficient to overcome the busy-executive defense.

"The way perjury is usually proven - unless you have a tape on which the defendant says, 'Ha, ha, ha, I lied' - is by circumstance," Mr. Hoffinger said. The details Mr. Fitzgerald has alleged, Mr. Hoffinger said, "are the circumstances from which you can infer that Libby was lying and knew that he was lying."

According to the indictment, Mr. Libby learned about Valerie Wilson, whose employment at the Central Intelligence Agency was classified information, from several government officials and classified documents in May and June 2003. He also discussed her identity with other officials in that same period, the indictment says. Yet he told a grand jury investigating the disclosure of Ms. Wilson's identity that he learned about her from Tim Russert of NBC News in July 2003.

Mr. Fitzgerald's mandate, according to the letter appointing him special counsel in the case in December 2003, was to investigate "the alleged unauthorized disclosure of a C.I.A employee's identity." But the indictment does not charge that Mr. Libby violated any law concerning classified information in discussing Ms. Wilson with three reporters in June and July 2003.

Fall Of A Vulcan:
How a very smart and very loyal aide to Dick Cheney got indicted for allegedly lying about his role in defending the war (MICHAEL DUFFY, 10/30/05, TIME)
For anyone who has been trying to follow the bewildering saga of Scooter Libby, Karl Rove, Joseph Wilson and his wife CIA officer Valerie Plame, Fitzgerald's indictment is a helpful road map. [...]

Fitzgerald's theory of the case can be broken into three parts: The hunt for the whistle-blower The story begins with a mystery man who was dissing the Bush team from somewhere within the government. In May 2003, shortly after New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof first wrote about a secret CIA mission to Africa by an unnamed U.S. ambassador to assess suggestions by Cheney's office that Iraq had tried to buy uranium yellowcake from Niger, Libby asked Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman to go digging for more information on the mission. It was not an idle inquiry: the 2002 trip, taken by a former U.S. ambassador to Gabon, Joseph Wilson, had turned up no evidence that Iraq sought the uranium ore for its nuclear weapons program, as Cheney's office had suggested. And although Wilson reported his findings to the CIA, the claim about the African yellowcake kept popping up in Administration speeches in the weeks leading up to the war in Iraq. At Libby's behest, Grossman ordered the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (inr) to look into the CIA mission to Africa.

Over the next few weeks, Libby got progress reports from the inr, and Grossman eventually informed Libby that it was Wilson who took the trip, that his wife worked at the CIA and that she may have played a role in sending Wilson on the trip. Fitzgerald's indictment alleges that Libby heard similar reports about Wilson and his wife from a senior CIA official and, on June 12, from Cheney, who by then knew that Wilson's wife worked in the CIA's Counterproliferation Division.

To hard-liners like Libby, who believed that the CIA opposed the war in Iraq and had been quietly undercutting the President for months, it appeared that the CIA was turning on Cheney too. "Scooter thought the CIA was trying to screw us," says a former colleague of Libby's.

And almost on cue, the hard-liners' dark fears were realized: within a week, a June 19 online article by the New Republic quoted an unnamed U.S. envoy, who was clearly Wilson, alleging that the Administration knew the yellowcake story "was a flat-out lie" but had used it in the prewar claims anyway. Not long after, Fitzgerald alleges, Libby spoke with his deputy about the article, and the two aides discussed whether information about Wilson's trip might be shared with the press. Libby demurred, saying such a move would cause "complications at the CIA," but added that he "could not discuss the matter on a nonsecure phone."

Just a few days later, on June 23, Libby met at the Old Executive Office Building with New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who wrote a series of highly controversial, and now largely discredited, stories about Iraq's prewar arsenal of weapons of mass destruction.

It was in that session that Libby groused about "selective leaking" at the CIA and first disclosed that Wilson's wife might work at a bureau of the CIA.

Two weeks later, on July 6, Wilson went public, writing an Op-Ed column in the New York Times, retelling the story of his fruitless trip to Niger and hinting that the Bush team didn't really want to know if the prewar intelligence was accurate or not. It was a serious charge and, to the Bush team, an open declaration of war. The next day, Libby told then White House press secretary Ari Fleischer that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA and added that that was a fact not widely known—dropping, perhaps, an invitation to Fleischer to leak it to a friendly reporter. The next day, Libby met again with Judith Miller, and they talked again of Wilson and his wife. Libby strengthened his earlier hunch about Plame's employment at the CIA, and this time, the two discussed how their conversations would be attributed in print. Libby, who once worked for the Congress, wanted to be identified as a "former Hill staffer" to mask the source of the information. (Miller, as things turned out, wrote nothing about Wilson or Plame.) Two days later, Libby heard from Rove (identified in the indictment only as "Official A") that syndicated columnist Robert Novak was planning to write about Wilson and his wife.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:10 PM


UN turns screw on Syria over assassination riddle (Marie Colvin and Hugh Macleod, 10/30/05, The Sunday Times of London)

The story's well worth reading, but you really want to pause for a moment and marvel at that headline.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:04 PM


Right-wingers back Cameron for leader (Melissa Kite, 29/10/2005, Daily Telegraph)

A powerful group of Right-wingers is set to throw its weight behind David Cameron in the Tory leadership campaign.

Members of the Cornerstone Group, including allies of the former party leader Iain Duncan Smith will announce in the coming days that they believe Mr Cameron is the best choice to take the party forward.

The 25-strong group previously backed Liam Fox, who was knocked out of the race on October 20, and the decision of many to switch allegiance to Mr Cameron is a surprise because he has so far drawn most of his support from the party's Centre, Left and modernising wings. [...]

Mr Cameron has been courting Right-wing MPs for weeks. John Hayes, the MP for South Holland and the Deepings and a leading member of Cornerstone, said: "After the departure of Liam Fox from the race we needed a period of reflection. We will be making an announcement within the next week or so."

Another member of the group explained: "Cameron has made a big impression on key figures on the Right. He is much more socially Conservative than people think.

"You should not assume Cameron is instinctively close to people like Portillo. The modernisers think they are telling him what to do, but they are overplaying their hand.

"We think he will carry forward the agenda of compassionate Conservatism articulated by IDS."

A Tory Party that returned to the Third Way could help Blair and Brown get some big time reforms through.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:59 PM


Syria accuses US of launching lethal raids over its borders (Harry de Quetteville, 29/10/2005, Daily Telegraph)

Syria has accused the United States of launching lethal military raids into its territory from Iraq, escalating the diplomatic crisis between the two countries as the Bush administration seeks to step up pressure on President Bashar Assad's regime.

Major General Amid Suleiman, a Syrian officer, said that American cross-border attacks into Syria had killed at least two border guards, wounded several more and prompted an official complaint to the American embassy in Damascus. [...]

The charge follows leaks in Washington that the US has already engaged in military raids into Syria and is contemplating launching special forces operations on Syrian soil to eliminate insurgent networks before they reach Iraq.

"No one in the administration has any problem with acting tough on Syria; it is the one thing they all agree on," said Edward Walker, a former US ambassador to Egypt and Israel, who is now head of the Middle East Institute think-tank. "I've heard there have been some cross-border activities, and it certainly makes sense as a warning to Syria that if they don't take care of the problem the US will step up itself."

But he warned that the increased blurring of battle lines between Iraq and Syria could turn a diplomatic stand-off between the two nations, playing out at the UN, into a fully fledged military confrontation. "It could escalate. With Syrian border guards getting shot, it could turn into a major issue."

Ya' think?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:53 PM


U.S. to shift 7,000 marines from Okinawa to Guam (Japan Times, 10/30/05)

Japan and the United States adopted on Saturday a realignment plan for U.S. forces aimed at promoting greater military integration between the two nations and lessening the burden on communities hosting U.S. bases, including a reduction of 7,000 marines in Okinawa.

Among the major pillars of an interim report issued after a ministerial security meeting are plans to strengthen interoperability between the U.S. military and the Self-Defense Forces through a new U.S. Army command in Camp Zama, Kanagawa Prefecture, joint use of bases, sharing information and expanding SDF training exercises in the U.S. [...]

Saturday's "two-plus-two" meeting involved Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura and Defense Agency Director General Yoshinori Ono, as well as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:47 PM


'God' to guide deal on fair pay (Phillip Hudson, October 30, 2005, The Age)

The head of the proposed new Fair Pay Commission, Ian Harper, revealed yesterday that he wants to use the post to do "God's will" and will rely on his faith and values to make fair and balanced decisions for low-paid workers.

"I'll be praying for wisdom … praying for courage and praying above all that God's will is being done through this, not mine," the committed Anglican said.

"I'm a Christian. I believe in God and I believe that God's will is important to be done in the world. It means I hold very dear to the values of fairness, justice, honesty, integrity in the process that I'll use to be making a decision with my fellow commissioners." [...]

Professor Harper is one of Australia's top economists, a financial markets expert and director of the Melbourne Business School. He also served as a lay preacher in the Anglican Church and is aligned to the conservative wing of the church.

His decision to speak about his faith comes after he was criticised by some religious and economic leaders for accepting the job. [...]

Values were important in economic policy, he said.

"How can somebody hope to arbitrate on questions as sensitive as the minimum wage without having any framework at all for determining what is morally right?" he said. "I will be seeking to bring my Christian values to the decisions that the commission will have to make."

Professor Harper said he found it "rather strange" that people had highlighted his Anglican faith in discussing his appointment to the government job. Delivering a speech about values and economic policy, he said Christians should champion a strong economy.

"I don't see anything especially just or merciful about low levels of economic growth … about high inflation which destroys the wealth accumulation of honest, hard-working people," he said.

It gets harder and harder to tell which state of the Anglosphere they're talking about.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:37 PM


Bush narrows Supreme Court selection to 2, sources say (JAN CRAWFORD GREENBURG, 10/29/05, Chicago Tribune)

With an announcement expected Sunday or Monday, administration officials have narrowed the focus to Judges Samuel Alito of New Jersey and Michael Luttig of Virginia, sources involved in the process said. Both have sterling legal qualifications and solid conservative credentials, and both would set off an explosive fight with Senate Democrats, who are demanding a more moderate nominee to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

Sources close to the process cautioned that Bush still could pick someone else, noting that he had wanted to name a woman to replace O'Connor. He had considered Priscilla Owen of Texas, another federal appeals court judge, before tapping Miers, and she remains a distant possibility, administration sources said.

But sources in the administration and others involved in the process - outside the handful in Bush's tight inner circle who were weighing the selection this weekend at Camp David - said a nominee other than Alito or Luttig would come as a surprise.

"Those are the only two names anyone is aware of," said a source who has been closely involved in the selection process and who asked not to be identified. [...]

By nominating Alito or Luttig, Bush would electrify his supporters who have been in open revolt over the Miers nomination.

"They are widely respected among the bench and bar nationally for being careful jurists, faithful to the Constitution and proponents of judicial restraint," said Wendy Long, chief counsel of the Judicial Confirmation Network, a conservative legal group that did not embrace Miers. "They have so much in common substantively that their differences are more stylistic."

Alito, 55, has been on the Philadelphia-based federal appeals court for 15 years; Luttig, 51, has served on the Richmond-based appeals court for 14 years. Both men worked as lawyers in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. Alito was the U.S. attorney in New Jersey before his appeals court nomination; Luttig had worked in a prominent law firm before joining the government.

"In some ways, they're a lot alike. They are both brilliant, and they don't go out of their way to show you that," said John Nagle, a professor and associate dean at Notre Dame Law School who knows both men. "They are really personable guys to be around, but in different ways."

Alito, the son of two public school teachers who grew up in Trenton, N.J., is more reserved and soft-spoken. He often is called "Scalito" because his intellect and Italian heritage draw comparisons to Justice Antonin Scalia. But his personality and self-effacing manner are completely different from those of the boisterous and, at times, bombastic Scalia.

Luttig, who grew up in Tyler, Texas, where his father was a petroleum engineer, is more outgoing, and he still possesses a prominent Texas accent. In some ways, he is more like Scalia, for whom he clerked when Scalia was on the federal appeals court. Like Scalia, his writing style is crisp and clear, and he is willing to confront colleagues head-on when he believes they don't adhere to established law. As a result, he sometimes reaches decisions that cannot be considered conservative.

"As judges, Mike has been more aggressive in his opinion writing and not shied away from expressing things," Nagle said. "Mike has a reputation for being more provocative, but my sense is it's always been a passion for getting the law right."

Justice Alito? Some Say He's a New High Court Favorite (Shannon P. Duffy, 10-31-2005, The Legal Intelligencer)
The short list of potential nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court suddenly appeared much shorter Friday as 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. quickly emerged as perhaps the most likely second choice to fill Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's seat.

In the wake of Harriet Miers' withdrawal of her nomination, the New York Times reported Friday that Alito was one of three "finalists" three weeks ago when Miers was chosen. The other, according to the Times, was 4th Circuit Judge J. Michael Luttig. Hours later, on the popular law blog, SCOTUSblog.com, attorney Tom Goldstein was predicting that Alito would be picked -- and soon.

If he doesn't pick Luttig he's FDR without the limp.

Luttig, Alito contenders as Bush mulls court pick (Caren Bohan, October 29, 2005, Reuters)

Luttig, 51, a judge on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, worked as a clerk for Scalia when Scalia was an appeals court judge.

He helped in the effort to get Thomas and Supreme Court Justice David Souter -- both nominated to the high court by Bush's father -- confirmed by the Senate. Luttig also has worked in the Justice Department and private practice.

Oops, Luttig gave us Souter? If the President doesn't pick Alito he's Karl Marx without the beard.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:29 PM


George W. Bush's Not So Terrible Week: The Bush administration's second-term bear market has bottomed out (William Kristol, 11/07/2005, Weekly Standard)

LAST WEEK THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION'S second-term bear market bottomed out. On Monday, Bush nominated as the next Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke, who of all the leading candidates will be the central banker least hostile to tax cuts and least likely to direct monetary policy to any end other than combating inflation. At the end of the week, the Commerce Department announced that economic growth in the third quarter had been 3.8 percent, suggesting that, thanks in large part to Bush's supply-side tax cuts, our economy may remain strong enough to overcome the twin hurdles of high energy prices and rising interest rates.

Meanwhile, the political process in Iraq continued in a relatively promising direction, as some Sunni groups seemed increasingly reconciled to pursuing their goals through politics rather than betting on the success of the insurgency. On the military front, the joint U.S.-Iraqi effort to fight an effective counterinsurgency seemed to be making some progress. And the prospects for less troublemaking by Syria seemed to improve as well, with the Assad regime thrown back on its heels by a U.N. report implicating it in the assassination of the former Lebanese prime minister.

On Thursday, Harriet Miers withdrew her candidacy for the Supreme Court, producing a massive sigh of relief from Bush supporters and conservatives throughout the nation. Now the president has the chance to pick a strong nominee and to rally his supporters for a winning fight on his or her behalf.

And then, of course, on Friday, Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald's two-year investigation came to an underwhelming conclusion with the indictment of Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, Scooter Libby--not for any underlying crime but for impeding the investigation through perjury and false statements.

Bill Kristol, like his father before him, is the only neocon who's as smart as they all think they are. He knows he needs to claw his way back into W's good graces.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:13 PM


Thermodynamics and Money (Peter Huber, 10.31.05, Forbes)

In his day M. King Hubbert was a great geologist who spent his life studying the planet's deposits of oil and gas. But as he got older, he simply lost it. His "peak oil" theory--which many people are citing these days--is a case study in junk economics.

Hubbert was born in 1903. By 1949 he had concluded that the fossil-fuel era was going to end, and quite soon. Global production would peak around 2000, he predicted, and would decline inexorably thereafter. By 1980 the aging Hubbert was certain that the impending crisis "was unique to both human and geologic history.… You can only use oil once. You can only use metals once. Soon all the oil is going to be burned and all the metals mined and scattered." Indeed we would soon be forced to abandon our entire "monetary culture," replacing it with an accounting tied to "matter-energy" constraints. An editor of Geophysics magazine summarized Hubbert's views in 1983: "The science of matter-energy and the historic system of finance are incompatible."

Today this same nonsense is often dressed up with numbers in an analysis that's dubbed "energy return on energy invested" (Eroei). According to this theory it can never make sense to burn two units of energy in order to extract one unit of energy. The Eroei crowd concedes, for example, that the world has centuries' worth of junk oil in shale and tar sands--but they can also prove it's irrelevant. It takes more energy to cook this kind of oil out of the dirt, they argue, than you end up with in the recovered oil. And a negative Eroei can only mean energy bankruptcy. The more such energy investments we make, the faster things will grind to a halt.

Eroei calculations now litter the energy policy debate. Time and again they're wheeled out to explain why one form of energy just can't win--tar sands, shale, corn, wood, wind, you name it. Even quite serious journals--Science, for example--have published pieces along these lines. Energy-based books of account have just got to show a profit. In the real world, however, investors don't care a fig whether they earn positive Eroei. What they care about is dollar return on dollar invested. And the two aren't the same--nowhere close--because different forms of energy command wildly different prices. Invest ten units of 10-cent energy to capture one unit of $10 energy and you lose energy but gain dollars, and Wall Street will fund you from here to Alberta.

Who knew there were even still folks who believe in thermodynamics?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:10 PM


Pakistan team to visit 'Israel' (AFP, 10/29/05)

A 200-member delegation of Pakistani officials and businessmen is to visit Israel in early November, in a bid to bring closer the two countries which have no diplomatic relations, Israeli military radio said.Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom are to receive the Pakistani delegation of retired generals, religious leaders, politicians and business people, radio said, though there was no official confirmation.Relations between the second most populous Muslim country and the Jewish state were hostile for decades, but began to warm up after Israel offered aid to Pakistan following this month's devastating earthquake.

Pakistan accepted Israel's offer, in a sign that the sole Muslim nuclear power was cautiously warming to better ties with Israel.

Such is the world Natan Sharansky and Ariel Sharon have made.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:56 PM


WSU Education Department studying 'litmus test' (E. Kirsten Peters, October 20, 2005, Associated Press)

Washington State University is reviewing its policies on evaluating the character of students in the teacher training program after a student alleged the College of Education was biased against conservatives.

Provost Robert Bates said Tuesday the matter is under review within the college, which is under fire for evaluating students in a way that makes personal political beliefs grounds for failure.

At issue is an evaluation form that asks if a student exhibits an understanding of the complexities of race, power, gender, class, sexual orientation and privilege in American society.

Even if I'd taken all my courses in the Orrin Judd Classroom at Colgate I'd never have passed one given this standard.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:48 PM


Now even the Palestinians condemn Iran leader's rant against Israel (JAMES KIRKUP AND MIKE THEODOULOU, 10/29/05, The Scotsman)

Yesterday, the Palestinian Authority, fearful of jeopardising Western support, disavowed Iran's position. "Palestinians recognise the right of the state of Israel to exist and I reject his comments," said Saeb Erekat, chief Palestinian peace negotiator.

And even China, which ordinarily stays out of international disputes, expressed its "unease" about Mr Ahmadinejad's remarks.

Russia, which has backed Iran's nuclear programme, has also been critical. In Moscow the Iranian Embassy tried to soften the impact of Mr Ahmadinejad's remarks, saying he "did not have any intention to speak in sharp terms and engage in a conflict".

Potentially even more significantly, there are indications from within Iran that the president may have over-reached himself.

Ultimate power in Iran rests with Mohammed Khamenei, the unelected supreme leader and heir to Ayatollah Khomeni. Mr Khamenei already has placed curbs on his president's power after Mr Ahmadinejad - a former major of Tehran with no previous diplomatic experience - was seen to have mishandled the nuclear issue and strengthened US calls for UN action.

Such is the world that George Bush and Tony Blair have made.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 10:01 AM


We like us, they like us (Randy Boswell, Ottawa Citizen, October 28th, 2005)

A new global index measuring how the "national brand" of various countries is seen at home and abroad puts Canada high in others' estimation, and at the very top of the world in our own minds.

According to a survey of 10,000 consumers from around the world, conducted for the latest Anholt-GMI Nation Brands Index, a joint U.S.-British market research initiative, Canada's system of governance is the envy of most nations.

And in a blush-making result on the question of pure likability of each country's citizens, Canadians and Australians are the run-away favourites for the international congeniality award. They absolutely love Canadians in Germany, Poland and France -- even more than they love themselves.[...]

The survey also assessed, for the first time, the self-image of each nation. The U.S. and Canada were found to be the undisputed world "champions of self-esteem."

Americans were the only respondents to put their own country first in every category -- in "stark contrast," the authors note, to opinions expressed about the U.S. brand in many other countries.

"Canadians were only slightly less modest," said Mr. Anholt.

Wanna step outside?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:54 AM


UN raps Iran's anti-Israel rant (BBC, 10/29/05)

The UN Security Council has issued a statement condemning Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over his call for Israel to be "wiped off the map".

It follows similar criticism by several countries and a rare rebuke from United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan.

The reality-based community has to be pretty disturbed that the net effect of the US and Britain going to war without the UN is that now Kofi Annan has them out in front of us on regime change in Syria and smacking down Iran.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:40 AM


Ramirez again asks Sox for trade (Chris Snow, October 29, 2005, Boston Globe)

Gene Mato, one of Manny Ramirez's representatives, communicated to Red Sox owner John W. Henry yesterday that Ramirez wants to be traded, and will not report to spring training if his wish to be dealt is not met, according to a team source.

The Mets can afford him and they lust after him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:36 AM


The Case Against Scooter Libby (NY Times, October 29, 2005)

The five-count indictment handed up yesterday against Lewis Libby, the vice president's chief of staff, may seem anticlimactic...

The Grey Lady doesn't like chicken salad.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 8:35 AM


You can be a beast, but I'm human (Raymond Tallis, The Times, October 29th, 2005)

There are three main secular currents of anti-humanism that need skewering: biological reductionism; the marginalisation of consciousness; and postmodernist fantasies based upon the fallacies of “informationism”. Let’s start with biological reductionism, the belief that we are essentially animals — our apparently profound differences from other beasts are based on flattering self-deception. The increasing acceptance of these ideas stems from overestimation of what On The Origin of Species tells us about human nature. Scientific Darwinism has been transformed into an unscientific Darwinitis, according to which we are born hard-wired into the biosphere, and pretty well everything about us can be explained in terms of the survival of the genome — the reproduction of the means of reproduction. But we are quite different from other species, if only because, as the philosopher Schelling pointed out, it is in us that, “Nature opens its eyes . . . and notices that it exists.” We are the only species that quarrels over its own nature and has written about the origin of species.

The plausibility of biologism has been enhanced by a grotesque exaggeration of the extent to which we understand our nervous systems and the relationship between the nervous system and ordinary human consciousness. For the record, satisfactory neural explanations of human consciousness elude us. My research for the past 20 or more years has been in neuroscience, and it seems to me that, in terms of the metaphysical understanding of the relationship between neurology and selfhood, we are no farther on from Hippocrates, who noticed that when people banged their heads they behaved a bit oddly and that decapitation was associated with a fall in IQ (in most cases, anyway). We know that a normally functioning brain is a necessary condition of consciousness but it is not a sufficient condition, and we have no idea what fills the gap between the necessary and sufficient.

Once we set aside a misreading of Darwin and the glamour of hyped-up neuroscience, biological reductionism loses its credibility and we can see what is in front of our eyes: that we who lead our lives are not at all like beasts who merely live them.

Ironically, the dominant strands of anti-humanism have been fostered within the humanities departments of universities. Many ideas have been embraced because they seem scientific. That they come with a complex jargon, are often opaque and frequently counter-intuitive, is very gratifying for academics. Over the past 40 or more years, souped-up Freudianism and souped-up Marxism, structuralism and post-structuralism — to mention some of the longer-lasting trends — have had a huge influence on what is taught, published and avowed in academic arguments.

One feature that these ideas have in common is a marginalisation of the conscious human agent, and a corresponding claim that we are in the grip of forces that, unless we go to university, will be hidden from us. The psychological unconscious of Freud (and Lacan), the historical unconscious of Marx (and Althusser) and the semiotic unconscious of everyone else on the curriculum are upheld by assertion rather than fact. Generations of students have been persuaded by the confidence of their teachers that they are tossed around by intra-psychic forces arising out of the failure of their animal instincts to come to terms with the demands of civilisation. Or that the ideas that ruled in them were the ideas of the ruling class, and those ideas were in turn determined by the material conditions created by evolving technologies and the imperative to reproduce the means of production. Or that the self was merely a set of nodes in a system of linguistic and non-linguistic signs, so that far from speaking language, language spoke in them. They were soluble fish in a sea of discourse, whose dominant forms — and what passed for objective truth — were determined by power.

Two minutes’ intelligent discussion — not available in many humanities departments for several decades — would have been sufficient to dispose of these assertions. In the end, they have started to die of boredom and in-fighting. Their stupefying influence, however, has not yet gone away.

The disconnect between the theories of Darwin, Freud and Marx and the reality of what we experience in our everyday lives is a source of much modern humour, misguided politics and even emotional illness. Darwinism, which seems so sensible and compelling when describing animals (the smaller and dumber the better) bounces back and forth between the ridiculous and the banal when trying to explain humans. We are all Freudians now in the ready confidence with which we attribute the behaviour of others entirely to objective psychological forces we reject out of hand as adequate explanations for our own behaviour. Similarly with Marxism and its derivatives, we are led almost automatically to rote socio-economic explanations for people from faraway lands who fly airplanes into skyscrapers without pausing to ponder why we don’t view such as an appropriate response to our own financial and social stresses.

What makes these three theories such tenacious adversaries is that they are not “wrong” in any objective sense–they all offer nuggets of insight into the human condition. Their destructiveness lies in their pretensions to comprehensiveness and their relentless, dogmatic exclusion of subjective experience and human consciousness. Reality is in the lab, not the street, and we are all mice in one huge maze. It is this tenaciously-held faith that supports the livelihoods of millions and leads modern academia to be so extreme and strident in its rejection of religious influence or even inquiry. Ones hope Professor Tallis is right that the battle against human consciousness and free will is being lost, but the war is far from over.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:55 AM


Mr. Fitzgerald would seem to pretty much lay to rest the notion that Ms Plame was covert in this section of his press conference:

QUESTION: You said earlier in your statement here that Mr. Libby was the first person to leak this information outside of the government. Now, first of all, that implies that there might have been other people inside the government who made such leaks.

Secondly, in paragraph 21, the one about "Official A," you imply that Novak might have heard this information about the woman, Mrs. Wilson, from another source. But you don't actually say that.

What can you tell us about the existence that you know of or don't know of or whatever of other leakers? Are there definitely other leakers? Is "Official A" a leaker or just a facilitator? Are you continuing to investigate other possible leakers?

FITZGERALD: I'm afraid I'm going to have to find a polite way of repeating my answer to Mr. Isikoff's question, which is to simply say I can't go beyond the four corners of the indictment. And I'll probably just say -- I'll repeat it so I don't misstep and give you anything more than I should.

QUESTION: Can you say whether or not you know whether Mr. Libby knew that Valerie Wilson's identity was covert and whether or not that was pivotal at all in your inability or your decision not to charge under the Intelligence Identity Protection Act?

FITZGERALD: Let me say two things. Number one, I am not speaking to whether or not Valerie Wilson was covert. And anything I say is not intended to say anything beyond this: that she was a CIA officer from January 1st, 2002, forward.

I will confirm that her association with the CIA was classified at that time through July 2003. And all I'll say is that, look, we have not made any allegation that Mr. Libby knowingly, intentionally outed a covert agent.

FITZGERALD: We have not charged that. And so I'm not making that assertion.

Were the outing itself a crime then Official A who likewise outed her according Fitzgerald's own facts would have been indicted.

Meanwhile, he here reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the criticism being aimed at him:

QUESTION: Mr. Fitzgerald, the Republicans previewed some talking points in anticipation of your indictment and they said that if you didn't indict on the underlying crimes and you indicted on things exactly like you did indict -- false statements, perjury, obstruction -- these were, quote/unquote, "technicalities," and that it really was over reaching and excessive.

And since, when and if they make those claims, now that you have indicted, you won't respond, I want to give you an opportunity now to respond to that allegation which they may make. It seems like that's the road they're going down.

FITZGERALD: [...] That talking point won't fly. If you're doing a national security investigation, if you're trying to find out who compromised the identity of a CIA officer and you go before a grand jury and if the charges are proven -- because remember there's a presumption of innocence -- but if it is proven that the chief of staff to the vice president went before a federal grand jury and lied under oath repeatedly and fabricated a story about how he learned this information, how he passed it on, and we prove obstruction of justice, perjury and false statements to the FBI, that is a very, very serious matter.

FITZGERALD: And I'd say this: I think people might not understand this. We, as prosecutors and FBI agents, have to deal with false statements, obstruction of justice and perjury all the time. The Department of Justice charges those statutes all the time.

When I was in New York working as a prosecutor, we brought those cases because we realized that the truth is the engine of our judicial system. And if you compromise the truth, the whole process is lost.

In Philadelphia, where Jack works, they prosecute false statements and obstruction of justice.

When I got to Chicago, I knew the people before me had prosecuted false statements, obstruction and perjury cases.

FITZGERALD: And we do it all the time. And if a truck driver pays a bribe or someone else does something where they go into a grand jury afterward and lie about it, they get indicted all the time.

Any notion that anyone might have that there's a different standard for a high official, that this is somehow singling out obstruction of justice and perjury, is upside down.

Note that even he apparently thinks there ought to be an underlying crime before the truck driver is indicted for lying about it.

Mr. Libby appears to have just gotten himself in trouble by lying about a set of facts that hadn't opened him to any legal liability in the first place, though he may not have known that at the time he was leaking, Libby defence: I don't recall (News24, 29/10/2005)

The case against Libby: He testified that he learned from NBC correspondent Tim Russert the identity of a covert CIA officer who is the wife of Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson. Russert says they never discussed it.

The facts, prosecutor Fitzgerald said, are that the month before the conversation with Russert, Libby learned about the CIA status of Valerie Plame from Cheney, from a senior CIA officer and from an undersecretary of state.

But Libby told the FBI and the grand jury that he informed reporters Matt Cooper of Time magazine and Judith Miller of The New York Times information about Wilson's wife that he had got from other reporters - information that Libby said he did not know to be true. Libby testified that he told the reporters he did not even know if Wilson had a wife.

But Fitzgerald said that rather than being at the end of a chain of phone calls from reporters, Libby "was at the beginning of the chain of phone calls, the first official to disclose this information outside the government to a reporter. And then he lied about it afterwards."

The indictment points to interesting behaviour by Libby that changed once Wilson went public with his criticism of the current Bush administration. The former ambassador accused the administration of twisting pre-war intelligence on Iraq's nuclear weapons program to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.

Early on, the indictment said, Libby became concerned about an article in The New Republic magazine that referred to Wilson, though not by name, as having gone to Africa for the CIA to investigate allegations that Iraq had sought uranium from Niger. The unnamed ambassador was quoted as saying the "Niger story was a flat-out lie."

The indictment said Libby told his deputy there would be complications at the CIA in disclosing information about the trip and that Libby could not discuss the matter on a nonsecure telephone line."

After Wilson criticised the Bush administration on NBC's Meet the Press, Libby had lunch with then-White House press secretary Ari Fleischer and advised him that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA and noted that such information was not widely known, the indictment said.

It said Libby proceeded to spread it more aggressively than he had previously.

No matter how you slice it, his behavior once the investigation started was spectacularly stupid and regardless of whether he's ever convicted of a crime or pleads guilty to one, it's hard to feel sorry for a guy who looks to have been lying so systematically to law enforcement.

October 28, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:18 PM


Bush pulls plug on Miers (Jan Crawford Greenburg, October 28, 2005, Chicago Tribune)

A senior administration official said that after concluding Wednesday that Miers must withdraw, the White House focused on judges who were in the running to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor before President Bush chose Miers, his longtime adviser and current White House counsel.

The group includes Samuel Alito, J. Michael Luttig, Priscilla Owen and Karen Williams, the official said. All four judges had been interviewed by Bush or top administration officials and indicated they would accept the nomination if asked.

Appellate Judges Cited as Focus of New Search: Supreme Court Candidates on Short List Were Vetted This Summer, Sources Say (Jo Becker and Amy Goldstein, October 29, 2005, Washington Post)
The administration has backed away from any insistence that the nominee be a woman or a minority. Rather, it is focused on potential nominees who have previously won Senate confirmation, whose intellectual qualifications would be unquestioned and who have paper trails that make clear their conservative credentials, said one source who is close to the nomination process.

Those candidates, according to the sources, include several federal appellate judges, among them: Samuel A. Alito Jr., J. Michael Luttig, Michael W. McConnell, Emilio M. Garza, Priscilla R. Owen and Edith H. Jones. The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the private nature of the discussions.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:57 PM

THERE ARE TEN BIASES (via David Hill, The Bronx):

These Courses Are Condemned:
"Christian Morality in American Literature" is biased. "Feminine Perspectives in Literature" is not. (NAOMI SCHAEFER RILEY, October 28, 2005, Opinion Journal)

Most California high-school students who apply to the university submit their grades as a part of their application. But the university must deem their high-school classwork to be sufficiently demanding for the grades to mean anything. And lately the university's officials have looked upon the classes in California's Christian schools with suspicion--even as they wave through lighter-than-air classes from public schools. [...]

A year ago, Calvary Chapel sent a description of some of its new courses to UC for review and inquired about a couple of others. Sue Wilbur, the university's director of undergraduate admissions, rejected three of them as insufficiently rigorous.

Calvary officials sat down with Ms. Wilbur and her colleagues to contest the decision--joined by representatives of the Association for Christian Schools International--but the university wouldn't budge. So Calvary took a bold step. Together with the association, it filed a discrimination suit in district court. The university is filing a motion to dismiss the case today. Whatever the outcome, the complaint makes for fascinating reading.

A proposed English class, "Christian Morality in American Literature," included readings from Mark Twain, Stephen Crane and Nathaniel Hawthorne, but it was judged unworthy because, according to the university, it "does not offer a non-biased approach to the subject matter." So what does a nonbiased class look like? The university has deemed acceptable such public-school courses as "Feminine Perspectives in Literature" and "Ethnic Experiences in Literature."

A history course, "Christianity's Influence on America," was rejected by the university because its focus was "too narrow" and because it was "not consistent with the empirical historical knowledge generally accepted in the collegiate community." But even people who don't like Christianity's effect on U.S. history don't find that it has been "narrow." And the curriculum of the course seems broad enough--covering the role of Christianity in the Founding, abolition, the civil-rights movement and the fall of communism. The course seems downright all-encompassing when compared with approved classes at other schools, like "Modern Irish History" and "Armenian History."

It's in no small part because Academia disapproves of the moral bias that Americans distrust intellectuals.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:50 PM

GROWTH STRAINS (via Mike Daley):

Christian Republicans (Patrick Hynes, 10/28/2005, American Spectator)

[T]he Republican Party isn't identified with one particular sectarian position. It's just that the Republican Party is a conservative party and the conservative strains of most Christian sects (which also happen to be the growing strains) have abandoned minor sectarian differences and coalesced around shared positions on key cultural issues. The GOP benefited from a majority of Catholic and Protestant votes in 2004, for example.

Danforth believes its relationship with the Religious Right will be bad for the Republican Party in the long run. It's hard to imagine how that can be. Indeed, it's hard to imagine a Republican Party at all without the Religious Right.

Almost 28 million Evangelical Christians voted in 2004. These folks split their votes in favor of President George W. Bush over Sen. John Kerry by a margin of 78% to 22%. That amounts to over 21 million voters. Throw in 6.9 million observant Catholics and nearly 1 million conservative and orthodox Jews and we end up with over 29 million religiously motivated voters that support the Republican Party.

Compare that number to MoveOn.org's 2.5 million Democrats. Or Big Labor's 16.7 million. Or the 11.8 million blacks who routinely vote straight Democrat.

Let's look at it another way. If the United States had a European-style parliamentary government, the Religious Right would be the "natural party of government," perennially winning a plurality of seats and serving as a mainstay in successive coalition governments. The Religious Right is the largest single voting block in American politics and whether John Danforth likes it or not, it is a predominantly Republican voting block. Consider: Being born-again is a greater predictor of a Republican vote than owning a gun, being white, being a man, or being a millionaire.

Orthodox Jews likewise vote disproportionately Republican. You can't take the moral teachings of any monotheism seriously and then vote Democrat.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:40 PM


Sam Smith over at Progressive Review is a man of reliably silly Leftwing politics but never less than honest. His take on the way the Yellowcake matter petered out is the best you'll find on that side of the aisle, PLAME AFFAIR FLAMES (Sam Smith, 10/2805, Progressive Review):

[A barely visible White House official is indicted for lying and obstruction in a case involving the exposure of a barely invisible CIA official. Not quite the 22 indictments predicted by one TV analyst nor the political boon predicted by Democrats. Do we now get a grand jury investigation into who leaked all the leaks about the leak?]

DAVID STOUT, NY TIMES - I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick
Cheney's chief of staff and one of the most powerful figures in the
Bush administration, was formally accused today of lying and
obstruction of justice during an inquiry into the unmasking of a
covert C.I.A. officer. A federal grand jury indicted Mr. Libby on one
count of obstruction, two counts of perjury and two of making false
statements in the course of an investigation that raised questions
about the administration's rationale for going to war against Iraq,
how it treats critics and political opponents and whether high White
House officials shaded the truth. The charges are felonies.
Obstruction of justice carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in
prison, while perjury and making false statements 5 years. Each of the
five counts can also be punished with a $250,000 fine. Perjury is
lying under oath, to a jury or other investigative body, while making
false statements consists of lying to investigators while not under oath.


[Worse, that false statements business rings a bell . . . . Oh yes, here it is]

CNN OCT 18 2000 - Independent Counsel Robert Ray's final report on the
White House travel office case found first lady Hillary Rodham
Clinton's testimony in the matter was "factually false," but concluded
there were no grounds to prosecute her. The special prosecutor
determined the first lady did play a role in the 1993 dismissal of the
travel office's staff, contrary to her testimony in the matter. But
Ray said he would not prosecute Clinton for those false statements
because "the evidence was insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable
doubt" that she knew her statements were false or understood that they
may have prompted the firings. . . The final report concludes that
"despite that falsity, no prosecution of Mrs. Clinton is warranted."


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:08 PM

A WORTHY EXPERIMENT (via Governor Breck):

Writer's Almanac (NPR, 10/28/05)

It was on this day in 1919 that Congress overrode President Woodrow Wilson's veto and passed the Volstead Act, which provided for enforcement of the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution, prohibiting the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors in the United States. Ours isn't the only nation to attempt a ban. Various forms of alcohol prohibition have been attempted since ancient times by the Aztecs, ancient China, feudal Japan, the Polynesian Islands, Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Russia, Canada, and India.

The movement to ban alcohol in this country began as a religious movement, and it was also a movement dominated by women. At the time, it was still difficult for women to make a living on their own, and many women had seen their lives ruined when their husbands squandered the family income on booze. It was the liquor industry that put up such a long fight against women getting the right to vote, because they were terrified that women voters would usher in restrictions on the sale of alcohol.

It's commonly believed that Prohibition was a huge failure; that no one stopped drinking and the law's only effect was to give a boost to organized crime. That was true in big cities, but in rural America, prohibition was quite effective. Both cirrhosis death rates and admissions to state mental hospitals for alcoholism fell by more than fifty percent. Arrests for public drunkenness and disorderly conduct also went way down. And while organized crime may have gotten a boost, homicide rates were the same during the 1920s as they were in the previous two decades.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving has likewise been one of the most successful citizen movements of the past thirty years -- both in terms of legislation won and positive effects on society -- because we remain a Puritan Nation. But wholesale prohibition was a mistake because alcohol serves a useful purpose as a social lubricant, is deeply ingrained in the culture and our traditions, and has real health benefits when consumed in moderation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:06 PM


Blue-state blue about path of USA, some Vermonters want out (David Gram, October 28, 2005, AP)

A car parked outside the Statehouse bore a bumper sticker saying, "Regime change begins at home."

Inside, about 100 Vermonters gathered in the House chamber for the Vermont Independence Convention -- devoted to Vermont creating a regime of its own.

If participants have their way, the state whose former governor was laughed out of the 2004 presidential race after the infamous Iowa scream is going to take what some call its wackiness and others call its sanity in a crazy world and go home.

Home to the 14 years in the late 18th century when Vermont was neither a British colony nor one of the original 13 states but was an independent republic.

Texas gets more notice as a Lone Star State, but Vermont shares with it the distinction of having gone it alone for a while. Friday's event was steeped in that history, and an urge to try it again.

Reconquering and reconstructing it would be fun anyway.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:31 PM


This wasn't an October that the president would have sought, but it ends up going as well as he could possibly have hoped on the 4 issues that had hurt him most:

(1) Iraq: with folks talking about the constitution failing, it not only passed but by such huge margins that even the MSM has begun to figure out that this is just about a Sunni minority who want to keep their own version of Afrikaaner South Africa. Meanwhile, the UN dropped Syrian regime change in his lap and the new Iranian president has cleared the way for virtually any response the Administration chooses, while Tony Blair has taken the lead.

(2) Harriet Miers: it's at least conceivable, if unlikely, that Ms Miers wouldn't have gotten 50 votes in the Senate, while the President was stuck fighting his own party over the nomination. Instead, she manfully withdrew and by naming Samuel Alito on Monday he reunites the party--regardless of Mr. Alito's quality as a candidate, the mere fact that he's known as Scalito makes it mandatory for the Right to embrace him--and puts Democrats in the position of opposing a Catholic nominee.

(3) Red Ink: with Katrina raising hackles over deficit spending the Congress has at least rhetorically embraced some spending restraint while the Hurricane relief turns out not to be as expensive as first thought and the deficit for '05 comes in at a rather low 2.6% of GDP.

(4) The Yellowcake Kerfuffle: with folk talking of Dick Cheney being replaced, the prosecutor ends up finding no underlying crime and bringing just one token indictment that begs to be pled out as one count of lying to a grand jury, which means no jail time for the functionary who was charged.

Given how things might have gone, rather than Camp David resembling Dr. No's island this weekend, they'll be serving chicken salad sandwiches.

At Milestone in Inquiry, Rove, and the G.O.P., Breathe a Bit Easier (ANNE E. KORNBLUT, 10/29/05, NY Times)

After months of uncertainty and four grand jury appearances, Karl Rove escaped the worst possible outcome on Friday, and a collective sigh of relief swept the Bush administration and the Republican Party.

Mr. Rove remained under a legal cloud: not indicted, but still at the center of the unfinished business in the C.I.A. leak case. He was absent from public view for most of the day, and conspicuously avoided giving any appearance that he had begun to celebrate.

But several friends and colleagues said he had resumed his role as the ubiquitous adviser who has guided George W. Bush's political career since before Mr. Bush's days as Texas governor. Even as the administration somberly accepted the resignation of I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, a pall that had fallen over Mr. Rove's section of the West Wing seemed to lift. And Mr. Rove, who just two weeks earlier had seemed in grave danger of being charged with a crime, took comfort in having survived this important point in the case.

"The whole thing has been no fun, and debilitating, but not indicted is not indicted," said Ed Rogers, a Republican consultant and lobbyist. "It's binary: being indicted is real bad, and not being indicted is real good."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:23 PM


US budget deficit shrinks in 2005 (BBC, 10/18/05)

The US budget deficit shrank to $319bn (£180bn) last year as better economic conditions boosted tax revenues. [...]

The 2005 fiscal year deficit amounted to 2.6% of GDP, below the 3.6% recorded in 2004 and the post World War Two high of 6% in 1983.

No wonder all the Reaganauts are coming out against W, he really does make them look awful even before you consider their tax hikes.

Posted by kevin_whited at 10:46 AM


Memo: Louisiana governor slowed body removal (Associated Press, 10/28/05)

Bodies of people killed by Hurricane Katrina went uncollected for more than a week in the New Orleans area as the federal government waited for Louisiana's governor to decide what to do with them, according to memos released today by a Republican-led House committee.

The 38 pages of e-mail between FEMA representatives and Pentagon officials contradict the contention by Louisiana's Democratic Gov. Kathleen Blanco, two weeks after Katrina hit on Aug. 29, that the federal government was moving too slowly to recover the bodies.

They also underscore ongoing political tensions between the Republican Bush administration and Democratic state and local officials over the botched response to Katrina, which killed more than 1,000 people in Louisiana.

Katrina, and not Michael Brown, killed more than 1,000 people? Shocking!

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:19 AM


GDP muscles through: Economy brushes off storms and expands by 3.8 percent in 3Q, beating estimates. (Reuters, October 28, 2005)

The U.S. economy shook off headwinds from hurricanes Katrina and Rita to grow at a faster-than-expected 3.8 percent annual rate in the third quarter, a Commerce Department report showed Friday. [...]

Despite surging prices at the gasoline pumps, the report showed that so-called core inflation, which exempts food and energy from its calculation, declined in the third quarter. A price gauge favored by Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan -- personal consumption expenditures excluding food and energy -- increased at a 1.3 percent annual rate compared with 1.7 percent in the second quarter. That marks the mildest rate of core price rises since the second quarter of 2003.

Fed policy-makers have pushed U.S. short-term interest rates up 11 times since mid-2004 to keep a rein on prices. Its policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee is scheduled to meet again on Tuesday and is once again widely expected to nudge rates up a quarter percentage point.

Businesses reduced inventories for a second straight quarter. Stocks of unsold goods dropped at a $16.6-billion annual rate in the third quarter after declining at a $1.7-billion rate in the second quarter.

The third-quarter inventory drop was the largest since the fourth quarter of 2001 -- after the attacks in New York and on the Pentagon -- when they fell at an $86.7-billion rate, a department official said. It also marked the first back-to-back quarterly drops in stocks of unsold goods since the third and fourth quarters of 2001.

So not only is there strong growth despite the storms but no inflation despite oil prices and such low inventory that it'll have to be filled. It's not a moment too soon, and likely a bit late, to replace a Fed chairman stuck in the 70s with one who understands the 30s.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:07 AM


CBS News is reporting the Scooter Libby has been indicted but that Karl Rove won't be, which would render what little remains of this story a political nullity.

Top Cheney Aide To Be Indicted (CBS News, Oct. 28, 2005)

Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, will be indicted Friday in the CIA leak investigation for making false statements to a grand jury, CBS News has learned.

However, presidential confidant Karl Rove will likely escape charges for the time being.

Top Cheney Aide Indicted (CBS News, Oct. 28, 2005)
Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby was indicted Friday on obstruction of justice, false statement and perjury charges in the CIA leak investigation.

Cheney Adviser Indicted in CIA Leak Probe: Lewis 'Scooter' Libby Charged With Perjury, Obstruction of Justice and Making False Statements (William Branigin, Jim VandeHei and Carol D. Leonnig, October 28, 2005, Washington Post )
A federal grand jury today indicted Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, after a two-year investigation into the leak of a CIA agent's identity but spared -- at least for now --President Bush's top political strategist, Karl Rove.

Libby was indicted on charges of perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements. The indictment charged that he gave misleading information to the grand jury, allegedly lying about information he discussed with three news reporters. It alleged that he committed perjury before the grand jury in March 2004 and that he also lied to FBI agents investigating the case. [...]

Libby essentially was charged with lying to protect his boss, the vice president. He testified that he learned of the identity of the CIA agent in question, Valerie Plame, from reporters. But evidence emerged indicating that he actually learned Plame's name and her role in the CIA from Cheney. The evidence reportedly includes notes Libby took in a June 12, 2003, meeting with Cheney.

Protect his boss from what?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:05 AM


Change your ways, or no WTO, US warns Vietnam (Aaron Glantz and Ngoc Nguyen, 10/29/05, Asia Times)

Vietnam's attempts to enter the World Trade Organization (WTO) have been blocked by what the country's negotiators say are unacceptable new demands by Washington that the socialist country change the way its economy works - more than it already has. [...]

For the past 15 years, Vietnam has been changing the way it does business, though perhaps not to the extent Washington would like to see it.

It has embraced market economy, attracted factory jobs from overseas, and towering new buildings have sprung up in the capital and in Ho Chi Minh City. In 2002, foreign investors poured more than US$1.2 billion into Vietnam, and the country seems all set to enter the world's official club of capitalist nations.

Yet, the administration of US President George W Bush has been pressuring Vietnam to eliminate subsidies and state-owned enterprises. Talks with negotiators from Washington have broken down over what Vietnam maintains are "new conditions" introduced in recent rounds of talks. [...]

In April, Oxfam released a report entitled "Do as I Say, Not as I Do: The Unfair Terms for Vietnam's Entry to the WTO", which noted that Vietnam is being forced to cut tariffs and subsidies twice as much as neighbors such as Thailand, the Philippines and Nepal. Those countries are already members of the world body.

"For any country, joining the WTO is like jumping into a fast-moving river in the dark without a paddle," said Steve Price-Thomas, Oxfam's spokesman in Hanoi. "It's hard to know for sure what will happen but the important thing is if you jump into a fast-moving river at night you want to make sure you've got a life belt, a flashlight, know which way you're headed, that there's no rocks, etc. So we hope that Vietnam is ready and prepared for life in the club of the WTO."

Want to be treated like a democratic ally? Become one.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:53 AM


Japan, US closer in step (Hisane Masaki, 10/29/05, Asia Times)

Japan and the United States on Saturday will sign an historic mutual-security agreement that, among other provisions, will allow for the first time an American nuclear-powered navy vessel to be based in a Japanese port.

The deal, which will be signed in Washington during a meeting of the two countries' defense and foreign ministers, will also include a strategy for overall realignment of US forces in Japan.

Earlier in the week, Tokyo and Washington struck a deal on the long-running dispute over the relocation of a key American air station in the southern Japanese island state of Okinawa, removing the biggest obstacle to the realignment agreement.

About to make the normal pedantic comment about the new Axis of Good being more important than NATO, the thought occurred: When's the last time you even heard NATO mentioned?

The central alliance of the 20th Century is now an afterthought.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 AM


The Myth of Stability (Clifford D. May, Oct 28, 2005, Townhall)

In just a few days, I'm to debate at the University Philosophical Society of Trinity College, Dublin.

Trinity was founded in 1592. The Philosophical Society – better known as the “Phil” -- is of more recent vintage: It traces its lineage back to the 17th century.

Those who have preceded me at this forum include Alexis de Tocqueville and Bertrand Russell. Then again, in recent years the smarmy fanatic George Galloway, the Holocaust denier David Irving and the porn star Ron Jeremy also have been guests.

The resolution I'll be debating: “This house believes that George W. Bush is a danger to world stability.” The members of the Phil presumably came to me because they could find no one in Europe willing to publicly dispute this widely accepted notion.

And, upon reflection, I'm not sure I will either. Perhaps President Bush does endanger stability. But is “stability” really the goal that free peoples should pursue?

He could hardly improve upon this terrific essay by Ralph Peters, which also appears in our forthcoming book.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:18 AM


Arrest torturers, Syria told (ANDREW MILLS AND MICHELLE SHEPHARD, 10/28/05, Toronto Star)

The Syrian ambassador was hauled on the carpet in Ottawa yesterday after an independent report backed up claims by Maher Arar and three other Canadians that they had been tortured in Syrian jails.

Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew slipped out of the weekly cabinet meeting early yesterday to issue an angry demand to Syrian Ambassador Jamil Sakr that Syria investigate the allegations. [...]

By demanding Syria investigate, Ottawa is acknowledging for the first time that the claims of torture made by the four men have merit.

Pettigrew's swift and blunt reaction was evidence of the federal government sensitivity to criticisms over its failures in the Arar case, particularly its failure to recognize the Ottawa engineer was being tortured in Syria and to get him returned home to Canada sooner than he was.

As well, Canada has faced international criticism over its policy of detaining without charge non-citizens it is trying to deport as security risks to countries known to engage in torture.The allegations of torture come as Syria is under attack from the world community following a United Nation's report that implicates top Syrian officials in the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.

when a regime change looks easy they all come out of the woodwork...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:07 AM


Iraq's main Shiite parties agree to run together as electoral bloc (Edward Wong, OCTOBER 28, 2005, The New York Times)

The country's main Shiite religious parties agreed Thursday to run together as a coalition in the upcoming elections, virtually ensuring that the parties will remain a formidable force in the new government.

The move also means that the vote will largely take place along ethnic and sectarian lines, as it did in last January's elections for a transitional Parliament.

For much of the last week, the Shiite parties had been squabbling, and secular politicians, including Ayad Allawi, the American-backed former prime minister, had been hoping the alliance would fracture.

Such a break could result in more votes for the moderates. One prominent politician, Ahmad Chalabi, a deputy prime minister and onetime Pentagon darling, is almost certain to leave the Shiite alliance, but his departure would not cost the alliance many votes since he has considerably less popular support than the main religious groups.

Parties intending to take part in the elections must present a list of candidates to the Iraqi electoral commission by Friday.

The agreement by the Shiite parties, which ran together in the January elections with the blessing of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the country's most revered Shiite cleric, came a day after three conservative Arab groups announced they would run together.

Now, it is apparent that the election will be most hotly contested along the religious versus secular divide, and the Sunni versus Shiite split: The largest vote-getters among Arabs will be the major Sunni or Shiite religious blocs on either extreme, or the large secular bloc in the middle being cobbled together by Allawi, a tough-talking former Baath Party official and operative for the Central Intelligence Agency.

Wow! That didn't take long. So the Shi'ite, who have been put in power by a conservative American administration precisely because their theology is likely to provide a basis for an American-style republic aren't the conservatives? The Ba'athist insurgents, who are supported by the Left in the West and oppose democracy, are?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:45 AM


Polish leaders side with hardline eurosceptics (Andrew Rettman, 10/27/05, EUOBSERVER)

Events in Poland have taken a dramatic turn, with the Law and Justice party voting together with hard-line eurosceptics in parliament, endangering the chances of a coalition government and provoking a sharp fall in the zloty.

"A populist-nationalist coalition is forming, the goal of which is to change the treaties agreed with the European Union", Civic Platform leader Donald Tusk told Gazeta Wyborcza in the heat of Thursday (26 October) night. [...]

Law and Justice party chief Jaroslaw Kaczynski ruled out the possibility of a coalition with Self-Defence and the League of Polish Families however, saying "In this parliament the only possibilities are a coalition with Civic Platform or a minority government". [...]

Meanwhile, the markets gave their own commentary, with the zloty falling steeply against the euro and investors selling Polish shares on the Warsaw stock exchange.

"The market reaction is due to the uncertain political direction of the new government and how relations will develop with the EU and Russia", Credit Suisse analyst Sven Schubert told EUobserver.

Law and Justice is "less market friendly" he added, pushing to delay euro entry and boost welfare spending, while slowing privatisation.

It would probably be wiser to use Civic Platform to drive an economic reaction to seventy years of socialism, before settling down to a Third Way model. But spiking the EU justifies a lot.

In Poland, changing alliances (Judy Dempsey, 10/28/05, International Herald Tribune)

The League of Polish Families, a nationalist, conservative and Roman Catholic party led by Roman Giertych, and Self-Defense, another Catholic party led by Andrzej Lepper, both supported Kaczynski during last Sunday's second and final presidential round, and they quickly moved to take advantage of the political vacuum. They said they could support a minority government whose skeptical policies toward Europe and its strong Catholic roots are shared by these two parties.

The League of Polish Families, which won 34 parliamentary seats, and Self-Defense, which won 56 seats, have been consistently opposed to the European Union, even though farmers who form the backbone of Lepper's party have gained financially since Poland joined the EU in May, 2004.

It had been widely expected that the Law and Justice Party and Civic Platform - the two largest conservative parties in the Sejm - would find enough common ground to form a government. But after Sunday's election, the mood between the camps soured when Law and Justice decided not to support Civil Platform's candidate for speaker of the Sejm and also insisted that the larger party control the powerful Justice and Interior Ministries.

Both Kaczynski and his twin brother Jaroslaw, who leads the Law and Justice Party, promised during the parliamentary and presidential election campaigns to stamp out corruption and also rid the bureaucracy and administration of former Communists. They claimed previous governments had not carried out a thorough overhaul of the public sector, either on the national or local levels. Control of the Justice and Interior Ministries would give them a freer hand to pursue that program.

Civic Platform was offered the Treasury, as well as the Finance, Economy and Infrastructure Ministries - which are powerful positions and appear to be plum assignments.

"They seem beautiful," Pawlowski said, "but we don't want to find ourselves in a situation that we have to cover their promises."

Law and Justice promised to increase pensions and family welfare payments, in addition to building three million new homes and spending more on health services. It said some of the expenditure would be financed from sharp cuts in the state administration.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:58 AM


This is a fight the Designers have to lose (Mary Wakefield, The Spectator, October 29th, 2005)

For nearly a month now, the teachers and parents of pupils at Dover high school have been in court arguing whether it's proper to teach children that Darwinism is deficient and put the case for a creator, or "Intelligent Designer" of the universe. Yes, say the teachers: Darwin's theory is full of holes, the children should be told. The parents say No. For them, the idea of an Intelligent Designer is tantamount to creationism and they're suing the school for violating the constitutional separation of church and state.

Dover is a very small place. I've been there: one drug store, a bar and a meeting room with frosted glass windows for the Loyal Order of the Moose, but what happens there will affect the whole of America. It's a landmark case, the first legal test of the increasingly popular Intelligent Design or ID movement.

If the teachers lose, the ID lobby will fade away. If they win, it will mean a walk-on part for God in science classes nationwide. And although I'm all for God and church-going children, in the Dover case, I'm rooting for Darwin because a victory for Intelligent Design will, I'm quite sure, be disastrous for everybody, Christians and atheists alike. [...]

And here's why it seems to me that if the ID proponents win in Dover, they will at the same time shoot themselves in the foot. If you've squeezed your Intelligent Designer into the gap in the fossil record, what happens when the scientists close the gap?

Kenneth Miller, a professor of biology at Brown University has just given evidence in court on behalf of the Dover parents. "Those who ask from science a final argument, an ultimate proof, an unassailable position from which the issue of God may be decided will always be disappointed," he said. Professor Miller is a Christian, but he sees that far from defending God against the secular Darwinists, the supporters of Intelligent Design are more likely to disprove Him altogether.

Good point. I mean, what if the Darwinists ever come up with proof that speciation actually happened?

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:09 AM


Negligence found in '93 bombing (Anemona Hartocollis, The New York Times, October, 28th, 2005)

A Manhattan jury has found the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to be negligent in safeguarding the World Trade Center before the first terror attack on the twin towers, the 1993 bombing that killed six people and injured 1,000.

The six-member jury in State Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously found that the Port Authority had not maintained the center's underground parking garage "in a reasonably safe condition" and that the failure was "a substantial factor" in allowing the bombing to occur. The finding could prove costly for the agency.

It was in the public parking area below the trade center that Islamic terrorists detonated a truck packed with explosives on Feb. 26, 1993. The bombing foreshadowed the attacks that brought down the towers and killed nearly 3,000 people on Sept. 11, 2001.

Some days it is hard to bury the fear that, if Rome declined from moral and economic lassitude and Britain from imperial overstretch, America’s decline will be spawned in an orgy of immobilizing self-blame.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:00 AM


Why the Right Was Wrong (HUGH HEWITT, 10/28/05, NY Times)

The right's embrace in the Miers nomination of tactics previously exclusive to the left - exaggeration, invective, anonymous sources, an unbroken stream of new charges, television advertisements paid for by secret sources - will make it immeasurably harder to denounce and deflect such assaults when the Democrats make them the next time around. Given the overemphasis on admittedly ambiguous speeches Miers made more than a decade ago, conservative activists will find it difficult to take on liberals in their parallel efforts to destroy some future Robert Bork.

Not all critics of Ms. Miers from the right used these tactics, and those who did not will be able to continue on with the project of restoring sanity to the process that went haywire with Judge Bork's rejection in 1987. Conservatives are also fortunate that no Republican senator called for Ms. Miers's withdrawal.

But the Democrats' hand has been strengthened. Voting for or against Ms. Miers would have forced Senate Democrats to articulate a coherent standard for future nominees. Now, the Democrats have free rein.

The next nominee - even one who is a superb scholar and sitting judge who recently underwent Senate confirmation like Michael McConnell of the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, or a long-serving superstar like Michael Luttig of the Fourth Circuit - will face an instant and savage assault. After all, it "worked" with Ms. Miers. A claim of "special circumstances" justifying a filibuster will also be forthcoming.

It'll be fun to listen to these guys argue that a filibuster is beyond the Pale after they just engaged in one themselves and they aren't even constitutional officers.

October 27, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:18 PM


Naval heroes (and bishops) have lost their place in our history (Ferdinand Mount, 28/10/2005, Daily Telegraph)

Who better to celebrate the immortal memory of Horatio Nelson than Richard Chartres? The Bishop of London's resonant baritone would shiver the timbers of any quarterdeck. And his forthright eloquence still makes some of us wish that it was he who had been translated to Canterbury.

So when Dr Chartres discovered that his daughter's GCSE history syllabus concentrated on Twiggy and the Vietnam war, and had no space for Nelson (or any event more ancient than the Wall Street Crash), I was not surprised that he blistered the beams of St Paul's Cathedral.

"There has never been a generation better informed about 'now' with so little sense of how we came to be here," he thundered at the Trafalgar bicentenary service last Sunday. "Every child in this country ought to have the opportunity of meeting Lord Nelson and considering his legacy." [...]

Yet, oddly enough, I am not too downhearted. What may ultimately prove more significant than the unsatisfactory detail is that at last a Labour government is pointing in the right direction - away from political control over schools and towards greater independence.

Blair doggedly denies it, but his independent state schools do build on the model of the Tory grant-maintained schools that he so recklessly abolished. So with all their limitations, the new schools deserve a welcome that is better than tepid.

Except that Tories don't understand Mr. Blair any better than conservatives understand Mr. Bush.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:14 PM


Ex-minister likens MP to Lord Haw-Haw (Andrew Sparrow, 28/10/2005, Daily Telegraph)

Denis MacShane, the former Foreign Office minister, said the claims were so serious that they should be investigated by a joint committee of the Commons and the US Congress.

Speaking on the floor of the Commons, Mr MacShane said he could not comment on the allegations that were published by the Senate sub-committee on Monday.

He said Mr Galloway "employs very expensive libel lawyers to stop any press investigation into his role as Lord Haw-Haw for one of the worst tyrants in the world's history, responsible for killing more Muslims than anybody else in the history of that religion.

"Still, we do need a joint Congress and Commons committee of inquiry to settle the truth once and for all.

"Because if any of the allegations of financial receipt are true, it is not just the honourable member's reputation that is at stake. It's the reputation of this House, if it does not deal with it."

Mr Galloway was not in the Commons to hear himself compared to Lord Haw-Haw, the nickname given to the infamous Nazi propagandist and convicted traitor William Joyce who was hanged in 1946.

Was Joyce really in it for the money?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:39 PM


Chirac threatens to veto world trade deal (Sophie Louet and William Schomberg, 10/27/05, Reuters)

French President Jacques Chirac warned Europe's leaders on Thursday he would torpedo a global trade deal if EU negotiators made further sacrifices in farm protection measures to keep the talks alive.

A day before Brussels tries to revive negotiations by putting a revised farm offer to key trading nations, Chirac told EU leaders Paris was prepared to exercise its veto right to block the required unanimous European approval of any agreement.

Chirac told a news conference he had made clear at a summit that France reserved the right not to approve any agreement that went beyond a 2003 reform of Europe's agricultural spending.

"It's out of the question for us to take any further step," he said. "It's a red line of what would be acceptable for us."

Why not just drop France from the deal and let them subsidize the whole world's truffle consumption, or whatever they grow there?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:35 PM


Blair hints at military action after Iran's 'disgraceful' taunt to Israel (Philip Webster, 10/28/05, Times of London)

TONY BLAIR served warning last night that the West might have to take military action against Iran after worldwide condemnation of its President’s call for Israel to be “wiped off the map”. [...]

“If they carry on like this the question people will be asking us is — when are you going to do something about Iran? Can you imagine a state like that with an attitude like that having nuclear weapons?”

It was the first time Mr Blair had even hinted at military action and his words are likely to alarm Labour MPs.

"Why should I always have to play the good cop?"

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:58 PM


Santorum eyes GOP anti-poverty effort (Amy Fagan, October 26, 2005, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

[S]enate Republican Conference Chairman Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican, wants to highlight his party's approach to fighting poverty by offering four Republican amendments to the labor and health and human services spending bill the Senate is considering this week. [...]

His proposed amendments call for funding to promote marriage and teach fathers to be more responsible -- two pieces of the stalled Republican welfare-reform bill -- as well as funding to provide technical help to small charities, and to determine through a commission which federal social programs could be restructured as vouchers. The proposals call for about $411 million in grant money and represent pieces of the 12-point anti-poverty agenda introduced by Senate Republican leaders last spring.

Mr. Santorum also will try to attach a $7 billion charitable-giving proposal to a separate piece of legislation next week. The long-stalled charity bill would create a series of tax incentives to encourage individuals and companies to give to faith-based and secular social service charities.

Tut, tut, you can't be a conservative icon if you're going to be so nakedly Third Way.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:13 PM


From Baghdad to Beirut, Arab Leaders Being Held to Account (Michael Rubin, October 27, 2005, The Forward)

Long home to farfetched conspiracy theories and a political culture of victimization, the Arab world is now being swept by a new emphasis on accountability. While commentators and pundits debate the merits, drawbacks and sincerity of the Bush administration's drive for democracy, events across the Middle East suggest that the relationship between rulers and the governed has been significantly transformed.

The shift was evident on October 19, when former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and seven high-ranking lieutenants shuffled into a Baghdad court room to face charges that they ordered a massacre of 143 Iraqi civilians following a 1982 assassination attempt against the Iraqi leader. The proceedings were broadcast in Iraq on television channels like Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, and Arabic newspapers throughout the region splashed photos of the Iraqi dictator sitting submissively in the dock across their front pages. [...]

A willingness to hold leaders to account, such as we are now witnessing in Iraq, is becoming increasingly more common in the Arab world. Against the backdrop of Saddam's trial, U.N. special investigator Detlev Mehlis submitted the findings of his inquiry into the February 14 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. [...]

[A]cross the region Arabs appear to welcome it. Indeed, it was the groundswell of Lebanese--and Saudi--revulsion at Hariri's assassination that spurred the U.N. Security Council to create a special investigatory commission.

The Lebanese Cabinet endorsed Mehlis's findings even though he also implicated the top four security chiefs of pro-Syrian president Emile Lahoud. Lebanon's parliament, just a year ago little more than a Syrian rubber stamp, moved to hold Lahoud to account. "The president must resign," prominent parliamentarian Butros Harb declared. "There is a big gulf between MPs and Lahoud." It remains unclear how far Lebanon's Cedar Revolution will go, but there is no doubt that Lebanese and Syrian officials now realize their actions are not without consequence.

And the wave of accountability is spreading. Yasser Arafat's death last year sparked renewed Palestinian attention to Palestinian Authority corruption. The new administration allowed Issam Abu Issa, the former chairman of the Palestine International Bank who exposed how Arafat siphoned off millions in aid money, to return from exile in Qatar.

This past April, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ordered the P.A.'s prosecutor-general to investigate a former top Arafat aide and three senior Finance Ministry officials on embezzlement charges. While such corruption was commonplace within the P.A. throughout the Arafat era, the public mood had changed. The Palestinian public is no longer willing to stomach the worst excesses of its leadership.

Across the Middle East, Arab regimes are coming to realize that they no longer can act with impunity against their own citizens. The Syrian and Libyan governments may, for example, control state media, but plights of dissidents such as Aktham Naisse and Fathi el-Jahmi spread on the Internet and on satellite television.

It wasn't supposed to be this easy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:52 PM


It's not on-line yet, but on The World today they did a nice little story about Bill Gates and his foundation's work to overcome malaria in Africa, with guest Michael Specter, who's just done a New Yorker profile on him. But then at the end of the story the host asked a question that was so tooth-rottingly cloying it seemed intentionally designed to drive listeners mad : We know that this is a problem that interests him, but what evidence have you seen that Bill Gates personally feels the human tragedy of all this and is affected by it?

