November 30, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:53 PM

ME-TOOISM (via Robert Schwartz):

Senator Clinton Calls for Withdrawal From Iraq to Begin in 2006 (PATRICK D. HEALY, November 30, 2005, NY Times)

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, in her strongest statement on the war in Iraq since visiting the country in 2003, yesterday defended her vote to authorize military action but harshly criticized President Bush's leadership and called for a plan to begin withdrawing troops next year.

In a 1,600-word letter that was e-mailed to thousands of New Yorkers, Mrs. Clinton used new verbiage to attack the White House's war planning from top to bottom, while also laying out her general vision for reducing troop levels. The letter came on the eve of an Iraq speech by President Bush, as well as one month after an antiwar crusader, Cindy Sheehan, denounced Mrs. Clinton's position on the war.

"I take responsibility for my vote, and I, along with a majority of Americans, expect the president and his administration to take responsibility for the false assurances, faulty evidence and mismanagement of the war," Mrs. Clinton wrote, in response to letters from New York residents with questions about the war.

Strip out the anti-Bush rhetoric and she still just supports the President's strategy.

Strategy for Iraq (Washington Post, December 1, 2005)

THOUGH YOU wouldn't know it from the partisan rhetoric, there is substantial agreement in Washington on the strategy for Iraq outlined yesterday by President Bush. The president denounced those who would "cut and run" from the country and in turn was lambasted by Democrats for inflexibly staying the course. In fact, many Democrats in Congress agree with the principal elements of Mr. Bush's "strategy for victory," which are to build up a representative Iraqi government and security forces to defend it in the next 12 months while gradually shrinking the numbers and duties of U.S. troops.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:50 PM


C.P. Snow: Bridging the Two-Cultures Divide (DAVID P. BARASH, 11/25/05, The Chronicle Review)

The year 2005 is the centenary of the birth — and the 25th anniversary of the death — of C.P. Snow, British physicist, novelist, and longtime denizen of the "corridors of power" (a phrase he coined). It is also 45 years since the U.S. publication of his best-known work, a highly influential polemic that generated another phrase with a life of its own, and that warrants revisiting today: The Two Cultures.

Actually, the full title was The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution, presented by Snow as the prestigious Rede Lecture at the University of Cambridge in 1959 before being published as a brief book shortly thereafter. Since then his basic point has seeped into public consciousness as metaphor for a kind of dialogue of the deaf. Snow's was perhaps the first — and almost certainly the most influential — public lamentation over the extent to which the sciences and the humanities have drifted apart. [...]

[T]oday's readers will be surprised by Snow's conflation of "literary intellectuals" with backward-looking conservatives, notably right-wing Fascist sympathizers such as Yeats, Wyndham Lewis, and Ezra Pound, and his cheerful, optimistic portrayal of scientists as synonymous with progress and social responsibility. After all, for every D.H. Lawrence and T.S. Eliot there were a dozen luminaries of the literary left, just as for every Leo Szilard, an Edward Teller. Snow himself was an establishment liberal, suitably worried about nuclear war, overpopulation, and the economic disparities between rich and poor countries. He lamented the influence of those who, he feared, were likely to turn their backs on human progress; in turn, Snow may have been naïvely optimistic and even downright simplistic about the potential of science to solve the world's problems.

The Two Cultures is generous in criticizing both cultures for their intellectual isolationism, and Snow — being both novelist and physicist — was himself criticized for immodestly holding himself forth (albeit implicitly) as the perfect embodiment of what an educated person should be. Indeed, someone once commented about Snow that he was "so well-rounded as to be practically spherical." But Snow's gentle curses do not fall evenhandedly on both houses, which doubtless raised the ire of Leavis and his ilk. The "culture of science," Snow announced, "contains a great deal of argument, usually much more rigorous, and almost always at a higher conceptual level, than the literary persons' arguments." Scientists "have the future in their bones" whereas literary intellectuals are "natural Luddites" who "wish the future did not exist." Snow's proposed solution? Broaden the educational system.

More significant for our time, however, are not Snow's recommendations, the tendentious reception of his thesis, how he couched it, or even, perhaps, whether he got it right, so much as whether, as widely construed, it currently applies. And whether it matters.

Other than the initial idea of a cultural divide, pretty nearly everything in the book is wrong.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:22 PM


Work till you drop and pay more tax for the privilege (George Jones, 01/12/2005, Daily Telegraph)

Young people will have to work into their late 60s, save more and pay higher taxes if they are to enjoy a comfortable retirement, said the Pensions Commission report published yesterday.

Even 40-year-olds could wait another year, until 66, to receive their state pension, while a 32-year-old would have to work for two more years and a 23-year-old for another three. [...]

Actuaries claimed last night that the Turner report underestimated the impact of longevity. Further and steeper rises in the retirement age would be needed - with those starting work now unlikely to get state pensions before 75.,/blockquote>
Life expectancy is already 78+ in Britain.

Posted by David Cohen at 8:06 PM


The Reliable Source: This Just In (Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts, Washington Post, 11/30/05)

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) says the NFL and Philadelphia Eagles are being unfair to wide receiver Terrell Owens, and he just might bring the matter to the antitrust subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee he chairs, so there. Just because Owens is a spoiled brat who humiliates his teammates and ruins their season is no reason for them to prevent him from playing or talking to other teams; it's "vindictive and inappropriate," said Specter. (The Eagles deactivated Owens on Sunday after a four-game suspension; an arbitrator ruled the action was supported by terms of the player's contract.)
Chalk one up for K-Lo.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:12 PM


Ruddock firm on sedition
(Mark Day, The Australian, December 1st, 2005)

Last-minute appeals by representatives of Australia's big media organisations have failed to persuade the Howard Government that it should shelve its sedition laws.

After a trip to Canberra late yesterday for talks with officials in the Prime Minister's office, media executives were gloomy about the prospect of change.

Media companies and industry bodies, supported by arts and legal organisations, have united in an unprecedented display of opposition to the sedition sections of the Government's anti-terror legislation. They have branded it a threat to press freedom, a scaling back of free speech, and unnecessary. But the Government has been unmoved.

One media executive who has been involved in the long-running negotiations with the government told Media: "There is very great disappointment that the Government plans to enact an imperfect bill."

He said after the meeting with officials in the PM's office there may be minor changes to the sedition section of the anti-terror bill relating to a person's intent to incite ill-will or disorder, but little more. [...]

Sedition laws have been in force in Australia since 1914, but have rarely been used. There have been no prosecutions since the 1950s.

In many countries sedition laws have been abandoned. The documentary film-maker Robert Connolly, representing Arts and Creative Industries of Australia, gave evidence to the Senate committee that similar laws had been repealed in Canada, Ireland, Kenya, New Zealand, South Africa, Taiwan, Britain and the US.

He said countries that continued to use sedition laws included China, Cuba, Hong Kong, Malaysia, North Korea, Singapore, Syria and Zimbabwe, and added: "I know which list most Australians would like to be on."

Sedition laws certainly are used in tyrannical regimes to spread fear and stifle dissent. So are laws against murder, libel, theft, fraud and tax evasion. The issue is whether the concept of freedom has become so abstract and debased that society is now powerless to sanction the intentional undermining of the state and armed forces during a time of war or threat to national security.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:45 PM


Peres Voices Support for Sharon in Israeli Elections (GREG MYRE, 11/.30/05, NY Times)

The dovish Mr. Peres, 82, and the hawkish Mr. Sharon, 77, have often worked together in coalition governments despite their political differences. But this marks the first time they have headed into an election under the same banner, with the aim of creating a broad consensus on how to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"Advancing the peace process is possible only through a coalition for peace and development; and in my view the man best suited to lead such a coalition is, based on proven results, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon," Mr. Peres said in a statement delivered in Tel Aviv.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:20 PM


Project for a New Chinese Century: Beijing plans for national greatness (Max Boot, 10/10/2005, Weekly Standard)

[E]VEN IF WE AVOID a trade war and actually find new areas of cooperation, there is no guarantee that China's growing lucre will translate into peace in our time. In 1914 Germany was the second-richest nation in the world--and the most militaristic. Optimists think that China will eventually go the way of South Korea and Taiwan, both onetime autocracies that liberalized after getting rich. That may well happen, and for that reason, if no other, we need to keep trading with China. But it's just as plausible that China will follow the path of autocratic states like Germany and Japan, which in the early 20th century combined capitalism with expansionism. Indeed, there are more than faint echoes of Kaiser Wilhelm II and General Tojo in the fervor with which the Communist party oligarchy has adopted xenophobic nationalism as the justification for its continued rule.

Even as we do business with China, therefore, we need to strengthen our ability to dissuade it from aggression. Despite the shrill reaction he provoked from Beijing, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was right to publicly warn in June that China's defense buildup was an "area of concern" for its neighbors. That warning needs to be repeated--and backed up with action. Asian democracies need to increase their military spending while extending explicit defense commitments to block potential Chinese aggression.

The studied ambiguity cultivated by the United States over the fate of Taiwan since the opening to the mainland in the 1970s was potentially dangerous. It might have risked a repeat of Secretary of State Dean Acheson's blunder in January 1950 when he did not include South Korea in the U.S. "defensive perimeter," thereby inviting Communist aggression six months later. President Bush has, therefore, been right to bluntly declare that "our nation will help Taiwan defend itself," and Japan has been right to make slightly more explicit its own commitment to Taiwan's defense. It would be useful if China's other neighbors--states like South Korea, Australia, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, the Philippines, perhaps even Vietnam--were to make similar commitments. That would do much to keep the peace in East Asia, and it should be an aim of U.S. diplomacy.

More broadly, the United States should strive to create, if possible, an Asian analogue to NATO. The Bush administration is right to deepen U.S. links with old allies like Japan and Australia and to establish closer ties to newer allies like India and Singapore. That process needs to continue, especially in firming up the nascent U.S.-India entente. But it would be good, if possible, to move from bilateral relations to a regional defense framework so that states in the region would work closely not only with the United States but also with one another. [...]

BEYOND CONTAINMENT, deterrence, and economic integration lies a strategy that the British never employed against either Germany or Japan--internal subversion. Sorry, the polite euphemisms are "democracy promotion" and "human rights protection," but these amount to the same thing: The freer China becomes, the less power the Communist oligarchy will enjoy.

The United States should aim to "Taiwanize" the mainland--to spread democracy through such steps as increased radio broadcasts and Internet postings.

Kind of odd the way the headline and subhead suggest the PRC is neoconservative.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:35 PM


Reports of Chinese Arrests Alarm Vatican (AP, 11/30/05)

The Vatican expressed alarm Wednesday over reports of arrests and beatings of Roman Catholic priests in China.

The reports by a Vatican-affiliated news agency cause "pain," and if verified must be condemned, said the statement by Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls.

AsiaNews said this week that Chinese police arrested six priests in Zhengding county, and beat two of them. [...]

Pope Benedict XVI has been reaching out to Beijing in a bid to bring all Chinese Catholics under Rome's wing.

The Church's recent truckling to Beijing has been disgraceful, but maybe some beatings will snap them out of it..

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:30 PM


The Good “Dr.”: The liberal who wrote a great conservative book. (John J. Miller, 11/21/03, National Review)

So what are conservatives to do with Seuss? I say read him, because most of his books are incredible fun — but also choose wisely. My favorite Seuss book is one that many people don't know about: I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew (1965). Seuss may not have realized it, but the theme of Solla Sollew is powerfully conservative.

Unfortunately, it was not Seuss's most commercially successful book — sales were disappointing, even though it was written and issued during his heyday. The Morgan's describe the book this way: "a somber morality tale, a Seussian Pilgrim's Progress with the message that one can't run away from trouble." Yet it's far deeper than that. In truth, Solla Sollew is a warning against what Eric Voegelin called immanentizing the eschaton. Put in plain English: Don't seek heaven on earth.

The unnamed narrator — one of Seuss's typical cat-like creatures — joins an odd fellow on his way to the City of Solla Sollew, which is

On the banks of the beautiful River Wah-Hoo,
Where they never have troubles! At least, very few.

It is, in short, Utopia. Trying to reach this impossible place, the narrator embarks on a series of misadventures, including an encounter with a loony knight who bellows, "I'm General Genghis Kahn Schmitz." ("The finest line I have ever written," Seuss once said.) Ultimately, he arrives at the outskirts of Solla Sollew — but he can't get inside. It seems that a key has been lost. Everybody's locked out. Frustrated, the city's gatekeeper declares that he's had enough:

And I'm off to the city of Boola Boo Ball
On the banks of the beautiful River Woo-Wall,
Where they never have troubles! No troubles at all!

Ah, yes: a place that's even better than Utopia. By this time, of course, the narrator has caught on. He goes back home to confront his troubles rather than avoid them.

It's a wonderful book with a beautiful message — and in Seuss's liberal universe, perhaps even a subversive one.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:40 PM


64 Percent Say Religion 'Under Attack': Creationism Should Be Taught In Science, 56 Percent Say (AP, November 22, 2005)

Of the 800 adults polled...56 percent wanted creationism taught alongside evolution... [...]

ADL national director Abraham Foxman said the findings "highlight the challenge that we face in this country in trying to maintain the pluralistic, inclusive, tolerant society that has been good for religion, for minorities and in particular for the Jewish community."

The survey comes at a time when ADL has begun questioning the role of some on the religious right in what the group sees as an effort to impose their beliefs in the public square.

Even if you let the ADL cook the poll it's still an overwhelming majority.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:28 PM


War, Democide, and China - Past and Future (No Speed Bumps, 11/29/05)

Rudy Rummel, a Professor Emeritus at the University of Hawaii, spent his career refining the idea of Democratic Peace. This is the idea that democracies don’t go to war with each other. Thus, once all countries are democratic, world peace will finally be at hand.

That is great news, of course. The bad news is that we are not there yet, and this means two things. First, wars will continue to occur. And second, as long as there are dictators and authoritarian regimes around, “democide” will often accompany them.

Democide is murder by the state. Professor Rummel has spent years documenting this. He has been refining estimates of how bad things have been in the past. This is important because it helps show how critical it is to achieve democracy in countries around the world.

I received an email today from Professor Rummel (as did many others, I am sure). Regarding China since 1923, Rummel has for years estimated 39 million people had been murdered by the government of China. However, he now has made a major revision to his estimates of the number of people murdered in China via democide.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:20 PM


Doctors in France perform face transplant (Carole Bianchi, 11/28/05, Associated Press)

Doctors have performed the world's first partial face transplant, grafting a nose, lips and chin onto a 38-year-old woman disfigured by a dog bite, hospital officials said Wednesday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:59 AM


Progressive Wal-Mart. Really. (Sebastian Mallaby, November 28, 2005, Washington Post)

Wal-Mart's critics allege that the retailer is bad for poor Americans. This claim is backward: As Jason Furman of New York University puts it, Wal-Mart is "a progressive success story." Furman advised John "Benedict Arnold" Kerry in the 2004 campaign and has never received any payment from Wal-Mart; he is no corporate apologist. But he points out that Wal-Mart's discounting on food alone boosts the welfare of American shoppers by at least $50 billion a year. The savings are possibly five times that much if you count all of Wal-Mart's products.

These gains are especially important to poor and moderate-income families. The average Wal-Mart customer earns $35,000 a year, compared with $50,000 at Target and $74,000 at Costco. Moreover, Wal-Mart's "every day low prices" make the biggest difference to the poor, since they spend a higher proportion of income on food and other basics. As a force for poverty relief, Wal-Mart's $200 billion-plus assistance to consumers may rival many federal programs. Those programs are better targeted at the needy, but they are dramatically smaller. Food stamps were worth $33 billion in 2005, and the earned-income tax credit was worth $40 billion.

Take away the naive view and what do the critics have left?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:55 AM


China flirts with deflation as economy cools (William Pesek Jr., 11/30/05, Bloomberg News)

The risk is that China may be flirting with the opposite of overheating: deflation.

Sound like a reach? Not to economists like Andy Xie of Morgan Stanley. He's eyeing a scenario in which Asia's No. 2 economy experiences falling prices as soon as next year. The reason: overcapacity. China is still producing too much cement, aluminum, textiles and other goods. It's also constructing too many factories, buildings and resorts.

Officials in Beijing have used administrative measures to reduce overinvestment. Doing it slowly to achieve a soft landing means capacity growth remains high, causing an oversupply even when China's annual growth of more than 9 percent slows.

Cutting interest rates may even worsen deflationary pressure by encouraging capacity growth regardless of corporate profitability. As Hong Kong-based Xie explained, "plentiful liquidity keeps interest rates low and, hence, sustains the ongoing investment projects and funds new investments in bottleneck areas." [...]

China needs to get consumers to spend more. To do that, Xie argued the government should privatize state-owned assets, shift fiscal expenditures away from investment and modernize pension, health care and education systems.

So all they have to do is stop being the PRC?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:31 AM


The Formerly Great Writ: Goodbye, habeas corpus. Hello, executive detention. (Emily Bazelon, Nov. 28, 2005, Slate)

Tucked into the renewal of the Patriot Act, which Congress will reconsider in December, is an unrelated provision that would make it harder for American prisoners to challenge their convictions in federal court. Congress may also soon vote to limit the rights of foreign detainees in Guantanamo Bay to apply to federal court.

To speak of a "right" of someone who is foreign is to depart the Constitution.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:27 AM


Third-quarter GDP revised sharply higher (Andrea Hopkins, 11/30/05, Reuters)

U.S. economic growth was much stronger in the third quarter than first thought as consumers and businesses spent more than estimated, but Gulf Coast hurricanes sideswiped corporate profits, a government report showed on Wednesday.

U.S. gross domestic product, a measure of all goods and services produced within U.S. borders, grew at a revised 4.3 percent annual rate in the July-to-September period, the fastest pace since the first three months of 2004, the Commerce Department said.

In its first snapshot a month ago, the department had put third-quarter growth at 3.8 percent and Wall Street economists had expected the rate to be revised up more modestly, to 4.0 percent.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:15 AM


Blair ready to surrender EU rebate with no payback (David Rennie in Brussels and Toby Helm, 30/11/2005, Daily Telegraph)

Tony Blair is preparing to dismantle Britain's annual rebate from the European Union budget - secured by Margaret Thatcher in 1984 - in a move that will cost the taxpayer billions of pounds.

He is ready to split it into parts that he can defend as "fair" - including Britain's rebate from the Common Agricultural Policy - and others that are less easy to justify, including spending on enlargement, Whitehall sources said.

If Mr. Blair means they'll exchange the rebate for EU reform and elimination of trade barriers then it makes sense. If he's just surrendering then he's crazy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:54 AM


President Outlines Strategy for Victory in Iraq (George W. Bush, United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, 11/30/05)

Six months ago, I came here to address the graduating class of 2005. I spoke to them about the importance of their service in the first war of the 21st century -- the global war on terror. I told the class of 2005 that four years at this Academy had prepared them morally, mentally and physically for the challenges ahead. And now they're meeting those challenges as officers in the United States Navy and Marine Corps.

Some of your former classmates are training with Navy SEAL teams that will storm terrorist safe houses in lightning raids. Others are preparing to lead Marine rifle platoons that will hunt the enemy in the mountains of Afghanistan and the streets of Iraqi cities. Others are training as naval aviators who will fly combat missions over the skies of Afghanistan and Iraq and elsewhere. Still others are training as sailors and submariners who will deliver the combat power of the United States to the farthest regions of the world -- and deliver compassionate assistance to those suffering from natural disasters. Whatever their chosen mission, every graduate of the class of 2005 is bringing honor to the uniform -- and helping to bring us victory in the war on terror. (Applause.)

In the years ahead, you'll join them in the fight. Your service is needed, because our nation is engaged in a war that is being fought on many fronts -- from the streets of Western cities, to the mountains of Afghanistan, the islands of Southeast Asia and the Horn of Africa. This war is going to take many turns, and the enemy must be defeated on every battlefield. Yet the terrorists have made it clear that Iraq is the central front in their war against humanity, and so we must recognize Iraq as the central front in the war on terror.

As we fight the enemy in Iraq, every man and woman who volunteers to defend our nation deserves an unwavering commitment to the mission -- and a clear strategy for victory. A clear strategy begins with a clear understanding of the enemy we face. The enemy in Iraq is a combination of rejectionists, Saddamists and terrorists. The rejectionists are by far the largest group. These are ordinary Iraqis, mostly Sunni Arabs, who miss the privileged status they had under the regime of Saddam Hussein -- and they reject an Iraq in which they are no longer the dominant group.

Not all Sunnis fall into the rejectionist camp. Of those that do, most are not actively fighting us -- but some give aid and comfort to the enemy. Many Sunnis boycotted the January elections -- yet as democracy takes hold in Iraq, they are recognizing that opting out of the democratic process has hurt their interests. And today, those who advocate violent opposition are being increasingly isolated by Sunnis who choose peaceful participation in the democratic process. Sunnis voted in the recent constitutional referendum in large numbers -- and Sunni coalitions have formed to compete in next month's elections -- or, this month's elections. We believe that, over time, most rejectionists will be persuaded to support a democratic Iraq led by a federal government that is a strong enough government to protect minority rights.

The second group that makes up the enemy in Iraq is smaller, but more determined. It contains former regime loyalists who held positions of power under Saddam Hussein -- people who still harbor dreams of returning to power. These hard-core Saddamists are trying to foment anti-democratic sentiment amongst the larger Sunni community. They lack popular support and therefore cannot stop Iraq's democratic progress. And over time, they can be marginalized and defeated by the Iraqi people and the security forces of a free Iraq.

The third group is the smallest, but the most lethal: the terrorists affiliated with or inspired by al Qaeda . Many are foreigners who are coming to fight freedom's progress in Iraq. This group includes terrorists from Saudi Arabia, and Syria, and Iran, and Egypt, and Sudan, and Yemen, and Libya, and other countries. Our commanders believe they're responsible for most of the suicide bombings, and the beheadings, and the other atrocities we see on our television.

They're led by a brutal terrorist named Zarqawi -- al Qaeda's chief of operations in Iraq -- who has pledged his allegiance to Osama bin Laden. Their objective is to drive the United States and coalition forces out of Iraq, and use the vacuum that would be created by an American retreat to gain control of that country. They would then use Iraq as a base from which to launch attacks against America, and overthrow moderate governments in the Middle East, and try to establish a totalitarian Islamic empire that reaches from Indonesia to Spain. That's their stated objective. That's what their leadership has said.

These terrorists have nothing to offer the Iraqi people. All they have is the capacity and the willingness to kill the innocent and create chaos for the cameras. They are trying to shake our will to achieve their stated objectives. They will fail. America's will is strong. And they will fail because the will to power is no match for the universal desire to live in liberty. (Applause.)

The terrorists in Iraq share the same ideology as the terrorists who struck the United States on September the 11th. Those terrorists share the same ideology with those who blew up commuters in London and Madrid, murdered tourists in Bali, workers in Riyadh, and guests at a wedding in Amman, Jordan. Just last week, they massacred Iraqi children and their parents at a toy give-away outside an Iraqi hospital.

This is an enemy without conscience -- and they cannot be appeased. If we were not fighting and destroying this enemy in Iraq, they would not be idle. They would be plotting and killing Americans across the world and within our own borders. By fighting these terrorists in Iraq, Americans in uniform are defeating a direct threat to the American people. Against this adversary, there is only one effective response: We will never back down. We will never give in. And we will never accept anything less than complete victory. (Applause.)

To achieve victory over such enemies, we are pursuing a comprehensive strategy in Iraq. Americans should have a clear understanding of this strategy -- how we look at the war, how we see the enemy, how we define victory, and what we're doing to achieve it. So today, we're releasing a document called the "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq." This is an unclassified version of the strategy we've been pursuing in Iraq, and it is posted on the White House website -- I urge all Americans to read it.

Our strategy in Iraq has three elements. On the political side, we know that free societies are peaceful societies, so we're helping the Iraqis build a free society with inclusive democratic institutions that will protect the interests of all Iraqis. We're working with the Iraqis to help them engage those who can be persuaded to join the new Iraq -- and to marginalize those who never will. On the security side, coalition and Iraqi security forces are on the offensive against the enemy, cleaning out areas controlled by the terrorists and Saddam loyalists, leaving Iraqi forces to hold territory taken from the enemy, and following up with targeted reconstruction to help Iraqis rebuild their lives.

As we fight the terrorists, we're working to build capable and effective Iraqi security forces, so they can take the lead in the fight -- and eventually take responsibility for the safety and security of their citizens without major foreign assistance.

And on the economic side, we're helping the Iraqis rebuild their infrastructure, reform their economy, and build the prosperity that will give all Iraqis a stake in a free and peaceful Iraq. In doing all this we have involved the United Nations, other international organizations, our coalition partners, and supportive regional states in helping Iraqis build their future.

In the days ahead, I'll be discussing the various pillars of our strategy in Iraq. Today, I want to speak in depth about one aspect of this strategy that will be critical to victory in Iraq -- and that's the training of Iraqi security forces. To defeat the terrorists and marginalize the Saddamists and rejectionists, Iraqis need strong military and police forces. Iraqi troops bring knowledge and capabilities to the fight that coalition forces cannot.

Iraqis know their people, they know their language, and they know their culture -- and they know who the terrorists are. Iraqi forces are earning the trust of their countrymen -- who are willing to help them in the fight against the enemy. As the Iraqi forces grow in number, they're helping to keep a better hold on the cities taken from the enemy. And as the Iraqi forces grow more capable, they are increasingly taking the lead in the fight against the terrorists. Our goal is to train enough Iraqi forces so they can carry the fight -- and this will take time and patience. And it's worth the time, and it's worth the effort -- because Iraqis and Americans share a common enemy, and when that enemy is defeated in Iraq, Americans will be safer here at home. (Applause.)

The training of the Iraqi security forces is an enormous task, and it always hasn't gone smoothly. We all remember the reports of some Iraqi security forces running from the fight more than a year ago. Yet in the past year, Iraqi forces have made real progress. At this time last year, there were only a handful of Iraqi battalions ready for combat. Now, there are over 120 Iraqi Army and Police combat battalions in the fight against the terrorists -- typically comprised of between 350 and 800 Iraqi forces. Of these, about 80 Iraqi battalions are fighting side-by-side with coalition forces, and about 40 others are taking the lead in the fight. Most of these 40 battalions are controlling their own battle space, and conducting their own operations against the terrorists with some coalition support -- and they're helping to turn the tide of this struggle in freedom's favor. America and our troops are proud to stand with the brave Iraqi fighters. (Applause.)

The progress of the Iraqi forces is especially clear when the recent anti-terrorist operations in Tal Afar are compared with last year's assault in Fallujah. In Fallujah, the assault was led by nine coalition battalions made up primarily of United States Marines and Army -- with six Iraqi battalions supporting them. The Iraqis fought and sustained casualties. Yet in most situations, the Iraqi role was limited to protecting the flanks of coalition forces, and securing ground that had already been cleared by our troops. This year in TAL Afar, it was a very different story.

The assault was primarily led by Iraqi security forces -- 11 Iraqi battalions, backed by five coalition battalions providing support. Many Iraqi units conducted their own anti-terrorist operations and controlled their own battle space -- hunting for enemy fighters and securing neighborhoods block-by-block. To consolidate their military success, Iraqi units stayed behind to help maintain law and order -- and reconstruction projects have been started to improve infrastructure and create jobs and provide hope.

One of the Iraqi soldiers who fought in TAL Afar was a private named Tarek Hazem. This brave Iraqi fighter says, "We're not afraid. We're here to protect our country. All we feel is motivated to kill the terrorists." Iraqi forces not only cleared the city, they held it. And because of the skill and courage of the Iraqi forces, the citizens of TAL Afar were able to vote in October's constitutional referendum.

As Iraqi forces increasingly take the lead in the fight against the terrorists, they're also taking control of more and more Iraqi territory. At this moment, over 30 Iraqi Army battalions have assumed primary control of their own areas of responsibility. In Baghdad, Iraqi battalions have taken over major sectors of the capital -- including some of the city's toughest neighborhoods. Last year, the area around Baghdad's Haifa Street was so thick with terrorists that it earned the nickname "Purple Heart Boulevard." Then Iraqi forces took responsibility for this dangerous neighborhood -- and attacks are now down.

Our coalition has handed over roughly 90 square miles of Baghdad province to Iraqi security forces. Iraqi battalions have taken over responsibility for areas in South-Central Iraq, sectors of Southeast Iraq, sectors of Western Iraq, and sectors of North-Central Iraq. As Iraqi forces take responsibility for more of their own territory, coalition forces can concentrate on training Iraqis and hunting down high-value targets, like the terrorist Zarqawi and his associates.

We're also transferring forward operating bases to Iraqi control. Over a dozen bases in Iraq have been handed over to the Iraqi government -- including Saddam Hussein's former palace in Tikrit, which has served as the coalition headquarters in one of Iraq's most dangerous regions. From many of these bases, the Iraqi security forces are planning and executing operations against the terrorists -- and bringing security and pride to the Iraqi people.

Progress by the Iraqi security forces has come, in part, because we learned from our earlier experiences and made changes in the way we help train Iraqi troops. When our coalition first arrived, we began the process of creating an Iraqi Army to defend the country from external threats, and an Iraqi Civil Defense Corps to help provide the security within Iraq's borders. The civil defense forces did not have sufficient firepower or training -- they proved to be no match for an enemy armed with machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, and mortars. So the approach was adjusted. Working with Iraq's leaders, we moved the civil defense forces into the Iraqi Army, we changed the way they're trained and equipped, and we focused the Army's mission on defeating those fighting against a free Iraq, whether internal or external.

Now, all Iraqi Army recruits receive about the same length of basic training as new recruits in the U.S. Army -- a five-week core course, followed by an additional three-to-seven weeks of specialized training. With coalition help, Iraqis have established schools for the Iraqi military services, an Iraqi military academy, a non-commissioned officer academy, a military police school, a bomb disposal school -- and NATO has established an Iraqi Joint Staff College. There's also an increased focus on leadership training, with professional development courses for Iraqi squad leaders and platoon sergeants and warrant officers and sergeants-major. A new generation of Iraqi officers is being trained, leaders who will lead their forces with skill -- so they can defeat the terrorists and secure their freedom.

Similar changes have taken place in the training of the Iraqi police. When our coalition first arrived, Iraqi police recruits spent too much time of their training in classroom lectures -- and they received limited training in the use of small arms. This did not adequately prepare the fight they would face. And so we changed the way the Iraqi police are trained. Now, police recruits spend more of their time outside the classroom with intensive hands-on training in anti-terrorism operations and real-world survival skills.

Iraq has now six basic police academies, and one in Jordan, that together produce over 3,500 new police officers every ten weeks. The Baghdad police academy has simulation models where Iraqis train to stop IED attacks and operate roadblocks. And because Iraqi police are not just facing common criminals, they are getting live-fire training with the AK-47s.

As more and more skilled Iraqi security forces have come online, there's been another important change in the way new Iraqi recruits are trained. When the training effort began, nearly all the trainers came from coalition countries. Today, the vast majority of Iraqi police and army recruits are being taught by Iraqi instructors. By training the trainers, we're helping Iraqis create an institutional capability that will allow the Iraqi forces to continue to develop and grow long after coalition forces have left Iraq.

As the training has improved, so has the quality of the recruits being trained. Even though the terrorists are targeting Iraqi police and army recruits, there is no shortage of Iraqis who are willing to risk their lives to secure the future of a free Iraq.

The efforts to include more Sunnis in the future of Iraq were given a significant boost earlier this year. More than 60 influential Sunni clerics issued a fatwa calling on young Sunnis to join the Iraqi security forces, "for the sake of preserving the souls, property and honor" of the Iraqi people. These religious leaders are helping to make the Iraqi security forces a truly national institution -- one that is able to serve, protect and defend all the Iraqi people.

Some critics dismiss this progress and point to the fact that only one Iraqi battalion has achieved complete independence from the coalition. To achieve complete independence, an Iraqi battalion must do more than fight the enemy on its own -- it must also have the ability to provide its own support elements, including logistics, airlift, intelligence, and command and control through their ministries. Not every Iraqi unit has to meet this level of capability in order for the Iraqi security forces to take the lead in the fight against the enemy. As a matter of fact, there are some battalions from NATO militaries that would not be able to meet this standard. The facts are that Iraqi units are growing more independent and more capable; they are defending their new democracy with courage and determination. They're in the fight today, and they will be in the fight for freedom tomorrow. (Applause.)

We're also helping Iraqis build the institutions they need to support their own forces. For example, a national depot has been established north of Baghdad that is responsible for supplying the logistical needs of the ten divisions of the Iraqi Army. Regional support units and base support units have been created across the country with the mission of supplying their own war fighters. Iraqis now have a small Air Force, that recently conducted its first combat airlift operations -- bringing Iraqi troops to the front in TAL Afar. The new Iraqi Navy is now helping protect the vital ports of Basra and Umm Qasr. An Iraqi military intelligence school has been established to produce skilled Iraqi intelligence analysts and collectors. By taking all these steps, we're helping the Iraqi security forces become self-supporting so they can take the fight to the enemy, and so they can sustain themselves in the fight.

Over the past two and a half years, we've faced some setbacks in standing up a capable Iraqi security force -- and their performance is still uneven in some areas. Yet many of those forces have made real gains over the past year -- and Iraqi soldiers take pride in their progress. An Iraqi first lieutenant named Shoqutt describes the transformation of his unit this way: "I really think we've turned the corner here. At first, the whole country didn't take us seriously. Now things are different. Our guys are hungry to demonstrate their skill and to show the world."

Our troops in Iraq see the gains that Iraqis are making. Lieutenant Colonel Todd Wood of Richmond Hill, Georgia, is training Iraqi forces in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit. He says this about the Iraqi units he is working with: "They're pretty much ready to go it on their own ... What they're doing now would have been impossible a year ago ... These guys are patriots, willing to go out knowing the insurgents would like nothing better than to kill them and their families ... They're getting better, and they'll keep getting better."

Our commanders on the ground see the gains the Iraqis are making. General Marty Dempsey is the commander of the Multinational Security Transition Command. Here's what he says about the transformation of the Iraqi security forces: "It's beyond description. They are far better equipped, far better trained" than they once were. The Iraqis, General Dempsey says, are "increasingly in control of their future and their own security _ the Iraqi security forces are regaining control of the country."

As the Iraqi security forces stand up, their confidence is growing and they are taking on tougher and more important missions on their own. As the Iraqi security forces stand up, the confidence of the Iraqi people is growing -- and Iraqis are providing the vital intelligence needed to track down the terrorists. And as the Iraqi security forces stand up, coalition forces can stand down -- and when our mission of defeating the terrorists in Iraq is complete, our troops will return home to a proud nation. (Applause.)

This is a goal our Iraqi allies share. An Iraqi Army Sergeant named Abbass Abdul Jabar puts it this way: "We have to help the coalition forces as much as we can to give them a chance to go home. These guys have been helping us. [Now] we have to protect our own families." America will help the Iraqis so they can protect their families and secure their free nation. We will stay as long as necessary to complete the mission. If our military leaders tell me we need more troops, I will send them.

For example, we have increased our force levels in Iraq to 160,000 -- up from 137,000 -- in preparation for the December elections. My commanders tell me that as Iraqi forces become more capable, the mission of our forces in Iraq will continue to change. We will continue to shift from providing security and conducting operations against the enemy nationwide, to conducting more specialized operations targeted at the most dangerous terrorists. We will increasingly move out of Iraqi cities, reduce the number of bases from which we operate, and conduct fewer patrols and convoys.

As the Iraqi forces gain experience and the political process advances, we will be able to decrease our troop levels in Iraq without losing our capability to defeat the terrorists. These decisions about troop levels will be driven by the conditions on the ground in Iraq and the good judgment of our commanders -- not by artificial timetables set by politicians in Washington. (Applause.)

Some are calling for a deadline for withdrawal. Many advocating an artificial timetable for withdrawing our troops are sincere -- but I believe they're sincerely wrong. Pulling our troops out before they've achieved their purpose is not a plan for victory. As Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman said recently, setting an artificial timetable would "discourage our troops because it seems to be heading for the door. It will encourage the terrorists, it will confuse the Iraqi people."

Senator Lieberman is right. Setting an artificial deadline to withdraw would send a message across the world that America is a weak and an unreliable ally. Setting an artificial deadline to withdraw would send a signal to our enemies -- that if they wait long enough, America will cut and run and abandon its friends. And setting an artificial deadline to withdraw would vindicate the terrorists' tactics of beheadings and suicide bombings and mass murder -- and invite new attacks on America. To all who wear the uniform, I make you this pledge: America will not run in the face of car bombers and assassins so long as I am your Commander-in-Chief. (Applause.)

And as we train Iraqis to take more responsibility in the battle with the terrorists, we're also helping them build a democracy that is worthy of their sacrifice. And in just over two-and-a-half years, the Iraqi people have made incredible progress on the road to lasting freedom. Iraqis have gone from living under the boot of a brutal tyrant, to liberation, free elections, and a democratic constitution -- and in 15 days they will go to the polls to elect a fully constitutional government that will lead them for the next four years.

With each ballot cast, the Iraqi people have sent a clear message to the terrorists: Iraqis will not be intimidated. The Iraqi people will determine the destiny of their country. The future of Iraq belongs to freedom. Despite the costs, the pain, and the danger, Iraqis are showing courage and are moving forward to build a free society and a lasting democracy in the heart of the Middle East -- and the United States of America will help them succeed. (Applause.)

Some critics continue to assert that we have no plan in Iraq except to, "stay the course." If by "stay the course," they mean we will not allow the terrorists to break our will, they are right. If by "stay the course," they mean we will not permit al Qaeda to turn Iraq into what Afghanistan was under the Taliban -- a safe haven for terrorism and a launching pad for attacks on America -- they are right, as well. If by "stay the course" they mean that we're not learning from our experiences, or adjusting our tactics to meet the challenges on the ground, then they're flat wrong. As our top commander in Iraq, General Casey, has said, "Our commanders on the ground are continuously adapting and adjusting, not only to what the enemy does, but also to try to out-think the enemy and get ahead of him." Our strategy in Iraq is clear, our tactics are flexible and dynamic; we have changed them as conditions required and they are bringing us victory against a brutal enemy. (Applause.)

Victory in Iraq will demand the continued determination and resolve of the American people. It will also demand the strength and personal courage of the men and women who wear our nation's uniform. And as the future officers of the United States Navy and Marine Corps, you're preparing to join this fight. You do so at a time when there is a vigorous debate about the war in Iraq. I know that for our men and women in uniform, this debate can be unsettling -- when you're risking your life to accomplish a mission, the last thing you want to hear is that mission being questioned in our nation's capital. I want you to know that while there may be a lot of heated rhetoric in Washington, D.C., one thing is not in dispute: The American people stand behind you.

And we should not fear the debate in Washington. It's one of the great strengths of our democracy that we can discuss our differences openly and honestly -- even at times of war. Your service makes that freedom possible. And today, because of the men and women in our military, people are expressing their opinions freely in the streets of Baghdad, as well.

Most Americans want two things in Iraq: They want to see our troops win, and they want to see our troops come home as soon as possible. And those are my goals as well. I will settle for nothing less than complete victory. In World War II, victory came when the Empire of Japan surrendered on the deck of the USS Missouri. In Iraq, there will not be a signing ceremony on the deck of a battleship. Victory will come when the terrorists and Saddamists can no longer threaten Iraq's democracy, when the Iraqi security forces can provide for the safety of their own citizens, and when Iraq is not a safe haven for terrorists to plot new attacks on our nation.

As we make progress toward victory, Iraqis will take more responsibility for their security, and fewer U.S. forces will be needed to complete the mission. America will not abandon Iraq. We will not turn that country over to the terrorists and put the American people at risk. Iraq will be a free nation and a strong ally in the Middle East -- and this will add to the security of the American people.

In the short run, we're going to bring justice to our enemies. In the long run, the best way to ensure the security of our own citizens is to spread the hope of freedom across the broader Middle East. We've seen freedom conquer evil and secure the peace before. In World War II, free nations came together to fight the ideology of fascism, and freedom prevailed -- and today Germany and Japan are democracies and they are allies in securing the peace. In the Cold War, freedom defeated the ideology of communism and led to a democratic movement that freed the nations of Eastern and Central Europe from Soviet domination -- and today these nations are allies in the war on terror.

Today in the Middle East freedom is once again contending with an ideology that seeks to sow anger and hatred and despair. And like fascism and communism before, the hateful ideologies that use terror will be defeated by the unstoppable power of freedom, and as democracy spreads in the Middle East, these countries will become allies in the cause of peace. (Applause.)

Advancing the cause of freedom and democracy in the Middle East begins with ensuring the success of a free Iraq. Freedom's victory in that country will inspire democratic reformers from Damascus to Tehran, and spread hope across a troubled region, and lift a terrible threat from the lives of our citizens. By strengthening Iraqi democracy, we will gain a partner in the cause of peace and moderation in the Muslim world, and an ally in the worldwide struggle against -- against the terrorists. Advancing the ideal of democracy and self-government is the mission that created our nation -- and now it is the calling of a new generation of Americans. We will meet the challenge of our time. We will answer history's call with confidence -- because we know that freedom is the destiny of every man, woman and child on this earth. (Applause.)

Before our mission in Iraq is accomplished, there will be tough days ahead. A time of war is a time of sacrifice, and we've lost some very fine men and women in this war on terror. Many of you know comrades and classmates who left our shores to defend freedom and who did not live to make the journey home. We pray for the military families who mourn the loss of loves ones. We hold them in our hearts -- and we honor the memory of every fallen soldier, sailor, airman, Coast Guardsman, and Marine.

One of those fallen heroes is a Marine Corporal named Jeff Starr, who was killed fighting the terrorists in Ramadi earlier this year. After he died, a letter was found on his laptop computer. Here's what he wrote, he said, "[I]f you're reading this, then I've died in Iraq. I don't regret going. Everybody dies, but few get to do it for something as important as freedom. It may seem confusing why we are in Iraq, it's not to me. I'm here helping these people, so they can live the way we live. Not [to] have to worry about tyrants or vicious dictators_. Others have died for my freedom, now this is my mark."

There is only one way to honor the sacrifice of Corporal Starr and his fallen comrades -- and that is to take up their mantle, carry on their fight, and complete their mission. (Applause.)

We will take the fight to the terrorists. We will help the Iraqi people lay the foundations of a strong democracy that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself. And by laying the foundations of freedom in Iraq, we will lay the foundation of peace for generations to come.

You all are the ones who will help accomplish all this. Our freedom and our way of life are in your hands -- and they're in the best of hands. I want to thank you for your service in the cause of freedom. I want to thank you for wearing the uniform. May God bless you all, and may God continue to bless the United States of America. (Applause.)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:29 AM


The Joy of Conservatism: An Interview with Roger Scruton (Max Goss, November 30, 2005, Right Reason)

MG: What deleterious consequences result from the "free market ideology" you mention? Are there particular economic arrangements that conservatives ought to prefer?

Scruton: The free market is a necessary part of any stable community, and the arguments for maintaining it as the core of economic life were unanswerably set out by Ludwig von Mises. Hayek developed the arguments further, in order to offer a general defence of "spontaneous order", as the means to produce and maintain socially necessary knowledge. As Hayek points out, there are many varieties of spontaneous order that exemplify the epistemic virtues that he values: the common law is one of them, so too is ordinary morality.

The problem for conservatism is to reconcile the many and often conflicting demands that these various forms of life impose on us. The free-market ideologues take one instance of spontaneous order, and erect it into a prescription for all the others. They ask us to believe that the free exchange of commodities is the model for all social interaction. But many of our most important forms of life involve withdrawing what we value from the market: sexual morality is an obvious instance, city planning another. (America has failed abysmally in both those respects, of course.)

Looked at from the anthropological point of view religion can be seen as an elaborate (and spontaneous) way in which communities remove what is most precious to them (i.e. all that concerns the creation and reproduction of community) from the erosion of the market. A cultural conservative, such as I am, supports that enterprise. I would put the point in terms that echo Burke and Chesterton: the free market provides the optimal solution to the competition among the living for scarce resources; but when applied to the goods in which the dead and the unborn have an interest (sex, for instance) it wastes what must be saved.

MG: Shifting gears, an important theme in your book is that the notion of a social contract, "a recent and now seemingly irrepressible political idea," cannot ground political life as we experience it. Can you say a little about the contrasting idea of the "transcendent bonds" that you say give rise to our social obligations?

Scruton: My point was simply to emphasize that the most important obligations governing our lives as social and political beings -- including those to family, country and state -- are non-contractual and precede the capacity for rational choice. By referring to them as "transcendent" I meant to emphasize that they transcend any capacity to rationalise them in contractual or negotiable terms. They have an absolute and immovable character that we must acknowledge if we are to understand our social and political condition. The refusal of people on the left to make this acknowledgement stems from their inability to accept external authority in any form, and from their deep down belief that all power is usurpation, unless wielded by themselves.

MG: Does your emphasis on authority give any substance to the claim, so often found on the lips of liberals, that conservatism is repressive and dictatorial?

Scruton: To describe an obligation as transcendent in my sense is not to endow it with some kind of oppressive force. On the contrary, it is to recognize the spontaneous disposition of people to acknowledge obligations that they never contracted. There are other words that might be used in this context: gratitude, piety, obedience -- all of them virtues, and all of them naturally offered to the thing we love.

What I try to make clear in my writings is that, while the left-liberal view of politics is founded in antagonism towards existing things and resentment at power in the hands of others, conservatism is founded in the love of existing things, imperfections included, and a willing acceptance of authority, provided it is not blatantly illegitimate. Hence there is nothing oppressive in the conservative attitude to authority.

An essay by the inestimable Mr. Scruton is included in our forthcoming book as well

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:55 AM


Upbeat Signs Hold Cautions for the Future (VIKAS BAJAJ, 11/30/05, NY Times)

By most measures, the economy appears to be doing fine. No, scratch that, it appears to be booming.


Is that a pseudonym for "Paul Krugman"?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:19 AM


Bribery's Scope a Surprise: Observers marvel at the array of gifts that Rep. Cunningham received in exchange for contracts. (Tony Perry, November 30, 2005, LA Times)

Constituents and others marveled at the list of luxury items that the four unnamed co-conspirators lavished on Cunningham since 2000 in exchange for his support in landing lucrative government contracts — things at odds with Cunningham's preferred image as an American hero and a man of simple tastes. They include:

• A Rolls-Royce and $17,889.96 for its repairs

• A cut-rate deal on a GMC Suburban

• A $1,500 gift certificate for a set of earrings

• Use of a corporate jet, valued at $8,166

• Resort vacations worth $10,000

• Silver candelabra, antique armoires, Persian carpets and custom oak and leaded-glass doors worth more than $50,000

• A leather sofa and a sleigh-style bed for $6,632

• Two Laser Shot shooting simulators worth $9,200

• A 19th-century French commode, valued at $7,200

• A graduation party at a Washington, D.C., hotel for his daughter worth $2,081.30

Although the sale of the congressman's Del Mar Heights home to military contractor Mitchell Wade was hidden through a corporate screen, details about the gifts and cash payments were easily found in bank records and documents seized at Cunningham's Rancho Santa Fe home.

"It was entirely predictable [that Cunningham would be charged] after the house deal became public," said San Diego lawyer Stanley Zubel, leader of Californians for a Cleaner Congress. "But nobody had a clue that the bribery was as big as it was, and as systematic over years. It evokes outrage."

So many of these guys just get caught up on technicalities or go in for a little pilferage around the edges--it's a real pleasure to see a guy with sense enough to belly up to the trough.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:40 AM


National shame at fans' racism (Richard Owens, The Times, November 30th, 2005)

All Italian football league games will kick off five minutes late this week — by order of the sport’s governing body — so that players can demonstrate against racist fans.

They will stand on the pitches holding up banners reading “No to racism” to protest about an incident on Sunday in which Inter Milan fans jeered and insulted the Messina defender Marc André Zoro, who is from the Ivory Coast.

The fans imitated monkey sounds and movements. Zoro, 21, threatened to leave the game 20 minutes into the second half, tucking the ball under his arm. Two Inter players, Adriano and Obafemi Martins, persuaded him to carry on. Zoro said that he was sick of being subjected to racial abuse “always, wherever I go”.

The incident made front-page news even in a country where right-wing skinhead fans known as “ultras” often chant racist slogans and hold up banners glorifying Benito Mussolini.

“Anywhere else they would have stopped the game,” said Il Messaggero, the Rome daily. “It is time to stop this pollution of the game by a minority of imbeciles.” Zoro told reporters that “in Italy it is more a question of ignorance than of racism. He said: “Something must be done to help us, because we have relatives over here and these insults do a lot of harm to our families.”

If Zoro thinks this is about ignorance, not racism, he should treat himself to this excellent read for Christmas.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:05 AM


Fear factor: GOP and Dems take aim at Jewish vote with calls to arms against different foes (Jonathan Tobin, 11/30/05, Jewish World Review)

[W]hen more than 700 people gathered in downtown Philadelphia for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee "Salute to Congress" gala, the bipartisan spirit of the event added to the general good spirits of those in attendance. [...]

[T]o make it official, the group was able to call in as speakers Howard Dean and Ken Mehlman, the chairmen of the Democratic and the Republican national committees, respectively. [...]

[A]fter the obligatory applause lines about Israel were spoken, both men went on to make points that, while lacking a directly partisan punchline, clearly laid out each party's line of attack for Jewish votes in the future.

For Mehlman, that meant identifying the war in Iraq and its justification with the pro-Israel movement's own concerns about Islamo-fascist terrorism.

But Dean, who is well-known as an all-out critic of the Iraq war, said not a word about it. Rather, he focused the second half of his speech taking aim at what he correctly sees as the Democrats ace in the hole: Jewish fear of Conservative Christians.

Speaking of what he said was the difference between his party and the Republicans, Dean asserted Democrats "believe that Jews should feel comfortable in being American Jews" ...

Which is the difference between the two parties, though not in the way Mr. Dean means. He means that Democrats like the completely secular nature and of much of modern American Jewry, and hope to exploit the Christophobia that it shares. Republicans, on the other hand, think Jews should be comfortable in America as Jews, retaining their religious beliefs and revealed moral teachings, which are antithetical to the relativism of the Democratic Party but consistent with the Founding. The funny thing is that what Democrats and American Jews object to most is George Bush's Jewishness.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:05 AM


White flag Democrats (Max Boot, November 30, 2005, LA Times)

AND THE DEMOCRATS wonder why they are considered weak on national security? It's not because anyone doubts their patriotism. It's because a lot of people doubt their judgment and toughness.

As if to prove the skeptics right, Democrats have been stepping forth to renounce their previous support for the liberation of Iraq even as Iraqis prepare to vote in a general election. Bill Clinton, Joe Biden, John Kerry, John Edwards, John Murtha — that's quite a list of heavyweight flip-floppers.

Clinton characteristically wants to have it both ways. He says the invasion was a "big mistake" but that we shouldn't pull out now because "there's a lot of evidence it can still work." (You mean, Mr. President, that we should continue sacrificing soldiers for a mistake?) The others are more consistent. Because they now think the war is wrong, they favor a withdrawal, the only question being whether we should pull out sooner (Murtha) or slightly later (Kerry).

There are some honorable exceptions to this defeatism — Joe Lieberman, Hillary Clinton and Wesley Clark have remained stalwart supporters of the war effort — but they are clearly in the minority of a party steadily drifting toward Howard Dean-George McGovern territory.

Let's be fair, the Democrats are quite uninterested in the war itself and just see it as a nice rhetorical way to exercise their deranged hatred of President Bush. After all, given a chance to vote to end the war, they did nearly all join the 403 in the majority, not the 3 in the minority.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:04 AM


Need a quick fix? Try pork tenderloin (TOMMY C. SIMMONS, 11/30/05, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

It's a widely available cut of pork, and though it's not inexpensive, the size of the pork tenderloin, 3/4 to 1 1/2 pounds, is appropriate for small families. It's obvious from the name of the cut that the meat is tender, and it's also extremely lean.

It cooks quickly, too. A 1-pound tenderloin takes about 30 minutes to roast at 425 degrees and even less time to cook to desired doneness when broiled or braised. [...]

Cooks either can marinate or season a pork tenderloin with a dry rub. Both seasoning techniques work well, and in our testing of marinated versus dry-rub seasoned, there was no distinguishable quality difference in the tastes of the two styles of cooked pork tenderloins. The meat is mild-tasting and compatible with ethnic cuisine seasonings.

Try it on the grill, marinated in a mojo sauce.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:02 AM


France Upholds Law Requiring Textbooks That Put Positive Spin on Nation’s Colonial History (WRKO)

France’s parliament voted Tuesday to uphold a law that puts an upbeat spin on the country’s painful colonial past, ignoring complaints from historians and the former French territory of Algeria.

The law, passed quietly this year, requires school textbooks to address France’s "positive role" in its former colonies.

France’s lower house, in a 183-94 vote, rejected an effort by the opposition Socialists to kill the law. Passage would have been unusual, since the effort to overturn the law came from the conservative government’s political enemies. [...]

Lawmakers from the governing conservative UMP party passed the law in February when only a handful of deputies were present. It came under full public scrutiny only in recent months with a petition by history teachers. It was denounced at a recent annual meeting of historians.

The language that offends stipulates that "school programs recognize in particular the positive character of the French overseas presence, notably in North Africa.",/blockquote>
It would make sense for the Brits to require same--given that they contributed judeo-Christianity, the Common Law, parliamentary democracy, etc.--but the French contributions--egalitie and secular rationalism--have been disastrous for the Third World.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Deadheads Outraged Over Web Crackdown (JEFF LEEDS, 11/30/05, NY Times)

The Grateful Dead, the business, is testing the loyalty of longtime fans of the Grateful Dead, the pioneering jam band, by cracking down on an independently run Web site that made thousands of recordings of its live concerts available for free downloading. [...]

Dissent has been building rapidly, however, as the band's fans - known as Deadheads - have discovered the recordings are, at least for the time being, not available. Already, fans have started an online petition, at, threatening to boycott the band's recordings and merchandise if the decision is not reversed.

What could be more hollow than a threat from deadheads to move on with their lives?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


The day every Scot should celebrate our unique culture (IAN MARLAND, 11/30/05, The Scotsman)

THE majority of Scots are likely to go about their business today without a thought for the significance of the date, and without any plans to note either its arrival or passing.

While our churches mark a point on the calendar and while some of the country's schoolchildren may have been primed to reflect on its religious aspects, for the vast majority of the nation, St Andrew's Day will be like any other.

So what is it about Scotland that makes us reluctant to commemorate our saint's day? And why are other countries so successful in using it to mark community and national pride?

There are signs Scotland is slowly waking up to the benefits of celebrating St Andrew, if not with an official holiday, then with cultural and social festivities which set the day apart from any other.

MSPs recently voted against a bill put forward by the independent Dennis Canavan to make St Andrew's Day a public holiday. But they agreed to examine ways that 30 November can be celebrated without the loss of a day's work.

If you don't celebrate our own culture why would any newcomers conform to it?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Bishop Says Edict Allows Some Gay Priests: U.S. Catholics at Odds Over Interpretation of Vatican's New Directive (Alan Cooperman, November 30, 2005, Washington Post)

The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said yesterday that under a new Vatican directive on homosexuality, men with a lasting attraction to members of the same sex can still be ordained as priests, as long as they are not "consumed by" their sexual orientation.

Bishop William S. Skylstad's flexible interpretation of the document, which was officially issued in Rome yesterday, was sharply at odds with the position of some other U.S. bishops. They said the Vatican intended to bar all men who have had more than a fleeting, adolescent brush with homosexuality.

It was guys like Bishop Skylstad who caused the problem and the Vatican should use this opportunity to break their opposition to the Church.

November 29, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:22 PM


Art of Justice: The Filmmakers At Nuremberg (Philip Kennicott, 11/29/05, Washington Post)

Years before he wrote "On the Waterfront," before that film brought him an Oscar, and before he earned the ire of many colleagues by testifying during the Hollywood communist witch hunt, writer Budd Schulberg had the distinct honor of arresting Leni Riefenstahl.

He was in Germany, assembling a film to be used at the Nuremberg trials as evidence against the Nazis. Riefenstahl, the legendary director and propagandist for Hitler, knew where the skeletons were. So Schulberg, dressed in his military uniform, drove to her chalet on a lake in Bavaria, knocked on her door, and told the panicked artist that she was coming with him.

"I tried to calm her down," says Schulberg, 91, remembering in a thin, dry voice an episode more than a half-century distant. But he needed her to identify the seemingly endless gallery of faces on film that he had been collecting. So, very much against her will, he drove her to Nuremberg in an inelegant open-air military vehicle, and listened to a sad and defensive argument that would define the rest of her life, and that no one would ever believe.

To his eternal credit, Mr. Schulberg had the decency to end his own collaboration with evil and join the forces of light.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:02 PM


Sex and Chess. Is She a Queen or a Pawn? (DYLAN LOEB McCLAIN, 11/27/05, NY Times)

VANESS REID, a 16-year-old student from Sydney, Australia, runs cross-country, plays touch football, enjoys in-line skating, swims and goes bodyboarding. She also has a cerebral side: she plays competitive chess. She represented Australia at a tournament in Malaysia in 2002 and played in a tournament in New Zealand this year.

While Ms. Reid is clearly no novice at the game, she isn't exactly taking it by storm. She is not on the World Chess Federation's list of the world's 50 top female players. In fact she is ranked 47,694th among both men and women. But Ms. Reid, who has auburn hair, light-blue eyes and a winning smile, is arguably the top player in the world based on a more subjective criterion: her looks. A Web site called World Chess Beauty Contest ( ranks her as the world's most beautiful woman in the game.

The site was started earlier this year by Vladislav Tkachiev, 32, a Kazakh grandmaster who is ranked 83rd in the world, and his brother, Eugeny, 39. The younger Mr. Tkachiev, who appears in photos to be well-built and boyish looking, said they had started the site to raise the profile of the game. "Chess desperately needs some glamour," Mr. Tkachiev said. The brothers are not the only ones trying to inject some glamour, or at least sex appeal, into the game. Alexandra Kosteniuk, 21, a dark-haired, porcelain-skinned Russian grandmaster who is ranked fifth in the world among women and 525th over all, models and uses her Web site to sell photos of herself posing in bikinis next to giant chess pieces.

Maria Manakova, 31, who is the fourth-ranked woman in Russia and who is ranked eighth on the Beauty Contest site, attracted attention last year when she posed nude for Speed, a Russian magazine. She followed it up by posing for Maxim and the Russian edition of Playboy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:33 PM


UN official predicts disaster if US delays budget (Evelyn Leopold, 29 Nov 2005, Reuters)

A senior U.N. official said on Tuesday the United Nations might have to delay paying salaries if the United States followed through on its threat to hold up the two-year $3.9 billion budget.

U.S. Ambassador John Bolton has insisted the 191-member General Assembly focus on management reforms following the Iraq oil-for-food scandal before approving the 2006-2007 budget next month.

To make his point, Bolton has suggested a three- or four- month interim budget so that members can focus on reform plans, many of which U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has proposed and the United States and Japan are seeking to refine.

One struggles to find a downside....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:20 PM


Queens Bombers (BOB KLAPISCH, November 29, 2005, Bergen Record)

Even without Ramirez, the Mets are now playoff contenders, and the thought of adding the Red Sox' slugger has everyone at Shea talking about a genuine renaissance. Can it really happen? For Cliff Floyd, Aaron Heilman and Lastings Milledge, the answer is a strong "maybe."

Minaya and Sox president Larry Lucchino have agreed to speak face-to-face next week during the winter meetings in Dallas, at which point they'll wrestle with the only remaining obstacle: Who'll pay what percentage of Ramirez's salary? One Met executive said "money would have to be moved" to accommodate Manny's $19 million annual salary, but shedding Floyd's $6.6 million per would go a long way toward convincing the Wilpons to make the economic stretch.

In a heartbeat....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:11 PM


NGO pulls curtains down on ‘anti-US’ Pak play (ASIT SRIVASTAVA, November 30, 2005, Express India)

For these 11 theatre actors from Pakistan, the show has ended even before it began. Invited by an NGO — the Women’s Initiative for Peace in South Asia (WIPSA) — to stage plays across the country, the Pakistani troupe was allegedly told to pack their bags because their production, Zikr-e-Nashunida (Discussing the Unheeded), expressed anti-US sentiments.

It's not your father's India.

Boost To India-US Nuclear Deal (Kushal Jeena, Nov 29, 2005, UPI)

Prospects of a change in U.S. law to accommodate a civilian nuclear agreement between India and United States look bright following the visit of a U.S. delegation to India, Indian analysts said Tuesday.

"A delegation of U.S. congressmen, which is visiting India, is looking in an upbeat mood to see the Indian administration showing enthusiasm in working out a program for the separation of its nuclear facilities to meet the condition of India-U.S. civilian nuclear agreement," said senior political analyst A.B. Mahapatra.

He said with India keen to separate nuclear installations despite opposition from the left parties, the nuclear agreement signed between U.S. President George W. Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will go through.

"India is willing to separate its civilian and nuclear facilities and programs and impose safeguards as required by the International Atomic Energy Agency," Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:08 PM


Stay out of our politics, Bono (Peter Worthington, 11/29/05, Toronto Sun)

Put a cork in it, Bono.

Bono, the Irish rocker -- lead singer of U2 -- and Make Poverty History activist, has intruded into Canadian politics and feels "crushed" and "disappointed" that his onetime buddy, Prime Minister Paul Martin, won't commit 0.7% of our GDP to the economic sinkhole that is Africa.

Heck, Bono even thinks Martin deserves to be punished in the election being called today -- for disappointing him. What cheek. What audacity.

Canadian leaders want to tell America what to do, not be told what to do.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:37 PM


PM on the brink: Giddy one minute, sombre the next: the many moods of Paul Martin on the verge of his government's collapse (SHANDA DEZIEL, 11/30/05, McLean's)

It's 3 o'clock, 45 minutes into Question Period in the House of Commons, and Paul Martin leans over to Deputy PM Anne McLellan to say, "I'm going to go." But before he does, they play a couple games of tic-tac-toe -- oblivious to the opposition and their own party droning on. Martin is Xs and McLellan is Os, and the game ends with the PM doubling over in laughter. The two have been goofing around all through QP, waving and motioning to friends in the galleries, as if they're a couple of kids in a school play who've just spotted their families in the audience.

It didn't seem to matter that their government was likely in its last days. Last week, Martin was determined to put on a brave face, one that even edged into arrogance on occasion.

He'd seem to have little to be arrogant about.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:25 PM

WHY EVEN HAVE THE HEARINGS? (via Robert Schwartz):

Liberals Can't Solidify Alito Opposition> (DAVID ESPO, 11/29/05, AP)

So far this year, the civil rights and women's groups opposed to President Bush's conservative court nominees have been rebuffed, rebuked and rejected. And that's just by Senate Democrats.

Now, in the early stages of the most momentous Supreme Court nomination struggle in nearly 15 years, these organizations seek Democratic cohesiveness and then hope to enlist enough Republicans to keep Judge Samuel Alito from taking the swing seat held by Sandra Day O'Connor. It won't be easy. [...]

If their chief goal is to prevent a sharp conservative shift on the courts, it's not yet clear how far Senate Democrats will fight Alito, knowing that Bush would probably follow up with another, possibly more conservative, replacement. Party leaders have shown more eagerness in confronting Bush when it has been compatible with their overriding objective of gaining seats in the 2006 elections.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, chairman of the Senate Democrats' campaign committee, underscored their political objectives recently to Henderson and other representatives of groups opposed to Alito's nomination.

In a private session, Reid and Schumer urged the groups to show restraint when lobbying Democrats from states that Bush won in 2004 - senators from Nebraska, Arkansas, the Dakotas and elsewhere who probably will be the most tempted to support the appointment. Officials who described the session did so on condition of anonymity, citing the confidential nature of the conversation.

How do they get a single Republican when the Democratic leadership is acknowledging that opposing him would alienate voters?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:35 PM


Lieberman Expresses Confidence in Iraq After Thanksgiving Visit (AP, November 29, 2005)

Sen. Joe Lieberman, fresh from a two-day visit to Iraq over the Thanksgiving holiday, said Monday he was hopeful U.S. forces could begin a "significant" withdrawal by the end of next year or in 2007.

"The country is now in reach of going from Saddam Hussein to self-government and, I'd add, self-protection," the Connecticut Democrat said in a conference call with reporters. "That would be a remarkable transformation ... I saw real progress there."

Lieberman, one of the most hawkish Democrats in the Senate, said the effectiveness of Iraqi security forces and the ability of a new Iraqi government to rule after the Dec. 15 elections are critical factors in determining when U.S. troops could come home. But if all goes well, he forsees a pullout beginning a year from now.

"If Iraqi forces continue to gain the confidence the American military sees there now ... We will be able to draw down our forces," he said.

Our Troops Must Stay: America can't abandon 27 million Iraqis to 10,000 terrorists. (JOE LIEBERMAN, November 29, 2005, Opinion Journal)
I have just returned from my fourth trip to Iraq in the past 17 months and can report real progress there. More work needs to be done, of course, but the Iraqi people are in reach of a watershed transformation from the primitive, killing tyranny of Saddam to modern, self-governing, self-securing nationhood--unless the great American military that has given them and us this unexpected opportunity is prematurely withdrawn.

Progress is visible and practical.

When will Iraqis be ready?:
In a speech Wednesday, Bush is expected to highlight increases in trained Iraqi battalions. (Howard LaFranchi, 11/30/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

Fewer Iraqi soldiers are deserting their posts, ongoing operations suggest. At the same time, Iraqi officers insist that battle and other operational experience is fostering a sense of purpose and "Iraqiness," making for better and more dedicated soldiers than they were seeing a year ago.

"There is now a passion [among Iraq's troops] for stopping these terrorists and playing a part in building the new Iraq that was not there before," says Gen. Abdul Aziz Mohamed Jasim, operations director in the Iraqi Ministry of Defense. "It gives us something to work with as we build the new Iraqi Army."

General Jasim adds that the "increasing efficiency" of the Iraqi Army that comes from training programs and experience on the ground is contributing to an "increasing level of confidence and sense of duty."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:16 PM

60 IN '06:

Consumer confidence soars in November (AP, 11/29/05)

Consumer confidence soared in November as declining gasoline prices and an improving job market contributed to a stronger-than-expected reading that could bode well for the holiday shopping season.

The Conference Board said Tuesday that its Consumer Confidence Index rose to 98.9 this month from 85.2 in October. Analysts had expected a reading of 90. The better-than-expected results reversed a two-month decline.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 PM


This race may feature an unusual GOP tactic (Peter S. Canellos, November 29, 2005, Boston Globe)

The Republican Party's presidential nomination process usually turns out like an election in a local Moose Lodge: The prize usually goes to the guy who was second the last time --the most proven, dues-paying candidate.

Over the past 40 years, every nominee has run for president at least once before, except in 1976, when the nominee was the incumbent (but unelected) President Gerald R. Ford, and in 2000, when the nominee was the son of the most recent former president, a big-state governor who had been a key adviser during his dad's four national campaigns. [..]

The Republican rulebook calls for the previous election's number-two finisher to demonstrate his loyalty by selflessly promoting the man who beat him. The most recent exemplar of this rule was Bob Dole, who lost a bitter duel for the 1988 nomination to George H. W. Bush, and who then loyally guided Bush's policies through the Senate.

Dole won the next open nomination, in 1996, and has remained close to the Bush family.

[Senator John McCain of Arizona] has not.

Not only has Senator McCain worked to stay in President Bush's good graces but Mark McKinnon has already signed on for '08 and it would be no surprise to see Karl Rove do so as well. As badly as Mr. McCain wants to be president, Bush/Rove want to make the GOP grip on power permanent and a McCain nomination assures that end.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:50 AM


Choking on Chemicals in China (Andreas Lorenz, 11/28/05, Der Spiegel)

Even if water began flowing once again to the city's residents on Tuesday, the horrific environmental catastrophe reveals the flipside of the socialist economic miracle. Secretiveness and sluggish crisis management highlight the price the Chinese are paying for their boom. And even as westerners envy the half-communist, half-capitalist country for its impressive growth figures and endless backyard market, China is no longer merely the world's factory. It is also the world's toxic waste dump.

China's rise as a global power, achieved with high economic growth rates, is reminiscent of the conditions in the era of early capitalism. Everything that drives production is good, and everything that slows it down -- safety technology, for example, that prevents industrial accidents from leading to massive factory explosions -- is harmful. The result is exploding tanks, burning factories, collapsing mine pits and all manner of toxic leaks. According to official statistics, 350 Chinese die each day in industrial accidents, but the unofficial figure is likely to be much higher. "Occupational safety is a serious problem, because the number of accidents and deaths remains high," said Wang Dexue, Deputy Director of the State Office of Occupational Safety, commenting on the horrifying figures from the country's manufacturing industries.

Adding to the problems are economic reforms that have made many businessmen greedy. China's laissez-faire brand of socialism doesn't prevent executives from spending their money on cars and villas instead of investing it in worker safety and environmental protection. Although the government is constantly vowing to monitor manufacturers more closely, local officials and party leaders are often in bed with the captains of industry in China. This Mafia-like alliance between the politically and economically ambitious is known as "local protectionism."

Chen Bangzhu, an environmental expert on Beijing's Parliamentary Council, says he recognizes an "irrational development" in his country. In an interview earlier this year, Pan Yue, the deputy minister of government environmental agency SEPA, predicted a bitter end to the economic miracle. "This boom will soon come to an end," he said in an interview with SPIEGEL, "because the environment isn't cooperating anymore."

Flipside? When the upside is serving as a sweatshop for America in exchange for promissory notes, you'd think socialism would have one heck of an attractive flipside instead.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:43 AM


Romantic love 'lasts just a year' (BBC, 11/28/05)

Some couples may disagree, but romantic love lasts little more than a year, Italian scientists believe.

The University of Pavia found a brain chemical was likely to be responsible for the first flush of love.

Researchers said raised levels of a protein was linked to feelings of euphoria and dependence experienced at the start of a relationship.

But after studying people in long and short relationships and single people, they found the levels receded in time.

So their proposition is that ten billion years of evolution produces a species where the male is likely to abandon the female at exactly the moment she'd have a child and both would be most dependent?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:35 AM


Bush's Can't-Lose Reversal: Wednesday's speech will set the agenda for withdrawal from Iraq (Fred Kaplan, Nov. 28, 2005, Slate)

Lost in this juggernaut toward a new consensus for withdrawal is whether it's the right course to take. I think it is, for many of the same reasons that Murtha, Sen. Joseph Biden (another recent convert), and others have laid out. The most compelling of these reasons is the most strictly pragmatic. As long as American troops stay there in high visibility and large numbers, Iraq will remain a weak, unstable state. The insurgency's ranks will swell with those who are simply opposed to occupation, especially a Christian occupation, with the result that nationalism, sectarianism, and jihadism will converge, to grave consequences for U.S. interests and Middle Eastern stability. Beyond that, Iraqi officials will not take their security responsibilities seriously, knowing that they can lean back on the Americans. As Professor Barry Posen of MIT has put it, the U.S. military presence "infantilizes" Iraqi politics.

At the same time, the U.S. presence is vital to Iraq's security for now and for several months to come. Juan Cole, a persistent critic of the war and Bush's policies, argues persuasively that an excessively swift or unthinking withdrawal would almost certainly trigger total disorder and possibly a civil war with casualties 10 times greater than the present melee has wreaked.

President Bush is going to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq. That no longer seems in doubt.

Gotta give Mr. Kaplan credit for being the first one to criticize the President for doing what he said all along we would:
We have difficult work to do in Iraq. We're bringing order to parts of that country that remain dangerous. We're pursuing and finding leaders of the old regime, who will be held to account for their crimes. We've begun the search for hidden chemical and biological weapons and already know of hundreds of sites that will be investigated. We're helping to rebuild Iraq, where the dictator built palaces for himself, instead of hospitals and schools. And we will stand with the new leaders of Iraq as they establish a government of, by, and for the Iraqi people. (Applause.)

The transition from dictatorship to democracy will take time, but it is worth every effort. Our coalition will stay until our work is done. Then we will leave, and we will leave behind a free Iraq.

Staying after the democratically elected leaders of free Iraq have asked us to start drawing down would be a reversal and make us exactly the kind of imperialists the Left has erroneously claimed we sought to become.

Had to know the French would be right behind, France warns against hasty U.S. pullout from Iraq (Reuters, 11/29/05)

French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, one of the sharpest critics of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, warned Washington on Tuesday against pulling out troops without regard to regional security.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:26 AM


Case Reopens Abortion Issue for Justices (LINDA GREENHOUSE, 11/29/05, NY Times)

[O]f the 43 states with parental-involvement statutes, New Hampshire is one of only five that do not also provide an exception for non-life-threatening medical emergencies, and it was on this basis that two lower federal courts declared the law unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court's decision in the case, Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, may therefore shed light on the contours of the "health exception" that the court's abortion precedents have required since Roe v. Wade in 1973.

The second question, while seemingly quite technical, has perhaps even broader implications. The issue is under what circumstances federal courts can continue to do what they did in this case and in many other abortion cases: bar the enforcement of abortion restrictions that have not yet gone into effect, and so cannot be said to have injured any specific plaintiff.

Waiting in the wings, as the justices surely know, is another, perhaps even more highly charged abortion case. The Bush administration recently filed an appeal in defense of the federal ban on the procedure that abortion opponents have labeled "partial birth abortion," and the court must decide shortly whether to hear it.

That law, passed in 2003, has never taken effect. Federal courts around the country have declared it unconstitutional for lack of the health exception that the Supreme Court said was essential when it struck down a nearly identical Nebraska law in 2000. In passing the federal ban, Congress took account of that ruling by declaring that a health exception was superfluous because the procedure was, in its view, never medically necessary.

When the New Hampshire legislature was debating whether to enact a parental notification law in 2003, some legislators cited the Supreme Court's 2000 ruling in the Nebraska case, Stenberg v. Carhart, to argue that the measure needed a health exception. But the bill's sponsors resisted including one on the ground that it would offer doctors too big a loophole for avoiding parental involvement.

Without the health exception, the bill passed the State Senate by a vote of 12 to 11 and the House by a vote of 187 to 181. It was signed into law by the state's Republican governor, Craig Benson. John H. Lynch, the Democrat who defeated him in last November's election, opposes the law and has filed a brief in the Supreme Court urging the justices to declare it unconstitutional. The state's attorney general, Kelly A. Ayotte, a Republican, has pursued the appeal under her office's independent litigating authority and will argue the case herself.

Poll: Americans back abortion limits, oppose ban (CNN, 11/27/05)
Roughly two-thirds of the people questioned in a recent poll on abortion supported parental and spousal notification but opposed a constitutional amendment to ban the practice altogether.

The CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll conducted November 11-13 found that 69 percent of the 1,006 adults questioned were in favor of requiring minors to get parental consent to have an abortion, while 28 percent opposed that step.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:19 AM


EU missing greenhouse gas targets (Roland Pease, 11/29/05, BBC)

The European Union is likely to miss its greenhouse gas targets by a wide margin, according to an official assessment of the Union's environment.

The European Environment Agency says that the 15 longest-standing members of the EU are likely to cut emissions to just 2.5% below 1990 levels.

This falls well short of their target 8% cut. [...]

On the other hand, the report does include a glimmer of hope - that if measures that have been promised are implemented, the Kyoto target will be more than met.

The trouble is that reality and promise don't seem to be matched at the moment.

At the moment.....

US defends its efforts as climate talks begin (Beth Duff-Brown, 11/29/05, Associated Press)

Dr. Harlan L. Watson, senior climate negotiator for the State Department, said that while President Bush declined to join the treaty, he takes global warming seriously and noted that US greenhouse gas emissions had gone down by eight-tenths of a percent under Bush.

Watson said the United States spends more than $5 billion a year on efforts to slow the deterioration of the earth's atmosphere by supporting climate change research and technology, and that Bush had committed to cutting greenhouses gases some 18 percent by 2012.

Elizabeth May of the Sierra Club Canada, however, accused the United States, the world's biggest polluter, of trying to derail the Kyoto accord, which has been ratified by 140 nations.

''We have a lot of positive, constructive American engagement here in Montreal -- and none of it's from the Bush administration, which represents the single biggest threat to global progress," May said.

Sure wouldn't want them to follow our lead....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:17 AM


Darfur rebels 'united' for talks (BBC, 11/29/05)

Rival leaders of the largest rebel group in Sudan's war-torn Darfur region say they will present a united front at peace talks due to resume in Nigeria.

The splits in the SLM are blamed for the failure of previous talks and an upsurge in recent fighting.

"Our people on the ground need us to remain united," said Abdel Wahid Mohamed el-Nur, one of the men claiming to lead the SLM. [...]

Earlier this month, a top US told the rebels told the SLM to end their differences or risking losing support.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:08 AM

Z.C. #6:

Labor's Lost Story (E. J. Dionne Jr., November 29, 2005, Washington Post)

Critics of globalization tell an additional story of how free trade is sending many of our best-paying blue-collar jobs offshore. There is also the decline of union membership, a chicken-and-egg tale, since private-sector unions historically were strongest in the older manufacturing industries such as steel and cars. The UAW's numbers tell the story: 1,619,000 members in 1970, 1,446,000 in 1980, 952,000 in 1990, 623,000 in 2004. Where have you gone, Walter Reuther?

The contrast between these two accounts explains why economic conservatives currently hold the upper hand in America's political debate. The conservatives have a single, coherent story and stick to it: Economic change is good for everyone, especially for consumers, who get better stuff at lower prices. The fact that "producer groups" (such as those unions) are losing their "monopolies" and their capacity for "rent seeking" is cheered as progress.

The left's narrative is less compelling not only because there is no single story but also because few on the left attack the current system with the same gusto the right brings to defending it. Gone, for good reason, is the time when significant parts of the left called for "government ownership of the means of production." Much of the left accepts a certain amount of creative destruction because, in Margaret Thatcher's famous phrase, there is no alternative.

But this muddle reflects a default on parts of the left and, especially, within the Democratic Party. Because so many Democrats fear that they might sound like -- God forbid! -- socialists, they are unwilling to challenge the right's core story

God does, of course, forbid socialism, but, more importantly from a political perspective, so do voters. Meanwhile, here's a simple question that Mr. Dionne could grapple with if he wants to understand economics: if they're "high-paying jobs" then how come we pay the foreign workers so little?

MORE (via Tom Corcoran):
Labor Pains: Detroit needs to play by market rules. (Henry Payne, 11/29/05, National Review)

Massive job cuts at General Motors, America's largest carmaker — coupled with the bankruptcy of Delphi, America's biggest autoparts maker — have provoked predictable handwringing from liberal pundits who worry that America is "losing its manufacturing base." But the wrenching change now buffeting the auto industry defies the usual press formulas. Just listen to Steve Miller a turnaround specialist who is steering Delphi's restructuring process. He exploded the myth of America's "endangered" union manufacturing jobs at his October press conference announcing Delphi's move into Chapter 11: "We cannot continue to pay $65 an hour for someone to cut the grass and remain competitive."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:50 AM


Power to the People: Washington policy makers stand in the way of sensible energy policies. (John Fund, November 28, 2005, Opinion Journal)

New plant designs have laid to rest many fears about the safety of nuclear power plants and Mr. Bush now appears to ready to announce a major initiative to promote nuclear energy and also help discourage developing countries from making plutonium that can also be used to manufacture nuclear weapons.

