January 31, 2006

Posted by Matt Murphy at 11:37 PM


Bush Skips Complex Realities in Address (Calvin Woodward and Hope Yen, 1/31/06, Associated Press)

President Bush set energy self-sufficiency goals Tuesday night that would still leave the country vulnerable to unstable oil sources. He also declared he is helping more people get health care, despite a rising number of uninsured.

Whether promoting a plan to "save Social Security" or describing Iraqi security forces as "increasingly capable of defeating the enemy," Bush skipped over some complex realities in his State of the Union speech.

Might as well be headlined: "Discerning Readers Skip the AP Wire."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:14 PM


The Buzz: Trouble in Deanland (The Kansas City Star, 1/31/06)

Roll Call reports that Democratic leaders are bristling at arty Chairman Howard Dean’s management. They’re especially upset because he has spent nearly all of the Democratic National Committee’s cash and has little left to support efforts to gain seats this cycle.

Several sources said congressional leaders and especially Rep. Rahm Emanuel, head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, were furious when they learned the DNC has just $5.5 million in the bank versus the Republican National Committee’s $34 million. A Democratic source about Dean: “People are bringing him to Jesus. It’s being expressed to him. He knows it.”

Yes, but why are they bringing nails and a hammer?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:08 PM


Consumer Confidence Increases in January (ANNE D'INNOCENZIO , 01.31.2006, AP

Americans grew more optimistic about the job market in January, sending a widely followed measure of consumer confidence to its highest level in three and a half years. The report Tuesday from the Conference Board showed, however, that consumers are still uneasy about the future.

The private research group said its consumer confidence index rose to 106.3, the highest level since June 2002, when the reading was also 106.3. The latest measure was up from a revised 103.8 in December, and continued a rebound that began in November following the Gulf Coast hurricanes. Analysts had expected a reading of 105.0 in January.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:22 PM


STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS (As Prepared For Delivery, January 31, 2006)

Mr. Speaker, Vice President Cheney, Members of Congress, Members of the Supreme Court and diplomatic corps, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens:

Today our Nation lost a beloved, graceful, courageous woman who called America to its founding ideals and carried on a noble dream. Tonight we are comforted by the hope of a glad reunion with the husband who was taken from her so long ago, and we are grateful for the good life of Coretta Scott King.

Each time I am invited to this rostrum, I am humbled by the privilege, and mindful of the history we have seen together. We have gathered under this Capitol dome in moments of national mourning and national achievement. We have served America through one of the most consequential periods of our history – and it has been my honor to serve with you.

In a system of two parties, two chambers, and two elected branches, there will always be differences and debate. But even tough debates can be conducted in a civil tone, and our differences cannot be allowed to harden into anger. To confront the great issues before us, we must act in a spirit of good will and respect for one another – and I will do my part. Tonight the state of our Union is strong – and together we will make it stronger.

In this decisive year, you and I will make choices that determine both the future and the character of our country. We will choose to act confidently in pursuing the enemies of freedom – or retreat from our duties in the hope of an easier life. We will choose to build our prosperity by leading the world economy – or shut ourselves off from trade and opportunity. In a complex and challenging time, the road of isolationism and protectionism may seem broad and inviting – yet it ends in danger and decline. The only way to protect our people … the only way to secure the peace … the only way to control our destiny is by our leadership – so the United States of America will continue to lead.

Abroad, our Nation is committed to an historic, long-term goal – we seek the end of tyranny in our world. Some dismiss that goal as misguided idealism. In reality, the future security of America depends on it. On September 11th, 2001, we found that problems originating in a failed and oppressive state seven thousand miles away could bring murder and destruction to our country. Dictatorships shelter terrorists, feed resentment and radicalism, and seek weapons of mass destruction. Democracies replace resentment with hope, respect the rights of their citizens and their neighbors, and join the fight against terror. Every step toward freedom in the world makes our country safer, and so we will act boldly in freedom’s cause.

Far from being a hopeless dream, the advance of freedom is the great story of our time. In 1945, there were about two dozen lonely democracies on Earth. Today, there are 122. And we are writing a new chapter in the story of self-government – with women lining up to vote in Afghanistan … and millions of Iraqis marking their liberty with purple ink … and men and women from Lebanon to Egypt debating the rights of individuals and the necessity of freedom. At the start of 2006, more than half the people of our world live in democratic nations. And we do not forget the other half – in places like Syria, Burma, Zimbabwe, North Korea, and Iran – because the demands of justice, and the peace of this world, require their freedom as well.

No one can deny the success of freedom, but some men rage and fight against it. And one of the main sources of reaction and opposition is radical Islam – the perversion by a few of a noble faith into an ideology of terror and death. Terrorists like bin Laden are serious about mass murder – and all of us must take their declared intentions seriously. They seek to impose a heartless system of totalitarian control throughout the Middle East, and arm themselves with weapons of mass murder. Their aim is to seize power in Iraq, and use it as a safe haven to launch attacks against America and the world. Lacking the military strength to challenge us directly, the terrorists have chosen the weapon of fear. When they murder children at a school in Beslan … or blow up commuters in London … or behead a bound captive … the terrorists hope these horrors will break our will, allowing the violent to inherit the Earth. But they have miscalculated: We love our freedom, and we will fight to keep it.

In a time of testing, we cannot find security by abandoning our commitments and retreating within our borders. If we were to leave these vicious attackers alone, they would not leave us alone. They would simply move the battlefield to our own shores. There is no peace in retreat. And there is no honor in retreat. By allowing radical Islam to work its will – by leaving an assaulted world to fend for itself – we would signal to all that we no longer believe in our own ideals, or even in our own courage. But our enemies and our friends can be certain: The United States will not retreat from the world, and we will never surrender to evil.

America rejects the false comfort of isolationism. We are the Nation that saved liberty in Europe, and liberated death camps, and helped raise up democracies, and faced down an evil empire. Once again, we accept the call of history to deliver the oppressed, and move this world toward peace.

We remain on the offensive against terror networks. We have killed or captured many of their leaders – and for the others, their day will come.

We remain on the offensive in Afghanistan – where a fine president and national assembly are fighting terror while building the institutions of a new democracy.

And we are on the offensive in Iraq, with a clear plan for victory. First, we are helping Iraqis build an inclusive government, so that old resentments will be eased, and the insurgency marginalized. Second, we are continuing reconstruction efforts, and helping the Iraqi government to fight corruption and build a modern economy, so all Iraqis can experience the benefits of freedom. Third, we are striking terrorist targets while we train Iraqi forces that are increasingly capable of defeating the enemy. Iraqis are showing their courage every day, and we are proud to be their allies in the cause of freedom.

Our work in Iraq is difficult, because our enemy is brutal. But that brutality has not stopped the dramatic progress of a new democracy. In less than three years, that nation has gone from dictatorship, to liberation, to sovereignty, to a constitution, to national elections. At the same time, our coalition has been relentless in shutting off terrorist infiltration, clearing out insurgent strongholds, and turning over territory to Iraqi security forces. I am confident in our plan for victory … I am confident in the will of the Iraqi people … I am confident in the skill and spirit of our military. Fellow citizens, we are in this fight to win, and we are winning.

The road of victory is the road that will take our troops home. As we make progress on the ground, and Iraqi forces increasingly take the lead, we should be able to further decrease our troop levels – but those decisions will be made by our military commanders, not by politicians in Washington, D.C.

Our coalition has learned from experience in Iraq. We have adjusted our military tactics and changed our approach to reconstruction. Along the way, we have benefited from responsible criticism and counsel offered by Members of Congress of both parties. In the coming year, I will continue to reach out and seek your good advice.

Yet there is a difference between responsible criticism that aims for success, and defeatism that refuses to acknowledge anything but failure. Hindsight alone is not wisdom. And second-guessing is not a strategy.

With so much in the balance, those of us in public office have a duty to speak with candor. A sudden withdrawal of our forces from Iraq would abandon our Iraqi allies to death and prison … put men like bin Laden and Zarqawi in charge of a strategic country … and show that a pledge from America means little. Members of Congress: however we feel about the decisions and debates of the past, our Nation has only one option: We must keep our word, defeat our enemies, and stand behind the American military in its vital mission.

Our men and women in uniform are making sacrifices – and showing a sense of duty stronger than all fear. They know what it is like to fight house to house in a maze of streets … to wear heavy gear in the desert heat … to see a comrade killed by a roadside bomb. And those who know the costs also know the stakes. Marine Staff Sergeant Dan Clay was killed last month fighting the enemy in Fallujah. He left behind a letter to his family, but his words could just as well be addressed to every American. Here is what Dan wrote: “I know what honor is. It has been an honor to protect and serve all of you. I faced death with the secure knowledge that you would not have to…. Never falter! Don’t hesitate to honor and support those of us who have the honor of protecting that which is worth protecting.”

Staff Sergeant Dan Clay’s wife, Lisa, and his mom and dad, Sara Jo and Bud, are with us this evening. Our Nation is grateful to the fallen, who live in the memory of our country. We are grateful to all who volunteer to wear our Nation’s uniform – and as we honor our brave troops, let us never forget the sacrifices of America’s military families.

Our offensive against terror involves more than military action. Ultimately, the only way to defeat the terrorists is to defeat their dark vision of hatred and fear by offering the hopeful alternative of political freedom and peaceful change. So the United States of America supports democratic reform across the broader Middle East. Elections are vital – but they are only the beginning. Raising up a democracy requires the rule of law, protection of minorities, and strong, accountable institutions that last longer than a single vote. The great people of Egypt have voted in a multi-party presidential election – and now their government should open paths of peaceful opposition that will reduce the appeal of radicalism. The Palestinian people have voted in elections – now the leaders of Hamas must recognize Israel, disarm, reject terrorism, and work for lasting peace. Saudi Arabia has taken the first steps of reform – now it can offer its people a better future by pressing forward with those efforts. Democracies in the Middle East will not look like our own, because they will reflect the traditions of their own citizens. Yet liberty is the future of every nation in the Middle East, because liberty is the right and hope of all humanity.

The same is true of Iran, a nation now held hostage by a small clerical elite that is isolating and repressing its people. The regime in that country sponsors terrorists in the Palestinian territories and in Lebanon – and that must come to an end. The Iranian government is defying the world with its nuclear ambitions – and the nations of the world must not permit the Iranian regime to gain nuclear weapons. America will continue to rally the world to confront these threats. And tonight, let me speak directly to the citizens of Iran: America respects you, and we respect your country. We respect your right to choose your own future and win your own freedom. And our Nation hopes one day to be the closest of friends with a free and democratic Iran.

To overcome dangers in our world, we must also take the offensive by encouraging economic progress, fighting disease, and spreading hope in hopeless lands. Isolationism would not only tie our hands in fighting enemies, it would keep us from helping our friends in desperate need. We show compassion abroad because Americans believe in the God-given dignity and worth of a villager with HIV/AIDS, or an infant with malaria, or a refugee fleeing genocide, or a young girl sold into slavery. We also show compassion abroad because regions overwhelmed by poverty, corruption, and despair are sources of terrorism, organized crime, human trafficking, and the drug trade.

In recent years, you and I have taken unprecedented action to fight AIDS and malaria, expand the education of girls, and reward developing nations that are moving forward with economic and political reform. For people everywhere, the United States is a partner for a better life. Short-changing these efforts would increase the suffering and chaos of our world, undercut our long-term security, and dull the conscience of our country. I urge Members of Congress to serve the interests of America by showing the compassion of America.

Our country must also remain on the offensive against terrorism here at home. The enemy has not lost the desire or capability to attack us. Fortunately, this Nation has superb professionals in law enforcement, intelligence, the military, and homeland security. These men and women are dedicating their lives to protecting us all, and they deserve our support and our thanks. They also deserve the same tools they already use to fight drug trafficking and organized crime – so I ask you to reauthorize the Patriot Act.

It is said that prior to the attacks of September 11th, our government failed to connect the dots of the conspiracy. We now know that two of the hijackers in the United States placed telephone calls to al-Qaida operatives overseas. But we did not know about their plans until it was too late. So to prevent another attack – based on authority given to me by the Constitution and by statute – I have authorized a terrorist surveillance program to aggressively pursue the international communications of suspected al-Qaida operatives and affiliates to and from America. Previous presidents have used the same constitutional authority I have – and Federal courts have approved the use of that authority. Appropriate Members of Congress have been kept informed. This terrorist surveillance program has helped prevent terrorist attacks. It remains essential to the security of America. If there are people inside our country who are talking with al-Qaida, we want to know about it – because we will not sit back and wait to be hit again.

In all these areas – from the disruption of terror networks, to victory in Iraq, to the spread of freedom and hope in troubled regions – we need the support of friends and allies. To draw that support, we must always be clear in our principles and willing to act. The only alternative to American leadership is a dramatically more dangerous and anxious world. Yet we also choose to lead because it is a privilege to serve the values that gave us birth. American leaders – from Roosevelt to Truman to Kennedy to Reagan – rejected isolation and retreat, because they knew that America is always more secure when freedom is on the march. Our own generation is in a long war against a determined enemy – a war that will be fought by Presidents of both parties, who will need steady bipartisan support from the Congress. And tonight I ask for yours. Together, let us protect our country, support the men and women who defend us, and lead this world toward freedom.

Here at home, America also has a great opportunity: We will build the prosperity of our country by strengthening our economic leadership in the world.

Our economy is healthy, and vigorous, and growing faster than other major industrialized nations. In the last two-and-a-half years, America has created 4.6 million new jobs – more than Japan and the European Union combined. Even in the face of higher energy prices and natural disasters, the American people have turned in an economic performance that is the envy of the world.

The American economy is pre-eminent – but we cannot afford to be complacent. In a dynamic world economy, we are seeing new competitors like China and India. This creates uncertainty, which makes it easier to feed people’s fears. And so we are seeing some old temptations return. Protectionists want to escape competition, pretending that we can keep our high standard of living while walling off our economy. Others say that the government needs to take a larger role in directing the economy, centralizing more power in Washington and increasing taxes. We hear claims that immigrants are somehow bad for the economy – even though this economy could not function without them. All these are forms of economic retreat, and they lead in the same direction – toward a stagnant and second-rate economy.

Tonight I will set out a better path – an agenda for a Nation that competes with confidence – an agenda that will raise standards of living and generate new jobs. Americans should not fear our economic future, because we intend to shape it.

Keeping America competitive begins with keeping our economy growing. And our economy grows when Americans have more of their own money to spend, save, and invest. In the last five years, the tax relief you passed has left 880 billion dollars in the hands of American workers, investors, small businesses, and families – and they have used it to help produce more than four years of uninterrupted economic growth. Yet the tax relief is set to expire in the next few years. If we do nothing, American families will face a massive tax increase they do not expect and will not welcome.

Because America needs more than a temporary expansion, we need more than temporary tax relief. I urge the Congress to act responsibly, and make the tax cuts permanent.

Keeping America competitive requires us to be good stewards of tax dollars. Every year of my presidency, we have reduced the growth of non-security discretionary spending – and last year you passed bills that cut this spending. This year my budget will cut it again, and reduce or eliminate more than 140 programs that are performing poorly or not fulfilling essential priorities. By passing these reforms, we will save the American taxpayer another 14 billion dollars next year – and stay on track to cut the deficit in half by 2009. I am pleased that Members of Congress are working on earmark reform – because the Federal budget has too many special interest projects. And we can tackle this problem together, if you pass the line-item veto.

We must also confront the larger challenge of mandatory spending, or entitlements. This year, the first of about 78 million Baby Boomers turn 60, including two of my Dad’s favorite people – me, and President Bill Clinton. This milestone is more than a personal crisis – it is a national challenge. The retirement of the Baby Boom generation will put unprecedented strains on the Federal government. By 2030, spending for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid alone will be almost 60 percent of the entire Federal budget. And that will present future Congresses with impossible choices – staggering tax increases, immense deficits, or deep cuts in every category of spending.

Congress did not act last year on my proposal to save Social Security, yet the rising cost of entitlements is a problem that is not going away – and with every year we fail to act, the situation gets worse. So tonight, I ask you to join me in creating a commission to examine the full impact of Baby Boom retirements on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. This commission should include Members of Congress of both parties, and offer bipartisan answers. We need to put aside partisan politics, work together, and get this problem solved.

Keeping America competitive requires us to open more markets for all that Americans make and grow. One out of every five factory jobs in America is related to global trade, and we want people everywhere to buy American. With open markets and a level playing field, no one can out-produce or out-compete the American worker.

Keeping America competitive requires an immigration system that upholds our laws, reflects our values, and serves the interests of our economy. Our Nation needs orderly and secure borders. To meet this goal, we must have stronger immigration enforcement and border protection. And we must have a rational, humane guest worker program that rejects amnesty … allows temporary jobs for people who seek them legally … and reduces smuggling and crime at the border.

Keeping America competitive requires affordable health care. Our government has a responsibility to help provide health care for the poor and the elderly, and we are meeting that responsibility. For all Americans, we must confront the rising cost of care … strengthen the doctor-patient relationship … and help people afford the insurance coverage they need. We will make wider use of electronic records and other health information technology, to help control costs and reduce dangerous medical errors. We will strengthen Health Savings Accounts – by making sure individuals and small business employees can buy insurance with the same advantages that people working for big businesses now get. We will do more to make this coverage portable, so workers can switch jobs without having to worry about losing their health insurance. And because lawsuits are driving many good doctors out of practice – leaving women in nearly 1,500 American counties without a single OB-GYN – I ask the Congress to pass medical liability reform this year.

Keeping America competitive requires affordable energy. Here we have a serious problem: America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world.

The best way to break this addiction is through technology. Since 2001, we have spent nearly 10 billion dollars to develop cleaner, cheaper, more reliable alternative energy sources – and we are on the threshold of incredible advances. So tonight, I announce the Advanced Energy Initiative – a 22-percent increase in clean-energy research at the Department of Energy, to push for breakthroughs in two vital areas. To change how we power our homes and offices, we will invest more in zero-emission coal-fired plants; revolutionary solar and wind technologies; and clean, safe nuclear energy.

We must also change how we power our automobiles. We will increase our research in better batteries for hybrid and electric cars, and in pollution-free cars that run on hydrogen. We will also fund additional research in cutting-edge methods of producing ethanol, not just from corn but from wood chips, stalks, or switch grass. Our goal is to make this new kind of ethanol practical and competitive within six years. Breakthroughs on this and other new technologies will help us reach another great goal: to replace more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025. By applying the talent and technology of America, this country can dramatically improve our environment … move beyond a petroleum-based economy … and make our dependence on Middle Eastern oil a thing of the past.

And to keep America competitive, one commitment is necessary above all: We must continue to lead the world in human talent and creativity. Our greatest advantage in the world has always been our educated, hard-working, ambitious people – and we are going to keep that edge. Tonight I announce the American Competitiveness Initiative, to encourage innovation throughout our economy, and to give our Nation’s children a firm grounding in math and science.

First: I propose to double the Federal commitment to the most critical basic research programs in the physical sciences over the next ten years. This funding will support the work of America’s most creative minds as they explore promising areas such as nanotechnology, supercomputing, and alternative energy sources.

Second: I propose to make permanent the research and development tax credit, to encourage bolder private-sector investment in technology. With more research in both the public and private sectors, we will improve our quality of life – and ensure that America will lead the world in opportunity and innovation for decades to come.

Third: We need to encourage children to take more math and science, and make sure those courses are rigorous enough to compete with other nations. We have made a good start in the early grades with the No Child Left Behind Act, which is raising standards and lifting test scores across our country. Tonight I propose to train 70,000 high school teachers, to lead advanced-placement courses in math and science … bring 30,000 math and science professionals to teach in classrooms … and give early help to students who struggle with math, so they have a better chance at good, high-wage jobs. If we ensure that America’s children succeed in life, they will ensure that America succeeds in the world.

Preparing our Nation to compete in the world is a goal that all of us can share. I urge you to support the American Competitiveness Initiative … and together we will show the world what the American people can achieve.

America is a great force for freedom and prosperity. Yet our greatness is not measured in power or luxuries, but by who we are and how we treat one another. So we strive to be a compassionate, decent, hopeful society.

In recent years, America has become a more hopeful Nation. Violent crime rates have fallen to their lowest levels since the 1970s. Welfare cases have dropped by more than half over the past decade. Drug use among youth is down 19 percent since 2001. There are fewer abortions in America than at any point in the last three decades, and the number of children born to teenage mothers has been falling for a dozen years in a row.

These gains are evidence of a quiet transformation – a revolution of conscience, in which a rising generation is finding that a life of personal responsibility is a life of fulfillment. Government has played a role. Wise policies such as welfare reform, drug education, and support for abstinence and adoption have made a difference in the character of our country. And everyone here tonight, Democrat and Republican, has a right to be proud of this record.

Yet many Americans, especially parents, still have deep concerns about the direction of our culture, and the health of our most basic institutions. They are concerned about unethical conduct by public officials, and discouraged by activist courts that try to redefine marriage. And they worry about children in our society who need direction and love … and about fellow citizens still displaced by natural disaster … and about suffering caused by treatable disease.

As we look at these challenges, we must never give in to the belief that America is in decline, or that our culture is doomed to unravel. The American people know better than that. We have proven the pessimists wrong before – and we will do it again.

A hopeful society depends on courts that deliver equal justice under law. The Supreme Court now has two superb new members, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Sam Alito. I thank the Senate for confirming both of them. And I will continue to nominate men and women who understand that judges must be servants of the law, and not legislate from the bench. Today marks the official retirement of a very special American. For 24 years of faithful service to our Nation, the United States is grateful to Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

A hopeful society has institutions of science and medicine that do not cut ethical corners, and that recognize the matchless value of every life. Tonight I ask you to pass legislation to prohibit the most egregious abuses of medical research – human cloning in all its forms … creating or implanting embryos for experiments … creating human-animal hybrids … and buying, selling, or patenting human embryos. Human life is a gift from our Creator – and that gift should never be discarded, devalued, or put up for sale.

A hopeful society expects elected officials to uphold the public trust. Honorable people in both parties are working on reforms to strengthen the ethical standards of Washington – and I support your efforts. Each of us has made a pledge to be worthy of public responsibility – and that is a pledge we must never forget, never dismiss, and never betray.

As we renew the promise of our institutions, let us also show the character of America in our compassion and care for one another.

A hopeful society gives special attention to children who lack direction and love. Through the Helping America’s Youth Initiative, we are encouraging caring adults to get involved in the life of a child – and this good work is led by our First Lady, Laura Bush. This year we will add resources to encourage young people to stay in school – so more of America’s youth can raise their sights and achieve their dreams.

A hopeful society comes to the aid of fellow citizens in times of suffering and emergency – and stays at it until they are back on their feet. So far the Federal government has committed 85 billion dollars to the people of the Gulf Coast and New Orleans. We are removing debris, repairing highways, and building stronger levees. We are providing business loans and housing assistance. Yet as we meet these immediate needs, we must also address deeper challenges that existed before the storm arrived. In New Orleans and in other places, many of our fellow citizens have felt excluded from the promise of our country. The answer is not only temporary relief, but schools that teach every child … and job skills that bring upward mobility … and more opportunities to own a home and start a business. As we recover from a disaster, let us also work for the day when all Americans are protected by justice, equal in hope, and rich in opportunity.

A hopeful society acts boldly to fight diseases like HIV/AIDS, which can be prevented, and treated, and defeated. More than a million Americans live with HIV, and half of all AIDS cases occur among African-Americans. I ask Congress to reform and reauthorize the Ryan White Act … and provide new funding to states, so we end the waiting lists for AIDS medicine in America. We will also lead a nationwide effort, working closely with African-American churches and faith-based groups, to deliver rapid HIV tests to millions, end the stigma of AIDS, and come closer to the day when there are no new infections in America.

Fellow citizens, we have been called to leadership in a period of consequence. We have entered a great ideological conflict we did nothing to invite. We see great changes in science and commerce that will influence all our lives. And sometimes it can seem that history is turning in a wide arc, toward an unknown shore.

Yet the destination of history is determined by human action, and every great movement of history comes to a point of choosing. Lincoln could have accepted peace at the cost of disunity and continued slavery. Martin Luther King could have stopped at Birmingham or at Selma, and achieved only half a victory over segregation. The United States could have accepted the permanent division of Europe, and been complicit in the oppression of others. Today, having come far in our own historical journey, we must decide: Will we turn back, or finish well?

Before history is written down in books, it is written in courage. Like Americans before us, we will show that courage and we will finish well. We will lead freedom’s advance. We will compete and excel in the global economy. We will renew the defining moral commitments of this land. And so we move forward – optimistic about our country, faithful to its cause, and confident of victories to come.

Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless America.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:03 PM


Iran's Civilian Nuclear Program May Link to Military, U.N. Says (ELAINE SCIOLINO and WILLIAM J. BROAD, 2/01/06, NY Times)

The International Atomic Energy Agency says it has evidence that suggests links between Iran's ostensibly peaceful nuclear program and its military work on high explosives and missiles, according to a confidential agency report provided to member countries today.

The four-page report, which officials say was based at least in part on intelligence provided by the United States, refers to a secretive Iranian entity called the "Green Salt Project," which worked on uranium processing, high explosives and a missile warhead design. The combination suggests a "military-nuclear dimension," the report said, that if true would undercut Iran's claims that its nuclear program was solely aimed at producing electrical power.

The report will be debated by the 35 countries that make up the international agency's board when they meet in emergency session on Thursday to decide whether Iran should be reported to the United Nations Security Council for its nuclear activities.

The noose tightens around Iran (Ehsan Ahrari, 2/02/06)

With the United Nations Security Council's permanent five - the US, Russia, China, France and Britain - banding together to recommend that Iran be reported to the council, at least for now the clear winner is the US, which has allowed the diplomatic option to play itself out.

The loser is Iran, which seems to have lost the support - or at least understandings - given by Beijing and Moscow that it would not be referred to the UN over its nuclear program.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:57 PM


Vet Secretary Skips Speech As Precaution (January 31, 2006, AP)

Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson stayed away from the Capitol Tuesday night in case of a catastrophic attack or accident as President Bush delivered his State of the Union address.

House and Senate leaders of both parties also asked four top lawmakers to skip the speech, which is given in the House chamber.

By long-standing tradition, a member of the president's Cabinet misses the speech to Congress as a precaution against the entire administration being wiped out and to maintain the presidential line of succession. The last two years then-Commerce Secretary Donald Evans did not attend.

Also missing this year were Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, the president pro tempore; Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., chief deputy majority whip; and Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., and Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., chairmen of the Senate and House Democratic Policy Committees.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:50 PM


Rowley issues apology to Rep. John Kline over his depiction on website (Greg Gordon, January 30, 2006, Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

Rep. John Kline demanded and got an apology Monday from his Democratic rival, Coleen Rowley, for a doctored picture on her campaign website depicting him as Colonel Klink, a bumbling Nazi prison camp commandant in an old TV comedy series.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:47 PM


Senate Approves Bernanke as Fed Chairman (AP, January 31, 2006)

The Senate on Tuesday approved the nomination of Ben Bernanke to be the next chairman of the Federal Reserve, the most influential economic policy job in the world.

Bernanke, 52, was cleared on a voice vote after a short debate in the chamber amid strong bipartisan support.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:41 PM


It's policing, but not as Morse knew it (Alice Thomson, 2/01/06, Daily Telegraph)

So farewell then Morse, and hello Lewis, who has become as grumpy as his former boss and equally lonely after his wife died. ITV brought Lewis back from the British Virgin Islands to give him his own show. But he is horrified by the changes he finds. A form-obsessed female boss, a preference for family liaison officers over catching criminals, and a sidekick with a BlackBerry. Thames Valley Police has gone to the iPods.

But he is lucky he wasn't sent to the Met. There, his commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, is even more relaxed about rising violent crime, but paranoid that the press doesn't sensationalise enough ethnic murders. In one year, he has spent tens of thousands of pounds redesigning the Met's logo, hired 24 diversity advisers and presided over a 14 per cent rise in London robberies.

Hardest of all for Lewis to get his head around would be the behaviour of his Met colleagues over the death of Jean Charles de Menezes. If Morse wasn't dead, this would finish him off.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:35 PM


Missing MPs and rebels leave Blair humiliated over religious hate Bill (Brendan Carlin and Neil Tweedie, 01/02/2006, Daily Telegraph)

Tony Blair's authority was gravely weakened last night after the Government crashed to a double defeat over the religious hatred Bill.

In farcical circumstances, the Prime Minister was apparently allowed home shortly before the second crucial Commons vote, which the Government lost by one.

The defeat, combined with an earlier one by 10 votes, raised fresh doubts about how he could now survive. It also put a question mark over his chances of pushing through education reforms and introducing identity cards.

The twin defeats - only the second and third since Mr Blair came to power in 1997 - suggested that Labour Whips are losing the control of dissident backbenchers who increasingly regard Mr Blair as a lame-duck leader. This is despite the Government's nominal majority of more than 60.

Hilary Armstrong, the Labour Chief Whip, could struggle to hold on to her job after it emerged that 40 Labour MPs did not take part in the first of last night's two votes.

Of those, at least 15 were Scottish MPs - fuelling rumours that up to 25 Labour MPs had been campaigning for next month's Dunfermline and Fife West by-election.

Labour MPs suggested that party rebels, who first tasted success against Mr Blair last November by rejecting his plans to detain terrorist suspects for up to 90 days, had got the appetite for revolt.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:26 PM


We Are What We Own: President Bush will keep pushing Social Security reform. But not tonight. (FRED BARNES, January 31, 2006, Opinion Journal)

For Mr. Bush, the ownership society initiative is temporarily gone--but hardly forgotten. He has a taste for ambitious proposals like transforming the Middle East into a hotbed of democracy. He dismisses smaller programs as "miniball." And an ownership society is his domestic big idea. Mr. Bush has never devoted an entire speech to it. But when I interviewed him in July for my book, "Rebel-in-Chief," he was enthusiastic about the idea and had given it considerable thought. Earlier, in his second inaugural, he declared: "To give every American a stake in the promise and future of the country . . . we will build an ownership society."

Where the phrase "ownership society" came from, nobody knows, not even Mr. Bush or political adviser Karl Rove. Nor did the program emerge in full form. Rather, it was patched together, like FDR's New Deal, from a handful of programs. By 2004, it consisted of five separate proposals: Social Security private accounts, flexible "lifetime" IRAs, HSAs, tax reform and home ownership assistance. Taken together, these represent a new direction in domestic policy. They would give individuals far more control over their own money. Individuals would decide how their payroll taxes were invested. They would have access to their IRA funds at all times without paying a penalty for early withdrawal. They would be encouraged to be more self-reliant and responsible and less reliant on government.

Liberals regard an ownership society with loathing. After all, it goes against 70 years of national policy in favor of expanding the size and scope of the federal government and the power of government officials. With the New Deal, JFK's New Frontier and LBJ's Great Society, government grew and grew, with liberals providing the impetus. For a half-century, conservatives have sought to reverse this trend and both slash federal spending and reduce the size of government. President Reagan briefly pared federal spending (1981) and Newt Gingrich, with the "Republican revolution," mounted a fleeting assault (1995) on it. But in trying to cut the supply of government, both essentially failed.

The notion behind the ownership society is that growth of government can never be halted by attacking supply. Only reducing the demand for government holds a promise of working. With individuals allowed to decide how to save, invest and handle their health-care expenses, they'd demand less from government. Or so the notion goes. GOP national chairman Ken Mehlman refers to this as demand-side conservatism.

The thing that makes Mr. Barnes's book so good--and especially useful as a corrective to David Frum's misguided memoir--is that he grasps the fact that "the creation of an ownership society is Bush's most radical policy," not the transformation of the Islamic World, and that it is specifically intended to alter the political equations of daily life by reducing demand for government.

Contrast this understanding with this story State of the Union Puts Bush on Collision Course With Himself (Ronald Brownstein, January 29, 2006, LA Times)

[O]n crucial issues such as the federal budget deficit, access to healthcare and America's dependence on foreign oil — all concerns Bush is likely to emphasize Tuesday — the nation is unlikely to make significant progress unless the parties narrow their differences. The evidence suggests that the best way to confront these problems is to blend ideas each side favors. The political imperative of greater contrast collides with the substantive imperative of more cooperation.

Consider healthcare. About 46 million Americans lack health insurance. All indications are that Bush wants to expand coverage by offering Americans sweetened tax incentives to open health savings accounts. With these tax-free accounts, people pay much more of their initial medical costs out of pocket (at least $2,100 for a family). Then they buy an insurance plan for catastrophic expenses.

These accounts can be a good deal for healthy people, and they might attract younger workers who now choose to remain uninsured. With proper safeguards to prevent a migration that leaves only the oldest and sickest in traditional insurance programs, Bush's health savings accounts could help expand access.

But these accounts alone are unlikely to significantly shrink the number of uninsured. Two-thirds of the uninsured come from families with incomes at twice the poverty line, or about $38,614 for a family of four, or less.

Even with tax benefits, health savings accounts "really don't lend themselves to the vast majority of the uninsured, because they don't have the money to pay" the required out-of-pocket expenses, says Bruce Bodaken, chairman and chief executive of Blue Shield of California.

Since most Democrats resist these accounts as a threat to traditional insurance, a Bush plan built on them alone would guarantee plenty of campaign contrast. But a compromise that joined these accounts with expansions of government programs, and perhaps new requirements on employers, could meaningfully expand access to care.

You almost have to assume that Mr. Brownstein is being intentionally blind when states that Democrats are concerned about protecting traditional insurance. The interest they want to protect, of course, is dependence on government programs. They well know that they can not afford politically for their constituents to build up wealth in HSAs because that would tend to liberate them from government and from the party of government.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:17 PM


Gonzales Is Challenged on Wiretaps: Feingold Says Attorney General Misled Senators in Hearings (Carol D. Leonnig, January 31, 2006, Washington Post

Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) charged yesterday that Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales misled the Senate during his confirmation hearing a year ago when he appeared to try to avoid answering a question about whether the president could authorize warrantless wiretapping of U.S. citizens.

In a letter to the attorney general yesterday, Feingold demanded to know why Gonzales dismissed the senator's question about warrantless eavesdropping as a "hypothetical situation" during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in January 2005. At the hearing, Feingold asked Gonzales where the president's authority ends and whether Gonzales believed the president could, for example, act in contravention of existing criminal laws and spy on U.S. citizens without a warrant.

Democrats still think the war on terror is a criminal matter?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:18 PM


Two Nominee Strategies. One Worked. (DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK, 1/31/06, NY Times)

The week before his Supreme Court confirmation hearings, Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. e-mailed the text of his opening statement to the White House. It included very little about his legal thinking, dwelled at length on his family and opened with a tired and rambling joke about courtroom banter between a lawyer and a judge.

The response from the White House: "Perfect, don't change a word," according to an administration official who was granted anonymity because Judge Alito's preparation sessions were confidential.

As the last obstacles to confirmation faded away Monday, Democratic aides said their party had initially expected Judge Alito to live up to his reputation as "Scalito," suggesting a conservative firebrand in the mold of Justice Antonin Scalia. Failing to adjust to his meekness, Democratic aides admit they searched too hard for scandal in Judge Alito's past.

The White House, meanwhile, sought to take advantage of Judge Alito's low-key, almost shy demeanor to build sympathy for him. They say they succeeded beyond all expectations when Judge Alito's wife, Martha-Ann, walked out in tears from his confirmation hearings.

"Any time they are yelling, preaching, lecturing, and you are cool and calm and breathing deep, you are winning," the administration official said the White House team told Judge Alito. "What that means on television sets where the American people are watching this is, you look good and they look bad. It was the central operating premise."

How is it going to look when Democrats act just as psychotic with Janice Rogers Brown, Viet Dinh, and Emilio Garza sitting one by one in front of them?

Alito sworn in as member of Supreme Court (Reuters, 1/31/06)

Samuel Alito was sworn in as a U.S. Supreme Court justice on Tuesday after a divided Senate confirmed him as a second conservative appointed by President George W. Bush in his effort to move the high court to the right.

Chief Justice John Roberts, Bush's first Supreme Court nominee, administered the constitutional and judicial oaths in a private ceremony at the court, a spokeswoman said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:32 PM


HOWIE AND HARRY (Washington Prowler. 1/31/06, American Spectator)

It appears that the Democrat Party is closer to imploding than the Republican. How else to explain the ongoing attempts by Democrat Party Chairman Howard Dean to destroy Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid?

According to knowledgeable DNC sources, Dean about ten days ago was shown opposition research documents generated by the Republican National Committee more than three years ago, which laid out facts regarding Reid and his family's lobbying and ethical conflicts.

Dean, according to the sources, was fascinated by the details, and asked that his staff research and independently confirm everything on the documents. "Basically he oppo'd a member of his own party," says a DNC source loyal to Dean.

"Basically, we were looking at three- or four-page documents that made Jack Abramoff's lobbying work look like that of a rank amateur," says the DNC source. "Between the minority leader's past in Nevada and here in Washington, and the activities of his sons and son-in-law, there probably isn't anyone in this town with more conflicts. The Reid family is the symbol of what's wrong with Washington; it's their behavior that enabled the culture that spawned people like Abramoff."

Dean then went public over the weekend, saying that Democrats with an Abramoff problem would be in trouble, not only with voters, but with the Democrat Party. But why attack a senior member of his own party?