One is forced to conclude that NPR is part of an NTSB study to see how hard a human has to bang his head on the steering column of a car in order to make the airbag deploy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:57 PM


Al Sadr Militia in Deadly Clash With Sunnis (AP, October 27, 2005)

Shiite militiamen loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr (search) clashed Thursday with Sunni militants in fighting that killed at least 15 people, and three American soldiers died in separate attacks the day before, officials said.

The competition is fierce, but the stupidest thing the pundits have said about Iraq has to be that Sadr could join forces with the Sunni.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:53 PM


Iran's policy unchanged toward Israel - officials (Parisa Hafezi, 10/27/05, Reuters)

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's call for Israel to be "wiped off the map" does not signal the start of a more aggressive stance toward Israel by Tehran, officials and analysts said on Thursday.

"Iran's policy toward Israel will remain unchanged. We do not want more confrontation with the West," a senior government official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks during the conference "The World without Zionism" in Tehran October 26, 2005. Ahmadinejad's call for Israel to be "wiped off the map" does not signal the start of a more aggressive stance toward Israel by Tehran, officials and analysts said on Thursday. (REUTERS/Isna)
"What Ahmadinejad said is his wish, but it does not mean Iran will take practical steps to destroy Israel."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:28 PM


Rebuilding: President Bush can move forward by being bold and uniting both congressional Republicans and his political base. (Fred Barnes, 10/27/2005, Weekly Standard)

THE WITHDRAWAL of Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers is the first step on the road to political recovery for President Bush. It gives him the opportunity to select a well-known judicial conservative for the Court vacancy, rally conservatives who opposed or were skeptical of Miers, and rebuild his political base.

Winning confirmation won't be easy. Democrats already have their story down: Bush capitulated to the far right in jettisoning Miers and his new nominee will be a right-wing extremist. My guess is Democrats will stick to this narrative no matter whom the president chooses from the roster of a dozen or more conservatives with strong credentials and deep experience in constitutional law. [...]

Once a new nominee is confirmed, the next steps for Bush are fairly obvious. Some of them are set in place. The first is to champion spending cuts beyond the $35 billion he proposed to slash from his 2006 budget. The second is to hold down spending on the Katrina recovery. The good news is that Katrina funds previously appropriated are being used up at a slower pace than expected.

Then there's immigration, an issue on which the president and his base are at odds. Yet a compromise wouldn't be impossible, if Bush agreed to tougher security on the southern border with double or triple the number of border guards and conservatives agreed to lighten up on illegal immigrants already living in the United States. By avoiding harsh treatment of Mexican immigrants here, Republicans could avert a backlash from Hispanic-Americans, a voting bloc of growing importance.

The idea that the Right is serious about coming up with budget cuts or would come up with the money for genuine border security is just delusional.

Were he Bill Clinton, there's a perfect opportunity here for the President to triangulate, go over the Right's head, and adopt the Democrats extremist narrative. That strategy would simply call for appointing Alberto Gonzales and then letting the Right dig its own grave. He seems unlikely though to opt for mere personal popularity at the expense of the party he's trying to make a permanent majority despite itself.

Reid on Miers Withdrawal (October 27, 2005)

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid released the following statement on Harriet Miers’ withdrawal of her nomination to the United States Supreme Court.

“The radical right wing of the Republican Party killed the Harriet Miers nomination. Apparently, Ms. Miers did not satisfy those who want to pack the Supreme Court with rigid ideologues.

“I had recommended that the President consider nominating Ms. Miers because I was impressed with her record of achievement as the managing partner of a major Texas law firm and the first woman president of the Texas Bar Association. In those roles she was a strong supporter of law firm diversity policies and a leader in promoting legal services for the poor. But these credentials are not good enough for the right wing: they want a nominee with a proven record of supporting their skewed goals.

“In choosing a replacement for Ms. Miers, President Bush should not reward the bad behavior of his right wing base. He should reject the demands of a few extremists and choose a justice who will protect the constitutional rights of all Americans.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:13 PM


Sacrificing the Baath to Rescue Syria (Hazem Saghieh, 10/27/05, Al-Hayat)

The Baathists have driven Syria to a place where the only possible salvation is by sacrificing the Baath, even gradually, to rescue Syria. Sacrificing the Baath party means establishing a limit to the policies of military and security tyranny against the Syrian people. Regarding the "tutelage" in Lebanon, crowned by the assassination of PM Hariri, it is the "logical" conclusion of the internal structure that generates crisis, stemming from the difference between the possible and the declared, and export them abroad with the same generosity of their birth.

The comparison between that "State" - which Mehlis' report highlighted, though by hints, some of its operational ways - and its slacken imperial tendencies, suffices to reveal the deep cause of the current Syrian disaster and the nature of the ideological- military regime as an ongoing crises-producing regime.

Today, the truth has become clear, leaving no place to manipulate reality. The sacrifice of the Baath has become synonym to rescuing Syria. However, giving an account of such a reality worsens the problem more than it solves it: it is true that the recent "Damascus declaration" offered a positive promise and reflected the maturity of the Syrian opposition, somewhat limiting the historical pessimism. Nevertheless, it is a beginning, just a beginning, on the path of sacrificing the Baath. The biggest impediment on that path - if not its pitfalls - is the response of the Syrian civil community with its various regions, sects and communities; especially that the regime, as indicated by all its experiences, will not draw back one step to loosen its rock-hard grip. However, one thing can be confirmed: what some Syrian opposition members and Lebanese politicians previously hoped for; it is that the Syrian people will be spared any punishment. Such an option, whether western or international, lacks justice, as much as it is useless: it would complete the Baathist task of torturing its people and would prolong twice the path of rescue, multiplying the possibilities of chaos, which everybody fears.

Given that estimates put Iraqi dead at just 30,000 since we began the process of regime change as opposed to the 500,000 children alone we killed via the sanctions that enriched Ba'athists, it seems impossible to make a moral case for latter instead of the former.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:09 PM


Angry Van de Velde wants to play in women's British Open (Norman Dabell, 10/27/05, Reuters)

Jean Van de Velde, famous for losing a British Open, says he wants to play in the women's equivalent at Royal Birkdale next year.

The Frenchman, who let slip the 1999 championship at Carnoustie by running up a triple-bogey seven at the 72nd hole, is unhappy at the Royal and Ancient Golf Club's (R & A) recent decision to allow women to qualify for the British Open.

"It's crazy that women should be allowed to try to qualify for our Open when men cannot do it for their Open," Van de Velde told reporters after struggling to a seven-over-par 78 in the first round of the Volvo Masters on Thursday.

"I intend to make a stance. What kind of discrimination is this?"

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:55 PM


2,000 Dead, in Context (VICTOR DAVIS HANSON, 10/27/05, NY Times)

The battle for Okinawa was an abject bloodbath that took more than 50,000 American casualties, yet that campaign officially ended less than six weeks before Nagasaki and the Japanese surrender.

More important that the casualty context would be to consider what the taking of Okinawa achieved. Though a nation of only about a million people, we didn't turn back its sovereignty for almost thirty years and still maintain forces there. What's remarkable about Iraq isn't just that there have been nearly no casualties but that we're standing it up so quickly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:11 AM


Opportunity Knocks In Syria's Unraveling (Jim Hoagland, October 27, 2005, Washington Post)

Bashar seems to have learned or inherited little from his austere, shrewd father. Chirac was ready to take the son under his wing when Assad came to power in 2000. But that avuncular sentiment quickly turned to disappointment as the new government in Damascus floundered. Annan also was reportedly taken aback by the Syrian's inexperience and opacity.

Larger principles are involved for Chirac -- who is intent on upholding Lebanon's sovereignty and historical ties to France -- and for Annan, who has offered unprecedented support by a secretary general for the investigation and incrimination of the leaders of a U.N. member state. Annan's appointee, investigator Detlev Mehlis, seems to have pulled no punches in his report to Annan.

There are heartening echoes in this of the principled stance Annan took six years ago by telling the General Assembly that nations could no longer hide behind sovereignty to torture, kill and otherwise abuse their citizens.

The principle being vindicated, and the new standard of sovereignty, is: liberal democratic legitimacy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:03 AM

TAX CONSUMPTION (via Tom Corcoran):

Hillary Clinton Proposes Massive Energy Tax (News Max, 10/26/05)

Speaking to a group of alternative energy investors in Washington, D.C., [Hillary] Clinton proposed to sock oil companies with $20 billion in new fees that would be used to fund research on clean energy - driving up costs for oil producers that they would inevitably pass along to consumers.

The top Democrat said her goal is to get "oil companies that have experienced these amazing profits either to reinvest them in our energy future to reduce our dependence on oil or to contribute to a strategic energy fund that will provide incentives for companies and consumers who want to be part of an energy solution."

Mrs. Clinton insisted that her $20 billion fee plan was "not about new energy taxes on consumers" - but she declined to say how oil companies would absorb the additional costs without charging consumers.

The point of hiking gas taxes is to change consumer behavior, not punish business.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:55 AM


Keep the faith, and they will come (Joyce Howard Price, October 27, 2005, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

When municipal, state and federal governments faltered in their early response to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina, hundreds of churches and synagogues stepped up to help.

Nearly two months after Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, religious groups have pledged that feeding, clothing and sheltering survivors of the storm will continue for as long as necessary. Cleaning up and rebuilding has just begun.

"We've provided more than $11 million worth of in-kind labor since the hurricanes," says Joe Conway, spokesman for Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, an agency of the 16-million-member Southern Baptist Convention. "In terms of rebuilding, we'll probably be here for several years."

About 7,000 Baptists from congregations in 41 states have provided relief. The Southern Baptists -- the nation's largest non-Catholic denomination -- have not stopped cooking since Katrina hit. By Tuesday, they had cooked and served more than 9.3 million hot meals, beating their record of 2.5 million meals served after Hurricane Andrew devastated South Florida in 1992, Mr. Conway says.

"We did the majority of the cooking for the Salvation Army, and probably the Red Cross as well, and for ourselves," he says.

Says Jeffrey Jellets, territorial disaster services coordinator for the Salvation Army: "The Southern Baptists cook the meals. We load them into containers and put them on mobile feeding units and go into New Orleans and other hard-hit areas and distribute them." [...]

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour hailed the relief efforts by churches in his state. "Churches really filled a huge service by providing the essentials to evacuees, such as food, water, shelters, and showers," Mr. Barbour said. "The state of Mississippi, as well as its citizens, appreciate the kindness and generosity of the churches that helped out during the Katrina disaster."

Pressed by Republicans in Congress and by the Red Cross, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced on Sept. 26 it will reimburse churches and other religious groups that have provided food, shelter and supplies to hurricane victims.

FEMA officials say this would be the first time the government has made large payments to religious organizations for assisting in the aftermath of a domestic natural disaster. Groups would be eligible for compensation only if they ran emergency shelters, food distribution centers or medical facilities at the request of state or local governments in states that have declared emergencies.

Several civil-liberty advocacy groups, including the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State and the American Civil Liberties Union, say this violates the boundary between church and state.

It was strange after the storm to hear the Left argue that the failures of the federal government demonstrated that we should rely on it more.

Gov. Bush Criticizes State's Storm Effort: He Says Florida, Not FEMA, Is to Blame (Associated Press, October 27, 2005)

Gov. Jeb Bush (R) took the blame Wednesday for frustrating delays at centers distributing supplies to victims of Hurricane Wilma, saying criticism of the Federal Emergency Management Agency was misdirected.

"Don't blame FEMA. This is our responsibility," Bush said at a news conference in Tallahassee with federal Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who oversees the agency. [...]

Myriad problems affected supply deliveries, local and state officials said. Cell phone service was down or spotty, complicating communications between government officials and truck drivers. Some drivers got lost on their way to distribution points and had to be brought there by police escort.

Local governments prematurely announced distribution sites and times, causing crowds to gather hours before any supplies arrived. In many cases, there simply was not enough ice, water and meals ready-to-eat to go around, or it took far too long to get the supplies to the proper places, officials said.

"We did not perform to where we want to be," Bush said.

Bush added, however, that people seeking relief should have done more to prepare for the storm.

"People had ample time to prepare. It isn't that hard to get 72 hours' worth of food and water," said Bush, repeating the advice that officials had given days before Wilma hit.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:51 AM


Cameron's war talk fails to woo Muslims (Brendan Carlin, 27/10/2005, Daily Telegraph)

The Tory leadership favourite, David Cameron, was accused yesterday of offering Muslim voters no more than Tony Blair after he defended the invasion of Iraq.

Mr Cameron faced fierce questioning from Muslim community leaders in Leeds after refusing to back down on his support for the war.

One of them accused Mr Cameron, 39, of mirroring Mr Blair's own "modern Labour - half a Conservative" approach and giving Muslim voters no real alternative.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:47 AM


Spy Agencies Told to 'Bolster the Growth of Democracy' (DOUGLAS JEHL, 10/27/05, NY Times)

A new strategy document issued Wednesday by the Bush administration ranks efforts to "bolster the growth of democracy" among the three top missions for American intelligence agencies.

John D. Negroponte, the director of national intelligence, said the rankings were intended to align the work of intelligence agencies with the administration's broader national security goals. The top two "mission objectives" are efforts to counter terrorism and weapons proliferation. [...]

Among other things, the strategy says that "collectors, analysts and operators" within the 15 American intelligence agencies should seek to "forge relationships with new and incipient democracies" in order to help "strengthen the rule of law and ward off threats to representative government." The strategy, published on www.dni.gov, is unclassified, and the officials said it was not intended to apply in any way to any covert action that might be undertaken by the United States.

You'd have to fire everyone in the intelligence and diplomatic services get the institutions to reverse courses like this--which is exactly what they should do.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:38 AM


U.N. to Detail Kickbacks Paid for Iraq's Oil (WARREN HOGE, 10/27/05, NY Times)

More than 4,500 companies took part in the United Nations oil-for-food program and more than half of them paid illegal surcharges and kickbacks to Saddam Hussein, according to the independent committee investigating the program.

The country with the most companies involved in the program was Russia, followed by France, the committee says in a report to be released Thursday. The inquiry was led by Paul A. Volcker, former chairman of the Federal Reserve Board. [...]

Mr. Hussein received $1.8 billion in illicit income from surcharges and kickbacks on the sales of oil and humanitarian goods during 1996-2003, when the program ran, the committee concluded in its last report in September.

Earlier Volcker committee reports summarizing the year and a half of inquiries have examined the activities of the United Nations, finding the institution's management inept and corrupt, and providing evidence that the program's former director, Benon V. Sevan, received kickbacks himself. He has denied any wrongdoing.

The $64 billion program was set up by the Security Council to help ease the effects of United Nations sanctions on the 27 million Iraqis by supplying food and medicines in exchange for letting the Hussein government export oil.

The investigators said Thursday's report would detail how Mr. Hussein first steered the program to gain political advantage with political allies and countries in a position to ease the United Nations sanctions. Both Russia and France are veto-bearing members of the Security Council.

"Then it got corrupted with a capital C when Saddam figured out how to make money off of it by putting on the surcharges and kickbacks," one investigator said.

At first, he said, companies balked at paying the extra fees, and the oil sales slowed. At that point, "less orthodox companies" came forward and accepted the terms, opening the way for the program's full scale exploitation and allowing legitimate companies to buy oil from illegitimate ones.

Another investigator noted that in the years immediately preceding the program, smuggling of Iraqi oil in much larger amounts had been going on for years to the benefit of the economies of American allies, including Jordan and Turkey. In his last report, Mr. Volcker said this smuggling amounted to $10.99 billion.

This investigator suggested that this had a compromising effect on the Security Council's willingness to step in and stop the practice. "Three years, four years already, letting the oil flow into Jordan and Turkey, so now you're going to be very strict about this smaller volume of oil?" he asked. "Unlikely."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:36 AM


Kabul praises Taleban extradition (BBC, 10/27/05)

Afghanistan has welcomed Pakistan's first extradition of Taleban suspects since the fall of the hardline Islamist regime in 2001.

Islamabad sent back 14 suspects to Kabul on Wednesday, including the organisation's leading media spokesman, Abdul Latif Hakimi.

Kabul said it hoped the move would signal a new era of co-operation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:21 AM


Cuba Accepts U.S. Aid Offer for First Time (ANNE GEARAN, 10/27/05, AP )

Cuba has unexpectedly agreed to a quiet U.S. offer of emergency aid following Hurricane Wilma, and three Americans will travel to Cuba to assess needs there, the State Department said Thursday.

Washington has routinely offered humanitarian relief for hurricanes and other disasters in Cuba, and Cuban leader Fidel Castro himself has routinely turned the offers down. After Hurricane Dennis pummeled the island in July, Castro expressed gratitude for Washington's offer of $50,000 in aid but rejected it.

"This was the first time they have accepted an offer of assistance," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said, at least based on the "collective memory" of diplomats at the department.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:16 AM


Iran on course for a showdown (Safa Haeri, 10/28/05, Asia Times)

Ahmadinejad's outburst...signifies deep rifts within the country between his administration and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his small clique that ultimately controls the levers of power. [...]

"The danger of such a radical statesman [Ahmadinejad] is that by knotting religious beliefs with the nuclear issue, it makes for an explosive issue that will explode in the face of all Iranians," an Iranian analyst told Asia Times Online, adding that Ahmadinejad's statement would certainly strengthen the international consensus against Iran.

"It is exactly for this reason that Khamenei, realizing his mistake in promoting Ahmadinejad, placed the pragmatic and experienced Hashemi Rafsanjani above him in order to repair the damage the new, inexperienced but zealot Muslim might cause to the regime," the analyst said.

The analyst was referring to the recent decision by Khamenei to transfer some of his immense and unlimited power to the Assembly of Discerning the Interests of the State (ADIS, or Expediency Council), which is headed by Rafsanjani.

According to a new regulation, the ADIS will have the power to supervise the regime's macro-policies and long-term plans and projects, a power that had belonged to the Supreme Leader. This means that all the theocratic regime's three powers - legislative, judicial and executive - must submit their planning and policies to the 32-member, leader-controlled ADIS for approval before implementation.

Until this change, ADIS's main role was to mediate between the Council of the Guardians (CG) and the majlis, or parliament, as the 12-member, leader-controlled CG is in charge of both vetting all candidates in all elections and making sure that laws passed by the majlis are in conformity with Sharia law.

The increased powers given to ADIS were interpreted as a clear warning to Ahmadinejad and the Revolutionary Guards who provided him with millions of votes, against trying to wrest any powers from the clerical establishment.

The warning appears to have fallen on deaf ears...

Mr. Khamenei is hardly the first Supreme Leader to completely misunderstand how hard it would be to meld authoritarianism and democracy. He's been off his game since the Reformists boycott sunk Moin.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:08 AM


E.U. panel pushes for corporate tax (MarketWatch, Oct. 27, 2005)

The European Union's executive branch has proposed a common corporate tax code for all 25 member nations, according to a media report Thursday.

The proposal from the European Commission, the E.U.'s executive branch, has drawn opposition from the United Kingdom, Ireland and some other E.U. governments, The Wall Street Journal reported in its online edition.

The proposal, which must be approved by all 25 member governments, would establish common criteria for taxation but not set rates, according to The Journal.

The Journal said the commission is planning to lobby hard for the next four years for measures that will create the basis for a common European tax policy, including lowering taxes on research and development, computerizing customs controls, allowing financial-services companies to reclaim value-added tax and setting bloc-wide criteria for taxing cars.

"The proposed measures will not limit fair competition in setting tax rates," The Journal quoted E.U. Taxation and Customs Commissioner Laszlo Kovacs as saying. "They will create a level playing field."

October 26, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:59 PM


What we can learn from Norwegians (Daniel Hannan, 27/10/2005, Daily Telegraph)

Today, Norway's king will take his leave of Britain's queen. Both are monarchs, but only one is sovereign. The word "sovereignty" is often used nowadays as a loose synonym for power, but it has an exact meaning. In Norway, the 1814 constitution vests supreme authority in the Crown. In Britain, the 1972 European Communities Act shares sovereignty with the EU, which now accounts - depending on how you measure it - for between 50 and 80 per cent of our laws.

Sovereignty evidently suits the Norwegians. They are the richest people in Europe, with a GDP per head of £31,200, as against an EU average of £12,600. According to the UN, which measures infant mortality, literacy rates and so on, they are the healthiest and happiest people in the world.

We are forever being told that Britain is too small to survive on its own: a post-imperial state, a speck of land on Europe's fringe, blah blah. This is bilge, of course: we are the world's fourth largest economy and fourth military power. But it is instructive to consider the situation of a country that really is small, and really is on Europe's fringe.

There are four-and-a-half million Norwegians, clinging to an icy strip of tundra on the uttermost edge of the continent. Yet, on every measure, they are outperforming their continental neighbours. At a time when France and Germany are struggling to comply with the Stability Pact, Norway is running an annual surplus of seven per cent. Its unemployment is less than half the EU's. Its real interest rates are comfortably below those in the euro-zone. Its inflation is low, its trade booming, its stock exchange soaring.

A people two generations away from subsistence farming have become Europe's new elite. Like blue-eyed sheiks, they buy vast houses in Chelsea which lie empty between their occasional visits to London (Norwegians, in the main, being tremendous Anglophiles).

How have they done it? Much of the answer has to do with the deal they struck with Brussels. Norway is a member, not of the EU, but of its penumbra, the European Free Trade Association (Efta). It participates fully in the so-called Four Freedoms of the European single market-free movement, that is, of goods, services, people and capital. But it is outside the Common Agricultural Policy; it controls its own territorial resources, including energy and fisheries; it decides its own human rights questions; it determines who may settle on its territory; it can negotiate free trade accords with third countries, and it makes only a token contribution to the EU budget.

Trade everything freely but your own sovereignty.

In Norway, EU pros and cons (the cons still win) (Ivar Ekman, 10/27/05, International Herald Tribune)

Jens Stoltenberg, the recently installed leftist prime minister of Norway, believes that his country should join the European Union. So do some of his rivals on the right. Even the often euroskeptical populists today say they are neutral.

So why is this increasingly wealthy North European nation remaining outside the fold at a time of broadening European integration? [...]

At present, 54 percent of Norwegians oppose membership, according to a poll published Monday in the newspaper Aftenposten. Their opinion, analysts say, is intimately linked to the broad feeling here that oil-rich, high-growth Norway does not need an economically stumbling European club.

Projections show gross domestic product in Norway growing almost 4 percent this year, up slightly from 3.5 percent in 2004, compared with about 1 percent in the euro zone in both years.

Even the European Commission's ambassador to Norway, Gerhard Sabathil, admitted last year that such figures posed a problem. "There are no economic arguments for Norway to join the EU," Sabathil said in an interview with Aftenposten.

"But," he added - and this is where those working for Norwegian membership get most of their ammunition - "there are arguments for Norway to become a member in order to have its voice heard on a European level."

Today, Norway is part of the European Economic Area, a solution that gives the country and its companies access to the EU's internal market. For most Norwegian businesses - the fishing industry is a clear and vocal exception - this arrangement is a necessity, with close to 80 percent of Norwegian exports going to the EU.

The flip side is that Norwegians have to abide by almost every piece of internal-market legislation while having no vote on these laws. In Norway, this has become known as the "fax democracy," since Brussels simply faxes new directives for the Norwegians to follow.

"Because we're not part of the decision-making process, we can't take care of Norway's interests in a good way," said Svein Roald Hansen, chairman of the European Movement in Norway, the main organization working for Norwegian membership. "We're left to lobbying other countries to make our views have influence."

But the lack-of-influence argument has not been enough to inspire a wider Norwegian debate on Europe. Instead, most politicians avoid the EU question.

Norway's voters have twice rejected EU membership in referendums - in 1972 and in 1994 - and most pro-European politicians fear that a third loss would kill the matter for the foreseeable future. "It would probably be received as if we had closed the door emphatically," Stoltenberg said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:56 PM


Indonesia steers toward recovery (Donald Greenlees, 10/26/05, International Herald Tribune)

In the 1970s, Indonesia gained the distinction of being the first country in Asia where Japanese carmakers set up full assembly plants as a launching pad for cheap exports.

The factories still bustle with workers, but the numbers have thinned in recent years amid tougher competition from elsewhere in the region. Nowadays most of these factories serve Indonesia's own appetite for about half a million cars a year.

Yet even though many manufacturers, foreign and domestic, have eschewed Indonesia in recent years, blaming regulatory problems, poor law enforcement and rising wage bills, one is making a bet on the country.

Squeezed between the big names in automaking in a drab strip of metal sheds and low-rise office blocks, 1,000 employees of Indonesian-owned Inkoasku are busy supplying steel and alloy wheel hubs to major manufacturers.

The company is also exporting wheels to carmakers in Asia and Europe and has confirmed its commitment to stay in Indonesia by building a factory in West Java.

"In terms of quality we are better than India and China," said Inkoasku's chief executive, Hadi Kasim, explaining his faith in domestic manufacturing. "China can sell more cheaply, but the quality is not as good."

Posted by kevin_whited at 10:21 PM


Ceding Idealism to the GOP (Richard Cohen, Washington Post, 10/25/05)

About six months after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, George H.W. Bush's national security adviser, Brent Scowcroft, went to Beijing and met with China's "paramount leader," Deng Xiaoping. Scowcroft said he communicated the president's unhappiness over the massacre, to which Deng essentially said, Mind your own business. "And I said, 'You're right. It is none of our business,' " Scowcroft tells Jeffrey Goldberg in the current New Yorker. This raises an obvious question: How many have to die before it is our business?

That question is at the heart of the dilemma now facing American foreign policy. Scowcroft is a famous realist. Not for him any grand, noble causes. He is parsimonious with American lives and treasure, and he vocally opposed George W. Bush's intention to go to war in Iraq. He found out this was a different Bush with a different foreign policy. The younger Bush's was infused with moralism.

CIA Leak Linked to Dispute Over Iraq Policy (Glenn Kessler, Washington Post, 10/25/05)

Scowcroft, in his interview, discussed an argument over Iraq he had two years ago with Condoleezza Rice, then-national security adviser and current secretary of state. "She says we're going to democratize Iraq, and I said, 'Condi, you're not going to democratize Iraq,' and she said, 'You know, you're just stuck in the old days,' and she comes back to this thing that we've tolerated an autocratic Middle East for fifty years and so on and so forth," he said. The article stated that with a "barely perceptible note of satisfaction," Scowcroft added: "But we've had fifty years of peace."

Mr. Scowcroft can't really believe he's winning anybody over to his brand of foreign policy, can he?

Posted by kevin_whited at 9:51 PM


Comets' Swoopes Opens Up About Being Gay (Associated Press, 10/26/05)

Houston Comets forward Sheryl Swoopes is opening up about being a homosexual, telling a magazine that she's "tired of having to hide my feelings about the person I care about."

Swoopes, honored last month as the WNBA's Most Valuable Player, told ESPN The Magazine for a story on newsstands Wednesday that she didn't always know she was gay and fears that coming out could jeopardize her status as a role model.

"Do I think I was born this way? No," Swoopes said. "And that's probably confusing to some, because I know a lot of people believe that you are."

Swoopes, who was married and has an 8-year-old son, said that being with a man was what she wanted at the time. But her 1999 divorce "wasn't because I'm gay," she said.

If she wasn't "born this way," then doesn't that make her lifestyle a choice?

That can't be entirely satisfying to the folks who make up a large segment of the attendance at WNBA games.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:46 PM


Iranian president: Recognizing Israel means defeat of the Islamic world (Associated Press, October 26, 2005)

Iran's hard-line president called for Israel to be "wiped off the map" and said a new wave of Palestinian attacks will destroy the Jewish state, state-run media reported Wednesday. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also denounced attempts to recognize Israel or normalize relations with it.

"There is no doubt that the new wave (of attacks) in Palestine will wipe off this stigma (Israel) from the face of the Islamic world," Ahmadinejad told students Wednesdays during a Tehran conference called "The World without Zionism."

"Anybody who recognizes Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation's fury (while) any (Islamic leader) who recognizes the Zionist regime means he is acknowledging the surrender and defeat of the Islamic world," Ahmadinejad said.

Ahmadinejad also repeated the words of the founder of Iran's Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who called for the destruction of Israel. "As the Imam said, Israel must be wiped off the map," said Ahmadinejad, who came to power in August.

This is for domestic consumption as he tries to fend off Ayatollah Khamenei. Soon the Ayatollah will rebuke him publicly, provoking a spate of stories professing it a "stunning" turn of events.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:43 PM


Rome bans goldfish bowls (Reuters, October 26, 2005)

ROME has banned goldfish bowls, which animal rights activists said are cruel, and has made regular dog walking mandatory, the city council said.

Under a new by-law, round fish bowls were banned along with fish and other creatures being given away for fairground prizes.

The moves came after a national law was passed to allow jail sentences for people who abandon cats or dogs.

"It's good to do whatever we can for our animals who in exchange for a little love fill our existence with their attention," said Monica Cirinna, the councillor behind the by-law.

"The civilisation of a city can also be measured by this," she told Rome's Il Messaggero newspaper.

A people with no children and no future is a sad sight. But funny as sin.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:29 PM

RIGHT AND TRUE (via Mike Daley):

President Addresses Joint Armed Forces Officers' Wives' Luncheon (George W. Bush, Bolling Air Force Base, Washington, D.C.)

In four years since September the 11th, the evil that reached our shores has reappeared on other days, in other places -- in Mombasa and Casablanca and Riyadh and Jakarta and Istanbul and Madrid and Beslan and Taba, Netanya, Baghdad, and elsewhere. In the past few months, we've seen a new terror offensive with attacks in London, Sharm el-Sheikh, and a deadly bombing in Bali once again. All these separate images of destruction and suffering that we see on the news can seem like random and isolated acts of madness. Innocent men and women and children have died simply because they were in the wrong train, or worked in the wrong building, or checked into the wrong hotel. Yet, while the killers choose their victims indiscriminately, their attacks serve a clear and focused ideology -- a set of beliefs and goals that are evil, but not insane.

Some call this evil Islamic radicalism; others, militant Jihadism; still others, Islamo-fascism. Whatever it is called, this ideology is very different from the religion of Islam. This form of radicalism exploits Islam to serve a violent, political vision: the establishment, by terrorism, subversion and insurgency, of a totalitarian empire that denies all political and religious freedom. These extremists distort the idea of jihad into a call for terrorist murder against Christians and Hindus and Jews -- and also against Muslims who do not share their radical vision, whom they regard as heretics.

Many militants are part of a -- global, borderless terrorist organizations like al Qaeda, which spreads propaganda and provides financing and technical assistance to local extremists, and conducts dramatic and brutal operations like the attacks of September the 11th. Other militants are found in regional groups, often associated with al Qaeda -- paramilitary insurgencies and separatist movements in places like Somalia and the Philippines and Pakistan and Chechnya and Kashmir and Algeria. Still others spring up in local cells, inspired by Islamic radicalism, but not centrally directed. Islamic radicalism is more like a loose network with many branches than an army under a single command. Yet these operatives, fighting on scattered battlefields, share a similar ideology and vision for our world. And we know the vision of the radicals because they've stated it openly -- in videos and audiotapes and letters and declarations and on websites.

First, these extremists want to end American and Western influence in the broader Middle East, because we stand for democracy and peace, and we stand in the way of their ambitions. Al Qaeda's leader, Osama bin Laden, has called on Muslims to dedicate -- and I quote -- their "resources, sons and money to driving the infidels out of our lands." The tactics of al Qaeda and other Islamic extremists have been consistent for a quarter-century: They hit us, and expect us to run.

Earlier this month, the world learned of a letter written by al Qaeda's number two leader, a man named Zawahiri, a letter he wrote to his chief deputy in Iraq, the terrorist Zarqawi. In it, Zawahiri points to Vietnam as a model for al Qaeda. He writes: "The aftermath of the collapse of American power in Vietnam, and how they ran and left their agents, is noteworthy." The terrorists witnessed a similar response after the attacks of American troops in Beirut in 1983, Mogadishu in 1993. They believe that America can be made to run again -- only this time, on a larger scale, with greater consequences.

Secondly, the militant network wants to use the vacuum created by an American retreat to gain control of a country, a base from which to launch attacks and conduct their war against non-radical Muslim governments. Over the past few decades, radicals have specifically targeted Egypt and Saudi Arabia and Pakistan and Jordan for potential takeover. They've achieved their goal, for a time, in Afghanistan. And now they've set their sights on Iraq. In his recent letter, Zawahiri writes that al Qaeda views Iraq as, "the place for the greatest battle." The terrorists regard Iraq as the central front in their war against humanity. And we must recognize Iraq as the central front in our war on terror.

Third, the militants believe that controlling one country will rally the Muslim masses, enabling them to overthrow all moderate governments in the region, and establish a radical Islamic empire that spans from Spain to Indonesia. Zawahiri writes that the terrorists, "must not have their mission end with the expulsion of Americans from Iraq." He goes on to say, "The jihad requires several incremental goals -- expel the Americans from Iraq; establish the Islamic authority over as much territory as you can to spread its power in Iraq; extend the jihad wave to the secular countries neighboring Iraq."

With the greater economic and military and political power they seek, the terrorists would be able to advance their stated agenda: to develop weapons of mass destruction; to destroy Israel; to intimidate Europe; to assault the American people; and to blackmail our government into isolation.

Some might be tempted to dismiss these goals as fanatical or extreme. Well, they are fanatical and extreme -- and they should not be dismissed. Our enemy is utterly committed. As Zarqawi has vowed, "We will either achieve victory over the human race, or we will pass to the eternal life." And the civilized world knows very well that other fanatics in history -- from Hitler to Stalin to Pol Pot -- consumed whole nations in war and genocide before leaving the stage of history. Evil men, obsessed with ambition and unburdened by conscience, must be taken very seriously -- and we must stop them before their crimes can multiply. (Applause.)

Defeating the militant network is difficult because it thrives, like a parasite, on the suffering and frustrations of others. The radicals exploit local conflicts to build a culture of victimization, in which someone else is always to blame and violence is always the solution. They exploit resentful and disillusioned young men and women, recruiting them through radical mosques, as the pawns of terror. And they exploit modern technology to multiply their destructive power. Instead of attending faraway training camps, recruits can now access online training libraries to learn how to build a roadside bomb, or fire a rocket-propelled grenade -- and this further spreads the threat of violence, even within peaceful democratic societies.

The influence of Islamic radicalism is also magnified by helpers and enablers. They've been sheltered by authoritarian regimes -- allies of convenience like Syria and Iran -- that share the goal of hurting America and modern Muslim governments, and use terrorist propaganda to blame their own failures on the West, on America, and on the Jews.

The radicals depend on front operations, such as corrupted charities, which direct money to terrorist activity. They're strengthened by those who aggressively fund the spread of radical, intolerant versions of Islam in unstable parts of the world. The militants are aided, as well, by elements of the Arab news media that incite hatred and anti-Semitism, that feed conspiracy theories, and speak of a so-called American "war on Islam" -- with seldom a word about American action to protect Muslims in Afghanistan, in Bosnia, in Somalia, and Kosovo and Kuwait and Iraq; with seldom a world about -- word about the generous assistance to Muslims recovering from natural disasters in places like Indonesia and Pakistan.

Some have argued that extremism has been strengthened by the actions of our coalition in Iraq, claiming that our presence in that country has somehow caused or triggered the rage of radicals. I would remind them that we were not in Iraq on September 11th, 2001, and al Qaeda attacked us anyway. The hatred of the radicals existed before Iraq was an issue, and it will exist after Iraq is no longer an excuse. (Applause.)

The government of Russia did not support Operation Iraqi Freedom, and yet the militants killed more than 150 Russian schoolchildren in Beslan. Over the years these extremists have used a litany of excuses for violence -- the Israeli presence on the West Bank, or the U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia, or the defeat of the Taliban, or the Crusades of a thousand years ago. In fact, we're not facing a set of grievances that can be soothed and addressed. We're facing a radical ideology with inalterable objectives: to enslave whole nations and intimidate the world.

No acts of ours involves the rage of killers. And no concessions, bribe, or act of appeasement would change or limit their plans of murder. On the contrary; they target nations whose behavior they believe they can change through violence. Against such an enemy, there is only one effective response: We will never back down, never give in, and never accept anything less than complete victory. (Applause.)

The murderous ideology of the Islamic radicals is the great challenge of our new century. Yet, in many ways, this fight resembles the struggle against communism in the last century. Like the ideology of communism, Islamic radicalism is elitist, led by a self-appointed vanguard that presumes to speak for the Muslim masses. Bin Laden says his own role is to tell Muslims -- and I quote -- "what is good for them and what is not." And what this man who grew up in wealth and privilege considers good for poor Muslims is that they become killers and suicide bombers. He assures them that this is the road to paradise -- though he never offers to go along for the ride. (Laughter.)

Like the ideology of communism, our new enemy teaches that innocent individuals can be sacrificed to serve a political vision. And this explains their cold-blooded contempt for human life. We've seen it in the murders of Daniel Pearl, Nicholas Berg, and Margaret Hassan, and many, many others. In a courtroom in the Netherlands, the killer of Theo Van Gogh turned to the victim's grieving mother and said, "I do not feel your pain because I believe you're an infidel." And in spite of this veneer of religious rhetoric, most of the victims claimed by the militants are fellow Muslims.

When 25 Iraqi children are killed in a bombing, or Iraqi teachers are executed at their school, or hospital workers are killed caring for the wounded, this is murder, pure and simple -- the total rejection of justice and honor and morality and religion. These militants are not just enemies of America or enemies of Iraq, they are the enemies of Islam and enemies of humanity. (Applause.)

We have seen this kind of shameless cruelty before -- in the heartless zealotry that led to the gulags, the Cultural Revolution, and the killing fields. Like the ideology of communism, our new enemy pursues totalitarian aims. Its leaders pretend to be an aggrieved party, representing the powerless against imperial enemies. In truth, they have endless ambitions of imperial domination; they wish to make everyone powerless, except themselves. Under their rule, they have banned books and desecrated historical monuments and brutalized women. They seek to end dissent in every form, to control every aspect of life, and to rule the soul, itself. While promising a future of justice and holiness, the terrorists are preparing a future of oppression and misery.

Like the ideology of communism, our new enemy is dismissive of free peoples, claiming that men and women who live in liberty are weak and decadent. Zarqawi has said that Americans are, "the most cowardly of God's creatures." But let us be clear: It is cowardice that seeks to kill children and the elderly with car bombs. It's cowardice that cuts the throat of a bound captive. It is cowardice that targets worshipers leaving a mosque. It is courage that liberated more than 50 million people; it is courage that keeps an untiring vigil against the enemies of a rising democracy. It is courage in the cause of freedom that will once again destroy the enemies of freedom. (Applause.)

And Islamic radicalism, like the ideology of communism, contains inherent contradictions that doom it to failure. By fearing freedom -- by distrusting human creativity and punishing change, and limiting the contributions of half the population -- this ideology undermines the very qualities that make human progress possible, and human societies successful. The only thing modern about the militants' vision is the weapons they want to use against us. The rest of their grim vision is defined by a warped image of the past -- a declaration of war on the idea of progress, itself. And whatever lies ahead in the war against this ideology, the outcome is not in doubt: Those who despise freedom and progress have condemned themselves to isolation, decline and collapse. Because free peoples believe in the future, free peoples will own the future. [...]

The fifth element of our strategy in the war on terror is to deny the militants of future recruits by replacing hatred and resentment with democracy and hope across the broader Middle East. This is difficult, and it's a long-term project; yet there's no alternative to it. Our future and the future of that region are linked. If the broader Middle East is left to grow in bitterness, if countries remain in misery, while radicals stir the resentments of millions, then that part of the world will be a source of endless conflict and mounting danger -- in our own generation and in the next. If the peoples of that region are permitted to choose their own destiny, and advance by their own energy and participation as free men and women, then the extremists will be marginalized, and the flow of violent radicalism to the rest of the world will slow, and eventually end. By standing for the hope and freedom of others, we make our own freedom more secure.

America is making this stand in practical ways. We are encouraging our friends in the Middle East, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia, to take the path of reform, to strengthen their own societies in the fight against terror by respecting the rights and choices of their own people. We're standing with dissidents and exiles against oppressive regimes, because we know that the dissidents of today will be the democratic leaders of tomorrow. We're making our case through public diplomacy, stating clearly and confidently our belief in self-determination, and the rule of law, and religious freedom, and equal rights for women -- beliefs that are right and true in every land, and in every culture. (Applause.)

And as we do our part to confront radicalism, we know that the most vital work will be done within the Islamic world, itself. And this work has begun. Many Muslim scholars have publicly condemned terrorism, often citing Chapter 5, Verse 32 of the Koran, which states that killing an innocent human being is the killing of all humanity -- is like killing all humanity, and saving the life of one person is like saving all of humanity.

After the attacks in London on July the 7th, an imam in the UAE declared, "Whoever does such a thing is not a Muslim, nor a religious person." The time has come for all responsible Islamic leaders to join in denouncing an ideology that exploits Islam for political ends, and defiles a noble faith.

Many people of the Muslim faith are proving their commitment at great personal risk. Everywhere we have engaged the fight against extremism, Muslim allies have stood up and joined the fight, becoming partners in a vital cause. Afghan troops are in combat against Taliban remnants. Iraqi soldiers are sacrificing to defeat the al Qaeda in their own country. These brave citizens know the stakes: the survival of their own liberty, the future of their own region, the justice and humanity of their own tradition -- and we are proud to stand beside them. (Applause.)

With the rise of a deadly enemy and the unfolding of a global ideological struggle, our time in history will be remembered for new challenges and unprecedented dangers. And yet the fight we've joined is also the current expression of an ancient struggle -- between those who put their faith in dictators, and those who put their faith in the people. Throughout history, tyrants and would-be tyrants have always claimed that murder is justified to serve their grand vision -- and they end up alienating decent people across the globe. Tyrants and would-be tyrants have always claimed that regimented societies are strong and pure -- until those societies collapse in corruption and decay. Tyrants and would-be tyrants have always claimed that free men and women are weak and decadent -- until the day that free men and women defeat them.

We don't know the course of -- our own struggle will take, or the sacrifices that might lie ahead. We do know, however, that the defense of freedom is worth our sacrifice. We do know that the love of freedom is the mightiest force of history. We do know the strength and character that our troops and military families bring to the fight. And we do know that the cause of freedom will once again prevail. (Applause.)

These are historic times. It's a vital time for our nation and the world. And I want to thank you for your courage and thank you for your sacrifice. May God bless your loved ones. May God bless you, and may God continue to bless our country.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:31 PM


French inch toward social reform: A majority say France's safety nets are broken, but they're divided on a solution. Last in a three-part series. (Peter Ford, 10/27/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

After more than two decades of jobless rates hovering stubbornly around 10 percent, France's chronic unemployment crisis "is the one big problem with the French social model," says John Martin, a senior official with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. "If a social model should deliver a satisfactory labor market," says Mr. Martin, as European leaders gather outside London for talks about how to adjust their economies and social benefits, "this one has failed dismally for the best part of three decades."

Indeed, 68 percent of the French public said last month that their social safety net was broken. But they are divided over what to do about it.

Many are angry at what they see as hectoring from European Union leaders who have been urging big European nations such as France and Germany to apply free-market remedies (also known as the Anglo-Saxon model) to their flagging economies. And the French rejection last May of a putative European constitution - seen as paving the way for a more competitive, less comfortable Europe - was due in part to a reluctance to relax protective regulations and trim the welfare state. [...]

President Jacques Chirac, adept at feeling the national pulse, lashed out earlier this year at US-style unregulated capitalism as "the communism of our new century."
Stalled by lack of consensus

"The French won't change just because they are told that change is inevitable," says Marjorie Jouen, an analyst with the Paris based pro-European think tank Notre Europe.

They'll change because it is inevitable. Of course, by refusing to get ahead of the curve they're just making the change far uglier when it comes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:15 PM


A new Sunni strategy in Iraq: After failing to defeat Iraq's charter, Sunni Arab parties merge - with an anti-US agenda. (Jill Carroll, 10/27/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

The engine that drives Iraq's insurgency, this country's politically marginalized Sunni Arab minority, is getting ready for a fight - but this time it's at the ballot box.

Energized by the adoption of a new constitution, which passed over Sunni objections, key Sunni political parties said this week that they are forming a coalition to ensure they have a voice in Iraq's new parliament, to be elected in December.

This vigorous new effort to participate is a complete reversal from the Sunni position last year that voters should boycott polls to select the transitional national assembly. But if the coalition has decided to join in a process it once rejected, it is also beginning to articulate a Sunni political agenda that is Islamist, vehemently anti-American, opposed to foreign troops, and discreetly pro-insurgency.

Even as incompetent as they've been, this is mind-bogglingly stupid. We're leaving whether they want us to or not and when we do, blithely ignoring them the whole time, what do they have left? just their support for the guys who are killing the Shi'ites who we're leaving in charge?

The New Sunni Jihad: 'A Time for Politics': Tour With Iraqi Reveals Tactic Change (Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, 10/27/05, The Washington Post)

For Abu Theeb and many other Iraqi insurgents, this canvassing marked a fundamental shift in strategy, and one that would separate them from foreign-born fighters such as Abu Musab Zarqawi, the Jordanian who leads the group al Qaeda in Iraq.

Two years of boycotting the process had only seen Sunnis marginalized while Iraqi's Shiite majority gained power. And Abu Theeb's entry into politics was born partly of necessity; attacks by Shiite militias, operating inside and outside the government security apparatus, were taking an increasing toll on Sunni lives. [...]

This article is based on five days of travel and interviews with Abu Theeb and his associates before and after the referendum. The reporter was allowed such access on the condition that the guerrilla commander's real name and the name of his village would not be disclosed.

It was not possible to confirm directly how many Sunnis share his views on the political process. But Iraqi and U.S. analysts in Baghdad express hope that such a shift in outlook will eventually lead large numbers of radical Sunnis to abandon their weapons permanently and take part in the political process.

For men such as Abu Theeb, who said he shaved his bushy beard, a sign of an Islamic holy fighter, to pass more easily into and out of Baghdad, taking part in politics is a step taken only reluctantly.

"Politics for us is like filthy, dead meat," he said, referring to pork, which is eschewed by observant Muslims. "We are not allowed to eat it, but if you are crossing through a desert and your life depends on it, God says it's okay." Even if politics gets him a result he likes, he said, he'll continue war against the Americans, because he views them as occupiers.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:04 PM


Chimps won’t do a neighbor a favor (World Science, Oct. 26, 2005)

Long ago were the days, it seems, when we humans could consider ourselves truly unique.

With chimps and other animals having been found to exhibit a range of human-like traits—including tool use, culture and some elements of language—it’s gotten harder and harder for scientists and philosophers to say just what sets us apart.

Finally, there may be some news to make us feel special again.

Researchers say they may have found one key trait that clearly separates humans from chimps, and possibly from other species: we’re the only ones that do favors without expecting something in return.

Chimps don’t show this sort of consideration, the researchers found.

Most frustrating for those who believe we're otherwise identical, the chimps refuse to explain their behavior.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:44 PM


2,000 Dead: As Iraq Tours Stretch On, a Grim Mark ( JAMES DAO, October 26, 2005, NY Times)

Just 403,398 to go and it'll be a "Good War."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:33 PM


Circumcision: Cutting the HIV Rate?
Breakthrough: Scientists say circumcision can help curb the spread of HIV
(Newsweek, Oct. 31, 2005)

A landmark study with major implications for the global AIDS epidemic, published this week by French and South African researchers, seems to confirm what scientists have long suspected: that circumcision cuts the risk of HIV infection dramatically, by as much as 60 percent. If similar studies now underway in Kenya and Uganda corroborate the results, circumcision could become a powerful weapon—with condom use and other measures—in the fight against AIDS.

This just in, if you follow all God's commands you cut the spread to none.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:27 PM


A Shrinking New Orleans: Mayor Says Infrastructure Can't Support Previous Population (Ceci Connolly and Manuel Roig-Franzia, October 26, 2005, Washington Post)

Mayor C. Ray Nagin, who has vowed to resurrect his crippled city, conceded Tuesday that New Orleans will shrink to nearly half its pre-hurricane population and will have to make do with one-third of its previous budget.

With as many as 250,000 homes uninhabitable and some neighborhoods still lacking basic services, Nagin estimated the city's shattered infrastructure could support 250,000 to 300,000 residents over the next year, compared with the half a million people who lived here before Hurricane Katrina struck Aug. 29.

"That's every available space," he said in an interview in New Orleans City Hall, where signs warn visitors to avoid contaminated basements and workers are replacing blown out windows. Nagin said his staff is scouring lists of blighted properties that could be renovated for temporary housing, as well as scouting for vacant lots, parks and supermarket parking lots to place thousands of trailers.

Perhaps they should be doing the opposite and seeking to tear down more properties in order to develop a smaller-scaled and more community-based city.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:59 PM


Condi Rice And Syrian
Regime Change
(Paul Craig Roberts, 26 October, 2005, ICH)

Someone should tell Condi Rice that the gig is up. With the Bush administration dissolving in illegalities committed by key officials in their attempts to protect the lies that they used to justify the US invasion of Iraq, the secretary of state is trying to ramp up war against Syria.

Grasping a UN report that uses unreliable witnesses to implicate Syria in the assassination of a former Lebanese government official, Condi Rice told the BBC on October 23 that Syria's crime cannot be "left lying on the table. This really has to be dealt with."

This is amazing for many reasons. Here is the person in charge of US diplomacy acting as if she is the secretary of war unsheathing military force. Whoever heard of an American diplomat wanting to start a war because a former Middle Eastern government official was assassinated?

Mr. Roberts is another of those former Reaganauts who's been driven over the edge by George W. Bush. At the point where you're apologizing for Assad and demanding that Syria not be democratized you've estranged yourself pretty badly from the Gipper's legacy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:09 PM


Historians and Scholars Produce New Picture of Witches and Witch Hunts, but Questions Remain (PETER STEINFELS, 10/22/05, NY Times)

In a search for historical roots and moral legitimacy, some feminists and many adherents of neopagan or goddess-centered religious movements like Wicca have elaborated a founding mythology in which witches and witch hunts have a central role. Witches, they claim, were folk healers, spiritual guides and the underground survivors of a pre-Christian matriarchal cult. By the hundreds of thousands, even the millions, they were the victims of a ruthless campaign that church authorities waged throughout the Middle Ages and early modern centuries to stamp out this rival, pagan religion.

Robin Briggs, an Oxford historian, is only one of many contemporary scholars rejecting this account. What unites most "common assumptions" about witches, witchcraft and witch hunts, Mr. Briggs writes in "Witches & Neighbors: The Social and Cultural Context of European Witchcraft" (Viking Penguin, 1996), is "one very marked feature," namely "that they are hopelessly wrong."

Over the last two decades or so, he and other historians, along with scholars in anthropology and psychology, have produced quite a different picture, although one leaving many questions unanswered.

Were the Middle Ages the prime period of burning witches, and church authorities the prime persecutors? That is an impression inherited from 19th-century Romantic and nationalist writers like the German folklorist Jacob Grimm and the French historian Jules Michelet.

Filtering dubious sources, including in Michelet's case some that had actually been forged, through their political agendas, they portrayed witches as personifications of popular resistance to political and religious authorities.

The antisocial always deserve persecution.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:02 PM


Blair's faith under scrutiny (Jonathan Walker, Oct 21 2005, icBirmingham)

Tony Blair's religious beliefs were under scrutiny again yesterday after a Labour backbencher accused him of giving faith groups " disproportionate influence" in Government.

Birmingham MP Lynne Jones (Lab Selly Oak) said it was "undemocratic" for religious beliefs to affect policy.

She demanded the abolition of a little-known working group, set up by Mr Blair to give religions a say in every Government department, whose members include Redditch MP Jacqui Smith (Lab). [...]

Mr Blair's personal religious beliefs have come under the spotlight in a way that was previously unknown in modern British politics.

Last month another Labour colleague, Midland MP Ken Purchase (Lab Wolverhampton North East), claimed Mr Blair had allowed his faith to influence education policy.

Posted by John Resnick at 3:58 PM


Orrin's map project above prompted an e-mail that went out to several of you Northwest types (and you KNOW who you are). If you're from the Northwest and DID NOT get an e-mail from me, please read the rest....

Please excuse this brief, assumptive intrusion. Hopefully you won't dismiss it as Spam.

You're getting this e-mail because you are (apparently) geographically collocated in the greater NW area and have commented or contributed in some way to the BrothersJudd Blog. Tim Goddard (another BrosJudd regular) and I started a conversation a bit too late in the Mariner's 2005 season to pull off what we've now decided should happen in 2006: a BrosJudd NW Contingent meet up @ Safeco Field for a ballgame.

So, I'm writing to:

1) Assure you we won't ever try to sell you Vi*gra, a low-rate mortgage or in any other way use/rent/sell/swap/lease-option your e-mail address.
2) Confirm this is actually your e-mail (we were guessing on some)
3) Find out if you have any interest in our ongoing efforts to settle on a game date. (i.e. if you'd like to "Opt In" to periodic e-mail communication on the details)

Of course, this idea may be a stretch - but we think it's feasible. So, we're looking to find out who might be adventurous enough to join us.

Thanks in advance for your response either way.

Best regards,
John Resnick

P.S. I'm good for a round of horribly-overpriced beers for whoever ultimately makes it to the game.

The following folks were supposed to get the message but we don't have a valid e-mail for you. (And the suspense is killing us.)

Raoul Ortega:
Flanman (Olympia, WA):
Patrick H (Seattle, WA):

So, you three above and any other Northwester who wants in, send me an e-mail: jresnick -- the at sign -- gorge.net.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:54 PM


The Great Stem Sell and Other Mistakes: What Americans really think about science: astonishing new polling data (Nigel M. de S. Cameron, 10/26/2005, Christianity Today)

If you read the mainstream press, you would be forgiven for believing that America is besotted with science, that only half-crazed, pro-life "extremists" have any doubts about the miracle cures that will spring any moment from embryonic stem-cell research, and that "therapeutic cloning" is the technology of the future.

According to a new opinion poll conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), you would be very wrong. [...]

For example, how many Americans believe that embryonic stem-cell research "holds the greatest promise for discovering new treatments for disease, compared to other types of stem cell research?" 90 percent? 70 percent? 40 percent? 25 percent? All wrong. The answer is an almost unbelievable 14 percent. So what do the rest think?

Well, the stress that many of us have been placing on adult stem cells, which have already proven to have great therapeutic potential, seems not to have gotten through. Those who think the "greatest promise" lies here number only 7 percent. Far more have concluded that the "greatest promise" lies with "other sources, such an umbilical cord blood"—37 percent. This is a strange result, and it may indicate a conviction that "stem cell research" is the answer among people put off by destroying embryos but not familiar enough with the debate to know what an adult stem cell is (it's a very strange term). [...]

When it comes to cloning, the results are even stronger—and surprising. Cloning an embryo, of course, can yield embryonic stem cells (if the embryo is destroyed). This is what is meant by "therapeutic cloning," a dishonest term for cloning for research. A cloned embryo could also be implanted (like an in vitro embryo) and lead to a newborn child. The bioscience advocates have been trying their best to have us think of these two in quite separate categories: "therapeutic" versus "reproductive" cloning. Indeed, they try and avoid the word "cloning" altogether, and speak of "somatic cell nuclear transfer" (the technical term for cloning) "to get stem cells."

Once again, the American public has not been taken in. According to the poll, 81 percent oppose cloning as such. [...]

By the way, the poll also asked people about evolution and intelligent design. Just for the record, only 15 percent believed that only evolution should be taught in public schools, while 73 percent thought that either intelligent design, creationism, or a combination of them and evolution should be offered.

It is widely assumed that Americans are uncritically "pro-science" and that possessing the most powerful technology in the world makes it hard for us to ask hard questions about where science is taking us—and what its values are. Yet, partly as a result of the aggressive pro-cloning, pro-stem-cell research, and pro-evolution views of so many scientists and their organizations, the poll reveals deep-seated ambivalence on the part of many people.

While 85 percent believe that developments in science have helped to make society better (I wonder why that was not 100 percent; how can anyone disagree?), as many as 56 percent (versus 37 percent) agree that "scientific research doesn't pay enough attention to the moral values of society," and 52 percent (versus 41 percent) actually agree with the statement that "scientific research has created as many problems for society as solutions." These numbers should set alarm bells ringing in the science establishment—which is ultimately entirely dependent on two factors: public funding through the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and other federal bodies; and the market for biotechnology and other products. Both of these depend on the support of the people, and well over half of them are now very skeptical of science.

The group that the numbers should scare most is Democrats, who have to a large degree staked their political future on opposition to religious values and an embrace of science and secularism. John Kerry, for example, tried making his unlimited willingness to exploit embryonic stem cells an issue in '04 and all it did was convince people that Democrats have a moral tin ear.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:32 PM


Bush Has Been a Moderate All Along (Ruben Navarrette Jr., 10/26/05, RCP)

About a year ago, I wrote a column in which I described Bush as a moderate, and a lot of Democrats wrote back and suggested it was a joke. Now there aren't many Republicans who are laughing.

Bush is the same person he has been since he ran for Texas governor in 1994. What you see is what you get. He doesn't spend a lot of time reinventing or repackaging himself. In fact, he prides himself on not changing his ways. What was it that he promised Republican senators about Miers? That she won't change. You see, for Bush, that's high praise.

Speaking of Miers, her nomination is the big reason that Bush is taking fire from the right. But it isn't the only reason. Many hard-line conservatives have never felt confident that Bush was one of them. Because of his positions on a host of issues -- from increasing government spending to making diversity a priority in Cabinet appointments to promising amnesty to illegal immigrants to increasing funding for public housing to urging that the Supreme Court preserve the ability of the University of Michigan to take the race of applicants into account even while opposing quotas and outright racial preferences -- many Republicans have long been suspicious of the man they have chosen to lead them. [...]

While governor of Texas, he shooed away folks who were proposing a ballot initiative -- modeled after California's Proposition 187 -- that would have denied benefits to illegal immigrants. He displayed a detectable lack of enthusiasm for school vouchers. He avoided making an issue out of abortion. And he declared that bilingual education programs that worked were worth keeping. He also partnered with Democrats in the Texas Legislature, and shared credit for legislative victories with members of the opposing party.

Now conservatives worry that Bush isn't a real conservative, or at least someone who is driven by conservative principles.

Nah, you think?

And all he's done is win consecutive presidential elections and expand GOP congressional majorities while revolutionizing the federal government and the Middle East.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:25 PM


Lynch Says Private Sector Key for Housing (Mark Davis, 10/26/05, Valley News)

New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch said yesterday he prefers encouraging the private sector and town governments to support affordable housing projects, instead of offering developers an array of state tax breaks and other incentives that were recently proposed by his counterpart in Vermont.

“Communities have to understand that affordable housing is good for (them),” Lynch said in response to a question after a speech to a meeting of the Lebanon and Hanover chambers of commerce. “Too many communities out there believe it's other communities' responsibility to solve, and it’s not.”

In a brief interview afterward, Lynch pointed to initiatives of Citizens Bank, on whose board he used to serve, as a model of how companies can help with affordable housing. In 2004, the bank said it would provide $200 million in low-interest loans to nonprofit housing developers in New England to boost the region's affordable housing stock.

Lynch said he wasn't completely adverse to tax breaks, but “I think the Citizens Bank model would be best,” he said.

Lynch's comments come 10 days after Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas declared creating more affordable housing the centerpiece of his 2006 legislative agenda. Douglas proposed giving tax breaks to developers who build units for less than $200,000 and to companies that help their workers buy homes, and offering state-owned land for affordable developments.

I've only ever voted for a Democrat once--and I was working for him--but unless the GOP comes up with a fabulous nominee I could see voting to re-elect Governor Lynch.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:57 AM

SAFE FROM WHAT? (via obc):

11 members of Cuban choir defect in Toronto (CTV.ca News, 10/26/05)

Eleven members of Cuba's national choir have defected in Toronto.

The internationally acclaimed 40-member Coro Nacional de Cuba arrived in Canada last week.

The choir has its roots in an army choir founded in 1959 by Ernesto (Che) Guevara. They sing classical, folkloric and popular Cuban music.

The defectors reportedly dodged security officers and jumped into waiting cars after concerts in Toronto on Sunday and Monday.

"I'm told they're at a safe house in Toronto, with some help from a local church group," promoter Robert Missen told The Globe and Mail.

How can you give political asylum to people from a country with which you have such good relations?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:49 AM


EU population up due to immigration (Lisbeth Kirk, 10/26/05, EU Observer)

The EU’s population increased last year by 2.3 million (0.5%) to a total of 457.2 million - but the increase was mainly due to the immigration of 1.9 million people.

Only 400,000 came from a natural increase while six countries - Germany, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary and Poland - saw their populations shrink.

Published on Tuesday (25 October) by Eurostat, the EU's Statistical Office, the new figures also showed that the average fertility rate - child per woman – went up slightly in 2004.

It increased from 1.48 in 2003 to 1.50 in 2004, but no EU country reached the replacement level of 2.1 children per woman.

The highest fertility rates were found in Ireland (1.99), followed by France (1.90), Finland (1.80) and Denmark (1.78).

The lowest fertility rates were found in Slovenia (1.22), followed by the Czech Republic and Poland (both 1.23), Latvia (1.24) and Slovakia (1.25).

In other parts of the world fertility rates are higher. The US recorded birth rates of (2.07), Turkey (2.20) and India (2.85).

The most important task facing Lech Kaczynski is to get that number up over two. We're dubious that it's possible.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:29 AM


Mass. home prices fall in September: Decline is the first monthly drop since February as sales slow (Kimberly Blanton, October 26, 2005, Boston Globe)

The median price of a single-family house dropped for the first time in seven months as the pace of home sales weakened across Massachusetts in September, according to the monthly market report yesterday from the Massachusetts Association of Realtors.

The median selling price for a single-family house was $360,000 in September, down 4 percent from $375,000 in August. That was the first monthly price drop since February, though prices were still higher than they were a year ago. The number of single-family home sales that closed in September was 4,464, roughly equal to year-ago sales.

In the state's growing condominium market, the median sale price also declined, by 6.1 percent, to $270,000 in September from $287,500 in August. But strong sales continued: Buyers purchased 22 percent more condos than a year ago, a much stronger year-over-year increase than in recent months. Year-over-year comparisons of home sales are more valid than month-to-month numbers, real estate analysts say, because sales volume is highly dependent on weather and other seasonal factors.

A fall in housing prices comes at a time when real estate agents, especially in the suburbs, are increasingly reporting that clients who are reluctant to reduce their asking prices are not able to sell their homes in a softening market in which the number of houses on the market has spiked.

Same or higher sales. Slightly lower high price. That's not what bursting bubbles look like.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:23 AM


The Sunni option (Ehsan Ahrari, 10/26/05, Asia Times)

The draft constitution of Iraq has been approved by 78% of voters nationwide. As expected, the Sunni Arabs were unable to defeat it by getting at least two-thirds of the voters in three provinces to vote against it. The Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq reported that about 63% of Iraq's 15.5 million registered voters cast ballots.

Sunnis are not only viewing this reality as a permanent loss of power, but also as a way to partition their country into three parts. What are they to do now? They will do whatever a losing side does in an Arab polity that does not know how political battles are won or lost in a democracy. They will bide their time and attempt to sabotage the system, unless they are assured that the new Iraq is not just a euphemism for a permanent loss of their power.

If we accept for a moment the Left's assertion that every Shi'ite and Kurd voted for the constitution and every Sunni against then we arrive at a rough census count of 20% of the population of Iraq being Sunni. When you're the 20% party in a democracy your loss of power is permanent. We're about one election away from the Sunni realizing that federalism serves them best, because it would at least give them vcontrol over the regions where they do predominate.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:22 AM


Exurbanites Occupy an Unsettled Place in Va. Politics: New Enclaves Lean GOP, but Residents Seem Isolated From State, Local Government (Stephanie McCrummen, October 25, 2005, Washington Post)

Jamie and Stephan Lechner liked their house in Germantown well enough, but in recent years, they said, the neighborhood began to change in ways that made them feel less comfortable. There were some discipline problems in the school where Jamie taught. There was a shooting in a low-income area not too far from where they lived and other, smaller signs that made them think things were headed downward.

And so, with their twin boys near school age, the Lechners did what they figured anyone of means would: They packed up and moved to a place billed as a retreat from all that: Dominion Valley, a new, gated, golf course community of $700,000 homes on the rural edges of Northern Virginia, a place where the singular issue of traffic dominates and where the last memorable conflict was whether jeans would be allowed in the country club.

"We had conflict," said Jamie Lechner, referring to her old Germantown neighborhood. "And we wanted to move away from that. . . . That's why we're here -- to be sheltered."

As another election season beats on in Virginia, most political analysts agree that fast-growing exurban areas such as western Prince William County will remain a boon to the Republican Party. But the ultimate effect of new, private, often homogenous enclaves remains uncertain, because they have yet to define how their everyday interests play into state politics.

In recent Virginia elections, 15 to 17 percent of the vote has come from cities, 20 to 23 percent from rural areas and 58 to 62 percent from the suburbs, said Larry J. Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. Of the suburban vote, he estimates, at least 25 percent has come from new communities in the outermost suburbs, as opposed to denser areas such as Fairfax County or eastern Prince William.

And yet behind the landscaped gates of Dominion Valley, where lines were two and three hours long in the last presidential election, voters said that few local issues besides traffic and sprawl rise to the level of requiring a political solution. Many said they would vote in the Nov. 8 elections more out of civic duty than passion, using long-held party affiliations as a guide.

"We never discuss politics," said Nina Kraemer, who was hosting a scrapbooking get-together at Dominion Valley's sports complex the other night. "I don't know, I guess something would have to spawn a conversation for one to occur. We talk about traffic -- we talk about that to the nth degree. We're afraid to go to the Target because we might not get back to the bus stop on time" to meet the children after school.

In the last presidential election, George W. Bush won 97 of the 100 fastest-growing counties in the United States largely by appealing to social values through such issues as same-sex marriage. In the governor's race, Republican Jerry W. Kilgore is following a similar course with his death penalty ads, while both he and his Democratic opponent, Timothy M. Kaine, have made traffic a central theme.

So far, though, neither candidate's message seems to have penetrated very far into the consciousness of Dominion Valley voters, who struggle to recall what either man stands for and, sometimes, even to name either man. [...]

The Lechners were of a similar mind. They liked the diversity of their Germantown neighborhood, they said, but they did not want to subject their children to what they perceived as racial conflicts and other problems they associated with nearby government-subsidized housing.

In moving, they traded an area that was about half-Democrat, half-Republican for one that is mostly Republican, as they are. They left an area that was about 59 percent white for one where at least 83 percent of their neighbors look like them. And they left an area where residents are dealing with issues of cultural and economic diversity for one where such problems, for now at least, are abstractions.

"At a certain point, you want your kids to grow up in Mayberry," Jamie Lechner said. "And this is as close to Mayberry as we can get."

In his book, "Democracy in Suburbia," University of Chicago political science professor Eric Oliver asserts that, in general, the absence of conflict in suburban areas tends to go hand in hand with diminished participation -- not necessarily in elections, but in other parts of civic life, such as volunteering. "It turns citizens into consumers, basically," he said in an interview. ". . . They disconnect and disassociate themselves from the greater community in which they reside."

Furthermore, he said, a dynamic emerges that pits one region against another for resources. "If you have a city," he said, "you have different groups of people contesting for public resources, so there are class divisions in what people want from government. . . . When the community is homogenous, those core issues go by the wayside."

Sabato said homogeneity may simply mean that citizens' interests are represented more clearly and forcefully, as is evident in the emphasis on transportation in the current election.

"Delegates and senators and members of county boards know pretty clearly what their individual districts want them to do," he said. "These are automatic votes: Are you pro-growth or anti-growth? They know what to do because there isn't as much internal conflict."

The problem, he added, is when the balance of power tips too far one way, and other interests are eclipsed.

"As exurbs become more powerful, more populated, more legislatively represented, there is the danger that the hidden concerns of the central cities and older suburbs will be ignored," he said. "We do tend to leave our problems behind, always searching for that new frontier that doesn't have any. Of course, there is no such thing."

In Dominion Valley, residents say they are very much aware that their community hardly reflects the problems of society.