Blair ready to go nuclear over future energy supplies (Fraser Nelson, 11/29/05, The Scotsman)
TONY Blair will today launch the case for a new generation of nuclear power stations, as he publishes the terms of a review which will lay out in stark terms the energy supply choices facing Britain. [...]

While he will stop short of personally endorsing nuclear power, the terms of his review will be defined in a way that points to no other viable alternative if Britain is to keep its pledge to reduce greenhouse gas. Mr Blair has been personally persuaded that only a new wave of nuclear power stations can fill the gap which will emerge when Britain's fleet of reactors starts to close down from next year.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:48 AM


Cameron says Davis could join his cabinet (JOHN INNES, 11/29/05, The Scotsman)

DAVID Cameron yesterday signalled that his rival David Davis will be offered a shadow cabinet post if, as expected, he is named the Tory leader.

Mr Davis has already asked the young shadow education secretary to serve as his deputy if he pulls off a surprise win.

But until now Mr Cameron has pointedly refused to discuss any shadow cabinet jobs.

However, the Witney MP yesterday appeared to say that he wants the shadow home secretary in his top team.

"I want a team of all the talents and David has a huge talent," he told the BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:45 AM


Brown hints at U-turn over public sector pension deal (GERRI PEEV, 11/29/05, The Scotsman)

GORDON Brown fuelled fresh doubts that a deal allowing public sector workers to retire at 60 could be unpicked yesterday, when he suggested that "a lot of work" remained to be done on state employees' pensions.

The Chancellor's remarks to a business audience put him at odds with Tony Blair, who has insisted he will not rip up the agreement made with unions. But they also highlight Mr Brown's eagerness to prove that he is just as bold a reformer as the Prime Minister.

As Mr. Brown joins Mr. Cameron and Mr. Kennedy in trying to get to Tony Blair's Right.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:33 AM


Cyber shopping for holidays takes off (Laura Petrecca, 11/28/05, USA TODAY)

Sales and traffic indications were positive for the post-Thanksgiving Monday. Online traffic Monday afternoon tracked more than 30% higher than an average Monday, based on results from sites monitored by Akamai Technologies. Akamai, which delivers Web content for more than 200 e-commerce sites, said the peak came from 3:30 to 4 p.m. ET, when 1.8 million users per minute visited the sites it tracks.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:21 AM


What to do about Iraq (Barry Rubin, Jerusalem Post, November 29th, 2005)

One assumption which must be questioned is the idea that because the American troops cannot put down the insurgency, the Iraqi forces are far weaker and certainly are incapable of defending themselves. Obviously, this idea is based on the current state of Iraq's army, though after all much of the fault is due to the US decision to dissolve the existing armed forces and not to the Iraqis themselves.

But it is also largely derived from past American experience with different kinds of situations usually outside the Middle East. The common pattern was that the United States was supporting a regime which was not popular, or at least could not mobilize many people, fighting a communist insurgency which could fight anywhere in the country. The government simply could not exist without US support.

This is not the case in Iraq, where the government will enjoy overwhelmingly popular support and be able to mobilize large numbers of armed men. In addition to the Kurdish militias there are also a lot of guns among the Shi'ite. Having so long been the victims of terrorism, these communities are highly motivated to fight the insurgents. Indeed, if anything the presence of US forces have held them back.

After an American withdrawal, the pro-regime forces are going to flatten the insurgents. They will not be gentle about it and the American military is not going to want to be there to take the blame for the human rights abuses that will no doubt occur. On a secondary level, an American departure is going to undermine the claims of the insurgents and reduce anger at the United States among Shi'ite elements. It will also give the ruling Shia-Kurdish coalition a bigger incentive to try to reconcile those Sunnis willing to make a reasonable deal.

It is a testament to the utter moral and political confusion that attends the Iraq debate that the United States may have to withdraw from Iraq in order to prove that it won.

November 28, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:47 PM


A fraught but worthy mission (BOB RAE, 11/28/05, Toronto Star)

The decision by the U.S./U.K.-led coalition to invade Iraq in the spring of 2003 had several consequences. One was the ouster and eventual capture of Saddam Hussein. Another was the unleashing of forces that the brutality of the dictatorship had kept under firm control for generations: a religious Shiite movement, largely in the south, which seeks to see more traditional values enshrined and protected in the constitution; and a movement of people who had been unable to express themselves for decades and who want a liberal, secular democracy, with groups advocating women's rights, greater academic freedom, environmental protection, the protection of minorities, and the modernization of the Iraqi economy.

The Kurds were strong supporters of the invasion because it meant that their oppressor would finally be brought to book, and it could ultimately provide a protected constitutional status within a federal Iraq.

The decision to disband the Iraqi army and police and prohibit members of the Ba'athist regime from participating in civic life had far greater effect than was realized at the time, with two major consequences: first, a vacuum in the maintenance of civil order, which left foreign armies to assume basic police responsibilities; and second, a large and idle army of the downwardly mobile and disaffected.

A huge portion of the public sector lost their jobs, their vocation, and their pensions. They were, for the most part, Sunni, and now form an important base for the domestic insurgency that has engulfed Iraq since President GeorgeBush's declaration of an end to major combat operations two years ago.

To this maelstrom add the terrorism of the Osama bin Laden surrogates, led in Iraq by Abu Musab al Zarqawi, who has used the vacuum of civil order in Iraq as a breeding and recruiting ground; neighbouring countries, each with a different stake in Iraq's continuing failure and weakness, and a tribalism whose full force had been pushed down by Saddam's army and bureaucracy, but which now has very little to hold it back.

What is remarkable is that given these conditions and the consequent level of violence, some constitutional progress has been made. [...]

Federalism, it is said, is essentially a foreign idea, a Western idea. It has no place in an Islamic state.

"Federalism will lead to separatism" is the next argument. It is an imported ideology that will put Iraq in a rigid straightjacket from which it will never emerge. The world, the oil companies, the West, will pick at Iraq's remains. These arguments must be answered.

The demand for federalism has come from Iraqis themselves. Every federal country is different. There is certainly no single path to federalism. It is an approach, not an ideology.

The evidence would also show that, far from leading to separatism, an effective federalism counteracts those determined to break up a country.

By insisting on one language, one religion, one official identity, it could reasonably be argued that a dominant majority gives a smaller nationality no reason to stay.

It is the abuse of majority power that fuels the secessionist urge, not the dispersal and sharing of power, which is at the core of the federalist idea.

The key is "effective federalism," which is different from confederation. The central government must have the sovereign capacity to relate to each citizen, to maintain the defence and foreign affairs of the country, and to ensure an economy where goods, services, commerce, and people are mobile.

If Iraq's regions are feudal fiefdoms, separatism will indeed be built into the constituent parts but not because of federalism. After all, the idea of building a stronger and more perfect union is as important a part of the federal project as is the recognition of the particular nature of different regions.

Just as the myth of the ethnically homogeneous state denies the reality of diversity, the borders and powers of the regions themselves should not be based on notions of ethnic exclusivity.

Assyrians, Turkmen, Aziris and others have expressed strong anxiety that their interests would be lost in some simplistic ethnic carve-up. Given the absence of any strong pattern of protecting the rights of minorities, their concerns are understandable. Modern federal practices have made a consistent point of not allowing provincial or states' rights to squelch human right

The built-in beauty is that by giving the majority power you allow them to be more tolerant of minorities they needn't fear and at the same time apply pressure for conformity to those minorities, so that the whole system reinforces stability.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:43 PM


Power play: India to partner Uncle Sam (Times of India, November 29, 2005)

India is willing to partner the US to 'balance the power equation in Asia', creating a new international security paradigm in this part of the world.

Speaking at the CII-WEF summit in the Capital, foreign secretary Shyam Saran said US and India could "contribute to creating a greater balance in Asia".

Nothing else George W. Bush will have done in his 8 years as president will matter more.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:22 PM


Corruption's grip eases in Ukraine: Tax receipts are rising, and the country improved its standing in Transparency International's annual ratings. (Fred Weir, 11/29/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

Though the economic reforms promised by President Viktor Yushchenko have been slow to arrive, experts say significant numbers of businesses are leaving the shadow economy, more people are paying taxes, and fewer officials are taking bribes.

"There are very strong anti-corruption moods in society right now," director of the independent Institute of Global Strategy in Kiev. "The revolution was above all a moral event that changed public consciousness. Officials know they must tread carefully in this atmosphere."

The Berlin-based organization Transparency International, which annually rates the perception of corruption in 150 countries, this year notched Ukraine up to 113th place from last year's 122nd, putting it roughly on a par with Vietnam and Zambia.

It's a perfect description of The End of History: "above all a moral event." Which is why the Left hates it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:15 PM


Blair too weak to win deal, says Chirac (David Rennie in Brussels and Anton La Guardia in Barcelona, 29/11/2005, Daily Telegraph)

In an attempt to break the deadlock over the next EU budget, the Prime Minister is proposing to slash nearly £17 billion from an earlier budget proposal that failed to find agreement in June. The British plan represents a cut of £120 billion from an initial spending plan put forward by the European Commission.

Most of the pain will be felt by the 10 newest members of the EU, mostly ex-Communist states, because the budget preserves both agricultural subsidies championed by France and the multi-billion pound annual British rebate. But as Mr Blair prepared to fly to eastern Europe this week to sell his scaled-down budget as being in the "true interest" of the new member states, Mr Chirac poured cold water on the chances of a deal by Britain, which holds the rotating presidency of the EU until the end of the year.

Speaking a few rooms from where Mr Blair was giving the closing press conference at a summit of European and Mediterranean countries in Barcelona, Mr Chirac said: "The United Kingdom has a very difficult mission. It is relatively isolated on the financial perspective."

Now would be the perfect moment for Tory leadership--if they had any yet--to step forward and say that no deal is better than one on French terms. If it breaks the EU, so be it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:11 PM


Wake up and listen to the muezzin (Mark Steyn, 29/11/2005, Daily Telegraph)

[T]ablighi Jamaat, the Islamic missionary group, has announced plans to build a mosque next door to the new Olympic stadium. The London Markaz will be the biggest house of worship in the United Kingdom: it will hold 70,000 people - only 10,000 fewer than the Olympic stadium, and 67,000 more than the largest Christian facility (Liverpool's Anglican cathedral). Tablighi Jamaat plans to raise the necessary £100 million through donations from Britain and "abroad".

And I'll bet they do. I may be a notorious Islamophobic hatemonger, but, watching these two projects go up side by side in Newham, I don't think there'll be any doubt which has the tighter grip on fiscal sanity. Another year or two, and Londoners may be wishing they could sub-contract the entire Olympics to Tablighi Jamaat.

I was slightly surprised by the number of e-mails I've received in the past 48 hours from Britons aggrieved about the new mega-mosque. To be sure, it would be heartening if the Archbishop of Canterbury announced plans to mark the Olympics by constructing a 70,000-seat state-of-the-art Anglican cathedral, but what would you put in it? Even an all-star double bill comprising a joint Service of Apology to Saddam Hussein followed by Ordination of Multiple Gay Bishops in Long-Term Committed Relationships (Non-Practising or Otherwise, According to Taste) seems unlikely to fill the pews. Whatever one feels about it, the London Markaz will be a more accurate symbol of Britain in 2012 than Her Majesty pulling up next door with the Household Cavalry.

And, if you object to that, the question is: what are you willing to do about it?

More coke and ecstasy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:52 PM


Canadian Government Falls on No-Confidence (ROB GILLIES, 11/28/05, Associated Press)

A corruption scandal forced a vote of no-confidence Monday that toppled Prime Minister Paul Martin's minority government, triggering an unusual election campaign during the Christmas holidays.

Canada's three opposition parties, which control a majority in Parliament, voted against Martin's government, claiming his Liberal Party no longer has the moral authority to lead the nation.

The loss means an election for all 308 seats in the lower House of Commons, likely on Jan. 23. Martin and his Cabinet would continue to govern until then.

The strangest thing about this is the implicit suggestion that Jacques Chretien did have the moral authority to lead a country, even if only Canada.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 8:20 PM


Europe thought it could not get worse . . . (Anatole Kaletsky, The Times, November 28th, 2005)

Why does the European Central Bank want to raise interest rates? Every European government says it shouldn’t. The International Monetary Fund and the European Commission say it shouldn’t. The Fed and the Bank of England say, privately, that it shouldn’t. And the economic statistics certainly say that it shouldn’t. Yet Jean-Claude Trichet, the ECB President, has more or less announced that eurozone interest rates will rise this week. [...]

Every December, the ECB produces a forecast showing recovery “just around the corner”. Every six months, with clockwork precision, these figures are downgraded. But each time the ECB produces a new forecast, which shows recovery still “on the horizon”, just postponed by 12 months.

Such pie-in-the-sky predictions have always been a stock in trade of financial hucksters. When I showed this ECB forecast chart to a friend who had spent many years in the underbelly of US finance, he grinned with instant recognition: “I haven’t seen an example as good as this since working at ITT for Harold Geneen.” Is this what M Trichet means by “reinforcing the credibility of the ECB”? But I must offer an apology. Regular readers may believe that I have become obsessed with Europe, after devoting four of my last six columns to the eurozone. How can I justify all this repetition? The answer is simple: in the year ahead Europe is the region whose precarious condition will be the biggest source of global uncertainty. America, Britain, Japan and China are all on fairly predictable trajectories, making reasonably well-managed transitions from very rapid economic rebounds from the 2001-02 recession towards more moderate, sustainable growth.

Europe, by contrast, has enjoyed almost no recovery and manages its economy on principles that totally mystify the rest of the world. This is why Europe is now the biggest source of uncertainty for global prospects; whether 2006 turns out to be a year of prosperity or disappointment is probably more dependent on events in Brussels and Frankfurt than in Washington or Beijing. [...]

So what are the chances of Europe enjoying the sort of recovery official forecasts are projecting — an acceleration from this year’s 1.2 per cent to 1.5 per cent growth rate to something near 2 per cent in 2006?

My justification for returning to Europe so soon is that the chances of such a recovery have dramatically shifted in the past few weeks. Last month the widely predicted eurozone recovery of 2006 seemed very unlikely. Now it is completely impossible. In fact, it is almost certain that Europe will completely overturn all conventional expectations; instead of recovering, it will probably be much weaker in 2006 than in 2005.

Can any of our economic gurus here make sense of this? Is this because European central bankers are trying to protect themselves against politicians who would rather inflate the currency than cut social services?

Posted by Peter Burnet at 5:02 PM


A new Iraq, a new Middle East (Christopher Hitchens, National Post, November 28th, 2005)

I was once asked why I wanted to become a journalist. I replied that it was because I didn't want to rely on the press for information. And to personally meet people like ambassador Ziad; or Jalal Talabani, the first elected President of Iraq; or the men who led the guerrilla war against Saddam in Iraq's southern marshes for 18 years -- to speak with such people is to feel very humble.

Also, in my case, very angry: Because when I read The New York Times or the Washington Post, or, indeed, some of the Canadian press, it's as if these people did not exist. You would not know that Iraq were now governed by its own people, with a parliament and six television channels and 21 newspapers.

One must remember that just three years ago, possessing a satellite dish in Iraq would invite death -- not just for you, but for your whole family. Remember, too, that the country's ancient marshes, home to a civilization that's remembered from Biblical times, were drained and burned by Saddam Hussein to destroy a Shiite people he loathed. The fire from that atrocity, considered by UNESCO to be the greatest environmental crime ever committed, was so intense that it could be seen from an orbiting space shuttle.

But the larger question must be this: Are we witnessing the beginning of something larger in the region? I want to give a few examples that I think will help answer this question.

First, consider the recent UN investigative report on the killing of Lebanese politician Rafik Hariri. The report shines a light on the sinister role of Syria, where the Baath party, not unlike its former counterpart in Baghdad, is based on an ethnic minority that has repressed the country for two generations. That regime now appears to be in the process of implosion thanks to its death-squad policies and support for mobster rule in Lebanon.

Lebanon itself, on the other hand, is experiencing a mass movement among Lebanese of all confessions -- Sunni, Shiite, Mennonite, Christian, Greek Orthodox and Druze -- to recover the sovereignty of their country after decades of occupation and cruelty. It has been accomplished peacefully by civil society, by people simply folding their arms and expressing defiance until the Syrian army grudgingly withdrew.

Kamal Jumblatt, a friend of mine, is the leader of the Lebanese Socialist Party and the country's Druze community. Though a frequent critic of U.S. foreign policy in the past, he says openly that he doesn't believe this moment could have arrived in Lebanon if the keystone state of tyranny in the region -- Saddam's Baathist Iraq -- had not been defeated. He believes this is the key event that inaugurated this Lebanese renaissance.

Am I willing to take his word for it? No. I'm not willing to take anybody's word for it. But it is an impressive bit of testimony against Jumblatt's previously declared interests.

Another example comes by way of Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim, the heroic Egyptian social scientist who was sent to solitary confinement for criticizing his country's one-party political system. This led to an international movement that successfully campaigned for his release. And he is now a man toasted from one end of Egypt to the other as the model of the brave, independent intellectual.

I had a long discussion with him at a conference of Arab democrats in Qatar a few months ago, and his basic message was that without the intervention in Iraq, the logjam would never have been broken. The tundra would never have unfrozen. The wall would never have come down [...]

At the time, people thought it would never happen. The Soviet glacier would never melt. The Berlin Wall would never fall. That's what the foreign-policy "realists" all believed. That's why Henry Kissinger wouldn't have Solzhenitsyn --the real Solzhenitsyn -- invited to the White House.

Now, it seems that the Arab Middle East, the world's most benighted region, the region that has been sunk in the most oppression, the most ignorance, the most backwardness and the most cruelty, may not be immune to the historical force that swept the Philippines in the early 1980s, that led to the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia and which has recently taken hold in Ukraine.

And yet some people look at these inspiring developments and they don't see progress. They see only one thing: instability. We're used to Syria's Assad dynasty. What's going to happen if it goes?

This is the querulous voice of the natural conservative, the one who fears change. And so, increasingly in Washington, you hear those who say: Regime change is imprudent. What happens if the Saudi Arabian government is challenged? How will we know who's boss? How will we know what proxies we should be ruling through? How will the CIA know which bit of the military to use for its next coup?"[...]

Often the most naive are the most cynical. Such "realists" as Scowcroft believe themselves to be hard-boiled. In fact, they're very soggy. They make unreliable moral and political guides.

As for me, I've picked different guides -- my liberal-minded comrades in Iraq, Kurdistan, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria. And I'm going to be with them, win or lose.

This was the speech he made just a few hours after he lay "bleary" in a Toronto hotel fulminating against religion.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:36 PM


Koran 'no match for violent Bible' (Samantha Maiden, November 29, 2005, The Australian)

MUSLIM extremists may use the Koran to justify their terror attacks, "but when it comes to good old-fashioned violence, the Judaeo-Christian God is hard to beat".

NSW Labor MP Julia Irwin -- considered a serial offender on religious issues by her own party -- ignited a new controversy yesterday as she described devout Christians as "happy clappers" and said the Bible was more bloodthirsty than the Koran.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:21 PM


The leftist Bush should appreciate (Jo-Ann Mort, November 27, 2005, LA Times)

ISRAELI PRIME Minister Ariel Sharon's decision to break from the conservative Likud Party he created to form a new party is the latest in a series of electoral tremors that began when Amir Peretz beat Shimon Peres for chairman of Israel's Labor Party and redefined the nation's peace camp.

President Bush and his foreign policy aides are much more comfortable with Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu, the probable new Likud leader, than with Peretz.

Too bad, because Peretz is more likely to bring peace to Israel. [...]

A victorious Peretz in next spring's parliamentary elections would be the Bush administration's best hope for moving Israel toward a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians.

The only justification for such idiocy would be that Ms Mort has been in a coma since June 24. 2002, when President Bush effectively ended the policy of negotiating with the Palestinians and gave Ariel Sharon the green light to unilaterally impose a settlement, a transformation that has already brought peace. Restarting "peace talks" would just take the Palestinian leadership off the hook.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:15 PM


The frivolity of evil (Robert Fulford, Saturday, November 26, 2005 , National Post)

[Theodore] Dalrymple's father, a communist and a businessman, worried about humanity's future but didn't like people and couldn't enter an equal relationship with anyone. This left Dalrymple permanently suspicious of anyone selling grand schemes. More important, his parents fought a long silent war over his head. They never spoke to each other in his presence and "created for themselves a kind of hell on a small domestic scale, as if acting in an unscripted play by Strindberg." For a long time Dalrymple pitied himself. Finally he decided, "One's past is not one's destiny, and it is self-serving to pretend that it is." He decided if in the future he became miserable, it would be his own fault.

The single parents he has treated often are at fault -- and they know it. They also know they will not be censured.

...your paper won't run anything as good as Fulford on Dalrymple this week.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:54 PM


Jabs don't work on big-bummed girls (Daily Mail, 28th November 2005)

Injections may not work on some people because their bottoms are too big, researchers have said.

Many vaccines and other medications are administered by a jab in the rear, but doctors have found that needles cannot penetrate the excess bottom fat of many patients, particularly women.

But they make the rockin' world go round.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:38 PM


The US knows it will have to talk to the Iraqi resistance: Even Lebanon was not as terrifying as the random menace of occupied Iraq. But the violence could be brought under control (Zaki Chehab, November 25, 2005, The Guardian)

Many Sunni tribal leaders in Iraq are convinced that Washington's message to the Shia and Kurdish leaderships, after Condoleezza Rice's first visit to Iraq in May, to allow Sunnis to participate in the political process, was an important US admission that mistakes had been made and needed to be corrected. But they also believe that the political process in Iraq has yet to put them on anything like the same footing as the Shia and Kurds. As a result, large numbers feel the attacks are the only way to ensure their interests are taken on board.

An end to violence in Iraq will not happen while the occupation continues. But against all expectations, it is not impossible for the situation to be brought under greater control if Sunnis are given a role similar to that of the Shia and Kurds. When they feel that their areas are beginning to benefit from reconstruction and their men are allowed to go back to their jobs in state institutions and the army, from which they were expelled as a result of de-Ba'athification, there is little doubt that the situation could improve.

It was, of course, the Sunni themselves who boycotted the process, but their recognition that it was a mistake--even if they feel it necessary to blame others--is all to the good. Even better if they've finally figured out that they're the main beneficiaries of federalism in a state where they're only 20% of the population.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:27 PM


Bush to Asia: Freedom is More than Markets (Dan Blumenthal, Thomas Donnelly, November 28, 2005, Washington Post)

Obscured by the unblinking spotlight on Iraq, the most significant strategic development of President Bush's second term is occurring in the shadows. If it can overcome the well-entrenched yet outdated policies of the past, the Bush Doctrine may be coming to East Asia, and the mere possibility is making foreign policy realists run the way the citizens of celluloid Tokyo used to run from Godzilla or the giant winged Mothra.

The president's just-concluded Asian trip bore signs that his devotion to democracy is beginning to shape American strategy beyond the "greater Middle East," calling into question the policy of economic engagement and the belief in the democratizing power of free trade that Washington has followed up until now. And military preparations are underway to give substance to the rhetoric of liberty. [...]

The rhetoric and the realignment have alarmed some traditional Asian hands, who have invested decades in a policy of engagement. A recent New York Times editorial reflected the concern, fretting that the "Bush administration has been going out of its way to build up its military ties with countries surrounding China." Leaving aside the editorial's assertion that the "two most troubling" examples of Bush's alliance-building are the region's two most powerful democracies--Japan and India--what is the alternative? Would the engagement crowd favor a unilateral approach to counterbalancing China's power? Does anyone really mean we should move out of the way and let authoritarian China become the dominant power in Asia?

Many foreign policy realists and Asia hands take China's view that Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is worrisomely nationalistic. But in Bush's view, Koizumi is a longtime ally with "common values, common interests, and a common commitment to freedom," as he said in his Kyoto speech. These are the same words Bush used this past July in a summit with India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, which Bush's critics also faulted. Never mind the potential for a broad strategic partnership, the critics said, India is not committed to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Yes, but like Japan, India is more likely part of the solution in Asia, rather than the problem.

A reshaping of the U.S. defense relationship with Japan has been in the works for more than a decade. The United States will reposition its forces and base a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in a Japanese port when the non-nuclear USS Kitty Hawk is retired from active service. The United States and Japan will also work together more closely on common security concerns.

This new combination of Bush Doctrine rhetoric and military reposturing represents more than a hedge against the traditional American approach to the region, particularly when it comes to dealing with Beijing.

While China's inevitably going to arrive at the End of History, it would be irresponsible not to be prepared to squash them in the meantime and un-American not to keep pushing them in the right direction.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:08 AM


For The Record: Quick News On 50 Cent (MTV News, 11.23.2005)

50 Cent and Kanye West are the only ones selected to be GQ's "Men of the Year" who have no false modesty about it — both of the hip-hop stars justify their big egos in the mag's pages. But they also have more on their minds than just themselves. Like George W. Bush, for one. 50 thinks the president is "incredible ... a gangsta." "I wanna meet George Bush, just shake his hand and tell him how much of me I see in him," 50 told GQ. If the rapper's felony conviction didn't prevent him from voting, 50 said he would have voted for Bush.

So he agrees with all those paleocons and libertarians who call President Bush a two-bit conservative.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:34 AM


18 Tricks to Teach Your Body: Soothe a burn, cure a toothache, clear a stuffed nose... (Kate Dailey, 10/24/2005, Men's Health)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:30 AM


"There is a Real Fear of Radical Imams" (Der Spiegel, 11/28/05)

The recent riots across France have raised new questions about the integration of immigrants into European society. Muslims have faced particular scrutiny following terrorist attacks in Spain and Britain. SPIEGEL ONLINE interviewed Jytte Klausen, the author of a new book looking at the challenges from the perspective of European Muslim leaders. [...]

SPIEGEL: Some countries, like Germany, are already taking steps to foster the growth of a so-called "Euro-Islam" and you mention in the conclusion to the book that you believe this European Islam is emerging. How would you characterize it?

Klausen: The revolutionary new Islam is what is called Islam of the Book, and it is based very much on an individual's own readings of the Koran, on each person sitting down as part of a prayer group and figuring out what Islam means to them. Usually there is no imam, and everybody has the same relationship to Islam because they can all read the text. That is already the Islam of Europe, the Islam of the next generation, the inter-ethnic Islam. It is all about a textual reading of the Koran, in local languages, and there are broad variations of interpretation, everything from neo-orthodox understandings where people say: "I must wear the hijab, because that's what the book tells me." Other groups say: "There is nothing in the Koran which tells women they must wear a hijab, only that both men and women should be dressed modestly." I think what is important is that when European governments step in and try and resolve issues around Islam, that they are attuned to this diversity, that they do not just work with traditionalists, because if they do, then we are going to short-change that new thinking which is going on and which should be stimulated and encouraged.

What's important is that if you recognize the bases of Western Civilization you can Reform Islam so that it conforms to them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:23 AM


Foreign Policy First Testing Ground for Germany's Grand Coalition: Don't be fooled by the facade of harmony in Germany's new grand coalition of conservatives and Social Democrats. Angela Merkel has only been chancellor for one week but she is already heading into a struggle with her foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, for control over foreign policy. (Der Spiegel, 11/28/05)

[T]he SPD, on whose support Chancellor Merkel relies for power, remains proud of Schröder's vocal criticism of the US government over Iraq, a stance that led to a deep rift between Germany and the United States which Merkel wants to mend. Schröder's outright refusal to join the "coalition of the willing" was comforting to the center-left party at a time when he was asking it to accept deep cutbacks in welfare benefits.

Regarding policy towards the US, Steinmeier "has been given clear battle orders by the party," said one Social Democrat member of Merkel's cabinet. Relations with the United States are the main fault line in the foreign policy of her still fragile coalition, analysts say.

Merkel underlined her desire for better trans-Atlantic links by visiting NATO headquarters last Wednesday straight after she saw French President Jacques Chirac in Paris. She had backed President George W. Bush at the height of the diplomatic crisis preceding the Iraq war, writing in a guest commentary for the Washington Post in early 2003 that "Schröder doesn't speak for all Germans."

Merkel is also trying to change Germany's tune in Europe. During her visit to Paris, she said the new EU member states in central and eastern Europe would play an important role in her European policy -- a clear hint that she wants to ease Germany out of the "axis" with France and Russia that Schröder built up through close relations with Chirac and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Among the tangible measures Merkel is taking is a joint trip with Steinmeier later this week to Poland, where she is seeking to improve fragile relations with Warsaw.

She also wants warmer ties with Britain, which fell out with Schröder over the Iraq war and the European Union budget. Merkel has given clear signals in the past that her instincts are closer to the market-friendly ideas of Tony Blair than to the view of a strong welfare state shared by Schröder and Chirac.

As the French model and the Anglo-American are opposed, you have to choose between France and America.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:15 AM


Fifty babies a year are alive after abortion (Lois Rogers, 11/27/05, Sunday Times of London)

A GOVERNMENT agency is launching an inquiry into doctors’ reports that up to 50 babies a year are born alive after botched National Health Service abortions.

The investigation, by the Confidential Enquiry into Maternal and Child Health (CEMACH), comes amid growing unease among clinicians over a legal ambiguity that could see them being charged with infanticide.

What should we call it when you kill an infant?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:04 AM


First Read (Elizabeth Wilner, Mark Murray, Huma Zaidi and Ryann Gastwirth, 11/28/05, NBC News)

A new survey taken by bipartisan polling partnership RT Strategies echoes the arguments lately being made by the White House in countering Democratic criticism of the war in Iraq. Seventy percent of those surveyed say that Senate Democrats' criticism of the war hurts the morale of US troops; 13% say it helps troop morale. Fifty-one percent say they think Democrats are criticizing the Administration's approach to the war to "gain a partisan political advantage;" 31% say they think Democrats are being critical because they believe it will help US efforts in Iraq. Forty-nine percent say US troops should be withdrawn "as the Iraqi government and military meet specific goals and objectives;" 16% say the troops should be withdrawn immediately, "regardless of the impact."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:57 AM


A Shift in Political Landscape Seems To Favor McCain in '08 (JOSH GERSTEIN, November 28, 2005, NY Sun)

Senator McCain of Arizona is emerging as an early favorite for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008 as a result of a shift in the issues dominating the American political landscape, according to political analysts.

Intensifying public concern about the war in Iraq, the prospect of protracted corruption trials in Washington, and renewed qualms among Republicans about federal spending are all putting wind into Mr. McCain's sails while setting back most of the senator's rivals for the nomination.

"If Iraq and foreign policy and national security and deficit spending are important issues, that will benefit people like McCain," the publisher of a leading political newsletter, Stuart Rothenberg, said.

They won't even be the major issues in the midterm, nevermind in '08. But his continued ability to appear the heir presumptive is all it takes to win the GOP nomination. It's a hierarchical party where the presidency is concerned.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:44 AM


Non-Christian clerics urge the Kirk to push religious teaching in schools (EDDIE BARNES, 11/27/05, Scotland on Sunday)

HINDU and Muslim leaders are urging the Kirk to boost religious teaching in schools in order to counter the "secular society".

David Lacy, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, said senior clerics from other faiths were now telling him to offer a more "strident" view of Christian beliefs, in order to provide young people with more moral teaching.

The non-Christian leaders added that the Kirk had been "too concerned" with being inclusive at the expense of laying down its own beliefs in schools.

The surprising calls come with religious communities preparing to mark Scottish Inter Faith Week from today, in which the links between the country's main faiths will be celebrated.

Their leaders will present the Scottish Parliament with a framed compilation of quotes from their respective scriptures which support the values engraved on the Scottish Mace.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:08 AM


Toward Europe? (Michael Barone, 11/28/05, Real Clear Politics)

Will the United States become more or less like continental Europe? That's one way to frame the central question of domestic policy. In Europe much higher percentages of gross domestic product are absorbed by government; welfare state protections and restrictions on labor markets are greater, health-care and pension provisions are dominated by the central government. The result, say advocates of the European model, is greater leisure and greater protection against risk. The result, say advocates of the American model, is economic stagnation and high unemployment. Over the last 25 years, the number of jobs has increased by 57 million in the United States. The figure for Europe is 4 million. Unemployment is around 5 percent in the United States. In France and Germany it tops 10 percent.

Given those numbers, Americans, through the workings of the political marketplace, are not likely to choose the European model.

The question can be pared down to the point where it answers itself: as demographics shift power from Blue areas to Red, is there any likelihood that America will deviate from the rest of the Anglosphere (- Canada), in order to become more like France and Germany?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:46 AM


Hollywood's PC perversion stifles storytelling (MARK STEYN, 11/27/05, Chicago Sun-Times)

Say what you like about those Hollywood writers of the '30s and '40s, but they were serious lefties. Their successors are mostly poseurs loudly trumpeting their courageous ''dissent'' while paralyzed into inanity. This year's Sean Penn thriller, ''The Interpreter,'' was originally about Muslim terrorists blowing up a bus in New York. So, naturally, Hollywood called rewrite. And instead the bus got blown up by African terrorists from the little-known republic of Matobo. ''We didn't want to encumber the film in politics in any way,'' said Kevin Misher, the producer.

But being so perversely ''non-political'' is itself a political act. If there were a dozen movies in which Tom Cruise kicked al-Qaida butt across the Hindu Kush, it would be reasonable to say, ''Hey, we'd rather deal with Matoban terrorism for a change.'' But, when every movie goes out of its way to avoid being ''encumbered,'' it starts to look like a pathology. And by the time Hollywood released this summer's ''Stealth,'' some studio exec must have panicked that, what with all this Bono/Live8 debt-relief business, it might look a bit Afrophobic to have any more Matoban terrorists. So ''Stealth'' was a high-tech action thriller about USAF pilots zapping about the skies in which the bad guy is the plane.

That's right: An unmanned computer-flown plane goes rogue and starts attacking things. The money shot is -- stop me if this rings a vague bell -- a big downtown skyscraper with a jet heading toward it. Only there are no terrorists aboard the jet. The jet itself is the terrorist.

This is the pitiful state Hollywood's been reduced to. Safer not to have any bad guys. Let's make the plane the bad guy.

Everyone knows cars are the bad guys.

Hollywood missionaries: In a drive to boost revenues, American film bosses are targeting the country's 30 million evangelical Christians. And the religious right is proving only too glad to help them along (Boyd Farrow, 21st November 2005, New Statesman)

Although Hollywood could tie itself in knots addressing what exactly a "Christian movie-goer" is - after all, 70 per cent of consumers of mainstream films in America consider themselves quite or very religious - it is clear that simply affirming Christian values in non-religious films can only help commercially. Examples include toning down explicit sexual imagery, and having Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie wear "Jesus Rocks" jackets in Fox's summer hit Mr and Mrs Smith.

The studios learned an important lesson from Universal's Walden-financed Oscar-winning biopic, Ray, which was previewed at churches. Congregations loved the film but objected to the word "God" being used as a cuss. Ray's director, Taylor Hackford, who had already cut four-letter profanities to satisfy Anschutz, the Walden boss, insisted he would not edit the film further, but it cost Universal the support of some church advocates. Hackford told the New York Times: "It's impossible for Hollywood not to reflect the nature of the country and Bush has made his religion clear."

The desire to turn films into a vehicle for Christian propaganda has led to some extraordinary claims. In August the editor of the right-wing magazine National Review urged delegates at a Young Republicans conference to watch the documentary March of the Penguins. The conservative critic Michael Medved suggested that the film, which shows the emperor penguins' 70-mile journey over Antarctic ice to breed and raise their young, "passionately affirms monogamy, sacrifice and child-rearing". A Christian magazine even claimed that the birds' journey made "a strong case for intelligent design". The film has taken $76m in the US and is the second-highest grossing documentary ever - after Michael Moore's Bush-baiting Fahrenheit 9/11.

Despite the undoubted commercial rewards, some film-makers are uneasy about the need to play to the Christian market.

Christian is redundant in that phrase.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:31 AM


Delicate choice just got tougher: Circumcision may protect against HIV infection, new studies suggest. But more parents are forgoing the surgery. (Daniel Costello, November 28, 2005, LA Times)

Once a routine procedure for newborn boys, circumcision is falling rapidly out of favor in the United States — even as growing evidence suggests that the surgery may reduce the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

In recent years, many doctors and medical groups, including the influential American Academy of Pediatrics, have stopped recommending routine circumcisions because they believed there wasn't enough evidence that it's medically necessary.

It had nothing to do with medical necessity but was instead pure politics. If you've had a kid in recent years you'll be familiar with the birthnazis holy trinity--"natural" birth; no circumcision; breast feed until the kid leaves for college.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:27 AM


Plácido's quest for the Grail: Robert Wilson's sound-and-light show stuns at L.A. Opera. (Mark Swed, November 28, 2005, LA Times)

Plácido Domingo has done the unthinkable. He sings Parsifal in this production. It was his choice; he runs the company. He certainly didn't need to do it. But apparently, there are few challenges of this order left in his career as tireless tenor, conductor, administrator and celebrity.

For the ordinary mortal Wagnerian heroic tenor, simply singing Parsifal well into his 60s is a rare accomplishment, and Domingo was in stentorian voice Saturday. He, of course, is not going to sell anyone on impersonating a young "holy fool" anymore. Indeed, in a Wilsonian get-up of slicked-back hair and heavy white makeup, he looked very much the old fool.

And he seemed all the more fool to subject his aging joints to the heavily stylized Wilsonian postures and slow-motion movements. When he first walked onstage, wearing a stiff, white Japanese-inspired costume (toned down from Frida Parmeggiani's more flamboyant early '90s avant-garde original) and trying way too hard to restrict his natural Latin exuberance, the effect was almost risible. It might have been a "Saturday Night Live" skit, if "Saturday Night Live" knew anything about culture.

But you have to love Domingo's determination (he has signed up to sing in Wilson's production of the "Ring" in Paris this spring). In the end, uncomfortable as he clearly was, he came remarkably close to pulling this Parsifal off, especially given the way the physical challenges served to make his ageless vocal power and musical command of the role all the more thrilling.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:23 AM


Octane's Allure Hurt by High Cost: This year many drivers stopped using premium fuel. The switch will be permanent for some. (Elizabeth Douglass, November 28, 2005, LA Times)

Automakers and fuel experts don't dispute the properties of premium, but they point out that most vehicles come with sensors that allow the engine to adjust to different grades of gasoline without a noticeable loss of power or performance.

David E. Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich., said some car manufacturers, especially makers of luxury and sports cars, list premium fuel as a requirement in the owner's manual. In such cases, he said, it's usually a good idea to stick with the top-grade fuel.

However, the majority of today's vehicles are designed to run on regular, and even those models where the manufacturer recommends higher octane fuel generally run just fine without it, Cole said. Deviating from the gas dictated or recommended by the auto maker can sometimes cause a drop in fuel economy, but it's unclear whether the loss is enough to offset the higher cost of premium fuel, he added.

"In most cases, I view buying premium fuel as throwing money away," Cole said. "I buy regular fuel. I think it's the best deal, and it's not going to hurt your car."

None of that is good news for oil companies that have made a point of pushing their premium blends in an effort to boost profits as well as brand loyalty.

Refiners always complain about all the blends they have to produce--how about not making Premium?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:14 AM


The stage is set: As local players line up on either side, New Hampshire's attorney general on Wednesday will try to persuade US Supreme Court justices to reinstate a controversial abortion notification law (Jonathan Saltzman, November 28, 2005, Boston Globe)

She is best known for sending two teenage killers to prison for murdering a pair of Dartmouth College professors, but now Kelly A. Ayotte faces a challenge with much higher stakes. With the eyes of her state's political establishment on her -- not to mention partisans on both sides of the nation's abortion debate -- New Hampshire's first female attorney general will stand before the US Supreme Court on Wednesday and try to persuade justices to reinstate a controversial abortion law struck down two years ago.

In doing so, the Republican lawyer is opposing her boss, Governor John Lynch, a Democrat, and aligning herself with the Bush administration as the high court gets ready to hear its first major case on the abortion front in five years.

New Hampshire political observers say it is unclear whether Ayotte, who is appointed by the governor with the approval of an executive council, has aspirations for elected office. If she does, they say, it is hard to think of a better way to raise her profile than standing before the justices this week.

''I don't see any political downside to this," said Dante Scala, associate professor in the department of politics at Saint Anselm College.

Folks periodically puzzle over how it is determined that the NH governorship is one of the weakest executive offices in the country--here's a good illustration. Note too that Governor Lynch just recently had to reappoint Ms Ayotte, who has a very bright future in at least statewide politics.

Legislature is largest, yet not representative of NH (NORMA LOVE, 11/28/05, The Associated Press)

When Gov. John Lynch took office this year, he invited lawmakers to lunch with him in groups. It took three months to fit everyone in.

New Hampshire's Legislature — 24 senators and 400 representatives— is the largest state legislative body in the nation and the third largest in the English-speaking world. Only the U.S. House and the British House of Commons are bigger.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:03 AM


Once Upon a Time in America: Why GM and the UAW's postwar economic vision failed. (MICHAEL BARONE, November 27, 2005, Opinion Journal)

The success of the Big Three and the UAW seemed a fit symbol of America's postwar economic dynamism. In fact, this was an economy characterized not by dynamism but by stasis, to use Virginia Postrel's term in "The Future and Its Enemies." New Deal legislation had been designed not for economic growth but for protection from the downward spiral of deflation. Those laws, not least by encouraging unions, strove to prop up wages and prices and to provide security to workers and existing firms. Keynesian economics was employed to flatten out the business cycle as much as possible and to reduce unemployment.

By the mid-1960s, it was generally agreed that this system worked and would continue indefinitely. The Big Three could always make money by rolling out the big cars families needed to go up north each summer. As John Kenneth Galbraith then argued, auto makers could induce consumers to buy as many cars as they wanted to sell by clever advertising. UAW workers could always look forward to ever-increasing wages and benefits. The big demand in the 1970 contract negotiations was retirement for auto workers in their early 50s. The confrontational labor-management politics of the 1940s and 1950s was replaced by consensus, as Henry Ford II joined Reuther in endorsing LBJ in 1964.

Reuther, a man of great energy and ability, wanted to use the UAW as an entering wedge to transform America into a Scandinavian-style welfare state. His contracts would set the pattern for national wages; the union movement would expand into new industries and unionize most of the economy; growth would enable workers to enjoy not only high wages, but job security, medical benefits, generous pensions. They would be protected against competition by large corporations. Reuther employed a Scandinavian architect to build Solidarity House, the union's headquarters on the Detroit River, and Black Lake, its educational center in northern Michigan. Reuther, like Marx, and like so many other social democrats, envisioned workers devoting their increasing leisure hours to pursuing the culture that seemed so inaccessible to workers earlier in the century.

The problem was that the default character of the economy, after the shocks of depression and war, turned out to be not stasis but dynamism.

Bad to be wrong about how an economy works--disastrous to be wrong about how human nature works.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:58 AM


Retirement at 60 will 'bust' Britain (GERRI PEEV, 11/28/05, The Scotsman)

BRITAIN will "go bust" unless ministers tear up an agreement that continues to allow public sector workers to retire at 60, business leaders warned last night.

The stark prediction that this is unaffordable for the government - made by Sir Digby Jones, the director general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) - came as aides to Gordon Brown and the Prime Minister clashed over whether the deal is set in stone.

But union bosses warned that the deal was not up for renegotiation, and threatened industrial action if ministers went back on their word.

You have to break the unions eventually, so you may as well do it sooner as later.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:51 AM


Ramsey Clark arrives in Baghdad (Sharon Behn, November 28, 2005, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Ramsey Clark, the former U.S. Attorney General and antiwar activist, arrived here yesterday and was expected to try to show up at the reopening of Saddam Hussein's trial in Baghdad today, but a U.S. government official warned that he was not officially registered with the court.

No one illustrates the ideology of the modern Left better than Mr. Clark, who can excuse the actions of any regime so long as it opposed the United States.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:48 AM


Bush plans anti-illegals campaign (Bill Sammon, November 28, 2005, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

President Bush today will call for a crackdown on illegal immigration, a move aimed at further rallying conservatives who recently cheered Mr. Bush's tough talk on Iraq and the Supreme Court.

But the president will also renew his call for a program to allow Mexicans who have already entered the U.S. illegally to remain here for up to six years. That initiative has long angered conservatives who equate it with amnesty.

"This is going to be about comprehensive immigration reform," a senior White House official said of today's Arizona speech. "He's going to talk about the three elements that comprise such reform -- border security, interior enforcement and a temporary worker program."

As the Gipper did, you trade the illusion of enforcement for the reality of amnesty and legalization--makes everybody happy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:43 AM


A Judge Tests China's Courts, Making History (JIM YARDLEY, 11/28/05, NY Times)

In many countries, including the United States, a judge tossing out a lower-level law would scarcely merit attention. But in China, the government, not a court, is the final arbiter of law. What Judge Li had considered judicial common sense, provincial legislators considered a judicial revolt. Their initial response was to try to crush it. Judge Li, who had on the bench less than three years, feared her career might be finished.

"An order by those in power has forced local leaders, none of whom dared to stand on principle, to sacrifice me," she wrote in rebuttal. "I'm just an ordinary person, a female judge who tried to protect the law. Who is going to protect my rights?"

Faced with the complex demands of governing a chaotic, modernizing country, China's leaders have embraced the rule of law as the most efficient means of regulating society. But a central requirement in fulfilling that promise lies unresolved - whether the governing Communist Party intends to allow an independent judiciary.

The 2003 ruling by Judge Li has become, quite unexpectedly, a landmark case for the evolving Chinese legal system. Her plight exposed the limits on judicial autonomy in China and the political retribution faced by judges. But it also revealed the rising influence of legal reformers. Scholars and lawyers rallied to Judge Li's defense and embraced her ruling as a test case, if an accidental one, for a more autonomous court system.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:33 AM


Gaza greenhouses herald economic harvest (Greg Myre, 11/27/05, The New York Times)

Amid the rubble of the former Jewish settlements, Palestinians have sown the first seeds of a modest economic revival.

Less than three months after the Israelis departed, Palestinians have repaired scores of greenhouses left by the settlers, planted an autumn crop and are preparing to harvest an estimated $20 million worth of strawberries, cherry tomatoes, sweet peppers, and an array of herbs and spices. The produce is intended mostly for export to Europe, but some will also be headed to Israel, Arab countries and the United States.

Weren't we solemnly assured these would be ground to sand as the Israelis withdrew?

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:35 AM


Political cloud over UN climate conference (Tim Reid, The times, November 28th, 2005)

Of all the days and of all the places to open an international conference on global warming, the world’s environmentalists could hardly have asked for a worse combination: today, in Montreal.

In a perfect storm of bad timing and even worse luck, nearly 200 nations gather in the Canadian city hoping to devise a successor to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.

There is just one problem: the Government which is hosting the UN conference — that of Paul Martin, the Liberal Prime Minister — and which has been the driving force behind efforts to build a new international consensus on global warming, is expected to fall in a no-confidence vote.

“It’s the nightmare scenario that environmental activists around the world have been hoping would be avoided,” said Elizabeth May, an executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada, an environmental lobby group.

Indeed, to the dismay of those hoping that today would bring a new dawn in the fight against global warming, there is every chance that Stephane Dion, the Canadian Environment Minister and conference chairman, will no longer be a minister in a Cabinet that no longer exists.

Well, that’s it then. If the Canadian government falls today, the planet is doomed.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:14 AM


Germans frozen by their fears
(Jacqueline Thorpe, Financial Post, November 26th, 2005)

It is a sunny November Saturday in Frankfurt, Germany's financial hub. On Zeil street, a pedestrian-only shopping strip, the stores are decked with elaborate Christmas decorations and twinkling lights.

The streets are bustling and teenagers skateboard in the square. The cafes are overflowing with coffee-drinkers, beer-drinkers, loud conversation and smoke -- a shock to the Canadian system, long used to antiseptic public interiors.

But beneath the festive atmosphere, something is wrong: No one is buying much. The world's third-largest economy, stuck in a rut of slow growth and unemployment near a post-war high of 11.6%, seems entirely on edge.

"It's psychology," says Claudia Burck, gazing with her partner at the expensive baubles in a high-end jewellery store. "I don't think people have really less money than before. If you see in the streets and the shops, there's plenty of people but politics and the economy are not so optimistic and people think it could become worse."

Last week, Bundesbank vice-president Juergen Stark said the same thing: "There is no confidence in the future. There is a fear of increasing unemployment, there is no confidence in the sustainability of public finances and no confidence in the ability of policymakers to solve the problems."

Don’t want immigrants? Don’t want babies? Don’t want to cut social benefits? Something has got to give. Or, you can just get very angry and blame others for taking what is rightfully yours.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:06 AM


May the forces be with us: Aid workers in earthquake-hit Pakistan have found the help of the army indispensable (Robin Lodge, November 28, 2005, Guardian Unlimited)

[I]t's not just the helicopters. When we couldn't find non-government organisations or even volunteers to distribute the food, we delivered by road. Pakistani soldiers put down their guns and hefted the sacks over their shoulders to bring the food to the people who needed it. In about half of the 90 or so army-run camps for people displaced by the earthquake, the army is distributing food delivered by WFP. And it's not just the Pakistan army. WFP's helicopters have been supplemented by Chinooks from the Royal Air Force and CH-53s from Nato.

As a result, we can now shift upwards of 100 tonnes of supplies a day to areas inaccessible by road. And I haven't even started to talk about the mules.

The lesson learned from this is that we should not agonise over petty points of principle when it comes to working with the armed forces in emergencies caused by natural disasters.

It is always pretty clear when armies or militias are in the business of ending, rather than saving lives, or have lapsed into abuses of civilians. We know full well when to stay away. We have no role to play in the politics of Pakistan or Pakistan-administered Kashmir. But when it comes to humanitarian aid, all forces should combine efforts wherever possible.

We need to examine new ways, possibly an efficient system of standby agreements, to work with responsible armed forces in emergencies like the earthquake in Kashmir. That would give us a far better chance of providing an effective joint response from day one.

It's an idiotic principle to begin with--is there any organization in the history of humankind that has a better humanitarian track record than the American military?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:05 AM


In the Black: Despite everything, Black Friday was a roaring success this year. (Irwin M. Stelzer, 11/25/2005, Weekly Standard)

THE WASHINGTON POST doubted that Americans would enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday, announcing on the morning of turkey day that 61 percent of Americans are "anxious about money." So anxious, in fact, that the very next day between 130 million and 150 million headed to the malls to spend a sum that exceeds the GDP of three quarters of the world's countries. Wal-Mart alone racked up some $2 billion in sales.

Sure, heating bills this winter will be higher, perhaps by about as much as 40 percent. But many consumers have budget billing arrangements with their utilities and fuel oil dealers, and so they will be able to spread the pain over the year. And sure, consumer debt is rather high, interest rates are rising, and house prices might not be as great a source of increased wealth as they have been in recent years.

But gasoline prices are coming down, stock prices are headed towards record levels, corporate profits continue to rack up double-digit gains, Wall Streeters will find their Christmas stockings stuffed with bonuses fit for the masters-of-the-universe that they think they are, the economy is growing at a healthy clip while inflation remains tame, and most Americans are richer than they have ever been.

November 27, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:45 PM


Medicaid Cutbacks Divide Democrats (Jonathan Weisman, November 28, 2005, Washington Post)

Controversial House legislation designed to gain control of Medicaid growth has split Democrats, with lawmakers in Washington united in their opposition while Democratic governors are quietly supporting the provisions and questioning the party's reflexive denunciations. [...]

"As the number of people without health insurance has increased for four years in a row, Republicans are charging ahead with $45 billion in cuts to Medicaid -- the health insurance program that provides medical care to America's poorest children and many of the survivors of Hurricane Katrina," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) thundered Nov. 18, just before the pre-dawn passage of the bill. "Republicans give new meaning to the words 'suffer little children.' "

What she did not say is that those changes were proposed over the summer by a bipartisan task force of governors, led by Virginia's Mark R. Warner, whose popularity in a Republican state has made him a rising star in the Democratic Party.

In fact, the most controversial provisions in the House bill were adapted almost word for word from a document drafted by Govs. Warner, Tom Vilsack (D-Iowa), Haley Barbour (R-Miss.), Janet Napolitano (D-Ariz.), Mike Huckabee (R-Ark.), Jennifer M. Granholm (D-Mich.), Dirk Kempthorne (R-Idaho), Jim Doyle (D-Wis.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), and Edward G. Rendell (D-Pa.), said Ray Scheppach, executive director of the National Governors Association.

"The House has worked very closely with us," Scheppach said. "From our standpoint, Republicans and Democrats saw this very similarly at the state level."

The split has underscored the differing interests of Democrats in Washington -- out of power and struggling to capitalize on the declining popularity of their adversaries -- and Democratic governors, who take a more pragmatic approach. For governors, the soaring costs of Medicaid threaten to swamp state financing. Already, tens of thousands of people have been thrown off the Medicaid rolls in states such as Tennessee and Missouri, and governors have warned that those cuts will grow deeper if they do not have the flexibility to trim benefits more rationally.

So where Washington Democrats hope to highlight the partisan divide, their gubernatorial counterparts outside the Beltway have emphasized pragmatism and moderation, not only in the way they have governed but in their political campaigns.

Having become the reactionary party, at least inside the Beltway, national Democrats have nothing to offer those whose jobs involve acting themselves. Inside the statehouses no one is still following the Second Way.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:28 PM


The Fenway rising: Instead of moving to a new neighborhood, the Red Sox have decided to transform, radically, the one around them (DAVID S. BERNSTEIN, Boston Phoenix)

Neighborhood development in Boston is a contact sport, and usually not a productive one. Everyone gets in the ring and fights for their own interests, while the actual project — a new Boston Garden, the South Boston waterfront, Crosstown, whatever — goes unfulfilled for decades.

So how can it be that everyone seems ready to move forward on the transformation of the area surrounding Fenway Park?

It appears genuinely likely that five years from now, thousands of Longwood Medical Area professionals will live in spanking new high-rise condominium and apartment buildings in the Fenway neighborhood. Pedestrian-friendly sidewalks will be lined with new stores and entertainment venues. The commuter rail’s Yawkey Station will emerge as a major hub of the city, as will a rejuvenated and cleaned-up Green Line D Branch stop at Fenway. The Mass Pike chasm will no longer sever the college-centric world around Kenmore Square from Lansdowne Street, Fenway Park, and beyond. [...]

After careful calculation, the new owners have decided that they can make Fenway Park profitable — if. If they add 3600 more seats. If they expand concessions — even more-so than they’ve already done by co-opting Yawkey Way — and other sources of revenue. And if the neighborhood around them becomes a more popular destination and thus a more profitable place to be. (Disclosure: Boston Phoenix publisher Stephen Mindich owns the 120-126 Brookline Avenue buildings in the Fenway, where the Phoenix’s offices are located.)

No wonder they're America's team.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:10 PM


Militias' era all but over, analysts say (Brian MacQuarrie, April 19, 2005, Boston Globe)

Ten years after Timothy McVeigh detonated a truck bomb that killed 168 people at the Oklahoma City federal building, the antigovernment militias that attracted intense police scrutiny after the bombing have all but disappeared, according to analysts who track the groups.

''There really are no groups out there now doing paramilitary training," said Mark Potok, who monitors the militias for the Southern Poverty Law Center. From a high of 858 militias and other antigovernment groups in 1996, the number withered to 152 in 2004, Potok said.

The deaths of innocent civilians -- including 19 children -- in the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building a decade ago today began the steep decline in the membership of grass-roots militias that had multiplied after deadly sieges by federal agents in Ruby Ridge, Idaho, in 1992 and Waco, Texas, in 1993.

Analysts also said the decline was accelerated by the successful prosecution of militia members across the country on weapons and financial fraud charges in a federal crackdown, and the fact that none of the anticipated catastrophes from computer failures actually occurred on Jan. 1, 2000.

Old militiamen call it the Burning Time....

'Repentant' Irving to plead guilty but must stay in jail (Ian Traynor, November 26, 2005, The Guardian)

David Irving, the discredited British historian of the Nazis, will spend Christmas and New Year in a Viennese jail after yesterday being refused bail and being remanded for four weeks pending trial for allegedly lying about the Holocaust.

Mr Irving is being held in Vienna after being arrested two weeks ago and has been charged with denying there were gas chambers at the Auschwitz death camp in speeches he made in Austria 16 years ago.

At yesterday's custody hearing the magistrate dismissed Mr Irving's lawyer's request for bail on the grounds that he might disappear or that Britain would refuse to extradite him back to Austria for trial because the alleged crime is not an offence in the UK.

He is to be tried under a 1947 Austrian law banning Nazi revivalism and criminalising belittling or justifying the crimes of the Third Reich.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:01 PM


Gotta know when your 15 minutes have come and gone.

Cindy book-signing
a very 'lonely affair'
(, November 27, 2005)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:15 PM


Global Work Force Helps Fed on Inflation (Martin Crutsinger, 11/27/05, AP)

While Alan Greenspan has won praise for his successful 18-year battle to keep inflation under control, he's the first to say he's had a lot of help. Among those most responsible are tens of millions of workers in China, India and Eastern Europe.

Adding all those workers to the global economy has made the Federal Reserve's inflation-fighting job easier by increasing competition. That has helped hold down labor costs -- the biggest single expense for employers -- and, as a result, prices.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:09 PM


Chinese decry toxic coverup: Chinese media are leveling rare criticism of the slow, secretive response to a toxic river spill (Robert Marquand, 11/28/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

While no culprits were named in newspapers from Beijing to Shanghai and Hong Kong - pending an investigation by Chinese premier Wen Jiabao - the language was, in Chinese terms, severe. Lies, failure of public trust, unjustifiable - are words and phrases rarely used in state-run media here regarding business and leadership issues. One Shanghai paper even called for a "transparent public information system." A Beijing journal declared, "Those who have lied irresponsibly will certainly be punished severely." [...]

China's pattern of official secrecy regarding public catastrophes that impinge on the health and well-being of those beyond Chinese borders is a subject observers here say genuinely does concern China's leaders.

Explosion Kills 30 Miners in China (AP, November 28, 2005)

An explosion tore through a coal mine in northeast China, leaving at least 30 miners dead and more than 100 missing, state media reported Monday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:09 PM


The Iraq story: how troops see it (Mark Sappenfield, 11/28/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

[T]he Iraq of Corporal Mayer's memory is not solely a place of death and loss. It is also a place of hope. It is the hope of the town of Hit, which he saw transform from an insurgent stronghold to a place where kids played on Marine trucks. It is the hope of villagers who whispered where roadside bombs were hidden. But most of all, it is the hope he saw in a young Iraqi girl who loved pens and Oreo cookies.

Like many soldiers and marines returning from Iraq, Mayer looks at the bleak portrayal of the war at home with perplexity - if not annoyance. It is a perception gap that has put the military and media at odds, as troops complain that the media care only about death tolls, while the media counter that their job is to look at the broader picture, not through the soda straw of troops' individual experiences.

Yet as perceptions about Iraq have neared a tipping point in Congress, some soldiers and marines worry that their own stories are being lost in the cacophony of terror and fear.

...he's given us Hoover's economy and LBJ's war.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:20 PM


Surplus soars on profits (David Uren and Elizabeth Colman, November 28, 2005,

FEDERAL coffers are overflowing with tax revenue, which is $3.6 billion ahead of budget, according to an Access Economics review that argues for taxation changes.
The review, to be released today, says the boom - based largely on commodity prices - could last until after the 2007 election, yet cautioned against giving away "expensive" but popular tax cuts.

Access director Chris Richardson said such a move could leave large deficits in the future, arguing instead for sustainable tax reform on the basis that it "improves efficiency". He predicted the overall surplus would rise from the budgeted $8.9 billion to $11.7 billion.

John Howard has demonstrated what a conservative Third Way parliamentary party can achieve--nice to have no checks and balances when the good guys are in charge.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:49 PM



It's beginning to look a lot like a big, big Christmas shopping season.

Deep discounts are pulling shoppers to stores and malls in big numbers, national early holiday-season data show - and the big bargains are helping retailers post big sales figures.

Shoppers charged over $3.9 billion Friday on Visa cards, a 13.9 percent increase over the same day last year - and based on early sales, stores like Wal-Mart and JCPenney were confident that the holiday season would produce more revenue than last year.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:06 PM


What Would a Clone Say? (GARY ROSEN, 11/27/05, NY Times Magazine)

[Y]ou don't have to be a raving Bible-thumper to entertain moral doubts about so-called therapeutic cloning ("therapeutic," that is, for potential patients; not such a great deal for the embryos). All you need is a bit of Kant from Ethics 101, especially the part about treating other people, presumably even proto-people, not as a means to your own ends but as ends in themselves. It is an injunction hard to square with the literature on S.C.N.T., with its talk of "harvesting" and "programming" stem cells.

It's pretty sad to see secularists with their hearts in the right places try to argue for decency on such issues, , a task that is impossible without recourse to God. What makes Mr. Rosen's attempt especially pitiable though is that the point of Kant's philosophizing was the futile attempt to find a grounding for traditional Judeo-Christianity that didn't have to invoke the authority of God. Bad enough that Kant failed, but Mr. Rosen is reduced to invoking him as a personal deity--thus the "injunction"--in order to ground his own moral wish. Multiplying errors doesn't yield truth.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:15 PM


Signs of an Iraq Policy (David S. Broder, November 27, 2005, Washington Post)

It has taken a long time, but the Democrats finally have come close to defining a sensible common ground on the issue of Iraq. [...]

But the outlines of such a position emerged last week in speeches by two respected Democratic members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Joe Biden of Delaware and Barack Obama of Illinois. [...]

They both envisage the gradual drawdown of U.S. forces through 2006, with Biden more willing than Obama to suggest a timeline for that process.

What must happen to make it possible, they agree, is a significant acceleration in the training of Iraqi security forces and in the civil reconstruction projects needed to give Iraqis a sense of hope -- both of which will require a change in priorities and an improvement in operations by U.S. forces.

Both senators express hope that next month's election of a permanent government will help speed the reconciliation of the Sunnis to the plans of the Shiites and the Kurds, but they acknowledge that the critical decisions in this regard must be made by the Iraqis themselves.

Predictably, Democrats find themselves creeping back down off the limb they'd gotten themselves stuck on to the safety of agreeing with the President's policy. That's what a 403-3 vote will do to you.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:09 PM


Some New Orleans Students Happy Elsewhere (JUSTIN POPE, November 27, 2005, AP)

Stephanie Swisher is settling in nicely as a freshman at the University of Virginia, enjoying classes, Naval ROTC, club volleyball and football Saturdays. Things are going so well, in fact, that she would rather not return to Tulane University in New Orleans -- the school she had expected to attend until Hurricane Katrina struck.

"The argument that everyone's giving me is that I'm a freshman so I've never known Tulane, I need to give it a chance,'" she said. "My argument is, why should I have to?"

In medical testing when an experiment is obviously harming subjects' health instead of helping you don't keep giving the patients the drug.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:30 PM


Mass. housing boom over, homeowners, agents say (Bloomberg News, November 26, 2005)

Massachusetts' five-year housing boom, which lifted the average home price by 71 percent and bolstered the local economy, is over, according to homeowners and real estate agents. [...]

The median price of a single-family home in Massachusetts was $360,000 in September, down 4 percent from a record $375,000 in August, according to the Massachusetts Association of Realtors. Houses available for sale rose for the seventh month in a row to 38,319, up 1.7 percent from August. The number of transactions declined 19 percent to 4,464.

US home sales probably will dip 7.3 percent to an annualized 6.71 million this quarter after reaching an all-time high of 7.24 million in the third quarter, David Berson, chief economist of Fannie Mae, said in a Nov. 15 forecast.

Alan Clayton-Matthews, an economist with New England Economic Partnership in Walpole, said home prices in Boston probably will decline in 2006. The median price of a home in Massachusetts probably will fall ''less than 3 percent" between now and the third quarter of 2006, he forecast.

A brief pause, during which the Fed starts cutting its artificially high rates, isn't exactly a bursting bubble, is it?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:25 PM


The war in the mind: Psychology and psychiatry have long had an uneasy relationship with the dark art of interrogation. But what, if anything, can psychologists and psychiatrists tell us about the effectiveness, and the effects, of coercive interrogations -- and the moral questions they raise? (Drake Bennett, November 27, 2005, Boston Globe)

There are, [Saul Kassin, a psychology professor at Williams College.] readily concedes, fundamental differences between criminal and military interrogations. The former are meant to elicit confession, the latter to extract information. In both, though, reliability is important, and in both, he argues, coercion leads to unreliable information. ''Everyone has a breaking point. You can certainly get people to talk." But interrogators, he argues, ''are not nearly as good at determining if what they're getting is true or not."

On this last point, Kassin has done the sort of falsifiable, controlled study that is rare in a fraught field like interrogation: He set up an experiment in which college students and police investigators were asked to judge both video- and audiotapes of prison inmates' confessions, some of them false, some true. The police, though more confident in their judgment, did worse than the students, and in some instances did worse than if they had randomly guessed. What that means, Kassin argues, is that the interrogator's gut instinct and hard-earned experience leads, as often as not, to the wrong conclusion.

Kassin and others are also looking at how to design a better interrogation, though most of the research is very new. ''Researchers have been so busy identifying some of the problems with interrogations that the next step, techniques that might produce good information, is only really starting," he says. In one promising study, for example, Par Anders Granhag and Maria Hartwig, psychologists at the University of Gothenberg, have shown how, by strategically holding back key information about the crime in question, interrogators can lower the incidence of false confessions while still trapping guilty suspects.

Such work, researchers hope, might help turn interrogation into a little bit less of a dark art and a little bit more of a science. But in the end, it can't resolve the larger ethical questions about what sort of interrogation methods we should allow and in what setting-and if there is any role for psychiatrists or psychologists in the process.

Easy enough to test the intelligence you extract--if the guy says there's a safe house at location A, go look.

The Truth about Torture: It's time to be honest about doing terrible things. (Charles Krauthammer, 12/05/2005, Weekly Standard)

A terrorist is by profession, indeed by definition, an unlawful combatant: He lives outside the laws of war because he does not wear a uniform, he hides among civilians, and he deliberately targets innocents. He is entitled to no protections whatsoever. People seem to think that the postwar Geneva Conventions were written only to protect detainees. In fact, their deeper purpose was to provide a deterrent to the kind of barbaric treatment of civilians that had become so horribly apparent during the first half of the 20th century, and in particular, during the Second World War. The idea was to deter the abuse of civilians by promising combatants who treated noncombatants well that they themselves would be treated according to a code of dignity if captured--and, crucially, that they would be denied the protections of that code if they broke the laws of war and abused civilians themselves.

Breaking the laws of war and abusing civilians are what, to understate the matter vastly, terrorists do for a living. They are entitled, therefore, to nothing. Anyone who blows up a car bomb in a market deserves to spend the rest of his life roasting on a spit over an open fire. But we don't do that because we do not descend to the level of our enemy. We don't do that because, unlike him, we are civilized. Even though terrorists are entitled to no humane treatment, we give it to them because it is in our nature as a moral and humane people. And when on rare occasions we fail to do that, as has occurred in several of the fronts of the war on terror, we are duly disgraced.

The norm, however, is how the majority of prisoners at Guantanamo have been treated. We give them three meals a day, superior medical care, and provision to pray five times a day. Our scrupulousness extends even to providing them with their own Korans, which is the only reason alleged abuses of the Koran at Guantanamo ever became an issue. That we should have provided those who kill innocents in the name of Islam with precisely the document that inspires their barbarism is a sign of the absurd lengths to which we often go in extending undeserved humanity to terrorist prisoners.

Third, there is the terrorist with information. Here the issue of torture gets complicated and the easy pieties don't so easily apply. Let's take the textbook case. Ethics 101: A terrorist has planted a nuclear bomb in New York City. It will go off in one hour. A million people will die. You capture the terrorist. He knows where it is. He's not talking.

Question: If you have the slightest belief that hanging this man by his thumbs will get you the information to save a million people, are you permitted to do it?

Now, on most issues regarding torture, I confess tentativeness and uncertainty. But on this issue, there can be no uncertainty: Not only is it permissible to hang this miscreant by his thumbs. It is a moral duty.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:21 PM


The Solomon choice: By standing up for the right to oppose the military's 'don't ask, don't tell' policy, some fear law schools could undermine two landmark civil rights laws (Kristin Eliasberg, November 27, 2005, Boston Globe)

IF THE FEDERAL government contributes hundreds of millions of dollars to colleges or universities, should it be allowed to dictate what goes on at those institutions?

The answer, according to two of the most important and successful civil rights laws in US history, has long been a resounding ''yes," when it comes to race and gender discrimination. Title 6 of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin by institutions receiving federal funding, and Title 9 of the Education Amendments of 1972, which applies to sex discrimination, both reflect the fundamental principle that public funds should never be used to encourage discrimination-and that the government can withdraw its funding, often very large amounts of money, from institutions that discriminate.

But next month, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case that some fear could threaten the reach of these historic civil rights laws. The case, Rumsfeld v. FAIR, doesn't concern race or gender. In an ironic twist, it centers instead on a piece of legislation called the Solomon Amendment, passed in 1994, which says that the government can withhold funding from universities whose law schools refuse to allow military recruiting on their campuses because they consider the armed forces' ''don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays and lesbians to be discriminatory. [...]

But if the Solomon Amendment amounts to government overreach, some are asking, what about Title 6 and Title 9? Surprisingly, the fear among some liberal lawyers and civil rights advocates is that, if the Supreme Court sides with the law schools, the legacy of those victories could be undermined.

If these schools really care about the principle involved, why don't they just refuse money from such a homophobic government?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:23 AM


All the Right Moves (JENNIFER SHAHADE, 11/27/05, NY Times)

CHESS in America is having a crisis. There were no American contenders in the recent world chess championship tournament in San Luis, Argentina, which was limited to the world's top eight players. The closest American candidate for the tournament was Hikaru Nakamura - a 17-year-old who is ranked 42nd in the world. But Nakamura - who at 15 became the youngest American grandmaster, breaking Bobby Fischer's record - says that he might give up pro chess because there is so little money in it. Losing Nakamura would be devastating for American chess.

How can chess save itself? No doubt it would make purists protest, but chess should steal a few moves from poker. After all, in the past few years, poker has lured away many chess masters who realized that the analytical skills they've learned from chess would pay off in online card rooms.

And that's a shame. There are plenty of smart people playing poker (and I love playing it myself), but there's no denying that when it comes to developing mental acuity, chess wins hands down, so to speak. Dan Harrington, a former world poker champion who quit chess because there wasn't enough money in it, laments that poker is thin and ephemeral in comparison.

So here are some poker-inspired ideas for chess:...

Borrow from wrestling instead--steroids, scantily clad women, Haitian midgets....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:16 AM


As Profits Surge, Workers Still Wait (Tom Petruno, November 27, 2005, LA Times)

This is Wall Street's version of comfort food: Corporate earnings keep rising at a double-digit pace while workers are lucky to get even low-single-digit wage increases.

For the last few years, those trends have been dependable and soothing for many stock market bulls — if not for the average worker. It's a world in which share prices are underpinned by healthy earnings while inflation risks are muted because employee pay isn't in danger of an upward spiral.

And because of that deflation and stock and home ownership the workers keep getting wealthier without wage increases.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:59 AM

PAGING DAVID CAMERON (via Robert Schwartz):

Brussels publishes list of first seven pan-European crimes (Anthony Browne, 11/24/05, Times of London)

The ruling means that for the first time in legal history, a British government and Parliament will no longer have the sovereign right to decide what constitutes a crime and what the punishment should be.

The highly controversial announcement, made possible by a European Court of Justice ruling in September, would represent a huge transfer of power from national capitals to the EU. At present member states jealously guard their right to decide what constitutes a criminal offence, and when their citizens should be fined, imprisoned or given criminal records.

The Commission suggested several other offences, including racial discrimination and intellectual property theft, which could become European crimes in the future. It will also set out the level of penalty, such as length of prison sentence, that would apply to each crime.

The announcement is strongly opposed by Britain and many other member states. The Commission is using powers granted by the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, the EU’s supreme court, and governments fear that there is little they can do to prevent it. The court ruled that the EU had the right to require member states to create criminal offences, and could dictate the length of prison sentences.

The case before the court in September applied only to environmental law, but the Commission says it means that it can create criminal penalties to enforce the entire body of EU law. A Commission statement said that the court’s reasoning can be applied “to all Community policies and freedoms which involve binding legislation with which criminal penalties should be associated in order to ensure their effectiveness”.

The Tories can break Labour, Europe or both if they use this well.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:54 AM


Advertisers Embrace the Power That Gospel Music Has to Offer: Affluent Black Christians Emerge as Market Group (Krissah Williams, 11/27/05, Washington Post)

Monica Miller, general sales manager of Radio One Inc.'s gospel station in Atlanta, remembers how hard it used to be to sell advertising for 97.5 Praise FM. Three years ago, few groups except churches were willing to buy time on the station, although it was the fifth most popular spot on the FM dial in the market. "It was frustrating," said Miller, who would watch advertisers in search of black consumers flock to urban media while ignoring gospel.

But these days, says Miller, corporate America has set its sights on the black Christian market. As a result her station's revenue grew 35 percent last year, and about 90 percent of the station's advertisers are now supermarkets, apparel retailers, automotive manufacturers and other large companies.

Major corporations have long marketed to large demographic groups including women, Latinos, blacks and youth. But as companies search for new ways to slice the demographics, black Christians -- and their middle-class money, their education and their families -- have attracted increasing attention.

Let's hope the RNC is one of the advertisers.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:49 AM


Shiite Urges U.S. to Give Iraqis Leeway In Rebel Fight: Americans Have Blocked Tougher Tactics, Cleric Says (Ellen Knickmeyer, November 27, 2005, Washington Post)

The leader of Iraq's most powerful political party has called on the United States to let Iraqi fighters take a more aggressive role against insurgents, saying his country will only be able to defeat the insurgency when the United States lets Iraqis get tough.

"The more freedom given to Iraqis, the more chance for further progress there would be, particularly in fighting terror," said Abdul Aziz Hakim, head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the Shiite Muslim religious party that leads the transitional government and whose armed wing is the most feared of Iraq's many factional forces.

Instead, Hakim asserted in a rare interview late last week, the United States is tying Iraq's hands in the fight against insurgents. One of Iraq's "biggest problems is the mistaken or wrong policies practiced by the Americans," he said.

Easy enough for us to be unserious about terror since it's so little threat here, but for them it's an existential matter. Let them do what needs to be done.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:13 AM


Brown fury: 'Number 10 betrayed me on pensions' (BRIAN BRADY, 11/27/05, Scotland on Sunday)

TONY Blair and Gordon Brown are at war over pensions reform this weekend after attempts to broker a 'ceasefire' between the giants of New Labour collapsed within hours.

Allies of the Chancellor accused Downing Street of ratting on a deal struck between the two men to maintain a united front when dealing with Britain's pensions time bomb.

The bitter internal disagreements between the two men threaten to throw vital reforms to the UK's pensions system into disarray, as Lord Turner prepares to publish his Commission's long-awaited report on the issue this Wednesday. [...]

"Gordon has been accused of being a rock in the road over the Turner report, but he is not the only one to harbour doubts."

Former social security minister Frank Field today warns that tensions between the men are 'on speed', and that "the chancellor is more near to blowing his top on something in public".

If Mr. Brown is going "wet" then the Tories really can steal a march on them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:06 AM


Looking north for power (Patrice Hill, November 27, 2005, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Americans thirsty for fuel are looking to Canada, which stands ready to capitalize on its historic role as the United States' leading supplier of energy.

You can't let our national energy security rest on such an unstable state.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:46 AM


How a heart-throb became the voice of liberal America (Paul Harris, The Observer, November 27th, 2005)

George Clooney was adamant about one thing last week: he was not attacking the President in his gripping new film about the Middle East - he was slamming the entire geopolitical system.

'It is not an attack on the Bush administration, but it is an attack on the system that has been in place for 60 or 70 years - oil always being at the centre of it,' the actor told an interviewer.

The debonair Clooney, the playboy actor once best known for keeping a pet pig and being the consummate ladies' man, has clearly taken on an unlikely role: the new King of Liberal Hollywood.

Unseating old-time liberal 'actor-vists' such as Warren Beatty, Tim Robbins and director Rob Reiner, Clooney has now emerged as the leading political voice in Hollywood, winning plaudits from liberals and stinging attacks from conservatives.

His two most recent films have slammed a broad range of targets, including US foreign policy in the Middle East, the corruption of oil companies and the Red-baiting of the McCarthyite era. In interview after interview, Clooney has spoken out on his favourite social issues and is a senior campaigner with the Make Poverty History movement that saw him recently lobby the president of the World Bank for aid to Africa alongside rock star Bono. 'I'm an old-time liberal and I don't apologise for it,' he recently told Newsweek.

Why does the dark side seem to attract most of the gorgeous ones?

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:14 AM


Pension? Start saving from birth (Gaby Hinsleff and Amelia Hill, The Observer, November 27th, 2005)

When Bismarck introduced the first- ever state pension in 1889, the retirement age was set at 65. However, at that time, the average life expectancy was only 49, so conveniently few people survived to collect it. And even when Lloyd George introduced pensions to Britain in 1908, working-class Britons were routinely living only a year or two beyond retirement.

It may feel like part of the inextricable deal between citizen and state, but the idea of a lengthy, relaxed retirement - going on a decades-long cruise or getting to know the grandchildren - is a relatively modern phenomenon: as Will Hutton argued last week, in 1951 the average person spent less than a fifth of their lives in retirement, compared with nearly a third now.

None the less, many workers see retiring on the dot of 65 as a fair reward for a life's hard graft. 'I've been a good employee: reliable, hard-working and honest. I could count the number of dodgy sick days I've taken in 48 years on the fingers of one hand, but part of the reason why I was able to make myself do it was because I always had my eye on my 65th year,' says Roger Pepler, a 64-year-old warehouse worker from Manchester. 'When I wake that morning, I can begin the life I've been dreaming of for years.'

He worries about not having enough savings, but says he will manage: 'The key thing now is that I am about to have time to spend with my family. No one is going to take that away from me.'

He is not alone: an ICM poll last week found 59 per cent of people would rather retire at 65, even if it meant a lower state pension. Faced with a choice between poverty and feeling overworked, many Britons would rather be poor. It will take more than a lecture from Adair Turner to convince them otherwise: it may take a re-evaluation of the whole idea of work.

Today’s trivia question is: “What generation was the first in history to assert their entitlement to a carefree, decades-long retirement paid for by the children they didn’t have?”

November 26, 2005

Posted by Peter Burnet at 9:37 PM


Gene for nurture reasserts itself in who humans are (Ian Johnston, The Scotsman, November 26th, 2005)

Are some people born evil or good, stupid or intelligent, doomed to a life of depression or blessed with seemingly incurable optimism? Or can we change our fate, overcome our genetic deficiencies, ruin a heaven-sent biological inheritance?

The nature versus nurture debate was perhaps the most bitter of the 20th century. [...]

Increasingly, scientists are now unravelling the full extent of the influence of our genes and breakthroughs seem to come thick and fast: a gene for fear, one for depression, another for creativity.