According to Democrat Party watchers and DNC staff, Dean has grown increasingly frustrated at how he is treated by the likes of Reid, Sen. Dick Durbin, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Rep. Rahm Emanuel, who leads the House Democrat candidate recruitment effort.

Presumably the DNC is the source of the rumor that Mr. Reid is going to step down as Minority Leader next month?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:16 PM


Senate confirms Alito as Supreme Court justice (Robert Schroeder, Jan. 31, 2006, MarketWatch)

The Senate voted Tuesday to confirm Judge Samuel Alito as the nation's next Supreme Court justice, over the protests of Democrats who said he'd tilt the high court to the right as he replaces the moderate Sandra Day O'Connor.

The 58 to 42 vote split closely along party lines, with the nominee garnering overwhelming Republican support. Sen. Lincoln Chaffee of Rhode Island was the only Republican to vote against President Bush's pick.

Only four Democratic senators -- Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, and Ben Nelson of Nebraska -- crossed the aisle to approve Alito.

Even more reflective of the power shift in America over the last twenty-five years than the vote itself is the notion of Justice O'Connor as moderate.

Posted by pjaminet at 10:59 AM


Off to the Races (Charlie Cook, 1/31/2006)

This year's speech is a particular challenge for Bush because he must, as presidents are wont to do, sound bold, ambitious and purposeful. But because of the Iraq war, Hurricane Katrina and tax cuts, he has little available money with which to be bold, ambitious and purposeful. So he must, instead, resort to offering things that sound grand but won't cost a great deal of money, like, perhaps, health savings accounts.

Look at it this way: The president has to stand up at the podium for one hour and look and sound good while not proposing huge new sums of government spending. Let's face it; there is not a lot that government does that does not cost money, one way or the other.

In effect, the president has to go on national television and tread water for an hour, while trying to make it look like he's swimming the butterfly stroke. That will be difficult to do. But even if Bush does accomplish that feat, the result might not be a significant bump in his job-approval ratings.

Mr. Cook is widely described as a non-partisan political analyst, but his frequent embrace of false liberal premises makes, I believe, much of his analysis invalid. Here is a good example: he thinks that to be bold, ambitious, and purposeful one must spend lots of other people's money -- that there cannot be any bold, ambitious shrinkage of government. To refrain from "proposing huge new sums of government spending" is to merely "tread water."

In fact, President Bush hardly needs to speak boldly, because he has demonstrated a willingness to act boldly. Rather, he is best served by continuing to act boldly while using these speeches as an opportunity to spread balm on partisan divisions, calm the political dialogue and blunt the edges of conflict. He need merely affirm his policies --taking action against terror-sponsoring regimes & promoting freedom and democracy abroad (Iran), restoring a law-abiding judiciary (Alito), and migrating from government-centric to people-centric institutions at home (health care) -- while reaching out to moderates and making them feel at home with him.

Such a speech will be easy to do, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if it is followed by a bump in his job-approval ratings. Cook says the president's approval rating is now at 42%. Look for it to be at 50% in a week.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:42 AM


Negative savings rate debunked (Neil Murray, 1/09/06, Canoe Network)

Despite what bearish commentators may be telling you about the health of the US economy, the notion that US consumers are spending more than they are earning after-tax is an "old wives tale" – say some economists.

The best measure of household savings in the US is the Federal Reserve’s Quarterly Flow of Funds Accounts, says Claymore’s Chief Economist, Brian Wesbury. According to this data US households had $62.5 trillion in assets at the end of September, $11.4 trillion in liabilities and a net worth of $51.1 trillion.

"This is a record level and $5 trillion more than a year earlier", Wesbury exclaimed in a note to clients on January 2, 2006.

Of the increase, financial assets improved by $3.3 trillion suggesting that US households may be one of the best, not worse, savers in the world.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:40 AM


Wire Trap: WHAT IF WIRETAPPING WORKS? (Richard A. Posner, 01.26.06, New Republic)

The revelation by The New York Times that the National Security Agency (NSA) is conducting a secret program of electronic surveillance outside the framework of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (fisa) has sparked a hot debate in the press and in the blogosphere. But there is something odd about the debate: It is aridly legal. Civil libertarians contend that the program is illegal, even unconstitutional; some want President Bush impeached for breaking the law. The administration and its defenders have responded that the program is perfectly legal; if it does violate fisa (the administration denies that it does), then, to that extent, the law is unconstitutional. This legal debate is complex, even esoteric. But, apart from a handful of not very impressive anecdotes (did the NSA program really prevent the Brooklyn Bridge from being destroyed by blowtorches?), there has been little discussion of the program's concrete value as a counterterrorism measure or of the inroads it has or has not made on liberty or privacy.

Not only are these questions more important to most people than the legal questions; they are fundamental to those questions. Lawyers who are busily debating legality without first trying to assess the consequences of the program have put the cart before the horse. Law in the United States is not a Platonic abstraction but a flexible tool of social policy. In analyzing all but the simplest legal questions, one is well advised to begin by asking what social policies are at stake. Suppose the NSA program is vital to the nation's defense, and its impingements on civil liberties are slight. That would not prove the program's legality, because not every good thing is legal; law and policy are not perfectly aligned. But a conviction that the program had great merit would shape and hone the legal inquiry. We would search harder for grounds to affirm its legality, and, if our search were to fail, at least we would know how to change the law--or how to change the program to make it comply with the law--without destroying its effectiveness. Similarly, if the program's contribution to national security were negligible--as we learn, also from the Times, that some FBI personnel are indiscreetly whispering--and it is undermining our civil liberties, this would push the legal analysis in the opposite direction.

Ronald Dworkin, the distinguished legal philosopher and constitutional theorist, wrote in The New York Review of Books in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks that "we cannot allow our Constitution and our shared sense of decency to become a suicide pact." He would doubtless have said the same thing about fisa. If you approach legal issues in that spirit rather than in the spirit of ruat caelum fiat iusticia (let the heavens fall so long as justice is done), you will want to know how close to suicide a particular legal interpretation will bring you before you decide whether to embrace it.

The problem for "civil libertarians" is that even before you get to this utilitarian analsysis you have to clear both the constitutional structure of the Republic and convince people that the feds listening to calls from terrorists is an abridgment of our civil rights.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:37 AM


Liberal activists promote a ruckus to silence Bush (Stephanie Mansfield, 1/31/06, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Liberal activists -- among them graying leftovers from the Vietnam-era antiwar movement -- plan to gather near the Capitol tonight, banging pots and pans to drown out President Bush's State of the Union address.

Because being on the Left means that if I deny reality it isn't real.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:34 AM


British troops in Germany ready for mass withdrawal (Michael Evans, 1/31/06, Times of London)

AN ARMY brigade that fought in all the major battles of the Second World War and has been stationed in Germany for 25 years is to be withdrawn and returned to England.

The 4,400 troops of the 4th Armoured Brigade, many of whom have German wives, are to be relocated to Catterick in North Yorkshire and given a new role.

The withdrawal will bring the number of British troops in Germany to below 20,000 for the first time since 1945.

You can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel of the WWII quagmire....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:27 AM


What Hamas Is Seeking (Mousa Abu Marzook, January 31, 2006, Washington Post)

The results of these elections reflect a need for change from the corruption and intransigence of the past government. Since its creation 10 years ago, the Palestinian Legislative Council has been unsuccessful in addressing the needs of the people. As the occupation solidified its grip under the auspices of "peace agreements," quality of life deteriorated for Palestinians in the occupied territories. Poverty levels soared, unemployment rates reached uncharted heights and the lack of basic security approached unbearable depths. A grass-roots alternative grew out of the urgency of this situation. Through its legacy of social work and involvement in the needs of the Palestinian people, the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) flourished as a positive social force striving for the welfare of all Palestinians. Alleviating the debilitative conditions of occupation, and not an Islamic state, is at the heart of our mandate (with reform and change as its lifeblood). [...]

A new breed of Islamic leadership is ready to put into practice faith-based principles in a setting of tolerance and unity.

In that vein, Hamas has pledged transparency in government. Honest leadership will result from the accountability of its public servants. Hamas has elected 15 female legislators poised to play a significant role in public life. The movement has forged genuine and lasting relationships with Christian candidates. [...]

As the Israelis value their own security, Palestinians are entitled to their fundamental rights to live in dignity and security. We ask them to reflect on the peace that our peoples once enjoyed and the protection that Muslims gave the Jewish community worldwide. We will exert good-faith efforts to remove the bitterness that Israel's occupation has succeeded in creating, alienating a generation of Palestinians. We call on them not to condemn posterity to endless bloodshed and a conflict in which dominance is illusory. There must come a day when we will live together, side by side once again.

Shouldn't be that hard then to recognize the permanent nature of the state of Israel, eh?

U.S., allies demand Hamas changes (Nicholas KralevJanuary 31, 2006, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

The United States and its allies said yesterday that they would support the new Hamas-led Palestinian government only if it renounces violence, accepts Israel's existence and adopts the Palestinian Authority's commitments.

The Bush administration, which first pushed the three conditions for the radical Islamic movement, won the backing of the European Union, Russia and the United Nations at a meeting of the so-called "Quartet" in London last night.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:21 AM


Tasting Victory, Liberals Instead Have a Food Fight (Dana Milbank, January 31, 2006, Washington Post)

Right on cue, liberal activists including Cindy Sheehan and Ramsey Clark gathered yesterday at the Busboys & Poets restaurant and bookshop at 14th and V streets NW for what they billed as a forum on "The Impeachment of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney." But the participants, while charging the administration with "crimes against humanity," a "war of aggression" and even "the supreme international crime," inevitably turned their wrath on congressional Democrats, whom they regarded as a bunch of wimps.

"Does the Democratic Party want to continue to exist or does it want to ignore what 85 percent of its supporters want?" demanded David Swanson, a labor union official who runs "Impeach PAC" and other efforts to remove Bush from office. Singling out Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid (Nev.) for derision, Swanson said that Democrats who do the right thing "are exceptions."

Sheehan, just back from Caracas, where she praised Venezuela's anti-American president, Hugo Chavez, and called Bush a "terrorist," said she expects Democrats will "seriously screw up" the midterm elections in November. Besides, "we can't wait" for the election, said Sheehan, who is mulling a primary challenge to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

"Cindy for the Senate!" called out moderator Kevin Zeese, a Ralph Nader acolyte. "It's important for us to stop thinking as Democrats and Republicans and break out of this two-party straitjacket," argued Zeese, a third-party candidate for Senate in Maryland.

After the participants made their urgent calls for impeachment proceedings, John Bruhns, identifying himself as an antiwar Iraq veteran, rose for a clarification. If Democrats don't first "gain control of one of the houses" of Congress, he wondered, "how else can we impeach this monster?"

Swanson had a ready brushoff for Democrats who won't pursue impeachment because they're in the minority: "Just go home if you're going to talk that way." Offering the lessons of 1994, he said: "The way the Republicans got the majority was not by being scared. . . . It was by going out and speaking on behalf of their base and letting themselves be called radicals."

Bruhns, wearing a crew cut and business suit, disagreed. Somebody in the audience called for him to "shut up."

"They didn't answer my question," Bruhns protested after the exchange ended. "How do you get impeachment if you don't win elections? I'm being practical."

If he were around the Reverend Jim Jones would have a lock on the refreshment concession at these rave ups.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:17 AM


Most Americans Back Sanctions on Iran: Nuclear Program Seen as Threat in Polls (Claudia Deane, 1/31/06, Washington Post)

Seven in 10 Americans would support international economic sanctions as a way to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, but there is considerable wariness about taking military action against Tehran, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll.

With international efforts to persuade the Islamist regime to give up sensitive nuclear technology at an impasse, about 42 percent of Americans said they would support bombing Iran's nuclear development sites, while 54 percent oppose it. [...]

A large majority of the public says Iran is a threat to the United States, albeit not an immediate one, according to a recent Gallup poll. And a Fox News survey suggests the public views Iran's official pronouncements on the nuclear research program with great skepticism: Eight in 10 voters believe the country plans to use uranium enrichment for military rather than for peaceful purposes.

"Even before 9/11, if you asked people what the major foreign policy principles were, one that always scored high was stopping the proliferation of nuclear weapons," John Mueller, an expert on war and public opinion at Ohio State University, said of the tough public response.

The Democrats lack of seriousness on national security, which they thought would help them on Iraq, kills them on Iran.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:29 AM


The Ice Cream Party and the Spinach Party: Three proposals to put a little pleasure back into our domestic politics. (Walter Russell Mead, 02/06/2006, Weekly Standard)

during the transit strike I used the time I saved from commuting to put together some proposals that met three criteria: Each had to be popular, practical, and consistent with conservative principles. Some are new, some are old, but all are ideas that, it seems to me, would benefit both the American people and the political party that proposed them.

THE FIRST IDEA, not surprisingly given my personal circumstances the other month, has to do with telecommuting. [...]

Working with state and local governments and with business leaders, the federal government should encourage public and private enterprises to develop emergency plans that would allow as many workers as possible to work from their homes or from nearby satellite work sites during an emergency--and develop plans to protect the country's telecommunications infrastructure as well. More than half the American workforce now has jobs that can be done from home at least in part; if public and private employers put emergency plans in place, we can significantly degrade the ability of terrorists to disrupt our lives. [...]

HERE'S ANOTHER ICE CREAM IDEA. Maybe not on the same scale, but it's something the government could do, and something most people would like quite a lot.

Let's cut the transaction hassles and costs on residential real estate. For the large majority of American families, their homes are their largest investment. Building a national market in which people can freely and easily buy and sell homes has not only helped generations of Americans acquire property and learn about finance; it's also contributed to the flexibility of the American economy by enabling people to move around the country in search of opportunity and jobs.

Yet as anybody who has tried it knows, there's a lot of red tape and cost when it comes to buying or selling a house. Closing costs are mysterious, arcane, and to a large degree the consequence of an inefficient system that is often deliberately designed to provide comfortable niche livings for various otherwise useless professionals. The free market is taking care of some of these costs as banks keep losing loans to cheaper Internet lenders and as the competition among realtors leads to fee cutting. But there are plenty of costs that can only be cut with government pressure--to, for example, put title information into computer-searchable databases so that title searches and title insurance would cost pennies rather than hundreds of dollars.

This doesn't have to cost a lot of money. Congress could direct Fannie Mae to require gradual reductions in the fees and paperwork associated with conforming loans. States that adopted new and more efficient methods of title registry and deed conveyance could get some help from the federal government to modernize their systems. [...]


There is no reason the government should try to prevent American families who value the traditional college experience from paying hundreds of thousands of dollars, but perhaps it could offer an alternative: a federally recognized national baccalaureate (or 'national bac') degree that students could earn by demonstrating competence and knowledge.

With input from employers, the Department of Education could develop standards in fields like English, the sciences, information technology, mathematics, and so on. Students would get certificates when they passed an exam in a given subject. These certificates could be used, like the Advanced Placement tests of the College Board, to reduce the number of courses students would need to graduate from a traditional college. And colleges that accepted federal funds could be required to award credits for them.

But the certificates would be good for something else as well. With enough certificates in the right subjects, students could get a national bac without going to college. Government agencies would accept the bac as the equivalent of a conventional bachelor's degree; graduate schools and any organization receiving federal funds would also be required to accept it.

Subject exams calibrated to a national standard would give employers something they do not now have: assurance that a student has achieved a certain level of knowledge and skill.

Forget terrorists, telecommuting is pro-family and anti-gasoline.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:13 AM


Westin touches match to smoke-free trend (Gary Stoller, USA TODAY)

A move this month by Westin Hotels & Resorts to go smoke-free may open the door to similar policies by competitors.

"I think it will be the start of a trend," says Joe McInerney, president of trade group American Hotel & Lodging Association.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:44 AM


Smaller is better, says minister in hospitals shake-up (Sam Lister, 1/31/06, Times of London)

THE community hospital, a part of the health service threatened with widespread closures, is to be recast as a centrepiece of the NHS after a government rethink.

Sweeping changes to the NHS, outlined yesterday in the long-awaited community services White Paper, will mean community hospitals taking on a significant role in efforts to provide more care to patients closer to home. The initiative comes after big cuts to community hospital care, with more than 90 thought to be at threat of imminent closure.

Many of these will now be redeveloped as part of the restructuring of primary care, and the Government plans to build a “new generation” of 50 community hospitals over the next ten years. The hospitals, modelled on “polyclinics” pioneered in Germany, will be state-of-the-art but without the A&E departments that generate emergency pressures on district general hospitals.

The move is designed to provide more care and treatment outside the costly setting of traditional acute hospitals.

Perhaps not the first line he'd want on his resume, but Tony Blair is the first Labour leader Winston Churchill wouldn't be afraid to share a urinal with.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:26 AM


Americans on slippery savings slope (MARTIN CRUTSINGER, January 31, 2006, AP)

Americans are spending everything they're making and more, pushing the national savings rate to the lowest point since the Great Depression. [...]

This time the reasons for the negative savings rate are vastly different. Americans are spending all their incomes and then some because they feel wealthier because of the soaring value of their homes, which for many Americans is the largest investment they own.

But analysts cautioned that this behavior was risky at a time when 78 million Americans are on the verge of retirement. The baby boomers start turning 60 this year, which means they can begin retiring with Social Security in just two more years.

Analysts said with this huge wave of pending retirements, the savings rate should be going up rather than being on a steady decline over the last two decades. The savings rate stood at 10.8 percent of after-tax incomes in 1984 and has been declining steadily since that time. It was down to 1.8 percent in 2004 before turning negative last year.

There's nothing shocking about the fact that after-tax savings have fallen in the twenty years since Ronald Reagan made 401ks and IRAs an integral part of our lives, but it is stunning that Americans had so much of their money merely "saved" at the end of an inflationary epoch during which such savings continually lost value. No wonder we all felt so poor in the late 70s.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:06 AM


State of the Union to address health care, Iran (JENNIFER LOVEN, 1/31/06, Chicago Sun-Times)

President Bush, in his State of the Union speech tonight, will offer ideas for dealing with domestic problems like high energy and health care costs and international troubles like Iran's suspected nuclear ambitions. [...]

Unlike last year's focus on Social Security, an initiative that failed, Bush's emphasis will be more diffuse, with proposals aimed at taming health care costs, moving America away from its dependence on foreign energy sources, remaining competitive in the global economy, and getting the ballooning federal deficit under control.

Those four areas also are driving Bush's post-speech travel. The White House says Bush will give one major speech per week for the next four weeks and in each lay out one domestic initiative he introduces tonight at 8 p.m. Chicago time.

Year six and they still let him lower expectations.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:03 AM


Harper likely to introduce March budget (STEVEN CHASE AND BILL CURRY AND BRIAN LAGHI, January 31, 2006, Globe and Mail)

Prime-minister-designate Stephen Harper plans to recall Parliament and introduce a budget as early as March, and to make good on the Conservative campaign promise to reduce the goods and services tax by one percentage point as soon as April 1, sources say.

January 30, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:38 PM


New Iraq officers on sharp learning curve (Mark John, 1/30/06, Reuters)

They are ex-software engineers, physics teachers or school-leavers with a yearning to be soldiers. And in a year's time, they will be the officer class and hope-bearers of the new Iraqi army.

Recruits to the Iraqi Military Academy in the suburb of Rustamiya in southeast Baghdad may be on a steep learning curve. But their determination to serve their country is unswerving.

"This will be my coffin," said one young student, patting his body armour and voicing his ambition to dive into the fight against insurgents. Like other trainees, he declined to be named to protect himself and his family from possible reprisals.

The success of the Rustamiya compound, staffed by a mix of U.S.-led coalition and NATO trainers, could be crucial in determining how quickly U.S. forces can hand over responsibility for security to domestic Iraqi forces and withdraw troops.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:29 PM


WATCHING HAMAS (Ari Shavit, 2006-01-30, The New Yorker)

Shalom Harari is a former Israeli Military Intelligence officer who has been following the rise of Hamas—the Islamic Resistance Movement—for almost a quarter century. An awkward, voluble man of nearly sixty, Harari gained a measure of fame in intelligence circles when he began to tell his colleagues in internal reports that Hamas, founded in 1987, and initially a small outgrowth of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, would, with its platform of armed resistance, grassroots politics, and Islamic ideology, come to dominate Palestinian politics. Six years ago, while most of his colleagues were anticipating peace, Harari was rightly predicting a second intifada; that uprising led to the decline of Yasir Arafat’s creation and power base, the Fatah Party.

Last Thursday night, just hours after it was announced that Hamas had crushed Fatah in legislative elections––an event that caused some right-wing Israeli politicians to declare the birth of a terrorist “Hamastan”—Harari welcomed a visitor to his home, in the town of Yavne, near the Mediterranean. While most Israeli and Arab-language news channels were broadcasting scenes of Hamas supporters in the Gaza Strip waving green flags as they celebrated their stunning victory, Harari had tuned in to a seemingly tedious military ceremony on Egyptian state television. “Look at the wives of the generals,” he said. “Many of them are wearing traditional head scarves. This was not so ten years ago. And this tells you where we are heading. When the women of Egypt’s pro-Western military élite are dressed like that, you know that the Hamas victory is not about Palestine. It’s about the entire Middle East.”

Harari, who served as an intelligence officer in the West Bank and then as the adviser on Palestinian affairs to the Israeli Defense Ministry, is still closely connected to his former colleagues, and he said he had heard that, some weeks ago, the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, who was afraid of a Hamas rout at the polls, begged Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to exert United States pressure and postpone the scheduled elections. Rice refused, Harari said, and told Abbas to go forward. (A State Department spokesman declined to confirm the details of their conversation.)

And yet Harari would like to believe that the American “mistake”––if that is what it was––was a blessing in disguise. “At least, now we know what we are faced with,” he said. “Now we can make a real diagnosis and understand what is truly the malaise.”

Another person who seems less surprised than those around him is George W. Bush and his comments at the press conference last week seemed to harken back to the speech that began the democratization of Palestine:
For too long, the citizens of the Middle East have lived in the midst of death and fear. The hatred of a few holds the hopes of many hostage. The forces of extremism and terror are attempting to kill progress and peace by killing the innocent. And this casts a dark shadow over an entire region. For the sake of all humanity, things must change in the Middle East.

It is untenable for Israeli citizens to live in terror. It is untenable for Palestinians to live in squalor and occupation. And the current situation offers no prospect that life will improve. Israeli citizens will continue to be victimized by terrorists, and so Israel will continue to defend herself.

In the situation the Palestinian people will grow more and more miserable. My vision is two states, living side by side in peace and security. There is simply no way to achieve that peace until all parties fight terror. Yet, at this critical moment, if all parties will break with the past and set out on a new path, we can overcome the darkness with the light of hope. Peace requires a new and different Palestinian leadership, so that a Palestinian state can be born.

I call on the Palestinian people to elect new leaders, leaders not compromised by terror. I call upon them to build a practicing democracy, based on tolerance and liberty. If the Palestinian people actively pursue these goals, America and the world will actively support their efforts. If the Palestinian people meet these goals, they will be able to reach agreement with Israel and Egypt and Jordan on security and other arrangements for independence.

And when the Palestinian people have new leaders, new institutions and new security arrangements with their neighbors, the United States of America will support the creation of a Palestinian state whose borders and certain aspects of its sovereignty will be provisional until resolved as part of a final settlement in the Middle East.

In the work ahead, we all have responsibilities. The Palestinian people are gifted and capable, and I am confident they can achieve a new birth for their nation. A Palestinian state will never be created by terror -- it will be built through reform. And reform must be more than cosmetic change, or veiled attempt to preserve the status quo. True reform will require entirely new political and economic institutions, based on democracy, market economics and action against terrorism.

Today, the elected Palestinian legislature has no authority, and power is concentrated in the hands of an unaccountable few. A Palestinian state can only serve its citizens with a new constitution which separates the powers of government. The Palestinian parliament should have the full authority of a legislative body. Local officials and government ministers need authority of their own and the independence to govern effectively.

The United States, along with the European Union and Arab states, will work with Palestinian leaders to create a new constitutional framework, and a working democracy for the Palestinian people. And the United States, along with others in the international community will help the Palestinians organize and monitor fair, multi-party local elections by the end of the year, with national elections to follow.

Today, the Palestinian people live in economic stagnation, made worse by official corruption. A Palestinian state will require a vibrant economy, where honest enterprise is encouraged by honest government. The United States, the international donor community and the World Bank stand ready to work with Palestinians on a major project of economic reform and development. The United States, the EU, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund are willing to oversee reforms in Palestinian finances, encouraging transparency and independent auditing.

And the United States, along with our partners in the developed world, will increase our humanitarian assistance to relieve Palestinian suffering. Today, the Palestinian people lack effective courts of law and have no means to defend and vindicate their rights. A Palestinian state will require a system of reliable justice to punish those who prey on the innocent. The United States and members of the international community stand ready to work with Palestinian leaders to establish finance -- establish finance and monitor a truly independent judiciary.

In his insightful new book about the President, Fred Barnes says that when preparation on that speech started George Bush asked Michael Gerson a simple question: "Who has ever cared about the Palestinian people?" It was clear to them that Arafat and Fatah didn't. Now we get to see whether Hamas cares enough to deliver peace as well as less corrupt government.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:10 PM


I'll never give in to Right, says Cameron (Toby Helm, 31/01/2006, Daily Telegraph)

Yesterday Mr Blair flatly rejected suggestions that Mr Cameron would be his natural successor as he again endorsed Gordon Brown as "absolutely" the right person to take his party and country forward after he steps down.

"The people who are best placed to continue this process are the people who started it," the Prime Minister told BBC1's Breakfast programme.

In his speech Mr Cameron said that Mr Blair, rather than bringing in new political ideas when he became Labour leader, had merely adopted much of the thinking of Mrs, now Lady, Thatcher.

There was therefore no contradiction between praising both Mr Blair and the former Tory leader.

Mr Blair had grasped that what Labour needed to do to win power was imitate much of her approach.

"A more middle class Britain wanted a middle class lifestyle based on a prosperous market economy. Tony Blair understood this - profoundly understood it.... Tony Blair saw that the task of New Labour was to preserve the fruits of the Thatcher revolution."

The Tories had made "terrible strategic and political mistakes" as they struggled to respond. "Having defined ourselves for many years as the anti-Socialist party, how were we to define ourselves once full-blooded socialism had disappeared from the political landscape?"

The way forward for the Tories now was to accept that New Labour and the Conservatives shared similar aspirations but had very different ideas on how realise them.

While the Blair/Brown government put its faith in "legislation, regulation and bureaucracy" and saw action by the state as the way to deliver economic dynamism and social justice, the Tories had a different recipe for success. "We will respond to state failure by empowering individuals and civil society," he said.

Had Bill Clinton been the Democratic nominee in '88 it's possible to imagine Ronald Reagan being forced to say something similar.

Sorry, but voters prefer straight choices (Mark Steyn, 31/01/2006, Daily Telegraph)

What should be the attitude of those us in the sober sheets to the Lib Dem leadership race? Aside, that is, from an appreciative titter at the Sun's "Another One Bites The Pillow". [...]

My colleague Tom Utley, who is usually right about these things, thinks it won't do Mr Hughes any harm. But I wonder. Two weeks ago, you may recall, I predicted that the Tories would win the Canadian election. They did, and since then I've been asked if I know precisely why.

Well, having been totally shut out in Quebec for almost two decades, they suddenly picked up a bunch of seats formerly held by the separatist party.

There are various explanations for this, but I note that a few weeks back the separatists elected as their provincial party leader a man called André Boisclair, a homosexual and sometime cocaine addict.

When I first heard the coke stories, it was around the time David Cameron was deflecting similar inquiries and I naturally assumed it was a similar long-ago youthful indiscretion.

But it turns out Mr Boisclair was doing coke while serving as a Minister of the Crown in the Quebec government.

As Maclean's magazine wrote: "Besieged by reporters, he finally conceded he had 'consumed' while in cabinet. He insisted quite vehemently that he is clean now, and always had his wits about him while at work."

Immediately, the press started writing stuff about how the "Generation X" "party boy" represented "the new face of Quebec politics" (Toronto Star) and proved that Quebecers are "ready to embrace an openly gay premier" (Montreal Gazette).

Hmm. A couple of months later and a hitherto all but invisible Quebec "conservative" vote re-emerges after a decades-long hibernation and abandons the separatist cause.

Coincidence? Depends what you're snorting. But my sense is that, outside the metropolitan fleshpots, most people are more socially conservative than they're willing to tell pollsters - and that "tolerance" is not the same as "approval" and a popular gay soap character or queenly old rocker is not the same as a gay party leader or transsexual prime minister.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:50 PM


No Filibuster, No Re-Election for Blue State Senators (Rob Kall, 1/30/06, Op Ed News)

I'll keep this short and bitter. Every god damned blue state senator who failed to sign on to the Alito filibuster MUST be fought in the primaries and replaced. The Democratic party has failed the rank and file members.

It is time to take back the Democratic party from the right wing, loser hacks who have been fumblingly, failingly controlling it and the candidates put forward. I can't believe how many people tell me that they believe the DLC and right wing democrats are really Republican operators. [...]

If a stab-us-in-the-back senator in a blue state failed to suppor the filibuster we MUST find strong, tough candidates to run against and BEAT them. We must raise money for candidates, even if they are not running in our states.

We, the Progressives and liberals must define the issues. We must tell our elected officials what to do. This was the last straw. We need to draw up a list of these traitors to democracy and take them out of the political arena. I bet they'll end up on some corporation's payroll.

We're not big on reading blogs, especially Leftie blogs, but tonight it really is worthwhile. These folks are so reality-challenged they apparently believed their faxes and e-mails would get Democrats to filibuster Judge Alito. Memeorandum is useful.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:33 PM


Harper Lee, Gregarious for a Day (GINIA BELLAFANTE, 1/30/06, NY Times)

Of all the functions at the president's mansion of the University of Alabama here, none has acquired the mystique surrounding a modest annual luncheon attended by high school students from around the state.

They come with cameras dangling on their wrists and dressed, respectfully, as if they were about to issue an insurance policy or anchor the news. An awards ceremony for an essay contest on the subject of "To Kill a Mockingbird," the occasion attracts no actor, politician or music figure. Instead, it draws someone to whom Alabamians collectively attach far more obsession: the author of the book itself, Harper Lee, who lives in the small town of Monroeville, Ala., one of the most reclusive writers in the history of American letters.

With more than 10,000,000 copies sold since it first appeared in 1960, "To Kill a Mockingbird" exists as one of the best-selling novels of all time. For decades, Ms. Lee has remained fiercely mindful of her privacy, politely but resolutely refusing to talk to the press and making only rare public appearances, in which she always declines to speak. She has maintained her resolve despite renewed attention in the wake of the film "Capote," in which Ms. Lee is portrayed as the moral conscience of her childhood friend Truman Capote; the coming "Infamous," another Capote movie in which Sandra Bullock plays Ms. Lee; and a biography of Ms. Lee scheduled for May.

But since the essay contest, sponsored by the Honors College at the University of Alabama, got going five years ago, Ms. Lee, who is 79, has attended the ceremony faithfully, meeting with the 50 or so winners from most of the state's school districts and graciously posing for pictures with the parents and teachers who accompany them. [...]

The recipient of the Pulitzer Prize in 1961, "To Kill a Mockingbird" remains the only book Ms. Lee has written. It is difficult to overestimate the sustained power of the novel or the reverence with which Ms. Lee is treated here: it is not uncommon to find live staged versions of the story, hear of someone who has devoted his life to playing Atticus Finch in road shows, or meet children named Scout or ones named after the author herself.

Even odder than her never writing anything else is the rumopr that she was more responsible for the writing of In Cold Blood than Capote.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 PM


Ethanol Can Replace Gasoline With Big Energy Savings, Comparable Impact On Greenhouse Gases (University of California - Berkeley, 2006-01-27)

Putting ethanol instead of gasoline in your tank saves oil and is probably no worse for the environment than burning gasoline, according to a new analysis by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley.

The researchers note, however, that new technologies now in development promise to make ethanol a truly "green" fuel with significantly less environmental impact than gasoline.

The analysis, appearing in this week's issue of Science, attempts to settle the ongoing debate over whether ethanol is a good substitute for gasoline and thus can help lessen the country's reliance on foreign oil and support farmers in the bargain. The UC Berkeley study weighs these arguments against other studies claiming that it takes more energy to grow the corn to make ethanol than we get out of ethanol when we burn it.

Dan Kammen and Alex Farrell of the Energy and Resources Group at UC Berkeley, with their students Rich Plevin, Brian Turner and Andy Jones along with Michael O'Hare, a professor in the Goldman School of Public Policy, deconstructed six separate high-profile studies of ethanol. They assessed the studies' assumptions and then reanalyzed each after correcting errors, inconsistencies and outdated information regarding the amount of energy used to grow corn and make ethanol, and the energy output in the form of fuel and corn byproducts.

Once these changes were made in the six studies, each yielded the same conclusion about energy: Producing ethanol from corn uses much less petroleum than producing gasoline.

Queer how the Right has made a fetish of oil. It seems almost purely a reaction the Left's psychosis about same.

How to Beat the High Cost of Gasoline. Forever!: Stop dreaming about hydrogen. Ethanol is the answer to the energy dilemma. It's clean and green and runs in today's cars. And in a generation, it could replace gas. (Adam Lashinsky and Nelson D. Schwartz, January 24, 2006, FORTUNE Magazine)

You probably don't know it, but the answer to America's gasoline addiction could be under the hood of your car. More than five million Tauruses, Explorers, Stratuses, Suburbans, and other vehicles are already equipped with engines that can run on an energy source that costs less than gasoline, produces almost none of the emissions that cause global warming, and comes from the Midwest, not the Middle East.

These lucky drivers need never pay for gasoline again--if only they could find this elusive fuel, called ethanol. Chemically, ethanol is identical to the grain alcohol you may have spiked the punch with in college. It also went into gasohol, that 1970s concoction that brings back memories of Jimmy Carter in a cardigan and outrageous subsidies from Washington. But while the chemistry is the same, the economics, technology, and politics of ethanol are profoundly different.

Instead of coming exclusively from corn or sugar cane as it has up to now, thanks to biotech breakthroughs, the fuel can be made out of everything from prairie switchgrass and wood chips to corn husks and other agricultural waste. This biomass-derived fuel is known as cellulosic ethanol. Whatever the source, burning ethanol instead of gasoline reduces carbon emissions by more than 80% while eliminating entirely the release of acid-rain-causing sulfur dioxide. Even the cautious Department of Energy predicts that ethanol could put a 30% dent in America's gasoline consumption by 2030.

Posted by David Cohen at 8:08 PM


Scientists Find Gene That Controls Type of Earwax in People (Nicholas Wade, NY Times, 1/30/06)

Earwax may not play a prominent part in human history but at least a small role for it has now been found by a team of Japanese researchers.

Earwax comes in two types, wet and dry. The wet form predominates in Africa and Europe, where 97 percent or more of people have it, and the dry form among East Asians. The populations of South and Central Asia are roughly half and half. By comparing the DNA of Japanese with each type, the researchers were able to identify the gene that controls which type a person has, they report in today's issue of Nature Genetics. . . .

But earwax seems to have the very humble role of being no more than biological flypaper, preventing dust and insects from entering the ear. Since it seems unlikely that having wet or dry earwax could have made much difference to an individual's fitness, the earwax gene may have some other, more important function. Dr. Yoshiura and his colleagues suggest that the gene would have been favored because of its role in sweating.

They write that earwax type and armpit odor are correlated, since populations with dry earwax, such as those of East Asia, tend to sweat less and have little or no body odor, while the wet earwax populations of Africa and Europe sweat more and so may have more body odor.

It's not quite constructing a world-wide computer network in order to pump porn into our houses, but it ain't no cure for cancer. Stepping back a little bit, two separate but parallel "ear wax" mutations would seem to provide ammunition for every side of the Darwin wars.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:51 PM


Senate Ends Alito Filibuster Attempt (Fred Barbash, 1/30/06, Washington Post)

By a 72-25 vote, the Senate cut off a symbolic filibuster attempt today on the Supreme Court nomination of Samuel A. Alito Jr., all but assuring that the federal appeals court judge will be confirmed Tuesday morning by the Senate.

While Karl Rove works the joystick....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:15 PM


Sign Here: Presidential signing statements are more than just executive branch lunacy. (Dahlia Lithwick, Jan. 30, 2006, Slate)

Unless you spent New Year's weekend trolling the White House Web site or catching up on your latest U.S. Code Congressional and Administrative News as you waited for the ball to drop, you probably missed the little "P.S." the president tacked onto the McCain anti-torture bill. The postscript was a statement clearly announcing that the president will only follow the new law "in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the president to supervise the unitary executive branch ... and consistent with the constitutional limitations on the judicial power." In other words, it is for the president—not Congress or the courts—to determine when the provisions of this bill interfere with his war-making powers, and when they do, he will freely ignore the law. [...]

Dismissing these statements because they carry so little legal force is as dangerous as writing off any of Bush's other extreme legal claims to boundless authority. Because while these cases slowly wend their way through the court system, there are real-life consequences to Bush's policies—and especially his torture policies—on the ground.