"This is not a bubble," said Lisa LaBelle, who moved to the development three years ago from Massachusetts. The evidence, she said, is in all the charitable work that residents of Dominion Valley do. There is a drop box in the sports pavilion for victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, she said. People opened their wallets to help the family of a boy who had cancer. She recently helped raise $10,000 for breast cancer research.

"There is a lot of giving of ourselves, in terms of time or money, to the community," she said. "I think people are always going to be touched, no matter where they live."

When it comes to politics, though, LaBelle, who runs a real estate investment business with her husband, thinks more strictly in terms of her immediate interests as a small-business owner, which she thinks are more affected by national politics.

"I think we're driven because of having a small business," she said. "So I think in terms of taxes and how policies are affecting small businesses."

Here's an inchoate thought--please add yours or links to folks who've talked about in more systematic fashion: might it be that massive government was a necessary cost of urbanization, that in population agglomerations where so few people will be able to know or trust one another but where social interactions still have to be as safe as possible, we require government to fill the gaps? The politicization of everything would then just be an inevitable function of all our efforts to control this artificial skein. The process of deurbanization though returns people to smaller communities where social cohesion is easier and can be provided by the efforts of individuals, associations, churches, etc. , and thus government can be shrunk and politics diminished. What we may be seeing, first in the move outwards to suburbia in the 50s/60s and now in the move to exurbia or micropolitan areas is a 21st century version of Jeffersonianism in which republican values are found to thrive once people are not concentrated in cities. The policy implications are enormous, beginning with Republicans needing to bite the bullet and try to make the black inner city underclass into suburban home owners.

Conservative New Urbanism (Paul M. Weyrich, September 19, 2005, Accuracy in Media)

Many conservatives dislike cities, for reasons I understand and sympathize with. Sin and the city is an old, old story; you can find it in the Confessions of Blessed Augustine. But cities are also the birthplace and necessary home for high culture. Without living cities, we will not have symphony orchestras and great music, classic theater, art museums, serious public libraries or any of the other venues high culture requires. Nor will we have the good used bookstores, artistic and literary cafes, salons or other informal but important places where ideas can be exchanged and culture can grow. No, the Internet is not a substitute; there can be no full replacement for people talking face-to-face.

Just as the next conservatism needs to make the culture its centerpiece, it needs to include high culture. Conservatism ought not be indifferent to whether future generations get to see Shakespeare's plays, hear Mozart's music or see Dürer's engravings. And if conservatives want that to happen, we need cities. God knows we dare not entrust culture to the universities.

That brings us to the problem we face: America's cities are in bad shape, most of them anyway. First the upper class, then the middle class, then anyone who could afford to moved out (busing, which wrecked the public schools, played a central role in the exodus). Cities cannot live if no one but the underclass lives in them. Nor can they survive if we continue to export our industries, to the point where cities offer no manufacturing or business jobs.

Over the past several decades, a movement has arisen to restore our cities and even to build new urban communities, towns, as an alternative to suburbs. It is called "new urbanism." As a conservative, I think new urbanism needs to be part of the next conservatism. But I also think we need a conservative new urbanism, which differs from much of what now goes under the new urbanist label.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:55 AM


Private firms poised to run state schools after reform: Christian groups in talks to take over from local education authorities (Matthew Taylor, October 26, 2005, The Guardian)

Private education companies and Christian groups are lining up to enter the education market created by yesterday's pivotal reforms of the state school system.

A company which runs 60 low-cost independent schools, GEMS, said it was discussing the creation of a charitable arm allowing it to enter the "new state schools' market". The Christian group the United Learning Trust, which is already the biggest single sponsor of schools in the academy programme, also confirmed it was in talks with one local authority about eight or nine state schools.

The moves follow publication of the education white paper unveiling plans to turn all primary and secondary schools into "self governing independent state schools". Every school will be encouraged to acquire a trust, made up of business charities, faith groups, universities or parent and community organisations. The trusts will be able to appoint the governing body, own their own assets, set their own admissions policies as well as control teachers' pay and conditions.

Yesterday Sir Ewan Harper, chief executive of the United Learning Trust, said: "There is every indication we will be setting up a number of these trusts around our academy schools." John Bridger, of GEMS schools, said the organisation had "a lot to contribute" to the new system.

The paper also outlined more powers for parents: they will get the right to demand new schools, the closure of struggling ones and the sacking of headteachers. Proposals set out by the education secretary, Ruth Kelly, will also see local authorities becoming parents' champions rather than education providers.

Advisers will be provided to help poorer parents choose and pupils will get subsidised buses.

The reforms were criticised by teachers' leaders last night.

The reforms dearest to the hearts of putative First Way conservatives in America are closest to the hearts of openly Third Way Brits--the only difference is honesty and self-awareness.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:33 AM


Iraqis back democracy by four to one (GETHIN CHAMBERLAIN, 10/26/05, The Scotsman)

IRAQIS have voted overwhelmingly to back a new constitution for their country, paving the way for national polls in December, election officials announced yesterday.

Nearly 79 per cent of the 9.8 million voters supported the constitution, the Independent Election Commission announced after a 10-day audit following allegations of fraud. [...]

George Bush, the US president, welcomed the vote: "The Iraqis are making inspiring progress toward building a democracy.

"By any standard or precedent of history, Iraq has made incredible political progress, from tyranny to liberation to national elections to the ratification of a constitution in the space of two-and-a- half years."

Funny that the Left considers it a quagmire because it's taking "so long."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:25 AM


Egypt unveils no-peeking zone (Mariam Fam, October 26, 2005, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Iman Moustafa loves the sea, but she always knew her bikini didn't conform with the rules of Islam, so each time she took a dip she would cover up quickly and pray on the beach. The guilt spoiled the fun.

"I felt as if I were fooling God," said Miss Moustafa, 25.

The solution? La Femme.

La Femme is one of three women-only beaches at this elite Mediterranean resort, offering beachgoers a priceless commodity: guiltless fun. Here the veiled, conservative and shy can strip down to skimpy bikinis safe from intruding male eyes.

The beaches, about 60 miles west of Alexandria, are part of a growing business that caters to the new class of religious Egyptians who are hip, rich and young. These secluded strips of sand are an attempt to reconcile liberal and conservative, worldly and heavenly, fun and piety.

How about a separate beach for the guys who insist on wearing Speedos?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:19 AM


Scare fare: A Halloween menu from Dracula's homeland (Marty Meitus, October 26, 2005, Rocky Mountain News)

For those who would like an authentic touch of Dracula's homeland at a Halloween party, consider preparing some of the dishes of Romania. Although Romania has never been known as a culinary hotbed, the cuisine is coming of age, much as Ireland's did, as chefs reinterpret the basics. [...]

According to the Romanian National Tourist Office (www.romaniatourism.com) in New York City, these ingredients include sour cream, eggs and tarragon, and favorite foods include tart soups, hearty stews, mititei (small skinless grilled sausages), lamb, beef and poultry dishes, carp and herring, tuica (a plum brandy), breads, polenta and clatite, a dessert crepe. The region also produces some well-respected wines.

Bram Stoker, whose famous Dracula started it all, is thought to have based his character on a real-life "dracula." Vlad III, a prince of Wallachia (a Romanian province), inherited the dracula appellation from his father, Vlad II. Vlad the elder was a former governor of Transylvania and the member of a secret organization called the Order of the Dragon. In Romanian, drac means "dragon," and Vlad II became known as Vlad Dracul. The name also can mean "devil," and many nobles associated dragons with the devil.

Vlad the Younger, or Vlad Dracula, a variation meaning "son of the Devil," also was known as Vlad Tepes, or Vlad the Impaler, because he had a nasty habit of impaling his enemies (and anyone else who crossed him) on stakes. [...]

Fleica (Grilled Steak With Garlic)

Makes 4 to 6 servings

3 or 4 garlic cloves, peeled

Juice of 2 lemons

1/2 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 (2- to 3-pound) flank steak or 4 sirloin (New York) strip or rib-eye steaks or an equivalent amount of skirt steak

3 tablespoons butter, melted

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves

• If you have a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic with the lemon juice and salt until a paste is formed.

• Otherwise, mince the garlic finely and stir it with the salt into the lemon juice.

• Use the back of a wooden spoon to smash the garlic as much as you can.

• Press the pepper into the steak and then spread the garlic mixture evenly on both sides. Let the steak marinate for an hour at room temperature.

• Meanwhile, start a charcoal or gas grill or preheat the broiler; the fire should be moderately hot and the rack about 4 inches from the heat source.

• When ready to cook, brush the melted butter onto the steak and then place on the grill.

• Continue to baste with any remaining butter while the steak is cooking, about 4 minutes per side for medium-rare.

• Garnish with the parsley and serve.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:11 AM


Intermediate Eater: A sweet slice of onion any day (JOHN OWEN, 10/26/05, Seattle POST-INTELLIGENCER

Many years ago, when Emmett Watson and I occupied adjoining desks at this newspaper, we discovered that we shared a passion for Walla Walla onions. And we bemoaned the fact that their season ended about the same time football season began.

And then a friend told Watson how he could extend the shelf life of Walla Wallas. It involved obtaining some old but washed pantyhose. You hung one from a basement clothesline, plopped a large onion into the hose, shoved it down to the toe, tied a knot above it, and then repeated the process.

A month or so later I asked if the experiment was a success.

"Well, I guess you could say it was," Emmett confided. "But I got some strange looks from the furnace repairman." [...]

Sweet onions are terrific raw, on hamburgers. I think they also are terrific on peanut butter and dill pickle sandwiches, but Alice the Artist declares this a symptom of senility. You also could use sweet onions in German kuchen or French onion soup.

Peanut butter recipes stick with you (J.M. HIRSCH, 10/26/05, AP)
If I didn't really love peanut butter, I'd question whether we need two new cookbooks dedicated to the ingredient. Two cookbooks that have nearly identical covers, at that.

But it is peanut butter, after all. And while my own master recipe is no more complicated than eating it by the spoonful, I'm always open to consider new ways to work it into my cooking.

The slimmer of the volumes (though few of these recipes are anything close to slimming) is Lee Zalben's The Peanut Butter & Co. Cookbook, which is drawn from his so-named sandwich shop in New York.

The second is Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough's latest entry in their "ultimate" cookbook series (thus far covering everything from potatoes to brownies), The Ultimate Peanut Butter Book.

Both cover similar ground.

Zalben's book is deliciously illustrated with lush photography. I was particularly won over by the peanut butter and jelly French toast, though peanut butter granola was a close second.

But what really grabbed me was the grilled cheese with peanut butter.

"The idea of a grilled cheese and peanut butter sandwich may not seem very appealing at first," Zalben writes. "But go to almost any vending machine . . . and you'll find little packets of orange, cheese-flavoured sandwich crackers filled with peanut butter and who doesn't love those?"

Weinstein and Scarbrough take a somewhat more serious (and seriously good) approach.

October 25, 2005

Posted by kevin_whited at 11:51 PM


Sunnis Failed to Defeat Iraq Constitution (John Ward Anderson, Washington Post, 10/26/05)

The constitutional referendum was approved by 78 percent of voters, with 21 percent -- mostly Sunni Arabs -- rejecting it, according to tallies announced by the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq. The results confirmed widely reported preliminary estimates showing that the referendum had passed.

In Anbar province, 96 percent voted against the referendum, and 81 percent rejected it in Salahuddin. But in the key swing province of Nineveh, 56 percent voted against the constitution -- about 10 percent short of the number necessary to kill it.

About 63 percent of Iraq's 15.5 million registered voters cast ballots, the commission reported.

The results underscored the deep divisions along ethnic and sectarian lines in Iraqi society -- a condition that has fueled a violent Sunni-led insurgency against the government and U.S. occupation forces.

Shiite Arabs, who account for about 60 percent of Iraq's population, overwhelmingly favored passage of the constitution, which formalizes the country as a parliamentary democracy with Islam as the source of its laws. Kurds, who make up about 20 percent of the population, also strongly embraced the charter, which grants far-reaching autonomy to their region in northern Iraq.

But leading figures among Sunni Arabs, who make up about 20 percent of the population, were split over the constitution.

So, 63 percent of registered voters participated in the election, 78 percent of those voters approved of the constitution, Shiites and Kurds supported the constitution overwhelmingly, and there was division among "leading figures among Sunni Arabs" (who account for 20% of the population) who nonetheless turned out heavily to vote -- and the writer concludes there are deep ethnic and sectarian divisions in Iraqi society?

That doesn't seem like the most accurate characterization.

Posted by kevin_whited at 10:50 PM


The White House cabal (Lawrence B. Wilkerson, Los Angeles Times, 10/25/05)

IN PRESIDENT BUSH'S first term, some of the most important decisions about U.S. national security — including vital decisions about postwar Iraq — were made by a secretive, little-known cabal. It was made up of a very small group of people led by Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

When I first discussed this group in a speech last week at the New America Foundation in Washington, my comments caused a significant stir because I had been chief of staff to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell between 2002 and 2005.

But it's absolutely true. I believe that the decisions of this cabal were sometimes made with the full and witting support of the president and sometimes with something less. More often than not, then-national security advisor Condoleezza Rice was simply steamrolled by this cabal.

Its insular and secret workings were efficient and swift — not unlike the decision-making one would associate more with a dictatorship than a democracy. This furtive process was camouflaged neatly by the dysfunction and inefficiency of the formal decision-making process, where decisions, if they were reached at all, had to wend their way through the bureaucracy, with its dissenters, obstructionists and "guardians of the turf."


The administration's performance during its first four years would have been even worse without Powell's damage control. At least once a week, it seemed, Powell trooped over to the Oval Office and cleaned all the dog poop off the carpet. He held a youthful, inexperienced president's hand. He told him everything would be all right because he, the secretary of State, would fix it. And he did — everything from a serious crisis with China when a U.S. reconnaissance aircraft was struck by a Chinese F-8 fighter jet in April 2001, to the secretary's constant reassurances to European leaders following the bitter breach in relations over the Iraq war. It wasn't enough, of course, but it helped.

Colin Powell's bureaucrat/staffer is frothing so badly that it apparently escapes him that he's called President Bush, Vice-President Cheney, and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld secretive and little-known and compared them to a dictatorship, while at the same time indicating a preference for policy made less transparently by career bureaucrats who never have to face a voter. Far from being a "secret cabal," the President and Vice-President do head the executive branch thanks to the voters, and do enjoy the constitutional power of setting foreign policy. As for the highest-profile Secretary of Defense in generations, it's odd for anybody to refer to him as a little-known policymaker.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:54 PM

THE ANTI-STEINBRENNER (via Jim in Chicago):

NFL Mourns Death of New York Giants Owner (DAVE GOLDBERG, 10/25/05, AP)

Every NFL fan owes a huge debt to Wellington Mara, who died Tuesday at 89. So does every owner, executive and player.

Mara, who joined the New York Giants as a ballboy the day his father purchased the team 80 years ago and became co-owner as a teenager, was the face of the franchise for more than a half century.

But he also was the patriarch of the NFL, a man who was willing for more than 40 years to split the millions in television revenues he could have made in the nation's largest market with the Green Bays and Pittsburghs of the league.

It put the NFL at the top of America's sports hierarchy.

"He shaped nearly every rule and philosophy we have in our league today," said Ernie Accorsi, the Giants general manager. "Most of all, he was the moral conscience of the National Football League. He now joins the pantheon of incredible men who made this league what it has become." [...]

Mara became a Giants' ballboy at age 9 on Oct. 18, 1925 after his father, Timothy J. Mara, bought the team. He stayed fully involved in New York's operation for almost 80 years, except for the three years he served in the Navy during World War II. Until he became ill last spring, he attended most practices and every game.

In 1930, at 14, his father made him co-owner with older brother Jack.

He ran the club until several years ago, when his son John took over day-to-day operations. But from 1979 on, while the team was run by general managers George Young and Accorsi, Mara had final say on football decisions. He was the one who decided to fire Jim Fassel after the 2003 season and replace him with Tom Coughlin.

Coughlin remembered Mara as an owner who stayed away from the coaches — except when he was needed.

"I'll never forget when I was here as an assistant in 1988," he said. "We lost the last game of the year to the
New York Jets and didn't go into the playoffs. The next day he was in the coaches' meeting room, and he went from coach to coach, shaking everybody's hand. In 1989 we were in the playoffs and the next year we won the Super Bowl. We never saw him at that time. He didn't have to be there. He was there when he was needed. He always said and did the right thing." [...]

He would greet players after every game — win or lose — flashing a shy smile at stars and scrubs alike.

"My wife said it best when we talked about Mr. Mara," said Simms, the quarterback on the Giants Super Bowl teams and now a television analyst. "She said, 'There are so few icons left.' That's what Mr. Mara was. He was from an era where there were certain men who handled themselves differently than everybody else. I don't know if you can be that person anymore in this day and age. I don't know if society would let you be like him."

Pity society.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:20 PM


Blessed Paul Wellstone (Daniel E. Ritchie, October-December 2005, American Enterprise)

A few months after the Republicans regained power in the Senate, a Wellstone supporter took me out for coffee. How could an intelligent Christian who cares about the poor, she wanted to know, be a conservative? The Wellstone death had hit her harder than expected. She genuinely wanted to understand how a nice guy like me could be associated with, well, them.

The difference is simple, I told her. Liberals are smart and conservatives are stupid. Wellstone’s paean to his own achievements, The Conscience of a Liberal (2001), is a breathless account of one initiative after another, wrapped in cursory policy analyses of health care, welfare reform, education, the minimum wage, and other issues. He solves the problem of universal health care in three pages by limiting annual medical costs to 5 percent of income, promising “cost containment,” and eliminating “excessive profit” in the system. Wellstone admits to only one possible mistake in his first ten years as a senator: he voted to preserve heterosexual marriage.

Conservatives, I told her, don’t trust their own intelligence in the way that Wellstone trusted his. We doubt that any individuals, regardless of their compassion or intelligence, can amass the knowledge required to make wise choices for society regarding health care or the minimum wage, let alone marriage. The prices established by billions of choices made by millions of consumers, I said, reflect more knowledge than Senator Wellstone could possibly amass. Similarly, we think that traditions, with their subtle mix of flexibility and stability, established over centuries by billions of ordinary people, embody more knowledge about marriage than does the American Psychological Association.

Our ultimate disagreement, I told her, was over the nature of knowledge. Conservatives recognize its limits; liberals celebrate its power. Liberals trust extraordinary people like Paul Wellstone to solve social problems.

And the neocons think the Court requires people of extraordinary intellect.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:33 PM


Egalitarian Finland most competitive, too: Despite hefty government spending on social benefits, Finland tops global economies. Second in a three-part series. (Peter Ford, 10/26/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

Today, this small Nordic nation boasts a thriving hi-tech economy ranked the most competitive in the world, the best educated citizenry of all the industrialized countries, and a welfare state that has created one of the globe's most egalitarian societies.

Envious policymakers from far and wide are beating a path to Helsinki to learn the secrets of Finland's success.

"We have a saying here," chuckles Stefan Nygård, a university lecturer, as he swings his baby daughter gently, soothing her to sleep. "If you are Finnish, you've won the lottery."

But as the leaders of other European countries desperately seek ways to preserve their expensive systems of social protection in a competitive globalized world, Finland's circumstances and mind-set aren't easily copied. "Finland is an exceptional case Europe," cautions Riisto Erasaari, professor of social policy at Helsinki University. "We are a small homogenous country, heavily state-based, and our social model as a whole is so typically Finnish that it won't travel. But parts of it," - such as the government-funded focus on innovation and education, "are exportable." [...]

Nowhere is this approach clearer than in Finland's schools, which at the end of World War II turned out some of the worst educated young people in the industrialized world, and now graduate the best, according to comparative studies by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Making sure that every Finnish child, wherever he lived and whatever his background, could get a decent education had a very deliberate goal, says Riita Lampola, head of international relations for the Finnish Board of Education, which oversees schooling.

"As a poor country with a small population, if we wanted to be a modern society and to develop our country, we needed everybody here," she says. "That meant everybody had to be educated."

High level education is the key to what Pekka Himanen, a brilliant young philosopher who advises the Finnish government, calls his country's "virtuous circle."

"When people can fulfill their potential they become innovators," Dr. Himanen argues. "The innovative economy is competitive and makes it possible to finance the welfare state, which is not just a cost, but a sustainable basis for the economy, producing new innovators with social protection."

Other European countries could copy Finland's efforts to improve its education system, Himanen insists, just as they could emulate Finland's heavy investment in research and development (R&D) - currently standing at 3.6 percent of GDP, the highest level in Europe after Sweden.

The tests will come when only about 60% of the population is Scandinavian and/or there are so few younger workers that taxes go even higher.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:26 PM


Next Fed chief: smartest ever? (Ron Scherer, 10/26/05,The Christian Science Monitor)

When he wasn't studying economics at MIT, Ben Bernanke, nominee for chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, might have been cheering on the Red Sox at Fenway Park.

And when he wasn't studying in high school - he scored a 1590 on his SAT - he was All-State saxophonist.

As a child, he honed his analytical mind by playing chess and studying Hebrew at the local synagogue. He was just "an outgoing and well-rounded" kid growing up in the small town of Dillon, S.C., says his brother, Seth, an attorney in Charlotte, N.C.

Easygoing, extremely smart, plain-spoken - these are some of the words being used to describe Mr. Bernanke (ber-NANK-ee) as he prepares to lead an often inscrutable band of monetary policymakers. He has sterling economic credentials, but his ability to speak to Main Street as easily as Wall Street may be the trait that best prepares him for a job in which his every utterance can move global markets. [...]

Economists say Bernanke might have the best academic background of any recent Fed chairman. He graduated summa cum laude from Harvard; four years later he finished up his doctorate at MIT. He taught economics at NYU, Stanford, and Princeton.

He is the author of respected textbooks on the Great Depression and inflation. He's written more than 39 weighty articles in "economese," that strange language used by economists. And, he holds titles in enough professional associations, such as Co-editor of Economics Letters, to keep most people busy for a lifetime.

"He may have the best intellectual training and pedigree of anyone who has held that office," says Bob Brusca of Fact And Opinion-Economics, in New York.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:06 PM


The Gospel According to Anne: The queen of the occult has been gone awhile. What's Anne Rice been up to? Getting healthy, finding God—and writing her most daring book yet. (David Gates, 10/31/05, Newsweek)

They've been worried about her. After 25 novels in 25 years, Rice, 64, hasn't published a book since 2003's "Blood Chronicle," the tenth volume of her best-selling vampire series. They may have heard she came close to death last year, when she had surgery for an intestinal blockage, and also back in 1998, when she went into a sudden diabetic coma; that same year she returned to the Roman Catholic Church, which she'd left at 18. They surely knew that Stan Rice, her husband of 41 years, died of a brain tumor in 2002. And though she'd moved out of their longtime home in New Orleans more than a year before Hurricane Katrina, she still has property there—and the deep emotional connection that led her to make the city the setting for such novels as "Interview With the Vampire." What's up with her? "For the last six months," she says, "people have been sending e-mails saying, 'What are you doing next?' And I've told them, 'You may not want what I'm doing next'." We'll know soon. In two weeks, Anne Rice, the chronicler of vampires, witches and—under the pseudonym A. N. Roquelaure—of soft-core S&M encounters, will publish "Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt," a novel about the 7-year-old Jesus, narrated by Christ himself. "I promised," she says, "that from now on I would write only for the Lord." It's the most startling public turnaround since Bob Dylan's "Slow Train Coming" announced that he'd been born again.

Meeting the still youthful-looking Rice, you'd never suspect she'd been ill—except that on a warm October afternoon she's chilly enough to have a fire blazing. And if you were expecting Morticia Addams with a strange new light in her eyes, forget it. "We make good coffee," she says, beckoning you to where a silver pot sits on the white tablecloth. "We're from New Orleans." Rice knows "Out of Egypt" and its projected sequels—three, she thinks—could alienate her following; as she writes in the afterword, "I was ready to do violence to my career." But she sees a continuity with her old books, whose compulsive, conscience-stricken evildoers reflect her long spiritual unease. "I mean, I was in despair." In that afterword she calls Christ "the ultimate supernatural hero ... the ultimate immortal of them all."

To render such a hero and his world believable, she immersed herself not only in Scripture, but in first-century histories and New Testament scholarship—some of which she found disturbingly skeptical. "Even Hitler scholarship usually allows Hitler a certain amount of power and mystery." She also watched every Biblical movie she could find, from "The Robe" to "The Passion of the Christ" ("I loved it"). And she dipped into previous novels, from "Quo Vadis" to Norman Mailer's "The Gospel According to the Son" to Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins's apocalyptic Left Behind series. ("I was intrigued. But their vision is not my vision.") She can cite scholarly authority for giving her Christ a birth date of 11 B.C., and for making James, his disciple, the son of Joseph by a previous marriage. But she's also taken liberties where they don't explicitly conflict with Scripture.

Heck, it seems almost cliched for someone to find the Light by way of horror.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:49 PM


Raise a Glass to Adult Stem Cells (Michael Fumento, 10/24/2005, TCS)

I have frequently written on the gulf between the promise of embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and the reality of therapy from adult stem cells (ASCs) -- those already in our bodies and umbilical cord blood. ESCs get publicity; ASCs get results. The latest example: ASCs are now rebuilding human livers.

Until now, the only hope for persons with irreversible liver failure from such diseases as cirrhosis, which kills about 27,000 Americans yearly, was transplantation. This requires permanent use of immunosuppressive drugs which can lead to opportunistic infections and cancer. Most importantly, it requires a new liver. About a thousand Americans are now on a waiting list for one and many will die there.

But scientists from London's Imperial College report in The New Scientist that they have repaired patients' own damaged livers by using bone marrow adult stem cells collected from their own blood. Five were injected with a drug that stimulated their marrow to produce extra stem cells that were then injected into a blood vessel leading directly to the liver.

It worked. Both liver function and overall health of three out of five treated patients improved significantly within only two months of treatment. The two patients whose health did not improve were left no worse off.

The researchers said the marrow stem cells appeared to simply home in on damaged portions of the liver and affect repairs, just as ASCs previously have been shown to do with other organs thought unable to repair themselves such as hearts and brains.

Most recently, Korean researchers injected umbilical cord stem cells into the injured part of a paraplegic's spine, allowing her to walk again.

Somebody better tell John Edwards to race to the crossroads and yell: Backsies!

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:32 PM


Minuteman sent home for aiding immigrant (Louie Gilot, 10/18/05, El Paso Times)

In a strange turn of events, a Minuteman has been dismissed from the volunteer border patrol group for giving a ride, food and water to two undocumented immigrants, officials said.

The incident, which occurred two weeks ago near Hachita, N.M., led the Border Patrol to investigate whether the patroller from the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps was helping or detaining the migrants, both illegal actions. The agency presented its finding to the U.S. Attorney's office in Albuquerque, where officials declined to prosecute the case.

Minuteman officials said the man, a Colorado resident in his 50s, was driving on Highway 81 from one Minuteman encampment to another when he picked up the two migrants, who were hitchhiking.

Gary Cole, the group's operations manager, said the patroller gave the migrants food and water.

He was just discombobulated when it turned out they didn't have horns.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:40 PM


You can trust them to sell you a car: a review of Opus Dei by John L Allen (Piers Paul Read, 23/10/2005, Daily Telegraph)

What was radical about Escrivá's project was the sanctification of labour. Men such as St Francis of Sales or St Alfonso Ligouri had reminded the laity that they too were called to be saints, but the emphasis was on prayer and liturgical devotions. Escrivá insisted that work itself is a God-given vocation, whether it be as a postman or a merchant banker. You can confidently buy a second-hand car from an Opus Dei dealer: more importantly, writes Allen, the educational institutes it sponsors in Africa "could help shape a generation of African leaders who know what it means to bring their personal integrity into their public roles".

Allen's book debunks the negative propaganda. It was the enthusiasm of Pope John Paul II, not Opus Dei lobbying, that led him to make Opus Dei a "personal prelature" and put St Josemaría Escrivá on the fast track to canonisation. Opus Dei has not infiltrated the structures of power in the Church: there are more Jesuits in the Vatican and the Episcopate. Neither is it rich, "at least not by the standards of other organisations in the Catholic Church". And it doesn't have a preferential option for the well-heeled: "many of its corporate works are aimed at the poor".

Why, then, has Opus Dei received such a bad press? Its ethos is inevitably "a sign of contradiction" in a hedonistic and self-indulgent society. The animosity from within the Church derives from the conflicting views of the role of the Church following Vatican II. At the time, the superior of the Jesuits, Pedro Arrupe, "symbolised the new post-Vatican II ethos, calling his Jesuits to be 'men for others', which in practice sometimes meant joining movements for peace and justice", while "Escrivá walked another path, insisting on the primacy of traditional forms of prayer, devotion, and the sacramental life". Making Opus Dei a "personal prelature" and Escrivá a saint "seemed like a clampdown on the Jesuits - almost as if a torch was being passed". As Allen points out, some of Opus Dei's harshest critics were once Jesuit priests.

Folks who show the rest of us how selfish we are can't be popular--we crucified Christ didn't we?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:59 AM


Bad news for donkeys on religion front (James P. Pinkerton, October 25, 2005, Newsday)

The Republicans have had a bad few weeks. However, the Democrats have had a rough decade. A preacher who visited New York last week provides part of the answer.

Yes, top GOPers in Washington are in deep trouble, even as the White House braces for the negative impact of the 2,000th American fatality in Iraq. So that's one way of assessing the political situation.

But there's another way, which asks, Which party better shares the bedrock values of most Americans? That's a happier question for Republicans.

A new paper by Democratic thinkers William Galston and Elaine Kamarck, "The Politics of Polarization," argues that over the past three decades a "great sorting out" has occurred, leaving conservatives and religious believers mostly in the Republican Party, liberals and seculars mostly in the Democratic Party.

The problem for Democrats is that self-described conservatives outnumber self-described liberals 34-21. Furthermore, Galston and Kamarck - veterans of the Clinton White House - contend many moderates incline toward conservatism on social issues such as abortion, gay marriage and the public display of religion. A Pew Center poll asked, for example, if it was proper to display the Ten Commandments in a government building; 72 percent of Americans said "proper," 22 percent "improper."

As Galston and Kamarck observe, religion and the social-issue controversies it raises have been "the overriding factor" in the realignment of the parties - or, to put it more bluntly, the shrinkage of the Democratic Party. The authors regret this shrinking but don't see a reversal so long as their party is seen as anti-religious.

Viewed through this most basic lens in American politics today it becomes readily apparent why neocons and libertarians despise the President and Ms Miers so much. It's just not a plausible notion that they'll remain Republicans over the long term nor that most blacks and Hispanics will stay Democrats.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:03 AM


Fed nominee a master of `Oops!' (Brett Arends, October 25, 2005, Boston Herald)

Bernanke is thought to take a more relaxed view of inflation than his predecessor. After all, his research at MIT focused on the Great Depression, and the disaster of collapsing prices.

That may be worrying enough for bond investors, who are vulnerable to inflation.

But Bernanke, in his first years as a member of the Fed's board, has also shown he can be a loose cannon.

And in the bond market, loose talk from a Fed governor can cost billions.

In speeches in November 2002 and July 2003, he explicitly raised the spectre of Japanese-style falling prices in the United States.

And he spoke alarmingly of emergency measures the Fed might use to prevent it.

Among them: slashing short-term rates to zero percent, wholesale printing of new dollars, making cheap loans to banks and a huge Fed program to buy up assets across the economy to restore confidence and liquidity.

He'll have to raise rates a couple more times just to prove his anti-inflation bona fides, but then he'll get rates back down to where they should be in a deflationary epoch.

Posted by Bryan Francoeur at 10:21 AM


THE VERMONT INDEPENDENCE CONVENTION: An Impossible Dream or a Vision of the Future? (Vermont Independence Convention, October 28, 2005, State House
Montpelier, Vermont)

James Howard Kunstler, author of The Long Emergency, will be the keynote speaker at The Vermont Convention on Independence to be held in the House Chamber of the State House in Montpelier on Friday October 28th. Sponsored by the Second Vermont Republic, the convention, which will begin at 9:00 a.m. and conclude at 5:00 p.m., is open to the public and free of charge.

This historic event will be the first statewide convention on secession in the United States since North Carolina voted to secede from the Union on May 20, 1861.

Other speakers will include Professor Frank Bryan, UVM; Kirkpatrick Sale, author of Human Scale, J. Kevin Graffagnino, Executive Director, Vermont Historical Society; Professor Eric Davis, Middlebury College; Shay Totten, editor, Vermont Guardian; Antoine Robitaille, journalist Le Devoir (Quebec City); G. Roderick Lawrence, CEO, Stevenson Kellogg (Canada); (Rev.) Ben T. Matchstick; and General Ethan Allen (aka Jim Hogue). General Allen is expected to travel by horse to the State House.

The objectives of the convention are twofold. First, to raise the level of awareness of Vermonters of the feasibility of independence as a viable alternative to a nation which has lost its moral authority and is unsustainable. Second, to provide an example and a process for other states and nations which may be seriously considering separatism, secession, independence, and similar devolutionary strategies.

The Second Vermont Republic is a peaceful, democratic, grassroots, libertarian populist movement committed to the return of Vermont to its status as an independent republic as it once was between 1777 and 1791.

I'll admit that my adopted home state has more than it's fair share of goofy ideas, but secession always has been number one with a minnie ball. My first roomate in college was a Vermont secession freak. Texas could make a go of independence. Vermont would rapidly turn into a third world country. No, it's not already.

And everyone's favorite misanthropic Malthusian, James Howard Kunstler is the keynote speaker!

Posted by kevin_whited at 9:58 AM


Venezuelan Police Squash Pumpkin Threat (Los Angeles Times, 10/25/05)

Venezuelan police scrambled to the headquarters of state petrochemical company Pequiven and the offices of President Hugo Chavez's political party in Caracas after someone left pumpkins bearing protest messages at the sites.

Local media showed heavily armed police and bomb experts surrounding one jack-o'-lantern covered with stickers. Others sprouted cables and wires.

Weeks earlier, paper skeletons with anti-Chavez messages were hung from bridges and lampposts.

Such a creative people deserve far better than Hugo Chavez.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:09 AM


Right-Of-Center Bloggers Decide Who Should Rule The World (John Hawkins, 10/25/05, Right Wing News)

The BBC polled more than 15,000 people worldwide on who they would want to lead a fantasy world government. The results were, particularly for conservatives, quite disturbing with people like Bill Clinton, Noam Chomsky, Kofi Annan, and George Soros making it into the top 11.

So, in order to get a different perspective, Right Wing News decided to poll more than 200 right-of-center bloggers on who they'd want to be part of a team to "Rule The World".

There was one caveat however. Since many conservative bloggers, myself included, vehemently object to the idea of one world government, all bloggers were told they were choosing a team to run every country in the world except their own home country.

Representatives from the following 38 blogs responded...

Aaron's CC, The Anchoress, La Shawn Barber, The Baseball Crank, Betsy's Page, Boi From Troy, BrothersJudd Blog, Cobb, Dodgeblogium, Dummocrats, Eckernet, Cam Edwards, Inside Larry's Head, Isaac Schrödinger, Knowledge Is Power, The LLama Butchers, Multiple Mentality, My Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, The Nose On Your Face, Patio Pundit, Damian Penny, The Pink Flamingo Bar & Grill, PoliPundit, PrestoPundit, Professor Bainbridge, Reasoned Audacity, Relapsed Catholic, Right Wing News, Sane Nation, Sister Toldjah, Small Dead Animals, Solomonia, Southern Appeal, Stolen Thunder, Stop The ACLU, This Blog Is Full Of Crap, Toys in the Attic, WILLisms

All bloggers could make anywhere from 1-15 unranked selections and were allowed to select any living person, from anywhere in the world, for their lists.

Without further ado, here are the people right-of-center bloggers would choose to rule the world:

Here were our choices:

George W. Bush

Martin S. Feldstein

Jeb Bush

Tony Blair

Gordon Brown

Iain Duncan Smith

John Howard

Dr. Manmohan Singh

Vaclav Havel

Alvaro Uribe

Jose Pinera (http://www.cato.org/people/pinera.html)

Jose Maria Aznar

Natan Sharansky

Seif al-Islam Qhadafi

Junichiro Koizumi

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:58 AM


Blair's public service crusade (Patrick Wintour, October 25, 2005, The Guardian)

Tony Blair is using his final years in government to rush through a radical transformation of the role of the state right across the public sector. The aim, clearly evident in today's white paper on education, is that the state should no longer be primarily a direct provider of services, but instead become a regulator and commissioner of services purchased from public, private and voluntary sectors.

Mr Blair sees the white paper as pivotal for the government since it symbolises a model for this reform in which the state does not quite wither away, but recasts itself. Similar, if specifically different, reforms are being implemented through the prison and probation service, housing provision, employment service, health and of course education.

In one shape or other, markets are being introduced into the public sector - "contestability", in the jargon - in which providers compete not necessarily over price, but quality. The hope is that once the system is right, the reform becomes self-perpetuating. Such ideas have long been discussed in New Labour thinktanks, the strategy unit or the office of public service reform, but they are now being acted on the ground. The extraordinary range of the reforms is probably only slowly dawning on traditional Labour MPs.

Some of the leading ideologues of change in government, such as the cabinet office secretary John Hutton, privately recognise they have yet to find the right language to describe the reform. Words such as "market mechanisms", "privatisation", and "choice" merely engender hostility, especially among those who believe reform is best secured through public investment. Mr Blair himself seems less anxious on this point, at least for now. As he admitted to last month's party conference, his one great regret has been his failure to reform further and faster, and he now seems determined to make amends.

The enemies aren't likely to react well if he starts calling it compassionate conservatism either. To reconcile the Right to the American Third Way we came up--thanks to Andrew Moore and ted welter--with the name Uberconservatism (with lightning bolts and umlouts). Now we need a kind of sissified name for the Third Way that will attract the Left. Any ideas?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:26 AM


For Syrians, a Siege Mentality Sets In: U.N. Inquiry, Iraq War Feeding Anxiety Among Assad's Backers and Foes (Anthony Shadid, October 25, 2005, Washington Post)

"I came to denounce the investigation," explained 17-year-old Hisham Hassan, holding a portrait of President Bashar Assad.

He paused, furrowing his brow. "Why else?" he asked, turning to his friend, Hisham Shaqairi.

"National unity," his friend said.

"Right, national unity," Hassan answered, nodding.

But amid the chants and smiles, one poster hinted at the deep unease that courses through Damascus these days, as its government faces its greatest crisis since the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. "Syria will never be Iraq," it read.

Shaqairi saw the poster and understood the message. "Iraq yesterday is Syria today," he said, turning serious.

In markets suffused with the scent of spices, in homes struggling to make ends meet and in cafes crowded at the end of the daily dawn-to-dusk fast of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the plight of Syria's neighbor casts a long, menacing shadow. It is bolstering the legitimacy of Assad's isolated government, dictating the strategy of its still-feeble opposition and molding opinion toward the United States' hinted aim, the end of 35 years of rule by Assad's Baath Party, many people here say.

"The scenario of Iraq is in the back of the minds of the majority of Syrians," said Yassin Hajj Saleh, a 44-year-old opposition activist. "The regime has greatly benefited from the disastrous situation there. It points its finger: 'Look at Iraq, look at Iraq. Occupation, terrorism, death, daily killings and civil war.' That scenario is terrifying to Syrians."

The mounting crisis, with the U.N. Security Council due on Tuesday to discuss the U.N. investigation into Hariri's killing, has fed anxiety more than anticipation, fear more than hope, creating some of the same sentiments voiced in Iraq in March 2003.

"You are in a car, the driver is crazy, the road is downhill and we have no brakes," Saleh said.

May as well hit the gas pedal and enjoy the ride.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:11 AM


'Emperor of the Garden': The great pumpkin is a superfood that rules (Lisa Ryckman, October 25, 2005, Rocky Mountain News)

Carve them, bake them, smash them on the sidewalk.

Bowl with them. Launch them from a catapult. Grow them from a tiny seed into something the size of an elephant - then turn them into boats.

Pumpkins, also known as Cucurbita maxim, are supremely versatile and likeable produce. The Chinese called them "Emperor of the Garden" and considered them symbols of health and well-being. And they are a true superfood, with nutrients that can do everything from improving night vision to preventing cancer.

Some people -- perfectly nice, seemingly normal kinds of people -- consider pumpkins objects worthy of passion, capable of becoming ever so much more than mere jack-o'-lanterns or desserts or satisfying splats.

That's because pumpkins possess the potential to grow - hugely freakishly enormously large. The current world heavyweight champion, a Pennsylvania pumpkin tipping the scale at 1,469 pounds, was a guest on Martha earlier this month.

"In the late 1980s and early '90s, a lot of giant-pumpkin growers didn't know if the thousand-pound barrier would ever fall," says Bob Matthews, a self-described pumpkin fanatic who created www.pumpkinnook.com."Now we're sitting at 1,469 pounds and growing. Fifteen hundred pounds is a cakewalk."

Speaking of pounds and cake, pumpkin has all the right stuff - low in fat, sodium and cholesterol but chock-full of fiber and vitamins A and C, plus manganese, magnesium and phosphorus.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:08 AM


Iraq Draft Constitution Adopted (CBS/AP, Oct. 25, 2005)

Iraq's landmark constitution was adopted by a majority of voters during the country's Oct. 15 referendum, election officials said Tuesday.

Results released by the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq showed that Sunni Arabs, who had sharply opposed the draft document, failed to produce the two-thirds "no" vote they would have needed in at least three of Iraq's 18 provinces to defeat it.

The commission, which had been auditing the referendum results for 10 days, said at a news conference in Baghdad that Ninevah province, had produced a "no" vote of only 55 percent. Only two other mostly Sunni Arab provinces — Salahuddin and Anbar — had voted no by two-thirds or more.

The constitution, which many Kurds and majority Shiites strongly support, is considered another major step in the country's democratic transformation, clearing the way for the election of a new Iraqi parliament on Dec. 15. Such steps are considered important in any decision about the future withdrawal of U.S.-led forces from Iraq.

How'd the Left get themselves into a position where good news for democracy in Iraq is bad news for them?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:49 AM


GOP to target Big Oil profits (Stephen Dinan, October 25, 2005, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

House Republicans, worried about political fallout from the high-profit figures that oil companies are expected to release later this week, will demand that companies pour those profits into refining more oil for the U.S. market in order to lower prices.

At a press conference today, Republicans led by House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert will tell the companies to explain why they are making so much money and what they will do to bring down the cost of gasoline.

"Big Oil needs to do its part. Increasing capacity and improving refineries will do much to boost supplies so that consumers do not feel such a big pinch," Mr. Hastert said in prepared remarks obtained last night by The Washington Times.

"These are extraordinary times that call for extraordinary measures. We expect oil companies to do their part to help ease the pain American families are feeling from high energy prices," he said. [...]

Michael McKenna, a Republican strategist who lobbies on energy issues, said oil companies should look at Republicans' new stance "with the maximum amount of nervousness."

"The next stop on this train is legislation," he said. "We could go back and forth over whether that legislation is going to be successful, whether it can pass or not, whether it's constitutional. But if you're an oil company, do you want to spend the next six months talking about a windfall profits tax?"

There's nothing extraordinary about increasing oil consumption taxes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:36 AM


Cheney Told Aide of C.I.A. Officer, Lawyers Report (DAVID JOHNSTON, RICHARD W. STEVENSON and DOUGLAS JEHL, 10/25/05, NY Times)

I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, first learned about the C.I.A. officer at the heart of the leak investigation in a conversation with Mr. Cheney weeks before her identity became public in 2003, lawyers involved in the case said Monday.

Notes of the previously undisclosed conversation between Mr. Libby and Mr. Cheney on June 12, 2003, appear to differ from Mr. Libby's testimony to a federal grand jury that he initially learned about the C.I.A. officer, Valerie Wilson, from journalists, the lawyers said.

The notes, taken by Mr. Libby during the conversation, for the first time place Mr. Cheney in the middle of an effort by the White House to learn about Ms. Wilson's husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, who was questioning the administration's handling of intelligence about Iraq's nuclear program to justify the war.

Lawyers involved in the case, who described the notes to The New York Times, said they showed that Mr. Cheney knew that Ms. Wilson worked at the C.I.A. more than a month before her identity was made public and her undercover status was disclosed in a syndicated column by Robert D. Novak on July 14, 2003.

Mr. Libby's notes indicate that Mr. Cheney had gotten his information about Ms. Wilson from George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence, in response to questions from the vice president about Mr. Wilson. But they contain no suggestion that either Mr. Cheney or Mr. Libby knew at the time of Ms. Wilson's undercover status or that her identity was classified. Disclosing a covert agent's identity can be a crime, but only if the person who discloses it knows the agent's undercover status.

It would not be illegal for either Mr. Cheney or Mr. Libby, both of whom are presumably cleared to know the government's deepest secrets, to discuss a C.I.A. officer or her link to a critic of the administration. But any effort by Mr. Libby to steer investigators away from his conversation with Mr. Cheney could be considered by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special counsel in the case, to be an illegal effort to impede the inquiry.

What undercover status?

Husband Is Conspicuous in Leak Case (Dana Milbank and Walter Pincus, 11/25/05, Washington Post)

[N]obody disputes this: Possessed of a flamboyant style and a love for the camera lens, Wilson helped propel the unmasking of his wife's identity as a CIA operative into a sprawling, two-year legal probe that climaxes this week with the possible indictment of key White House officials.

It seems unfair to blame him when it was she who sent him on a public CIA junket.

It Wasn't Just Miller's Story (Robert Kagan, October 25, 2005, Washington Post)

Many critics outside the Times suggest that Miller's eagerness to publish the Bush administration's line was the primary reason Americans went to war. The Times itself is edging closer to this version of events.

There is a big problem with this simple narrative. It is that the Times, along with The Post and other news organizations, ran many alarming stories about Iraq's weapons programs before the election of George W. Bush. [...]

Times editorials insisted the danger from Iraq was imminent. When the Clinton administration attempted to negotiate, they warned against letting "diplomacy drift into dangerous delay. Even a few more weeks free of inspections might allow Mr. Hussein to revive construction of a biological, chemical or nuclear weapon." They also argued that it was "hard to negotiate with a tyrant who has no intention of honoring his commitments and who sees nuclear, chemical and biological weapons as his country's salvation." "As Washington contemplates an extended war against terrorism," a Times editorial insisted, "it cannot give in to a man who specializes in the unthinkable."

Another Times editorial warned that containment of Hussein was eroding. "The Security Council is wobbly, with Russia and France eager to ease inspections and sanctions." Any approach "that depends on Security Council unity is destined to be weak." "Mr. [Kofi] Annan's resolve seems in doubt." When Hans Blix was appointed to head the U.N. inspectors, the editors criticized him for "a decade-long failure to detect Iraq's secret nuclear weapons program before the gulf war" and for a "tendency to credit official assurances from rulers like Mr. Hussein." His selection was "a disturbing sign that the international community lacks the determination to rebuild an effective arms inspection system." The "further the world gets from the gulf war, the more it seems willing to let Mr. Hussein revive his deadly weapons projects." Even "[m]any Americans question the need to maintain pressure on Baghdad and would oppose the use of force. But the threat is too great to give ground to Mr. Hussein. The cost to the world and to the United States of dealing with a belligerent Iraq armed with biological weapons would be far greater than the cost of preventing Baghdad from rearming."

The Times was not alone, of course. On Jan. 29, 2001, The Post editorialized that "of all the booby traps left behind by the Clinton administration, none is more dangerous -- or more urgent -- than the situation in Iraq. Over the last year, Mr. Clinton and his team quietly avoided dealing with, or calling attention to, the almost complete unraveling of a decade's efforts to isolate the regime of Saddam Hussein and prevent it from rebuilding its weapons of mass destruction. That leaves President Bush to confront a dismaying panorama in the Persian Gulf," including "intelligence photos that show the reconstruction of factories long suspected of producing chemical and biological weapons."

This was the consensus before Bush took office, before Scooter Libby assumed his post and before Judith Miller did most of the reporting for which she is now, uniquely, criticized. It was based on reporting by a large of number of journalists who in turn based their stories on the judgments of international intelligence analysts, Clinton officials and weapons inspectors. As we wage what the Times now calls "the continuing battle over the Bush administration's justification for the war in Iraq," we will have to grapple with the stubborn fact that the underlying rationale for the war was already in place when this administration arrived.

He was doing fine until hje got to the bit about WMD being "the underlying justification" for the war, which was instead justified by the whole series of UN Resolutions ending the first Gulf War that Saddam as not in compliance with, most importantly democratizing Iraq.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:06 AM

PINK STEEL TARIFFS? (via John Resnick):

Feminists trip up on man tax (Matthew Campbell, 10/23/05, Sunday Times of London)

SPARE a thought for Swedish feminists whose newly formed party is disintegrating after hardliners presented a manifesto advocating a “man tax”, the abolition of marriage and the creation of “gender-neutral” names.

Sweden already boasts one of the highest levels of female participation in the workplace and some observers questioned the need for a feminist party in a country whose women account for half the seats in parliament.

When it was founded six months ago, polls showed that a quarter of voters would consider supporting Feminist Initiative in elections next year because of rising domestic violence against women and higher salaries for men.

That goodwill seems to have faded after the party’s recent founding congress, however, when radicals such as Tiina Rosenberg, a professor of gender studies, appeared to have secured control of the agenda. The resulting platform included proposals for abolishing marriage and changing the law to let people who undergo sex change operations legally alter their names.

The party called also for the creation of more “gender-neutral” names such as “Robin” or “Norva” that could apply to a boy or a girl. At present parents must choose names from an official list for boys or girls.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:27 AM


Funding for schools to be 'fair and equal' (John Clare and George Jones, 25/10/2005, Daily Telegraph)

Every secondary school is expected to become an independent, self-governing academy within five years, Tony Blair said yesterday.

Parents would be given power to change the curriculum, replace failing heads and start new schools, he promised. Anticipating today's education White Paper - "a pivotal moment in the life of this Government" - he outlined radical plans to "complete the reform" of state education in England that Labour started when it came to power eight years ago.

Councils will be stripped of their responsibility for schools; businesses, churches, City livery companies and wealthy individuals will be allowed to take over schools; independent schools will be encouraged to accept state cash and join the state sector; and there is to be a new emphasis on grouping pupils by ability and offering advanced classes to the brightest.

Mr Blair made clear that he was ready to resist opposition from the Labour Left and the teachers' unions to opening up the system to parent power and ending comprehensive education.

He even has the same enemies as W.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:23 AM


Galloway's wife 'received £100,000 from Iraqis' (Francis Harris, 25/10/2005, Daily Telegraph)

The Palestinian-born wife of George Galloway, the Respect MP, is accused today of receiving $149,980 (about £100,000) derived from the United Nations Iraqi oil-for-food programme.

A report by an investigative committee of the United States Senate says the money was sent to the personal account of Amineh Abu Zayyad in August 2000.

The report, compiled by Republican and Democratic staff, contains detailed information gleaned from Iraqi archives and bank accounts in Britain and Jordan.

The investigators concluded that Mr Galloway knew about the payments and that "through his wife was personally enriched" by them. They say that he "knowingly made false or misleading statements under oath before [a Senate] sub-committee".

...isn't there some sense in which it's better to be Saddam's bought man than to actually believe the nonsense this guy spouts?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:16 AM

A WELL-EARNED RETIREMENT (via Robert Schwartz):

What Miers must show (Charles Fried, October 23, 2005, Boston Globe)

OF COURSE, it is not necessary for Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers to have attended an elite law school to be qualified for a seat on the Supreme Court: Neither John Marshall Harlan nor his grandfather (famous for his eloquent dissent in the separate-but-equal decision) did, and Robert Jackson, perhaps the most elegant writer in the court's history, attended no law school at all.

And it certainly is not necessary that she previously have served as a judge on a lower court. Many of the great justices were new to the bench, starting with John Marshall, through Charles Evans Hughes, Earl Warren, and William Rehnquist.

What is indispensable is that she be able to think lucidly and deeply about legal questions and express her thoughts in clear, pointed, understandable prose. A justice without those capabilities -- however generally intelligent, decent, and hardworking -- risks being a calamity for the court, the law, and the country.

You have to know a lot less about the Court than Mr. Fried does to think a reliable vote with good clerks won't be considered a more than adequate justice by their partisans.

October 24, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:57 PM


Hillary’s Chest Gets Bigger As ’08 Gets Closer (Ben Smith, Jessica Bruder, 10/24/2005, NY Observer)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:29 PM


Americans stay away: Are U.S. tourists making a political statement? (Ezra Levant, 10/24/05, Calgary Sun)

Why is tourism from the U.S. at a 25-year low this summer?

Some have blamed the rise in gasoline prices. But that doesn't make sense. Travelling from city to city within the U.S. is often a longer drive than heading up to Canadian cities like Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, all close to the border. More to the point, the sharp drop in tourism was measured in August -- before hurricane Katrina spiked gas prices.

Some have blamed the strengthening Canadian dollar, saying it has eroded Canada's economic attraction to Americans. But that doesn't make sense, either. The Canadian dollar is worth roughly 85 U.S. cents today.

Last October, it was 81 U.S. cents (and it was 84 U.S. cents last November). Is an extra cent or two really the reason we have the lowest tourism from the U.S. in a generation?

If the dollar is the reason, then one would have expected to see this tourism drop last year -- because between October 2003 and October 2004, the Canadian dollar rose from 76 cents to 81 cents -- a bigger jump than in the past year. And in the year before that, the Canadian dollar positively leapt from 63 cents to 76 cents, or 13 cents in just one year.

How can a three- or four-cent rise in the Canadian dollar over the past year be to blame for falling U.S. tourism, if an 18-cent rise in the previous two years didn't flatten tourism?

The obvious answer is that American tourism wasn't hurt by gas prices or currency fluctuations. It was killed by something else that Americans are thinking about when it comes to Canada in the past year.

Gee -- what could that be?

Lost in the Woods (LAWRENCE HERMAN and GARY HUFBAUER, 10/25/05, NY Times)

AS Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice continues her talks in Ottawa today, she may find that the most acrimonious disagreement between Canada and the United States is not a question of hard power - issues like Afghanistan, Iraq and nuclear nonproliferation - but of softwood. A quarter-century-old dispute over Canadian lumber exports, which Washington claims are unfairly subsidized, has escalated to the point where it now threatens broader relations between the two countries.

If it remains unresolved, the softwood war might also spill over into the December ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization, where Washington and Ottawa have long worked together to expand free trade. What kind of example does it set for the rest of the world if the United States and Canada - close neighbors, each other's largest trading partner and crucial allies - cannot resolve their own trade disputes?

American and Canadian lawyers, lobbyists and negotiators have been fighting on and off over Canadian lumber exports to the United States since the 1980's. In 1982, a coalition of 250 American lumber mills claimed that Canadian provinces were subsidizing lumber exports by charging set "stumpage fees" - the price forest companies paid when harvesting standing timber - while American mills were paying open market prices. While the fight over things like stumpage fees is complex enough, it got a sharp twist in 2000 when Congress passed an amendment giving American companies injured by foreign trade the punitive duties imposed by the United States, which in the case of Canadian lumber exports now amount to about $5 billion.

Never mind that the right of the United States to impose such duties is in dispute...

Martin draws a line on guns (SUSAN DELACOURT, 10/25/05, Toronto Star)
Guns are Prime Minister Paul Martin's newest target in what seems to be a deliberate and continuing attempt to take some careful pokes at the United States.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:14 PM


Make the punishment fit the crime (Leader, October 25, 2005, The Guardian

An unrepresentative regime whose leading figures are drawn from a religious minority, a regime which has ruled, often brutally, with the aid of its armed forces and its pervasive and ruthless intelligence services, and which has been guilty of crimes against its own people and against the people of a neighbouring state. The country to which this description now applies is not Iraq but Syria - or, rather, the description always applied to both of the states where the Ba'ath party's assumption of power turned out in practice to mean government by sect, clan, family, and a president for life. [...]

The regime in Damascus may already have been in a weakened state before Mr Hariri's death, since the young president, possessing neither his father's authority nor his astuteness, was already finding it hard to control the factions within the elite. Continued investigations, depending on how high they go, could weaken it further. The Americans and the Israelis, contrary to some impressions, may not want regime change, preferring a vulnerable Assad who can be persuaded to do what they want on Iraq and Palestine. Yet they could trigger it nevertheless, and the last thing the Middle East needs is another government toppled from the outside.

If the Syrian regime is to change it is Syrians who should change it. The pursuit of those responsible for the killing of Mr Hariri cannot be be allowed to falter, but regime change should not ride on the back of judicial process. The French are already insisting on this, and the Americans and the British, the other two nations who have taken the lead over Syria, would be wise to follow suit.

Obviously it would have been better if the coup plotters had killed Hitler and toppled the Nazis from within, but need we really have waited for other Germans to succeed?

One wonders if the Left is conscious that the effect of their standard of non-intervention would be to encourage dictators to greater repression?

U.S. presses Damascus over murder of Hariri (Brian Knowlton, OCTOBER 24, 2005, International Herald Tribune)

Reacting to a UN investigation that linked Syria to the killing of a former Lebanese prime minister, the United States on Monday demanded immediate cooperation from Damascus in the continuing inquiry and began working with other Security Council members on a resolution to raise the pressure on Syria.

French officials - who said they and the Americans were crafting language calling on all countries to cooperate fully with the investigation - said it was too early to seek United Nations sanctions against Syria.

But the U.S. ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, demanded cooperation now.

"This is 'true confession' time now for the government of Syria," he said in New York. "No more obstruction. No more half-measures. We want substantive cooperation, and we want it immediately."

In Washington, Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman, said, "We want to talk about the way forward with other members of the Security Council."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:06 PM


I just flew in from Italy, and boy is my keyboard tired (Hugh Hewitt, October 24, 2005)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:56 PM


When a worldview competes with religion: The foremost philospher of evolution theory knows whereof he writes: a review of THE EVOLUTION-CREATION STRUGGLE By Michael Ruse (CARLIN ROMANO, 10/24/05, Knight Ridder Newspapers)

Unlike many pro-evolution types, however, he agrees with creationists and intelligent-design advocates that evolution often operates as not just a scientific theory about species, but also as a worldview that competes with religion. Any fair history of evolution, Ruse says -- he prefers to call the ideological strain "evolutionism" -- reveals it to be a Trojan horse carrying an ideology of "progress" that can't be deduced from Darwin. [...]

What many laymen don't understand, Ruse says -- particularly secular humanists whose image of science's logical rigor exceeds that of many philosophers of science -- is that Darwin's model did not succeed in making evolution a "professional" science in the 19th century.

As Ruse details in "The Evolution-Creation Struggle," various theorists explained evolutionary change by notions as odd as "jumps" (one might label them "leaps of fate") or the inheritance of acquired characteristics.

In Ruse's tale, Darwin's strictly scientific approach to evolution was hijacked in the 19th century by the Victorian reformer Thomas Henry Huxley, who became known as "Darwin's bulldog."

Huxley, Ruse argues, felt he needed to build a rival "church" to defeat archaic Anglican and Christian beliefs, and put man, not God, at the center of life.

Evolution became his "cornerstone." With the help of philosopher Herbert Spencer, who extended "survival of the fittest" thinking to social theory, Huxley promoted evolutionary thinking as a worldview hostile to sacred religious truths. Ruse cleverly capsulizes this in an analogy: Huxley was to Darwin as Paul was to Jesus.

The upshot in the 20th century, Ruse relates, was a third phase of evolutionary theory, neo-Darwinism, in which scientists brought greater coherence to it by uniting Darwinian selection and Mendelian genetics, but retained Huxley's value-laden commitment to "progress" and hostility to religion. Ruse cites Richard Dawkins as a scientist who fits that mold.

And once you get it down to just the genetics it doesn't serve any of the purposes that Darwinists need it to, though it serves perfectly well as science without any Darwinism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:02 PM


Help Africans help themselves in Sudan (Jeremy Barnicle, 10/25/05, CS Monitor)

As a white foreigner visiting a displacement camp here, I was greeted with the chant, "khawaja no kwa." "The foreigners say no," they sang, meaning international intervention helped curb the violence and ease the suffering in Darfur. The song was a gesture of thanks and respect.

The wealthy world fulfilled the first part of its obligation to the people here when it finally started sending emergency aid over a year ago. The second part of that obligation - helping African Union (AU) soldiers provide security for the 2 million people driven from home by the conflict - would consolidate humanitarian gains in Darfur and, as important, serve as a long-term investment in the stability of the entire continent.

In Darfur, the international community - specifically NATO and the United States - has a unique opportunity to help Africans provide security for their own conflict zones. The village raids have largely subsided, and access for aid workers has improved dramatically in Darfur over the past year, but the countryside is now racked with lawlessness and warlordism. Neither the government of Sudan nor the rebel parties seem able to control the violence. [...]

So far, the AU mission in Sudan has surpassed expectations. Displaced women used to be terrified of leaving camps to collect firewood, as armed men would stalk the outskirts of town and prey on them. Now, women can time their trips outside to coincide with AU patrols, which deter assaults. This is a development of which the AU and its backers should be proud.

The problem is that there are currently only about 6,000 AU troops in Darfur, an area the size of Texas. The AU says it plans to ramp that number up to about 12,000 by 2006. That would be too little, too late.

In order to help get Darfurians back home and back on track in safety, the AU would need to hit that 12,000 as soon as possible and be prepared to send at least a few thousand more if necessary. The US and NATO are already providing important logistical and technical support for the AU mission, but standing up this larger force would require a speedy and substantial increase in their financial commitments. The US specifically needs to apply diplomatic pressure to ensure that our allies meet the pledges they have made to the AU.

While helping the people of Darfur has been good in itself, establishing the AU as a serious force in the region is eminently worthwhile.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:55 PM


Is free-market Britain fair enough for all?: In a three-part series, the Monitor looks at how Britain, France, and Finland are adapting their social benefits models to the information age. (Mark Rice-Oxley, 10/25/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

Some, like the Scandinavian countries with their supergenerous state welfare, may be happy to "keep left." But others, particularly Britain with its center-right traditions, are warning that Europe won't be able to afford such largess and still compete in the global marketplace.

What some Britons have in mind is the kind of painful reform already pioneered in Britain in the 1980s under Margaret Thatcher, which cemented the "Anglo-Saxon" model and its emphasis on free markets, private enterprise, and smaller government.

At the time, Thatcherism was heresy to Jeremy Rix, a rebellious teenager with a flair for languages and art. He was so outraged by state cutbacks and miserly welfare that he joined street demonstrations, grew his hair long, and argued about politics with his father.

But now, as a 35-year-old company director with a family, Mr. Rix is far more appreciative of how social reform rejuvenated Britain and bequeathed his generation a country that is more dynamic than most in Europe.

"[Mrs. Thatcher] completely reinvented the UK in my view. We're still living with the legacy of that - free market, flexibility, greater wealth," says Rix, who runs his own market research and intelligence consultancy, Metro Research. [...]

While some conservatives in Europe say a hearty helping of Thatcherism would revive the Continent's flagging economies, most are still suspicious of the Anglo-Saxon model. Its relatively low taxes and stingy welfare payments have proven generally good for jobs and business, but have done little for poverty and equality. One current of European thought, which favors greater regulation and social protection, scoffingly portrays the Anglo-Saxon model as good only for free-market buccaneers. Another, popular in Scandinavia, is generally appalled by the neglect of the underclass.

Aware of Britain's poor record on social justice, Tony Blair has sought since he was elected in 1997 to remold various aspects of the British system to make it more compassionate, though not less dynamic. In this "Anglo-social" model, steadily increasing taxes fund health-service spending; tax revenues are channeled to poor families and to every newborn child; back-to-work programs help the unemployed; and a minimum wage gives greater succor to unskilled workers.

The Anglo-social model is "a hybrid between the dynamism and flexibility of the US and ... the egalitarianism of Norway and Sweden," says Mike Dixon, a researcher at the Institute for Public Policy Research in London, which spearheaded debate on the model. Its implementation, says Mr. Dixon, has reduced poverty, particularly child poverty, and halted the rise of inequality. The London-based New Policy Institute notes on its poverty.org.uk website that the number of British families living in poverty has dropped to 12 million from 24 million during Blair's tenure, though the poverty rate was still lower in the early 1980s.

Blair believes the Anglo-social model is one that the rest of Europe can and must imitate. In a speech to the European parliament in June, he warned that Europe was trailing the US in productivity and falling behind India in producing science graduates. He called for his EU partners to spend less money on regulation and job protection and more on investing in ideas of the future: knowledge, skills, education, and science parks.

"This is modern social policy, not regulation and job protection that may save some jobs for a time at the expense of many jobs in the future," he said. "Of course we need a social Europe. But it must be a social Europe that works."

The problem with the Scandanavian model is that it requires a level of ethnic and religious homogeneity that can't realistically be duplicated elsewhere and that they won't be able to maintain as their fertility rates implode.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:44 PM


Aleksandr Yakovlev (Daily Telegraph, 19/10/2005)

Aleksandr Yakovlev, who died yesterday aged 81, was a driving force behind Mikhail Gorbachev's policy on glasnost and democratisation, playing a critical role in the formulation and implementation of the new openness in Soviet domestic and foreign affairs.

Yakovlev supervised the demolition of the Stalinist model of economic development and destroyed the last remnants of Stalin's reputation. Although physically damaged by the war, he had an incisive mind which was devoted to introducing democracy to Russia. Even so, he strongly disliked the United States and its society.

Yakovlev was widely travelled, and accompanied Gorbachev to all his summit meetings with President Reagan. His knowledge of the Western world and Western public opinion meant that he knew which Soviet initiatives were necessary to achieve maximum impact.

The rise of Solidarity in Poland from 1980 came as a shock, and the self-confident premisses of developed socialism were abandoned. This permitted Yakovlev to question all the tenets of the ideology except the central one of the leading role of the party. Of particular concern was to establish that a viable alternative to Stalinism had existed in 1929 - a more human, gentler route to socialism.

This was to cut the ground from beneath those who maintained that glasnost and democratisation were undermining the stability of the Soviet state. Yakovlev wanted to demonstrate that the bureaucratic model - with the centrally planned economy at its core - bequeathed by Stalin was a brake on Soviet development and needed to be dismantled.

Aware of the depths of social apathy which existed throughout the country, he knew that the Party would increasingly be ignored if it did not develop a new language of communication. His task was to coin new words and phrases so as to cause people to think anew, and this new vocabulary had to be Leninist in order to outflank opposition. Perestroika, glasnost and demokratizatsiya were only a few examples. Other terms, such as pluralism, were rescued from opprobrium by prefacing them with the epithet "socialist". Parliamentarianism, once dismissed by Lenin as "cretinous", was given a new lease of life when applied to the new Supreme Soviet.

What he and Gorbachev could not grasp was that the rot began with Lenin--the Revolution had been poisonous from the start. As soon as they started to loosen the dissidents made this case and the last prop was gone.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:20 PM


Poland's President-Elect Praises U.S. (VANESSA GERA, 10/24/05, Associated Press)

President-elect Lech Kaczynski promised Monday to visit the United States early in his term, calling Washington an important ally but shedding no further light on whether Poland would extend its troop deployment in Iraq past the planned withdrawal next year.

Kaczynski, the socially conservative mayor of Warsaw who believes in capitalism with a safety net, won Sunday's presidential runoff race with 54 percent of the vote, defeating lawmaker Donald Tusk of the pro-market Civic Platform party.

In a sign of the importance he places on ties with Washington, Kaczynski said he would take up
President Bush's invitation to visit soon after he takes office on Dec. 23. Bush made the invitation in a congratulatory phone call Monday, White House press secretary Scott McClellan and Kaczynski said. [...]

Kaczynski, who has praised the first year of Poland's membership in the European Union but promised an assertive role within the EU, pledged Monday that his country would hold a referendum before adopting the euro. He said the vote would not take place until the second half of his five-year term "or even towards the end of it."

"Our friends in Europe are not encouraging us to act hastily," Kaczynski said in a briefing with foreign reporters. "There definitely will be a referendum. Getting rid of one's own currency is a very serious limitation of one's own sovereignty."