But those who believe these headline-making discoveries are triumphs for supporters of the nature side of the argument should think again.

What makes us who we are is far more complex and the study of "epigenetics" - the way genes are expressed - has thrown up evidence that being cuddled as a young child, what you eat, what the weather is like and even who are your friends can change the way your genes behave.

We would have embraced Darwinism years ago if we had known that nature selects for hugs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:35 PM


Mission accomplished: Junichiro Koizumi will leave Japan’s economy on the mend and its politics invigorated (Bill Emmott, The Economist: The World in 2006)

The prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, was in September 2005 returned to power with a landslide election victory, so you might expect him to be carrying out a vigorous programme of reforms to stimulate the economy. If so, you would be wrong. Mr Koizumi’s main task in 2006 will be to stay out of the way of the economic recovery, resisting pressure from the Ministry of Finance or some colleagues in the Liberal Democratic Party to raise taxes or cut public spending, in order to reduce the budget deficit, now 6.4% of GDP. That will be necessary, as the gross public debt has reached 170% of GDP and even the net debt (ie, taking account of the public pension scheme’s holdings of government bonds) is over 80% of GDP, the fourth-highest in the OECD. But it will be best not to rush it as that too could risk choking consumer spending.

Rather, the reforms presented to the Diet (parliament) by Mr Koizumi and his economics minister, Heizo Takenaka, will be directed at the much longer term. Like the postal-savings privatisation that he used as his election-winning issue, the reforms of 2006 will be aimed at establishing a long-term squeeze on the state’s role in the economy. The postal privatisation will not take full effect until 2017. With the two-thirds majority in the lower house of the Diet that he enjoys with the LDP’s small coalition partner, New Komeito, Mr Koizumi will be able to implement other reforms a bit faster than that, but caution will remain the watchword. Next in line for the Takenaka treatment are eight state lending institutions.

The biggest challenge, though, lies in finding ways to cut the costs of the state health-care and pension schemes. Mr Koizumi’s election manifesto promised reforms, but was short on details. High principles governed his campaign for postal privatisation; hard graft will be needed for health and pensions, and he is not noted for that. This task will be left to his successor.

Back when folks like James Fallows and Michael Chrichton and the entire Democratic Party thought Japan had figured out a new way of doing things that would leave us in their dust, Mr. Emmott wrote a great book, The Sun Also Sets, that outlined the whole series of structural problems that not only made imminent superpower status impossible but long-term survival doubtful. Mr. Koizumi has only made the most meager beginning on the massive reform that Japan requires and he doesn't appear to have much of a constituency for those reforms nor natural successors in pursuing them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:24 PM


Wicca's World: Looking Into the Pagan Phenomenon (, 11/26/05)

Witchcraft is moving into the mainstream in the Netherlands. A Dutch court has ruled that the costs of witchcraft lessons can be tax-deductible, the Associated Press reported Oct. 31. [...]

The practice of witchcraft is attracting ever-growing numbers, particularly among young women. A recent attempt to understand its appeal is the book "Wicca's Charm," published in September by Shaw Books.

Authored by journalist Catherine Edwards Sanders, the book stemmed from a magazine article she was commissioned to do. Initially dismissive of Wicca, during her subsequent research Sanders came to appreciate that a genuine spiritual hunger was leading people into neo-pagan practices.

Sanders, a self-professed Christian, defines Wicca as a "polytheistic neo-pagan nature religion inspired by various pre-Christian Western European beliefs, which has as its central deity the Mother Goddess and which includes the use of herbal magic."

The book, which is limited to examining the situation in the United States, admits it is difficult to estimate the number of Wicca adherents. Sanders cites an estimate from one group, the Covenant of the Goddess, which claims around 800,000 Wiccans and pagans in America. A sociologist, Helen Berger, in 1999 put the estimate at 150,000 to 200,000 pagans.

Wicca is made up of many diverse elements, yet Sanders identifies some common beliefs among its followers. They are: All living things are of equal value and humans have no special place, and are not made in God's image; Wiccans believe that they possess divine power within themselves and that they are gods or goddesses; their own personal power is unlimited by any deity; and consciousness can and should be altered through the practice of rite and ritual.

In other words, they reject the bases of Western Civilization and the American Republic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:19 PM


Exodus of 'Ossie' women following Mrs Merkel west (Rob Hyde in Saxony-Anhalt AND Colin Freeman, 27/11/2005, Daily Telegraph)

New figures show men now outnumber women by three to one in some eastern regions, following an exodus of women in search of a better life - and husbands - in the west.

In some towns, the imbalance is so bad that, statistically, a young man of marriageable age has only the slenderest chance of finding himself a wife. [...]

According to statistics published by the Berlin Institute for Population and Development, the migration of women was especially high from states such as Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, where there are only 76 females for every 100 males in the 18-29 age group. In some depressed villages, such as Zemnick, Saxony-Anhalt, only 45 of the 140 inhabitants are women.

Societies have an age-old means of getting rid of extra men...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:15 PM


Defending Nuclear Ambitions, Iranian President Attacks U.S. (NAZILA FATHI, 11/27/05, NY Times)

Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said Saturday that the Bush administration should be tried on war crimes charges and that it had no right to question Iran's nuclear program. [...]

"You, who have used nuclear weapons against innocent people, who have used uranium ordnance in Iraq, should be tried as war criminals in courts," said Mr. Ahmadinejad, ISNA news agency reported. He was apparently referring to the United States' use of munitions made with depleted uranium, an extremely dense metal.

"Who do you think you are in the world to say you are suspicious of our nuclear activities?" he asked. "What kind of right do you think you have to say Iran cannot have nuclear technology? It is you who must be held accountable, and you have no right to ask questions. You act as though you are the lord of the world."

But the point is we aren't going to be tried, are we? And Iran's nuclear program exists on the sufferance of the U.S. and Israel. May not be fair, but that's reality.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:49 PM


This time, Brown is not the enemy of reform (Matthew d'Ancona, 27/11/2005, Daily Telegraph)

There are few more astute students of the Conservative Party, its history and its trajectory than Gordon Brown. Brooding over what might lie ahead - and the likelihood that he will be facing David Cameron over the despatch box in the foreseeable future - the Chancellor has been much influenced by The Roads to Modernity, a recent exploration of the Enlightenment by the distinguished American thinker, Gertrude Himmelfarb.

In her book, Himmelfarb seeks to reclaim the Enlightenment from the French, and identifies a moderate, civilised British variant of that intellectual movement, visible in the "social affections" that bind this country together, the "moral sense" of Lord Shaftesbury, and the notion of capitalism with a social conscience explored by Adam Smith.

Reading this book and digesting its analysis of inherited British values has bolstered Mr Brown's conviction that the Tories face a fundamental problem in what he regards as their destructive plan to "marketise" and privatise the public services. That is not, he thinks, the British way.

He's right, of course, that the publics of the Anglosphere have no interest in complete privitisation of the social safety net, but runs great risk if he underestimates how much capitalism they're willing to bring to bear on their personal safety nets.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:39 PM


Prime minister plans to draw 'the final shape of Israel' (Harry de Quetteville, 27/11/2005, Daily Telegraph)

Sixty years after the state of Israel was created, Ariel Sharon is effectively drawing its final borders, say his advisers, diplomats, friends … and the cartographers.

They believe that Mr Sharon, who as a general played a leading role in the expansion of Israel's borders in successive wars since 1948, is now - as a politician - determined to set the country's hitherto elastic frontiers in stone.

What is more, judging by his track record and the way public opinion is shifting, there is a real chance that he may succeed.

Remember way back when when the unilaterally-imposed-state solution was new and radical?

How Reality Cut Likud's Vision Down to Size (STEVEN ERLANGER, 11/27/05, NY Times)

EYAL ARAD joined Likud 30 years ago, at the age of 17.

"We had a dream - Jewish sovereignty in the biblical Land of Israel, on both banks of the Jordan River, and Palestinians could have self-rule and not independence," he said. "I believe it was a beautiful and just dream, but it crashed against the walls of reality."

There were many such walls, not least of them a rapidly growing Arab population, a falling rate of Jewish immigration and the Palestinian demand for a sovereign state. The experience was painful, said Mr. Arad, now an adviser to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. "But we're grown-ups, and we had to wake up from the dream," he said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:30 PM

REQUIRED? (via Robert Schwartz):

President's Radio Address (George W. Bush, November 26, 2005)

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. This week, we gather with our loved ones to give thanks for the many blessings in our lives. Each family has its own traditions, yet we are united as a nation in setting aside a day of gratitude. We are thankful for our family and friends, who fill our lives with joy and love. We are thankful for the abundance of this prosperous land. We are thankful for the freedom that makes possible the enjoyment of all these gifts. And we acknowledge with humility that all these blessings and life itself come from Almighty God.

On Thanksgiving and throughout the year, we are grateful to the men and women of our Armed Forces for securing the peace in these dangerous times. Many members of our Armed Forces are observing this holiday in places far from home. They are serving with courage and skill in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere to defend our freedom and extend the blessings of freedom to others. In the past year, these brave Americans have continued to fight terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home. And they have helped the people of Iraq and Afghanistan hold historic and successful elections. They are America's finest, and we thank them today and every day for their service and sacrifice.

This week we also extend our gratitude to our military families, who are making great sacrifices to advance freedom's cause. Many of our servicemen and women have endured long deployments and separations from home. Many of those they leave behind must deal with the burden of raising families while praying for the safe return of their loved ones. All Americans honor and appreciate the commitment and sacrifice of our military families.

We think especially this week of those military families who are mourning the loss of loved ones. Every person who dies in the line of duty commands the eternal gratitude of the American people. The military families who mourn the fallen can know that America will not forget their sacrifice, and they can know that we will honor that sacrifice by completing the noble mission for which their loved ones gave their lives.

The Thanksgiving holiday reminds us that, "to whom much is given, from him much will be required." As we count our blessings, we are mindful of the need to share our blessings and gifts with others, and America is moved to compassionate action. This compassionate spirit was seen again this year, when Americans rallied to help their neighbors in need after the destruction caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. We pray for continued strength as we rebuild these communities and return hope to our fellow citizens.

The universal call to love a neighbor also extends beyond our shores, moving us to help people in other lands. Our nation has begun to help the millions of people in Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan who are suffering after last month's devastating earthquake in South Asia. I urge you to visit the website of the South Asia Earthquake Relief Fund at to find out how you can help. And to help others in need in your hometown, across America, and around the world, please visit the USA Freedom Corps website at

This week of Thanksgiving, we ask that God continue to bless our families and our nation. Laura and I wish you all a happy and safe Thanksgiving weekend.

Thank you for listening.

You mean it's not all take, take, take?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:38 PM


Church, State, and John Witherspoon: Scholar, cleric, philosopher of independence: a review of John Witherspoon and the Founding of the American Republic by Jeffrey H. Morrison (James M. Banner Jr., 11/28/2005, Weekly Standard)

In part because so little can be learned of the personal dimensions of Witherspoon's life, Morrison focuses his attention upon Witherspoon's thinking, especially his political thought, so much of it rooted in his Presbyterian convictions. For Witherspoon, religion, even if deeply held like his own, was instrumental, and clerics were the instrument that applied and interpreted it.

"When the manners of a nation are pure, when true religion and internal principles maintain their vigor," he argued, "the attempts of the most powerful enemies to oppress [a people] are commonly baffled and disappointed." Moreover, he wrote in 1782, "by the influence of [clerics'] religious government, their people may be the more religious citizens, and the more useful members of society."

Witherspoon promoted a kind of generalized, nonsectarian Christianity, his emphasis upon practice more than faith, and he sharply criticized sectarian distinctions as detracting from the unity and comity of spirit necessary to the governance and tranquility of a federal republic.

"I do not wish you to oppose anybody's religion," he once preached, "but everybody's wickedness." Since "civil liberty cannot be long preserved without virtue," he argued, true religion is a guarantor of the integrity, happiness, and constitutional strength of the union. His was a capacious, tolerant species of worship and belief. In these respects, Morrison rightly concludes, Witherspoon was "swimming in the mainstream of 18th-century American political thought." One might add that his Common Sense philosophy had become part of that mainstream and had unacknowledged influence on others. After all, Jefferson once explained away the distinctiveness of his statements in the Declaration of Independence as "the common sense of the matter."

We can be tolerant within the four corners of the nonsectarian solution but not without, lest we lose that vigor.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:53 AM


Behind the lines: The new 'Media Party' (Anshel Pfeffer, Nov. 24, 2005, THE JERUSALEM POST)

The question now is why has virtually the entire Israeli press signed up for membership in the new party.

Obsessive media-phobes on the Right will answer, of course, that the press is rejoicing at what it perceives to be the downfall of its nemesis, Binyamin Netanyahu, and that the leftist journalists consider this development as another nail in the coffin of the Right.

There are two major flaws with this theory.

First, pundits were dreaming of a new center party long before the Sharon-Netanyahu rivalry became such a visceral hatred. Second, not the only the Likud is going to go into hiding in March if the new party fulfills the pollsters' expectations. Amir Peretz's Labor will also fail. The unprecedented media support that the new party has received proves that Israeli journalists are a lot less idealistic than many Israelis believe. It's true that a number of prominent reporters and columnists have well-documented radical leanings, but the majority of the press corps is conformist - what they're really after is some fuzzy secular-Zionist dream of a peaceful, western, user-friendly country. That's why they are generally in favor of a territorial compromise but still dutifully applaud whenever the IDF eliminates terrorists. It is also the reason they turned Corporal David Markovitch into an instant hero, after he killed four Hizbullah fighters this week.

The Israeli media conduct a poverty-line festival when the annual statistics are released and run photos of empty refrigerators and hungry children, but the rest of the time they maintain a capitalist, market-orientated agenda and don't publish anything that could harm the interests of big business. In other words, a party that's tough on terror but willing to dismantle settlements, that pays lip service to social concerns but has no radical plans to redistribute wealth, is the summation of all their shallow ideals.

There is also another reason behind the media's backing of Sharon's party. The fact that two of the major players in the latest developments are Ehud Olmert and Haim Ramon is no coincidence. Both enjoy relationships which are much more than cordial with leading journalists, and the desire to see them cooperating in a new political framework is definitely a factor.

So the Israeli media is predominantly fascist too?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:46 AM


Realism Wins (Mshari Al-Zaydi, 24/11/2005, Asharq Alawsat)

The horizon of the political dreamers is always limited and overtaken by reality. We may be surprised one day to find that Al Zarqawi has developed shades of grey as politics does, but will he be able to shed the rivers of blood that he has caused that will eventually drown him?

There are many examples that reassure that the final victory will belong to the realists. We have seen the transformation of viewpoint in the leader of Jihadist groups in Egypt, Abud Al Zumur. Al Zumur was imprisoned for over 25 years for the assassination of President Sadat and rejected all the juridical reviews of the Islamist Jihadist revisionist (who moderated their radicalism), but eventually issued a statement calling for the support of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Egyptian general elections. This means that after 25 years of rejection, he finally acknowledged the political means that he had previously described as pagan such as elections and representation in parliament. He finally got rid of such delusions bringing him to reality. Last August he issued a statement that encouraged Egyptian political parties not to boycott the presidential elections. He stated that the opposition should unite behind a single candidate to push for the desired change. Indeed, such is a new language that differs greatly to that used by the author of the 'Missing Religious Obligation,' Mohamed Abdel Salam Farag, Abud's former colleague, and the religious ideologue of the group that killed Sadat. Maybe one day Al-Zawahiri will also renounce his language.

Even the Muslim Brotherhood, who see themselves as the pioneers of cultural-political resistance of the Crusading West, by employing notions such as the cultural invasion, cultural and political dependency from the ruling regimes of the West, and the maintenance of the Ummah's identity, have now started to mitigate its hostile language towards the United States. One must however highlight the word mitigate as to eliminate such language altogether would be political suicide. We now hear the general guide of the Brothers in Syria, Ali Sadr Addin Al Bayanouni, in response to a question about dialogue with the United States saying, "We will happily meet any party and clarify our views and positions."

In addition, we listen to the comments of the Muslim Brotherhood's Supreme leader, Mohamed Mahdi Akef, who speaks indifferently of power to an Egyptian magazine: "I say it loud and clear, we do not seek power. We want the people to rule themselves." I wonder what Sayyed Qutb would say if he had been around to hear such comments?

He'd say he'd lost.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:27 AM


Race is on for backup fuels (Greg Gordon, November 26, 2005, Sacramento Bee)

After years - or even decades - of sitting on the fringe of the world oil debate, the issue of what to do when production dwindles is starting to get attention in Congress.

This month, a bipartisan group of eight U.S. senators proposed legislation to accelerate the nation's shift to new energy sources in the transportation sector, which accounts for two-thirds of America's oil consumption, guzzling 14 million barrels of oil each day. [...]

If rising demand and the inability to produce more oil lead to shortfalls before a shift to alternative sources occurs, the global effect could be huge, the Energy Department consultants wrote. They said U.S. costs from a prolonged oil shortage could reach $4 trillion. Developed countries would face inflation, rising unemployment and recession, they wrote, while Third World nations "will likely be even worse off."

U.S. companies and government agencies already are exploring the energy alternatives proposed by the senators, but progress has come at less than breakneck speed.

Experts say that high startup costs, technological hurdles, tepid consumer demand for pricier, fuel-efficient vehicles, and other obstacles likely will prevent such products from significantly reducing U.S. oil imports for a decade or more without government intervention.

Easy enough to make gas expensive enough that alternatives are attractive and motivate innovation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:05 AM


Sunni imam calls for unity in Iraq (, November 26, 2005)

"The targeting of innocent civilians yesterday cannot be accepted," sheik Murad al-Oujaili told the congregation at the 14th of Ramadan mosque, relating how a witness told him of an infant ripped from his mother's arm and hurled to his death by the force of the blast. [...]

"This thing about Shiites and Sunnis is new to us in Iraq," the sheik told the worshippers, most of them bearded, robed men in their 20s and 30s. "We are all Iraqis and we must stop blaming each other."

His message suggests that many Sunni Arabs, the disaffected minority that forms the backbone of the insurgency, may be growing weary of the increasingly sectarian character of the violence.

Banners condemning the suicide bombing appeared Friday in the main outdoor market, and residents say many people now routinely report suspicious individuals, cars and other objects to security forces.

"These attacks are genocide against the Iraqi people. They have nothing to do with resistance," said Abdel-Ilah Nijm, a 28-year-old house painter.

The part where the Shi'ite majority gets to strike back is new anyway.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:44 AM


Chinese Officials Sought to Hide Toxic Spill: Local Journalists Expose Efforts to Cover Up Contamination of Water Supplies (Philip P. Pan, November 26, 2005, Washington Post)

After another day without running water, the third this week in Harbin following an emergency shutoff caused by a massive chemical spill into the region's main river, many in the line expressed relief that help had arrived in their neighborhood. But standing in the cold, waiting their turn in front of a hose connected to the tanker, people also shared their anger.

"All of these problems are caused by the government," one man growled as he struggled to carry a huge red bucket of water back to his apartment. He began to say more, but his wife cut him off as a local official walked over, loudly praising the ruling Communist Party.

Twelve days after an estimated 100 tons of benzene and other toxic compounds poured in the Songhua River following an explosion at a state-owned petrochemical plant, the party is struggling to contain a political crisis as much as an environmental one.

Daring journalists succeeded in publishing a series of reports on Friday describing in remarkable detail the efforts by party officials to cover up the chemical spill. Among the disclosures was an admission by a provincial governor that officials in Harbin initially lied to the public about why they were shutting down the water supply, because they were awaiting instructions from senior party leaders.

On Friday night, reporters received orders from the party's central propaganda department to stop asking questions and go home. All state media were told to use the reports only of the official New China News Agency, the journalists said.

If the Party is all powerful then everything that's wrong is its fault, no? (Doesn't help that it does cause most of them...)

Spill in China Brings Danger, and Cover-Up (JIM YARDLEY, 11/26/05, NY Times)

"There Will Not Be an Earthquake in Harbin," promised a large front-page headline in The Modern Evening Times.

The strange headline, coming as nationwide attention in China is focused on the dangerous benzene and nitrobenzene spill that contaminated the local Songhua River, seemed to have been a misprint. But, instead, it was an effort to dispel the wild rumors that mushroomed after Monday, when city officials pointedly did not mention the spill of the liquid chemicals in their initial public notice shutting down the municipal water system.

The city tried to convince the public that a shutdown was necessary to conduct routine repairs on the pipes. Suspicions instantly erupted. There had already been an inexplicable rash of rumors that the government had detected signs of an earthquake. Now those rumors escalated, and enough people panicked that officials had to confirm the spill, but the public relations damage was already done.

It seems that in their efforts to hide a chemical spill, Harbin officials may have helped fuel unfounded fears of an earthquake. The provincial earthquake bureau has since issued a reassuring statement that no temblors are predicted.

"They were trying to lie and get by," Qi Guangzhong, 64, said as he walked on a promenade beside the brown waters of the Songhua on Friday. "The government wanted to hide this."

China's Cover Up of Chemical Accident Unveiled: Government had concealed knowledge of chemical plant explosion that caused major benzene spill in the Songhua River (Li Dan, 11/26/05, Epoch Times)
Ten days after the explosion, the authorities admitted for the first time that the accident had caused serious contamination of the Songhua River.

The government officials intended to conceal the facts, which caused a public outcry in mainland China, especially the victims, who are the residents of Harbin. Mr. Wang from Harbin City said that the government had never cared about the livelihood of the common person. Whether the problem can be solved in four days, or some pathological changes found in their bodies from drinking the polluted water later, is a matter for the future.

Ms. Zhao said, "Anyway, the victims are always the common people. The officials can always protect themselves. They don't view common people's lives as human lives." A web user expressed his indignation online, "The most hateful thing is that the officials bought water before they announced the situation. They bought dozens and dozens of barrels of water, while the common people waited in line at the water station for a whole day, but didn't even get a drop of water."

An article in Hong Kong's Ming Pao News stated that when dealing with something major such as this water crisis, the officials are cautious and conceal the facts. They ignore the public's right of disclosure and neglect the public's livelihood and health. The government publicized the news only after they were no longer able to conceal it. This method of dealing with the problem is the same as that in dealing with SARS and the bird flu epidemic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:23 AM


Cocaine and ecstasy use rife in EU (Teresa Küchler, 11/25/05, EUOBSERVER)

Drug abuse is increasing across the EU, with cocaine and ecstasy becoming the drug of choice for new users, an EU report shows.

"Europe remains a major market for stimulant drugs, and indicators suggest that the trend in amphetamine, ecstasy and cocaine use continues to be upwards," the 2005 annual study from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) states.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:17 AM


Russian sacrifice: Poland (Graham Bowley, 11/25/05, International Herald Tribune)

In a early test of its relations with Russia, Poland's new government opened up on Friday previously sealed Warsaw Pact military archives, including a 1979 map showing Soviet plans to sacrifice Poland in the event of nuclear war with the West. [...]

[T]he opening up of the archives now - a decade and a half after independence and 19 months after joining the European Union - reflects the new government's attempt to play to its more conservative, anti-Russian supporters and to underline Poland's break with its Communist past.

"This government wants to end the post-Communist period," said Radoslaw Sikorski, the defense minister. "It is crucial to educating the public in the way that Poland was kept as an unwilling ally in the Cold War. It is important for people to know who was the hero and who was the villain."

It's revealing that the Left still sees Poland as the villain of the piece..

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:11 AM


Homeward Bound: “Choice feminism” claims that staying home with the kids is just one more feminist option. Funny that most men rarely make the same “choice.” Exactly what kind of choice is that? (Linda Hirshman, 11.21.05, American Prospect)

What is going on? Most women hope to marry and have babies. If they resist the traditional female responsibilities of child-rearing and householding, what Arlie Hochschild called “The Second Shift,” they are fixing for a fight. But elite women aren’t resisting tradition. None of the stay-at-home brides I interviewed saw the second shift as unjust; they agree that the household is women’s work. As one lawyer-bride put it in explaining her decision to quit practicing law after four years, “I had a wedding to plan.” Another, an Ivy Leaguer with a master’s degree, described it in management terms: “He’s the CEO and I’m the CFO. He sees to it that the money rolls in and I decide how to spend it.” It’s their work, and they must do it perfectly. “We’re all in here making fresh apple pie,” said one, explaining her reluctance to leave her daughters in order to be interviewed. The family CFO described her activities at home: “I take my [3-year-old] daughter to all the major museums. We go to little movement classes.”

Conservatives contend that the dropouts prove that feminism “failed” because it was too radical, because women didn’t want what feminism had to offer. In fact, if half or more of feminism’s heirs (85 percent of the women in my Times sample), are not working seriously, it’s because feminism wasn’t radical enough: It changed the workplace but it didn’t change men, and, more importantly, it didn’t fundamentally change how women related to men.

Funny thing is, one truism that Darwinists, Creationists, and IDers all agree on is that women are biologically designed to care for children and men ill-suited. To think things should be otherwise you have to deny both Nature and human nature.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:08 AM


L.A.'s Christian Mongolians Find Home at Church: A small group gathers in Koreatown on Sundays to share their faith and support each other in a new land. (K. Connie Kang, November 26, 2005, LA Times)

Every Sunday evening after their 90-minute worship service, members of the L.A. Mongolian Church rearrange pew benches, turning their small sanctuary into a cozy dining room. There, they linger over noodles and tacos, and visit with each other late into the night.

It's a weekly ritual that congregants of Los Angeles' only Mongolian church look forward to. It sustains them through the week, as they work long hours, often in low-paying jobs, to survive in America.

Sunday, their ritual will take on a decidedly American air. Three days after the actual holiday, they will serve a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with turkey and the trimmings — the first one they will have prepared themselves.

"Everyone is excited about it," said Eun Bok Won, wife of church founder Cheolhee Lee, a former Korean missionary to Mongolia. "They're all pitching in. This will be a very special time for us."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:05 AM


U.S. Starts Laying Groundwork for Significant Troop Pullout From Iraq (Paul Richter and Tyler Marshall, November 26, 2005, LA Times)

Even as debate over the Iraq war continues to rage, signs are emerging of a convergence of opinion on how the Bush administration might begin to exit the conflict.

In a departure from previous statements, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said this week that the training of Iraqi soldiers had advanced so far that the current number of U.S. troops in the country probably would not be needed much longer.

President Bush will give a major speech Wednesday at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., in which aides say he is expected to herald the improved readiness of Iraqi troops, which he has identified as the key condition for pulling out U.S. forces.

The administration's pivot on the issue...

So opinion is converging exactly where the President was all along?

Iraqi forces coming along, slowly (Pamela Hess, Oct 22, 2005, AP)

It is widely accepted among American officers in Iraq that the U.S. military lost more than a year in Iraq between the invasion and the creation of a professional security force. Thousands were recruited in the months after the fall of Saddam Hussein, but their training was brief and in many cases non-existent. They weren`t screened for loyalty to the old regime, and pay problems persisted.

Twin uprisings in Najaf and Fallujah in April 2004 revealed their vulnerability. About half of those called on to fight refused or abandoned their posts, and at least 10 percent joined the other side.

That searing experience led to the appointment of Army Lt. Gen. David Petraeus to oversee the creation of new Iraqi security forces. With considerable reorganization, partnering American units with Iraqi units, assigning thousands of U.S. military exclusively to training assignments, creating formal military academies, the Iraqi army is now showing signs of progress. The November 2004 battle for Fallujah, half of which was handled by Iraqi forces, proved the case. With adequate training and strong backing -- as well as medical, logistical and fire support -- Iraqi forces are now capable of shouldering some of the mission.

According to the U.S. military, some 116 Iraqi battalions are now in the fight; either in the lead, planning and carrying out operations against insurgents with U.S. backing, or as partners in U.S. planned raids and battles. In October the first Iraqi division headquarters assumed command of two brigades under it, and they have security responsibility for central Baghdad.

'If you demonstration what you want them to do, they do it,\' said Lt. Col. Mark Meadows, commander of the 1st Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment of the 10th Mountain Divisions 1st Brigade Combat Team. \'They copy very, very well. The good guys will keep doing it.'

Only one Iraqi battalion -- a force of about 700 -- is capable of totally independent operations, from planning to execution, as well as providing their own housing, food and transportation, according to the top American general in Iraq.

According to one Iraqi general, Iraq is just a year away from having a proper army if only the insurgency and its daily attacks on Iraqi infrastructure can be brought under control.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:03 AM


Firms' Profits Keep Rising: S&P 500 companies post a 14th straight quarter of double-digit gains. 2006 looks promising (Tom Petruno, November 26, 2005, LA Times)

With nearly all of the companies in the blue-chip Standard & Poor's 500 index now having reported their earnings for the quarter ended Sept. 30, the overall growth rate was 11.5% from a year earlier, S&P said this week.

That marked the 14th straight quarter of double-digit gains, an unprecedented streak, said Howard Silverblatt, who compiles S&P's earnings data.

Excluding the energy sector's huge gain, S&P 500 earnings were up 9.6% in the quarter.

The growth figures are for operating earnings, the results before one-time gains or losses.

Companies have reaped record earnings in the economic expansion since 2002 as sales have risen while managements have focused intently on keeping costs down, including by limiting hiring.

"What companies have done is they've been able to squeeze costs [and] they have great productivity," Silverblatt said.

Odd sort of Depression when the Hoovervilles are filled with McMansions....

Posted by pjaminet at 9:39 AM


'Reform. Reform. Reform.' (Stephen Moore, Opinion Journal, 11/26/2005)

Throughout our chat [McCain] has referred to Theodore Roosevelt in almost reverential terms and glows when I ask about him. He calls TR "my hero . . . and one of our greatest presidents," and at one point he excitedly searches through his briefcase and pulls out a book that he is reading on the famously tumultuous election of 1912. That was when TR bolted from the Republican Party (which Mr. McCain concedes was "a mistake") and formed the Bull Moose Party to dethrone William Taft. When I mention TR's trust-busting (which was mostly counterproductive economically), Mr. McCain really comes to life, exultantly points his finger in the air, smiles and cries out: "He called the trusts 'the malefactors of wealth.'"

And in this very moment it becomes clear to me that John McCain aspires to be a modern-day TR. The similarities are unmistakable: Both were war heroes, mavericks within their own party, reformers and defenders of the little guy.

But here in a nutshell lies the danger of the McCain view of the world. Where some see the vast virtue of entrepreneurial wealth-generators and job-producers, he too often sees "robber barons."... He views himself, I believe, as a kind of modern-day Robin Hood, a defender of the downtrodden and tormentor of the bullying special interests ...

But Teddy Roosevelt actually believed in Big Business, as he believed in Big Government; McCain seems to reject both in favor of Combative Government. McCain shares a few traits with Al Gore, who in the Senate was regarded as a moderate but who planned in the White House to indulge his taste for battle with "powerful forces." Unfortunately, that meant battling his fellow Americans. The voters wisely chose George Bush, a peaceable man, to lead the country.

Where McCain closely resembles TR is in character. Both were narcissistic and combative, both impelled themselves to the center stage, both preferred to disperse flocks than to fly in them, both showed little regard for the opinions of those who stand in their way. I noticed this anecdote:

[T.R. was] told that no law allowed him to set aside a Florida nature preserve at will.

"Is there any law that prevents me declaring Pelican Island a National Bird Sanctuary?" T.R. asked, not waiting long for an answer. "Very well, then," reaching for his pen, "I do declare it."

This is the same respect for law and political opponents that gave us campaign finance reform.

It's ironic that at a time when the Democrats are stuck in the 1930s, a McCain presidency would offer the 1910s. And yet McCain, more artfully and with greater charm than Hillary Clinton, has clothed his message in conservative dress the last few years. It may be enough to win conservative support - perhaps, even, a presidency.

November 25, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:03 PM


How did we forget that Israel's story is the story of the West? (Charles Moore 26/11/2005, Daily Telegraph)

If one stands back from the moral argument that rages round Israel, and just looks at this as a story, it reminds one intensely of that of ancient Israel's enemy, the Roman republic. An austere nation builds its power in the face of enemy neighbours. It does so by great feats of arms, and so its soldiers often become its political leaders. The commitment those leaders must give to the nation is absolute, lifelong, life-threatening. The deeds done in the nation's defence are frequently brave, sometimes appalling. Some would see Sharon as Milosevic, but might he not be Caesar?

But there's also an important difference from Rome: the purpose of victory has been more about security than conquest for its own sake. Israeli politics for the past dozen years has been the attempt to reconcile extrication from territory with security. That is what Sharon thinks about all the time, as did his Labour predecessors, Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak.

In the history of the West, such a narrative used to command fascination and respect. Many could apply it to their own people. British people whose convict cousins had built Australia out of their barren exile could understand; so could Americans, who had overcome hostile terrain and hostile inhabitants, and forged a mighty nation. So could any country formed in adversity, particularly, perhaps, a Protestant one - with its idea of divinely supported national destiny and its natural sympathy for the people first chosen by God. The sympathy was made stronger by the fact that the new state was robust in its legal and political institutions, free in its press and universities - a noisy democracy.

Anti-imperialists and the Left also found much to admire. They admired people whose pioneer spirit kept them equal, who often lived communally, who fled the persecution of old societies to build simpler, better ones. If you read Bernard Donoughue's diaries, just published, of his life as an adviser to Harold Wilson in the 1970s (a much better picture of what prime ministers are like than Sir Christopher Meyer's self-regarding effort), one difference between then and now that hits you hard is Donoughue's (and Wilson's) firm belief that the cause of Israel is the cause of people who wish to be free, and that its enemies are the old, repressive establishments.

As a boy, I loved this narrative.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:59 PM


Syria caves in to UN over Beirut murder (Tim Butcher, 26/11/2005, Daily Telegraph)

Syrian defiance of the United Nations inquiry into the killing of a former Lebanese prime minister collapsed last night as Damascus agreed to give up five senior regime members to be interviewed in Vienna by UN investigators.

Damascus had earlier refused to obey UN demands for its senior figures to be interviewed outside Syria and on Thursday the foreign minister, Farouk al-Sharaa, publicly criticised the chief UN investigator, Detlev Mehlis.

But faced with threats of UN sanctions unless it co-operated, Syria capitulated.

Thanks, Kofi.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:11 PM


Theory of Anything?: Physicist Lawrence Krauss turns on his own (Paul Boutin, Nov. 23, 2005, Slate)

Lawrence Krauss, a professor of physics and astronomy at Case Western Reserve University, has a reputation for shooting down pseudoscience. He opposed the teaching of intelligent design on The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer. He penned an essay for the New York Times that dissed President Bush's proposal for a manned Mars mission. Yet in his latest book, Hiding in the Mirror, Krauss turns on his own—by taking on string theory, the leading edge of theoretical physics. Krauss is probably right that string theory is a threat to science, but his book proves he's too late to stop it. [...]

Krauss' book is subtitled The Mysterious Allure of Extra Dimensions as a polite way of saying String Theory Is for Suckers. String theory, he explains, has a catch: Unlike relativity and quantum mechanics, it can't be tested. That is, no one has been able to devise a feasible experiment for which string theory predicts measurable results any different from what the current wisdom already says would happen. Scientific Method 101 says that if you can't run a test that might disprove your theory, you can't claim it as fact. When I asked physicists like Nobel Prize-winner Frank Wilczek and string theory superstar Edward Witten for ideas about how to prove string theory, they typically began with scenarios like, "Let's say we had a particle accelerator the size of the Milky Way …" Wilczek said strings aren't a theory, but rather a search for a theory. Witten bluntly added, "We don't yet understand the core idea."

If stringers admit that they're only theorizing about a theory, why is Krauss going after them? He dances around the topic until the final page of his book, when he finally admits, "Perhaps I am oversensitive on this subject … " Then he slips into passive-voice scientist-speak. But here's what he's trying to say: No matter how elegant a theory is, it's a baloney sandwich until it survives real-world testing.

Can't defend Darwinism out of one side of your mouth and rip string theory for having no real world validity out the other. People believe in each for aesthetic reasons, not scientific.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:54 PM


Freedom, if others are restrained: Laws that override the rights of some protect the civil liberties of many (Edward Spence, November 21, 2005, Sydney Morning Herald)

A central argument that provides ethical support to the new laws is the social contract argument. First raised by Plato 2500 years ago, it was developed in its modern form by the 17th-century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes.

Hobbes said the legitimacy of the state and its citizens is rationally and ethically mandated by a notional social contract under which individuals agree to constrain their "anything goes" unlimited freedoms for the sake of security, safety, civility and public order which the state guarantees on the basis of mutually acceptable moral principles.

However, the state only holds power in trust for the collective good, and its legitimacy is ultimately founded on the implied consent of its citizens. Whereas the state has an obligation to protect and preserve the security and safety of its citizens, the citizens have an obligation to abide by the ethical and legal principles upon which the state is founded.

When individuals through deeds or words threaten the security of the state and the safety of its citizens the government has a legal and ethical obligation to do whatever is needed to protect its citizens. A government that fails to do so would rightly be deemed negligible and held culpable for such negligence.

It's republicanism -- though it's necessarily based in Judeo-Christianity, not reason --- and it's why we were right to burn witches.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:24 PM


The Real McCain (ARI BERMAN, December 12, 2005, The Nation)

[T]he senator they saw projected a far more conciliatory image than the trash-talking maverick portrayed in the national media. Before the event he had endorsed teaching "intelligent design" alongside evolution in public schools, and he had expressed support for a rigid state ban on gay marriage that denies government benefits to any unmarried couple. After brief opening remarks, McCain took questions for more than two hours, referring to Reagan as "my hero," invoking the support of other conservatives on issues such as stem-cell research and immigration, and strenuously defending President Bush's Iraq policy.

The détente with conservatives that began with his vigorous embrace of Bush during the 2004 campaign has become a full-on charm offensive. "If he decides to run for President, the friendship has to be re-established," says McCain political consultant Max Fose. "There haven't always been town halls. There hasn't always been a dialogue." McCain isn't just reaching out on the home front. His office holds regular meetings with conservative leaders in South Carolina, where his approval rating sits at 65 percent. He has met with the Rev. Jerry Falwell, whom he denounced as one of the religious right's "peddlers of intolerance" after the 2000 South Carolina primary. After the antitax Club for Growth began running ads against McCain in New Hampshire, a state he won in 2000, he reversed positions and supported a procedural repeal of the estate tax. He has endorsed conservative Republican Ken Blackwell for Ohio governor. At the suggestion of conservative activist and longtime nemesis Grover Norquist, he campaigned for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's failed referendum initiatives in California, particularly the "paycheck protection" provision targeting unions' political activities. McCain's likely to be the most requested Republican campaigner in 2006 races. "He's the closest thing to a rock star in the Republican Party today," says Michigan Republican Party chair Saul Anuzis.

Unfortunately, most campaigns are a battle between who a politician is and who he needs to be to win. There have always been two sides to McCain: the conservative loyalist and the unpredictable maverick so often featured in the media. In preparation for 2008, McCain has largely chosen to unveil and market the conservative side. Many conservatives are warming to his routine; some are even beginning to like and trust him. It's fair to assume, though, that the more orthodox conservatives agree with McCain, the more he risks alienating moderates and forfeiting the independence that makes him unique and suggests he could become a great President. It's an uncomfortable predicament for a pragmatic problem solver with sky-high approval ratings and crossover appeal. "He'll have to decide whether he wants to be CBS's favorite senator or the Republican nominee," says Norquist.

Senator McCain learned an invaluable lesson from competing with and working with George W. Bush: no matter how much of your soul you sell to the media they can't make you president and no matter how conservative you go to get the nomination, Republicans can.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:08 PM


Stranger in a Strange Land: A Historian among Political Scientists (Timothy R. Furnish, 11/21/05, History News Network)

I like political scientists. Much of what I do as a historian overlaps with what they do (particularly in terms of creating patterns that allow for transnational and transcontinental analysis). In fact, some of my best friends are political scientists.

Nonetheless, it will be a cold day in Baghdad before I ever chair another Middle East panel at a political science conference. The only place I’ve ever encountered more Bush-bashing was among American academics at the American Research Institute in Istanbul. Of course, everyone knows that academia is overwhelmingly populated by liberals (folks who voted for John Kerrey and whose 1978 Volvos are held together by “Bush Lied” and “Somewhere in Texas a Village is Missing its Idiot” bumper stickers) and Leftists (folks who think the former are too conservative, not to mention nice). I’ve long since abandoned any hope that this skewed playing field will be leveled any time soon. But is it too much to ask that political scientists, of all disciplines, allow the latter part of their moniker to even slightly intrude upon the former?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:49 PM


Trade and Aid: Stars Are Aligned (Sebastian Mallaby, November 21, 2005, Washington Post)

In the run-up to the Group of Eight summit in Scotland last summer, [Brad] Pitt got Africa onto Diane Sawyer's "Primetime Live" for a full hour by offering himself up for an interview. His effort reinforced those of the rock stars who staged the "Live 8" concerts just before the summit, and it embarrassed the rich world into promising more aid. The hope is to repeat that trick on behalf of the Doha round of trade talks, which currently are stuck. France leads a pack of rich nations that refuse to cut the farm protectionism that harms poor nations.

Trade could use this sort of backing. Business groups that once lobbied energetically for freer trade have lost some of their passion, because past trade deals have already removed many of the barriers that bugged them. So now Pitt and his allies must ride to the rescue. DATA, the activist outfit that sponsored Pitt's tutorials, has convinced development groups that traditionally ignored trade that they should sign on to a pro-Doha platform. American religious leaders, who have long campaigned for Third World debt relief, are planning to use a meeting with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice next week to lobby for trade liberalization. Rice's visitors will speak for some 80 million Americans, and Brad Pitt alone has almost as many fans. Sect appeal plus sex appeal becomes the new trade lobby.

Hopefully his new friends in the Administration are lobbying Bono to get on board for a free trade push.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:28 PM


Early Holiday Shoppers Hunt for Bargains (AP, 11.25.2005)

Bargain shoppers, facing frigid temperatures in many parts of the country, woke up before dawn and headed to the nation's malls and stores on Friday, snapping up early bird specials on items from cashmere sweaters to flat-screen TVs and digital music players as the holiday shopping season officially got under way. [...]

In an improving but still challenging economy, merchants seemed to be even more aggressive in wooing the big crowds from a year ago, luring them with such come-ons as free money...

Remember back in the day, when you had to work in a store for them to give you money?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:22 PM


Black leaders switch to GOP in Florida (Brian DeBose, 11/25/05, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Darryl E. Rouson, recent past president of St. Petersburg chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and Derrick Wallace, Orange County chapter president, both have registered Republican in the past two months.

The announcements were seen as a boon for state and national Republicans eagerly seeking allies in efforts to reach out to the black community, but the two men said their decisions to switch party affiliation were based on the local political and business landscape.

Mr. Rouson, a lifelong Democrat, worked on the 1998 re-election campaign of Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, Illinois Democrat, before returning to private practice in 1999 and registering as an independent.

He said he made his decision after examining the Democratic Party's recent history in the state.

No fair, comparing rhetoric to reality.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:21 PM


David Duke in Damascus to express solidarity with Syria (Arabic News, 11/22/2005)

Former US Louisiana Representative David Duke on Monday expresses solidarity with Syria in face of the pressures and threats against the country.

Duke told a news conference at the 'Nation's Tent' at Rawda Square in Damascus that "I have come to Syria to express my support to the Syrian people and their just's the duty of every free man to reject the conspiracies and threats Syria is exposed to."

He added that the pro-Israel neoconservatives in the US have influence on their country's foreign policy and have been working behind the scenes through their mass media in the US to hide "the reality of Israeli terrorism against the Arabs."

We should borrow one of Mr. Duke's hero's ideas and make the Left and far Right wear patches so we can tell them apart.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:51 PM


Unfamiliar questions in the Arab air: As al-Qaeda scores own-goals in its backyard, many Arabs, including some Iraqis, are beginning to rethink their position on violence in the name of resistance (The Economist, Nov 24th 2005)

The global al-Qaeda franchise, whose Iraqi branch claimed responsibility for the Amman atrocity, has scored many own-goals over the years. The carnage in such Muslim cities as Istanbul, Casablanca, Sharm el-Sheikh and Riyadh has alienated the very Muslim masses the jihadists claim to be serving. By bringing home the human cost of such violence, they have even stripped away the shameful complacency with which the Sunni Muslim majority in other Arab countries has tended to regard attacks by Iraq's Sunni insurgent “heroes” against “collaborationist” Shia mosque congregations, funeral processions and police stations.

In Amman, al-Qaeda's victims included not only Mr Akkad and his daughter Rima, a mother of two, but also dozens of guests at a Palestinian wedding. The slaughter of so many innocents, nearly all of them Sunni Muslims, in the heart of a peaceful Arab capital, inspired a region-wide wave of revulsion. Far from being perceived now as a sort of Muslim Braveheart, the man who planned the attack, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, may be the most reviled person in Jordan, the country of his birth. His own tribe, which had previously taken some pride in its association with the Iraqi resistance, has publicly disowned him. Tens of thousands of Jordanians have taken to the streets of Amman to denounce terrorism. Opinion polls, which had previously shown Jordanians to be at best ambivalent about jihadist violence, now show overwhelming distaste for it (see tables).

Similar changes in attitude have overtaken other Arab societies. Some 150,000 Moroccans marched in Casablanca earlier this month to protest against al-Qaeda's threat to kill two junior Moroccan diplomats kidnapped on the road to Baghdad. The execution by Mr Zarqawi's men of two Algerian diplomats and the Egyptian chargé d'affaires in Iraq earlier this year aroused similar indignation in their home countries. Two years of bloody jihadist attacks in Saudi Arabia have rudely shaken the once-considerable sympathy for radical Islamism in the conservative kingdom. A top Saudi security source reckons that 80% of the country's success in staunching violence is due to such shifts in public feeling, and only 20% to police work. [...]

Noteworthy in all these subtle shifts is the fact that they are, by and large, internally generated. Few of them have come about as a result of prodding or policy initiatives from the West.

Which is like arguing that because the Counter-Reformation was internal to the Catholic Church it was not a product of the Reformation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:40 PM


US army cuts teeth on video game (Clark Boyd, 11/25/05, BBC)

America's Army is one of the most popular computer games on the planet and like many games, it is a shoot-em-up, get-the-bad guys kind of affair.

But unlike other games, America's Army is truly a product of the US military. The Army first released the game a few years ago as a recruiting tool.

But, at the recent Serious Games Summit in Washington, DC, the Army showed off a new use for its computer game - training soldiers for combat.

America's Army now has six million registered users, and scores of fansites, worldwide. That is not just because the Army gives the game away online for free.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:28 PM


Alito's remark on strip search of girl, 10, prompts questions (Michael Kranish and Alan Wirzbicki, November 25, 2005, Boston Globe)

As lawyer Andrew Solomon argued his client's case in 2003, before Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. of the federal Third Circuit Court, Alito raised a question.

''Why do you keep bringing up the fact that this case involves the strip search of a 10-year-old child?" Alito said, according to Solomon, lawyer for the girl.

Alito made his remark in a case that may become one of the most discussed of his career, as he heads toward Senate confirmation hearings in January.

Analysts familiar with Alito's decisions say the remark reflects his approach to law-and-order issues -- giving latitude and casting a skeptical eye on views that officers exceeded their authority. [...]

Whatever the merits of the case, analysts on both sides agree that Alito's strict view on law-and-order cases may be decisive on a Supreme Court that has been narrowly divided on cases involving civil liberties, the death penalty, and the rights of defendants.

Charles J. Ogletree Jr., a Harvard Law School professor, said that if Alito is confirmed, he would become a swing vote on criminal cases. ''Some of the highly contested 5-4 decisions over the last decade are likely to swing to a more conservative point of view, with fewer rights for suspects, more power for police, and less protection for suspects who are under policy scrutiny," Ogletree said.

There's an argument the Democrats can take to the public: we're for more criminal rights and less police power over suspects.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:30 AM


The Author of Liberty: Religion and U.S. Foreign Policy (John B. Judis, Fall 2005, Dissent)

Since the country’s founding, Americans have invoked the Bible and Christian, often specifically Protestant, beliefs to explain their role in the world. Presidents from John Adams and Andrew Jackson to Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan attributed America’s role to “Providence” or “Destiny.” In his inaugural address, Adams thanked an “overruling Providence which has so signally protected this country from the first.” During the Second World War, Roosevelt told Congress, “We on our side are striving to be true to [our] divine heritage.”

Many high officials have invoked an American “mission” or “calling” to “further freedom’s triumph.” Woodrow Wilson saw America’s leadership in the new League of Nations as leading to the “liberation and salvation of the world.” During the 1960 presidential campaign, Richard Nixon said that America had come “into the world 180 years ago not just to have freedom for ourselves, but to carry it to the whole world . . . ” And in his second inaugural, Reagan described Americans as “one people under God, dedicated to the dream of freedom that He has placed in the human heart, called upon now to pass that dream on to a waiting and hopeful world.”

In short, many presidents before Bush have invoked religious concepts or quoted the Bible to justify or explain a foreign policy dedicated, they claimed, to the spread of freedom and democracy. [...]

Religion has entered into Americans’ thinking about foreign policy primarily by framing how Americans understand their role and responsibilities in the world. There are three key components of this framework.
The first is the idea of America as God’s “chosen nation”—from Abraham Lincoln’s “the last, best hope of earth” to Madeleine Albright’s “indispensable nation,” to George W. Bush’s claim that the United States has “a unique role in human events.” The second is the idea that America has a “mission” or a “calling” to transform the world. God, Senator Albert Beveridge declared during the debate over the annexation of the Philippines, had “marked the American people as His chosen nation to . . . lead in the redemption of the world.”

The third component of the framework is the idea that the United States, in carrying out its mission, represents the forces of good against those of evil. William McKinley’s secretary of state, John Hay, described the Indian wars as “the righteous victory of light over darkness . . . the fight of civilization against barbarism.” In 1942, Roosevelt warned that in the war with Germany and Japan, “There never has been—there never can be—successful compromise between good and evil.” Reagan referred to the Soviet Union as “the evil empire.” And George W. Bush declared at West Point in May 2003, “We are in a conflict between good and evil, and America will call evil by its name.”

The specific terms of this framework—exactly what kind of world Americans want to create and exactly who stands in the way—have changed over the last two and a quarter centuries. The first generation of Americans, for instance, saw themselves creating what Thomas Jefferson called an “empire of liberty” against the opposition of Old World tyranny; Jacksonian Democrats wanted to build a continental Christian civilization against the opposition of “red demons”; Theodore Roosevelt’s generation envisioned the spread of Anglo-Saxon civilization against the opposition of barbarians and savages; and Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and their successors wanted to create a global democratic order against the opposition, first, of imperial Germany, then of fascism, and then of communism. [...]

In addition to its formulation in explicitly religious terms, the framework is religious in two other important ways. First, it is specifically rooted in the Protestant millennialism that was brought to America from England in the seventeenth century. The English Puritans originally believed that England was to be the “new Israel”— the site of the millennium and of the climactic battle of Armageddon predicted in the Book of Revelation. After the collapse of Oliver Cromwell’s revolution in 1658, they transferred their hopes to the New World. New England, Cotton Mather wrote in 1702, is “the spot of Earth, which the God of Heaven spied out as the center of the future kingdom.” Jonathan Edwards, the leading figure of the Great Awakening of the 1740s, predicted that “the dawning, or at least the prelude, of that glorious work of God . . . shall begin in America.”

In the late eighteenth century, America’s founders transformed this biblical millennialism into what historian Nathan Hatch has called America’s “civil millennialism.” They translated Protestant millennialist doctrine into the language of American nationalism and exceptionalism. The chosen people—whom Edwards and Mather had identified with the Visible Saints of New England’s Congregational churches—became the citizens of the United States; and the hopes for New England were transferred to the new United States, which, Thomas Barnard declared, “are now His vineyard.” The millennium became a thousand-year-reign of religious and civil liberty where, in Timothy Dwight’s words, “Peace and right and freedom greet the skies.” And the adversary became English tyranny and an Old World Catholicism that was trying to destroy “the church in the wilderness.”

Second, Americans approached these grand objectives, and the obstacles that seemed to stand in their way, with a religious mentality, characterized by an apocalyptic outlook characteristic of seventeenth-century Protestant millennialism.

Indeed, America's wars fit on a simple continuum, from the wars against aboriginals and the Brits to establish our own republic of liberty to the wars against imperialists, Nazis, Communists and now Islamicists to help preserve or establish such republics for others. It is the argument of our book that opposition to our efforts to democratize the world are, therefore, literally un-American.

Replant the American Dream (David Ignatius, November 25, 2005, Washington Post)

When I lived abroad, Thanksgiving was always my favorite holiday. It was a chance to scrounge up a turkey, gather foreign and American friends, and celebrate what America represented to the world. I liked to give a sentimental toast when the turkey arrived at the table, and more than once I had my foreign guests in tears. They loved the American dream as much as I did.

I don't think Americans realize how much we have tarnished those ideals in the eyes of the rest of the world these past few years. The public opinion polls tell us that America isn't just disliked or feared overseas -- it is reviled. We are seen as hypocrites who boast of our democratic values but who behave lawlessly and with contempt for others. I hate this America-bashing, but when I try to defend the United States and its values in my travels abroad, I find foreigners increasingly are dismissive. How do you deny the reality of Abu Ghraib, they ask, when the vice president of the United States is actively lobbying against rules that would ban torture?

Of all the reversals the United States has suffered in recent years, this may be the worst. We are slowly shredding the fabric that defines what it means to be an American.

We haven't been hated this much since the '80s, when that other lawless evangelical cowboy ignored world opinion and international law to topple governments from the Caribbean to Central America to Afghanistan.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:24 AM


Turkey and Israel start defense cooperation (Hurriyet, 11/25/05)

Turkey and Israel have commenced their defense contract cooperation with a ceremony to mark the joint production of upgraded M60A1 tanks for the Turkish military. The ceremonies held at Kayseri, the site of the new production line, were attended by top Turkish and Israeli officials on Tuesday. There was some initial tension over the delay of the contract by Israel, as it conducted field tests on technologies needed for the upgrade, however this seems to have been solved.

The program will cost $688 million and calls for the upgrade of 170 M60 tanks to front-line condition based on advanced technologies and systems developed for Israel’s Merkava main battle tank. Israel committed to transferring to Turkey a significant amount of technology needed to ensure efficient in-country conversion and production of the modernized platforms, under the contract concluded by the two governments in 2002.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:04 AM


Former Canadian Minister Of Defence Asks Canadian Parliament Asked To Hold Hearings On Relations With Alien "Et" Civilizations (Yahoo, 11/24/05)

A former Canadian Minister of Defence and Deputy Prime Minister under Pierre Trudeau has joined forces with three Non-governmental organizations to ask the Parliament of Canada to hold public hearings on Exopolitics -- relations with “ETs.” [...]

On September 25, 2005, in a startling speech at the University of Toronto that caught the attention of mainstream newspapers and magazines, Paul Hellyer, Canada’s Defence Minister from 1963-67 under Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Prime Minister Lester Pearson, publicly stated: "UFOs, are as real as the airplanes that fly over your head."

Mr. Hellyer went on to say, "I'm so concerned about what the consequences might be of starting an intergalactic war, that I just think I had to say something."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:39 AM


Sugar Powers a Revolution on Brazil’s Roads: Brazil has found an alternative to oil that it is touting as the future of fuel. “Alcohol,” a bio-ethanol fuel made from sugar cane, is increasingly powering Brazilian automobiles, and President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva speaks of an “energy revolution,” led by his country. Biodiesel, a renewable fuel, is seen as a way to make Brazil,and indeed the world, less dependent on oil. Its manufacture provides jobs for the poverty-stricken interior regions of the country and Lula has high hopes that, if the trend catches on across the globe, Brazil may become a large exporter of biodiesel. (Tom Phillips and David Gow, 23 November 2005, The Guardian)

Driven by soaring oil prices, petrol already costs 70% more at the pumps than "alcohol", the bio-ethanol fuel derived from sugar cane that Brazilians increasingly favour for their cars.

And, according to Brazil's President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Ale Jatinho represents the front line of a new "revolucao energetica" or energy revolution led by Brazil in a world where dwindling oil reserves and growth in emerging economies such as China are making high petrol prices a permanent feature.

Fuels such as biodiesel are renewable and can be made from agricultural products, like palm oil or soya beans, which can then be mixed at up to 30% with petroleum-based products such as diesel. As with samba and football, it is an area in which Brazil leads.

"The truth is that nobody can compete with Brazil," President Lula said recently. "Biodiesel production is a way of making Brazil less dependent on oil, a fuel that may eventually come to an end. This is a vital project for ensuring more independence for Brazil, as we may become a large biodiesel exporter," he said on opening a new biodiesel plant.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:33 AM


The First Step to Britishness Is Your Poppy (Carol Gould, 11/24/05,

Last week was the culmination of that poignant fortnight in which people all over the world wear a poppy in the lead-up to Remembrance Day. Nothing is more dramatic than seeing the sea of red flowers in the lapels of British men and women as they make their way to the office in the early-morning rush hour. All across the British Isles men and women of all ages wear a poppy. When I arrived in the United Kingdom thirty years ago from the United States I was so touched by this tradition that I made sure to buy one from a British Legion volunteer as soon as November rolled around.

The poppy is a symbol of the terrible loss of life in World War I in the fields of Flanders, where these blood-red flowers sprouted above the acres of corpses of fallen soldiers. As the decades have passed, the poppy has been worn to show one’s respect for the millions who have died in successive conflicts as recent as Iraq and Afghanistan. On British television, every presenter and anchor wears a poppy. In keeping with the motto of the British Legion—“Wear your poppy with pride”—every shopkeeper, publican, hotel manager and cabbie wears a poppy. This year I proudly bought mine at my local doctor’s office.

It was therefore all the more astonishing last week when I took a long walk along Edgware Road, the most densely Muslim section of London, and discovered that not one person was wearing a poppy. This all started because I was accosted on my corner, a few yards form where I have lived for twenty-eight years, by a young Arab man who began to get very aggressive with me. Was I, he demanded to know, “from the Jewish”?

He also wanted to know why I was wearing a poppy. I tried to explain the concept of the Cenotaph and Armistice Day. But he seemed determined to establish that I was a Jewess above all else.

We took Brother Cohen's advice and watched What's Cooking? this week, which nicely captures the monoculturalism of America.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:28 AM


Italy paralysed by general strike (Daniel Sandford, 11/25/05, BBC News)

Large parts of Italy's transport system have been brought to a halt by a nationwide strike.

The protest led by the country's three largest unions has also closed banks, post offices and government buildings.

The action by the unions, which have 12 million members between them, is against the government's proposed cuts in next year's budget.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:17 AM


Nixon Was Torn by Prospect of Nuclear War, Papers Show (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 11/25/05)

Widely considered a military hawk, President Richard M. Nixon fretted privately over the notion of any no-holds-barred nuclear war, newly released documents from his time at the White House reveal.

The recently declassified papers, from the first days of the Nixon presidency in 1969 until the end of 1974, show that Nixon wanted an alternative to the option of full-scale nuclear war - a plan for a gentler war, one that could ultimately vanquish the Soviet Union while avoiding the worst-case situation.

The papers provided a glimpse behind the scenes at efforts to find choices other than "the horror option," as the national security adviser, Henry A. Kissinger, called the worst-case scripts for all-out nuclear war that were then in place.

Such delicate liberal sensibilities explain why he was so half-hearted in confronting evil, while the millenarian Ronald Reagan, who despised the thought of M.A.D. without fearing it, was able to topple the regime.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:15 AM


States' Coffers Swelling Again After Struggles (JOHN M. BRODER, 11/25/05, NY Times)

After four years of tight budgets and deepening debt, most states from California to Maine are experiencing a marked turnaround in their fiscal fortunes, with billions of dollars more in tax receipts than had been projected pouring into coffers around the country.

The windfall is a result of both a general upturn in the economy and conservative budgeting by state officials in recent years, and it is leading to the restoration of school funding, investments in long-neglected roads and bridges, debt reduction, and the return of money borrowed from cities and counties.

The boom rolls on....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:10 AM


Spirit of Washington trip is best for rail lovers and wine buffs (REBEKAH DENN, 11/25/05, SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER)

[W]e thought we'd check out the food aboard the Spirit of Washington Dinner Train, a collection of vintage train cars that make a regular culinary journey from a depot in Renton to the Columbia Winery in Woodinville. It's a significant price commitment -- $49.99 to $79.99 per person, depending on the trip and seating options -- for tickets and what's advertised as a gourmet meal aboard. We wondered if it could provide priceless memories. In a brunch visit and a dinner visit, here's what we found:

For grand old nostalgia, we liked the train's aura, especially in the higher-priced dome car. We felt like first-class fliers when we sat at the linen-covered table, with sparkling clean windows wrapping over our heads (in contrast to the dusty, scratched views on past Amtrak experiences). A solicitous server took drink orders before bringing goblets of surprisingly good late-season strawberries in thick Devonshire cream.

The service fit with the experience, friendly and yet formal enough that we heard lines along the old-fashioned likes of "Thank you, Miss." [...]

Still, we greatly enjoyed the uniqueness of the experience, the enforced opportunity to relax, socialize and enjoy the rhythm of the rails. [...]

And, ah, those rails. Train buffs will be thrilled by the setting, and others can appreciate the antique feel of each individually decorated car, each with its own history.

Ah, what we lost when the State imposed highways on us...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:07 AM


Economy throws a curve at ECB plans (Mark Landler, NOVEMBER 24, 2005, The New York Times)

The European Central Bank has settled the debate over when it plans to tighten credit in Europe, signaling a rate increase next week. The debate over whether it should do so rages on.

On Thursday, an influential survey of German businesses reported a larger-than-expected decline in confidence in November, suggesting that Europe's biggest economy, while growing, remains fragile.

That followed two other troubling economic reports on the Continent - one showing a decline in consumer spending in France last month, the other a drop in business confidence in Belgium. Taken together, these indicators seem to challenge one of the central bank's justifications for its first interest-rate increase in five years: that Europe is finally on a sustainable growth path.

Complicating matters further, inflation appears to be easing. On Thursday, five German states reported a decline in consumer prices in October, largely reflecting the recent fall in oil prices.

The '70s are still going strong in Western Europe.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:45 AM


Hitchens a man for all demons: Even bleary eyed, critic can deliver a rousing secular call to arms (LYNDA HURST, Nov. 19, 2005, Toronto Star)

[H]itchens says that what truly scares him is the mistaken tendency of Western governments — which traditionally have kept religion and the state well and truly separate — to accommodate the growing demands of Islamic extremists, often against the wishes of other Muslims.

Multiculturalism won't work in managing religiously and culturally diverse societies, he says, only full-on secularism where all religions are "kept out of the public square." He was amazed Ontario took so long to realize that and prohibit faith-based family-law arbitration.

"In Britain, some Muslims want the Three Little Pigs banned. Whether it's the demand for sharia or segregated sporting facilities , it's awful."

Fighting words, as Hitchens is perfectly aware: "I don't mind being called Islamaphobic. I can't stand all religions and am perfectly happy to include Islam on the list."

As he does fundamentalist Christians and their current promotion of "intelligent design" over evolution. Or Christian "Zionists" who support Israel "like a rope that supports a hanging man." It is, he says, the root cause of the endless conflict between Israelis and Palestinians: "Of course, there should be two states, but religion makes the situation toxic,"

At 56, he's had plenty of personal exposure to matters spiritual. Raised by a Baptist father and a non-observant Jewish mother, educated at a Methodist prep school, married in a Greek Orthodox Church, then again by a rabbi, Hitchens emerged convinced that all religion must be eradicated.

He's not just an atheist who doesn't believe in God, he says, but an "anti-theist," who actively denies the existence of same, a distinction he insists on making.

Yet he agrees with Freud: as long as people are afraid of death, religion will go on. "But it really does belong to the childhood of the species."

His new book, God is Not Great, is a call for people to grow up and abandon the self-comforting fantasy:

"I personally think that's the only answer. In the meantime, any government that allows any privilege to any one faith is preparing to commit cultural suicide."

And any state that retains even a quasi-connection to Christianity, he adds, will have to face Muslim arguments exploiting it. It is all gloomily predictable.

Hitchens is still lying prone on the bed, eyes intermittently closed, but he ends the session with a rousing, secular call to arms.

"Those who believe it is possible to lead an ethical life without religion, who are agnostic or atheist, who believe in the separation of church and state must learn to fight back. We too have strong convictions, we too can be offended, insulted and annoyed, and we have to say we're not going to put up with it. Our opinions must be taken into account."

It's no wonder Mr. Hitchens sounds so on edge in the story, as he tries to reconcile his two diametrically opposed points and approaches his psychic break. You can't oppose both multiculturalism and Culture without sliding over the edge into nihilism. As Brother Perlstein says, "He'll be a Christian in three years."

Who Burned the Witches? (Sandra Miesel, October 2001, The Crisis)

Since the Enlightenment, rationalists have liked to cite witch-burning as a prime example of medieval ignorance and religious (usually Catholic) bigotry run amok. (Leftists today still denounce it as a cynical plot by the strong against the weak.) Writing history that way was simple: Historians catalogued horrors, disparaged religion (or at least someone else's religion), and celebrated the triumph of science and liberal government. The history of witchcraft seemed a settled issue in 1969 when Hugh Trevor-Roper published his classic essay, "The European Witch-Craze of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries."

[H]istorians have now realized that witch-hunting was not primarily a medieval phenomenon. It peaked in the 17th century, during the
rationalist age of Descartes, Newton, and St. Vincent de Paul. Persecuting suspected witches was not an elite plot against the poor; nor was practicing witchcraft a mode of peasant resistance. Catholics and Protestants hunted witches with comparable vigor. Church and state
alike tried and executed them. It took more than pure Reason to end the witch craze.

Nor were witches secret pagans serving an ancient Triple Goddess and Horned God, as the neopagans claim. In fact, no witch was ever executed for worshiping a pagan deity. Matilda Gage's estimate of nine million women burned is more than 200 times the best current estimate of 30,000 to 50,000 killed during the 400 years from 1400 to 1800-a large number but no Holocaust. And it wasn't all a burning time. Witches were hanged, strangled, and beheaded as well. Witch-hunting was not woman-hunting: At least 20 percent of all suspected witches were male. Midwives were not especially targeted; nor were witches liquidated as obstacles to professionalized medicine and mechanistic science.

This revised set of facts should not entirely comfort Catholics, however. Catholics have been misled-at times deliberately misled-about
the Church's role in the witch-hunts by apologists eager to present the Church as innocent of witches' blood so as to refute the Enlightenment theory that witch-burning was almost entirely a Catholic phenomenon. Catholics should know that the thinking that set the great witch-hunt in motion was developed by Catholic clerics before the Reformation. [...]

Slowly, the critics were vindicated, and ashes cooled all across Europe during the 18th century. This was no simple triumph of Enlightenment wisdom. Witch beliefs persisted-as they do today-but witches no longer faced stakes, gallows, or swords. The great witch-panics had left a kind of psychic weariness in their wake. Realizing that innocents had been cruelly sent to their deaths, people no longer trusted their courts' judgments. As Montaigne had written 200 years earlier, "It is putting a very high price on one's conjectures to have a man roasted alive because of them."

After a 20th century unmatched for bloodshed, the world today is in no position to disparage early modern Europe. Witch-hunts have much in common with our own political purges, imagined conspiracies, and rumors of ritualized child abuse. Our capacity to project enormities on the enemy Other is as strong as ever.

The truth about witch-hunting is worth knowing for its own sake. But the issue has added significance for Catholics because it has provided
ammunition for rationalists, pagans, and radical feminists to attack the Church. It is helpful to know that the number of victims has been grossly exaggerated, and that the reasons for the persecutions had as much to do with social factors as with religious ones.

But although Catholics have been fed comforting errors by overeager apologists about the Church's part in persecuting witches, we must face our own tragic past. Fellow Catholics, to whom we are forever bound in the communion of saints, did sin grievously against people accused of witchcraft. If our historical memory can be truly purified, then the smoke from the Burning Times can finally disperse.

They were witches though, right? So what's the problem? By what logic is a state or society obligated to tolerate those who are so alienated from its organizing principles that they would seek to undermine them? Are constitutions and social covenants in fact suicide pacts?
A New Industry: The Inquisition (Brian Van Hove, S.J., Nov/Dec 1996, Dossier)
The present time is the "Golden Age" of Inquisition studies...

What the contemporary professionals do is compare institutions within the same period they are studying. You can take a relatively inefficient and haphazard institution, one that was always in debt, such as most of the Inquisitions, and compare it to, let us say, the British monarchy. Soon it is apparent the Inquisition was no better and no worse than the British or French dynasties. The historians, who are not personally religious, it seems to me, certainly do a lot of de-mythologizing. Perhaps they do some re-mythologizing as well, because they have their own limits. We have been influenced by post-Enlightenment publicists more than we understand, until we begin to pick apart the layers separating fact and fiction. But who will do the work? - some of the important names are good to remember.

Edward Peters, for example, goes to great pains to develop an interpretation of three layers: institution, legend, and myth. Much of what the world thought about the Spanish Inquisition came from Protestant propaganda in the Low Countries during the interminable war there in the seventeenth century. The Vietnam of the period was the war in the Spanish Netherlands. Dutch and English Protestants hesitated to attack the King of Spain directly, because they themselves had kings in an era when monarchies were less and less stable. Charles I lost his head, and Cromwell represented a sizable anti-monarchist point of view. But it was "safe" to attack Spain's religion, and you could get at the religion through the institution which supposedly promoted or represented it. Dutch Calvinists spared no effort, aided by their German and English allies, in painting a picture of the religion of Rome in the most negative of terms. The Black Legend was the result of Protestant propaganda, according to Peters and other historians. Even if there was a Catholic version, a sort of White Legend, have you ever heard of it?

Peters goes beyond legend to the material used for myth. That is, long after the war was over in the seventeenth century, the same accusations could be re-cycled for new and different circumstances. You could always haul out of the historical attic, as it were, the grand ol' Inquisition if you were nervous about the Catholics. Even if German Catholics or Polish Catholics had never had an Inquisition, they might as well have. But this has nothing to do with original documents, or professional history, or a cool reading of an institution in its context. [...]

Last August, The New York Times reviewed Benzion Netanyahu's new book of 1384 pages. Some Americans were confused because they were familiar with his son - Benjamin, leader of the Likud Party in Israel, often interviewed on Nightline by Ted Koppel, and now Prime Minister. But the book is by the father, not the son.

This is no time to enter into an exhaustive analysis. I defer to the experts. But Dr. Netanyahu does not cite Peters in the bibliography, except for one article from 1978. He cites Kamen's work, but the older version, ten years before the revision. Henningsen and associates are not mentioned. His use of nineteenth-century historians seems disproportionately heavy, given their well-known shortcomings. He has amassed a mountain of original documents, which perhaps he and five others in the world are qualified to judge and sift through. He does admit in the introduction: "I do not delude myself that the conclusions of this book will be speedily accepted by all the scholars in the field." In other words, he has sharpened the debate, and he invites whatever responses are possible.

Netanyahu's thesis is that the Inquisition was a tool of a racist conspiracy against the Jews, and perhaps others. I will leave you with a rather interesting quotation, which perhaps illustrates the inefficiency of the Inquisitions so much noted by other historians:

One final remark is called for about the conclusion of these historical struggles. In Germany racism gained total power, and could therefore steer its course toward its aims. But in Spain it never became fully independent, and therefore its advance was often hampered by the sanctions of the Church and the restrictions of the Crown. Hence the importance the racists ascribed to the Inquisition, whose manipulation was, at least partly, in their hands, even though it had to abide by the Church's rulings and the King's commands. Hence also the difference in the final outcome. Thus, while in Germany racism achieved its goal, in Spain it fell short of its mark. To be sure, it managed for long periods to segregate most New Christians from the majority of the Spanish people; it inflicted great losses on the Marrano population and caused it terrible damages and hardships. But in the long run it failed in its effort. It could not prevent the final fusion of most conversos with the rest of the Spaniards. In Spain, therefore, it was not the racist movement but the Catholic Church that won the ultimate battle - the Catholic Church and the majority of the conversos, who sought assimilation into the Spanish people.

When the psychology of atheists leads them to reject God it is unsurprising that they grasp for justifications. So they seem to carry around a little pamphlet with a list of generally obscure things they can blame religion for--their favorite, because folks have actually heard of it, is the Inquisition. Tragically, the reality does not conform to their perfervid delusions.

-EXCERPT: The Primary Cause of the Spanish Inquistion (Benzion Netanyahu, Toward the Inquisition: Essays on Jewish and Converso history in late medieval Spain )

Few events in the history of the world have been so beclouded and misrepresented as the establishment of the Spanish Inquisition. Marginal influences and questionable factors, let alone secondary causes, have vied with myths and groundless conjectures for the title of the primary cause of the Inquisition. It is not our purpose here to determine the reasons for this enormous distortion of truth, which has penetrated all branches of literature, including the scholarly, on all levels. This task has been reserved for another study of much greater complexity and broader scope. In the following pages we shall confine ourselves to the examination of some well-known theories espoused by leading scholars to explain the rise of the Inquisition. We shall also try to arrive, by a process of elimination, at the heart of the issue under consideration. What then brought about the establishment of the Inquisition, and what made it work the way it did? Until the beginning of the nineteenth century, few authors doubted the answers that had been given to these questions by historians. The essence of these answers was clear and uniform: The Inquisition was established to uproot a heresy which was spreading subversively among the Marranos [i.e., converted Jews or conversos]; its carriers were devotees of Judaism who were, as the Catholic Kings put it: "Christians in name and appearance only." They had to be stopped before they advanced further, and this is what led to the Inquisition's actions. To be sure, some claimed that these actions were brutal, cruel, and harsh beyond justification; others maintained that, though extremely harsh, they were necessary to cope with the problem at hand; while a number of authors denied altogether that the Inquisition employed rigorous measures, some of them arguing that it was, on the contrary, humane, considerate, even merciful. I may say, in passing, that I consider the latter view unhistorical, or plainly untrue. But this is not what I now seek to stress. What I wish to point out is that, regardless of the variety of opinions expressed concerning the Inquisition's methods, there was unanimity concerning its goals. In fact, for centuries all scholars agreed that the Inquisition had but one aim: the stamping out of a clandestine Judaic heresy among the Marranos. [...]

This is not the occasion to describe the course of anti-Judaism in the Iberian Peninsula. I shall merely say that Jewish history in Spain proceeded along the same cycle of development noticed in most countries of the Diaspora. It had its rise, climax, and decline, and in each of these stages the relationship between the Jews and the host people or, more precisely, the majority population assumed a different character. It moved from friendliness and cooperation through competition and great tension to bitter hostility and mutual recrimination. The period of decline of Spanish Jewry, like that of the Jewries in other countries, was accompanied by massacres and sharp limitations of rights. But in Spain something peculiar occurred, something that distinguished its Jewish community from all other Jewish communities in the West. In the course of the massacres and oppressive legislation, hundreds of thousands of Jews went over to Christianity, and thus the majority seemed to have been saved from either death or expulsion.

Now the big question is what happened to those Jews÷that is, what happened to them religiously÷after they had formally accepted Christianity. For a long time most scholars, Jewish and non-Jewish, offered one answer to this question: the Marranos, when converted, were Jews at heart, and on the whole, they remained Jews at heart for the next ninety years. As these scholars saw it, then, nothing was essentially changed by the conversion, because the conversion was merely formal. However, as we see it, a lot had changed. We agree, of course, that in 1391 or 1412, when masses of Spain's Jews were converted to Christianity, they crossed the religious border fictitiously, but we must also bear in mind that, in so doing, they crossed other borders as well, those of society and culture, and these crossings were very real. Conversion served as their "ticket of admission" to Spain's Christian society, and once they had entered that society, they did not want to leave it÷or to put it positively, they wished to stay in it. This wish, combined with the despair of a Jewish future and the religious crisis induced by the events, (56) produced a collapse of Jewish resistance on every front, including the religious.

It need scarcely be said that this development did not take place overnight. No doubt following the great wave of forced conversion÷that is, for some time after 1391÷the movement of crypto-Judaism was strong. But as the documents indisputably show, it began to decline shortly after the conversion and progressed toward total assimilation. After three generations of Marrano life÷that is, life within the Hispano-Christian society ÷very little positive interest in Judaism survived in the converso group.

But "total assimilation," as the conversos discovered, was much more complicated than they had thought. To be sure, where the "conversions" involved small numbers, the converts, though disliked, managed to assimilate÷first culturally, then ethnically, and finally vanish altogether. But in Spain after 1391 their number was large÷certainly too large to pass from view in a relatively short time. They formed compact groups within the cities, and their ethnic fusion proceeded slowly. They kept being recognized as a group apart÷or, rather, as the same Jewish group, distinguished by its own peculiar characteristics, whose members were still seen by the Old Christians as outsiders÷ex illis, and not ex nobis. The basic distinction between "us" and "them"÷that is, between "us," the people of the country, those to whom the country really belongs, and "them," the others, not of that people÷was felt strongly as before, or even more so. There was a difference here, a great difference, between the condition of the Jews and that of the conversos÷and it worked to the latter's disadvantage.

This leads us directly to the consideration of an issue that seems to me of the utmost importance. The Jews were virtually opposed as aliens, if not de jure at least de facto, and the Christians could press for legal measures limiting their freedom of action. Similarly, foreign Christians such as the Genoese, who were disliked and agitated against in Spain, could be easily classed as aliens. But these Jewish newcomers to the Christian faith defied any definition of alienship and any distinction of identity. They claimed that their Christianity turned them overnight into full-fledged Spanish citizens, Castilian or Aragonese, exactly like the Old Christians. This was the position taken also by the Church and, more important, by the Crown; and, defended by these two powerful forces, the conversos now appeared to the Old Christians far more dangerous than the Jews had ever been, and, in the same proportion, they were also more hated. This odium, moreover, was based not only on fears and suspicions of what might happen, but on what was actually taking place, for the conversos assumed positions of authority that roused the people's ire to the point of explosion. How could they get rid of these New Christians who occupied such high positions in Church and state, and steadily advanced in all fields of activity, public as well as private? The very presence of these people in high places and the riches they acquired through their industry and enterprise were to the Old Christians intolerable. Apart from arousing their natural envy, these achievements of the conversos were seen by the Old Christians as illegal appropriation of the nation's wealth and the nation's positions of prestige and trust÷positions that by right belonged, in their opinion, exclusively to them, the Old Christians. There seemed only one solution to this problem. If Christianization saved the conversos from the Jewish status of alienship and endowed them with all the advantages they possessed, their deChristianization would deny them these advantages and put them back where they belonged.