First, consider the substance of Bush's statements. Of the 505 constitutional objections he has raised over the years, Cooper found the most frequent to be the 82 instances in which Bush disputed the bill's constitutionality because Article II of the Constitution does not permit any interference with his "power to supervise the unitary executive." That's not an objection to some act of Congress. That's an objection to Congressional authority itself. Similarly, Cooper counted 77 claims that as president, Bush has "exclusive power over foreign affairs" and 48 claims of "authority to determine and impose national security classification and withhold information." Bush consistently uses these statements to prune back congressional authority and even—as he does in the McCain statement—to limit judicial review. He uses them to assert and reassert that his is the last word on a law's constitutional application to the executive. As he has done throughout the war on terror, Bush arrogates phenomenal new constitutional power for himself and, as Cooper notes, "these powers were often asserted without supporting authorities, or even serious efforts at explanation."

And if you believe that all this executive self-aggrandizement is meaningless until and unless a court has given it force, you are missing the whole point of a signing statement: These statements are directed at federal agencies and their lawyers. One of their main historical purposes was to afford agencies a glance at how the president wants a statute to be enforced. As Jack Balkin observed almost immediately after the McCain bill, signing statements represent the president's signal to his subordinates about how he plans to enforce a law. And when a president deliberately advises his subordinates that they may someday be asked to join him in breaking a law, he muddies the legal waters, as well as the chain of command.

It would take an amendment to the Constitution for a president to sign away the powers it currently gives him. How far do you think an amendment giving Congress and the Court power to interfere in the conduct of war would get?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:24 PM


Alito headed toward confirmation (Thomas Ferraro, 1/30/06, Reuters)

Democrat Kent Conrad of North Dakota, a moderate whose state backed Bush in the 2000 and 2004 elections, announced his support, noting in part, "It is clear that both the majority of my constituents and the majority of the American people are in favor of Judge Alito's confirmation."

Chafee, a moderate in a state that twice opposed Bush for president, said, "I am a pro-choice (abortion rights), pro-environment, pro-Bill of Rights Republican and I will be voting against this nomination."

Both senators are up for re-election this year and intended to vote later on Monday against a futile effort by some Democrats to raise a procedural roadblock against Alito, who could move the high court to the right.

You have to admoire Mr. Chafee both for voting against the filibuster and being honest enough to describe his position as pro-abortion.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:06 PM


Predicting the Future: Part II (Rich Karlgaard, 02.13.06 , Forbes)

This column's chief goal is to supply you with a worldview--a mental operating system--that will be as good 30 years from now as it is today. If this column causes you to see opportunity beyond the defeatist smog, then I'll have done my job.

Three eternal truths sit at the core of our mental operating system. The first: Natural resources will never run out. Etch this into your brain--man discovers or creates resources faster than he uses them up. Whale blubber started to run out in the early 1800s. The Paul Ehrlichs of the time were in a panic. Then in 1859 Edwin Drake drilled the world's first oil well in Titusville, Pa.

The second eternal truth: Success is not a zero-sum game, though most academic economists, pundits and politicians act as if it were--maybe because they vie for glory in zero-sum professions. (There can be only 1 U.S. President and 50 senators, for example.) The third eternal truth: The Golden Rule is more than a spiritual truth, it is a business truth. You get ahead in business by serving others. Sure, you can try to cheat or cut corners--and you may succeed. But the odds overwhelmingly favor the company that serves its customers with great products and services at a fair price. This is even truer today, in the age of Internet price transparency and activist consumers.

Beyond these eternal truths are modern truths. Moore's Law is one. We know that digital technology progression occurs at a predictable rate: Chips double in performance every 18 months; storage every 12 months; bandwidth every 9 months--or close enough, anyway. I know a billionaire venture capitalist who says his secret of success has been simply "to project Moore's Law into the future and to imagine what new products and services it would bring." Moore's Law has been a billion-dollar idea to this investor.

Another modern law was best described by banking legend Walter Wriston, a great thinker who died a year ago. Let's call it Wriston's Law of Capital. In the age of electronic money transfers, said Wriston, "Capital will always go where it's welcome and stay where it's well treated."

Yet folks still can't figure out why there's suych demand for our debt.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:48 PM


Conservative Christian Leads Unwieldy Canadian Parliament: Now comes the hard part for Stephen Harper (Doug Koop, 01/30/2006, Christianity Today)

The Conservative victory ended 12 years of a Liberal administration humbled by corruption scandals and dithering leadership. In recent years Liberals also championed an aggressive social agenda that drew many previously quiescent Christians into the political process. Last year, the government changed the traditional definition of "marriage" to include homosexual couples.

According to Harper biographer Lloyd Mackey, the new prime minister's "personal faith has been shaped through such influences as C. S. Lewis and Malcolm Muggeridge." He attends Christian and Missionary Alliance congregations.

In his election night speech, Harper thanked supporters for their "labors, donations, and prayers," and concluded with "God bless Canada." Canadians rarely hear such language from their politicians.

Giving Canada a PM who fits in with Bush, Howard & Blair.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:12 PM


The Surprise of History (Lee Harris, 30 Jan 2006, Tech Central Station)

[H]egel is arguing that as long as America still had a virtually unlimited frontier it would remain a land of opportunity, a place where those who were not content with their lot in life could simply pick up and move on to virgin soil, creating for themselves a new life that was almost entirely of their own making -- which, of course, is exactly what many Americans were doing when Hegel wrote his lecture, and would continue to do for a long time after his death.

Because America had this convenient remedy for those who were dissatisfied with the status quo, there was no danger that those who were deeply dissatisfied with their position in the world would pose a political threat to the stability of the social order. Instead of rebelling against the status quo, they simply left it behind and went in search of a better life for themselves in the frontier -- potential rebels became pioneers. “If the ancient forests of Germany still existed, the French Revolution would never have occurred. North America will be comparable with Europe only after the measureless space which this country affords is filled and its civil society begins to press in on itself.”

Hegel’s conclusion? “It is therefore not yet possible to draw any lessons from America as regards republican constitutions.”

It is hard to imagine a more sober statement than this, and one less full of moonshine and nonsense. Here Hegel is telling those who have made up their minds about the significance of the United States not to jump the gun -- it is too early to say how its historical course will develop. It may be that America will prove that large scale republics are possible; but, on the other hand, it may not prove this at all. Only the future can decide this question.

In other words, not only does Hegel refrain from trying to predict the future himself, but he discourages it in others. Not only does he refuse to give “absolute answers” on the question of where history is headed, he rejects even tentative ones. In fact, all he is prepared to say is that a society that has a vast frontier available to it can afford a more libertarian and less centralized form of government than one that lacks such a frontier.

Curiously enough, those who are familiar with the American historian Frederick Jackson Turner’s famous Frontier Thesis will see that Hegel anticipated the basic logic of this thesis sixty years before Turner announced it. What might well have surprised Hegel is how short a time it would take to declare the American frontier closed.

Yet Hegel was quite prepared for history to surprise him. Unlike Marx, who did believe that history obeyed iron-clad laws similar to those scientific laws that governed the behavior of physical objects, Hegel recognized that the existence of human freedom, and the role of accident and chance, rendered all attempts to predict the future course of history futile and even dangerous. Again, unlike Marx who did believe that history would have an end, Hegel emphatically rejected such a notion. There would always be something to divide human beings, and hence there would always be a struggle between them, and out of this struggle would arise the phenomenon known as history.

The normally reliable Mr. Harris seems not to have taken Mr. Fukuyama's point here. The argument is not that history will cease happening because it has reached its end--an obvious absurdity--but that in liberal democracy mankind has reached an End of History in the sense that the millennia long argument over what kind of state and society is the best has been decided dispositively in favor of liberal democracy:
The distant origins of the present volume lie in an article entitled “The End of History?” which I wrote for the journal The National Interest in the summer of 1989. In it, I argued that a remarkable consensus concerning the legitimacy of liberal democracy as a system of government had emerged throughout the world over the past few years, as it conquered rival ideologies like hereditary monarchy, fascism, and most recently communism. More than that, however, I argued that liberal democracy may constitute the “end point of mankind’s ideological evolution” and the “final form of human government,” and as such constituted the “end of history.” That is, while earlier forms of government were characterised by grave defects and irrationalities that led to their eventual collapse, liberal democracy was arguably free from such fundamental internal contradictions. This was not to say that today’s stable democracies, like the United States, France, or Switzerland, were not without injustice or serious social problems. But these problems were ones of incomplete implementation of the twin principles of liberty and equality on which modern democracy is founded, rather than of flaws in the principles themselves. While some present-day countries might fail to achieve stable liberal democracy, and others might lapse back into other, more primitive forms of rule like theocracy or military dictatorship, the ideal of liberal democracy could not be improved on.

The more accurate argument against Mr. Fukuyama is that, like almost all neocons, he's failed to understand the centrality of religion to human affairs and, therefore, not understood that for most countries the End will indeed be their end. That sad fact leaves plenty of tragic history to be played out, but can't change the fundamental point that the Anglo-American Judeo-Christian Republic can not be too much improved upon.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:56 PM

THE WALL IS A FACADE (via Gene Brown):

Our Right to Security: Al Qaeda, not the FBI, is the greater threat to America (DEBRA BURLINGAME, January 30, 2006, Opinion Journal)

Critics contend that the Patriot Act was rushed into law in a moment of panic. The truth is, the policies and guidelines it corrected had a long, troubled history and everybody who had to deal with them knew it. The "wall" was a tortuous set of rules promulgated by Justice Department lawyers in 1995 and imagined into law by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court. Conceived as an added protection for civil liberties provisions already built into the statute, it was the wall and its real-world ramifications that hardened the failure-to-share culture between agencies, allowing early information about 9/11 hijackers Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi to fall through the cracks. More perversely, even after the significance of these terrorists and their presence in the country was known by the FBI's intelligence division, the wall prevented it from talking to its own criminal division in order to hunt them down.

Furthermore, it was the impenetrable FISA guidelines and fear of provoking the FISA court's wrath if they were transgressed that discouraged risk-averse FBI supervisors from applying for a FISA search warrant in the Zacarias Moussaoui case. The search, finally conducted on the afternoon of 9/11, produced names and phone numbers of people in the thick of the 9/11 plot, so many fertile clues that investigators believe that at least one airplane, if not all four, could have been saved.

In 2002, FISA's appellate level Court of Review examined the entire statutory scheme for issuing warrants in national security investigations and declared the "wall" a nonsensical piece of legal overkill, based neither on express statutory language nor reasonable interpretation of the FISA statute. The lower court's attempt to micromanage the execution of national security warrants was deemed an assertion of authority which neither Congress or the Constitution granted it. In other words, those lawyers and judges who created, implemented and so assiduously enforced the FISA guidelines were wrong and the American people paid dearly for it.

Despite this history, some members of Congress contend that this process-heavy court is agile enough to rule on quickly needed National Security Agency (NSA) electronic surveillance warrants. This is a dubious claim. Getting a FISA warrant requires a multistep review involving several lawyers at different offices within the Department of Justice. It can take days, weeks, even months if there is a legal dispute between the principals. "Emergency" 72-hour intercepts require sign-offs by NSA lawyers and pre-approval by the attorney general before surveillance can be initiated. Clearly, this is not conducive to what Gen. Michael Hayden, principal deputy director of national intelligence, calls "hot pursuit" of al Qaeda conversations.

The Senate will soon convene hearings on renewal of the Patriot Act and the NSA terrorist surveillance program. A minority of senators want to gamble with American lives and "fix" national security laws, which they can't show are broken. They seek to eliminate or weaken anti-terrorism measures which take into account that the Cold War and its slow-moving, analog world of landlines and stationary targets is gone. The threat we face today is a completely new paradigm of global terrorist networks operating in a high-velocity digital age using the Web and fiber-optic technology. After four-and-a-half years without another terrorist attack, these senators think we're safe enough to cave in to the same civil liberties lobby that supported that deadly FISA wall in the first place. What if they, like those lawyers and judges, are simply wrong?

Meanwhile, the media, mouthing phrases like "Article II authority," "separation of powers" and "right to privacy," are presenting the issues as if politics have nothing to do with what is driving the subject matter and its coverage. They want us to forget four years of relentless "connect-the-dots" reporting about the missed chances that "could have prevented 9/11." They have discounted the relevance of references to the two 9/11 hijackers who lived in San Diego. But not too long ago, the media itself reported that phone records revealed that five or six of the hijackers made extensive calls overseas.

Neither Congress nor the Executive can constitutionally grant the courts oversight of national security matters, anymore than they could grant the Executive a line item veto.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 AM


The Relative Longevity of Science Frauds (Sallie Baliunas, 30 Jan 2006, Tech Central Station)

The fabricated evidence on human stem cells published by Hwang Woo-suk and colleagues had a life shorter than two years as scientific fact. In contrast, the infamous hominid remains of Piltdown Man announced in 1912 stood as real for nearly 40 years.

Heck, kids are still taught the Peppered Moth fraud and that finches speciated on the Galapagos.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:41 AM


How To Civilize Hamas: Will Wednesday's winners be too busy fixing potholes to wage jihad? (Scott MacMillan, Jan. 27, 2006, Slate)

Never before confronted with the prospect of actually governing, Hamas asked Fatah to enter into a coalition. Fatah refused. The outgoing party is probably secretly relieved that Hamas is inheriting a government Fatah brought to the brink of insolvency with its corruption and mismanagement. Ziyad Abu Ein, a Fatah official, summed up the defeated faction's attitude on Thursday: "Let Hamas alone bear its responsibilities," he said, "if it can."

A sound—albeit limited—body of historical evidence supports the pothole theory. Scholars who study political Islam have long noted a tendency for Islamist movements to become more pragmatic and less violent the closer they come to gaining power. Speaking to London's Financial Times earlier this month, an anonymous senior official in the Bush administration cited two French scholars, Olivier Roy and Gilles Kepel, who have long noted that political Islam becomes less caustic the less it is repressed. (That the Bush administration is using the work of French academics to justify its foreign policy is an irony too rich to ignore.) In Egypt, the banned Muslim Brotherhood has donned democratic garb since President Hosni Mubarak began tolerating the group in the mid-1980s. The movement now speaks of pluralism and civil liberties, although its supporters still hate Jews, call the Holocaust "a myth," and dismiss al-Qaida as "an illusion." A similar shift took place in Tunisia between 1975 and 1990, when the national Islamist movement adopted more liberal positions on women's rights and democratic reforms as the government temporarily relaxed its repression.

Critics dismiss Islamists' talk of democracy as mere window dressing that would be discarded if they ever came to power. Now we shall see: Some commentators worry that Hamas will create a Taliban-like fundamentalist enclave—"Hamastan," as the latest lingo has it—in the West Bank and Gaza and that Iran will step in to finance the Palestinian Authority as funding from the European Union, the United States, and Israel evaporates.

This is not what the Palestinians signed up for. As in the case of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood—which made huge gains in November's elections, despite being attacked at polling stations by government-hired goons—it is unlikely that most Hamas voters are in tune with the party's fundamentalist religious program, especially in the largely secular West Bank. Hamas won by pitching itself as the party that would clean house and bring an end to Fatah's corruption. Whether Hamas will ever give Palestinians a chance to vote it out of power is something we may not know for another four years, when the next elections are scheduled.

From a cynically Realist position a Hamastan would be a good deal for Israel because it would mean the Palestinian population was completely controlled. Hard to see what's in it for Palestinians.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:40 AM


Rice Admits U.S. Underestimated Hamas Strength (STEVEN R. WEISMAN, 1/30/06, NY Times)

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice acknowledged Sunday that the United States had failed to understand the depth of hostility among Palestinians toward their longtime leaders. The hostility led to an election victory by the militant group Hamas that has reduced to tatters crucial assumptions underlying American policies and hopes in the Middle East.

"I've asked why nobody saw it coming," Ms. Rice said, speaking of her own staff. "It does say something about us not having a good enough pulse."

Even if Russia is her field of expertise, it's hard to explain away being surprised by a result that was forseen several years ago. As soon as Hamas chose to contest an election they were going to win or at least do well. They have for some time provided the only semblance of social services in the country.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:12 AM


Indonesia wins one in war on corruption (Bill Guerin, 1/31/06, Asia Times)

Indonesia has scored a major victory in the war on corruption after the return to the country of a crooked banker who fled before being sentenced in absentia to eight years in jail.

The US turned over fugitive David Nusa Wijaya to Indonesia on January 17 after he was located in Los Angeles four days earlier. The two countries do not have an extradition treaty. [...]

Significantly, US assistance came less than a week after Washington praised Jakarta's arrest of suspects in the 2002 murders of two American teachers in the province of Papua. The case was the main hurdle to restoring military ties between the two countries.

Once again, as with the Papua arrests, public statements confirm the strong relationship developing between Jakarta and Washington. "I am grateful to the friendly country that helped him [Wijaya] be brought to justice," Yudhoyono said.

The US Embassy in Jakarta said in a statement: "The US government understands that returning fugitives and stolen assets from abroad in corruption cases is a top law-enforcement priority in Indonesia and looks forward to cooperating with Indonesia in other cases in the future."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:06 AM


Cameron praises Blair leadership (BBC, 1/30/06)

Tory leader David Cameron is expected to praise the prime minister in a speech where he will set out his vision for modern Conservatism. [...]

In his speech, Mr Cameron will praise Mr Blair, saying the prime minister saw his task as "preserving the fruits of the Thatcher revolution". [...]

Mr Cameron will add that Labour's move towards what was traditionally Tory ground devastated the Conservatives.

"We were left opposing a prime minister who claimed that his aims, even his means of achieving those aims, were far closer to our own."

Diabolical! If the Tories can embrace Blair completely enough to make Labour react by rejecting him, Conservatives get sole possession of the Third Way, as they have here in the States. If Mr. Cameron is this smart he's been seriously underestimated even in his own party.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:56 AM


Health Savings Accounts shot in arm for society (TERRY SAVAGE, 1/30/06, Chicago Sun-Times)

Most important, there's no reward anywhere in the system for staying healthy! That is, there was no reward until Health Savings Accounts came along two years ago. HSAs encourage people to stay healthy and spend wisely, because the money they don't spend belongs to them, and grows tax-deferred.

HSAs combine a high deductible health insurance policy and a tax-favored savings account. Instead of buying a health insurance policy with a $250 deductible, you'd buy a policy with a $5,000 deductible. It sounds scary, but that policy costs much less. The money you or the company saves on insurance premiums -- as much as 40 percent of traditional costs -- can go into a special, tax-deductible savings account and be used to pay for medical expenses tax-free. Unspent money grows for future years' expenses.

Many employers contribute some or all of their insurance premium savings into accounts for their employees. In 2006, an individual can put as much as $2,700 a year into an HSA, or $5,450 for families. But you can start an HSA account with a much lower amount. For those who can't afford a contribution, the high-deductible, low-cost medical insurance plan will at least protect them against bankruptcy caused by medical expenses.

If your company doesn't offer health insurance coverage, you can search for individual HSA plans at www.ehealthinsuranc-e.com, run by Bob Hurley, who says his site is seeing a higher percentage of people choosing this type of health insurance.

Hurley advises younger workers to turn down employee-sponsored plans in favor of these inexpensive HSA policies. He notes that with company plans, if you lose your job you'll be stuck with expensive COBRA interim insurance. And if you have a pre-existing condition, you might not find health insurance when COBRA runs out. An individually owned HSA plan is tax-advantaged, secure and portable.

The real benefit to society is that HSA incentives encourage people to spend wisely because it's their own money.

This is the real genius of the prescription drug bill.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:18 AM


Kick Me, I'm a Democrat: The game politicians play (Michael Kinsley, Jan. 29, 2006, Slate)

There is always a pick-up game of Kick the Democrats going on somewhere. But something about the Alito confirmation—the pathetic and apparently surprising inability of 45 Democratic senators to stop 55 Republicans from approving anyone they want—seems to have made the game suddenly a lot more popular. [...]

Obviously the party that has lost the White House, both houses of Congress, and now the courts needs some new ideas and new energy. But it seems undeniably true to me—though many deny it—that the Republicans simply play the game better. You're not supposed to say that. At Pundit School they teach you: Always go for the deeper explanation, not the shallower one. Never suggest that people (let alone "the" people) can be duped.

Nothing has served the Democrats worse than their insistence over the last twenty-five years that the rejection of liberalism and return to power of conservatism are a fluke and as soon as people wake up the stars will realign themselves.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Study Ties Political Leanings to Hidden Biases (Shankar Vedantam, 1/30/06, Washington Post)

Emory University psychologist Drew Westen put self-identified Democratic and Republican partisans in brain scanners and asked them to evaluate negative information about various candidates. Both groups were quick to spot inconsistency and hypocrisy -- but only in candidates they opposed.

When presented with negative information about the candidates they liked, partisans of all stripes found ways to discount it, Westen said. When the unpalatable information was rejected, furthermore, the brain scans showed that volunteers gave themselves feel-good pats -- the scans showed that "reward centers" in volunteers' brains were activated. The psychologist observed that the way these subjects dealt with unwelcome information had curious parallels with drug addiction as addicts also reward themselves for wrong-headed behavior.

Another study presented at the conference, which was in Palm Springs, Calif., explored relationships between racial bias and political affiliation by analyzing self-reported beliefs, voting patterns and the results of psychological tests that measure implicit attitudes -- subtle stereotypes people hold about various groups.

That study found that supporters of President Bush and other conservatives had stronger self-admitted and implicit biases against blacks than liberals did.

"What automatic biases reveal is that while we have the feeling we are living up to our values, that feeling may not be right," said University of Virginia psychologist Brian Nosek, who helped conduct the race analysis. "We are not aware of everything that causes our behavior, even things in our own lives."

Brian Jones, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, said he disagreed with the study's conclusions but that it was difficult to offer a detailed critique, as the research had not yet been published and he could not review the methodology. He also questioned whether the researchers themselves had implicit biases -- against Republicans -- noting that Nosek and Harvard psychologist Mahzarin Banaji had given campaign contributions to Democrats.

that's the beauty of science, as Micvhael Crichton points out in State of Fear, scientists' studies will return the answers they want them to, but provide the delusion that they were impartial and are rendering facts.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


One L of a good year for CTA (MARK J. KONKOL, January 30, 2006, Chicago Sun-Times)

Last year, the CTA survived doomsday threats to post its greatest ridership numbers since 1992 -- fueled by bustling L trains that provided their most rides in 20 years. In all, buses and trains provided 492.4 million rides -- about 1.5 million a day -- amounting to a 4.5 percent gain over 2004. [...]

The L system -- which benefitted from the return of more frequent service on the Blue Line's rehabbed 54th/Cermak Branch -- posted 186.8 million boardings (155 million station entries and 31.8 million transfers).

And the bus system provided 303.2 million rides, 9.2 million more than in 2004. The CTA's increase in rides since 1997 alone amounts to more than half Metra's total ridership and more than all the rides Pace provided in 2004, officials said.

January 29, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:57 PM


EU hosts last-ditch talks on Iran (BBC, 1/30/06)

The EU is set to hold last-minute talks with Iran - at Tehran's request - to try to resolve a stand-off over Iran's controversial nuclear programme.

Iran requested the meeting with envoys from Britain, France and Germany.

Foreign ministers from the EU-3 will also discuss the issue at separate talks in London with their counterparts from the US, Russia and China.

On Thursday, the UN nuclear watchdog is due to hold urgent talks and could refer Iran to the UN Security Council.

The EU and the US want Iran to be referred to the council for possible sanctions after Tehran restarted its nuclear programme.

The Iranians are in way over their heads.

Calculating the Risk of War in Iran (F. William Engdahl, January 29, 2006, GlobalResearch.ca )

In January 2003 President Bush signed a classified Presidential Directive, CONPLAN 8022-02. Conplan 8022 is a war plan different from all prior in that it posits ‘no ground troops.’ It was specifically drafted to deal with ‘imminent’ threats from states such as North Korea or Iran.

Unlike the warplan for Iraq, a conventional one, which required coordinated preparation of air, ground and sea forces before it could be launched, a process of months even years, Conplan 8022 called for a highly concentrated strike combining bombing with electronic warfare and cyberattacks to cripple an opponent’s response—cutting electricity in the country, jamming communications, hacking computer networks.

Conplan 8022 explicitly includes a nuclear option, specially configured earth-penetrating ‘mini’ nukes to hit underground sites such as Iran’s. In summer 2005 Defense Secretary Rumsfeld approved a top secret ‘Interim Global Strike Alert Order’ directing round-the-clock military readiness, to be directed by the Omaha-based Strategic Command (Stratcom), according to a report in the May 15, 2005 Washington Post. Previously, ominously enough, Stratcom oversaw only the US nuclear forces. In January 2003 Bush signed on to a definition of ‘full spectrum global strike’ which included precision nuclear as well as conventional bombs, and space warfare. This was a follow-up to the President’s September 2002 National Security Strategy which laid out as US strategic doctrine a policy of ‘pre-emptive’ wars.

The burning question is whether, with plunging popularity polls, a coming national election, scandals and loss of influence, the Bush White House might ‘think the unthinkable’ and order a nuclear pre-emptive global strike on Iran before the November elections, perhaps early after the March 28 Israeli elections.

Some Pentagon analysts have suggested that the entire US strategy towards Iran, unlike with Iraq, is rather a carefully orchestrated escalation of psychological pressure and bluff to force Iran to back down. It seems clear, especially in light of the strategic threat Iran faces from US or Israeli forces on its borders after 2003 that Iran is not likely to back down from its clear plans to develop the full nuclear fuel cycle capacities and with it, the option of developing an Iranian nuclear capability.

The question then is what will Washington do? The fundamental change in US defense doctrine since 2001, from a posture of defense to offense has significantly lowered the threshold of nuclear war, perhaps even of a global nuclear conflagration.

While the latest Iranian agreement to reopen talks with Moscow on Russian spent fuel reprocessing have taken some of the edge off of the crisis for the moment. On January 27 President Bush announced publicly that he backed the Russian compromise, along with China and El Baradei of the IAEA. Bush signalled a significant backdown, at least for the moment, stating, ‘The Russians came up with the idea and I support it…I do believe people ought to be allowed to have civilian nuclear power.’ At the same time Rice’s State Department expressed concern the Russian-Iran talks were a stalling ploy by Teheran.

Bush added ‘However, I don’t believe that non-transparent (sic) regimes that threaten the security of the world should be allowed to gain the technologies necessary to make a weapon.’ The same day at Davos, Secretary Rice told the World Economic Forum that Iran’s nuclear program posed ‘significant danger’ and that Iran must be brought before the UN Security Council. In short, Washington is trying to appear ‘diplomatic’ while keeping all options open.

The thing about havcing such a devastating option available is that it gives you plenty of time to avoid using it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:53 PM


German Saboteurs Invade America: In the summer of 1942, German submarines put saboteurs ashore on American beaches. (Harvey Ardman, February 1997, WWII Magazine)

On Saturday, June 27, exactly two weeks after Dasch and his team had landed at Amagansett, Hoover wrote Roosevelt to tell him all eight German agents had been caught. "On June 20, 1942," he said, "Robert Quirin, Heinrich Heinck and Ernest Peter Burger were apprehended in New York City by Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The leader of the group, George John Dasch, was apprehended by Special Agents of the FBI on June 22, 1942, at New York City." Actually, of course, Dasch had surrendered to the FBI in Washington four days earlier. It was his surrender that led to the other arrests, not the other way around.

After the news of the arrests broke, Roosevelt got dozens of letters and telegrams urging that Hoover get the Medal of Honor. The president settled for a congratulatory statement.

Roosevelt realized that neither the death penalty nor secrecy could be guaranteed in a civilian trial, so he issued a proclamation that established a military tribunal consisting of seven generals, the first to be convened in the United States since Lincoln's assassination. The prosecutor was Attorney General Francis Biddle. The chief defense lawyer was Colonel Kenneth Royall, a distinguished attorney in civilian life and later President Harry Truman's secretary of war.

The trial, which was held in secret at the Justice Department, occupied most of the month of July 1942. Biddle accused the Germans of coming to America to wreak havoc and death, basing his accusations on their own confessions. The would-be saboteurs pleaded innocence, denounced Hitler and insisted they had had no intention of actually engaging in sabotage.

The prosecution asked for the death penalty, the punishment required of spies during wartime, but it had a hard time making its case against Dasch and Burger, who had confessed so quickly and collaborated so completely.

On July 27, the defense rested. The seven generals quickly prepared a report and sent it--and the 3,000-page trial transcript--to Roosevelt who, under his proclamation, was responsible for determining the time and place of execution if that was the tribunal's sentence. Now, finally, Roosevelt found out exactly how Hoover had managed to catch the saboteurs so quickly. He never made any public comment about it, however.

On August 8, six of the eight German agents were electrocuted at the District Jail in Washington, D.C. Burger was sentenced to hard labor for life; Dasch was given 30 years.

Imagine Nancy Pelosi and Ted Kennedy trying to explain to FDR that this makes him nearly a fascist in their eyes?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:45 PM


Democrats didn't make their case on Alito, Obama says (JEFF ZELENY, 1/29/06, Chicago Tribune

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., said he would vote Monday to filibuster Judge Samuel Alito's confirmation to the Supreme Court, but he conceded the effort would be futile and criticized Democrats for failing to persuade Americans to take notice of the court's changing ideological face.

"The Democrats have to do a much better job in making their case on these issues," Obama said Sunday on ABC News' "This Week." "These last-minute efforts - using procedural maneuvers inside the Beltway - I think has been the wrong way of going about it."

Despite his criticism, Obama announced his intention to support the maneuver designed to block - or delay - Alito's confirmation this week. [...]

In his television appearance, Obama did not reconcile his views over the filibuster. Spokesman Robert Gibbs denied a Chicago Tribune request Sunday to interview Obama but said the senator decided to join the filibuster effort because he believes Alito "would be a bad addition to the Supreme Court." [...]

Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., said he also would vote to keep debate open Monday, but he questioned the wisdom of a filibuster and predicted it would fail.

"I think a filibuster make sense when you have a prospect of actually succeeding," Biden said Sunday on CNN's "Late Edition." "If I thought it would work, if I thought it would keep Judge Alito off the bench, there was that kind of consensus, then I would support it."

So, if we're understanding this: Mr. Obama thinks such procedural moves are a mistake and his party didn't make the case to keep Judge Alito off the bench but he'll vote for the filbuster, but just once, then he'll vote against it. He's their best young prospect?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:34 PM


Conservatives See Court Shift as Culmination (DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK, 1/30/06, NY Times)

In February of last year, as rumors swirled about the failing health of Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, a team of conservative grass-roots organizers, public relations specialists and legal strategists met to prepare a battle plan for whomever the next Supreme Court nominee might be.

The leaders were Leonard A. Leo, executive vice president of the Federalist Society and informal adviser to the White House; Edwin Meese III, attorney general in the Reagan administration; and C. Boyden Gray, the White House counsel under the first President Bush and a veteran of confirmation battles. They had recruited 18 conservative lawyers to study the records of 18 potential nominees, including Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Judge Samuel A. Alito.

They trained more than three dozen lawyers across the country to respond to news media reports on the president's eventual pick. And they began weekly and eventually daily conference calls to fine-tune their strategy, for example, responding to the nomination of Judge Alito last October by recruiting Italian-American groups to protest the use of the nickname "Scalito," which would have linked Judge Alito to the conservative Justice Antonin Scalia.

"We boxed them in," one lawyer present during those strategy meetings said with pride in an interview over the weekend. This lawyer and others present who described the meeting were granted anonymity because the meetings were confidential and because the team had told its allies not to gloat publicly until the confirmation vote was cast.

With Judge Alito's all but certain confirmation Tuesday as the 110th justice of the Supreme Court, the conservative legal movement is on the brink of a triumph 25 years in the making.

It's early innings yet--there's sixty years of liberal rulings to undo.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:44 PM


Under the radar, Clinton for president? (David D. Perlmutter, 1/30/06, CS Monitor)

The Democratic National Committee will vote in February on whether to accept a recommendation by one of its special commissions to insert one or two new first-tier caucuses and new primaries based on "criteria [of] racial and ethnic diversity; geographic diversity; and economic diversity including [labor] union density."

On the assumption that she were to run, this change could prove to benefit a 2008 Clinton presidential campaign by positioning "safe" Clinton states immediately after Iowa and New Hampshire. As history attests, Bill Clinton established himself as a front-runner even after losing both Iowa and New Hampshire in 1992 by winning Southern states with huge African-American Democratic bases. Similarly in 1984, Walter Mondale's campaign was saved by victories in Georgia and Alabama after Gary Hart's strong second place in Iowa and upset win in New Hampshire.< /blockquote>
Is the Democrats' big problem really that they haven't been sufficiently co-opted by special interests that differ from Red America?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:40 PM


Private schools take off in Germany: Since 1995, private school attendance has increased 61 percent among elementary school pupils. (Isabelle de Pommereau, 1/30/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

Unlike many countries in the world, Germany has little tradition of private schools. In part because the state set high standards for public schools and the constitution has strict guidelines governing private schools, Germans have tended to view education as a state responsibility. But with an international study in 2000 ranking Germany's prized educational system among the bottom third of industrial nations, parents have become much more open to the private school option. [...]

Since 1995, the number of pupils attending private schools in Germany has climbed 61 percent for primary schools and 25 percent overall, according to German government statistics. And although private schools still only account for only 6 percent of all schools - compared with 60 percent in Belgium, 30 percent in Spain, and 25 percent in France - as many as a quarter of German parents would opt for a private school if one were available to them, says Christian Lucas, president of the German Association of Private Schools in Frankfurt.

Give them the option.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:36 PM


Religious Groups Get Chunk of AIDS Money (RITA BEAMISH, January 29, 2006, Associated Press)

President Bush's $15 billion effort to fight AIDS has handed out nearly one-quarter of its grants to religious groups, and officials are aggressively pursuing new church partners that often emphasize disease prevention through abstinence and fidelity over condom use.

Award recipients include a Christian relief organization famous for its televised appeals to feed hungry children, a well-known Catholic charity and a group run by the son of evangelist Billy Graham, according to the State Department.

The outreach to nontraditional AIDS players comes in the midst of a debate over how best to prevent the spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Report Finds Parental Influence, Faith Are Teen Pregnancy Prevention Keys (Bill Fancher and Jenni Parker, January 26, 2006, AgapePress)
A recent study on influences that prevent early teen pregnancy has reinforced a host of other studies. A report from "Child Trends" and the "National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy" found that parents and religion are the key elements that keep teen pregnancy from occurring.

Dr. Janice Crouse of Concerned Women for America's Beverly LaHaye Institute believes the report's findings should send a strong message to parents. "If parents would convey what their strong religious beliefs are, attend service regularly, live out their faith in their life choices, and be very active in the church -- and have their kids active -- that provides the best possible armor for our kids," she says.

The information reported comes as no surprise to Crouse. In fact, she notes, "There's been a whole body of research that says exactly this, and so it was really nice to see that Child Trends and the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy conducted their own study that confirmed all the data that is already out there."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:11 PM


Corzine advisers calling for taxes: Their transition report has outlined unpopular budget solutions. N.J. lawmakers joined in a chorus of boos (Kaitlin Gurney, 1/29/06, Philadelphia Inquirer)

Expand the sales tax to include clothes and online purchases. Tax 401(k) retirement accounts. Raise the gas tax. Consider a temporary increase in the state income tax.

With New Jersey's finances "perilously close to ruin," Gov. Corzine's budget advisers have recommended these unpopular solutions and more to fill what they estimate to be a $6 billion hole in the state's budget.

The grim transition report advises the Wall Street financier-turned-governor to immediately prepare plans to lay off state workers and cut government services. It also suggests that Corzine develop ways to control skyrocketing costs for pensions and schools - including raising the state's retirement age and revisiting funding for needy Abbott school districts.

Allow us to be the first to call him Jim Florio Jr..

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:05 PM


CIA Expands Use of Drones in Terror War: 'Targeted killing' with missile-firing Predators is a way to hit Al Qaeda in remote areas, officials say. Host nations are not always given notice. (Josh Meyer, January 29, 2006, LA Times)

High-ranking U.S. and allied counter-terrorism officials said the program's expansion was not merely geographic. They said it had grown from targeting a small number of senior Al Qaeda commanders after the Sept. 11 attacks to a more loosely defined effort to kill possibly scores of suspected terrorists, depending on where they were found and what they were doing.

"We have the plans in place to do them globally," said a former counter-terrorism official who worked at the CIA and State Department, which coordinates such efforts with other governments.

"In most cases, we need the approval of the host country to do them. However, there are a few countries where the president has decided that we can whack someone without the approval or knowledge of the host government." [...]

The Predator, built by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. of San Diego, is a slender craft, 27 feet long with a 49-foot wingspan. It makes a clearly audible buzzing sound, and can hover above a target for many hours and fly as low as 15,000 feet to get good reconnaissance footage. They are often operated by CIA or Pentagon officials at computer consoles in the United States.

The drones were designed for surveillance and have been used for that purpose since at least the mid-1990s, beginning with the conflict in the Balkans. After the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush ordered a rapid escalation of a project to arm the Predators with missiles, an effort that had been mired in bureaucratic squabbles and technical glitches.

Now the Predator is an integral part of the military's counter-insurgency effort, especially in Iraq. But the CIA also runs a more secretive — and more controversial — Predator program that targets suspected terrorists outside combat zones.