It would be great for President Bush to do a tour of the Axis of Good.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:18 PM


Smoking can lessen IQ, thinking ability: study (Charnicia E. Huggins Mon Oct 24,2005, Reuters)

The poorer mental function seen among alcoholics, many of whom also regularly smoke cigarettes, may be partially due to the long-term effects of nicotine, new research suggests.

"People who are also smokers are at a much higher risk," Dr. Jennifer M. Glass, of the University of Michigan's Addiction Research Center, told Reuters Health.

In her study, "cigarette smoking was negatively related to IQ and thinking," she said.

It's not like the folks who still smoke are that bright to start with....

Meanwhile, on the more sociable front, Alcohol can act like blood thinner (Anthony J. Brown, MD, Oct 24, 2005, Reuters)

A few drinks of alcohol per week impairs the ability of platelets -- elements in the blood involved in clotting -- to turn on and clump together to form a clot, new research indicates. These findings support previous research and may be the reason why moderate alcohol use has been linked to a decreased risk of heart attack.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:13 PM


US computer game touches Iran's atomic nerve (Christian Oliver, October 24, 2005, Washington Post)

U.S. special forces dart through Iran's underground nuclear facilities, gunning down any hapless Iranians standing between them and centrifuges that must be blown to bits.

Much to Tehran's relief, this crack team exists only in a new U.S. computer game. But even these animated saboteurs are too close for comfort, downloadable into Iranian living rooms at the click of a mouse.

The cyberspace troopers have sparked bitter press comment in Iran and a petition asking that the game be shelved.

"Americans have a deep craving for an attack against Iran, but they are going to have to settle for this make-believe assault," wrote the Kayhan daily, whose editor is appointed directly by Iran's Supreme Leader.

The problem being that it has likely been downloaded by Iranians themselves more often than the petition has been signed.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:53 PM


Transparency International
Corruption Perceptions Index 2005
(Tranparency International, 18 October 2005)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:04 PM


The Neocon Who Isn’t: Francis Fukuyama has all the "right" credentials. So when he opposed the Iraq War and voted for John Kerry, eyebrows were raised. They’re still rising. (Robert S. Boynton, 10.05.05, American Prospect)

On a Saturday in January 2003, as the Iraq War approached, the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment convened a meeting in a nondescript building in Arlington, Virginia, with three dozen of Washington’s top conservative policy intellectuals. Using an information-gathering technique dating back to the Eisenhower administration, the office asked four groups to study the long-term threat the United States faced from international terrorism and to report back to Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz.

One of the groups was led by Francis Fukuyama, a professor at Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), best known as the author of The End of History and the Last Man, the international bestseller that led British political philosopher John Gray to dub Fukuyama “[the] court philosopher of global capitalism.” The relationship between Fukuyama and Wolfowitz went back 35 years, to when Fukuyama was a Cornell undergraduate and Wolfowitz, then a Yale political-science professor, was a board member of the Telluride Association, the elite group house where Fukuyama lived. Fukuyama interned for Wolfowitz while a graduate student in the mid-1970s at the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, and later followed his mentor to the State Department during the first Reagan administration. When Wolfowitz became dean of the SAIS, he recruited Fukuyama from George Mason.

When Fukuyama received the Pentagon’s call, he immersed himself in subjects -- the politics of the Middle East, Islam, terrorism -- he hadn’t thought about since he’d worked with Dennis Ross on the Palestinian autonomy talks that followed the Camp David accords.

Fukuyama had spent much of the previous summer in Europe promoting Our Posthuman Future, his most recent book at the time, and his encounters with editorial boards throughout the continent left an impression on him. “That was the point at which I started to think about the whole issue of American hegemony,” he says. “Until then I had accepted the neoconservative line, which is, ‘OK, we’re hegemons, but we’re benevolent hegemons.’ But when I was in Europe, the reality of what non-Americans thought hit me more forcefully than it had before. Even the editor of the Financial Times, which is a pretty conservative paper, was absolutely livid about the way the Bush administration was dealing with the U.K. and Europe.”

Fukuyama’s team prepared furiously for three months, and, of the presentations made that January day by the four groups, Fukuyama’s was the only one Wolfowitz attended. This was precisely the time when preparations to invade Iraq were in full swing. The news Fukuyama delivered was most likely not what Wolfowitz wanted to hear.

The group’s recommendations -- which have never been mentioned publicly, much less released -- were a photographic negative of the path the Bush administration followed. The United States, the group advised, should avoid overreacting to the events of September 11, and particularly resist military incursions that would “lead to a world in which the U.S. and its policies remain the chief focus of global concern,” as Fukuyama put it in The Washington Post on the first anniversary of the attacks. The group reasoned that although military action was a necessary component of the American response, it should be of secondary concern to a “hearts and minds” campaign directed at the vast majority of the Islamic world that generally admires America.

It was an analysis that departed from the “clash of civilizations” scenarios that Fukuyama’s friend and former teacher Samuel Huntington predicted some years earlier. In contrast, Fukuyama’s group portrayed the conflict between democratic capitalism and Islamic fundamentalism as so lopsided that Huntington’s formulation overstated the strength of America’s foe. “Neither Arab nationalists nor Islamic fundamentalists, or any other alternatives in that part of the world, present a really serious route to modernization,” he told the London Independent in April 2003.

Given this radical inequality, Fukuyama has argued in subsequent writings (which reflect the ideas that appeared in his group’s report) that the United States should avoid inflammatory rhetoric such as the “war on terror.” In contrast, Fukuyama argued that while Islamic terrorists are dangerous, they don’t resemble anything close to the threat once posed by communism or fascism. [...]

The most divisive aspect of Fukuyama’s argument has been his claim that Islamic terrorism is not an existential threat to the United States. It is a theme that he says has been influenced by the French scholars Gilles Kepel (The War for Muslim Minds) and Olivier Roy (The Failure of Political Islam), who argue that political Islam has demonstrated itself to be a failure everywhere it has taken power, and that the Islamic terrorist movement had been largely a failure prior to 9-11. Those attacks, as well as the Iraq War, gave it a new lease on life.

The seeds of these ideas, however, are buried deep in Fukuyama’s own work. In his original 1989 National Interest article, “The End of History?”, he singled out Islam as the only viable theocratic alternative to liberalism and communism, although one he doubted would have “any universal significance.” In the preface to Our Posthuman Future, he dismissed the threat of Islamic radicalism as “a desperate rearguard action that will in time be overwhelmed by the broader tide of modernization.”

Critics have faulted Fukuyama for clinging to his end-of-history thesis, accusing him of systematically underestimating events that challenged it, whether it was Yugoslav nationalism in the ’90s or Islamic radicalism today. “Fukuyama’s an optimist, which blinds him to a lot,” says Paul Berman, the author of Liberalism and Terror. (Reviewing “The End of History” in The New York Review of Books, Alan Ryan dubbed Fukuyama “the conservative’s Dr. Pangloss.” “If what we’ve got is what History with a capital H intends for us,” he wrote, “then we, too, live in the best of all possible worlds.”.

Krauthammer argues that it’s Fukuyama’s secular sensibility that blinds him to the appeal of radical Islam. “It has 1 billion potential adherents, which means that [Osama] bin Laden’s ideology has the potential to appeal to infinitely more people than the Aryan ideas of Nazism ever did,” he told me. “Frank has a stake in denying the obvious nature of the threat, but the fact is that history returned after 9-11 … . There are people running around trying to acquire anthrax with which to wipe out an entire city. If that doesn’t qualify as an existential threat, I don’t know what does.”

Fukuyama replies that these are the kinds of sentiments America should resist. “For the U.S. to treat every Muslim as a potential suicide bomber is precisely what fanatics like bin Laden want,” he says. “Iraq before the U.S. invasion was certainly not an existential threat. It posed an existential threat to Kuwait, Iran, and Israel, but it had no means of threatening the continuity of our regime. Al-Qaeda and other radical Islamist groups aspire to be existential threats to American civilization but do not currently have anything like the capacity to actualize their vision. They are extremely dangerous totalitarians, but post threats primarily to regimes in the Middle East.”

Korb agrees. “The bombing in London was terrible, but it wasn’t like the Blitz,” he says. “Terrorists can make life unpleasant, but bin Laden isn’t going to end up running Great Britain, while Hitler very well might have.”

The difference between Fukuyama and his critics is as much philosophical as empirical. Whereas Krauthammer and Berman emphasize Islamic terrorism’s potential for imminent violence, Fukuyama takes the long view, reasoning that political Islam won’t win the larger ideological war regardless of how much damage it inflicts.

It is, of course, precisely the secular sensibbility of neoconservatism generally that has sent Mr. Krauthammer spinning out of control on the Miers nomination and that makes it rather unlikely that neocons will remain in the Republican Party for any considerable period of time. However, it is Mr. Fukuyama who is right about the appeal of and the threat presented by Islamicism, neither of which is terribly great. The most amusing aspect of the whoile dustup though is that while the intellectual class argues amonst itself about such minutiae, the President has gone about happily using the pretext of Islamicism to break apart the ossified dictatorships of the Islamic world and get them all--almost without exception--moving down the path of democratic reform.

It's interesting that Mr. Fukuyama quite consciously modeled himself after George Kennan, even down to signing his original End of History piece with the pseudonym, X. Over time, Kennan became disenchanted with the results of folk embracing his theory of containment because they opted for an overactive type of containment--fighting wars and propping up rotten regimes and so forth every time a communist bulge appeared in the encirclement. He understood that communism couldn't possibly succeed in the long term and wanted to just passively wait it out. By the time we'd made a hash of Vietnam and were being governed by craven souls like Nixon, Kissinger, Ford and Carter it looked like we might just settle down to exactly that original plan. But along came Ronald Reagan, who found the Cold War intolerable, and by the time he was finished knocking over the china even the Soviet apparatchiks knew it was over.

Mr. Fukuyama partakes of Kennan's wisdom--we could indeed just wait out Islamicism and authoritarianism in the Islamic world--but he got stuck with his own personal Reagan right at jump street. George W. Bush seized 9-11 as a way of avoiding another 50 year war and an excuse for hastening the inevitable End. He's bulling his way through the Middle East: toppling regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq by force and in Palestine and Lebanon by rhetorical force; undermining regimes like Syria's; and radically altering behavior and the pace of reform in places like Libya, Pakistan, etc.. In effect, given the opportunity to replay the Cold War, Mr. Fukuyama would, but George Bush decided not to.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:51 PM


Greenspan's heir apparent: As Fed chief, Ben Bernanke would guide fragile economy. (Mark Trumbull, 10/25/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

Mr. Bernanke is now chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisors. Yet his background also includes a stint as Fed governor and expertise as a monetary economist, traits that will be crucial to convincing global markets that his selection is not based merely on the political preferences of the Bush White House.

The appointment, indeed, comes at a time when the Bush administration is eager to score a political victory and to deflect attention from acrimony within the president's own party over his selection of Harriet Miers as a nominee for the Supreme Court.

The selection of Bernanke follows a pattern Bush has set in his second term of choosing close associates for high-level appointments. [...]

At the Fed, Bernanke has pushed for the central bank to be more specific in its inflation objectives. Greenspan has opposed setting a numerical target for inflation.

Bernanke also has championed openness at the Fed - a policy that Greenspan has advanced prominently. Yet he is considered more plain- spoken than Greenspan, whose economic pronouncements sometimes seemed deliberately mystifying. [...]

For any central bank, inflation is enemy No. 1, and its emergence must always be fought in the dynamics of an economy in motion.

In an interview published the Minneapolis branch of the Federal Reserve in 2004, Bernanke said that "announcing an actual number or range [for inflation] would serve to anchor public expectations of inflation more firmly and avoid the risk of 'inflation scares' that might unnecessarily raise nominal bond yields."

Financial markets, he argued in the interview, would be well served by knowing the Fed's rough target for inflation, the rate of price change in the economy.

That view reflects how the management of expectations is a critical role for central bankers.

Mr. Bernake's most important credential is that he's the first Chairman ever to comprehend the danger of deflation.

Bush Selects White House Economist Bernanke to Replace Greenspan (William Branigin, 10/24/05, Washington Post)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:39 AM


The New Slavery: Nock on Spencer (Albert Jay Nock, October 24, 2005, Mises.org)

From 1851 down to his death at the end of the century, [Herbert] Spencer wrote occasional essays, partly as running comment on the acceleration of Statism's progress; partly as exposition, by force of illustration and example; and partly as remarkably accurate prophecy of what has since come to pass in consequence of the wholesale substitution of the principle of compulsory cooperation — the Statist principle — for the individualist principle of voluntary cooperation. He reissued four of these essays in 1884, under the title, The Man Versus The State; and these four essays, together with two others, called Over-legislation and From Freedom to Bondage, are now reprinted here under the same general title. [...]

The first essay, The New Toryism, is of primary importance just now, because it shows the contrast between the aims and methods of early Liberalism and those of modern Liberalism. In these days we hear a great deal about Liberalism, Liberal principles and policies, in the conduct of our public life. All sorts and conditions of men put themselves forward on the public stage as Liberals; they call those who oppose them Tories, and get credit with the public thereby. In the public mind, Liberalism is a term of hon our, while Toryism — especially "economic Toryism" — is a term of reproach. Needless to say, these terms are never examined; the self-styled Liberal is taken popularly at the face value of his pretensions, and policies which are put forth as Liberal are accepted in the same unreflecting way. This being so, it is useful to see what the historic sense of the term is, and to see how far the aims and methods of latter-day Liberalism can be brought into correspondence with it; and how far, therefore, the latter-day Liberal is entitled to bear that name.

Spencer shows that the early Liberal was consistently for cutting down the State's coercive power over the citizen, wherever this was possible. He was for reducing to a minimum the number of points at which the State might make coercive interventions upon the individual. He was for steadily enlarging the margin of existence within which the citizen might pursue and regulate his own activities as he saw fit, free of State control or State supervision. Liberal policies and measures, as originally conceived, were such as reflected these aims. The Tory, on the other hand, was opposed to these aims, and his policies reflected this opposition. In general terms, the Liberal was consistently inclined towards the individualist philosophy of society, while the Tory was consistently inclined towards the Statist philosophy.

Spencer shows moreover that as a matter of practical policy, the early Liberal proceeded towards the realization of his aims by the method of repeal. He was not for making new laws, but for repealing old ones. It is most important to remember this. Wherever the Liberal saw a law which enhanced the State's coercive power over the citizen, he was for repealing it and leaving its place blank. There were many such laws on the British statute-books, and when Liberalism came into power it repealed an immense grist of them.

Spencer must be left to describe in his own words, as he does in the course of this essay, how in the latter half of the last century British Liberalism went over bodily to the philosophy of Statism, and abjuring the political method of repealing existent coercive measures, proceeded to outdo the Tories in constructing new coercive measures of ever-increasing particularity. This piece of British political history has great value for American readers, because it enables them to see how closely American Liberalism has followed the same course. It enables them to interpret correctly the significance of Liberalism's influence upon the direction of our public life in the last half-century, and to perceive just what it is to which that influence has led, just what the consequences are which that influence has tended to bring about, and just what are the further consequences which may be expected to ensue.

For example, Statism postulates the doctrine that the citizen has no rights which the State is bound to respect; the only rights he has are those which the State grants him, and which the State may attenuate or revoke at its own pleasure. This doctrine is fundamental; without its support, all the various nominal modes or forms of Statism which we see at large in Europe and America — such as are called Socialism, Communism, Naziism, Fascism, etc. — would collapse at once. The individualism which was professed by the early Liberals, maintained the contrary; it maintained that the citizen has rights which are inviolable by the State or by any other agency. This was fundamental doctrine; without its support, obviously, every formulation of individualism becomes so much waste paper. Moreover, early Liberalism accepted it as not only fundamental, but also as axiomatic, self-evident. We may remember, for example, that our great charter, the Declaration of Independence, takes as its foundation the self-evident truth of this doctrine, asserting that man, in virtue of his birth, is endowed with certain rights which are "unalienable"; and asserting further that it is "to secure these rights" that governments are instituted among men. Political literature will nowhere furnish a more explicit disavowal of the Statist philosophy than is to be found in the primary postulate of the Declaration.

But now, in which direction has latter-day American Liberalism tended? Has it tended towards an expanding régime of voluntary cooperation, or one of enforced cooperation? Have its efforts been directed consistently towards repealing existent measures of State coercion, or towards the devising and promotion of new ones? Has it tended steadily to enlarge or to reduce the margin of existence within which the individual may act as he pleases? Has it contemplated State intervention upon the citizen at an ever-increasing number of points, or at an ever-decreasing number? In short, has it consistently exhibited the philosophy of individualism or the philosophy of Statism?

There can be but one answer, and the facts supporting it are so notorious that multiplying examples would be a waste of space. To take but a single one from among the most conspicuous, Liberals worked hard — and successfully — to inject the principle of absolutism into the Constitution by means of the Income-tax Amendment. Under that Amendment it is competent for Congress not only to confiscate the citizen's last penny, but also to levy punitive taxation, discriminatory taxation, taxation for "the equalization of wealth," or for any other purpose it sees fit to promote. Hardly could a single measure be devised which would do more to clear the way for a purely Statist régime, than this which puts so formidable a mechanism in the hands of the State, and gives the State carte blanche for its employment against the citizen. Again, the present Administration is made up of self-styled Liberals, and its course has been a continuous triumphal advance of Statism. In a preface to these essays, written in 1884, Spencer has a paragraph which sums up with remarkable completeness the political history of the United States during the last six years:

Dictatorial measures, rapidly multiplied, have tended continually to narrow the liberties of individuals; and have done this in a double way. Regulations have been made in yearly-growing numbers, restraining the citizen in directions where his actions were previously unchecked, and compelling actions which previously he might perform or not as he liked; and at the same time heavier public burdens, chiefly local, have further restricted his freedom, by lessening that portion of his earnings which he can spend as he pleases, and augmenting the portion taken from him to be spent as public agents please.

Thus closely has the course of American Statism, from 1932 to 1939, followed the course of British Statism from 1860 to 1884. Considering their professions of Liberalism, it would be quite appropriate and by no means in-urbane, to ask Mr. Roosevelt and his entourage whether they believe that the citizen has any rights which the State is bound to respect. Would they be willing — ex animo, that is, and not for electioneering purposes — to subscribe to the fundamental doctrine of the Declaration? One would be unfeignedly surprised if they were. Yet such an affirmation might go some way to clarify the distinction, if there actually be any, between the "totalitarian" Statism of certain European countries and the "democratic" Statism of Great Britain, France and the United States. It is commonly taken for granted that there is such a distinction, but those who assume this do not trouble themselves to show wherein the distinction consists; and to the disinterested observer the fact of its existence is, to say the least, not obvious.

MORE: -OBIT: Arthur Seldon (Daily Telegraph, 13/10/2005)

Arthur Seldon, who died on Tuesday aged 89, was, with Ralph Harris, one of the founders of the Institute of Economic Affairs, the think-tank which advanced free-market ideas at a time when they were deeply out of favour, and which provided much of the intellectual underpinning for Thatcherism.

The success of the IEA was in large part due to Seldon's gifts as an editor, and to the care with which he encouraged young writers. Many proposals which were later to be taken up by politicians might never have seen the light of day without Seldon's meticulous removal of jargon and insistence that the ideas being presented should be comprehensible to a wide audience.

Seldon himself had no interest in narrow party politics. He was not a Tory, but an old-fashioned Liberal, and insisted that shaping public attitudes, rather than courting politicians, should be the IEA's priority. [...]

In January 1957, on the initiative of a Liberal peer, Lord Grantchester, Seldon was introduced to Ralph Harris (now Lord Harris of High Cross), who was general director (and sole employee) of the newly-formed, independent Institute of Economic Affairs, of which Seldon soon became editorial director.

In a single week-end at the Reform Club he drafted a paper, published a few months' later as Pensions in a Free Society. It unfashionably declared: "The philosophy underlying this paper is that most of us are now adult enough to be left, or to be helped, to live our own lives according to our own lights... The transition from dependence to independence must be gradual; that is all the more reason for beginning soon."

There followed a remarkable 30-year partnership between Seldon and Harris that produced more than 300 scholarly books and papers which contributed powerfully, perhaps decisively, to the turn-round in party politics from the Keynesian-collectivist consensus of Butskellism to the market-centred programmes of Thatcher and Blair.

As self-confessed members of the awkward squad, Seldon and Harris were soon writing seminal studies of advertising and hire purchase in the free society series, and later co-authored further reports, including several on public versus private welfare.

The IEA had been set-up as an educational charity by a Sussex farming entrepreneur named Antony Fisher from the early profits of the Buxted Chicken company. While Harris built up the finances and student network of the Institute, Seldon became the incomparable, pro-active editor, orchestrating a rapidly growing academy of scholars, including Hayek, Milton Friedman and several other Nobel Laureates, as well as unknown junior scholars whom he coached to prominence.

Seldon identified not only important, but misunderstood or neglected, topics. After surviving an operation for an ulcer only when his rare blood group - for which stocks were unavailable - was matched to a bus driver from Edgware after a frantic search, he wrote The Price of Blood (1964), which argued for the market to be let loose to increase blood supplies.

He matched authors to each subject and urged them to develop analysis with recommendations for policy, but with no regard for what was then thought "politically impossible". His aim was to destroy the post-war consensus and rehabilitate the classical liberal philosophy of limited government based on a competition and the widest freedom of personal choice.

When faint-hearts dwelt on obstacles to radical reform, he declared that market forces would triumph over the short-term, opportunistic manoeuvres of puny party politicians. Yet despite his unceasing advocacy of the education voucher, in which he was especially helped by a devoted and energetic wife, he was doomed to watch his hopes dashed by mounting spending.

He was a pioneer in Britain of the American "public choice" school, which led him to confront the frequent cry of "market failure" with the charge of what he called "incorrigible government failure". The trouble he diagnosed was "that politicians are not generally saints pursuing the long-term public interest, but party politicians responding to demands from organised lobbies".

For Seldon, the profit motive governed by consumers in an open competitive economy was more truly democratic - and wholesome - than the vote motive operating in a regime of so-called representative government dominated by pressure groups.

His scholarly magnum opus entitled simply Capitalism (1990) failed to attract the public attention it deserved. But in his more populist writing he never ceased to challenge all three political parties. "The ultimate solution is nothing less than the displacement of 'public officials' and 'public servants' by the revival of the authority of parents to reject inadequate schools, crowded medical centres and captive housing, by empowering them to pay fees, medical insurance or other costs," he wrote in 2001.

On his 80th birthday, Lady Thatcher wrote to offer her congratulations, declaring that Seldon had made "an invaluable contribution to the political and economic map of Britain.

"At a time when free enterprise and the free market were unfashionable you championed their cause, laying the foundations for their revival in the 1970s… You always refused to accept Britain's decline and through your visionary work and rigorous preparation, you inspired much of our success during the 1980s."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:01 AM


A Syriajevo in the making? (Spengler, 10/25/05, Asia Times)

In Iran, a noteworthy set of statements from the Iranian leadership during the past several days makes it clear that the Islamic republic believes it can obtain its objective without confrontation. As matters stand, Tehran is likely to succeed.

I do not believe any formal understanding is in place, but the probable outcome is that Washington will refrain from military action to forestall Iranian nuclear arms developments, while Tehran will refrain from disrupting Washington's constitutional Potemkin Village in Iraq. Iran has the initiative, and the proof of the pudding is that Iran's press agency IRNA provides better guidance about the course of events than the Western media.

The Syrian affair is a diversion. Less than any other political entity from the Mediterranean to the Indus does Syria resemble a nation, and its ruling clique has no friends, only customers. If the United Nations investigation of the Hariri killing leads to the downfall of the Assad family, strategic implications will be small, and mourners few. Iran is a different matter.

One would have liked to see Spengler be honest enough to admit that he badly whiffed on the prospects for the constitution, which might encourage him to rethink Shi'ism a bit. Were he to do so he might conclude that Iran and America are collaborating because our goals are so similar. We both want a series of states founded upon Shi'a principles--principles that they share with Christians and Jews.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:50 AM


From Saddam’s Trial to Syrian Suicide: Accountability comes to the Arab World (Mona Eltahawy, 20/10/2005, Asharq Alawsat)

Are we seeing the start of an Arab Autumn?

On Oct. 18 former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein takes the stand on charges of premeditated murder, torture and forced expulsion and disappearances when he goes on trial for a 1982 massacre of Shiites. A week later, the U.N. investigator’s report into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri is due before the Security Council.

The sight of Iraqis and Palestinians voting earlier this year and of the Lebanese who turned out in their thousands to protest Hariri’s assassination was called an Arab Spring for spurring talk of change in the Arab world.

With Saddam Hussein standing before prosecutors and the names of the rich and the powerful of Syria and Lebanon on the pages of the Mehlis report, October could be the start of an Arab Autumn, in which we shed the old and prepare for the new.

Accountability is a rare commodity in the Arab world. We are so unused to seeing officials held accountable that the sight of Saddam answering charges may prove cathartic for people across the entire Arab world, not just in Iraq.

I can almost guarantee there will be calls for a fair trial from countries where such a thing is a luxury. And for those who insist on complaining about the “humiliation” enacted upon Saddam, that is exactly the point.

“This is the least which can be done to settle all the pain he and his regime have caused an entire nation,” lamented an Iraqi friend whose family fled Saddam’s Iraq when he was a child. “Imagine - all the resources both human and natural - all were used for him and his family's own pleasure.

“I'm against the death penalty but I’m willing to make an exception in this case,” he said. “I hope his trial, conviction and hanging will be in public. Just to remind other dictators and blood thirsty tyrants of the awful end they might face. [...]

Autumn is the season when gardeners plant the seeds for spring. Accountability is the seed we’re planting this autumn in the Arab world. Let’s hope it bears fresh and vibrant blossoms.

And Saddam and Assad can fertilize the soil.

Traveling home to a new Syria (Souheila Al-Jadda, 10/24/05, CS Monitor)

Like many Syrians, my family views the US as both friend and foe. They love America for pressuring Arab governments to reform, but they don't feel the war on Iraq is justified, nor do they feel that the war on terror is anything more than a global effort at ethnic and religious profiling.

"I hope this nondemocratic way of life that we have been living these past 35 years ends," a middle-aged civil engineer remarked to me. He lives in the neighborhood where I was staying, and we had struck up a conversation outside the apartment building. "If America finds any way to achieve democracy in our country, then God bless it, but not by using its armies."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:47 AM


U.S. Magazine Prints Anti-Jewish Slur (Press Release of the Wyman Institute, 10-23-05)

As scholars prepare to mark the 100th anniversary of the antisemitic 'Protocols of the Elders of Zion,' a U.S. magazine has published a Protocols-style "dual loyalty" slur against Ambassador Henry Morgenthau Sr., one of the most prominent Jews in early twentieth-century American politics.

The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, a glossy magazine published by two former U.S. government officials, has printed an article in its November 2005 issue blaming Morgenthau and Zionism for prolonging World War I. The article falsely suggests that Morgenthau's 1917 peace mission to Turkey could have brought an early end to the war, but that Morgenthau allowed Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann to talk him out of the effort because Morgenthau chose to "show more loyalty to Zionism than to his president or his country." (In fact, Morgenthau was an opponent of Zionism.)

The article also falsely claims that "a [U.S.] Senator" testified at congressional hearings in 1922 that the Zionists were to blame for prolonging World War I. In fact, that testimony was made not be a Senator but by an Arabist professor, Edward B. Reed, and his statement at the time was denounced by American Zionist leaders as reminiscent of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. [...]

The Washington Report's article was authored by "John Cornelius," whom it identifies as "the nom de plume of an American with long-standing interest in the Middle East."

The Washington Report often publishes articles comparing Israel to the Nazis and alleging inappropriate Jewish influence on Congress or the media. It also opposes U.S. government support of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and in 1998 printed an article claiming there is new evidence that "would cut in half the Zionists' original claim that six million Jews had died under the Nazi regime." U.S. Congressman Steven Rothman (D-NJ) has described the Washington Report as "extremely anti-Semitic" and urged his congressional colleagues to boycott it.

Anti-Semitic State Department vets? Wonders never cease.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:42 AM


A preference for stability or a flexible labor market? (Graham Bowley, OCTOBER 23, 2005, International Herald Tribune)

Sometimes called "Rhineland capitalism," it features heavy regulation of markets, a comprehensive system of social and job security and widespread consultation among governments, employers and labor unions. Underlying this style of capitalism is a preference for stability to encourage growth and the avoidance of risk and turbulence.

The problem is that Europe's aging population means it is becoming increasingly difficult to sustain and finance such a system when there are fewer people of working age paying taxes. The desire for consensus also makes it difficult to keep up with nimbler rivals in today's world, characterized by rapid technological change and strong global competition.

Anglo-Saxon model

Practiced in Britain and Ireland, it is heavily influenced by U.S.-style capitalism. It emphasizes less regulation, focusing instead on the openness of markets, competition and risk-taking.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:32 AM


Iraqi women take up arms (Sharon Behn, October 24, 2005, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

While most Iraqi women live in fear of terrorists and criminals, one small band of women has taken up arms and is prepared to fight back.

Employed by a private security company, the women ride in the front passenger seat posing as ordinary housewives when the company's drivers transport customers around the city in nondescript vehicles.

But their firearms are always close at hand, and they are trained to respond with force if they come under attack. [...]

[E]ven as the violence shuts down many avenues to a normal life, for Rana, 35, Xena 31, Muna, 26 and Assal, 24, it has created the possibility of a good paying job and living on equal terms with Iraqi men.

"Before I got into this, I was like a normal female; when I heard bullets, I would hide," said Muna, a stocky young woman in a black T-shirt and black pants.

"Now, I feel like a man. When I hear a bullet, I want to know where it came from," she said, sitting comfortably with an AK-47 assault rifle across her legs, red toenails poking out from a pair of stacked sandals. "Now I feel equal to my husband."

If the work provides personal fulfillment for Muna, her colleague Assal -- a divorced mother -- sees it as a cause.

"I have seen a lot of innocent people die," she said, staring out with intense black eyes. "We are trying to defend ourselves and defend each other. I am doing this for my country."

Like many Iraqis, she has no idea what the future will bring.

"I see today, I don't see tomorrow," she said, voicing a common refrain.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:30 AM


Gas retailers slow to drop prices, reap big returns (Brad Foss, October 24, 2005, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

When pump prices skyrocketed after Hurricane Katrina, gasoline retailers were caught in an uncomfortable paradox -- they were accused of gouging at the same time their profits were being squeezed by runaway costs at the wholesale level.

Now the reverse is true. The outrage from consumers and Congress has died down just as gas stations across the country are reaping some of their best returns at the pump in years by passing along huge savings at the wholesale level as slowly as possible.

"We just had a two-week period there with our best margins in two years," said Bill Douglass, who sells Exxon- and Mobil-branded gasoline at 14 locations around Dallas and distributes fuel to 165 others.

Mr. Douglass and other retailers are benefiting from the spread between wholesale and retail prices, which now is nearly twice its normal size. Since the beginning of September, wholesale prices have fallen more than 40 percent, while retail prices have come down 11 percent, U.S. Department of Energy statistics show.

It's foolish for us not to be taking that margin and more ourselves in the form of taxes.

MORE (via Gene Brown):
Gas Taxes: Lesser Evil, Greater Good (NY Times, 10/24/05)

There's no serious disagreement that two major crises of our time are terrorism and global warming. And there's no disputing that America's oil consumption fosters both. Oil profits that flow to Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries finance both terrorist acts and the spread of dangerously fanatical forms of Islam. The burning of fossil fuels creates greenhouse emissions that provoke climate change. All the while, oil dependency increases the likelihood of further military entanglements, and threatens the economy with inflation, high interest rates and risky foreign indebtedness. Until now, the government has failed to connect our crises and our consumption in a coherent way. That dereliction of duty has led to policies that are counterproductive, such as tax incentives to buy gas guzzlers and an overemphasis on increasing domestic oil supply, although even all-out drilling would not be enough to slake our oil thirst and would require a reversal of longstanding environmental protections.

Now, however, the energy risks so apparent in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina have created both the urgency and the political opportunity for the nation's leaders to respond appropriately. The government must capitalize on the end of the era of perpetually cheap gas, and it must do so in a way that makes America less vulnerable to all manner of threats - terrorist, environmental and economic.

The best solution is to increase the federal gasoline tax, in order to keep the price of gas near its post-Katrina highs of $3-plus a gallon. That would put a dent in gas-guzzling behavior, as has already been seen in the dramatic drop in the sale of sport-utility vehicles. And it would help cure oil dependency in the long run, as automakers and other manufacturers responded to consumer demand for fuel-efficient products.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:22 AM


Memo to Kim: Oppositions must provide propositions (Andrew Leigh, 20 October 2005, Online Opinion)

What is federal Labor’s top priority today? Ask a dozen politicians and party members, and you’ll probably hear that it’s to oppose the industrial relations reform package, critique the way the immigration department has implemented our tougher border protection policy, and stoke the fires of dissent over Australia’s continuing involvement in Iraq.

When your top priorities are to reject the other side’s top priorities, you know you’re in trouble. Admittedly, recent few weeks have seen occasional flashes of policy insight from the ALP, with new ideas from Kim Beazley on expanding trade training and building our capacity to fight terrorism. But if Labor is to win in 2007, the party needs to offer much more in this ilk. The only way for an opposition to deflect the perennial accusation that they are the nattering nabobs of negativism is with a deluge of positive policy proposals.

They face the same problem as the Democrats and Tories, all three having lost the race to be the party pof the Third Way. The only plausible policy options they can offer--using capitalistic means to achieve an end that provides greater social security--are gpoing to be indistinmguishable from the policies of the party in power, which they've been reacting against. It'll be good for our three nations as these parties resort to "me-tooism" but won't do the parties themselves much good.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:14 AM


Fuel prices usher in new coal age: Alternative to gas, oil takes on appeal (Peter J. Howe, October 24, 2005, Boston Globe)

When he found out how high the price of natural gas would be this winter, Scott Rose, of Dorchester, decided that the fuel of choice for 2006 would be the fuel of choice of 1906: Coal.

After picking up an old coal stove last year with an eye to replacing his messy wood stove, Rose decided this winter that it would be worth the hassle of switching to coal and connecting the vent to run out his chimney.

He will still pay KeySpan Energy Delivery New England for gas. But for $330, he willl get 2,000 pounds of coal, to be delivered this week to his condominium, in neat bags on pallets in his driveway.

That delivery should last him two or three months. And, he hopes, it may take up to 80 percent off his December and January gas bills.

''It's just a matter of economics," Rose said. ''I can't afford $500 a month for gas, and that's what we're looking at."

Companies that sell coal and wood stoves and fuel for them say they are seeing lots of people like Rose.

And those people are flocking to alternatives of the 19th-century vintage.

Some businesses report that sales have more than doubled, and in some cases the shops are sold out of stoves, and will be out of stock until January.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:07 AM


The Condi Show (including some guy called Jack Straw) hits the road – but with no end in sight: It looks like a Presidential campaign even if no one involved is saying so (David Charter, 10/24/05, Times of London)

AT THE start of their unconventional bonding weekend in the Deep South, Jack Straw risked offending Condoleezza Rice by dismissing American football as “rugby with commercials”.

By the time he saw Brodie Croyle throw a 44-yard pass to clinch Alabama Crimson Tide’s narrow victory against their arch-rivals, the Tennessee Volunteers, the Foreign Secretary was on his feet yelling alongside the US Secretary of State and 90,000 other fans.

Dr Rice, tipped as a possible future commissioner of the National Football League, had won him round to her favourite spectator sport.

But while Mr Straw fulfilled his goal of learning more about his counterpart’s roots, the three-day “backyard bilateral” left the South wondering if Dr Rice had a different job in mind after the State Department. [...]

Asked if America was ready for an unmarried black woman president, Bubba Wingo, a 52-year-old white devotee of the Alabama Crimson Tide, said: “That can be overcome. Being from the South, I think a lot of that is behind us now. At one time it would have been a big obstacle, but not any more.”

If she returns the favor and goes to a soccer game she'll never win an American election.

Diplomacy or campaign trail for Rice? (Jonathan Beale, 10/23/05, BBC News)

It took a small girl at Condoleezza Rice's old elementary school in Birmingham, Alabama, to ask the question most of us reporters had been thinking.

She wanted to know whether the US Secretary of State thought the US would ever have a woman president.

There was no real doubt as to what she was thinking: could she be looking at a future contender for the White House?

Ms Rice replied yes, she thought it would happen, before adding - her now well rehearsed denial - that she herself was not interested in running for office.

Maybe, but everything about this trip to her home state of Alabama - Republican to the core - had the feel of a campaign tour.

On Trip to South, Rice Uses an Atypical Topic: Herself (STEVEN R. WEISMAN, 10/24/05, NY Times)
At the University of Alabama this weekend, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice seemed taken aback when the chairwoman of the campus College Republicans asked for advice on how to prepare for a career in politics. With a chuckle, Ms. Rice turned to her guest, Jack Straw, the British foreign secretary, for the answer.

"He's actually run for office," she said. "I haven't."

But all weekend long, Ms. Rice seemed to be running for something. It was not, her aides maintained, for office, though she was greeted like a superstar everywhere, with an explosion of cheers at the Alabama-Tennessee football game on Saturday when she entered the field of Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa with Mr. Straw for the ceremonial toss of the coin.

Ms. Rice insisted, on the contrary, that she was seeking to bring foreign policy issues to people outside Washington and, more important, to use the triumphant story of the civil rights movement to counsel patience and understanding for skeptics who believe that democracy cannot flourish in Iraq and the Middle East.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:04 AM


'We cannot hide. EU must accept globalisation or we are nothing': José Manuel Barroso, the President of the European Commission, speaks exclusively to The Times before 25 heads of government gather for Thursday’s vital summit (Anthony Browne, 10/24/05, Times of London)

EUROPE will become “nothing” if it fails to meet the challenge of globalisation and succumbs instead to the demands for protectionism and xenophobia that are sweeping the Continent, José Manuel Barroso, the President of the European Commission, has said.

In terms that will be seen as strong backing for the British stance and condemnation of French protectionist policies, Senhor Barroso called on all “civilised and rational” people to fight the kind of populism that is opposed to free markets and to embrace globalisation rather than turn Europe into a fortress.

He issued his warning in an interview with The Times as European leaders prepare for a summit at Hampton Court Palace on Thursday. Tony Blair, who is the current EU President, has organised the informal summit to try to forge a consensus on the way forward for Europe. There will be no detailed agenda and no official note-takers. Senhor Barroso will present a paper that he describes as a wake-up call. “If the signal we give to our children is ‘Protect yourself — hide under the table because there is globalisation, resist it’ — then we are nothing,” he said in his offices on the top floor of the European Commission’s headquarters in Brussels.

It's not like they'll be much even if they stop hiding under the table.

Globalization drives a wedge into EU (Graham Bowley, 10/23/05, International Herald Tribune)

The growing friction is explained by French attempts to hold back the pace of economic liberalization on the Continent in the face of intensifying global competition. This comes as the French economy is weak and the government is playing to the public's protectionist mood with presidential elections coming in less than two years.

Amid a resurgence of national self-interest, the French government has come to view the European Union, and the projects that the European Commission is trying to pursue, as a threat to its old ways of life and to its standing in the world, which are coming under intense pressure from globalization.

Traditionally, the Union was an instrument that France used to project power beyond its borders. But the swelling of the bloc to 25 members from 15 in May 2004 has meant a loss of influence for France in Brussels. The surprising result is that, suddenly, the country that helped invent European integration over the past 50 years has become its biggest opponent.

"France has not internalized a very important transition that is happening in Europe right now, which is the shift from the industrial economy to the knowledge and services economy," said Ann Mettler of the Lisbon Council, a market-oriented research group based in Brussels. "Its interest groups, which are very strong, are still trying to preserve the industrial age."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:49 AM


Polish right-winger scoops presidency (Andrew Rettman, 10/24/05, EU Observer)

Right-winger Lech Kaczynski won the Polish presidential elections on Sunday (23 October), in a result that could delay the formation of a new government.

Exit polls gave the Law and Justice candidate 55 percent of the vote beating Civic Platform's more liberal Donald Tusk, with official numbers due on Monday.

Polish daily Rzeczpospolita reports that older people living in rural areas with a basic level of education formed the backbone of Mr Kaczynski's support. [...]

The result might damage Law and Justice and Civic Platform's efforts to form a coalition government.

Mr Kaczynski made conciliatory remarks to Mr Tusk following the news, offering him the post of speaker in the lower house, while the party's prime ministerial candidate, Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz, said he plans to forge a government deal by Friday.

But Civic Platform member Bronislaw Komorowski said his party might be better off making a strong opposition to Law and Justice instead.

The two parties each hold about a quarter of the seats in parliament, with newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza explaining that if Civic Platform was to block the government's plans, it could force an early second election.

The parties are split on the economy, with Law and Justice pushing for better welfare and delayed eurozone entry, while Civic Platform favours tighter fiscal policy and euro entry in 2010. [...]

Law and Justice ran on an anti-corruption ticket with Roman Catholic and eurosceptic overtones, scoring pre-election points by criticising gay rights campaigners and talking positively about the death penalty, which is illegal in the EU.

As mayor, Mr Kaczynski tried to block a gay pride march in Warsaw in June, while Mr Marcinkiewicz recently told Newseek that homosexuality is "unnatural".

The leader of the European Parliament's socialist MEPs, Martin Schulz, described the remark as "shocking".

You have to wonder if a period of economic liberal reaction after seventy years of communism might better precede the synthesis, but can't quarrel with them cutting to the Anglospheric chase.

Kaczynski is elected president in Poland (Judy Dempsey, OCTOBER 24, 2005, International Herald Tribune)

Lech Kaczynski of the conservative Law and Justice Party defeated his rightist rival, Donald Tusk, in the battle to become Poland's next president, according to exit polls after Sunday's election.

The Kaczynski victory is likely to lead to a much tougher foreign policy, particularly toward Germany, Russia and the European Union, as he honors his pledge of a more vigorous defense of Poland's national interests. [...]

Poland's president wields considerable power. He is commander-in-chief of the armed forces, has a major voice in influencing economic and foreign policy and can veto legislation.

Kaczynski, 56, mayor of Warsaw, favors cutting taxes and sharply reducing state costs while increasing family benefits and retirement contributions.

His Law and Justice Party won the most seats in last month's parliamentary elections and is due to start coalition talks with the Civic Platform party.

Kaczynski's twin brother, Jaroslav, is a high official in the party, and the two will wield immense power in the country.

Although both Law and Justice and Civil Platform, Parliament's second-largest party, are conservative, the differences between them are as profound as the divisions in Polish society, which has undergone a radical economic and political transformation since the collapse of communism 15 years ago.

Kaczynski, a former member of the Solidarity movement, won support from the rural population, the unemployed and the local Catholic clergy. He is a strong believer in family values and maintaining the influence of the Catholic Church.

He has also won support from a part of the younger generation that says it is afraid of Poland losing its identity and values in the European Union, which Poland joined in May 2004.

Kaczynski has spoken about making a complete break from the Communist period by declaring a "fourth republic" and a "moral renewal" anchored on strong Christian values and a tinge of Euroskepticism.

On foreign policy, he favors defending Polish national interests with regard to Russia, even though Poland is dependent on Russia for its energy. He has also suggested reopening World War II compensation claims against Germany.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:42 AM


Canuck wins Rock Paper Scissor gold (SCOTT ROBERTS, 10/24/05, Toronto Star)

Las Vegas, step aside. It seems the Rock Paper Scissors World Championship may be the new stag party hot spot.

In front of a roaring crowd early yesterday morning, Toronto's Andrew Bergel made a final throw of paper to beat out American Stan Long's rock to capture the tournament's gold medal.

What started out as a group of men celebrating the pending marriage of a friend ended in a celebration for 29-year-old Bergel, who took home the $7,000 first prize. [...]

In recent years, Rock Paper Scissors has morphed from a means to settle petty disputes to a full-fledged sport with a cult following.

"What's not to love about it. Everybody understands the basics of the game and it's a great way to have some fun," said Doug Walker of the World RPS Society.

It seems the Rock Paper Scissors bug has bitten at least one group of grown men.

"The guys are already talking about getting a team together for next year's tournament," said Bergel.

"I'll be there for sure."

Posted by pjaminet at 8:41 AM


MARBURY v. MADISON, 5 U.S. 137 (1803)* (U.S. Supreme Court)

The question, whether a judicial ruling, repugnant to the constitution, can become the law of the land, is a question deeply interesting to the United States; but happily, not of an intricacy proportioned to its interest. It seems only necessary to recognize certain principles, supposed to have been long and well established, to decide it.

That the people have an original right to establish, for their future government, such principles as, in their opinion, shall most conduce to their own happiness, is the basis on which the whole American fabric has been erected. The exercise of this original right is a very great exertion; nor can it, nor ought it, to be frequently repeated. The principles, therefore, so established, are deemed fundamental. And as the authority from which they proceed is supreme, and can seldom act, they are designed to be permanent.

This original and supreme will organizes the government, and assigns to different departments their respective powers. It may either stop here, or establish certain limits not to be transcended by those departments.

The government of the United States is of the latter description. The powers of the judiciary are defined and limited; and that those limits may not be mistaken, or forgotten, the constitution is written. To what purpose are powers limited, and to what purpose is that limitation committed to writing, if these limits may, at any time, be passed by those intended to be restrained? The distinction between a government with limited and unlimited powers is abolished, if those limits do not confine the persons on whom they are imposed, and if acts prohibited and acts allowed, are of equal obligation. It is a proposition too plain to be contested, that the constitution controls any judicial act repugnant to it; or, that the judiciary may alter the constitution by an ordinary ruling.

Between these alternatives there is no middle ground. The constitution is either a superior, paramount law, unchangeable by ordinary means, or it is on a level with ordinary judicial rulings , and, like other rulings , is alterable when the judiciary shall please to alter it.

If the former part of the alternative be true, then a judicial ruling contrary to the constitution is not law: if the latter part be true, then written constitutions are absurd attempts, on the part of the people, to limit a power in its own nature illimitable.

Certainly all those who have framed written constitutions contemplate them as forming the fundamental and paramount law of the nation, and consequently, the theory of every such government must be, that a ruling of the judiciary, repugnant to the constitution, is void.

This theory is essentially attached to a written constitution, and is, consequently, to be considered, by this court, as one of the fundamental principles of our society. It is not therefore to be lost sight of in the further consideration of this subject.

If a ruling of the judiciary, repugnant to the constitution, is void, does it, notwithstanding its invalidity, bind the courts, and oblige them to give it effect? Or, in other words, though it be not law, does it constitute a rule as operative as if it was a law? This would be to overthrow in fact what was established in theory; and would seem, at first view, an absurdity too gross to be insisted on. It shall, however, receive a more attentive consideration.

It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is. Those who apply the rule to particular cases, must of necessity expound and interpret that rule. If two laws conflict with each other, the courts must decide on the operation of each.

So if a judicial ruling be in opposition to the constitution; if both the judicial ruling and the constitution apply to a particular case, so that the court must either decide that case conformably to the judicial ruling , disregarding the constitution; or conformably to the constitution, disregarding the judicial ruling ; the court must determine which of these conflicting rules governs the case. This is of the very essence of judicial duty.

If, then, the courts are to regard the constitution, and the constitution is superior to any ordinary ruling of the judiciary , the constitution, and not such ordinary ruling , must govern the case to which they both apply.

Those then who controvert the principle that the constitution is to be considered, in court, as a paramount law, are reduced to the necessity of maintaining that the courts must close their eyes on the constitution, and see only the judicial ruling.

This doctrine would subvert the very foundation of all written constitutions. It would declare that a judicial ruling which, according to the principles and theory of our government, is entirely void, is yet, in practice, completely obligatory. It would declare that if the judiciary shall do what is expressly forbidden, such ruling , notwithstanding the express prohibition, is in reality effectual. It would be giving to the judiciary a practical and real omnipotence, with the same breath which professes to restrict their powers within narrow limits. It is prescribing limits, and declaring that those limits may be passed at pleasure.

That it thus reduces to nothing what we have deemed the greatest improvement on political institutions -- a written constitution -- would of itself be sufficient, in America, where written constitutions have been viewed with so much reverence, for rejecting the construction. But the peculiar expressions of the constitution of the United States furnish additional arguments in favour of its rejection....

The judicial power of the United States is extended to all cases arising under the constitution.

Could it be the intention of those who gave this power, to say that in using it the constitution should not be looked into? That a case arising under the constitution should be decided without examining the instrument under which it arises?

This is too extravagant to be maintained.

In some cases, then, the constitution must be looked into by the judges. And if they can open it at all, what part of it are they forbidden to read or to obey?

There are many other parts of the constitution which serve to illustrate this subject....

“No person,” says the constitution, “shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.” Here the language of the constitution is addressed especially to the courts. It prescribes, directly for them, a rule of evidence not to be departed from. If the judiciary should change that rule, and declare one witness, or a confession out of court, sufficient for conviction, must the constitutional principle yield to the judicial ruling?

From these, and many other selections which might be made, it is apparent, that the framers of the constitution contemplated that instrument as a rule for the government of courts, as well as of the legislature. Why otherwise does it direct the judges to take an oath to support it? This oath certainly applies, in an especial manner, to their conduct in their official character. How immoral to impose it on them, if they were to be used as the instrument, and the knowing instrument, for violating what they swear to support!...

Why does a Judge swear to discharge his duties agreeably to the constitution of the United States, if that constitution forms no rule for his government? If it is closed upon him, and cannot be inspected by him?

If such be the real state of things, this is worse than solemn mockery. To prescribe, or to take this oath, becomes equally a crime....

Thus, the particular phraseology of the constitution of the United States confirms and strengthens the principle, supposed to be essential to all written constitutions, that a judicial ruling repugnant to the constitution is void; and that courts, as well as other departments, are bound by that instrument.

As Justice Marshall makes plain, a ruling like Roe v. Wade that is repugnant to the Constitution, is void, and judges are bound by their oath of office to ignore such precedents in future cases.

George Will, in his column, calls Roe v. Wade "an unreasoned act of judicial willfulness," and yet asserts that a "willingness to overturn Roe v. Wade" is "anti-constitutional." So, who are you gonna believe on this question of constitutional law -- a newspaper columnist, or the greatest Chief Justice in our history?

*Legal scholars may notice these substitutions: "judicial ruling" for "law"; "judiciary" for "legislature"; "judicial ruling" for "legislative act"; "ruling of the judiciary" for "act of the legislature"; "ruling" for "law"; and "judicial" for "legislative."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:39 AM


Enemy Body Counts Revived (Bradley Graham, October 24, 2005, Washington Post)

Eager to demonstrate success in Iraq, the U.S. military has abandoned its previous refusal to publicize enemy body counts and now cites such numbers periodically to show the impact of some counterinsurgency operations.

The revival of body counts, a practice discredited during the Vietnam War, has apparently come without formal guidance from the Pentagon's leadership. Military spokesmen in Washington and Baghdad said they knew of no written directive detailing the circumstances under which such figures should be released or the steps that should be taken to ensure accuracy.

Instead, they described an ad hoc process that has emerged over the past year, with authority to issue death tolls pushed out to the field and down to the level of division staffs.

So far, the releases have tended to be associated either with major attacks that netted significant numbers of enemy fighters or with lengthy operations that have spanned days or weeks. On Saturday, for instance, the U.S. military reported 20 insurgents killed and one captured in raids on five houses suspected of sheltering foreign fighters in a town near the Syrian border. Six days earlier, the 2nd Marine Division issued a statement saying an estimated 70 suspected insurgents had died in the Ramadi area as a result of three separate airstrikes by fighter jets and helicopters.

No matter how good the game was, you want to have a boxscore the next morning.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:08 AM


Florida braces for Wilma's landfall: Many not heeding evacuation orders (Brian MacQuarrie and Geoff Edgers, October 24, 2005, Boston Globe)

Hurricane Wilma raced across the Gulf of Mexico last night toward waiting and weary southwest Florida, packing intensifying winds, the potential for tornadoes, and a dangerous storm surge that officials feared could swamp parts of the Florida Keys and inundate low-lying areas of the coast.

Officials were concerned that as the state braced for its eighth hurricane in 14 months, many residents were suffering from hurricane fatigue and failing to heed evacuation orders. Wilma marked the fourth time this year that the Keys faced evacuation, and 80 percent of residents were staying put yesterday.

Man is ineducable.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:04 AM


Blair hails 'real parent power' reforms (ePolitix, 10/24/05)

Tony Blair will today say that radical plans for a new generation of independent state secondary schools will create "real parent power" and the changes will be "irreversible".

In a major speech on education the prime minister will say that this week marks a "pivotal moment in the life of this parliament and this government".

The speech comes ahead of the publication of the education white paper tomorrow which will contain plans to grant all schools independence from local authorities under new elected councils of parents.

Critics, including deputy prime minister John Prescott, fear the move goes too far and will destroy the comprehensive school ideal.

Some Labour MPs are already vowing to vote against the legislation when it comes to the Commons next year.

But in a bid to cement an educational reform legacy from his three term premiership, Blair will today make clear that the system is about to change fundamentally.

No Democrat in America would vote for such reforms.

Blunkett in push to take 1m off benefit (FRASER NELSON, 10/24/05, The Scotsman)

DAVID Blunkett has said he believes one million of Britain's 2.7 million incapacity benefit claimants are capable of work - and can be coaxed out of welfare by greater benefits alongside their salaries.

The Work & Pensions Secretary has told The Scotsman that next month's green paper on welfare reform will give a "two-handed" approach of providing work, and guaranteeing a return to welfare if their job does not work out. [...]

"We think that there are at least a million people across the UK who could return to work if they were given the right support and right circumstances," he said. "We have a very large number of vacancies in the economy and we must equip people to fill them."

At present, incapacity benefit pays out for life - and normally comes with a suite of benefits which can exceed the minimum wage. Critics argue this creates a clear disincentive to work, and encourages welfare dependency.

Posted by Michael Herdegen at 8:00 AM


Miers and Her Money (Henry Blodget, 10/20/05, Slate)

A psycho-financial analysis of the Supreme Court nominee.

What does Harriet Miers' money tell us about her? The Supreme Court nominee has filed financial disclosure forms for the last five years as a requirement for her White House job. The most remarkable fact that emerges from her filings is this: She managed to work for nearly 30 years as an attorney in private practice without getting rich. [...] Miers finds herself at age 60 with a net worth of about $675,000, which unfortunately does not make her wealthy. [...]

Her investing strategy also shows her to be excessively cautious. She has invested her nest egg mainly in cash and Treasuries and is therefore in grave danger from inflation. In today's environment, Miers' IRA probably generates a paltry real return of about 1 percent a year.

Like many Americans, [...] she appears to have raided her retirement funds to cover current expenses. When Miers left Dallas law firm Locke Liddell in 1999—and the $624,000 salary she earned as a managing partner—her IRA (then a firm profit-sharing account) contained between $500,000 and $1 million. Every year since, however, this account balance has mysteriously declined, so much so that it now totals [...] $207,000. It is possible that, in typical American fashion, Miers has mortgaged her future to maintain the lifestyle she enjoyed when she was earning $624,000, instead of the one she should be restricted to now that she gets a government salary of $161,000. But such profligacy seems unlikely, based on the rest of Miers' disclosures. [...]

The [Wall Street Journal] reports that she drives an "older-model Mercedes," and her disclosure form values her cars and other personal property at a grand total of $35,000. No Monets, sloops, or cavernous wine cellars here.

So, where has all that retirement money been going? Perhaps to another expense category depressingly familiar to most Americans: health-care costs. According to the Journal and AP, Miers is the primary caretaker for her 91-year-old mother, who has required in-home and nursing-home care since the mid-1990s. That a decade of her mom's health care could consume several hundred thousand dollars set aside for Miers' own retirement won't come as a surprise to anyone who has had (or paid for) a long-term illness in recent years.

Judging from her financial statements, the difference between Miers' brand of conservatism and the kind exemplified by many of the ex-private-sector moguls who employ her is that it seems truly compassionate, in the sense that Miers seems to be sacrificing some of her own lifestyle and financial security for the benefit of others.

Like any other form of tea-leaf-reading, an analysis of Miers' financial position and investment strategy can only reveal broad strokes. People often behave differently in different areas of their lives, so Miers' decisions regarding her money may shed little light on how she'd make decisions regarding legal matters.

A few things do seem to be revealing, however.
Her sacrifice of her own retirement funds to care for her aged mother, and the decision to provide in-home care, instead of sloughing the old woman off onto Social Security and putting her immediately into a nursing home, reinforce what we know about Miers' religious beliefs, and her commitment to service to others at her church.

Women tend to be very conservative investors in general, particularly women of the Boomer and previous generations, so Miers' loss-adverse proclivities could seem to be just a prudent, patient, rational investment strategy.

However, they're a bit too prudent and patient, as Mr. Blodget notes. Miers somehow made it through the greatest Wall Street bull market of her generation without becoming a millionaire, despite having many hundreds of thousands of dollars to invest, and most of her net worth is in the form of equity in her Dallas home, and a small Virginia condo.

This suggests either that Miers is unwilling to seek out expert advice, or unwilling to follow it, since no mainstream investment advisor would tell a fifty-two year old woman to keep all of her IRA money in bonds during a stock market rally, nor a sixty year old woman to keep two-thirds of her net worth in housing near the end of the biggest real estate boom of the past twenty years.

Still, although $ 675,000 isn't "rich" by American standards, it is a high net worth, putting Miers comfortably among the ranks of the top 5% of U.S. households, in terms of wealth.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:13 AM


Sex bias case tests church rule that clergy's boss is God (Clare Dyer, The Guardian, October 24th, 2005)

How do you launch a claim for sex discrimination if your employer is God? Helen Percy was suspended from her job as an associate Church of Scotland minister in the Angus glens in 1997 when as a single woman she was accused of having sex with a married elder. She resigned and took a claim for unfair dismissal and sex discrimination to an employment tribunal.

But her case has been thrown out by the tribunal, the employment appeal tribunal, and the court of session in Edinburgh. Each institution ruled it had no jurisdiction to hear the case - because in Britain, uniquely, clergy enjoy none of the employment rights the rest of us take for granted. An earlier case involving a Church of England rector, Ray Owen, found that, under laws dating back nearly a century, clergy were not church employees at all but office holders - in effect employed by God.

Today Ms Percy's eight-year battle - now a claim for sex discrimination only - will go to the House of Lords, which could rule that in the 21st century clergy should, like everyone else, have the rights and protections that go with holding down a job. Mr Owen's attempt to take his case to the lords failed in 2001, when they refused his petition to hear the case.

Ms Percy, 39, claimed she was forced to resign from her post, covering six glen parishes in east Scotland at the southernmost edge of the Grampian mountains, after her relationship with a kirk elder, which she said involved sexual intercourse on one occasion, became public. She alleged in her tribunal application that she was discriminated against because the kirk had "not taken similar action against male ministers who are known to have had/are still having extra marital sexual relationships". She claims compensation for lost income, housing and pension benefits, and damages for stress-related illness and injury to her feelings.

Nineteenth century feminism focused in large part on reining in male misbehavior. The modern version just wants to join the party.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:10 AM


U.K. courts target skimpy clothes, sarcasm (Sandra Contenta, Toronto Star, October 24th, 2005)

Graham Bourne recognizes that certain behaviour might not have been fully appreciated by his posh neighbours.

There was the time he brought his motorcycle into the living room of his second-floor flat and revved up the motor. He needed a place to repair the bike, he says, and doing so on the exclusive central London street would have surely attracted a fine.

And yes, the old lady next door didn't like rock music. But he's a musician, and he offered to play solely when she was out of the house, if only she had informed him of her comings and goings.

What he flatly denies is that he ran down the street with a machine gun, threw used condoms and heroin needles into his neighbour's yard and was generally abusive and threatening to the high-profile residents of Rochester Square.

They are lies from a couple of vindictive neighbours, he says.

What's clear is that Bourne, 43, was slapped with an "anti-social behaviour order" that bans him from his home between 6 p.m. and 9 a.m., much to the relief of neighbours, who include Britain's health secretary, Patricia Hewitt.

"This is how Nazi Germany started," said Bourne, appearing in court last week to support his partner, lawyer Ruth Gurny, who's trying to get her own anti-social behaviour order overturned.

We’re on board about the clothes, but trying to control sarcasm is a violation of universal human rights.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:07 AM


Brazilians vote to keep guns
(Globe and Mail, October 24th, 2005)

Brazilians soundly rejected a proposal to ban guns in a national referendum Sunday, striking down the bid to stem one of the world's highest firearm murder rates following a campaign that drew parallels to the U.S. gun control debate.

Brazil has 100 million fewer citizens than the United States, but a staggering 25 per cent more gun deaths at nearly 40,000 a year. While supporters argued that gun control was the best way to staunch the violence, opponents played on Brazilians' fears that the police can't protect them.

“I'm don't like people walking around armed on the street. But since all the bandits have guns, you need to have a gun at home,” said taxi driver Mohammed Osei, who voted against the ban.

With more than 92 per cent of the votes counted, 64 per cent of Brazilians were opposed to the ban, while 36 per cent backed it, said election officials, giving the ‘no' position an insurmountable lead.

Posted by David Cohen at 12:01 AM


Defending The Indefensible (George F. Will, Washington Post, 10/23/05)

Miers's advocates tried the incense defense: Miers is pious. But that is irrelevant to her aptitude for constitutional reasoning. The crude people who crudely invoked it probably were sending a crude signal to conservatives who, the invokers evidently believe, are so crudely obsessed with abortion that they have an anti-constitutional willingness to overturn Roe v. Wade with an unreasoned act of judicial willfulness as raw as the 1973 decision itself.
OJ deals with this column here. This paragraph is so bizarre that I thought it could use some heightened scrutiny.

I have to admit, though, that I'm not sure what Will thinks he's saying, a perhaps telling oddity from such a careful writer. Saying that Miers is religious is, of course, a signal. But why is it a "crude" signal, and why think that it is only a signal about abortion? Isn't it, rather, a signal about religion? Conservatives, both crude and refined, are concerned about the place of religion in modern culture, or rather the lack of place, separate from worrying about abortion. As for abortion, the clearer signal would seem to be from those Miers' supporters who are saying that she is anti-abortion.

Will really goes off the rails when he says that overturning Roe would be "an unreasoned act of judicial willfulness as raw as the 1973 decision itself." Again, I'm not really sure what he's trying to say. Is he saying that any ruling overturning Roe would be "an unreasoned act of judicial wilfulness" or does that describe only a Miers' opinion overturning Roe? The confusion here doesn't seem to be mine, but rather Will's. In this column he suggests -- through George Bush's mouth:

[We] shall not know how my nominees would rule in the event -- an unlikely event -- that the court revisits the constitutional foundation of abortion rights established by Roe v. Wade in 1973. However, I will seek judicial nominees disinclined to concoct spurious constitutional mandates for their policy preferences, as I believe the justices did in Roe. On the other hand, the orderly development of constitutional law requires that justices be generally disposed to respect precedents, even dubious ones, if they have been repeatedly reaffirmed for decades.
Will understands the Roe was untenable as constitutional doctrine ("Roe, which discovered a right to abortion in the emanations of penumbras -- or was it penumbras of emanations? -- of other rights, was judicial overreaching, indistinguishable from legislating."), but seems to believe that it has survived so long that it can no longer be reversed. In other words, Will appears to believe, though he can't quite bring himself to say, that the Constitution can be amended by stare decisis.

Stare decisis is the Latin phrase lawyers use for the doctrine that once a court decides a question of law, it will not thereafter go back and revisit that question. It is, in some ways, ludicrous to consider this a "doctrine." The point of the law is to give citizens warning about what behavior is prohibited; to be clear and predictable. It should hardly require a doctrine to cause the courts, when construing the same law a second time, to reach the same result. That we do need such a doctrine tells us something about lawyers and judges.

Stare decisis applies, of course, not simply to a particular court, but also to the relations between courts. Lets take, for example, the federal court system. The country is divided into 95 federal district courts, with 650 judges. These are the federal trial courts. Judges in the same trial court recognize that they should keep their decisions consistent, so that the laws that people in Massachusetts, for example, must follow don't vary depending upon which judge hears their case. Judges within Massachusetts will try to defer to the decisions of other Massachusetts federal district judges, even if they might have reached another decision on their own. If, however, the second judge to reach an issue is convinced that the first judge was wrong, he may well disagree. Stare decisis applies, but lightly. On the other hand, for every case it hears, each district court is answerable to one of the 13 federal circuit courts of appeal. The circuit courts are charged with keeping the law consistent within their designated area (geographic for 12 of the courts, and subject-matter based for the 13th). Therefore, each panel of the circuit court (three judges sitting together on a case) will usually defer to the prior decision of a panel of the same court and cannot overrule that prior decision. That, too, is stare decisis. The district courts must follow the rulings of the applicable circuit court -- stare decisis there is mandatory. Usually, a precedent from an earlier panel will not be overruled except by all the judges of the court sitting on an appeal together (an en banc decision).

The circuit courts, however, because they are on a level, might choose to defer to each other, but need not. Stare decisis does not require the First Circuit to defer to a statutory interpretation from the Fifth Circuit -- nor is a district court in Massachusetts, in the First Circuit, required to follow precedent from an appeals court in a different circuit. That Fifth Circuit decision might be persuade the district court judge, but if it does not, he is not required to follow it. That brings us to the Supreme Court.

The Constitution provides that "The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish." Inherent in the idea of a Supreme Court is the idea that all of the inferior courts are required to defer to the Supreme Court's decisions. But must the Supreme Court defer to its own earlier decisions. The Constitution is silent on this point. As we've seen, though, there are good policy reasons for the Court not to lightly reject its own precedent. Predictability in the law is good. Not reinventing the wheel is good. Most of the time, if a panel of nine judges have looked at a question and resolved it, it is not likely that a second panel -- even if remote in time -- will come to a different conclusion. Stare decisis is good policy, and it is also a good predictor of how the Court would rule a second time even if not bound by precedent.

But lets go back to the Constitution. " "The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court." The judges of the Supreme Court hold their seats on good behavior and are replaced with new justices nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. Among other things, "[t]he judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority." From this it follows that though the justices change, the Court remains Supreme as to any question the judicial power may reach. The Supreme Court of today is supreme: it is not inferior to any previous Supreme Court. In other words, George Will's argument that today's Supreme Court is bound by the erroneous decision of a previous Court is contrary to the Constitution. If today's Supreme Court cannot reject a previous decision, than it is not Supreme but rather inferior to the earlier Court. The Constitution rejects this extreme form of stare decisis, which has never been the law. Otherwise, every Supreme Court would have the power to amend the Constitution as to any new issue, but be powerless to correct any previous "amendment" no matter how wrong it might have been.

There are nuances here. Because Congress can always change a statute if it disagrees with the Supreme Court's interpretation, the Court will usually not change a long-standing statutory interpretation, even if it would not now reach the same conclusion. This is not, however, a question of deferring to the earlier Court, but rather a show of deference to the imputed judgement of Congress. When it comes to the Constitution, the Supreme Court stands, with respect to its earlier decisions, as the district courts stand with respect to each other, or as one circuit stands with respect to its sister circuits. The earlier decisions will be more or less persuasive, as their reasoning merits. There is a value to predictability, and the previous decisions of the Court will always be the best predictor of future decisions. But if the current Court is convinced that a previous decision is wrong, it can and it must overrule the previous decision and assert its own understanding of the law as the Supreme Court of the land.

October 23, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:11 PM


A textiles boom gives jobs to India's poor: The end of textile quotas and Chinese trade disputes have raised exports to the US by 36 percent. (Sunil Jagtiani, 10/24/05, The Christian Science Monitor0

Champa Kala, a 23-year-old seamstress, doesn't have the English or computer skills needed to find work in the nearby skyscrapers of Bangalore. But her job in Peenya, a dusty industrial suburb, is no less promising for India's future than the call centers and software firms that have transformed this region into a high-tech hub.

Ms. Kala works at a new garment export factory, part of a textiles sector that is booming, thanks to the expiration on Jan. 1 of a 30-year-old global system of textile quotas as well as ongoing Western trade disputes with China. India's textile exports to the US have jumped up to 36 percent this year.