Thus was born the idea of the false Christianity of the conversos, of their secret Judaism, and all the other accusations associated with it. We should not be surprised that such an idea could gain credence against all evidence to the contrary. Jewish history has shown that even libels without foundation÷indeed, without any foundation whatsoever÷such as the ritual use of human blood, the desecration of the Host, or the diffusion of the Black Death÷could be accepted by multitudes as unquestionable facts and repeatedly used as excuses for persecution. And when I say "accepted," I do not mean to suggest that they merely gained formal assent. Of course, there were many among the accusers who knew well that they were propagating lies. But there were also many, especially in the audience, who believed these lies, believed them fully, however nonsensical they appear to us. We know that such beliefs may be generated by propaganda (in the modern sense of the word)÷that is, by mere repetition of the falsehood÷but what is perhaps of greater importance is the receptive mood of the audience involved. Such a receptive mood, as we know, may be created by acute popular hatreds. They create the condition in which every conceivable evil, however absurd, about the object of hate may be readily believed because it satisfies a deep psychological need÷to justify the hatred and the desired end. Spain was swept by that kind of propaganda and was in that kind of receptive mood. For these reasons I have no doubt that many Spaniards of the fifteenth century actually believed that the Marranos were secret Jews, especially since this was not so great an absurdity and the claim had some foundation.

That foundation, as I have indicated, was the minority of Judaizers which, although dwindling, was still there. Upon this latter fact, which was grossly exaggerated, the solicitors of the Inquisition could build their case. The Inquisition, therefore, was to begin with an expression of a popular will, as Menéndez Pelayo pointed out, but the drive to establish it was aimed not, as he thought, at a high religious ideal but at destroying the Marrano community. The advocates of the Inquisition of course knew this, and the conversos knew it as well. Theoretically the Inquisition was supposed, as Amador thought, to weed out the "bad Christians" from among the Marranos and leave the good ones unhurt, but actually it was expected to defame, degrade, segregate and ruin the whole group economically and socially, and finally eliminate it from Spanish life. The Inquisition was, in fact, the best means that could be employed for this purpose. Since allegedly it was designed to extirpate a heresy, who could dare oppose it? It could act in accordance with the rules of a game accepted by all classes of society, but within its framework there was plenty of opportunity to use those rules in a variety of ways; it all depended on who was playing the game, how, and for what particular purpose. Above all, it depended on the feelings that inspired the actions of its functionaries.

-REVIEW: of The Origins of the Inquisition in Fifteenth Century Spain by B. Netanyahu (Henry Kamen, NY Review of Books)
His exposition is devoted instead to two major themes. He deals, first, with the complicated social struggles in fifteenth-century Spain that created the historical situation in which the Holy Office was set up. This is an absorbing story, well told, though readers unfamiliar with the subject may occasionally get lost in the intricacies of late medieval politics. Secondly, he analyzes in detail and at length the controversies of the period in which the participants debated the beliefs, status, and culture of the conversos. The central actors in his story are the conversos, or, as he usually calls them, the Marranos. We follow their history from the massacres of the year 1391, when many Jews turned Christian, to the civil conflicts between conversos and other Christians in Toledo and other Castilian cities in the 1440s. The main argument Netanyahu presents can be summarized, in simplified form, as follows.

By the latter part of the fifteenth century, the conversos of Spain—numbering, at my own rough estimate, perhaps 100,000 people—had become sincere Christians, quite distinct from the approximately 80,000 Jews who identified themselves as such. They had chosen, voluntarily or not, to convert during the years of persecution at the end of the fourteenth century. Three generations later they were fully fledged, genuine Christians, many of them occupying high political posts in the cities and in the royal governments of Aragon and Castile. Their conversion to Christianity was often called into question by political opponents. But leading controversialists, including a cardinal in Rome and the leader of a great religious order in Castile, defended the genuineness of their beliefs.

Most convincingly of all, many Jewish rabbis, mainly in North Africa, who were consulted on the question of how Jews should treat conversos, ruled firmly that they were real Christians and in no way secret Jews. The rabbis could not possibly have taken this view if they and other Jews suspected that the conversos were their brethren. Right down to the time of the Inquisition, eminent converso Christians, including prominent members of the administration of Ferdinand and Isabella, strongly asserted the Christianity of their people. There were occasional cases of judaizing, but the mass of conversos in Spain were Christians. (Indeed, after the conversos were persecuted under the Inquisition, the Jewish writings of the time, Netanyahu comments, contain "cold-blooded assertions that the Marranos got their due, an open manifestation of glee over their 'fall.' ")

These conclusions, which are central to Netanyahu's entire argument, seem to me wholly convincing. By coincidence, they are also the conclusions of another recently published study on the subject, by Professor Norman Roth of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.[3] If we accept them as correct, however, they raise a central question. Why, if there was no problem resulting from the judaizing of conversos, was the Inquisition created? If there were in fact no heretics, why invent a court to bring them to trial?

Netanyahu writes that three main factors led to the creation of the dreaded tribunal. First, by their exceptional success in public life the conversos provoked widespread enmity. Jews were non-Christians and therefore disqualified from holding public office, even though they had sometimes held other posts such as tax officials and estate administrators. Conversos, by contrast, were eligible for all public positions and honors. During the fifteenth century, conversos and their descendants rose to high office as administrators, judges, and bishops. Many entered the nobility. In some cities their success provoked continuous rivalry, particularly in Toledo in the 1440s. Their enemies everywhere struggled to eliminate them by accusing them of being secret Jews. A new tribunal was required to deal with those who were accused.

Second, the clashes during the fifteenth century between Old (non-Jewish) Christians and New (converso) Christians, as the two categories were called, gave rise to conflicts over identity. In those conflicts, Netanyahu argues, we can see the birth of racism. Conversos could not be denounced by their enemies as Christians, for that was of course no crime; they were therefore denounced as "Jews." In many cities attempts were made to exclude them from office, and the notion of "blood purity" (limpieza de sangre, in Spanish) was conceived as a doctrine to be used against them; the only pure blood, so the theory went, was Christian. Jewish blood, and by extension converso blood, was impure. In city after city, statutes were proposed which disqualified people of "impure" blood from entering universities, religious orders, and city councils.

The most important of these statutes was adopted by the city council of Toledo in 1449, and in subsequent decades other institutions promulgated similar laws. Historians have frequently referred to the existence at this time of a "Marrano problem," by which they mean the alleged tendency of conversos to secretly practice Judaism. Netanyahu disagrees. For him what was in question was "the struggle of the Old Christians to reduce the status of the New." The statutes prescribing blood purity were an important weapon in this struggle. Drawing on his studies of converso practices and writings, Netanyahu adds a very important piece of information to help us understand one aspect of the racism of the time. He points out that many of the Marranos, long after their conversion, continued to look on themselves as a "nation," separate from Jews as well as Old Christians. "The Marranos," he writes,

were viewed as a distinct nationality which, in more ways than one, was related to the Jews. Indeed, not only did their enemies so regard them, but also their friends among the Old Christians; and, what is more, they were so regarded by the Marranos themselves. The latter, who insisted that religiously they were Christians and had nothing to do with Judaism and its followers, could not help admitting their actual belonging to a separate entity, which they clearly defined.

This, obviously, created a special identity which marked them out from others and fostered racism.

Third, the crown, in the person of King Ferdinand "the Catholic," decided to fortify its weak political position by allying itself with anti-converso forces. Neither the king nor Queen Isabella was anti-Semitic. They had been friendly toward individual conversos and Jews and they would continue to be so. But their political strategy turned them against conversos generally. Traditionally, Jewish historians have identified Isabella as the malign influence. Netanyahu, by contrast, sees Ferdinand as the dominant partner, and he is unsparing in his characterization of him. Ferdinand is, for him, the real founder of the Inquisition. He did not establish the Holy Office for any religious reason; nor, as some have claimed, was it primarily his intention to prey on the accumulated wealth of the conversos. Robbery was only the incidental consequence of his anti-converso policy, not its main purpose. Ferdinand's motive was straightforward Realpolitik, an attempt to form an advantageous alliance.

These arguments are set out magisterially by Netanyahu in a smoothly linked narrative that combines scholarly evidence, careful reasoning, and passionate rhetoric. A reader with some knowledge of the history of the Inquisition might well ask: What of the thousands of cases which document the judaizing activities of the conversos? Do they not demonstrate that the inquisitors were responding to what they saw as a religious problem?

The archives of the Holy Office are among the richest sources of information available anywhere to historians. Carefully preserved by the inquisitorial bureaucracy, they offer minute detail not only on court cases but also on the private lives and practices of thousands of ordinary men and women who appeared before the judges. The papers of the Roman Inquisition are still not available for examination. But those of the Spanish Inquisition, housed in the national archive in Madrid, have for some time been available to researchers. Henry Charles Lea and all other subsequent historians of the Holy Office have relied on them. So, too, have many Jewish historians. All of them have given full credence to the trial documents, but for differing reasons. The Jewish scholars, led by Baer, accepted the evidence of the documents because they demonstrated that the conversos were indeed heretics, and therefore at heart belonged to Israel. Ironically, then, these historians accepted that there was some justification for the Inquisition.

But who in his right mind, Netanyahu would ask, could accept as reliable, without separate corroborating evidence, the documents used by a secret police organization as evidence for prosecution? And who could accept such papers as justifying the existence of that police? Yet this, in his view, is what scholars of the Inquisition have done. Not surprisingly, some other historians have had doubts about the truth of the Inquisition documents. Netanyahu rejects them as unreliable, but he does not claim that they are complete inventions. Virtually all the documents refer, he points out, to judaizing after the formation of the Holy Office. Before that date, he writes (and here the facts certainly support him), there is no reliable evidence of a judaizing movement on a scale to warrant the creation of a special judicial tribunal.

Marrano leaders and Jewish leaders said again and again that the New Christians were indeed Christians. "If this was the state of Judaism among the Marranos," writes Netanyahu, "the claim that the Inquisition was established to suppress a widespread crypto-Jewish movement in their midst must be regarded as untrue." Of course, he says, evidence of judaizing was produced after the Inquisition was established. But this was because many of the despairing, persecuted, New Christians reverted in their misery to the old faith. It was not the judaizing of the Marranos that produced the Inquisition, but the Inquisition that produced the judaizing of the Marranos.

Up to this point Netanyahu's argument makes sense. If it is generally accepted by historians, it must point Inquisition studies in a new direction and revolutionize our approach to the study of Spanish Jewry. The reasons he puts forward for the founding of the Inquisition must, however, be approached with considerable care. Spain's history in the fifteenth century has not been extensively studied, and the documentation is sparse. Netanyahu's three central arguments are entirely plausible but also raise difficulties that invite debate.

-REVIEW: of B. Netanyahu “The Marranos of Spain: From the Late 14th to the Early 16th Century, According to Contemporary Hebrew Sources” (Wayne H. Bowen, H-Net)
-REVIEW: of Netanyahu, B (Benzion), Toward the Inquisition: Essays on Jewish and Converso History in Late Medieval Spain (Miguel A. Torrens, University of Toronto)
-ESSAY: The Inquisition: The basic accusation of the Inquisition was that Jews who converted to Christianity were still secretly Jewish. (Rabbi Ken Spiro, Crash Course in Jewish History)
-ESSAY: His Father's Son: Why does the prime minister get into so many crises, and how does he survive them?The answers lie in the legacy from his father, a world-class but embittered historian. Ben-Zion Netanyahu gave Benjamin his strength, ambition and idealism, but also a disastrously exaggerated self-reliance. The result is a man who longs to be a consensus leader, but can't stop alienating even his allies. (Yossi Klein Halevi, 1998, Jerusalem Report)
-ESSAY: The real Netanyahu (Uri Avnery, 24/Sep/98, Ma'ariv)
-ESSAY: ISRAEL'S TALIBAN: The rising tide of Israeli extremism (Justin Raimondo, May 17, 2002, AntiWar)
-ESSAY: Chalmers v. Netanyahu: A Holocaust Denier uses a Jewish Historian’s work as Anti-Semitic Ammunition (Sarah J. Gleason, May 15, 2001)
-EXCERPT: In the Shadow of the Virgin: Inquisitors, Friars, and Conversos in Guadalupe, Spain by Gretchen D. Starr-LeBeau (Princeton University Press)
-The Harley L. McDevitt Collection on the Spanish Inquisition
at the University of Notre Dame

-REVIEW: of Henry Kamen. The Spanish Inquisition: A Historical Revision (Thomas F. Glick, American Historical Review)
-REVIEW: of Henry Charles Lea. A History of the Inquisition of Spain (George L. Burr, American Historical Review)
-REVIEW: of Michael Alpert. Crypto-Judaism and the Spanish Inquisition (
Lu Ann Homza, American Historical Review)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:38 AM


Spill Taints Beijing Image: The factory accident that poisoned a Chinese river has laid bare problems such as official secrecy and destruction of the environment (Mark Magnier, November 25, 2005, LA Times)

The release of millions of gallons of toxic liquid into a major city's water supply, China's biggest environmental accident in years, is shaping up as a wake-up call for a society that has made huge sacrifices for economic development.

On Thursday, the government defended its handling of the mid-November factory explosion that dumped 100 tons of benzene and other chemicals into northeastern China's Songhua River.

In a sign of the enormous political stakes, Premier Wen Jiabao ordered that every effort be made to supply the city of Harbin with safe drinking water. In China's rigid system, such senior leaders rarely address local problems. [...]

Experts say the jolt has laid bare many of China's fundamental problems, including corruption, official secrecy, wholesale destruction of the environment and a growing sense that many "domestic" problems can no longer be contained within China's borders.

It's interesting how differently the Right and Left read the morning papers, because of their differening grasps on reality. For the Right every story confirms our conventional wisdom, but for the Left riots in France and the rot in China come as a shock.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:28 AM


Capital monuments (Charles Krauthammer, Nov 25, 2005, Townhall)

[W]ashington has a second distinction, more subtle and even more telling about the nature of America: its many public statues to foreign liberators. I'm not talking about the statues of Churchill and Lafayette, great allies and participants in America's own epic struggles against tyranny. Everybody celebrates friends. I'm talking about the liberators who had nothing to do with us. Walk a couple of blocks from Dupont Circle at the heart of commercial Washington, and you come upon a tiny plaza graced by Gandhi, with walking stick. And perhaps 100 yards from him, within shouting distance, stands Tomas Masaryk, the great Czech patriot and statesman.

Masaryk, in formal dress and aristocratic demeanor, has nothing in common with the robed, slightly bent Gandhi with whom he shares the street except that they were both great liberators, and except that they are honored by Americans precisely for their devotion to freedom.

Farther up the avenue stands Robert Emmet, the Irish revolutionary, while one block to the west of Masaryk looms a massive monument to a Ukrainian poet and patriot, Taras Shevchenko. And then gracing the avenues near the Mall are the Americans: great statues to Central and South American liberators, not just Juarez and Bolivar but even the more obscure, such as General Jose Artigas, father of modern Uruguay.

Discount if you will (as fashionable anti-Americanism does) the Statue of Liberty as ostentatious self-advertising or perhaps a relic of an earlier, more pure America. But as you walk the streets of Washington, it is harder to discount America's quiet homage to foreign liberators -- statues built decades apart without self-consciousness and without any larger architectural (let alone political) plan. They have but one thing in common: They share America's devotion to liberty. Liberty not just here but everywhere. Indeed, liberty for its own sake.

America has long proclaimed this principle, but in the post-9/11 era, it has pursued it with unusual zeal and determination. Much of the world hears America declare the spread of freedom the centerpiece of its foreign policy and insists nonetheless that America's costly sacrifices in Iraq and even Afghanistan are nothing more than classic imperialism in search of dominion, oil, pipelines or whatever such commodity most devalues America's exertions. The overwhelming majority of Americans refuse to believe that. Whatever their misgivings about the cost and wisdom of these wars, they know how deep and authentic is the American devotion to liberty.

Many around the world find such sentiments and the accompanying declarations hard to credit. Europeans, in particular, with their long tradition of realpolitik, cannot conceive of a Great Power actually believing such hopeless idealism.

Likewise, who else but the Anglospheric nations, the Poles, and the notably pre-Revolutionary French who helped us win our Revolution, have many of their soldiers buried in the soil of nations they helped to win their liberty? The singular fact about the crusade to democratize the Middle East -- the one that neither the Left nor the far Right -- can reckon with is that it is entirely consistent with our history.

November 24, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:11 PM


The Tories and Lib Dems have become natural allies (Ferdinand Mount, 25/11/2005, Daily Telegraph)

[A]lmost unnoticed, a fresh axis is establishing itself. On issue after issue, the old abysses separating the Conservatives from the Liberal Democrats have narrowed or virtually disappeared. This week the two parties have joined in vigorously opposing the shameful let-off for IRA terrorists on the run. A couple of weeks ago, they made common cause to destroy the Government's attempt to introduce 90-day detention without charge for terrorist suspects.

As shadow home secretary, David Davis has revealed a libertarian streak which has surprised many people. And David Cameron is not ashamed to say that "I have always thought I was a liberal Conservative" - words that I cannot imagine tripping from the lips of any other Tory leader in the past 30 years.

Perhaps the most striking evidence of the new Con-Lib axis is their emphatic agreement on the importance of genuine localism, not the phoney "earned autonomy" for local government which is all that Labour is willing to concede.

Conservatives and Lib Dems unite in opposing Charles Clarke's plans to sweep away what remains of the old shire police forces and amalgamate them into a dozen huge and remote regional forces, which can easily be controlled by Whitehall.

They will join forces in blocking any proposals to "simplify" - i.e. centralise and castrate - local government along the lines set out in a leaked memo from David Miliband, the local government minister. For the Conservatives, who have a record of centralisation as long as your arm, the conversion to small-is-beautiful is fairly recent. For the old Liberals, this is mother's milk.

But the Lib Dems are going through an uncomfortable conversion, too. The thunderous Noes to the EU constitution from voters in France and the Netherlands were delicious news for the Tories and a huge relief for Tony Blair, who was otherwise cruising for a bruising in our own referendum.

For the Lib Dems, though, those votes spelled out a painful end to their dreams of a federal Europe with a single currency. For the foreseeable future, they had instead to apply themselves to the mundane slog of winning better deals for the fisherfolk and hill farmers who loom so large in their constituencies. And on this front again they found themselves in the same trenches as the Tories.

Last weekend there was another conversion announced. Charles Kennedy - remember him? - proclaimed that his party now believed in "fair tax, not higher tax". The overall effect of any tax pledges in their next manifesto would have to be revenue-neutral. He cutely promised "to seek to reposition the Lib Dems as one-size bears" - not too hot, not too cold, but just right. Speaking as a rather sceptical Goldilocks, I diagnose this as a hurried retreat from the strategy of outflanking Labour on the Left to a position much closer to the Tories. [...]

Cameron himself now offers a more beguiling melody than the austere plainchant we have come to expect of recent Tory leaders. There was more to life, he told party members at the candidates' London hustings, than money and manic shopping. The quality of our relationships and the beauty of our surroundings mattered too.

This is an updated version of Quintin Hailsham's philosophy that Toryism is also about the enjoyment of life - and again it is calculated to appeal to liberals and Liberals alike.

Which brings us to the nitty-gritty. This convergence is all about who is to win the dozens of marginal seats in which Tories and Liberals ran each other so close in May.

Note that the convergence involves both parties moving Right to try to outflank what was supposed to be the party of the Left.

Tory revival gathers pace as Blair loses magic touch (Ferdinand Mount, 25/11/2005, Daily Telegraph)
Voters lose faith in Blair as Tories rise again (George Jones, 25/11/2005, Daily Telegraph)

Posted by John Resnick at 8:43 PM


One of the best parts about a turkey (especially a smoked turkey - but oven roasted will do) is the fantastic soup stock you can make with the left over bones and carcass. The hardwood smoke adds a depth of flavor that’s a spectacular compliment to big, savory dishes such as the Cajun favorite: Gumbo. The following recipes were developed over several years and scores of turkeys. We hope you’ll enjoy sharing it at your table too.

Turkey Bone Stock

1 Turkey Carcass, neck, wings, leg bones, etc.
3 ribs celery, cut into 2” pieces
2 medium onions, quartered
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut in 2” pieces
4 cloves fresh garlic, peeled & smashed
4 quarts cold water (or enough to cover the carcass)
2 tsp salt
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup malt vinegar
1 Tbs black peppercorns
4 bay leaves

1. Place the carcass in a large stockpot. Add the celery, carrots, onions, garlic, water, salt, soy sauce, vinegar, peppercorns & bay leaves.
2. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, for 2 hours or so. Remove from the heat. Skim any fat that has risen to the surface.
3. Strain through a large fine-mesh sieve. Reserve any meat that has fallen off the bones and pick off any meat that may still remain. Puree ½ the reserved onions, carrots, celery and garlic in a blender or food processor. Use just enough stock for the blades to work easily.
4. Use right away or freeze in quart containers
Makes about 2 quarts

For the Gumbo

½ cup peanut oil
¼ cup butter
¾ cup flour (unbleached)
2 cups chopped onions
1 cup chopped bell peppers
1 cup chopped celery
½ teaspoon ground cayenne
1 pound smoked sausage: andouille or kielbasa, chopped
2 qts Turkey broth (for a milder smoke flavor, use 50% chicken stock)
Reserved turkey meat from broth
Vegetable puree from reserved onions, celery, carrots from broth
2 Tbs chopped parsley
2 Tbs chopped green onions

1. Like most good Cajun cooking, first you make a roux! Melt the oil & butter then add the flour in a large cast-iron pot or enameled cast-iron Dutch oven over medium to medium-low heat (if you have neither of the above, use the heaviest bottomed stockpot you have). Stirring slowly and constantly with a wire whisk or wooden spoon for 20-25 minutes (don’t turn up the heat or get bored and let the flour burn!) make a dark brown roux, about the color of chocolate. (Be very careful, it’s EXTREMELY HOT at this stage).
2. Season the onions, peppers, celery w/ salt, pepper & cayenne. Add this to the roux and stir until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the sausage and cook, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add the turkey broth and simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Stir in the reserved turkey meat and the vegetable puree’. Cook for another 15 minutes or so, reducing the heat to low.
3. Serve in soup bowls with a scoop of steamed rice. Have the freshly chopped parsley and green onions to pass at the table as topping along with a couple of your favorite hot sauces. Filé powder can be added at the table according to personal taste.
NOTE: If you’re really feeling festive, thaw and peel a pound of raw shrimp (31-40 size) and add them along with turkey & puree at 15 minutes to go.
About 10-12 servings

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:43 PM


America and Europe should listen to a whispered message from Isfahan: Visiting Iran, I found a regime wedded to violence and a society eager for peaceful change. We must address both (Timothy Garton Ash, November 24, 2005, The Guardian)

If you see it at first hand, you will have no doubt that this is a very nasty and dangerous regime. I will never forget talking in Tehran to a student activist who had been confined and abused in the prison where Iranian-Canadian journalist Zahra Kazemi was beaten so severely that she later died of her wounds. Half the Iranian population are subjected to systematic curtailment of their liberty simply because they are women. Two homosexuals were recently executed. The backbone of the political system is still an ideological dictatorship with totalitarian aspirations: not communism, but Khomeinism. The Islamic republic's new, ageing-revolutionary president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a subordinate but still important part of that power structure, has just revived Ayatollah Khomeini's call to wipe Israel off the map. According to an official spokesman, some 50,000 Iranians have signed up in a recruitment drive for "martyrdom-seeking operations". Elements connected to the regime have almost certainly supplied weapons across the frontier into southern Iraq, where they are used to kill British soldiers. And, yes, the mullahs probably are trying to get nuclear weapons.

So, as this argument about Iran develops, let's have none of those confused and/or dishonest apologetics on the European left that, out of hostility to American policy, try to pretend that the other side (Pol Pot, Brezhnev, Saddam) is not half as bad as Washington says it is. Taking our lead from George Orwell, it's entirely possibly to maintain that Saddam Hussein ran a brutal dictatorship and that the invasion of Iraq was the wrong way to remove him. Now it's right to say that the Iranian mullahs run a very nasty regime and that it would be a huge mistake to bomb them.

For the second thing you find if you go there is that many Iranians, especially among the two-thirds of the population who are under 30, hate their regime much more than we do. Given time, and the right kind of support from the world's democracies, they will eventually change it from within. But most of them think their country has as much right to civilian nuclear power as anyone else, and many feel it has a right to nuclear arms. These young Persians are pro-democracy and rather pro-American, but also fiercely patriotic. They have imbibed suspicion of the great powers - especially Britain and the United States - with their mother's milk. A wrong move by the west could swing a lot of them back behind the state. "I love George Bush," one young woman told me as we sat in the Tehran Kentucky Chicken restaurant, "but I would hate him if he bombed my country." Or even if he pushed his European allies to impose stronger economic sanctions linked to the nuclear issue alone.

Our problem is that the nuclear clock and the democracy clock may be ticking at different speeds. To get to peaceful regime change from within could take at least a decade, although president Ahmadinejad is hastening that prospect as he sharpens the contradictions within the system. Meanwhile, the latest US intelligence assessment suggests that Iran is still a decade away from acquiring nuclear weapons. But significant, non-military action to prevent that outcome clearly has to come sooner; for as soon as dictators have nukes, you're in a different game. Then, as we have seen with North Korea and Pakistan, they are treated with a respect they don't deserve.

This is where we need to hear the other half of the message from my friend in Isfahan: stick together and be consistent. If Europe and America split over Iran, as we did over Iraq, we have not a snowball's chance in hell of achieving our common goals. To be effective, Europe and America need the opposite of their traditional division of labour. Europe must be prepared to wave a big stick (the threat of economic sanctions, for it is Europe, not the US, that has the trade with Iran) and America a big carrot (the offer of a full "normalisation" of relations in return for Iranian restraint). But the old transatlantic west is not enough. Today's nuclear diplomacy around Iran shows us that we already live in a multipolar world. Without the cooperation of Russia and China, little can be achieved.

Perhaps it's as easy to differentiate us as Mr. Garton Ash makes it: to be a transnationalist is to be willing not to do the right thing if France, Germany, Russia or China opposes doing so.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:34 PM


Jihadist Iraq just won't happen (Daniel Benjamin, November 24, 2005, LA Times)

In a speech this week at the American Enterprise Institute, Vice President Dick Cheney used this nightmare vision to lash those, such as Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), who have argued that it is time to begin withdrawing U.S. forces. "Iraq is part of a larger plan of imposing Islamic radicalism across the broader Middle East, making Iraq a terrorist haven and a staging ground for attacks against other nations," Cheney said. "In light of the commitments our country has made, and given the stated intentions of the enemy, those who advocate a sudden withdrawal from Iraq should answer a few simple questions: Would the United States and other free nations be better off or worse off with [Abu Musab] Zarqawi, [Osama] bin Laden and [Ayman] Zawahiri in control of Iraq? Would we be safer or less safe with Iraq ruled by men intent on the destruction of our country?"

The suggestion that a jihadist takeover in Iraq would follow a U.S. withdrawal verges on preposterous. It is the latest in a parade of straw men dispatched to scare up support for wrongheaded and failed policies.

There is no question that the jihadists would like to seize a country as a base for wider operations. But they have nowhere near the capacity to achieve this in Iraq. Zarqawi's Al Qaeda in Iraq and other radical Islamist groups have bloodied U.S. forces, the fledgling Iraqi government and the Shiite population. The jihadist organizations lack the heavy weapons and the manpower that would be required to seize control of Baghdad, to capture and hold large tracts of territory that are occupied by hostile Shiites and Kurds who outnumber Sunnis four to one, or to run the country.

Much of the essay is just vituperative tripe, but that basic pooint is obviously true. A jihadist takeover would require two things: that the Shi'a and Kurds willingly subject themselves to a Sunni Arab regime that wants to murder them all and that the United States agree not to utilize its air force and missiles to disrupt said regime. The single most important fact about the War on Terror remains the same today as it was on 9-11: we're the ones who want the jihadis to take over a state, because they'd be easy to find. They can't afford to ever "win."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:11 PM


Hispanics, elderly are fastest-growing groups: By 2020, whites will be state minority (Jennifer Coleman, 11/24/05, Associated Press)

By 2020, California will be more crowded, its population older and its racial composition dominated by Hispanics, according to a report released Tuesday.

The changes will pose challenges to state lawmakers, who will have to grapple with the additional pressures on already strained schools and health care systems, according to the report by the California Budget Project.

In just 15 years, one in seven Californians will be age 65 or older, the state will add 10 million residents, and Hispanics will account for 43 percent of the population, with whites accounting for about 34 percent.

Which can only improve the quality of the ools who win statewide races there.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:36 PM


Sugar prices to fall as EU ends 'rigged' market (Anthony Browne, 11/25/05, Times of London)

BRITAIN has brokered an agreement to reform the last remaining fully protected area of European agriculture, cutting sugar prices, phasing out quotas and bringing an end to sugar mountains.

The first reforms since the postwar period to the EU’s much criticised sugar regime will cut prices by 36 per cent, destroy 100,000 jobs in Europe, end sugar farming in countries such as Ireland and Greece, and lead to economic devastation for Europe’s former colonies in Africa and the Caribbean, which also benefited from the rigged market.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:56 PM


Public ignores Iraq war naysayers (Jennifer Harper, November 24, 2005, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Negative press coverage of the war in Iraq in recent weeks has emphasized rising pessimism among the American public about the conflict. But a new survey found that 56 percent of the public thinks that efforts to establish a stable democracy in the country will succeed.

The survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press -- which also plumbed opinions of journalists, university presidents and others in academe, diplomats, government officials, religious leaders, members of the military, scientists and international security specialists -- revealed a marked disconnect between the perceptions of the general public and many of the so-called opinion leaders.

When asked whether they thought democracy would succeed in Iraq, only 33 percent of the journalists agreed that it had a chance. The number was even worse in academe -- 27 percent of respondents thought the effort would succeed. Among the military, however, the number stood at 64 percent.

No wonder the press and academics don't even like our democracy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:33 PM


Some Iraq insurgent groups want to talk (QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA, 11/24/05, Associated Press)

Several insurgents groups have contacted President Jalal Talabani's office in the past few days, with some saying they are ready to lay down their arms and join the political process, the presidential security adviser said Thursday. [...]

Talabani said last weekend in Egypt he was ready for talks with anti-government opposition figures as well as Baathists. He called the Sunni-led insurgents to lay down their weapons and join the political process.

"Many groups have called and some of them clearly expressed the readiness to join the political process," al-Samaraei said. This shows that "the initiative was welcomed by Iraqis."

In the western province of Anbar, members of some militant groups told the AP that they had been in talks with Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi for about two weeks but would not say how they were going.

Jordan King Calls for All-Out War on Islamic Militancy (Fox News, November 24, 2005)

Jordan's King Abdullah II urged his new prime minister Thursday to launch an all-out war against Islamic militancy in the wake of the triple hotel bombings earlier this month that killed 63 people.

In a letter to newly appointed Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit, Abdullah said the Nov. 9 bombings "increase our determination to stick to our reform and democratization process, which is irreversible."

"At the same time, it reaffirms our need to adopt a comprehensive strategy to confront the Takfiri culture," Abdullah said, referring to the ideology adopted by Al Qaeda and other militants who condone the killing of those they consider infidels.

Abdullah said the strategy should "not only deal with the security dimension, but also the ideological, cultural and political spheres to confront those who choose the path of destruction and sabotage to reach their goals."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:28 PM


Sharon names his new party 'Forward' (UPI, 11/24/05)

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon Thursday decided to name his breakaway centrist political party Kadima, which is Hebrew for "Forward."

His strategists said the two other names considered, Hatikva, Hebrew for hope, and the National Responsibility lost out, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Lapid: Name of Sharon's new party resembles Mussolini slogan (Mazal Mualem and David Ratner, 11/24/05, Haaretz)

Shinui Chairman Yosef Lapid said Thursday evening that had Prime Minister Ariel Sharon consulted with him, he would have urged him to change the name the latter chose for his new political party. Speaking at a Shinui council meeting, Lapid said that the name "Kadima" (Hebrew for forward) should be changed because it is similar to the Avanti slogan used by fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.

Boy, you don't pronounce Kadima the way it's spelled, huh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:26 PM


Opposition parties introduce historic motion (Alexander Panetta, November 24, 2005, Canadian Press)

The opposition parties introduced an historic motion on Thursday, declaring that the House of Commons has lost confidence in the minority Liberal government.

A vote on the non-confidence motion is expected Monday, with the collapse of the government and a subsequent election campaign all but certain.

If the government expires, the motion will offer a succinct epitaph: "That this House has lost confidence in the government."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:19 PM


The Case For Ethanol (Brian Jennings, 11.16.05, Forbes)

The economic impact of the homegrown ethanol industry is tremendous, both from a trade standpoint and that of America’s Main Streets.

An average-sized ethanol plant costs approximately $65 million to build and will employ nearly 40 people. These positions are good-paying, high-skill jobs--chemists, engineers, managers, marketers. The plant’s $56 million in annual operating costs circulates throughout the community many times, benefiting everyone from the farmers who provide the corn to make the fuel ethanol to the local businesses that supply goods and services for the production facility. An ethanol plant will increase tax revenue for local and state governments by at least $1.2 million annually. [...]

For every barrel of ethanol that is produced, 1.2 barrels of petroleum are displaced at the refinery. Ethanol won’t replace 100% of the fuel we use, but it is a critically important component in America’s energy-supply portfolio. As a nation, we should do everything possible to ensure that this renewable-fuel source grows to its greatest potential.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:51 AM


Judge Rejects Challenge to Bush Education Law (MICHAEL JANOFSKY, 11/24/05, NY Times)

A federal judge in Michigan on Wednesday dismissed a major challenge to the Bush administration's signature education program, No Child Left Behind, saying the federal government had the right to require states to spend their own money to comply with the law.

The action came in the first lawsuit that tried to block the education law on the ground that it imposed requirements on states and school districts that were not paid for by the federal government. A handful of states have complained that the law forces them to spend millions of dollars they do not have, and one, Connecticut, has sued the Department of Education in a separate federal action.

In his ruling, Judge Bernard A. Friedman of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division, said that if lawmakers had meant to pay for mandates in the law, they would have phrased the legislation "to say so clearly and unambiguously."

Judge Friedman said those challenging the law had offered nothing to show that Congress "intended for these requirements to be paid for solely by the federal appropriations." He made a distinction between Congress, which he said had the right to impose conditions on states, and officers or employees of the Education Department, who he said did not. While the plaintiffs in the Michigan case - the nation's largest teachers' union and school districts in Michigan, Texas and Vermont - said they would appeal, it remained unclear what impact the ruling might have on the Connecticut challenge, which was filed in late summer.

Lawyers for the Department of Education, who have until Dec. 2 to respond in the Connecticut case, said the department would cite the Michigan ruling in their filings.

But Attorney General Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut called the Michigan ruling "wrong and in no way legally binding" on his state's lawsuit, saying, "We will continue to pursue our claims vigorously."

The No Child Left Behind law requires that children in every racial and demographic group in all schools score higher on standardized tests in math and English each year. A school's overall failure to achieve annual progress can lead to sanctions, and in the most severe cases, closing.

The point isn't to fund education but to fail the schools and give kids vouchers--even Ted Kennedy figured out that he'd been tricked within a year of crowing about the law.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:49 AM


U.S. Considers Troop Cuts After Iraq Holds Elections (DAVID S. CLOUD, 11/23/05, NY Times)

The Pentagon is planning to make modest troop reductions after next month's elections in Iraq and, if security conditions improve, could begin reductions next summer that would drop the American force level below 100,000 by late next year, Defense Department officials said Wednesday.

Troop reductions of this magnitude have been discussed by military commanders in the past, and it is not clear to what extent the most recent statements by various officials reflect the pressure on the Bush administration from Congress and even some Iraqi leaders to begin laying out withdrawal options. Officials said that no decisions had been made and that tentative plans for troop cuts could be abandoned if the insurgency gained strength or Iraqi security forces did not progress as quickly as their American trainers hoped.

By gum, they've adopted her Third Way.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:42 AM


Sometimes, a Tax Cut for the Wealthy Can Hurt the Wealthy (ROBERT H. FRANK, 11/24/05, NY Times)

A careful reading of the evidence suggests that even the wealthy have been made worse off, on balance, by recent tax cuts.

It's the pluperfect explantion of NY Times economics: if you have your money, and the government doesn't, you lose.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:32 AM


Shift on Suspect Is Linked to Role of Qaeda Figures (DOUGLAS JEHL and ERIC LICHTBLAU, 11/24/05, NY Times)

The Bush administration decided to charge Jose Padilla with less serious crimes because it was unwilling to allow testimony from two senior members of Al Qaeda who had been subjected to harsh questioning, current and former government officials said Wednesday.

The two senior members were the main sources linking Mr. Padilla to a plot to bomb targets in the United States, the officials said.

The Qaeda members were Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, believed to be the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and Abu Zubaydah, a top recruiter, who gave their accounts to American questioners in 2002 and 2003. The two continue to be held in secret prisons by the Central Intelligence Agency, whose internal reviews have raised questions about their treatment and credibility, the officials said. [...]

[A]review, completed in April 2003 by American intelligence agencies shortly after Mr. Mohammed's capture, assessed the quality of his information from initial questioning as "Precious Truths, Surrounded by a Bodyguard of Lies."

As the title of the review suggests, torture can break through the lies and get you to the truth.

Limits to Interrogation: The Man in the Snow White Cell (Merle L. Pribbenow, Studies in Intelligence)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:44 AM


Target Employers: For comprehensive immigration reform to work, employers need to feel the heat. (Maria Echaveste, 11.10.05, American Prospect)

While people choose to risk life and limb to enter this country illegally for many reasons, the vast majority come to seek employment -- and they find it. What would happen if employers were effectively penalized for hiring the undocumented? Would there be fewer job opportunities for those who should not be here and, consequently, fewer people trying to enter illegally?

Our current immigration policy is dysfunctional, partly because business’ demand for more workers has interacted with the intertwining forces of racial and ethnic prejudice and the legitimate concerns of existing workers to protect their livelihoods. This pattern has a long history. Early threats to some U.S. workers by increasing numbers of new immigrants quickly became platforms for racist and nativist voices, such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. The 1917 literacy tests and the 1924 national origin quotas, enacted with support of organized-labor leaders like Samuel Gompers, aimed to stop or slow the flow of immigrant workers from southern and Eastern Europe -- partly because of bigotry, partly because they pulled down wages.

Historically, however, immigration policy has rarely focused on the pull of the labor market or the working conditions of workers (domestic or immigrant), but rather on the immigrants themselves -- their race, their country of origin, their numbers, and their ability to become “American.”

Most anti-immigrationists of the Left and Right are at least opposed to free trade, so they do want to damage the economy enough to make America unattractive to folks looking for jobs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:39 AM


Forces near and far push down gas prices: A drop below $2 after Sept. shock (Peter J. Howe, November 24, 2005, Boston Globe)

Industry analysts say a confluence of trends is helping push pump prices back down. International oil prices have been dropping slightly, more and more gasoline refining capacity is coming back online in Gulf Coast areas ravaged by hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and motorists responding to the higher prices this fall have curbed consumption.

With oil prices down to below $59 a barrel from over $70 in late August, many analysts expect they may fall a few dollars more in the next week.

''That could spell prices at the pump pretty decently below $2," said Art Kinsman, a spokesman for AAA's Southern New England chapter.

Although demand for gasoline has stayed flat or dropped in some parts of the country recently, AAA was projecting that 30 million Americans would take road trips over the five-day Thanksgiving period -- just 0.8 percent more than last year.

Oil prices continue lower on ample US inventory levels (AFX, 11/24/05)
Oil prices continued lower in thin trade as healthy US stockpile levels eased supply concerns ahead of winter, but analysts said the falls were limited by cold temperatures in the northern hemisphere.

At 3.41 pm, January-dated Brent futures contracts were down 61 cents at 55.60 usd a barrel. The US market is closed today and Friday for the Thanksgiving holiday.

The US Energy Department said in its weekly stocks report yesterday crude inventories rose by 400,000 barrels last week, gasoline supplies inched up 200,000 barrels, and distillate stocks gained 1.1 mln barrels.

This put total crude inventories at a very healthy 34.2 mln barrels or 12 pct above year-ago levels, and distillate supplies at 3.4 mln barrels or 2.8 pct above last year's levels.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 AM


Poles on ramparts of EU culture war (Graham Bowley, NOVEMBER 24, 2005, International Herald Tribune)

When Polish members of the European Parliament erected an anti-abortion display in a parliamentary corridor in Strasbourg last week, Ana Gomes, a Socialist legislator from Portugal, felt she had to act.

The display showed children in a concentration camp, linking abortion and Nazi crimes. "We found this deeply offensive," Gomes said. "We tried to remove it." A loud scuffle ensued as Gomes and the Poles traded insults before the display was bundled away by the Parliament's guards.

But the matter did not end there. The incident was the latest skirmish in what some here see as an incipient culture war in the heart of Europe, a clash of values that has intensified since predominantly Roman Catholic countries from Central and Eastern Europe joined the European Union last year. [...]

"New groups have come in from Poland, the Czech Republic, Latvia, and Catholicism is certainly becoming a very angry voice against what it sees as a liberal EU," said Michael Cashman, 54, a European parliamentarian from Britain who has campaigned for gay rights. "On women's rights and gay equality, we are fighting battles that we thought we had won years ago."

Europe's 'baby bust' signals major change (David R. Sands, November 24, 2005, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)
In the cradle of Western civilization, the cradles are empty. From the Atlantic to the Urals, in good and bad economies, in Protestant and Catholic societies, the countries of Europe are witnessing an unprecedented decline in birthrates.

This "baby bust," analysts warn, will affect economic growth, social-welfare programs, patterns of immigration and Europe's ability to pull its weight diplomatically, culturally and militarily in the 21st century. [...]

The dearth of babies, coupled with longer life spans for today's elderly, "have major implications for our prosperity, living standards and relations between the generations," according to a "green paper" on demographic change issued by the European Commission earlier this year.

Mr. Cashman appears not to have heard of Pyrrhus.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:57 AM


S Korea cloning pioneer disgraced (BBC, 11/24/05)

A cloning pioneer regarded as a hero in his South Korean homeland has resigned and apologised for using human eggs from his own researchers.

Professor Hwang Woo-suk was chairman of the World Stem Cell Hub, which opened this month, based in Seoul.

"I am very sorry that I have to tell the public words that are too shameful and horrible," he announced publicly.

International medical standards warn against using eggs from researchers who may be vulnerable to pressure.

SA 50 and Stem Cell Ethics (SCIAM OBSERVATIONS, 11/24/05)
One of the occupational hazards of compiling a list like the Scientific American 50 is that, with so many people and organizations included, some of them may unexpectedly run afoul of controversy. The other editors and I begin our selection process back in mid-summer; the list appears in our December issue. Much can happen in the intervening months.

Case in point: our Research Leader of the Year for 2005 is Dr. Woo Suk Hwang, the Korean scientist who has made amazing strides in stem cell technology. Time magazine recently hailed his cloned dog Snuppy as Invention of the Year, but his far more noteworthy accomplishment was the cloning of embryonic stem cells from adult human patients. This is precisely the step that would be necessary for some anticipated therapeutic applications of stem cells, and as a hugely important research milestone, it figured strongly in our decision.

Then a couple of weeks ago (just about the time our December issue was rolling off the printing press), scandal reared its head. [...]

The other editors and I are very disappointed to learn that these ethical violations now taint what was the otherwise remarkable scientific achievement of Dr. Hwang. We have known about the allegations against him since 2004, when Nature made them public....

Shocking that guys who engage in anti-human science are unprincipled, eh?

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:01 AM


Binge-drink women may lose right to claim rape (Frances Gibb, London Times, November, 25th, 2005)

Women who are raped while drunk face losing the chance to bring their attackers to justice after a legal ruling on the eve of new licensing laws.

A High Court judge yesterday threw out the case of a student who claimed that she was raped while drunk and unconscious on the basis that “drunken consent is still consent”.

The judgment came hours before the sweeping relaxation of Britain licensing laws which introduces 24-hour drinking in pubs for the first time.

The change prompted police and doctors to warn that Britain was facing an explosion of binge drinking.

The prosecution in the rape case had said it could not go on after the woman admitted that she could not remember whether she gave consent or not or whether sex had taken place. The jury at Swansea Crown Court was told: “Drunken consent is still consent.”

The judge agreed, instructing the jury to return a verdict of not guilty “even if you don’t agree”.

The drama student was allegedly raped by another student, who was working as a security guard, while she claimed she was unconscious through drink in a corridor outside her flat in a university’s hall of residence.

She told the jury that she had no recollection of events but insisted that she would not have agreed to sex with the man.

“If I had wanted to sleep with him I would have taken the few steps to my bedroom,” she said.

The problem with modern rape laws, like sexual harassment laws, is not the tiresome male whine about how one-sided they are–-they exist to protect women, not men–-but that they hinge entirely on the subjective feelings of the woman and ignore, indeed reject, any objective context that would imply normal (or even predictable) standards of behaviour against which the credibility of the parties might be measured. Just as our sexual harassment laws assume that office affairs and sexual innuendo are perfectly acceptable and nobody’s business if both parties are on board, so this case seems to suggest that lots of co-eds might choose to get blotto and then have sex with strange security guards while lying comatose in a residence hallway–-who’s to say and what business is it of yours, buddy? As Tom Wolfe understood well, the feminist-libertarians who fought so hard and so successfully for the right to behave badly took on the timeless reality of human sexuality and have left behind a long trail of pathetic victims of criminal jerks like this guy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:24 AM


Recipe of the day: Fiesta Turkey Potato Bake (Dallas Morning News)

Fiesta Turkey Potato Bake
Category: Baked, Potatoes, Thanksgiving, Turkey
Yield: 8 servings
10 med russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 cup sour cream
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
2 lb ground turkey
3/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup water
1 pkg (1.25 oz.) ORTEGA Taco Seasoning Mix - Regular
1 jar (16 oz.) ORTEGA Salsa - Homestyle Recipe (Mild)
1 can (15.5 oz.) corn, drained
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided

PREHEAT oven to 350° F. Lightly grease 13x9-inch baking dish.
COVER potatoes with water in large saucepan; cook over medium-high heat until tender. Drain; add sour cream, milk and butter. Mash; season with salt and ground black pepper.
COOK turkey and onion in large skillet until turkey is no longer pink; add water and seasoning. Cook over low heat for 10 minutes. Add salsa and corn; cook for 10 minutes.
PLACE turkey mixture in prepared baking pan; top with ½ cup cheese. Spread potato mixture over turkey; top with remaining cheese.
BAKE for 40 minutes or until turkey is heated through and cheese is melted.

(originally posted: November 26, 2004)

November 23, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:59 PM


White Phosphorus Charges Are Burning Lies (Michael Fumento, Nov 24, 2005, Townhall)

An article in the March-April 2005 issue of Field Artillery explicitly details the use of WP during the battle.

Yet it's being treated as a major new revelation because of an Italian documentary now available on the Internet titled "Fallujah: The Hidden Massacre." It’s as if the use of WP necessarily involves a massacre or as if there haven't been awful massacres in recent years using nothing but machetes and clubs.

Further, there’s no proof of any wrongdoing in the video itself. Rather it relies on “explanations” exclusively from the narrator and other anti-war zealots.

This includes the infamous Giuliana Sgrena, the reporter for the Italian Communist Party newspaper Il Manifesto, allegedly seized by courteous kidnappers. In turn for her release they conveniently demanded what she had also been demanding, Italy’s withdrawal from the war. Her articles are so viciously anti-American they’d make Al Jazeera blush.

In case you were wondering why -- besides the cash transfer to the terrorists -- she was released.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:49 PM


Is This Your America?
: Guantánamo prisoners in federal court protesting their guaranteed 'humane treatment' by Bush (Nat Hentoff, November 20th, 2005, Village Voice)

The prisoners are asking for a writ of habeas corpus challenging the government to prove the legality of their being held at the U.S. naval base. There have been hunger strikes at Guantánamo before; and this most recent one—according to the petitioners' lawyers—included between 131 to 210 "detainees" of the 500 in prison. The Defense Department's statistics are reluctant and changeable, so that count may be larger.

At least 20 of the "detainees" claim they are being "forcibly subjected to involuntary medical intervention via the introduction of intravenous fluids or nasocentric (nasal) tube feeding."

Rather than feed them, why not give them drumhead trials and shoot them?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:42 PM


In India, Celebrations Are Back for the Birth of Girls: This, anyway, is the joint proposal of the government and the Church. But the reality is the opposite. Infanticide and selective abortion have eliminated 60 million women (Sandro Magister, November 24, 2005, chiesa)

The Indian government has publicly asked the Church for assistance in preventing abortions and reducing their number.

The abortions that most concern the Indian authorities are the ones aimed at selecting the sex of the child to be born, eliminating the female children. Since 1994 there have been laws in place against that sort of selection. But they are widely circumvented. “The only way we can combat selective abortion is by changing the way the people think,” health and family minister Anbumani Ramadoss said in a speech in mid-October. “And this change in mentality can take place only with the help of those who have the public’s ear, the religious leaders. In November we will meet with all of the religious leaders in Delhi to plan a common effort that concerns all of India.”

The Catholic Church has responded favorably to the invitation. [....]

In its State of World Population report for this year, the UN agency that deals with demographics estimates that there are 60 million “missing girls,” the young women of Asia not reflected in the statistics, many of whom are attributed to India.

Everywhere in the world, the natural average for conception is 103-107 females for every 100 males. But when you go to count the births, there are significantly fewer girls in India.

In 1981, there were 962 girls for every 1000 boys, under the age of 6. In 1991, there were 945. And in 2001, the year of the most recent census, there were 927.

If you then look at where the decline has been the steepest, you find that the lowest ratio of girls is found in what are relatively the more affluent cities and states: Haryana, Gujarat, and Punjab. In these places, there is an average of 800 girls for every 1000 boys.

In the capital, Delhi, there are 821 girls for every 1000 boys, under the age of 6. But the figures change dramatically if you separate them by religion. Among the Christians, the figure for girls is 988; among the Jains, 935; among the Sikhs, 829; among the Hindus, 817; and among the Muslims, 782.

Religion isn't good--Judeo-Christianity is. It will have to Reform Islam and Hinduism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:37 PM


A Party Girl Leads China's Online Revolution (HOWARD W. FRENCH, 11/24/05, NY Times)

Blogs are sometimes shut down altogether, temporarily or permanently. But the authorities do not yet seem to have an answer to the proliferation of public opinion in this form.

The new wave of blogging took off earlier this year. In the past, a few pioneers of the form stood out, but now huge communities of bloggers are springing up around the country, with many of them promoting one another's online offerings, books, music or, as in Mu Mu's case, a running, highly ironic commentary about sexuality, intellect and political identity.

"The new bloggers are talking back to authority, but in a humorous way," said Xiao Qiang, director of the China Internet Project at the University of California, Berkeley. "People have often said you can say anything you want in China around the dinner table, but not in public. Now the blogs have become the dinner table, and that is new.

"The content is often political, but not directly political, in the sense that you are not advocating anything, but at the same time you are undermining the ideological basis of power."

A fresh example was served up last week with the announcement by China of five cartoonlike mascot figures for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. They were lavishly praised in the press - and widely ridiculed in blogs that seemed to accurately express public sentiment toward them.

"It's not difficult to create a mascot that's silly and ugly," wrote one blogger. "The difficulty is in creating five mascots, each sillier and uglier than the one before it."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:58 PM


China admits toxic spill is threat to city's water (Jonathan Watts, November 24, 2005, The Guardian)

A river of toxic water was coursing towards one of China's biggest cities last night, threatening to contaminate local pipes and forcing millions of residents to prepare frantically for four days without water supplies.

The government admitted that water supplies in Harbin, in north-eastern China, could be compromised by a chemical spill that released more than 100 times the safe level of benzene into a major river 10 days ago.

Toxic fears spread hundreds of miles along the Songhua river from Heilongjiang province across the Russian border, but the panic was most intense in Harbin itself, where local media said crowds were fleeing the city through the railway station and airport.

MORE (via JAB):
Is this a last hurrah for the ol' greenback? (Ambrose Evans Pritchard, 24/11/2005, Daily Telegraph)

The world's two richest men have both lost a slice of their fortunes this year betting against the dollar.

Microsoft's Bill Gates said with fulminating certainty in Davos last January that it was time to "short" the greenback. "The ol' dollar is going down. It is a bit scary. We're in uncharted territory when the world's reserve currency has so much outstanding debt," he said.

His friend Warren Buffet kept pace, switching $22billion (£13billion) of Berkshire Hathaway funds into foreign currencies. He said it pained him as an American, and broke the habits of a life-time. But a country living so far beyond its means with a zero savings rate and a current account deficit nearing 6pc of GDP was about to pay the inevitable price.

Indeed, the world was "choking on the diet" of surplus dollars, he said.

Well, the mighty dollar has surged more than 16pc against both the euro and the Japanese yen since Davos. But is it possible that Mr Gates and Mr Buffet were just a year too early?

The inevitable price of American economics is our $50 trillion net household worth.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:52 PM


Jacko's sicko Jewish rant (MICHELLE CARUSO and CORKY SIEMASZKO, 11/23/05, New York DAILY NEWS)

Michael Jackson picked a familiar target to blame for his mounting money problems - the Jews.

In phone messages obtained by ABC News, the apparently prejudiced pop star likens them to "leeches" and claims they conspired to leave him "penniless."

"They suck...they're like leeches...I'm so tired of it," Jackson tells former adviser Dieter Wiesner in one of them. "The Jews do it on purpose."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:49 PM


How I Lost the War in Iraq (JOHN POWERS, 11/25/05, LA Weekly)

Although Saddam was a despicable tyrant, I opposed toppling him because I thought the war would prove bloody and hugely expensive, and would probably leave the world more chaotic and dangerous than before.

Acknowledging you prefer a status quo that killed a million Iraqis is at least honest, if evil.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:40 PM


Scientists show we’ve been losing face for 10,000 years (Jonathan Leake, 11/20/05, Times of London)

THE human face is shrinking. Research into people’s appearance over the past 10,000 years has found that our ancestors’ heads and faces were up to 30% larger than now.

Changes in diet are thought to be the main cause.

Do they make Red Sox caps in size 10?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:19 PM


The Mayor of Ar Rutbah: Amid the chaos in Iraq, one company of U.S. Special Forces achieved what others have not: a functioning democracy. How? By relying on common sense, the trust of Iraqis, and recollections from Political Science 101. Now, their commander reveals the gritty reality about nation-building in Iraq, from the ground up. ( James A. Gavrilis, November/December 2005, Foreign Policy)

My initial approach to governing was very authoritative; it eliminated anarchy and allowed Iraqis to debate the details of democracy rather than survival. What the Iraqis needed was an interim authority to get them back on their feet. While the interim mayor and I provided this stability, the city council’s role was to oversee the mayor and to provide input, not necessarily to make policy. The laws and values of their society and culture were just fine. All we needed to do was enforce them. The city council was an important body for dialogue, debate, and legitimacy. But by initially limiting its decision-making power, we made sure the council couldn’t paralyze our progress.

Representatives in the city council included teachers and doctors, lawyers and merchants. At one town-hall meeting, a few of these professionals asked me about elections. They said the tribal sheiks and imams did not represent their interests, and they wanted to have a say in their government. I explained that they couldn’t vote right away because we had no election monitors or ballot boxes. Still, they insisted. Two rudimentary elections were held in the grand mosque to reconfirm the interim mayor—and Americans were not involved in either vote.

As an alternative to Saddam’s regime, the particular form of democracy was not as important as the concept of a polity that provided for the individual. That was really what Iraqis missed under Saddam. Good governance had to precede the form or type of democracy. Because we were effective in providing services, were responsive to individual concerns, and improved their lives, the Iraqis gravitated toward us and the changes we introduced. However, we didn’t have to change much. Ar Rutbah already had a secular structure that worked. We just put good people in office and changed the character of governance, not the entire infrastructure.

Under the old regime, the imams and tribal sheiks in Ar Rutbah had defined their roles in relation to the dictates of Saddam and the Baath Party. As we quickly set up the new government, the sheiks and imams found themselves defining their roles in response to the new order we established. That was good news for us; it kept the structure of relationships in balance and prevented a power shift to them. To earn their trust, I included these leaders in the political process. I met with them regularly, and they were members of the city council. Clerics and tribal leaders functioned in ways that were both constructive and traditional for their culture. Early on, we decided to give humanitarian rations to the imams and sheiks for distribution because they knew who the neediest people were.

In addition, we instituted an open-door policy. One day, a few tribal sheiks came to complain of looting at night in some parts of the city. So, knowing that some of the sheiks were behind some of the looting, I established a neighborhood watch. I put them in charge and had their men act as the watchmen. And the sheiks were held accountable if the looting continued. I also had a team patrol those areas at night at random. The stealing ended abruptly.

The tribal sheiks were important because they transmitted information by word of mouth. But by far, the most effective way we communicated with the people was through the mosques. Public service announcements were made over the loudspeakers in the minarets, and when the Iraqis gathered in the mosque for prayer, the interim mayor explained what we were doing. A public announcement emanating from the mosques signaled their approval and gave legitimacy to our efforts.

I spent long days in the police station courtyard or in the police chief’s office, meeting with an endless procession of tribal sheiks, city officials, the army colonel, policemen, merchants, and anyone else that wanted to speak with me. I listened to their issues, problems, and needs, and satisfied their curiosity about us. I would make decisions, pass judgments, resolve disputes, issue guidance, and direct resources. We were very cordial and followed their customs with tea, cigarettes, and small talk. But in the end, I made a decision and we acted on it.

Eventually, I passed the decision making to the interim mayor, the city council, and then to issue-area councils, until security was the only thing I still controlled. By day nine, I was no longer the focal point for governance. I moved my command post to our logistics compound on the edge of the city. Up until the last day, I kept an open-door policy to keep in touch with the Iraqi people.

In the end, I spent only about $3,000. This sum included the salaries of the police, the mayor, the army colonel, and a few soldiers and public officials. We paid for the crane and the flatbed trailers to move the generators to the city for electricity, and for fuel to run the generators. And we picked up the tab for other necessities, such as painting, tea, and copies of the renunciation form. But the change did not depend on the influx of funds; the Iraqis did a lot themselves. The real progress was the efficient and decent government and the environment we established. Without a lot of money to invest, we made assessments and established priorities, and talked with the Iraqis, exchanging ideas and visions of the future.

We intended to work ourselves out of our jobs, and when conditions were right we took steps back.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:43 PM


Face to faith: Religion's insight that human beings are essentially flawed gives it the edge over secularism (Nicholas Buxton, November 19, 2005, The Guardian)

Without religion's insight that human beings are essentially flawed, we lose all checks on our hubristic pride, and risk making a false god of our own scientific genius, even though there is no evidence to support the belief that society advances in tandem with science. While I don't deny the reality of religiously motivated violence, the fact is that for much of the last century, atheist regimes pursuing enlightenment ideals inflicted massive suffering on their own people. Perhaps we'd actually be better off if we were all a bit more, rather than less, religious.

Which is why secular societies, despite the best intentions of the rationalists/humanists/etc., end up so indecent.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:23 PM


What Bush won on China trip: W's message will inspire millions of Chinese thanks to an Internet underground railroad (TIENCHI LIAO, 11/23/05, NY Daily News)

Bush's visit has prompted, in some small way, freedom of speech for the Chinese. The President's remarks encouraging human rights have been disseminated to students and others by the country's intellectuals, who are able to bypass the government's Internet blocks. These leaders, among the 80 million to 100 million Web users, are tapping into the U.S. State Department's site to pass along Bush's remarks urging freedom and democracy.

Neither China's elite nor its common people care how many billions of dollars in contracts have been signed by the two countries. They now know that George Bush has spoken on behalf of their rights and their views. They are not angry that they suffered a temporary loss of freedom because of Bush's visit. They hope to gain lasting freedom, which Bush has pleaded for on their behalf.

The prisoners' conscience (Natan Sharansky, June 8, 2004, Jewish World Review)
In 1983, I was confined to an eight-by-ten-foot prison cell on the border of Siberia. My Soviet jailers gave me the privilege of reading the latest copy of Pravda. Splashed across the front page was a condemnation of President Ronald Reagan for having the temerity to call the Soviet Union an "evil empire." Tapping on walls and talking through toilets, word of Reagan's "provocation" quickly spread throughout the prison. We dissidents were ecstatic. Finally, the leader of the free world had spoken the truth - a truth that burned inside the heart of each and every one of us.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:20 PM


Outlook is bullish on holiday buying: Economists say spending could grow 6 percent, despite consumer challenges like big energy bills. (Ron Scherer | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor)

Economists project that holiday spending will grow a healthy 5 or 6 percent, down slightly from last year, when it grew by 6.7 percent. In fact, with energy prices falling faster than expected, some economists are now revising upward their growth forecasts for the end of 2005. And the annual shopping blitz should be strong enough to provide the economy with momentum into next year. [....]

Some of the spending defies economic theory, says Jay McIntosh, director of retail and consumer products at a Chicago branch of the accounting firm Ernst & Young. Yes, Americans will be paying more to stay warm. But, he says, "It's become part of American life to spend heavily on the holidays. It's really more emotional than rational."

Stupid Americans, don't they know how crappy the economy is?

Rally Solidifies as Dow Closes at 8-Month High: Stocks keep powering ahead amid economic optimism. The S&P hits a fresh 41/2-year high. (Tom Petruno, November 24, 2005, LA Times)

The blue-chip Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 4.38 points, or 0.4%, to 1,265.61, its highest close since June 2001.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 44.66 points, or 0.4%, to 10,916.09, an eight-month high. The Dow reached a four-year high before pulling back in the final hour of trading.

The day's advance left the S&P — a staple of many investors' portfolios via mutual funds that track the index — up 4.4% year to date, and up 6.2% including dividend income. Just six weeks ago the index was in the red for the year.

The market's turnaround this month, after struggling for most of the year, has been spurred in part by declines in oil prices and by hopes that the Federal Reserve might be nearing the end of its credit-tightening campaign, analysts say.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:49 PM



The European aircraft manufacturer Airbus will deliver A380 superjumbo airliners to Air France a year late on April 1, 2008, Air France president Jean-Cyril Spinetta said on Wednesday outside a press conference on the airline's six-month results.

Spinetta had warned at a general meeting of shareholders in Air France-KLM on July 12 that the A380 would be delivered six months later than the planned date of April 1, 2007.

It's like a waitress telling you they're out of New Coke.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:33 PM


US forges trail-blazing UN condemnation of Hizbullah (Herb Keinon, Nov. 23, 2005, THE JERUSALEM POST)

Following intense US pressure, the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday issued an unprecedented condemnation of Monday's Hizbullah attacks on northern Israel.

This condemnation - slamming Hizbullah by name for "acts of hatred" - marked the first time the Security Council has ever reprimanded Hizbullah for cross-border attacks on Israel. The condemnation followed by two days a failed attempt to get a condemnation issued on Monday, the day of the attack, when Algeria came out against any mention of Hizbullah in the statement.

When asked what changed from Monday to Wednesday, one diplomatic official replied: "John Bolton"...

Yet most American Jews hate the President. Strange world.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:10 PM


The class of 2006: Why American universities will lead the world (Adrian Wooldridge, The Economist)

[H]ere is a gold-plated prediction for 2006: in one vital area of educational achievement—higher education—America will continue to leave the rest of the world in the dust. [...]

The American higher-educational system—if system isn’t too neat a word—is based on three principles. First, the federal government plays a limited but vital part. Limited because there are lots of different sorts of funding—from private philanthropists to corporations and student fees—and because there is no central master-plan. But vital because the government helps to fund basic research and student loans. Second, there is the principle of competition. Universities compete for everything from students to star professors to research money. Third, the power of the teachers (who tend to be locked in their own little worlds) needs to be counter-balanced by the power of the academic administration (which can pursue the overall interests of the institution). At best, this allows universities to seize opportunities and snap up talent; at the very least, it puts a brake on the natural tendency of academics to engage in endless verbose prevarication.

The fatal flaw in the European model is granting too much power to the state.

But the state can make us all equal....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:02 PM


US pushes Bosnia leaders into deal after 10 years of ethnic divide (Ian Traynor, November 23, 2005, The Guardian)

Bosnia's rival leaders agreed yesterday to the biggest shift towards centralising power in their partitioned country since the war ended 10 years ago.

A pact reached in Washington under heavy American pressure aimed to overhaul the creaking constitutional machinery that ended the 42-month war in November 1995, but left the country partitioned and dysfunctional.

At ceremonies in Washington to mark a decade since the Dayton accords ending the war were sealed, leaders of parties representing Bosnian Muslims, Serbs, and Croats, as well as leaders of non-ethnic parties, agreed "to streamline" parliament and the tripartite presidency and "embark on a process of constitutional reform" that will strengthen a national government.

The ambitious US-authored scheme aims to turn Bosnia into a "normal" parliamentary democracy and reduce the role played by ethnic factors.

If the U.S. doesn't do such things no one does.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:21 AM


Hardly seems like it would still be necessary, but always fun to compare Leftist delusions, Europeans urged to celebrate and remember (Max Frankel, NOVEMBER 23, 2005, International Herald Tribune)

Buck up, Europe. Though lacking a coherent ideology, a genuine political unity and a significant military, you have stumbled upon a way of life that is preferable even to America's. Indeed, if you continue to let your sinful past retain its "admonitory meaning" - and learn to share your blessings with impoverished immigrants - you will have found not only moral purpose but also a way to teach the 21st century how to avoid the horrors of the 20th.

So says Tony Judt in describing his massive new work, "Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945." When asked at a forum at the Open Society Institute in New York on Monday to encapsulate his densely packed 831-page story (voluminous notes and bibliography still to come on the Internet and an eventual paperback), he acknowledged his high but hesitant hopes for Europe and a festering, subtle disillusionment with America. His tale points to a Europe that has learned the value of trying to provide for the common welfare, health and happiness of most of its citizens - a Europe that, with him, sees an America overburdened by military missions and shamed by doctrinal individualism, unfair social policies and often violent tendencies.

...with the brutal reality of the anti-culture Leftism has created:
Entr'acte: If only French leaders listened to pop culture (Alan Riding, NOVEMBER 23, 2005, International Herald Tribune)
So life often imitates art. Yet with the recent uprisings in some French immigrant neighborhoods, this cliché came with a new twist: art in the form of movies and rap music has long been warning that French-born Arab and black youths felt increasingly alienated from French society, that their banlieues were ripe for explosion.

Certainly, anyone who saw Mathieu Kassovitz's film, "La Haine," or "Hate," a decade ago had no reason to be surprised by this fall's violence. At the time, Kassovitz's portrayal of a seething immigrant Paris suburb, even his choice of the word "hate" for his title, seemed shocking, even exaggerated. Today, the movie could almost pass as a documentary. [...]

Even in the mid-1990s, though, "Hate" was hardly an isolated protest. Rather, it spawned a genre known as "banlieue movies" that explored the problems of children of Arab and African immigrants and effectively announced the birth of a new "lost generation." Some films, like Coline Serreau's "Chaos," also focused on young Arab women trying to escape male-run households. Their messages were uniformly disturbing.

Why did these movies not ring alarm bells? Clearly, screen fiction has a distancing effect on spectators: it is "only" telling a story. Yet even television documentaries and news reports can have much the same effect. For most middle-class French, nightly car burnings and police clashes with stone-throwing youths have been taking place on their television screens, not in their neighborhoods.

Where fiction has an advantage in portraying reality is in giving individual faces to well-documented social and economic problems. "Banlieue movies" have also proved more effective in analyzing the cause and effect of these problems than the newspapers and politicians who, of late, have rushed out quick answers as if responding to a natural disaster.
Public thinks STIs are 'trivial' diseases (The Guardian, November 24, 2005)
Cases of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the UK rose sharply again last year because many people wrongly consider they are trivial diseases and have unprotected sex, health experts warned today.

There were around 700,000 new diagnoses of STIs in 2004 - a rise of more than 60% since 1995, according to the Health Protection Agency (HPA), which monitors infectious diseases.

The HPA found the biggest rises in infection rates over 2003-04 were seen in cases of chlamydia, syphilis and genital warts.

The Passion of Merkel (Marc Young, 11/22/05, Der Spiegel)
Unfortunately, what Merkel most needs to pursue these bold measures is her greatest weakness: her political presence. Merkel got her professional start as a reserved and calculating scientist and she has never fully managed to shed that image. Unlike her congenial predecessor Gerhard Schröder, she finds it difficult to connect to people.

Media savvy and charismatic Schröder called snap elections last spring because of his inability to convince members of his own coalition to follow his course of difficult economic reforms. Unless Merkel's new position allows her to grow beyond her natural tendency to be reserved and cautious, the new chancellor may find it hard to keep her unlikely coalition focused and effective.

Merkel's transformation will have to come swiftly. The response to her proposed program of tax hikes and spending cuts has been muted, to say the least. And unless she can convince her fellow Germans that such sacrifices will lead the country to better days, there is the real danger the steps the government is considering could do as much harm as good.

Anyone who has spent time in Germany recently is aware the country is deeply mired in a crisis of confidence. Germans are almost pathologically pessimistic about their future prospects....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:57 AM

W'S HEIR (via Tom Corcoran):

Hillary Advocates 'Third Way' on Iraq Troop Withdrawal: Clinton Opposes Immediate Withdrawal, But Says U.S. Must Tell Iraq 'We Aren't Going to Be There Forever' (TEDDY DAVIS, Nov. 22, 2005, ABC News)

Clinton's little-noticed comments — made at a news conference about the flu vaccine — are the latest sign that the debate over Iraq has shifted in the wake of a call by Rep. Jack Murtha, D-Pa., to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq. Murtha, a combat veteran with close ties to the military, said last week that the United States had accomplished all that it can in Iraq militarily and that it is time to redeploy troops to the periphery.

Clinton's efforts to fashion a "third way" on Iraq were reminiscent of the political approach her husband made famous when he announced his presidential campaign in 1991. "The change we must make isn't liberal or conservative," Bill Clinton said then. "It's both, and it's different."

"My approach is different," the former first lady and current senator said Monday. "My approach is we tell them we expect you to meet these certain benchmarks and that means getting troops and police officers trained, equipped and ready to defend their people."

"I don't think realistically we know how prepared they are until we get a government on Dec. 15," she added.

Hardly surprising that her Third Way is identical to the President's.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:29 AM


Iraq's a lost cause? Ask the real experts (Max Boot, November 23, 2005, LA Times)

[I]n a survey last month from the U.S.-based International Republican Institute, 47% of Iraqis polled said their country was headed in the right direction, as opposed to 37% who said they thought that it was going in the wrong direction. And 56% thought things would be better in six months. Only 16% thought they would be worse.

American soldiers are also much more optimistic than American civilians. The Pew Research Center and the Council on Foreign Relations just released a survey of American elites that found that 64% of military officers are confident that we will succeed in establishing a stable democracy in Iraq. The comparable figures for journalists and academics are 33% and 27%, respectively. Even more impressive than the Pew poll is the evidence of how our service members are voting with their feet. Although both the Army and the Marine Corps are having trouble attracting fresh recruits — no surprise, given the state of public opinion regarding Iraq — reenlistment rates continue to exceed expectations. Veterans are expressing their confidence in the war effort by signing up to continue fighting.

Now, it could be that the Iraqi public and the U.S. armed forces are delusional. Maybe things really are on an irreversible downward slope. But before reaching such an apocalyptic conclusion, stop to consider why so many with firsthand experience have more hope than those without any.

They're more optimistic about their future than Europeans are about theirs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:18 AM


Venezuela gives US cheap oil deal (BBC, 11/23/05)

Officials from Venezuela and Massachusetts have signed a deal to provide cheap heating oil to low-income homes in the US state.

The fuel will be sold at about 40% below market prices to thousands of homes over the winter months.

Every state in America should get in on this deal before Hugo figures it out.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:10 AM


Ariel Sharon's new politics (Bob Zelnick, November 23, 2005, Boston Globe)

WHEN I heard that Ariel Sharon had decided to abandon his quest for support from his Likud Party and run instead on his new Party of National Responsibility, my first thought was that Tsipi Livni was wrong and Ehud Olmert was right.

Livni is the minister of justice, the daughter of a famous Irgun warrior, and perhaps the most powerful woman in Israel today. She supported Sharon's unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and a handful of West Bank settlements. When I interviewed her at her office in East Jerusalem last Aug. 14, she insisted that except for the religious right, which opposes giving up any part of biblical Israel, the differences within Likud involved means and not ends. Some would have preferred an agreement, others resented concessions made in the face of terrorism, but anyone favoring a two-state solution would concede that Gaza could not be retained. ''So now we are talking about tactical issues," she said. ''It's not ideology." The rift in her party could heal.

Three days later I visited Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, the gravel-voiced, cigar smoking former Jerusalem mayor who had become Sharon's closest confidant. Olmert had long been convinced that the failure of western Jews to immigrate in large numbers meant that the notion of Greater Israel must yield to the demographic necessity of a two-state solution.

The same sorts of folks who think Israel shouldn't give up any territory think the US should keep troops in Iraq in perpetuity.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:17 AM


You'll read nothing funnier today than the following: "Moving to defend the Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr. against attacks on his stance on civil rights, the White House said Tuesday that he had assured senators last week of his commitment to the principle of one person one vote." It's funny enough by itself, but even better is that the Times doesn't comprehend the irony.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 AM


Anyone know when Jose Padilla's last name started rhyming with Thrilla in Manila? Do his lawyers think it sounds less foreign?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:44 AM


Vatican paper surfaces, puts limits on gays in priesthood (Cathy Lynn Grossman, 11/22/05, USA TODAY)

A leaked version of an upcoming Vatican document says men with a homosexual orientation should be denied training for the Roman Catholic priesthood unless they can prove they've been celibate for at least three years and promise to teach Catholic doctrine that gay sex is always wrong.

Seminaries should refuse admission to sexually active gay men or those who "support so-called gay culture," according to a version of the document published Tuesday by the Italian Catholic news service Adista. The Associated Press says an official for the Vatican's Congregation for Catholic Education authenticated the version scheduled for release next Tuesday. [...]

The church teaches that people with a homosexual orientation deserve love and respect but that gay sex is "intrinsically disordered."

What a terrible admission on the Church's part that it needs to remind itself of such fundamental facts.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:36 AM


3 Brigades May Be Cut in Iraq Early in 2006: Some U.S. Troops Would Stay 'On Call' in Kuwait (Bradley Graham and Robin Wright, November 23, 2005, Washington Post)

Barring any major surprises in Iraq, the Pentagon tentatively plans to reduce the number of U.S. forces there early next year by as many as three combat brigades, from 18 now, but to keep at least one brigade "on call" in Kuwait in case more troops are needed quickly, several senior military officers said.

Pentagon authorities also have set a series of "decision points" during 2006 to consider further force cuts that, under a "moderately optimistic" scenario, would drop the total number of troops from more than 150,000 now to fewer than 100,000, including 10 combat brigades, by the end of the year, the officers said.

Now what are Democrats supposed to run on?

In Cairo, Clarity on Iraq (David Ignatius, November 23, 2005, Washington Post)

So Iraq's Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds finally found something they can agree on. They are jointly demanding that the United States set a timetable for withdrawal of its troops from their country. That's hardly the rallying cry the Bush administration might have hoped for, but perhaps it could provide a base line for stabilizing Iraq.

The Iraqi declaration came this week at a reconciliation conference in Cairo organized by the Arab League. According to an account in the Arabic daily Al Hayat, sources at the conference said they wanted the withdrawal to take place over the next two years. That's not very different from the gradual pullout that U.S. military planners have been discussing. And if managed wisely, a phased U.S. withdrawal could provide a framework that allows the new Iraqi government that will be elected next month to unify the country.

The Administration wasn't hoping Iraqis would endorse its existing plans?

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:42 AM


The age of unreason (Frank Furedi, The Spectator, November 19th, 2005)

To this day I am astonished when I hear that sensible, biologically mature adults allow themselves to be treated as if they were incompetent dimwits by a new army of professional surrogate parents. In days of old, traditional authority figures, like priests, instructed us how to behave in public and told us which rules to observe. Today’s experts are even freer with their advice. They do not simply tell us what to do and think, but also how to feel. A new army of life coaches, lifestyle gurus, professional celebrities, parenting coaches, super-nannies, makeover experts, healers, facilitators, mentors and guides regularly lecture us about the most intimate details of our existence. They are not simply interested in monitoring public behaviour but in colonising our internal life.

Life coaches ‘support’ us with making transitions in our private life while their colleagues feng shui our mundane existence. And every aspect of daily life has become a target of a makeover project. It is sad to see grown-up people needing somebody to show them how to shop for clothes. It is even more depressing when so many of us decide that we cannot make important decisions concerning our personal life without the benefit of a life coach, parenting coach or a high-tech psychic peddling gemstone therapy. This is not just deference to authority but the prostration of the adult imagination.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with expertise. We rely on mechanics to fix our cars and on dentists to extract our teeth. But the posse of 21st-century life experts is not so much in the business of fixing practical problems as in transforming us into needy children. Their enterprise depends on undermining and usurping confidence in our ability to conduct our affairs. The message they transmit is that normal human beings cannot do it on their own. That is why they assume that they possess the moral authority to dictate to us what to wear, how to love, how to parent, what not to eat and, most important of all, how to live. They are in the business of imposing a new form of authority over people’s everyday affairs. At least the message of self-help gurus in the 1980s and 1990s projected the mildly anarchic ideal of ‘be yourself’. In form at least the message was promoted through an anti-authoritarian vocabulary. In contrast, today’s makeover culture self-consciously commands you not to be yourself. On television they make fun of the way you dress, offer sarcastic references about your poor taste in the way you furnish your home and insist that you follow their superior regime of child-rearing. They know best, which is why some of them describe themselves, without a trace of irony, as gurus.

Deference to the authority of the celebrity, makeover guru or healer is underwritten by the decline in the influence of conventional forms of authority. That is why the frequently asserted claim that we live in an age characterised by the ‘death of deference’ bears little relationship to reality. Yes, it has become fashionable to treat traditional forms of authority — monarchy, church, parliament — with derision. Criticism of traditional institutions has become so prevalent that it bears all the hallmarks of classical conformism. Scientists, doctors and other professionals have also experienced an erosion of authority. But the diminishing influence of conventional authority has been paralleled by the rise of a new ‘alternative’ one. We don’t trust politicians but we have faith in the pronouncements of celebrities. We are suspicious of medical doctors but we feel comfortable with healers who mumble on about being ‘holistic’ and ‘natural’. We certainly don’t trust scientists working for the pharmaceutical industry but we are happy to listen to the disinterested opinion of a herbalist. And, of course, alternative food and other consumer products gain our confidence because ...they are alternative.

Confused parents are now expected to bow to the expertise of the supernanny who has succeeded in taming their naughty children. Disoriented adults now swear that their detox therapist has freed them from their negative feelings. Others are reluctant to make their next big decision without the ‘support’ of their life coach. The whole nation hails the celebrity saint who has alerted them to the moral challenge of purifying children’s school dinners. Our saints do not simply save individuals, but the entire continent of Africa.

According to traditional political theory, the free and self-reliant citizen should fear the state because, unchecked, it’s voracious appetite will ultimately assume control over all aspects of public and private life and turn him into a slave no longer permitted to make the free choices that define his dignity and guide his destiny. How ironic that our modern society appears to accord us more and more free choices while haranguing us daily about how incompetent we are to make them.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:04 AM


It may be beyond passé - but we'll have to do something about the rich (Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian, November 22nd, 2005)

If you want to be deeply unfashionable, just read on. If you want to enter terrain so wildly out of date that mere mention of it has become taboo, then you've come to the right place. Brace yourself. Late last month two bankers strode into Umbaba, one of London's most modish watering holes, and asked the bartender to fix them a drink. Not any drink, you understand, but the most expensive cocktail he could concoct. He set to work, blending a Richard Hennessy cognac that sells at £3,000 a bottle, Dom Perignon champagne, fresh lemongrass and lychees - all topped off with an extract of yohimbe bark, a West African import said to possess aphrodisiac powers. He called it the Magie Noir - and he charged £333 a glass. The bankers ordered two rounds for their table of eight. Their final bill for the night: £15,000.