The CIA does not even acknowledge that such a targeted-killing program exists, and some attacks have been explained away as car bombings or other incidents. It is not known how many militants or bystanders have been killed by Predator strikes, but anecdotal evidence suggests the number is significant.

In some cases, the destruction was so complete that it was impossible to establish who was killed, or even how many people.

Among the senior Al Qaeda leaders killed in Predator strikes were military commander Mohammed Atef in Afghanistan in November 2001 and Qaed Sinan Harithi, a suspected mastermind of the bombing of the U.S. destroyer Cole in Yemen, in 2002. Last year, Predators took out two Al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan: Haitham Yemeni in May and Abu Hamza Rabia in December, one month after another missile strike missed him.

The attack on Rabia in North Waziristan also killed his Syrian bodyguards and the 17-year-old son and the 8-year-old nephew of the owner of the house that was struck, according to a U.S. official and Amnesty International, which has lodged complaints with the Bush administration following each suspected Predator strike.

Another apparent Predator missile strike killed a former Taliban commander, Nek Mohammed, in South Waziristan in June 2004, along with five others. A local observer said the strike was so precise that it didn't damage any of the buildings around the lawn where Mohammed was seated. At the time, the Pakistani army said Mohammed had been killed in clashes with its soldiers.

Michael Scheuer, the former chief of the CIA's special unit hunting Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, said he was aware of at least four successful targeted-killing strikes in Afghanistan alone by November 2004, when he left the agency. [...]

Although presidents Ford and Reagan issued executive orders in 1976 and 1981 prohibiting U.S. intelligence agents from engaging in assassinations, the Bush administration claimed the right to kill suspected terrorists under war powers given to the president by Congress after the Sept. 11 attacks.

It is the same justification Bush has used for a recently disclosed domestic spying program that has the National Security Agency eavesdropping on American citizens without warrants, and a CIA "extraordinary rendition" program to seize suspected terrorists overseas and transport them to other countries with reputations for torture.

Strickland, like some other officials, said the Predator program served as a deterrent to foreign governments, militias and other groups that might be harboring Al Qaeda cells.

"You give shelter to Al Qaeda figures, you may well get your village blown up," Strickland said. "Conversely, you have to note that this can also create local animosity and instability."

The CIA's lawyers play a central role in deciding when a strike is justified, current and former U.S. officials said. The lawyers analyze the credibility of the evidence, how many bystanders might be killed, and whether the target is enough of a threat to warrant the strike.

Other agencies, including the Justice Department, are sometimes consulted, Strickland said. "The legal input is broad and extensive," he said.

Scheuer said he believed the process was too cumbersome, and that the agency had lost precious opportunities to slay terrorists because it was afraid of killing civilians.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:00 PM


Tide of opinion turns against Venice dam (Hilary Clarke, 29/01/2006, Daily Telegraph)

A multi-billion pound project to stop Venice disappearing under water is itself in danger of sinking under the weight of opposition from the city's mayor and the European Commission.

Brussels is concerned about the impact the £2.9 billion Moses dam project could have on the environment, while Venice's own council believes the cash would be better spent on maintaining buildings.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:06 PM


Goodbye Paris, hello Chad (Walter Russell Mead, January 29, 2006, LA Times)

ABOUT 100 SEASONED State Department officials recently got perhaps the nastiest shock of their professional lives. Headed for long-awaited cushy assignments in the fleshpots of Europe, they were suddenly reassigned to such developing countries as Kenya and Pakistan. The word is that another 500 officials scheduled for moves later this year will get the same news.

However frustrating these orders are for Foreign Service veterans looking forward to restful years in Paris and Rome, the transfers signify an important and long-needed transformation of U.S. foreign policy.

As Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made clear in a speech this month at Georgetown University, the world has changed, and the State Department needs to change with it. [...]

Rice wants the State Department to practice a new type of diplomacy.

In the old days, striped-pants cookie pushers — as U.S. diplomats were sometimes derisively known — focused on governments and elites. There was no need to learn such languages as Urdu, Farsi and Arabic because English was the language of high places. Why bother speaking to common people?

Yet the old style of diplomacy no longer works.

You can't rule out that she's just trying to get folks to quit.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:54 PM


An Act of Hygiene: Democracy fells yet another anti-American government. (MARK STEYN, January 29, 2006, Opinion Journal)

Remember the conventional wisdom of 2004? Back then, you'll recall, it was the many members of George Bush's "unilateral" coalition who were supposed to be in trouble, not least the three doughty warriors of the Anglosphere--the president, Tony Blair and John Howard--who would all be paying a terrible electoral price for lying their way into war in Iraq. The Democrats' position was that Mr. Bush's rinky-dink nickel-and-dime allies didn't count: The president has "alienated almost everyone," said Jimmy Carter, "and now we have just a handful of little tiny countries supposedly helping us in Iraq." (That would be Britain, Australia, Poland, Japan . . .) Instead of those nobodies, John Kerry pledged that, under his leadership, "America will rejoin the community of nations"--by which he meant Jacques Chirac, Gerhard Schroeder, the Belgian guy . . .

Two years on, Messrs. Bush, Blair, Howard and Koizumi are all re-elected, while Mr. Chirac is the lamest of lame ducks, and his ingrate citizenry has tossed out his big legacy, the European Constitution; Mr. Schroeder's government was defeated and he's now shilling for Russia's state-owned Gazprom ("It's all about Gaz!"); and the latest member of the coalition of the unwilling to hit the skids is Canada's Liberal Party, which fell from office on Monday. John Kerry may have wanted to "rejoin the community of nations." Instead, "the community of nations" has joined John Kerry, windsurfing off Nantucket in electric-yellow buttock-hugging Lycra, or whatever he's doing these days.

It would be a stretch to argue that Mr. Chirac, Mr. Schroeder and now Paul Martin in Ottawa ran into trouble because of their anti-Americanism. Au contraire, cheap demonization of the Great Satan is almost as popular in the streets of Toronto as in the streets of Islamabad. But these days anti-Americanism is the first refuge of the scoundrel, and it's usually a reliable indicator that you're not up to the challenges of the modern world or of your own country.

Which holds true for our own anti-American Left as well.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:38 PM


Sen. Obama criticizes filibuster tactic (HOPE YEN, 1/29/06, Associated Press)

To more effectively oppose Supreme Court nominees in the future, Democrats need to convince the public "their values are at stake" rather than use stalling tactics to try to thwart the president, said a senator who opposes Samuel Alito's confirmation.

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., predicted on Sunday that an effort to try to block a final vote on Alito would fail on Monday. That would clear the way for Senate approval Tuesday of the federal appeals court judge picked to succeed the retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

Democrats fear he would shift the court rightward on abortion rights, affirmative action, the death penalty and other issues.

"We need to recognize, because Judge Alito will be confirmed, that, if we're going to oppose a nominee that we've got to persuade the American people that, in fact, their values are at stake," Obama said.

"There is an over-reliance on the part of Democrats for procedural maneuvers," he told ABC's "This Week."

Normally you'd think a first term senator with no resume would be too featherweight to be a presidential contender, but given the sorry state of the Democratic Party we may as well consider him a prospective candidate for '08. Through that lens you see here the danger for Hillary, the front-runner, in being reactionary within the party rather than leading it from as close to outside as she can get. Having the loons foaming at her for betraying them would be helpful. Allowing Mr. Obama to condescend to her isn't.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:35 PM


Full transcript: the McCain interview (Times of London, 1/26/06)

Do you believe Colin Powell, a great friend of yours, has a future in American politics?

If he wanted to be engaged in electoral politics he certainly could because he is still by far the most respected man in America. I happen to love the man and have the highest regard of him.

In a McCain Cabinet?

Oh yeah.

He’s not going to be your running mate, is he?

I don't know, because I've not thought that far ahead. But Colin Powell still has a lot to contribute to this nation.

There are people who say that you and Powell are RINOS - Republicans In Name Only?

Well, you know if I was Colin Powell and 90 per cent of the American people respected me, I would not care if they called me a banana. He is a great figure, some people disagree with him or Giuliani —pro-choice, pro-gays — well let him be a RINO, he is still an American hero. You just have to go with the flow.

There won't be many conversations between now and South Carolina where he doesn't mention that his main rival is pro-abortion and pro-gay.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:26 PM


Hitching a free ride with the U.S. (Michael Mandelbaum, January 29, 2006, LA Times)

[T]he governments of Iran's Arab neighbors, which the Iranian regime has termed illegitimate and has tried in the past to subvert, have remained virtually silent about Tehran's nuclear program.

The Western Europeans (whose territory Iran could strike), while expressing disappointment that their diplomatic efforts to rein in the Iranian nuclear program have failed, proclaim their opposition to the use of force for this purpose.

And Russia, which is also within striking distance of Iran and is fighting a Muslim insurgency in Chechnya — to which the Iranian regime, a notorious sponsor of terrorism, could some day supply nuclear materials — is balking at seeking a U.N. reprimand of Tehran.

The reason for this odd pattern of behavior is that the United States has come to assume wide responsibility for ensuring international security and global prosperity. In particular, it is the U.S. that has taken the lead in pursuing two goals that benefit all other countries and that the Iranian nuclear program threatens: limiting the spread of nuclear weapons and ensuring a steady supply of oil from the Middle East.

THESE ARE NOT the only tasks the United States carries out that benefit others. The U.S. military presence in Europe and Asia forestalls nuclear and conventional arms races between and among the countries there, and it creates the political confidence necessary for trade and investment to flourish. The American dollar is the world's most widely used currency. The United States supplies the largest and most open market for exports, access to which is vital for the well-being of other countries. In fact, the U.S. provides to other countries some, although not all, of the services that governments typically furnish to their own citizens. The U.S. has come to function as the world's government.

To be sure, the U.S. did not deliberately seek this role; it gradually grew out of American policies during the Cold War. Nor has the rest of the world ever officially approved this global American role. And the United States has never set out with the intention of furnishing benefits to others. The international initiatives it undertakes are designed to serve American interests. This they do — Iranian nuclear weapons would make the world a more dangerous place for the U.S., as well — but they also serve the interests of other countries.

Yet other countries do not acknowledge the benefits they receive from the United States because that could raise the question of why they don't pay more of the costs of supplying these benefits. No government would lightly abandon such a "free ride." So it is in the case of Iran's nuclear program.

Mr. Mandelbaum makes his case at greater length in his book, but we might just note that children shouldn't be expected to pay grown-ups to protect them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:20 PM


Tilting at Alito (Joan Vennochi, January 29, 2006, Boston Globe)

IN MASSACHUSETTS, old liberals never die. They just keep tilting at windmills.

At the last minute, Senator John Kerry called for a filibuster to stop the Supreme Court nomination of Samuel A. Alito Jr. Senator Edward M. Kennedy joined the fight.

The initial reaction from fellow Democrats was tepid. Tepid it should remain.

Alito is conservative. But radical? The Democrats failed to make the case during hearings which proved only one thing beyond a reasonable doubt: their own boorishness.

When the Democrats can't even convince Globe editorialists they've really got problems.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:13 PM


Libya to allow independent media (AFP, 1/27/06)

Libya said it is heading toward allowing private newspapers, radio and television news in what has been a state-controlled media environment for more than 30 years.

Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi's son, Seif al-Islam, who also runs the Kadhafi Goodwill Foundation, was given the green light by his father to spearhead the plan though a new company.

"The first experimental program on one of the radio stations will take place in March," said Abdel Salam al-Mushri, an official at the company, which is called "1/9" in reference to the September 1 date of the 1969 Libyan revolution.

"Preparations are underway to create a satellite television channel which will be launched in 2007," he said.

The Colonel's son seems to understand what's necessary for reform as well as anyone in the Middle East.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:11 PM


Is there a new member of the Bush family? (Reuters, 1/29/06)

President George W. Bush says Bill Clinton has become so close to his father that the Democratic former president is like a member of the family.

Former President George Bush has worked with Clinton to raise money for victims of the Asian tsunami and the hurricane disaster along the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Asked about his father and Clinton, Bush quipped, "Yes, he and my new brother."

When Jeb succeeds McCain that'll make four of the last five presidents Bushs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:09 PM


Hamas faces EU threat to cut Palestinian aid (Louis Charbonneau, 1/29/06, Reuters)

The European Union could not fund a Hamas-run Palestinian Authority if it did not renounce violence and recognise Israel, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in Israel on Sunday.

It was the most explicit threat to cut aid from Europe, the biggest donor to the Palestinians, since Islamic militant group Hamas won a shock victory in parliamentary elections last week. The United States has also threatened to block funding.

Hamas, expected to form the new government, denounces Western threats to cut aid as blackmail and has rejected calls to disarm and end its formal commitment to destroy Israel.

It's blackmail they'll yield to.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:03 PM


Revealed: The Crime Wave in Scotland’s worst prison: * 262 assaults * 513 fights * 286 drug incidents * 27 fires started (Liam McDougall, 1/29/06, The Sunday Herald)

SCOTLAND’S flagship young offenders’ institution has become the most violent jail in the country, the Sunday Herald can reveal.

Polmont, the national centre for holding convicted criminals and untried prisoners between the ages of 16 and 21, now outstrips even the notorious “hardman” jails like Glasgow’s Barlinnie and Edinburgh’s Saughton for assaults, fighting and fire-raising incidents.

Despite having only 9% of the total prison population, its inmates are responsible for one in six offences in Scottish jails. For every indicator of violence recorded by the Scottish Prison Service – including endangering the personal safety of others and destroying property – the unit’s record was worse than any other.

The figures, obtained by the Sunday Herald, highlight a disturbing trend that reveals a dramatic escalation in the level of violence in the unit.

No European complaint about America is hollower than that they're more humane because they only send convicts to jail.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:06 PM


Mitch Landrieu to run for Mayor (Christopher Tidmore, January 30, 2006, Louisiana Weekly)

Sources close to the Lieutenant Governor reveal to The Louisiana Weekly that Mitch Landrieu will run for Mayor of New Orleans in the April 22 primary.

With qualifying less than a month away, almost ever political observer views Landrieu as the immediate front runner, as problems continue to mount for incumbent Mayor Ray Nagin.

Landrieu's decision is only the latest development in what is becoming the most eventful election year in recent memory.

It will be immensely useful to the GOP to have Democrats blaming each other for the Hurricane damage.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:38 PM


'Hick' vote a watershed moment (SALIM MANSUR, 1/28/06, Toronto Sun)

It is as if the "sophisticates" in the cities, ever suspicious of the country "hicks" (the elitists' label, not mine) remained dismissive of Conservatives.

The "sophisticates" worried about such issues as revisiting same-sex marriage, the Kyoto protocol on climate change and the undermining of Canada's "values" -- as shaped and protected by Liberals in Ottawa.

They worried less about the odour of Liberal corruption that made the political atmosphere unbearable, and they were more readily persuaded by fearmongering on the part of a government that had lost its moral compass.

But the "hicks," having toiled and fought for their country, and being less reliant on what passes for wisdom as noise made by the "sophisticates," went ahead to vote for change.

The hicks lanced the boil. It was painful, but healing.

And as the accumulated filth of our political system gets drained -- a necessary exercise that must be done with some regularity -- health will likely be restored by the vigour of a new party bearing fresh ideas and energy.

Elections in a democracy can be therapeutic. The benefits of the therapy administered by the "hicks" this week are palpable.

One lancing isn't going to suffice to get rid of all the malignant wisdom of the sophisticates.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:21 PM


Sen. Landrieu Urges Against Filibuster of Alito Nomination (landrieu.senate.gov, January 25, 2006)

U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., released the following statement today regarding the nomination of Judge Samuel A. Alito, Jr. to succeed Sandra Day O'Connor as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Sen. Landrieu is a member of the so-called "Gang of 14," a bipartisan group of Senators who last spring brokered a compromise to permit a floor vote on contentious judicial nominees while allowing the Senate to move on to other matters important to Louisiana voters and the nation.

Thanks, Gang.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:17 AM


ABC News Co-Anchor Bob Woodruff and a Cameraman Injured in IED Attack in Iraq (DEEPTI HAJELA, Jan 29, 2006, AP)

ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff and a cameraman were seriously injured Sunday in an explosion while reporting from Iraq, the network said Sunday.

Woodruff and cameraman Doug Vogt were hit by an improvised explosive device near Taji, Iraq, and were in serious condition at a U.S. military hospital, ABC News President David Westin said.

The two were embedded with the 4th Infantry Division and traveling with an Iraqi Army unit.

Mr. Woodruff is a friend from Colgate University and an especially decent guy. Please join in praying for him and Mr. Vogt.

ABC News' Bob Woodruff and Cameraman in Stable Condition After Iraq Attack (ABC News, Jan. 29, 2006)

"World News Tonight" co-anchor Bob Woodruff and cameraman Doug Vogt remain in stable but serious condition following surgery at a U.S. military hospital in Iraq. The two and an Iraqi soldier were seriously injured when their convoy was hit by an improvised explosive device in Iraq today.

"We take this as good news, but the next few days will be critical," ABC News President David Westin said in a statement. "The military plans to evacuate them to their medical facilities in Landstuhl, probably overnight tonight."

Behind enemy lines (Rebecca Costello, May 2002, Colgate Scene)
He interviewed former mujahidin commander Abdul Haq shortly before Haq was murdered by the Taliban. He reported from the rubble of Rish Khor, the al-Qaida training camp where terrorists learned how to blow up airplanes, bridges and buildings, after American bombs had decimated the site. He spent a day at a hard-line fundamentalist school, to shed light on a six-year-old Pakistani boy's unimaginable hatred of America.

ABC television viewers have learned much about events and life in Afghanistan and Pakistan since September 11 through the reports of foreign correspondent Bob Woodruff '83.

He was among the first reporters to arrive in Islamabad after the attacks.

"We [Woodruff and his wife, Lee McConaughy Woodruff '82] were ready to go for dinner for our `lucky' thirteenth wedding anniversary," he said. "I was in my office in London. Someone on the news desk said, `Come out here and look at this, a plane has just hit the World Trade Center.' Everyone was very confused. Then the other plane hit and I just turned to the bureau chief and said, `This has got to be Bin Laden. We should get to Afghanistan.' I was on the next plane out of London and went to Islamabad. That was as close as we could get. We tried to get the Taliban to give us visas to get into Afghanistan and they cut everybody off.

"This is the most important story that a lot of journalists have ever worked on, and that's true also with me," he said. "That drives you. The U.S. was attacked in a way that changes the world. To try to get to the root of that, the reasons behind it, is something that is not only challenging but extremely important.

"I love being out in the field. I love reporting," said Woodruff, who since taking his London-based assignment in Sept. 2000 has been to Jerusalem six times to cover the intifada and has spent much time in Belgrade, including covering the fall of Slobodan Milosevic. In late September he was recognized by USA Today as someone to watch among television correspondents covering the aftermath of the attacks.

"Part of being a reporter is that you have to be somewhat addicted to adrenaline, particularly when you're working in foreign situations, covering wars and conflicts and civil strife," Woodruff said. "You have to be curious about the world, to want to know what makes it tick, because it's never a convenient assignment. You're rarely in nice hotels. You often don't get very good food. You're almost always tired or jet-lagged, and you are throwing yourself into places where you have few or no contacts and have to familiarize yourself with the story and your surroundings in very short order." Woodruff noted that shortly after the Northern Alliance took control of Kabul in November, he even had to make do without a camera crew. "We were shooting our own stories by ourselves, cutting them on the computer and sending voice tracks back to London over an ISDN line."

Colleagues say his insatiable curiosity and work ethic, combined with a disarming personality, adventuresome spirit and true compassion, make Woodruff a strong correspondent.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:03 AM


Palace Revolt: They were loyal conservatives, and Bush appointees. They fought a quiet battle to rein in the president's power in the war on terror. And they paid a price for it. A NEWSWEEK investigation (Daniel Klaidman, Stuart Taylor Jr. and Evan Thomas, Feb. 6, 2006, Newsweek)

James Comey, a lanky, 6-foot-8 former prosecutor who looks a little like Jimmy Stewart, resigned as deputy attorney general in the summer of 2005. The press and public hardly noticed. Comey's farewell speech, delivered in the Great Hall of the Justice Department, contained all the predictable, if heartfelt, appreciations. But mixed in among the platitudes was an unusual passage. Comey thanked "people who came to my office, or my home, or called my cell phone late at night, to quietly tell me when I was about to make a mistake; they were the people committed to getting it right—and to doing the right thing—whatever the price. These people," said Comey, "know who they are. Some of them did pay a price for their commitment to right, but they wouldn't have it any other way."

One of those people—a former assistant attorney general named Jack Goldsmith—was absent from the festivities and did not, for many months, hear Comey's grateful praise. In the summer of 2004, Goldsmith, 43, had left his post in George W. Bush's Washington to become a professor at Harvard Law School. Stocky, rumpled, genial, though possessing an enormous intellect, Goldsmith is known for his lack of pretense; he rarely talks about his time in government. In liberal Cambridge, Mass., he was at first snubbed in the community and mocked as an atrocity-abetting war criminal by his more knee-jerk colleagues. ICY WELCOME FOR NEW LAW PROF, headlined The Harvard Crimson.

They had no idea. Goldsmith was actually the opposite of what his detractors imagined. For nine months, from October 2003 to June 2004, he had been the central figure in a secret but intense rebellion of a small coterie of Bush administration lawyers. Their insurrection, described to NEWSWEEK by current and former administration officials who did not wish to be identified discussing confidential deliberations, is one of the most significant and intriguing untold stories of the war on terror.

These Justice Department lawyers, backed by their intrepid boss Comey, had stood up to the hard-liners, centered in the office of the vice president, who wanted to give the president virtually unlimited powers in the war on terror. Demanding that the White House stop using what they saw as farfetched rationales for riding rough-shod over the law and the Constitution, Goldsmith and the others fought to bring government spying and interrogation methods within the law. They did so at their peril; ostracized, some were denied promotions, while others left for more comfortable climes in private law firms and academia. Some went so far as to line up private lawyers in 2004, anticipating that the president's eavesdropping program would draw scrutiny from Congress, if not prosecutors. These government attorneys did not always succeed, but their efforts went a long way toward vindicating the principle of a nation of laws and not men.

The rebels were not whistle-blowers in the traditional sense. They did not want—indeed avoided—publicity. (Goldsmith confirmed public facts about himself but otherwise declined to comment. Comey also declined to comment.) They were not downtrodden career civil servants. Rather, they were conservative political appointees who had been friends and close colleagues of some of the true believers they were fighting against. They did not see the struggle in terms of black and white but in shades of gray—as painfully close calls with unavoidable pitfalls. They worried deeply about whether their principles might put Americans at home and abroad at risk.

Tough to see a bureaucratic turf battle by lawyers as a defense of the broad principles of the Constitution.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:42 AM


Finding a Place for 9/11 in American History (JOSEPH J. ELLIS, 1/29/06, NY Times)

My first question: where does Sept. 11 rank in the grand sweep of American history as a threat to national security? By my calculations it does not make the top tier of the list, which requires the threat to pose a serious challenge to the survival of the American republic.

Here is my version of the top tier: the War for Independence, where defeat meant no United States of America; the War of 1812, when the national capital was burned to the ground; the Civil War, which threatened the survival of the Union; World War II, which represented a totalitarian threat to democracy and capitalism; the cold war, most specifically the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, which made nuclear annihilation a distinct possibility.

Sept. 11 does not rise to that level of threat because, while it places lives and lifestyles at risk, it does not threaten the survival of the American republic, even though the terrorists would like us to believe so.

My second question is this: What does history tell us about our earlier responses to traumatic events?

My list of precedents for the Patriot Act and government wiretapping of American citizens would include the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798, which allowed the federal government to close newspapers and deport foreigners during the "quasi-war" with France; the denial of habeas corpus during the Civil War, which permitted the pre-emptive arrest of suspected Southern sympathizers; the Red Scare of 1919, which emboldened the attorney general to round up leftist critics in the wake of the Russian Revolution; the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, which was justified on the grounds that their ancestry made them potential threats to national security; the McCarthy scare of the early 1950's, which used cold war anxieties to pursue a witch hunt against putative Communists in government, universities and the film industry.

In retrospect, none of these domestic responses to perceived national security threats looks justifiable.

While Mr. Ellis is unquestonably right that Islamicism poses no existential threat to the American republic, he wildly overstates the threat in every prior conflict except the Civil War and, even there, it's not at all clear that such a murderous war was a necessary response to what would have just been a split into two American republics. I'd argue that it was appropriate but for purely ideological reasons, not because the South posed any security threat to the North.

On the other hand, while the repressive measures he cites are not always pleasant to comntemplate later in the safety of the peacetime they helped create, the fact remains that by any objective measure you'd have to say that they were effective. Indeed, the only time domestic subversion ever thrived was during the Vietnam War, when the government failed to react with the rewquiredc harshness to open dissent. Even then, all it took was the popularity of Kent State in middle America to put an effective end to the anti-war movement.

A goodly portion of the extraordinary conformity of America can likely be traced to the eagerness with which we resort to such witch hunts. If you wish the Communist movement had been stronger here then the Red Scare and McCarthyism probably do seem unjustifiable. If you're just as happy that we didn't tear our country apart the way those European nations that had strong statist movements did then they seem entirely justified.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:51 AM


Swann's Popularity Has a Downside for Some Pennsylvania Republicans (Shailagh Murray and Chris Cillizza, January 29, 2006, Washington Post)

Former Pittsburgh Steelers legend Lynn Swann, who is hoping to be the Republican nominee in this year's Pennsylvania governor's race, is giving Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell more than a run for his money in the latest polls.

That may sound like good news for the GOP -- but some Pennsylvania Republicans are clapping with one hand. It turns out good news can sometimes be bad, at least according to the anxious (and possibly overheated) calculations of some strategists.

Here's the logic. If Rendell were going to win in a cakewalk, many Democrats in the places where he is most popular -- such as the suburbs of Philadelphia -- might get lazy and not work hard to get out the vote on Election Day. [...]

All this speculation may be a bit premature. Swann still has a fight on his hands for the nomination. But he got good news last week in a poll released by the GOP firm Strategic Vision. It showed Swann leading Rendell 46 to 44 percent, with 10 percent undecided.

Karl Rove and Ken Mehlman showed that the GOP could use increased turnout to its advantage in the not dissimilar state of Ohio.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:44 AM


Report: Cars, Trucks Racking Up More Miles (KEN THOMAS , 01.28.2006, AP)

A report released this week by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said passenger cars and light trucks are racking up more miles than ever. Typical passenger cars are now surpassing 150,000 miles, while most pickups, sport utility vehicles and vans are crossing the 180,000-mile barrier.

A report in 1995 said most passenger cars broke 125,000 miles and light trucks typically reached the 150,000-mile mark.

Auto industry officials say it underscores the strides made in engineering and quality control in recent years with a focus on longterm durability. Today's vehicles have more advanced engines, improved spark plugs, higher-performance synthetic oils and better exhaust systems.

David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research, said one contributing factor is corrosion protection. Three decades ago, the steel used in the body and frame had little protection, but now external parts have corrosion-resistant, electrogalvanized steel.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 AM


London school takes a hands-off approach to Q&A (Liz Lightfoot, January 29, 2006, LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH)

Pupils in an East London school have been banned from raising their hands to answer questions in class because their teachers fear it leads to feelings of victimization.

"No hands up" notices have been posted in every room at the Jo Richardson comprehensive school in Dagenham, as a reminder that the teachers will decide who should answer.

The principal, Andrew Buck, said it is always the same children who wave their arms in the air, while the rest of the class sits back. When teachers try to involve less-adventurous pupils by choosing them instead, that leads to feelings of victimization.

Or, as Richard Weaver put it:
When it was found that equality before the law has no effect on inequalities of ability and achievement, humanitarians concluded that they had been tricked into asking only part of their just claim. The claim to political equality was then supplemented by the demand for economic democracy, which was to give substance to the ideal of the levelers. Nothing but a despotism could enforce anything so unrealistic, and this explains why modern governments dedicated to this program have become, under one guise and another, despotic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:17 AM


Greenspan's lasting legacy (Patrice Hill, January 29, 2006, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan leaves office this week with a glowing legacy, having presided for 18 years over an extraordinary period of economic progress and stability in the United States.

That his tenure shouldn't have survived the '90s is amply borne out by the 4th Quarter growth figure which shows he's stalled out the economy for the third time, by pushing real interest rates far beyond what's tenable in a fight against an inflation demon which exists only in his night terrors of the '70s. Fortunately Volcker and Reagan left him too strong a ship for him to sink it, though he has becalmed it too often.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:12 AM


Kuwait emir takes oath before MPs (BBC, 1/29/06)

It was the first time a Gulf ruler had been deposed by an elected body.

Legislators voted 64-0 on Sunday morning to appoint Sheikh Sabah, who is in his mid-70s and served as foreign minister for 40 years.

Analysts say he is a reformist minded statesman who has pushed ahead with enfranchising women and economic liberalisation.

The confirmation brings to an end a succession struggle within the ruling al-Sabah family following the death of Emir Jaber al-Ahmad in January.

A BBC correspondent in the Gulf says Kuwaitis watched in amazement as members of the ruling al-Sabah family quarrelled about the succession.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:06 AM


Hamas floats Palestinian 'army' (BBC, 1/28/06)

The political leader of the Hamas militant group has said it could create a new Palestinian army following its surprise election victory.

Khaled Meshaal, who lives in exile in Syria, said the force would include its militant wing and would "defend our people against aggression".

This is exactly the kind of benefit that was expected from Hamas moving into a role of national responsibility. It does one of two things, or both: applies institutional discipline to what is now just a militant rabble and brings them under the political control of statesmen; or it at least aggregates them and uniforms them as a national army which the Israelis can then slaughter with the kind of impunity it doesn't enjoy when hunting terrorists mized in with civilians. Either Hamas is itself debilitating itself as an effective militant organization or it's setting itself up for Israel to decimate them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:48 AM


Laying claim to Hungary's 1956 revolution: Hungary is commemorating the 50th anniversary of the uprising against the Russians. Viktor Sebastyen, whose family left Hungary when he was a young child, has written a book about the 1956 uprising. He says that despite the passing years, there is still an uneasy relationship with Russia. (Viktor Sebastyen, 1/29/06, BBC News)

Even now, with Budapest a bustling, modern European capital teeming with tourists, you can see, if you look very closely, that a few of the city's public buildings and biggest apartment blocks are pockmarked by bullet holes.

They are a reminder of a 50-year-old national trauma: The 1956 Hungarian revolution which was brutally crushed by the then Soviet Union. [....]

Many were hardly more than children at the time, 13- and 14-year-olds who battled against Soviet tanks armed with just a few rifles and Molotov cocktails.

For a few euphoric days it even looked, miraculously, as though they might win against the might of the world's then second superpower, but then reality bit back.

The Russians returned with overwhelming force, crushed the rebels and did not leave for a further 33 years.

Thousands left Hungary as refugees after the revolution and many hundreds returned after the collapse of communism to spend the last years of their lives in the country of their birth.

Ninety-two-year old General Bela Kiraly, who led the revolutionary forces, acts as an unofficial spokesman for them.

Two metres tall, ramrod straight, Gen Kiraly retains the military bearing and the impeccable manners of a different age.

He escaped to the West after the tragedy of 1956 and was sentenced to death for treason in his absence by a communist court.

He lived in America for three decades where he taught history at a college in New York, but he took the first opportunity open to him to go back.

After WWII there were just two issues that mattered, one domestic and one foreign: rolling back the New Deal welfare state and toppling the USSR. Ike wasted an opportunity to begin the latter here.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:44 AM


Hands up if you think the Lib Dems have lost the plot (EDDIE BARNES AND BRIAN BRADY, 1/29/06, Scotland on Sunday)

IT MAY only be two decades ago, but the events that took place in one vicious month in south London in 1983 now feel like a lifetime away. The Labour Party, under the catastrophic leadership of Michael Foot, was in near total meltdown. That spring, the party's self-destruction was centred on the constituency of Bermondsey. Sitting Labour MP Bob Mellish, a centrist old-schooler, had quit, forced out by a hard left caucus which had taken over his constituency party. In his place, they had nominated Peter Tatchell, their openly gay secretary. For the Labour Party, it was a recipe for disaster.

Tatchell's campaign was doomed from the start. Bermondsey was solid old Labour, typified by its many resident dockers whose socialist views were matched by strict traditional values. Tatchell was an Australian draft-dodger - a gay, Australian draft-dodger. "An independent Labour candidate was put up against him who represented the traditional salt-of-the-earth south London dockers," recalls Jim Innes, the battle-scarred Scottish spin doctor who was brought in to the campaign team to try to salvage something from the mayhem. "That was the source of most of the vitriol."

Vitriol is hardly the word for it. Tatchell found himself being chased down side roads with his boyfriend by a reporter from the Evening Standard eager to cause embarrassment. An anonymous leaflet asking electors 'Which Queen will you vote for?', and listing Tatchell's name and address, invited people to 'have a go'. In the feverish final days of the campaign, the more committed among Tatchell's many opponents toured the streets of the constituency in vans blaring out anti-gay songs.

And over at the Liberal Party headquarters, a notorious campaign leaflet was prepared. Urging voters to back them, their pamphlet declared their candidate could be trusted as the only "straight choice". The message was more subtle than that of Tatchell's other opponents but was nevertheless clear: their candidate could be relied upon. The strategy worked - the Liberals overturned Labour's massive 17,000 majority to take the seat. They hold it to this day.

Last week, 23 years after successfully riding home on the tide of anti-gay feeling that crippled Tatchell's campaign, the candidate who pursued Tatchell all those years ago finally publicly admitted the private truth. Simon Hughes confessed that he too was gay.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:34 AM


Chick lit goes hip, as in replacement (Anne-Marie Owens, National Post, January 28th, 2006)

Chick lit may finally be succumbing to age, as the legion of books detailing the boozy, sex-filled exploits of Bridget Jones and her ilk are making way for books detailing the boozy, sex-filled exploits of post-menopausal women.

Instead of cigarettes and shagging, this new genre, which has been dubbed matron lit or hen lit, revolves around hot flashes, HRT, and shagging.

Gail Sheehy has a new book called Sex and the Seasoned Woman, which describes the particular "surge of vitality" in the sex lives of women she describes as "marinated in life experience;" there are scores of new novels whose plots revolve around the sexual lives and proclivities of post-menopausal women; and there's even a new British publishing house, Transita, dedicated to titles aimed at women over 50.

Thanks to the likes of Kim Cattrall and her insatiable cougar character Samantha on Sex and the City and by Jane Juska, whose book chronicled the passionate year that followed her ad seeking someone with whom to have a lot of sex, the once-unfathomable fantasy fodder of older women having sex just might be fashionable and even, well, hot.[...]

In the new realm of matron lit, however, sexual encounters are no longer restricted to the young, thin and flat-abbed, but instead feature characters middle-aged and older, with less-than-perfect bodies, and whose sexual quandaries include such complications as hip replacements and performance problems along with the usual lust and love scenarios.

This is how some of these books are described: The Hot Flash Club series, by Nancy Thayer, which revolves around the exploits of four women between the ages of 48 and 62, "who discover themselves as they were truly meant to be -- passionate, alive, and ready to face the best years of their lives;" Farewell My Ovaries, by Australia's Wendy Harmer, whose main character sets out on "a last, pre-menopausal hurrah," by opting for a night of fabulous sex with a young surfer rather than the tired sexual encounters of her marital life; Jilly Cooper's forthcoming book Wicked, which includes a romance between two octogenarians, with a scene where the 80-year-old man gets down to propose but can't get back up; and, Unaccompanied Women: Late-Life Adventures in Love, Sex and Real Estate, Jane Juska's follow-up to her sensation-causing A Round-Heeled Woman: My Late-Life Adventures in Sex and Romance.

Sheila Kay, deputy director of publicity for Random House Canada, says it is a trend driven largely by demographics: "The first Baby Boomers are hitting 60, and a huge wave of women are in their early 50s -- they are vital and vocal about what they want."

And bless them for it, but many of us now navigating the rocky shoals of middle age and looking forward to a few quiet years with a good book may tremble at the thought of a seniority where we will be forced to study Tantric sex and stay awake while someone recovering from a hip replacement tries to change into something more comfortable.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:06 AM


Design and the Anthropic Principle (Dr. Hugh Ross, Ph.D., Origins)

Now that the limits and parameters of the universe can be calculated, and some even directly measured, astronomers and physicists have begun to recognize a connection between these limits and parameters and the existence of life. It is impossible to imagine a universe containing life in which any one of the fundamental constants of physics or any one of the fundamental parameters of the universe is different, even slightly so, in one way or another.

From this recognition arises the anthropic principle—everything about the universe tends toward man, toward making life possible and sustaining it. The first popularizer of the principle American physicist John Wheeler, describes it in this way, "A life-giving factor lies at the centre of the whole machinery and design of the world."

Of course, design in the natural world has been acknowledged since the beginning of recorded history. Divine design is the message of each of the several hundred creation accounts that form the basis of the world's religions. The idea that the natural world was designed especially for mankind is the very bedrock of the Greek, as well as of the Judeo-Christian world view. Western philosophers of the post-Roman era went so far as to formalize a discipline called teleology—the study of the evidence for overall design and purpose in nature. Teleology attracted such luminaries as Augustine, Maimonides, Aquinas, Newton and Paley, all of whom gave it much of their life's work.