Kala does not earn much for making jackets, which are sent to Gap Inc. Her annual pay is around $1,200. But the married mother of a 1-year-old child is happy simply to have paid employment. "I got this job three months ago," she says, smiling broadly as machines hum busily around her. "I like working here."

For many economists, new factories like this typify the low-end, labor- intensive manufacturing growth India needs if it is to better the lives of its 390 million low-skilled, impoverished citizens - those who still live on less than a dollar a day and who have been largely bypassed by India's high-end job growth.

"We provide jobs for the illiterate class," says Dinesh Hinduja, a director at Gokaldas Exports, which built the Peenya factory. "We have a training center where we take people straight from villages or farm land. It takes about a month to give them the skills they need. In a given week you might find 300 being trained."

Makes playing hardball with the Chinese easier.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:22 PM

NAZI TWINS (via Brian Boys):

Young Singers Spread Racist Hate: Duo Considered the Olsen Twins of the White Nationalist Movement (ABC News, Oct. 20, 2005)

Thirteen-year-old twins Lamb and Lynx Gaede have one album out, another on the way, a music video, and lots of fans.

They may remind you another famous pair of singers, the Olsen Twins, and the girls say they like that. But unlike the Olsens, who built a media empire on their fun-loving, squeaky-clean image, Lamb and Lynx are cultivating a much darker personna. They are white nationalists and use their talents to preach a message of hate.

Known as "Prussian Blue" — a nod to their German heritage and bright blue eyes — the girls from Bakersfield, Calif., have been performing songs about white nationalism before all-white crowds since they were nine.

"We're proud of being white, we want to keep being white," said Lynx. "We want our people to stay white … we don't want to just be, you know, a big muddle. We just want to preserve our race."

Lynx and Lamb have been nurtured on racist beliefs since birth by their mother April.

As Brother Boys points out, "If they were singing about gunning down their peers, beating up women, and shooting cops, that would be fine." Some speech we just needn't protect.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:50 PM


Pressure builds on Syrian regime: Another UN report this week could further push for sanctions. (Nicholas Blanford, 10/24/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

The beleaguered Syrian regime is set to be hit this week with another critical report from the United Nations, days after a UN investigation implicated senior Syrian security officials in the killing of a former Lebanese prime minister.

Together, the two reports are expected to underpin a diplomatic offensive led by the US and France, which could lead to sanctions against Damascus.

"They want this [Syrian] leopard to change so many of its spots that it turns into a lap dog.... It's tantamount to regime change," says Joshua Landis, an American professor of history presently living in Damascus and author of the influential Syria Comment weblog.

Holy Master of the Obvious, Batman!

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:08 PM


When Divas Collide: Maureen Dowd v. Judy Miller (ALEXANDER COCKBURN, 10/23/05, CounterPunch)

Would you pay $49.95 to watch women wrestling in mud? I did this morning, and it was well worth the expense. I get the New York Times Online and until a couple of weeks ago all the features were free. Then, as some of you have no doubt discovered, the NYT's columnists started to have only their opening sentences on free display. To get the full columns of Krugman, Rich, Dowd and the others you have to pony up $49.95 a year's subscription to Times Select.

I held off until today when the Times nailed the sale with Dowd's column titled, "Woman of Mass Destruction" and her ominous opening sentence, "I've always liked Judy Miller".

Miller has been the sport of a million stories and there was nothing much by way of startling revelations in what Dowd wrote, but in operatic terms it was as though Maria Callas had suddenly rushed onto the stage and slugged Elizabeth Schwartzkopf.

After that enticing lead, designed to make online readers fish out their credit cards, Dowd spent five paragraphs sketching Miller's profile as a power-mad egomaniac, (demanding Dowd's chair at a White House briefing) before drop kicking her in the face with the blunt accusations that she's a liar and--a thought first expressed in this column the day Miller went behind bars--that "her stint in the Alexandria jail was in part a career rehabilitation project".

Then, with Judy down on the canvas, Dowd came flying down from the corner post, with her knee on Judy's throat:

Judy told The Times that she plans to write a book and intends to return to the newsroom, hoping to cover "the same thing I've always covered - threats to our country." If that were to happen, the institution most in danger would be the newspaper in your hands.

Moral: Don't ever take Maureen Dowd's chair at a White House briefing.

The public isn't likely to enjoy the spectacle much, but for political junkies what could be more fun than watching as the realignment of American politics puts former allies of convenience on the Left and on the Right at each other's throats with long knives?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:15 AM


'Mao': The Real Mao (NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF, 10/23/05, NY Times Book Review)

If Chairman Mao had been truly prescient, he would have located a little girl in Sichuan Province named Jung Chang and "mie jiuzu"- killed her and wiped out all her relatives to the ninth degree.

But instead that girl grew up, moved to Britain and has now written a biography of Mao that will help destroy his reputation forever. Based on a decade of meticulous interviews and archival research, this magnificent biography methodically demolishes every pillar of Mao's claim to sympathy or legitimacy.

Almost seven decades ago, Edgar Snow's "Red Star Over China" helped make Mao a heroic figure to many around the world. It marked an opening bookend for Mao's sunny place in history - and this biography will now mark the other bookend.

As is his wont, Mr. Kristof overestimates the openmindedness of his fellow liberals. After all, he works in a building where they still celebrate, even if somewhat shamefacedly, the lies of Walter Duranty. The reputations of the Left's monsters don't die very easily.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:10 AM


Web of the Free (MARK A. SHIFFRIN and AVI SILBERSCHATZ, 10/23/05, NY Times)

American values caused the Internet to emerge and evolve as a medium of freedom. While there is a standard of transcendent decency that can and should regulate Internet communication in such matters as child pornography, there are standards of national self-interest that vary from country to country. China sees the Internet as part of its internal infrastructure and seeks to govern it as such, monitoring and censoring communications that include words like "liberty," "Tiananmen Square" or "Falun Gong," and going after dissidents who use the Internet.

Internationalizing control of a medium now regulated with a loose hand by a nation committed to maximizing freedom would inevitably create more of an opening for countries like China - a strong proponent of imposing some international supervision of Icann - to exert more pressure on internet service providers. More broadly, international regulation could enable like-minded governments to work in concert to deem certain thoughts impermissible online. It is all too possible that minority political or religious expressions would be widely repressed under a doctrine of the greater good imposed by a collective of governments claiming to know what's best, limiting what may be expressed online to whatever, say, the United Nations General Assembly, the European Union, or the Arab League, might deem reasonable.

Any society may, of course, choose to create its own balkanized domestic version of the Internet, an Intranet within its borders that it regulates as it pleases. It could then still do within its borders many of the things done by the Internet, like Brazil's online tax collection system, but would not enjoy the online privilege of worldwide interaction.

The Internet is an attractive commercial infrastructure for all societies, even oppressive ones. But the string attached to its creation by America is that it must be used within a context of freedom, both economic and political. That is a democratic value that we should not be shy about exporting. Accepting that commitment to online freedom should be the price that foreign governments must pay for the blessing of the Internet in their national economic lives.

America must be the spider, not just one of the flies.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:04 AM


Grim Map Details Toll In 9th Ward and Beyond: Katrina Proved Deadly in Every Section of New Orleans (Ceci Connolly and Manuel Roig-Franzia, 10/23/05, Washington Post)

Nearly two months after Hurricane Katrina savaged this city, demographers have come to a chilling conclusion: No part of New Orleans was untouched by death. Bodies have been found in every neighborhood in the city, from the pitiably engulfed Lower Ninth Ward to the nouveau riche mansions in Lakeview, from the sodden neighborhoods along the city's Industrial Canal to the elegant Garden District.

The mapping by researchers at Louisiana State University, using preliminary data from the state's temporary morgue in a warehouse 40 miles north of here, gives the first look at the still opaque matter of where people died during Katrina. Information about the dead has only begun to trickle out, delayed by the massive challenges of identifying decayed bodies, by complications related to notifying scattered relatives and by too few forensic experts to perform autopsies.

The city's two worst-hit neighborhoods, the data show, were the Lower Ninth Ward, the predominantly black, working-class community east of the French Quarter, and Gentilly, a fast-gentrifying area where homeownership rates among middle-class blacks had been rising before the storm. Each neighborhood accounted for 31 to 75 deaths, according to the mapping data, which assigned a range of deaths for each region of the city, rather than an exact figure.

More surprising were the high death figures in upscale neighborhoods once considered less vulnerable to flooding deaths because residents had the means to escape, particularly along Lake Pontchartrain in Lakeview, a predominantly white neighborhood where 21 to 30 bodies were recovered on streets where homes routinely sell for $1 million. Nearly all of Lakeview is uninhabitable, and several thousand residents, most relocated to neighboring cities or states, gathered Saturday in a church parking lot to seek answers about a recovery process expected to take years.

There's nothing more egalitarian than the distribution of stupidity and unpreparedness in human society.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:46 AM


A state of decline: Why Massachusetts is losing people (Michael D. Goodman, October 23, 2005, Boston Globe)

The fact that the Massachusetts birth rate has been flat in recent years is in itself not terribly surprising in view of the relatively high level of educational attainment of the state's population -- on average, more highly educated households have fewer children. The disproportionate presence of such households in Massachusetts serves as a natural inhibitor of population growth. Fewer births also serve to raise the median age of the population and in doing so tend to put upward pressure on the death rate. This has long been a recipe for stagnant population growth in Massachusetts.

But while the pattern is not new, what is different today is that the state's traditional defense against slow population growth may not be sufficient in coming years. For much of its history, Massachusetts has been able to rely on two main sources of new residents and workers to compensate for its slow population growth: young adults moving in to the state in order to study and immigrants from other nations seeking expanded economic opportunities here. It is this ability to attract and retain talent from the rest of the nation and the world that has provided the Commonwealth with its primary competitive edge. But recent migration patterns strongly suggest that we may be losing that critical ability.

As documented in ''Mass. Migration," a report prepared by the University of Massachusetts and MassINC, more than 213,000 more domestic residents moved out of Massachusetts than moved into the state between 1990 and 2002. Between 2002 and 2004, this imbalance became worse.

A review of recent tax data indicates that the Bay State experienced a net loss of more than 100,000 residents during this period. During much of this period migrants from other nations have helped to offset these population losses in absolute terms, but these new residents frequently arrive with much lower levels of educational attainment and skill than those they are replacing.

And who are we losing? According to the 2000 Census, Massachusetts migrants leaving the state are younger, better educated, more likely to be employed in a knowledge-intensive industry, and less likely to be married, to have children, and to own a home. Significantly, those residents who were born in the state were much less likely to leave Massachusetts than people born in other states. And even those native-born Bay Staters who did move out of state were more likely to move to a neighboring New England state such as New Hampshire and Rhode Island, suggesting a desire to stay closer to home.

Both these short and the long-term trends have troubling implications for the state economy. Recently, Massachusetts employers have consistently reported difficulty in obtaining workers with the skills and experience they require. The most recent Job Vacancy Survey released by the Massachusetts Department of Workforce Development reported nearly 72,000 vacant positions during a period in which there were more than 140,000 unemployed workers statewide.

If this situation persists, it is easy to imagine that many of these employers may, like many of our residents, seek greener economic pastures elsewhere.

Over the next 25 years, the US Census Bureau estimates that the numbers of Massachusetts residents of traditional working age (20 to 65) will grow much more slowly than our younger and, particularly, our elderly population. In fact, Census population projections predict that the Commonwealth's ''dependency ratio," which measures the proportion of ''productive" residents against the proportion of more ''dependent" residents, will rise from 64.8 percent in 2005 to 83.3 percent by 2030.

Today, for every 100 working-age residents of Massachusetts, 65 residents are being supported. By 2030, this will increase to 83 residents for every 100 working-age residents. While the elderly population is expected to grow more rapidly than the youth population, ''dependent populations" are expected to grow more rapidly than the working-age population. At present pace, dependent populations will grow 24.3 percent over the next 25 years, and over the same period, the working-age population will shrink by 3.3 percent.

The impact of these shifts in the age composition of the Massachusetts population will be partially eased by the extraordinary productivity of the state's workforce and an expected rise in the proportion of elderly people who continue to work. But a growing share of the benefits generated by that productivity -- which historically has benefited workers through higher wages and employers through higher profits -- will now instead have to go to meeting the healthcare and other needs of a growing number of elderly residents.

And this creates an economic Catch-22: As those next-generation families and industries see wealth diverted to take care of the older generation, they may choose to relocate to other regions that offer a more equitable and mutually beneficial arrangement.

The smartest thing they could do is exploit the similar but more advanced phenomenon in Europe and encourage its young workers to come to MA.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:43 AM


War counsel: Conservative legal scholar John Yoo, whose memos helped shape White House policy, says the framers gave the president all the war powers of a king (Christopher Shea, October 23, 2005, Boston Globe)

IN JOHN YOO'S world, President Bush didn't need to ask Congress for permission to invade Iraq. And if the special forces captured a terrorist suspect who might know of an upcoming attack on the New York subway, Bush could order him placed on a torture rack-regardless of treaties the US has signed or whether Congress had passed laws banning torture.

Yoo is an academic-a Berkeley law professor-but these aren't exactly theoretical issues. The Supreme Court faces several cases concerning how much control the president has over military detainees. And last week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the president has the right to attack Syria, without congressional approval, if he deems that a necessary move in the war on terror.

Nor is Yoo's experience in this area merely Ivory Tower: He clerked for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and from 2001 to 2003 served as a lawyer in the Justice Department's prestigious Office of Legal Counsel. Last year, Yoo found himself at the center of controversy when it was revealed that he had written a memo during his Justice Department stint arguing that physical interrogations had to cause damage on the order of major organ failure before they were considered torture under American law, and that anyway the commander in chief was exempt from such laws.

The memo got some seriously bad reviews. ''The stench of corruption permeates the page," wrote the Yale law professor Jack Balkin, on his blog. Now, in a new book, ''The Powers of War and Peace: The Constitution and Foreign Affairs after 9/11" (Chicago), Yoo has produced a full blueprint for the kind of potent presidency he thinks is necessary to fight the Global War on Terror. Given his connections to the administration, Yoo's sketch of the presidency will no doubt be interpreted in some quarters as revealing how the Bush White House sees itself in its dreams.

When it comes to foreign policy and the president's role as commander in chief, ''Yoo concludes that for all intents and purposes we have an elected king," says Michael J. Glennon, a professor of international law at Tufts University's Fletcher School, reflecting a common view among left and centrist scholars.

Yet Yoo, for his part, says he's offering a fresh look at constitutional history that not only reflects the framers' ideas, but also better mirrors the reality of modern history than does mainstream international law. ''There are these areas-war powers, treaties-in which academics all say one thing, and then presidents, Congress, and the courts all do something that is opposite," he said in a recent interview. His book tries to explain why the people he describes as ''my friends in international law" get so many things wrong.

Yoo wants to revise our understanding of the Constitution in two areas: presidential war powers and the interpretation of treaties.

Mr. Yoo is a likely and worthy eventual Supreme Court nominee, but only inside the Beltway would a guy who worked for the Justice Department Counsel be considered more qualified than the actual White House Counsel.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:18 AM


Mongolia, U.S. toast strong ties (Bill Gertz, 10/23/05, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Speaking to reporters here after stops in Beijing and Seoul, Mr. Rumsfeld praised the Mongolian military's dispatch of troops to Iraq and Afghanistan.

During the visit, Defense Minister Tserenkhuu Sharavdorj presented Mr. Rumsfeld with a Mongolian horse, a traditional sign of respect. The horse will be kept in the country in honor of Mr. Rumsfeld, who named it Montana.

Mr. Rumsfeld made the five-hour visit a month before President Bush is scheduled to travel to the country for an Asian economic summit.

The defense secretary said the United States and Mongolia share a "strong military-to-military relationship," and he praised Mongolia's decision to shift its military toward peacekeeping.

"If there is anything that is clear in the 21st century, it is that the world needs peacekeeping," Mr. Rumsfeld said. "I congratulate the people of Mongolia and the government and armed forces of Mongolia for selecting that as a principal aspect of their military focus."

They are a better ally than the nation that actually borders Montana.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:15 AM


US politician praises North Korea (BBC, 10/22/05)

North Korea is committed to dismantling its nuclear weapons programme, an unofficial US envoy has said, after a visit to the capital Pyongyang.

Bill Richardson said he was "very pleased" with North Korea's willingness to make progress in six-nation talks.

It'll be especially fun to watch Hillary Clinton drape her husband's failed North Korea policy around Mr. Richardson's neck in the primaries.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:09 AM


The identity crisis facing Europe (Chris Morris, 10/22/05, BBC)

There is a resolutely glum mood in Europe at the moment. Economies have stagnated, the EU has hit the institutional buffers, and change often seems to be regarded more as threat than as opportunity.

Lest we forget though we have been living through a time of extraordinary success.

To travel to the great cities of central Europe in the last few years, to Prague, to Warsaw and to Budapest, has been to witness the rebirth of confident European roots which had been suppressed for nearly half a century under Communism.

Europe has grown wider at the same time that it has struggled to go deeper.

But where will it all end?

What, today, does it mean to be a European?

Thoughts of that glass tower in the woods have come back to me in the last few weeks as we have seen fierce debates about Turkey starting talks on EU membership, and about the flood of migrants from Africa and Asia trying to get into Europe, and about the migrant communities who are already here.

It is all about who is a European and who is not.

It is rather different on the other side of the Atlantic.

Anyone can be an American. It does not matter where you are from.

There are Japanese Americans, Lithuanian Americans, Arab Americans and so on.

When we lived in Washington we used to buy our precious stocks of Marmite, rather unexpectedly, from the El Salvadorian shop on 17th Street.

"I'm not an El Salvadorian any more," the owner used to say, "I'm an El Salvadorian American."

Quite a mouthful, but there was no denying what it meant to him. Not a minority, but part of the mainstream.

In Europe we have British Asians, German Turks.

But note the difference.

In the US the emphasis is the other way around, they are not American Poles but Polish Americans.

Americans first and foremost, implying a sense of belonging and of acceptance which Europe sometimes struggles to emulate. I think it is because we live in a continent still trying to define its identity.

You mean you can't build a common culture around secular rational individualism?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:52 AM


Plan to force debt-ridden Britons to save (TERESA HUNTER, 10/22/05, Scotland on Sunday)

A RADICAL bill to overhaul the savings landscape and encourage low-paid and moderate earners to invest for their future will be unveiled this week by the shadow work and pensions secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind.

The Conservative MP believes Britain must roll back the barriers which are preventing a quarter of the workforce from tucking away any funds to pay for major life events, accidents or retirement.

His new Private Member's Bill, entitled 'Rights for Savers', will recommend the introduction of a new lifetime Savings and Retirement Account (Sara), which could be converted at retirement into a Canadian-style Retirement Income Fund (Rif), for those who wish to avoid buying an annuity.

Rifkind hopes to meet the government's pensions minister Stephen Timms before Friday's second reading of the bill in the House of Commons, in an attempt to win all-party backing for the proposals.

Given the scale of the savings crisis, the government may be willing to embrace new ideas.

Lifetime Savings Accounts sound familiar, eh? Australia's Left has already started collaborating with John Howard on the Third Way and David Cameron could push the Tories in that direction, which would leave only our Democrats out in the Cold and serve the nation poorly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:42 AM

GEORGE VIGUERIE (via Matt Murphy):

Defending The Indefensible (George F. Will, October 23, 2005, Washington Post)

Such is the perfect perversity of the nomination of Harriet Miers that it discredits, and even degrades, all who toil at justifying it. Many of their justifications cannot be dignified as arguments. Of those that can be, some reveal a deficit of constitutional understanding commensurate with that which it is, unfortunately, reasonable to impute to Miers. Other arguments betray a gross misunderstanding of conservatism on the part of persons masquerading as its defenders. [...]

As for Republicans, any who vote for Miers will thereafter be ineligible to argue that it is important to elect Republicans because they are conscientious conservers of the judicial branch's invaluable dignity. Finally, any Republican senator who supinely acquiesces in President Bush's reckless abuse of presidential discretion -- or who does not recognize the Miers nomination as such -- can never be considered presidential material.

As so often, George W. Bush resembles Ronald Reagan, who the wacky Right likewise read out of the conservative movement during his presidency.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:31 AM

YEAH, THAT'LL WORK (via Mike Daley):

The New Puritans (EURSOC Two, 21 October, 2005)

France scored a minor cultural victory against the United States yesterday when the UN's cultural arm UNESCO voted overwhelmingly to support a Paris-backed convention protecting national cultural practices.

The convention, which was backed by 148 of the 154 governments present yesterday, allows nations to exclude cultural goods and services from competition. It adds that access to culture from a variety of nations is a "fundamental right" and that only the implementation of "true national cultural policies" can allow cultural production to take place in every country, thus making cultural diversity possible.

In short, UNESCO agreed to the nationalisation of culture. Only the US and Israel voted against the convention, though four others abstained. Britain supported the French position, with the UK's ambassador Timothy Craddock claiming that the convention was "clear, carefully balanced, and consistent with the principles of international law and fundamental human rights."

Fair enough: Few would disagree that the people of say, Iran, North Korea - or even China - should be allowed to enjoy the diversity of cultures outside their national boundaries. However, to argue that enthusiasm for the convention was based solely on the wish to extend the cultural horizons of the citizens of these benighted countries is disingenous.

In fact, many treaty supporters will use the convention as an excuse to exclude foreign influence in the name of protecting national culture. The so-called fundamental right to diversity could be satisfied by inviting approved theatre tours from friendly states. Or - just imagine - the Havana Festival of Chinese, North Korean and Venezuelan Cinema.

France's obvious delight at the convention's success - it sees it as a "manifesto for alternative globalisation" - sits uneasily with its usual tolerance of closed regimes.

There may be indeed be nobler aims in the treaty, but Britain (and every other country on the board) knew exactly what they were signing up to: Yet another transnational slap in the face for Washington.

Because, let's face it, which culture do most of these elites imagine that their citizens are most under threat from?

Unless they ban books, movies, TV and the Internet how do they avoid contiunuing Americanization?

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:12 AM


Drink giants' plans to fuel binge Britain (Gaby Hinsliff and Anushka Asthana, The Observer, October 23rd, 2005)

The drinks industry is planning a ruthless campaign of economic incentives and psychological tricks to get customers to drink as much as possible when licensing laws are relaxed, The Observer can reveal.

Managers of massive 'vertical drinking' pubs are being offered bonuses worth up to £20,000 a year if they beat targets as the industry moves to exploit Britain's binge drinking culture.

Managers are so concerned about the consequences of the pressure to sell that they have laid bare a litany of tricks and sharp practices that will be used to maximise profits once 24-hour opening is legalised next month.

Managers for many of the big chain pubs dominating Britain's city centres are being ordered to draw up business development plans explaining how they will keep people in their pubs after 11pm and offered shares of the profits if they beat sales targets. One manager told of races between bar staff to sell as many 'shots' of spirits as possible within a set time and constant pressure to 'upsell' singles to doubles.

No worry here. As our libertarian friends will tell us, there is absolutely no logical reason to assume these measures will affect drinking habits or that relaxed drinking laws will lead to an increase in consumption. Why, just look at the Greeks. People don’t always make the best choices, but none of us can say what choices are or are not best for others. Besides, individual freedom is paramount and our rights to market our lawful products and enjoy a quiet 4:00am cocktail clearly trump any concern that the streets may be full of broke, vomiting and brawling yobs.

October 22, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:56 PM


Missing links: Proponents of Intelligent Design have exploited a vexing question at the heart of Darwin's theory. Now, say two leading biologists, scientists can - and must - answer back. (Peter Dizikes, October 23, 2005, Boston Globe)

As it happens, [Marc Kirschner, founding chair of the Department of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School] and [John Gerhart, a biologist at the University of California, Berkeley] give several of these advances in evolutionary biology a broad public airing as coauthors of a new book, ''The Plausibility of Life," published this week by Yale University Press. In it, they discuss the origins of complicated biological features-from the bat's wing to the human eye-and present their theory of ''facilitated variation," which they believe addresses a major question in evolution: How can small genetic changes develop into complex, useful body parts? In a sign of the times, they also rebut claims of irreducible complexity made by Intelligent Design advocates.

In so doing, Kirschner and Gerhart say, they are tackling an issue evolutionists have often left unexamined. ''The question of how variation could be produced has been there from the beginning," says Gerhart, referring to the publication of Charles Darwin's ''On the Origin of Species" in 1859. By the 1940s, the so-called ''Modern Synthesis" of evolutionary theory powerfully buttressed Darwin's insights on natural selection with the post-Darwinian discoveries about the mechanisms of heredity. But, the authors write, the Modern Synthesis was ''silent" about the way organisms generated variation. It is not coincidental, they add, that because ''variation is the least understood of the theoretical underpinnings of evolutionary theory," it thus ''is currently the favorite target" of creationists.

Kirschner and Gerhart say this situation has now changed. Organisms, they assert, have a far greater capacity to generate rapid and complex variations than even biologists had previously supposed. Moreover, from the genetic level up to our visible features, organisms have a modular structure. In this sense, complex features are less like singularly intricate structures than a collection of building blocks.

Significantly, Kirschner and Gerhart write, while random genetic mutations in our DNA code cause variations, these mutations do not create random effects (a traditional working assumption of many evolutionists). Instead, all organisms have maintained an essentially intact set of vital mechanisms-metabolism, reproduction of DNA, growth mechanisms, and more-for at least 2 billion years. These elements, along with a long-conserved body plan common to many animals, serve as the platform for subsequent, often more visible variations.

Consider the elephant's trunk, the elk's antlers, and the narwhal's tusk, which all appear to be distinct, complex innovations. But as Kirschner and Gerhart point out, the same type of cell guided their growth in each animal. Moreover, the modular structure of life means these body parts could develop without affecting the rest of the organism. (A corollary is that it only takes limited genetic changes to bring about large bodily changes.) So the trunk, antlers, and tusk are really just different expressions of the same type of genetic activity-funneled through the process of natural selection, in which variations useful to a particular environment tend to survive over time.

Kirschner and Gerhart also suggest Behe does not consider modularity in his claim that only ''staggeringly complex biochemical processes" lie behind the composition of, say, an eye. As they note, the eyes of insects and mammals, each of which appear to be singularly complex, share important biochemical building blocks and connections among their components.

''People should be asking about the nature of complexity, not just how complex it is," amplifies Kirschner, in conversation. ''You look at a clock, and you see that every part is purposely made. That's what you would do if you were an Intelligent Designer. But instead, when you look at biology, you find that there are very few types of parts, and they are being co-opted from one place to another. We have a Lego-like capacity to very easily generate new structures."

Amazing how often their own metaphors drive Darwinists into the Creation corner. The fact that life resembles a Legoi kit in which every finished pieve can be made from a few basic pieces assembled in different ways is clear enough, but note too that when watches had gears all our machines were pretty similar and not that our watches are digital and electronic all our other machines are likewise. The very sameness and invariability of biological structures suggests design.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:48 PM

SOUNDS REASONABLE (via Tom Corcoran):

Between Jam and Jelly: Regulation as the Default State of Affairs (Uriah Kriegel, 10/21/05, Tech Central Station)

With the world's fourth biggest proportion of the population making less than $2 a day, and $430 GNI per capita, Mauritania is one of the world's poorest countries. Featuring mostly camels and sand dunes, it has almost no non-oil natural resources. Yet meager resources inspire greater entrepreneurial ingenuity, and a few years ago a German company figured out a method by which to produce cheese from camel milk. A miracle for the unfortunate people of Mauritania? Not quite. The European Commission did not approve the new product. The reason: there were no regulations in place for camel-based products.

There was a time when regulation was an institution whose purpose was to put limits on an otherwise boundless liberty. Basically, as long as there was no regulation forbidding you to do something, it was allowed. In the absence of regulation, there was no question whether something was permitted or not. The absence of regulation just meant that the thing was permitted.

What the European Commission's ruling betrays is a worrying movement toward reversal of that natural order. In the minds of many, especially in continental Europe, regulation has slowly become the default state of affairs. To this way of seeing things, the absence of regulation does not amount to freedom, but to moral and legal limbo: we are to await the regulating bodies' decision whether or not to grant us the freedom in question.

When the state of default regulation obtains, the institution of regulation doesn't function merely as a stop sign for liberties. It is cast as creator of liberties. There are no liberties other than the ones bestowed by the regulator. In its hands, the regulator holds a fund of liberties, which it is its burden to distribute to us according to whatever standards it sees fit. [...]

The positive conception of liberty always had a stronger footing on the European continent than in the Anglo-Saxon world. Thankfully, the negative conception of liberty is deeply entrenched in the American political culture. It is effectively set in stone in the United States Constitution. From the very opening sentence of the Constitution, it is clear that its framers were of the opinion that freedoms were not created out of thin air by governments' decrees, but existed prior to -- and independently of -- governments themselves.

Of course, our rights precede the State because they are the fifts of the Creator. In a Europe that has no basis in Judeo--Christianity any longer rights can only be the gift of the state.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:35 PM


Bird flu kills parrot held in UK quarantine (CRAIG BROWN, 10/22/05, The Scotsman)

A PARROT in Britain has died of a "highly pathogenic" strain of bird flu while in quarantine, the government has confirmed.

Officials said it was not yet known whether the bird, imported from South America, had the most virulent H5N1 strain of the disease which has killed 60 people in Asia over the past two years.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:11 AM


Report Finds U.S. Failing on Overstays of Visas (ERIC LIPTON, 10/22/05, NY Times)

The Department of Homeland Security far too frequently fails to follow up on leads that foreign visitors have overstayed their visas, the agency's inspector general says in a new report.

The result is an enforcement system that poses little threat of repercussions for tourists, students and others who quietly turn into illegal immigrants, the report says.

Of the 301,046 leads the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency received in 2004 on possible visa violators, the report says, only 4,164 were formally pursued, resulting in just 671 apprehensions.

And while some of those cases are still pending, the inspector general, Richard L. Skinner, predicted that a "minuscule" number of these individuals were ever likely to face deportation, an action generally taken only if a person has a criminal history and is detained.

The study estimates that the visa overstay population in the United States is at least 3.6 million people, out of an estimated 9 million to 10 million illegal immigrants. Yet nationally, only 51 full-time agents in the special enforcement unit of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency were assigned in 2004 to work on these cases, the report says.

Note that the same folks whining about W being a big spender generally want to close the borders--let's see them propose the taxes, spending, and increase in the size and scope of government to do it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:07 AM


Romney gets look at $200 coverage: Insurer's outline for affordable care relies on higher patient fees (Jeffrey Krasner, October 22, 2005, Boston Globe)

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts gave Governor Mitt Romney an outline of a possible health plan with the $200-a-month premium the governor wants to launch as part of his effort to provide affordable coverage for uninsured individuals.

The basic HMO plan from Blue Cross, the state's largest health insurer, would increase patients' out-of-pocket costs such as deductibles and co-pays; add costs to steer people away from costly emergency room visits and high-tech procedures such as MRIs; and eliminate some benefits currently required by the state to be covered in all health plans, such as chiropractic care and in vitro fertilization for infertile couples. The plan would probably include some coverage for preventive care, physician and hospital visits, and prescription drugs.

The Romney administration, facing a legislative deadline, has asked health insurers to design a health plan with a $200 monthly premium. Senate President Robert E. Travaglini and others have their own competing health coverage plans. [...]

At that price, buying coverage would be possible for many who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, the federal-state program for the poor, and not enough to buy insurance at current prices. The state would subsidize the $200 program for people who don't qualify for Medicaid but whose income is below a certain level. Romney's program would be mandatory. To encourage enrollment, the plan would also impose tax penalties on consumers who could buy the low-cost insurance but choose not to.

Which is just another way of mandating universal coverage.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:04 AM


Mesmerizing Jazz Singer and Pianist (Adam Bernstein, October 22, 2005, Washington Post)

Shirley Horn, a smoky-voiced jazz balladeer and pianist who was resigned to being a musical fixture in her native Washington before emerging as a national presence in her fifties and winning a Grammy Award, died Thursday of complications from diabetes at Gladys Spellman Specialty Hospital and Nursing Center in Cheverly. She was 71.

With her slow, meditative ballads, Horn was one of the leading jazz singers of her generation and unquestionably was Washington's preeminent jazz musician. After reviving her dormant career in the 1980s, she made a series of triumphant concert appearances and strong-selling recordings that earned nine Grammy nominations. Her performances at the White House in 1994 and at New York's Lincoln Center in 1998 were broadcast nationally on PBS.

An uncompromising perfectionist, she worked hard to develop a personal, pensive sound. Her artistry had long depended on the interaction between voice and piano, but in 2001, Horn's right foot was amputated because of her diabetes. As a result, it was difficult for her to use the elegant pedal work that marked her piano style.

Later, she would sometimes remove the shoe from her prosthetic foot and manipulate the piano's sustain pedal with the force of her hip. In her final public appearance, in December at the Kennedy Center, she climbed from her wheelchair to the piano and performed what had become her signature song, "Here's to Life."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:01 AM


Evacuees Begin to Put Down Roots: New Schools, Jobs Lessen Pull Back Home to New Orleans (John Pomfret, October 22, 2005, Washington Post)

For weeks, New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin has been urging New Orleans residents to come home. But in Texas, many of the 400,000 evacuees are leaving shelter for apartments and houses and putting down roots.

In Austin, the local school district started with about 1,000 children from Katrina-affected zones. Today, more than 700 remain.

"My feeling is that most of them want to stay," said Dora Fabelo, the principal of Katherine Cook Elementary School in Austin, which has 25 children, including the Smith brothers, from Katrina-affected areas. "We have experience taking in children like these. We took in Liberian refugees last year and before that kids from Bosnia and Kosovo. Like them, these kids have gone through hell, but, unlike them, they're neighbors. They are our kids."

Fabelo and other principals have placed the children into remedial and special-ed programs. They also have gotten parents to come over for parenting and nutrition classes offered at the school -- something that has impressed parents and made staying in Texas even more attractive. Fabelo has raised money for several of them and has helped one single mother of three, who was in danger of being evicted, to pay the rent.

"A lot of them are still overwhelmed," she said. "They spend days working through the red tape."

Steve Harris, a 37-year-old former dockworker and carpet cleaner from the Ninth Ward, said the bureaucracy has been maddening.

In New Orleans, he was sofa-surfing at friends' apartments and therefore was not recognized as the head of a household. He's concerned that that will make him ineligible for housing assistance. He and his mother were rescued by helicopter from a third-story fire escape a week after Katrina blew through New Orleans. They were taken to the airport and airlifted to Texas. Before taking off, Harris asked an official where they were going. He said San Antonio. "When we touched down the pilot said, 'Welcome to Austin,' " Harris said.

At the Austin Convention Center, where Harris was housed for two weeks, volunteers arranged for him to move into an apartment in a low-slung subsidized development in north-central Austin. Now, several weeks into his stay there, he is running out of money and the rent is due. The Red Cross paid for one month, and FEMA officials at the convention center told him they would step in, but they didn't give him anything in writing.

"My rent is due tomorrow, and I still don't know what I am going to get," he said. "All I am doing is stressing."

Harris's one bright spot has been a good interview for a position cleaning carpets. "If I get work, I am not going back to New Orleans," he said. "Why should I go back? They left me to die."

The transition from New Orleans, where few people moved around much and the population grew only 7 percent since 1990, to Austin, a mobile society where one in three people is from someplace else, has been baffling for many evacuees.

Confusing, too, is the switch from a city where African Americans make up 67 percent of the population to Austin, where they constitute 10 percent. Hispanics are Austin's largest minority, at nearly one-third of the population. Some evacuees have found themselves in apartment complexes where their neighbors speak no English.

"Wherever I look, someone's speaking Spanish," said Steve Harris's mother, Rose. "When I say 'Hello,' they just put their heads down and look away."

In New Orleans, Tyler and Deron Smith attended an all-black elementary school attached to St. Peter Claver Church. Two weeks ago, the family used FEMA aid to rent a three-bedroom apartment in northeastern Austin two blocks from Cook Elementary. There, two-thirds of the student body is Hispanic, 23 percent black and 10 percent white. More than half of the boys' classmates do not speak English at home.

Deron said he likes that it's mixed, and so does his father.

"It gives the boys a chance to see how other people live," their father, Ryan Smith, said. "No matter how you look at it, this has been a broadening experience for my boys." Being from a Katrina-affected zone has made Deron a bit of a celebrity in school.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:48 AM


Blair can show us way to power, says Cameron (Rachel Sylvester and Alice Thomson, 22/10/2005, Daily Telegraph)

David Cameron says today that the Conservatives will regain power only if they build on the political revolution brought about by Tony Blair.

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, the front-runner in the Tory leadership race says his party must stop behaving as if the voters got it wrong at the past three elections.

"When he became Labour leader, Tony Blair understood what Margaret Thatcher had done to change the country," he says. "The Conservative Party has to understand why it has lost three elections in a row and what Blair has achieved over the last eight years. We can't turn the clock back to 1997 and pretend it has all been a bad dream." [...]

His views will infuriate some traditionalists but he says his party must move into the 21st century to survive.

"There are some in the party who believe that the pendulum will swing back," he says. "But the Conservative Party has no right to office. It exists because it has principles and ideas and policies that attract people."

Mr Cameron, the champion of the modernisers, says: "Margaret Thatcher did amazing things for Britain but there will be a new generation of voters at the next election who were born after she left office. We are facing a new era and we must respond to it."

He adds: "There is an attitude among some that all the Conservative Party has to do is to shout a bit louder and hate modern Britain a bit more and everyone will come rushing to the standard - and I just think that is not part of the problem; that is the problem."

Now we know what Michael Gerson has been up to, Bush Says GOP Must Turn From Negativity (Terry M. Neal, October 6, 1999, Washington Post )
Texas Gov. George W. Bush today criticized his party for espousing negative rhetoric, failing to portray a message of inclusiveness and forgetting that conservative policies should benefit those left behind in an affluent society.

Bush's remarks, during a speech on education, marked the second time in a week that the Republican front-runner has challenged his party to rise above the perception of it as a repository of uncaring and mean-spirited ideology. Last week, he stunned many supporters on Capitol Hill when he denounced a congressional GOP budget plan that would save money by deferring tax credits for the working poor.

"Too often, on social issues, my party has painted an image of America slouching toward Gomorrah," told his audience at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank. "Too often, my party has focused on the national economy, to the exclusion of all else, speaking a sterile language of rates and numbers, of CBO and GNP. Too often my party has confused the need for limited government with a disdain for government itself."

He then declared: "This is not an option for conservatives. . . . Our founders rejected cynicism, and cultivated a noble love of country."

As he has throughout this early stage of his campaign, Bush used today's speech to stake out the middle ground in American politics and distance himself from the GOP's right wing. Though Bush has stood with his party on a number of key issues, he has taken opportunities to show that his style of conservatism has a softer edge.

In presenting his second major education initiative, Bush explained how his "compassionate conservatism" would translate to real policies. While his ideas generally hewed closely to long-favored conservative themes, such as school vouchers and charter schools, he indicated his intention to avoid some of the party's hot-button rhetoric and ideas. [...]

Bush's education proposals and his overall message defy standard political orthodoxy that says Republican candidates must run to the right in seeking their party's nomination and move back to the middle for the general election. In Bush's case, he has already moved to the middle -- a luxury his strong front-runner status affords him. By attempting to redefine conservatism, analysts say, Bush has effectively adopted his own brand of triangulation, the term originally used to describe Clinton's political strategy. [...]

House leaders declined to comment on Bush's remarks, though some said privately they believed they were aimed more at Patrick J. Buchanan and other conservative presidential aspirants rather than at Congress.

Last week, campaign spokeswoman Mindy Tucker said Bush was not trying to distance himself from the unpopular Congress, but simply expressing his disagreement on one relatively narrow policy matter. Today, communications director Karen Hughes insisted that Bush was not attacking the GOP but the image created by partisan foes. "There's recognition that conservatives have been misportrayed," she told reporters. "There's recognition that there is a public perception that our party is mean-spirited."

But when a reporter today asked Stephen Goldsmith, Bush's senior domestic policy adviser, about the line in Bush's speech suggesting the party had confused the need for limited government with a disdain for government itself, he said: "It's intentionally in the speech, and it was meant to send a message."

Bennett, who is advising Bush but has not endorsed anyone, said: "What he wants is a broader party with a different message and never yield the high ground of compassion to the Democrats. They don't deserve it."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:42 AM


Bringing democracy to Syria and Iran (Daily Telegraph, 22/10/2005)

Not all the arguments against invading Iraq were couched in idealistic terms. Many hard-bitten Foreign Office types argued that the intervention would "destabilise" the region. They now look vindicated. Precisely as the cynical Arabists predicted, neighbouring states have been "sucked in". America blames Syria for allowing insurgents to cross its border, while Iran stands accused of arming the Shia militia who have been harrying British forces in Basra.

Then again, stability isn't everything. The point about "sucking in" is that it works both ways. Some 300,000 Iraqis live in Syria, and perhaps 150,000 in Iran. For the second time in less than a year, the peoples of those two unhappy autocracies have had to watch the Iraqis who live among them queueing up to vote - a sight no doubt destabilising for the dictators, but stimulating for everybody else.

We have just been reminded of quite how beastly the Damascus and Teheran regimes are. Syria has been indicted for its murder of the popular Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri, while Iran, as The Sunday Telegraph has revealed, is receiving clandestine shipments of missile technology from North Korea.

That is the problem with dictatorships: their domestic stability, so valued by FCO mandarins, is bought at the expense of international aggression. To borrow a metaphor from chaos theory, they drink order from their surroundings. They may be immobilist at home, but they are revolutionary abroad.

Stability will only be appropriate after the Kingdom of Heaven is established--we needn't hold our breath.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:38 AM


Son jailed for not caring for aging father (Tracey Tyler, Toronto Star, October 22nd, 2005)

Arnold Peterson's apartment was filled with cockroaches. The cupboards were bare and a dead dog was found inside. At 84, Peterson, who was in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, often wandered the neighbourhood in dirty, baggy clothes, never seeming to shower or shave.

According to his children, Peterson was also fiercely independent and adamant he would not enter a nursing home.

Though they took steps to obtain power of attorney over his personal care and finances, they went no further to address his deteriorating health.

Yesterday, the Ontario Court of Appeal sent Peterson's son, Dennis Peterson, to jail for six months for failing to provide "the necessaries of life" to his aging father, who occupied the main floor and basement of his son's house near Toronto's High Park.

A child in charge of a parent who refuses to accept care is obligated to seek help from a community agency, the court said, adding it is no defence for a child to say their parent will not co-operate with their plans.

It's believed to be the first time in Canada an adult child has been jailed for failing to care for a parent. The case has wide implications for children turned into caregivers for aging mothers and fathers and "raises troubling issues for society," Terry Hawtin, Dennis Peterson's lawyer, said yesterday.

It looks like the Boomers, who lived for themselves and taught their children to do likewise, are starting to have second thoughts.

October 21, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:04 PM


The First Time Was Tragedy... (Eric Alterman, October 24, 2005, The Nation)

Outrageous even by his own considerable standards, George W. Bush has tried to hijack Roosevelt's World War II legacy for his own, most recently at a speech in San Diego commemorating the sixtieth anniversary of V-J Day. The obvious difference between FDR's and Bush's wars is necessity. True, FDR led the nation into war by less than forthright means, but he did so because he knew that Germany and Japan were genuine and unavoidable threats to American security and prosperity.

Supplying the warring parties got us out of the Depression after ten futile years of New Dealing, while the Nazis couldn't take Britain, Spain or the Soviets: how were they any threat to us?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:45 PM


Corzine's charitable donations questioned (DONNA DE LA CRUZ, October 21, 2005, AP)

New Jersey Sen. Jon Corzine, a former Wall Street executive with a portfolio worth $261 million, has been giving some of his money to black churches, raising questions about whether it's generosity or politics.

The Democrat, who is in a tight race for governor, donated or loaned more than $2.5 million last year to black churches. He has received the endorsement of more than two dozen black ministers.

"Blatant quid pro quo-ism," said Democrat Walter Fields, Jr., former political director of New Jersey's NAACP. "We have always had wealthy candidates running for office. What we have never had is that individual wealth being used in such a direct way, and somehow we're supposed to look the other way."

Corzine, the former CEO of Goldman Sachs, has defended his giving and cited the millions he has given to other organizations as well, including Planned Parenthood ...

Doug Forrester can certainly afford to cough up some competing walkin' around money.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:14 PM

KHOMEINI'S DEAD (via Paul Cella):

Soldiers of the Hidden Imam (Timothy Garton Ash, 11/03/05, NY Review of Books)

The political system of the Islamic Republic of Iran is at once fiendishly complex and extremely simple. Most of the Iranians I met preferred to stress the complexity. The country has at least two governments at any one time: a semi-democratic formal state structure, now headed by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and a religious-ideological command structure headed by the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. There are numerous shifting formal and informal power centers, including political parties in parliament, ministries, rich religious foun- dations, the Revolutionary Guards, and the multimillion-man Basij militia, whose mobilization helped Ahmadinejad to get elected. There are also backroom ethnic or regional mafias, and numerous competing intelligence, security, and police agencies—eighteen of them according to one recent count. No wonder Iranian political scientists reach for terms like "polyarchy," "elective oligarchy," "semi-democracy," or "neopatrimonialism."

Yet the longer I was there, the more strongly I felt that the essence of this regime remains quite simple. At its core, the Islamic Republic is still an ideological dictatorship. Its central organizing principle can be summarized in four sentences: (1) There is only one God and Muhammad is his Prophet. (2) God knows best what is good for men and women. (3) The Islamic clergy, and especially the most learned among them, the jurists qualified to interpret Islamic law, know best what God wants. (4) In case of dispute among learned jurists, the Supreme Leader decides.

This is the system which its inventor, Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, justified by radically reinterpreting the Islamic concept of velayat-e faqih, usually translated as the Guardianship of the Jurist. This system is not Islam; it is Khomeinism. It would not exist without that one old man, whose grim portrait still stares out at you everywhere in Iran, though now usually flanked by the bespectacled figure of his successor and epigone, the current Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. [...]

How can such a regime be transformed, or, as many still prefer to say, reformed? I heard the word "reform" innumerable times as I traveled around Iran. I soon realized that it meant several different things. First, there's an ideological debate among Islamic intellectuals, turning on what in the communist world used to be called "revisionism"—that is, attempts to revise the ideology on which the state is built. As the views of revisionists in, say, 1950s Poland were also part of a wider debate about international communism, so the views of these Iranian revisionists have significant implications for international Islam.

I was impressed by the liveliness of this debate. While many Iranians are clearly fed up with Islam being stuffed down their throats as a state religion, I found no sense that Islamic ideology is a dead issue, as, for example, communist ideology had become a dead issue in Central Europe by the 1980s. Far from it. In Khomeini's theological capital of Qom, now home to some two hundred Islamic think tanks and institutions of higher education, I met with a research group on Islamic political philosophy. Why should Islam not be compatible with a secular, liberal democratic state, I asked, as is increasingly the case in Turkey? "Turkey is not Qom," said Mohsen Rezvani, a young philosopher wearing the robes and turban of a mullah, to laughter around the table. Islam, Rezvani said, is "anthropologically, theologically, and epistemologically" incompatible with liberal democracy. Anthropologically, because liberal democracy is based on liberal individualism; theologically, because it excludes God from the public sphere; and epistemologically, because it is based on reason not faith. Then they handed me an issue of the Political Science Quarterly—not the American journal but their own Qom-made version. Here I read an English-language abstract of an admiring article by Rezvani about Leo Strauss.

"So you're a neoconservative!" I teased him.

Oh no, he replied, the American neoconservatives don't properly understand Leo Strauss. [...]

Back in Tehran, I met a most impressive Islamic revisionist, Professor Mohsen Kadivar, a smiling, learned, and courageous mullah. One reason the Iranian Islamic debate is so lively is that the Shiite tradition not only permits but encourages spirited disagreement between the followers of rival grand ayatollahs of the highest category, those who have earned the title marja-i taqlid, or "source of imitation." Professor Kadivar is a disciple of the Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, who was to have been Khomeini's successor as Supreme Leader until the father of the revolution disinherited him and put him under house arrest in Qom.

A few years ago, Kadivar took the bold step of arguing that the Guardianship of the Jurist has no sound basis in the Koran or mainstream Islamic thought, and is incompatible with the essence of a true republic. He also questioned the Islamic rectitude of condemning people (e.g., Salman Rushdie) to death in their absence, and suggested in a newspaper interview that today's Iran reproduces characteristics of the Shah's monarchic rule: "People made the revolution so that they could make decisions, not so that decisions would be made for them." He paid for his intellectual honesty with eighteen months in prison. [...]

For someone who has studied the ways post-totalitarian or authoritarian dictatorships, whether in Europe, Latin America, or South Africa, have gradually become less oppressive states, and eventually democracies, the main question about Iran is therefore this: What forces inside its society might help to increase peaceful social pressure for gradual regime change?

Industrial workers in Iran have so far shown no signs of organizing themselves, as Poland's did in the Solidar-ity movement twenty-five years ago. Among farmers there is much rural unemployment and some discontent. In a sun-baked mountain village, I talked to shepherds who told me that half their fellow villagers were unemployed. Many came out to the fields at night to take drugs. Yet the main response to rural misery is to migrate to the towns. There they swell the numbers of the urban poor who, rather than contributing to a political opposition, are more likely to be recruited as thugs or mobilized in the streets by the regime's Basij militia.

What of the rich, Westernized business leaders? The ones I talked to are witheringly critical of the regime in private, but dependent on it for their businesses. Some have formed commercial partnerships with leading mullahs. They would probably be willing to support an opposition movement at the moment of decisive change, like the oligarchs in Serbia and Ukraine, but not before. Anyway, they themselves point out that most of the Iranian economy is still in the hands of the traditional merchants of the country's teeming bazaars, the bazaaris, who range from tiny stallholders to big-time export-import operators. In Iran, the bazaaris have traditionally been allies of the Islamic clergy, the ulama, and so far there are few signs of their changing sides.

Meanwhile, the regime has major assets for preserving its power. With oil at more than $60 a barrel as I write, its oil revenues have within six months covered the entire state budget for the current accounting year. The government can generously subsidize basic foodstuffs—bread, tea, sugar, rice— and keep the price of fuel extremely low for the country's manic drivers. When I was there, gasoline cost an astonishing thirty-five cents a gallon. A quarter of the workforce are state employees, dependent on the authorities for their jobs. The numerous security services are well provided for. Less than thirty years after an initially peaceful revolution that turned violent and oppressive, most people old enough to remember have little appetite for another revolution. And if the United States and Britain, the Great Satan and Perfidious Albion, try to increase the pressure from outside, Iran can make life more difficult for the foreign occupiers in the Shiite parts of Iraq, where the influence of the Islamic Republic continues to grow.

What, then, has this regime to fear? Only one thing, I conclude, but that a very big one: its own young people, the grandchildren of the revolution. [...]

The regime has spent twenty-five years trying to make these young Iranians deeply pro-Islamic, anti-American, anti-Western, and anti-Israeli. As a result, most of them are resentful of Islam (at least in its current, state-imposed form), rather pro-American, and have a friendly curiosity about Israel. One scholar, himself an Islamic reformist, suggested that Iran is now—under the hijab, so to speak—the most secular society in the Islamic world. Many also dream of life in America, sporting baseball caps that say, for example, "Harward [sic] Engineering School." Quite a few young Iranians even welcomed the invasion of Iraq, hoping it would bring freedom and democracy closer to them. Seeing how the US invasion has benefited the Shiites in southern Iraq, they joke that President George W. Bush is "the thirteenth imam."

These 45 million young people are the best hope there is of peaceful regime change in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Their "soft power" could be more effective than forty-five divisions of the US Marines. One positive legacy of the eight years of Khatami's reformist presidency is that this generation has grown up with less fear than its predecessors. The students at Tehran University launched a large-scale protest in summer 1999. They will never forgive Khatami for allowing it to be suppressed. Each year since, a small number of them have tried to mark the anniversary with demonstrations, which have been broken up by the police. Repression is fierce: as I write, a well-known student leader has just been condemned to six years in prison. Yet the impression I got from those I talked to is that they intend to struggle on, perhaps with subtler and more inventive forms of protest.

The potential of what I came to think of as Young Persia is huge. These young Iranians are educated, angry, disillusioned, impatient, and when they leave college most of them will not find jobs appropriate to their training. Given time and the right external circumstances, they could take the lead in exerting the kind of organized social pressure that would allow —and require—the advocates of reform, even of transformation, to gain the upper hand inside the dual state.

Mr. Garton Ash seems to miss his own point along the way there. Since Khomeinism is inconsistent with Shi'ism and the ayatollahs are Shi'ites, one likely source of reform will be the ayatollahs themselves.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:10 PM


The Importance of the Plame Affair (George Friedman , 10/21/05, Real Clear Politics)

The CIA is divided between the Directorate of Intelligence, which houses the analysts, and the Directorate of Operations, which houses the spies and the paramilitary forces. The spies are, in general, divided into two groups. There are those with official cover and those with non-official cover. Official cover means that the agent is working at the U.S. embassy in some country, acting as a cultural, agricultural or some other type of attaché, and is protected by diplomatic immunity. They carry out a variety of espionage functions, limited by the fact that most foreign intelligence services know who the CIA agents at the embassy are and, frankly, assume that everyone at the embassy is an agent. They are therefore followed, their home phones are tapped, and their maids deliver scraps of paper to the host government. This obviously limits the utility of these agents. Being seen with one of them automatically blows the cover of any potential recruits.

Then there are those with non-official cover, the NOCs. These agents are the backbone of the American espionage system. A NOC does not have diplomatic cover. If captured, he has no protection. Indeed, as the saying goes, if something goes wrong, the CIA will deny it has ever heard of him. A NOC is under constant pressure when he is needed by the government and is on his own when things go wrong. That is understood going in by all NOCs.

NOCs come into the program in different ways. Typically, they are recruited at an early age and shaped for the role they are going to play. Some may be tracked to follow China, and trained to be bankers based in Hong Kong. Others might work for an American engineering firm doing work in the Andes. Sometimes companies work with the CIA, knowingly permitting an agent to become an employee. In other circumstances, agents apply for and get jobs in foreign companies and work their way up the ladder, switching jobs as they go, moving closer and closer to a position of knowing the people who know what there is to know. Sometimes they receive financing to open a business in some foreign country, where over the course of their lives, they come to know and be trusted by more and more people. Ideally, the connection of these people to the U.S. intelligence apparatus is invisible. Or, if they can't be invisible due to something in their past and they still have to be used as NOCs, they develop an explanation for what they are doing that is so plausible that the idea that they are working for the CIA is dismissed or regarded as completely unlikely because it is so obvious. The complexity of the game is endless.

These are the true covert operatives of the intelligence world. Embassy personnel might recruit a foreign agent through bribes or blackmail. But at some point, they must sit across from the recruit and show their cards: "I'm from the CIA and...." At that point, they are in the hands of the recruit. A NOC may never once need to do this. He may take decades building up trusting relationships with intelligence sources in which the source never once suspects that he is speaking to the CIA, and the NOC never once gives a hint as to who he actually is.

It is an extraordinary life. On the one hand, NOCs may live well. The Number Two at a Latin American bank cannot be effective living on a U.S. government salary. NOCs get to live the role and frequently, as they climb higher in the target society, they live the good life. On the other hand, their real lives are a mystery to everyone. Frequently, their parents don't know what they really do, nor do their own children -- for their safety and the safety of the mission. The NOC may marry someone who cannot know who they really are. Sometimes they themselves forget who they are: It is an occupational disease and a form of madness. Being the best friend of a man whom you despise, and doing it for 20 years, is not easy. Some NOCs are recruited in mid-life and in mid-career. They spend less time in the madness, but they are less prepared for it as well. NOCs enter and leave the program in different ways -- sometimes under their real names, sometimes under completely fabricated ones. They share one thing: They live a lie on behalf of their country.

The NOCs are the backbone of American intelligence and the ones who operate the best sources -- sources who don't know they are sources. When the CIA says that it needs five to 10 years to rebuild its network, what it is really saying is that it needs five to 10 years to recruit, deploy and begin to exploit its NOCs. The problem is not recruiting them -- the life sounds cool for many recent college graduates. The crisis of the NOC occurs when he approaches the most valuable years of service, in his late 30s or so. What sounded neat at 22 rapidly becomes a mind-shattering nightmare when their two lives collide at 40.

There is an explicit and implicit contract between the United States and its NOCs. It has many parts, but there is one fundamental part: A NOC will never reveal that he is or was a NOC without special permission. When he does reveal it, he never gives specifics. The government also makes a guarantee -- it will never reveal the identity of a NOC under any circumstances and, in fact, will do everything to protect it. If you have lied to your closest friends for 30 years about who you are and why you talk to them, no government bureaucrat has the right to reveal your identity for you. Imagine if you had never told your children -- and never planned to tell your children -- that you worked for the CIA, and they suddenly read in the New York Times that you were someone other than they thought you were.

There is more to this. When it is revealed that you were a NOC, foreign intelligence services begin combing back over your life, examining every relationship you had. Anyone you came into contact with becomes suspect. Sometimes, in some countries, becoming suspect can cost you your life. Revealing the identity of a NOC can be a matter of life and death -- frequently, of people no one has ever heard of or will ever hear of again.

In short, a NOC owes things to his country, and his country owes things to the NOC. We have no idea what Valerie Plame told her family or friends about her work. It may be that she herself broke the rules, revealing that she once worked as a NOC. We can't know that, because we don't know whether she received authorization from the CIA to say things after her own identity was blown by others. She might have been irresponsible, or she might have engaged in damage control. We just don't know.

What we do know is this.

That Valerie Plame sent her husband on a high-profile CIA mission rendering everything Mr. Friedman has said nonsense?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:02 PM


Damning report puts Syria on edge: Citizens grow anxious as they await world's response and regime's reaction (MARK MACKINNON, October 21, 2005, Toronto Globe and Mail)

Anwar al-Bunni watched with envy this spring as hundreds of thousands of Lebanese took over the streets of Beirut, protesting against the assassination of Rafiq Hariri and demanding an end to 29 years of Syrian meddling in their country.

Now, Mr. al-Bunni believes Mr. Hariri's untimely death is about to turn his native Syria on its head as well. But unlike in Lebanon, where the masses were the ones driving change, ordinary Syrians, too cowed by the security services to go into the streets, know they have no control over what happens next. [...]

Mr. al-Bunni, a prominent human-rights lawyer and opposition activist who recently wrote a draft constitution for a democratic Syria, believes that as a result of the UN report, "many things will start to happen. This type of regime cannot be accepted in the world after this. Regimes like this have no future."

But even as Mr. al-Bunni and other members of Syria's tiny pro-democracy movement hope that the report will bring dramatic change to their country, they're worried about what might happen if the United States and France, who are jointly leading the effort to punish the regime, push Mr. Assad too far.

Mr. al-Bunni, who has made powerful enemies by publicizing the cases of some of the thousands of political prisoners in Syrian jails, recently got a reminder of how ruthlessly the security services here deal with their opponents.

He hid for 10 days after a bizarre incident in which he is alleged to have shoved a female client who was demanding her money back. He feared that the incident, which occurred after an unprecedented opposition call for democracy, would be used by the authorities to jail him for an extended period.

He emerged only this week after getting the charges against him dropped, and still had the look of a wanted man, with greasy hair and an unshaven face.

"The problem is what the regime's reaction [to international pressures] will be," he said. "If they find themselves in a corner, they could take all Syrians hostage in front of the international community."

The debate between Washington and Paris is over how hard to push Syria, and how fast.

Having predicted that the regime would fall this year, I'd appreciate it if they'd go just a bit harder and faster...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:40 PM


The Concord Monitor adds this deliciously catty paragraph to its coverage of Senator Gregg winning Powerball:

Gregg didn't let that good fortune keep him from putting in a full day's work yesterday. For instance, he found time to vote against a bill that would have helped poor families pay their home heating costs this winter. (Gregg was the only New England senator to vote against the proposal.) A day earlier, Gregg voted against raising the minimum wage by $1.10, to $6.25 an hour. That wage hasn't increased since 1997.

Of course, McDonald's is starting 15 year olds at $8 an hour.

Posted by Glenn Dryfoos at 11:37 AM


Barkley Fully Supports NBA's New Dress Code (Larry Stewart, October 21, 2005, LA Times)

Charles Barkley might not want to be your kids' role model, but he could be a role model for NBA players. And not just because he supports the league's new dress code.

Barkley was in Los Angeles on Wednesday for an appearance on NBC's "Tonight Show With Jay Leno." Years ago, Barkley said that parents, not athletes, should be role models for their kids. But he now at least acknowledges that athletes do influence kids.

"Young black kids dress like NBA players," he said. "Unfortunately, they don't get paid like NBA players. So when they go out in the real world, what they wear is held against them.

"See, these players make $10 million to $15 million a year, so nobody cares how they dress. But regular black kids go out into the real world and how they dress is held against them.

"If a well-dressed white kid and a black kid wearing a do-rag and throwback jersey came to me in a job interview, I'd hire the white kid," he said. "That's reality. That's the No. 1 reason I support the dress code.

Here's either the Bill Cosby of the NBA or the next Governor of Alabama...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:02 AM


Need A Doctor? Head To Wal-Mart (WFTV.com, October 21, 2005)

Attention Wal-Mart shoppers: The doctor is in.

Solantic, an urgent care company based in Jacksonville, has struck a deal with the world's largest retailer to locate walk-in clinics in two of its stores in Florida.

Each center has a board-certified physician on duty and is open on holidays and weekends -- the same hours as Wal-Mart is open.

Solantic said the flexible hours will make it easier for people who rarely see a doctor to do so without going to an emergency room.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:41 AM


Cosby Takes a Stand in Compton: The comedian urges residents at a community meeting to 'work toward something' in fixing the city's problems. (Megan Garvey, October 20, 2005, LA Times)

Bill Cosby didn't come to Compton High School on Wednesday night to sugarcoat reality.

He began with a story about both hope and tragedy.

The city, he said, needs to honor Venus and Serena Williams — the tennis superstars who rose from the public courts of Compton to the top of the world rankings.

"How difficult is it for Compton to have a parade so that parents can bring the children and hold them up and say: 'They're from here'?" he asked the hundreds of residents who came to talk about turning things around in their violence-plagued city.

"And then one of the sisters was shot and murdered," he said, referring to the 2003 killing of the Williamses' half-sister Yetunde Price. Cosby paused for the audience to complete his sentence.

"In Compton," they replied.

"And the verdict was mistrial — in Compton," Cosby said. "Still no parade."

Not sugar-coated? That's giving it to them with the bark on.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:25 AM


Saving Face (Charles Krauthammer, Oct 21, 2005, Townhall)

It's no secret that I think the Harriet Miers nomination was a mistake. Nonetheless, when asked how she will do in the hearings, my answer is, I hope she does well. I have no desire to see her humiliated. Nor would I take any joy in seeing her rejected, though I continue to believe it would be best for the country that she not be confirmed for the Supreme Court.

And while I remain as exercised as anyone by the lack of wisdom of this choice, I part company from those who see the Miers nomination as a betrayal of conservative principles. The idea that Bush is looking to appoint some kind of closet liberal David Souter or even some rudderless Sandra Day O'Connor clone is wildly off the mark. The president's mistake was thinking he could sneak a reliable conservative past the liberal litmus tests (on abortion, above all) by nominating a candidate at once exceptionally obscure and yet exceptionally well known to him.

The problem is that this strategy blew up in his face. Her obscurity is the result of her lack of constitutional history, which, in turn, robs her of the minimum qualifications for service on the Supreme Court. And while, post-Bork, stealth seems to be the most precious asset a conservative Supreme Court nominee can have, how stealthy is a candidate who has come out publicly for a constitutional amendment to ban abortion?

So she is a conservative, isn't a stealth candidate, the fundamental objection to her is her conservative view on the most important constitutional issue of the age, and her withdrawal is necessary for the sake of conservatism? These guys aren't even pretending to make sense anymore.

MORE (via mc):
Interesting to compare and contrast the neocon passion on this nomination to the more sensible analysis of a liberal opponent, Deferential Calculus (DAHLIA LITHWICK, 10/21/05, NY Times)

[C]hief Justice Roberts and Ms. Miers may have more in common than you think. Both their nominations reflect a deep concern about a too-powerful court and the president's troubling new hostility toward the institution.

Consider this: Chief Justice Roberts's judicial philosophy - to the extent he admits to one - is of "modesty." Throughout his public life, an overwhelming jurisprudential concern has been the constraint of judicial power. [...]

[N]owhere is John Roberts more deferential as a judge than when it comes to the executive branch. In his rulings when he sat on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, he offered expansive readings of presidential authority. He ruled on that court that the Geneva Conventions do not confer on so-called enemy combatants any individual rights. And he was unwilling to answer at his hearings whether Congress has the power to end a war started by the president.

If you think of John Roberts as the justice who will urge a far more sweeping judicial deference - particularly to the executive branch - the subsequent Miers nomination makes sense.

It's especially odd that the neocons, who are so pro-war, can't see why the commander-in-chief wants support on the Court.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:16 AM


Pollster talks of priority shift among Palestinians (Daily Star, October 21, 2005)

Khalil Shikaki, director of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, says there has been a profound shift in the attitudes of Palestinians since the Israeli unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in August. Shikaki, whose organization is the leading public opinion group in the Palestinian Authority, says that prior to the Gaza withdrawal, Palestinians overwhelmingly gave the "end to the occupation" as their top priority.

Now, he says, the priority is for an improvement in the economic life in the Palestinian areas, with an end to political corruption and an end to the occupation falling far behind. "For the first time, after the Gaza disengagement, we have economics coming on top ... And the second one is in fact a virtual tie between fighting corruption and fighting occupation. The gap between the first, which is improving economic conditions and the second which is corruption and ending occupation is wide. It's 15 percent." Ironically, he says, the Palestinians now are strongly in support of a permanent cease-fire, even though most of them believe the Gaza pullout was due to the Palestinian use of force.

Which is exactly what Natan Sharansky, George W. Bush and Ariel Sharon said would happen.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:05 AM


Congress Passes New Legal Shield for Gun Industry (SHERYL GAY STOLBERG, 10/21/05, NY Times)

The Republican-controlled Congress delivered a long-sought victory to the gun industry on Thursday when the House voted to shield firearms manufacturers and dealers from liability lawsuits. The bill now goes to President Bush, who has promised to sign it.

The gun liability bill has for years been the No. 1 legislative priority of the National Rifle Association, which has lobbied lawmakers intensely for it. Its final passage, by a vote of 283 to 144, with considerable Democratic support, reflected the changing politics of gun control, an issue many Democrats began shying away from after Al Gore, who promoted it, was defeated in the 2000 presidential race.

"It's a historic piece of legislation," said Wayne LaPierre, the association's chief executive, who said the bill was the most significant victory for the gun lobby since Congress rewrote the federal gun control law in 1986. "As of Oct. 20, the Second Amendment is probably in the best shape in this country that it's been in decades." [...]

Fifty-nine Democrats joined 223 Republicans and the House's lone independent to pass the bill.

The most revealing vote is that of Bernie Sanders, who voted for the assault weapons ban and nearly lost his seat because of it in '94 and is running for the Senate next year. That gun control is a losing issue in VT shows just how conservative America is generally.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:01 AM


Schroder warns against too much EU interference (Honor Mahony, 10/21/05, EUOBSERVER)

Outgoing German chancellor Gerhard Schroder has taken a parting shot at the EU warning that it should not interfere too much in member states' business.

Writing in the weekly newspaper, Die Zeit, the chancellor said that citizens were annoyed that the EU was not effective where they wanted it to be, such as in foreign policy, and overbearing in some areas where it was not wanted.

Mr Schroder accused the European Commission and the bloc’s highest court of contributing to the "creeping impression" that they are "using common market principles to justify European regulations for which there is no need".

"Nothing infuriates citizens more than the suspicion of a creeping loss of sovereignty," he wrote.

He also warned that the over extension of EU powers put the member states' "intact statehood" into question.