Those same men, or their colleagues, may well have invested £200,000 in a Bentley or Aston Martin, or they might have paid celebrity hairdresser Nicky Clarke £500 for what the salon describes as an "aspirational haircut". They are the customers sought by the London estate agent who offers a three-bedroom flat in Kensington as a "starter home" for £2.25m. They are the target reader of the newly launched Trader magazine, with its ads for private jets or five-storey yachts (complete with submarine).

This is the world of the super-rich, financiers pulling in salaries and bonuses in the millions, and sometimes tens of millions, of dollars. They are partners in hedge funds and private-equity firms - buying, selling and gambling in jobs that most mortals barely comprehend. They spend money on vast estates or wild fancies. Sometimes the splashing out is literal: a favourite pastime is spraying champagne in the manner of a formula one winner. (In August one London banker fizzed away £41,000.)

Nothing new in all this, you might say. The rich, like the poor, are always with us. But that would be wrong. Robert Peston, City editor of the Sunday Telegraph, estimates that this year no more than 200 to 300 hedge-fund managers will carve up $4.2bn of pure profit between them. These sorts of payouts are on a scale unimaginable in the past, at least outside the handful of individuals who either invented a new product or owned a tangible resource: Bransons or Rockefellers. That they should come, as regular as a salary, to those who, by their own admission, create nothing is a new development. (And buying up once-public companies in their entirety is essentially a new field.)

It is the sharpest edge of a striking trend, one that shows the truth behind that lefty slogan about the rich getting richer. When Margaret Thatcher came to power in 1979, just under 6% of national income went to the top 1%. That figure stood at 9% a decade later, but under Tony Blair it has risen to at least 13%: a tiny group taking nearly an eighth of our collective wealth.

Does it matter? Some will insist not; only envy could make us begrudge a young man spending five figures on a drinks bill. As long as we're getting by, who cares if Joe Banker can buy a Ferrari the way the rest of us buy a pint of milk? In the years after Thatcherism and the fall of the Soviet Union, we're meant to have moved on from such concerns. Only the tragically retro, those trapped in a Scargillite time warp wearing a Citizen Smith beret, still care about such things. When the prime minister was asked in 2001 whether it was possible for anyone to earn too much money, he caught the spirit of the age when he replied, "Not really, no. Why does that matter?"

I know it's frightfully old-fashioned, but I beg to differ. For the story about the £333 cocktails emerged in the same week as Shelter reported that children were being forced to sleep in kitchens, dining rooms and hallways because of cramped housing affecting 500,000 families in England alone. Of these, three in four said that the lack of space was damaging their children's education or development; many spoke of depression and anxiety. And the scale of the problem has remained unchanged since 1997.

To my mind, there is something deeply wrong here. If one man can spend £15,000 plying his pals with a syrupy cocktail, while another lays out blankets for his child to sleep in the kitchen then we know the system is broken.

It took him a few paragraphs to get there, but thankfully Mr. Freedland’s eventual reference to “the system” betrays a fevered leftist and frees us to run off and leave him to play with his abstracts. But is there not a point here that separates libertarians from social conservatives rather sharply? Endless prattling about freedom, hard work (?!) and the fruits of one’s labours won’t change the fact that, as sure as G-d made the little green apples, if our culture permits the rich to wallow unsanctioned in ostentatious, near-contemptuous self-indulgence and excess, and ceases to demand and enforce duty, charity and self-restraint, there will eventually be a popular reaction of unpredictable destructiveness that no constitution in the world will forestall.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 5:26 AM


Conduct unbecoming (Bruce Anderson, The Spectator, November 19th, 2005)

...When Britain signed up to the ICC, there were assurances that British soldiers would never appear in front of it. It would only act in countries which refused to mount proper investigations of their own. But senior officers have now been warned that the ICC would not regard the chain of command as an adequate legal procedure. So methods which have been tried and tested over the decades would not prevent foreign lawyers from putting British soldiers on a par with Milosevic: more of the yoke.

The generals alone cannot solve the problem of the ICC. But one might expect some resistance. Instead, senior figures have made love to their employment as lawyers’ pimps. A brigadier working directly for General Sir Michael Jackson wrote as follows: ‘Do you have any evidence of officer misbehaviour in Iraq which I could use?’

The cold, callous tone of that missive could have come from some satirists’ version of the château-generals in the first world war. The satirists were writing fiction. That brigadier’s letter encouraged the prosecution of Colonel Jorge Mendonca, DSO, an outstanding soldier. A country which can treat Colonel Mendonca like this ought to be ashamed of itself. As for the brigadier, better men have shot themselves for worse reasons. Around Mike Jackson, however, they are beyond shame.

Mike Jackson: corruptio optimi pessima. Everything about the outward man inspires respect. He looks like a mensch: a fighting soldier, a soldier’s soldier, the last commander on earth to be seduced by the politicians. He has force of personality, reinforced by a hint of menace. If he had been willing to stand up to the politicians, they would never have dared to stand up to him.

But all his supposed strengths were a sham. It was said of the great Slim that he had the brains of a Field Marshal and the heart of a private soldier. Mike Jackson has the heart of a toy poodle. His career as Chief of the General Staff is a study in moral failure.

In combat zones, soldiers invariably ask one question of senior visitors: is the country behind them? They desperately want to hear a yes. But how can today’s soldiers believe that when the lawyers are allowed to run amok? Throughout the services, there are problems with recruitment and retention. Mr Blair wants to use the army more and more. The way the ministers and generals are acting, there will be less and less to use. What happened to joined-up government?

What has happened to duty, honour, patriotism — to common decency? What has happened to this country when brave colonels are prosecuted while generals — full of rank and titles, wearing resplendent uniforms, by all appearances worthy successors to their illustrious forebears — fail in their most basic duty to the men under their command?

Opponents of the ICC tend to envisage a resentful, hamstrung military subservient and united in opposition to foreign supervision and sanction, but that simplistic scenario fails to take the nature of bureaucracy, even military bureaucracy, into account and misses the real danger. The Anglo-American tradition of complete deference to civil authority is a bedrock of freedom, but it also means that our elected leaders have little difficulty in peopling senior ranks with those willing and eager to do their bidding. If a government of the day rules that gender equality and international peacekeeping are the number one priorities, then soon the military will shed the dissenters and be run by generals who build careers on promoting those objectives. If the chain of command loses ultimate authority over enforcing the rules of war, a few old salts may resign in loud protest, but they will soon be replaced by a high command that, far from lamenting the loss of responsibility and sovereignty or worrying much about duty and morale, will enthusiastically cooperate with the new order and look down the ranks for examples to shop to the insatiable appetite of international law.

November 22, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:23 PM


Blair talked Bush out of bombing al-Jazeera: report (AFP, 11/22/05)

President George W. Bush planned to bomb pan-Arab television broadcaster al-Jazeera, British newspaper the Daily Mirror said, citing a Downing Street memo marked "Top Secret".

The five-page transcript of a conversation between Bush and British Prime Minister
Tony Blair reveals that Blair talked Bush out of launching a military strike on the station, unnamed sources told the daily which is against the war in

There's no difference between not attacking them and not targeting Der Angriff.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:12 PM


Fed Reassurance Rallies Markets (Jerry Knight, November 22, 2005, Washington Post)

The Federal Reserve gave Wall Street a leg-up today, boosting the stock market to new highs for the year by acknowledging that interest rates won't keep going up forever.

In discussions preceding their last decision to raise interest rates, Fed officials said that "before long" they won't need to keep hiking rates, minutes of that meeting revealed.

What better way to go out than not causing a third unnecessary slowdown out of lunatic fear of inflation? The '70s are finally over and the next Chairman's adult life has coincided with deflation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:09 PM


Merkel takes over and faces instant rebellion (Luke Harding, November 23, 2005, The Guardian)

Angela Merkel has become Germany's first woman chancellor, winning 397 votes in the 614-seat Bundestag, or lower house. Her election yesterday marks the end of months of political chaos following the general election in September, which neither of the two major parties won. Ms Merkel presides over a "grand coalition" government made up of conservatives from her Christian Democrats and the centre-left Social Democrats.

But there were signs of trouble. Some 51 MPs from the two coalition parties failed to vote for Ms Merkel, with most of the rebels almost certainly coming from within the SPD. A few of Ms Merkel's fellow conservatives may also have put the knife in.

Combining German Chancellors with talk of a "stab in the back" tends to be a bad idea.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:58 PM


Murtha removes unfavorable troop poll: Online voters overwhelmingly opposed his call for withdrawal (, November 22, 2005)

The congressman at the center of the battle last week over withdrawal of troops from Iraq removed the results from his own Internet poll on the subject after online voters overwhelmingly opposed his stance.

Even better was a bit on NPR's The World this afternoon where host Lisa Mullins spoke with Laith Kubba, a spokesman for the Iraqi government about the Iraqi reconciliation conference calling for troop withdrawals. She wanted the guy to say that they were calling for the same thing as Congressman Murtha, but instead he insisted that the drawdown had to be gradual and that the notion of immediate withdrawal is "totally irresponsible."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:53 PM


New Study Posits Evolutionary Origins Of Two Distinct Types Of Laughter (SPX, Nov 23, 2005)

In an important new study from the forthcoming Quarterly Review of Biology biologists from Binghamton University explore the evolution of two distinct types of laughter – laughter which is stimulus-driven and laughter which is self-generated and strategic.

"Laughter that occurs during everyday social interaction in response to banal comments and humorless conversation is now being studied," write Matthew Gervais and David Sloan Wilson. "The unstated issue is whether such laughter is similar in kind to laughter following from humor."

Using empirical evidence from across disciplines, including theory and data from work on mirror neurons, evolutionary psychology, and multilevel selection theory, the researchers detail the evolutionary trajectory of laughter over the last 7 million years.

A third kind evolved about a century and a half ago--laughing at the inanities these folk are forced to tell themselves.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:56 PM


How should US prepare for a post-Castro Cuba? (Warren Richey, 11/23/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

Those in favor of taking bold action - namely, trying to stop Raul Castro from stepping into his brother's shoes - cite post-9/11 concerns that any failing or hostile nation may become a launching pad for terrorists seeking to attack the United States.

Those urging a more restrained approach stress Washington's less-than-impressive record in Cuba. Some point to the deadly insurgency in Iraq two years after what Bush administration officials had assumed would be a quick US military victory.

Many Cuba experts say Iraq and Cuba are completely separate scenarios, noting that political instability in Cuba is unlikely to result in the kind of protracted rebellion under way in Iraq.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:40 PM


Refinery bottleneck to ease: Oil companies already have plans to add 6 percent to US capacity. (Ron Scherer, 11/23/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

In a move that could bode well for Americans' gas tanks, the oil industry is quickening its pace of investing in more refining capacity.

Over the past two months, energy companies have announced refinery expansions of almost 1 million barrels of oil per day - nearly 6 percent of the amount of gasoline produced today. More announcements may come this spring.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:39 PM


US volunteers find Pakistan more friendly than feared (David Montero | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor)

"Like most Americans, I had the idea that this is a pretty dangerous place to be," [Doctor Mary Burry] says, adding that she had never known any Pakistanis. What she discovered, however, is a country whose beauty and hospitality she is now reluctant to leave. "This totally changed my concept of Pakistan."

Her Pakistani colleagues, who have never known any Americans, candidly admit the same. "We had a feeling before that Americans are selfish and too proud," says a smiling Rezwana Ahsan, a doctor working with Mercy Corps, a relief organization. "But they are not so. They came here with an open mind and an open heart.".

Howard to visit earthquake zone (AAP, November 23, 2005)

PRIME Minister John Howard will view for himself the devastation wrought by last month's massive earthquake in northern Pakistan when he visits Australian military doctors working in the area today.

Mr Howard will fly into the ruined region in a helicopter, accompanied by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, to inspect the work being done by the 160 Australians.

That's how the President and Mrs. Bush should spend this Thanksgiving too.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:14 PM


Chirac says rail company to remain state-owned (Xinhuanet, 2005-11-23)

French President Jacques Chirac, in an effort to appease striking major trade unions, promised Tuesday that the state-owned rail company SNCF would remain public.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:09 PM


U.S. Indicts Padilla After 3 Years in Pentagon Custody (DAVID STOUT, 11/22/05, NY Times)

Jose Padilla, an American citizen held without charge for more than three years as an enemy combatant, has been indicted in what the federal authorities said today was a plot to "murder, kidnap and maim" people overseas.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who announced the indictment here, said that Mr. Padilla had traveled abroad to become "a violent jihadist" and that he had conspired to send "money, physical assets and new recruits" overseas to engage in acts of terrorism. [...]

At his news briefing here, Mr. Gonzales credited the USA Patriot Act with helping to make the prosecution of Mr. Padilla possible.

Passed by Congress shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, the act broadened government surveillance powers. Mr. Gonzales said the measure had been effective at "tearing down the artificial wall" that had impeded information-sharing among certain law-enforcement agencies.

Asked whether the indictment might have been timed to bolster support for the Patriot Act, which is being debated in Congress as some of its provisions are up for renewal, Mr. Gonzales replied, "Absolutely not."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:50 PM


Terror tactics turning away former al-Qaida supporters (Hannah Allam, 11/22/05, Knight Ridder Newspapers)

Today's insurgency in neighboring Iraq is unfamiliar to Jordanian villagers who said they simply wanted to defend fellow Muslims from foreign invaders. Now they're trying to figure out how blowing up innocent Arabs at a hotel wedding reception - as suspected Iraqi bombers did in Amman, the Jordanian capital, earlier this month - became an accepted means of resistance. The pride they took in sending two of their own to Iraq is mixed with confusion over whether their holy warriors may have become terrorists.

"I don't believe in al-Qaida anymore. Boom. It's finished," said Adnan Badran, 37, the older brother of the Irbid man who fought in Iraq and hasn't returned. He traced the rim of a cup of Turkish coffee with his finger and gazed at the floor.

"I think maybe there is no jihad anymore," he said sadly.

The change of heart by these once-enthusiastic supporters of jihad - holy war - suggests that Jordanian terrorist leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi, who claimed responsibility for the hotel bombings, has miscalculated. While Bush administration policies in the Middle East remain deeply unpopular, al Zarqawi's tactics are soiling his image among potential foot soldiers. If Hikmet and Badran are any example, the region may not provide fertile ground for the radical Islam and terrorism that Americans fear most.

In his terrific new book, The Far Enemy, Fawaz Gerges writes about the crisis, largely hidden from our Western eyes, within the jihadist movement that was brought on by 9-11. Al Qaeda's transnationalist jihad against the "far enemy," America, offers some visceral thrills, but since it does nothing to reform the regimes that Arab Muslims live under and, therefore, nothing to improve their lives, it doesn't attract foot soldiers. Meanwhile, the increasing focus of the jihadis in Iraq on blowing up fellow Muslims, even if they are Shi'ites and Kurds, is hardly a selling point. But start blowing up other Sunni Arabs and on what possible ground would people support you?

Posted by Peter Burnet at 1:47 PM



Apparently he is very keen on the Third Way and thinks we should cut back on our cars and rely more on horses.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:38 PM


Netanyahu: Sharon is a 'dictator' (Guardian Unlimited, November 22, 2005)

Benjamin Netanyahu, the leading contender to take over Israel's beleaguered Likud party, today called the prime minister, Ariel Sharon, a "dictator" who had abandoned the party's true path. [...]

Opinion polls suggest Mr Sharon's new "National Responsibility" party - which has still to be officially named - is likely to win a close race with the Labour party, putting Likud a distant third.

But Mr Netanyahu today warned against reading too much into early surveys. "It starts like that, but people will return to the warm home of the Likud ... they will return to the principles of the Likud," he said.

"Many of the voters who ostensibly are following Sharon don't believe in running amok and handing over land with your eyes closed ... that is not how you make peace."

He said Mr Sharon was a leader who pursued a "one-man rule, who apparently doesn't recognise democracy, and is setting up a party of puppets".

Speaking to Israel's Army Radio, he said: "What does it matter whether the dictator has this type of smile, or that type of sense of humour? It all leads to tyranny."

Mr Netanyahu initially supported the Gaza pullout plan, which enjoyed widespread public backing but was vehemently opposed by some settlers and hardliners. However, he turned against it shortly before it was carried out.

Commentators have said Mr Sharon's move to leave Likud - which he helped found in the 70s and turn into the dominant force in Israeli politics - will push the party to the margins of the right.

Mr. Netanyahu opposed the best interests of his country in favor of what he thought was his own political interest, only to discover he's marginalized himself. Knowing the voters are going to overwhelmingly reject you doesn't exactly make your opponent a dictator, though Democrats here seem to think that way too.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:35 PM


Paratrooper sniper becomes hero (Margot Dudkevitch and jpost staff, Nov. 22, 2005, THE JERUSALEM POST)

IDF paratrooper Corporal David Markovitch foiled a would-be attack when he killed four Hizbullah operatives carrying an anti-tank missile in the village of Ghahar near South Lebanon on Monday.

Markovitch, a trained sniper, aimed at the rocket, which exploded, killing three of the terrorists. He then shot the fourth, whose body was taken back across the lines by other Hizbullah members. The IDF was holding the other three bodies.

Markovitch, who was drafted eight months ago, was described by an Israel Radio interviewer as "not especially large or threatening, even with a helmet on his head," and was eager to praise his commander and cohorts when grilled for details.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:44 AM


Stetson stops distribution of conservative student magazine (CHRISTINE GIRARDIN, November 19, 2005, West Volusia News-Journal)

A question mark imposed over a photo of a gay-pride flag prompted Stetson University officials to halt distribution of a student-run magazine.

The students who launched Common Sense, a politically conservative publication, say they're being labeled intolerant when it's the university that's gagging free speech.

Editors at Common Sense decorated the back cover of their inaugural October issue with a photograph of student Ian Wasser's dorm room window, which is draped with the rainbow colored Gay Pride flag.

Superimposed on the flag is an almost transparent question mark, something Wasser, 21, feared could be interpreted as hostile to homosexuals.

Ours not to reason why....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:52 AM


The left hates inequality, not evil (Dennis Prager, Nov 22, 2005, Townhall)

If you want to understand the Left, most of what you need to know can be summarized thus: The Left hates inequality, not evil.

As one raised as a New York Jew (who, moreover, attended an Ivy League university) and therefore liberal -- it took me a while to recognize this fatal moral characteristic of the Left. But the moment I realized it, it became immoral not to oppose leftist values. [...]

Today, this inability to either recognize or to hate evil is manifested in the liberal opposition to the war in Iraq. As I pointed out in a previous column, opponents of the war should be asked to at least acknowledge that America is fighting evil people and an evil doctrine in Iraq. But even that is difficult, if not impossible, for most people on the Left.

As noted above, everyone hates someone, and that includes people on the Left. The problem is that because they don't hate evil, they hate those who oppose evil. That is how liberals went from anti-communist to anti-anti-communist. To paraphrase one of the greatest moral insights of the Talmud, those who show mercy to the cruel will be cruel to the merciful. So, George W. Bush, not the Islamic terror world, is the Left's villain; life-embracing Israel is the Left's villain, not their death-loving enemies; and religious Christians who note moral weaknesses within the Islamic world are the real danger, not the moral weaknesses within the Islamic world. [...]

[T]he inability to acknowledge the greatest evils, let alone to join in fighting them, is the defining characteristic of the Left.

The pursuit of equality is, of course, the French Proposition and was carried to its logical extreme by Communism. That this pursuit necessarily ends in what even they can recognize as evil -- at least in their hearts, if not their heads -- is why the French and the Left are become deranged.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:28 AM


Blair vows to drive through public service reforms (Press Association, November 22, 2005, Guardian Unlimited)

Mr Blair said his administration's focus on increasing choice in public services was driven by its perception of a "major economic and political shift" in British society.

Voters considered that previous administrations had invested too little money in the public services such as schools and the NHS, and the government had responded to that, he told the committee.

But he added: "At the same time, the public is saying: 'If you put more money into these services, we want them to be more responsive to us as consumers'. We should respond to that as a government and do it fairly." [...]

"The idea is to get to the situation where people see that the money we have put into public services is matched by change and reform," he said.

"I think there's a very strong desire amongst the public for us to make the changes to ensure those public services are responsive."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:13 AM


Politics trumps diplomacy in UN reform dispute (Warren Hoge, 11/22/05, The New York Times)

At issue is how management-reform proposals that would broaden the power of the secretary general's office are being pressed assertively by Bolton and aggravating tensions between the 191-member General Assembly, with its entrenched bureaucracy, and the office of the secretary general.

"It looks like it could be a real train wreck," said Edward Luck, a professor of international affairs at Columbia University in New York and a former president of the UN Association of the United States. "It's a basic clash over who's in charge: Is it the General Assembly or is it the secretary general?"

The clash is being seen in crisis terms in the offices of Secretary General Kofi Annan. "This is serious stuff," said Mark Malloch Brown, Annan's chief of staff. "I think in many ways it is setting the outcome of whether the United Nations matters or not in 10 years' time." [...]

Distrust has deepened in the debate over change because many nations believe that the secretary general's office has been tacking too close to the United States in its effort to repair relations with Washington that were damaged over the war in Iraq and the scandal-ridden oil-for-food program.

"One gets the impression that other countries are suspicious that the secretary general and his aides are really puppets being manipulated by Washington," Luck said.

The only chance the UN has to matter in the future is by tacking to our line and joining the fight to make states conform to Anglo-American of democratic legitimacy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:36 AM


The dogs that never barked: International peacekeeping efforts have gone largely unnoticed despite successes. (Gareth Evans, November 22, 2005, LA Times)

Contrary to what just about everybody instinctively believes, there has been a dramatic decrease in the number of conflicts, down 40% since the early 1990s. There were just 25 armed secessionist conflicts underway in 2004, the lowest number since 1976, according to the meticulously documented Human Security Report 2005, a new multi-government study (

The number of mass killings has fallen 80% since the late 1980s, according to the report. And around the world, there has been a spectacular increase in the number of civil conflicts resolved — as in Indonesia's separatist Aceh province this year — not by force but by negotiation.

There are many reasons for these turnarounds. They include the end of the era of colonialism, the aftermath of which generated two-thirds or more of all wars from the 1950s to the 1980s. The end of the Cold War meant no more proxy wars fueled by Washington or Moscow, and it also hastened the demise of a number of authoritarian governments that each side had been propping up and that had generated significant internal resentment and resistance.

But the best explanation is the one that stares us in the face: the huge increase in international efforts to prevent, manage and resolve conflicts.

The world recognized History had Ended fifteen years ago and the Soviet Union ("the focus of evil in the modern world") with it, so how could conflicts not decline?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:33 AM


Silver spoons and rusted wrenches (Dean Bakopoulos, November 22, 2005, LA Times)

THE AMERICAN auto industry is dead. With General Motors announcing, days before Thanksgiving, 30,000 more layoffs and nine plant closings, the Rust Belt just got the final strike of the sledgehammer. When GM finally goes down for good, all the rusted remains of that region will crumble.

My grandfather was a UAW man who slapped dashboards into Mustangs at the Ford Rouge plant just outside Detroit; my grandmother sweated out the first shift at Cabot tool and die. Immigrants with no formal education, their union wages allowed them to provide their family with a nice home, two cars and, for my mother, a college education, paid for in cash.

Later, my grandparents' savings helped my family buy a home. After my parents' divorce, those resources were instrumental in helping my mother maintain a car and pay unexpected bills, school tuition and property taxes. A decade later, when my wife and I bought our first home, my grandfather's long-saved UAW wages gave us much of our down payment.

Wages that exorbitant for unskilled labor are why developed nations don't assemble parts.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:25 AM


Senate's Tax Bill Includes Incentives for Charity Gifts (LYNNLEY BROWNING, 11/22/05, NY Times)

Under the Senate bill, people who do not itemize deductions on their federal income tax returns would for the first time be able to deduct the amount they gave if it exceeded certain thresholds. The minimum would be $210 for individuals and $410 for married couples. [...]

The provision would last two years and could increase charitable giving by $1 billion a year at little cost to the government, said Patrick Lester, director of public policy for the United Way of America, the nation's largest charitable organization.

"This is by far the most important provision" in the Senate tax bill, Mr. Lester said, adding that he was particularly pleased there was no maximum amount that could be donated tax free.

Because lower-income taxpayers are less likely to itemize, the provision could prompt charitable giving to nonprofit organizations like churches and soup kitchens.

Another provision in the Senate bill would make it possible for taxpayers who reach age 70 1/2 and who have not yet fully tapped into their individual retirement accounts to make tax-free donations to charities straight from the accounts. Taxpayers must now cash out of their accounts and pay taxes on the amount withdrawn before making donations.

The provision could lead to several billion dollars of additional charitable giving a year, according to estimates by the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:17 AM


Sox agree on trade for Beckett (Chris Snow, November 22, 2005, Boston Globe)

Pending physicals, the 25-year-old Beckett, MVP of the 2003 World Series, will come to Boston along with 2005 Gold Glove-winning third baseman Mike Lowell and the entire balance of Lowell's cumbersome contract, according to two major league sources. The Sox, the sources said, will send to Florida two of the organization's top prospects, Double A shortstop Hanley Ramírez and Double A righthander Anibal Sánchez, as well as another lesser prospect, Single A pitcher Jesus Delgado. The sources indicated that no money is changing hands in the deal. [...]

Beckett, who will turn 26 in May, went 15-8 with a 3.38 ERA in 29 starts in 2005, and in 103 career starts over four-plus seasons, he is 41-34 with a 3.46 ERA, all with Florida, the team that drafted him second overall in 1999.

Beckett rocketed to prominence during the 2003 postseason, when as a 23-year-old he pitched complete-game shutouts in Game 5 of the NLCS vs. the Cubs and in a clinching Game 6 of the World Series vs. the Yankees, the latter appearance on three days' rest. Beckett also pitched four innings in relief in Game 7 of the 2003 NLCS, allowing one run just three days after his Game 5 start.

Beckett stands to become the Sox' most significant trade for a young, cornerstone-caliber player since the club acquired Pedro Martínez eight years ago. Beckett does come with some injury issues. He's dealt with recurrent blisters on his right middle finger for several years. A more pressing matter, though, is an unspecified issue with his right shoulder. According to a recent story in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Beckett needed 20 pitches to warm up before every inning over the last six weeks of the season and underwent two MRIs, one with Dr. James Andrews, after the season. Last season, he visited the DL once, in July, with an oblique strain.

Still, he was made available by Florida not so much because his future is uncertain but because the team's is. Florida will not re-sign A.J. Burnett, and the club is looking to deal Carlos Delgado, among others, in an unloading of talent designed to drastically reduce payroll.

But to land Beckett, the Sox will have to take on Lowell, who is guaranteed $9 million each of the next two seasons and hit just .236 with 8 homers and 58 RBIs in 150 games last season after averaging 25 homers and 95 RBIs for five seasons. Other than nine games at second base in 2005, Lowell, an All-Star in 2002, '03, and '04, has played his eight-year career at third base, where he's evolved into one of the game's best gloves at the position.

Now I have to rewrite my "things I'm Thankful For..." speech...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:14 AM


Iraqi Factions Seek Timetable for U.S. Pullout (HASSAN M. FATTAH, 11/22/05, NY Times)

About 100 Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish leaders, many of whom will run in the election on Dec. 15, signed a closing memorandum on Monday that "demands a withdrawal of foreign troops on a specified timetable, dependent on an immediate national program for rebuilding the security forces," the statement said.

"The Iraqi people are looking forward to the day when foreign forces will leave Iraq, when its armed and security forces will be rebuilt and when they can enjoy peace and stability and an end to terrorism," it continued.

The meeting was intended as preparation for a much larger conference in Iraq in late February. The recommendations made here are to be the starting ground for that meeting.

In Washington, Justin Higgins, a State Department spokesman, said, "The United States supports the basic foundation of the conference and we certainly support ongoing discussion among Iraq's various political and religious communities."

But regarding troop withdrawal, he said: "Multinational forces are present in Iraq under a mandate from the U.N. Security Council. As President Bush has said, the coalition remains committed to helping the Iraqi people achieve security and stability as they rebuild their country. We will stay as long as it takes to achieve those goals and no longer."

Admittedly he's a hundred-something years old now and shouldn't be held responsible for what he says, but Dan Schorr was on NPR yesterday saying that the central issue of the 2006 midterm will be whether to withdraw from Iraq. The scary thing is his fellow Democrats believe that too.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:10 AM


Strike cripples French railways (BBC, 11/22/05)

Rail workers in France have begun a national strike, crippling the rail network for at least 24 hours.

As many as two-thirds of trains stopped running as commuters tried return home on Monday night.

Unions are striking to protest against any privatisation of the rail network, despite government assurances.

France's Muslim youth won't destroy the nation, just deliver the coup de grace.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:06 AM


Water shortage panics China city (BBC, 11/22/05)

The major Chinese city of Harbin is facing four days without water because of an unexpected mains stoppage.

The announcement that water supplies would be cut off from Tuesday has sparked panic-buying of bottled water and other drinks at local supermarkets.

There is confusion over why the authorities are cutting off the water.

Xinhua agency cited fears it had been contaminated by a chemical blast, but the China Daily quoted the government as saying it was for mains maintenance.

Real progress is when you can openly acknowledge the incompetence of government.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:52 AM


Arab shows decry Islamists (Heba Kandil, November 22, 2005, REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

"Al Tareeq Al-Waer" ("The Rugged Path") and "Al-Hur Al-Ayn" ("The Beautiful Maidens") were aired during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, a time of peak viewing in the Middle East.

Both shows deal with intransigent interpretations of Islam, such as the one espoused by Saudi-born al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, and the social problems that push some to extremism.

Ali al-Ahmed, head of Abu Dhabi TV, which produced "The Rugged Path," said extremists had the loudest voice today, so it was vital to give moderates a channel to air their views.

"This is everybody's problem, and as Arabs we have to talk about it. We can't consider it as just a passing phenomenon that will quietly end after some time," he said.

We still eagerly await the first Western drama to show Irish terrorists in a negative light.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:29 AM


Holbrooke says Bosnia peace agreement flawed, but successful (Associated Press, 121/18/05)

Richard Holbrooke, who brokered the 1995 Bosnian peace agreement that ended the 3 1/2-year-long war, said the peace accords had flaws but achieved what they set out to do despite predictions by many that they would fail.

Holbrooke said the flaws included creation of separate armies in Bosnia and the retention of the country's ethnically controlled political parties.

"The underlying point was the goal of ending the war, and by God we did it with your help in Dayton," Holbrooke said Thursday night as he accepted the Dayton Peace Prize on the 10th anniversary of the peace accords.

It's been hilarious to listen to Richard Holbrooke's victory lap on the 10th Anniversary of the Dayton Accords. On NPR last night they talked to Nicholas Burns who said that Bosnia has 14 different department of education, one for each religious and ethnic group to go with its three presidents. Yet the same folks insist that federalism in Iraq or a separate state of Kurdistan is a disaster?

In Kosovo, Two Peoples Look Across Bitter Divide: Talks Address Future Of U.N.-Run Region (Daniel Williams, November 22, 2005, Washington Post)

Six years after the end of warfare here, fear and suspicion still enforce a strict separation of Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo, but for the first time both sides are beginning to picture a future in which they might -- just might -- live together.

Talks began Monday in Pristina on the future legal status of an area that has been under the administration of the United Nations since U.S.-led bombing forced out Serbian forces in 1999. Anti-Serb riots in March 2004 stoked fear here and in foreign capitals of new violence between the two populations, and possibly even between Serbia and Kosovo, prompting the U.S. and European governments to endorse the talks.

"This is about ending a dispute of more than a century," said Avni Arifi, an adviser to Kosovo Prime Minister Bajram Kosumi. "The only way to move forward is to talk. Otherwise anything can happen, mostly bad." [...]

The talks represent a dramatic shift in course for the outside powers. After 1999, they told the Albanians that talks on final status would begin only if they improved the rule of law and the protection of Serbs in Kosovo. But after the riots of 2004, in which Albanian mobs torched close to a thousand Serb houses, foreign officials concluded that the current framework was untenable. They authorized talks while continuing to pressure the Albanians to rein in lawlessness.

A visit to Kosovo shows how stagnant and yet volatile the situation is. The majority population of 2 million Albanians and the minority Serbs, now numbering about 100,000, live in separate, mutually hostile worlds. A bridge over a river that separates Serb and Albanian parts of the northern city of Kosovska Mitrovica carries little traffic. Sharp-eyed men on both sides warily look over anyone who crosses.

The Serb population of Pristina is down to 120 from about 40,000 in 1999. Serbs' homes have been occupied by Albanians. The few Serbs who dare come into town complain of harassment.

In the countryside, a few Serb enclaves remain, surrounded by Albanian villages and subject to the whims of illegal Albanian militias. Few refugees have returned. Recently, a shadowy armed group called the Army for the Independence of Kosovo ordered Kosovo politicians to declare independence or face a "difficult situation," which people here took to mean death. Another group opposes talks altogether and has spray-painted the slogan "No negotiations. Self-determination" all across Pristina.

Still, the decision to talk has forced contemplation among Serbs and Albanians about what a new Kosovo would be like.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:24 AM


Baton charge directed at standard of music education (Matthew Westwood, The Australian, November 22nd, 2005)

Music education in schools has been dumbed-down, says conductor Richard Gill, who likens the study of rock'n'roll to reading comics in the classroom.

Pop concerts such as this month's NSW Schools Spectacular were a "betrayal of music" and no substitute for serious study, he said.

Gill, a highly regarded educator, said schools should concentrate on teaching the classical repertoire and how to read and write music.

But the chair of a federal Government review on music education released yesterday, Margaret Seares, sided with those who think it acceptable to study either Beethoven or Britney Spears in the classroom.

Speaking the language of outcomes-based education, Professor Seares said it was more important that children be engaged with music and that they learn to express themselves creatively.

"Ten to 15 years ago, what they seemed to do at school was learn about when Mozart was born and how to write a C-major scale," said Professor Seares, deputy vice-chancellor of the University of Western Australia.

"Well, that's fine, but it doesn't really get the kids involved with themselves very much."

We’re looking forward to Fukuyama’s upcoming new book on the end of music.

November 21, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:44 PM


Cairo wants to be seat of North African force (Sadek Tarhouni, November 21, 2005, UPI)

Egypt is proposing Cairo as the seat and administrative base of a North African force agreed upon at a recent meeting by army chiefs of five countries.

Egyptian Assistant Minister of Defense Maj. Gen. Mamdouh Abdel Hak made the proposal at a two-day meeting in Libya by the chiefs of staff of Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt and the Republic of Western Sahara.

The five North African states agreed to set up a "Standby African Force" in line with the resolutions of the African Union.

Egypt went further, proposing to place "its military training facilities at the disposal of the force within the framework of peacekeeping in the area," Abdel Hak was quoted as saying.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:32 PM


Listen to the word on the 'Arab street' (Mark Steyn, 22/11/2005, Daily Telegraph)

On Friday, the allegedly explosive "Arab street" finally exploded, in the largest demonstration against al-Qa'eda or its affiliates seen in the Middle East. "Zarqawi," shouted 200,000 Jordanians, "from Amman we say to you, you are a coward!" Also "the enemy of Allah" - which, for a jihadist, isn't what they call on Broadway a money review.

The old head-hacker was sufficiently rattled by the critical pans of his Jordanian hotel bombings that he issued the first IRA-style apology in al-Qa'eda's history. "People of Jordan, we did not undertake to blow up any wedding parties," he said. "For those Muslims who were killed, we ask God to show them mercy, for they were not targets." Yeah, right. Tell it to the non-Marines. It was perfectly obvious to Ali Hussein Ali al-Shamari and his missus what was going on when they strolled into the ballroom of the Radisson Hotel. [...]

I don't know what Islamist Suicide-Bombing For Dummies defines as a "soft target" but a Jordanian-Palestinian wedding in the public area of an hotel in a Muslim country with no infidel troops must come pretty close to the softest target of all time. Even more revealing, look at who Zarqawi dispatched to blow up his brother Muslims: why would he send Ali Hussein Ali al-Shamari, one of his most trusted lieutenants, to die in an operation requiring practically no skill?

Well, by definition it's hard to get suicide bombers with experience. But Mr Shamari's presence suggests at the very least that the "insurgency" is having a hard time meeting its recruitment targets.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:27 PM


Bush praises Mongolia for democratic values (Richard Spencer, 22/11/2005, Daily Telegraph)

An American president visited Mongolia for the first time yesterday, a reward for the fledgling democracy's break with its autocratic past and its embrace of Western values.

"You are an example of success for the region and for the world," President George W Bush told his hosts. "As you build a free society in the heart of Central Asia, the American people stand with you."

Since rejecting communism in 1990, the country has initiated elections, privatisation and liberal economic policies.

It has also supported the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. [...]

The scenery, with its rolling grasslands, made Mr Bush feel at home, he said. "This is a beautiful land, with huge skies and vast horizons - kind of like Texas," he said.

Maybe that's why they're so unFrench?

Bush indulges in a little horseplay in Mongolia (Caroline Daniel, November 21 2005, Financial Times)

In the first visit by a sitting US president to Mongolia, George W. Bush announced that he was in Ulan Bator to deliver an “important international message”, then after a pause, added: “Secretary Rumsfeld asked me to check on his horse.”

His comment got a knowing laugh from the watching Mongolian elite, dominated by officers festooned with gold medals. When Mr Rumsfeld visited Mongolia last month, the defence secretary received a horse as a gift, which he named Montana.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:33 PM


FROM THE ASHES: a review of Tony Judt’s Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 (LOUIS MENAND, 2005-11-28, The New Yorker)

“[P]ostwar” can fairly be called an interpretation of European history since 1945, and its thesis can be put in a sentence. It is that Europe was able to rebuild itself politically and economically only by forgetting the past, but it was able to define itself morally and culturally only by remembering it. The forgetting was necessary not just because the behavior of most Europeans under Fascism and Nazi occupation was less admirable than anyone wished to acknowledge—but that was, naturally, a big part of it. The bewildering collapse of the great French Army, which folded within six weeks of the German advance in the spring of 1940; the alacrity with which many countries adapted to occupation; and the willingness to ignore, and sometimes to assist in, the deportations all made distasteful memories. Judt notes that France, a country with a population of some forty million, was administered by fifteen hundred Nazis, plus six thousand German policemen. A skeleton team sufficed in the Netherlands as well. Soon after Germany was defeated, a Myth of Resistance sprang up in the formerly occupied countries of Western Europe, and for many years it successfully obscured the truth about wartime life. [...]

Western Europeans did not feel themselves to be taking America’s side in resisting Communism. The Cold War was nothing new to them; as Judt says, they had been fighting it since 1917. And, he adds, “the subsequent ‘Americanization’ of Europe in the Fifties and Sixties is often exaggerated.” Modernization was a priority—particularly in France, whose economy had been heavily agricultural—and an American military presence was indispensable for keeping the Soviets contained, and also the Germans, whom many still feared. But Europeans did not all believe that the consummation of modernization and consumerism was Americanism. Britain’s reluctance to distance itself from the United States was regarded on the Continent then as it is today: a sign that Britain is not truly a European country (a feeling shared by many Britons). Even after 1968, when tiny pockets of dissidence began to form in Eastern Europe, America was not the ideal to which the dissidents aspired; and although the United States gave financial aid to groups like Solidarity, in Poland, it played, Judt says, “a remarkably small” role in the revolutions of 1989. In the standard American account, it was Ronald Reagan’s refusal to truckle to the Soviets—his “evil empire” rhetoric—that made the difference; but Judt thinks that Reagan was playing to a domestic audience, and that the Communist house of cards was due to fall no matter who was President of the United States. Postwar Europe, Judt argues, took shape in response to European conditions: “Shadowed by history, its leaders implemented social reforms and built new institutions as a prophylactic, to keep the past at bay.”

In turn, Mr. Judt and Mr. Menand would appear intent on obscuring history since 1945, when Europeans weren't much on our side against Communism. The bit about Britain not being part of Europe couldn't be more accurate though, which is why it is pursuing the Third Way along with us.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:30 PM


Gary Glitter may face death penalty (Martha Linden, November 22, 2005, Press Association)

DISGRACED 1970s rock star Gary Glitter could face death by firing squad if convicted of having sex with a girl aged just 12, police in Vietnam said.

The revelations come after two girls, aged 12 and 18 years, told the police they had sex with the former singer - real name Paul Francis Gadd - at his rented home in the southern resort of Vung Tau in Vietnam. [...]

Under Vietnamese law sexual intercourse with a 12-year-old, regardless of whether there is consent, is considered rape and carries a maximum penalty of death before a firing squad.

That's American.

Posted by pjaminet at 6:10 PM


McCain, Graham Warn GOP May Be in Trouble (AP, 11/21/2005)

McCain, looking at Graham, told the crowd of about 100 people that "some people have said this might be a very attractive vice presidential candidate."

The crowd clapped and whistled. Graham simply smiled.

But who would be Graham's running mate? McCain left us in the dark on that one.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:06 PM


NO WORK AND NO PLAY (James Surowiecki, 2005-11-28, The New Yorker)

[W]hile culture undoubtedly matters, not that long ago it was the Europeans who worked harder; in 1970, for instance, the French worked ten per cent more hours than Americans.

So what changed? The Nobel Prize-winning economist Edward C. Prescott has pointed to sharp increases in Europe’s tax rates since 1970—higher taxes give workers less of an incentive to work extra hours. But taxes aren’t high enough to explain Europeans’ new taste for free time. A more plausible explanation was put forward recently by the economists Alberto Alesina, Edward Glaeser, and Bruce Sacerdote: European labor unions are far more powerful and European labor markets are far more tightly regulated than their American counterparts. In the seventies, Europe, like the U.S., was hit by high oil prices, high inflation, and slowing productivity. In response, labor unions fought for a reduced work week with no reduction in wages, and greater job protection. When it was hard to get wage increases, the unions pushed for more vacation time instead. Governments responded to political pressure by plumping for leisure, too; in France in the eighties, for instance, a succession of laws increased mandatory vacation time and limited employers’ ability to use overtime.

The difference in work habits between Europeans and Americans, in other words, isn’t a matter of European workers’ individually deciding they’d rather spend a few extra hours every week at the movies; it’s a case of collectively determined contracts and regulations.

There is a good deal to be said for this approach—most Americans, after all, are happy that the forty-hour week is written into law—but it has its costs. Even if you want to work more, it’s hard to do so: try getting anything done in Paris during August. And reducing the amount of work employees do makes it more expensive to employ people, which contributes to Europe’s high unemployment rate.

The embrace of leisure affects the job situation in Europe in other ways, too. Because Americans spend more hours at the office than Europeans, they spend fewer hours on tasks in the home: things like cooking, cleaning, and child care. This is especially true of American women, who, according to a study by the economists Richard Freeman and Ronald Schettkat, spend ten fewer hours a week on household jobs than European women do. Instead of doing these jobs themselves, Americans pay other people to do them.

-PDF: Work and Lesiure in the U.S. and Europe: Why So Different (March 2005) (Edward L. Glaeser, Alberto Alesina, and Bruce Sacerdote)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:04 PM


Egypt's Islamists arrested but gain seats (Dan Murphy and Sameh Naguib, 11/22/05, CS Monitor)

[T]hough voter intimidation and corruption in Egyptian elections is hardly unusual, the results so far are surprising. The banned but partially tolerated Brotherhood has at least tripled its presence in parliament with one more round of voting to go. Though the Brotherhood's presence in parliament will likely be small - at most 20 percent of the seats after the final round on Nov. 30 - its gains come as the secular opposition has fallen apart.

The strength of the Brotherhood (its motto is "Islam is the solution") appears to confirm the warnings of political scientists who predicted the regime's tight controls on formal political parties, coupled with the Brotherhood's ability to get around restrictions with its mosque and charity-based outreach, would leave the Islamist opposition as the only viable political alternative in the eyes of voters.

Forcing the Mubaraks to respond to the concens of Egyptians is all to the good.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:58 PM


Israel's new middle way: Sharon has quit Likud to form a new centrist party ahead of elections in early spring (Ilene R. Prusher, 11/22/05, The Christian Science Monitor

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, rarely one to wait for others to act first, made a series of preemptive political strikes Monday that laid the groundwork for a new centrist party and may cement his position as Israel's premier hawk-made-moderate.

After resigning from the hard-line Likud on Sunday and calling for early elections in March, Mr. Sharon Monday announced the formation of the National Responsibility Party. If successful, Sharon's new party could transcend Israel's right-left divide and claim a mandate for negotiating a settlement to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Here's where Bibi Netanyahu's political opportunism is really harmful--this party could really use someone who's enthusiatic about pursuing the Third Way as vigorously in the economic sphere as a Blair, Howard or Bush. It runs the risk of pursuing a middle way only on the question of national security. But Israel's existential threat is domestic, not foreign.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:36 PM


The Anti-Anti-Americans: FRANCE'S FAILURES, HATREDS, AND SIGNS OF A NEW LOOK AT AMERICA (Paul Berman, 11.21.05, New Republic)

[T]he French watched aghast as, post-September 11, Bush and the Texas barbarians brushed aside the Geneva Conventions and other aspects of normal legality, and the obscurantist Christian bigot John Ashcroft took charge of American law, and the widely predicted American crimes of war did in fact get underway in several parts of the world, quite as if Bush were striding the globe with his six-shooter, dispatching prisoners at random with a cheerful yippee-yi-yo.

The French began to hear about an oppressive political atmosphere in America--the sort of atmosphere in which American magazines and newspapers could shortly expect to be crushed under Washington's iron heel, and political dissidents could expect to be violently suppressed, and power would fall into the hands of a tiny sinister clique. And this most sinister of anti-democratic cabals--who were its members, exactly? Here followed the murmurings about neoconservatism and the heavy hand of Israel on the American steering wheel.

Nor was America's lurch into a post-democratic, ultra-montane, and crypto-Zionist authoritarianism going to bestow upon the world any of the benign effects that might be expected from a well-administered dictatorship--a reliable sense of security, for instance. On the contrary! [...]

What, after all, is this amorphous thing, anti-Americanism? A reasonable person might even wonder if such a phenomenon actually exists. In our modern world, hardly anyone outside of the fervid ranks of the most extreme Islamism and movements of that sort will acknowledge harboring any kind of top-to-bottom contempt or hatred for America at all--only a mix of yay and nay on American themes, as with any country and its failures and achievements. Emmanuel Todd, in his After the Empire, goes so far as to emphasize that he has an American ancestor, who was Jewish to boot.

Here is our problem, though. If a popular doctrine or bias that could be described as anti-American does, in fact, exist, the doctrine or bias could only resemble, in this respect, racism and anti-Semitism in their modern-day versions--attitudes that not one person with a cosmopolitan or sophisticated outlook will ever acknowledge harboring. Yet if no one admits to holding any such opinions, how can we possibly even begin to identify or to define the attitude in question?

People criticize the United States for all kinds of reasons, and anyone who wanted to provide a definition for anti-Americanism would have to begin by distinguishing very carefully between one criticism and the next--between indisputable criticisms (which nobody could regard as anti-American); and certain kinds of disputable ones (which, no matter how outlandish, might nonetheless be honestly arrived at, betraying no hint of ideological hostility, and therefore should not seem to us anti-American); and criticisms that do, in fact, reflect a hidden system of bias and contempt.

But how to make such distinctions? The task is rendered doubly difficult by a pro-American demagoguery that is always seizing on silly or hateful comments about the United States and using those remarks to dismiss even the most fair-minded and well-intentioned of criticisms, such that anyone who merely glances sideways at a flaw or failing in the United States can end up getting hanged as an avatar of beastly anti-Americanism. In order to make sense of anti-Americanism, we would have to find a reasonably reliable method of sorting out the possible criticisms, and sorting out the criticisms of the criticisms, too--a hugely complicated business, awash in the murks of subjective judgment, where no two people are ever going to agree, nor even any one person, given that everybody has his moods. It is hard to know even how to begin. [...]

The era of modern European states got started with the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, which proposed a newly secular vision of the perfect society--a society in which every state was going to live in tranquility behind its defined borders and respect the borders of every other state. But the Jews scattered themselves (and were scattered) all over Europe, regardless of borders--in plain demonstration, once again, that the vision of universal perfection stood at odds with the human reality. And hatred poured down once again upon the living examples of human imperfection. Today we have moved into a new era, post-Westphalian, in which, now that France and Germany have made their peace, people look on national states no longer as the source of perfection but as the source of evil. Today the fashion is to imagine that a perfect society can only be a global community, superseding the traditional states--an international community in which no one is going to be the enemy of anyone else.

And yet, in the face of this new vision of the perfect world, the Israelis keep on behaving as if they do have enemies, and decline to entrust their fate to their neighbors or to the international community. And so, once again, out of love for an ideal, people end up gazing upon the Israelis, or upon Israel's supporters in other countries, and seeing in those people the horrid sign of the human condition--the retrograde Israelis and their supporters whose behavior attests to the lack of human perfection. And hatred pours down, just as it has always done.

In Glucksmann's picture, the Americans reap a very similar hatred--a hatred that arises out of the desire for the perfect international community that would surely exist, if only the Americans stopped being so aggressively hostile. This desire, in regard to the United States, has passed through two phases in the last sixty years, each time with the same outcome. In the earlier phase, the perfect world was pictured largely in communist terms--a world in which a healthy and prosperous "peace" was imagined as the Soviet goal, and "imperialism" as the American goal.

It was the United States that disrupted this version of a perfect world by pursuing its imperial ambitions--the United States, therefore, that merited a genuine rage, whether in regard to the Korean War (which sparked massive protests in Paris), or fifteen years later in regard to the Vietnam War, or another fifteen years later in regard to Ronald Reagan's arms race against the Soviets. Then communism, having turned out to be the actual example of odious imperialism, collapsed, and a certain kind of left-wing hope evaporated. Even so, a new vision of world peace emerged, and once again the United States loomed as the principle threat.

The perfect society, this time, was pictured as the rueful progeny of Europe's failures of the past--a new international system that arose out of the recognition that Europe needed to come to grips with its own disasters. In this new and modern idea, modesty reigned as the highest of virtues, and a peaceful and prosperous world was pictured as on the brink of emerging, if only everyone would accept the new spirit of ruefulness. And yet, the United States demurred once again, and, after September 11, went about behaving as if global perfection were not at hand, and things ought to be shaken up, and tyrants overthrown.

And so, like the woman whose human qualities mark her as the enemy of amorous bliss, and like the Jew who is imagined as the betrayer of one version after another of the perfect state of grace, the Americans come to be seen as the people who keep destroying the perfect world of peace that would otherwise prevail--the peaceful world that communism claimed for itself long ago, and that, in the post-communist era, is claimed by the rueful opponents of all communist-like projects to re-make the world. And hatred pours down--a hatred in the name of love for a perfect and peaceful world that is actually a hatred for the human condition. A hatred of the imperfect self. Or so argues André Glucksmann.

Mr. Berman, as is his wont, tiptoes so close to a great insight here but misses it because of his residual Leftism. It's all just about the French Revolution's promise of absolute security (state-guaranteed egalite) vs. the American Revolution's promise of relative freedom (Created Equal by God). Bad enough that our vision is in direct conflict with theirs, even worse that ours is true and universally applicable, while theirs an unrelenting failure everywhere it's obtained.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:40 PM


Hispanic Heartland (Mark Houser, November 20, 2005, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

Fifteen years ago, Lexington was mired in the farm crisis and bleeding population when a meatpacking plant opened in a vacated factory on the outskirts of town.

The new plant, now owned by Tyson Foods, offered jobs for people in town who wanted them. But like meatpacking plants throughout the Midwest, most workers here are Hispanic migrants, for whom the work is a step up from low-paying farm and construction jobs.

In 1990, the year the plant opened, 329 Hispanics lived in Lexington. Within a decade, more than 5,000 lived there, and the town suddenly was 51 percent Hispanic.

And they keep coming, lured by $10-an-hour wages, replacing those whose stamina succumbs to a disassembly line that slaughters 4,000 cattle every day.

Manager Mark Sarratt figures he brings in 20 to 25 new workers each week to replace those leaving. Over a year, that works out to more than 1,000 jobs, half the plant's payroll.

About 80 percent of the plant's employees are Hispanic. Sarratt said Tyson recruits legal Hispanic workers in the Southwest, but not outside the country.

When immigration agents scoured the plant's payroll in 1999, nearly 200 workers quit rather than explain inconsistencies in their documentation. But the enforcement stirred up such an outcry -- led by the Republican governor -- that no further sweeps have been conducted.

As Hispanics poured in, Lexington's population of non-Hispanics dropped from 6,300 to 4,900 during the last decade.

Most left for Omaha, Lincoln, or spur towns to the east or west along Interstate 80. Others moved nine miles south to Johnson Lake, once a tiny haven for summer cottages, now a burgeoning suburb.

"I can remember when every house on the street was for sale except ours and our neighbor's," said Barry McFarland, 29. [...]

A spate of crimes -- including car-theft rings, a rise in methamphetamine traffic and occasional gunplay -- surged in Lexington with the first immigrants, mostly young men.

"I don't care if the guy's pink or purple or blue or green, the age group that's 18 to 29 commits 60 percent of the crime," said longtime Dawson County Sheriff Gary Reiber.

A footbridge over the goose pond in the city park is marred with gang graffiti, and police say L.A. and Mexican street gangs have members in Lexington.

Things have calmed in recent years, now that more immigrants are families putting down roots, Reiber said.

Around midnight on a warm Friday in September, it was so tranquil that a report of three teens drinking in their van outside a KFC immediately brought two police cruisers and a sheriff's deputy.

City manager Joe Pepplitsch said new residents have filled city tax coffers and helped local merchants. The city started collecting a 1.5 percent sales tax nine years ago, and revenues are up from $776,000 then to $1.8 million this year, he said.

"The meatpacking plant, from an economic standpoint, saved this community," Pepplitsch said.

Hispanic immigrants have opened grocery stores, restaurants and a tortilla bakery in town. The local Wal-Mart stocks yucca root and tomatillos, tripe, even non-alcoholic sangria. On the book rack is a phrase book with useful sentences printed phonetically: "ai uork at e POLtri farm," and "uir going tu insTAL a niu FIDing trof." [...]

One especially dismaying adjustment for Lexington is sports. The high school football and basketball teams, once competitive, are now perennial losers.

Exploding enrollment pushed the teams up to a tougher division, but most of the new kids don't play anything but soccer. Playing for the "Minuteman" has limited appeal, considering volunteers of the same name now patrol the Mexican border for illegal aliens.

Things may be changing slowly. In September, the football team finally broke an 18-game losing streak.

Longtime fan Pam Samway cheered for the boys and said she isn't concerned to see so few immigrants in the stands or on the field.

"We'll acclimate 'em to it," she said. "This is America. They're just new."

Well, soccer is a downside.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:30 PM


Making a Case: Giving the war a reason (David Remnick, 2003-02-03, The New Yorker)

At the United Nations General Assembly more than four months ago, Bush, after long delay, opened his case against Saddam Hussein with a pointed litany of Iraq's egregious violations of human rights and international law. With a gravity appropriate to the occasion, Bush surveyed everything from Saddam's genocide in the Kurdish north to his relentless ambition to build nuclear weapons and dominate the region, by employing the same level of terror that keeps his own citizens in a state of constant subjugation. [...]

As it happens, the most comprehensive and convincing case for the use of force in Iraq has been made by a government intellectual, Kenneth M. Pollack. From 1995 to 1996 and from 1999 to 2001, Pollack served in the Clinton Administration as director for Gulf affairs at the National Security Council; before that, he was a military analyst of the Persian Gulf region for the C.I.A. More effectively than Dick Cheney or Paul Wolfowitz or any other of the hawkish big thinkers in the Administration, Pollack, in his book "The Threatening Storm," presents in almost rueful terms the myriad reasons that an aggressive policy toward Iraq now is the least bad of our alternatives. As Bush did at the U.N., Pollack carefully describes the Stalinist character of Saddam's state: the pervasive use of torture to terrorize and subdue the citizenry and insure the loyalty of the Army and the security apparatus; the acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing; the use of chemical weapons on neighbors and his own citizens; the sponsorship of terrorist groups; the refusal to relinquish weapons of mass destruction despite the humanitarian and economic cost the Iraqis pay through international embargo. We are reminded, too, of Saddam's vision of himself as the modern Saladin, the modern Nebuchadnezzar II, who (after massacring the Kurds, invading Kuwait, and attacking the marsh Arabs of the south) vows to "liberate" Jerusalem, vanquish the United States, and rule over a united Arab world. Saddam is not a man of empty promises. His territorial aggression is a matter of record, his nuclear ambitions are clear.

Unlike the President, Pollack dignifies all possible objections and what-ifs with answers. For example, he concedes that North Korea and Iran are, in some ways, even greater and more obvious threats than Iraq, but he carefully shows why the regional politics of northern Asia require a different tack and why Iran, with its more dynamic, grass-roots politics, is far likelier to undergo a homegrown revolution or reform than Iraq, where politics of any kind are not permitted.

The United States has been wrong, politically and morally, about Iraq more than once in the past; Washington has supported Saddam against Iran and overlooked some of his bloodiest adventures. The price of being wrong yet again could be incalculable. History will not easily excuse us if, by deciding not to decide, we defer a reckoning with an aggressive totalitarian leader who intends not only to develop weapons of mass destruction but also to use them.

Saddam's abdication, or a military coup, would be a godsend; his sudden conversion to the wisdom of disarmament almost as good. It is a fine thing to dream. But, assuming such dreams are not realized, a return to a hollow pursuit of containment will be the most dangerous option of all.

Today they make the argument that the hollow pursuit was sufficient.

Us and Them: On the promise of war, and the risks of going it alone (David Remnick, 2002-09-23, The New Yorker)

At the General Assembly, George W. Bush broadly sketched the crimes and treaty violations that Saddam has committed since the signing of the truce with the American-led coalition: the arrest, torture, and execution of dissidents; the harboring of and support for terrorists; the drive to stockpile biological and chemical weapons; and, above all, the unending effort to develop nuclear explosives—all in defiance of specific U.N. resolutions with which Iraq had agreed to comply. Iraq is not the only country on earth that falls into the modern category of "rogue states." But Saddam's record of murderous unpredictability, the scope and ruthlessness of his regional ambitions, and the scale of his wrongs make his a singularly threatening case. "We cannot stand by and do nothing while dangers gather," Mr. Bush said. About that he is right.

The U.N. speech, however, would have been a great deal more effective had it been the climax of a considered campaign of diplomatic mobilization. It was not. Instead, it followed a display of braggadocio and incoherence so scattershot as to amount to fecklessness. There was a mystifying debate-by-leak among Bush Cabinet members, mocking their self-conception as paragons of discretion and self-discipline. There was a lot of belligerent, go-it-alone rhetoric, emanating especially from the offices of the Secretary of Defense and the Vice-President. There were the leaks of war plans to the press. And, most damaging, there were gratuitous expressions of scorn for international opinion and support. The contrast with Bush père could hardly be starker. The result was to frighten and alienate both the élites and the broader publics of much of the rest of the democratic world, and to what end?

The essential moment of the President's speech came at its peroration. "We will work with the U.N. Security Council for the necessary resolutions," Bush said. "But the purposes of the United States should not be doubted. The Security Council resolutions will be enforced. The just demands of peace and security will be met, or action will be unavoidable. And a regime that has lost its legitimacy will also lose its power."

He concluded, "We must stand up for our security and for the permanent rights and the hopes of mankind. By heritage and by choice, the United States of America will make that stand. And, delegates to the United Nations, you have the power to make that stand, as well. Thank you very much."

Well, thank you very much. Such was the reaction in some corners of the hall. In plain terms, the President was saying: We're going ahead, to war. It would be nice if you joined us. But, if not, have I mentioned that we're going ahead?

What about WMD?

Posted by pjaminet at 12:15 PM


A Savannah Man Gets to the Bottom Of a Nasty Affliction (Barry Newman, Wall Street Journal, page 1, Nov 21, 2005)

Mr. Thomas began to get the itch to do a toe book....

"Would you read a whole book on toe fungus?" asked Ms. Dang.

"Probably not," Ms. Woods replied. "I'd only purchase it if it had other-parts-of-the-body funguses as well."...

Sales of "The War Against Toenail Fungus" have broken into the low thousands....

"What really sells a patient memoir is word of mouth," he said, seated among file boxes and athlete's-foot remedies in his writing room. "But this disease is not discussed at cocktail parties. Nobody discusses it at all." Mr. Thomas added: "Toenail fungus has no word-of-mouth potential."

Remember: at cocktail parties, a better topic of discussion than toenail fungus is Redefining Sovereignty.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:18 AM


HOW TO LOSE A WAR (RALPH PETERS, November 21, 2005, NY Post)

The irresponsibility of the Democrats on Capitol Hill is breathtaking. (How can an honorable man such as Joe Lieberman stay in that party?) Not one of the critics of our efforts in Iraq — not one — has described his or her vision for Iraq and the Middle East in the wake of a troop withdrawal. Not one has offered any analysis of what the terrorists would gain and what they might do. Not one has shown respect for our war dead by arguing that we must put aside our partisan differences and win.

There's plenty I don't like about the Bush administration. Its domestic policies disgust me, and the Bushies got plenty wrong in Iraq. But at least they'll fight. The Dems are ready to betray our troops, our allies and our country's future security for a few House seats.

Surrender is never a winning strategy.

Yes, we've been told lies about Iraq — by Dems and their media groupies. About conditions on the ground. About our troops. About what's at stake. About the consequences of running away from the great struggle of our time. About the continuing threat from terrorism. And about the consequences for you and your family.

What do the Democrats fear? An American success in Iraq. They need us to fail, and they're going to make us fail, no matter the cost. They need to declare defeat before the 2006 mid-term elections and ensure a real debacle before 2008 — a bloody mess they'll blame on Bush, even though they made it themselves.

It's not really losable, but they could delay victory unnecessarily and the important point is that they'd prefer to lose.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:05 AM


A Tale of Extraordinary Renditions and Double-Standards: German Islamic extremist Mohammed Haydar Zammar has been locked in a dungeon in Damascus for the past four years as part of Washington's post-9/11 "extraordinary renditions" program. By placing the man with suspected ties to the Hamburg al-Qaida cell in Syrian hands, the United States is allowing Damascus to commit torture so that it doesn't have to. (Holger Stark, 11/21/05, Der Spiegel)

The dungeons of Far-Filastin, which means "Palestinian Division" in Arabic, were once reserved for Palestinian fedayeen fighters. Nowadays the underground cells house followers, real or suspected, of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. Mohammed Haydar Zammar, 44, is one of the latter.

Zammar's cell, cell 13, is reached by taking a left turn at the end of a long corridor. It's the third door after the bathroom. He's been held here for almost four years.

At least one thing is certain: he's alive. This was confirmed when the Red Cross received a call from Walid al-Muallim, Syria's deputy foreign minister. The message -- that the prisoner would be allowed to send and receive mail -- was a small miracle by Syrian standards. The Red Cross then forwarded a short note from Zammar's wife, who lives in Hamburg, to Zammar, and the prisoner was permitted to write a few sentences in response. Zammar's letter, including the salutation (Dear wife, dear children), amounts to all of 43 words on 7 lines. In handwriting as clumsy and crooked as that of a second-grader (after all, Zammar hasn't written anything in a long time), he writes: "I am healthy and I ask you to pray for me and forgive me. Your Haydar. Al-Salam alaikum."

The letter was the first official sign of life from Mohammed Haydar Zammar, a German citizen, since he was abducted weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. It was dated June 8, 2005 and marked Palestine Division, Damascus.

The news is good and bad. Zammar is alive. That's the good news. But whether his family will even see him again is as uncertain as ever. The correspondence shines light on a case that epitomizes the post-9/11 world, one in which it's difficult to tell who is and who isn't a villain -- and even if someone is, just how much of a villain he is. The Zammar case typifies the "war on terror," in which the US government seems to believe that almost any means are justified, even torture in a country like Syria, a country that, ironically, the Americans have branded a "rogue state." The case is also symbolic, raising, as it does, the issue of just how far a state governed by the rule of law can go, especially when the division between right and wrong is so murky.

It would be better to have the intestinal fortitude and moral seriousness to torture him ourselves so that we can assure it is humanely done and solely for the purpose of extracting intelligence.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:56 AM


Survival of the religious is Darwin's newest fruitfly (Suzanne Fields, Nov 21, 2005, Townhall)

The argument between evolution and religion, continuing to roil the nation's politics, is undergoing change. Undergoing evolution, you might say. There's a new (fruit)fly in the ointment of Darwinism, a theory that religious belief contributes to natural selection and benefits human adaptation. (Darwin gets religion.)

David Sloan Wilson, a professor of biology and anthropology at Binghamton University in New York state, argues that "religiosity" fosters group discipline and could have given our hunter-gatherer ancestors an advantage for survival as they grouped together for worship. This helped them defend against predators at the waterhole, where they became prey on the savannah. Those who survived passed on their genes, increasing the survival of the fittest unto the next generation. Thus "religiosity" became a "useful" genetic trait.

His thesis, as set forth in his book "Darwin's Cathedral," raises provocative and controversial ideas. The ancient cave drawings and paintings have often been interpreted as Cro-Magnon churches for ceremonies replete with icons of religious inspiration, but these interpretations have been based solely on speculation. The Wilson argument rests on a Darwinian analysis of what contributes to evolution. Darwin wrote that tribes with a high degree of fidelity, obedience, courage and sympathy, always prepared to sacrifice themselves for the common good, would triumph over other tribes and thus be more likely to survive. This view perceives society as a single organism; since religious men and women historically aim to encourage such traits within their community, Mr. Wilson believes they were favored by natural selection. He draws on examples as diverse as Calvinism in Geneva and water temples in Bali.

Support for this theory of survival of the religious is intriguing, though no one has found a gene for religious belief. Those who argue that a disposition toward religious belief can be inherited, nevertheless root their argument in Darwinian terms, perceiving religion as a contribution to moral codes that encourage cooperation for finding food and maintaining health. This makes the practice of religious faith evolutionarily advantageous.

The obvious corollary--though, paradoxically, only for Darwinists who are among the victims--is that the the fact the secular rationalists are dying off is a good thing for the species precisly because they are an unfit maladaptation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:52 AM


A jolt to decaf drinkers (Thomas H. Maugh II, November 21, 2005, LA Times)

Answering the "decaf or regular" question has become more problematic.

Caffeine can give some people the jitters, keeping them awake or speeding up their heart rate, but decaffeinated coffee, researchers have found, may be bad for your heart.

Java without the jolt increases the levels of so-called bad cholesterol in the bloodstream and reduces levels of good cholesterol, researchers reported last week at a meeting of the American Heart Assn. in Dallas.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:48 AM


At Last, a Fresh Beginning: For a newly arrived Vietnamese immigrant and his family, assimilation is an invigorating challenge. They were stranded in the Philippines for years. (Mai Tran, November 21, 2005, LA Times)

Lanh Lam is nothing if not resilient.

He has been in the United States less than two months and has failed the driver's license test three times. No matter. He's happy to try again.

He waited nearly a week to get a ride from a relative so he could enroll his youngest children in grade school. Bewildered by the signs and street names he couldn't understand, he didn't want to risk heading off by himself.

His 18-year-old son, Tuan, was a bit braver and boarded a city bus by himself to attend English classes at a cultural center four miles away. It took him three hours to make the trip, as he haphazardly got on and off buses.

Unbowed, Lam and his family push forward in a strange land, more curious than afraid.

"I will endure anything as long as there's freedom," Lam said. "I didn't want anything more than freedom."

Life in America has not been an easy adjustment for Lam and his family, who were in the first wave of Vietnamese refugees to arrive in Southern California after being stranded in the Philippines since 1991. In all, about 2,000 are expected to come to America in the next six months.

Two lessons here--one for nativists and the other for those who want to bug out of Iraq the way they did out of Vietnam.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:41 AM


Complex portrait of an American literary icon: a review of Mencken: The American Iconoclast by Marion Elizabeth Rodgers (Anthony Day, November 21, 2005, LA Times)

Mencken's strengths turned out to be his weaknesses. His early enthusiasm for Nietzsche — his 1907 book "The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche" was for years the leading American introduction to the moody, brilliant German — hardened into an admiration for the "superior" man, one of whom, of course, Mencken considered himself.

His enthusiasm for some naturalistic American writers — he championed Theodore Dreiser, Willa Cather, Stephen Crane, Walt Whitman and most of all Mark Twain — faltered when he could not appreciate the writers of the next generation such as William Faulkner, Thomas Wolfe and John Steinbeck.

Yet his place in American history seems, half a century after his death, to be secure. For all his goggle-eyed admiration of things German, he was an early and effective promoter of realistic writers of American life, notably in his magazines the Smart Set and the American Mercury.

He was the first widely recognized defender of the country's language as a force of its own; his various editions of "The American Language" are a model of amateur scholarship. No American has written more easily or joyfully as Mencken did in his memoirs "Happy Days," "Newspaper Days" and "Heathen Days."

Mencken's endless poking at the "Boobus Americanus" — those gullible members of the American middle class — may seem tiresomely repetitious now, 100 years after he started it. But because of him, the critter is less boobus and more authentically Americanus.

Easier to forgive his enthusiasm for Nietzsche, who was at least an insightful genius, than for the tedious Dreiser.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:25 AM


Governors Write Their Own Prescriptions for Healthcare Crisis (Ronald Brownstein, November 21, 2005, LA Times)

[D]ivergent initiatives signal an escalating competition to develop models for coping with the slow-motion crisis in healthcare.

Several Democratic-leaning states are rallying around plans to ensure universal coverage for children as a first step toward expanding access for adults.

Bill Richardson, the Democratic governor of New Mexico, says that in his next budget he'll propose to ensure universal coverage in his state for all children 5 or younger. Anthony Wright, executive director of the liberal group Health Access California, says activists are planning a state ballot initiative next November that would fund universal coverage for children through a cigarette tax increase of $1.50 a pack.

Blagojevich says he is hoping his action will encourage more states to fund universal coverage for children; nationwide, about one in nine children are uninsured. "If we can do it in Illinois, other states can do it," he says. "The idea that we are going to wait around for Washington or the Bush administration to do this is not a good use of time."

Conversely, the hot idea in Republican states is giving private health insurance companies the principal authority for operating Medicaid, the joint state-federal healthcare program for the poor. Sanford was actually the second GOP governor to propose such a shift; Florida's Jeb Bush has already won approval from Washington for a test he'll begin next year, assuming the Legislature gives its final blessing in December.

Last week, approving a proposal from Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), House Republicans nudged other states to follow; the House authorized a five-year, 10-state test of Health Opportunity Accounts, which would allow low-income families to buy healthcare directly from doctors or insurers as an alternative to Medicaid.

Compared with the GOP initiatives, Blagojevich's plan builds more on the existing public systems.

What could be more beneficial in the long run than a set of experiments where the Blue states adopt the system that European Welfare States are being forced to abandon and Red states adopt the Third Way solutions the rest of the Anglosphere (- Canada) is moving on to?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:15 AM


Why the United States Should Look to Japan for Better Schools (BRENT STAPLES, 11/21/05, NY Times)

Japan (CIA World Factbook)

Ethnic groups: Japanese 99%, others 1%

You don't often see the Times recommend ethnic homogeneity, even implicitly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:13 AM


Alito Often Ruled for Religious Expression (NEIL A. LEWIS, 11/21/05, NY Times)

Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. has compiled a brief but unmistakable record, lawyers and analysts say, that makes him a leader in the camp of conservative theorists and judges who believe federal courts have been too quick to limit religious activities in public life.

During his 15 years sitting in Newark as a member of a federal appeals court, Judge Alito has sided almost uniformly with those who have complained vigorously in recent years that zealousness in enforcing the Constitution's separation of church and state has unfairly inhibited religious practices.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:31 AM


Indispensable handbook for global theopolitics: a review of The Star of Redemption by Franz Rosenzweig (Spengler, 11/22/05, Asia Times)

A tragedy of 20th century history is that Leo Strauss, who began as Rosenzweig's student, transferred his intellectual loyalty to the odious Martin Heidegger. Strauss' follower, Irving Kristol, the "godfather of neo-conservatism", once confessed that he tried to learn German in order to read Rosenzweig. It is a pity he failed. But one still can hope that Rosenzweig's star will ascend.

We live not merely in an age of faith, but in an age of religious wars. Today's intellectual elite feels something like the mad Englishman in a lunatic asylum whom Karl Marx sketched in The 18th Brumaire of Louis Napoleon. He imagines that his warders are barbarian mercenaries who speak in a welter of unintelligible tongues, and mutters to himself, "And all this is happening to me - a freeborn Englishman!"

So felt France on the return of the Napoleonic dynasty, and so feels the intelligentsia on the return of religion to world politics. To such perplexed secularists, I strongly recommend Rosenzweig's The Star of Redemption, available in a new English translation, but with a caveat: it might cure them of secularism. That the translation is miserably inadequate is another matter; it is probably no worse than its prospective readers. [...]

[T]here is no idea in The Star of Redemption that one cannot find close to hand in the mainstream of Christian and Jewish teaching. Rosenzweig's act of genius was to show that Christianity and Judaism are not ideas, not mere religions (his dismissive characterization of Islam), but rather lives.

From death - from the fear of death - arises the perception of the transcendent, his book begins, and in the face of the fear of death, one proceeds - to life, as he avers in the book's last sentence. But the path to life requires a life outside of time, that is, the hope of immortality. Man cannot abide his mortal existence, cannot tolerate the fear of death, without the prospect of life eternal.

Faith cannot be proven or defended, but only lived, Rosenzweig taught. It is not a system of beliefs but an existential choice, not a proof but an affirmation.

It's no coincidence that those nations that have given up on Judeo-Christianityy have likewise opted against continued existence.

In the end shall Christians become Jews and Jews, Christians?: On Franz Rosenzweig's apocalyptic eschatology (Gregory Kaplan, Winter 2004, Cross Currents)

Gershom Scholem's peerless 1959 essay "Toward an Understanding of the Messianic Idea in Judaism" distinguishes "two major currents" of thought. On the one hand with redemption "the restorative forces are directed to the return and recreation of a past condition which comes to be felt as ideal." On the other hand with redemption a "catastrophe" marks "the upsetting of all moral order to the point of dissolving the laws of nature." He goes on to assert that existentialist thinkers, among whom he includes his contemporary Franz Rosenzweig, one-sidedly stress "consolation and hope" and neglect the "abyss" which sunders reality. Given the ubiquitous ambiguity of redemption, however, I think Scholem fails to appreciate the nuance of Rosenzweig's thought.

What Scholem articulates and, I aim to show, Rosenzweig illustrates, is a tension within the messianic idea of Judaism between this-worldly and other-worldly, temporal and eternal focii of redemption. As Steven Schwarzchild has put it, Jewish eschatology reckons "the mixture of grace and morality ... of divine, incalculable action and ... human, rationally moral efforts." But is this mixture benign or volatile, restorative or catastrophic? Rosenzweig's answer offers at once stimulating and disconcerting prospects. Specifically, I will argue that "two currents" (following Scholem) animate Rosenzweig's thought on redemption and, furthermore, the tension between them organizes Rosenzweig's thought on Jewish-Christian-pagan relations. Related questions arise as to whether a coincidence or a contest between Judaism and Christianity redresses the assumed pagan denial of death and whether, in the end, the Christians shall become Jewish or the Jews, Christian. To address these questions this essay considers, in turn, Rosenzweig's dual covenant eschatology, apocalyptic imagination, and messianic hermeneutics.

Eschatology and Dual Covenant Theology

In a recent New York Review of Books essay on Rosenzweig Mark Lilla neatly formulates the dilemma of redemption. "If redemption is wholly God's work, we are tempted to leave him to his work and ignore our own; if, however, we participate in this redemptive labor, the temptation is equally great to think we can redeem ourselves through temporal activity." Does redemption come from outside or is it initiated from inside human life? According to Lilla, Rosenzweig gives an "ingenious explanation": the Jewish covenant is unconditional and passive whereas the Christians covenant is conditional and active. Yet this alleged solution does not, in my view, adequately account for Rosenzweig's complicated, ambivalent position.

As befits a dual covenant theology, on Lilla's (and others') interpretation, Christianity and Judaism each play a complimentary if not a cooperative role with the other. Typically this program maintains that Judaism assures redemption by a covenant once made between God and His chosen People, Israel, while Christian salvation is secured with a new dispensation granted by God to those who declare their faith in the savior, Jesus Christ. And, indeed, just such companionship between Christianity and Judaism evidently provides Rosenzweig with justification for retracting a plan which he had previously conceived to undertake baptism by passing through the gates of Judaism and "not through the intermediate stage of paganism."

However, Rosenzweig would twist the dual covenant formulation to suggest a distinctive eschatology. Specifically, he comes to invert the dual covenant's historical succession and theological priority. Thus a 1913 letter justifies his momentous decision--"Ich bleibe also Jude"--on grounds that the first covenant with Jews is nearer to God than the second covenant with Christians. In other words, Rosenzweig proposes that Judaism is not the superceded premise of Christianity, but rather its surpassing pinnacle. Whereas Christianity "reaches the Father" only by means of the Son, Judaism makes no such approach to God. Because Israel "is already with" God. In short, the People Israel is always already--and the Christian individuals are not yet--redeemed.

Still, Rosenzweig approved of Christianity's "Judaizing the pagans," that is, bringing pagans, through conversion, nearer to Judaism (and thus God). For Rosenzweig, theological priority goes to Judaism and historical success to Christianity: as Christianity aims toward Judaism as its target, Judaism summons Christianity to spread the word throughout the world. This implies that Judaism has no relation to the world save through Christianity, an implication I probe in the next section.

Of course, Rosenzweig's formulation undermines both a standard Christian repudiation of Judaism and its Jewish rejoinder. Even liberal Christians who espouse a dual covenant condemn Jews for refusing to admit that "[a] development ... leads through Jesus, in whom alone Jewish religion 'consummates itself,'" in Rosenzweig's words. This condemnation assumes the Jews are "still waiting" for what presently comes by salvation through faith in Christ. Once again inverting priority and success, Rosenzweig avers "that [the] 'connection of the innermost heart with God' which the heathen can only reach through Jesus is something the Jew already possesses." So, on this view, the condemnation is misplaced: not superiority but rather inferiority motivates Christian animosity towards Judaism. By the same token, this inversion undercuts a liberal Jewish response to Christian condemnation. Liberal Jews often claim that an 'ethical monotheism' calling for universal justice proves the durability of a Jewish covenant; Jews, "a light unto the nations," undertake a mission to reorient Christianity. But to Rosenzweig this claim betrays an atheistic "transformation of Judaism into something this-worldly [Verdiesseitigung]"; it mistakenly denies the "offensive thought" of a Jew who accepts God as "the plunging of a higher content into an unworthy vessel." Turning Judaism into a historical success story perverts rather than exhibits its theological priority. That this dualism runs the risk of identifying Christianity with Constantinianism and Judaism with a perfectly realized utopia would find repeated consideration from Rosenzweig.