Dirac and Dicke's Coincidences

One of the first to recognize that design may also apply to the gross features of the universe was American physicist Robert Dicke. In 1961 he noted that life is possible in the universe only because of the special relationships among certain cosmological parameters (relationships researched by British physicist Paul Dirac twenty-four years earlier).

Dirac noted that the number of baryons (protons plus neutrons) in the universe is the square of the gravitational constant as well as the square of the age of the universe (both expressed as dimensionless numbers). Dicke discerned that with a slight change in either of these relationships life could not exist. Stars of the right type for sustaining life supportable planets only can occur during a certain range of ages for the universe. Similarly, stars of the right type only can form for a narrow range of values of the gravitational constant.

The Universe as a Fit Habitat

In recent years these and other parameters for the universe have been more sharply defined and analyzed. Now, nearly two dozen coincidences evincing design have been acknowledged: [...]

The growing evidence of design would seem to provide further convincing support for the belief that the Creator-God of the Bible formed the universe and the earth. Even Paul Davies concedes that "the impression of design is overwhelming." There must exist a designer. Yet, for whatever reasons, a few astrophysicists still battle the conclusion. Perhaps the designer is not God. But, if the designer is not God, who is? The alternative, some suggest, is man himself.

The evidence proffered for man as the creator comes from an analogy to delayed choice experiments in quantum mechanics. In such experiments it appears that the observer can influence the outcome of quantum mechanical events. With every quantum particle there is an associated wave. This wave represents the probability of finding the particle at a particular point in space. Before the particle is detected there is no specific knowledge of its location—only a probability of where it might be. But, once the particle has been detected, its exact location is known. in this sense, the act of observation is said by some to give reality to the particle. What is true for a quantum particle, they continue, may be true for the universe at large.

American physicist John Wheeler sees the universe as a gigantic feed-back loop.

The Universe [capitalized in the original] starts small at the big bang, grows in size, gives rise to life and observers and observing equipment. The observing equipment, in turn, through the elementary quantum processes that terminate on it, takes part in giving tangible "reality" to events that occurred long before there was any life anywhere.

In other words, the universe creates man, but man through his observations of the universe brings the universe into real existence. George Greenstein is more direct in positing that "the universe brought forth life in order to exist ... that the very cosmos does not exist unless observed." Here we find a reflection of the question debated in freshmen philosophy classes across the land:

If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there to see it or hear it, does it really fall?

Quantum mechanics merely shows us that in the micro world of particle physics man is limited in his ability to measure quantum effects. Since quantum entities at any moment have the potential or possibility of behaving either as particles or waves, it is impossible, for example, to accurately measure both the position and the momentum of a quantum entity (the Heisenberg uncertainty principle). By choosing to determine the position of the entity the human observer has thereby lost information about its momentum.

It is not that the observer gives "reality" to the entity, but rather the observer chooses what aspect of the reality of the entity he wishes to discern. It is not that the Heisenberg uncertainty principle disproves the principle of causality, but simply that the causality is hidden from human investigation. The cause of the quantum effect is not lacking, nor is it mysteriously linked to the human observation of the effect after the fact.

This misapplication of Heisenberg's uncertainty principle is but one defect in but one version of the new "observer-as-creator" propositions derived from quantum physics. Some other flaws are summarized here:

,i>Quantum mechanical limitations apply only to micro, not macro, systems. The relative uncertainty approaches zero as the number of quantum particles in the system increases. Therefore, what is true for a quantum particle would not be true for the universe at large.

The time separation between a quantum event and its observed result is always a relatively short one (at least for the analogies under discussion). A multi-billion year time separation far from fits the picture.

The arrow of time has never been observed to reverse, nor do we see any traces of a reversal beyond the scope of our observations. Time and causality move inexorably forward. Therefore, to suggest that human activity now somehow can affect events billions of years in the past is nothing short of absurd.

Intelligence, or personality, is not a factor in the observation of quantum mechanical events. Photographic plates, for example, are perfectly capable of performing observations.

Both relativity and the gauge theory of quantum mechanics, now established beyond reasonable question by experimental evidence, state that the correct description of nature is that in which the human observer is irrelevant.

Science has yet to produce a shred of evidence to support the notion that man created his universe.

January 28, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:59 PM


Women demand tougher laws to curb abortions (Denis Campbell and Gaby Hinsliff, January 29, 2006, The Observer)

A majority of women in Britain want the abortion laws to be tightened to make it harder, or impossible, for them to terminate a pregnancy.

Evidence of a widespread public demand for the government to further restrict women's right to have an abortion is revealed in a remarkable Observer opinion poll. The findings have reignited the highly-charged debate on abortion, and increased the pressure on Tony Blair to review the current time limits.

The survey by MORI shows that 47 per cent of women believe the legal limit for an abortion should be cut from its present 24 weeks, and another 10 per cent want the practice outlawed altogether. Among the population overall, reducing the upper limit was the preferred option backed by the largest proportion of respondents, 42 per cent, made up of a 36-47 per cent split among men and women.

Even the Tories haven't accepted yet the degree to which they can ape W.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:19 PM


Americans Want Blair to Replace Annan (Angus Reid Global Scan, 1/28/06)

Many adults in the United States believe the current prime minister of Britain would be a perfect fit for the United Nations (UN), according to a poll by Gallup released by CNN and USA Today. 66 per cent of respondents would favour Tony Blair becoming the next UN secretary-general.

Of course, Kofi is practically W's rent boy at this point, but Mr. Blair would be more reliably liberty-minded.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:52 PM


Mother of Congressman Tancredo dead at age 92 (AP, 1/28/06)

Adeline Tancredo, mother of U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., has died at age 92 after suffering a stroke last year, the Rocky Mountain News reported Saturday.

The daughter of Italian-American immigrants...

The Congressman Tancredo's of their day were no more successful in keeping the undesirables out.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:47 PM


A Defeat for Anti-Americanism (Washington Post, January 28, 2006)

ACCORDING TO his opponent, Canadian Conservative Party Leader Stephen Harper exposed "an agenda really drawn from the extreme right in the United States." He favored the Iraq war, opposed the Kyoto treaty on global warming, and is a social conservative to boot. He might just become -- heaven forbid -- "the most pro-American leader in the Western world." His victory would -- O, Canada! -- "put a smile on George W. Bush's face." Despite all those scary warnings, Mr. Harper and his party won Canada's election on Monday. That put an end to 12 years of increasingly incoherent and corrupt rule by the Liberal Party -- as well as the cynical and irresponsible attempt of its leader, outgoing Prime Minister Paul Martin, to use anti-Americanism.

Mr. Martin becomes the second G-8 leader in four months to exit from office after discovering that anti-U.S. demagoguery is no longer enough to win an election. Gerhard Schroeder, the former German chancellor, also tried to rescue his political career last fall by parading his differences with Mr. Bush; the result was the victory of Angela Merkel, who has moved swiftly to repair relations with Washington.

So instead of the tides of anti-Americanism we were promised when we "went it alone" in Iraq our allies in Britain, Australia, and Japan won historic re-elections, our foes in Canada and Germany fell, the French and Kofi Annan have become virtual sock puppets, and so on and so forth. What was that Osama said about the strong horse and the weak horse?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:43 AM


Hamas Is Facing a Money Crisis; Aid May Be Cut (STEVEN ERLANGER, 1/28/06, NY Times)

Hamas leaders, savoring their landslide victory in Palestinian elections, faced an array of threats on Friday: a huge government deficit, a likely cutoff of most aid, international ostracism and the rage of defeated and armed Fatah militants.

Of the many questions that the Hamas victory presents, the need to pay basic bills and salaries to Palestinians is perhaps the most pressing. The Palestinian Authority is functionally bankrupt, with a deficit of $69 million for January alone.

First you have to make the trains run on time....

In One Village, Anger and a Hunger for Change (IAN FISHER, 1/28/06, NY Times)

It is not hard to find Palestinians here who see the victory of Hamas as the triumph of resistance and of the group's longstanding vow to drive Israel into the sea.

But here, at least with the radical Islamic party's sweep of the Palestinian parliament still fresh, the talk turned more to responsibility — to improve the lives of Palestinians, even if that means Hamas has to moderate itself and, someday, to negotiate with Israel.

From interviews in this village — neither poor nor rich, with deep ties to Fatah but also much sympathy for Hamas — the bottom line seemed to be this: Exhaustion with Fatah's perceived corruption and incompetence, along with the hope that Hamas, known by Israelis for terror but by Palestinians for charity, might actually deliver change.

"Resistance is the second stage," Nazieh Barghouti, 67, an accountant, insisted Friday, amid celebrations with no concern for the rain and cold. "But the main stage is to arrange the house of Palestine."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:38 AM


Louisiana Tires of Its Rogues: Now that Katrina has spawned its first graft case, angry residents see the state's reputation for corruption corroding its ability to get federal aid. (Miguel Bustillo, January 27, 2006, LA Times)

In Louisiana, which has a history of political shenanigans so rich and colorful that it has become a part of American folklore, people long have laughed off misbehaving politicians as a fact of life, every bit as inevitable as death and taxes.

But as the state lobbies Washington for more money to rebuild ravaged towns and cities, citizens are realizing that Louisiana's well-earned penchant for dirty politics has exacted a steep price: It has badly damaged the credibility of the recovery effort.

"Frankly, the reputation in Washington is, if we send money down there, it will just get stolen," said political handicapper Charles E. Cook, a Louisiana native who has worked in the nation's capital for more than three decades. "It is a caricature of Louisiana politics that is not entirely undeserved but is grossly exaggerated. No one cared about it much before Katrina. But right now, it's hurting the state enormously."

A major turning point in public attitude came in 2001 when Edwin Edwards, the former four-term Democratic governor, received a 10-year sentence for taking bribes for riverboat gambling licenses. In the last governor's race, both candidates — Democrat Kathleen Babineaux Blanco beat Republican Bobby Jindal — were considered squeaky clean, and promised government reforms. The distaste for dirty government has really picked up momentum since last summer.

"What was tolerated before Katrina is not necessarily tolerated now," said pollster Silas Lee III, a professor at Xavier University here. "Nerves are raw. People have lost their sense of security and direction. They are living a day-to-day existence, and they have little patience for any politician who is perceived as being corrupt."

In addition to Edwards, in the last decade Louisiana has seen an attorney general, a congressman, a state Senate president, a federal judge and countless local officials convicted of corruption. Louisiana's last three state insurance commissioners wound up in prison for offenses that include lying to the FBI, accepting $2 million in illegal campaign contributions and taking bribes — prompting jokes that future candidates should make sure they look good in stripes.

Jim Letten, the U.S. attorney for eastern Louisiana and the lead prosecutor in the Edwards case, sees the convictions as a sign of progress. Wherever he goes, he said, he is greeted by people — black, white, Latino, Asian — who tell him Louisiana needs to clean up its act.

You mean they don't expect the rest of us to clean that up for them too?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:09 AM


Bush to Propose Trimming Army Reserve (LOLITA C. BALDOR, 1/28/06, Associated Press)

President Bush will use his new budget to propose cutting the size of the Army Reserve to its lowest level in three decades and stripping up to $4 billion from two fighter aircraft programs.

The proposals, likely to face opposition on Capitol Hill, come as the Defense Department struggles to trim personnel costs and other expenses to pay for the war in Iraq and a host of other pricey aircraft and high-tech programs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:07 AM


Germans cash cows for Iraqi kidnappers? (STEFAN NICOLA, 1/25/06, UPI)

Germans in Iraq may be targeted as cash cows after two men from Leipzig were kidnapped in the Sunni triangle, the second abduction of Germans in just a few weeks.

"It looks like Germany is seen as a country that pays," Karl-Heinz Kamp, security expert at the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftug, a think tank with close ties to Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives, told United Press International in a telephone interview Wednesday. "The latest kidnapping has been professionally executed. I don't think there is an extremist background. The abductors likely asked themselves: Where can we make some fast money?"

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:00 AM


We must prefer Bush, Warts and all (Times of India)

For those painting Iran as a valuable Indian ally and heroic underdog whom India must support against US imperialism, we have news.

Iran has just declared bluntly that if the price of oil exceeds $80/barrel —something that looks certain in the foreseeable future — then Iran will renege on its agreement to supply India 5 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas per year.

This is not the act of a friend or ally, or even of a disinterested commercial supplier. It is the bullying tactic of an arrogant oil power using energy as a commercial and diplomatic weapon. [...]

The Ahmedinejad regime that came to power after the LNG agreement was signed has constantly made excuses to avoid inking a formal contract. We now know why. The Ahmedinejad regime has proved irresponsible on more than one front, and cannot be regarded as a reliable supplier of energy. [...]

India is indeed free to choose, but let nobody pretend that choices do not have consequences. Should India align itself with the mullahs or the US, warts and all? Only hare-brained ideologues would opt for the mullahs.

Even a nutbag like Saddam knew how to buy off France and Germany with oil.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:35 AM


Clinton to support Alito filibuster: Says she’ll join Sen. Kerry in blocking Alito’s nomination, putting her at odds with top Democrats (GLENN THRUSH, January 27, 2006, Newsday)

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton on Friday announced she'll join potential 2008 presidential rival John Kerry in voting to filibuster against Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito, just as top Democratic leaders predicted the effort is likely doomed.

With three Democratic senators pledging support for Alito, the New Jersey conservative seems virtually assured of being confirmed by the full Senate Monday or Tuesday, party leaders predicted Friday. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters in Washington that "everyone knows" Senate Democrats couldn't muster the 40 votes needed to support a last-ditch filibuster.

"History will show that Judge Alito's nomination is the tipping point against constitutionally-based freedoms and protections we cherish as individuals and as a nation," Clinton wrote in a statement during a fundraising stop in Seattle.

This tendency to react to immediate events and mere atmospherics was the fatal weakness of her husband too. You can't allow yourself to be swayed by bloggers and Cabana Boy from a position that serves your long-term political interest.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:27 AM


Self-Discipline May Beat Smarts as Key to Success (Jay Mathews, January 17, 2006, Washington Post)

Zoe Bellars and Brad McGann, eighth-graders at Swanson Middle School in Arlington, do their homework faithfully and practice their musical instruments regularly. In a recent delayed gratification experiment, they declined to accept a dollar bill when told they could wait a week and get two dollars.

Those traits might be expected of good students, certainly no big deal. But a study by University of Pennsylvania researchers suggests that self-discipline and self-denial could be a key to saving U.S. schools.

According to a recent article by Angela L. Duckworth and Martin E.P. Seligman in the journal Psychological Science, self-discipline is a better predictor of academic success than even IQ.

It's no coincidence that the four most successful presidents elected in the past hundred years--FDR, Ike, Reagan, and W--have been considered intellectual lightweights while every one of the smart ones--Wilson, Hoover, JFK, and Nixon--was a failure.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 AM


Pro-lifers give credit to Specter (Charles Hurt, 1/18/06, The Washington Times)

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, one of the Republican Party's most outspoken pro-choice members, has become an unlikely hero among conservatives opposed to abortion for his handling of President Bush's judicial nominations.

"Our organization doesn't agree with Senator Specter on many of the issues," said Joseph Cella, president of the conservative Catholic group Fidelis. "But on the issue of handling these hearings with dignity, he gets an A-plus." [...]

Conservative groups that follow judicial nominations most closely -- many of which opposed Mr. Specter's elevation to committee chairman last year -- have applauded the Pennsylvania Republican in recent weeks for running orderly hearings and disarming many of Mr. Bush's most ardent detractors on the committee.

The President was wise enough to beat down the whacko wing of the GOP--the libertarians--and help re-elect the Senator.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 8:14 AM


Melting ice starts rush for Arctic resources (Anthony Browne, The Times, January 28th, 2006)

It is covered by thick ice, plunged into darkness for much of the year, and blasted by freezing winds. But the Arctic Ocean is being transformed by global warming from a no-man’s-land into the front line of a scramble for resources.

The melting of the ice pack is opening up vast reserves of offshore oil and gas, new shipping routes and fishing grounds, according to experts at the World Economic Forum.

But the scramble for Arctic wealth is complicated by the lack of agreement on which countries have legal claim to the territory, as well as border disputes, including those between Russia and the US. [...]

George Newton, the chairman of the US Arctic Research Commission, told delegates at the conference of business leaders in Davos, Switzerland, that temperatures in the Arctic were expected to rise 5.5C (41.9F) in the next 100 years, and that last year the Arctic ice sheet was smaller than ever.

“When we’ve been talking about climate change it’s with concern, but we’re talking about opportunity,” he said.

Apparently even Gaia has converted to the third way.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:55 AM


Mother knows best (The Spectator, January 28th, 2006)

The philosophy of the present government is that while parents should generally be allowed to bring up their offspring, they can never make as good a job of it as trained health professionals can. Therefore it is in the interests of child welfare that the state intervenes in child-rearing wherever it can. We disagree absolutely with this philosophy. There are, of course, bad parents, some so very bad that it is necessary for their children forcibly to be removed from them. But given the appalling record of abuse and neglect in state-run children’s homes, we suspect the evidence points the other way: that the state generally makes a much worse job of raising children. The government will not see this, of course, because it applies different standards. If a parent supplied condoms to a 14-year-old child, thereby encouraging under-age sex, we suspect that the police would have them on the sex offenders’ register in no time. Yet government agencies hand out contraceptives to minors all the time on the grounds that, while the condoms are sure to be used for an illegal act, the youngsters will only go and have sex anyway, but without free condoms they will have babies and catch diseases.

There is no morality in the approach of the Family Planning Association: it is pure, grim utilitarianism. Moreover, it has failed to achieve the objectives of that creed: to produce the greatest benefit to the greatest number of people. Free condoms and an excess of sex advice to children have done little or nothing to reduce teenage pregnancies, and for good reason: they are interpreted by the children as encouragement to have sex. When teenagers realise that they can get condoms and have an abortion, all without risking the admonishment of their parents, where is the disincentive?

Labour has ditched much of its Marxist philosophy in recent years. Businessmen need no longer look over their shoulders for ministers out to nationalise the means of production. But when it comes to family life, whether it be over abortion, smacking or anything else, the party has become steadily more authoritarian. Under Tony Blair or Gordon Brown we won’t see the nationalisation of shipbuilding or steelmaking; but the nationalisation of children is fully under way.

It is important to note that a wide swath of so-called right wing libertarian thinking is completely aligned with the neo-marxism of the caring professions that holds the best way to protect children is for the state to assume parental authority and abolish childhood. The roots of this are single motherhood and divorce, with their consequent material dependency and either absent, feckless or adversarial fathers. In a very real sense, those modern kids who may be fed by Mom but are effectively raised by bureaucrats are victims of the gospel of free choice, relative morality and sexual entitlement.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:52 AM


To Tame Tehran (Michael McFaul and Abbas Milani, January 28, 2006, Washington Post)

Unexpectedly, Ahmadinejad has pushed hard to remove from power many experienced high- and mid-level government officials, including those previously handling the nuclear negotiations, and to replace them with unqualified loyalists from the security services and the Basijis. Not surprisingly, these fired professionals have quietly begun to regroup to push back, and, significantly, their efforts have not been checked by the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Until recently Khamenei had backed Ahmadinejad as a way to restrain the powers of Rafsanjani, but now Khamenei is gently seeking ways to rein in the new president and those spiritual zealots close to him, such as Mesbah-Yazdi, who threaten the supreme leader's authority.

If this split in the regime deepens, Ahmadinejad will not be able to rely on widespread support in Iranian society. In last year's presidential election, Ahmadinejad ran a clever campaign as an outsider and critic of the status quo. He rallied electoral support not by promising to remove Israel from the face of the earth but by pledging to fight corruption and support the poor. In power, however, Ahmadinejad quickly undermined his anti-corruption credentials by appointing his relatives to government positions, and then tried to change the subject by launching repressive policies at home and exacerbating tensions abroad. Economic woes, new restrictions on social freedoms and disappointed expectations mean that popular support for his Khomeini renaissance is shallow.

These developments create opportunities for Western leaders well beyond U.N. votes. First, and most obviously, the United States must take advantage of the current climate to further isolate and marginalize Ahmadinejad and his cabal and hold them responsible for the crisis. Calls for constructive engagement with Iran's president are wrong; such overtures would only confirm Ahmadinejad's contention that confrontational policies reap rewards.

Second, U.S. and European leaders must do more to stimulate a serious discussion in Iranian society about the country's security interests, and articulate policies and arguments that will strengthen an Iranian political coalition against nuclear weapons. So far the Tehran regime has monopolized the discussion. Though disguised in assertions about Iran's right to nuclear energy, the strategic thinking of the regime has been quite simple: The United States invaded Iraq because Iraq did not have nuclear weapons; the United States has not invaded North Korea because North Korea has nuclear weapons.

The flaws in this logic must be exposed. In a major public address, President Bush should pledge that the United States will never attack a nonnuclear Iran, while also underscoring that the Iranian process of acquiring nuclear weapons capabilities actually increases the likelihood of military confrontation with the United States. Western leaders should remind Iranian society that a nuclear Iran would also trigger a nuclear arms race in the region, as Egypt and Saudi Arabia would move quickly to develop their own arsenals.

Ayatollah Khamenei is a tactical ally against Ahmadinejad and the Iranian people are a strategic ally against both.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:45 AM


Catalonia Nears Autonomy From Spain: Region's Plan for Self-Rule Seen as Alternative to Full Independence (John Ward Anderson, January 28, 2006, Washington Post)

They have their own language, their own culture, and a history of rebellion going back more than 500 years. They have had periods of semi-independence punctuated by brutal government crackdowns. They have a vibrant economy that is the envy of their country. And they're determined to become their own nation.

It is a picture that fits any number of armed separatist movements around the world. Here, it describes a peaceful drive for more autonomy in the Spanish region of Catalonia, and it is nearing success with the backing of the country's Socialist prime minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

Opponents say the plan for more self-rule is a Trojan horse, paving the way for full independence, striking at the foundation of Spain's 28-year-old democracy and threatening to break up the country.

While the transnationalists alll dreamed of world government the reality is that states are just going to keep devolving into smaller units.

Premiers in hurry to craft fiscal deal (IAN URQUHART, 1/28/06, Toronto Star)

The phone lines are starting to burn up as premiers call each other and prime minister-designate Stephen Harper about striking a new deal that could dramatically alter Confederation by strengthening the provinces and reducing Ottawa's role.

At issue is the nation's "fiscal imbalance," which sees Ottawa awash in surpluses while the provinces struggle to make ends meet. Paul Martin, the outgoing prime minister, denied the very existence of a fiscal imbalance; Harper, on the other hand, has promised to fix it.

In his election platform, Harper said he would "work with the provinces in order to achieve a long-term agreement which would address the issue of a fiscal imbalance in a permanent fashion."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:39 AM


Blogs Attack From Left as Democrats Reach for Center (Jim VandeHei, January 28, 2006, Washington Post)

Democrats are getting an early glimpse of an intraparty rift that could complicate efforts to win back the White House: fiery liberals raising their voices on Web sites and in interest groups vs. elected officials trying to appeal to a much broader audience.

These activists -- spearheaded by battle-ready bloggers and making their influence felt through relentless e-mail campaigns -- have denounced what they regard as a flaccid Democratic response to the Supreme Court fight, President Bush's upcoming State of the Union address and the Iraq war. In every case, they have portrayed party leaders as gutless sellouts.

Only a leaderless, idealess party can be led by a flock of shut-ins.


Sheehan to Feinstein: Filibuster Alito, Or I'll Run Against You
(Melanie Hunter, January 27, 2006, CNSNews.com)

Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan has threatened to run for Sen. Dianne Feinstein's (D-Calif.) seat unless Feinstein filibusters Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito.

Sheehan, who was in Caracas, Venezuela Friday attending the World Social Forum, heard that several Democrats planned to filibuster Alito but that Feinstein, who is up for re-election in November, announced that she will vote against Alito but would not filibuster the nomination.

"I'm appalled that Diane Feinstein wouldn't recognize how dangerous Alito's nomination is to upholding the values of our constitution and restricting the usurpation of presidential powers, for which I've already paid the ultimate price," Sheehan said in a statement.

Ten years ago you'd have said that Ms Feinstein was independent enough to ignore such a loon, but since the Clinton Impeachment she's fallen into lockstep with the Left.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:18 AM


Democrats concede Judge Alito victory (Charles Hurt, January 28, 2006,

Sen. John Kerry dashed home from the Swiss Alps yesterday to man the barricades of a futile filibuster against Supreme Court nominee Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr.

Well before he reached the battlefield, however, Democrats had waved the white flag and agreed that next week's vote to confirm Judge Alito will surely succeed.

"Everyone knows there is not enough votes to support a filibuster," Minority Leader Harry Reid said yesterday, several hours before Mr. Kerry arrived.

By midday, Republicans had dubbed Mr. Kerry's international politicking the "Swiss Miss."

It's a microcosm of Senator Kerry's career--he's not where the action is occurring and there's no one following him.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:28 AM


Quebec's quiet right-wing revolution
(Graeme Hamilton, National Post, January 27th, 2006)

In the dying days of the campaign, as the Conservatives' climb in Quebec became undeniable, a mystified Bloc Quebecois tried one, final shot. A full-page advertisement appeared in newspapers in eastern Quebec, declaring in huge print, "We will not let Calgary decide for Quebec." A black Stetson sat atop the word 'Calgary'. The message was clear: Beware Stephen Harper's Conservative cowboys.

Jacques Gourde, who raises beef cattle on his hay farm in Saint-Narcisse, about 40 kilometres south of Quebec City, was not amused. "You could say I'm a Quebec cowboy," said the Conservative who won the riding of Lotbiniere-Chutes-de-la-Chaudiere by more than 12,000 votes over the Bloc incumbent.

"I think that advertisement did more damage than good."

Election results tend to support his position: In the area targeted by the ad, the Conservatives won eight seats.

Both the Liberals and the Bloc tried to demonize the Tories, insisting the party's small-c conservatism was anathema to modern Quebec. "Mr. Harper's positions go against values that Quebecers defend," Paul Martin said. On election day, voters decided differently, giving the Tories 25% of the votes in Quebec compared with 21% for the Liberals. At 42%, the Bloc remained the most popular party, but well below their 50% target.

With their strong showing, the Conservatives gave the lie to the notion that Quebec is a sea of social-democrats. At least in a significant pocket of the province, Quebec values are not that out of step with Alberta values, after all.

Albertans are going to have a tough time seceding if everybody demands to go with them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Coulter Jokes About Poisoning Justice (AP, Jan 27, 2006)

Conservative commentator Ann Coulter, speaking at a traditionally black college, joked that Justice John Paul Stevens should be poisoned.

Coulter had told the Philander Smith College audience Thursday that more conservative justices were needed on the Supreme Court to change the current law on abortion. Stevens is one of the court's most liberal members.

"We need somebody to put rat poisoning in Justice Stevens' creme brulee," Coulter said. "That's just a joke, for you in the media."

Advocating death for old people is a position unworthy of a conservative.

January 27, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:49 PM


57% Americans support military action in Iran (Greg Miller, January 27 2006, Financial Times)

Despite persistent disillusionment with the war in Iraq, a majority of Americans supports taking military action against Iran if that country continues to produce material that can be used to develop nuclear weapons, a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll has found.

The poll, conducted Sunday through Wednesday, found that 57% of Americans favor military intervention if Iran’s Islamic government pursues a program that could enable it to build nuclear arms.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:03 PM


Two Elections and a Lesson (E. J. Dionne Jr., 1/27/06, Real Clear Politics)

[S]ince the invasion of Iraq, administration spokesmen and supporters have offered a utopian and decidedly unconservative view of how American power could be used to change the world -- and quickly.

It was said that the way to peace in Jerusalem passed through Baghdad. It was said that by ridding Iraq of Saddam Hussein's wretched regime, the United States would unleash a democratic revolution in the Arab world. Go back and look at the sweeping claims Bush's defenders made for his policy after the elections in Iraq just a year ago. Everything, it was said, was falling into place.

But the world is a complicated place. Of course, free elections in Iraq are hugely better than dictatorship. But when free elections become more a census to count members of warring ethnic and religious factions than a way of settling underlying disputes, they do not necessarily pave the way for enduring democracy. They do not provide voters with ways of test-driving the various alternatives.

In the Palestinian case, Hamas' victory was not widely predicted, but its strong showing was predictable. Every serious analyst understood the frustration of the Palestinian majority with those who have led them. Everyone knew that Hamas had created a new civil society -- a network of health and social service organizations -- within the old Palestinian structure that created a wide base of grass-roots support.

The polls suggest that Hamas did not win because a majority of Palestinians bought into its terrorist program. Hamas won, precisely as Bush said, because voters were so unhappy with the status quo. But shouldn't Washington ask itself why it didn't take more dramatic steps, over a much longer period, to change the Palestinian status quo? Taking action in Iraq was not going to do the job.

The elections, which offer the first significant change to the status quo domination of the Palestinians by the PLO, were undertaken in direct response to the demands of the President. It may be unconservative but in just the four and a half years since 9-11, we've caused regime change and established democracy in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Palestine, forced the Sudanese to settle with the South, driven Syria out of Lebanon, etc. The notion that we aren't doing enough to alter the status quo seems insane.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:52 PM


Senator Feinstein to Vote No on Cloture (U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, January 27, 2006)

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today announced that she will vote no on cloture regarding the nomination of Judge Samuel A. Alito, Jr. to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.

“Based on a very long and thoughtful analysis of the record and transcript, which I tried to indicate in my floor statement yesterday, I’ve decided that I will vote no on cloture.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:19 PM


This Is How To Run A Railroad: The boom in global trade has made the rail business hot again. Norfolk Southern is leading the way by adding technology, marketing and customer service to a sooty old business. (Jonathan Fahey, 02.13.06, Forbes)

Norfolk Southern's 5-mile long switching yard in Elkhart, Ind. looks more 1906 than 2006. Heaps of rusting steel parts, disfigured barrels and stacks of railroad ties litter the dreary expanse. Tufts of brown grass struggle through coarse gravel. The trains are shipping flat-panel televisions and other things that did not even exist a decade ago. So where is the railroad's new technology?

Look above the drab boxcars sparsely covered with chipped paint and the 120 train tracks into a glass-walled control tower at the center of the yard. There sit five operations workers behind twinkling computer screens. It is here that Norfolk Southern has finally learned how to run a railroad. All railroad companies are booming these days, thanks to the rise in oil prices, which has made rail-shipped coal more attractive, and to the flattening of the world's economy, which has sent steel, grain and televisions coursing around the globe. U.S. railroads did 1.7 trillion ton-miles of traffic last year, up 2.4% from 2004. Norfolk Southern is shipping these goods more efficiently than competitors like CSX and Union Pacific because it decided to haul a 19th-century business into the 21st.

The 20th Century was a mistake.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:59 PM


Rosenberg Reruns: They were guilty, but the left can't give up their cause (JOSEPH RAGO, January 27, 2006 , Opinion Journal)

You would think, by now, with a half-century of scholarship behind us and a great deal of damning evidence on display, we would not have to be arguing about the guilt or innocence of various iconic figures of the late 1940s and 1950s: Alger Hiss, Harry Dexter White or, perhaps most notoriously, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. But the martyr status of such figures seems irresistible, even today, to a certain kind of sentimental leftist. They still remain symbols of some malevolent American quality--never mind the truth of what they actually did.

Such was the lesson of a forum last week in Manhattan convened to discuss the "artistic influence" of the Rosenbergs. The invitation to the event, sponsored by the Fordham Law School, referred to the Rosenbergs as "the accused." It was a tellingly exculpatory phrase. For the record, both Julius and Ethel were convicted as communist spies and executed for espionage in 1953.

The stars of the evening were the novelist E.L. Doctorow and the playwright Tony Kushner. Mr. Doctorow is the author of "The Book of Daniel" (1971), a novel that centers on a couple loosely patterned after the Rosenbergs; Mr. Kushner wrote the play "Angels in America" (1993), which imagines the specter of Ethel Rosenberg returning to haunt various protagonists. Both works are highly sympathetic to the Rosenbergs' dilemma, if that is the right word. [...]

While the trial of the Rosenbergs was flawed by technical improprieties, their crimes are not uncertain or unresolved. Julius Rosenberg, with Ethel as his accomplice, was the head of a sophisticated spy network that deeply penetrated the American atomic program and relayed top secrets to Stalin's Kremlin. In his memoirs Nikita Khrushchev noted that the Rosenbergs "vastly aided production of our A-bomb." Joyce Milton and Ronald Radosh wrote a damning account of their activities in "The Rosenberg File" (1983). And the Rosenbergs' guilt was corroborated by the 1995 declassification of the Venona documents, thousands of decrypted KGB cables intercepted by the National Security Agency in the 1940s.

The notion that anyone would today deny their fundamental complicity in Soviet subversion is extraordinary, almost comically so. But comedy was not quite the mentality at the Rosenberg event. "Ambiguity is the key word, I think," said Mr. Doctorow, regarding our understanding of the past, though in this instance ambiguous is precisely what it is not.

Mr. Kushner argued the Rosenbergs were "murdered, basically." Mr. Doctorow went further, explaining that he wanted to use their circumstances to tell "a story of the mind of the country." It was a mind, apparently, filled with loathing and paranoia--again, never mind the truth of the charges against the Rosenbergs or other spies of the time. "The principles of the Cold War had reached absurdity," he continued. "We knew that the Russians were no threat, but we wanted to persuade Americans to be afraid" and so impose "a Puritan, punitive civil religion." Pronounced Mr. Kushner: "Our failure to come to terms with a brutal past, our failure to open up the coffins and let the ghosts out, has led to our current, horrendous situation."

A couple of points arise:

(1) The modern Left exists to amuse the rest of us--it is comic relief. If you've never read Robert Warshow's essay on the Rosenbergs' prison letters it's worth buying from the Commentary Archives or just purchasing his book, The Immediate Experience--it's a brutal hoot.

(2) It was at least somewhat possible to understand how intellectuals, artists and such were so beguiled by Communism as to become apologists for Stalinism and traitors like the Rosenbergs. But to still be under the spell is profoundly strange and the way so many on the Left are just repeating their anti-Americanism of the Cold War now that we're fighting Islamicists is in no wise forgivable. Indeed, it is evil.

Posted by pjaminet at 1:50 PM


The Peekaboo Paradox (Gene Weingarten, Washington Post; via Hugh Hewitt)

A better story than can be found in Chekhov.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:12 PM


SCENE III. The Grecian camp. Before Agamemnon's tent. (William Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida)

O, when degree is shak'd,

Which is the ladder to all high designs,

Then enterprise is sick! How could communities,

Degrees in schools and brotherhoods in cities,

Peaceful commerce from dividable shores,

The primogenity and due of birth,

Prerogative of age, crowns, sceptres, laurels,

But by degree stand in authentic place?

Take but degree away, untune that string,

And hark what discord follows! Each thing meets

In mere oppugnancy. The bounded waters

Should lift their bosoms higher than the shores

And make a sop of all this solid globe;

Strength should be lord of imbecility,

And the rude son should strike his father dead;

Force should be right; or rather, right and wrong

(Between whose endless jar justice resides)

Should lose their names, and so should justice too.

Then everything includes itself in power,

Power into will, will into appetite;

And appetite, an universal wolf,

So doubly seconded with will and power,

Must make perforce an universal prey,

And last eat up himself.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:05 PM


'We wanted to be in the opposition' (Orly Halpern, Jan. 26, 2006, THE JERUSALEM POST)

More than 50 percent of the Palestinian Legislative Council is theirs, and they don't have a clue what to do next, but according to at least one Hamas leader, talking to Israel is in the cards.

"We're examining our options," said Yasser Mansour, the No. 5 Hamas leader told The Jerusalem Post. "We are researching each and every issue."

Indeed, a Hamas leader in Nablus, a professor at An-Najah University who did not run, told the Post that many of the leaders were disappointed with the results. "We didn't want this, we didn't hope for this. We wanted to be in the opposition," he said, speaking at a green-flagged, rabble-rousing victory rally in downtown Nablus. "Now all the responsibility is on us."

The election forces them to grow up.

Posted by Glenn Dryfoos at 12:57 PM


A simmering mystery
: Star anise and other spices unlock the secret to a revered braised brisket that's a favorite at Chinese New Year. (Betty Baboujon, January 25, 2006, LA Times)

EVERY Sunday for several years when I was growing up in Manila, we'd pile into the family car and head out to our favorite Chinese noodle house for lunch.

We kids could order whatever we wanted, but somehow I always chose the same thing: a beef brisket noodle soup with each element of the dish in its own bowl. The clear broth was deliciously beefy and the fresh wheat noodles supple and al dente. But it was the brisket itself that I always polished off. The moist hunks, tender yet pleasantly chewy, were infused with exotic aromatic spices that I found irresistible. Dipping each bite into a bit of bright red chile sauce (there was a jar on every table) made it even better.

My father, who knew the owner of the noodle shop, said that each of the chefs, who'd been brought in from Hong Kong, jealously guarded his culinary secrets. The dumpling chef, for one, would retreat to a corner in the kitchen to make the fillings, hunching over so prying eyes would not see his masterful proportions. Not that anyone was looking; each cook was in his own nook furtively concocting his specialty. [...]