So what's wrong with the EU is the idea of union.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:56 AM


EU criticism has become fashionable, Czech leader says (Lisbeth Kirk, 10/21/05, EUOBSERVER)

The 64-year old [Czech conservative president, Vaclav Klaus, ] has had a busy schedule combining over the last few days with a speech at the Global Forum conference in Gothenburg, followed later by reception with the Swedish Royals before he headed to London to congratulate former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher on her 80th birthday.

Lady Thatcher and Vaclav Klaus are politically very close allies. He, more than anyone else in continental Europe, has been keeping alight her conservative ideals of freedom, liberalism, democracy and euroscepticism.

Five months have passed since one of their mutual bugbear, the EU integration ship ran aground following the rejection of constitution by French and Dutch voters.

Since then the EU has deemed itself to be having a ‘period of reflection’ which Mr Klaus believes is not enough.

"The pause for reflection is a pause for inertia. We should do something", he demands adding "Time will not wait and the opportunity we have now will not repeat itself any time soon".

"The EU needs a change. To be satisfied with recognition of the status quo and with an eventual slowing down in further unification, is not sufficient", he says.

The Czech politician calls for a revision of the whole EU project even if it goes against some powerful vested interests.

Arguing that "the State of Europe" should be forgotten he says that a "higher European-wide democracy is an illusion".

Mr Klaus also rejects the notion of variable geometry – the idea that different countries can integrate at different speeds and to a different extent.

"We should try to create something like an Organization of European States (OES), whose members will be individual European states rather than the citizens of these states directly, as suggested by the European constitution", Mr Klaus suggests.

He argues that such a construction would be different to the Council of Europe – the group of states keeping an eye on democracy in Europe.

"[This] is a different institution, created to help fighting non-democracy", says Mr Klaus.

"We should not Europeanise issues but fight for the preservation of basic civil, political and economic liberties …. The alternative is a non-state, post-democracy and administered society."

The young Czech Republic has already produced more great leaders just named Vaclav than the French Republic has produced even mediocre leaders ever.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:36 AM


Europe's great migration (Thomas Fuller, OCTOBER 21, 2005, International Herald Tribune)

Poles, Lithuanians, Latvians and other Easterners are arriving at an average rate of 16,000 a month, a result of Britain's decision to allow unlimited access to the citizens of the eight East European countries that joined the EU last year.

They work as bus drivers, farmhands and dentists, as waitresses, builders, and saleswomen; they are transforming parts of London into Slavic and Baltic enclaves where pickles and Polish beer are stacked in delicatessens and Polish can be heard on the streets almost as often as English.

But the doomsayers were also wrong: Multicultural Britain has absorbed these workers like a sponge. Unemployment is still rock-bottom at 4.7 percent, and economic growth continues apace.

Since May 2004, more than 230,000 East Europeans have registered to work in Britain, many more than the government expected, in what is shaping up to be one of the great migrations of recent decades.

Yet the government says it still has shortages of 600,000 workers in fields like nursing and construction.

"They are coming in and making a very good reputation as highly skilled, highly motivated workers," said Christopher Thompson, a diplomat at the British Embassy in Warsaw. "The U.K. is pleased with the way it's progressed over the first 16 months, and we're confident it will be a beneficial relationship for both sides in the future."

Tens of thousands of East Europeans have also moved to Ireland and Sweden, the only other West European countries that opened their labor markets to the new EU members.

With nearly full employment, Ireland's booming economy still needs workers, and immigration is actively encouraged. [...]

Fearing a massive influx of East Europeans after enlargement, other West European countries threw up barriers that will be lowered only gradually over the next decade. A Pole seeking to work in France, for example, still needs to apply for a work permit. France issued 737 such permits to Poles in the 10 months after enlargement; that is the number of Poles who arrive in Britain every two days.

Poles who go to Britain, in contrast, do not need any special permission.

In fact, Britain is so eager to recruit more Poles, by far the largest group of entrants since May last year, that British embassy officials in Warsaw have distributed brochures at Polish unemployment offices "so that if people wanted to go to the United Kingdom they had good information," Thompson said.

Hardly a coincidence that Ireland and Britain boom while the continent dies.

German Sick Man of Europe Still Unwell (De Spiegel, 10/21/05)

Everyone knows the German economy has been struggling in recent years. On Thursday, leading economists said the struggle will continue. Growth predictions were revised downward by the country's six leading economic institutes and on Friday, the German government officially followed suit. What can be done?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:29 AM


France digs in heels on farm subsidies (Tom Wright, OCTOBER 20, 2005, International Herald Tribune)

France on Thursday dug in on its refusal to permit new cuts in European farm supports that are needed to advance global trade talks, irking the United States and raising questions about whether a blueprint to lower trade barriers around the world can be completed before a crucial set of talks scheduled for December in Hong Kong.

The showdown put Peter Mandelson, the European Union's chief trade negotiator, under renewed pressure to find a way to open European farm markets after the United States last week offered to cut agricultural subsidies to restart the round of trade talks, known as the Doha round for the city in Qatar where they began in 2001. [...]

Developing countries led by Brazil are anxious to overhaul this system, which they say encourages overproduction and crushes the livelihood of their farmers as agricultural products subsidized by rich countries depress global food prices.

The United States also sees an opportunity to reduce some $19 billion worth of agricultural subsidies, as corporations and a growing body of U.S. farmers complain that the backlash against these subsidies has caused trading partners to seal off market access to a variety of U.S.-made goods.

Getting Europe to reduce its barriers would open up markets for American farm exports. But European farmers, supported by $60 billion in annual subsidies, are vehemently opposed to any change in the current system.

In countries like France, politicians often view farm reform with suspicion, equating it with attempts to undermine the French way of life.

Nicolas Sarkozy, the French interior minister, said Thursday in an opinion piece published in the French business newspaper Les Echos that further reform was "not acceptable." He said it would mean a dismantling of Europe's Common Agricultural Policy, which dictates farm subsidies across the EU, and would put "an end to Europe's status as an agricultural power."

The Australian trade minister, Mark Vaile, lashed out at that stance, saying, "France and other EU members have taken the EU to the brink of collapsing the round."

Rather than adjusting to the most dysfuntional person in the room, why not leave him in his room by himself while the rest of us get on with life?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 AM


Element of Suspense: Unions are shaken — and that may affect the vote (HAROLD MEYERSON, 10/20/05, LA Weekly)

The right’s operation for the November special election is taking shape. The California Republican Party has hired Gary Marx, an expert in getting the religious right to the polls, to gin up cultural conservatives’ turnout in what is sure to be a low-turnout election. They will come — so goes the theory — to support Proposition 73, which requires teens to obtain parental consent for abortions, and linger to vote for the four ballot measures that the party really cares about, the ones sponsored by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

But what of it? The left’s operation in California is the stuff of legend, is it not? The army of union staffers and activists has transformed the state over the past decade by turning out the union-household and Latino voters in one election victory after another. In the seemingly snoozer of an election, the centerpiece of which is Proposition 75, a Schwarzenegger-backed measure that would greatly weaken public-sector unions’ ability to wage political campaigns, the union army should carry the day again — shouldn’t it? [...]

There’s little doubt that the public-sector unions directly affected by Prop. 75 will mobilize their own. The question is what the members of private-sector unions will do on November 8. One early October poll of AFL-CIO members showed them splitting evenly on the measure, 47 percent to 46 percent, when the measure was read to them. When it was more fully explained, 34 percent favored it and 57 percent were against. Proposition 75, after all, was crafted to sound like a union-democracy issue, requiring public-sector unions to obtain members’ written permission for political spending. In fact, such union members already have the right to withhold their dues for such purposes, and roughly 20 percent of unionized state workers do exactly that. The greater goal of the measure is simply to hamstring unions’ electoral endeavors and thereby remove the linchpin of the Democrats’ mobilization efforts.

"more fully explained" may be our euphemism of the day.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:20 AM

OPEN SEASON (via obc):

Top court won’t review rape case (Canadian Press, October 20, 2005)

Canada’s top court will not review the case of a Saskatchewan man who sexually assaulted a 12-year-old native girl but was not sent to prison.

Today’s decision by the Supreme Court again has upset aboriginals and child advocates who were outraged when Dean Edmondson originally was sentenced to two years of house arrest. [...]

Native people accused Judge Fred Kovach of racism when he sentenced Edmondson to house arrest. The two other men face new trials next year.

Kovach conceded the crime usually means jail time, but said the girl could have been the sexual aggressor because of an abusive upbringing.

The judge also noted the girl had lied to the men about her age, saying she was over 14—the age of sexual consent.

Jacobs says such factors should never have been used to dilute responsibility for such an attack on a 12-year-old child.

“It provides the support for young white men to get away with whatever,” she charged.

The more progressive the nations of Europe become the more barbaric they are.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:16 AM


Lucky lawmaker pockets $853,492 from Powerball (Arlo Wagner, October 21, 2005, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Everyone wants to win the lottery -- even a U.S. senator.

Sen. Judd Gregg didn't win the Powerball jackpot yesterday -- the $340 million winning ticket was sold in Oregon -- but the New Hampshire Republican was the holder of one of two winning D.C.-area tickets, each worth an $853,492 share of the prize.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:06 AM


Believing is seeing (Rabbi David Aaron, Oct. 21, 2005, Jewish World Review)

Our task and goal on these holy days, is to use these metaphors of King, Father and Lover towards building our consciousness and awareness of G-d, so that we can receive and experience G-d's guiding power, forgiveness and love.

With every word of prayer and every detail of the holiday rituals, we are constructing the necessary channels to bring the Divine truth into our life. Think of these metaphors as the code number to a great combination lock. The Torah gives us the right combination of metaphors necessary to unlock the vault and get to the real treasure of Divine truth.

We need to believe that G-d is like a King and Judge, who stands over us and judges us on Rosh Hashanah. We then need to believe that G-d is also like a forgiving Father, who picks us up, supports us and forgives us on Yom Kippur. And on Sukkos, we need to believe that G-d is like our Lover, close to us, holding us in His loving embrace. All these images in combination unlock the door to our intimate communion with G-d on Simchas Torah.

This is the true meaning and power of faith. Faith is not a collection of ideas that we adopt. It is an orientation to life and to the Source of all life — G-d. Faith is a way of seeing. Unlike the popular saying "Seeing is believing" — the Kabbalah teaches, "Believing is seeing." In other words, the greater our faith is in G-d, the more G-d can become manifest in our lives. The more we believe that G-d is like a King, the more Divine power and guidance can enter in to our lives. The more we believe that G-d is like a compassionate Father, the more compassion and forgiveness can become manifest in our lives. And the more we believe that G-d is like a Lover, the more Divine love, intimacy and oneness can fill our lives.

Our major life's work is to build — with proper ideas, words and actions — a sukkah of faith, a perceptual dwelling that we can take with us even in the desert-like barren times of our lives. The more we believe in G-d's guidance, forgiveness and love, the more we can receive them.

To sum it up, the cycle of the High Holidays that begins on Rosh Hashanah and ends on Simchas Torah is all about love.

Available on Rosh Hashanah is a whole new level of awareness of our eternal connection to G-d, unlike anything we have experienced before. From Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur we acknowledge our failings, feel the pain of remorse and bitterly regret distancing ourselves from G-d. However, we also realize that the feelings inspired by these days of judgment actually support, empower and build us.

The wise man once said: "blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:46 AM


Coming Soon to a Church Near You: Hollywood Skips Movie Theaters With 3,200-Screen Opening (Alan Cooperman, October 21, 2005, Washington Post)

Left Behind: World at War, the third movie based on the Left Behind series of novels about Armageddon and the Second Coming of Jesus, will open tonight on 3,200 screens across the country. But it will not be shown in a single commercial theater.

Although more than 70 million copies of the novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins have been sold, the previous two movies flopped at the box office. So, this time, Sony Pictures Entertainment is leaving the multiplexes behind. "World at War" will break out exclusively in churches.

Marketing executives say the decision is part of a major trend. The entertainment industry has discovered there is power, power, product-moving power in selling movies, books and music through churches -- particularly the suburban megachurches that draw thousands of well-heeled worshipers.

Twenty-five years ago, there were fewer than 50 churches in the United States that attracted more than 2,000 people each week. Today, there are more than 1,200. Many boast professional-quality sound systems, large-screen projection systems and comfortable seats that rival those of any commercial theater.

Geez, when our dad was a minister the church had a cheesy movie projector and you'd occassionally show a film in the basement, or at least show it until you melted it accidentally.

October 20, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:53 PM


Can Democracy Stop Terrorism? (F. Gregory Gause III, September/October 2005, Foreign Affairs)

The United States is engaged in what President George W. Bush has called a "generational challenge" to instill democracy in the Arab world. The Bush administration and its defenders contend that this push for Arab democracy will not only spread American values but also improve U.S. security. As democracy grows in the Arab world, the thinking goes, the region will stop generating anti-American terrorism. Promoting democracy in the Middle East is therefore not merely consistent with U.S. security goals; it is necessary to achieve them.

But this begs a fundamental question: Is it true that the more democratic a country becomes, the less likely it is to produce terrorists and terrorist groups? In other words, is the security rationale for promoting democracy in the Arab world based on a sound premise? Unfortunately, the answer appears to be no. Although what is known about terrorism is admittedly incomplete, the data available do not show a strong relationship between democracy and an absence of or a reduction in terrorism. Terrorism appears to stem from factors much more specific than regime type. Nor is it likely that democratization would end the current campaign against the United States. Al Qaeda and like-minded groups are not fighting for democracy in the Muslim world; they are fighting to impose their vision of an Islamic state. Nor is there any evidence that democracy in the Arab world would "drain the swamp," eliminating soft support for terrorist organizations among the Arab public and reducing the number of potential recruits for them.

Even if democracy were achieved in the Middle East, what kind of governments would it produce? Would they cooperate with the United States on important policy objectives besides curbing terrorism, such as advancing the Arab-Israeli peace process, maintaining security in the Persian Gulf, and ensuring steady supplies of oil? No one can predict the course a new democracy will take, but based on public opinion surveys and recent elections in the Arab world, the advent of democracy there seems likely to produce new Islamist governments that would be much less willing to cooperate with the United States than are the current authoritarian rulers.

The answers to these questions should give Washington pause. The Bush administration's democracy initiative can be defended as an effort to spread American democratic values at any cost, or as a long-term gamble that even if Islamists do come to power, the realities of governance will moderate them or the public will grow disillusioned with them. The emphasis on electoral democracy will not, however, serve immediate U.S. interests either in the war on terrorism or in other important Middle East policies.

It is thus time to rethink the U.S. emphasis on democracy promotion in the Arab world. Rather than push for quick elections, the United States should instead focus its energy on encouraging the development of secular, nationalist, and liberal political organizations that could compete on an equal footing with Islamist parties. [...]

Comparing India, the world's most populous democracy, and China, the world's most populous authoritarian state, highlights the difficulty of assuming that democracy can solve the terrorism problem. For 2000-2003, the "Patterns of Global Terrorism" report indicates 203 international terrorist attacks in India and none in China. A list of terrorist incidents between 1976 and 2004, compiled by the National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism, shows more than 400 in India and only 18 in China. Even if China underreports such incidents by a factor of ten, it still endures substantially fewer terrorist attacks than India. If the relationship between authoritarianism and terrorism were as strong as the Bush administration implies, the discrepancy between the number of terrorist incidents in China and the number in India would run the other way.

Ideally every unfree nation would have the kind of leader who wants to develop democracy in his own country and would accept our aiding that development, but the Francos, Pinochets, and Musharaffs of the world aren't all that common. Meanwhile, by Mr. Gause's way of thinking we should have left Saddam in power and funded the opposition which he routinely murdered--hardly a productive tactic. And the idea that Chinese authoritarianism is preferable to a somewhat more violent Indian democracy is repellant.

Democracy alone may offer no guarantee that terrorism will diminish -- at least not in the short term -- but it does offer the greatest likelihood that a decent society will develop, one the citizenry can take pride in, and that does appear to be a key factor, Mix of nationalism, zealotry and humiliation drives rising suicide attacks (STEVEN GUTKIN, 9/29/05, AP)

A bomb strapped to his abdomen, Rafat Moqadi walked into a Tel Aviv restaurant and saw a woman dining with her two little girls.

"Seeing that, I decided not to carry out the operation. I couldn't do it," he said. Yet, Moqadi said he longed for what he believes awaits a suicide bomber in the hereafter: God's reward and a special place in heaven for martyrs.

"He has a life in paradise," he said Thursday. "He doesn't die."

A rare jailhouse interview with the would-be suicide bomber revealed a common thread running through the rising worldwide phenomenon: Most attackers are driven not by poverty or ignorance, but by a lethal mix of nationalism, zealotry and humiliation.

As the pace of attacks increases in the Middle East and beyond, a surprising profile is emerging of those willing to take their own lives. Many are young, middle class and educated.

Nearly four-fifths of all suicide attacks over the past 35 years have occurred since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist strikes in the U.S., according to the RAND Center for Terrorism Risk Management. And 80 per cent of those have been carried out by radical Islamic groups, said the centre's director, Bruce Hoffman.

But religion is only part of the picture. Moqadi said that wasn't his motivation.

"The main reason was to resist the (Israeli) occupation, to create a balance of power with the Israeli army," he said.

"At the moment they put the (explosives) belt on me there were a few seconds of doubt," he said.

"But after that I felt strength. I felt stronger than the whole state of Israel. It was a good feeling."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:54 PM


UN accuses Syria of leading plot to murder ex-Lebanese premier: President al-Assad's brother-in-law is implicated by inquiry into Beirut attack (James Bone and Richard Beeston, 10/21/05, Times of London

THE UN last night accused Syria of involvement in the assassination of Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese Prime Minister, setting the stage for a showdown with Damascus.

The unprecedented inquiry, led by the German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis, implicated General Assef Shawkat, the brother-in-law of President al-Assad of Syria and his military intelligence chief in the plot to murder Mr Hariri.

Once witness told the inquiry that two weeks before the assissination General Shawkat forced a scapegoat, who was later killed, to record a videotape claiming responsibility for the suicide bombing. [...]

“There is converging evidence pointing at both Lebanese and Syrian involvement in this terrorist act,” the report concluded. [...]

The report will have profound ramifications for the region. It leaves President al-Assad isolated and might force his Lebanese ally President Lahoud out of office.

Britain, America and France are already preparing follow-up action, to be debated in the UN Security Council next week, that will demand those responsible be placed in custody to stand trial.

In Lebanon, there were fears last night that blaming Syria could unleash a new round of violence.

Good time to go clean out the portions of Eastern Syria that jihadis have been infiltrating Iraq from....

Mehlis' report says top Syrian security officials approved Hariri's murder (Mayssam Zaaroura, Majdoline Hatoum and Leila Hatoum, October 21, 2005, Daily Star)

UN Chief Investigator Detlev Mehlis said the decision to assassinate former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri could not have been taken without the approval top Syrian security officials and further organized with the “counterparts in the Lebanese security services.” Mehlis, who presented his report to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on Thursday, said in his report on the investigations his team conducted since June 16, 2005, that “witness statements who didn’t approach the authorities for lack of confidence told the commission” that Syria approved the killing of Hariri.

He also noted that the “Commission’s investigation has confirmed what many in Lebanon have long asserted, that senior Syrian intelligence officials had a powerful day-to-day and overall strategic influence on the governance of Lebanon.”

In his conclusion Mehlis wrote that the “structure and organization of the Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services in Lebanon at the time of the blast, including protocols for reporting, shows a pervasive impact on everyday life in Lebanon.”

Mehlis, who listened to depositions of various officials including Hariri’s own son Beirut MP Saad Hariri, came to the conclusion that “the evidence collected by the Commission point to the possibility that Syrian officials were involved in the assassination of Mr. Hariri. When the Commission attempted to get the cooperation of the Syrian Government in pursuing these lines of the investigation, the Commission was met with cooperation in form, not substance.”

He also noted the rocky relation between Hariri and the Syrian officials most notably Syrian President Bashar Assad, Foreign Minister Walid Moallem and Chief of Syrian Intelligence apparatus in Lebanon Rustom Ghazaleh.

Mehlis mentioned in his report that Hariri’s son said his father was threatened by Assad.

Saad said: “I discussed with my father, the late Rafik Hariri, the extension of President Lahoud’s term. He told me that President Bashar Assad threatened him telling him: “This is what I want. If you think that President Chirac and you are going to run Lebanon, you are mistaken. It is not going to happen. President Lahoud is me. Whatever I tell him, he follows suit. This extension is to happen or else I will break Lebanon over your head and Walid Jumblat’s. (…) So, you either do as you are told or we will get you and your family wherever you are.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:48 PM


200 years since Nelson did his duty (John Keegan, 21/10/2005, Daily Telegraph)

Nelson's plan was to solve the problem of sailing down on the enemy with the wind, which always left the opponent with the option of sailing off when defeat threatened. Nelson now planned not to lay his fleet alongside the enemy on the windward side but to sail through the enemy line and lay alongside to leeward, thus putting the enemy between their opponents and the wind and trapping them so that they could be beaten down by the gunnery.

By the morning of Oct 21, his captains knew exactly what they had to do. They were assured of victory, as long as the Combined Fleet left port to accept battle. Villeneuve decided to do so, though with a heavy heart; he feared defeat but he feared even more Napoleon's disfavour if he did not fight.

The morning of Oct 21 1805 was calm with light winds scarcely strong enough to move the two columns of Nelson's fleet at more than walking pace. Nelson led the left-hand column, Admiral Collingwood the right-hand. Their ships were severely punished in the approach, Victory's foresails today on display at Portsmouth show 100 shot holes. The two columns bore on inexorably however and once through the enemy line turned to cut off its retreat. The gunnery battle then began in earnest.

British gunnery was greatly superior to the enemy's and, as the British succeeded in surrounding several clusters of French ships, the execution done was frightful. Victory was joined by several ships around the French Redoubtable, commanded by the tiny captain Lucas, less than five feet tall.

Lucas however was a fire eater and had crowded his tops with musketeers. It was one of these men firing down on to Victory's quarterdeck who shot Nelson. The bullet lodged in his spine and though the admiral survived long enough to learn that the Combined Fleet was beaten, died before the end of the battle.

The calm of the morning was succeeded by a violent storm, which drove many of the surviving enemy ships ashore, with terrible loss of life - 8,500 dead and wounded out of 50,000 present.

Only 16 of the 28 enemy ships survived. None of the 23 British ships was lost. Victory of course survives to this day. And if Britain has such a thing as a national shrine she is it.

At Trafalgar under Nelson's command, she and her sisters assured that Britain would not be invaded and that Napoleon would have to look elsewhere for a victory.

Full Nelson: Outmanned and outgunned, the British flummoxed the French. (PATRICK O'BRIAN, 4/18/99, NY Times Magazine)
When Nelson discovered Bonaparte's fleet at about 2 P.M. on Aug. 1, the breeze was in the north-northwest, and the French lay almost directly to leeward. At this point, Nelson had only eleven 74's and one 50-gunship. He nevertheless attacked directly, and his fleet bore down under all the canvas that could be set.

Despite this zeal, it was not until 5:30 P.M. that the fleet, finally abreast of the end of the shoal off Aboukir, was ordered to form the battle line ahead and astern of Nelson in the Vanguard. Shortly thereafter, Nelson hailed Capt. Samuel Hood, asking whether he thought the ships were far enough to the eastward to bear up. Hood replied, "I don't know, sir; but with your permission I will stand in and try." This he did, and sounding carefully, he rounded the shoal. At about 6 P.M. Nelson ordered the fleet to fill its sails and prepare for battle. They did so, the 74's coming down on the anchored Frenchmen with the north-northwest wind on their starboard beam. At this point, the Culloden, a 74 under Nelson's particular friend, Thomas Troubridge, struck on the tail of the rocky shoal, while two remaining 74's were still a great way off.

The attack nevertheless went on, although it meant 10 ships of the line, mounting 740 guns, against 13, mounting no fewer than 1,026, not counting the shore batteries.

At 6:20 P.M., with the sun low in the west, the Conquerant and the Guerrier, the leaders of the French van, opened fire on the two foremost British ships, the Goliath and the Zealous, while the mortars on the island began throwing shells. The Goliath's captain, sounding as he came, found that there was room for him to cross the Guerrier's bows without running on the shoal, and then, setting his topgallant sails again, he did so, raking the Frenchmen with his broadside as he crossed. He had meant to anchor by the stern and batter her yardarm-to-yardarm on her larboard side, there being depth enough for him to do so. But his anchor did not bring him up directly, and he moved on to the next 74, the Conquerant, while the Zealous took her place alongside the Guerrier, hitting her so hard that her foremast came down within five minutes.

The sun set, and now the bulk of Nelson's fleet came down, the Orion following the Goliath along the French inner side, while most of the rest ran down the outer, each anchoring opposite her chosen foe. The two fleets filled the sky with the smoke, flashes and bellowing of some 2,000 guns, for by now the last British ships, guided by the stranded Culloden, had reached the fight.

The odds in numbers and in weight of broadside metal were heavily against Nelson, but the tactical position was entirely in his favor.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:44 PM


Mockery is good for the faithful, says Carey (Andrew Sparrow, 21/10/2005, Daily Telegraph)

Muslims and members of other religions should get used to being mocked, the former Archbishop of Canterbury said yesterday.

Lord Carey of Clifton said he passionately believed it was good for members of a religion to have their faith criticised on certain occasions.

Speaking as a member of an all-party group of peers opposing the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill, Lord Carey said he wanted to live in a society where people were sensitive to the feelings of others.

"But in being sensitive, what we mustn't do is create a society in which certain stories are not told," Lord Carey told a news conference. [...]

Rowan Atkinson, the comedian, told the journalists that if the Government's Bill were passed, it would not be used against someone as high-profile as himself.

"It is the little person I fear for. I worry about the bloke in the pub, the bloke writing the thesis about Judaism. It is those people who are more likely to be got at," he said.

You're in real trouble when the Anglicans and Mr. Bean have the sensible side of the argument.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:40 PM


Immigrants will raise population faster than forecast (Philip Johnston, 21/10/2005, Daily Telegraph)

Britain's population is projected to rise by more than seven million in the next 25 years - a far greater increase than official forecasts have previously predicted.

More than half the extra population will be the direct result of immigration, according to figures published yesterday by the Office for National Statistics.

Total numbers are expected to rise from just under 60 million today to 67 million by 2031 and 70 million by the 2060s.

Combined with the two million increase since 1990, this means that within a lifetime, the population of the country will have increased by a fifth, the most rapid expansion since the early years of the 20th century. [...]

Much of the population increase will be in England, and especially in the South-East. By contrast, Scotland's population will increase only slightly until the year 2019 and then start to fall.

The population of Northern Ireland is projected to continue growing until the early 2030s and then begin to decline, while the population of Wales is expected to continue increasing beyond 2031 but at a low rate.

The predictions are even greater than those made by the Migrationwatch UK think-tank, whose forecasts have been dismissed in the past as alarmist. Sir Andrew Green, the chairman of Migrationwatch, said the figures were ''staggering''. He added: ''They totally demolish the Government's claim that it has a 'managed migration' policy. In fact they show that immigration into the UK is out of control.''

The official figures indicate that 83 per cent of the expected population increase is due to immigration, both directly and as a result of children born to new arrivals. While four million of the population rise is directly due to net migrants, of the remaining 3.2 million more than half will be the children of immigrants.

If they decide to try and survive, places like Scotland will be outbidding us for our immigrants soon.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:36 PM


Conservatives have finally decided to give the voters what they want (Ferdinand Mount, 21/10/2005, Daily Telegraph)

What is it that has propelled David Cameron from a merely promising third place to runaway favourite after yesterday's second ballot?

It is not much help to say it's all about modernising the party. After all, "modernisation" was Sir Alec Douglas-Home's slogan in 1964. Nor is it enough to point out that people now are more broadminded about sex and drugs, if not about jokes.

No, what is different about this startling result is that Cameron looks like being the first Tory leader to be chosen, primarily and deliberately, because his electors - both Tory MPs and party activists - think he is the man that the public at large would prefer. So far at least, they are putting popularity before ideological soundness.

Sounds obvious, especially after three thumping defeats. But look back over the past half-century. If popularity with the public had been the criterion, not a single one of the party's leaders would have made it. Instead, the Conservatives would have been led successively by Rab Butler, Reggie Maudling, Willie Whitelaw, Michael Heseltine and Ken Clarke.

Some of these might-have-beens could have turned out better than the actual winner. One or two, like Whitelaw instead of Thatcher, would have been unimaginably worse. But all would have been the people's choice at the time.

Instead, the party looked inward again and again and chose the person they considered best able to tickle their own erogenous zones. Labour did the same, even more disastrously, when it chose Michael Foot over Denis Healey. In fact, Tony Blair was its first leader chosen deliberately (over the better qualified Gordon Brown) to appeal to the country at large.

Now, at last, democracy has trickled through to the Conservative Party. How odd to think that, 40 years ago, when I was present at another Tory leadership contest that spilled all over Blackpool, even their MPs didn't have a vote in choosing who was to succeed Macmillan.

It was my first party conference. It was also the first time I had been offered oysters, and, while I was mostly focused on trying to keep down the slithery little creatures, like everyone else I thought how bizarre the whole process was.

That danged electorate, such a nuisance....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:08 PM


Court clears most hurdles for a second term for Colombian president: In a triumph for pro-US president Alvaro Uribe, Colombia's top court ruled Wednesday that he will most likely be able to seek reelection next year. (Rachel Van Dongen, 10/21/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

After months of intense speculation, President Alvaro Uribe won a giant victory late Wednesday when the country's top court ruled that he will most likely be able to seek reelection in 2006. [...]

"From the political point of view, this is a forceful Uribe victory and creates a favorable political climate for the reelection of the president," says Fernando Giraldo, dean of international relations at Bogotá's Sergio Arboleda University.

Indeed, the ruling is also a big triumph for Washington. As major countries in the region such as Brazil, Argentina, and Venezuela move to the left politically, Uribe has become closely aligned with President Bush in efforts to combat drugs and terrorism.

"For the Bush administration, it means that they're extremely likely to have their best friend in power for the next four-and-a-half years in a region where they're short on friends right now," says Adam Isacson of the Center for International Policy in Washington. [...]

The president's favorability ratings stand at near 80 percent, and various polls that showed overwhelming support for the idea of reelection revealed that between 53 and 56 percent of Colombians would vote to reelect Uribe in May 2006, putting the opposition at a severe disadvantage.

Uribe needs more than 50 percent to win in the first round of voting or the election would go to a second ballot.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:02 PM

TALK IS EASY (via mc):

Blunt won’t gamble on budget votes (Alexander Bolton, 10/20/05, The Hill)

Majority Leader Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) told the House Republican Conference yesterday that he would not take upcoming budget and spending legislation to the floor without being certain of winning the 218 votes he needs for passage, a response to nearly losing a close vote on energy legislation before the October recess.

Blunt, who is also the majority whip, is taking a cautious approach to the upcoming budget and spending votes in the midst of complaints from Republican lawmakers who say House leaders should follow regular procedures on floor votes.

Before the October recess, House Republican leaders held open a vote on energy legislation for 45 minutes to give the GOP whip operation enough time to cobble together the necessary 212 votes.

A leadership aide acknowledged that Blunt’s message to his colleagues was “in response to what happened with that energy bill” and lawmakers said they support the more conventional approach. [...]

By announcing the new guidelines, Blunt conveyed to conservative and centrist members of the GOP conference the need to work together to identify spending cuts and stressed that without party unity there will be no action.

You could hold them open until there's hockey in Hell and they won't find the votes for significant cuts.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:59 PM


Legal Lynching Of Saddam Hussein (James Cogan, 20 October 2005, World Socialist Web)

The trial of Saddam Hussein that began yesterday in Baghdad, under the auspices of the US-created Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal (SICT) and the US-sponsored Iraqi government, is a legal travesty.

To pretend that we can't be certain he should die for what he's done until a court rules is sheer nonsense.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:00 PM

FEDERALIST FIT (via Tom Corcoran):

Who Was the 2nd Choice? (Ann Coulter, October 20, 2005, FrontPageMagazine.com)

I have finally hit upon a misdeed by the Bush administration so outrageous, so appalling, so egregious, I am calling for a bipartisan commission with subpoena power to investigate: Who told the president to nominate Harriet Miers? The commission should also be charged with getting an answer to this question: Who was his second choice?

Alberto Gonzales

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:50 PM


Does Iraq arrest signal Syrian turnabout?: Captured insurgent backer was deported by Syria. (Dan Murphy and Rhonda Roumani, 10/21/05, NY Times)

Yasser Sabawi al-Tikriti's appearance at a rally demanding the release of Saddam Hussein in the former dictator's home town Tuesday, turned into a costly mistake that Iraqi officials quickly seized on.

"Basically he was found, and caught red-handed giving money to the demonstrators, who he was trying to incite to violence,'' says Mowaffak al-Rubaie, Iraq's national security adviser. "We believe he was a major fundraiser and a major supporter of the terrorists."

But there are indications that help in Mr. Sabawi's arrest came from an unexpected corner: Syria. [...]

[M]r. Assad's Syria, a secular regime that is confronted by Islamist militants, has been taking steps to relieve the pressure from the US. It also worries that fighters radicalized in Iraq could return home and cause trouble for the regime.

"In the last few months, Syria has been cracking down on Islamic insurgents and is trying to open up an intelligence dialogue with the US and show that they are cooperating,'' says Josh Landis, a history professor at the University of Oklahoma who runs the influential Syriacomment blog and currently lives in Damascus.

Mr. Landis says he doesn't know what aid, if any, Syria provided in apprehending Yasser Sabawi, but said it fits a recent pattern. "This [arrest] is Syria's way of saying that we're ready for a deal - of course, a backdoor deal.... They are not ready for public humiliation. They don't want to be completely humiliated in front of an international audience. And the US doesn't want to hear this kind of yes. The US is insisting that Syria [make] a clear break with the past."

Break or be broken.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:33 PM


Who Will Control the Internet? (Kenneth Neil Cukier, November/December 2005, Foreign Affairs)

As historic documents go, the statement issued by the U.S. Department of Commerce on June 30 was low-key even by American standards of informality. No flowery language, no fountain-penned signatures, no Great Seal of the United States -- only 331 words on a single page. But the simplicity of the presentation belied the importance of the content, which was Washington's attempt to settle a crucial problem of twenty-first-century global governance: Who controls the Internet?

Any network requires some centralized control in order to function. The global phone system, for example, is administered by the world's oldest international treaty organization, the International Telecommunication Union, founded in 1865 and now a part of the UN family. The Internet is different. It is coordinated by a private-sector nonprofit organization called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which was set up by the United States in 1998 to take over the activities performed for 30 years, amazingly, by a single ponytailed professor in California.

The controversy over who controls the Internet has simmered in insular technology-policy circles for years and more recently has crept into formal diplomatic talks. Many governments feel that, like the phone network, the Internet should be administered under a multilateral treaty. ICANN, in their view, is an instrument of American hegemony over cyberspace: its private-sector approach favors the United States, Washington retains oversight authority, and its Governmental Advisory Committee, composed of delegates from other nations, has no real powers.

This discontent finally boiled over at the UN's World Summit on the Information Society, the first phase of which was held in Geneva in December 2003 (the second phase is set for November in Tunis). Brazil and South Africa have criticized the current arrangement, and China has called for the creation of a new international treaty organization. France wants an intergovernmental approach, but one involving only an elite group of democratic nations. Cuba and Syria have taken advantage of the controversy to poke a finger in Washington's eye, and even Zimbabwe's tyrant, Robert Mugabe, has weighed in, calling the existing system of Internet governance a form of neocolonialism.

How did such a welcomed technology become the source of such discord? Everyone understands that the Internet is crucial for the functioning of modern economies, societies, and even governments, and everyone has an interest in seeing that it is secure and reliable. But at the same time, many governments are bothered that such a vital resource exists outside their control and, even worse, that it is under the thumb of an already dominant United States. Washington's answer to these concerns -- the Commerce Department's four terse paragraphs, released at the end of June, announcing that the United States plans to retain control of the Internet indefinitely -- was intended as a sort of Monroe Doctrine for our times. It was received abroad with just the anger one would expect, setting the stage for further controversy. [...]

By the mid-1990s, however, it became clear to the small coterie of officials in the United States and elsewhere who were aware of the matter that the Internet could no longer be administered by a single individual. But who or what would replace him?

After a bitter series of negotiations among the business community, governments, and nongovernmental organizations worldwide, the Clinton administration helped broker a compromise and established ICANN in 1998. Because the United States' hands-off approach had allowed the Internet to flourish, it seemed appropriate that the new organization be based in the private sector. This would make it more responsive, more flexible, and less prone to bureaucratic and political squabbling. The negotiations were so tense that Postel suffered a heart attack as they were ending and never lived to see the birth of the successor organization he was instrumental in creating.

ICANN was an experiment, a bottom-up, multi-stakeholder approach toward managing a global resource on a nongovernmental basis. Indeed, in its early days it was often touted as a model for other issues that require the unified action of numerous groups from government, industry, and civil society, such as treating communicable diseases or handling climate change. ICANN's private-sector status, moreover, has helped keep the Internet free from political interference. When in 2002 members of the Federal Communications Commission were asked by their counterparts at China's Ministry of Information Industry why Taiwan had been allocated its own two-letter domain (".tw"), the commissioners could pass the buck to ICANN and breathe a sigh of relief.

Yet from the start, ICANN was plagued by controversy. Critics charged that it lacked transparency, accountability, and legitimacy. Civil-society groups felt it was in the pocket of the domain name registration businesses it was designed to regulate. Businesses felt it was overly governmental. And foreign governments felt powerless before it. As many developing countries woke to the Internet's importance, it struck them as outrageous that the Internet was essentially run by a nonprofit corporation whose 15-person board of directors was accountable to the attorney general of the state of California and under the authority of the U.S. government. Even the U.S. Congress criticized it, hauling the group into tense hearings regularly. Half a decade after it was founded with such optimism, the organization was mockingly referred to in tech-policy circles as "ICANN'T."

All this came to a head in 2003, during the preparatory meetings for the World Summit on the Information Society. Washington had been able to deflect criticism of ICANN in bilateral discussions but proved unable to block the momentum for change at the multilateral level. Telecom-policy officials mildly supportive of ICANN were replaced by senior representatives from foreign ministries, officials less familiar with the details of Internet governance but more experienced in challenging U.S. power. Watching the United States go to war in Iraq despite global opposition, these diplomats saw ICANN as yet another example of American unilateralism. What would prevent Washington, they argued, from one day choosing, say, to knock Iran off the Internet by simply deleting its two-letter moniker, ".ir," from the domain name system? Surely the Internet ought to be managed by the international community rather than a single nation.

Governments worldwide sought to dilute the United States' control by calling for a new arrangement, and in November 2004 UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed a 40-person working group to address questions of Internet governance. Washington had planned to grant ICANN autonomy from its oversight in 2006. But the more other countries clamored for power, the more the United States reconsidered its policy of relinquishing control. Ultimately, it came down to national interest: Washington, with so much at stake in the Internet's continuing to function as it had, decided it was not prepared to risk any changes. So, as the UN working group was preparing to release its report (which, unsurprisingly, favored transferring authority over the Internet to the UN), the U.S. government made a preemptive strike. In the brief Commerce Department statement, Washington announced its decision: the United States would retain its authority over ICANN, period.

The John Lewis Gaddis comparison of W to JQA looks better all the time--except for the winning a second term part...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:27 PM


Why America Loves NASCAR: (Hint: Because it's not black.) (David Wright, October 14th, 2005, Village Voice)

By saying NASCAR isn't black, I mean it isn't African American. And NASCAR is not at all black: Not in the cockpits of the stockcars; not on the pit crews; rarely, if at all, among the multitudes filling the 160,000-seat speedway stands. It's considered an all-American sport, inclusive and meritocratic, but to see it on TV or in person, it does have a certain flavor.

Not all of America loves NASCAR. It's mostly those who live in the "red" swath of middle America, an area that includes the South and the Southwest and that helped elect George Bush last November. These are the ones who punched Dubya's chad, the ones who did so purportedly as a vote for "values." So significant is this group that television networks are increasingly gearing their programming toward it.

Colorful cars. Go fast. Crash. No one cares what color the drivers are. Indeed, the whole cracker theory falls apart when you consider a phenomenon the Voice itself has written about in the past, one of the leading drivers is a poorly-closeted homosexual.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:05 PM


The Third Way: Myth and Reality (James Petras, March 2000, Monthly Review)

What is the Third Way? Both historically and in the contemporary world, there are numerous examples of political leaders and movements that declare their allegiance to a Third Way—defining alternatives in opposition to what they perceive to be dominant paradigms. In the contemporary world, the best known exponent of the Third Way is British Prime Minister Tony Blair, though a number of other political leaders in Europe and elsewhere have expressed sympathy or support for the rhetoric or substance of Blair's version of the Third Way.

What we should keep in mind, however, is that there are many other varieties of a Third Way in the modern world besides the Euro-American brand. Moreover, the contemporary version represents a sharp divergence from earlier Third Way approaches, prominent in European politics throughout the twentieth century. This paper will begin with a brief exposition of the principal arguments of the contemporary Euro-American Third Way. We will then compare and discuss historical experiences and earlier exponents of the Third Way, critically analyzing their assumptions and prognostications. We will then proceed to discuss a variety of contemporary Third Ways, including the Euro-American one, before summing up our analysis and theoretical conclusions.

The Western European version of the Third Way (specifically the Tony Blair/Anthony Giddens account) begins by elaborating a critique of what they describe as free-market capitalism and state socialism. They argue that free-market capitalism is inhumane and exclusive—based on a class-bound establishment that denies equal opportunity to all classes and social groups. On the other hand, the ideologues of the Third Way claim that statist socialism denies the individual freedom of choice and incentives to engage in entrepreneurial activity. Having specified the two dominant modes of thought of the present or recent past, the Blairites and their cohorts claim that they are in favor of an economy and society that combines the individual choice of the marketplace and the social opportunities of the welfare state. [...]

The Euro-American Third Way articulated by Prime Minister Anthony Blair and practiced, if not preached, by President Clinton, German Prime Minister Schröder, and the prime ministers of other western European regimes provides a rhetorical gloss over a new style of right-wing politics. Essentially, the Euro-American variant of the Third Way builds on and extends the Old Right Thatcher-Reagan doctrines of privatization and the promotion of concentrated, centralized capital (witness the gigantic mergers under the auspices of Third Way regimes). Despite their leadership of putative labor and/or social democratic parties, the Third Way regimes faithfully follow the Old Right policies against labor by promoting state advocacy of supply-side policies. As much or more so, the Third Way regimes exceed the Old Right in their zeal to promote the international expansion of their multinational corporations (MNCs) and banks, while admonishing labor to accept social welfare cuts and to lower wage expectations to further the competitiveness (profits) of MNCs.

The Third Way regimes have gone far beyond the Old Right in promoting Euro-American hegemonic rule over the third world, central and eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America via armed interventions, NATO bombings, military occupations, and concerted economic strategies that facilitate Euro-American economic domination. In summary, the Euro-American Third Way is a dramatic shift from reformist socialism and welfare capitalism to neoliberalism. Social democratic parties have been transformed from advocates of greater equality to regimes that increase inequalities between rich and poor, from supporters of increased social payments to abusive slashers of social welfare, from promoters of employment and job security to the architects of employer-friendly labor flexibility legislation and inexpensive redundancy policies. Today, the social democratic parties are neither social nor democratic—they represent a new and more virulent right-wing, capable of manipulating some of the earlier reform rhetoric while pursuing an unadulterated big-business, free-market agenda.

Only the Right could be so Stupid as not to realize that the Third Way is a win.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:23 PM


Bush's second-term blues: His woes fit a historical pattern that also shows presidents can recover. (Linda Feldmann, 10/21/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

If President Bush is looking for ways to salvage his second term, he need look no further than the most recent two-term presidents for examples - and even comfort.

In Ronald Reagan's second term, the Iran-contra scandal dominated headlines, but he still enacted tax reform and took major steps toward rapprochement with the Soviet Union.

Bill Clinton's signal second-term achievement, perhaps, was surviving impeachment. But he also honed his skills as a peacemaker in Bosnia and Northern Ireland, and presided over record economic growth.

The primary lesson from both, analysts say, is simply to soldier on in the face of adversity. [...]

"The fact that Bush is maintaining 80 to 84 percent approval of Republicans even in these very difficult times I think is a terrific story," GOP pollster Bill McInturff told a Monitor breakfast on Wednesday. [...]

Second terms also tend to benefit from personnel changes at the White House .

The point, presidential observers say, is to bring in new people with fresh ideas and energy. Given the long hours - predawn until after dusk - White House jobs can lead to burnout; before Bush, the average tenure was 18 months.

Andrew Card, Bush's chief of staff since day one, now holds the modern record for longevity in that post, a testament to his performance as an administrator and the mutual loyalty he and Bush share. Indeed, Bush's premium on loyalty has kept many staffers by his side. Others have been given Cabinet-level jobs, and Card is rumored as a possible next secretary of the Treasury.

Leon Panetta, the second of Clinton's four chiefs of staff, sees personnel changes as key to reviving Bush's presidency - and not just reassigning or promoting people from within, but bringing in outsiders.

"People start doing it by the numbers. They don't have that kind of excitement you had in the first term, dealing with issues, dealing with the country," says Mr. Panetta, now in California running the public policy institute he founded.

When the Iran-Contra scandal broke under Reagan, launching a far-reaching investigation into operations throughout his administration, he brought in a new chief of staff, former Republican Senate leader Howard Baker. "I think it paid off for [Reagan]," says Panetta.

Bush has more than three years left in the White House, which gives him plenty of time to clear today's hurdles.

Saw an interesting number the other day, when the President reached his new "lowest point ever in the polls" it was a rather high low point for a modern president. Andy Card can leave gracefully to run for Mitt Romney's job in MA, which he's known to covet and the President can bring in someone like Marc Racicot or one of the other ex-governors as his new Chief. Five years is probably too long on that job.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:28 PM


God Does Not Want 16 Kids: Arkansas mom gives birth to a whole freakin' baseball team. How deeply should you cringe? (Mark Morford, October 19, 2005, SF Gate)

Who are you to judge? Who are you to say that the more than slightly creepy 39-year-old woman from Arkansas who just gave birth to her 16th child yes that's right 16 kids and try not to cringe in phantom vaginal pain when you say it, who are you to say Michelle Duggar is not more than a little unhinged and sad and lost?

And furthermore, who are you to suggest that her equally troubling husband -- whose name is, of course, Jim Bob and he's hankerin' to be a Republican senator and try not to wince in sociopolitical pain when you say that -- isn't more than a little numb to the real world, and that bringing 16 hungry mewling attention-deprived kids (and she wants more! Yay!) into this exhausted world zips right by "touching" and races right past "disturbing" and lurches its way, heaving and gasping and sweating from the karmic armpits, straight into "Oh my God, what the hell is wrong with you people?"

But that would be, you know, mean. Mean and callous to suggest that this might be the most disquieting photo you see all year, this bizarre Duggar family of 18 spotless white hyperreligious interchangeable people with alarmingly bad hair, the kids ranging in ages from 1 to 17, worse than those nuked Smurfs in that UNICEF commercial and worse than all the horrific rubble in Pakistan and worse than the cluster-bomb nightmare that is Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise having a child as they suck the skin from each other's Scientological faces and even worse than that huge 13-foot python which ate that six-foot alligator and then exploded.

It's wrong to be this judgmental. Wrong to suggest that it is exactly this kind of weird pathological protofamily breeding-happy gluttony that's making the world groan and cry and recoil, contributing to vicious overpopulation rates and unrepentant economic strain and a bitter moral warpage resulting from a massive viral outbreak of homophobic neo-Christians across our troubled and Bush-ravaged land. Or is it?

Never mind God, for a moment, which does Darwinism suggest Nature want? Childless Blue Staters or Red State breeders? You can hardly blame folks of Mr. Morford's ilk for looking at that family and seeing the inevitable end of secular liberalism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:25 PM


U.S. drawing down troop levels in S. Korea (ROBERT BURNS, October 20, 2005, AP)

By the end of this year the number of U.S. troops in South Korea will drop below 30,000, a milestone in a shift of responsibility for defending the country from communist North Korea, the top U.S. commander here said Thursday.

Gen. Leon J. LaPorte, commander of U.S. Forces Korea, said in an interview with American reporters that the South Korean government is eager to bear more of the burden of defending itself.

"It is natural for a country, as it develops capabilities, to want to become more predominant in their own national security," LaPorte said on the eve of a key U.S.-South Korean defense meeting.

"So this is a natural evolution. We have supported the Republic of Korea for 50 years. They have the 12th largest economy in the world. So it's natural for them to say, 'Listen, we appreciate the support we received; we are now capable of doing more things and taking a more predominant role.'"

Nice to have the entire country be a free fire zone.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:22 PM


Bush calls recent woes 'background noise' (TERENCE HUNT, October 20, 2005, AP)

Asked how he is dealing with such a full plate, Bush said: "There is some background noise here, a lot of chatter, a lot of speculation and opining, but the American people expect me to do my job and I'm going to."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:35 AM

WHAT'S HE EVER DONE FOR US? (via Kevin Whited):

How Bush Can Save Bush (Peggy Noonan, October 20, 2005, Opinion Journal)

George W. Bush has guts. It's the big thing his friends and supporters cherish in him. He will withstand the disapproval of the world to do what he thinks is right. He'll do it when he's wrong, too. He often has too many pots on the stove, but he can stand the heat and he will stay in the kitchen. He is an emotional man, and his emotions are readily accessible. When he becomes moved talking to soldiers and their families, he means it. He knows what men who put themselves in harm's way are, and he knows what they're owed. Other leaders know they can trust his word.

He's stubborn. The smirk is sometimes real; he can be full of himself. He's impatient and peremptory. He believes his read of a person is the read. He's funny, and occasionally merry. My favorite example is what he said to Ozzy Osbourne at the White House Correspondents Association dinner in 2003. Mr. Osbourne had his new hit show and was hot as a pistol. He entered the dinner as the evening's hottest guest. Cameras followed him. He stood at one point, gestured toward the dais and yelled to the president that he should grow his hair like him. "Second term, Ozzy!" Mr. Bush shot back.

Now Mr. Bush is in the first political crisis of his presidency...

"...because it's not a crisis until I'm mad at him...."

Ms Noonan goes on, appropriately, to compare the situation to Margaret Thatcher trying to fend off the sniping from Tories, which she ultimately failed to do. Instead Tony Blair co-opted her program and has completely dominated British politics for a decade, while the Tory party has ceased to have any significance.

Republicans are fortunate that there are no Blairs in the Democratic Party--Bill Clinton having come and gone and the party having lurched Left in his wake. But George W. Bush will not only be vindicated by history, as Ms Thatcher has been, but his politics are likely to continue to dominate the party for decades. America is going to be run by a Third Way party, as are Britain and Australia, and the GOP is the only realistic candidate to do so. The idea that the way out of this situation is for George Bush, the most successful Republican politician since the Great Depression, to become more like the marginal wing of the party rather than for them to follow him is just risible.

The Conservative Revolt: There are six reasons why conservatives have turned on Bush. (Fred Barnes, 10/20/2005, Weekly Standard)

[W]hy exactly has this revolt broken out now? I've come up with six reasons, and there may be more.

One, a revolt was inevitable, sooner or later, simply because Bush is not a conventional conservative. He deviates on the role of the federal government, on domestic spending, on education, on the Medicare prescription-drug benefit, and on immigration. Given this kindling, it took only the spark of the Miers nomination to ignite a conservative backlash.

Bush, of course, is a conservative, but a different kind of conservative. His tax cuts, support for social issues, hawkish position on national security and terrorism, and rejection of the Kyoto protocols make him so. He's also killed the ABM and Comprehensive Test Ban treaties, kept the United States out of the international criminal court, defied the United Nations, and advocated a shift in power from Washington to individuals through an "ownership society." On some issues--partial privatization of Social Security is the best example--he is a bolder conservative than Ronald Reagan, the epitome of a conventional conservative.

Two, Bush has not courted leaders of the conservative movement. He's left that to his adviser Karl Rove, who did an excellent job until he was distracted by the investigation of the CIA leak case. Movement conservatives feel Bush doesn't respect them. They may be right.

The movement has never put a single conservative on the bench. He's put hundreds.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:57 AM


Cheney, CIA Long at Odds: The vice president's history of tension with the agency may help explain why his office is an area of interest in the blown-cover probe. (Tom Hamburger and Peter Wallsten, October 20, 2005, LA Times)

Initially, Fitzgerald was investigating whether Plame was unmasked in an effort to undermine her husband's credibility by suggesting that a fact-finding mission he undertook for the CIA was the result of nepotism. However, the inquiry has broadened to questions of perjury, obstruction of justice and possibly conspiracy to violate laws on classified materials.

Fitzgerald has learned about ongoing tensions between Cheney's circle and the CIA. According to a former White House official interviewed by The Times, Libby and others in the White House were incensed by Wilson's public criticism, in part because they saw it as a salvo fired by the CIA at administration officials, including Cheney, who was perhaps the most outspoken advocate of the case against Iraq.

Witnesses have told Fitzgerald about those tensions. New York Times reporter Judith Miller wrote recently that she told the grand jury that Libby had been angry with the CIA in the months after the invasion of Iraq, saying that President Bush might have made inaccurate statements about Iraqi weapons programs because the agency did not discuss its doubts.

Cheney and Libby have worked together for years. As secretary of Defense for President George H.W. Bush, Cheney hired Libby in a senior role. As vice president, Cheney brought Libby on as his top aide and national security advisor. The two are said to be so close personally and ideologically that some refer to Libby as "Cheney's Cheney."

In addition to Cheney and Libby, Fitzgerald has interviewed aides Mary Matalin, John Hannah and Cathie Martin. Jennifer Millerwise, a former media aide now working as CIA communications director, was questioned two years ago.

The fact that Cheney has only been questioned once could suggest that the prosecutor, though interested in Cheney's office, is not focused on the vice president. Fitzgerald has shown strong interest in senior White House advisor Karl Rove, who has testified to the grand jury four times.

Cheney's skepticism of the CIA dates to the late 1980s, when the agency failed to predict the Soviet Union's breakup, according to a source familiar with Cheney's thinking. When then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in August 1990, and the first Bush administration began to ponder its military options, it became clear to Cheney that the intelligence community had a poor understanding of Iraq's arsenal.

Libby, who was working for Cheney, assigned an aide to conduct a secret investigation of Hussein's biological warfare capabilities and his likely reactions to a U.S. invasion.

"Libby's basic view of the world is that the CIA has blown it over and over again," said the source, who declined to be identified because he had spoken with Libby confidentially. "Libby and Cheney were [angry] that we had not been prepared for the potential in the first Gulf War."

In the view of the officials who went on to form George W. Bush's war Cabinet, the CIA continued to blunder through the 1990s. In 1998, for example, the CIA failed to anticipate India's testing of a nuclear weapon.

If there's one thing we can all agree on, it's that the CIA has been a disaster pretty much from Jump Street. But at the point where it tries undermining the elected government it stops being just a joke.

Rove Told Jury Libby May Have Been His Source In Leak Case: Top Aides Talked Before Plame's Name Was Public (Jim VandeHei and Carol D. Leonnig, October 20, 2005, Washington Post)

White House adviser Karl Rove told the grand jury in the CIA leak case that I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, may have told him that CIA operative Valerie Plame worked for the intelligence agency before her identity was revealed, a source familiar with Rove's account said yesterday.

In a talk that took place in the days before Plame's CIA employment was revealed in 2003, Rove and Libby discussed conversations they had had with reporters in which Plame and her marriage to Iraq war critic Joseph C. Wilson IV were raised, the source said. Rove told the grand jury the talk was confined to information the two men heard from reporters, the source said. [...]

But it leaves unanswered the central question of the more than two-year-old case: Did anyone commit a crime in leaking information about Plame to the media?,/blockquote>

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:15 AM


A Right Turn Back to Making Cars (George F. Will, October 20, 2005, Washington Post)

General Motors took an interesting turn on Monday. It is going back into the automobile business.

Granted, GM has always been in that industry, but it has also become the nation's largest private purchaser of health care. This supposedly secondary role has become primary.

GM has been forced to allow product development, pricing and other decisions to be driven by the need to keep sufficient revenue flowing in so it can flow out in fulfillment of GM's function as a welfare state. GM provides $5.2 billion in health care annually -- more than Harley-Davidson's revenue -- to 1.1 million workers, retirees and dependents. Retirees outnumber current U.S. employees 2.5 to 1. The $4 billion that goes annually to retirees does not go into developing products people want to buy. [...]

Robert "Steve" Miller, Delphi's chief executive, minces no words, telling the Wall Street Journal that defined-benefit programs are imprudent anachronisms: "The notion of having all your retirement eggs in one basket -- your employer -- is a concentration of risk that is simply inadvisable for anyone in today's fast-moving economy." He calculates that a competitive American industrial compensation cost is about $20 an hour. And to get to a total compensation cost of $20, including health care, retirement and workers' compensation, "which is high in the states we are in like New York, Ohio and Michigan," you have to have a basic hourly wage of $10. Pay at Delphi's plants in China is roughly $3 an hour.

Miller bluntly says that the social contract written after 1945 is being -- must be -- repealed because, given globalization, unskilled manual labor cannot be paid $65 an hour, with the cost passed on to consumers. "When you buy a Hyundai you get a satellite radio as your option, but if you buy a Chevrolet you get social welfare as an option. Long term, the customer is going to desert you if you try to price for your social-welfare costs."

Interesting to read this in conjunction with today's story about the Bush Brothers and then think about the current mantra on the Right that the president is a liberal, not a conservative.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:09 AM


What Blunkett can learn from the Aussies: Patrick McClure, who steered through welfare reforms in Australia, will today tell a London seminar what the UK can learn from the experience. Here he previews his speech (Patrick McClure, October 20, 2005, SocietyGuardian.co.uk)

When the Australian government created the Job Network - the national employment service market - in 1998, it was considered by many to be a radical and risky experiment that might increase costs, create confusion and deliver less effective services for the unemployed.

Seven years later it's fair to say the experiment has been a major success - but it hasn't happened overnight. It's taken several years of fine-tuning and incremental reform. Nevertheless, Job Network today is a well-established system.

Prior to 1998, the Australian government was the national provider of job placement services delivering a brokerage service for all labour market programs.

But the system was costly, inflexible and delivered services based on a monolithic, "one size fits all" model.

Prior to the creation of Job Network it cost the government between A$10,000 and A$15,000 (£4,200-£6,300) for each employment outcome. However, under the current model, the cost has dropped dramatically to between A$5,000 and A$6,000 (£2100-£2500).

Total expenditure on employment services in 1995 - before the reforms took place - was A$3.2bn (£1.36bn). Last year, total expenditure was roughly A$1.9bn (£81m).

Overall, in 2004-05, the Job Network assisted 690,000 jobseekers into employment - an increase from 405,000 people in 1999-00.

So, while costs have declined, outcomes for long-term unemployed jobseekers have improved. The chief reason why the move has been a success is, quite simply, competition.

The way the three great states of the Anglosphere are feeding off of each other's Third Way reforms is creating a historically unique cycle of virtue.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:20 AM


U.S. Gives Florida a Sweeping Right to Curb Medicaid (ROBERT PEAR, 10/20/05, NY Times)

The Bush administration approved a sweeping Medicaid plan for Florida on Wednesday that limits spending for many of the 2.2 million beneficiaries there and gives private health plans new freedom to limit benefits.

The Florida program, likely to be a model for many other states, shifts from the traditional Medicaid "defined benefit" plan to a "defined contribution" plan, under which the state sets a ceiling on spending for each recipient. [...]

After meeting here on Wednesday afternoon with Governor Bush, Mr. Leavitt said: "Today will be remembered as a day of transformation for the Florida Medicaid program. Florida's framework will be helpful to other states."

Joan C. Alker, a senior researcher at the Health Policy Institute of Georgetown University, said: "Florida's proposal is one of the most far-reaching and radical proposals we've seen to restructure Medicaid. The federal government and the states now decide which benefits people get. Under the Florida plan, many of those decisions will be made by private health plans, out of public view."

Vernon K. Smith, a former Medicaid director in Michigan who is now a consultant to many states, said: "Florida's program is groundbreaking. Every other state will be watching Florida's experience. South Carolina has developed a similar proposal. Georgia and Kentucky are waiting in the wings." [...]

President Bush has proposed similar changes at the federal level for several years, but Congress has not accepted those ideas. In Congress, Democrats and some moderate Republicans resisted the president's proposals on the ground that they would have allowed states to reduce coverage for very poor and very sick people. On Wednesday, Mr. Leavitt waived many provisions of federal law, letting Florida make the changes in a demonstration project.

Under the waiver, Florida will establish "a maximum per year benefit limit" for each recipient and fundamentally change its role. The state will largely be a buyer rather than a manager of health care.

While Republicans mewl about spending and fail to get many conservative reforms through the Congress they control, the President just keeps revolutionizing the welfare state.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:18 AM


Miers Is Asked to Redo Reply to Questions (DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK, 10/20/05, NY Times)

One inquiry in the original questionnaire pointedly asked her about reports that in conference calls with conservative supporters the administration and its allies had offered private assurances about her views on abortion and other matters.

The first part of the question asked if she had made any statement to anyone about how she might rule from the bench, and a second part requested information about "all communications by the Bush administration or individuals acting on behalf of the administration to any individuals or interest groups with respect to how you would rule."

Ms. Miers's one-word answer to both was "No."

The senators repeated the inquiry in their new letter. "This would include any and all communications, including those about which there have been recent press reports, in which friends and supporters of yours, among others, were said to have been asked by the White House to assure certain individuals about your views," they wrote. "If you do not have firsthand knowledge of these communications, please endeavor to determine what sorts of communications, if any, took place."

"Still, no."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:14 AM


Iraqis Watch the Trial on TV, With Emotions Running High (EDWARD WONG, 10/20/05, NY Times)

From the very start of the trial, from the moment Saddam Hussein refused to tell the judge his name, Hiba Raad said she knew that she was watching the same man who had ruled over Iraq for decades with muscular authority.

"He's a hero, he's a tough leader," Ms. Raad, 20, an education student at Mustansiriya Univerisity, said as she reclined in black pants and a T-shirt on a sofa in her living room. "If he came back, I'm sure he'd provide us with security."

In her home in the Sunni Arab neighborhood of Adhamiya, Ms. Raad had just finished watching the opening session of the trial on an Arab network with her parents and sister. They continued staring, transfixed. The grandmother, Samira alBayati, shuffled into the room.

"I felt sorry," she said. "I almost cried. Every country in the world has terrorism. All the presidents of this region torture their people. Why, of all the countries, do they come after us?"

Don't worry, honey, we're coming for all of them, no matter how beautifully they dance.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:09 AM


Poll shows Cameron is runaway choice (George Jones, 20/10/2005, Daily Telegraph)

David Cameron's bid for the Tory leadership appeared unstoppable last night after a poll for The Daily Telegraph showed that he was the runaway choice of grassroots Conservatives.

When party members were asked their voting intentions, Mr Cameron had a stunning lead over his rivals: 59 per cent said they would want to vote for him compared with 18 per cent for Liam Fox and 15 per cent for David Davis.

Mr Cameron enters today's final round of voting among MPs with a comfortable lead over his two rivals - and close to achieving the support of half the 198-strong parliamentary party.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:06 AM


Earthquake death toll 79,000 and still rising (Times of London, 10/20/05)

A casualty survey in the North West Frontier, one of the two hardest-hit areas of Pakistan, showed that 37,958 people had died there, raising the overall death toll in South Asia’s 7.6-magnitude earthquake to more than 79,000, one of the highest for a century.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:03 AM


Wonderdrug is 'cure' for breast cancer, say doctors (Nigel Hawkes, 10/20/05, Times of London)

THE drug Herceptin was yesterday hailed as a potential cure for breast cancer that will revolutionise the way the disease is treated and save up to 1,500 lives a year in Britain and many tens of thousands across the world.

As an editorial in the world’s most authoritative medical journal spoke of the drug’s “stunning” results in trials, the Prime Minister insisted that it had to be made available in Britain more quickly.

A health authority in the West Country has become the first in the NHS to say that it will make the drug available to all suitable women with early breast cancer, even before it is cleared by regulatory authorities. The cost for a year’s treatment is £21,800 per patient.

The publication of trial data on Herceptin in the New England Journal of Medicine was accompanied by an editorial by a top US specialist proclaiming the results as revolutionary.

The most striking finding is that the peak in recurrence of the disease in the first two to three years after surgery has been eliminated in women taking Herceptin, said Dr Gabriel Hortobagyi in the editorial. “This observation suggests a dramatic and perhaps permanent perturbation of the natural history of the disease, maybe even a cure,” he wrote.

Somewhere an enterprising lawyer has already filed the class-action suit over the side effects and uncured.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:57 AM


Trespassing charged in horse-sex case (Jennifer Sullivan, 10/19/05, Seattle Times)

An Enumclaw-area man who authorities say helped run a farm where people had sex with animals — and where a Seattle man died doing so with a horse — was charged with a misdemeanor yesterday.

Why does one assume that if the horse had died there'd have been a felony charge?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:46 AM


How Bush muddied relations with Canada (Thomas Oliphant, October 20, 2005, Boston Globe)

People in this country don't pay enough attention, but there is no relationship in the world more important than the one with Canada. Right now it is a needless mess.

All you need to know about Canada is that it's the one Anglosphere nation not pursuing the Third Way and has been useless if not antagonistic in the War on Terror. We just don't share a common worldview with them so we aren't likely to be particularly friendly. Essentially, they've gone over to the European side while we've developed closer ties with significant nations like India.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:40 AM


New manifesto for Quebec (Graeme Hamilton, National Post, October 20th, 2005)

Lucien Bouchard, the former separatist premier, yesterday led a group of influential Quebecers issuing a "wake-up call" to their province, saying it must break from decades-old practices or face ruin.

The group, bringing together sovereigntists and federalists, acknowledged that it was treading risky ground as it took on such sacred cows as trade unions and language.

"Unfortunately, at the very moment when we should be radically changing the way we view ourselves and the world around us, the slightest change to the way government functions, a bold project, the most timid call to responsibility or the smallest change to comfortable habits is met with an angry outcry and objections or, at best, indifference," their manifesto says. "This outright rejection of change hurts Quebec because it runs the risk of turning us into the republic of the status quo, a fossil from the 20th century."

The initiative is a rare foray for Mr. Bouchard into the political arena since he quit as premier in 2001, but he insisted it is not the beginning of a comeback. He said he was motivated by concern over what kind of society his children will inherit. "We have to break taboos, to lucidly tackle the problems confronting us and to envisage all solutions, no matter how uncomfortable they are," he told a news conference.

The report that he and the 11 other signatories produced offered plenty to make Quebecers squirm. For example, Quebecers "work less than other North Americans; they retire earlier; they benefit from more generous social programs; both individually and collectively, their credit cards are maxed out," the 10-page document says.

"This is all only human; we all seek the best life possible. But we must also be realistic."

"In a few short years, our dreams -- or rather, not ours but our children's -- will be brutally interrupted by a knock on the door, when the bailiffs come calling!" The report also notes that 16% of Quebec's spending goes to servicing its debt, a much higher proportion than other provinces.

While the challenges are not unique to Quebec, they are more pronounced because of a looming demographic decline.

"Quebec is about to experience a demographic shock sooner and harder than anywhere else in North America," said Pierre Fortin, an economist at the Universite du Quebec a Montreal who signed the declaration. By 2025, the proportion of the Quebec population in the workforce will decrease by 12%.

"The ageing means two things: more elderly people to care for and fewer people to pay taxes. More money going out and less coming in," Mr. Fortin said.

The group proposes a substantial increase in the rates Quebecers pay for electricity to help pay down the debt. It says massive investments in education and research are needed to make the province competitive. It recommends raising university tuition to match other provinces and reforming the tax system so there is less emphasis on income tax.

It also says the Quebec government has to do a better job teaching English to francophone students: "In today's world, it is no longer acceptable that most young French-speaking Quebecers graduating from our educational institutions cannot speak or write correct English."