Rosenzweig's 1921 opus The Star of Redemption elaborates the inversion of historical succession and theological priority. On the one hand the covenant of Christian faith partakes in or, better, generates human history; its path to redemption is expressed through social-political institutions, Church and State. On the other hand the covenant of Jewish practice circumvents temporal change, as expressed liturgically by the cyclical re-enactment of its redeemed status. Put otherwise, the Christian covenant promulgates a mission to conquer the pagan universe and the Jewish covenant issues its mandate by adumbrating the mission's objective. In Rosenzweig's concise formulation, Christianity is always "on the way" to redemption while Judaism has already arrived "at the goal."

While utterly distinct, in this view, Christianity and Judaism are mutually reinforcing. But the distinction virtually suppresses the mutuality. Thus Rosenzweig baldly states Judaism and Christianity supply "two distinct historical manifestations of revelation ... [and] two eternally irreconcilable hopes for the Messiah." Insofar as the Jewish People stand in the present as the actuality (or, from a historical viewpoint, prospective fulfillment) of redemption, their ritual practice stands apart from the ordinary history which Christianity not only inhabits but, even more, conducts. Embodying the telos, Judaism is not so much unhistorical as it is transhistorical: it simultaneously encompasses (as anticipatory) and surpasses (as ulterior) the vicissitudes of temporal change. Rosenzweig's somewhat priestly account segregates Jewish redemption--"ausserhalb einer kriegerischen Zeitlichkeit"--from the historical alterations and the political vagaries which mark the Christian way to redemption. The Christian approach to and the Jewish accomplishment of living with God are coeval, structurally equivalent positions. The end of time (merely) "restores" their coincidence following a provisional separation.

Rosenzweig's apparent dual covenant program therefore reduces Christianity and Judaism to opposing essences while it nevertheless fails to reck-on the incipient antagonism between them. Neither the radical opposition nor the irenic symbiosis is satisfactory. Another current in Rosenzweig's thinking seems to concede this point. Before getting to that, it bears mentioning that a dually covenanted eschatology attained by the Jewish People and promised to the Christian individual has recently won a stunning endorsement. "Reflections on Covenant and Mission" issued by The Consultation of the National Council of Synagogues and the Bishops Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, USCCB, reads in part as follows. "While the Catholic Church regards the saving act of Christ as central to the process of human salvation for all, it also acknowledges that Jews already dwell in a saving covenant with God." While this dovetails with Rosenzweig's dual covenant program, the statement continues: "The Catholic Church must always evangelize and will always witness to its faith in the presence of God's kingdom in Jesus Christ to Jews and to all other people." Would Rosenzweig approve the Christian Church seeking to evangelize the Jews? Perhaps he would, although this approval would seem to contravene a dual covenant eschatology.

Why would it? If Christians accept that the Jews are uniquely Chosen by God why wouldn't Jews be able to accept, or willing to, that God offers Gentiles salvation through Christ?

-ESSAY: Salvation Is from the Jews (Richard John Neuhaus, November 2001, First Things)
-ESSAY: On the significance of the messianic idea in Rosenzweig (Dana Hollander, Winter 2004, Cross Currents)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:27 AM


Mayor Talks Tough to Push School Takeover: Villaraigosa accuses officials of obstructing reform. Some are taken aback by the rhetoric. (Joel Rubin and Richard Fausset, November 21, 2005, LA Times)

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has begun selling his plan to seize control of the ailing Los Angeles Unified School District with strident language that is worrying and confusing the city's education leaders.

In three speeches and an interview last week, he accused the teachers union and the school board of standing in the way of crucial reform. [...]

Recently, Villaraigosa's team has begun developing a takeover strategy for the nation's second-largest school district. They are studying how other big-city mayors, including Richard Daley in Chicago and Michael Bloomberg in New York, took control. But so far mayoral aides have offered few, if any, specifics on a takeover plan.

The mayor has been unapologetic about his ramped-up rhetoric yet he continues to insist that "consensus" is key to success. Those apparently mixed messages are leaving some of his supporters confused.

Many acknowledge that Villaraigosa — a former organizer for the city teachers union and speaker of the state Assembly — is a master negotiator. But they also wonder if he should be risking a fight fraught with deep political implications.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger suffered a costly loss this month when he took on the powerful California Teachers Assn. and others in labor with his special election propositions.

"The teachers union is an incredible force to be reckoned with," said Darry Sragow, a political strategist who recently ran the district's successful $4-billion school bond campaign. "To a significant degree, teachers at a statewide level are responsible for bringing down a popular governor. Now, the difference with our mayor is he was one of them … so maybe he's decided they'll cut him more slack."

If you want to improve education the unions and bureaucracies are the enemy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 AM


The Catholics versus the Thanatics (Michael Moriarty, November 21, 2005, Enter Stage Right)

The heading of this article pretty much sums up what World War III will come down to. George W. Bush called our foes "the evil axis," although he neglected to include its entire membership, alongside Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida and Kim Jong Il of North Korea. There's quite a parcel, including his father George H.W. Bush, a brother of the Skull and Bones Society at Yale University - which automatically makes him a Thanatic.

"Thanatos," in ancient Greek, denotes death and the worship of death, the dialectical urge within Man to destroy himself. The Thanatics don't portray it as such. It would be politically counter-productive. Yet their support, tacit or otherwise, of Roe v. Wade and abortion puts them into the anti-life category and most definitely makes them anti-Catholic.

Gets pretty nutty, but that term, "Thanatics," is invaluable.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:05 AM


ECB making a risky bet (Carter Dougherty, 11/21/05, International Herald Tribune)

Nearing year's end, the ECB found itself in a dilemma of its own making, one that threatens the credibility it needs to exert influence on markets and policy makers, economists said.

For months, the ECB has urged "vigilance" against inflation, an approach that eventually forces it to follow words with deeds and raise rates. But it also needed a convincing narrative to explain to the European public why acting against the threat of higher prices was worth the potential risk to economic activity - especially in the midst of high unemployment.

"They had to extract themselves from that corner," said Jean-Michel Six, chief Europe economist for Standard & Poor's. [...]

But the ECB has given scant sign of how far it will go after that, reflecting widespread worries - no doubt shared by the ECB itself - that the weak euro-zone economy cannot handle dramatically more expensive credit, economists said.

People pay a dang high price for the credibility of central bankers who aren't even aware disco is dead.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:54 AM


Bush tour ends with Mongolia stop (BBC, 11/21/05)

George Bush has become the first US president to visit Mongolia, as he concluded a week-long Asian tour.

He met Mongolian President Nambaryn Enkhbayar and thanked him for supporting the US-led war in Iraq, and for sending more than 100 troops.

A BBC correspondent says Mr Bush's visit was meant to highlight Mongolia's shift to democracy and free markets. [...]

"Like the ideology of communism, the ideology of Islamic radicalism is destined to fail - because the will to power is no match for the universal desire to live in freedom," Mr Bush said. [...]

Over the last seven years, the US has provided Mongolia with more than $100m in technical assistance and training for its democratic and economic reform programme.

US officials also helped draft the country's constitution in 1992 and have since helped in voter education and other pro-democracy projects.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:50 AM


Happy hour never ends with no closing time (Al Webb, November 21, 2005, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

More than nine decades after Britain curtailed pub hours to get wartime munitions workers back to their jobs, round-the-clock public boozing is about to become a fact of 21st-century life.

Wouldn't meaningful lives be better?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:45 AM


Echo & the Bunnymen haven't lost intensity (Renée Graham, November 21, 2005, Boston Globe)

Rare are the quarter-century club bands whose new material holds its own when performed alongside classic tracks. That was certainly the case at Echo & the Bunnymen's sold-out show Saturday night at Axis, as the band proved it is capable of selling more than gauzy nostalgia.

It certainly helps that it has a strong album, the recently released ''Siberia," to promote. So while Echo & the Bunnymen opened the hour-plus show with the driving ''Going Up," from their 1980 debut, ''Crocodiles," and later played ''All That Jazz" from the same album, new songs such as ''Stormy Weather" and ''Scissors in the Sand" were delivered with just as much verve.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:24 AM


EPA plans to overhaul tests to set more accurate mileage (Sharon Silke Carty and James R. Healey, USA TODAY)
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Government fuel-economy tests will be changed to more closely mimic the way people really drive, the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said during a tour of the EPA auto lab here.

EPA will propose, yet this year, an overhaul of its 1970s-era tests that will include hard acceleration, air conditioning use and cold temperature operation — none part of the current tests. There has been speculation all year about how the tests might change, but his comments here were the first official outline.

"Everyone agrees that the test procedure and calculations are outdated," EPA administrator Stephen Johnson said Friday in his first tour of the agency's emissions and fuel-economy test site in his 25 years with the agency.
Next the Fed will figure out that folks shop on-line and there'sd this newfangled place called Wal-Mart....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:19 AM


Pelosi's Poodles: "Blue Dog" Democrats go to obedience school. (John Fund, , November 21, 2005, Opinion Journal)

Last week, they did precisely that. Last Thursday the House rejected by 224-209 a bill that would have slightly trimmed health and education spending for the coming year. A total of 22 Republicans, almost all moderates, broke ranks to defeat the bill. Not a single Democrat voted for the bill. The next day, the House finally passed a five-year budget plan, 217-215. Again every Democrat opposed it, as did 14 Republicans, all but two of them moderates.

Media attention has focused on the GOP moderates, generally portraying them as finally standing up to their leadership by opposing heartless cuts in social programs. Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, a rural New York Republican, was quoted as calling the original package of budget cuts "far too high" and complaining that GOP leaders were trying to "clone" everyone in the party into one mold. Despite his rhetoric, he provided a critical vote to pass the budget last Friday after he was promised more money for low-income energy assistance along with the promise of an extension for one of several federal programs that subsidize dairy farmers when prices drop.

Much less attention has been paid to the role of the Blue Dog Democrats, who have voted in lockstep with the rest of their party to oppose all spending cuts. The Blue Dogs talk a great game. They properly excoriate the Bush administration's fiscal record and have proposed a 12-step plan to control spending, which includes such sensible ideas as honest budget accounting. Rep. Jim Cooper of Tennessee has bravely called for delaying or ending the new prescription drug entitlement.

What the Blue Dogs haven't done is provide votes for any slowdown in federal spending. They complain they haven't been consulted by GOP leaders, and there is some truth to that. But the unmistakable impression is that they are now putting short-term partisanship ahead of good policy by trying to make the House ungovernable. It's not that Blue Dogs haven't provided votes to pass bipartisan legislation in the past. When a bankruptcy reform bill came up this year, 73 Democrats voted in favor. Forty-two Democrats voted to repeal the estate tax permanently, and 50 Democrats backed class-action lawsuit reform. But on the budget? Nada, zip, not a one.

It's hardly news that there are no longer any New Democrats.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:14 AM


2 in GOP targeting Kennedy's Senate seat (Michael Levenson, November 21, 2005, Boston Globe)

No crowd is too small, no event too far-flung for Kevin P. Scott, Wakefield Republican on a mission. The former selectman and member of the town Board of Public Works has been barnstorming the state hoping to be more David than Don Quixote. Despite the odds, he wants to unseat US Senator Edward M. Kennedy.

''I love the political process, as tough and rough as it can be," Scott said yesterday, after making the rounds at the Friends of Lake Quannapowitt breakfast in Wakefield. ''I'm a grass-roots moderate conservative figure that's willing to say he can do this, willing to say he can take on Ted Kennedy."

Scott is not the only obscure aspirant determined to oust the third-longest-serving senator in US history, never mind the liberal lion's 43-year record and $7.8 million war chest.

''Our state is not rightly served when the rest of the country views us [as] a bastion of far left-wing liberalism," Kenneth G. Chase, 44, a Belmont Republican, said yesterday in between painting his house and watching the Patriots game. ''There are other voices in the state that ought to be heard and have a right to be heard."

Both men say they intend to seek the 2006 GOP nomination for US Senate.

Where's Paul Cellucci?

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:28 AM


All the lost boys and girls (Laurie Gough, National Post, November 19th, 2005)

In recent days, the Canadian media has focused its collective gaze on Kashechewan, the tiny native community on the shores of James Bay in Ontario. Much has been made of the town's contaminated water, which has sickened hundreds of residents and forced many to be evacuated. But having lived and worked in Kashechewan, I can report that water problems are just the tip of the iceberg. In almost every respect, Kashechewan is a very sick place.

I am a teacher, a graduate of Nipissing Teachers' College in North Bay, where I took a specialization in native education. I chose Nipissing because I wanted to teach in a different culture than my own and because I'd always had an interest in native people and their history. But nothing I learned at Nipissing could prepare me for the realities of teaching natives on an impoverished reserve.

My experience in Kashechewan generated a complete unravelling of almost everything I believed. Until then, I romanticized Third World and native cultures. Unfairly, I put those people on a pedestal, somehow expecting them to be wiser than people from my own culture, more connected to the land, perhaps even possessing an ancient knowledge that our culture had lost eons ago.

When Kashechewan's band-run school offered me a job, I was thrilled, even though the job interview should have made me nervous. A man on the hiring committee asked me only one question: "What would you do if a kid in your class set something on fire?"

This shocking picture of feral pathology comes after two generations of official policies that transferred billions of dollars to native communities, accorded them extensive self-government authority in education and community government, apologized ceaselessly for the sins of the past and encouraged them to promote and live by the tenets of their traditional cultures. Not all communities have fared quite this horrifically, but their only notable success is in blaming anyone but themselves for their plight and preserving their timeless ability to unite as one to resist any assimilative efforts that might lift them out of this kind of dysfunctional mess. The aboriginal rejection of self-reliance or any notion that life is what they make of it combined with the eagerness of self-loathing Western elites to assume all the blame guarantees the native kids of future generations will suffer the same fate.

November 20, 2005

Posted by David Cohen at 10:00 PM


Biden: Chance of Alito Filibuster Higher (AP, 11/20/05)

The views that Samuel Alito expressed on reapportionment in a 20-year-old document could jeopardize his Supreme Court nomination and provoke a filibuster, a leading Democratic senator said Sunday.

Biden, D-Del., said he was most troubled by Alito's comment about reapportionment under the Supreme Court when it was led by Chief Justice Earl Warren.

"The part that jeopardizes it (Alito's nomination) more is his quotes in there saying that he had strong disagreement with the Warren Court particularly on reapportionment - one man, one vote," Biden told "Fox News Sunday." . . .

"If he really believes that reapportionment is a questionable decision - that is, the idea of Baker v. Carr, one man, one vote - then clearly, clearly, you'll find a lot of people, including me, willing to do whatever they can to keep him off the court. ... That would include a filibuster, if need be," Biden said.

The Supreme Court, in a 6-2 decision in 1962 in Baker v. Carr, ruled that arbitrarily drawn legislative districts can be challenged in federal court.

In Baker v. Carr and the cases following it, the Supreme Court held that all state legislative districts -- House and Senate alike -- had to have as nearly equal populations as was practicable. Any deviation would make one person's vote "worth more" than another, a violation of the Constitutional principle of one man, one vote and a violation of the Equal Protection Clause. Somehow, though, the Equal Protection Clause does not apply to the United States Senate:

Population of Delaware as a percentage of US population: 0.2%

Votes for Joe Biden in his last Senatorial election (02): 135,253

Joe Biden as a percentage of the US Senate: 1%

Population of California as a percentage of US population: 12.2%

Votes for Barbara Boxwer in her last Senatorial election (04): 6,955,728

Barbara Boxer as a percentage of the US Senate: 1%

According to Baker v. Carr, and apparently Joe Biden, this is a miscarriage of justice, a denial of equal protection (if not of the Equal Protection Clause) and a violation of that sacred principle of democracy: one man, one vote. There could be no greater gift to me personally then Joe Biden of Delaware leading the anti-Alito filibuster to defend that sacred principle.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:38 PM


Vienna cardinal draws lines in Intelligent Design row (Tom Heneghan, 11/20/05, Reuters)

When Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn waded into a heated debate over evolution in the United States, his goal was not to persuade American schools to teach that God created the world in six days. [...]

"The biblical teaching about creation is not a scientific theory," he said, restating a Catholic view that contrasts with the literal reading of some conservative U.S. Protestants opposed to Darwin. "Christian teaching about creation is not an alternative to evolution."

Schoenborn agrees with the Intelligent Design theory that the complexity of life clearly points to a superior intelligence that must have devised this system. He based this on reason, not science, as Intelligent Design theorists claim to do.

"The next step is to ask -- which intelligence? As a believer, of course I think it is the intelligence of the Creator," he said." [...]

"If [Darwinism] is a scientific theory, it must be open to scientific criticism," he said. "What I'm criticizing is a kind of strategy to immunize it, as if it were an offence to Darwin's dignity to say there are some issues this theory can't explain.

"There's a kind of ban on discussing this and critics of the evolution theory are discredited or discriminated against from the start," he said.

"What I would like is to see in schools is a critical and open spirit, in a positive sense, so we don't make a dogma out of the theory of evolution but we say it is a theory that has a lot going for it but has no answers for some questions."

He questioned neo-Darwinism, the scientifically updated version of Darwin's thesis first published in 1859, and its argument that natural selection -- the so-called "survival of the fittest" -- created life out of matter randomly.

"Can we reasonably say the origin of man and life can only be explained by material causes?" he asked. "Can matter create intelligence? That is a question we can't answer scientifically, because the scientific method cannot grasp it."

"Common sense tells us that matter cannot organize itself," he said. "It needs information to do that, and information is a manifestation of intelligence." [...]

"It's all about materialism, that's the key issue," he said.

That evolution has occurred is a scientific fact. But none of the three great theories of evolution -- Creation, Darwinism, and I.D. -- are based on science. Teach all or teach none. All the kids really need to learn in school is that things evolved.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:11 PM


Britain opens way for new climate deal (Juliette Jowit, November 20, 2005, The Observer)

Britain is to open the door for other nations to abandon setting compulsory targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions: the principle at the heart of the Kyoto agreement to tackle climate change.

Margaret Beckett, the Environment Secretary, has told The Observer she is prepared to accept voluntary targets - a move hinted at this autumn by Tony Blair. [...]

She said it would be impossible to achieve consensus on compulsory targets. She likened developed countries which insist that such targets be agreed by poorer developing nations to new imperialists.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:43 PM


War critic has warning for Australia (Deborah Snow, November 21, 2005, The Age)

Tim Collins, who commanded the Royal Irish Regiment during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, said "the war as it was prosecuted was a mistake, and history will judge that".

He said the 20th century had been "blighted by a war which began in 1914 and arguably didn't end until the fall of the Berlin Wall. It now falls on Australia and the United Kingdom to persuade the Americans not to blight the 21st century with a war which involves future generations."

While Colonel Collins believed removing Saddam Hussein had been necessary, the US-led coalition had been incompetent in not forging a broader coalition and in not having a five-year plan for after the invasion.

Not only is this just the same war, but the coalition is hardly changed and the lack of post-victory planning has been repeated in all four major phases. The tragedy is that the three later phases are a direct result of Wilson's failure to exploit victory in the first.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:41 PM


The Pope was Jewish says historian (Manchester Metro News, 4/14/05)

Yaakov Wise says his study into the the maternal ancestry of Karol Josez Wojtyla (John Paul II's real name) has revealed startling conclusions.

Mr Wise, a researcher in orthodox Jewish history and philosophy, said the late Pope's mother, grandmother and great-grandmother were all probably Jewish and came from a small town not far from Krakow.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:38 PM


Ethanol isn’t worth the energy (Jeremy Brown, 21 November 2005, Opinion Online)

According to a recent study published in Natural Resources Research, turning plants such as corn, soybeans and sunflowers into liquid fuel, such as ethanol, uses much more energy than can be generated from the resulting ethanol. David Pimentel, professor of ecology and agriculture at Cornell University, and Tad W. Patzek, professor of civil and environmental engineering at University of California-Berkeley, conducted a detailed analysis of the ratios of energy input to energy output of ethanol produced from corn, switch grass and wood biomass.

In assessing inputs, the researchers considered the energy used in producing the crop, including production of pesticides and fertiliser, running farm machinery and irrigating, grinding and transporting the crop: as well as in fermenting or distilling the ethanol. Comparing energy input to energy output for producing ethanol, the study found that:

producing ethanol from corn requires 29 per cent more fossil energy than the fuel produced;

producing ethanol from switch grass requires 45 per cent more fossil energy than the fuel produced; and

producing ethanol from wood biomass requires 57 per cent more fossil energy than the fuel produced.

Although Professors Pimentel and Patzek do not express the net energy return to producing conventional gasoline, even the American Coalition for Ethanol states that producing gasoline from crude oil requires 15 per cent more fossil energy than the fuel produced - half the net energy loss of ethanol.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:23 PM


US on course for record run of profits (Gary Duncan, 11/21/05, Times of London)

Research by David Rosenberg, chief North American economist at Merrill Lynch, shows that US groups in the blue chip S&P 500 index have so far recorded a 16 per cent year-on-year rise in operating earnings per share in the third quarter, with just a few companies left to report results.

Merrill’s analysis finds that this bullish performance will mark the 14th quarter in a row in which the S&P 500’s component companies have racked up operating profits growth in double figures.

This eclipses the previous 13-quarter run of double-digit earnings growth, when US companies emerged from the early 1990s downturn to mark the best such showing for seven decades.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:21 PM


Soldier demands mother keeps mum over war (Shirley English, 11/20/05,, Times of London)

A MOTHER has abandoned her campaign to get British troops home from Iraq in time for Christmas after being told to shut up by her embarrassed son.

Yvonne Gordon, 42, from Aberdeen, spoke out against the “illegal” war at a rally this month, just weeks after her 19-year-old son was deployed to Iraq. But now her son, Sammy Stewart, a private serving with the Gordon Highlanders in Basra, has asked her to keep quiet because she is embarrassing him. Yesterday Ms Gordon said she had agreed to stop active campaigning after talking to her son over the internet.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:03 PM


Security adviser named as source in CIA scandal (Michael Smith and Sarah Baxter, 11/20/05, Sunday Times of London)

THE mysterious source who gave America’s foremost journalist, Bob Woodward, a tip-off about the CIA agent at the centre of one of Washington’s biggest political storms was Stephen Hadley, the White House national security adviser, according to lawyers close to the investigation. [...]

A spokeswoman for the National Security Council (NSC) denied that Hadley was the journalist’s source. However, in South Korea on Friday during an official visit with President George W Bush, Hadley dodged the question.

“I’ve also seen press reports from White House officials saying that I am not one of his sources,” Hadley said with a smile. Asked if this was a yes or no he replied: “It is what it is.” [...]

When Woodward realised this, he went back to his informant. “My source said he or she had no alternative but to go to the prosecutor."

When Woodward puts it that way you know it has to be someone of character, which rules out the CIA at least.

Rice denies being Woodward's source (UPI, 11/20/05)

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice denied being Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward's source on the identity of Valerie Plane. ,/blockquote>
Sources of Confusion (Evan Thomas and Michael Isikoff, 11/28/05, Newsweek)
One by one last week, a parade of current and former senior officials, including the CIA's George Tenet and national-security adviser Stephen Hadley, denied being the source. A conspicuous exception was former deputy secretary of State Richard Armitage, whose office would only say, "We're not commenting." He was one of a handful of top officials who had access to the information. He is an old source and friend of Woodward's, and he fits Novak's description of his source as "not a partisan gunslinger." Woodward has indicated that he knows the identity of Novak's source, which further suggests his source and Novak's were one and the same.

If Armitage was the original leaker, that undercuts the argument that outing Plame was a plot by the hard-liners in the veep's office to "out" Plame. Armitage was, if anything, a foe of the neocons who did not want to go to war in Iraq. He had no motive to discredit Wilson.

No matter who the source is, Woodward's account is devastating to the notion it was a plot.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:59 PM


PM Sharon 'to quit' Likud party (Allyn Fisher-Ilan, November 21, 2005, Reuters)

ISRAEL'S Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will quit his ruling Likud party to run separately in national elections and will ask Israel's president to dissolve parliament for a snap poll, a source in his office said on Sunday.

The source confirmed a report on Israeli Army Radio that the 77-year-old Israeli leader had made the decision to break with the right-wing party he help found in a dramatic bid to change the Israeli political landscape and boost peacemaking. [...]

Mr Sharon has already begun contacting political allies to join a new party he would head, and 14 Likud lawmakers have agreed to join him, the radio said.

The former general had been expected to announce his decision by a planned meeting on Monday with members of the Likud parliament faction.

Confidants have said Mr Sharon wants to seize the chance that polls say he has to defeat the left-of-centre Labour party in a snap election, then pursue plans to end conflict with the Palestinians without having to battle Likud hardliners who oppose giving up West Bank land.

Unlike Britain, the U.S. and australia, both main parties in Israel are obsolecent, one domestically, the other strategically.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:58 PM


Al-Zarqawi May Be Among Dead in Iraq Fight (ROBERT H. REID, 11/20/05, Associated Press)

U.S. forces sealed off a house in the northern city of Mosul where eight suspected al-Qaida members died in a gunfight — some by their own hand to avoid capture. A U.S. official said Sunday that efforts were under way to determine if terror leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was among the dead. [...]

On Saturday, police Brig. Gen. Said Ahmed al-Jubouri said the raid was launched after a tip that top al-Qaida operatives, possibly including Zarqawi, were in the house in the northeastern part of the city.

During the intense gunbattle that followed, three insurgents detonated explosives and killed themselves to avoid capture, Iraqi officials said. Eleven Americans were wounded, the U.S. military said. Such intense resistance often suggests an attempt to defend a high-value target.

American soldiers controlled the site Sunday, and residents said helicopters flew over the area throughout the day. Some residents said the tight security was reminiscent of the July 2003 operation in which Saddam Hussein's sons, Odai and Qusai, were killed in Mosul.

Congressman Murtha declared it a victory for al Qaeda.

Al-Qaeda terror cell dismantled (Agence France-Presse, November 21, 2005)

MOROCCAN security forces arrested 17 Islamic extremists with ties to the Al-Qaeda network as they were setting up a terrorist cell, officials in Rabat said overnight.
"The Moroccan security services have just dismantled a terrorist structure as it was being formed," the government said, adding that the suspects would be charged later today.

The network was "composed of 17 elements linked to the radical Islamic movement having connections with small groups emerging at the Iraqi border and maintaining close ties with senior members of the Al-Qaeda organisation," it said.

One of the arrested was named as Mohamed Reha, a Belgian national of Moroccan origin, who was "known to have stayed in Syria and maintained close ties with North African Islamists in Europe".

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:54 PM

CRANK UP THE VCRs (via Mike Daley)

Greatness: Reagan, Churchill & the Making of Extraordinary Leaders: Steven Hayward (Public Lives: A look at biography books., November 20 at 10:30 pm, C-SPAN)

Description: Steven Hayward compares the leadership skills of Ronald Reagan and Winston Churchill in his new book, "Greatness." The author explains that the two conservative figures had a lot in common, including their stance on national defense, their evolution from Left to Right politically, and their gift for communicating with the public. Mr. Hayward explains that Winston Churchill's Iron Curtain speech defined the beginning of the Cold War while President Reagan's "tear down this wall" demand defined its end. This event was hosted by the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University in Ashland, Ohio.

Posted by David Cohen at 4:53 PM


The Bible said that it would be like this: The Chariots Shall Rage (David McNabb, The Bible Guys,, January 2000)

We, at The People of Truth, continue the time-honored tradition, started by Bishop Grady R. Kent in 1957, of marking cars as a sign of Jesus’ soon coming. On the doors, a scroll contains a quote from Nahum 2:1-4, "In the day of His preparation, the chariots shall rage in the streets. They shall justle one against another in the broad ways."
Gas taxes are the tool of Satan.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:24 PM


Is it time to buy that 50-inch plasma TV? (Keith Reed, November 20, 2005, Boston Globe)

Should you or shouldn't you this holiday season?

New brands, deep discounts, and increased production are pushing prices of high-definition television sets even lower this year. Consider: Circuit City is offering a 42-inch Samsung plasma for $2,700, slashing $800 off the regular price, and Best Buy is peddling newcomer Maxent's 42-inch, HD-ready plasma for $1,800. And last month, Fujitsu of America rolled out rebates of $500 or $1,000 on each purchase of its high-end plasma models.

I'm waiting til you get one free when you subscribe to Sports Illustrated.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:20 PM


Back to utopia: Can the antidote to today's neoliberal triumphalism be found in the pages of far-out science fiction? (Joshua Glenn, November 20, 2005, Boston Globe)

[D]uring the Cold War - thanks to Stalinism and the success of such dystopian fables as Aldous Huxley's ''Brave New World" and George Orwell's ''Nineteen Eighty-Four" - all radical programs promising social transformation became suspect. Speaking for his fellow chastened liberals at a Partisan Review symposium in 1952, for example, the theologian and public intellectual Reinhold Niebuhr dismissed what he called the utopianism of the 1930s as ''an adolescent embarrassment."

Niebuhr and other influential anti-utopians of mid-century - Isaiah Berlin, Hannah Arendt, Karl Popper - had a point. From Plato's ''Republic" to Thomas More's 1517 traveler's tale ''Utopia" (the title of which became a generic term), to the idealistic communism of Rousseau and other pre- and post-French Revolution thinkers, to Bellamy's ''Looking Backward" itself, utopian narratives have often shared a naive and unseemly eagerness to force square pegs into round holes via thought control and coercion. By the end of the 20th century, most utopian projects did look proto-totalitarian.

In recent years, however, certain eminent contrarians - most notably Fredric Jameson, author of the seminal ''Postmodernism, Or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism" (1991) and Russell Jacoby, author most recently of ''The End of Utopia" (1999) and ''Picture Imperfect: Utopian Thought for an Anti-Utopian Age" (2005)-have lamented the wholesale abandonment of such utopian ideas of the left as the abolition of property, the triumph of solidarity, and the end of racism and sexism.

The question, for thinkers like these, is how to revive the spirit of utopia - the current enfeeblement of which, Jameson claims, ''saps our political options and tends to leave us all in the helpless position of passive accomplices and impotent handwringers" - without repeating the errors of what Jacoby has dubbed ''blueprint utopianism," that is, a tendency to map out utopian society in minute detail. How to avoid, as Jameson puts it, effectively ''colonizing the future"?

Onlyt the Fall is guarantee against utopianism, because only it correctly asssses human nature.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:17 PM


In Praise of High Gas Prices: Why sticker shock when filling our cars or our oil tanks is a good thing. (Thomas M. Keane Jr., November 20, 2005, Boston Globe)

[H]aving seen gasoline and oil at new highs, the oft-heard political prescription, from both sides of the partisan divide, is to try somehow to ease the pain. Tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the government-controlled stockpile of crude oil. Reduce pump prices by cutting highway taxes. Jaw-bone oil companies and gas station operators. Dispense with environmental controls. Subsidize home heating costs.

All of those are exactly the wrong things to do. If we let markets work, the energy problem will resolve itself. But if, albeit with the best of intentions, government intervenes and tries artificially to push prices down, today's problem will indeed become tomorrow's crisis.

The reasons come down to the fundamentals of economics - demand and supply. When something gets more expensive, people use less of it. Even now, rising energy prices are altering our behavior. One reads anecdotes of commuters running cars on fryer grease or abandoning their vehicles for bicycles. More commonly, we're doing little things, such as thinking harder about the trips we take, turning down thermostats, or shutting off unused appliances.

Higher prices also affect some of our most important decisions: the kinds of cars we buy, the size of our homes, and even where we choose to live. Thus, for example, SUV sales are dropping while those of hybrids (which combine gas engines with electric motors) are up. True, hybrids get better mileage than their conventional counterparts, but they also cost about $3,500 more. Run the numbers and - with gas at $1.25 a gallon - it might take more than 12 years to pay back that price difference, making hybrids an expensive sacrifice. But with gas at, say, $3, the payback period drops to a more reasonable five years - which explains why Toyota now anticipates selling more than 1 million hybrids by 2010. And if gas prices were to drop back to the lows of the 1990s? Goodbye hybrids; hello again to SUVs.

Pity the poor liberal, who thinks free markets will drive prices up. It is because higher gas prices are desirable that we need to warp the market by adding higher taxes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:14 PM


Congress reduces its oversight role: Since Clinton, a change in focus (Susan Milligan, November 20, 2005, Boston Globe)

While congressional committees once were leaders in investigating the executive branch and powerful industries, the current Congress has largely spared major corporations and has done only minimal oversight of the Republican administration, according to a review of congressional documents by The Boston Globe.

An examination of committees' own reports found that the House Government Reform Committee held just 37 hearings described as ''oversight" or investigative in nature during the last Congress, down from 135 such hearings held by its predecessor, the House Government Operations Committee, in 1993-94, the last year the Democrats controlled the chamber.

Party loyalty does not account for the difference: In 1993-94, the Democrats were investigating a Democratic administration.

Imagine thinking the Congress should be running everything?

Posted by David Cohen at 10:29 AM


Hello, I'm Your Sister. Our Father Is Donor 150 (Amy Harmon, NY Times, 11/20/05)

Like most anonymous sperm donors, Donor 150 of the California Cryobank will probably never meet any of the offspring he fathered through sperm bank donations. There are at least four, according to the bank's records, and perhaps many more, since the dozens of women who have bought Donor 150's sperm are not required to report when they have a baby.

But two of his genetic daughters, born to different mothers and living in different states, have been e-mailing and talking on the phone regularly since learning of each other's existence last summer. They plan to meet over Thanksgiving.

The girls, Danielle Pagano, 16, and JoEllen Marsh, 15, connected through the Donor Sibling Registry, a Web site that is helping to open a new chapter in the oldest form of assisted reproductive technology. The three-year-old site allows parents and offspring to enter their contact information and search for others by sperm bank and donor number.

"The first time we were on the phone, it was awkward," Danielle said. "I was like, 'We'll get over it,' and she said, 'Yeah, we're sisters.' It was so weird to hear her say that. It was cool." . . .

"I hate when people that use D.I. say that biology doesn't matter (cough, my mom, cough)," Danielle wrote in an e-mail message, using the shorthand for donor insemination. "Because if it really didn't matter to them, then why would they use D.I. at all? They could just adopt or something and help out kids in need."

The half-sibling hunt is driven in part by the growing number of donor-conceived children who know the truth about their origins. As more single women and lesbian couples use sperm donors to conceive, children's questions about their fathers' whereabouts often prompt an explanation at an early age, even if all the information about the father that is known is his code number used by the bank for identification purposes and the fragments of personal information provided in his donor profile.

Before we start feeling too superior, one of the donor children in the article introduces his half-siblings as a brother and sister from another mother -- the same locution OJ uses to refer to the non-Judds on the blog. Below, there is a post about the alienation and isolation technology brings to modern life, which is a genuine issue but raises the question of what connection we find here that we can't find with actual people. It is not, perhaps, that surprising how many of us live in Blue states.

The need for community, for a direct connection, to see ourselves reflected in another is the most basic human drive, subsuming both survival and sex. But if we have access to artists, authors and even bloggers whose business it is to exploit that feeling of connection, what have we lost. Yesterday, I was talking to a Mexican-American I met randomly this week in the course of business. After next week, I'll likely never speak with him again. And yet in the course of a quick five minute conversations, we discovered two or three unlikely connections. He lives where I went to college. He has a cousin, a retired Air Force major, who converted to Judaism. His cousin owns a restaurant that I've at least walked past, although it's located at least a thousand miles from where either of us lives. It is these unforeseen connections, and the loss of the idea that any other person is totally "other", that we are losing as we cocoon within artificial communities.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:22 AM


Manners and virtue in a modern world (George Will, Nov 20, 2005, Townhall)

Many people have no notion of propriety when in the presence of other people, because they are not actually in the presence of other people, even when they are in public.

With everyone chatting on cell phones when not floating in iPod-land, ``this is an age of social autism, in which people just can't see the value of imagining their impact on others.'' We are entertaining ourselves into inanition. (There are Web sites for people with Internet addiction. Think about that.) And multiplying technologies of portable entertainments will enable ``limitless self-absorption,'' which will make people solipsistic, inconsiderate and anti-social. Hence manners are becoming unmannerly in this ``age of lazy moral relativism combined with aggressive social insolence."

So says Lynne Truss in her latest trumpet-blast of a book, Talk to the Hand: The Utter Bloody Rudeness of the World Today, or Six Good Reasons to Stay Home and Bolt the Door.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:18 AM


Bush urges greater China freedoms (BBC, 11/20/05)

US President George Bush has called on China to expand its social, political and religious freedoms.

On a visit to Beijing, he also said he and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao had agreed to work together to reduce their trade imbalance.

Earlier, he attended a service at one of the few officially-recognised Christian churches in Beijing.

Bush preaches religious freedom: The President uses a pulpit in Beijing to speak up for the persecuted Christian minority in China (Jane Macartney, 11/21/05, Times of London)

FOR his father, Gangwashi church in Beijing was “a home away from home” where he used to head on his bicycle for the Sunday service. For his sister Dorothy, it was the church where she was baptised as a teenager. For President Bush, Gangwashi church offered a pulpit yesterday where he could break with diplomatic nicety to urge China’s Communist leaders to allow freedom of religion.

The Sunday service was President Bush’s first public event on a 36-hour visit to China, taking place even before he met China’s Communist Party leaders and sending a loud message about the right to religious freedom. President Bush and the First Lady accepted Bibles from the pastor of one of five Protestant churches in Beijing officially sanctioned by the Chinese authorities. That means the service and the church books must receive a stamp of approval from the official Three-Self Patriot Church that oversees Protestant worship. A previous pastor was forcibly removed in 1994 because he was seen as too independent.

The visit of the younger Bush, whose father lived in Beijing from 1974 to 1975 as head of the US Liaison Office and who visited the church again when he was President, offered an opportunity for a man who describes himself as a born-again Christian to speak up for China’s faithful of all denominations.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:17 AM


Imagine There's No Heaven: A review of The Twilight of Atheism: The Rise and Fall of Disbelief in the Modern World by Alister McGrath and The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason by Sam Harris (Andrew Klavan, Fall 2005, Claremont Review of Books)

[T]hese works are two parts of a single piece. The Twilight of Atheism: The Rise and Fall of Disbelief in the Modern World, by prolific Oxford theologian Alister McGrath, is simply an extended observation of a historical phenomenon. The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason, by Sam Harris, currently working on his doctorate in neuroscience, is a high, wild, and somewhat babbling cry from a man caught on the losing side of that phenomenon. A screed against tolerance in matters of religion, The End of Faith is, in some ways, "Imagine" militant, "Imagine" writ large, with the consequent advantage that the true results of such imaginings are made painfully clear. As an argument, it's a clay pigeon, easily shot down as it travels through its predictable arc. As an artifact of a worldview currently in retreat, however, it has a certain fascination.

It's no accident that McGrath's work seems to set the stage for Harris's. Twilight of Atheism grew out of an Oxford debate on whether it's possible to "rid the mind of God" and studies the attempt to do just that in the West. The narrative traces Western atheism's star from its rise with the storming of the Bastille in 1789, to its zenith in the 1960s with Marxism on the march, to its decline with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and Christianity's resurgence in Eastern Europe, the U.S., and elsewhere. Like much of what McGrath does, it's a solid survey, both readable and scholarly.

Once an atheist himself, McGrath retains an appreciation for the attractions of non-belief: "a passion for liberation, a principled demand for an end to oppression, for intellectual rigor in our thinking, and for courage in the face of the world's evils and ambiguities." What's more, he has a keen, cold eye for the imaginative failures of Christianity in fending off the assaults of first Jacobinism, then Marxism and Freudianism, and finally the assumption—wholly unsupported as he shows—that science and faith are somehow intractably at odds. Because of these insights, he seems a bit surprised himself by the "remarkable" decline of atheism's "empire of the mind." "Like a tidal wave crashing against the shoreline," writes McGrath, "atheism surged over the West, sweeping away its rivals, before itself gradually receding." This may be overstated, but demographics lend it credence enough, and the description is gratifyingly resonant with the "melancholy, long, withdrawing roar," of the Sea of Faith from Arnold's "Dover Beach."

So what transformed the wave of the future into the outgoing tide? McGrath cites Christianity's ability to reinvent and repersonalize itself. Fresh emphasis on the near presence of God in established churches, and new evangelical and Pentecostal movements that circumvent old hierarchies and reverse the Protestant trend toward over-intellectualization, put atheism on the defensive. With characteristic irony, postmodernism also served the religious cause by attempting to "de-center" philosophical inquiry, thus making it impossible for atheism, or anything else, to stake out the privileged territory of truth.

But perhaps the most important flaw in the atheistic structure was what McGrath terms its "embarrassing intolerance." "Imagine," which he identifies as a product of atheism's high-water mark, depicts faith more or less melting peacefully away into "a brotherhood of man." "But what happens," McGrath wonders, "if people rather like religion, and refuse to abandon it?" The answer came loudest and clearest from the Soviet Union, the 20th century's dominant atheist state. Convinced by Marxist theory that religion would fade as revolution replaced injustice, Lenin—the other Lenin—came to believe that only brutality would make it so. The Soviet Union murdered tens of millions in attempting to set its idol on the altar of more ancient traditions. "A demand to eliminate deficient beliefs leads to an obsession with power as the means by which that elimination can proceed," writes McGrath.

Which brings us to Sam Harris and The End of Faith. The book should be called The End of Toleration, because that's what Harris proposes. Claiming that religious violence is leading us to apocalypse, Harris says that "Words like 'God' and 'Allah' must go the way of 'Apollo' and 'Baal,' or they will unmake our world." Religious extremists are bad in this regard, he says, but moderates are perhaps even worse as they teach us to "respect the unjustified beliefs of others." "I hope to show," writes Harris, "that the very ideal of religious tolerance…is one of the principal forces driving us toward the abyss."

Note how presicely atheism fits with the desire for security and the terror of messy freedom?

Breaking the Science-Atheism Bond: As an atheist turned Christian, I know atheism is not the only conceivable worldview for a thinking person. (Alister McGrath, Science & Spirit Magazine)
-LECTURE: Has Science Eliminated God? (Alister McGrath, 9th November 2004, Babbage Lecture Theatre, Cambridge)
-INTERVIEW: Taking On Dawkins' God:An interview with Alister McGrath: Alister McGrath wants the world to know that Richard Dawkins is wrong: good science is not tantamount to atheism. (Science & Theology News, April 25, 2005)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:04 AM


More talks to come on Canada FTA (AP, 11/20/05)

Japan and Canada agreed Saturday to step up talks that began a year ago on expanding economic cooperation toward a possible free-trade accord, Japanese officials said.

Prime Minister Paul Martin and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi signed the deal shortly after the end of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders' summit in Pusan.

Japan is Canada's second-largest export partner after the United States, although Canada's trade with the U.S., at 85 percent of overall Canadian trade, dwarfs its trade with Japan at 2 percent, or $7 billion a year, according to the Canadian government.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:01 AM


We may have no ghettoes - but Britain must beware the paradox of integration (Niall Ferguson, 20/11/2005, Daily Telegraph)

Schadenfreude is a German word for gloating at your foe's misfortune. As a rule, the English only ever feel it when misfortune befalls the French. General strikes, lethal heatwaves, trials of Nazi collaborators - all these are legitimate grounds for an Englishman to gloat, since none is likely to happen here.

However, on returning to Britain this week after many months abroad, I have been amazed to encounter Schadenfreude on the subject of the recent riots in urban France. Jokes about burning banlieues are ubiquitous. To hear some people talk, you'd think it could never happen here: the only problem is that it has. Only four years ago, three northern towns, notably Bradford, saw full-scale riots involving youths from immigrant communities. [...]

At first sight, all the ingredients for trouble seem to be in place. Yet all is not quite what it seems. Last week saw the publication of some intriguing new research that points in precisely the opposite direction, indicating that racial integration here may in fact be - at least by Continental European standards - a success story.

Ludi Simpson of Manchester University has compared the ethnic structure of 8,850 electoral wards in England and Wales using figures from the 1991 and 2001 censuses. He found that the number of mixed wards - where 10 per cent or more residents are from an ethnic minority - has increased from 964 to 1,070 in the decade. There are now only around 14 wards where one minority accounts for more than half the population, and there is not a single ward where white people constitute less than 10 per cent of the population. Half the wards in Bradford count as mixed; more than two thirds of those in Birmingham.

Simpson therefore dismisses talk of nascent ghettoes. The reality is that as immigrant communities grow - which they do mainly through reproduction, not immigration - they disperse into new neighbourhoods rather than remaining stuck in segregated enclaves.

Want some more good news? According to Lucinda Platt of the University of Essex, around 56 per cent of children from Indian working class families go on to professional or managerial roles in adulthood, compared with just 43 per cent of those from white, non-immigrant families. Even people with Caribbean ancestry now do better than whites.

If 7/07 makes multiculturalism even less popular the Brits could save themselves the worst of what's to come.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:00 AM


Commencement Address (President Ronald Reagan, May 17, 1981, Notre Dame University)

This Nation was born when a band of men, the Founding Fathers, a group so unique we've never seen their like since, rose to such selfless heights. Lawyers, tradesmen, merchants, farmers — 56 men achieved security and standing in life but valued freedom more. They pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. Sixteen of them gave their lives. Most gave their fortunes. All preserved their sacred honor.

They gave us more than a nation. They brought to all mankind for the first time the concept that man was born free, that each of us has inalienable rights, ours by the grace of God, and that government was created by us for our convenience, having only the powers that we choose to give it. This is the heritage that you're about to claim as you come out to join the society made up of those who have preceded you by a few years, or some of us by a great many.

This experiment in man's relation to man is a few years into its third century. Saying that may make it sound quite old. But let's look at it from another viewpoint or perspective. A few years ago, someone figured out that if you could condense the entire history of life on Earth into a motion picture that would run for 24 hours a day, 365 days — maybe on leap years we could have an intermission — [laughter] — this idea that is the United States wouldn't appear on the screen until 3\1/2\ seconds before midnight on December 31st. And in those 3\1/2\ seconds not only would a new concept of society come into being, a golden hope for all mankind, but more than half the activity, economic activity in world history, would take place on this continent. Free to express their genius, individual Americans, men and women, in 3\1/2\ seconds, would perform such miracles of invention, construction, and production as the world had never seen.

As you join us out there beyond the campus, you know there are great unsolved problems. Federalism, with its built in checks and balances, has been distorted. Central government has usurped powers that properly belong to local and State governments. And in so doing, in many ways that central government has begun to fail to do the things that are truly the responsibility of a central government.

All of this has led to the misuse of power and preemption of the prerogatives of people and their social institutions. You are graduating from a great private, or, if you will, independent university. Not too many years ago, such schools were relatively free from government interference. In recent years, government has spawned regulations covering virtually every facet of our lives. The independent and church-supported colleges and universities have found themselves enmeshed in that network of regulations and the costly blizzard of paperwork that government is demanding. Thirty-four congressional committees and almost 80 subcommittees have jurisdiction over 439 separate laws affecting education at the college level alone. Almost every aspect of campus life is now regulated — hiring, firing, promotions, physical plant, construction, recordkeeping, fundraising and, to some extent, curriculum and educational programs.

I hope when you leave this campus that you will do so with a feeling of obligation to your alma mater. She will need your help and support in the years to come. If ever the great independent colleges and universities like Notre Dame give way to and are replaced by tax-supported institutions, the struggle to preserve academic freedom will have been lost.

We're troubled today by economic stagnation, brought on by inflated currency and prohibitive taxes and burdensome regulations. The cost of stagnation in human terms, mostly among those least equipped to survive it, is cruel and inhuman.

Now, after those remarks, don't decide that you'd better turn your diploma back in so you can stay another year on the campus. I've just given you the bad news. The good news is that something is being done about all this because the people of America have said, "Enough already." You know, we who had preceded you had just gotten so busy that we let things get out of hand. We forgot that we were the keepers of the power, forgot to challenge the notion that the state is the principal vehicle of social change, forgot that millions of social interactions among free individuals and institutions can do more to foster economic and social progress than all the careful schemes of government planners.

Well, at last we're remembering, remembering that government has certain legitimate functions which it can perform very well, that it can be responsive to the people, that it can be humane and compassionate, but that when it undertakes tasks that are not its proper province, it can do none of them as well or as economically as the private sector.

For too long government has been fixing things that aren't broken and inventing miracle cures for unknown diseases.

We need you. We need your youth. We need your strength. We need your idealism to help us make right that which is wrong. Now, I know that this period of your life, you have been and are critically looking at the mores and customs of the past and questioning their value. Every generation does that. May I suggest, don't discard the time-tested values upon which civilization was built simply because they're old. More important, don't let today's doomcriers and cynics persuade you that the best is past, that from here on it's all downhill. Each generation sees farther than the generation that preceded it because it stands on the shoulders of that generation. You're going to have opportunities beyond anything that we've ever known.

The people have made it plain already. They want an end to excessive government intervention in their lives and in the economy, an end to the burdensome and unnecessary regulations and a punitive tax policy that does take "from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned." They want a government that cannot only continue to send men across the vast reaches of space and bring them safely home, but that can guarantee that you and I can walk in the park of our neighborhood after dark and get safely home. And finally, they want to know that this Nation has the ability to defend itself against those who would seek to pull it down.

And all of this, we the people can do. Indeed, a start has already been made. There's a task force under the leadership of the Vice President, George Bush, that is to look at those regulations I've spoken of. They have already identified hundreds of them that can be wiped out with no harm to the quality of life. And the cancellation of just those regulations will leave billions and billions of dollars in the hands of the people for productive enterprise and research and development and the creation of jobs.

The years ahead are great ones for this country, for the cause of freedom and the spread of civilization. The West won't contain communism, it will transcend communism. It won't bother to dismiss or denounce it, it will dismiss it as some bizarre chapter in human history whose last pages are even now being written.

William Faulkner, at a Nobel Prize ceremony some time back, said man "would not only [merely] endure: he will prevail" against the modern world because he will return to "the old verities and truths of the heart." And then Faulkner said of man, "He is immortal because he alone among creatures . . . has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance."

One can't say those words — compassion, sacrifice, and endurance — without thinking of the irony that one who so exemplifies them, Pope John Paul II, a man of peace and goodness, an inspiration to the world, would be struck by a bullet from a man towards whom he could only feel compassion and love. It was Pope John Paul II who warned in last year's encyclical on mercy and justice against certain economic theories that use the rhetoric of class struggle to justify injustice. He said, "In the name of an alleged justice the neighbor is sometimes destroyed, killed, deprived of liberty or stripped of fundamental human rights."

For the West, for America, the time has come to dare to show to the world that our civilized ideas, our traditions, our values, are not — like the ideology and war machine of totalitarian societies — just a facade of strength. It is time for the world to know our intellectual and spiritual values are rooted in the source of all strength, a belief in a Supreme Being, and a law higher than our own.

When it's written, history of our time won't dwell long on the hardships of the recent past. But history will ask — and our answer determine the fate of freedom for a thousand years — Did a nation borne of hope lose hope? Did a people forged by courage find courage wanting? Did a generation steeled by hard war and a harsh peace forsake honor at the moment of great climactic struggle for the human spirit?

If history asks such questions, it also answers them. And the answers are to be found in the heritage left by generations of Americans before us. They stand in silent witness to what the world will soon know and history someday record: that in the [its] third century, the American Nation came of age, affirmed its leadership of free men and women serving selflessly a vision of man with God, government for people, and humanity at peace.

A few years ago, an Australian Prime Minister, John Gorton, said, "I wonder if anybody ever thought what the situation for the comparatively small nations in the world would be if there were not in existence the United States, if there were not this giant country prepared to make so many sacrifices." This is the noble and rich heritage rooted in great civil ideas of the West, and it is yours.

My hope today is that in the years to come — and come it shall — when it's your time to explain to another generation the meaning of the past and thereby hold out to them their promise of the future, that you'll recall the truths and traditions of which we've spoken. It is these truths and traditions that define our civilization and make up our national heritage. And now, they're yours to protect and pass on.

I have one more hope for you: when you do speak to the next generation about these things, that you will always be able to speak of an America that is strong and free, to find in your hearts an unbounded pride in this much-loved country, this once and future land, this bright and hopeful nation whose generous spirit and great ideals the world still honors.

Congratulations, and God bless you.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:52 AM


President Addresses Troops at Osan Air Base in Osan, Korea (Osan Air Base Osan, Republic of Korea, 11/19/05)

For half a century American servicemen and women have stood faithful and vigilant watch here in Korea. You've kept the peace and you secured the freedom won at great cost in the Korean War. You've ensured that no American life was lost in vain. In five decades, since Task Force Smith first landed at Pusan, the world has watched America's steadfast and unwavering commitment to freedom.

Three years of war made America and Korea enduring allies in the struggle for liberty. And five decades of sacrifice by the men and women of our Armed Forces secured peace and democracy on this peninsula. And the world is better off for it. Your courage has brought stability to the region, freedom to millions, and honor to the uniform. Our nation is grateful for your service -- your service for freedom and peace. (Applause.)

The Republic of Korea is now a beacon of liberty that shines across the most heavily armed border in the world. It is a light reaching to a land shrouded in darkness. Together the United States and the Republic of Korea have shown that the future belongs to freedom and one day, all Koreans will enjoy the blessings of freedom. (Applause.) [...]

For decades, America's Armed Forces abroad have essentially remained where the wars of the last century ended in Europe and in Asia. So more than three years ago, we launched a comprehensive review of America's global force posture -- the numbers and types and locations and capability of our forces around the world.

We're transforming our military. Over the coming decade, we'll take advantage of 21st century military technologies so we can deploy rapidly, with increased combat power. This will help improve the lives of our military and their families, because more of our troops will be stationed and deployed for home. And this will help us meet the threats of the 21st century. By transforming our military, we'll more be able to do our duty to protect the American people.

As South Korea has grown more free and prosperous, it's built an increasingly capable military that is now ready to assume a larger role in defending its people. By assuming some responsibilities that have traditionally been shouldered by American forces, South Korea will strengthen the deterrent on the Korean Peninsula and free up some of our combat forces to help us win the war on terror. [...]

[W]e're determined to deny the militants' control of any nation which they would use as a home base and a launching pad for terror.

This mission has brought new and urgent responsibilities to all who wear the uniform. American troops are fighting beside our Afghan partners against remnants of the Taliban and their al Qaeda allies. And American troops are fighting alongside courageous Iraqis against the remnants of a regime and a network of terrorists who want to stop the advance of a free Iraq. Our goal is to defeat the terrorists and allies -- and their allies at the heart of their power. And so we will defeat the enemy in Iraq.

As we pursue the terrorists, our military is helping to train Iraqi security forces so they can defend their people, and so they can fight the enemy. And we're making steady progress. With every passing month, more and more Iraqi forces are standing up, and the Iraqi military is gaining new capabilities and new confidence. At the time of our Fallujah operations a year ago, there were only a few Iraqi army battalions in combat. Today there are more than 90 Iraqi army battalions fighting the terrorists, along with our forces. American and Iraqi troops are conducting major assaults to clear out enemy fighters in Baghdad and other parts of Iraq. Iraqi police and security forces are helping clear the terrorists from their strongholds. They're holding onto areas we've cleared and are preventing the enemy from returning.

Our strategy can be summed up this way: As Iraqis stand up, we will stand down, and when our commanders on the ground tell me that Iraqi forces can defend their freedom, our troops will come home with the honor they have earned. (Applause.)

The second part of our strategy is a political strategy. Iraqis are moving forward in building a democracy. A month ago, millions of Iraqis turned out to vote for a constitution that guarantees fundamental freedoms and lays the foundation for lasting democracy. In a few weeks, Iraqis will vote again to choose a fully constitutional government to lead them for the next four years. Iraq is making amazing progress from the days of being under the thumb of a brutal dictator. Think about this: In two-and-a-half years, they've gone from tyranny to an election for a transitional government, to the ratification of a constitution, to the election of a free government. The Iraqi people are proving their determination to build a future founded on democracy and hope, and the United States of America will help them succeed. (Applause.)

The fifth element of our strategy in the war on terror is to deny the militants future recruits by replacing hatred and resentment with democracy and hope across the broader Middle East. If the 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. If the peoples of that region are permitted to choose their own destiny, and advance by their own energy and participation as both 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.

History has proven that free nations are peaceful nations and that democracies do not fight their neighbors. By advancing the hope of freedom and democracy for others, we'll make our own freedom more secure.

Our men and women in uniform who are serving on the Korean Peninsula have seen freedom succeed in Asia. By promoting freedom in Japan, we helped transform an enemy into a democracy that is one of the world's most prosperous nations, and one of America's most trusted allies. By standing firm against a determined enemy, we helped provide the people of South Korea with the peace and stability they needed to transform their economy and claim their own freedom. And by helping the people of Asia build successful and thriving democracies, we have helped set a hopeful example for the world. In the 21st century, we go forward with confidence because we know that freedom is the destiny of every man, woman, and child on this Earth. (Applause.)

Our work for peace and freedom involves great sacrifice by our troops. We see this sacrifice in Iraq, where our troops are hunting down the terrorists, and we're helping the Iraqi people build a working democracy. In Washington, there are some who say that the sacrifice is too great, and they urge us to set a date for withdrawal before we have completed our mission. Those who are in the fight know better. One of our top commanders in Iraq, Major General William Webster, says that setting a deadline for our withdrawal from Iraq would be, "a recipe for disaster." General Webster is right. So long as I'm the Commander-in-Chief, our strategy in Iraq will be driven by the sober judgment of our military commanders on the ground. We will fight the terrorists in Iraq. We will stay in the fight until we have achieved the brave -- the victory that our brave troops have fought for. (Applause.)

In this time of war and sacrifice, the greatest burden falls on our military families. We've lost some of our nation's finest men and women in the war on terror. Each of these men and women left grieving families and loved ones back home. Each loss of life is heartbreaking. And the best way to honor the sacrifices of our fallen troops is to complete their mission and lay the foundation of peace for our children and our grandchildren. (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 this fight we have 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 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 know that the love of freedom is the mightiest force in history. And we do know the cause of freedom will once again prevail.

May God bless you all. Thank you all.

When we bring the troops home from Iraq next year it will be fifty years quicker than they came back from South Korea and sixty quicker than Japan and Germany, despite all three being functioning democracies long since.

November 19, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:12 PM


Galloway praises Syrian president (BBC, 11/19/05)

George Galloway has defended his praise of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, following a recent trip to the country.

The MP for Bethnal Green said the president was a "breath of fresh air" after decades of dictatorship.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 8:52 PM


SteynOnline (November 19th, 2005)

As readers of today's National Post will know, this is now officially the online home of Canada's second greatest "public intellectual"!

(Number One was Don Cherry)

(I'm not sure how well this reflects on either The National Post, Canada, Cherry or me.)

(On the other hand, given my chances of making the Order of Canada, I'll take what I can get - and hey, Don and I whumped Naomi Klein into third place, Margaret Atwood into seventh, and Michael Ignatieff - "Canada's next Prime Minister" - into 15th.)

Mr. Steyn is talking about his second place finish in a nation-wide Canadian public opinion poll on who is Canada’s most famous public intellectual. Not only did he beat out such leftist toadies as Margaret Atwood and Naomi Klein, but the astounding thing is that the guy who beat him is the only Canadian more right-wing than he.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:47 PM


Tim Collins trained troops to fight with white phosphorus (Sean Rayment, 20/11/2005, Daily Telegraph)

Col Tim Collins, the controversial Iraq war commander, trained his soldiers to use white phosphorus, which burns through flesh to the bone, in combat against enemy troops.

The admission by the former Special Air Service officer, revealed in his autobiography Rules of Engagement, contradicts claims by the Ministry of Defence that the chemical was only ever used to create a smokescreen. [...]

Discussing the weapons to be used in the operation in the Basra area, he wrote: "The star of the show was the new grenade which had only been on issue since the previous summer. It absolutely trashed the inside of the room it was put into.

"I directed the men to use them where possible with white phosphorus, as the noxious smoke and heat had the effect of drawing out any enemy from cover, while the fragmentation grenade would shred them."

Col Collins' tactics mirror the United States army "shake and bake" technique which involves forcing troops out of cover with white phosphorus and then killing them with artillery rounds.

Which confirms the claim, no?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:06 PM


Jewish Leader Blasts 'Religious Right' (KRISTEN HAYS, Associated Press)

The leader of the largest branch of American Judaism blasted conservative religious activists in a speech Saturday, calling them "zealots" who claim a "monopoly on God" while promoting anti-gay policies akin to Adolf Hitler's. [...]

The Union for Reform Judaism represents about 900 synagogues in North America with an estimated membership of 1.5 million people. Of the three major streams of U.S. Judaism — Orthodox and Conservative are the others — it is the only one that sanctions gay ordination and supports civil marriage for same-gender couples.

For a Jewish leader to trivialize the Holocaust is especially appalling, but Christophobia is just as toxic a brew as anti-Semitism.

Leftist Jews urged Rice's 'tough line' (Aaron Klein, November 18, 2005,

Far left-leaning American Jewish organizations urged U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to pressure Israel during her brokering this week of a deal that for the first time hands to the Palestinians final control of the Gaza border, telling Rice her tough line against Israel will win her American Jewish support.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:12 PM


Defense official: Rumsfeld given Iraq withdrawal plan (CNN, 11/19/05)

The top U.S. commander in Iraq has submitted a plan to the Pentagon for withdrawing troops in Iraq, according to a senior defense official.

Gen. George Casey submitted the plan to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. It includes numerous options and recommends that brigades -- usually made up of about 2,000 soldiers each -- begin pulling out of Iraq early next year. [...]

Rumsfeld has yet to sign Casey's withdrawal plan but, the senior defense official said, implementation of the plan, if approved, would start after the December 15 Iraqi elections so as not to discourage voters from going to the polls.

The plan, which would withdraw a limited amount of troops during 2006, requires that a host of milestones be reached before troops are withdrawn.

Top Pentagon officials have repeatedly discussed some of those milestones: Iraqi troops must demonstrate that they can handle security without U.S. help; the country's political process must be strong; and reconstruction and economic conditions must show signs of stability.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:56 PM


Back in Business: The French riots revive rabble-rouser Jean-Marie Le Pen. (MATTHEW KAMINSKI, November 19, 2005, Opinion Journal)

Jean-Marie Le Pen has a twinkle in his right eye. (The left, replaced with glass, was lost in a fight during a political campaign 40 years ago.) And why shouldn't the populist founder of France's National Front be in good spirits? For the past three weeks, young first- and second-generation immigrants, mostly Arabs from North Africa, have torched cars and schools and shops in some 300 towns, forcing the government to declare a state of emergency well into next year. No, there's probably nothing quite like screaming "I told you so!" to the whole world to warm this old bruiser's heart.

"LE PEN l'avait dit!"--"LE PEN said so!"--is, in fact, the new slogan that his party unveiled when the immigrant ghettos exploded. "People say you can love him or hate him but you must admit that Le Pen was right. Le Pen was clear. He said, 'Voilà, this will happen if we continue down this political path.' And we do continue on, listening to Jacques Chirac's pretty words and not stopping immigration, not cutting the supply pipelines, not reclaiming sovereignty over our frontiers. It can only get worse. The next explosion will be even more violent."

So says Mr. Le Pen about Mr. Le Pen. His habit of speaking in the third person isn't even that jarring; as he knows better than anyone, "Le Pen" is a symbol as much as a politician, the latest incarnation of xenophobic French nationalism.

A tad redundant that last, non?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:52 PM


Shop-Till-You-Drop Specials, Revealed Here First (Michael Barbaro, Nov 19, 2005, NY Times)

Or at least that is how it worked before people like Michael Brim came along. From a cramped dorm room in California, [Michael] Brim, an 18-year-old college freshman who dines on Lucky Charms and says he rarely shops, is abruptly pulling back the curtain on the biggest shopping day of the year.

His Web site,, publishes the circulars for what retailers call Black Friday--the day that officially starts the holiday shopping season. And he's doing it weeks ahead of time.

So far this year, sources have leaked advertisements to him from Toys "R" Us (showing the Barbie Fashion Show Mall, regularly $99.99, for $29.97); Sears (a Canon ZR100 MiniDV camcorder, regularly $329.99, for $249.99); and Ace Hardware (a Skil 12-volt drill, regularly $44.99, for $24.99).

Brim says his motive is to educate consumers. But retailers are furious, arguing that the site jeopardizes their holiday business, and they have threatened legal action.

But is not their only problem. There are now at least three Web sites dedicated to digging up Black Friday sales secrets, creating a fierce competition to post the ads first.

Bet Alan Greenspan's never even heard of him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:43 PM


Putin Backs Turkey as Energy Hub (Christian Lowe and Ercan Ersoy, 11/18/05, Reuters)

The leaders of Russia, Turkey and Italy pledged on Thursday to boost oil and gas cooperation and bring Europe greater energy security after inaugurating a natural gas pipeline under the Black Sea.

The inauguration of the Blue Stream line also capped a big improvement in economic ties between Russia and NATO member Turkey as they set aside historic rivalries in favor of trade. [...]

Putin said Russian companies were ready for further cooperation in the Turkish oil and gas market, not only increasing exports but also taking part in building infrastructure and exploration and extraction of oil including taking equity.

"Blue Stream gives us an opportunity for shipping gas to other third countries ... There is the opportunity for building new oil and gas transport systems delivering to southern Italy, to the south of Europe as a whole and to Israel," Putin said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:35 AM


CIA's Harsh Interrogation Techniques Described: Sources Say Agency's Tactics Lead to Questionable Confessions, Sometimes to Death (BRIAN ROSS and RICHARD ESPOSITO, Nov. 18, 2005, ABC News)

Harsh interrogation techniques authorized by top officials of the CIA have led to questionable confessions and the death of a detainee since the techniques were first authorized in mid-March 2002, ABC News has been told by former and current intelligence officers and supervisors.

They say they are revealing specific details of the techniques, and their impact on confessions, because the public needs to know the direction their agency has chosen. All gave their accounts on the condition that their names and identities not be revealed. Portions of their accounts are corrobrated by public statements of former CIA officers and by reports recently published that cite a classified CIA Inspector General's report. [...]

The CIA sources described a list of six "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" instituted in mid-March 2002 and used, they said, on a dozen top al Qaeda targets incarcerated in isolation at secret locations on military bases in regions from Asia to Eastern Europe. According to the sources, only a handful of CIA interrogators are trained and authorized to use the techniques:

1. The Attention Grab: The interrogator forcefully grabs the shirt front of the prisoner and shakes him.

2. Attention Slap: An open-handed slap aimed at causing pain and triggering fear.

3. The Belly Slap: A hard open-handed slap to the stomach. The aim is to cause pain, but not internal injury. Doctors consulted advised against using a punch, which could cause lasting internal damage.

4. Long Time Standing: This technique is described as among the most effective. Prisoners are forced to stand, handcuffed and with their feet shackled to an eye bolt in the floor for more than 40 hours. Exhaustion and sleep deprivation are effective in yielding confessions.

5. The Cold Cell: The prisoner is left to stand naked in a cell kept near 50 degrees. Throughout the time in the cell the prisoner is doused with cold water.

6. Water Boarding: The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner's face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt.

According to the sources, CIA officers who subjected themselves to the water boarding technique lasted an average of 14 seconds before caving in. They said al Qaeda's toughest prisoner, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, won the admiration of interrogators when he was able to last between two and two-and-a-half minutes before begging to confess.

Torture is useful because guys will tell you anything to get you to stop, but for that reason can not be used to establish guilt, only to extract intelligence. It should be easy enough to then check that intelligence out and determine whether the torture is actually effective for that purpose. If we aren't getting info we can use then stop torturing them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:15 AM


Another Grand Jury for Leak Case: Move Follows Woodward Talks (Carol D. Leonnig and Jim VandeHei, 11/19/05, Washington Post)

Legal experts said Fitzgerald's decision to call upon a new grand jury is all but certainly because he is considering additional criminal charges in the case.

Two sources close to Karl Rove, the top Bush aide still under investigation in the case, said they have reason to believe Fitzgerald does not anticipate presenting additional evidence against the White House deputy chief of staff. Instead, lawyers involved in the case expect the prosecutor to focus on Woodward's admission that an official other than Libby told him about Plame one month before her identity was publicly disclosed in a July 14, 2003, column by Robert D. Novak.

Except that the prosecutor has already conceded the leak itself isn't criminal, so he'd have to be charging someone else with misremembering a conversation with a reporter during the investigation. And Woodward's own account seems to get his source off the hook.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:57 AM


Bush without Card (Robert Novak, Nov 19, 2005, Townhall)

The absence by Chief of Staff Andrew Card from President Bush's Latin America and Asia trips has increased speculation about a possible reconstruction of the White House staff. [...]

Al Hubbard, director of the National Economic Council, is being given a wide variety of domestic assignments beyond economics and is speculated on as Card's possible successor.

Mr. Card can bow out gracefully by returning home to run for governor.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:49 AM


Butterfly wings work like LEDs (BBC, 11/18/05)

When scientists developed an efficient device for emitting light, they hadn't realised butterflies have been using the same method for 30 million years.

Fluorescent patches on the wings of African swallowtail butterflies work in a very similar way to high emission light emitting diodes (LEDs).

These high emission LEDs are an efficient variation on the diodes used in electronic equipment and displays.

Hardly surprising that it would take us millions of years to ape His Design. Of course, given the speculation that the whole Universe is just a big holograph, the whole thing is just Light.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:35 AM


House GOP whittles budget by $50 billion (Amy Fagan, November 19, 2005, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

House Republicans narrowly passed a $50 billion spending-cuts bill yesterday after some down-to-the-wire bargaining with the more liberal wing of their party, but leaders delayed until after the Thanksgiving holiday their $57 billion tax-cut package.

"This was a hard-fought victory," said acting Majority Leader Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican, after the spending-cuts measure eked through, 217-215, with 200 Democrats, an Independent and 14 Republicans voting against it and 217 Republicans giving their support.

The message from Republican leaders was clear: "We as Republicans are working to rein in the size and scope and reach of the federal government," said Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier, California Republican.

$50 billion here...$50 billion no time you're up to .5% of GDP.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:32 AM


200,000 protest Amman attacks (Washington Times, November 19, 2005)

At least 200,000 persons demonstrated yesterday against the recent bombings of three luxury hotels, while a new online statement attributed to terrorist leader Abu Musab Zarqawi defended the attacks and threatened to cut off the head of Jordan's King Abdullah II.

An anti-terrorist demonstration of such size is unprecedented in the Arab world, where Zarqawi, his mentor, Osama bin Laden, and their al Qaeda organization have attained folk-hero status among Muslim masses.

"Zarqawi, from Amman, we say to you: 'You are a coward,' " protesters chanted while brandishing banners with the names of their tribes from every part of Jordan.

Unprecedented here as well, but then it isn't an internal problem for us.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:30 AM


Pullout rejected 403-3 (Stephen Dinan, November 19, 2005, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

The House last night overwhelmingly voted down a resolution calling for immediate withdrawal from Iraq, as Republicans tried to draw a line in the sand after a week's worth of back-and-forth charges over the war.

The resolution failed 403-3, with six voting present. Those voting for it were Democrats Cynthia A. McKinney of Georgia, Robert Wexler of Florida and Jose E. Serrano of New York.

House Rejects Iraq Pullout After GOP Forces a Vote: Democrats Enraged By Personal Attack (Charles Babington, November 19, 2005, Washington Post)
As Democrats physically restrained one colleague, who appeared as if he might lose control of himself as he rushed across the aisle to confront Republicans with a jabbing finger, they accused Republicans of playing political games with the war. [...]

Though even many Democrats think Murtha's immediate withdrawal plan is impractical, it struck a chord in a party where frustration with the war and the Bush administration's open-ended commitment is mounting fast. [...]

Members were heatedly debating a procedural rule concerning the Hunter resolution when Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio) was recognized at 5:20 p.m. Schmidt won a special election in August, defeating Iraq war veteran Paul Hackett, and is so new to Congress that some colleagues do not know her name.

She told colleagues that "a few minutes ago I received a call from Colonel Danny Bubp," an Ohio legislator and Marine Corps Reserve officer. "He asked me to send Congress a message: Stay the course. He also asked me to send Congressman Murtha a message: that cowards cut and run, Marines never do."

Dozens of Democrats erupted at once, pointing angrily at Schmidt and shouting repeatedly, "Take her words down" -- the House term for retracting a statement. For a moment Schmidt tried to keep speaking, but the uproar continued and several GOP colleagues surrounded her as she sat down, looking slightly dazed. Presiding officer Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) gaveled in vain for order as Democrats continued shouting for Schmidt to take back her words. Rep. Martin T. Meehan (D-Mass.) yelled "You guys are pathetic!" from the far end of the Democratic section to the GOP side.

Just as matters seemed to calm a bit, Rep. Harold E. Ford Jr. (D-Tenn.) suddenly charged across the aisle to the GOP seats, jabbing his finger furiously at a small group of GOP members and shouting, "Say Murtha's name!" Rep. David R. Obey (D-Wis.), who had led the chants for striking Schmidt's comments, gently guided Ford by the arm back to the minority party's side.

At 5:31, when order was finally restored, Schmidt rose again and said softly, "My words were not directed at any member of the House." She asked that they "be withdrawn" from the record.

As the House temporarily moved to other matters, a calm Ford said in an interview that he confronted the Republicans because he was angry that they were using a ploy to avoid "a real debate" about the war. "I said, 'If you believe it's about Murtha, then talk about Murtha, don't hide behind a resolution,' " Ford said.

That Mr. Murtha voted against his own idea is a dispositive demonstration that it was mere bluster to begin with.

White House plays chicken with a war hero (Derrick Z. Jackson, November 19, 2005, Boston Globe)

THE WHITE House is so deluded, it actually believes it can turn a soaring hawk into a scrounging chicken. Stung by the call by US Representative John Murtha of Pennsylvania to pull out of Iraq, Scott McClellan, President Bush's press secretary, said this week, ''It is baffling that he is endorsing the policy positions of Michael Moore and the extreme liberal wing of the Democratic Party."

Talk about playing the chicken-hawk card. A White House where most of the architects of war avoided combat in their own lives dared to associate two people who are worlds apart in world views. Moore made the anti-Bush ''Fahrenheit 9/11," which infuriated the right wing by breaking box office records for a documentary film. Moore was booed at the 2004 Republican National Convention.

Murtha is the 73-year-old recipient of two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star for combat duty in Vietnam. He is a Democrat whose three decades in office are marked by support of President Reagan's policies in Nicaragua and El Salvador. Murtha was a top Democratic supporter of the 1991 Gulf War. He wants a constitutional ban on burning the American flag.

The sound you heard in the Houyse chamber last night was Mr. Murtha clucking. Cynthia McKinney may be a racistr, anti-Semite nutjob, but she's got the courage of Derrick Jackson's convictions.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 AM


Apec urges end to trade stalemate (BBC, 11/19/05)

Pacific Rim leaders have ended their summit in South Korea by pressing for Europe to lift obstacles to global trade at talks next month. [...]

The combined economies of Apec - which also includes China and Russia - represent 57% of the world economy.

Their leaders are seeking a breakthrough in the World Trade Organization's (WTO) so-called Doha round of talks.

So it's not as if France and Venezuela will be missed.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 8:01 AM


“Intelligent Design” not science, says Vatican astronomer
(Nicole Winfield, Globe and Mail, November 19th, 2005)

The Vatican's chief astronomer said Friday that “intelligent design” is not science and does not belong in science classrooms, the latest high-ranking Roman Catholic official to enter the evolution debate in the United States.

Rev. George Coyne, the Jesuit director of the Vatican Observatory, said placing intelligent design theory alongside that of evolution in school programs is “wrong” and is akin to mixing apples with oranges.

“Intelligent design isn't science even though it pretends to be,” the ANSA news agency quoted Father Coyne as saying on the sidelines of a conference in Florence. “If you want to teach it in schools, intelligent design should be taught when religion or cultural history is taught, not science.”[...]

“If they respect the results of modern science, and indeed the best of modern biblical research, religious believers must move away from the notion of a dictator God or a designer God, a Newtonian God who made the universe as a watch that ticks along regularly.”

Rather, he argued, God should be seen more as an encouraging parent.

“God in his infinite freedom continuously creates a world that reflects that freedom at all levels of the evolutionary process to greater and greater complexity,” he wrote. “He is not continually intervening, but rather allows, participates, loves.”

While some Darwinists like Dawkins and Dworkin mount full-frontal attacks on religion as a malevolent enemy of truth, more decent types like Gould and Fr. Coyne (who elaborates on his views here) disarm religious critics through the profession of a deep respect for faith and a pious acknowledgment of the formative, spiritually-guiding role of the Divine, provided any discussion of Him is relegated to religion class, Spanish class, shop, or wherever—anywhere but science class. Churlish as it may be to question the faith of another, it is hard to avoid the impression that Fr. Coyne believes in a comforting but illogical deity that is busy loving and guiding us all day long, but had little to do with how we got here or where we are going. In effect, he excludes G-d not just from science, but from reason altogether, and leave us with a mystical immensity that is infinitely loving and enthusiastically responsive to our spiritual yearnings, but completely uninterested in mundane matters like our health, families, communities and survival.

It is truly uncanny how generations of research on the full swath of natural history would ultimately combine with contemporary theology to reveal how closely G-d resembles the idealized parent of 21st century American talk shows and parenting manuals. Does He encourage beetles and salamanders too, or just us? Does He punish us for doing something sordid or is He more a kind of non-judgmental celestial therapist who validates our choices and boosts our self-esteem? And why isn’t He loving and encouraging enough to guide all those scientists to the missing fossils of the common ancestors?

Either ID has something useful to say about natural history or it is a crock, in which case it has no business being taught at all in public schools. To claim it is scientific nonsense but suitable for religion or history classes is one of the greatest intellectual hypocrisies of modern times. It is jarring to see a priest be so casual about what gets taught in these classes, which the scientific community seems now to view as intellectual garbage pails for mysticism and failed science. (Is that where they teach alchemy and the four humours these days?) Fr. Coyne may be a keen and competent scientist, but his campaign to keep his beloved natural science pure and unsullied leaves him beholden to a very wispy and sugary faith.

November 18, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:31 PM


PM to liberate the shop floor (Brad Norington, 19nov05, The Australian)

PROTEST rallies across the nation. Passionate evidence to a Senate inquiry in Canberra. Television advertisements highlighting threats to family life. Australia's unions have devoted considerable energy to stirring community opposition against John Howard's planned workplace revolution.

Yet in the end their actions will amount to only one thing: some colourful theatrics. The public is wary of Howard's changes, and possibly worried, according to opinion polls. But the Prime Minister, unmoved, has no intention of bowing to external pressure. [...]

Get set for the brave new world. From early next year, Howard's long-held dream of overhauling industrial relations laws will be realised.

Applying for a new job could be very different when employers are legally required to offer just five basic conditions: a minimum wage of $12.75 an hour, four weeks' annual leave, 10 days' sick leave, 12 months' unpaid parental leave and an average 38-hour week.

Everything else that many employees have held dear - overtime, penalty rates, shift loadings, meal breaks and public holidays - will be open to negotiation.