Chinese beef brisket

Total time: 3 hours, plus optional cooling time

Note: Yellow rock sugar and dried tangerine peel are available at Asian grocery stores, usually in the spice aisle. The sugar is crystallized and often labeled "rock candy," and the peel is labeled "citrus peel." Or you may substitute 2 tablespoons granulated or light brown sugar for the rock sugar and dry your own tangerine peel. (To do so, carefully remove the peel from a tangerine, either in a spiral or in segments, keeping it in one piece if possible. Hang the peel on a clothesline or a hook for a few days until completely dry, ashy brown and stiff. Break off what you need and store the rest in a jar or plastic bag.) Do not use fresh peel for this recipe. Various Asian red chile sauces are available in the Asian food sections of supermarkets.

1 (3-pound) beef brisket (preferably the leaner flat cut rather than the fattier point cut)

1/2 cup rice wine

2/3 cup soy sauce

3 ounces yellow rock sugar (about 2 walnut-sized lumps)

1 (1 1/2 -inch) piece ginger, sliced

3 star anise

1/2 cinnamon stick

1 (2-inch) piece dried

tangerine peel

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 teaspoons fennel seeds

2 teaspoons cornstarch


2 green onions, sliced


Asian red chile sauce


1. Choose a large pot or Dutch oven just wide enough to hold the beef brisket. Fill it with enough water to submerge the brisket. Bring the water to a boil. Carefully lower the brisket into the pot. Boil it for about 3 minutes (this gets rid of the impurities, which rise to the surface as foam).

2. Using tongs, carefully transfer the brisket to a colander and rinse it in cool water. Set aside. Discard the cooking water and rinse the pot.

3. In the pot, combine 6 cups water, the rice wine, soy sauce, rock sugar, ginger slices, star anise, cinnamon stick and dried tangerine peel. Bundle up the cumin and fennel seeds in a piece of cheesecloth and tie it shut with a piece of string. Add to the pot.

4. Cover the pot and bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat and carefully place the brisket in the liquid. If necessary, add more water to ensure that the brisket is covered. Return to a boil, then simmer for about 2 hours, until fork-tender.

5. Remove from the heat, uncover and allow to cool. Remove the spices, then refrigerate the brisket overnight to allow the flavors to meld. (If serving immediately, proceed to the next step.)

6. Transfer the brisket to a cutting board and cut into one-third-inch slices. If the brisket was cooled or refrigerated, place the pieces in a large saucepan and ladle in just enough of the braising liquid to cover. Warm over medium heat until heated through.

7. Remove the meat with a slotted spoon or tongs, and arrange the pieces on a serving platter. Pour a little of the liquid over the beef. If you want a thicker sauce, cover the beef with foil to keep warm. In a cup, combine the cornstarch with 2 tablespoons water. Bring 1 cup of the braising liquid to a boil and add the cornstarch mixture, cooking and stirring until thickened, about 1 minute. Pour the sauce over the beef. Garnish with sliced green onions, if desired, and serve with red chile sauce.

8. Save the remaining braising liquid. Strain into an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days, or freeze. Discard any congealed fat on the surface. The next time you make brisket, use this liquid in place of some of the 6 cups of water. Add more water to cover the meat and toss in a new batch of rice wine, soy sauce and spices.

Posted by pjaminet at 11:18 AM


Broadcaster says serious news at risk (Palm Beach Daily News, Jan 26, 2006)

[Former CNN anchorman Aaron Brown] is shocked "by how unkind our world has become," he said. E-mail and talk radio appear to have given people the license to say anything, regardless of how cruel or false it may be, he said.

He cited the example of an e-mail faulting what the sender considered to be NewsNight's inadequate coverage of an anti-war protest in Washington, D.C. The note ended with, "I hope the violence visited on the people of Iraq will someday be visited on your children."

Those on the opposite side of the political spectrum are no more tolerant, Brown said. "Any criticism of the administration is regarded as hatred of the president and hatred of the country itself," he said.

Note that the only hatred Brown experienced was from the left; what he got from the right is suspicion of and contempt for leftist hatred, or, as he puts it, intolerance for it.

Recently the Washington Post ombudsman, Deborah Howell, had a similar experience:

I've heard from lots of angry readers about the remark in my column Sunday that lobbyist Jack Abramoff gave money to both parties.

The leftist venom was such that the Washington Post, after deleting numerous profane comments, terminated commenting on their blog:
There were so many personal attacks that the newspaper’s staff could not "keep the board clean, there was some pretty filthy stuff," and so the Post shut down comments on the blog, or Web log, said Jim Brady, executive editor of washingtonpost.com.

Now that the liberal media is being forced by competitive pressures and Republican ascendancy to be a little more fair to conservatives, they're getting to experience the hatred of the left personally. Although there's no evidence that Aaron Brown has made such an evolution, you have to believe that these experiences will eventually move many of them toward the right.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:45 AM


Dentist 'certainly isn't a pimp' (NATASHA KORECKI , 1/27/06, Chicago Sun-Times)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:39 AM


Election was a vote against corruption (MONIFA THOMAS, January 27, 2006, Chicago Sun-Times)

Hamas' surprise victory in the Palestinian legislative elections was more a vote against corruption in the current government than an endorsement of the group's controversial politics, members of Chicago's Palestinian community said Thursday.

"Hamas winning over there is not because they are big over there. It's because people need changes," said Ali Hussain, 53, of Burbank, who hails from a small village outside of Ramallah. "Nobody appreciates corruption, especially in a country that's been occupied for so long."

Chicago Lawn resident Mustafa Rabeea, 45, agreed, saying, "I don't know about Hamas, but . . . [this government] did not do enough for the people."

As the President intimated in his press conference yesterday, there's one easy lens through which to understand this election: were you a Palestinian, would you have voted for Fatah or Hamas?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:32 AM


Bush full of jokes, good humor with press (Nedra Pickler, January 27, 2006, Associated Press)

Bush was full of quips during the 45-minute news conference, poking fun at the media and deflecting some of the heat when questioning got intense.

Yes, Bush acknowledged, he had his picture taken with admitted criminal Jack Abramoff.

"Having my picture taken with someone doesn't mean that I'm a friend with him or know him very well," he said. "I've had my picture taken with you at holiday parties."

Another reporter pointed out that accusations of Abramoff's influence went beyond the photographs to questions of why he met with the president's top aides.

The White House has refused to disclose just how often or why Abramoff was there, and Bush wasn't about to, either. He returned to jokes about the pictures.

"I mean, people, it's part of the job of the president to shake hands with people and smile," he said. He said he would turn over records about Abramoff's meetings at the White House only to federal prosecutors if they suspected something inappropriate.

When a radio reporter asked the president again to never mind the photographs, just talk about lobbyists' influence on the White House, Bush interrupted: "Easy for a radio guy to say."

The press somehow manages to convince itself that Mr. Bush avoids them because he or his staff are afraid he can't handle them and then at every press conference he plays them like a fiddle.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:47 AM


Scranton aide fired for remark (Amy Worden, 1/26/06, Philadelphia Inquirer)

Bill Scranton's campaign manager, James Seif, said he knew he was in trouble as
soon as the words came tumbling off his tongue.

In a live call-in show on the Pennsylvania Cable Network, Seif told viewers that Scranton's main
opponent for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, Lynn Swann, who is African American, was the
"rich white guy in the campaign."

By the end of the show, callers were demanding an apology from Seif, and within an hour Scranton had
fired him. His dismissal came at a time when Scranton has been trying to slow Swann's increasing
momentum toward capturing the party's endorsement on Feb. 11.

"There's no excuse. It was a stupid thing to say," said Seif, who added that the comment was not
intended as a racial slur.

Seif, 60, said he was trying to say that Swann, who portrays himself as a political outsider, was really
part of the establishment.

Questioning the racial authenticity of black conservatives is a meme of the Left.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:41 AM


New Poll Finds Mixed Support for Wiretaps (ADAM NAGOURNEY and JANET ELDER, 1/27/06, NY Times)

In a sign that public opinion about the trade-offs between national security and individual rights is nuanced and remains highly unresolved, responses to questions about the administration's eavesdropping program varied significantly depending on how the questions were worded, underlining the importance of the effort by the White House this week to define the issue on its terms.

The poll, conducted as President Bush defended his surveillance program in the face of criticism from Democrats and some Republicans that it is illegal, found that Americans were willing to give the administration some latitude for its surveillance program if they believed it was intended to protect them. Fifty-three percent of the respondents said they supported eavesdropping without warrants "in order to reduce the threat of terrorism."

The results suggest that Americans' view of the program depends in large part on whether they perceive it as a bulwark in the fight against terrorism, as Mr. Bush has sought to cast it, or as an unnecessary and unwarranted infringement on civil liberties, as critics have said.

In one striking finding, respondents overwhelmingly supported e-mail and telephone monitoring directed at "Americans that the government is suspicious of;" they overwhelmingly opposed the same kind of surveillance if it was aimed at "ordinary Americans."

So basically the Times is push polling.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:15 AM


McCain, Coburn to force votes on pork spending (Stephen Dinan, January 27, 2006, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Two Republican senators say they will force their colleagues to vote on the Senate floor on each so-called pork-barrel spending project this year, and President Bush also called for reforms to rein in the projects.

The battle over earmarks -- the line-item projects that members of Congress insert into spending bills to benefit their districts -- has ballooned as Republicans debate congressional reforms and budget deficits.

Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma sent a letter Wednesday night to their colleagues announcing they will use Senate rules to force members to vote on each project.

"American taxpayers are entitled to a more thorough debate and disclosure about how their money is being spent," the senators wrote.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:11 AM


Hughes sorry for denying gay past (George Jones and Brendan Carlin, 27/01/2006, Daily Telegraph)

The crisis engulfing the Liberal Democrats is underlined by the latest YouGov poll for The Daily Telegraph which shows that support for the party has fallen to 13 per cent - its lowest level for eight years - even before the disclosure that Mr Hughes had covered up his homosexual relationships.

The poll says that more than one in three of those who voted Liberal Democrat in the election last May no longer supports the party and that many no longer regard it as a credible political force.

Labour and the Conservatives have both gained from the party's decline and are now virtually level-pegging. The Tories under their new leader David Cameron are on 39 per cent, a gain of six points since the election, and Labour are on 40 per cent, up four points.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:00 AM


Sly Stone's Surprise: Reclusive Musician May Emerge to Perform At Grammy Awards (J. Freedom du Lac, January 27, 2006, Washington Post )

Sly Stone, the reclusive, long-vanished funk-rock pioneer whose potent recordings in the late 1960s and early '70s defined the era and altered the course of popular music, may be about to strut back into the public eye.

According to several friends and associates, discussions are well underway about a Sly and the Family Stone reunion performance at the Grammy Awards on Feb. 8 in Los Angeles. [...]

A funk legend himself, [George] Clinton was forced to rethink his approach to music after hearing Sly and the Family Stone's landmark 1969 album, "Stand!"

"He's my idol; forget all that peer stuff," Clinton said. "I heard 'Stand!,' and it was like: Man , forget it! That band was perfect. And Sly was like all the Beatles and all of Motown in one. He was the baddest thing around. What he don't realize is that him making music now would still be the baddest. Just get that band back together and do whatever it is that he do."

In its heyday, from roughly 1968 through 1971, Sly and the Family Stone created revolutionary music, an intoxicating mix of psychedelic pop, pulsating funk and social commentary. Among the first fully integrated groups on the American music scene, with blacks and whites and men and women together onstage, the seven-piece San Francisco band played the world's biggest venues while cranking out hit after cutting-edge hit.

Stone was an innovator whose work inspired Motown to find its social conscience, helped persuade Miles Davis to go electric, and ultimately laid out a blueprint for generations of black pop stars, from Prince and Michael Jackson to OutKast, D'Angelo and Lenny Kravitz.

"There's black music before Sly Stone, and there's black music after Sly Stone," said Joel Selvin, author of "Sly and the Family Stone: An Oral History" and a San Francisco Chronicle music critic for the past 30 years. "He completely changed what black music was. I mean, he changed Motown! Before Sly, the Temptations were 'I'm Losing You.' After Sly, they were 'Ball of Confusion.' It's a black and white moment.

"The album 'Stand!' summed up the times, with the humanitarian sentiments, in a perfect sloganeering way. 'Dance to the Music,' 'There's a Riot Goin' On' -- these were revolutionary documents. And Sly's statements last. They sound as good today as they did when they were recorded. There's really nobody like Sly Stone in the history of black music."

Good to hear he's his elf agin.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:53 AM


Democrats Split Over Filibuster On Alito (Charles Babington, January 27, 2006, Washington Post)

Several prominent Democratic senators called for a filibuster of Samuel A. Alito Jr.'s Supreme Court nomination yesterday, exposing a deep divide in the party even as they delighted the party's liberal base.

The filibuster's supporters -- including Sens. John F. Kerry and Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts -- acknowledged that the bid is likely to fail and that Alito is virtually certain to be confirmed Tuesday. [...]

Senate Democratic Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) repeatedly told colleagues this week that he wanted to avoid a filibuster, party members said. He looked frustrated in the Senate chamber yesterday as he told Frist he could not avert the parliamentary tactic. Shrugging his shoulders, Reid said he hoped "this matter will be resolved without too much more talking, but . . . everyone has the right to talk."

Party sources said Reid and others worry that a filibuster, while likely to fail, will nonetheless detract voters' attention from issues that Democratic leaders consider more promising. They include Bush's controversial domestic surveillance program...

Let's get off of the issue where we're abortion extremists and on to the one where we're soft on al Qaeda!

Bush Support Weak as Americans Favor New Direction, Poll Finds (Bloomberg, 1/27/06)

The one issue on which Bush maintains an edge over Democrats -- by a 13 percentage-point margin -- is on policies to protect the nation against terrorism. Many of those surveyed think Bush's policies have made America more secure, and most support Bush's view that Congress should reauthorize the USA Patriot Act.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:02 AM


The urban angle (David Warren, 1/25/06, Ottawa Citizen)

The future of Canada, as the U.S., is -- if we are lucky -- “ex-urban”. (As opposed to “rural”.)

Canada is different from the States in fewer ways than any of our city-borne media realize. We have the same basic Left/Right division, with the same sorts of views on both sides (both in English and French). The difference between countries is geographic -- and derives from the fact that so little of Canada is habitable. We lack the vast, occupied, American outdoors. Against the wind blowing from the Arctic, we are huddled together more densely in cities. A much higher proportion of our population is therefore to be found in typical “Blue State” environments -- where people have lost all contact with nature, and by increments, with the realities of life.

The over-urbanized are the willing clients of the nanny state. They are loathe to take responsibility for anything; they assume when anything goes wrong, some specialist or expert will fix it. Even when they have children they expect “child-care facilities”. They are salaried people; few have ever taken a risk on their own dime. Their taxes are lifted from them at source. They are easily frightened when a Paul Martin or a Jack Layton warns that a bogeyman from Alberta is going to take their entitlements away.

They think of the city and the government as something that was always there -- as a second nature. They are defenceless when primary nature reasserts itself (as we saw, poignantly, in New Orleans). Like isolated and primitive peoples elsewhere, they develop superstitions -- “urban myths” -- that account for the mysterious provision of their public services, and they worship their “rainmaking” urban political gods. Their lives are regulated by principles of “political correctness” bound in on every side by taboo.

I am giving you the profile of a “Blue State” voter, but it is not different in kind from a “Red Province” voter up here. In neither case do we have the boundaries right. Upstate New York can be as Republican as Texas; the difference between Vancouver and the B.C. interior is night and day. The attitudes that animate Toronto diminish, in concentric rings, as you move away from the CN Tower.

Canada was not built by the government; it was built by men and women taking responsibility for things. Yet the over-urbanized have lost this sense that anyone could take responsibility.

It would seem that urbanization's dehumanizing and atomizing tendencies are a necessary prop of Statism.

House Republicans To Get Presentation On 'Suburban Agenda' (Mort Kondracke , 1/27/06, Real Clear Politics)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:25 AM


The Major Minor Mozart (Terry Teachout, Commentary)

To appreciate the difference between Mozart’s minor- and major-key works, it helps to look at what they have in common.

To my mind, no one has done a better job of concisely explaining what makes Mozart Mozart than Donald Tovey, whose essay on the G Minor Symphony, K. 550, the greatest of the minor-key works, is a convenient starting point. Tovey offers a seeming paradox that will startle many readers: “We can only belittle and vulgarize our ideas of Mozart by trying to construe him as a tragic artist.” What could he possibly mean, especially with reference to the G Minor Symphony, still widely regarded as the locus classicus of tragedy in music? The answer, Tovey replies, is that Mozart was up to something altogether different: “Mozart’s whole musical language is, and remains throughout, the language of comic opera.”

This bald-faced assertion, so surprising at first glance, turns out on closer inspection to be all but self-evident. From the rush and bustle of the outer movements of the G Minor Symphony (whose compositional language Tovey likens to Rossini’s Overture to The Barber of Seville) to the wittily “theatrical” exchanges between soloist and orchestra in the later piano concertos, one finds in Mozart’s mature instrumental works an abundance of proof that he thought of all his music in dramatic terms—and that the kind of “drama” he had in mind was 18th-century opera buffa, abstracted at times to the point of sublimity but still essentially comic.

For the Romantic of deepest hue, such a claim must necessarily have the effect of trivializing Mozart’s minor-key music. But Mozart himself, lest we forget, was not a Romantic—indeed, Romanticism per se did not exist in his lifetime—and thus was not afflicted by the paralyzing idea that comedy is unserious. As Tovey goes on to say:

If we are to understand Mozart, we must rid our minds of the presumption that a tragic issue is intrinsically greater than any other. . . . [I]t is not only difficult to see depths of agony in the rhythms and idioms of comedy, but it is not very intelligent to attempt to see them. Comedy uses the language of real life; and people in real life often find the language of comedy the only dignified expression for their deepest feelings.

Still, there remains a vast difference between the expressive effects of the “Jupiter” and G Minor Symphonies. Though both were shaped in the mold of opera buffa, few listeners will fail to hear lightness and liberation in the one and dark introspection in the other. Can this be explained solely by a failure of historical imagination on our part? Or is the difference between the two works as real as we feel it to be?

While Stanley Sadie does not directly address this question in Mozart: The Early Years, he does deal specifically and in detail with Mozart’s youthful embrace of the minor key, and in so doing sheds invaluable light on the style that is heard for the first time in the “Little” G Minor Symphony, K. 183, composed in 1773.

In discussing this work, Sadie is quick to place it in its proper historical context. Not only had other composers of the Sturm und Drang school already turned out numerous minor-key symphonies full of “syncopated repeated notes, snapped rhythms, tremolandos, large leaps, urgently repeated phrases, and forceful orchestral unison passages,” but Mozart himself had included similarly impassioned minor-key passages in his early operas. As Sadie rightly concludes: “[W]e have to be on guard against any facile assumption that Mozart and his contemporaries brought the same emotional associations to such music as we do today.”

Yet, having issued this warning, Sadie goes on to declare the “Little” G Minor Symphony to be Mozart’s “first ‘great’ work, his earliest, it seems to 20th-century listeners, to enter the realms of serious human feeling.” And for all his understandable wariness about reading Romantic preconceptions into a piece of classical music, Sadie is surely right to use such unabashedly emotive language to describe the “Little” G Minor. However much Mozart may have drawn on earlier examples, however deeply rooted the symphony is in the classical style, it is hard to hear it without sensing that the seventeen-year-old Mozart had for the first time grasped the nettle of life.

January 26, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:24 PM

DYING LIKE SAINTS (via Robert Schwartz):

Life and death in the Red Army: a review of A WRITER AT WAR: Vasily Grossman with the Red Army, 1941–1945, Anthony Beevor and Lucy Vinogradova, translators and editors (Omer Bartov, Times of London)

Life and Fate is finally being recognized as one of the greatest masterpieces of the twentieth century. But it had to be smuggled to Switzerland and only gradually came to be known by an international readership. It was finally published in Russia after the fall of Communism. An extraordinary combination of a sprawling nineteenth-century Russian novel and a Soviet social-realist depiction of simple men’s discovery of their capacity for heroism and sacrifice, the book was based on Grossman’s own experience at the front as a correspondent for the Red Army’s official paper, Krasnaya Zvezda (Red Star). Thanks to Antony Beevor and Luba Vinogradova, the notebooks on which Grossman based much of his novel, written during his time at the front – where he spent most of the war years – are now available in an excellent English translation.

Grossman died in 1964, at the age of fifty-nine. He never saw his masterpiece in print and had over the years been transformed from a patriotic Soviet man into a deeply disillusioned one, though he never lost his love for the Soviet Union and the Russian people. But it is not only Grossman the man whose experience in the war has been rescued from oblivion by this publication: it is the experience of millions of Russian men and women, and innumerable other nationalities in the former Soviet Union, whose current resentment, contempt, fear or hate of the Russians does not in any way diminish the astonishing collective effort to drive out the Nazi invaders and put an end to their war of destruction.

One would have wanted to know more about these notebooks. We are told that Beevor “came across” them while writing his impressive book Stalingrad, but we are not given any information on where they were kept and how they were found. Nor does the book contain only Grossman’s diary entries, since these are combined with some of his articles, especially for Krasnaya Zvezda, some of his letters, and some other extraordinary writings, not least of which is his devastating account of the Nazi extermination camp in Treblinka, an essay that was subsequently quoted at the Nuremberg International Tribunal in 1945. What makes these notebooks so valuable, however, is their evident sincerity, Grossman’s critical yet empathetic gaze, and the manner in which his admiration of Soviet patriotism and his growing anger at the incompetence of so many commanders and the readiness of the regime to squander the lives of its sons combine to provide a searing portrait of the immense quantities of blood that were so readily given and so nonchalantly wasted to win a victory that had to be won.

Grossman’s prose moves from the mundane to the exalted, anticipating the greatness of Life and Fate but also staying very close to the immediacy of the events he is experiencing. Any war correspondent writing today about the horrors we are still being subjected to by ideologues, mean-spirited leaders and fanatics of various shades and faiths, should take the time to read him. There is a profound humanity in his prose, an ability for empathy and a capacity for rage that one rarely meets in papers which consider themselves much nobler than the Red Star. “At war,” Grossman writes, “a Russian man puts on a white shirt. He may live in sin, but he dies like a saint.” He then expands on this comment. “We Russians don’t know how to live like saints, we only know how to die like saints. The front [represents] the holiness of Russian death, the rear is the sin of Russian life.”

After the terrible battles of 1941, Grossman prepares for the horrors of Stalingrad without yet knowing what awaits him. At the front, he writes, “lies the answer to all questions and to all fates”. The answers he finds there, and the fate that he too will have to confront as Stalin tightens his hold on the nation as soon as the battle has been won, will need years to digest, rework and commit to paper. And when he finally reaches his birthplace, the Ukrainian town of Berdichev, in early 1944, and learns how the Germans murdered his mother, along with most of the other 30,000 Jewish inhabitants of the town, he soon realizes not only that the fate of an entire people had been sealed under the guise of a murderous war, but that the Soviet authorities will never let him write about it. His article on Berdichev was censored, lest the Jews appear as unique victims and the Ukrainians as willing collaborators. And The Black Book, the attempt by Ilya Ehrenburg and Grossman to document the Holocaust in the Soviet Union, was finally barred from publication in 1947. This was Stalin’s answer to the fate of the Jews as he turned his attention to persecuting those who had done so much, for better and for worse, to create the reality and myth of the Soviet people.

That myth is shattered for Grossman also as he confronts the atrocities perpetrated by the Red Army as it enters Germany: the mass rapes, looting, murder of civilians and wanton destruction of property. “Horrifying things are happening to German women”, he writes. Even “Soviet girls liberated from the camps are suffering a lot now”, he notes, for the fury of the soldiers no longer makes any distinctions. And yet, in groping for an answer to the brutalization of the men he loves, Grossman does discover a truth that has long been forgotten. As German soldiers marched into Russia, they mocked what they called the “Soviet Paradise” of filth and poverty and considered the “Untermenschen” they encountered as hardly worthy of life. As the Red Army marched into Germany, writes Grossman,

our soldiers really started to ask themselves, why did the Germans attack us so suddenly? Why did the Germans need this terrible and unfair war? Millions of our men have now seen the rich farms in East Prussia, the highly organized agriculture, the concrete sheds for livestock, spacious rooms, carpets, wardrobes full of clothes . . . the well-built roads . . . and the German autobahns . . . the two storey suburban houses with electricity, gas, bathrooms and beautifully tended gardens . . . the villas of the rich bourgeoisie in Berlin, the unbelievable luxury of castles, estates and mansions. And thousands of soldiers repeat these angry questions when they look around them in Germany: “But why did they come to us? What did they want?”.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:14 PM


Muggings and violent attacks up by more than 10% (Richard Ford, 1/27/06, Times of London)

MUGGINGS and violent attacks on people soared by more than 10 per cent in the third quarter of last year as the police struggled to contain street crime, according to figures published yesterday.

Street robbery is rising at its fastest since Tony Blair demanded action three years ago by the Home Office and police to tackle the issue.

The increase in violent crime came as rising numbers of people expressed concern at the extent of antisocial behaviour, including public drunkenness and drug dealing in their neighbourhoods. Homicides of people under 16 rose by a quarter in the year to the end of September 2005.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:11 PM


American hero tips Cameron: The favourite to succeed President Bush lavishes praise on Tony Blair but, he tells our correspondents, the tide could be turning in favour of David Cameron (Tom Baldwin and Tim Reid, 1/27/06, Times of London)

THE front-runner for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination pays tribute today to David Cameron and what he calls the “new generation of leadership in the Conservative Party”.

In an interview with The Times, Senator John McCain says that he has been impressed by the “young men” from the Tory leader’s team whom he met on a recent trip to London, where they set out “a very enthusiastic and clear vision of the obstacles they have to overcome to get a new Conservative majority”. [...]

He has made regular visits to Britain, where he has previously met Mr Blair and Gordon Brown, as well as more recently George Osborne, the Shadow Chancellor and Mr Cameron’s closest political ally.

Asked who he would prefer to deal with as prime minister, Mr Brown or Mr Cameron, the senator pointedly fails to mention the Chancellor and even momentarily forgets that the Tory leader has not yet won the election.

He says: “It’s hard for me to make a judgment [because] events determine relationships. From what I know of, and have seen of, Prime Minister Cameron, I mean Mr Cameron, I’m sure he and I are more philosophically aligned about the role of government because I’m more conservative myself. But the good news is that I cannot imagine a government in power in England which does not preserve the unique relationship with the US. I think that will last a long long time.”

May as well get to know each other well since they'll be summitting in a few years....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:06 PM


When Cosmologies Collide (JUDITH SHULEVITZ, 1/22/06, NY Times)

Given what it takes to train for a career in science, you have to ask why a person would persist if naturalism didn't strike him as the best way of explaining the world. It's no accident that you find a far greater proportion of nonbelievers among American scientists - upward of 60 percent - than among Americans in general. Those who deny that they discount nonmaterialist accounts of reality may have conducted a cold-eyed scrutiny of their own assumptions, but it's equally possible that they haven't. "Scientists sometimes deceive themselves into thinking that philosophical ideas are only, at best, decorations or parasitic commentaries on the hard objective triumphs of science," the philosopher Daniel Dennett has written. "But there is no such thing as philosophy-free science; there is only science whose philosophical baggage is taken on board without examination."

Could something as trivial as scientists' lack of self-awareness help explain why, nearly 150 years after Darwin, creationism in its various forms has become the most popular critique of science? [...]

[P]hilosopher of science Michael] Ruse is "an ardent Darwinian" who has testified against the inclusion of creationism in public school science curriculums. Nonetheless, he says here [The Evolution-Creation Struggle ], we must be careful about how we use the word "evolution," because it actually conveys two meanings, the science of evolution and something he calls "evolutionism." Evolutionism is the part of evolutionary thought that reaches beyond testable science. Evolutionism addresses questions of origins, the meaning of life, morality, the future and our role in it. In other words, it does all the work of a religion, but from a secular perspective. What gets billed as a war between hard science and mushy theology should rather be understood, says Ruse, as "a clash between two rival metaphysical world pictures."

Even if you accept her 60% assertion, which is dubious, isn't the salient fact that barely half of even scientists are naturalists/materialists and a majority of medical doctors disbelieve the naturalist account of evolution? The answer to her question--why would a person persist in science if naturalism didn't strike him as the best way of explaining the world?--would appear to be that naturalism is justa philosophy that isn't particularly important to the practice of science.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:05 PM


Fayard Nicholas (Daily Telegraph, 27/01/2006)

When the Nicholas Brothers appeared on screen in the musical Down Argentine Way (1940), cinema audiences threatened to riot to make projectionists play the dance sequence again. Fred Astaire considered their "Jumpin' Jive" sequence in the all-black musical Stormy Weather (1943) to be the best dance sequence ever filmed.

The sequence, in which the brothers performed to music by the Cab Calloway band, saw them tap dancing across music stands in the orchestra and leaping off a grand piano in full splits, before leapfrogging each other in synchronised full splits as they descended a huge sweeping staircase.

Fayard Antino Nicholas was born at Mobile, Alabama, on October 20 1914. His brother arrived seven years later. They grew up in Philadelphia, where their parents worked as musicians in their own vaudeville pit band.

The boys learned to dance by watching the black vaudevillians whom they accompanied. "One day at the Standard Theater in Philadelphia, I looked onstage and I thought, 'They're having fun up there; I'd like to do something like that'," Fayard Nicholas recalled.

Back in their living room, they worked up an act called "The Nicholas Kids" and were good enough by 1928 to debut in vaudeville. In 1931 they were signed to perform at the Lafayette Theatre, Harlem, and from there became a featured act at the Cotton Club, where they did their dance routines elegantly clad in top hat, white tie and tails. [...]

In 1940 the brothers were signed by Twentieth Century Fox to a five-year contract. In The Great American Broadcast of 1940, they appeared alongside the Ink Spots; in Sun Valley Serenade (1941), they performed Chattanooga Choo Choo to Glenn Miller's music with Dorothy Dandridge, although they were not allowed to appear on screen with the white stars of the picture.

"Tallulah Bankhead said if I'd been white I might have been able to dance with Ginger Rogers," Nicholas recalled in 2000.

The world is just a bit less beautiful place because our hatreds kept us from seeing them dance together.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:55 PM


The Fear of Hamastan (Yassin Musharbash, 1/26/06, Der Spiegel)

While the Americans and Europeans may shun Hamas, the majority of Palestinians have a very different view. Many here focus on the softer side of the group -- the Hamas that, since its founding in 1987 by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, has sought to provide a social safety net for many impoverished Palestinians. The militant Hamas may be responsible for terrorist attacks in Israel, but it's political arm runs daycare centers, hospitals, youth clubs, schools and soup kitchens. For years now, Palestinian pollsters have observed a single, telling trend: The majority of Palestinians believe that both negotiations with Israel and armed actions against Israel together are the best way to achieve their political goal of creating an independent Palestinian state.

This mentality has been perfectly cemented in the two major democratic events that have happened in the Palestinian Authority since Arafat's death in November 2004. One year ago, the Palestinians voted with a two-thirds majority for President Mahmoud Abbas, who was seen internationally as the best opportunity for getting peace talks with Israel back on track. A year later, Palestinians are giving Hamas a major mandate in parliament and, possibly, within Abbas's cabinet. In other words, it's not just Hamas that's militant -- it's also the Palestinian population. If the party were to completely abandon its armed struggle in the face of the Israeli occupation, Palestinians would be outraged.

Some Hamas leaders are already signalling that rather than running the government on their own, they would prefer to create a national unity government that would include representatives of all Palestinian parties. Otherwise, it would prefer to govern together with the Fatah Party.

However, a Hamas-led parliament could have dreadful consequences -- both within and outside the Palestinian-controlled regions, unless, of course, Hamas renounces violence and abandons its policy of destroying Israel. Hamas has expressed no intention of doing so -- at least not yet. But one shouldn't forget that Fatah was also a militant organization for decades and Arafat and Abbas only succeeded in transforming it into the Fatah of today in the 1980s.

Is it possible Hamas could follow that model? And how radical does Hamas still remain today? Should one differentiate between the super radical terrorists of the Islamic Jihad movement from the terrorist light of Hamas? After all, Hamas has been the one group that has maintained an August 2004 cease-fire with Israel.

The fiction that it isn't a state already is serving no one well, least of all the U.S. and Israel.

Which direction now for Hamas? (Magdi Abdelhadi, 1/26/06, BBC)

Crucially, the result has landed Hamas itself in a very difficult situation. It cannot be part of the Palestinian Authority and at the same time remain committed to what it calls the armed struggle.

The Palestinian Authority was created by the international agreement known as the Oslo Peace Accords, which stipulate that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians should be resolved by peaceful means only.

Moreover, whoever runs the Palestinian Authority has to liaise Israeli officials to deal with issues such as water and power supplies.

Hamas cannot have it both ways - it cannot be in government and at the same time refuse to deal with Israel.

The next few days and weeks will show whether Hamas can demonstrate the maturity needed to deal with a uniquely complex political situation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:57 PM


Firms beat path to ... Libya:
A Libyan official said this week he expected oil firms to help normalize US ties. (Simon Martelli, 1/27/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

"With the end of the Lockerbie issue, relations returned to normal and there were many delegations of Congress who visited Libya. I think all efforts are heading towards ending animosity," Colonel Qaddafi said in an interview with the United States-funded Arabic TV channel Al-Hurra last week.

Now, the companies that helped create Libya's oil industry in the 1970s are returning as Qaddafi rebuilds bridges to the West that he burned long ago, and this may help to precipitate political, as well as economic, change.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:39 PM


Gore accuses big oil of bankrolling Tories
(Renata D'Aliesio and Katherine Monk, January 26, 2006, Calgary Herald)

Former U.S. vice-president Al Gore has accused the oil industry of financially backing the Tories and their "ultra-conservative leader" to protect its stake in Alberta's lucrative oilsands.

Canadians, Gore said, should vigilantly keep watch over prime minister-designate Stephen Harper because he has a pro-oil agenda and wants to pull out of the Kyoto accord -- an international agreement to combat climate change.

"The election in Canada was partly about the tar sands projects in Alberta," Gore said Wednesday while attending the Sundance Film Festival in Utah.

If people are as easily led as Al Gore thinks they are then why doesn't he lead any?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:19 PM


Kerry will try Alito filibuster (CNN, 1/26/06)

Sen. John Kerry will attempt a filibuster to block the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, CNN has learned.

Ms Clinton doesn't have to worry about getting the nominatiuon and should be focussed on remaining viable in the general, but the clintonistas have always been hyper-reactive.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:46 PM


Hard Line State: Big Labor's war on Wal-Mart claims casualties among poor Marylanders. (STEVE H. HANKE AND STEPHEN J.K. WALTERS, January 26, 2006, Opinion Journal)

In Big Labor's war against Wal-Mart, "collateral damage"--in the form of lost jobs and income for the poor--is starting to add up. Of course, since the unions and their legislative allies claim that their motive is to liberate people from exploitation by Wal-Mart, these unintended effects are often ignored.

Here in Maryland, however, that's getting hard to do. The consequences of our Legislature's override of Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich's veto of their "Fair Share Health Care Act" on Jan. 12 will be tragic for some of the state's neediest residents. The law will force companies that employ over 10,000 to spend at least 8% of their payroll on health care or kick any shortfall into a special state fund. Wal-Mart would be the only employer in the state to be affected.

Almost surely, therefore, the company will pull the plug on plans to build a distribution center that would have employed 800 in Somerset County, on Maryland's picturesque Eastern Shore. As a Wal-Mart spokesman has put it, "you have to take a step back and call into question how business-friendly is a state like Maryland when they pass a bill that . . . takes a swipe at one company that provides 15,000 jobs."

Well, if they have jobs they become Republicans.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:36 PM


Hamas Without Veils: No more hiding behind the PA (Emanuele Ottolenghi, 1/26/06, National Review)

Contrary to initial responses, Hamas’s projected victory in the Palestinian parliamentary elections is a positive development. Not, as its apologists claim, because the proximity of power will favor a process of cooptation into parliamentary politics, and therefore strengthen the pragmatic wing of Hamas. There is no pragmatic wing in Hamas, and all differences within the movement — the armed wing and the political wing, Palestine Hamas and Hamas in Syria — are arguably tactical differences. No, the reason is, as Vladimir Ilich Lenin would put it, "worse is better." [...]

What victory does to Hamas is to put the movement into an impossible position. As preliminary reports emerge, Hamas has already asked Fatah to form a coalition and got a negative response. Prime Minister Abu Ala has resigned with his cabinet, and president Abu Mazen will now appoint Hamas to form the next government. From the shadows of ambiguity, where Hamas could afford — thanks to the moral and intellectual hypocrisy of those in the Western world who dismissed its incendiary rhetoric as tactics — to have the cake and eat it too. Now, no more. Had they won 30-35 percent of the seats, they could have stayed out of power but put enormous limits on the Palestinian Authority’s room to maneuver. By winning, they have to govern, which means they have to tell the world, very soon, a number of things.

They will have to show their true face now: No more masks, no more veils, no more double-speak. If the cooptation theory — favored by the International Crisis Group and by the former British MI-6 turned talking head, Alistair Crooke — were true, this is the time for Hamas to show what hides behind its veil.