This is probably the first time in years Quebec separatists and federalists have agreed on anything other than hockey.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:08 AM


What makes us who we are? (Robert Sapolsky, The Independent, October 19th, 2005)

The dichotomy is between people who live in rainforests and those who live in deserts. Mbuti pygmies versus Middle Eastern bedouins. Amazonian Indians versus nomads of the Sahara or the Gobi. The sorts of cultures they generate have some consistent and permeating differences.

Some starters about religious belief. Who are the polytheistic animists, who are the monotheists? That one's easy. Rainforest dwellers specialise in a proliferation of spirits and gods, whereas monotheism was an invention of the desert. This makes sense. Deserts teach big singular things, like how tough a world it is, a world reduced to simple, furnace-blasted basics. "I am the Lord your God" and "There is but one God and his name is Allah" - diktats like these proliferate. In contrast, think of tropical rainforest people, in a world with a thousand different kinds of edible plants, where you can find more different species of ants on a single tree than you would find in all the British Isles. Letting a thousand deities bloom in the same sort of equilibrium must seem the most natural thing in the world.

What's more, when you do encounter monotheistic rainforest dwellers, they're much less likely to believe that their god sticks his or her nose into other people's business - controlling the weather and so on. And this makes sense, too. Rainforests define balance in both an ecological and cultural sense. If the forest pig evades your spear, there are endless plants to gather nearby instead. In contrast, in the desert, an oasis that dries up can be a death sentence, and a world filled with such uncontrollable disasters inspires the fatalism of desert cultures, breeds a belief in an interventionist god.

The next big difference emerges from the work of Melvin Ember. Desert societies, with their far-flung members tending cattle, are the classic spawning ground for warrior classes. And with them come all the accessories of a militaristic society: military trophies as stepping-stones to societal status, death in battle as a guarantee of a glorious afterlife, chains of command, centralised authority, slavery.

If you are a woman, you'd much rather stay away from those desert folks. The purchasing or indenture of wives is significantly less likely in rainforest cultures. Moreover, related women form the core of a community for a lifetime, rather than being shipped off to wherever marriage-making demands. Among desert cultures, women typically have the difficult tasks of building shelters and searching for water and firewood, while the men contemplate the majesty of their herds and envision their next raid. In contrast, among rainforest cultures, it's the men who are more likely to do the heavy work. And rainforest cultures are less likely to have cultural beliefs about the inferiority of women.

Finally, desert cultures are likely to teach their children to be modest about nudity at an earlier age than in rainforest cultures, and to have more severe strictures against premarital sex.

Which kind of culture would you prefer to get traded to? Desert cultures, with their militarism, stratification, mistreatment of women, and uptightness about sexuality seem pretty unappealing. And yet ours is a planet dominated by the cultural descendants of the desert dwellers. At various points, the desert dwellers have poured out of the Middle East and have defined large parts of Eurasian cultures. Such cultures, in turn, have passed the last 500 years subjugating the native populations of the Americas, Africa and Australia.

As a result, ours is a Judeo-Christian/Muslim world, not a Mbuti-Carib/Trobriand one. So now we have Christians and Jews and Muslims in the wheat fields of Kansas, and in the cantons of the Alps, and in the rainforests of Malaysia.

A post below details how modern luminaries like Karen Armstrong and Margaret Atwood, having built highly successful careers on deconstructing Western culture and revealing its underlying oppressions, are now suddenly lamenting the disappearance of myth, defined as stories that “help people understand the world and to guide them through life.” While it is true that Biblical and classical myths are rapidly disappearing from our shared consciousness and language, myth is very much alive and well in modern times. It’s source is not theology or ancient history but rather the scientific materialism of the Enlightenment, which brooks no competition in epistemological debates and insists that the knowledge it and only it produces comprises the sole reliable reality.

It is very hard to judge to what extent pre-Enlightenment men believed ancient myths were literal history or not. Our sanctimonious attitude to the past leads us to emphasize their putative ignorance and assume they did, even though such a conclusion hardly sits well with the evidence of artists like Shakespeare and countless others. To a certain extent, Judaism and Christianity have always been preoccupied with the boundaries between myth and history. But there is no doubt that our modern myth makers see them as identical, which is why they suffer from the dangerous conceit that they aren’t in the realm of myth at all, only hard objective fact.

Ten minutes of quiet reflection on what we know of the history of both desert and rainforest cultures reveals the idiocy of the passage here, yet it sits so well with the most fundamental modern myth of all–-the inherent evil of Western religion and culture–-that millions of us nod knowingly without a second thought as we go about our daily business. That very few have the knowledge and aptitude to examine these sweeping inanities critically matters not at all. They serve to confirm our modern impulse to cultural abnegation and suicide and thus help us understand the world and guide us through life. Myths will do that for you.

October 19, 2005

Posted by kevin_whited at 11:35 PM


Cheney 'cabal' hijacked foreign policy (Edward Alden, Financial Times, 10/20/05)

Vice-President Dick Cheney and a handful of others had hijacked the government's foreign policy apparatus, deciding in secret to carry out policies that had left the US weaker and more isolated in the world, the top aide to former Secretary of State Colin Powell claimed on Wednesday.

In a scathing attack on the record of President George W. Bush, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to Mr Powell until last January, said: “What I saw was a cabal between the vice-president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made.

What the colonel views as a design flaw actually should be regarded as a feature, as James Mann made clear in Rise of the Vulcans. The colonel is understandably loyal to his boss, Colin Powell, who did lose his share of the foreign policy battles. But Don Rumsfeld was brought in precisely so that Colin Powell would not run roughshod over foreign policy, as James Mann also made clear in his book. That Cheney has proven so influential really only drives home the point that foreign policy in this administration flows from the White House, rather than from cabinet secretaries.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:08 PM


Faith-Based War (Pat Buchanan, 10/19/05, Real Clear Politics)

"This is a very positive day ... for world peace," said President Bush, following the referendum on a new Iraqi constitution. "Democracies are peaceful countries." Considering that Iraq is perhaps the least peaceful country on earth, the statement seemed jarring.

It should not be. For it reflects a quasi-religious transformation in George W. Bush -- his political conversion to democratism, a faith-based ideology that holds democracy to be the cure for mankind's ills, and its absence to be the principal cause of terror and war.

In the theology of a devout democratist, if Americans will only persevere in using their power to convert the Islamic world, then the whole world, to democracy, we will come as close as mankind can to creating heaven on earth.

As Bush said in his second inaugural, "So, it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world."

Speaking, three weeks ago, to the 20th birthday conclave of the National Endowment for Democracy, Bush recited the true believer's creed: "If the peoples (of the Middle East) are permitted to choose their own destiny ... by their participation as free men and women, then the extremists will be marginalized and the flow of violent radicalism to the rest of the world will slow and eventually end."

The president was seconded by Vice President Cheney on CNN: "I think ... we will, in fact, succeed in getting democracy established in Iraq, and I think that when we do, that will be the end of the insurgency."

Upon this faith Bush has wagered his presidency, the lives of America's best and bravest, and our entire position in the Middle East and the world.

Mr. Buchanan might recall working for a gentleman who shared that faith, even if he no longer shares it himself, Reagan at Westminster (Ronald W. Reagan, Address to Members of the British Parliament, June 8, 1982)
[Fr]om here I will go to Bonn and then Berlin, where there stands a grim symbol of power untamed. The Berlin Wall, that dreadful gray gash across the city, is in its third decade. It is the fitting signature of the regime that built it.

And a few hundred kilometers behind the Berlin Wall, there is another symbol. In the center of Warsaw, there is a sign that notes the distances to two capitals. In one direction it points toward Moscow. In the other it points toward Brussels, headquarters of Western Europe's tangible unity. The marker says that the distances from Warsaw to Moscow and Warsaw to Brussels are equal. The sign makes this point: Poland is not East or West. Poland is at the center of European civilization. It has contributed mightily to that civilization. It is doing so today by being magnificently unreconciled to oppression.

Poland's struggle to be Poland and to secure the basic rights we often take for granted demonstrates why we dare not take those rights for granted. Gladstone, defending the Reform Bill of 1866, declared, ``You cannot fight against the future. Time is on our side.'' It was easier to believe in the march of democracy in Gladstone's day -- in that high noon of Victorian optimism.

We're approaching the end of a bloody century plagued by a terrible political invention -- totalitarianism. Optimism comes less easily today, not because democracy is less vigorous, but because democracy's enemies have refined their instruments of repression. Yet optimism is in order, because day by day democracy is proving itself to be a not-at-all-fragile flower. From Stettin on the Baltic to Varna on the Black Sea, the regimes planted by totalitarianism have had more than 30 years to establish their legitimacy. But none -- not one regime -- has yet been able to risk free elections. Regimes planted by bayonets do not take root.

The strength of the Solidarity movement in Poland demonstrates the truth told in an underground joke in the Soviet Union. It is that the Soviet Union would remain a one-party nation even if an opposition party were permitted, because everyone would join the opposition party.

America's time as a player on the stage of world history has been brief. I think understanding this fact has always made you patient with your younger cousins -- well, not always patient. I do recall that on one occasion, Sir Winston Churchill said in exasperation about one of our most distinguished diplomats: ``He is the only case I know of a bull who carries his china shop with him.''

But witty as Sir Winston was, he also had that special attribute of great statesmen -- the gift of vision, the willingness to see the future based on the experience of the past. It is this sense of history, this understanding of the past that I want to talk with you about today, for it is in remembering what we share of the past that our two nations can make common cause for the future.

We have not inherited an easy world. If developments like the Industrial Revolution, which began here in England, and the gifts of science and technology have made life much easier for us, they have also made it more dangerous. There are threats now to our freedom, indeed to our very existence, that other generations could never even have imagined.

There is first the threat of global war. No President, no Congress, no Prime Minister, no Parliament can spend a day entirely free of this threat. And I don't have to tell you that in today's world the existence of nuclear weapons could mean, if not the extinction of mankind, then surely the end of civilization as we know it. That's why negotiations on intermediate-range nuclear forces now underway in Europe and the START talks -- Strategic Arms Reduction Talks -- which will begin later this month, are not just critical to American or Western policy; they are critical to mankind. Our commitment to early success in these negotiations is firm and unshakable, and our purpose is clear: reducing the risk of war by reducing the means of waging war on both sides.

At the same time there is a threat posed to human freedom by the enormous power of the modern state. History teaches the dangers of government that overreaches -- political control taking precedence over free economic growth, secret police, mindless bureaucracy, all combining to stifle individual excellence and personal freedom.

Now, I'm aware that among us here and throughout Europe there is legitimate disagreement over the extent to which the public sector should play a role in a nation's economy and life. But on one point all of us are united -- our abhorrence of dictatorship in all its forms, but most particularly totalitarianism and the terrible inhumanities it has caused in our time -- the great purge, Auschwitz and Dachau, the Gulag, and Cambodia.

Historians looking back at our time will note the consistent restraint and peaceful intentions of the West. They will note that it was the democracies who refused to use the threat of their nuclear monopoly in the forties and early fifties for territorial or imperial gain. Had that nuclear monopoly been in the hands of the Communist world, the map of Europe -- indeed, the world -- would look very different today. And certainly they will note it was not the democracies that invaded Afghanistan or supressed Polish Solidarity or used chemical and toxin warfare in Afghanistan and Southeast Asia.

If history teaches anything it teaches self-delusion in the face of unpleasant facts is folly. We see around us today the marks of our terrible dilemma -- predictions of doomsday, antinuclear demonstrations, an arms race in which the West must, for its own protection, be an unwilling participant. At the same time we see totalitarian forces in the world who seek subversion and conflict around the globe to further their barbarous assault on the human spirit. What, then, is our course? Must civilization perish in a hail of fiery atoms?

Must freedom wither in a quiet, deadening accommodation with totalitarian evil?

Sir Winston Churchill refused to accept the inevitability of war or even that it was imminent. He said, ``I do not believe that Soviet Russia desires war. What they desire is the fruits of war and the indefinite expansion of their power and doctrines. But what we have to consider here today while time remains is the permanent prevention of war and the establishment of conditions of freedom and democracy as rapidly as possible in all countries.''

Well, this is precisely our mission today: to preserve freedom as well as peace. It may not be easy to see; but I believe we live now at a turning point.

In an ironic sense Karl Marx was right. We are witnessing today a great revolutionary crisis, a crisis where the demands of the economic order are conflicting directly with those of the political order. But the crisis is happening not in the free, non-Marxist West, but in the home of Marxist-Leninism, the Soviet Union. It is the Soviet Union that runs against the tide of history by denying human freedom and human dignity to its citizens. It also is in deep economic difficulty. The rate of growth in the national product has been steadily declining since the fifties and is less than half of what it was then.

The dimensions of this failure are astounding: A country which employs one-fifth of its population in agriculture is unable to feed its own people. Were it not for the private sector, the tiny private sector tolerated in Soviet agriculture, the country might be on the brink of famine. These private plots occupy a bare 3 percent of the arable land but account for nearly one-quarter of Soviet farm output and nearly one-third of meat products and vegetables. Overcentralized, with little or no incentives, year after year the Soviet system pours its best resource into the making of instruments of destruction. The constant shrinkage of economic growth combined with the growth of military production is putting a heavy strain on the Soviet people. What we see here is a political structure that no longer corresponds to its economic base, a society where productive forces are hampered by political ones.

The decay of the Soviet experiment should come as no surprise to us. Wherever the comparisons have been made between free and closed societies -- West Germany and East Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia, Malaysia and Vietnam -- it is the democratic countries what are prosperous and responsive to the needs of their people. And one of the simple but overwhelming facts of our time is this: Of all the millions of refugees we've seen in the modern world, their flight is always away from, not toward the Communist world. Today on the NATO line, our military forces face east to prevent a possible invasion. On the other side of the line, the Soviet forces also face east to prevent their people from leaving.

The hard evidence of totalitarian rule has caused in mankind an uprising of the intellect and will. Whether it is the growth of the new schools of economics in America or England or the appearance of the so-called new philosophers in France, there is one unifying thread running through the intellectual work of these groups -- rejection of the arbitrary power of the state, the refusal to subordinate the rights of the individual to the superstate, the realization that collectivism stifles all the best human impulses.

Since the exodus from Egypt, historians have written of those who sacrificed and struggled for freedom -- the stand at Thermopylae, the revolt of Spartacus, the storming of the Bastille, the Warsaw uprising in World War II. More recently we've seen evidence of this same human impulse in one of the developing nations in Central America. For months and months the world news media covered the fighting in El Salvador. Day after day we were treated to stories and film slanted toward the brave freedom-fighters battling oppressive government forces in behalf of the silent, suffering people of that tortured country.

And then one day those silent, suffering people were offered a chance to vote, to choose the kind of government they wanted. Suddenly the freedom-fighters in the hills were exposed for what they really are -- Cuban-backed guerrillas who want power for themselves, and their backers, not democracy for the people. They threatened death to any who voted, and destroyed hundreds of buses and trucks to keep the people from getting to the polling places. But on election day, the people of El Salvador, an unprecedented 1.4 million of them, braved ambush and gunfire, and trudged for miles to vote for freedom.

They stood for hours in the hot sun waiting for their turn to vote. Members of our Congress who went there as observers told me of a women who was wounded by rifle fire on the way to the polls, who refused to leave the line to have her wound treated until after she had voted. A grandmother, who had been told by the guerrillas she would be killed when she returned from the polls, and she told the guerrillas, ``You can kill me, you can kill my family, kill my neighbors, but you can't kill us all.'' The real freedom-fighters of El Salvador turned out to be the people of that country -- the young, the old, the in-between.

Strange, but in my own country there's been little if any news coverage of that war since the election. Now, perhaps they'll say it's -- well, because there are newer struggles now.

On distant islands in the South Atlantic young men are fighting for Britain. And, yes, voices have been raised protesting their sacrifice for lumps of rock and earth so far away. But those young men aren't fighting for mere real estate. They fight for a cause -- for the belief that armed aggression must not be allowed to succeed, and the people must participate in the decisions of government -- [applause] -- the decisions of government under the rule of law. If there had been firmer support for that principle some 45 years ago, perhaps our generation wouldn't have suffered the bloodletting of World War II.

In the Middle East now the guns sound once more, this time in Lebanon, a country that for too long has had to endure the tragedy of civil war, terrorism, and foreign intervention and occupation. The fighting in Lebanon on the part of all parties must stop, and Israel should bring its forces home. But this is not enough. We must all work to stamp out the scourge of terrorism that in the Middle East makes war an ever-present threat.

But beyond the troublespots lies a deeper, more positive pattern. Around the world today, the democratic revolution is gathering new strength. In India a critical test has been passed with the peaceful change of governing political parties. In Africa, Nigeria is moving into remarkable and unmistakable ways to build and strengthen its democratic institutions. In the Caribbean and Central America, 16 of 24 countries have freely elected governments. And in the United Nations, 8 of the 10 developing nations which have joined that body in the past 5 years are democracies.

In the Communist world as well, man's instinctive desire for freedom and self-determination surfaces again and again. To be sure, there are grim reminders of how brutally the police state attempts to snuff out this quest for self-rule -- 1953 in East Germany, 1956 in Hungary, 1968 in Czechoslovakia, 1981 in Poland. But the struggle continues in Poland. And we know that there are even those who strive and suffer for freedom within the confines of the Soviet Union itself. How we conduct ourselves here in the Western democracies will determine whether this trend continues.

No, democracy is not a fragile flower. Still it needs cultivating. If the rest of this century is to witness the gradual growth of freedom and democratic ideals, we must take actions to assist the campaign for democracy.

Some argue that we should encourage democratic change in right-wing dictatorships, but not in Communist regimes. Well, to accept this preposterous notion -- as some well-meaning people have -- is to invite the argument that once countries achieve a nuclear capability, they should be allowed an undisturbed reign of terror over their own citizens.

We reject this course.

As for the Soviet view, Chairman Brezhnev repeatedly has stressed that the competition of ideas and systems must continue and that this is entirely consistent with relaxation of tensions and peace.

Well, we ask only that these systems begin by living up to their own constitutions, abiding by their own laws, and complying with the international obligations they have undertaken. We ask only for a process, a direction, a basic code of decency, not for an instant transformation.

We cannot ignore the fact that even without our encouragement there has been and will continue to be repeated explosions against repression and dictatorships. The Soviet Union itself is not immune to this reality. Any system is inherently unstable that has no peaceful means to legitimize its leaders. In such cases, the very repressiveness of the state ultimately drives people to resist it, if necessary, by force.

While we must be cautious about forcing the pace of change, we must not hesitate to declare our ultimate objectives and to take concrete actions to move toward them. We must be staunch in our conviction that freedom is not the sole prerogative of a lucky few, but the inalienable and universal right of all human beings. So states the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which, among other things, guarantees free elections.

The objective I propose is quite simple to state: to foster the infrastructure of democracy, the system of a free press, unions, political parties, universities, which allows a people to choose their own way to develop their own culture, to reconcile their own differences through peaceful means.

This is not cultural imperialism, it is providing the means for genuine self-determination and protection for diversity. Democracy already flourishes in countries with very different cultures and historical experiences. It would be cultural condescension, or worse, to say that any people prefer dictatorship to democracy. Who would voluntarily choose not to have the right to vote, decide to purchase government propaganda handouts instead of independent newspapers, prefer government to worker-controlled unions, opt for land to be owned by the state instead of those who till it, want government repression of religious liberty, a single political party instead of a free choice, a rigid cultural orthodoxy instead of democratic tolerance and diversity?

Since 1917 the Soviet Union has given covert political training and assistance to Marxist-Leninists in many countries. Of course, it also has promoted the use of violence and subversion by these same forces. Over the past several decades, West European and other Social Democrats, Christian Democrats, and leaders have offered open assistance to fraternal, political, and social institutions to bring about peaceful and democratic progress. Appropriately, for a vigorous new democracy, the Federal Republic of Germany's political foundations have become a major force in this effort.

We in America now intend to take additional steps, as many of our allies have already done, toward realizing this same goal. The chairmen and other leaders of the national Republican and Democratic Party organizations are initiating a study with the bipartisan American political foundation to determine how the United States can best contribute as a nation to the global campaign for democracy now gathering force. They will have the cooperation of congressional leaders of both parties, along with representatives of business, labor, and other major institutions in our society. I look forward to receiving their recommendations and to working with these institutions and the Congress in the common task of strengthening democracy throughout the world.

It is time that we committed ourselves as a nation -- in both the pubic and private sectors -- to assisting democratic development. [...]

I have discussed on other occasions, including my address on May 9th, the elements of Western policies toward the Soviet Union to safeguard our interests and protect the peace. What I am describing now is a plan and a hope for the long term -- the march of freedom and democracy which will leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash-heap of history as it has left other tyrannies which stifle the freedom and muzzle the self-expression of the people. And that's why we must continue our efforts to strengthen NATO even as we move forward with our Zero-Option initiative in the negotiations on intermediate-range forces and our proposal for a one-third reduction in strategic ballistic missile warheads.

Our military strength is a prerequisite to peace, but let it be clear we maintain this strength in the hope it will never be used, for the ultimate determinant in the struggle that's now going on in the world will not be bombs and rockets, but a test of wills and ideas, a trial of spiritual resolve, the values we hold, the beliefs we cherish, the ideals to which we are dedicated.

The British people know that, given strong leadership, time and a little bit of hope, the forces of good ultimately rally and triumph over evil. Here among you is the cradle of self-government, the Mother of Parliaments. Here is the enduring greatness of the British contribution to mankind, the great civilized ideas: individual liberty, representative government, and the rule of law under God.

I've often wondered about the shyness of some of us in the West about standing for these ideals that have done so much to ease the plight of man and the hardships of our imperfect world. This reluctance to use those vast resources at our command reminds me of the elderly lady whose home was bombed in the Blitz. As the rescuers moved about, they found a bottle of brandy she'd stored behind the staircase, which was all that was left standing. And since she was barely conscious, one of the workers pulled the cork to give her a taste of it. She came around immediately and said, ``Here now -- there now, put it back. That's for emergencies.''

Well, the emergency is upon us. Let us be shy no longer. Let us go to our strength. Let us offer hope. Let us tell the world that a new age is not only possible but probable.

During the dark days of the Second World War, when this island was incandescent with courage, Winston Churchill exclaimed about Britain's adversaries, ``What kind of a people do they think we are?'' Well, Britain's adversaries found out what extraordinary people the British are. But all the democracies paid a terrible price for allowing the dictators to underestimate us. We dare not make that mistake again. So, let us ask ourselves, ``What kind of people do we think we are?'' And let us answer, ``Free people, worthy of freedom and determined not only to remain so but to help others gain their freedom as well.''

Sir Winston led his people to great victory in war and then lost an election just as the fruits of victory were about to be enjoyed. But he left office honorably, and, as it turned out, temporarily, knowing that the liberty of his people was more important than the fate of any single leader. History recalls his greatness in ways no dictator will ever know. And he left us a message of hope for the future, as timely now as when he first uttered it, as opposition leader in the Commons nearly 27 years ago, when he said, ``When we look back on all the perils through which we have passed and at the mighty foes that we have laid low and all the dark and deadly designs that we have frustrated, why should we fear for our future? We have,'' he said, ``come safely through the worst.''

Well, the task I've set forth will long outlive our own generation. But together, we too have come through the worst. Let us now begin a major effort to secure the best -- a crusade for freedom that will engage the faith and fortitude of the next generation. For the sake of peace and justice, let us move toward a world in which all people are at last free to determine their own destiny.

Thank you.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:52 PM


Anti-ID stance is good old intolerance again (David K. DeWolf and Randall Wegner, 10/18/05, Philadelphia Inquirer)

[T]hough the ACLU lost the Scopes case, it won the culture war, and today it is seeking to achieve what was thought ridiculous 80 years ago. It seeks in the courts what Tennessee passed in the legislature: the exclusion of a competing theory.

The ACLU has a variety of clever arguments as to why it is a "civil liberty" to exclude any competing theory. It claims that anything other than Darwinism is not science and that the only alternative to Darwin's theory is a "supernatural creator" who can't be investigated scientifically. This is plainly false. The scientists who have questioned Darwinian evolutionary theory point to scientific evidence (the fossil record, the digital information content in DNA, the engineering structure in cells) and use scientific reasoning to explain that design is the most likely cause.

Even when it is pointed out that peer-reviewed scientific articles have presented the case for intelligent design, the ACLU retreats to the position that it is only a "minority" view, and that "mainstream scientific organizations" disagree. This, from the group that supposedly defends minority views. [...]

Fortunately, the Supreme Court has a more inclusive view about teaching alternatives. In 1987, the court struck down a Louisiana statute that prohibited teaching evolution unless biblical creation was taught. In doing so, the court affirmed the constitutionality of teaching "a variety of scientific theories about the origins of humankind."

It is because the law is so clear on this point that the ACLU has desperately fought to control the definition of "science" to exclude design. In doing so, it imperils not just the science curriculum in Dover, but also scientific thought in general.

Pretty novel to argue that the 12% view represents the mainstream anyway.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:47 PM


SETI and the Cosmic Quarantine Hypothesis: How many technically advanced civilizations exist in our galaxy? (Steven Soter, 10/17/05, Astrobiology Magazine)

If civilizations exist in our galaxy with levels of technology at least equal to our own, we might be able to detect some of them using radio telescopes. And if civilizations exist with technologies far in advance of our own, we might expect them to have colonized millions of habitable worlds in the Milky Way, and even to have visited our own planet. Yet there is no evidence in the astronomical, geological, archaeological, or historical records that extraterrestrial civilizations exist or that visitors from other worlds have ever been to Earth. Does that mean, as some have concluded, that ours is the only civilization in the galaxy? Or could there be a natural self-regulating mechanism that limits the intensive colonization of other worlds?

In 1961 radio astronomer Frank Drake devised an equation to express how the hypothetical number of observable civilizations in our galaxy should depend on a wide range of astronomical and biological factors, such as the number of habitable planets per star, and the fraction of inhabited worlds that give rise to intelligent life. The Drake Equation has led to serious studies and encouraged the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). It has also provoked ridicule and hostility. Novelist Michael Crichton recently denounced the equation as "literally meaningless," incapable of being tested, and therefore "not science." The Drake equation, he said, also opened the door to other forms of what he called "pernicious garbage" in the name of science, including the use of mathematical climate models to characterize global warming.

Crichton rightly pointed out that any numerical "answers" produced by the Drake Equation can be no more than guesses, since most of the terms in the equation are quantitatively unknown by many orders of magnitude. But he is utterly wrong to claim that the equation is "meaningless." An equation describes how the elements of a problem are logically related, whether or not we know their numerical values. Astronomers understand perfectly well that the Drake Equation cannot prove anything. Instead, we regard it as the most useful way to organize our ignorance of a difficult subject by breaking it down into manageable parts. This kind of analysis is standard, and a valued technique in scientific thinking. As new observations and insights emerge, the Drake Equation can be modified as needed or even replaced altogether. But it provides the necessary place to start.

You have to admire guys with sufficient sense of humor to call their magazine Astrobiology.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:37 PM


Joan Rivers Gets Into Shouting Match Over Race (Scott Martelle, October 19, 2005, LA Times)

Rivers, who begins a tour of England on Friday, was a guest on BBC Radio 4's "Midweek" program with Darcus Howe, a Trinidad-born writer and black activist, and two other guests, including author Jackie Collins. Howe is the subject of a new movie, "Son of Mine," about his relationship with his son, who spent half his youth in Trinidad with his white mother. [...]

After host Libby Purves remarked that Rivers was espousing "an American approach," Howe condemned the U.S. as "the most savagely racial places in the world."

After a back-and-forth over the nature of hatred, and a discussion of the film about Howe, the discussion turned angry when Howe tweaked Rivers, referring to "Caribbean children, since black offends Joan."

Rivers exploded.

"How dare you say that! You know nothing about me," Rivers said.

Howe revised his comment to say, "the use of the term black offends you."

"Where the hell are you coming from? You have got such a chip on your shoulder," Rivers said. "Don't you dare call me a racist! I want an apology from you."

As Purves tried to mollify Rivers, saying she didn't think Howe was making a personal comment about the comedian, Rivers became increasingly angry.

"This is a problem in your stupid head," Rivers told Howe, and then accused him of abandoning his responsibilities as a father. "Where were you when he was growing up?"

Purves again tried to smooth the waters.

"I have great sympathy with both sides," Purves said, "but I am starting to feel like Oprah."

"Both sides? Then you're a racist," Rivers said, stunning the host into momentary silence as Rivers continued, calling Howe a "son of a bitch."

After Howe said he did not think Rivers was a racist, Rivers said: "Thank you. Please continue about your stupid film."

The exchange can be heard on the program's website, www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/factual/midweek.shtml

Makes you proud to be an American.

Joan Rivers unleashes torrent of abuse in racism row on Radio 4 (Hugh Davies, 20/10/2005, Daily Telegraph)

[The photographer Andrea Jones] recalled last night that Howe had arrived at the studio late. "It was all terribly relaxed. Jackie Collins was extremely pleasant. None of us had seen Darcus, and had no idea what to expect. I just assumed he was this kindly, wise person. When the fireworks occurred, Libby sort of looked at me, as if I was the calm person. I did think at one point that it might end in fisticuffs.

"Joan was shaking with rage. She was genuinely offended. I sympathised with her. I don't think it was appropriate for him to jump on her."

She said that Howe swiftly left the studio as the show ended. "He just went. I didn't even see him go. He didn't stay around for a chit-chat.

"It was quite an upsetting situation but Joan didn't stop laughing from the moment she walked into the Green Room afterwards. She had her entourage with her. They obviously loved her - and were quite happy to laugh it off."

Howe, 56, the son of an Anglican priest, is one of Britain's leading black commentators, noted for his Channel 4 programme The Devil's Advocate, a studio debate that featured his polemical style, as well as a weekly column in The New Statesman.

Rivers later appeared as a guest on ITV's Paul O'Grady show, and, again, seemed happy to laugh off the encounter. She said that if Howe had shown some humour, things might have been a bit different.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:08 PM


For our future prime minister make way for nice Mr Camerair: David Cameron's deft emulation of Tony Blair is the Conservatives' best chance of getting back into government (Timothy Garton Ash, October 20, 2005, The Guardian)

His Policy Programme, blairishly entitled Vision for Britain, contains this remarkable assertion: "We must be a party committed to a vast programme of public service improvement." Vast. Is this Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal or William Beveridge's ambitious wartime plans for the welfare state? No, it's post-Blair public service hyperbole. And there's a touch of matricide too, as Cameron rejects one of Thatcher's most famous assertions. "There is such a thing as society," he says, adding catchily but emptily, "It's just not the same thing as the state." Well, d'oh! You don't say.

There are differences in emphasis; some of his emphases being more liberal than current government policy. For example, measures against terrorism "must never undermine the very liberal values we're seeking to preserve. So, no ID cards, no religious hatred laws that impinge on free speech." Other parts are less liberal. But there is nothing here that Blair could not sign on to if he and Cameron were compelled to form a Grand Coalition, as their German counterparts just have. In the 1950s, wits called it Butskellism, the centrist political consensus identified by the Economist with an imaginary Mr Butskell, combining the names of the Tory chancellor Rab Butler and Labour's Hugh Gaitskell. For today's crossbreed of Blair and Cameron, the New Statesman has got there before me, entitling a piece by the sharp-penned Nick Cohen "The birth of Blameron". I prefer my version, Camerair, since it also hints at the essential mixture of television cameras and hot air. It's so characteristic that Cameron's years of experience in the "real world" of business were in a media company, Carlton Communications.

Camerairism reflects a structural change more profound than Butskellism ever did. After the great ideological struggles of the 20th century, when communism and fascism were serious competitors to more or less liberal democracy, politics in most advanced industrial democracies is no longer about systemic alternatives. It's about variants of democratic capitalism. In Britain, in particular, it's more like a competition between two rival management teams, trying to convince shareholders that they are best suited to run UK plc. After NLNB (New Labour, New Britain), here's a bid from MCC.

Getting back to Thatcherism and the Third Way is a good start, but to differentiate themselves from Labour the Tories need to be more anti-Europe, anti-immigration, pro-death penalty, pro-religion, etc. They need to be the party of the Right.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:32 PM


Now you know (CS Monitor, 10/19/05)

The pumpkin isn't a vegetable. Not only is it a fruit, botanically, it's actually a berry. But it's the only berry that has a hard outer shell. Pumpkins belong to the same family as cucumbers, melons, spaghetti squash, and gourds.

They sure grow like cranberries here after our recent rains:

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:12 PM


Next Year in Damascus: Syrian democracy is thriving--in exile. (Jeffrey Gedmin, 10/24/2005, Weekly Standard)

I ATTENDED A MEETING OF about 40 Syrian exile oppositionists in Paris last week. [...]

Farid Ghadry, the convener of the conference, was not kidding when he told me, "We're not playing anymore." Mind you, everyone I met was warm and welcoming. There were Kurds and Sunni (they make up three quarters of the Syrian population) as well as members of the Alawite minority that runs the country. There were pacifists, hawks, and self-described "liberals," whatever that means in this context. There was a lighthearted gentleman from Los Angeles, a Christian Syrian who runs a nail and hair salon. A dual patriot, he joked over dinner that the group ought to FedEx the American Constitution to the people of the Middle East. The European Syrians at our table rolled their eyes. There was a very articulate fellow from the Muslim Brotherhood and at least two important representatives from Syria who had traveled to Paris for the meeting.

Discussions were lively, disagreements sometimes sharp. I listened like a fly on the wall with a kind Syrian colleague translating from the Arabic. The group may have been diverse, but everyone seemed united on one thing: These folks all seem to believe that after 42 years in power, the Baathist order in Damascus is ready for meltdown. You do not have to be a wishful-thinking Syrian to follow the logic of the last couple of years: municipal elections in Saudi Arabia, women now free to vote in Kuwait, opposition candidates for the first time in Egypt, elections and a constitution in Iraq, a revolution in Lebanon. Did anyone really think Syria could stay immune from the trend?

You kidding? The Realists deny anything has changed anywhere in the Middle East, nevermind that things are rapidly going our way.

The squeeze on Syria (Japan Times, 10/20/05)

No matter what the cause, Mr. Kanaan's death will not end the pressure on Syria. The United States has long been suspicious of Syria because of Damascus' hostility to Israel and its support for groups like Hezbollah. The Assad regime is considered to be a source of regional instability and an obstacle to peace in the Middle East. In addition, the U.S. now believes that Syria is not doing enough to stop the flow of insurgents into Iraq and is promoting unrest there. Mr. Assad has said that his country is unable to patrol its long border with Iraq, but Mr. Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to Baghdad, said last month that "patience is running out with Syria." Syria has offered to cooperate with the U.S. -- and has done so in the past -- but neither government has been happy with the resulting arrangement.

Difficult relations with the U.S. are a staple of Syrian foreign policy. Unfortunately for Damascus, the killing of Mr. Hariri has swayed opinion in other countries, including France, which have been more tolerant of Damascus' policies. Other Arab governments are increasingly frustrated with Syria's hard line and have had enough. They are reportedly pressing Mr. Assad to hand over anyone who may be involved in the assassination.

Mr. Assad may have no choice. And that image -- of a Syrian leader bowing to the U.N. -- could do irreparable damage to his regime. Syria has long been insulated from foreign pressure, but it is no longer invulnerable. In many respects, Damascus seems outside the mainstream in the Middle East, clinging to policies that no longer respond to circumstances. There are increasing doubts about Mr. Assad's ability to navigate the currents in the region. Those strains will only increase as the U.N. investigation continues and U.S. frustrations mount over events in Iraq.

-High Noon for Syria (David Ignatius, October 19, 2005, Washington Post)
[T]he administration pulled back from its regime-change enthusiasm in recent weeks, and officials now speak of the need for "policy" change. A big factor is the new director of national intelligence, John Negroponte, and his analysts at the National Intelligence Council. They have been warning Bush that if Assad is toppled, the result isn't likely to be better in terms of regional stability, and it could well be worse. The analysts also note that there isn't now any coherent, organized opposition to Assad.

Over the past month, Washington and Damascus have been sending feelers -- so far to no effect. Assad has traveled to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, where officials told him what the United States wanted on Iraq and the Palestinian issue as the price of engagement. In late September, Assad's brother-in-law, Asef Shawkat, the chief of Syrian military intelligence, visited France and talked with intelligence officials there. I'm told by one U.S. intelligence source that Shawkat hinted at major Syrian concessions if France and America would make a deal. No takers, thus far.

A warning of the bloody denouement of this drama came last week, when Syria's interior minister, Ghazi Kanaan, was found dead in Damascus of a reported suicide. Almost nobody takes that at face value. One version has it that Kanaan was killed (or handed the gun and told to do the honorable thing) as a fall guy in the Hariri killing. I tend to doubt that version, because Kanaan had been close to both Hariri and Washington. Instead, I wonder if his death was a counter-coup by pro-Assad operatives in Damascus who feared Kanaan as a potential rival. I'm told that Mehlis asked to examine Kanaan's body before it was quickly buried, but was refused.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:54 PM


The Judy Code (Douglas McCollam, 10/19/05, Columbia Journalism Review)

The more you analyze Miller’s story (I have read it four times now) the less it seems like a straightforward recitation of events and the more it seems like a carefully scripted message to Libby, and perhaps to other sources with whom Miller spoke about Valerie Plame and Joseph Wilson.

I confess part of this impression may stem from my own legal background. I know too well that once a prosecutor starts circling, especially a super predator like Patrick Fitzgerald, it can get very hard for parties to communicate with one another without stepping on a landmine. This, for example, is why Libby’s lawyer, Joseph Tate, went ballistic when Floyd Abrams, one of Miller’s lawyers, suggested that Libby had “signaled” to Miller that she shouldn’t testify. To reporters such a request might be a normal part of the reporter-source relationship, but to a prosecutor it’s witness tampering and obstruction of justice. Abrams put Libby on the spot. That’s why Miller’s insistence on a personal letter or telephone call from Libby releasing her to testify was so problematic. Anything much beyond “please testify” could easily be construed as an attempt to influence Miller’s testimony. As Libby, a seasoned lawyer in his own right surely knows, a more complex communication is what obstruction charges are made of.

Which makes it all the more amazing that Libby wrote just such a letter to Miller while she was still in prison. The September 15 letter pointedly reminded Miller that no other reporter subpoenaed in the investigation had testified that Libby had discussed Valerie Plame with them. It also contained a loaded reference to how “out West where you vacation, the aspens will already be turning. They turn in clusters because their roots connect them.” Their roots connect them? Is it a coincidence that Libby and Miller shared a long-held concern about the intersection of WMD and Islamic militantism? Miller’s story implies in several places that she didn’t know Libby all that well (going so far as to point out she didn’t even recognize him when she bumped into him on a trip out West, a trip that Libby mentions in his letter to her). But it doesn’t address the key question of whether Libby was a source for Miller’s post-9/11 WMD reporting, or whether he helped arrange meetings with the Iraqi defectors who were peddling fabricated stories about Saddam’s weapons.

In analyzing Miller’s account, several themes emerge. First, with Fitzgerald clearly probing Vice President Cheney’s office, the administration would obviously have a concern that Miller’s notes might cause problems. But in her account in the Times Miller goes out of her way to stress that Libby protected Cheney at all times. This is key. While there seems little doubt that Libby would fall on his sword to protect his boss, a reporter is an altogether different matter. Miller’s account clearly signals that her notes don’t give Fitzgerald an avenue of attack on Cheney.

Second, as many have noted, Miller makes the suspect claim that she now can’t recall who gave her Valerie Plame’s name. Obviously then her direct testimony won’t be the lynchpin that let’s Fitzgerald make a case that Libby or anyone else supplied Valerie Plame’s name, though the presence of her name in the same notebook as the notes of the Libby interview could allow a grand jury to draw a strong inference. Miller says she doesn’t recall who gave the name, which, by default, doesn’t finger Libby. But neither does it clear him.

Miller’s account also contains damning revelations that show how far she strayed from accepted practices of journalism. One, she references having (at least in her own mind) an ongoing security clearance from the government that would allow her to discuss sensitive information about Iraq with Libby—but not with her own editors. Talk about being captured by a source!

In addition, in her second interview with Libby about Wilson, Miller agreed to identify Libby as a “former Hill staffer,” effectively aiding and abetting the administration’s effort to undermine Wilson while at the same time covering its tracks. “I knew that Mr. Libby had once worked on Capitol Hill,” she writes. Yes, he did—he was briefly a special legal advisor to a House Select Committee on China more than a decade ago, surely the least relevant of all Libby’s many governmental posts in the last quarter century.

If you were a patriot would you trust the Times's editors?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:44 PM


Beirut wants Palestinian bases out: Lebanon is nervous about armed pro-Syrian outposts as tensions rise with Syria. (Nicholas Blanford, 10/20/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

Many Lebanese blame the Palestinians for triggering Lebanon's 16-year civil war and are nervous that armed Palestinian groups continue to man about a dozen outposts at a time of tension between Beirut and Damascus.

Earlier this month, Lebanese and Palestinian officials agreed to form a committee to discuss the fate of the military camps. Beirut demands that the bases close and the Palestinian fighters return to refugee camps concentrated around Lebanon's coastal cities and towns.

Tuesday, Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora met with his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas in Paris to debate the fate of Palestinian arms in Lebanon, a discussion that only became possible following Syria's disengagement from its neighbor in April.

"We expressed our views that the presence of armed personnel and armaments outside the camps is not necessary and not helpful," Mr. Siniora said. "As for the presence of armed personnel within the camps, this is going to be looked at in order to organize it."

Mr. Abbas said Palestinians should remember that they are guests in Lebanon and are not above the law. The two leaders discussed the possibility of opening a Palestinian embassy in Beirut and improving conditions in the 12 established refugee camps, home to some 350,000 Palestinians.

It's going to be a rude awakening for Palestinians to find out the rest of the Arab world hates them more than it does the Jews.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:40 PM


In 'heartland of jihad,' an American helping hand (Gretchen Peters, 10/20/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

The area worst hit by the quake also happens to be the epicenter of Pakistan's extremist community, a place dotted with camps training jihadis to fight in Indian Kashmir. Al Qaeda has used this militant infrastructure to communicate, to recruit, and - some speculate - to shelter top leaders. Investigators have traced one of the July 7 London bombers to a camp in this area.

"This is really the heartland of jihad, where a lot of recruits are drawn for Al Qaeda and fighting in Kashmir," says Pervez Hoodhoy, a political analyst in Islamabad. "When they see the Americans come and do something for their people, irrespective of who has been hurt, I think that goes a long way."

It's too early to see how big a bounce the US will get from its mission of mercy here, and impossible to gauge whether it will last.

But some analysts are comparing it to the so-called "tsunami effect" across the Indian Ocean, where attitudes toward Washington became more favorable after high-profile US efforts in the wake of that 2004 disaster.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:36 PM


Bush, Bono have lunch at the White House (The Associated Press, October 19, 2005)

In town for a concert, U2 rock star Bono was invited to lunch Wednesday with the president. White House press secretary Scott McClellan said the meeting at the executive residence would be a follow-up on talks he had with President Bush in July at the G-8 summit in Scotland.

"They had a very good discussion about some of our common priorities," McClellan said. "Both share a deep commitment to combating AIDS, preventing malaria and expanding trade to lift people out of poverty."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:14 PM


When Drunk Driving Deterrence Becomes Neo-Prohibition (Radley Balko, 10/09/05, Cato Institute)

This fall Mothers Against Drunk Driving marks its 25th anniversary. The organization certainly has much to celebrate: Deaths from drunk driving are down more than 35 percent since the early 1980s. We no longer chuckle at the bumbling drunk who can barely get his key into the ignition — we scorn him. Hopefully, we arrest him, too.

Unfortunately, MADD has come to outlive and outgrow its original mission. By the mid-1990s, deaths from drunk driving began to level off, after 15 years of progress. The sensible conclusion to draw from this was that the occasional drunk driver had all but been eradicated. MADD's successes had boiled the problem down to a small group of hard-core alcoholics.

It was at about this time that MADD began to move in a different direction, one not so much aimed at reducing drunk driving fatalities but at stripping DWI defendants of basic criminal rights. MADD also seemed to expand its mission to one of discouraging the consumption of alcohol in general — what critics call "neo-prohibition."

MADD's biggest victory on this front was a nationwide blood-alcohol threshold of .08, down from .10.

Insightful to grasp that the campaign aghainst drunk driving flows from the same Puritan impulse as Prohibition did, but it's nonsense to equate the societal judgement that you shouldn't drink and drive with the idea that you shouldn't drink at all.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:09 PM


Sheehan thrashing 'war hawk' Hillary: Cindy tears into Clinton for Iraq support, compares her to radio's Rush Limbaugh (Joe Kovacs, October 19, 2005, WorldNetDaily.com)

Cindy Sheehan, the so-called "peace mom" on a crusade to end U.S. involvement in the Iraq war, is publicly blasting Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., for her continued support of the ongoing conflict.

"I think she is a political animal who believes she has to be a war hawk to keep up with the big boys," Sheehan writes in an open letter. "I would love to support Hillary for president if she would come out against the travesty in Iraq. But I don't think she can speak out against the occupation, because she supports it. I will not make the mistake of supporting another pro-war Democrat for president again: As I won't support a pro-war Republican."

If Ms Sheehan didn't exist Dick Morris would have had to invent her.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:21 PM


The Paranoid Style in American Politics (Richard Hofstadter, November 1964, Harper’s Magazine)

American politics has often been an arena for angry minds. In recent years we have seen angry minds at work mainly among extreme right-wingers, who have now demonstrated in the Goldwater movement how much political leverage can be got out of the animosities and passions of a small minority. But behind this I believe there is a style of mind that is far from new and that is not necessarily right-wind. I call it the paranoid style simply because no other word adequately evokes the sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy that I have in mind. In using the expression “paranoid style” I am not speaking in a clinical sense, but borrowing a clinical term for other purposes. I have neither the competence nor the desire to classify any figures of the past or present as certifiable lunatics., In fact, the idea of the paranoid style as a force in politics would have little contemporary relevance or historical value if it were applied only to men with profoundly disturbed minds. It is the use of paranoid modes of expression by more or less normal people that makes the phenomenon significant.

Of course this term is pejorative, and it is meant to be; the paranoid style has a greater affinity for bad causes than good. But nothing really prevents a sound program or demand from being advocated in the paranoid style. Style has more to do with the way in which ideas are believed than with the truth or falsity of their content. I am interested here in getting at our political psychology through our political rhetoric. The paranoid style is an old and recurrent phenomenon in our public life which has been frequently linked with movements of suspicious discontent. [...]

In the history of the United States one find it, for example, in the anti-Masonic movement, the nativist and anti-Catholic movement, in certain spokesmen of abolitionism who regarded the United States as being in the grip of a slaveholders’ conspiracy, in many alarmists about the Mormons, in some Greenback and Populist writers who constructed a great conspiracy of international bankers, in the exposure of a munitions makers’ conspiracy of World War I, in the popular left-wing press, in the contemporary American right wing, and on both sides of the race controversy today, among White Citizens’ Councils and Black Muslims. [...]

If, after our historically discontinuous examples of the paranoid style, we now take the long jump to the contemporary right wing, we find some rather important differences from the nineteenth-century movements. The spokesmen of those earlier movements felt that they stood for causes and personal types that were still in possession of their country—that they were fending off threats to a still established way of life. But the modern right wing, as Daniel Bell has put it, feels dispossessed: America has been largely taken away from them and their kind, though they are determined to try to repossess it and to prevent the final destructive act of subversion. The old American virtues have already been eaten away by cosmopolitans and intellectuals; the old competitive capitalism has been gradually undermined by socialistic and communistic schemers; the old national security and independence have been destroyed by treasonous plots, having as their most powerful agents not merely outsiders and foreigners as of old but major statesmen who are at the very centers of American power. Their predecessors had discovered conspiracies; the modern radical right finds conspiracy to be betrayal from on high.

Important changes may also be traced to the effects of the mass media. The villains of the modern right are much more vivid than those of their paranoid predecessors, much better known to the public; the literature of the paranoid style is by the same token richer and more circumstantial in personal description and personal invective. For the vaguely delineated villains of the anti-Masons, for the obscure and disguised Jesuit agents, the little-known papal delegates of the anti-Catholics, for the shadowy international bankers of the monetary conspiracies, we may now substitute eminent public figures like Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower., secretaries of State like Marshall, Acheson, and Dulles, Justices of the Supreme Court like Frankfurter and Warren, and the whole battery of lesser but still famous and vivid alleged conspirators headed by Alger Hiss.

Events since 1939 have given the contemporary right-wing paranoid a vast theatre for his imagination, full of rich and proliferating detail, replete with realistic cues and undeniable proofs of the validity of his suspicions. The theatre of action is now the entire world, and he can draw not only on the events of World War II, but also on those of the Korean War and the Cold War. Any historian of warfare knows it is in good part a comedy of errors and a museum of incompetence; but if for every error and every act of incompetence one can substitute an act of treason, many points of fascinating interpretation are open to the paranoid imagination. In the end, the real mystery, for one who reads the primary works of paranoid scholarship, is not how the United States has been brought to its present dangerous position but how it has managed to survive at all.

The basic elements of contemporary right-wing thought can be reduced to three: First, there has been the now-familiar sustained conspiracy, running over more than a generation, and reaching its climax in Roosevelt’s New Deal, to undermine free capitalism, to bring the economy under the direction of the federal government, and to pave the way for socialism or communism. A great many right-wingers would agree with Frank Chodorov, the author of The Income Tax: The Root of All Evil, that this campaign began with the passage of the income-tax amendment to the Constitution in 1913.

The second contention is that top government officialdom has been so infiltrated by Communists that American policy, at least since the days leading up to Pearl Harbor, has been dominated by men who were shrewdly and consistently selling out American national interests.

Finally, the country is infused with a network of Communist agents, just as in the old days it was infiltrated by Jesuit agents, so that the whole apparatus of education, religion, the press, and the mass media is engaged in a common effort to paralyze the resistance of loyal Americans. [...]

The paranoid spokesman sees the fate of conspiracy in apocalyptic terms—he traffics in the birth and death of whole worlds, whole political orders, whole systems of human values. He is always manning the barricades of civilization. He constantly lives at a turning point. Like religious millenialists he expresses the anxiety of those who are living through the last days and he is sometimes disposed to set a date fort the apocalypse. (“Time is running out,” said Welch in 1951. “Evidence is piling up on many sides and from many sources that October 1952 is the fatal month when Stalin will attack.”)

As a member of the avant-garde who is capable of perceiving the conspiracy before it is fully obvious to an as yet unaroused public, the paranoid is a militant leader. He does not see social conflict as something to be mediated and compromised, in the manner of the working politician. Since what is at stake is always a conflict between absolute good and absolute evil, what is necessary is not compromise but the will to fight things out to a finish. Since the enemy is thought of as being totally evil and totally unappeasable, he must be totally eliminated—if not from the world, at least from the theatre of operations to which the paranoid directs his attention. This demand for total triumph leads to the formulation of hopelessly unrealistic goals, and since these goals are not even remotely attainable, failure constantly heightens the paranoid’s sense of frustration. Even partial success leaves him with the same feeling of powerlessness with which he began, and this in turn only strengthens his awareness of the vast and terrifying quality of the enemy he opposes.

The enemy is clearly delineated: he is a perfect model of malice, a kind of amoral superman—sinister, ubiquitous, powerful, cruel, sensual, luxury-loving. Unlike the rest of us, the enemy is not caught in the toils of the vast mechanism of history, himself a victim of his past, his desires, his limitations. He wills, indeed he manufactures, the mechanism of history, or tries to deflect the normal course of history in an evil way. He makes crises, starts runs on banks, causes depressions, manufactures disasters, and then enjoys and profits from the misery he has produced. The paranoid’s interpretation of history is distinctly personal: decisive events are not taken as part of the stream of history, but as the consequences of someone’s will. Very often the enemy is held to possess some especially effective source of power: he controls the press; he has unlimited funds; he has a new secret for influencing the mind (brainwashing); he has a special technique for seduction (the Catholic confessional).

It is hard to resist the conclusion that this enemy is on many counts the projection of the self; both the ideal and the unacceptable aspects of the self are attributed to him. The enemy may be the cosmopolitan intellectual, but the paranoid will outdo him in the apparatus of scholarship, even of pedantry.

Thought of this essay the other day when I was twirling around the radio dial and heard only the words "Carlyle Group" before moving on.

Hard to know whether Mr. Hofstadster would be more gratified that his historical thesis is proven every day in comparisons of the Administration to the Nazis or depressed that it's his own beloved Left that is now dispossessed and mired in the paranoid style. He'd at least take solace in the far Right's lunatic accusation of "Jacobinism" on the part of the President.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:16 PM


Evolutionary Genetics: Are Humans Still Evolving?: The goal of much of modern medicine and culture is effectively to stop evolution. Is that happening? (Michael Balter, 8 July 2005, Science)

The news made headlines around the world: Blonds were going extinct. According to CNN and other media, a World Health Organization (WHO) study concluded that the gene for blond hair, which was described as recessive to dominant genes for dark hair, would disappear in 200 years. The BBC announced that the last natural blond would be born in Finland and suggested that those who dyed their hair might be to blame, because "bottle blonds" were apparently more attractive to the opposite sex than natural blonds were and thus had more children.

Fortunately for blonds, the whole story turned out to be a hoax--"a pigment of the imagination," as the Times of India later put it. WHO announced that it had never conducted such a study, and hair color is probably determined by several genes that do not act in a simple dominant-recessive relationship. The story, which may have originally sprung from a German women's magazine, apparently simply leaped from one media outlet to another.

Although the story was untrue, the ease with which it spread reflects popular fascination with the evolutionary future of our species, as well as the media's appetite for evolutionary pop science. Today, Oxford University geneticist Bryan Sykes is receiving voluminous coverage for his book, Adam's Curse, which predicts that continuing degeneration of genes on the Y chromosome will leave men sterile or even extinct in 125,000 years. Many biologists say that the question they most often receive from students and the public is "Are humans still evolving?"

To many researchers, the answer is obvious: Human biology, like that of all other living organisms on Earth, is the result of natural selection and other evolutionary mechanisms. Some say the question itself betrays a misunderstanding of how evolution works. "The very notion that ... we might not be evolving derives from a belief that all other life forms were merely stages on the way to the appearance of humans as the intended end point," says primatologist Mary Pavelka of the University of Calgary in Canada.

But other scientists point out that in developed countries, culture, technology, and especially medical advances have changed the evolutionary rules, from survival of the fittest to the survival of nearly everyone. The result, they say, is a "relaxation" of the selective pressures that might have operated 50 or 100 years ago. "Biologically, human beings are going nowhere," says anthropologist Ian Tattersall of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. University College London geneticist Steven Jones agrees. "The central issue is what one means by 'evolving,' " Jones says. "Most people when they think of evolution mean natural selection, a change to a different or better adapted state. In that sense, in the developed world, human evolution has stopped."

Isn't that a coincidence....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:12 PM


Tables may be turned on US over Kyoto (Lisa Plit, 9/29/05, Business Day)

ALTHOUGH the US, the world’s leading carbon polluter, remains outside the Kyoto Protocol, its hand could well be forced in the not too distant future. Having declined to ratify Kyoto, the US is not obliged to meet the emission reduction targets the protocol lays down, ostensibly on the grounds that it would hurt the US economy.

By staying out, the US could gain significant economic advantage over its industrialised counterparts that are party to the protocol as they will, in the short term, incur major implementation costs.

Not surprisingly, these countries are so peeved that they may turn to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs, predecessor to the WTO, contained a provision that could be used to provide some protection for the environment. It recognised that, in exceptional circumstances — including the need to protect human, animal or plant life or health, and to conserve exhaustible natural resources — international trade could be restricted.

The WTO founding documentation states that while “trade and economic endeavour should be conducted with a view to raising standards of living”, it should allow “for the optimal use of the world’s resources
in accordance with the objective of sustainable development”. It should also seek to protect and preserve the environment and enhance the means for doing so “in a manner consistent with their respective needs and concerns at different levels of economic development”.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:31 PM


Gasoline demand sees biggest fall in decade: API (Myra P. Saefong, Oct. 19, 2005, MarketWatch)

U.S. gasoline deliveries, a key measure of demand, fell almost 4% in September to log their biggest year-to-year decline in more than a decade, the American Petroleum Institute reported Wednesday morning.

"Motorists apparently found ways to manage fuel use and travel more efficiently in the face of higher September gasoline prices following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita striking along the U.S. Gulf Cost," the API said in a monthly report.

Unfortunately, unless we raise taxes significantly it's not likely to last long. Anecdotal evidence is always dubious but I paid 20 cents a gallon less last night than on Sunday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:22 PM


The mythless society: Science has not fulfilled its promise, and new fiction provides no more solace than reality television. We desperately need myth again. Can Canongate's new publishing venture provide it? (Jonathon Keats, November 2005, Prospect)

As Karen Armstrong notes in A Short History of Myth, her smart general introduction to the series, the purpose of myth historically has been “primarily therapeutic.” Since Palaeolithic times, myths have been told, in countless forms, to help people understand the world and to guide them through life. Each society, in every era, has revisited fundamental storylines—from the labours of Heracles to the temptations of Christ—not to provide general amusement, but to serve a specific need. Since the Enlightenment, and especially in this past century, that need has ostensibly been eradicated, our anxieties addressed by science, eliminated by technology. And the mechanism of myth, our facility for make-believe, has been channelled into fiction, some literary, most entertainment: innocuous stuff easily sidelined by fact artfully arranged on page or screen.

If society is cracked, however, then science has not fulfilled its promise, and fiction as currently construed isn’t going to provide any more solace than a new reality television series. If society is cracked then we desperately need myth again. Yet, as the history of myth makes clear, not any old telling will do. Canongate has proclaimed that its Myths series, featuring books by Margaret Atwood and Jeanette Winterson, Donna Tartt and David Grossman, Victor Pelevin and Milton Hatoum, will be “the most ambitious simultaneous worldwide publication ever undertaken.” Far more significant, though, and far more challenging, will be the effort to make myth mythic again.

“Our modern alienation from myth is unprecedented,” Armstrong persuasively argues in her Short History. After several hundred years of disuse, myth has lost its entire context. We encounter myth in the way that we encounter any other archaeological artefact, as point of reference to a remote time and place. When we visit the Parthenon, it isn’t out of respect for the goddess Athene, but out of curiosity about the worship practices of the ancient Greeks, or simply to admire the temple’s spectacular stonework. Likewise, our encounters with Athene in the Odyssey are borne of anthropological interest, or appreciation for Homer’s artistry. We know that the Parthenon was a temple and the Odyssey was a song, yet both are held captive by the past tense. As Armstrong writes, “Reading a myth without the transforming ritual that goes with it is as incomplete an experience as simply reading the lyrics of an opera without the music.” For myth to work mythically, it must be integral to the culture, not an escape from it.

But the problem goes even deeper than that. Our culture is not only mythless, but antagonistic to myth. We believe, falsely, that myth is a primitive worldview, a predecessor to science. In truth, scientific reasoning always coexisted with mythic belief, each serving a separate purpose: learning to hone a spear was an empirical process, but psychological preparation for the hunt was accomplished by the ritual enactment of myth. Crucially, stories of gods and goddesses were taken as true, but not factual. “A game of sacred make-believe,” Armstrong calls it, elegantly capturing a degree of sophistication common even in the Palaeolithic age that we’ve now lost: nobody knew quantum theory 10,000 years ago, but even a caveman could have told you that the uncertainty principle wouldn’t help you to reckon with death.

Every mythic system describes a fall from paradise, yet it was the descent from myth that brought us to our modern existential malaise. In a scientific age, myths in the Bible, such as the story of Adam and Eve, had to be taken as factual or dismissed as fraud. As we came to regard the world in terms of astronomy and biology, to the exclusion of wonderment, the Bible became a textbook, from which could be harvested data bound to conflict with observation. Senselessly, people were compelled to take sides. And it is this needless schism between science and religion that cracked us as a civilisation. If myth is to have any hope of healing us, individually or as a society, it must reach a part of us that neither laboratory nor church now satisfies.

To the contrary, America is quite satisfied, still believing in the One Myth and ordering society around it. It's Europe, which bought into the myth of Reason, that is in existential crisis.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:20 PM


White House Watch: Cheney resignation rumors fly (Paul Bedard, 10/18/05, US News)

Sparked by today's Washington Post story that suggests Vice President Cheney's office is involved in the Plame-CIA spy link investigation, government officials and advisers passed around rumors that the vice president might step aside and that President Bush would elevate Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

It's as good a pretext for the inevitable as any.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:14 PM


Don't Tread On Us (Andrew T. Gillies, 10.19.05, Forbes)

[O]fficials from the American Road & Transportation Builders Association are watching their rear as they move on to their next big project: reauthorization of the highway bill in 2009. [...]

After all, this year's $287 billion package, although 32% over 1998 levels and $40 billion above the Bush Administration's initial proposal, still wasn't all that the highway lobby wanted. In an August speech, Peter Ruane, ARTBA's chief executive, characterized the new law as a "missed opportunity."

How so? Congress didn't, as the lobby sought, link transportation funding to estimates on U.S. infrastructure needs from the U.S. Department of Transportation and elsewhere. Although the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure moved in that direction with a $375 billion bill, it eventually backed off, given paltry support among other House members for "revenue enhancers" like a hike in fuel taxes.

But ARTBA is hardly backing away from its full-funding goal. "I think that's the logical next step for where this program ought to go," says William Buechner, ARTBA's vice president for economics and research.

Underlying that logic: a gloomy outlook for the financial state of the Highway Trust Fund, or the money collected for roads and transit spending via certain taxes on sales of fuel, tires and so on. According to projections from the Congressional Budget Office, the difference between revenue collected and highway outlays will be in the red from fiscal 2006 to 2009.

Remember, the Welfare Queen who Ronald Reagan used to talk about was just another car owner.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:11 PM


How does Miers measure up?: Compare her résumé with two former unknowns'. Some similarities might surprise you. (William McKenzie, October 18, 2005, Dallas Morning News)

The emptiest suit since Dan Quayle. The female version of a cigar-chompin' crony. An inspiration to unqualified people.

Now that we have this image of Harriet Miers, can we please stop the insanity and examine the facts about the president's Supreme Court nominee? Given her caricature, you'd think she barely has the talent to get out of bed.

That's not true, but don't take my word. Stack her résumé up against those of the justices whose departures have created openings for President Bush. Yes, William Rehnquist and Sandra Day O'Connor, who were relatively unknown until they became definitive justices. Look at their backgrounds....

In all fairness, you really oughtn't compare Ms Miers to the obviously less-qualified status of nearly all justices before they were seated--like the new Chief, who merely worked for the White House Counsel whereas she is White House Counsel--after all, the point of rising to the top of your profession is that you just don't have many peers. Only AGs, Solicitor Generals, experienced Justices, and a few Senators will have anything like her background and that's a pretty small fraternity.

Republicans Warming Up to Miers: More Democrats find cause for concern. The turning point for both parties seems to be her answers about abortion in a 1989 survey. (Maura Reynolds, October 19, 2005, LA Times)

The Supreme Court nomination of Harriet E. Miers appeared to gain some ground with Republicans and lose some with Democrats on Tuesday after she turned over to senators a 57-page background questionnaire and 12 boxes of supporting documents.

Republicans who had expressed reservations about her nomination focused on one of those pages: a 10-question survey dating to 1989 from Texans United for Life in which she said, as a candidate for the Dallas City Council, that she favored outlawing abortion except to save the life of a mother.

"It will be a positive for her with me and with others who care about the life issue," said Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), who met with Miers for 45 minutes in his office Tuesday. "I think it will be construed favorably among conservatives."

Some Democrats, including California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, described Miers' responses on abortion as cause for concern. Feinstein has previously said she would find it hard to vote for someone who she believed would vote to overturn the landmark Roe vs. Wade decision that established a right to abortion.

"The answers clearly reflect that Harriet Miers is opposed to Roe v. Wade," Feinstein said. "This raises very serious concerns about her ability to fairly apply the law without bias in this regard."

Just wait until she explains it all to Senator Boxer....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:56 AM


The Fate of 'Made in the USA' (Robert J. Samuelson, October 19, 2005, Washington Post)

The question posed by the bankruptcy filing of Delphi Corp. -- the largest U.S. auto parts company -- is whether manufacturing in America has a future. Or is it sliding toward extinction? Viewed historically, the question is misleading. It's true that manufacturing employment now accounts for only one in nine jobs, down from one in three in 1950. But the decline mostly reflects higher efficiency. Americans make more things with fewer people. From 1990 to 2000, for example, manufacturing output rose 61 percent while employment fell 2 percent, reports economist David Huether of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). This is generally a good thing. It frees more workers to produce services (software, education, health care) that Americans want.

Of late, however, the news about manufacturing has seemed particularly dismal. Since mid-2000, 3 million jobs have vanished. Though overall corporate profitability has been strong, manufacturing has until recently been a conspicuous exception. From 2000 to 2004, the sector's profits averaged only 60 percent of their 1999 peak. It's retailing, finance (banks, stockbrokers) and real estate that account for big profit gains. Finally, imports represent a growing share of Americans' consumption of manufactured goods. In a recent report, the NAM cites these figures for 2003: 35 percent for motor vehicles and parts; 45 percent for computers and parts; 22 percent for chemicals. [...]

The fate of American manufacturing lies largely in American hands. Of course, some labor-intensive production will go abroad. But in many industries, job losses and cost-cutting -- though devastating to individuals -- can sustain production and restore profitability. The U.S. steel industry now produces more than in the 1980s, though it has lost two-thirds of its jobs. Elsewhere, innovation and high-value manufacturing should create jobs. Consider United Technologies. It makes jet engines, elevators, air conditioners and helicopters. Despite extensive foreign factories, much skilled manufacturing remains here. On one popular helicopter, air frames are assembled in the Czech Republic; the high-value electronic systems and blades are mainly American.

But one giant unknown clouds everything: China. Until now, its booming U.S. exports have mostly displaced exports from other countries. As China modernizes -- moves into more advanced industries -- this could change dramatically. The combination of low wages, a huge market and an artificially low currency confers staggering competitive advantages. They constitute a powerful magnet for foreign investment in many sectors, whose output could subsequently be exported. Unless the currency rises substantially, the United States could lose many industries that, by all other economic logic, it shouldn't. Therein lies the real threat of extinction or something close to it.

The Chinese aren't going to be innovators nor be trusted with high-value manufacturing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:44 AM


The Nobel Savage (Jacob Laksin and Patrick Devenny, 10/19/05, FrontPageMagazine.com)

Before the Nobel Prize for literature was announced last Thursday, the name Harold Pinter did not rate a mention on any shortlist of likely contenders. No minor figure in Britain’s literary world, the septuagenarian Pinter had nevertheless abandoned serious writing decades ago, devoting his talents to his lifelong affair with radical left-wing politics. As it happened, that was more than sufficient for the Swedish Academy, the body of scholars and critics tasked with awarding the prize each October, which long ago dispensed with the pretence that it was recognizing anything other than the proper (read: leftist) political dispensation.

In this respect, at least, Pinter is eminently qualified. Pinter’s political activism can be traced to the early 1970s, when the playwright, then a rising star in London’s literary firmament, emerged as a prominent backer of Chile’s socialist president Salvador Allende. After Allende was overthrown by General Augusto Pinochet 1973, Pinter read an account of the coup that convinced him the United States was to blame. Pinter “knew” the coup was engineered by the CIA, and the conviction, though false, set him on his lifelong course of anti-American politics. That did not go unrecognized last week. In paying tribute to Pinter’s attention to “threat and injustice,” and hailing him “a fighter for human rights,” the academy made certain to point out his efforts since 1973.