Mr. Howard, a parliament leader of a conservative party, has the easiest time of the Three, but is making the most of it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:28 PM


Mr. Murtha's proposal just carried a whole three members of the House, with even Bernie Sanders opposed.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:30 PM


Blake Liable for Wife's Murder: Jury in civil lawsuit awards children of Bonny Lee Bakley $30 million in damages. (Andrew Blankstein, November 18, 2005, LA Times)

A jury today found Robert Blake liable under civil law for his wife's murder four years ago, and awarded her children $30 million in damages against him.

The 72-year-old entertainer, best known for his roles in "Our Gang," "In Cold Blood" and "Baretta," was acquitted of murder earlier this year when a separate jury could not find evidence beyond a reasonable doubt against him for the murder of Bonny Lee Bakley.

But with a lower burden of proof in the civil case, jurors needed only to decide that Blake was more likely than not responsible for Bakley's death. The Los Angeles County Superior Court jury in Burbank panel voted 10 to 2 to hold the actor financially liable, and 9 to 3 for the high damage amount.

"It's a good day for justice," said Eric J. Dubin, lawyer for the Bakley children.

Which raises the same question as did the O.J. Simpson debacle--if you're a family member, why not just shoot the guy? There's no way a DA will indict you, nevermind a jury convict you.

Posted by David Cohen at 10:30 PM


Democrates [sic] take new swipe at Bush (Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, 11/18/05)

A Democratic congressional leader on defense called for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, as he rejected on Thursday Bush administration attacks on war critics and raised bipartisan pressure for a new policy.

"The U.S. cannot accomplish anything further in Iraq militarily. It is time to bring them home," said Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania, the senior Democrat on the House of Representatives subcommittee that oversees defense spending and one of his party's top voices on military issues. . . .

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada accused the White House of "a weak, spineless display of politics at a time of war" with its campaign against war critics.

Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy said Bush's "pure, unadulterated fear-mongering" led the country into war.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:24 PM


Sign of al Qaeda Desperation: Zarqawi Sends Top Aide to Die (Richard Miniter, Nov 18, 2005, Human Events)

Though the American media is slow to report it, U.S. forces are relentlessly destroying Zarqawi’s senior leadership. A November 2 air strike killed two senior al Qaeda operatives in Iraq: Abu Zahra, the so-called Emir of Husaybah, ran all insurgent operations in that Iraqi city, and Asadallah, Zarqawi’s key recruiter. U.S. forces have now confirmed the identities of both dead terrorists.

On October 23, U.S. forces captured Abu Hassan, the head of al-Zarqawi’s media cell. Hassan was responsible for producing video tapes of insurgent attacks to give to al-Jazeera and other television networks. Hassan even produced forged police and press passes to allow insurgents to case targets and film the devastation following insurgent attacks.

Following these air strikes and captures, Zarqawi ordered the Amman attacks. Was it a sign of desperation? Was he trying to regain the initiative from weeks of reverses?

Another sign of desperation: Consider who Zarqawi sent to run the Amman operation, Mrs. Al-Rishawi’s husband. He also a member of Zarqawi’s inner circle. He is now dead. Why did Zarqawi send a top officer to die? He has already lost so many. It suggests that either he’s running short of suicide bombers (typically Saudi recruits) or he’s running short of people he trusts. Either way, it’s a sign of desperation.

Look at how soft the targets are that he's stuck going after--a Muslim wedding in a Jordanian hotel?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:18 PM


Index ranks Middle East freedom (BBC, 11/18/05)

There is a wide range of democratisation across the Middle East, a survey by a leading research and advisory firm has found.

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) ranked 20 countries on 15 indicators of political and civil liberty.

The Index of Political Freedom lists Israel, Lebanon, Morocco, Iraq and the Palestinian Territories as the most democratic parts of the region.

Libya received the lowest rating, below Syria and Saudi Arabia.

Hard to imagine how things could be going any better in the region. At a similar point after Pearl Harbor the peopple of Eastern Europe still had fifty years of totalitarian oppression ahead of them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:56 PM


Phony Theory, False Conflict: 'Intelligent Design' Foolishly Pits Evolution Against Faith (Charles Krauthammer, November 18, 2005, Washington Post)

Let's be clear. Intelligent design may be interesting as theology, but as science it is a fraud. It is a self-enclosed, tautological "theory" whose only holding is that when there are gaps in some area of scientific knowledge -- in this case, evolution -- they are to be filled by God.

Mr. Krauthammer is, of course, correct that I.D. fails for precisely the same reason as Darwinism, both are mere tautologies and faith-based attempts to replace God with a cheap approximation of science. But that's an argument for banning Darwinism from the classroom, not giving it a monopoly. He does though clear up any lingering doubt anyone may have had about why he opposed Harriet Miers--it was just her religious faith.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:34 PM


Why Woodward's Source Came Clean: The famed Washington Post journalist describes the series of events that lead him and his source to Fitzgerald (VIVECA NOVAK, 11/18/05, TIME)

In an interview today, Woodward described the sequence of conversations with his source and Post executive editor Leonard Downie, Jr. that led to the latest twist in Fitzgerald’s investigation into the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame, the wife of administration critic Wilson. [...]

In his press conference announcing Libby’s indictment, Fitzgerald noted that, "Mr. Libby was the first official known to have told a reporter when he talked to Judith Miller in June of 2003 about Valerie Wilson." Woodward realized, given that the indictment stated Libby disclosed the information to New York Times reporter Miller on June 23, that Libby was not the first official to talk about Wilson's wife to a reporter. Woodward himself had received the information earlier.

According to Woodward, that triggered a call to his source. "I said it was clear to me that the source had told me [about Wilson's wife] in mid-June," says Woodward, "and this person could check his or her records and see that it was mid-June. My source said he or she had no alternative but to go to the prosecutor. I said, 'If you do, am I released?'", referring to the confidentiality agreement between the two. The source said yes, but only for purposes of discussing it with Fitzgerald, not for publication.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:30 PM


Three state reps jump to the GOP (AP, 11/18/05)

BATON ROUGE, La. The state Republican Party can count three more members among its fold in the Legislature.

Representatives Ernest Wooton of Belle Chasse, Dan "Blade" Morrish of Jennings and William Daniel of Baton Rouge have jumped to the G-O-P.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:27 PM


Vietnam Syndrome Is Upon Us Yet Again (Patrick J. Buchanan, Nov 18, 2005, Human Events)

Despite America’s triumph in Desert Storm and Tommy Frank’s brilliant run up to Baghdad, the Vietnam Syndrome is with us yet.

We never really purged it from our system.

That is the meaning of 40 Senate votes on a resolution demanding that President Bush give quarterly progress reports and a timetable for getting us out of Iraq.

Pity poor Pat--imagine waking up in bed with all the folks you properly despised the entire Cold War and realizing you'd become one of them?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:23 PM


House GOP Seeks Quick Vote on Iraq Pullout (LIZ SIDOTI, 11/18/05, Associated Press)

House Republicans sought a showdown Friday with Democrats on a proposal by one of their most senior members to force an end to the U.S. deployment of troops in Iraq.

Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., offered the resolution demanding a pullout. The GOP-run House was expected to reject it _ and make a prominent statement about where Congress stands on Iraq _ as the chamber scurried toward a Thanksgiving break.

"We'll let the members debate it and then let them vote on it," said Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., the acting majority leader.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's office had no immediate comment.

Which is why the modern Democrats never offer any ideas of their own--they don't want to be held accountable for them to the voters.

Posted by Matt Murphy at 5:18 PM


Should "botch job" be two words or one?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:46 PM


Hawkish Democrat Joins Call For Pullout (Charles Babington, November 18, 2005, Washington Post)

Murtha's Democratic colleagues reacted warily to his remarks, while Republicans pounced. Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), head of the House Democrats' campaign effort, said, "Jack Murtha went out and spoke for Jack Murtha." As for Iraq policy, Emanuel added: "At the right time, we will have a position."

Right after the troops get home?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:42 PM


Israel finds an ally in American evangelicals (PAUL NUSSBAUM, 11/17/05, Knight Ridder Newspapers)

This is the home of the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, a conservative evangelical Christian organization dedicated to supporting the Jewish state. With $8.5 million a year raised largely from evangelical donors, it airs pro-Israel broadcasts on 700 radio stations, publishes Israel My Glory magazine for 200,000 readers in 151 countries, and takes hundreds of American evangelicals each year to tour Israel.

"Our Christian Zionism - and we readily endorse that term - grows out of God's promise in Genesis 12:1-3," executive director William Sutter said, flipping his Bible open to read the vow from God to Israel's patriarch Abraham: "'And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing. And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee.'

"We take this literally," Sutter said. "The land of promise is Israel, and the recipients of the promise are the Jewish people."

Conservative evangelical Christians, who disagree with liberal American Jews on almost everything else, have emerged as some of the staunchest supporters of Israel.

Liberal Jews are Zionist?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:04 PM


'Romantic Radicals' (Lauren Weiner, 11/17/2005, Tech Central Station)

[Edward R.] Murrow's March 9, 1954 "See It Now" salvo was a pre-emptive strike against "Tail Gunner Joe," who was poised to go after the newsman in retribution for covering him critically on CBS. The threat of imputing Red associations to Murrow was based on his work during the 1930s for a New York-based organization called the Institute of International Education, which promoted exchange visits for foreign scholars, including Soviet scholars.

The name of this institute is bandied about several times by the characters in "Good Night and Good Luck" -- to indicate that McCarthy was digging into Murrow's past -- but there is no mention of the people who ran it. They were Murrow's mentor, Stephen Duggan, and Duggan's son, the late Laurence Duggan. [..]

Edward R. Murrow wasn't a communist. He took umbrage on behalf of both himself and the Duggans -- particularly Laurence, whose death six years earlier was a raw wound for the East Coast establishment of which Murrow was a part. They had lost one of their own when Duggan jumped or fell from the 16th floor of his Manhattan office in 1948 in the midst of the legal and political maelstrom of the Alger Hiss spy case.

Larry Duggan, former chief of the State Department's Latin American division, a charming, smart, and warm-hearted Ivy Leaguer who strived to bring about world peace, had a lot in common with Hiss. Murrow, justifiably angry that America's loudest counter-subversive was trying to intimidate him and sully his friend's memory, did not know that that friend was, like Hiss, a dedicated communist who passed sensitive information to Stalin's agents in the United States. The FBI interviewed Duggan in connection with the Hiss prosecution in December 1948. His shocking death days later at the age of 43 preserved his secret, for the media and his friends and family made him into a martyr -- a liberal destroyed by right-wingers who enjoyed impugning respectable citizens without due process. For decades afterward, those interested in the history of this period generally viewed the Duggan affair in the same way as the literary lion Archibald MacLeish, who wrote a poem upon Duggan's death that began:

"God help that country where informers thrive! Where slander flourishes and lies contrive."

He did.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 12:54 PM


Pensions don't worry me or Mr Blair (Tom Utley, The Telegraph, November 18th, 2005)

What a blessed generation we belong to, compared to those before us, who had to suffer the deprivations of the war years, and the generation now growing up. My heart bleeds particularly for the young, saddled with student debt and with no hope, most of them, of getting their feet on the housing ladder. Even our grotty flat in Battersea would be beyond the means of most 26-year-olds, except for those with rich parents or swanky City jobs.

It is this poor, put-upon generation that Lord Turner and Mr Blair now expect to look after us pampered baby-boomers in our increasingly protracted old age. As time goes by, there will be fewer and fewer people of working age, supporting more and more of us oldies. Huge numbers of those who are made to pay more towards their own pensions will not even live to claim the fruits of their savings. On current projections, no fewer than 970,000 of the under-50s will die before they reach Lord Turner's recommended retirement age of 67.

I cannot believe that the report's proposals will solve the pensions crisis. All that they will do is push the problem further into the future, imposing ever-increasing burdens on succeeding generations. They will also leave pension funds at the mercy of politicians, who have shown that they cannot be trusted to keep their hands off them.

The best, the most public-spirited, solution to the pensions crisis is clearly the one that I have adopted myself: breed lots of children, so as to maintain the balance between the young and the old; and then drink and smoke yourself into an early grave. We baby-boomers picked a wonderful moment to enter the world. I don't like to end on a gloomy note, but the way things are going for the country, the best moment for our exit may be sooner,

More: Geneticists claim ageing breakthrough but immortality will have to wait (Ian Sample, The Guardian, November 18th, 2005)

A genetic experiment to unlock the secrets of the ageing process has created organisms that live six times their usual lifespan, raising hopes that it might be possible to slow ageing in humans.

The geneticists behind the study say the increase in lifespan is so striking, they may have tapped into one of the most fundamental mechanisms that controls the rate at which living creatures age.[...]

The research is a big step in a small field that has been progressing at pace since the advent of the new tools of genetics. Another paper published today in the US journal Science describes the discovery of 10 new genes that are thought to regulate longevity in yeast cells. "Even though yeast is a simple, single-cell organism, it's still capable of revealing mechanisms in the ageing process," said the study's lead researcher, Stanley Field of the University of Washington in Seattle.

According to Dr Longo, studies in animals are likely to continue for the next 10 years before tests in humans. If the same genetic mechanisms prove to exist in humans, he believes it could lead to drugs that suppress ageing, particularly after people have had families.

Were drugs to become available that dramatically extended lifespan, the social impact of a population boom could have serious consequences for homes and pension provision.

Aubrey de Grey, a biomedical gerontologist at Cambridge University and advocate for therapies that greatly extend life, believes that while the problems should not be underestimated, it is unethical not to pursue anti-ageing research.

Imagine the joy and serenity of a seniority in which everyone younger views you with simmering resentment and dreams of lawful ways to get rid of you.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:40 PM


The Relevance of Romance (S. T. Karnick, 11/18/2005, Tech Central Station)

Historical romances are usually as much about contemporary times as about the past, and the new film The Legend of Zorro is a perfect example. Typically, historical romances center on the replacement of an unjust social and political order with a just one. Westerns and vigilante stories, by contrast, tend to concentrate on establishment of rule of law in areas that have either never been civilized (Westerns) or where civilization has broken down (vigilante stories).

The fascinating thing about Johnston McCulley's Zorro novels and stories is that they combine all three genres: set in Old California in the 1840s, they are simultaneously historical romance, Western, and vigilante story. As a result, they show establishment of rule of law as a central element in the replacement of an unjust social and political order and the bringing of justice and peace for the common people.

That makes the Zorro stories highly relevant fables for our time, as the United States works to establish rule of law in Iraq and fight off a global terrorist threat. It is also what makes The Legend of Zorro particularly pertinent to current political debates.

Given his analysis, it's no wonder mainstream critics didn't like it better.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:39 PM


Continental Drift (Jeremy Rabkin, Fall 2005, Claremont Review of Books)

Imagine a new world counterpart to the European Union.... A series of treaties bestows lawmaking power to councils of representatives from the United States, Mexico, Canada, Guatemala, Grenada, Belize, Brazil, and a dozen or so other countries. Agriculture and labor regulations are made in secret meetings of the labor and agriculture ministers; environmental and safety regulations by environment and safety ministers; and so on. These laws and regulations—elaborated in suitable detail by a Commission of the Americas in, let us say, Caracas, Venezuela—exceed the reach of the current U.S. Code and take priority over U.S. laws. A court in, say, Belize, charged with giving force to these laws, has the authority to override any constitutional objections from the U.S. Supreme Court. The presidents or prime ministers of all these states then meet periodically to expand the powers of the Union of the Americas, by mutual agreement among themselves.

Of course, anyone who proposed such a scheme would be dismissed out of hand. It would subvert our Constitution's system of accountability, along with its checks and balances. But to state the objection in this way may be too abstract. Most Americans would instinctively recoil from this project on the grounds that it is, well, nuts. Most Americans would prefer to keep their own country.

Is the comparison unfair? Some Europeans have sentimentalized the project of European integration as a way to restore the unity of medieval Europe before it was shattered by the Protestant Reformation, or the French Revolution, or the terrible wars of the 20th century. But the nations of today's E.U. have never been governed in common. Neither ancient Rome nor its ramshackle successor, the Holy Roman Empire, stretched so far to the north or the east or the west. There has never before been a single political unit stretching from Portugal to Estonia, from Ireland to Greece, from Sweden to Cyprus.

True, before the United States, there was no polity covering the middle of North America, from one coast to the other. But the comparison remains instructive. After the original 13 states established a common federal government, the Union embraced more and more new states until, within little more than 60 years, it had expanded to the far shores of the Pacific. California entered the Union only two years after its territory was acquired from Mexico, but it already had a majority of English-speaking residents from the more settled parts of the U.S. Hawaii became an American possession in 1898, but 60 years later there was still intense debate about whether this territory, where most inhabitants were of Asian descent, could be incorporated as a full state of the Union. Puerto Rico, acquired at almost the same time as Hawaii, is still not a state. If the majority on that Spanish-speaking island ever sought full statehood, it is not at all certain that it would be admitted.

You can denounce Americans or past generations of Americans for racism, intolerance, chauvinism, or xenophobia. There is, no doubt, truth to such charges. But they are largely beside the point. The overwhelming majority of Americans are descended from immigrants who did not originate in the British Isles. In other words, the "native" population is now far outnumbered by descendants of "others." Scarcely any Americans notice this fact. A son of Arab immigrants commands American forces in Iraq, but the ancestry of General John Abizaid is not an issue. Nor does anyone notice that for 20 of the past 40 years, the office of U.S. Secretary of State has been held by an immigrant or by the child of immigrants.

Our tradition of assimilating newcomers to America is old—so old that it worked even when we brought America to the foreigners. After acquiring the Louisiana Territory, President Jefferson insisted that the existing French-speaking community conduct its political affairs in English. Louisiana has done so ever since, and without protest, despite the persistence of a sizable Cajun-speaking community.

Since the 19th century, immigrants have been required to learn English and demonstrate their knowledge of American history and institutions before becoming citizens. They must swear an oath, pledging to "support the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic," and promising, if required, to "take up arms" against these enemies. We have extracted this oath from grandmothers and disabled people, along with more suitable military recruits.

At bottom, the U.S. is, at least by the theory of our founders, a mutual defense agreement among citizens. Despite our differences, we stand together against common enemies. We entrust a common government to make what can be, literally, life or death decisions on our behalf. But it is not simply the government that constitutes our political community. The stability of the government, and of the Constitution that constitutes and limits that government, reflects the solidarity among the people. New Yorkers may not be the most beloved people in America, but the attack on the World Trade Center was seen throughout the country—in distant Hawaii as in Alabama or Michigan—as an attack on Americans, requiring a common American response.

Whatever else it is, the European Union certainly is not a counterpart to the U.S. in this respect. But what it actually is, no one can say. The collapse of the E.U. constitution is a reminder that political entities don't retain authority when they have no clear purpose that citizens can respect—or even grasp.

America is an exceptional country in many ways, which is part of the reason it continues to provoke so much envy, resentment, and hostility from Europeans. But as a nation-state, the United States is not at all unusual. The European Union itself is a confederation—or a collection, anyway—of separate nation-states. It presupposes these states, even more than the U.S. Constitution presupposes the states in our Union.

The American Founders were eager to assure that the federal government could make decisions on behalf of the whole American people and execute its own laws and policies. State governors play no role in our federal councils and even senators serve for fixed terms, whether state governments pass to a different local majority or not. By contrast, E.U. policies are made by the immediate representatives of the member-state governments. All E.U. policies are then implemented by the member-state governments, because the E.U. has no police, field agents, or inspectors, and no local courts of its own.

The strange structure of the E.U. reflects the irreducible fact that Europeans do not trust each other all that much. The E.U. Parliament has only very limited powers because member states have never been prepared to trust their fates to a European-wide majority.

Remember just a couple years ago when folks had convinced themselves not only that the EU was inevitable but that it would be a serious counterweight to the U.S.?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:13 PM


Syria: The Long Road to Democracy?: Syria has come under great external pressure following the assassination of Lebanon’s former prime minister. But pressure to reform is growing inside Syria as well. A group of Syrian opposition parties has released “The Damascus Declaration for Democratic National Change.” In this Globalist Document, we excerpt their recommendations for democracy and freedom in Syria. (The Globalist, November 15, 2005)

The recommendations

• Establishment of a democratic national regime is the basic approach to the plan for change and political reform. It must be peaceful, gradual, founded on accord and based on dialogue and recognition of the other.

• Shunning totalitarian thought and severing all plans for exclusion and custodianship under any pretext, be it historical or realistic. Shunning violence in exercising political action and seeking to prevent and avoid violence in any form and by any side.

• Islam — which is the religion and ideology of the majority, with its lofty intentions, higher values and tolerant canon law — is the more prominent cultural component in the life of the nation and the people.

Our Arab civilization has been formed within the framework of its ideas, values and ethics and in interaction with the other national historic cultures in our society, through moderation, tolerance and mutual interaction, free of fanaticism, violence and exclusion, while having great concern for the respect of the beliefs, culture and special characteristics of others, whatever their religious, confessional and intellectual affiliations, and openness to new and contemporary cultures.

• Adoption of democracy as a modern system that has universal values and basis, based on the principles of liberty, sovereignty of the people, a state of institutions and the transfer of power through free and periodic elections that enable the people to hold those in power accountable and change them.

• Guarantee the freedom of individuals, groups and national minorities to express themselves, and safeguard their role and cultural and linguistic rights, with the state respecting and caring for those rights, within the framework of the Constitution and under the law. ...

The End comes for all men.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:55 AM


What Abortion Debate?: Talking About Alito's Respect for Precedent Avoids the Real Questions (Michael Kinsley, November 18, 2005, Washington Post)

In a 1986 case called Bowers v. Hardwick , the Supreme Court ruled that state laws against homosexual sodomy do not violate the Constitution. In a 2003 case called Lawrence v. Texas , the court ruled that, on second thought, anti-sodomy laws do violate the Constitution. Liberal politicians cheered this rare and unexpected admission of error by the court. They did not express any alarm about the danger of overturning precedents. Plessy v. Ferguson , upholding racial segregation, was a major precedent when the court overturned it and ended formal racial segregation with Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. Liberals did not complain.

These days, the vital importance of respecting past Supreme Court rulings is an urgent talking point for Democratic operatives, liberal talk-show hosts and senators feeling their way toward a reason to oppose Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito. Olympia Snowe, a liberal Republican from Maine, said Wednesday that Alito's respect for precedents will be "the major question" in her decision on whether to support him.

The major question for Snowe and other liberal senators actually is not respect for judicial precedents. The major question is abortion. They want to know whether Alito would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade . But by the absurd unwritten rules of these increasingly stylized episodes, they are not allowed to ask him and he is not allowed to answer. So the nominee does a fan dance, tantalizing the audience by revealing little bits of his thinking, but denying us a complete view. And senators pretend, maybe even to themselves, that they really care about precedents and privacy in the abstract.

We still need a few more appointments before the Lawrence abomination can be done away with.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:46 AM


Source: Cheney Isn't Woodward's Source (JOHN SOLOMON, Nov 17, 2005, The Associated Press)

Vice President Dick Cheney is not the unidentified source who told Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward about the CIA status of the wife of Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson, a person familiar with the investigation said Thursday.

Woodward did not talk with the vice president that day, did not provide the information that's been reported in Woodward's notes and has not had any conversations over the past several weeks about any release for allowing Woodward to testify, said the person, speaking on condition of anonymity.

For an old, fat, bald guy with a bum ticker, that Cheney cat can sure dodge bullets.


Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, a prime suspect, said via spokeswoman Lisa Bonner, "There's no comment from this office. There hasn't been in the past and there won't be in the future."

Powell ruled himself out via spokesman Peggy Cifrino while former Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman's spokesman took a question but didn't answer. Another top ex-State official, Carl Ford, said: "No, I'm not [Woodward's source]."

Ruled out by lawyers or administration officials were President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, White House chief-of-staff Andrew Card, political guru Karl Rove, counselor Dan Bartlett and — yesterday — National Security Adviser Steve Hadley.

Former CIA chief George Tenet, his deputy John McLaughlin and his spokesman Bill Harlow were all ruled out by a former CIA official.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:09 AM


10 Comics That Shook The World
(Of comics, anyway)
(DOUG HARVEY, 11/18/05, LA Weekly)

With all the hoopla surrounding the opening of the bipartisan Hammer & MOCA museums show “Masters of American Comics,” you’d think comics had never been taken seriously as an art form. The truth is, newspaper comic strips had supporters among the literary intelligentsia from the get-go — George Herriman’s Krazy Kat being singled out for rhapsodic praises by the likes of e.e. cummings and critic Gilbert Seldes as well as receiving the enthusiastic support of the Surrealists and other European avant-gardists. It was comic books — produced and distributed without the imprimatur of the WASP newspaper-publishing establishment — that bore the brunt of elitist disdain, resulting in Dr. Frederic Wertham’s scabrous Seduction of the Innocent, then Senator Kefauver’s 1954 hearings on comics’ causal relationship to juvenile delinquency, and finally the establishment of the self-censoring Comics Code Authority.

These days, when Art Spiegelman’s funny-animals-in-Auschwitz graphic novel Maus wins a Pulitzer, and magazines like Gary Groth’s exponentially toney Comics Journal and Todd Hignite’s exquisite Comic Art treat the funnybook medium with seriousness and reverence, it’s unlikely that there will be much controversy over the inclusion of comic-book artists like Harvey Kurtzman and Jack Kirby in “Masters of American Comics.” Still, many who are familiar with the genius of Charles M. Schulz’s Peanuts or Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy remain completely unaware of the enormous wealth of innovative visual materials that make up the history of the comic book. Here are 10 landmark comics that expanded the boundaries of what was possible. [...]

Fantastic Four #48

When Marvel took the comics world by a storm in the early ’60s with characters like Spiderman, Thor, the Fantastic Four and the Incredible Hulk, it was negotiating a deceptively bland terrain mined with the recently interred stink bombs of the persecuted Cryptkeeper and his eyeball-injectin’ brethren at EC comics, which had been reduced to a single title — MAD — by anti–First Amendment terrorists. The genius of the Marvel Universe was to embrace the limitations of the Code and pump it full of ironic hyperbole — and to enlist the talents of Jack Kirby, who had already revolutionized comics several times over, inventing both Captain America and the Romance Comic genre with his writing partner Joe Simon. But it was for his 1960s work for Stan Lee at Marvel that Kirby is most recognized, forging almost single-handedly the exaggerated, self-conscious, dynamic model of superheroism that continues to be the standard for both comic books and their lucrative movie and TV spin-offs. Kirby’s art was already impressive, but while churning out pages for Marvel he began taking greater and greater experimental chances, incorporating photocollage, multiple-page spreads, neo-Mannerist anatomical distortions, and an abstract-fetishistic depiction of complex machinery that borders on Outsider Art. While much of his early Marvel work is more beloved, and his greatest personal visionary work was to come when he jumped ship to DC for his never-completed Fourth World tetralogy, it was with this 1966 issue of FF that the gathering momentum of the Marvel Universe exceeded its potential, with the introduction of chromed enigma The Silver Surfer, soliloquy-prone herald for the planet-devouring Galactus. In the year when TV’s Batman brought unprecedented popular attention to comics and pop cultural masterpieces like Pet Sounds, Blow-Up and In Cold Blood (not to mention McLuhan’s Understanding Media) were the norm, the three-issue-long Coming of Galactus more than held its own, cementing comics’ hipness for all eternity.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:06 AM


I took Saddam's cash, admits French envoy (Francis Harris in Washington and David Rennie in Brussels, 18/11/2005, Daily Telegraph)

One of France's most distinguished diplomats has confessed to an investigating judge that he accepted oil allocations from Saddam Hussein, it emerged yesterday.

Jean-Bernard Mérimée is thought to be the first senior figure to admit his role in the oil-for-food scandal, a United Nations humanitarian aid scheme hijacked by Saddam to buy influence.

The Frenchman, who holds the title "ambassador for life", told authorities that he regretted taking payments amounting to $156,000 (then worth about £108,000) in 2002.

What he really regrets is selling himself cheaper than Chirac likely did.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:54 AM


Stocks Surge, Lifting Hopes for Strong '05: A rally that began last month resumes after three off days. Nasdaq hits a four-year high. (Tom Petruno, November 18, 2005, LA Times)

Many analysts have been predicting that stocks would climb by the end of the year, with the economy seemingly on solid ground, corporate profits still rising and oil prices sliding. But a rally that began in mid-October had stalled out in recent days.

Energy prices provided a spark for Thursday's market gains. Near-term crude oil futures in New York sank $1.54 to $56.34 a barrel, the lowest since June 15, after government data showed that U.S. natural gas inventories rose 1.6% last week.

Growing inventories may keep natural gas prices from rising further this winter, which in turn could help keep a lid on oil prices as well, some experts say.

Falling long-term interest rates also may be encouraging stock investors. The rate, or yield, on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note — a benchmark for mortgage rates — slipped to 4.46% Thursday from 4.47% Wednesday. It had reached a two-year high of 4.66% on Nov. 4, on concerns that the Federal Reserve might continue to lift short-term rates well into 2006 to damp inflation pressures.

But inflation reports this week have been subdued, boosting hopes that the central bank might make only a few more credit-tightening moves.

The market's rally "is coinciding with the hope that the Fed might be close to being done," said Joseph Keating, who oversees $3 billion in assets as chief investment officer at First American Asset Management in Birmingham, Ala.

Mr. Greenspan has twice slowed the economy to a near stall fighting an inflation that did not exist--he ought not chalk up a third strike. And it's important that he be the one to begin the cutting so that Mr. Bernanke doesn't have to follow his erroneous ways just to prove his inflation hawk bona fides.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:42 AM


From Tapes, a Chilling Voice of Islamic Radicalism in Europe (ELAINE SCIOLINO, 11/18/05, NY Times)

Playing an Internet video one evening last year, an Egyptian radical living in Milan reveled as the head of an American, Nicholas Berg, was sawed off by his Iraqi captors.

"Go to hell, enemy of God!" shouted the man, Rabei Osman Sayed Ahmed, as Mr. Berg's screams were broadcast. "Kill him! Kill him! Yes, like that! Cut his throat properly. Cut his head off! If I had been there, I would have burned him to make him already feel what hell was like. Cut off his head! God is great! God is great!"

Yahia Ragheh, the Egyptian would-be suicide bomber sitting by Mr. Ahmed's side, clearly felt uncomfortable.

"Isn't it a sin?" he asked.

"Who said that?" Mr. Ahmed shot back. "It is never a sin!" He added: "We hope that even their parents will come to the same end. Dogs, all of them, all of them. You simply need to be convinced when you make the decision." [...]

He and Mr. Ragheh, his 22-year-old disciple, will be tried in Milan in January under a contentious law passed after the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States that makes association with an international terrorist network a crime. [. ..]

"It's an important case but it's a difficult case," said Armando Spataro, a deputy chief prosecutor and head of the antiterrorism investigative unit in Milan. "There are no bombs. There was no attack in Italy. The case is based in large part on conversations, not on material proof." [...]

One of the most chilling aspects of the police report is that Mr. Ahmed apparently found the Internet more exhilarating than any drug.

He used a fictitious e-mail address in which he listed the month and the day of the Madrid attacks as his birthday and his place of birth as Centerville, Va.

The files he is charged with downloading range from the "complete story" compiled by a Saudi opposition group of the 1996 terrorist attack on the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia that left 19 Americans in the armed services dead to plaintive recitations by children to their fathers imprisoned in places like Guantánamo, Cuba, and Pakistan.

With his vast online library, Mr. Ahmed fought a virtual war for hours on end, sometimes throughout the night, educating himself and others.

"He used the Internet at all hours like a drug," Mr. Spataro said. "It's a much-needed link to the outside world for people like him."

Among the dozen files Mr. Ahmed apparently monitored in one predawn session in March 2004, for example, were video of battles in Chechnya and speeches by Osama bin Laden. One audio file attacked Jews and Christians and all who collaborate with them, another invited followers to wage holy war against infidels who follow the "laws of the devil."

A young girl on a third audio file asked if she could have a kamikaze belt so that she could "blow up" her body; a man on a fourth declared, "One day's resistance for the holy war is worth 1,000 years of life." Among the "poems for jihadists" was one that repeated over and over, "I am a terrorist; I am a terrorist."

The attraction to death was a constant feature. One evening, Mr. Ahmed opened a file named, "Allah has said that each person has tasted death," with links to subjects like "death is easy" and "the tomb."

What conceivable benefit can there be to a society in pretending there's a right to entertain views that are this transgressive of its core values?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 AM


China to LME: Come and get me, copper! (David M Lenard, 11/19/05, Asia Times)

Copper prices on the London Metal Exchange (LME) continued to test new highs of US$4,580 per ton for three-month advance delivery on November 18, amid continuing uncertainty over whether China's State Reserve Bureau (SRB) held enough copper to deliver on trades made by disgraced "rogue trader" Liu Qibing. [...]

Mark Topfer, a former lawyer at the LME, predicted that China would default on the trades because it lacked the metal to make good the commitments of the fallen copper trader. In a Bloomberg story, Topfer depicted China's obligations for copper deliveries into LME-approved warehouses as "infinitely higher than the stock that exists". Topfer was the London exchange's deputy general counsel until last year, and advises LME brokers and customers.

A China Daily story on November 17, citing an unnamed official, acknowledged that as much as 200,000 metric tons of copper would have to be delivered to fulfill the positions amassed by Liu. According to Bloomberg, total inventories worldwide at warehouses monitored by New York's Comex Exchange, the LME and the Shanghai Futures Exchange amount to 140,374 metric tons. Adding to the perception of a supply crunch are recent reports by copper industry analysts showing a fall in mining output. [...]

London sources generally maintained that China would ultimately be held liable for Liu's activities and warned China to expect little sympathy from British authorities, even if it turns out to be true that the SRB was misled by the missing trader. The South China Morning Post quoted Alastair Clayton, executive chairman of London-listed copper developer South China Resources, as saying, "The market's got the bit between its teeth now and what the Chinese will be realizing is that [the London market] likes nothing better than kicking someone when they're down."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:13 AM


HIV rate rises 8 percent among gay, bisexual men (Joyce Howard Price, November 18, 2005, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

HIV infections among homosexual and bisexual men in the United States rose 8 percent last year, after remaining relatively stable the three previous years, new federal data show.

The increase for the virus that causes AIDS compares with average annual declines of 4 percent among heterosexuals and 9 percent among intravenous-drug users from 2001 to 2004, according to a report in this week's issue of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report.

It's a completely volitional disease.

Rethinking Sodom: Individuality and ‘doin' your own thing’ through a biblical perspective (Rabbi Berel Wein, 11/18/05, Jewish World Review)

Once again, here in the story of Sodom, the Torah reiterates to us the value of an individual, of a good person, of a good deed performed for its own sake, how in the eyes of Heaven goodness always trumps evil. Therefore, Judaism places great responsibility upon the individual and his or her personal behavior.

Maimonides makes this point when he states that before doing an act in life one should always consider that the whole world is evenly balanced at that moment between good and evil, salvation and destruction. The act about to be performed if it is one of goodness can save the entire world. And if it is wrong and evil, selfish and uncaring, it can doom all of humankind.

A second lesson inherent in the story of Sodom is that even the most righteous person in the world — our father Abraham — cannot save other people simply with his blessings and entreaties. People, communities, nations, have to save themselves. Abraham can guide and teach, serve as an example and role model, influence and lead, but in the last analysis only Sodom can save Sodom, only Lot can save Lot. There is a great reliance in the religious and general world upon others to somehow pull us through. People are willing to invest a great deal of time, effort and money to obtain the blessings of a righteous person to solve their problems. The same effort invested in their own personal attempts to improve themselves in their daily behavior would perhaps produce greater and more beneficial results than blessings from others, no matter how great those others are.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:11 AM


Eurozone economy to bottom out this year (Lisbeth Kirk, 11/17/05, EUOBSERVER)

The commission said in its twice-yearly economic forecast published today (17 November) that GDP growth in the 12 eurozone countries would drop to 1.3 percent this year from 2.1 percent in 2004.

But the economy will take an upward swing next year, reaching 1.9 percent in 2006 and 2.1 percent in 2007.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:08 AM


EU states lose grip on climate change targets (Mark Beunderman, 11/18/05, EU Observer)

Further efforts are needed to tackle climate change, the UN has warned in a fresh report, with greenhouse gas emissions in many EU states rising instead of decreasing.

The Bonn-based United Nations Climate Change secretariat in a report released on Thursday (17 November) warned that the western world is losing its grip on the climate change problem.

Gosh, we were sure it would work....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:03 AM


Hardliner wins Sri Lanka election (BBC, 11/18/05)

Sri Lankan premier Mahinda Rajapakse has won the presidential election by a narrow margin, officials have said. [...]

Mr Rajapakse is a populist whose heartland is the countryside in the Sinhala-Buddhist-dominated south.

He opposes privatisation and wants subsidies for farmers.

In pre-poll deals with Marxist and Buddhist parties he pledged a hard line in peace talks, including a renegotiation of the ceasefire agreement.

What ever their currency is, dump it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:01 AM


Careful With Syria (David Ignatius, November 18, 2005, Washington Post)

In the United Nations' looming confrontation with Syria, it's hard to define the best strategy but easy to identify the worst one: the imposition of general economic sanctions that would hurt the Syrian people while allowing the ruling clique to grow even richer.

Which is likewise why not toppling Saddam for 12 years was immoral.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:58 AM


Harry Potter IV: A Bright, Steady Flame (Desson Thomson, November 18, 2005, Washington Post)

Your first question about "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" shouldn't necessarily be about how good it is. (Hold on to your pointy hats, the news is good.) It should be: How much time do I have? At close to three hours, the film would work well as part of an overnight package: See Harry battle fire-breathing dragons and denizens of the deep, then check into our lovely downtown Marriott!

But the fourth Potter film is otherwise probably the most engaging Potter film. Director Mike Newell and screenwriter Steve Kloves (who has written all four) know their primary responsibility: to create three-ring spectacles like the whiz-bang, airborne game of Quidditch, or Harry's mighty tussles with otherworldly creatures. But they also allow time for the characters to breathe a little -- you know, when they're not busy casting spells.

'Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire': After three attempts, the latest film in the series finally captures the magic that made J.K. Rowling's books such a phenomenon. (Kenneth Turan, November 17, 2005, LA Times)
Viewed as a whole, the Potter movies are shaping up to be a fascinating experiment in big-budget filmmaking. Using the same J.K. Rowling source material, the same screenwriter (the excellent Steve Kloves), largely the same cast but a variety of directors, the Potter pictures have ended up reflecting the sensibility of their filmmaker more than that of the author.

With the reliably commercial Chris Columbus in charge, the first two Potters were soulless but safe-as-houses copies of the books.

The gifted Alfonso Cuarón attempted to escape the bonds of the conventional in "The Prisoner of Azkaban" but succeeded only in part.

It has fallen to the veteran Mike Newell, eager, in his own words, "to break out of this goody-two-shoes feel," to make the first Harry Potter film to be wire-to-wire satisfying.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Peter T. Chattaway, 11/17/05, Christrianity Today)
Things get more emotional, and more intense, in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. This is the fourth and middle installment in J. K. Rowling's seven-part series, and it is, in a sense, the fulcrum on which the entire saga rests. Each of the previous stories concerned a mystery that took place over the course of an entire school year, but despite a few loose threads here or there, the mysteries were basically resolved in the end. This new story starts off as just another adventure, more or less, but by the end, the situation faced by its protagonists has become much darker, and much more dire. If the previous films were like the lull before World War II, when Hitler built his army and everyone hoped nothing would come of it and life could go on as before, this film marks the invasion of Poland, so to speak. There is tragedy, and death, and we know things will get only worse. [...]

However—and those who have not read the book may want to skip this paragraph—the film completely fumbles the ball at the most crucial moment, when Harry is caught by servants of the Dark Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) and witnesses the macabre ritual that brings He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named back to full embodied life for the first time in over a dozen years. This is supposed to be the moment when Voldemort, who has snake-like nostril slits where his nose ought to be, steps out of the shadows and confronts us with his evil. But instead, he comes across as nothing but a whiner, a bald man in a cape with a bad nose job. When the Emperor made his first appearance in Return of the Jedi, I could believe that Darth Vader would voluntarily submit to him; but I find it difficult to imagine that someone as proud as, say, Malfoy's father (Jason Isaacs) would submit to this guy. Will children find this sequence scary? I'd like to think so, but I doubt anyone else will.

The film unfolds so quickly, you almost don't have time to notice how passive Harry is—he is constantly reacting to things or letting events drive him, rather than acting and driving them himself—or how his friends continue to break the rules whenever it suits their purpose. What you do notice are the fantastic visuals—note how the tents at the quidditch match are bigger on the inside than the outside, or the way the dragon pursues Harry by clambering over the roof of Hogwarts—and the amusing characters. Alas, in its climactic moments, Goblet of Fire fails to lay the groundwork that the next films so badly need.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:55 AM


Foreign Network at Front of CIA's Terror Fight: Joint Facilities in Two Dozen Countries Account for Bulk of Agency's Post-9/11 Successes (Dana Priest, November 18, 2005, Washington Post)

The CIA has established joint operation centers in more than two dozen countries where U.S. and foreign intelligence officers work side by side to track and capture suspected terrorists and to destroy or penetrate their networks, according to current and former American and foreign intelligence officials. [...]

The network of centers reflects what has become the CIA's central and most successful strategy in combating terrorism abroad: persuading and empowering foreign security services to help. Virtually every capture or killing of a suspected terrorist outside Iraq since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks -- more than 3,000 in all -- was a result of foreign intelligence services' work alongside the agency, the CIA deputy director of operations told a congressional committee in a closed-door session earlier this year.

Certainly no one will have thought the CIA was responsible for any successes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:50 AM


Outlook good for tax cuts by states (Dennis Cauchon, 11/17/05, USA TODAY)

Soaring state tax collections have created momentum for tax cuts in 2006, when most governors and legislators will face voters. [...]

Three years of strong revenue growth have left many states with large surpluses. New Mexico is looking at a $1 billion surplus. Florida expects more than $3 billion.

Even financially troubled California took in $3.4 billion more than it spent in the budget year that ended June 30 — the state's first surplus since 2000. California's deficit was erased by a 13.2% revenue increase.

"Every month we're surprised by the good news and say it has to slow down. But it hasn't," says Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, chairman of the National Governors Association. His state had record revenue in October and expects a $200 million surplus this year.

Even if you're from Arkansas or the NY Times it ought to stop being a surprise at some point.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:26 AM


US eyes Cuba's future as CIA says Castro has Parkinson's (ALEX MASSIE, 11/18/05, The Scotsman)

"About one year ago, we started seeing some pretty definitive stuff that he had Parkinson's,'' said one government official who has seen the CIA report on Castro's health.

"If the assessment is correct, you could expect there to be effects on his ability to come to grips with fresh challenges over the next several years."

The Bush administration is already looking to the future and recently created the new position of "transition co-ordinator" within the State Department, dedicated to planning for a post-Castro environment.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:23 AM


The hidden cost of China's hunger for Olympic gold (GETHIN CHAMBERLAIN, 11/18/05, The Scotsman)

Sir Matthew Pinsent, the four-time rowing gold medallist, claimed that gymnasts as young as five were routinely beaten as part of their training regime.

He made the allegations after visiting the Shichahai Sports School, a boarding school in Beijing that trains gymnasts.

Others who have visited the school in recent months have also remarked on the harsh regime and the director, Liu Hong Bin, has talked of the need for "discipline and order" among his young charges.

Sir Matthew, who is a member of the British Olympic Association and a former member of the International Olympic Association, said: "I've been thinking about it a lot. I was wondering whether it's a kind of Western approach, compared to an Eastern approach. [But] at the end of the day, I definitely think those kids were being abused.

"It was a pretty disturbing experience. It is gymnastics, and that sport in particular has to start their athletes young, and China is pretty unremitting in its drive to win the gold medal tally in Beijing, but I was really shocked by what went on."

...they could have hired Uday Hussein.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:20 AM


Work till you're 67, and then you can claim state pension (Joe Morgan and Antonia Senior, 11/18/05, Times of London)

THE prospect of working longer to avert a pensions crisis is looming large after ministers indicated yesterday that they will press ahead with plans to raise the age at which workers can claim the full state pension from 65 to 67.

Stephen Timms, the Minister of State for Pensions Reform, told delegates at a conference for pensions experts that work was “the best pensions policy”.

Wanna see burning cars? Tell the French that.

One in five men won't reach retirement if age rises to 67 (Ian Cowie, Personal Finance Editor and George Jones, 18/11/2005)

Nearly a million people working today will die before they qualify for the basic state pension if the Government goes ahead with a controversial proposal to raise the official retirement age from 65 to 67.

Calculations provided by the Government actuary's department in response to inquiries by The Daily Telegraph yesterday show that one in five men and one in eight women who reach 65 never see 67.

It should be raised until it's at least 3 in 5.

November 17, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:49 PM


"A liberal tragedy": By cutting itself off from its Christian roots, liberalism has become shrill and dogmatic (Edward Skidelsky, 1/20/02, Prospect)

Liberalism is facing a crisis. [...]

We proclaim to the world the values of equality, liberty and toleration, but we have no idea on what authority we proclaim them. The older liberalism had no anxieties on this count. It derived its principles either from Christian tradition or else from the supposed attributes of human nature. Both these sources of justification have fallen into disrepute. Human rights are held to be a universal possession, not the patrimony of Christians. Yet these universal human rights are no longer grounded in a universal human nature. The classical conception of man as a rational animal, separated by an unbridgeable gulf from other animals, is condemned as "speciesism." The dominant modern theory of human nature is purely biological. It is concerned with those characteristics that we share with animals. It provides no basis for human rights.

Thus rights are no longer deduced, either theologically or philosophically. They are proclaimed. Fiat has replaced argument. Our faith in our own civilisation is without rational foundation. This accounts for the shrill, dogmatic tone of modern liberalism. [...]

Yet if liberalism is the inheritor of Christianity, why is it so reluctant to acknowledge its debt? Why have the liberal movements of the last 200 years been secular in inspiration? Siedentop regards the separation of liberalism from Christianity as an unfortunate accident. The church-particularly the Catholic church-became identified with "the stratified society based on privilege." It thereby violated its own principle of "equal liberty." Henceforth this principle took a secular form.

Yet the estrangement of liberalism from Christianity was surely more than an accident. It followed an inexorable logic. The universalism of the Christian proclamation had to burst the bounds of Christian doctrine and ritual. Christianity, to be true to itself, had to transcend itself. No one saw this with greater clarity than the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Just as Christianity had transcended the exclusivity of Judaism, opening up salvation to Jew and gentile alike, so it must now, argued Bonhoeffer, transcend its own exclusivity. Bonhoeffer saw that the church had not risen to the challenge of the age. In
its confrontation with totalitarianism, it had sacrificed the universal cause of humanity to the preservation of its privileges. It became nothing more than one corporation among others. Bonhoeffer was executed by the Nazis. He died, appropriately, not as a Christian martyr but as a political dissident.

Christianity's fate, then, is to abolish itself, to dissolve into liberalism. But is this fate happy or tragic? And can liberalism itself survive, once severed from its Christian roots? Does it have an independent source of life, or is it living off its religious inheritance? Siedentop himself is optimistic. Liberalism, he writes, is a "purged" form of Christianity, preserving the ethical content of Christianity while discarding its mythological form. Christianity is a preliminary, an imperfect first shot at liberal constitutionalism. It was Hegel who first defended Christianity as a prototype of the constitutional state. Writing after the horrors of Jacobinism, his aim was to make liberals conscious of their debt to the past, thereby encouraging a more peaceful transition from tradition to modernity. Siedentop's aim is similar. Like Hegel, he is in no doubt that religion belongs to the infancy of the human race.

But these theories betray a shallow conception of religion. Liberalism is not the essence or fulfilment of Christianity; it is its shadow. It substitutes for the concrete life of faith a set of abstract formulae. It is a sketch, an outline, a precis of religion. If Christianity is poetry, then liberalism is the prose translation. Christianity is first and foremost a narrative. It tells the story of man's fall, his bondage to sin and the law, his redemption from sin and the law and his restoration to grace. This narrative is no mere allegory; it is the primary reality of our lives. Liberalism extracts from this narrative a few catchphrases-"freedom," dignity," "equality"-and sets them up as ultimate principles. These phrases have become a secular litany; they are incanted endlessly at international summits. But detached from the context which once gave them meaning, they appear increasingly arbitrary. [...]

Thus the fate of liberalism is-in the precise sense the word-tragic. A tragic fate is one that proceeds not from external and accidental causes, but according to an inexorable internal logic. This is precisely the situation of liberalism. It must sever itself from its historical roots in Christianity, yet in doing so it severs itself from the source of its own life. Liberalism must follow a course that leads directly to its own atrophy. It must extirpate itself.

This is why the End of History is not a triumphalist doctrine. Most peoples will be perfectly content to die off in the mere shadows, while the poetry will endure among only a few.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:39 PM


Spanish Catholics mount opposition to Socialist education reform: Hundreds of thousands protested a controversial education bill last weekend. (Geoff Pingree and Lisa Abend, 11/18/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

Spain's parliament opened debate this week on a controversial education bill that modifies state support for religious instruction. While the bill largely upholds protections already in place, many of the country's Catholics have loudly denounced it, saying it would diminish parents' rights to educate children according to their values.

Some observers contend that many Spanish Catholics, who have witnessed the Zapatero government legalize gay marriage and stem-cell research, may oppose the legislation primarily because they are anxious about the government creating a fully secular state.

How much damage are you going to tolerate to your society?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:01 PM


Trade talks down to the wire (Japan Times, 11/18/05)

While attention is focused on this week's meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Pusan, South Korea, the main event is the World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting to be held next month in Hong Kong. That ministerial meeting is critical to the success of the current round of global trade negotiations. Unfortunately, the talks have stalemated, and the culprit appears to be the European Union -- France in particular. A breakdown would be a dangerous setback to the prospects of many of the world's poorest citizens. Resistance to agriculture market liberalization must be overcome.

Then why not bounce France from the talks?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:17 PM


Home sales set a record - again; prices up almost 15% (USA Today, November 15, 2005)

Existing home sales set another record in the third quarter of 2005, and prices jumped nearly 15%, but even the National Association of Realtors in its report Tuesday said the housing market will probably begin cooling after its five-year boom.

And poor Paul Krugman dumped all his housing stocks for euros and oil futures....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:03 PM


Moustache Pete: Israel`s New Labor Party Commissar (Steven Plaut, 11/16/2005, Jewish Press)

The new Labor Party boss [Amir Peretz] is, to put it politely, a cross between Jimmy Hoffa and Cheech. A party hack who built his career mainly by establishing a power base in Israel's corrupt Histadrut trade union federation, Peretz got as far as he has in part through fortuitously pinning his political fortunes to the tailcoats of other politicians, and in part because the establishment politicians in Labor never took him seriously enough to neuter him politically. [...]

eretz was elected to the parliament in 1988. As a member of Knesset, he devoted most of his energies to prohibiting the use of out-sourcing and operation of non-unionized labor exchanges, the result being higher unemployment among low-skilled Israeli workers.

Seeing that his prospects for a senior position in Labor were close to nonexistent, he joined the disaffected faction set up by Haim Ramon in the early 1990's. Ramon considered himself a serious contender for the job of prime minister but was certain he was being blocked by the party machine. Ramon and his sidekick Peretz decided to challenge the Labor establishment inside the Histadrut trade union federation with their own dissident slate named “New Haim” (or “New Life,” a play on Ramon's first name).

In the Histadrut union elections, the Ramon team beat the Labor machine and seized control of the trade union federation, with Peretz as second in command and in charge of strike actions and trade union negotiations.

But already by then the Histadrut, once a powerful state within the Israeli state, had lost much of its muscle. It had been a stunning fall for the union behemoth: Histadrut membership cards were a sine qua non for getting a job in pre-1948 Israel and without such membership workers were barred from many jobs even into the 1970's.

Histadrut funds were always misused by the Labor Party to fund its own election campaigns. Before statehood, funds donated by Jews around the world had been funneled through the Histadrut into the coffers of MAPAI (forerunner to today's Labor) and used to build the party's power base. After 1948 Israeli taxpayer funds were similarly misappropriated for the same purpose.

By the early 1990's the Histadrut was little more than a weak and corrupt anachronism, stripped of its control of Bank Hapoalim, Israel's largest bank, after the “bank share scandal,” a large Ponzi scheme that collapsed in 1983. It also lost control of many of its insolvent pension funds, which had long served as slush funds for Histadrut commissars, and of its captive “General Sick Fund,” Israel's largest health service provider.

After beating the Laborites in the Histadrut elections, Ramon quickly tired of his trade union toy. He resigned from the leadership of the Histadrut in 1995 and turned the job over to Amir Peretz

While Ramon made his way back into the Labor Party's upper echelons, Peretz was still seeing his political ambitions stymied by the party machine. In 1999 he decided to use his power base in the Histadrut to challenge the Labor Party and set up his own competing “labor” faction, named Am Echad (One Nation).

Using funds appropriated, Jimmy Hoffa style, from trade union accounts, Peretz spent his way into the parliament as a small two-seat (later three-seat) party, though he received just 16 percent of the vote in his home town of Sderot. His victory was, however, large enough to force Labor to co-opt Peretz and his people and offer them a power share within the prty, including reserved Knesset seats in the elections slate.

In parliament Peretz only bothered to show up for about 11 percent of the votes and was dubbed the “laziest member of Knesset.” His stock reply to critics was, “I am busy with the Histadrut.”
The single largest item on his expense account, according to a Knesset report of 2001, was NIS 18,720 for private tutoring in English, a language he has never quite mastered.

Politically, Peretz, who likes to describe himself as a “social democrat,” is associated with the Israeli Oslo Left, and was long a board member of Peace Now and the left-wing New Israel Fund. His ideas on economics are little different from those of nineteenth century socialists and syndicalists, and he dreams of turning Israel into some sort of hybrid combination of Sweden and Belarus. He has no patience for and no understanding of market economics.

As the major promoter of an ever higher minimum wage in Israel, Peretz bears a major share of responsible for the country's high unemployment rate, caused largely by that minimum wage. Peretz also led the campaign against the employment in Israel of foreign temporary workers, who today are the backbone of Israel's agricultural and construction sectors.

Had Peretz gotten his way, both those sectors would have collapsed.

While mouthing socialist slogans about the working class, Peretz actually built his power base mainly on the elitist “unions” of highly skilled, lavishly paid professionals – i.e., feather-bedded workers in government-owned or sponsored monopolies such as the Israel Electric Company, whose “workers,” including engineers and technicians, are probably the most grossly overpaid group of people in Israel. Peretz made common cause with the “workers” in this and other sectors – such as the seaports and airports – in which market competition is suppressed by the Israeli government.

Peretz consistently promoted the interests of the unionized overpaid professionals and semi-professionals at the expense of blue-collar workers – those hurt most by the frequent strikes called by the Histadrut. He single-handedly shut down Israel's airports so often that foreign businessmen were refusing to come to Israel altogether, not from a fear of terrorism but from a fear of getting stranded when the airports were shut down. [...]

While mouthing the slogans of the Left about Oslo, “disengagement” and the “peace process,” Amir Peretz clearly means to make anti-market economics and “social issues” his main banners. One should bear in mind that the Israeli Left does even more damage when it gets all compassionate and concerned about “social issues” than it does when it pursues “peace.” The way it invariably pursues “social issues” is through seeking massive tax increases and budget outlays for “social needs” coupled with massive interference in market mechanisms.

But Peretz's ambitions go well beyond even that.

There's less pressure on Israel's Labor Party to reform itself -- because the only politician on the Right who grasps the Third Way, Bibi Netanyahu, has made himself unfeasible by his opposition to ending the occupation -- but it's still pretty amazing that they managed to settle on this retrograde a figure.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 5:39 PM


Inner peace comes at a price (Misty Harris, National Post, November 17th, 2005)

Believing they can find Zen in an overcrowded mall, some Canadians are turning their holiday shopping into unlikely spiritual missions.

Inspired by stores that reconcile social responsibility with superfluous luxury, these deep-pocketed consumers believe the more they spend, the greater their contribution to the Earth -- and to their sense of inner peace.

The ideology -- which takes the notion of shopping as religion all too seriously -- even comes with its own catchy name: metrospirituality.

"A metrospiritual is a kinder, gentler yuppie," explains journalist Ariana Speyer, who identified the trend for

In a recent article for the popular multi-faith Web site, she describes the consumer practice as a mainstreaming of Eastern religious values into "an easily digestible, buyable form," rather like shopping your way to salvation.

Ms. Speyer says metrospirituality could include buying a hybrid vehicle, either because it decreases fuel emissions or simply because it's a "status thing that happens to coincide with environmental ideals."

It might mean honouring the planet through ecotourism -- although "whether metrospirituals are helping or harming the far-flung places they're visiting is another matter altogether."

Ponying up at socially responsible stores such as The Body Shop (motto: "Profits with principles") and Aveda ("Connecting beauty, environment and well-being") is very metrospiritual. So is buying organic like Gwyneth Paltrow or adopting babies from impoverished countries like Angelina Jolie.

And you don't get much more metrospiritual than model Christy Turlington, who has elected to deepen people's metaphysical understanding by selling them yoga togs, books and luxury skin care products.

"Charitable giving can be selfish; you are making yourself feel good by doing good," Ms. Speyer said. "But the instinct for it to be metrospiritual comes from a pretty authentic place."

Apparently there is already a schism looming between the moderates who believe in value for dollar and the fundamentalists who hold that buying on sale is a sin.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:18 PM


Report: Immigrants may not hurt wages (JESSICA HOLZER, 11/16/05, Houston Chronicle)

There is no clear evidence that an influx of immigrant workers hurts the earnings of U.S.-born workers over the long term, the Congressional Budget Office director told a House committee Wednesday.

"It might seem obvious that the arrival of immigrants would lower the wages of native workers," Douglas Holtz-Eakin said, but "the ultimate impact is very difficult to quantify."

The economy adjusts to the new workers, the report found.

Businesses make capital investments as immigrants become available to work, while native workers may choose to pursue more education to compete better in the job market.

If it weren't for Mexicans depressing the wages Tom Tancredo and Pat Buchanan would have realized their childhood dreams of being landscapers.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:15 PM


Oil price slides to 5-month low (REUTERS, 11/17/05)

U.S. crude settled down $1.54 to $56.34 a barrel -- the lowest settlement since June 15 -- while London Brent crude fell $1.15 cents to $54.85.

Commercial crude oil stockpiles in the United States are 12 percent higher than a year ago, despite a surprise decrease last week, while inventories of heating oil are running about 8 percent higher, according to government figures.

Refineries in the United States, meanwhile, were running at 86.2 percent of capacity last week, leaving fuel suppliers room to boost production once cold weather fires up the nation's furnaces.

"A lot of speculators are just getting out of the market," said Ed Silliere, trader at Energy Merchant Intermarket.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:50 PM


Voter Disenfranchisement by Attrition: With friends like FEMA, who needs Jim Crow? (Benjamin Greenberg November 16, 2005, In These Times)

When Hurricane Katrina came ashore in New Orleans, it destroyed half the city's voting precincts and scattered 300,000 of the city's residents, most of them black, across the country. With citywide elections still scheduled in February and March for 20 key public offices--including mayor, criminal sheriff, civil sheriff and all city council members--restoring the city's democratic capability might seem an urgent task to some, but not to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

All evacuees who apply for assistance must tell FEMA who they are, where they lived before they were displaced and where they live now. Since early October, Louisiana Secretary of State Al Ater, a Democrat, has been dogging the agency for the names and temporary addresses of evacuees, so he can send them information about how to maintain their right to vote in Louisiana.

Because many evacuees are far from New Orleans and cannot make a special trip home for the elections, their only way to vote will be by absentee ballot.

Why should they be allowed to? They aren't residents of New Orleans.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:21 PM


More Americans want US to mind its own business (AFP, 11/17/05)

Concern about the US campaign in Iraq has led a growing number of Americans to believe that the United States should not meddle overseas, according to an opinion poll.

"The percentage of Americans who agree that the 'US should mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own' has risen from 30 percent in 2002 to 42 percent currently," the poll, conducted by the Pew Research Center in Washington, showed.

"This is on par with the percentage expressing that view during the mid-1970s, following the Vietnam War, and in the 1990s after the Cold War ended," it added.

The majority should be expected to narrow after we've won the most recent war and are in mop-up posture, as now.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:58 PM


Iraq official defends 'torture' facility (CNN, 11/17/05)

Iraq's interior minister has defended a government facility that was found to be holding dozens of prisoners, including some showing signs of torture, saying it held "the most criminal terrorists."

"Nobody was beheaded or killed," a defiant Bayan Jabr told a news conference Thursday, saying that only seven of 170 detainees showed marks of torture.

"Those detainees, those criminal killers inside the bunker were not Indians or Pakistanis or Iranians," he said, waving a stack of passports in the air. "Those are your Arab brothers that came here to kill your sons."

He said one detainee who had been reported as paralyzed was afflicted before his arrival at the facility and had been used "by one of the terrorists" to set off bombs.

"They gave the handicapped $1,000, and he was just a beggar," Jabr said.

The minister said a judge was in charge at the facility and was dealing with each case. Jabr pledged to hold anyone who has tortured a detainee accountable.

"I will punish them if (the investigation) proves they are responsible for any violations," he said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:10 PM


NAACP chief makes switch to GOP (Scott Maxwell, Nov 17, 2005, Orlando Sentinel)

For decades, Republicans have struggled to reach out to black Americans. But now in Orange County, the GOP has to reach no further than the NAACP.

As of this week, Derrick Wallace, head of Orange County's NAACP, has switched parties -- to become a Republican.

"I've thought about this for two years," Wallace said Tuesday afternoon, just a few hours after returning from the elections office. "This is not a decision I made yesterday."

It is, however, a decision that rang out like a shot among political circles.

Don't these people know their place?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:30 AM


WMD not only reason (J.D. Crouch, 11/15/05, USA Today)

• Addressing Congress after 9/11, President Bush declared that those who harbor terrorists are as guilty as the terrorists themselves. Iraq was a state sponsor of terror and openly supported suicide bombers.

• In 2002, the U.N. Security Council unanimously found Iraq in violation of 16 prior resolutions about disarming. Iraq repeatedly fired on U.S. and coalition planes patrolling the "No Fly Zones" that protected Iraqis from Saddam. The president acted only when it became clear that the U.N. would not pass another resolution or take action to enforce previous resolutions supported by the past three U.S. presidents.

• President Bush often cited Saddam's murder of hundreds of thousands. Saddam used WMD against Iraq's Kurds and invaded Kuwait.

In February 2003, before troops set foot in Iraq, the president stated: "A liberated Iraq can show the power of freedom to transform that vital region, by bringing hope and progress into the lives of millions."

Moreover, the joint resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq — which 77 senators of both parties voted for — explicitly cited Saddam's support for terrorism, his repeated violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, his brutality against his own people, and the promotion of democracy as justifications for the use of military force.

It's almost possible to excuse the Left their WMD obsession. They, of course, would not have deposed Saddam for any but selfish reasons--not because he was committing genocide, not because he sponsored terror against Israel, not because he was violating the cease-fire agreements that paused the Gulf War, not to vindicate the UN, not because he was a totalitarian oppressing his people, not for any reason but the obscure chance that he might pose some risk to us here at home. It hardly seems fair to expect such secular Realists to understand the moral case for war.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:47 AM


Bush's Betrayal of History: Defiant of rising political blowback on Iraq, United States President George W. Bush blasts his truth-telling critics as traitors to the cause. (Sidney Blumenthal, 11/15/05)

On Veterans' Day, Nov. 11, Bush addressed troops at an Army base: "It is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began." He charged that "some Democrats and antiwar critics are now claiming we manipulated the intelligence and misled the American people," even though they knew "a bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence community's judgments related to Iraq's weapons programs." In fact, the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction was not authorized to look into that question, but only whether the intelligence community was correct in its analysis. Moreover, the Senate Intelligence Committee under Republican leadership connived with the White House to prevent a promised investigation into the administration's involvement in prewar intelligence. Its revival by Democrats is precisely the proximate cause that has triggered Bush's paroxysm of revenge.

Several days later, Bush spoke before troops at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska, where he stated that "some Democrats who voted to authorize the use of force are now rewriting the past," and are "sending mixed signals to our troops and the enemy." U.S. soldiers "deserve to know that their elected leaders who voted to send them into war continue to stand behind them," Bush admonished. His essential thrust was that as "a ruthless enemy determined to destroy our way of life" besieges us from without, the most insidious undermining comes from within. Thus an American president updated the "stab in the back" theory first articulated in February 1919 by Gen. Erich Ludendorff, who stated that "the political leadership disarmed the unconquered army and delivered over Germany to the destructive will of the enemy." [...]

Bush's adoption of the Ludendorff strategy of blaming weak politicians for military failure and exalting "will" sets him at odds with liberal democracy. His understanding of history also clashes with the conservative tradition that acknowledges human fallibility and respects the past. Bush's presidency is an effort to defy history, not only in America, writing on the world as a blank slate. The New Deal can be abolished without consequences, Arab states can be transformed into democracies if only they will it.

It would be helpful if the lunatic Left would explain why they think Arabs are congenitally unsuited to democracy, just as they once believed the same of the Hun.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:35 AM


The Other American Exceptionalism (Gerard Alexander, Fall 2005, Claremont Review of Books)

American conservatives believe that a healthy modern economy is so complex and innovative that most economic decisions have to take place in the private sector, where scattered information is located, and risk may be rewarded or punished. Government is best at enforcing rules of the game and engaging in limited redistribution. When it does much more than that, it creates inefficient regulations and bureaucracies prone to expanding rather than learning.

This basic assumption runs deep in American life, not merely because we've spent too much time in post office lines—everyone on earth has done that—but because we're in a position to compare the post office to responsive, dynamic private businesses of all kinds. Many Europeans think similarly, especially business leaders, free-market activists, policy wonks, center-right politicians (including, apparently, the German Christian Democrats' Angela Merkel), and the occasional center-left leader such as Tony Blair or Gerhard Schroeder.

But most Western Europeans fear that markets will fail to meet their needs and satisfy their interests. They maintain a faute de mieux faith that government is the indispensable actor in economic life. Even when compelled by economic crisis to trim taxes, privatize, and curb spending—that is, even while recognizing implicitly that these measures attract investment and encourage growth—European leaders rarely offer principled criticism of government intervention, much less positive rhetoric about the marketplace. (Jacques Chirac's center-right cabinet is now privatizing state entities, not because private ownership is more efficient but primarily to cut the deficit and pay down the debt.) The European Union's proclaimed drive to become internationally competitive is top-down and government-centered. Not surprisingly, "Thatcherite" and "neo-liberal" continue to be labels insultingly applied and hotly denied. All this is true even for several right-wing "populist" parties, such as France's National Front, which calls occasionally for tax limitation but more often emphasizes protectionism and a welfare state generous to native-born Frenchmen.

These views have not been dislodged, even by serious economic problems. And Europe's economic problems are serious. The unemployment rate is stuck at around 10% in Germany and France, and if anything this underestimates the true figure--even more unemployment is concealed through extensive job-training and early-retirement schemes. The fact that many continental European economies have such mechanisms for sidelining less-skilled workers makes it all the more striking that labor productivity still generally grows faster in the United States. For decades, France and Germany had narrowed the gap in labor productivity with the U.S., but in the past 15 years their progress slowed and then reversed.

The result is that average U.S. per capita income is now about 55% higher than the average of the European Union's core 15 countries (it expanded to 25 in 2004). In fact, the biggest E.U. countries have per capita incomes comparable to America's poorest states. A recent study by two Swedish economists found that if the United Kingdom, France, or Italy suddenly were admitted to the American union, any one of them would rank as the 5th poorest of the 50 states, ahead only of West Virginia, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Montana. Ireland, the second richest E.U. country, would be the 13th poorest state; Sweden the 6th poorest. The study found that 40% of all Swedish households would classify as low-income by American standards.

A comparable divide in operating assumptions exists on foreign policy. By and large, American conservatives believe that although international conflicts may arise from uncertainty, misunderstanding, and mutual threats, they usually result from simple predation, power-hunger, and hatred. Global cooperation is possible when would-be predators are deterred, which requires muscular firmness. Democracies are uniquely suited to be enforcers of international order because they are least likely to be its transgressors—which is the reason Americans have traditionally championed an integrated and assertive Europe, instead of seeing it as a threat.

Some Europeans share this view, including most British and many Dutch and Danish conservatives, as well as Blair and other Laborites. Once upon a time, the Gaullists thought like this, and José María Aznar and other Spanish conservatives do so still. But most European governments now practice what Americans would recognize as a liberal foreign policy. This is not so much because Europeans inhabit what Robert Kagan calls a "post-historical paradise of peace and relative prosperity." Instead they insist on seeing misperception, insecurity, and pride as the root of most international conflicts, which accordingly are best defused by reassurance and the careful avoidance of confrontation, ultimatums, and threats.

Which is why this is one of the funnier stories you'll read this week.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:29 AM


Power Shifting With Population in Post-Katrina Louisiana
: Evacuations to rural areas and other states decrease New Orleans' clout in the Legislature. (Ellen Barry, November 17, 2005, LA times)

In a committee room deep inside Louisiana's Capitol building this week, something unusual happened: A House panel rejected a funding proposal from the Department of Education, complaining that it was overly generous to New Orleans' public schools.

Rep. Charlie DeWitt, a conservative Democrat from the rural community of Lecompte, was downright gleeful afterward. Sending that budget back, he said, was "so much fun." [...]

Before hurricanes Katrina and Rita, there was a familiar equilibrium in the Louisiana Legislature, whose hallway still is pocked with bullet holes from Huey P. Long's assassination. Black Democrats were key allies of Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, and conservative rural lawmakers harbored age-old grievances about New Orleans' grip on political power.

Now, with the city's population dispersed — and no indication of whether, or when, most residents will return — some lawmakers hope they are witnessing a permanent reversal of fortunes, said Elliot Stonecipher, a political analyst based in Shreveport.

"Even good people are quietly sitting back, not lending their support to the rebuilding of New Orleans," Stonecipher said. "What you're seeing is a lot of people snickering and winking and nodding…. This is something they thought they would never see."

That "even good people" is just exquisite, no? If you pander to black voters it's a good thing. Pander to whites and it's a bad thing even if you're a good person.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:46 AM


High-stakes 'poker game' in copper scandal (Asia Times, 11/18/05)

As the copper trading flap involving alleged "rogue trader" Liu Qibing continued to unfold, China sold more copper in an effort to convince skeptical traders that it had sufficient reserves to force down soaring prices, even as it continued to deny that Liu's transactions had been authorized. [...]

Traders in London guessed that losses to the Chinese government could amount to US$200 million, and warned that China could find itself excluded from metal markets if it failed to cover Liu's contracts. Liu himself remained missing, although the South China Morning Post reported that he was believed to be at home in Shanghai. [...]

"The SRB's decision to continue selling its reserves is just a posture [that it is determined to push down copper prices]," said Wang Qianming, a metal industry analyst from CITIC Securities. "But as long as the market fundamentals [ie, the tight supply] remain unchanged, such a move will do no good," he added.

"The main motive behind the SRB's second auction [was] to bring down the domestic copper price in the hope that [this] will in turn drag down prices on the international markets," a senior copper analyst from Antaike Information Development Co Ltd, a Beijing-based metal industry consultancy, told China Daily. "The market is deeply suspicious of the SRB's capacity to control prices and about the amount of its reserves," said the analyst, who did not want to be named.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:41 AM


Good cop, bad neighbor (John Gershman, 11/18/05, Asia Times)

Part of China's success has been achieved by what some analysts describe as China's "good neighbor" policy - it expands bilateral and regional cooperation without hectoring on issues such as the "war on terrorism", human rights or economic liberalization.

While this policy has been received with cautious acclaim by the region's leaders (especially in Southeast Asia), it offers some guidance to how the US could pursue a different strategy.

You're not actually a good neighbor if you don't mind that the guy next door beats his wife and molests his children, though he will appreciate your collaboration.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:33 AM


State pension age 'should rise' (BBC, 11/17/05)

A rise in the basic state pension and an increase in the age at which it can be claimed is to be recommended by the Pensions Commission later this month.

The commission's report will call for a more generous state pension but a rise in the claimant age to 67, according to the Financial Times newspaper.

A new national savings plan, in which individuals will automatically have to enrol, will also be recommended.

The commission has been tasked with finding a blueprint for pension reform. [...]

The report will also call for the creation of a new national savings plan, modelled on a scheme currently being set up in New Zealand.

People would join when they started a new job, with contributions, possibly from both workers and employers, being collected by the Revenue & Customs through the PAYE scheme.

Laura Cronin, an adviser to the New Zealand minister of finance, told BBC Radio 4: "The scheme makes it easy for people to save because lots of us find it difficult to sign up to pension schemes even when we do want to save.

" A scheme like this works to encourage people to save by making it simple for them to do so. We need to find a way to supplement people's incomes in retirement."

KiwiSaver is being introduced because New Zealand has some of the same problem as the UK - low levels of savings combined with an ageing population.

Their new scheme will channel the extra contributions into investment funds, just like occupational pension schemes.

Ms Cronin pointed out that although individuals would be enrolled automatically, they would still retain the right to opt out:

"It does give people the opportunity to opt out if they've got a mortgage or other commitments or debts, or if they've already got other kinds of savings."

Funny how those radically conservative schemes of the President crop up everywhere in the Anglosphere (- Canada).

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 AM


A Slice for Democrats: Party Needs a Tax Plan Before Next Elections (David S. Broder, November 17, 2005, Washington Post)

[E]arlier this week I heard Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon argue that his party had better be prepared to enter the debate on exactly that topic -- or else cede vital political ground to President Bush.

Wyden has introduced what he calls the Fair Flat Tax Act of 2005 as the starting point for what he expects to be a major debate next year on tax reform. "I think it is a certainty that Bush will put this issue on the agenda in his State of the Union address," Wyden told me in an interview, "and the Democrats have to be prepared to offer an alternative that makes sense."

Wyden sees 2006 as offering a replay of 1986, when President Ronald Reagan signaled his interest in tax reform and Democrats (who controlled the House then but were a minority in the Senate) seized the initiative from him. Bill Bradley, a Democratic senator from New Jersey, teamed with Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri to shape the bill that Reagan signed.

Bradley has encouraged Wyden to adapt the same formula that proved successful 20 years ago: major loophole-closing combined with sharp reductions of income tax rates.

The commission Bush appointed has offered modest steps in that direction in the report it submitted to the president this month, but Wyden says the Democrats can do better.

Like the plan from Bush's commission, Wyden's would eliminate the need for the alternative minimum tax, a device that was originally designed to nail tax-avoiders but that is forcing millions of families in the middle and upper-middle classes to make separate computations and additional IRS payments.

But unlike the plan submitted to Bush, which continues to provide special benefits through lower tax rates for those with dividend and capital gains and interest income, Wyden urges Democrats to treat those sources of income the same as wages and salaries -- and tax them all at the same rates.

He would collapse the current six income tax rates to three brackets of 15, 25 and 35 percent. And he would provide all taxpayers a refundable credit for 10 percent of their state and local income, sales, and property taxes -- a windfall for the 70 percent of families who do not itemize their deductions.

Wyden's plan preserves the most popular deductions -- for home mortgage interest, charities and children -- and keeps the earned-income tax credit. Savings for medical expenses, retirement funds and higher education would still be tax-advantaged.

Democrats have to get rid of the AMT somehow because they think it disproportionately strikes their constituents, so exploit that fact and the existence of a Wyden plan and you should be able to come up with a plan that simplifies taxes and flatten rates to some degree or another, though treating the returns on savings and investments as regular income is a non-starter. You won't get most Democrats, but perhaps enough.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:17 AM


Woodward Could Be a Boon to Libby (Carol D. Leonnig and Jim VandeHei, 11/17/05, Washington Post)

Woodward testified Monday that contrary to Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald's public statements, a senior government official -- not Libby -- was the first Bush administration official to tell a reporter about Plame and her role at the CIA. Woodward also said that Libby never mentioned Plame in conversations they had on June 23 and June 27, 2003, about the Iraq war, a time when the indictment alleges Libby was eagerly passing information about Plame to reporters and colleagues.

While neither statement appears to factually change Fitzgerald's contention that Libby lied and impeded the leak investigation, the Libby legal team plans to use Woodward's testimony to try to show that Libby was not obsessed with unmasking Plame and to raise questions about the prosecutor's full understanding of events. Until now, few outside of Libby's legal team have challenged the facts and chronology of Fitzgerald's case.

"I think it's a considerable boost to the defendant's case," said John Moustakas, a former federal prosecutor who has no role in the case. "It casts doubt about whether Fitzgerald knew everything as he charged someone with very serious offenses." Other legal experts agreed.

Moustakas said Woodward also has considerable credibility because he has been granted "unprecedented access" to the inner workings of the Bush White House. "When Woodward says this information was disclosed to me in a nonchalant and casual way -- not as if it was classified -- it helps corroborate Libby's account about himself and about the administration," Moustakas said. [...]

Rove's defense team also believes he could benefit tangentially from the Woodward disclosure because it shows other officials were discussing Plame in casual ways and that others have foggy recollections of the period as well, according to a Republican close to Rove.

"It definitely raises the plausibility of Karl Rove's simple and honest lapses of memory, because it shows that there were other people discussing the matter in what Mr. Woodward described as very offhanded, casual way," a source close to Rove said. "Let's face it, we don't all remember every conversation we have about significant issues, much less those about those that are less significant."

The most important thing to remember about Bob Woodward is that everything he's done in his career has advanced the caiuse of conservatism.

Woodward Disclosure Causes a Stir: The Washington Post journalist's role in the CIA leak investigation sets off new speculation, but its effect on Libby's case is uncertain (Tom Hamburger and Richard B. Schmitt, November 17, 2005, LA Times)

In a more-than-two-hour deposition, Woodward said, he told Fitzgerald that the unnamed official had casually told him in mid-June 2003 that Plame worked as a CIA analyst on weapons of mass destruction. Woodward said in an interview that he had not thought that her position was classified. Most analysts at the CIA are not working in a covert capacity, but Plame, a veteran overseas agent, had retained covert status.

It is illegal under certain circumstances to knowingly disclose the identity of a covert operative.

Woodward told Fitzgerald that he also had met with Libby on June 27, 2003, and that he did not think Libby mentioned Plame.

The news was greeted as a godsend Wednesday by Libby's lawyers. They were in Washington's federal district courthouse reviewing documents.

Libby has been charged with perjury and obstruction of justice in the case, which started after Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, publicly criticized the Bush administration for allegedly "twisting intelligence" in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. Wilson had been sent by the CIA to look into reports that Iraq had tried to buy uranium from Niger, and he had found little evidence to support the claims.

Administration officials are believed to have leaked Plame's name as a way of undermining Wilson's credibility. Her identity became public in a syndicated column by Robert Novak in July 2003.

Libby's lawyers jumped on the Woodward disclosure as helpful to their client and hurtful to the prosecution's case.

"First, the disclosure shows that Mr. Fitzgerald's statement at his press conference of Oct. 28, 2005, that Mr. Libby was the first government official to tell a reporter about Mr. Wilson's wife was totally inaccurate," said a statement released by Wells. "Second, Woodward's disclosure that he talked to Mr. Libby during this period and that Libby didn't discuss Plame undermines the prosecution's claim that Libby was actively seeking to discredit Wilson by leaking information about his wife."