As the government of the Palestinian Authority, now they will have to say whether they accept the roadmap.

Maybe someone else can think of one, but I can't recall any political organization that ever decided there were things it was more interested in than the retention and exercise of power.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:58 PM


Senate seat no lock for Dems (Terrence Dopp, 1/26/06, Glocester County Times)

Newly appointed U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, a Democrat appointed this month to fill the seat abandoned by Gov. Jon Corzine, has yet to spark a fire with South Jersey voters, according to a poll released Wednesday.

According to the Quinnipiac University survey, Menendez leads Republican challenger state Sen. Thomas Kean Jr. statewide by a margin of 38 percent to 36; the numbers fall within the 3 percent margin of error.

This race could be one of the first to test how much blacks resent Hispanics. It would not be surprining if in states with large black populations, Hispanic candidates can only win running as Republicans.

Why So Many Blacks Fear Illegal Immigrants(Earl Olfari Hutchinson, 1/26/06, Huffington Post)

Near the close of a recent spirited community forum in South Los Angeles on black and Latino relations, a young black man in the audience stood up and proudly, even defiantly, shouted that he was a member of the Minuteman Project.

This is the fringe group that has waged a noisy, gun toting and headline grabbing campaign to shut down the Mexican border to illegal immigrants.
GOP conservatives and immigration reformers denounce their borderline, racist rants. Their rhetoric didn't faze the young black man, nor many other blacks in the audience who nodded in agreement, as he launched into a finger pointing, tirade against illegal immigrants that he claimed steal jobs from blacks. He punctuated his tirade by loudly announcing that he had taken part in a Minuteman border patrol back in April.

Illegal immigration clearly touched a raw nerve with many blacks in the audience.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:52 PM


Nail-biting times for women (Nicole Brodeur, 1/26/06, Seattle Times)

My fingernails are bleeding. I had pretzel nuggets for breakfast. Must be getting close to the Alito confirmation.

For those who wonder why women pace like caged animals every time they hear "Supreme Court" and "nominee," consider the news. Samuel Alito Jr. is reaching for the robe to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

This is the guy who, in his 1985 application to become deputy to then-Attorney General Edwin Meese, wrote that "The Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion."

You know, if these folks spent this much time worrying about their moral responsibilities it wouldn't matter who's on the Court.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:46 PM


China's steel profits sliding (Asia Times, 1/27/06)

China's steel industry, the biggest in the world, could see a 60% decline in profits in 2006, due to weakening prices for steel products. The development is expected to spark mergers and acquisitions (M&As) in the fragmented sector, starting from 2007, analysts said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:22 PM


The Fix-It Myth (Robert J. Samuelson, January 26, 2006, Washington Post)

Almost everyone agrees that we ought to "fix the health care system" -- a completely meaningless phrase despite its popularity with politicians, pundits and "experts." Indeed, it is popular precisely because it is meaningless. The people who proclaim it rarely tell you the discomforting choices it might involve. Instead, they focus on a few specific shortcomings of our $1.9 trillion health-industrial complex and imply that, if we correct these often serious flaws, we'll have "fixed" the system or at least made a good start. This is rarely true, and so most forays into "health reform" end with disillusion.

We are about to start the cycle again. By most accounts, President Bush plans to highlight health care in his forthcoming State of the Union address. His proposals may or may not have merit, but they surely won't fix the health system in any fundamental way. The reason is that most Americans don't want to fix the system in that sense. Most are satisfied with their care. Most don't see (or directly pay) the vast majority of their costs. Because politicians -- of both parties -- reflect public opinion, they won't do more than tinker.

Unfortunately, tinkering isn't enough.

The fundamental flaw in the system is that we don't see or pay the costs, a flaw that HSA's -- and only HSA's -- are designed to remedy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:41 PM


Hugo Chavez, Cindy Sheehan Highlight Socialist Forum (NewsMax, 1/23/06)

The Bush-bashing "Peace Mom" Cindy Sheehan will join leading third-world America-hater Hugo Chavez on Tuesday, when the two team up to address the 6th World Social Forum in Caracas, Venezuela.

Sheehan and Chavez will headline a list of yet-to-be-announced speakers from places like Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan, and Colombia, according to the web site VHeadline.com.

Amazon pipeline plan fuels concern (Al-Jazeera 25 January 2006)
Environmentalists have been caught off guard by South American leaders' plans to build a massive natural gas pipeline through the Amazon rain forest from Venezuela to Argentina.

The plan, unveiled earlier this month by the region's left-leaning leaders, was short on details, but one thing seemed certain: The $20 billion pipeline would destroy part of the environmentally sensitive Amazon, the world's largest wilderness.

Environmentalists contend construction of the network of pipelines would pollute waterways, destroy trees and create roads through the jungle that could draw ranchers and loggers.

At a meeting in Brazil's capital in mid-January, the presidents of Venezuela, Argentina and Brazil promised to prepare in-depth studies for the 10,000km pipeline by mid-year.

We thought a fisher cat had killed a squirrel in our front yard but it was just a chunk of Cindy Sheehan's skull thyat was blown here when her head exploded. If they can't trust Hugo Chavez who can they trust?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:33 PM

NEXT? (via Matthew Cohen):

Canada's ex-prime ministers in reality TV gig (Etan Vlessing, 1/26/06, Hollywood Reporter)

As Canada's Prime Minister-elect Stephen Harper basks in his election victory, four of his predecessors are set to become judges in a reality TV show called "The Next Great Prime Minister."

Canadian broadcaster CTV on Wednesday unveiled plans for the show, which will premiere February 4. Five young Canadians will endure public speaking and debate challenges to transform themselves into a possible national leader. The prize includes an internship in a Canadian public policy think tank.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:14 PM


More Democrats Get Behind Alito Nomination (JESSE J. HOLLAND, January 26, 2006, The Associated Press)

Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito, whose confirmation seems certain in the Republican-run Senate, padded his modest Democratic support Thursday with endorsements by Sens. Robert Byrd and Tim Johnson.

Anything to hold seats the Republicans have a good shot at.

Wealthy Businessman to Challenge Byrd (LAWRENCE MESSINA, Jan 25, 2006, AP)

A multimillionaire businessman entered the GOP race to challenge Sen. Robert C. Byrd on Wednesday, hoping to deny the 88-year-old incumbent Democrat a record ninth term.

John Raese, 55, said he would campaign on a platform touting free enterprise and reduced regulation, among other issues. "What I'm going to run on is a rebirth of capitalism," he said.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee heralded the filing by Raese, a former state GOP chairman who has sought office before.

Senator Byrd has a good shot at being this cycle's Javits or Bunning.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:10 PM


The Power-Madness of King George: Is Bush turning America into an elective dictatorship? (Jacob Weisberg, Jan. 25, 2006, Slate)

It's tempting to dismiss the debate about the National Security Agency spying on Americans as a technical conflict about procedural rights. President Bush believes he has the legal authority to order electronic snooping without asking anyone's permission. Civil libertarians and privacy-fretters think Bush needs a warrant from the special court created to authorize wiretapping in cases of national security. But in practice, the so-called FISA court that issues such warrants functions as a virtual rubber stamp for the executive branch anyhow, so what's the great difference in the end?

Would that so little were at stake. In fact, the Senate hearings on NSA domestic espionage set to begin next month will confront fundamental questions about the balance of power within our system. Even if one assumes that every unknown instance of warrant-less spying by the NSA were justified on security grounds, the arguments issuing from the White House threaten the concept of checks and balances as it has been understood in America for the last 218 years. Simply put, Bush and his lawyers contend that the president's national security powers are unlimited. And since the war on terror is currently scheduled to run indefinitely, the executive supremacy they're asserting won't be a temporary condition.

This extremity of Bush's position emerges most clearly in a 42-page document issued by the Department of Justice last week. As Andrew Cohen, a CBS legal analyst, wrote in an online commentary, "The first time you read the 'White Paper,' you feel like it is describing a foreign country guided by an unfamiliar constitution." To develop this observation a bit further, the nation implied by the document would be an elective dictatorship, governed not by three counterpoised branches of government but by a secretive, possibly benign, awesomely powerful king.

According to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the putative author of the white paper, the president's powers as commander in chief make him the "sole organ for the Nation in foreign affairs." This status, which derives from Article II of the Constitution, brings with it the authority to conduct warrant-less surveillance for the purpose of disrupting possible terrorist attacks on the United States.

That power already sounds boundless, but according to Gonzales, this sole organ has garnered even more authority under the congressional authorization for the use of military force, passed in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. [...]

Bush's message to the courts, like his message to Congress, is: Make way, subjects.

Mr. Weisberg has worked his panties into the tighter knot, but Hillary Clinton put the risibility of their case better, Rift Between Parties Over NSA Wiretapping Grows (Jim VandeHei, January 26, 2006, Washington Post)
Speaking to reporters, [Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.)] took aim at what she called a lawless assertion of power: "My question is, why can't we do what we want to do within the rule of law?" [...]

She said established procedures for approval for such spying from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act would have protected civil liberties and national security.

"Their argument that it's rooted in the authority to go after al Qaeda is far-fetched," Clinton said. "Their argument that it's rooted in the Constitution inherently is kind of strange because we have FISA, and FISA operated very effectively and it wasn't that hard to get their permission."

Note that her argument requires us to accept that the routine spying carried out by pretty much every American leader since George Washington in the Revolution was illegal up until 1978? In point of constitutional fact, the Executive has not been and can not be bound by Congress in this area, not does the Court have jurisdiction to rule in the matter--that's just how separation of powers works.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:02 PM


Public radio, private lives: Chris Douridas' troubles tune you into the internal conflict of KCRW listeners. (Meghan Daum, January 21, 2006, LA Times)

THERE'S TROUBLE ON the left side of the dial. As was reported Jan. 14 on page B3 of this newspaper (What? You didn't see it?), KCRW-FM announcer Chris Douridas, host of "New Ground," the exceedingly mellow alternative music show that airs on Saturdays, was arrested Jan. 6 outside the Circle Bar in Santa Monica for allegedly drugging and attempting to kidnap a 14-year-old girl.

Not many details are yet known, but the allegation is that Douridas, 43, was seen slipping a substance into the girl's drink and, along with a friend, carrying her out of the bar around midnight, at which point she became ill. Toxicology results aren't yet in, and so far no charges have been filed. KCRW, for its part, is standing behind Douridas, who reportedly posted a $1-million bond and remains on the air, steady and smooth-voiced as ever.

For devotees of Southern California public radio, a group for whom KCRW is nothing less than the sacred bovine of bourgeois identification, this news was downright world-rocking, as unthinkable as the notion of an insider-trading scandal in the Unitarian church.

I'm a fan of Douridas myself — personally, I think he has the best music show on the station — and at this stage, I still find it difficult to believe that the man who has championed legions of musicians (many of them the kind of female singer/guitar strummers who sing earnestly about things like date rape) would drug a 14-year-old girl in a bar.

As Mr. Jacobsen points out: there's a touching naivete to the belief that because he advocates progressive rock on the Left side of the dial he wouldn't be a deviant.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 2:02 PM



Michael Jackson, wearing an abaya, a traditional Arab women's veil, holds the hand of a child as he is escorted to his car by a shopping mall security agent in Manama, Bahrain January 25, 2006 (Reuters)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:51 PM

STILL HALF HUME MEN (via mlearl):

Britons unconvinced on evolution (BBC, 1/26/06)

More than half the British population does not accept the theory of evolution, according to a survey. [...]

Over 2000 participants took part in the survey, and were asked what best described their view of the origin and development of life:

* 22% chose creationism
* 17% opted for intelligent design
* 48% selected evolution theory
* and the rest did not know.

If you do the polling just a bit more precisely and ask the 48% whether they think evolution is wholly Natural or is guided by God the number who believe in Darwinism, as opposed to evolution, drops even lower, down to 13% here in the States.

Pitt Professor's Theory of Evolution Gets Boost From Cell Research: Jeffrey H. Schwartz's Sudden Origins closed Darwin's gaps; cell biology explains how (News from Pitt, 1/26/06)

An article by University of Pittsburgh Professor of Anthropology Jeffrey H. Schwartz and University of Salerno Professor of Biochemistry Bruno Maresca, to be published Jan. 30 in the New Anatomist journal, shows that the emerging understanding of cell structure lends strong support to Schwartz's theory of evolution, originally explained in his seminal work, Sudden Origins: Fossils, Genes, and the Emergence of Species (John Wiley & Sons, 2000).

In that book, Schwartz hearkens back to earlier theories that suggest that the Darwinian model of evolution as continual and gradual adaptation to the environment glosses over gaps in the fossil record by assuming the intervening fossils simply have not been found yet. Rather, Schwartz argues, they have not been found because they don't exist, since evolution is not necessarily gradual but often sudden, dramatic expressions of change that began on the cellular level because of radical environmental stressors-like extreme heat, cold, or crowding-years earlier.

Determining the mechanism that causes those delayed expressions of change is Schwartz's major contribution to the evolution of the theory of evolution. The mechanism, the authors explain, is this: Environmental upheaval causes genes to mutate, and those altered genes remain in a recessive state, spreading silently through the population until offspring appear with two copies of the new mutation and change suddenly, seemingly appearing out of thin air. Those changes may be significant and beneficial (like teeth or limbs) or, more likely, kill the organism.

Why does it take an environmental drama to cause mutations? Why don't cells subtly and constantly change in small ways over time, as Darwin suggests?

Cell biologists know the answer: Cells don't like to change and don't do so easily.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:03 PM


Iraq's WMD Secreted in Syria, Sada Says (IRA STOLL, January 26, 2006, NY Sun)

The man who served as the no. 2 official in Saddam Hussein's air force says Iraq moved weapons of mass destruction into Syria before the war by loading the weapons into civilian aircraft in which the passenger seats were removed.

The Iraqi general, Georges Sada, makes the charges in a new book, "Saddam's Secrets," released this week. He detailed the transfers in an interview yesterday with The New York Sun.

"There are weapons of mass destruction gone out from Iraq to Syria, and they must be found and returned to safe hands," Mr. Sada said. "I am confident they were taken over."

Mr. Sada's comments come just more than a month after Israel's top general during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Moshe Yaalon, told the Sun that Saddam "transferred the chemical agents from Iraq to Syria."

This is where the relationship between Assad and Ahmadinejad is helpful--after we do Syria we just claim the WMD was moved to Iran....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:56 AM


Bush to GM, Ford: Make more appealing cars: President tells newspaper that he'd be reluctant to bail out nation's automakers just before GM posts devastating 4Q losses. (Reuters, 1/26/06)

President Bush said General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. should develop more appealing products rather than look to Washington for help with their heavy pension burdens, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

In an interview Wednesday, Bush said he had not talked to the struggling companies about their finances but hinted that he would take a dim view of a government bailout of the top two U.S. automakers, the newspaper reported.

President Bush Holds a White House Press Conference (Courtesy CQ Transcripts, January 26, 2006)
QUESTION: Mr. President, is Mideast peacemaking dead with Hamas' big election victory? And do you rule out dealing with the Palestinians if Hamas is the majority party?

BUSH: Peace is never dead, because people want peace. I believe -- and that's why I articulated a two-state solution early in my administration so that -- as a vision for people to work toward, a solution that recognized that democracy yields peace and the best hope for peace in the Middle East is two democracies living side by side.

BUSH: So the Palestinians had an election yesterday, the results of which remind me about the power of democracy.

You see, when you give people the vote, you give people a chance to express themselves at the polls, they -- and if they're unhappy with the status quo, they'll let you know.

That's the great thing about democracy: It provides a look into society.

And yesterday, the turnout was significant, as I understand it. And there was a peaceful process as people went to the polls. And that's positive.

What was also positive is that it's a wakeup call to the leadership.

BUSH: Obviously, people were not happy with the status quo.

The people are demanding honest government. The people want services. They want to be able to raise their children in an environment in which they can get a decent education and they can find health care.

And so the elections should open the eyes of the old guard there in the Palestinian territories.

I like the competition of ideas. I like people that have to go out and say, "Vote for me and here's what I'm going to do." There's something healthy about a system that does that.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:52 AM


Setting aside, for the moment, all legal questions about the terrorist surveillance program, there was one answer today at the President's press conference that made it crystal clear why Democrats can only hurt themselves by pursuing the issue:

[Q:] [W]hat do you say to Democrats who charge that you're abusing your constitutional authority?

BUSH: I would say that there has been a historical debate between the executive branch as to who's got what power. And I don't view it as a contest with the legislative branch. Maybe they view it as a contest with the executive; I just don't.

I view the decisions I made, particularly when it comes to national security, as necessary decisions to protect the American people. That's the lens on which I analyze things.

And I understand we're at war with an enemy that wants to hit us again. Osama bin Laden made that clear the other day and I take his words very seriously.

And I also take my responsibility to protect the American people very seriously.

BUSH: And so we're going to do what is necessary within the Constitution and within the law, and at the same time guaranteeing peoples' civil liberties, to protect the people.

And that's how I look at this debate.

Now, there's all kinds of people taking a step back and saying, "Well, this is this. This is that." And I recognize throughout history people -- there have been a debate about legislative power and executive power.

Part of the questions asked here today, kind of, reflect that debate.

I'm going to leave that to the lawyers. I believe I've been hired by the people to do my job, and that's to protect the people.

And that's what I'm going to do, mindful of my authorities within the Constitution, mindful of our need to make sure that we stay within the law, and mindful of the need to protect the civil liberties of the people.

There simply is no politically helpful rebuttal to that.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:39 AM


Chicagoans flock to Wal-Mart jobs (LESLIE BALDACCI , 1/26/06, Chicago Sun-Times)

Eighteen months after the Chicago City Council torpedoed a South Side Wal-Mart, 24,500 Chicagoans applied for 325 jobs at a Wal-Mart opening Friday in south suburban Evergreen Park, one block outside the city limits.

The new Wal-Mart at 2500 W. 95th is one block west of Western Avenue, the city boundary.

Of 25,000 job applicants, all but 500 listed Chicago addresses, said John Bisio, regional manager of public affairs for Wal-Mart.

"In our typical hiring process, you're pretty successful if you have 3,000 applicants," he said. "They were really crowing about 11,000 in Oakland, Calif., last year. So to get 25,000-plus applications and counting, I think is astonishing."

Mightn't we consider Wal-Mart to be just one more institution of mainstrseam American life that the Left hates?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:30 AM


Internet serves as 'social glue' (BBC, 1/26/06)

The internet has played an important role in the life decisions of 60 million Americans, research shows.

Whether it be career advice, helping people through an illness or finding a new house, 45% of Americans turn to the web for help, a survey by US-based Pew Internet think-tank has found.

It set out to find out whether the web and e-mail strengthen social ties.

The answer seems to be yes, especially in times of crisis when people use it to mobilise their social networks.

Which is why we're setting up a foundation to help former African dictators transfer their bank accounts around more freely.

The Strength of Internet Ties: The internet and email aid users in maintaining their social networks and provide pathways to help when people face big decisions (John Horrigan, Jeffrey Boase, Lee Rainie, Barry Wellman, 1/25/06, Pew Internet & American Life Project)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:23 AM


Media Bias Is Real, Finds UCLA Political Scientist (UCLA News, December 14, 2005)

While the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal is conservative, the newspaper's news pages are liberal, even more liberal than The New York Times. The Drudge Report may have a right-wing reputation, but it leans left. Coverage by public television and radio is conservative compared to the rest of the mainstream media. Meanwhile, almost all major media outlets tilt to the left.

These are just a few of the surprising findings from a UCLA-led study, which is believed to be the first successful attempt at objectively quantifying bias in a range of media outlets and ranking them accordingly.

"I suspected that many media outlets would tilt to the left because surveys have shown that reporters tend to vote more Democrat than Republican," said Tim Groseclose, a UCLA political scientist and the study's lead author. "But I was surprised at just how pronounced the distinctions are."

"Overall, the major media outlets are quite moderate compared to members of Congress, but even so, there is a quantifiable and significant bias in that nearly all of them lean to the left," said co‑author Jeffrey Milyo, University of Missouri economist and public policy scholar.

The results appear in the latest issue of the Quarterly Journal of Economics, which will become available in mid-December.

Here's a point worth considering: even conservative blogs will have an inevitable bias to the Left because of the media sources from which they draw the material they comment on.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 AM


Lib Dem candidate defects to the Tories (Toby Helm and Brendan Carlin, 26/01/2006, Daily Telegraph)

Francis Maude, the Conservative chairman, offered disillusioned Liberal Democrats a "new home" with his party yesterday after a former Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate defected to the Tories.

The surprise move by Adrian Graves, the candidate for West Suffolk at the last election, revived rumours that up to three Lib Dem MPs were also considering their positions.

Leading Lib Dem warns of more defections to Tories (Andrew Grice, 26 January 2006, The Independent)
A prominent Liberal Democrat has said that some senior figures in the party may defect to the Tories because David Cameron has positioned them on the political centre ground.

Harold Elletson, a former Tory MP who joined the Liberal Democrats in 2002, said some Liberal Democrat MPs were considering whether to switch to the Tories - and hinted that he might rejoin his old party.

From an American perspective, the question is: if the Democrats hadn't moved back to the traditional looney Left ground they'd occuppied pre-Clinton would the Greens have supplanted them eventually and do they have to remain so far Left as to be unfit for governing just to avoid imploding?

Hughes: I've had gay sex (TREVOR KAVANAGH, 1/26/06, The Sun)

LIB-DEM leadership challenger Simon Hughes last night spoke frankly about his gay sex life — and said he had been WRONG to hide it.

In an exclusive admission to The Sun, he apologised for twice denying he is homosexual.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:04 AM


http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060124/ap_on_sc/frog_deaths_2>Rising temps not killing frogs (Associated Press, Jan. 24, 2006)

Arizona researchers say that a fungal disease killing off frogs in the state probably isn't being triggered by global warming.

Two herpetologists and a state Game and Fish Department biologist agree rising temperatures in Arizona aren't acting in the same way as they are in Central and South America, where according to a new study warming is the underlying cause for the disease killing frogs there. [...]

The Arizona scientists said global warming could threaten Arizona frog species for other reasons.

When the facts don't favor global warming "science" just fall back on faith.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:54 AM


EU panel probing alleged prisons may call on Cheney, Rumsfeld (AP, 1/26/06)

An EU committee investigating alleged CIA secret prisons could call Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to testify, a senior member of the panel said.

British Liberal Democrat Sarah Ludford, a member of the EU parliament and vice president of the investigative committee, said "very senior people" would be asked to answer questions about the alleged prisons.

"I don't see why we should not invite Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney," Ludford said.

Between them they know where every body has been buried by the Europeans for the past thirty-five years. They can embarrass every country, party, and politician on the continent and would be 0only too happy to do so.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:51 AM


Palestinian Cabinet resigns; Hamas reportedly wins (Matthew Gutman, 1/26/06, USA TODAY)

The Islamic militant group Hamas and ruling Fatah Party said Thursday that Hamas had won a majority of seats in the Palestinian elections, though Palestinian election officials delayed the release of preliminary results until later in the day.

If true then Hamas has to deliver on its promise of being an efficient governing party, capable of improving the daily life of Palestinians. To manage that they need to shuck off their terroristy ways. If they don't manage it they end up as discredited as Fatah. Either way, those who still seek to destroy Israel lose.

Hamas wins clear majority (SARAH EL DEEB, 1/26/06, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas will ask Hamas to form the next Palestinian government after the Islamic militants swept parliament elections, and the defeated Fatah Party will serve in the opposition, a senior Fatah legislator said Thursday, after meeting with Abbas.

A Hamas-only government, without Fatah as a moderating force, is sure to throw Mideast peacemaking into turmoil.

Posted by Matt Murphy at 12:16 AM


Don't Cry for Canada (John Nichols, 1/25/06, The Nation)

After the 2004 presidential election in the United States, a lot of liberal Americans looked longingly to the north. Canada, the theory went, was a social democracy with a sane foreign policy and humane values that offered a genuine alternative to the right-wing hegemony that the U.S. was about to experience.

But, this week, U.S. television networks and newspapers declared: "Canadians Tilts Right" and "Conservatives Capture Canada."

As shorthand for the election results that saw Canada's Conservative party outpoll the governing Liberal Party for the first time since Ronald Reagan served in the White House, those headlines may be useful.

But the claim that Canada has lurched far to the right is anything but accurate. [...]

U.S. conservatives, who can point to little in the way of positive political news from around the world these days, are entitled to their fantasies. But no thinking American should buy into them.

As is the case with most right-wing "analysis" coming out of Washington these days, the truth is a lot more complex than the right-wing spin doctors would have Americans believe.

In fact, the Canadian results ought to be read as a warning signal for U.S. Republicans.

Here's why:

* The Canadian election was held early because the Liberal Party government of Prime Minister Paul Martin had been rocked by a major corruption scandal, which involved the misuse of public funds to promote the government's position on issues involving the relationship between the province of Quebec and rest of the country. [...] In the United States, where corruption scandals have shaken the Republican leadership in Congress -- forcing indicted House Minority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, to surrender his position of power -- Canada's vote-the-bums-out response to government wrongdoing ought to be heartening to progressives who would like to see a similar response in November to the corrupt practices of this country's governing party. [...]

Even with their move to the center, the Conservatives did not win anything akin to a majority of the popular vote. Infact, the Conservatives won only 36 percent support. [...] If only 36 percent of American voters back conservative Republicans this fall, Democrats will dominate Congress more thoroughly than they have at any time since the Watergate era and perhaps since New Deal Days.

So we can say definitively that Democrats will not dominate Congress more thoroughly than they have at any time since the Watergate era and perhaps since New Deal Days?

January 25, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:13 PM


In Africa, Islam and Christianity are growing - and blending (Abraham McLaughlin | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor)

[W]orshipers at "The True Message of God Mission" say it's entirely natural for Christianity and Islam to co-exist, even overlap. They begin their worship by praying at the Jesus alcove and then "running their deliverance" - sprinting laps around the mosque's mosaic-tiled courtyard, praying to the one God for forgiveness and help. They say it's akin to Israelites circling the walls of Jericho - and Muslims swirling around the Ka'ba shrine in Mecca.

This group - originally called "Chris-lam-herb" for its mix-and-match approach to Christianity, Islam, and traditional medicine - is a window on an ongoing religious ferment in Africa. It's still up for debate whether this group, and others like it, could become models for Muslim-Christian unity worldwide or whether they're uniquely African. But either way, they are "part of a trend," says Dana Robert, a Boston University religion professor.

Just another step towards Reformation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:06 PM


Hamas is born as political force (Stephen Farrell in Gaza and Ian MacKinnon in Nablus, 1/26/05, Times of London)

EXIT polls showed that the Islamist group Hamas was set to deprive Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction of its majority in the Palestinian Parliament, marking a huge shift in the balance of power in Middle East politics.

As voting ended last night in the historic parliamentary election, the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research predicted that Fatah would lose its majority, capturing only 58 seats out of a total of 132.

Another exit poll, conducted by Bir Zeit University, showed 46.4 per cent for the secular nationalist Fatah, giving it 63 out of 132 seats but denying an absolute majority, with 39.5 per cent — 58 seats — for its Islamist rival.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:02 PM


Democrats Are Worrying Over Clinton in 2008 (JOSH GERSTEIN, January 25, 2006, NY Sun)

Senator Clinton's emergence as the early and perhaps prohibitive favorite for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008 is fueling anxiety among Democratic strategists and operatives who are worried she would lose to a Republican in the general election.

Recent polling underscores some of those worries. In a CNN/USA Today/ Gallup poll made public yesterday, 51% of voters said they would definitely not vote for Mrs. Clinton if she chooses to run for president in 2008. In a separate nationwide poll conducted this month for a spirits company, Diageo, and a political newsletter, the Hotline, 44% of all voters and 19% of self-described Democrats said they viewed the New York senator unfavorably.

According to Democratic Party insiders, such numbers are adding to skittishness about Mrs. Clinton's potential candidacy.

"There are a lot of people who are conventional Democrats ideologically who think she can't win, and we're caught in this bind where she's unstoppable and therefore our goose is essentially cooked," a Democratic consultant and former aide to Senator Lieberman, Dan Gerstein, said.

Democrats will have to consider themselves lucky if they find someone who can get 44% against John McCain in the general. Hillary is likely the only one who can.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:56 PM


Al Qaeda's Big Boast (DANIEL BENJAMIN and STEVEN SIMON, 1/25/06, NY Times)

The author of the 9/11 attacks did not, of course, think that his musings would jump-start a negotiation. Had Americans instead listened with the ears of those for whom the message was intended - Muslims around the world - they would have heard something very different. Instead of a weak Osama bin Laden, they would have heard a magnanimous one who could offer a truce because "the war in Iraq is raging, and the operations in Afghanistan are on the rise in our favor."

As Osama said himself: "...when people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature, they will like the strong horse." With Iraqis chasing al Qaeda through the streets in anger and top guys being Hellfired in Pakistan, a plea for truce makes you the weak horse.

General sees rift in Iraq enemy (Rick Jervis, 1/26/06, USA TODAY)

A deepening rift between radical foreign-led fighters and native Iraqi insurgents has turned violent, the top U.S. intelligence officer in Iraq says. That creates an opportunity for American forces to try to persuade local guerrillas to put down their weapons and join the political process, he says.
Iraqi soldiers arrest an insurgent following a raid in Baquba, northeast of Baghdad, on Jan. 24. Iraqi soldiers arrest an insurgent following a raid in Baquba, northeast of Baghdad, on Jan. 24.
Ali Yussef, AFP/Getty Images

"Now you actually have a wedge, or a split, between the Sunni population and al-Qaeda in Iraq," said Maj. Gen. Richard Zahner, deputy chief of staff for intelligence for multinational forces in Iraq. "It poses a significant crossroads for these groups as they look at where they head."

Al-Qaida Is Losing: There's desperation in Osama's voice. (Christopher Hitchens, Jan. 24, 2006, Slate)
I once hypothesized that Osama Bin Laden might be dead. The induction went like this: Proof of life is easy to furnish, but some of the tapes allegedly showing him could easily have been cobbled from earlier releases. Ergo, it mattered to al-Qaida to demonstrate that he was alive. Yet they lacked the ability to demonstrate it. Furthermore, Bin Laden used to be a highly loquacious man, pronouncing on everything from East Timor to Iraq, and seemed at a crucial juncture to have gone quiet.

This reasoning proved inadequate when he popped up during the last U.S. election and made a series of contemporary references, mainly (and ill-advisedly) drawn from Michael Moore's dreadful Fahrenheit 9/11. And we are now assured that the latest audiotape delivered to Al Jazeera has been authenticated also. If we suppose this to be true, then it nonetheless seems to be further evidence that al-Qaida is, as I argued last week, facing a very serious crisis.

Shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, there were arrogant and megalomaniac statements from men like Suleiman Abu-Ghaith, spokesman for al-Qaida, saying that this "storm" of violence would not cease falling, and warning all Muslims living in the West to avoid air travel and tall buildings. Then there came all kinds of bluster about how Iraq would be turned into a sea of fire if one coalition foot was allowed across the border. Then there was a long silence. And then the truce offers began, of which the second, delivered in a somewhat thin and reedy voice, was last week's.

We're still betting on dead at Tora Bora.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:52 PM

Mark Stricherz, whose stuff we've posted here (see below), informs us he has a new blog -- In Front of Your Nose: A Catholic and Populist Review of Politics and Culture (Mark Stricherz) -- and invites folks to check it out.

-Primary colors: How a little-known task force helped create Red State/Blue State America (Mark Stricherz, 11/23/2003, Boston Globe)
-A Moral Majority: Soccer moms are more anti-abortion than you think. (Mark Stricherz, 08/04/2003, Weekly Standard)

Posted by Peter Burnet at 8:14 PM


Zaki Badawi–August 11, 1922 - January 24, 2006 (The Times, January 26th, 2006) (VIA BARRY MEISLIN)

Few men have done as much to reconcile Islam with modernity as Zaki Badawi, the founder and principal of the Muslim College in London. And few men have played such a crucial role in attempting to find a harmonious balance between the beliefs, culture and values of Islam and secular British society. Indeed, that almost two million British Muslims are today able to define themselves as such owes much to the vision of the Egyptian-born scholar who saw, early on, that the many Muslims who settled in Britain from different parts of the Islamic world would, one day, form a significant strand of British society — which happened to be Muslim.

For years, Badawi was the unofficial — and almost lone — spokesman for Muslims in Britain who had no visible figurehead or institutional structure. Appointed in 1978 as chief imam of the London Central Mosque as well as director of the Islamic Cultural Centre, he used these influential positions in the capital to call for an Islam that fitted comfortably with British values, so that younger generations, brought up and educated in this country, would find no conflict between their faith and their civic identity as British citizens.

To him, this meant an Islam that was inclusive, moderate, tolerant and without the rancour or hostility that marked attitudes to Western values prevalent in some of the more zealous sects of Arabia and the Middle East. He therefore devoted his life in Britain to building bridges — of faith, of dialogue and of scholarship. It is thanks largely to his pioneering work in the 1990s in helping to establish a forum for the three Abrahamic faiths — Christianity, Judaism and Islam — and his tireless, behind-the-scenes work in reaching out to British society and institutions that Britain has fared so much better than other European nations with Muslim minorities in integrating its Muslim citizens. But for Badawi, Britain might have fared far less well in avoiding the social alienation that has marked relations between Muslims and the rest of society in France.

Equally, however, Badawi was an outspoken voice in upholding Muslim dignity and the true values of his faith when these came under attack. This was never more crucial than in the aftermath of the September 11 atrocities in America. And when many other leading Muslim scholars were reluctant to speak out to condemn violence or denounce terrorism, he wrote an article for The Times in which he insisted that taking revenge on the innocent was abhorrent to Islam. He gave a warning that no society was immune from violence, and the worst was one which donned the garb of religion. But he said the Koran emphasised that those who disturbed the peace of society and spread fear and disorder deserved the severest punishment that could be imposed.

His denunciation of violence and extremism was forcefully repeated again last year, when he joined religious leaders in commemorating the victims of the London bombings and in calling for tolerance and calm. Again, his words, among others, may have helped Britain to avoid any widespread and violent backlash against Muslims across the country.

Born in Cairo in 1922, Badawi studied at al-Azhar University, where he claimed to have gained his rebellious streak. “I have always refused to be deferential, even to heads of state,” he told a journalist in January 2003. “Irreverence is part of my Islamic culture, of my training at al-Azhar.”

Sadly, there will be no shortage of both Western believers and non-believers insisting he really didn’t understand Islam.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:02 PM


NSA Accused of Psychologically Abusing Whistleblowers (Sherrie Gossett, January 25, 2006, CNSNews.com)

Five current and former National Security Agency (NSA) employees have told Cybercast News Service that the agency frequently retaliates against whistleblowers by falsely labeling them "delusional," "paranoid" or "psychotic."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:34 PM


The War That Made America (PBS, January 18 & 25, 2006)

"The War that Made America" brings to life a vastly important time in American history, when events set forces in motion that would culminate in the American Revolution. The dramatic documentary tells the story of the French and Indian War (1754-1763), which began in the wilderness of the Pennsylvania frontier and spread throughout the colonies, into Canada, and ultimately around the world.

"The War That Made America" combines a commitment to accuracy with a compelling portrayal of the dangerous world of the 18th-century frontier. A central figure is George Washington, a brash and ambitious young officer in his twenties hoping to make his reputation in the military -- and whose blunders inadvertently trigger the war.

A primary focus of the series, and a story that has been distorted or long forgotten, is the critical military importance and strategic diplomacy of Native Americans in the conflict between the English and French. It was a war the British won, but the fruit of their victory contained the seeds of the Revolutionary War.

The program is narrated and hosted by Graham Greene, the Academy-Award nominated actor for "Dances With Wolves" and an Oneida Indian whose ancestors fought in the French and Indian War.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:13 AM


Of Patriotism and Puppet Shows (Douglas Kern, 25 Jan 2006, Tech Central Station)

Liberalism eats itself. (And by liberalism, I mean the rights-based liberalism of Locke and the Founding Fathers, rather than the popular moniker for leftism.) Liberalism cannot accept its own validity because it cannot cease to pick at the scabs of its “weaknesses or inadequacies.” Liberalism is a rational and open system of governance, and such a system encourages endless questioning and self-scrutiny. This self-scrutiny promotes honesty, tolerance, and moral progress, but it also breeds self-doubt and instability. Nothing is ever permanently settled when one really convincing argument can change everything.

Liberalism only accepts arrangements and authorities that can provide reasonable, convincing answers to the question "Why?" But all societies rest upon unreasonable and somewhat arbitrary assertions about what the good is, and how to preserve it. Inquiry into such assertions either ends in tautology ("It just is") or recourse to the transcendent; either way, such inquiry ends in the unanswerable. Liberalism will not accept “It just is” or “God says so” or even the lame compromise of “The nature of man requires it” as an answer. Such answers rest upon fundamental beliefs about the world rather than rational proofs, and liberalism can only tolerate beliefs – it cannot endorse them.

Moreover, for all its rationality, liberalism requires irrational sacrifices. It is irrational to vote, when your single vote won’t matter. It is irrational to involve yourself in political controversies that will never affect you. It is irrational to volunteer to die in combat for your country, when you could stay at home and lead a rich, fulfilling life. A rational, liberal society will wither and die without citizens willing to act irrationally and illiberally in defense of rationality and liberalism. And yet liberalism cannot privilege such selfless, irrational acts; to the extent that liberal societies do so, they indulge in unprincipled exceptions.