In the following decades, as the quality of his literary work depreciated, Pinter’s enthusiasm for leftist dictatorships continued undiminished. The late seventies and early eighties saw him take up the cause of Central America’s Communist Sandinistas. In 1979, the playwright traveled to Nicaragua, meeting with President Daniel Ortega on several occasions and acting as a propaganda tool for that regime. Pinter’s propaganda efforts in the 1980s, including dozens of salutatory articles on Communist activities, were designed to counter American policy in Central America, which he parodied as, “Kiss my arse or I’ll kick your head in.” To this day, Pinter has resisted coming to grips with the totalitarian nature of the Sandinista regime and the numerous atrocities it carried out. Still parroting Marxist spin doctors, Pinter contends that the Sandinistas were “a democratically elected government which originally led a popular revolution to overthrow a dictatorship based on slavery.”

Much of Pinter’s political energy over the years has been expended on behalf of Marxist Cuba. An unswerving believer in the Cuban revolution, Pinter has praised its “respect for human dignity,” claiming, “[i]ts achievements are remarkable.” Firmly in the Castro camp, Pinter is also an active member of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, a radical organization committed to portraying Cuba, against all evidence, as a democratic country. Proclaiming itself a champion of the “defense of Cuba and its peoples' right to self-determination and national sovereignty,” the group holds the American “Cold War” responsible for the repressive regime and campaigns for the repeal of the U.S. embargo. In this, it fully represents Pinter’s view. In 1996, for instance, Pinter sought to excuse the brutality of the Cuban government and its persecution of political dissidents as the ineluctable coefficient of an American-made “siege situation.” More recently, in March of this year, Pinter joined Rigoberta Menchu, a Marxist fraud and a Nobel laureate in her own right, in signing an appeal on behalf of the Castro regime. Among its more grotesque evasions was the following endorsement of the Cuban police state: “There has not been a single case of disappearance, torture or extra judicial execution (in Cuba) since 1959,” wrote the signatories.

Still another thug who has enjoyed Pinter’s favor is Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic.

It only seems fair to honor the award by dealing with Castro as we did with Allende, Ortega, and Milosevic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:40 AM


Kimilsungia and Kimjongilia: North Korea's Flowers of Evil (Andreas Lorenz, 10/19/05, Der Spiegel)

About 6.5 million people across the nation -- mainly children, the ill, and the elderly -- still rely on food donations from abroad for their sustenance, according to the United Nations' World Food Program. At the same time, North Korean officials say they want only long-term development aid and no more sacks of rice or beans after 2006. They hustle international workers out of the country -- according to official reasoning -- because farmers can now harvest more than before. But the truth is that Kim Jong Il also doesn't want to attend the next international talks over his nuclear program as a weakened, needy negotiator.

Many of the 130 or so foreign workers in Pyongyang suspect another motive. "We bring in too much information, an alternative lifestyle," says one. "For a some North Koreans we're the only connection to the outside world."

Aid outfits are now bargaining hectically with government officials to win permission to stay. The apparatchiks want concessions: fewer inspections, fewer foreigners in the capital. "We'll probably close down our 19 foodstuffs factories," says Richard Ragan, who has resigned from the WFP and is currently the only American in Pyongyang. The WFP factories produce mainly nutrient-rich noodles and baked goods for children and pregnant mothers.

There are other signs that Kim wants to return to the strict planned economy that he earlier liberalized in order to address the food shortage. As of this month, rice, corn, and wheat cannot be sold in private markets. These basic foodstuffs will be handed out using ration cards -- just as they were before the famine struck.

The leadership evidently wants to mollify its poorly paid workers in ramshackle government factories who can't afford the higher food prices -- never mind buy luxury goods.

...only domestic government can do it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:41 AM


The return of Rafsanjani (Saloumeh Peyman, 10/20/05, Asia Times)

The fact it was the former president, Hashemi Rafsanjani, who announced Iran's readiness to talk on the "country's nuclear dossier without any pre-condition" rather than his hardline successor, Mahmud Ahmadinejad, offers a glimmer of hope for reconciliation with the West on the key nuclear and oil issues.

When Rafsanjani, who now wears the hat of chairman of the shadowy, but powerful State Expedience Council (SEC), announced Saturday that "Tehran is ready to begin dialogues for transparency on the nuclear dossier," it was a sign that the reformists were once again calling the shots in Iran despite their shock defeat in the June presidential elections. [...]

[T]he unexpected intervention by Rafsanjani, regarded as a pro-Western politician who also has the ear of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is a sign that the days ahead may see a softening of Tehran's approach and a dilution of Ahmadinejad's authority.

Iran won't be a full and functional liberal democracy until the ayatollahs yield that sort of power to elected leaders, but, in the meantime, it becomes increasingly obvious that Mr. Khamenei realizes that they can't afford war with the West nor grow their economy as the state is currently structured. He looks to be a closet Reformer.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:27 AM


Volcker asks U.S., allies to link U.N. budget to reform (David R. Sands, October 19, 2005, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

The United States and its allies should threaten to cut the budget of the United Nations if it fails to end corruption and adopt badly needed reforms, the man who led the probe into the U.N. oil-for-food scandal said yesterday.

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul A. Volcker told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing that he opposed a unilateral U.S. withholding of U.N. dues, but that a "de facto alliance" of nations demanding reform could cut through the world body's "culture of inaction."

The message, he said, should be: "Look, if the organization isn't ready to reform itself, that has budgetary implications." [...]

"I absolutely agree it can't be seen as just an American initiative," [John R. Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, ] told the Senate panel.

He said the U.N. summit last month on reform was "a good start," but that the United States was pushing for more.

Mr. Bolton said U.S. officials fear the momentum for reform might be lost if changes are not in place before member states approve a new two-year budget in December. He said U.S. officials are considering requesting the world body to adopt a short-term budget through the first quarter of next year to keep the pressure on. [...]

"As things stand, the U.N. has simply lost the credibility and the confidence in its administrative capacities necessary for it to meet large challenges that seem sure to arise in the future," Mr. Volcker said.

The former Fed chairman also revealed his estimate for the amount of money Saddam was able to skim off the program, which was shut down in 2003. Saddam was ousted by U.S.-led forces that year.

Mr. Volcker said his investigators estimate that Iraq earned about $12.8 billion in illicit payments under the oil-for-food program: $10.2 billion in smuggled oil sales to Jordan, Turkey and Syria, and $2.6 billion from bribes, kickbacks and other related scams.

If those who supported the war are going to be blamed endlessly for the absence of WMD, shouldn't those who opposed it be blamed for supporting Saddam financially?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:13 AM


Is China headed for a Gini 'red alert'? (Francesco Sisci, 10/20/05, Asia Times)

Economic inequality and social protests in China have become a frequent topic in the Western press. The startling figure of 74,000 protests across China in 2004, up from 58,000 the previous year, has popped up in many newspapers, as has China's most recent Gini coefficient of 0.45, suggesting that economic inequality in China has in fact surpassed that of the US and UK with their allegedly cold-blooded "Anglo-Saxon" model of capitalism. (The Gini coefficient, a measure of inequality developed by the Italian statistician Corrado Gini, is a measure of income inequality ranging between 0 and 1, where 0 corresponds to a society where everyone has exactly the same income, and 1 corresponds to a society where one person has all the income and everyone else has none.)

Eyeing such statistics, one might be tempted to think that Chinese society is falling apart, and indeed, various books and articles have appeared suggesting exactly that. However, as with many things in China, first impressions can be misleading. The 0.45 figure was published by the official People's Daily, which described it as a "yellow alert", and asserted that if things go on like this China will reach the "red alert" level in five years. [1] Using similar logic, one might extrapolate the protest figures to suggest that if social protests grow as rapidly as the Gini coefficient has, there could be over 80,000 this year, more than 100,000 in a year or two, and so on, endangering the social fabric of China within the next five years, when the Gini coefficient will have reached and passed the "red alert" level.

The aforementioned figures seem to find confirmation in other numbers more readily available: 66% of all total bank deposits belong to 10% of the population, with 20% of the population holding 80% of total deposits. Peasants, the majority of China's population, make under US$300 a year, while people in Shanghai, the richest city in China, earn over $4,000 a year. China's coastal region, home to some 300 million people, produces about 70% of China's GDP. If we compare these numbers, it becomes clear that we are talking about the same group: 20% of the population amounts to about 260 million people, roughly the population of the coastal region, and the ten percent holding 66% of total deposits are the 130 million affluent people living in eastern coastal cities. The rest of the country has been left behind. [...]

It is important to note that the Chinese leadership is indeed concerned by these facts - we know them because official Chinese media, toeing the party line, published them; otherwise we would never have known. So the question we should be asking is: why does the regime want people to know about the inequality problem? It is not that the figures would have been available anyway, or that social instability has grown so much that it can no longer be hidden: in the universe of China, much occurs that goes unnoticed by the rest of the world.

Even the best foreign intelligence might manage to gather a burst of sporadic events, but it could never authoritatively draw a vast picture of tens of thousands of protests all over the country, let alone then authoritatively feed it to the international press and make them believe it. If the Chinese didn't tell us we would never know of so many protests. But the publication of the data is hardly an indication that Chinese leaders have grown more transparent overnight. The actual message is different. The Chinese regime is telling us there are more protests and a higher wealth gap because it is confident it has the situation under control, and it believes that these events cannot rock the boat, either now or in the coming five years.

When Gorbachev "opened up" and admitted that the USSR was struggling it was because he too thought he could maintain Communism, despite the fact things were much worse than he let on.

China tackles its growing pains (The Japan Times, Oct. 21, 2005)

The title is dry -- the "Communist Party of China Central Committee Proposal Regarding the Formulation of the 11th Five-Year Program for National Economic and Social Development" -- but its contents are very important. The document is an outline of how China can tackle the pressing problems created by its breakneck growth. It is no exaggeration to say that the fate of the government may depend on its contents: The strains within Chinese society are growing and may be approaching a breaking point. [...]

[C]hinese have much more to complain about than just wage disparities (although they are severe). In addition, there is the psychological dislocation and actual financial harm done by the loss of pensions, job security and the "iron rice bowl." There is fear that banks are insolvent. Environmental degradation is widespread and getting worse. Courts and administrative procedures are arbitrary, and corruption is a blight on the party and society.

There is no room for protest: There is little talk of political reform and the government has been cracking down on the Internet and the media, leaving little opportunity for ordinary Chinese to vent their frustrations. Little wonder, then, that the government recorded nearly 75,000 major protests nationwide last year, up from 58,000 the year before and 10,000 in 1994.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:05 AM


'Zombie worms' found off Sweden (BBC, 10/19/05)
A new species of marine worm that lives off whale bones on the sea floor has been described by scientists.

The creature was found on a minke carcass in relatively shallow water close to Tjarno Marine Laboratory on the Swedish coast. [...]

Adrian Glover and Thomas Dahlgren tell the journal the new species has been named Osedax mucofloris, which literally means "bone-eating snot-flower".
Zombie worm sounds way cooler.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:57 AM


Climbdown over pension age in face of strike threat (HAMISH MACDONELL, 10/19/05, The Scotsman)

MILLIONS of public sector workers yesterday won the right to retire at 60 after the government backed down on plans to increase the retirement age in the face of a nationwide strike.

Ministers had proposed a change to the public sector pensionable age, raising the retirement age for state employees from 60 to 65 to help stave off a looming financial crisis for the government.

But yesterday they agreed to drop this after vehement opposition and the threat of a general strike from trades unions. [...]

The agreement dismayed business leaders who warned that the climbdown over pensions would create a two-tier workforce, with private sector workers increasingly worse off in retirement, while public sector workers lived well on the proceeds of others. Sir Digby Jones, the director-general of the CBI, said: "The government has capitulated to the threat of public sector strikes and conceded that 21-year-old civil servants can retire aged 60 in 2044. Lucky them, at a time when private sector employees face the reality of longer working lives."

David Frost, the director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, described the deal as "very bad news for business".

He told BBC Radio 4's World at One: "What message is being sent out? We are being told in the private sector that we are going to have to work longer and put more money into our pension pots. But here we have one sector of the workforce who can still retire at the age of 60 on index-linked pensions."

That's one way to get folks to favor nationalizing everything.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:45 AM


India To Forge Plan With US To Separate Civilian, Military Nuclear Programs (AFP, Oct 18, 2005)

The United States and India will draw up a plan separating India's civilian and military nuclear facilities to pave the way for implementation of their landmark atomic energy cooperation deal by early 2006, a senior US official said Tuesday.

Nicholas Burns, undersecretary of state for political affairs, said he would discuss the separation plan with Indian officials during a trip to New Delhi this week. [...]

He said that the US Congress would be in a position to amend laws prohibiting US nuclear cooperation with India once New Delhi committed itself to the separation scheme.

"Once that plan has been clearly enunciated and once it has been committed to by the Indian government, I think it will be a very short time before the United States Congress makes the necessary legislative changes to bring this into being and that would be a very welcome moment indeed," Burns said.

Meanwhile, the MSM pays more attention to who sits in which deck chair in the German government.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:41 AM


Bush and Barroso back trade liberalisation (Mark Beunderman, 10/19/05, EU Observer)

US president George W. Bush and European commission president Jose Manuel Barroso both reaffirmed their backing for a cut in world-wide agricultural subsidies on Tuesday (18 October), after the first visit of a commission president to the White House since 1989.

The White House talks came two months before a key World Trade Organisation (WTO) meeting on world trade liberalisation, with both the US and the EU recently offering cuts in trade-distorting subsidies of up to 70 percent despite domestic resistance. [...]

Mr Barroso at the brief press encounter after the talks reaffirmed the EU’s commitment to the WTO talks, but attempted to shift attention away from agriculture only - with the EU generally being seen as the most protectionist agricultural bloc.

How about a world trade scheme that includes everyone but France?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:32 AM


For and against Chomsky: Is the world's top public intellectual a brilliant expositor of linguistics and the US's duplicitous foreign policy? Or a reflexive anti-American, cavalier with his sources? (Robin Blackburn and Oliver Kamm, November 2005, Prospect)

For Chomsky (Robin Blackburn):

Some believe—as Paul Robinson, writing in the New York Times Book Review, once put it—that there is a "Chomsky problem." On the one hand, he is the author of profound, though forbiddingly technical, contributions to linguistics. On the other, his political pronouncements are often "maddeningly simple-minded." [...]

Chomsky's apparently simple political stance is rooted in an anarchism and collectivism which generates its own sense of individuality and complexity. He was drawn to the study of language and syntax by a mentor, Selig Harrison, who also combined libertarianism with linguistics. Chomsky's key idea of an innate, shared linguistic capacity for co-operation and innovation is a positive, rather than purely normative, rebuttal of the Straussian argument that natural human inequality vitiates democracy. [...]

Chomsky openly admits he prefers "pacifist platitudes" to belligerent mendacity. This makes some wrongly charge that he is "passive in the face of evil." But neither apartheid in South Africa, nor Stalinism in Russia, nor military rule in much of Latin America were defeated or dismantled by bombardment and invasion. Chomsky had no difficulty supporting the ultimately successful campaign against apartheid, or for the Indonesian withdrawal from East Timor. He simply opposes putting US soldiers in harm's way—also meaning where they will do harm and acquire a taste for it. [...]

Against Chomsky (Oliver Kamm):

Chomsky's first book on politics, American Power and the New Mandarins (1969) grew from protest against the Vietnam war. But Chomsky went beyond the standard left critique of US imperialism to the belief that "what is needed [in the US] is a kind of denazification." This diagnosis is central to Chomsky's political output. While he does not depict the US as an overtly repressive society—instead, it is a place where "money and power are able to filter out the news fit to print and marginalise dissent"—he does liken America's conduct to that of Nazi Germany. In his newly published Imperial Ambitions, he maintains that "the pretences for the invasion [of Iraq] are no more convincing than Hitler's."

If this is your judgement of the US then it will be difficult to credit that its interventionism might ever serve humanitarian ends. [...]

After 9/11, Chomsky deployed fanciful arithmetic to draw an equivalence between the destruction of the twin towers and the Clinton administration's bombing of Sudan—in which a pharmaceutical factory, wrongly identified as a bomb factory, was destroyed and a nightwatchman killed. When the US-led coalition bombed Afghanistan, Chomsky depicted mass starvation as a conscious choice of US policy, declaring that "plans are being made and programmes implemented on the assumption that they may lead to the death of several million people in the next couple of weeks… very casually, with no particular thought about it." His judgement was offered without evidence.

The delicious end of Chomsky's argument is that since we're the Nazis it would be immoral for us to stop the real Nazis. His is ultimately a preference for actual evil to imagined.

The Branding of the World's Top Intellectual: Noam Chomsky (Peter Schweizer, 10/19/05, TCS)

One of the most persistent themes in Chomsky's work has been class warfare. He has frequently lashed out against the "massive use of tax havens to shift the burden to the general population and away from the rich" and criticized the concentration of wealth in "trusts" by the wealthiest one percent. The American tax code is rigged with "complicated devices for ensuring that the poor -- like eighty percent of the population -- pay off the rich."

But trusts can't be all bad. After all, Chomsky, with a net worth north of $2,000,000, decided to create one for himself. A few years back he went to Boston's venerable white-shoe law firm, Palmer and Dodge, and with the help of a tax attorney specializing in "income-tax planning" set up an irrevocable trust to protect his assets from Uncle Sam. He named his tax attorney (every socialist radical needs one!) and a daughter as trustees. To the Diane Chomsky Irrevocable Trust (named for another daughter) he has assigned the copyright of several of his books, including multiple international editions.

Chomsky favors the estate tax and massive income redistribution -- just not the redistribution of his income. No reason to let radical politics get in the way of sound estate planning.

When I challenged Chomsky about his trust, he suddenly started to sound very bourgeois: "I don't apologize for putting aside money for my children and grandchildren," he wrote in one email. Chomsky offered no explanation for why he condemns others who are equally proud of their provision for their children and who try to protect their assets from Uncle Sam. Although he did say that the tax shelter is okay because he and his family are "trying to help suffering people."

Indeed, Chomsky is rich precisely because he has been such an enormously successful capitalist. Despite the anti-profit rhetoric, like any other corporate capitalist he has turned himself into a brand name.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 AM


A real danger of damage: Ideology is driving the health service reforms, rather than New Labour's principle of 'what works' (John Denham, October 19, 2005, The Guardian

Rows about new government initiatives are raising sharp and difficult questions about policy-making in Labour's third term. It is difficult to argue with Tony Blair's conference speech: "Choice is what wealthy people have exercised for centuries ... For Labour, choice is too important to be the monopoly of the wealthy." Many party members felt this was a case for choice with which they could be comfortable.

And so they should. It's not an issue on every doorstep, but the demand for choice is gaining strength. Today's minority demand will fast become a right the majority take for granted.

The sterile debate on the value of choice is obscuring the real issues. There are many types of choice and different ways of making them available. The problem is the way the government is doing it. Patricia Hewitt recently urged us to concentrate on the principle, not on the technical detail. But the detailed changes are built on dubious assumptions.

In 2003, the prime minister argued that "competitive pressures and incentives drive up quality, efficiency and responsiveness in the public sector. Choice leads to higher standards." Put in the gentlest way, that is a contentious statement of ideological faith. It is not grounded in any clear evidence, but the belief that it might be true is driving change in every corner of the NHS. Perhaps enough patients will choose from enough hospitals to influence the standard of provision. Perhaps the impact will force all hospitals to improve their care. But, equally, it might leave some NHS hospitals going bankrupt under the strain of providing the high-cost operations that no one else wants to do, as the Audit Commission has warned.

Greater competition may be so effective that it is worth subsidising new private clinic provision with inflated payments, centrally imposed contracts and seconded staff. Is "invest now and save later" worth it? When parts of the NHS are stretched, it is an expensive gamble to give money straight to the private sector without letting the NHS show what it could do with the money.

In Britain it makes Mr. Blair radically First Way to his allies. In America the same ideology makes George W. Bush radically Second Way to his allies. In reality, it's the Anglosphere-wide compromise that marks the Third Way, regardless of whether those leading it are in parties of Left or Right.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:41 AM


Portman woos Democrats (Josephine Hearn, 10/18/05, The Hill)

United States Trade Representative (USTR) Rob Portman is working hard to make good on his pledge to mend fences with Democrats after this summer’s partisan bloodbath over the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).

The affable former congressman from Ohio has visited Capitol Hill frequently this fall, holding private meetings with top Democrats and using his renowned personal appeal to try to pry open doors that slammed shut on the administration’s trade policies during the run-up to CAFTA.

Democrats and Republicans alike have high hopes that Portman’s willingness to gather input from members of Congress will translate into more Democratic votes for future free-trade agreements. CAFTA passed by a razor-thin margin after House leaders kept the vote open for an hour.

It's not a function of communication but ideology. Unions own the Party and won't let them vote for Free Trade.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 5:56 AM


Saddam stands trial at last for massacre (Oliver Poole, The Telegraph, October 19th, 2005)

Saddam Hussein will go on trial in Baghdad today in the first court case brought against an Arab leader for crimes against his own people. But the legal process will be under scrutiny as well, with widespread accusations that it exists merely to enforce "victor's justice".

The former Iraqi president faces charges related to the killing of 143 people in the village of Dujail in 1982. It is expected to be the first of several trials intended to bring him to account for the brutalities inflicted on Iraq during his rule.[...]

In the past eight months many of the Iraqi judges and lawyers have received training in international law from British, American and other international experts.

Mock trials were staged in London and a number of western legal experts have expressed faith in the court's ability to administer the rule of law.

But human rights groups, including Amnesty International, have repeatedly given warnings that the trial risks not being fair.

Whether Iraq’s future is bright or not, it is impossible not to be awed by what Iraqis have accomplished in the past year. A huge turnout at the polls under conditions of extreme danger to elect its first democratic government, a popular constitution approved by all ethnic and sectarian groups and now an unprecedented public calling to account of a tyrannical leader through legal process. All this is historically counter-cultural and has been accomplished in the face of a violent insurgency and the dismissive and strident opposition of most of the Western intelligentsia. Even conservative voices are coming more and more to waffle and wring their hands over “international norms” and other such tranzi fables.

To put all this in an historical context, is this not as if, after Cromwell won the English civil war, he took only two years to establish full-blown late 19th century British democratic constitutionalism in the face of unremitting criticism from scholars and churchmen and ongoing civil strife at home?

Posted by Peter Burnet at 5:48 AM


Canadians still waiting (Tom Blackwell, National Post, October 19th, 2005)

Large increases in health-related spending have only marginally reduced the waiting times for medical services in this country from record-high levels in 2004, a new report says.

The average delay shortened by about a day from last year's 17.9 weeks, the highest number since the Fraser Institute started issuing annual reports on the topic in 1990.

Queues in some areas have shortened, but wait times for joint replacements and other orthopedic surgery -- one of the most backlogged and scrutinized services -- actually lengthened by two weeks, says the think-tank in its survey of specialists.

"This is occurring in spite of dramatic increases in health spending the last three or four years," said Nadeem Esmail, senior analyst with the conservative organization. "The provinces are spending more and more and more on health care, and the wait times are stalling out."[...]

Dr. Brian Postl, the Winnipeg health administrator who acts as the federal government's wait times advisor, said the Fraser Institute results confirm what most Canadians know: It often takes too long to get medical care.

But he said it is unrealistic to expect the new infusion of cash from the federal government to bring tangible results yet.

"The money has only been entering the system in the last few months in most jurisdictions," Dr. Postl said. "Though each province has some considerable success story to tell about how things have improved, a lot of that wouldn't have filtered down to physicians' practices."

Can there be any better illustration of the modern bureaucratic mentality than that Dr. Postl offers his undoubtedly correct explanation confident it will be greeted with understanding rather than rage.

October 18, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:00 PM


Learning to become a liberal (JOHN TIERNEY, 10/18/05, NY Times)

Some academics try to argue that their political ideologies don’t affect the way they teach, which to me is proof of how detached they’ve become from reality in their monocultures. This claim is especially dubious if you’re training lawyers and journalists to deal with controversial public policies.

I realize, from experience at six newspapers, that most journalists try not to impose their prejudices on their work. When I did stories whose facts challenged liberal orthodoxies, editors were glad to run them. When liberal reporters wrote stories, they tried to present the conservative perspective.

The problem isn’t so much the stories that appear as the ones that no one thinks to do. Journalists naturally tend to pursue questions that interest them. So when you have a press corps that’s heavily Democratic — more than 80 percent, according to some surveys of Washington journalists — they tend to do stories that reflect Democrats’ interests.

When they see a problem, their instinct is to ask what the government can do to solve it. I once sat in on a newspaper story conference the day after an armored-car company was robbed of millions of dollars bound for banks. The first idea that came up for a follow-up story was: Does this robbery show the need for stricter regulation of armored-car companies?

We kicked this idea around until I suggested that companies in the business of transporting cash already had a strong incentive not to lose it — presumably an even stronger incentive than any government official regulating their security arrangements. That story died, but not the mind-set that produced it.

The surest way to impress the judges for a journalism prize is to write a series of articles that spur a legislature to right some evil, particularly if it was committed by a corporation. When journalists do exposes of government malfeasance, they usually focus on the need for more regulations and bigger budgets, not on whether the government should be doing the job in the first place.

To some extent, this is a problem of self-selection. Journalism attracts people who want to right wrongs, and the generation that’s been running journalism schools and media businesses came of age when government, especially the federal government, was seen as the solution to most wrongs. These executives, like the tenured radicals in law schools and the rest of academia, hired ideological cronies and shaped their institutions to reflect their views.

But those views are no longer dominant outside newsrooms and academia.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:57 PM


Angela Merkel decides against tax cuts (UPI, 10/18/05)

Germany's chancellor-designate Tuesday dropped her campaign pledge to cut taxes, much to the chagrin of the business community. [...]

The response was swift.

"(It is) alarming that, from the very beginning of the coalition negotiations there was agreement on what cannot -- rather than on what can -- be done. This is a very defensive approach," said Eckart Tuchtfeld, an economist with Commerzbank in Frankfurt.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:36 PM


North Korea's reality gap (Donald Kirk, 10/19/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

If the [Kaesong industrial zone] symbolizes the future, however, the present reality - as seen by members of the Western diplomatic and aid community in the capital Pyongyang and some South Koreans who travel here - is altogether different. The economy, they say, shows no sign of improving as the government imposes ever more draconian steps to snuff out budding economic freedom.

A Western resident, requesting anonymity, cites a series of measures for reimposing tighter controls following attempts at reform. The growing economic clout of traders, says the Westerner, has frightened the political elite here, prompting the backlash. [...]

[F]oreigners are startled by how little has changed visually.

"It's worse than it was in 1979," says Bradley Martin, who visited Pyongyang at that time as a reporter and has recently authored a book, "Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader," detailing the regime's tortuous history. "At that time you had a lot of mechanization. They had rice planting machines and electrical tractors."

Now, says Mr. Martin, on the tour bus as it rolls down a nearly empty highway between hills stripped of growth by villagers desperate for fuel and food, the process of mechanization "has been reversed."

Martin marvels over the regime's success in shielding itself from protest from within. "Indoctrination here is the strongest the world has known," he says.

Now, say foreigners with embassies and aid groups here, Kim Jong Il is intensifying the pressure after replacing the head of internal security, one of the most powerful positions.

New measures include a crackdown on communications that began by outlawing cellphones. Next, telephone networks were cut so foreigners can only dial other foreigners - and have to get Koreans to dial Koreans. Then too, Koreans are banned from driving on Sundays and evenings to discourage socializing.

Here in Kaesong, the sight of a cluster of South Korean factories pales beside the mighty industry that dominates South Korea.

North Koreans, Vietnamese and Cubans have every right to be bitter at us for leaving them behind.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:33 PM


In small towns, military values a big draw (Patrik Jonsson, 10/19/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

With his 4.0 GPA and encyclopedic memory, Ryan Wyndham stands a good chance of someday getting out of St. Stephen, a rickety, impoverished town jammed between Lake Moultrie and Hell Hole Swamp.

This square-jawed member of the Timberland High School JROTC has not only his own future on his mind, but also his country's. At a time when small towns across the country are taking a disproportionate share of casualties, Mr. Wyndham, as with many of his peers, is only feeling more resolved to join the Army.

"In a small town, you simply have a deeper relationship to the people you're defending," he says. "When you're getting shot at, they become your reason for being there."

As the military faces recruitment criticisms and challenges, one bright spot for recruiters is that many potential enlistees in small towns like St. Stephen still reveal a pragmatic patriotism and a deep tie to a community's military history. And they feel responsible to honor past Americans who laid down their lives for flag and country, whether in Vietnam or World War II.

Today, "the only thing that makes [recruiting] easier for the military is when there are communities that have traditions promoting military service," says Loren Thompson, a military affairs expert at the Lexington Institute in Arlington, Va.

That increasing gulf between Blue America and the military can hardly be a good thing for the former.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:26 PM


Why buy a gramophone player when you're being offered an iPod? (Matthew d'Ancona, 19/10/2005, Daily Telegraph)

As the most assiduous of the candidates, Dr Fox will now spend every minute of every hour until the second round closes tomorrow, insisting that the Davis brand is fatally contaminated, and that only he can stop Mr Cameron when the last two candidates go forward to a ballot of the party's 300,000 members.

In response, the shadow home secretary will argue that only he can deliver unity in the party and electoral gains in the cities, the suburbs and the North. He will also dispatch his close ally Damian Green - once a leading Clarke-ite - to woo supporters of the former chancellor, such as Andrew Tyrie, Robert Walter, Sir George Young and Quentin Davies. The argument will be that Mr Davis is now the best choice for Europhiles - yes, you read that correctly - on the ground that, unlike Dr Fox and Mr Cameron, he would not force Conservative MEPs to leave the European People's Party grouping in the European Parliament. Only in a contest as surreal as a Tory leadership race could Mr Davis be presented as the best hope of the Europhiles.

As Mr Davis clings on, Dr Fox gleefully kicking his fingers from the cliff's edge, Westminster observes the end of an era. The departure of Mr Clarke from the race draws to a close not only the leadership ambitions of an individual, but also the dreams of a group of mighty Tories - Clarke, Michael Heseltine, Chris Patten - whose campaign stretches back almost 20 years.

The Westland crisis of 1986 was their defining moment: the trigger for Heseltine's long quest for the Tory crown, his struggle to transform his party's attitude to the European Union and his crusade for a return to cabinet government. In 1997, Heseltine passed the baton to Clarke, whose bizarre axis with John Redwood failed to win him the leadership. Four years later, it was Europe once more that did for Mr Clarke, as Tory members voted overwhelmingly for the Euro-sceptic Iain Duncan Smith. [...]

For Mr Clarke, the problem in the end proved quite straightforward. His act had been stolen from under his nose. Mr Cameron is no "bloke", but, to an extent that was unsuspected until his performance at Blackpool, he is blessed with the capacity to reach beyond his tribe and the political class. As Iain Macleod once remarked of Rab Butler, the shadow education secretary has the unfathomable knack "of attracting to himself wide understanding support from many people outside the Tory party".

In his manifesto, Mr Clarke said that "I have an appeal that goes beyond the politically active part of our communities". True enough: but Mr Cameron seems to have even more of it. In the past weeks, Mr Clarke has reminded me of Norma Desmond, bemoaning the end of the silent movie era, denying that he was trying to stage something so vulgar as a comeback. "I hate that word," says Norma in Sunset Boulevard. "It's a return, a return to the millions of people who have never forgiven me for deserting the screen."

Unfortunately for Mr Clarke, he was ready for his close-up - but the camera had already turned on Cameron.

Yesterday, the former chancellor, one of the most experienced politicians of the postwar era, was faced with the cruellest fate in politics: obsolescence. The Tories and the media have enjoyed every minute of his campaign, but, in the end, they saw him as the Heritage Candidate. He triggered nostalgia, respect and fondness, but he did not respond to the party's longing for a pathway to power. He lacked the shock of the new. It was not so much that he was old, but that something better had come along. Why buy a gramophone player when you are being offered an iPod?

Mr Cameron has grasped more clearly than any of his rivals that his party is choosing a quasi-presidential candidate as much as a party leader.

Unfortunately, the Tories still seem to have a warped fascination with the 8-track tape deck: the EU.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:56 PM


Female firefighters find they can take the heat in Iran (Scott Peterson, 10/19/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

[A]t Station No. 9 in Karaj, west of Tehran, a small unit prides itself on being like few others: the only squad of women firefighters in the Middle East.

Not every rescue requires a feminine touch. But in the Islamic Republic, which tolerates little public mixing of the genders, the 11 women here are breaking new ground and creating a model for cities across the country. They also represent a strain of pragmatic progressivism in Iran that is rarely matched elsewhere in the region.

Women are still subject to a strict Islamic dress code here, though at the moment it is loosely enforced. But there is a women's police division. Women parliamentarians and even vice presidents and a Nobel Peace Prize winner voice their opinions loudly. And in Iran's roiling political atmosphere, women can be criticized as harshly as men. [...]

Finding a balance between Islam and gender issues is easier in Iran than in some other Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia, where women are not allowed to drive, much less hold office.

A women's unit might have made a difference in the holy city of Mecca in March 2002, during a blaze at a girls' school. Some 15 girls died and 50 were injured when Saudi religious police, according to eyewitnesses, beat the girls and kept them from leaving the burning building because they were not wearing "correct" Islamic dress.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:43 PM


Kyoto goals not attainable without crushing the economy: Time to hook up with the Americans, Aussies on climate strategy (National Business Review)

A new report by economic consultancy Castalia reiterates and amplifies earlier warnings about the cost to the economy of attempts to meet greenhouse emission goals set out by the Kyoto accord, saying significant social and economic dislocations are in the cards should the government make a serious compliance attempt. [...]

[A]lex Sundakov, says until new technologies have been developed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel use and agriculture, it will be impossible to reduce emissions in New Zealand if we want to continue to grow our economy.

“With nearly half our greenhouse gas emissions coming from agriculture, where there are no easy solutions, it will be very expensive if we have to try to wring the required national emission reductions out of the remaining sectors of the economy”, he said. “In addition, increasing CO2 emissions from transport are closely related to economic growth.”

He says another factor is that industrial process emissions are all associated with sectors that are globally mobile, so companies can move their operations to countries where they would not face carbon taxes and price based measures.

The result would be a loss of business for New Zealand - the emissions simply moving to another country.

And the Anglosphere shall lead them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:19 PM


The Abortion Debate No One Wants to Have: Prenatal testing is making your right to abort a disabled child more like "your duty" to abort a disabled child. (Patricia E. Bauer, October 18, 2005, Washington Post)

If it's unacceptable for William Bennett to link abortion even conversationally with a whole class of people (and, of course, it is), why then do we as a society view abortion as justified and unremarkable in the case of another class of people: children with disabilities?

I have struggled with this question almost since our daughter Margaret was born, since she opened her big blue eyes and we got our first inkling that there was a full-fledged person behind them.

Whenever I am out with Margaret, I'm conscious that she represents a group whose ranks are shrinking because of the wide availability of prenatal testing and abortion. I don't know how many pregnancies are terminated because of prenatal diagnoses of Down syndrome, but some studies estimate 80 to 90 percent.

Imagine. As Margaret bounces through life, especially out here in the land of the perfect body, I see the way people look at her: curious, surprised, sometimes wary, occasionally disapproving or alarmed. I know that most women of childbearing age that we may encounter have judged her and her cohort, and have found their lives to be not worth living.

To them, Margaret falls into the category of avoidable human suffering. At best, a tragic mistake. At worst, a living embodiment of the pro-life movement. Less than human. A drain on society. That someone I love is regarded this way is unspeakably painful to me.

This view is probably particularly pronounced here in blue-state California, but I keep finding it everywhere, from academia on down. At a dinner party not long ago, I was seated next to the director of an Ivy League ethics program. In answer to another guest's question, he said he believes that prospective parents have a moral obligation to undergo prenatal testing and to terminate their pregnancy to avoid bringing forth a child with a disability, because it was immoral to subject a child to the kind of suffering he or she would have to endure. (When I started to pipe up about our family's experience, he smiled politely and turned to the lady on his left.)

Margaret does not view her life as unremitting human suffering (although she is angry that I haven't bought her an iPod). She's consumed with more important things, like the performance of the Boston Red Sox in the playoffs and the dance she's going to this weekend. Oh sure, she wishes she could learn faster and had better math skills. So do I. But it doesn't ruin our day, much less our lives. It's the negative social attitudes that cause us to suffer.

I always feel admiration for the folks who are raising disabled kids precisely because we live in a world where you can kill them with impunity and none of us can know what we'd do when faced with a similar choice.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:09 PM


Miers backed ban on most abortions in '89 (JESSE J. HOLLAND, October 18, 2005, AP)

Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers pledged support in 1989 for a constitutional amendment banning abortions except when necessary to save the life of the mother, according to material given to the Senate on Tuesday.

As a candidate for the Dallas city council, Miers also signaled support for the overall agenda of Texans United for Life - agreeing she would support legislation restricting abortions if the Supreme Court ruled that states could ban abortions and would participate in "pro-life rallies and special events."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:00 PM


With Freedom Comes Politics (Michael Rubin, October 18, 2005, Wall Street Journal)

On Oct. 15, Iraqis demonstrated that their desire to determine the future through the ballot box was the rule rather than the exception. Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen; Sunnis, Shiites and Christians--all braved threats of violence to vote. The vast majority voted in favor of the constitution. But whatever their positions, Iraqis considered their decision carefully.

The referendum campaign was active. Dueling commercials and newscasts sought to sway the Iraqi vote. Such is the nature of politics in a country no longer subject to state-controlled media.

Some read the constitution. They voted for or against federalism. Some marked their ballot on the basis of how closely they wished religion to be mixed with government. Others did not read the document but learned about it on television, in newspapers and even by text messaging, the latest medium employed by Iraqi politicians to reach constituents. Security, rather than content, was a determinant for some. They voted "yes" to avoid the chaos of failure and the prolongation of occupation.

The referendum capped a constitutional drafting process over which Western commentators and diplomats had been quick to panic. They misunderstand that with freedom comes politics. The same U.S. senators who debated the "nuclear option" for judicial nominees failed to recognize political brinkmanship among their Iraqi counterparts.

You'd be hard pressed to find a better illustration of why the insurgency is doomed than their shutting off the power in Baghdad just before the vote. Think anyone goes to the polls to vote for more chaos?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:46 PM


Reid says Miers should not withdraw nomination to court (STEVE TETREAULT, Oct. 18, 2005, Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid on Monday said embattled Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers should not withdraw her nomination and he agreed with first lady Laura Bush, who has charged complaints about Miers are sexist.

The Nevada Democrat stopped short of endorsing Miers, but said he found her nomination "refreshing" because she has not been a judge.

Reid made his comments at a news conference on Capitol Hill as the White House ramped up efforts to bolster Miers' nomination, which has split President Bush's conservative base.

"As Laura Bush has said, as (Senator) Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) said, there is a whiff of sexism in the far right's complaining about Harriet Miers," Reid said.

...could lose the moral high ground to Harry Reid?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:20 PM

NOW THAT'S WHAT I CALL A BONE (via David Cohen with title):

US security chief strives to expel all illegal immigrants (AP, 10/18/05)

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said his department aims without exception to expel all those who enter the United States illegally.

"Our goal at DHS (Homeland Security) is to completely eliminate the 'catch and release' enforcement problem, and return every single illegal entrant, no exceptions.

"It should be possible to achieve significant and measurable progress to this end in less than a year," Chertoff told a Senate hearing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:58 PM


Clarke knocked out of Tory race (BBC, 10/18/05)

Ex-chancellor Ken Clarke has been knocked out of the race to become the next leader of the Conservative Party.

The self-styled "big beast" came fourth in the poll of Tory MPs, gaining 38 of the 198 available votes.

Of his rivals, David Davis came top with 62 votes, followed by David Cameron on 56 and Liam Fox on 42.

The three remaining candidates go through to another vote by Tory MPs on Thursday. That will select the two who go to a ballot of all party members.

Apparently even they aren't that Stupid a Party?

Posted by pjaminet at 12:57 PM


U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Questionnaire to Harriet Ellan Miers

U.S. Senate: Please discuss your views on the following criticism involving “judicial activism.”

Harriet Miers: The role of the Federal judiciary within the Federal government, and within society, generally, has become the subject of increasing controversy in recent years. It has become the target of both popular and academic criticism that alleges that the judicial branch has usurped many of the prerogatives of other branches and levels of government.

Some of the characteristics of this “judicial activism” have been said to include:

a. a tendency by the judiciary toward problem-solution rather than grievance-resolution;

b. a tendency by the judiciary to employ the individual plaintiff as a vehicle for the imposition of far-reaching orders extending to broad classes of individuals;

c. a tendency by the judiciary to impose broad, affirmative duties upon governments and society;

d. a tendency by the judiciary toward loosening jurisdictional requirements such as standing and ripeness; and

e. a tendency by the judiciary to impose itself upon other institutions in the manner of an administrator with continuing oversight responsibilities.

The role of the judiciary in our system of government is limited. While its role and its independence are essential to the proper functioning of our tripartite system of government, the courts cannot be the solution to society’s ills, and the independence of the courts provides no license for them to be free-wheeling. And, of course, parties should not be able to establish social policy through court action, having failed to persuade the legislative branch or the executive branch of the wisdom and correctness of their preferred course. Courts are to be arbiters of disputes, not policy makers. As has been said many times, the role of the courts is to interpret law and not to make it. My own beliefs about these issues have been formed over many years, and find their roots in the beginning of my legal career.

Beginning during my two years as a Federal district court clerk, I was taught by the judge for whom I clerked, Judge Joe E. Estes, the importance of Federal courts’ keeping to their limited role. His first task – and therefore mine in assisting him – in every case before him was to examine whether the case was properly in court. Was there a party with standing? Did subject matter jurisdiction exist? Was venue proper? These were all questions – and all related questions going to whether the court had subject matter jurisdiction – that he wanted answered before any others. If the answer was “no” to any of them, the case was dismissed promptly. These basic rules of Article III impose a clear responsibility on courts to maintain their limited role.

“Judicial activism” can result from a court’s reaching beyond its intended jurisdiction to hear disputes that are not ripe, not brought by a party with standing, not brought in the proper court, or otherwise not properly before the court because of the case’s subject matter. An additional element of judicial restraint is to be sure only to decide the case before the court, and not to reach out to decide unnecessary questions. The courts have the essential role of acting as the final arbiter of constitutional meaning, including drawing the appropriate lines between the competing branches of government. But that role is limited to circumstances in which the resolution of a contested case or controversy requires the courts to act.

As I entered private practice, I grew to appreciate even more the importance of predictability and stability in the law, and came to believe that those values are best served by a rigorous and focused approach to the law. For the legal system to be predictable, the words are vital – whether they are agreed upon by parties to a contract or are the product of legislative compromise. Many times in practice I found myself stressing to clients the importance of getting the words exactly right if their interests were to be protected in the future. Legal practice also taught me the importance of stability in the law. A lawyer must be able to advise her clients based upon the existing case law. Courts should give proper consideration to the text as agreed upon, the law as written, and applicable precedent. Then our system of justice can achieve appropriate stability, clarity, and predictability. Those values cannot be effectively pursued unless the law and the facts determine the outcome of a case, rather than the identity of the judge before whom a case is brought. Time and again, I saw that principle in real world cases. The importance of the rule of law, as opposed to peculiarities of specific judges, was just as critical in small matters involving individuals as it was big litigation involving millions of dollars.

“Judicial activism” can occur when a judge ignores the principles of precedent and stare decisis. Humility and self-restraint require the judiciary to adhere to its limited role and recognize that where applicable precedent exists, courts are not free to ignore it. Mere disagreement with a result is insufficient to justify ignoring applicable precedent, but reconsideration under appropriate circumstances is also necessary. There are clear examples, like Brown v. Board of Education, where revisiting precedent is not only right, it is prudent. Any decision to revisit a precedent should follow only the most careful consideration of the factors that courts have deemed relevant to that question. Thus, whether the prior decision is wrong is only the beginning of the inquiry. The court must also consider other factors, such as whether the prior decision has proven unworkable, whether developments in the law have undermined the precedent, and whether legitimate reliance interests militate against overruling.

As my career progressed, I became an elected official charged with legislative power. In that role, I was able fully to appreciate the difference between the role of those who are to make the law and those who are to interpret it....

Finally, my time serving in the White House, particularly as Counsel to the President, has given me a fuller appreciation of the role of the separation of powers in maintaining our constitutional system. In that role, I have frequently dealt with matters concerning the nature and role of the Executive Power. And by necessity my work has required that I deal with the power of Congress in relation to the Executive. The remaining, and essential, component in our system is of course the power of the Judiciary. The Judicial Branch has its own role to play in the separation of powers. It is part of the system of checks and balances. In interpreting the law in the course of deciding contested cases and controversies, the Supreme Court holds the Executive and Legislative Branches to their respective constitutional roles.

Judicial review by the Supreme Court, including determining the meaning of the Constitution and declaring unconstitutional the actions of another branch of government, is a tremendous power exercised by judges who are not accountable to the electorate. Because their power is so great, and because it is largely unchecked, judges must be vigilant in exercising their power in a humble, prudent, and limited way. The courts must always be ready to decide cases according to the Constitution and laws of the United States, and to do so fairly and without regard to the wealth or power of the litigants before them. But it is just as important for the courts to stand ready not to decide in instances that do not call for a decision.

My experience working for Judge Estes provided another valuable lesson. He decided every case according to the law and facts, and he did not worry about the potential for a negative reaction to his decisions. He felt no pressure to please anyone. His only lodestar was the law. The example of Judge Estes helped to instill in me an appreciation for the importance of judicial independence that has only grown stronger over time. Criticism of courts that overstep their role is justified. We must zealously guard, however, the independence of the courts. While legitimate criticism of judicial activism is healthy, even essential, we must be wary of unduly criticizing judges merely because we disagree with the result in a particular case. Judges are given life tenure and independence to shield them from the potential tyranny of the majority. While life tenure and independence should not be a license to usurp the rule of law in favor of a rule of man, they provide an essential structural protection to ensure that judges are able to make decisions based only on the fundamental vision of the Founders – the rule of law.

It would be interesting to hear how she resolves the tension between "As has been said many times, the role of the courts is to interpret law and not to make it" and "The courts have the essential role of acting as the final arbiter of constitutional meaning, including drawing the appropriate lines between the competing branches of government" -- if the courts "draw the lines" then are they really "interpreting law and not making it"? I would rather have heard her say that the Constitution drew the lines, and discuss the tenth amendment definition of federal power vs state, and the Article I-III divisions of powers among the branches, as lines that need to be respected by judges.

Also, it would be interesting to hear her resolution of the tension between "principles of precedent and stare decisis" and her oath to support the Constitution. If principles of precedent and the oath come into conflict, because a precedent was decided contrary to the Constitution, which does she support -- the precedent or the Constitution? And if "legitimate reliance interests" conflict with the Constitution, which wins her loyalty?

All in all, however, it's a pretty good answer -- nods to the Democratic Senators' talking points, but nothing clearly unsound. Certainly she is far superior as a nominee to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and it would be a monstrous betrayal of the party for a Republican Senator who voted for Ginsburg to vote against Harriet Miers. As conservatives, it's our duty to support her confirmation and to keep working to build greater loyalty to the Constitution and its principles, so that nominees openly faithful to the Constitution will no longer be excluded by the Senate.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:49 PM


Tax proposal for less paper, but fewer deductions (Richard Wolf, 10/18/05, USA TODAY)

Members of President Bush's tax commission planned to propose Tuesday to radically shrink and simplify federal tax forms, in part by doing away with popular deductions such as the one for state and local taxes.

The recommendation, which is subject to approval by the full nine-member panel, would replace the familiar 75-line Form 1040 with a 32-line "1040 SIMPLE Form." It would also reduce the number of related schedules and worksheets from 52 to 10.

"I've been told that this is the simplest form that would be available to all taxpayers in more than 50 years," said Jeffrey Kupfer, the panel's executive director.

The proposal is driven by Bush's demand for a simpler tax process and by a series of recommendations by the panel that would strip away scores of special tax breaks.

The latest is the deduction for state and local taxes. The proposal calls for the deduction, which will save taxpayers about $50 billion this year, to be eliminated. Last week, the panel agreed to limit popular deductions for mortgage interest and health insurance premiums.

At least getting rid of that one hits Blue states hardest.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:42 PM


Right ups ante on Miers (Alexander Bolton, 10/18/05, The Hill)

Influential conservatives who oppose the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court are raising money to escalate their campaign to persuade her to withdraw from consideration. [...]

David Frum, the former White House speechwriter who helped coin the phrase “axis of evil,” is coordinating the anti-Miers fundraising effort.

What makes this especially galling is that when it was one of the neocons who was under fire, John Bolton -- who even his friends and allies acknowledge is pretty much of a prick[ly personality] -- the President stood by him and them. Apparently for these guys loyalty is a one way street.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:28 PM


In Sign of Conservative Split, a Commentator Is Dismissed (RICHARD W. STEVENSON, 10/18/05, NY Times)

In the latest sign of the deepening split among conservatives over how far to go in challenging President Bush, Bruce Bartlett, a Republican commentator who has been increasingly critical of the White House, was dismissed on Monday as a senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis, a conservative research group based in Dallas.

In a statement, the organization said the decision was made after Mr. Bartlett supplied its president, John C. Goodman, with the manuscript of his forthcoming book, "The Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy."

Mr. Bartlett, who was a domestic policy aide at the White House in the Reagan administration and a deputy assistant Treasury secretary under the first President Bush, confirmed that he had been dismissed after 10 years with the center but declined to make any further comment. [...]

Mr. Bartlett was an early proponent of supply-side economics, and in the late 1970's was active in promoting the tax-cutting philosophy that later became the basis for President Ronald Reagan's economic agenda. In recent years he has written a syndicated newspaper column as well as articles for academic journals.

Like many economic conservatives, he has grown increasingly disenchanted with the current administration's fiscal policy, arguing that Mr. Bush has tolerated if not encouraged a federal spending spree, dashing conservative hopes for progress toward a smaller, leaner government.

So a guy who's resume highlight is the time when he "helped" Ronald Reagan give us deficits that were 5% of GDP has written a book critical of George W. Bush for giving us deficits equal to 3.5% of GDP? Mr. Bartlett's old boss used to dismiss folks like he's become as the "green-eyeshade crowd."

Posted by kevin_whited at 9:26 AM


Mao: the ugly reality behind an icon (Marjorie Kehe, Christian Science Monitor, 10/18/05, review of Mao the Unknown Story by Jung Chang & Jon Halliday)

There is much that is painful to read in this book, but perhaps the harshest chapters are those that deal with the starvation of the Chinese people in the 1950s. Mao's determination to push his country toward industrialization (and to curry favor with other Socialist nations by offering generous food aid) came at a horrific price to his people.

Chinese government figures show that by 1960, the average Chinese was eating about 1,500 calories a day - a diet equivalent to that of slave-laborers at Auschwitz.

Yet while his people starved, Mao feasted on specialty foods, responding to stories of peasant suffering with statements like: "Having only tree leaves to eat? So be it." and " 'Oh, peasants' lives are so hard' - the end of the world! I have never thought so."

It's a little surprising -- but perhaps not entirely so -- that the reviewer is most pained by the great utopian/totalitarian leader's inadvertent killing of his own people.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:06 AM


n Belarus, faint hopes for an unlikely event (Steven Lee Myers, 10/17/05, The New York Times)

Few here or abroad believe Belarus's beleaguered opposition can win the election, expected before July. But with the support of the United States and Europe, its effort is shaping up as a new struggle over democracy in what was once the Soviet Union - one likely to inflame tensions not only with Lukashenko's government, but also that of President Vladimir Putin of Russia, whose government opposes Western efforts to democratize former Soviet states.

"There will be a road to democracy in Belarus," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice declared earlier this year after meeting with Lukashenko's opponents in neighboring Lithuania, calling his government "the last dictatorship in the center of Europe." [...]

Lukashenko's opponents do have support abroad. The United States has pledged $5 million to support democracy in Belarus, though has not detailed how the money will be spent. The European Union is paying the German radio channel, Deutsche Welle, to broadcast into the country, prompting complaints of Cold War-like tactics from Belarus and Russia.

"The West will not spare any expenses," Lukashenko said this year, in one of his frequent denunciations of European and American support for democracy. A popular uprising like Ukraine's, he said, is "the last thing that we need."

There are indications, however, that external pressure - and the continued isolation of Lukashenko and several other officials, who are prohibited from traveling in Europe - might be having some impact.

Lukashenko last month agreed to allow 800 representatives of the opposition to meet in a cultural center in Minsk - instead of abroad, as they initially had planned. After meeting on Oct. 1 and 2, delegates from across the political spectrum, from communists to liberals, selected Milinkevich as a unified opposition candidate.

Milinkevich, a professor and television commentator, once served as a deputy mayor in Grodno and then headed a nongovernmental organization that Lukashenko's government banned in 2001.

Belarussians, he said, are ready for a change in leadership - something suggested by recent polls.

Belarus is not going to escape History.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:01 AM


Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Hollywood Franchise (SHARON WAXMAN, 10/18/05, NY Times)

The book has "franchise" written all over it. For 42 years, Encyclopedia Brown, boy detective, has been one of the literary world's best-known children's protagonists. And yet, despite Hollywood's fervor to mine popular literature for the movies (paging Harry Potter), it has never made it to the silver screen.

On Monday, agents for the producers Howard Deutsch and Ridley Scott sought to change that by setting in motion what they hoped would be a lively auction of the movie rights to "Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective," a trove of some two dozen books. The agents began calling all the major Hollywood studios with a package offer that included the movie rights, an action-adventure script, the rights to ancillary markets, like video games and merchandizing, and the cachet of the powerhouse filmmaker Sir Ridley.

For Mr. Deutsch, who bought the multimedia rights to the books in 1979 for $25,000, it was, he hoped, the final push to bring Encyclopedia Brown to the giant screen after myriad attempts in 25 years.

"It's a classic, and it's been relevant to three generations of children," Mr. Deutsch said.

The only way such a franchise might be tolerable is if the filmmakers were strictly forbidden ever to use special effects.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:56 AM


In egalitarian Europe, a not-so-hidden world of squalor (Katrin Bennhold, 10/18/05, International Herald Tribune)

In the burned-out Parisian stairwells, Dutch squats, Italian camps and Portuguese slums, some of Europe's greatest challenges have converged: the integration of a growing number of immigrants, rising housing prices and high unemployment.

The net inflow of legal immigrants into the 25 countries that make up the European Union today has more than doubled over the last decade, rising from 826,000 in 1993 to 2.1 million in 2003, according to the latest Eurostat figures. The desperate ambition of those in poverty-stricken developing countries to come to Europe has been powerfully illustrated in recent weeks when hundreds of Africans tried to climb razor-wire fences separating Morocco from two Spanish enclaves, and more than a dozen were killed in the process.

Meanwhile, European housing prices have risen by an average annual rate of 7 percent over the past five years, bolstering speculation, and joblessness hovers around the 9 percent mark in the EU as a whole.

Where all three factors come together, as in France or Italy, housing conditions of the poorest seem to be worst. Elsewhere, mitigating factors, like lower unemployment, as in Britain, or slack in the housing market, as in Germany, have limited the misery.

At least the housing market will keep slackening as the natives die off.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:46 AM


China Builds Its Dreams, and Some Fear a Bubble (DAVID BARBOZA, 10/18/05, NY Times)

Rising prices have created a circus-like atmosphere in parts of China. Real estate fairs are mobbed, land speculation is rampant and some poor farmers dream about converting their wheat fields into the next Beverly Hills.

Indeed, prices have risen so fast over the last few years and the pace of building has been so furious here and in other large cities that the government and some leading economists have been warning about a huge property bubble in China.

The building boom is a principal reason that China is searching around the world for energy and natural resources: it needs the raw material to build new cities, and the energy to power them. That is helping drive up world commodity prices and threatening global environmental damage .

China's heavy reliance on coal to power its overcharged economy has already made it the world's second-largest producer of greenhouse gases, after the United States. And the World Health Organization says China has 7 of the world's 10 most-polluted cities.

The construction boom is also beginning to wipe out what little is left of the old China, alarming historic preservationists. Indeed, as the world's most-populous country, at 1.3 billion, rapidly modernizes and urbanizes, producing millions of new homeowners, its social and economic fabric is being fundamentally altered.

China's housing rush is being fueled by mortgage rates around 5 percent and huge inflows of foreign capital. But the boom is also driven by landmark government housing reforms from the 1990's that for the first time since the Communist revolution of the late 1940's allowed Chinese to acquire their own homes rather than live in government housing.

As a result of this privatization, thousands of new residential projects are rising in the bustling coastal provinces. And sprawling satellite towns and luxury villa developments are sprouting in what was once farmland.

This may just a suggestion of what is ahead. China expects 75 million more farmers to move to cities over the next five years, amounting to one of the biggest mass migrations in history, according to CLSA, a brokerage house specializing in the Asia-Pacific region.

"China's demand for housing is just getting going," says Andy Rothman, a CLSA analyst in Shanghai.

How economic superpowers rise (Harold James, Apr 19, 2005, Taipei Times)
[T]he economics of the rise of industrial Germany and Japan should hold comforting lessons for us today. The fears were misplaced, because the world benefited from cheaper and more readily available products. Thanks to German manufacturers, pianos were no longer restricted to aristocratic salons or the professional middle class, but began appearing in respectable working-class homes. Thanks to Japanese car producers, US manufacturers learned to produce more efficiently and competitively.?

The classical liberal free-trade argument about the universal economic benefits of greater commerce and open markets proved to be unambiguously correct. It did not matter that the catch-up countries' economic "miracles" were produced in part by illiberal policies guided by government bureaucracies. The outcome was an endorsement of the lessons of economic liberalism.

But changing economic balances also lead to changing political balances. At the moment, it looks as if there is nothing to fear from China. Like Germany in the mid-19th century, or Japan in the 1960s, China sees many advantages in participating in the international order more or less as it is currently configured.

Can this change? Germany certainly became assertive, owing mostly to the social pressures and tensions incited by rapid economic growth. When it feared that it might be overtaken by the next rising economic power, the vast Russian empire, assertiveness turned into aggression. By the early 20th century, Germans had concluded that Russia's faster demographic growth and industrialization posed a military threat.

China can already see considerable problems in the medium term. In 40 years, a demographic implosion within China, the consequence of its one-child policy, will make European and Japanese concerns about aging populations look trivial.

Before then, profound inequalities between China's poor countryside and its dynamic industrial centers will generate tensions, which may be increased by the gender imbalance -- young men greatly outnumber young women. Combine this with a tottering authoritarian regime, and something like the pre-1914 German scenario looks realistic.

Hopefully the highrises are easily convertible to prisons.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:15 AM


As Hussein trial nears, town reflects on horror: Many voice hope for punishment (Sa'ad al-Izzi and Anne Barnard, October 18, 2005, Boston Globe)

DUJAIL, Iraq: The people of this grape-growing town 35 miles north of Baghdad live surrounded by reminders of the time they tangled with Saddam Hussein. Dust blows where date palms once stood, scores of families still mourn, and a makeshift memorial displays photographs of the dead.

When Hussein's long-awaited trial opens tomorrow, Iraqi prosecutors plan to charge him first with ordering the killing of more than 140 men from Dujail and exiling their families to a desert camp in 1982 after a band of gunmen tried to assassinate him on a visit to the town. To the families of the alleged victims, and hundreds of thousands more across Iraq, the trial offers tantalizing hope that they will see Hussein punished at last.

''We want to eat him alive," said Salimah Majeed Al-Haidari, 60, who spent more than four years in detention, then waited 17 more to learn that her husband and two sons, hauled off by security officers, had been executed. ''We wish they would cut him to pieces and hand them out to us and families like us."

As Al Gore so often reminds us, but for the vote of one Supreme Court Justice these folks would still be living in terror.

Trial of Milosevic Holds Lessons for Iraqi Prosecutors (Molly Moore, 10/18/05, Washington Post)

As Iraqi prosecutors prepare for the trial of former president Saddam Hussein, scheduled to begin in Baghdad on Wednesday, Milosevic's slow-moving case at the U.N. Balkans war crimes tribunal demonstrates the many pitfalls entailed in trying deposed leaders in a court of law: The defendants drag out their cases, they can intimidate witnesses, and any links to atrocities are usually concealed by layers of subordinates.

For the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia -- the first international war crimes court established since the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials after World War II -- the long-running Milosevic courtroom drama is both a cause of the toughest criticism the tribunal has received and a symbol of its greatest success.

"The slowness sometimes doesn't give us the best image," Theodor Meron, president of the 25-judge tribunal, said in an interview. "But this is truly an historic case."

Speaking of the Iraqi court, Meron said it would have to guarantee the rights of its famous defendant to be credible to the public: "Any court dealing with atrocities has to pay particular respect to due process. There can be no cutting corners."

Why? Why should these guys be afforded a stage for their views and an opportunity to exploit the system? Who cries for Mussolini?

Video clip seen as key in Saddam case (MARIAM FAM, October 19, 2005, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The Dujail case all started when Saddam visited the previously little-known town of July 8, 1982.

What followed, the prosecutor said, was a series of raids, arrests, killings and destruction of a scale disproportionate to a relatively minor incident.

There is a widely held belief that gunmen shot at Saddam's convoy as it drove through Dujail. The chief prosecutor challenged that Wednesday, arguing that about a dozen bullets, maybe up to 15, were fired from an automatic rifle into the air - not at Saddam's motorcade.

In a speech after the alleged attack, Saddam himself told the people of Dujail that no more than 10 gunmen were involved, al-Mousawi said.

That same day, four people from Dujail were arrested and brought to Saddam, who personally interrogated them.

Then, hours after the Iraqi president left town, huge numbers of Republican Guards, security forces, members of Saddam's Baath party and his intelligence service descended on Dujail, sealing it off. Helicopters indiscriminately fired on fields, killing many people, al-Mousawi said.

Back in Baghdad, Saddam asked Taha Yassin Ramadan - a co-defendant in the Dujail trial - to head a security meeting in response to the alleged attack against him, and asked his half brother, Barazan Ibrahim, to lead the operations, the prosecutor said.

The response was swift.

Ibrahim arrived in Dujail at 7 p.m. that same day. He ordered security and intelligence forces to raid homes and to arrest suspects and their relatives. In all, 687 were detained. Because the Dujail operations center was too small, the suspects were sent to a security office in Baghdad.

On July 10, a committee headed by Ramadan was formed upon Saddam's order to study the situation in Dujail and make security recommendations.

The committee recommended that 399 detainees - including women, children and elderly - be transferred to a desert detention camp in Samawah, near the Saudi border, and that the detainees orchards and agricultural lands in Dujail be destroyed.

When the intelligence investigators returned from Dujail, they started questioning 148 suspects.

"They used all kinds of physical and psychological torture against them," al-Mousawi said, claiming that 46 of them died during the interrogations and were secretly buried.

Saddam honored some of the officials who carried out the acts of reprisals against the people of Dujail, prompting investigators to "embark on more barbaric acts," the prosecutor added.

The 148 were then referred to the Revolutionary Court - a step that al-Mousawi said was a charade of justice.

Among the 148 people were the 46 who al-Mousawi maintains died during interrogations; four who were apparently executed separately and who al-Mousawi says were not even related to the Dujail case; and two who were detained in the desert camp.

"This shows that the procedures of the Revolutionary court were nominal and only on paper, meaning that the defendants were not brought to the court and were not tried," the prosecutor told the court.

Nonetheless, he said, the 148 received death sentences within hours.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:12 AM


Miers speeches backed stronger executive branch (Rick Klein, October 18, 2005, Boston Globe)

Earlier this year, Supreme Court nominee Harriet E. Miers used several speeches to push for expanding President Bush's powers to protect the United States against terrorism, arguing that ''a nation at war" needs a stronger executive branch, according to transcripts the White House has provided to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

In her speeches to conservative groups, Miers called for extension of the Patriot Act, which expands law enforcement agencies' power to investigate suspected terrorists.

She defended Vice President Dick Cheney's closed-door energy task force as the best way for the administration to use confidential deliberations to set national policy. And she said her role as White House counsel was generally to ''protect against any attempted infringement on the appropriate role of the executive branch."

''In order to effectively serve the American people, the president's powers must be protected," Miers said in June, in a speech given to the conservative Heritage Foundation. ''We must recognize that we are a nation at war, and that requires a strong presidency to act as commander-in-chief."

Since her promotion to White House counsel this year, Miers has given speeches arguing policies favored by the Bush position, including tort reform limiting the size of class-action awards and a trust fund for asbestos victims.

She also explained that Bush believes judges should strictly interpret laws and not legislate from the bench and had harsh words for a series of Democratic-led filibusters blocking votes on some of the president's judicial nominees.

''Each nominee is entitled to an up-or-down vote," Miers told the conservative Federalist Society in April, a speech in which she called the group ''an important ally" of the White House. ''Recently, as you know all too well, a minority of senators have used the filibuster to deny certain of President Bush's deserving nominees an up-or-down vote, not because of qualifications, but because that minority disagrees with the judicial philosophy of the nominees."

What is it that her opponents think a White House Counsel does, if not deal with major constitutional and legal issues?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:06 AM


Professor defends intelligent design (Tracie Mauriello, October 18, 2005, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

"The conclusion that something is designed does not require knowledge of a designer," Dr. [Michael] Behe said as he began six hours of testimony.

"Intelligent design is a science that proposes some aspects of life are best explained by design," he testified. "It is based on observable, empirical evidence from nature, plus logical inferences."

Dr. Behe finds evidence of design in systems of naturally occurring parts that appear to be arranged for a purpose.

The bacterial flagellum is an example, he said, shining a laser pointer on a diagram in the packed courtroom. The flagellum is a tail-like appendage with parts resembling a turbine, a drive shaft and a propeller, which together operate like a motor, he said.

The theory of evolution doesn't explain the origin of flagella, so they must be the result of design, said Dr. Behe, who is such a controversial figure in the debate over intelligent design that his colleagues at Lehigh posted a disclaimer on the biology department's Web site. "Intelligent design has no basis in science, has not been tested experimentally and should not be regarded as scientific," the statement reads.

Dr. Behe says evolution is testable, but its proponents have not attempted to prove or disprove the theory.

"You can place bacteria lacking a flagellum under some selective pressure and grow then to 10,000 generations," which would take two years, he testified yesterday. "If a flagellum or any equally complex system were produced ... my claims would be neatly disproven."

If intelligent beings designed a lab experiment that forced the evolution of a bacteria with a flagellum it would disprove intelligent design?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:23 AM


INTERVIEW: with Andrew Bostom: The Legacy of Jihad (Paul J Cella, Red State)

Dr. Andrew Bostom is a physician specializing in Epidemiology. Since 1997 he has been part of the full-time medical faculty at one of the two major teaching hospital affiliates of Brown University. His current research focuses on the relationship between kidney and cardiovascular disease. Bostom is also the editor of the newly-released book The Legacy of Jihad, a compendium of writings, both modern and ancient, on the uniquely Islamic institution of Jihad. I interviewed him via email over this past week.

October 17, 2005

Posted by Matt Murphy at 9:05 PM


Karl Rove's Garage Proves to Be Typical (Darlene Superville, The Associated Press, 10/17/05)

He is "the architect" who steered George W. Bush to victory four times, twice as Texas governor and twice as president.

But can Karl Rove organize his own garage? Can the master of Bush's political planning figure out where to put the ladders, paint cans and cardboard boxes?

Rove's wife, Darby, raised the white garage door one morning last week to show journalists outside the million-dollar brick home [...]

There was no car in the garage. And the stuff left behind turned out not to be much different from what gathers dust inside most American garages.

The inventory, seen from outside:

_Some cardboard file boxes stacked one on top of the other, labeled "Box 6,""Box 4" and what appears to be "Box 7." No sign of boxes 1, 2, 3 and 5.

_What appear to be paint cans stacked alongside a folded, folding chair.

_A rather large wood crate marked "FRAGILE" and painted with arrows indicating which way is up. On top of the crate, two coolers. [...]

_In one corner, the rear wheel of a bicycle sticks out, along with what appears to be a helmet.

Betcha didn't know that the AP and The Onion have merged operations.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:41 PM


Press sees hope after Iraq vote (BBC, 10/17/05)

Newspapers in the Middle East are encouraged by the Iraqi constitution referendum, although they see a long road ahead until stability is achieved...

None of these guys could get a job in the MSM.