Dan French, a lawyer representing a witness in the case, said he doubted the revelation would be as explosive as Libby's lawyers were claiming, because it did not change the facts as to whether Libby lied to investigators about what he had said to whom.

"I don't think it blows up the case," French said. "But the [perjury] case is built on claims of memory and lack thereof. The very fact that other reporters are hearing about Plame creates confusion, and allows defense attorneys to raise reasonable doubt" about whether Libby deliberately misled investigators.

Others were more focused on Woodward's behavior.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:11 AM


The Conservative Future: Compassion (Sen. Rick Santorum, Nov 17, 2005, Townhall)

What I call “Compassionate Conservatism” has something unique to offer to the shaping of our future.

Compassionate Conservatism relies on healthy families, freedom of faith, a vibrant civil society, a proper understanding of the individual and a focused government to achieve noble purposes through definable objectives which offers hope to all.

There are four cornerstones to compassionate conservatism. First, compassionate conservatism is founded on the family because the family is the foundation of a healthy civil society. Families set standards and demand that their children live up to them. Strong families are grounded in a code of moral conduct, a shared faith, plus judicious use of the age-old sanctions of shame and stigma. Families teach us about the essential democratic virtue of selflessness - the mantra of the popular culture, “if it feels good do it,” just doesn’t wash in a family.

Second, Compassionate Conservatism believes in the transformative power of faith and the integral role of charities, houses of worship, and other civil institutions. If government is to be effective, these institutions must be respected and nurtured rather than overpowered or effectively controlled by government. They instill values and bind us together in a common cause. These bonds build trust, which is the grease that makes the gears of society run without friction.

Third, Compassionate Conservatism is founded on an inviolable belief in humanity’s inherent dignity. Respecting the sanctity of each life means that abortion, which ends life at its beginning, and euthanasia, which ends life before it reaches its natural end, undermine human dignity. Respecting life means that ending genocide, international sex trafficking and the oppression of minority groups, and promoting the respect for religious freedom around the world will always be top priorities.

Fourth, Compassionate Conservatism targets the poor and hurting for help, whether they are across the street or across an ocean. To this end, Senate Republicans have developed a domestic anti-poverty agenda, which respects the critical roles of work, investment and neighborhoods in empowering families in need.

Just as Katrina has seared American poverty into our moral consciousness, AIDS has seared Africa into our moral vision. Caring for the sick and dying in Africa now is morally right, as well as geopolitically prudent; if we don’t help, someone else will and that someone else may not be friendly to our interests. We need to embrace the challenge to dedicate a larger percentage of our GDP to foreign aid, while encouraging more international trade with developing countries. History will judge us not by what we say but what we do.

Yes, this agenda will require a role for government that some conservatives find disquieting. But that is a discomfort worth confronting.

Mr. Santorum is reportedly a dim enough bulb to think he invented this.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:08 AM


Cash Surge Fills State's Budget Gap: Robust tax revenue may wipe out a huge shortfall expected next year, the legislative analyst reports. But 2007 is another story. (Evan Halper, November 17, 2005, LA Times)

In an unexpected election-year gift for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, California coffers are suddenly flush with enough cash to wipe out what was projected to be a multibillion-dollar gap in next year's state budget.

Nonpartisan Legislative Analyst Elizabeth G. Hill reported Wednesday that, largely because of robust economic growth, tax receipts were far exceeding forecasts. At the current rate, the state is heading toward ending the fiscal year in June with a budget reserve of $5.2 billion — four times what was anticipated when the governor signed the budget over the summer.

Hill, whom lawmakers of both parties look to for guidance on the budget, said that was enough extra cash to eliminate the shortfall that had been projected for next year if spending remained at current levels. It would be the first time in five years that lawmakers would not have a multibillion-dollar hole to fill.

Politically, that means less pressure on the governor to propose program reductions or to break his pledge not to raise taxes when he unveils his annual budget plan in January. It also takes away opportunities for his opponents to back him into a corner on those issues when the state nears its summer deadline for passing a budget — and the 2006 race for governor heats up.

Yeah, who'd expect that a prolonged economic boom would fill the coffers?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:57 AM


King blames Brown for economic slowdown (FRASER NELSON, 11/17/05, The Scotsman)

THE Governor of the Bank of England yesterday blamed Gordon Brown's tax rises for slowing down Britain's economy as he issued fresh forecasts predicting the lowest growth rate for 13 years.

In unusually candid remarks, Mervyn King singled out tax rises in the Chancellor's 2002 Budget as he linked the high street slowdown to shoppers whose net pay has been cut as the tax haul rises. The Bank now expects economic growth of 2 per cent for this year - adding to the cascade of data suggesting that Mr Brown is being hopelessly optimistic by predicting growth of 3-3.5 per cent. [...]

The share of the economy consumed by the government rose from 40 per cent in 2002 to a tax burden of 41.6 per cent this year, as Mr Brown raised more tax to help fund his spending bonanza. "The ratio has gone up by almost two percentage points," Mr King said. "This has contributed to the sharp slowing in real household disposable incomes in the second half of 2004."

What party of the Right wouldn't kill for that kind of rhetoric from a central banker?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:30 AM


This coalition is grand in name only (Kate Connolly, 17/11/2005, Daily Telegraph)

The new government is grand in name. But it is unlikely to be grand in nature or ambition. Where are the signs that Germany will enter the 21st century and allow shoppers to use credit cards whenever and wherever they want, or to buy bread and newspapers on a Saturday afternoon?

So unsure are shoppers about Germany's future that they are saving like never before, deciding against new washing machines and cars. The average age of cars on the roads is now seven years - unheard of since the 1950s, just before the Wirtschaftswunder kicked in. So what does the new government do? It announces plans to increase value added tax by three points to 19 per cent.

Already-cautious shoppers are only likely to sit even more tightly on their earnings. Business leaders are appalled at the new government's lack of zeal in cutting bureaucracy, or encouraging a breed that is virtually unknown in Germany: entrepreneurs. You cannot, for example, set up an office in your garage: every office has to have a window, according to one law, while another dictates that garages must not have windows. There is no sign that Merkel & Co intend to reform the garage law or others like it.

Could Germany have produced a Bill Gates? Had Gates, a college drop-out, grown up in Germany, he would have ended up in middle management at an electronics firm - if he was lucky. Germany remains so set in its ways, and so deferential in the face of formal qualifications, that managers almost always have to be graduates.

Even the process of forming the government - the uneasy bedfellows of the Christian Democratic Union and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, together with the Social Democratic Party - typifies the state of things in Germany: slow and sclerotic. It has needed the longest period of any post-war government to complete the task. As the outgoing chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, commented, it was like "mating porcupines" - cautious and painful.

That's how you turn good deflation into bad.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:09 AM


China No. 1? Don't hold your breath (Ross Terrill, NOVEMBER 16, 2005, The Boston Globe)

China's foreign policy seeks to maximize stability at home (for example, by keeping the status quo across Xinjiang's borders with Central Asia) and to sustain its impressive economic growth (for example, by safeguarding the huge U.S. market). A third goal is to maintain peace in its complicated geographic situation, with no fewer than 14 abutting neighbors. So far so good. This is a prudent foreign policy.

But China also has two dubious goals. One is to replace the United States as the chief source of influence in East Asia. Hence Chinese efforts to drive a wedge between Japan and the United States and Chinese whispers in Australian ears that Canberra would be better off looking only to Asia and not across the Pacific. The other is to "regain" territories that Beijing feels fall within its sovereignty. These include not only Taiwan but a large number of islands east and south of China and, eventually, portions of the Russian Far East to which Beijing has laid territorial claims in the past.

Whether Beijing can achieve these goals depends on how long its rigid political system can survive, and on the reaction of other powers to China's ambitions. A middle-class push for property rights, rural discontent, the spread of the Internet, unemployment and a suddenly aging population bringing financial and social strains all dramatize the contradictions inherent in "market Leninism." Traveling one road in economics and another in politics does not make for a settled destination.

China's economy may continue to grow at its present rate. Or China may retain its Leninist party state. But it can hardly do both. Either the economic or the political logic will soon gain the upper hand.

The reality is that China is destined to break apart into its constituent pieces rather than aggrandize itself by adding neighbors.

November 16, 2005

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:34 PM


The new commentariat: A new wave of political bloggers is challenging Britain's old media pundits. But who are they, and which ones matter? (Oliver Burkeman, November 17, 2005, The Guardian)

Samizdata, arguably the grandfather of British political blogs, is operated from a large and dimly lit flat in a pristine mansion block in south-west London. There are a few computers at the back of the main room, but the dominant feature is a leather-lined drinks bar - installed, according to Samizdata's founder, Perry de Havilland, by a double agent, who knew the flat's former owner and who paid for it with money from both MI5 and the KGB. (The flat is also now the headquarters of the Big Blog Company, a consultancy run by some of the Samizdata bloggers, which advises businesses on how to exploit the phenomenon.)

A vintage pistol lying on a side-table gives a hint of the Samizdata attitude; a more modern gun appears in a photograph on the blog's front page, on top of a copy of The Open Society and Its Enemies, Karl Popper's anti-totalitarian polemic. "The Samizdata people are a bunch of sinister and heavily armed globalist Illuminati, who seek to infect the entire world with the values of personal liberty and [private] property," the site says. It was originally named Libertarian Samizdata, but too many of those involved became unhappy with the label: characteristically for libertarians, it seems, they were uncomfortable subscribing to a group ideology. "We are ... a varied group made up of social individualists, libertarians, extropians, futurists, 'Porcupines', Karl Popper fetishists, recovering neo-conservatives, crazed Ayn Rand worshippers ... cypherpunks, minarchists, kritarchists and wild-eyed anarcho-capitalists from Britain, North America, Australia and Europe," the site now explains, unhelpfully.

As I arrive, De Havilland is laughing, nearly hysterically, at a blog by Oliver Kamm, a London hedge-fund manager and member of the "pro-war left" who now also writes a column for the Times. "Just marvellous," says De Havilland. "I was thinking of making it Samizdata quote of the day. It's something to the effect that, well, there's no point in denying that our involvement in Iraq has inflamed [Islamist totalitarian] opinion. Why should we deny it? It's something we should be proud of!"

September 11 caused many ideological fissures, of course. But it's a fair bet that the split in British libertarianism - hardly a prominent movement in the first place - is probably one of the least well known. Some libertarians opposed any military response to the attacks, on the grounds that armies are tools of governments, and government is largely a bad thing. Others supported the war in Afghanistan, and later the war in Iraq, as attempts to spread or safeguard liberty. "It was between those who said it was just another big-government thing," says De Havilland, "and those who said, 'Excuse me, guys, but these nutjobs are trying to f****ing kill us!'" Samizdata published its first entry on November 2 2001. "I look forward to hearing from all those out there in 'establishment punditland' who sneered at the effect of the US bombing," De Havilland wrote in an early posting as he watched the Taliban fall.

"Establishment punditland" was Samizdata's target from the start. In the US, the birthplace of blog culture, it was easy to see how almost any viewpoints expressed online were going to count as a breath of fresh air. All they needed to do to distinguish themselves was to diverge from the New York Times's establishment liberalism and from the ranting of rightwing talk radio. Britain's press, by contrast, has long been more politically diverse and unashamedly partisan, which may explain the blogs' lesser impact here. De Havilland's collaborator Adriana Cronin, who developed her vociferous views as a reaction to growing up in communist Czechoslovakia, laughs off suggestions that blogs might literally replace the mainstream media, but there is no disguising her passion. "If we had a slogan, it would be, 'We can't change the way news is written, but we can change the way people read the news.' So what we're saying is-"

"We're not competing with newspapers," De Havilland interrupts. (This is a habit of his, though it may also be a beneficial quality in a blogger: he isn't willing to wait before sounding off.) "But I tell you who we are in competition with, 100% direct competition, and that's your op-ed writers. We don't have a reporter in Kandahar, and you might, it's true - although in time we might have a blogger in Kandahar. But for the moment, sure: if your guy in Kandahar says X blew up Y, then X blew up Y. But when your editorial guy says, 'This is what it means,' that's when we say, 'Excuse me! You're completely wrong!'"

Our own blog grew, to some considerabl extent, out of this exchange with Mr. de Havilland:

From: "Orrin Judd"
Date: Fri, 14 Dec 2001 21:30:47 -0500
Subject: Libertarianism
Dear Fellas (and Lady) :

I'm very much interested in the argument that's brewing between the libertarian crowd (Nick Gillespie and most of the warbloggers) and cultural conservatism (with Mr. Goldberg so far the unlikely early representative). It's a discussion that is well worth having and I hope that it will blossom and continue.

Here's my two cents. In Mr. Gillespie's response to Mr. Goldberg, he suggests that libertarianism has replaced liberalism as the main threat to conservatism. But he also reveals libertarianisms fatal flaw--one it shares with liberalism--that it is based not on reality but on an idyllic view of Man. As he says :

[L]ibertarians do believe devoutly in something. They believe, writes Hayek, that 'to live and work successfully with others requires more than faithfulness to one's concrete aims. It requires an intellectual commitment to a type of order in which, even on issues which to one are fundamental, others are allowed to pursue different ends. It is for this reason that to the liberal [libertarian] neither moral nor religious ideals are proper objects of coercion, while both conservatives and socialists recognize no such limits.'
-Really Strange Bedfellows : My roll in the hay with John Walker (Nick Gillespie, 12/14/01, Reason)

This faith, that others will allow you to do your own thing, while you do yours, is touching in its naivete, but completely delusional in practice.

Classic conservatism is instead based on Thomas Hobbes's view of Man in the State of Nature, as a selfish, violent, acquisitive beast. It therefore posits that governments arise as a means of securing our own physical safety, from one another. Some form of State is necessary to restrain our basest impulses, so each man sacrifices some of his own freedom in exchange for state imposed security from his fellow men. This scenario may be overly metaphorical, but it has the great advantage of at least being based on the human nature that we see before us every day.

Now, it is the very great (even singular) achievement of the Judeo-Christian West that we have managed to create a series of institutions--church, family, businesses, the Common Law, courts, etc.--which have collectively enabled us to internalize these restraints to a sufficient degree that we need less state authority than was once necessary to secure the peace. Our monotheism gave birth to an absolute morality and our near universal acceptance of the tenets of Judaism or Christianity placed these moral precepts at the very core of our culture. External authority then diminished in proportion to the internalization of these moral strictures (which are really the beliefs that cultural conservatism seeks to defend, mostly by conserving the institutions that inculcate them).

But the very success of conservatism has created a culture which is so peaceful and so morally heterogeneous that it has become possible for rival ideologies to spring up which premise themselves on the belief that man is innately peaceful, egalitarian, co-operative, etc. Thus, Marxism (and the rest of modern liberalism) supposes that in the state of nature we all sat around sharing whatever was lying about peacefully, and that we long to return to such a blessed state. This belief, of course, ran aground as soon as those who have were given the opportunity to give to those who don't (from each according to his ability...). They refused; and the state was forced to take by main force. Freedom disappeared and though equality was indeed imposed, it turned out to be an equality of squalor. Looking about them and realizing that we in the West had remained relatively free and that, though the distribution of wealth was unequal, even our poor had more than them, the poor benighted souls upon whom this experiment was conducted eventually overthrew the utterly failed system.

Meanwhile, comes libertarianism,which abjures morality, yet somehow expects Man without morals to behave in what is fundamentally a moral manner. No one can argue with the beauty of the idea that men might willingly allow each other to go their own ways, but neither can one look around and believe that such a world is possible, except in the imagination. Like liberalism, libertarianism is utopian rather than realistic. It is all well and good for well-educated, middle and upper class, white males (the overwhelming majority of libertarians) to sit around and hypothesize about a world in which they are left free to enjoy their plenty, but what's in it for the have nots? And since most of the planet is still have-nots, what do you think would happen to this little claque of rich white boys once they'd gotten rid of traditional morality and the other restrictive residue of Western culture? You've gotta be thinking of the white farmers in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) right now, don't you.

In fact, libertarianism is really just respectable anarchism and there's a uniform feature that one notes about societies that plunge into anarchy; the people pray for the restoration of order, any kind of order. This is why even we in the States originally welcomed the Taliban's rise to power in Afghanistan. Even totalitarianism was preferable to the chaos that reigned before they took control. No one believes in libertarianism where it actually prevails. It is really only a phenomenon of those societies where cultural conservatism has taken such firm hold that even people, like most libertarians, who deny the validity of Judeo-Christian morality, have nonetheless been shaped by it.

Orrin C. Judd
RESPONSE : from Perry de Havilland at Samizdata
RESPONSE : to Perry from OJ

> From: Samizdata
> Date: Sun, 16 Dec 2001 05:19:40 +0000
> To: Orrin Judd
> Subject: Re: Goldberg Vs. Gillespie

>I'm very much interested in the argument that's brewing between the
>libertarian crowd (Nick Gillespie and most of the warbloggers) and
>cultural conservatism (with Mr. Goldberg so far the unlikely early
>representative). It's a discussion that is well worth having and I hope
>that it will blossom and continue.
>Here's my two cents. In Mr. Gillespie's response to Mr. Goldberg, he
>suggests that libertarianism has replaced liberalism as the main threat
>to conservatism. But he also reveals libertarianisms fatal flaw--one it
>shares with liberalism--that it is based not on reality but on an idyllic
>view of Man.
>This faith, that others will allow you to do your own thing, while you do
>yours, is touching in its naivete, but completely delusional in

That is false because that is certainly not what most libertarians believe. In fact, one of the reasons most libertarians are so strongly supportive of an armed civilian population is that they think quite the contrary. It is not just government libertarians wish to be armed against.

>Classic conservatism is instead based on Thomas Hobbes's view of Man in the
>State of Nature, as a selfish, violent, acquisitive beast. It therefore posits that >governments arise as a means of securing our own physical safety, from one another.
>Some form of State is necessary to restrain our basest impulses, so each man >sacrifices some of his own freedom in exchange for state imposed security from his >fellow men.
> This scenario may be overly metaphorical, but it has the great advantage of
>at least being based on the human nature that we see before us every day.

Sure, that's ol' Hobbes, whom I always did think was nasty, brutish and short. That is fine and dandy but it is also pretty much a caricature of what humans are really like. They are indeed violent at times, but few libertarians are pacifists or willing to turn the other cheek to the violence of others. As for selfish and acquisitive, very few libertarians would disagree with you. However we do not see that as a vice, for it is from these two qualities that the most important drive of all comes: self interest. Societies are not the product of our will and reason, but rather of evolutionary processes that work to maximize self interest. Similarly morality that works survives, but a utilitarian justificationism is not enough (or even possible really) if a dogmatic irrationalism is not to poison a society.

>Now, it is the very great (even singular) achievement of the Judeo-Christian
>West that we have managed to create a series of institutions--church, family, >businesses, the Common Law, courts,etc.--which have collectively enabled us to >internalize these restraints to a sufficient degree that we need less state authority >than was once necessary to secure the peace. Our monotheism gave birth to an >absolute morality and our near universal acceptance of the tenets of Judaism or
>Christianity placed these moral precepts at the very core of our culture. External >authority then diminished in proportion to the internalization of these moral >strictures (which are really the beliefs that cultural conservatism seeks to defend, >mostly by conserving the institutions that inculcate them).

Many libertarians are indeed also Christians or Jews. Certainly the Libertarian Alliance in Britain, of which I am a member, contains many of both. It also contains Muslims, Hindus, Atheists and Agnostics. Many are admirers of Aquinas, though mostly because of his Aristotelean core, rather than his Christianity. Most libertarians I know are also great admirers of many aspects of western culture. It is a grave fallacy many make when attempting to critique libertarianism to fail to understands that the desire of social, rather than state, solutions, lies at the heart of practical classical liberal (libertarian) word views, not some strange society of isolated individuals relying on good will. We believe in charity, which is the product of morality, rather than state aid, which is the product of theft.

>But the very success of conservatism has created a culture which is so
>peaceful and so morally heterogeneous that it has become possible for
>rival ideologies to spring up which premise themselves on the belief that
>man is innately peaceful, egalitarian, co-operative, etc. Thus,
>Marxism (and the rest of modern liberalism) ...

I see you subscribe to the Chomsky use of the term liberal so popular in North America. I prefer the term socialist because I am a liberal in the classical sense of the word.

>...supposes that in the state of nature we all sat around sharing whatever was lying >about peacefully, and that we long to return to such a blessed state. This
>belief, of course, ran aground as soon as those who have were given the
>opportunity to give to those who don't (from each according to his
>ability...). They refused; and the state was forced to take by main force.
> Freedom disappeared and though equality was indeed imposed, it turned out
>to be an equality of squalor. Looking about them and realizing
>that we in the West had remained relatively free and that, though the
>distribution of wealth was unequal, even our poor had more than them,
>the poor benighted souls upon whom this experiment was conducted eventually
>overthrew the utterly failed system.
>Meanwhile, comes libertarianism, which abjures morality, yet somehow expects
>Man without morals to behave in what is fundamentally a moral manner. No one can >argue with the beauty of the idea that men might willingly allow each other to go >their own ways, but neither can one look around and believe that such a world is >possible, except in the imagination.

Except that is not what any libertarians think. Morals can only be valid if they are based upon objective reality, but if they are, they cannot be ignored. The morality of fiercely defending several property and the morality (and self-evident utility) of helping others to do the same absolutely permeates modern libertarian ideas. I suggest you read Rothbard's 'The Ethics of Liberty' or several of Popper's works if you think the essence of libertarianism is not objective morality. Libertarianism is ALL about morality. Conservatism/Socialism are merely about utility, and using force to achieve ends collectively chosen ends: morality does not enter into it.

>Like liberalism, libertarianism is utopian rather than realistic. It is all well and >good for well-educated, middle and upper class, white males (the overwhelming >majority of libertarians) to sit around and hypothesize about a world in which they >are left free to enjoy their plenty, but what's in it for the have nots?

Much of my time is spent in Central Europe and the Balkans, and I shall be forwarding your e-mail to my good friends at the Czech Liberalni Institue and to some of my Bosnian and Croatian libertarian confreres. Please do not take it as an insult when I tell you much laughter will result when they read that last section. To say you have a bizarre view of us is putting it mildly. You need to mix in wider circles methinks.

>And since most of the planet is still have-nots, what do you think would happen to >this little claque of rich white boys once they'd gotten rid of traditional
>morality and the other restrictive residue of Western culture? You've gotta
>be thinking of the white farmers in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) right now, don't you.

Much of traditional morality has an objective basis and what on earth makes you think that Libertarians want to destroy it all?

>In fact, libertarianism is really just respectable anarchism and there's a
>uniform feature that one notes about societies that plunge into anarchy; the people >pray for the restoration of order, any kind of order.

Certainly many libertarians regard anarchy as 'an ideal but unachievable state' (to quote a speaker at a Libertarian Alliance meeting a few weeks ago). Most however are what we libertarians called minarchists: i.e. they are classical liberals.

> This is why even we in the States originally welcomed the Taliban's
>rise to power in Afghanistan. Even totalitarianism was preferable to the
>chaos that reigned before they took control. No one believes in
>libertarianism where it actually prevails. It is really only a phenomenon
>of those societies where cultural conservatism has taken such firm
>hold that even people, like most libertarians, who deny the validity of
>Judeo-Christian morality, have nonetheless been shaped by it.

Judeo-Christian morality meaning what? Explain to me what useful aspects of Judeo-Christian morality it is that you think libertarians are trying to jettison unwisely as it is hard for me to really know what you mean. I find much of what you are saying bears little resemblance to actual common libertarian views, though of course we are all hyphenated-libertarians. Certainly libertarians reject irrational restrictions on their behaviour which are imposed by force. Yet we are also steeped in the cultures from which we come from and there is nothing contradictory about that. They way you seem to be representing us I would expect to see naked libertarians walking about all the time. Yet I have never seen that. A libertarian may think it is unreasonable to imprison a person for walking naked down a street but that does not mean he want to do so himself. A libertarian will reject forcing a woman to wear a burqa, yet surely she has the right to do so if she wishes to allow social pressures for that to control her actions. Will American conservatives stop her on the street and remove it at gunpoint if she refuses? The difference is social pressure vs the violence of law. Less government does not lead to chaos if culture is allowed to fulfil its proper role. Certainly during my time in the Balkans 1992-1996, culture, not state, was the glue that held society together. Although Croatian identity is inextricably linked with a Catholic identity, it was really only in a cultural sense as Croatia and Herzegovina are in reality profoundly secular societies.

You seem to be confusing us with some sort of nihilistic political biker gang. It just ain't so. Your arguments are coherent but are pointed at an empty part on the political landscape unoccupied by anyone I am familiar with.

Perry de Havilland ...- (via Samizdata)

Visit Libertarian Samizdata if you dare at: and discover that Bruce Willis is a wimp, why the King of Jordan is praiseworthy, how to survive a nuclear, chemical or biological attack and the way to convince people on the 'left' that libertarians are not the enemy.

From: "Orrin Judd"
Date: Sun, 16 Dec 2001 07:00:00 -0500

Thank you very much for your response; is it okay if I post it here (

* I will have to read up on moralistic libertarianism, which does not appear to be the variant that most American Libertarians are espousing. It appears to offer an easy out. because it allows you to believe in traditional morality (Judeo-Christianity) precisely because it is traditional, has evolved. I'd not realized that there was such a heavy reliance on evolutionary psychology in some Libertarian thought. It remains unclear to me how morality would arise or be maintained in the absence of our religious teachings, but it's certainly a significant step up from the kind of extreme individualism that characterizes much of the libertarianism you find online. Unfortunately, from what I find online (which may well be skewed) it would appear that Rothbard is in decline among libertarians generally.

* Likewise, your embrace of social solutions would alleviate many of my concerns. I think you would have to acknowledge that there is, at least among some (many) libertarians, such hostility to religion that they tend to reflexively denigrate the very religious institutions that have provided such social assistance and will again in the future, if we are successful in reducing government.

* I was using liberal in the modern American sense, which as you point out is really just a form of statism. Conservatives here often write plaintively about the appropriation of the classic term Liberal by the Left, but it seems futile to fight about that at this late date. Since at least the 1950s and Russell Kirk's seminal book The Conservative Mind, what was once Liberalism has become Conservatism here in the States. Of course, we find it appalling that the Tories are called the Conservative Party, since with the exception of Margaret Thatcher, we would consider them, with their failure to oppose the EU and National Health and other forms of big government, to be a party of the Left.

* I hope I didn't seem to be dismissing Man's selfishness out of hand. We conservatives too believe it to be a useful characteristic and the driving factor in the success of capitalism. I merely meant to note that this selfishness is so powerful that it has to be restrained, either by government or morality or both, else we would all be at each others' throats.

* I'd defend, to the death, your right to walk around your house naked, but at the point where you want to wander around my children's playground naked, I'd either stop you myself or have the police remove you. And, as you suggest, I'd hope that social reproval and pressure would suffice to get you to dress before you left the house.

* It sounds like many of our disagreements actually arise from the surprising (to me, at least) differences in our cultures. Britain (I assume you are British?)
does not appear to have a serious conservative opposition anymore, and your kind of libertarianism (classical Liberalism) is a critique of both Labour and the accomodationist Tories. But, here in America, this critique pretty much defines the Republican Party--minimal government, free market capitalism, personal liberty, traditional morality, strong social institutions. On the other hand, that doesn't leave much room for American libertarianism, so it actually tends to end up opposing even morality and non-governmental institutions as unfairly coercive.

At any rate, keep fighting the good fight, and thanks again for your response,

Dear Bros,

** I will have to read up on moralistic libertarianism, which does not
appear to be the variant that most American Libertarians are
espousing. It appears to offer an easy out. because it allows you to
believe in traditional morality (Judeo-Christianity) precisely
because it is traditional, has evolved.


I am really not sure which flavour of libertarianism you are referring to. Generally it is not society or morality that libertarians rail against but rather literal civil coercion, manifest most prominently in the modern state's endless smothering spew of regulations regarding every aspect of civil society.

** I'd not realized that there was such a heavy reliance on evolutionary
psychology in some Libertarian thought.


That is the essence of Hayek's views of society and it is hard to overstate his influence in most libertarian circles (and conservative circles too, of course).


** It remains unclear to me how morality would arise or be maintained in the absence of our religious teachings,


Libertarian morality is the consequence of a critically rational objective understanding of the nature of the world, but morality itself arose because it serves a social need. Moral societies prospered better than ones which did not develop (or acquire) the memes of a progressively more sophisticated objective moral basis for what we do.

Hence the hostility found in libertarian circles to subjective moral relativists like Chomsky or Marx, to name but two. Societies which are steeped in moral subjectivism are societies whose philosophies are based on subjective epistemological foundations, trapped in an endless spiral of philosophical infinite regression, seemly irrefutable yet meaningless solipsism and stunted by the subjective values that negate the very concept of truth.

To put it crudely, libertarians support morality because it works and it works because valid morality is objectively correct, which is why it evolved in the first place! Ultimately memes based on subjective fantasies tend not to come out on top in the long run.


** but it's certainly a significant step up from the kind of extreme
individualism that characterizes much of the libertarianism you find
online. Unfortunately, from what I find online (which may well be
skewed) it would appear that Rothbard is in decline among
libertarians generally.

With regard to 'on-line libertarianism', I would say objectivism (Ayn Rand) is probably the largest single (though not majority) influence and she was certainly an advocate of objective morality. But I think you are quite incorrect that Rothbard or the other advocates of libertarianism on an entirely moral basis are in retreat. Quite the contrary.

A key essence of libertarianism is an objective epistemological approach to knowledge. Certainly, I realise that many libertarians would be hard pressed to spell, let alone describe objective epistemology. Like all political/philosophical movements, some people, maybe even the majority, fall into supporting them via a purely deontological appeal to intuition... they believe something just because 'it seems right'. I do not expect to see thousands of members of the US Libertarian Party marching down the streets of Peoria waving copies of 'The Ethics of Liberty' any time soon. Yet regardless of the fact I doubt all the libertarians with NORML, and their ilk, are thinking in those terms, the libertarian theorists that one meets across the world, from New Zealand to Sweden, from the Czech Republic to Los Angeles, from Havana (yes) to London, do indeed quote Rothbard's and Rand's ethical ideas at each other. The fact is, it is a profoundly moral centred view of the world, not nihilism, that drives people from both the socialist left and conservative right, into the arms of libertarianism. Examine any of libertarianism perpetually re-branding variants and at their core, you will find an objective world view staring back at you from behind all the complex verbiage. For example, although I have not got around to reading Virginia Postrel's book 'The Future and its Enemies' yet, I detect a strong influence of Karl Popper's conjectural objectivity in her on-line remarks and in 'Dynamism' generally from what I have seen thus far (Dynamism is her form of hyphenated-libertarianism).

To obey a law simply because it is the law is not to take a moral view at all: that is just the acknowledgement that law is backed by force. To act morally as a Christian, one must have free will to not act morally or else we are just God's marionettes: God playing with himself. Christian morality says that we are given free will and thus must exercise that free will in an ethical manner. Libertarians are saying exactly the same thing. If I want to kill a person whom I detest but do not do so purely because I fear I will be caught and go to jail, that is not a moral action on my part, merely a utilitarian exercise in cost-benefit analysis. If I decline to murder them because I regard it as an immoral act, THAT is a moral choice. Yet by following that logic, libertarians are accused of being nihilists! By that logic, then so are Christians, regardless of their politics!

Like conservatives but unlike socialists, most libertarians are not willing to just reject 'traditional' morality just because it is traditional. Rather they understand that much of it is objectively true and evolved for precisely that reason. They will only wisely reject it if it is objectively untrue. However this means that unlike conservatives,whilst there may be a presumption of deference to tradition, there is no presumption of that deference being required by law in most cases.

Theorising on morality along these lines is pretty much what Hayek did and he is almost as influential with conservatives as with libertarians (Hayek did not regard himself as a conservative, however). Personally I subscribe to the 'falliblist' approach of Popper and Bartley, taking views of rational critical preferentialism (or to use Bartley's equally ungainly term 'Pancritical Rationalism') when evaluating not just morality but pretty much everything from aesthetics to quantum theory.

If you are interested in a painless introduction to Bartley, the lest well know of that trio, and who was most certainly a Christian, let me recommend the excellent Rafe Champion's remarks on here.

If I have some time, I will write you a 'quick and dirty guide to hyphenated-libertarianism' to demonstrate the wide variations of just what 'libertarian' really means in all its many-splendoured forms.


** Likewise, your embrace of social solutions would alleviate many of
my concerns. I think you would have to acknowledge that there is, at
least among some (many) libertarians, such hostility to religion that
they tend to reflexively denigrate the very religious institutions
that have provided such social assistance and will again in the
future, if we are successful in reducing government.


It is certainly true that many libertarians are atheists or agnostics, yet that is *far* from being a defining characteristic of libertarianism. Many are also Christians, Jews, Muslims (yes) and just about everything under the sun. To be honest, I have not met many libertarians who have a problem with faith based charities as they are in many ways the concretisation of the sort of social community alternatives to the dependency infantilism of state aid. I have a profoundly atheist libertarian chum here in London who works as a volunteer at a Servite Charity several hours a week and has nothing but admiration for this Catholic organisation, based as it is on non-coercion, freely given charity and genuine free association.


** I was using liberal in the modern American sense, which as you
point out is really just a form of statism. Conservatives here often
write plaintively about the appropriation of the classic term Liberal
by the Left, but it seems futile to fight about that at this late
date. Since at least the 1950s and Russell Kirk's seminal book The
Conservative Mind, what was once Liberalism has become Conservatism
here in the States. Of course, we find it appalling that the Tories
are called the Conservative Party, since with the exception of
Margaret Thatcher, we would consider them, with their failure to
oppose the EU and National Health and other forms of big government,
to be a party of the Left.

I think the whole 'left' and 'right' thing, whilst it has some utility, can also be profoundly misleading. To me, 'conservatism' is often 'statism-lite' and thus differs from socialism only in degree rather than essence (no, I am not equating the two, just putting them on the same continuum, as I would with assault and murder).

** I hope I didn't seem to be dismissing Man's selfishness out of
hand. We conservatives too believe it to be a useful characteristic
and the driving factor in the success of capitalism. I merely meant
to note that this selfishness is so powerful that it has to be
restrained, either by government or morality or both, else we would
all be at each others' throats.


My view is that self interest is actually best served by NOT being at each other's throats. And for those who insist on that anyway... well I never said I was a pacifist (which is itself just 'nihilism-without-balls'). Libertarians do not believe in chaos (even the anarchist flavour) but rather a more spontaneous order.

** I'd defend, to the death, your right to walk around your house
naked, but at the point where you want to wander around my children's
playground naked, I'd either stop you myself or have the police
remove you. And, as you suggest, I'd hope that social reproval and
pressure would suffice to get you to dress before you left the house.

Quite so. Libertarianism is about the liberty to make choices and reap the consequences of those choices. Any 'libertarian' who acts in a threatening way to other people (such as wandering around your children's playground naked) is not just missing the point, he is about to discover the 'consequences' half of that equation. No rational libertarian would have a problem with that concept. Of course every philosophy has its fair share of irrational adherent, even ones predicated upon critical rationalism!

** It sounds like many of our disagreements actually arise from the
surprising (to me, at least) differences in our cultures. Britain (I
assume you are British?) does not appear to have a serious conservative opposition anymore, and your kind of libertarianism (classical Liberalism) is a critique
of both Labour and the accomodationist Tories.


There is some truth to that. However I am the very embodiment of what Marx called a 'rootless cosmopolitan', though in reality I have very deep roots indeed... they just do not happen to stay in the convenient national boundaries so beloved of control centred states and socialists of both 'left' and 'right'. I am English on my fathers side and American on my mothers side, with extended family in Britain, Australia and North America. I have lived and worked in Britain, Ireland, Sweden, Netherlands, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Florida, Nevada, California, South Africa and Ghana. I am 40 something.

** But, here in America, this critique pretty much defines the Republican Party--minimal government, free market capitalism, personal liberty, traditional
morality, strong social institutions.


You describe a party which must then have reduced the size of government during the Reagan and Bush(x2) administrations. The figures suggest otherwise alas. If you seriously think the Republican party is done more than just slow the rate at which Leviathan is putting on weight, methinks you are kidding yourself. Dick Armey et al (i.e. libertarian leaning conservatives) are not the party's mainstream by any stretch of the imagination. Just how many federal departments have actually closed down under the Republicans? To which party does the president who has agreed to corporate welfare payments to the structurally unsound parts of the US airline industry belong?

That said, I have often felt the US Libertarian Party is a mistake (Dale Amon, one of my co-editors on the Samizdata disagrees with me strongly on that. Although he lives in Belfast at the moment, he is American and an LP member). I think that if libertarians are going to participate in what I regard as a fundamentally illegitimate democratic process of proxy theft, they would be better off subverting the Republican Party into more libertarian ways (i.e. trying to take it back to America's radical Jeffersonian classical liberal roots).

For me, I take the view that the job of political libertarians is not to drag the name of libertarianism through the mud of party politics in order to achieve an improbable top down American 'perestroika' (i.e. what the USLP is trying to do) but rather to work to make much of the state's apparatus of coercion simply irrelevant.
Every time you pay cash or use the Internet in order to avoid taxes, every time you break the speed limit on an empty road, every time you use the Internet to download 'illegal munitions grade' encryption software, every time you arbitrate a dispute rather than involve the state, every time you open an off-shore bank account, or set up an off-shore company or transfer money via a fei qian (or hawala) rather than via a regulated banking system, every time you refuse to register a firearm, every time you build on YOUR property out-of-code, every time you hire someone's freely given labour 'off the books', you are making a statement that you will simply not cooperate with laws that have no moral basis. By refusing to blindly pay your taxes, register your weapons and accept the state as a super-owner of your property (which is the heart of fascism, by the way) you are refusing to finance and acquiesce in your own oppression. THAT is the sort of thing I advocate libertarians doing. Thus the most widespread unconsciously libertarian practice in the United States is the humble, and untaxed, yard sale.


** On the other hand, that doesn't leave much room for American libertarianism, so it actually tends to end up opposing even morality and non-governmental institutions as unfairly coercive.

Which non-governmental institutions did you have in mind that have attracted libertarian ire? And what sort of morality are you referring to?

Perry de Havilland ...-

Dear Perry :

*Well, libertarianism is no different than conservatism in its opposition to government regulation. The question is really whether libertarianism is premised on a belief that in the absence of any state law enforcement mechanisms human beings would be decent towards one another. From what I've read, it appears this is the position of many libertarians.

*Evolutionary Psychology : setting aside the question of evolution itself, doesn't evolutionary psychology tend to merely validate things as they are? Libertarianism, like the dodo bird, exists nowhere. It has been selected out in favor of big government. If you believe in evolution of even human institutions, then why fight the inevitable?

*Morality : I think you are begging the question. Of course libertarians support traditional Western morality; after all, it makes libertarian idealism seem feasible. The question is, once you undermine the religions that created that morality and the government institutions that enforce it, how do you get people to behave morally?

*For a believer in God, it is wrong to kill not merely because God says not to, but because the lives of other human beings have absolute value. What is the purely objective libertarian basis for me valuing someone else's life?

*I see a rather extensive common ground developing here around two big issues : reducing government and cultivating voluntary social organizations. Have you read any of the stuff by communitarians (Etzioni, Benjamin Barber, Robert D. Putnam, etc.)? Unfortunately, they tend to depend on government to develop the community organizations they are talking about, but they are very good on the need for such community-based institutions.

*The difficulty that conservatives (Reagan, Armey, George W., etc.) have had in reducing government is hardly an indicator that they aren't serious in their beliefs. Rather, it tends to confirm that the great mass of people have little interest in liberty. They willingly choose to be unfree in exchange for having government take care of them.

Two quotes in that regard :

One from Sir Alex Fraser Tytler (1742-1813). the Scottish jurist and
historian, who said that :

A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only
exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largess
from the public treasury. From that time on the majority always votes
for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public
treasury, with the results that a democracy always collapses over loose
fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the
world's great civilizations has been 200 years. These nations
have progressed through this sequence:

from bondage to spiritual faith;
from spiritual faith to great courage;
from courage to liberty;
from liberty to abundance;
from abundance to selfishness;
from selfishness to complacency;
from complacency to apathy;
from apathy to dependency;
from dependency back again to bondage.

and one from Albert Jay Nock's Memoirs of a Superfluous Man :

Considering mankind's indifference to freedom, their easy gullibility
and their facile response to conditioning, one might very plausibly
argue that collectivism is the political mode best suited to
their disposition and their capacities. Under its regime the citizen,
like the soldier, is relieved of the burden of initiative and is
divested of all responsibility, save for doing as he is told. He takes
what is allotted to him, obeys orders, and beyond that he has no care.
Perhaps, then, this is as much as the vast psychically-anthropoid
majority are up to, and a status of permanent irresponsibility under
collectivism would be most congenial and satisfactory to them.

*The specific fights that are cropping up here between conservatives and libertarians tend to revolve around issues like drugs, abortion, euthanasia, cloning, sexual practices, etc. These all implicate the questions of human dignity and the value of human life, with conservatives believing that life has absolute value and libertarians suggesting that each of us is free to define the value of life as we will and to treat others in any way that they will accede to. And because the main opposition to these practices tends to come from religiously/morally based conservatism, libertarians here are fond of comparing such religious and moral objections to a kind of Talibanesque totalitarianism.

Thanks again for your responses. I'm finding them very helpful and I've got the whole discussion, in hopes that others may also find it useful.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:10 PM


Core Wholesale Inflation Declines (TSC Staff, 11/15/2005, The Street)

The so-called core rate of producer-level inflation, which excludes food and energy prices, dropped 0.3% in October after an increase of 0.3% in September.

When a balloon leaks it isn't generally referred to as inflating.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:57 PM


From Tough Bird To Triumph: In Cooking a Heritage Turkey,
‘Barding' Saves the Day (Alex Hanson 11/16/05, Valley News)

The first time I tried to cook a heritage breed turkey, for Thanksgiving a couple of years ago, wasn't exactly a disaster.

The bird, about 13 pounds encased in thick, pale lavender skin, was strangely oblong and wouldn't sit up straight in the roasting pan. I couldn't really figure out whether it was done, as the drumstick never really rotated easily in its socket, even when I figured it should be ready to serve. The result was less an adventure in culinary history -- a beautiful turkey that the Pilgrims would have recognized -- than a sort of prehistoric nightmare, a tough bird that looked as if a caveman had cooked it.

Of course, it's the modern turkey industry that has made us cooks into cavemen. Any stooge with an oven can plunk in a Broadbreasted White at 350 degrees and get a decent result. Of the turkeys sold in America something like 99 percent are Broadbreasted Whites, which over the years have been bred, engineered really, to produce a bounty fit for the Thanksgiving table with a minimum of fuss. Sure there are creative ways to cook such an animal, but beyond slathering it with butter and basting it occasionally, little invention is required.

But what to do with the heritage bird? Remember these four little words, reader: Bacon is your friend.

Truer words were never spoken.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:36 PM


This isn't the real America (Jimmy Carter, November 14, 2005, LA Times)

IN RECENT YEARS, I have become increasingly concerned by a host of radical government policies that now threaten many basic principles espoused by all previous administrations, Democratic and Republican.

These include the rudimentary American commitment to peace, economic and social justice, civil liberties, our environment and human rights.

Also endangered are our historic commitments to providing citizens with truthful information, treating dissenting voices and beliefs with respect, state and local autonomy and fiscal responsibility.

At the same time, our political leaders have declared independence from the restraints of international organizations and have disavowed long-standing global agreements — including agreements on nuclear arms, control of biological weapons and the international system of justice.

Instead of our tradition of espousing peace as a national priority unless our security is directly threatened, we have proclaimed a policy of "preemptive war," an unabridged right to attack other nations unilaterally to change an unsavory regime or for other purposes. When there are serious differences with other nations, we brand them as international pariahs and refuse to permit direct discussions to resolve disputes.

Admittedly, he's a nuclear physicist, not a historian, but it's hard to believe he really knows this little about America's past.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:12 PM


Born Again: When it comes to the abortion issue, TV shows are where they were 30 years ago. (Rebecca Raber, November 15th, 2005, Village Voice)

It seems like everyone in TV land is pregnant these days. All of those plot-pushing hookups that keep us tuned in week after week have resulted in positive pregnancy tests for Housewives and high schoolers on every channel. This is often an unwelcome surprise, but none of these fictional characters, unlike their real-world counterparts who might agonize over the choice to have a baby, will choose to end their pregnancies. In fact, we might as well be living in an era before Roe v. Wade as far as TV is concerned. Characters these days rarely even say the word abortion when confronted with an unplanned pregnancy—let alone have one.

Surprising TV producers don't want viewers to hate their shows' character, huh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:10 PM


Jackson Stirs Controversy Over Bathroom (AP, Nov 16, 2005)

Michael Jackson has stirred a small controversy in the United Arab Emirates by entering the ladies room in a shopping mall.

Heck, if he's not lurking around the diaper changing station you've dodged a bullet.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:07 PM


Black caucus suing over budget cuts (ELLEN TANDY, 11/16/05,

A Baton Rouge judge Wednesday put off hearing a lawsuit against Gov. Kathleen Blanco's budget cuts. The Legislative Black Caucus filed the suit claiming the governor doesn't have the authority to cut the state budget by 10 percent. [...]

Dr. Robert Hogan, a political analyst at LSU, said the suit is a sign that Blanco could be in some political trouble. Hogan said the governor was elected in 2003 with more than 90 percent of the black vote, and he indicated that many of those who were her core supporters are now challenging her.

Haven't we been assured that it's W who hates black people, not Blanco?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:58 PM


LAO forecast: great news for governor (Daniel Weintraub, 11/16/05, Sacramento Bee: California Insider)

The LAO's new long-term forecast for the state's fiscal picture is here.

The bottom line is that her forecast could not be any more favorable for the Schwarzenegger Administration. Revenues are up, significantly, and expenditures are running a bit below forecast.

HIll projects that the state will end the current fiscal year with a positive balance of about $5.2 billion. That's $1.3 billion that was already budgeted as a reserve, plus about $1 billion more than had been assumed in higher revenues from prior years, and $2.9 billion in higher revenues in the current year.

She also projects that the ongoing, structural shortfall, which hasn't gone away, will shrink to $4 billion in the 2006-07 budget year, for which the governor will propose a budget in January.

What this means is that the governor, without tapping into his deficit bond reserve, raising taxes, or reducing projected spending, could propose a budget that uses this year's surplus to cover next year's shortfall, and have money to spare—about $1.2 billion in reserve. Interestingly, this scenario would include full funding for Prop. 98 (as currently defined) -- including the first funding for Schwarzenegger's long dormant Prop. 49 expansion of after school programs.

Basically, the three-year workout that he has said was his goal all along has nearly come to pass.

Given Iraqi troop drawdowns and the overwhelmingly favorable economic picture for next year, what do Democrats have to run on?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:52 PM


America's Most Dangerous Lobby (Robert Samuelson, 11/16/05, Washington Post)

Anyone who's watched the steel and auto industries can visualize the AARP's America. In those industries, companies and unions unrealistically agreed to overly generous pensions and retiree health benefits that, as the number of retirees multiplied, overburdened the companies. Now, past promises collide with present economic realities. Workers and retirees suffer. Wages and jobs are cut; so are pensions and retiree health benefits. On a much larger scale, that may be America's fate. [...]

The AARP suggests that it's trying to balance the interests of retirees and workers. It has just released a report called ``Reimagining America'' that rightly poses these questions: ``Can America afford to grow older? And can we do so with intergenerational fairness -- that is, without burdening our children and grandchildren with the bills?'' It then spends 41 pages not answering those questions. On the one hand, it concedes that ``as a nation, we are not now ready for the retirement of the baby boomers.'' On the other, it argues that ``the problem is overstated.''

Overstated? Well, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid constitute more than 40 percent of federal spending. Given the baby boom, longer life expectancies and rising health costs, these programs are projected (by the Congressional Budget Office and others) to grow by about two-thirds or more during the next 25 years. To cover these costs, we'd have to do one of the following: raise all federal taxes by 30 percent to 50 percent (depending on whether today's budget were balanced); eliminate defense spending and 30 percent of other federal spending, excluding interest payments; run budget deficits three times present levels.

Of course, we aren't going to get to that point, but the middle option is entirely feasible.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:41 PM


US defends use of white phosphorus (Will Dunham, 11/16/05, Reuters)

The Pentagon on Wednesday acknowledged using incendiary white-phosphorus munitions in a 2004 offensive against insurgents in the Iraqi city of Falluja and defended their use as legal, amid concerns by arms control advocates. [...]

"It's part of our conventional-weapons inventory and we use it like we use any other conventional weapon," added Bryan Whitman, another Pentagon spokesman.

Venable said white phosphorus weapons are not outlawed or banned by any convention. [...]

U.S. forces used the white phosphorus during a major offensive launched by Marines in Falluja, about 30 miles (50 km) west of Baghdad, to flush out insurgents. The battle in November of last year involved some of the toughest urban fighting of the 2-1/2-year war.

Venable said that in the Falluja battle, "U.S. forces used white phosphorous both in its classic screening mechanism and ... when they encountered insurgents who were in foxholes and other covered positions who they could not dislodge any other way."

He said the soldiers employed a "shake-and-bake" technique of using white phosphorus shells to flush enemies out of hiding and then use high explosives artillery rounds to kill them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:25 PM


Hilary Clinton Urges President Bush to Discuss Forced Abortion on China Trip (John-Henry Westen, November 16, 2005,

After years of being urged by pro-lifers and Christians to condemn China's one-child policy, President George W. Bush is now being urged in the same direction by none other than Democratic Senator Hilary Clinton. In a letter to the President dated November 10, Clinton wrote, "I hope you will raise with the Chinese government the following points," the first of which concerns the coercive one-child program.

"Since first introduced in 1979, China's one-child policy has evoked strong concern over human rights abuses. These abuses have reportedly included denial of social benefits, fines, detention, destruction of property, forced abortion and forced sterilization. . .," she wrote. "In 1995, as a participant in the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, I heard first hand about these practices and spoke against them. In 2002, China enacted a Population and Family Planning Law aimed at ending human rights violations associated with the one-child policy. However, the 2004 State Department Country Report on Human Rights Practices suggests uneven Chinese enforcement of the law, with continuing use of psychological and economic pressure and threats to force women to terminate pregnancies or undergo sterilization." See the Clinton letter here:

Posted by Glenn Dryfoos at 5:14 PM


-VIDEO: The Speechalist

The video is further proof that all humor is conservative, after all, it wouldn't be liberal to make fun of a stupid person...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:10 PM


Pincus: Woodward 'Asked Me to Keep Him Out' of Plame Reporting (Joe Strupp, November 16, 2005, Editor & Publisher)

Walter Pincus, the longtime Washington Post reporter and one of several journalists who testified in the Valerie Plame case, said he believed as far back as 2003 that Bob Woodward had some involvement in the case but he did not pursue the information because Woodward asked him not to.

"He asked me to keep him out of the reporting and I agreed to do that," Pincus said today. [...]

"In October, I think he did come by after I had written about being called and said I wasn't the only one who would be called," Pincus said, adding that he believed Woodward was talking about himself, but did not press him on it. "Bob and I have an odd relationship because he is doing books and I am writing about the same subject."

Pincus said he did not believe Woodward had purposely lied about their conversation, saying, "I think he thought he told me something." [...]

Pincus also declined to comment on what reaction there has been in the Post newsroom to Woodward's testimony. "I'm not listening," he said.

The yellowcake kerfuffle just never tires of feeding up great material. Imagine if there were any substance to the initial story?

Woodward Apologizes to Post for Withholding Knowledge of Plame (Howard Kurtz, 11/16/05, Washington Post)

Bob Woodward apologized today to The Washington Post's executive editor for failing to tell him for more than two years that a senior Bush administration official had told him about CIA operative Valerie Plame, even as an investigation of those leaks mushroomed into a national scandal.

Woodward, an assistant managing editor and best-selling author, said he told Leonard Downie Jr. that he held back the information because he was worried about being subpoenaed by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special counsel in the case. [...]

The Post disclosed this morning that Woodward testified under oath Monday in the CIA leak case. Woodward said today he had gotten permission from one of his sources, White House chief of staff Andrew H. Card Jr., to disclose that he had testified that their June 20, 2003 conversation did not involve Plame, the wife of administration critic Joseph C. Wilson IV. He said he had "pushed" his other administration source, without success, to allow him to discuss that person's identity, but that the source has insisted that the waiver applies only to Woodward's testimony. [...]

Both Woodward and Downie said they are not sure that The Post could have done anything with Woodward's 2003 conversations because they were conducted on an off-the-record basis. Woodward said the unnamed official told him about Plame "in an offhand, casual manner . . . almost gossip" and that "I didn't attach any great significance to it."

Woodward said he had passed along a tip about Plame to Post reporter Walter Pincus, who was writing about Wilson in June 2003, but Pincus has said he does not recall any such conversation.

Woodward said he realized that his June 2003 conversation with the unnamed official had greater significance after Libby was portrayed in an indictment as having been the first administration official to tell a reporter, the Times's Miller, about Plame. Syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak disclosed Plame's CIA role on July 14, 2003.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:21 PM


IRAN'S PERILOUSLY HONEST MAN (Amir Taheri, November 8, 2005, New York Post)

[M]ullahs also hate Ahmadinejad because he is reviving the original revolutionary discourse of Khomeinism without dissimulation.

The concepts and ideas that Rafsanjani and Khatami treated as mere metaphors are being redefined as literal truths under Ahmadinejad. One key concept is that of the Hidden Imam, the awaited Mahdi of the Twelver Shi'ites. To Rafsanjani and Khatami, this has little immediate relevance to the actual life of society. Ahmadinejad, however, has restored it as the central truth of Iran's political, cultural, economic and social life.

The new president has written and signed a pact with the Hidden Imam — and has asked all officials to do so. Taken to its logical conclusion, this move dispenses with the need for any mullahs — including the "Supreme Guide."

This reinterpretation of Twelver Shi'ism excludes not only any form of rule by the mullahs but also any form of electoral democracy. In this way, Ahmadinejad hopes to outflank the two principal political forces that have been fighting for power in Iran since the middle of the 19th century. His message is: Neither mullahrchy, nor democracy.

Both sides are right here and it is in their synthesis that Iran will find the basis for a durably decent society. It is precisely because the Messiah is not yet here, and because there's no reason to assume His imminent arrival, that we can not expect perfect government and therefore the myriad compromises and half-measures of democracy are quite legitimate.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:17 PM


Congressman Slams Farm Subsidy Provision (JENNIFER TALHELM, 11/15/05, Associated Press)

A Colorado congressman says a provision in a farm subsidy law intended to protect churches where illegal immigrants work as volunteers could instead help religious groups harbor terrorists.

Hey, maybe al Qaeda were the ones who remodelled the congressman's basement a few years ago.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:12 PM


Why does Foxman tout ‘menace’ of evangelicals? To raise more money (David Klinghoffer, Nov. 15, 2005, JTA)

Devoted to fighting anti-Jewish bigotry, the Anti-Defamation League is America’s most influential Jewish group. So what are we to make of the weird air of unreality in the ADL’s public statements about Christians?

Consider the recent address by Abraham Foxman, the ADL’s national director, to the group’s annual meeting, in which he called for a community-wide response to a growing threat.

Foxman spoke Nov. 3 in New York during a week when disturbing news stories were unfolding around the world. The riots across France by immigrant Muslim youths were building to a climax. These are the same youths who have been terrorizing French Jews for the past five years — assaulting individuals, firebombing synagogues and desecrating Jewish cemeteries.

The same week, Iran’s president was refusing to back down from his call to fellow Muslims to “wipe Israel off the map.” Meanwhile, TV viewers in Egypt had just spent Ramadan enjoying a new drama series based on “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” the notorious anti-Semitic hoax.

If there is one religion that poses a danger to Jewish interests, it’s worldwide Islam. How strange, then, that Foxman held up the terrifying specter of, um — American Christianity.

“Today,” said Foxman, “we face a better financed, more sophisticated, coordinated, unified, energized and organized coalition of groups in opposition to our policy positions on church-state separation than ever before. Their goal is to implement their Christian worldview. To save us!” [...]

[W]hy vilify them? Historical Christian anti-Semitic persecution cannot fully explain modern Jewish attitudes. Surely Jews are rational enough to appreciate that we don’t live in medieval Europe, but rather in a time of unprecedented Christian philo-Semitism, especially among conservative Christians.

Why should Jewish hatred of Evangelicals be any more rational than anti-Semitism?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:08 PM


Stopping Samuel Alito (Geov Parrish, 11/16/05, Seattle Weekly)

Two months ago, I wrote of the Supreme Court nomination of John Roberts: "If the Dems cry wolf over Roberts, and Americans see during his hearings a sympathetic guy, there will be that much less credibility available when Bush nominates someone really bad to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, whose seat Roberts originally was to fill." With the nomination of Samuel Alito, that day has come.

Roberts and Harriet Miers were stealth nominations who lacked paper trails of, and personal candor about, judicial philosophy, which obscured these nominees' radically conservative judicial agendas. (Miers, of course, also was staggeringly lacking in relevant experience.) There is no such coyness in Samuel Alito. We know exactly what we're getting here: a judge who will act to roll back a century's worth of gains in individual rights and checks on corporate and government power.

Think he's going to appear any less sympathetic?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:02 PM


Do-It-Yourself Legislation: A legislative disease the GOP is far from immune to. (Iain Murray, 11/16/05, National Review)

The aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita have proved a massive breeding ground for what former OECD Chief Economist David Henderson has termed "Do-it-Yourself Economics" (DIYE), which he defines as "firmly held intuitive economic ideas and beliefs which owe little or nothing to textbooks, treatises or the evidence of economic history." The DIYE phenomenon is not restricted to the general public. Henderson points out that DIYE ideas are "sincerely held, and voiced with conviction, by political figures, top civil servants, CEOs, [labor unionists], well-known journalists and commentators, religious leaders, senior judges and eminent professors." Sadly, these ideas might do real harm to the U.S. economy.

A sterling example comes from the august pages of the New York Times, which recently editorialized in favor of a tax on gas to keep the price at $3. The reason for keeping the price high, the Times asserts, is twofold: to defund the paymasters of terrorism in the Middle East and to combat global warming. A moment's thought shows that the Times should realize that artificially raising the price of gas will not hurt rich Salafi ideologues but native communities in Alaska and oil-rich developing economies of the third world. In a world of falling demand caused by high gas prices, it is those who produce gas the cheapest — the Saudis and their friends — who will continue to sell it.

Hardly surprising that the Times would argue bad reasons for a good idea. Raising gas taxes -- and offsetting them -- would create disincentives for gas use and economic incentives for innovating alternatives and would begin transitioning us from income taxes to consumption taxes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:57 PM


Burning Down
The House In FranceLand
: No jobs, no future, why not riot? (DANIEL HENNINGER, November 11, 2005, Opinion Journal)

Anecdotes don't carry much statistical strength, but for some time I've been carrying around three about Western Europe because they illuminate the continent's perplexity about the future.

A Frenchman who lives in New York described how he has been remodeling a large estate home in central France. He flies back constantly to supervise the never-ending project because he can't find local French willing to work on it, and because those who work do so poorly. Why bother? "It's an investment," he says. Come again? "This house is going to make a lot of money for me," the Frenchman says, "when France arrives at its inevitable destination as mainly a vacation land for Chinese tourists."

In January I spent most of a week walking around Rome. Talking to a lifelong resident, I remarked that while it was a wonderful place for strolling, one couldn't help but notice there weren't many young adults. I asked: Is there much opportunity for a young person in Rome? Came back the instant answer: "Zero." Most of the young, she said, certainly those with ambition, move "north." The jobs available in Rome are with the government "or maybe a bank."

But let's take on the idea that France's rioters have little to do with economic enervation, that this is really about France's failed attempts to "assimilate" Muslims who in any event don't want to assimilate. But what if they did? Or what if, instead of Arabs, they were Rome-fleeing Italians or even workaholic Slovakians? About three weeks before these riots, a German-born businessman in New York, who is now a successful developer of American real estate, tried to explain why he was here and not there:

"I could not do in Europe what I did here. A European at the age of 25, with little money but a lot of ambition and ideas, could not expect to move outside his own country--move to say the center of France, or the center of Italy, Belgium or any other country--and have much prospect of succeeding. He would remain an outsider."

Folks can look at the demographic numbers and see the fertility problems, but it requires only a bit of imagination to see that their motivated young will bail out en masse when the crunch comes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:50 PM

TONY TUGS HIS CAPE (via Rick Turley):

Esquire: Clinton is world's "most influential man" (Reuters, 11/15/05)

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton is "The Most Influential Man in the World," according to Esquire magazine.

The magazine has designated him as "the most powerful agent of change in the world" despite his lack of electoral standing and the fact he was laid low by a heart attack ahead of last year's presidential election.

It's obvious nonsense, but to take just one of the examples they cite for his "influence," global warming--Mr. Clinton invited Tony Blair to a conference recently where the PM repudiated the Kyoto Treaty which Mr. Clinton supports and recommended the technological innovation recipe that President Bush just pioneered with China, Australia, etc.

Bill Clinton Calls Iraq 'Big Mistake' (LARA SUKHTIAN, 11/16/05, Associated Press)

Former President Clinton told Arab students Wednesday the United States made a "big mistake" when it invaded Iraq, stoking the partisan debate back home over the war.

Yet Saddam is gone...curious....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:41 PM


Deal reached on Patriot Act renewal (Associated Press, November 16, 2005)

House and Senate negotiators struck a tentative deal on the expiring Patriot Act that would curb FBI subpoena power and require the Justice Department to more fully report its secret requests for information about ordinary people, according to officials involved in the talks.

The agreement, which would make most provisions of the existing law permanent, was reached just before dawn Wednesday. But by midmorning GOP leaders had already made plans for a House vote on Thursday and a Senate vote by the end of the week. That would put the centerpiece of President Bush's war on terror on his desk before Thanksgiving, a month before more than a dozen provisions were set to expire.

Not bad for a fatally wounded president to manage to permanently shred the Constitution, eh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:36 PM


The Bubble Bursts: Only it's not the bubble you think . . . (Irwin M. Stelzer, 11/15/2005, Weekly Standard)

IT IS FINALLY HAPPENING--the much-predicted bursting of the bubble. Surprise: It is the gasoline price bubble that has burst, not the house price bubble. Prices of regular unleaded last week averaged about $2.34 per gallon, below the levels prevailing immediately before Katrina struck, and well below the $3.04 peak reached in early September. Crude prices also headed down from the $70 per barrel level to $57, a six-month low.

Anyone know if Paul Krugman ever managed to mention the real bubble before it burst?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:19 PM


'Manufacturers of Misery' Oppose Free Trade: By rejecting Washington's plan for a Free Trade Area of the Americas, according to this editorial from Spain's El Diario Exterior, 'the manufacturers of misery, who are stuck in slogans of the 1970s, have dynamited' what was a chance to 'replace poverty and under-development with trade and a market economy.' (November 15, 2005, El Diario Exterior - Original Article (Spanish) (via Watching America)

Those manufacturers of misery who bandy about slogans from the 1970s have dynamited what had been a chance to pass from poverty and underdevelopment, to trade and a market economy.

Chilean and American companies continue to tale advantage of the commercial opening up and new opportunities that the FTA [Free Trade Agreement] brings the two countries. As was published in Diario Exterio, during the first year that the treaty was in force, bilateral trade grew 33%, and it has already risen an additional 38.8% up to September 30, 2005.

Chile's gamble on the FTA has resulted in exports valued at $4.8 billion, in increase of 30.5% compared to 2003. Imports rose 3.4 billion, an increase of 32% over the previous year. Likewise, the dynamic trend in exports has propelled the sale of industrial products, with exports reaching $2.6 billion.

In 1991, 32.5% of products exported to the United States by Chile were industrial. Today this percentage has reached 57.2%. Thanks to the Free Trade Agreement, Chile has remarkably diversified production. During 2004, 2,135 companies exported 2,088 products to the U.S., which has contributed positively and directly to job creation.

The United States helped overthrow Allende and as a result Chile is a vibrant democratic ally with a per capita GDP over $10k.

We left Castro in power and as a result Cuba is a cesspool with a per capita GDP of $3k.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:07 PM


Heaven on Earth (Victor Davis Hanson, 11/14/05, Tribune Media Services)

The premises of an increasingly ossified and undemocratic European Union are as admirable in theory as they are ludicrous in reality. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the removal of thousands of Red Army soldiers from Eastern Europe, the new Europeans unilaterally have declared themselves a heaven on earth. By that I mean the continent's citizens feel that they are now exempt from the harsh reality facing billions of mere mortals in America, China, India and Russia.

War is by fiat obsolete and relegated to more primitive others. While Europeans may grudgingly concede that the United States still provides them subsidized and reliable defense, the embarrassment is explained away by the belief that America is bellicose anyway — and so must enjoy chasing mostly imagined enemies around the globe.

Practically, such pacifism results in a weakening of NATO, with the expectation that the United States will continue to assume an ever-greater share of its costs and manpower. Few over here realize that they have finally lost American good will — and with it the public's desire ever again to bail them out from another Milosevic or an ascendant Russia or nuclear Iran on the horizon.

Families of four or five are dismissed as something for the less educated, the parochial or the pious who have the time to waste changing diapers and nursing. In contrast, the new childless European citizen is otherwise too engaged in travel, fine food, global moralizing and intellectual pursuit.

Far more prolific Arabic and Turkish immigrants are welcome to collect the garbage and clean, but not properly intermarry, integrate or assimilate. Still, Europeans do not thereby feel illiberal. After all, they broadcast to the world that they are progressives on humanitarian issues of global poverty, world courts and the environment.

Before the current intifada in their suburbs, the French apparently thought that while Arab Muslims were fourth-class citizens at home, that embarrassment was more than compensated for abroad by tacit French support of Hamas and by the selling of almost anything to any Arab autocracy.

The utopian dream of a 35-hour work week, lifelong job tenure and cradle-to-grave benefits falls victim to a bothersome reality: More competitive Americans, Indians and Chinese have no such pretensions. While Europe gets its beauty rest, others work far harder and longer to produce cheaper things for an ever more price-conscious global consumer.

In fairness, it's irrational to criticize secular Europe for selfishness, after all, it's only God's commands that make us responsible for loving others.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 PM

IF YOU COULD READ MY MIND... (via Robert Schwartz):

Voter Profiles for Bloomberg Went Beyond Ethnic Labels (JIM RUTENBERG, 11/15/05, NY Times)

[R]ather than trying to read the tea leaves of public records to figure out voters' tastes and leanings, [the Bloomberg campaign] had the money to simply call and ask about them directly. They called hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers in what top strategists in both the Republican and Democratic Parties said was one of the most ambitious pollings of an electorate ever undertaken.

They stored the answers in a vast computerized database to develop sophisticated psychological portraits of city voters - identifying eight never-before-identified voting blocs based on people's shared everyday interests and concerns, not on their broader racial, cultural or ideological differences, aides said in interviews in the last few days.

The extensive polling gave Mr. Bloomberg's campaign a deep understanding of the city's voters, and allowed it to tailor mailings, electronic messages and prerecorded telephone calls to voters' specific interests as never before, aides said.

"We sat down in February and said we wanted to do this campaign differently, we wanted to unify the city by looking at people who had common beliefs," said Kevin Sheekey, Mr. Bloomberg's campaign manager. "We were not going to classify them by party or race; it was thought-based." [...]

Mr. Sheekey said the idea was to take advantage of a new reality: Even as the Sept. 11 attacks fade from memory, the unity the city showed afterward has remained in a way that provides new opportunities for political strategists.

"After 9/11, New Yorkers unified under a paradigm that was not race-based," Mr. Sheekey said.

And with that understanding, Mr. Schoen said, the Bloomberg campaign was able to address voters in a way that Mr. Ferrer's campaign could not. Its frequent critiques of Mr. Bloomberg as a Republican, and its descriptions of the city as "two New Yorks" separated by class, he said, were not addressing the true concerns of New Yorkers.

"If you are a poor person worried about your job, you're not talking in party terms," Mr. Schoen said. "We were talking responsively to their needs and people weren't going to respond to the old language of class and race and party."

Once the rest of Blue America moves beyond a race-based paradigm how do Democrats ever win?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:51 AM


Health Savings Accounts: Early Estimates Of National Take-Up (Roger Feldman, Stephen T. Parente, Jean Abraham, Jon B. Christianson and Ruth Taylor, Health Affairs)

The 2003 Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act (MMA) approved tax-advantaged health savings accounts (HSAs) for certain high-deductible health insurance plans. We predict that MMA could lead to approximately 3.2 million HSA contracts among Americans ages 19–64 who are not students, not enrolled in public health insurance plans, and not eligible for group coverage as a dependent. We simulate the effect of several additional tax subsidies for HSAs. We predict that the Bush administration’s refundable tax-credit proposal would double HSA take-up and reduce the number of uninsured people by 2.9 million, at an annual cost of $8.1 billion.

You'd have to hit a conservative with a baseball bat to get him to stop whining long enough to realize Medicare reform brought about this revolutionary step.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:49 AM


15-Year Ban Ends; Teen Hunter Kills Buffalo (LA Times, November 16, 2005)

Bison hunting, once commonplace in the American West until the species was nearly wiped out, resumed just outside the northern boundary of Yellowstone National Park after a 15-year ban.

On a bitterly cold morning , a 17-year-old, hunting with his family, killed the first animal.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:37 AM


Republicans misread religious voters (Froma Harrop, November 15, 2005, Dallas Morning News)

Situated in south-central Pennsylvania, Dover is no hotbed of liberalism. Many, if not most, of the voters who dismissed the School Board would describe themselves as both conservative and Christian. All the folks wanted was to stop the activists from messing around with their kids' education – and to free their town of its growing reputation as the Dogpatch of the East.

Easy enough for the media to demonize one small community at a time, but as the movement becomes more widespread and opponents lose court cases, so have no ability to turn things into Inherit the Windier, such changes will be quietly and uncontroversially adopted. As the prescription drug benefit and CFR showed, that which a large majority in a democracy want they eventually get.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:21 AM


At the Heart of Europe?: Two hundred years after William Pitt took on Napoleon, Europe is in crisis again. Keith Robbins warns Tony Blair that there are no easy fixes to the issues of democracy that have thrown the ‘European project’ off course. (Keith Robbins, December 2005, History Today)

It is arguable that in its various phases from the construction of the Coal and Steel Community onwards, ‘Europe’ could only have begun to cohere because of the enthusiasm, commitment, even deviousness, of an ‘undemocratic’ elite. In the case of the founding six states that signed the Treaty of Rome, in 1957, however, the political context in which its members worked was one in which the nation-states as they had existed in pre-1939 Europe, had ‘failed’ (in a manner that did not apply to the United Kingdom).

The EEC was of course only a partial ‘Europe’. Its founding members were all ‘democracies’ but they had come to their democracies by different routes. Germany was divided in a Europe in which ‘people’s’ democracies faced those of the West. ‘European’ (i.e. a certain sort of Western Europe) consolidation made economic sense and in particular gave a firm foundation to the desirable reconciliation between France and Germany. There was, however, an ambivalent relationship between ‘democracy’ and ‘integration’. ‘Integration’, whatever it precisely entailed, could certainly draw upon a widespread if imprecise notion that a ‘new beginning’ was required. ‘Christian democracy’, at least as espoused by parties that took that label, suggested a transnational ideology. Likewise ‘democratic Socialists’ differentiated themselves from Communists. These similarities made at least a meeting of minds possible. Integrationist minds, however, seeking what they deemed to be a greater good, were somewhat wary of ‘democratic control’. It might be necessary to suppose that both Nazism in Germany or Fascism in Italy had been ‘imposed’ on the ‘people’ but that was not the whole picture. The ‘people’ might again emerge unregenerate and in a xenophobic frame of mind. Democratic governments should, at appropriate moments, seek the ratification of the people for what they had decided to do, but there was a suspicion of decision-making by perpetual referendum. Use of the referendum by authoritarian regimes had shown how easily wording could be manipulated. Its use in Switzerland simply confirmed the prejudice that Switzerland was the exception to everything. [...]

The successive enlargements of the Community on its way to the present European Union have had a kind of ‘democratic’ objective. Greece, Spain and Portugal, as early ‘new members’ in the 1980s, had all been nursed into democracy after their periods of authoritarian rule. One of the most compelling arguments for the EU’s recent and dramatic expansion to include the former Communist states of East-Central Europe was that common membership of the ‘democratic club’ would strengthen their own newly democratic cultures and structures. Such a mission was seen as laudable, no matter what stresses and strains might accompany it. It was the existing member governments, not the people, that agreed admissions and enlargements. The governments of applicant countries have been keen to get in and (Norway excepted) have obtained the necessary popular endorsement of membership on the terms that were offered them. What a referendum in existing member states might have said about enlargement is another matter.

The result, from Estonia to Portugal and from Ireland to Greece, has been the creation of a kind of ‘Europe’ that would not have been imaginable in 1955, let alone by William Pitt in 1805. It brings together some states that have had deep relationships over centuries and others whose interaction has been minimal. It is a democratic ‘Europe’ without precedent. And yet, a clear majority of Dutch and French voters have rejected the Constitution. Possibly for contradictory reasons, the Constitution was found unacceptable.

Sure, it was great fun for continental bureaucrats to impose an EU anti-democratically when they imagined it would consolidate power in their own hands. But now that the only feasible use for it is as a trade union, imposing economic liberalization on the older democracies and stripping power away from bureaucrats, they've fallen out of love with it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:46 AM


Queen extols the 'unique' power of Christianity ((Jonathan Petre, 16/11/2005, Daily Telegraph)

The Queen opened the Church of England's General Synod yesterday with a ringing endorsement of the "uniqueness" of the Christian faith.

In a speech that reflected her personal beliefs as well as her role as the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, she contrasted the enduring nature of Christianity with the rapid changes in society.

"For Christians, this pace of change represents an opportunity," she told a packed hall in Church House, Westminster. "When so much is in flux, when limitless amounts of information, much of it ephemeral, are instantly accessible on demand, there is a renewed hunger for that which endures and gives meaning.

"The Christian Church can speak uniquely to that need, for at the heart of our faith stands the conviction that all people, irrespective of race, background or circumstances, can find lasting significance and purpose in the Gospel of Jesus Christ."

The Queen's words will be welcomed by churchgoers who fear that the message of Christianity is in danger of being diluted amid efforts to embrace a multi-faith culture, particularly after the terrorist attacks on London.

Might be a good time to share the good news with the boy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:28 AM


Inflation moderates as gas prices fall (MARTIN CRUTSINGER, 11/16/05, AP)

Inflation pressures bombarding consumers moderated significantly last month as energy prices retreated after hitting record highs in September.

The Labor Department reported that consumer prices edged up just 0.2 percent in October, which was the best showing in four months. In September, consumer prices had soared by 1.2 percent, the biggest one-month increase in 25 years.

The slowdown in price pressures reflected a 0.2 percent drop in energy costs, a significant change from the record 12 percent increase in energy prices in September, a surge that had reflected widespread shutdowns of refineries and oil platforms along the Gulf Coast in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Mr. Greenspan could take considerable pressure off of Mr. bernanke by starting to cut rates himself before he leaves.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:58 AM


Woodward Was Told of Plame More Than Two Years Ago (Jim VandeHei and Carol D. Leonnig, November 16, 2005, Washington Post)

Washington Post Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward testified under oath Monday in the CIA leak case that a senior administration official told him about CIA operative Valerie Plame and her position at the agency nearly a month before her identity was disclosed.

In a more than two-hour deposition, Woodward told Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald that the official casually told him in mid-June 2003 that Plame worked as a CIA analyst on weapons of mass destruction, and that he did not believe the information to be classified or sensitive, according to a statement Woodward released yesterday.

Fitzgerald interviewed Woodward about the previously undisclosed conversation after the official alerted the prosecutor to it on Nov. 3 -- one week after Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, was indicted in the investigation.

Citing a confidentiality agreement in which the source freed Woodward to testify but would not allow him to discuss their conversations publicly, Woodward and Post editors refused to disclose the official's name or provide crucial details about the testimony. Woodward did not share the information with Washington Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. until last month, and the only Post reporter whom Woodward said he remembers telling in the summer of 2003 does not recall the conversation taking place.

Woodward said he also testified that he met with Libby on June 27, 2003, and discussed Iraq policy as part of his research for a book on President Bush's march to war. He said he does not believe Libby said anything about Plame.

C'mon, Woodward just doesn't want to seem like he was scooped. Are we supposed to believe that Scooter Libby wanted this info out but didn't tell Woodward and that Woodward knew it and didn't blab it?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:33 AM


US retains hold of the internet: The US has won its fight to stay in charge of the internet, despite opposition from many nations. (BBC, 11/16/05)

In an eleventh-hour agreement ahead of a UN internet summit in Tunis, Tunisia, negotiators agreed to leave the US in charge of the net's addressing system. [...]

Disagreements over control of the internet had threatened to overshadow the summit, with countries such as China and Iran pushing for a international body under UN auspices to oversee the net.

The US had stood firm against this, arguing that it would stifle technological advance and increase censorship of the internet by undemocratic regimes.

The Tunis deal leaves the day-to-day management of the net in the hands of the California-based Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann), which answers to the US government.

Icann will keep its current responsibilities for overseeing domain names and addressing systems, such as country domain suffixes, and managing how net browsers and e-mail programs direct traffic.

The 170 nations taking part in the negotiations agreed on the creation of an Intergovernmental Forum to discuss all internet issues, such as spam, viruses and cyber crime.

"We did not change anything on the role of the US government with regard to the technical aspects that we were very concerned about," said the top US negotiator David Gross after the agreement.

Mr Gross said the forum would not have oversight authority nor would it do "anything that will create any problems for the private sector".

Helped that the totalitarian regimes had no bargaining power--whgat are they going to do, restrict our access to their censored sites?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:09 AM


Bush urges China to allow more freedom, lauds Taiwan (Judy Keen, 11/15/05, USA TODAY)

President Bush began his four-day trip to Asia today by challenging China to give its people more political and religious freedom and hailing Taiwan's commitment to democracy.

"As China reforms its economy, its leaders are finding that once the door to freedom is opened even a crack, it cannot be closed," he said. "As the people of China grow in prosperity, their demands for political freedom will grow as well." [...]

Taiwan has "delivered prosperity to its people and created a free and democratic Chinese society," Bush said. Taiwan is self-governed, and the United States has said it will protect it if China uses force to bring it under the mainland government's control.

Bush made his remarks in a speech in Kyoto, where he was meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi as part of his tour. Bush applauded Koizumi's economic reforms and thanked him for his support in Iraq.

"We've got a strong friend in Japan when it comes to spreading democracy and freedom," Bush said in a news conference today with Koizumi. [...]

Bush travels to Busan, South Korea, today for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. He'll visit Beijing and Mongolia before returning to Washington on Monday.

India, Russia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, New Zealand and Australia should really be on the itinerary just to demonstrate to the Chicoms and the world that we've got them surrounded.

President Discusses Freedom and