To survive, liberalism cannot be entirely consistent. We conceal this fact from ourselves with noble lies, and puppet shows.

The dishonesty of the charade troubles us.

Mr. Kern is, on this rare occassion, quite wrong. That the Founders weren't "liberals" is abundantly obvious from their premising the rights they recognized on their being gifts from the Creator. And while neocons and other intellectuals are necessarily bothered by the fact that there is no other sustainable way to arrange a durable and decent society than on this faith basis, there's little evidence that the great bulk of believing Americans cares that rationalism is incoherent.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:27 AM


Shooting closes border (GREG JOYCE, 1/25/06, Canadian Press and Associated Press)

American authorities closed the border crossing to British Columbia on Tuesday after an exchange of gunfire on the U.S. side between border guards, police and two murder suspects from California who were eventually apprehended. [...]

An unspecified number of Canadian border agents, who are unarmed, left their posts during the incident because they were concerned about their safety. Managers took over and border security was not compromised, said Paula Shore, a spokeswoman for the Canada Border Services Agency.

Ms. Shore refused to say Tuesday night how many Canadian border agents left their posts because of the perceived danger. She said less than four of the more than 20 British Columbia border crossings were involved.

“A few officers exercised their right to refuse to work because of what they perceived as imminent danger,” Ms. Shore said in a telephone interview. Under the labour code, “any worker has the right to refuse to work if they feel they are in imminent danger.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:06 AM


France Battling Bigot Broth for the Homeless (Der Spiegel, 1/25/06)
Soup doesn't usually figure to be terribly high on the police list of peace-disturbing priorities. And one might think that charitable groups handing out hot soup to homeless people on a frigid winter's day in Paris would engender a pat on the back rather than opprobrium. But the soup in question is made of pig parts, and Paris police don't approve.

For weeks now, groups associated with the far-right organization Bloc Identitaire have been handing out soup -- which they are calling "identity soup" -- to the homeless across the country and in neighboring Belgium. But rather than altruistic charity, critics see blatant racism. Muslims and Jews are forbidden by their religions from eating pork -- and excluding these groups, say many, is exactly the point of the handouts. [...]

"With pork in the soup, we return to our origins, our identity," Roger Bonnivard, head of homeless-support group Solidarity of the French and pork soup chef, told the Associated Press. "On every farm, you kill a pig and make a soup.... The pig is the food of our ancestors."
It would be more accurate to say that their ancestors are swine.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:58 AM


Iran "Is Making Lunacy Official Policy": Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has followed up his calls for the destruction of Israel with plans to host a conference questioning the validity of the Holocaust. SPIEGEL ONLINE interviewed German Holocaust historian Götz Aly to discuss how anti-Semitism is becoming official Iranian state policy. (der Spiegel, 1/24/06)

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Iran accuses the Israelis of exploiting the Holocaust for their own means. The Institute for the Research and Study of Zionism in the holy city of Qom is instigating work on the "implications of the Holocaust for the creation and legitimization of the Zionist regime." Is the virulent anti-Semitism in Iran not in reality anti-Zionism?

Aly: I am not so sure about that. For a long time the Arabic world stood out because it didn't take on European racial hatred. When you look at it historically, the Zionist idea can be classed as a reaction against European nationalism at the end of the 19th century. And of course the Nazi policy of extermination and the death of six million European Jews have provided another very concrete motivation for creating the state of Israel. I think it's a legitimate desire for the surviving Jews, and in fact for all Jews, to avoid ever again slipping into the role of defenseless and helpless victims, by having their own militarized state. At any rate it's a wish which seems plausible to any sensible and fair-minded person.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Ahmadinejad undermines his own credibility when he claims that the Holocaust is fiction. Is this not astonishing given that the Shoah is often glorified as a positive event in the Arab world?

Aly: It's impossible to combat obsessive historical revisionism using arguments and even the most basic logic. It is quite simply absurd to, on the one hand thank Hitler's Germany for the Holocaust -- which unfortunately does happen -- and then in the next breath say that the murder of six million Jews never took place. It's hard to understand how a state, which accepts aspects of modern life, is able to make obvious lunacy official national policy.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Would you suggest we write off the proposed Holocaust conference as nothing more than silliness?

Aly: Absolutely not. As far as Iran goes we are in the process of witnessing the political process of a state's ideology being formed out of the prejudices which are widespread in every society. The result is resentment combined with the power of a state.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: How do you explain the heartlessness and brutality needed to aspire to the destruction of a country?

Aly: That is something which in Germany we know a fair bit about. Creating a universal enemy can serve as a politically uniting force for a country. This is particularly the case for states which are weak, badly led, highly corrupt and don't properly exploit their own economic opportunities. The concept of the enemy allows mass incitement to hatred to provide a diversion from the forces of modern life -- which is constantly demanding more specialization within society as well as greater flexibility.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: So Israel lends itself then to this purpose in the Middle East and beyond?

Aly: The concept of Israel as an enemy allows numerous Arab-Muslim governments in the Middle East and south-western Asia to deflect attention at home from their own incompetence.

Of course, demonizing Jews won't liberalize Iran's state and economy, which is what its people want.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:28 AM


Democrats May Argue Liberties to Their Peril: The GOP appears eager to portray the challenge to presidential authority as weakness on security. (Ronald Brownstein, January 25, 2006, LA Times)

Leading Democrats are challenging President Bush's record on civil liberties across a wide front, inspiring a Republican counterattack that even some Democratic strategists worry could threaten the party in this year's elections. [...]

Bush and his allies have fired back by escalating charges that Democrats would weaken America's security by imposing unreasonable restraints on the president.

These exchanges establish contrasts familiar from debates over law enforcement and national security throughout the 1970s and '80s, with most Republicans arguing for tough measures and many Democrats focusing on the defense of constitutional protections.

That emerging alignment worries some Democratic strategists, who believe it may allow Bush to portray Republicans as stronger than Democrats in fighting terrorism, as he did in the 2002 and 2004 campaigns.

"If Democrats want to be the party of people who think [the government] is too tough and the Republicans are the party of people who are tough, I don't see how that helps us," said one senior Democratic strategist who asked not to be identified while discussing party strategy.

Here's all you really need to know about hos the terrorist surveillance program cuts politically, First Read notes that today:
[President] Bush visits the National Security Agency. Per White House spokesperson Scott McClellan, he will tour the agency and address NSA employees (including those off-site, via satellite) at 12:50 pm, then is expected to make some remarks to the press pool.

...and the White House leaked to the Washington Times that they're preparing for impeachment hearings on the issue. The President is eager to be seen defending the aggressive prosecution of the WoT and to have Democrats be seen as opposing it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:11 AM


Rx plan is failing to help the neediest (Richard Wolf, 1/24/06, USA TODAY)

Low-income seniors without Medicaid or prescription coverage are signing up for a new Medicare drug benefit at a far slower rate than others, a sign the program isn't reaching many of those who need it most.

When there's a program to help you but you can't be bothered to sign up, it's your reach that's the problem, not the government's.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:06 AM


The Intermediate Eater: There's no muffin' breakfast with these recipes (JOHN OWEN, 1/25/06, THE Seattle POST-INTELLIGENCER)


* 1 cup old fashioned oatmeal
* 1 cup buttermilk
* 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
* 1/2 cup canola oil
* 1 egg, beaten
* 1 cup flour
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/2 teaspoon salt (or not)

Dump the buttermilk over the oatmeal in a mixing bowl and let sit for 30 minutes. Add the sugar, oil and egg, stir again, then toss in the remaining ingredients and stir once more only until everything is moist. If you decide to add some raisins or dried cranberries, that won't make you a bad person.

Spoon into a greased or papered muffin tin and bake 20-25 minutes in a 400-degree oven.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:01 AM


The hot pot is perfect for the Lunar New Year or any occasion (HSIAO-CHING CHOU, 1/25/06, SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER)

If you've never experienced a hot pot (or fire pot, which is the more accurate translation of huo guo), it involves dipping raw ingredients into a simmering pot of broth that sits on a portable tabletop burner. You choose the ingredient you'd like to eat and add it to the broth. When it's done cooking, you fish it out with your chopsticks or a hot-pot strainer. Then you dip the meat or vegetable in a condiment of your choice and eat it. At the end of the meal you can sip the broth, which now has been enriched by all those cooking ingredients.

You might consider it the Asian fondue.

Hot pot is a common dish that people order out at Chinese restaurants during the winter months for its warming properties. Usually, the pot contains a divider to separate mild and spicy broths. The ingredients may vary from place to place, though a standard offering includes Chinese cabbage, beef, pork, chicken or lamb, cellophane noodles and tofu.

Chinese hot pots vary from region to region. In the northeast, soured Chinese cabbage (similar to sauerkraut) in a pork broth made from pork belly is preferred. The cabbage cuts the fat from the bacon. Frozen tofu, which has a spongelike texture, absorbs the flavors in the broth. The hot pot is rounded out by cellophane noodles. In the south, seafood prevails.

The Hakka have a tradition of eating hot pot on the seventh day of the new year with seven key ingredients, chosen for their names that are homophones of fortuitous words. Celery is related to being diligent, garlic symbolizes someone who is adept at finances, green onion is for intelligence, fish is for abundance, cilantro indicates being surrounded by friends, and chives stand for something that is everlasting.

Hot pot has a long history, dating back to the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-220 A.D.). The most famous hot pot story, however, comes from the Qing Dynasty during Emperor Qianlong's reign (1736-1796), when he held perhaps the largest Lunar New Year celebration with about 1,500 hot pots to feed 5,000. [...]


* 1/4 cup fermented black beans
* 1/3 cup Shaoxing rice wine or medium-dry sherry
* 1 chunk fresh ginger, about 3 inches long
* 1/4 cup dried Sichuanese chiles, or regular red chiles
* 1/2 cup peanut or vegetable oil
* 2/3 cup beef drippings or lard
* 1/2 cup Sichuanese chile bean paste
* 3 quarts good beef stock
* 1 tablespoon rock sugar
* 1/2 cup Sichuanese fermented glutinous rice wine (optional)
* Salt to taste
* 1 teaspoon whole Sichuan peppercorns

Mash the black beans with 1 tablespoon of the Shaoxing wine, either with a mortar and pestle or in a food processor, until you have a smooth paste. Wash the ginger and cut it into slices about the thickness of a coin.

Snip all the chiles into halves or into 1-inch sections with scissors, and discard as many seeds as possible. Heat 3 tablespoons of the peanut or vegetable oil in a wok over medium flame until it is hot but not smoking. Add all the chiles and stir-fry them briefly until they are crisp and fragrant, taking great care not to burn them (the oil should sizzle gently around the chiles). Remove them with a slotted spoon and set aside. Pour the cooking oil into a separate container and set aside. Give the wok a quick rinse and dry it thoroughly.

Place the beef dripping and the rest of the peanut or vegetable oil into a wok and heat over a gentle flame until the dripping has melted completely. Then turn the heat up to medium. When the oils are just beginning to smoke (250-300 degrees), add all the chile bean paste and stir-fry for a minute or so until the oil is richly red and fragrant. The paste should sizzle gently -- take care not to burn it (you can switch off the heat for a few seconds if it is in danger of overheating). When the oil has reddened, add the mashed black beans and the ginger and continue to stir-fry until they are fragrant. Then pour in about 1 1/2 quarts of the stock and bring it to a boil. (The rest of the stock will be used for topping up the hot pot as you eat.)

When the liquid has come to a boil, add the rock sugar and the rest of the Shaoxing rice wine, with the fermented rice wine if you have it, and salt to taste.

Finally, add the prepared chiles and Sichuan pepper according to taste and leave the broth to simmer 15-20 minutes, until it is wonderfully spicy.

Pizza Rolls and chicken wings seem an easier way to start the New Year.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:58 AM


Chris Penn dies at 40 (PAUL CHAVEZ, 1/25/06, Chicago Sun-Times)

Actor Chris Penn, brother of Oscar-winning actor Sean Penn, was found dead Tuesday at a condominium near the beach in Santa Monica, police said. [...]

Chris Penn's body was found inside the four-story condominium complex after police were called by someone from within the building, Fabrega said. [...]

Chris Penn's latest film, ''The Darwin Awards,'' was scheduled to premiere Wednesday at the Sundance Film Festival.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:53 AM


The Unsmoked Signal of Victory on Alito (Marcia Davis, 1/25/06, Washington Post )

And then there was the cigar.

It was fat and brown, and when it wasn't clutched between the fingers of Bill Reynolds, Republican Sen. Arlen Specter's chief of staff, it was tucked -- unlit -- squarely in the left side of his mouth, or being delicately finger-twirled between his lips. Despite all the speeches in that ornate, wood-paneled room, it was his cigar that was sending the true message of the day.

This legislative "minuet," as Reynolds's boss, the Judiciary Committee chairman, described the confirmation process at the start of the Alito hearings -- was just about over. The dance was done but for a few formal steps. It was time to pass the cigars and pop the corks -- and -- oh, yeah -- somebody should count the votes.

Yesterday, those votes fell strictly along partisan lines, and that meant 10 to 8 in Alito's favor. Now the nomination will go before the full Senate, where the balance of power is tilted in the GOP's favor, 55 to 44 (with one independent). Yesterday's committee outcome was no surprise, and the vote before the full Senate won't be, either.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:41 AM


Patriot Act Talks Hit Roadblock On Privacy Issue (Charles Babington, January 25, 2006, Washington Post)

Efforts to resolve House and Senate differences over a revised USA Patriot Act have reached a stalemate, a key committee chairman said yesterday. That means the current version of the law is likely to remain in place through next month or longer unless Senate Democrats and a handful of Republicans drop their demands for greater privacy safeguards in a proposed renewal, the chairman said.

Democrats can't afford politically to kill the Act entirely so they'll be stuck extending it "temporarily" every few months -- and reviving it as a campaign issue. Smart leadership they have, huh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:32 AM


U.S. Troops on Front Line Of Expanding India Ties: Post-9/11 Shift Stresses Common Interests (John Lancaster, 1/25/06, Washington Post)

The exercise is an example of the striking improvement in relations between the United States and India following decades of Cold War estrangement and more recent tensions stemming from India's nuclear tests in 1998.

Spurred by the United States, the two governments have signed commercial, scientific and military agreements in the last two years and are negotiating a controversial deal that could permit the sale of civilian nuclear technology to India. The Bush administration is eager to cultivate India as a partner in counterterrorism and, some analysts say, as a strategic counterweight to China.

The warming trend is also reflected in the surge of interest in India among U.S. business leaders such as Bill Gates, the chairman of Microsoft Corp., who recently announced a $1.7 billion investment in the country, the latest in a string of such commitments by U.S. technology firms eager to cash in on India's booming economy and surplus of inexpensive brainpower.

Other indicators include the parade of U.S. lawmakers through New Delhi in recent months and steadily expanding commercial air links. In addition, a record number of Indian students -- more than 80,000 -- are studying at U.S. universities, according to the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi.

President Bush is scheduled to visit India for the first time in early March at the invitation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, a self-effacing economist who met with Bush at the White House last July. In New Delhi on Friday, Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran said the planned visit is "really reflective of the very significant transformation that has taken place, and is taking place, in India-U.S. relations."

Saran was speaking at a news conference after meetings with Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns, who was making his third visit to the Indian capital in the last six months. "India is one of the few countries in the world that has the capability to act globally and has the same basic interests as the United States," Burns said in a telephone interview from New Delhi.

Saudi king on rare visit to India
Saudi king
(BBC, 1/25/06)

King Abdullah is the first Saudi king to visit India in 51 years and will be the guest of honour at Republic Day celebrations on Thursday.

His visit is seen as very significant with both countries keen to build ties.

India's growing economy is fuelling greater energy needs and Saudi Arabia supplies a quarter of its oil.

"I consider myself to be in my second homeland," King Abdullah said soon after his arrival.

"The relationship between India and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is an historic one, we have been old friends and, God willing, this visit will renew these historic ties."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:25 AM


The Realities of Exporting Democracy: A Year After Bush Recast Foreign Policy, Progress Remains Mixed (Peter Baker, January 25, 2006, Washington Post)

In the year since Bush redefined U.S. foreign policy in his second inaugural address to make the spread of democracy the nation's primary mission, the clarion-call language has resonated in the dungeons and desolate corners of the world. But soaring rhetoric has often clashed with geopolitical reality and competing U.S. priorities.

While the administration has enjoyed notable success in promoting liberty in some places, it has applied the speech's principles inconsistently in others, according to analysts, activists, diplomats and officials. Beyond its focus on Iraq, Washington has stepped up pressure on repressive regimes in countries such as Belarus, Burma and Zimbabwe -- where the costs of a confrontation are minimal -- while still gingerly dealing with China, Pakistan, Russia and other countries with strategic and trade significance.

In the Middle East, where the administration has centered its attention, it has promoted elections in the Palestinian territories such as today's balloting for parliament, even as it directed money aimed at clandestinely preventing the radical Islamic group Hamas from winning. And although it has now suspended trade negotiations with Egypt, it did not publicly announce the move, nor has it cut the traditionally generous U.S. aid to Cairo.

"The glass is a quarter full, but we need more of it," said Jennifer Windsor, executive director of Freedom House, a group that promotes democracy. "The administration deserves credit, but it's just a start."

In its annual survey ranking nations as free, partly free or not free, the group upgraded nine nations or territories in 2005 and downgraded four. Among those deemed freer were Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan, where peaceful revolutions overthrew entrenched governments; Lebanon, where Syrian occupation troops were pressured to withdraw; and Afghanistan and the Palestinian territories, where trailblazing elections were held. Overall, Freedom House concluded, "the past year was one of the most successful for freedom" since the survey began in 1972.

It took over two hundred years for us to liberalize Europe whereas it's looking like it'll take less than a decade to liberalize the Middle East. It'd be nice to get it done quicker, but you'd have to say the pace thus far is remarkable.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:19 AM


New Tax Breaks for Medical Expenses: Bush to Propose Wider Deductions (Amy Goldstein, 1/25/06, Washington Post)

The new tax breaks for personal health spending, to be included in the 2007 budget Bush will release in less than two weeks, are designed to help the uninsured and to allow people with insurance to write off a greater portion of the money they spend on co-payments, deductibles and care that is not covered. Under current tax rules, people can deduct medical expenses only if they exceed 7.5 percent of their adjusted gross income.

The president also plans to call for an expansion of health savings accounts, an idea long favored by conservatives and approved by Congress slightly more than two years ago, in which people who buy bare-bones insurance policies are allowed to put money into tax-free accounts for their medical expenses.

In addition, Bush intends to propose changes to allow people to keep their insurance, without extra cost, if they change jobs or decide to start a business, building on a decade-old law that was designed to make health coverage more "portable."

The three proposals -- and possibly others -- are part of a renewed effort by the White House to tackle medical costs, a theme that administration officials said yesterday Bush intends to emphasize in his State of the Union address next week. The health initiative also represents one of the few areas in which the president will try to create new domestic policies through what he and aides have said will be an austere budget.

The Left in Australia and the Right in Britain have largely reconciled themselves to Third Way realities, as Newt Gingrich's GOP had under Bill Clinton, and have supported such government reforms that benefit the nation even if it means their opponents will get the credit, as Clinton does for Welfare Reform. Sadly, there are no New Democrats anymore, so the GOP will need a filibuster-proof Senate to pass these measures and SS Reform.

Business likes Bush’s healthcare hints (Jeffrey Young, 1/25/06, The Hill)

Big business interests are prepared to back up President Bush’s expected call to make healthcare legislation a priority in the coming legislative year.

Facing escalating costs and aging populations of workers and retirees, large employers are seeking policies that would enable them to limit their future healthcare spending while allowing them to avoid dropping expensive health benefits altogether. The small-business community also favors legislation that would make it less pricey to provide employees health coverage.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:03 AM


Hamas and the Fatah radicals will transform Palestinian politics (Alastair Crooke, February 2006, Prospect)

It is increasingly plain that Fatah will not do well at the polls. One Israeli journalist estimates that Hamas may win 60-70 seats in the new parliament, out of a total 132. Were this to occur, Hamas would certainly be invited to accept posts as ministers in a new government.

The old guard has reacted to this prospect by seeking any pretext to postpone the elections. The worsening security situation in Gaza has, in part, been deliberately engineered by the Fatah leadership and its security arms as a pretext to postpone or cancel elections.

Assuming the elections do go ahead and that the younger Fatah and Hamas do dominate the parliament, they will seek what they regard as an inclusive Palestinian politics—in contrast to that of Oslo. Hamas will aim to rally as many of the factions as possible to agree on Palestinian national objectives. They will lay out the means to achieve those objectives and designate a popular leadership able to bring them about.

More recently, Hamas spokesmen have emphasised the possibility of a complete cessation of violence, to be agreed and reciprocated by Israel, that would last a full generation and that, unlike past truces, would deal with all the outstanding issues that might be resolved in a long-term period of calm. The negotiation that they envision would proceed from the basis of withdrawal from the lands occupied in 1967 and a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. We are likely to see concrete proposals emerge after the elections. The proposal for a ceasefire does not however imply that Hamas will accept disarmament at the outset of the process. They believe that every people has the right to self-defence; but demilitarisation in step with political progress, as seen in Northern Ireland, is possible.

Hamas is a political movement that detached itself from the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1980s. Like other such movements, it is interested in shaping political solutions to political problems. It is committed to elections, political participation, constitutional guarantees of civil rights and, above all, of reform: reform of government and of state institutions, and an end to corruption. Younger members of Fatah share these aspirations. Where Hamas has been so successful is in the provision of welfare and community services which are viewed by all sections of society as a model of effective and incorrupt provision of such assistance.

The chief benefit of forced statehood has always been that it will force these organizations to focus on governing, not terrorism.

Hamas Poised to Become Insiders: With Strong Showing Predicted in Palestinian Vote, Group to Face New Challenges (Scott Wilson, 1/25/06, Washington Post)

Already Hamas leaders are facing questions about how they will manage future peace negotiations with Israel, win the freedom of thousands of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails, and ease the occupation in the West Bank given their vow not to recognize Israel or talk to its leaders.

At the same time, many Hamas followers who favored the group's past attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians over the Palestinian Authority's cooperation with Israel are wondering why the movement is going mainstream while the occupation endures in the West Bank.

Each week in the courtyard of the Red Cross here, a group of women gather to demand the release of the estimated 7,000 Palestinians in Israeli jails. Most of the women are poor, desperate residents of the Jabalya refugee camp. They are veiled, clutching framed photos of their sons. They are the natural constituency of Hamas. Yet none said they intend to support Hamas now. "If they wanted to help, they would be here protesting with us," said Ghaliah Barood, 70, who leads the weekly demonstration. "But you can see that none of them are."

Although Hamas officials vow not to meet with Israeli officials, Zahar said he favors mediation through Egypt, Jordan or the European Union to win the prisoners' release, perhaps the most emotional issue in Palestinian politics. Barood, whose son Ibrahim has been in an Israeli jail for two decades, said only kidnapping Israeli soldiers would win the prisoners' release. "We've never seen anyone pay attention to us, and now they only come for our vote," said Aziza Abu Dabah, 55, whose son has been in jail for 11 years.

Though designated a terrorist organization by the United States, Europe and Israel, Hamas has positioned itself among Palestinians as the clean counterweight to the corrupt, ineffective rule of Fatah, the movement that governs the Palestinian Authority. Hamas has a military wing that has carried out deadly attacks on Israelis, but its popularity stems largely from the grass-roots charity work and political organizing that is the hallmark of Islamic movements throughout the Arab world. [...]

[Nashat Aqtash, a professor of media studies at Bir Zeit University in the West Bank who is designing the Hamas advertising strategy,] added with a laugh, "I'm just afraid they'll win more than 50 percent of the vote, and then they'll be in real trouble."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:51 AM


Distant Cousins of the Cookie, No Bake Treats Have Their Charms (Erin Hanrahan, 1/25/06, Valley News)

With the promise of shorter prep time and a vague aura of possible whole grain nutrition, treats have gained significant ground in school lunches and at birthday parties over the years. Harried parents can now buy them pre-packaged at any grocery store, and you can even find Rice Krispies treats in vending machines.

But while fans have lauded their strides toward ubiquity, the continued advancement of treats has led some cookie traditionalists to question whether, in the effort to promote a diverse and unfussy dessert spread, we may have gone too far. Are treats poised for a takeover? To find the answer to this question I went to two leading cookie authorities; King Arthur Flour baking instructor and editor of The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion (Countryman Press, 2004) Susan Reid, and my mom. [...]

My mother was more diplomatic. “I've never really thought of them as different. Who says you have to bake them for them to be cookies?” She cited as an example a childhood favorite of mine, Chinese Noodle Cookies, which require only three ingredients, melted in the microwave and stirred together.

“They're shaped like little round cookies,” she explained. “Now if I put them in a nine-inch pan and cut them into squares I guess I'd call them bars. But who am I, Betty Crocker?” [...]

Chinese Noodle Cookies

To make Chinese noodle cookies you'll need:

one 12-ounce bag of butterscotch chips

one cup of smooth peanut butter

6 ounces of dry chow mein noodles (canned or in a bag)

Melt the butterscotch chips in a microwave or double boiler and add the peanut butter, stirring slowly.

Add the chow mein noodles and stir gently until they are coated with the butterscotch mixture. Drop the batter by spoonfuls onto wax paper or an ungreased cookie sheet. Refrigerate for 20 minutes or until hard. Yield: 40 cookies.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 5:49 AM


Warmest year in a century (Malcolm Ritter, Globe and Mail, January 25th, 2006)

Last year was the warmest in a century, nosing out 1998, a U.S. federal analysis has concluded.

Researchers calculated that 2005 produced the highest annual average surface temperature worldwide since instrument recordings began in the late 1800s, said James Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

The result confirms a prediction the institute made in December.[...]

Over the past 30 years, Earth has warmed about half a degree Celsius, making it about the warmest it has been in 10,000 years, Mr. Hansen said. He blamed a buildup of heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

One of the blessings of this site is the rich scientific expertise of so many of our regulars. Before we treat ourselves to one of our patented rants against politically motivated scientism, can anyone comment on the credibility of this assertion?

Posted by Matt Murphy at 2:50 AM


Snooping can result in silence (Bob Herbert, 1/24/06, New York Times)

Have you ever talked sexy to your wife or girlfriend - or your husband or boyfriend - on the telephone? Would you keep talking if you thought one of Dick Cheney's operatives was listening in?

Talk about a chilling effect. [...]

Freedom of speech in the United States covers matters trivial and profound. The corrosive damage that is being done to the First Amendment, that cornerstone of free speech, has been largely overlooked in the controversy over President Bush's decision to permit the government to eavesdrop without warrants on phone calls and e-mail messages inside the United States.

This nicely encapsulates why so many people just don't trust the Democrats to handle terrorists. While conservatives attempt to protect the country from murderous savages, liberals like Bob Herbert fret about their putative Constitutional right to private phone sex.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:20 AM


Bush, Pakistani PM hold 'wide-ranging' talks: Meeting follows deadly Pakistan-Afghan border attack (AP, 1/24/06)

After President Bush held a "wide-ranging discussion" with Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz at the White House Tuesday, the two leaders did not comment on a deadly U.S. airstrike that has strained relations between the two countries.

The Oval Office visit comes as many in the Islamic nation are blasting the United States for a January 13 airstrike in a remote area near the Afghan border that killed at least 13 civilians, including women and children.

"We have just had a wide-ranging discussion," Bush said during a photo opportunity, "which one should expect when we've got a strategic relationship like we have with Pakistan."

"The relationship with Pakistan is a vital relationship for the United States," Bush said. "I want to thank the prime minister and thank the president for working closely with us on a variety of issues. We're working closely to defeat the terrorists that would like to harm America and harm Pakistan."

Bush announced that he would visit Pakistan and India in March.

Nods and winks are silent.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:03 AM


Pentagon Planning Document Leaves Iraq Out of Equation: A four-year blueprint for the military reflects a view that the war is an anomaly. There's talk of robots and drones, but no force buildup. (Mark Mazzetti, January 24, 2006, LA Times)

The U.S. military has long been accused of always planning to fight its last war. But as the Pentagon assesses threats to national security over the next four years, a major blueprint being completed in the shadow of the Iraq war will do largely the opposite.

The military went into Iraq with a vision that a small, agile, and lightly armored force could win a quick preemptive war. Although the U.S. easily crushed Saddam Hussein's army, the subsequent occupation has proven far costlier in lives, money and international standing than most expected.

As a result, the U.S. military has no appetite for another lengthy war of "regime change."

And while some new lessons will be incorporated into the Pentagon review, the spending blueprint for the next four years will largely stick to the script Pentagon officials wrote before the Iraq war, according to those familiar with the nearly final document that will be presented to Congress in early February.

Iraq "is clearly a one-off," said a Pentagon official who is working on the top-to-bottom study, known as the Quadrennial Defense Review. "There is certainly no intention to do it again."

And here we thought neocons and the Left were the only ones who hadn't figured out that W isn't an imperialist.

US sets its sights on asymmetric warfare (Ehsan Ahrari , 1/26/06, Asia Times)

The QDR has four major goals: defeating terrorism, defending the homeland, influencing such nations as China that are at a "crossroads" in their world role, and preventing hostile states or actors from acquiring nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons (look out Iran!).

In terms of fighting terrorism, the focus is on increasing the size and enhancing the capabilities of the Special Forces. They will be expanded from 15 to 20 active-duty battalions. Ninety more "A teams" (12-man highly skilled teams to conduct special operations) will be created and be deployed in areas considered vulnerable to terrorist or extremist influences. The US military will also increase its capabilities on tracking and eliminating the "most valued military targets", a euphemism for terrorist leaders. The US Air Force's special-operations wing will create unmanned aerial drones to maintain endless watch on regions of the world with a high terrorist presence.

The QDR will also spend huge resources to prepare for "irregular", "catastrophic" and "disruptive" attacks from insurgencies, or terrorist groups with biological weapons, or attacks on the information systems from countries such as China.

The Pentagon has long been aware that China is studying US information systems and developing countermeasures that are focused on its vulnerabilities. The Taiwan conflict has never diminished its significance as a highly contentious issue dividing China and the United States. Thus a great amount of attention and resources are being spent by the Department of Defense in nullifying whatever advantages the People's Liberation Army might have acquired (ie, countering the countermeasures), which might be used in the event of a military conflict involving Taiwan.

As much as the US has remained focused on developing intricate high-tech defensive and offensive systems against the known capabilities of its potential adversaries, what befuddles China is the seemingly endless capacity of the US military to develop unique campaign plans to win conflicts. That nimbleness and dexterity remain the most valuable characteristic of the US military, a characteristic that is very hard to counter.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


”Why I chose love as the theme of my first encyclical” (Benedict XVI, Chiesa)

The cosmic excursion in which Dante wants to involve the reader in his “Divine Comedy” ends before the everlasting light that is God himself, before that light which at the same time is the love “which moves the sun and the other stars” (Paradise XXXIII, verse 145). Light and love are but one thing. They are the primordial creative power that moves the universe.

If these words of the poet reveal the thought of Aristotle, who saw in the eros the power that moves the world, Dante's gaze, however, perceives something totally new and unimaginable for the Greek philosopher.

Eternal light not only is presented with the three circles of which he speaks with those profound verses that we know: “Eternal Light, You only dwell within Yourself, and only You know You; Self-knowing, Self-known, You love and smile upon Yourself!” (Paradise XXXIII, verses 124-126).

In reality, the perception of a human face – the face of Jesus Christ – which Dante sees in the central circle of light is even more overwhelming than this revelation of God as trinitarian circle of knowledge and love.

God, infinite light, whose incommensurable mystery had been intuited by the Greek philosopher, this God has a human face and – we can add – a human heart.

In this vision of Dante is shown, on one hand, the continuity between the Christian faith in God and the search promoted by reason and by the realm of religions; at the same time, however, in it is also appreciated the novelty that exceeds all human search, the novelty that only God himself could reveal to us: the novelty of a love that has led God to assume a human face, more than that, to assume the flesh and blood, the whole of the human being.

God's eros is not only a primordial cosmic force, it is love that has created man and that bends before him, as the Good Samaritan bent before the wounded man, victim of thieves, who was lying on the side of the road that went from Jerusalem to Jericho.

Today the word “love” is so tarnished, so spoiled and so abused, that one is almost afraid to pronounce it with one's lips.

And yet it is a primordial word, expression of the primordial reality; we cannot simply abandon it, we must take it up again, purify it and give back to it its original splendor so that it might illuminate our life and lead it on the right path.

This awareness led me to choose love as the theme of my first encyclical.

I wished to express to our time and to our existence something of what Dante audaciously recapitulated in his vision. He speaks of his “sight” that “was enriched” when looking at it, changing him interiorly (cfr. Paradise XXXIII, verses 112-114).

It is precisely this: that faith might become a vision-comprehension that transforms us. I wished to underline the centrality of faith in God, in that God who has assumed a human face and a human heart.

Faith is not a theory that one can take up or lay aside. It is something very concrete: It is the criterion that decides our lifestyle.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


The skinny on Curt (Steve Silva, Boston.com)

Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling spoke with Boston sports radio WEEI’s Dennis and Callahan this morning: [...]

JD: How’s your offseason has gone in terms of getting back to where you want to be?

CS: Fantastic. About 14-17 days ago, I woke up and my foot was normal… going through workouts and doing the stuff I’m doing here, and I don’t know what the combination was but it feels right again, it feels normal, it feels like it’s always felt … I have some aches and pains early in the morning but it’s felt normal for the first time in a long, long time.

JD: Were your workouts designed to get your foot back in order or were they just the usual routine preseason baseball workouts that you’ve always done?

CS: Much more of the normal routine than anything. I started about three weeks earlier this year, real early December and we’ve been going since then. I don’t know what it was but I really noticed it more throwing than anything. This winter I’m throwing with (Giants pitcher) Jason Schmidt out here in Phoenix on the program that I’ve had for about 10 years now. I just started noticing everything changing about three weeks ago.

Gerry Callahan: Hey, the picture of you and Shonda dropping the puck at the Coyotes game made the rounds and you look pretty slim in that shot… for you pretty slim. How much weight have you lost?

CS: I don’t know; a couple of pounds. I definitely, being able to run, and being able to move extensively to do workouts has changed my body comp dramatically in the last month, month and a half, and that’s something I haven’t been able to do for almost a year so I knew that was going to have a dramatic impact on how I felt, how my foot felt, how my body felt going into spring training.

January 24, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:55 PM


Casey announces endorsement of Alito (KIMBERLY HEFLING, 1/24/06, Associated Press)

Sen. Rick Santorum's leading Democratic challenger, Pennsylvania Treasurer Bob Casey, announced Tuesday that he endorses Judge Samuel Alito's confirmation to the Supreme Court.

Meet the next Zell Miller.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:48 PM


How the west was won (Daily Telegraph, 25/01/2006)

Conservatives the world over can take heart from the astonishing resurrection of the Right in Canada. In 1993, the Progressive Conservative Party, which had held an absolute majority, was almost obliterated. There followed more than 12 years of opposition, during which the Right regrouped, the key move being the fusion under Stephen Harper of the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservatives in 2003 to form the Conservative Party. On Monday, it won enough seats to form a minority administration, ousting the Liberals, long seen as the natural party of government.

Mr Harper succeeded by presenting a coherent platform of tax cutting, judicial reform, daycare payments, increased defence spending, political devolution and federal accountability.

It's worked on four continents.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:44 PM


Sharon's stand-in signals more West Bank withdrawals (Tim Butcher, 25/01/2006, Daily Telegraph)

Ehud Olmert, the acting Israeli prime minister, last night committed his country to piecemeal withdrawals from the West Bank so that permanent borders can be set up in order to "ensure a Jewish majority" in Israel.

In his first major policy speech, Mr Olmert said he would follow the path of unilateral withdrawal started last summer by the prime minister, Ariel Sharon, who closed all 21 Jewish settlements in Gaza.

Having arrived at this position before Sharon there was never any question about whether Mr. Olmert would continue it--the question is whether Israelis think he's tough enough to do what has to be done to Palestinians (and Iran and whoever else) as he does it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:40 PM


Blair's real task is to make Labour fit for opposition (Matthew d'Ancona, 25/01/2006, Daily Telegraph)

In modern politics, there are three tests of a great leader: first, he must stamp his authority on his party and make it durably electable; second, he must make his core policies so orthodox that the opposition party embraces them, or at least cannot reverse them; and, third, he must leave his own party in such a state that it can face a stretch on the opposition benches without disintegrating.

Margaret Thatcher achieved the first two objectives, winning three successive elections and forcing the opposition to transform itself from Michael Foot's rabble into New Labour. Ousted from office by her own party, she was unable to complete the third task: indeed, her fall condemned the Tories to more than a decade of savage in-fighting.

Tony Blair's aggregate of parliamentary majorities (179, 167, 66) exceeds even the Iron Lady's remarkable run (43, 143, 102). Last year, as he was preparing for the general election, he baffled his Cabinet colleagues by grumbling that the Tory party had failed to wake up to the New Labour era, and to adapt itself accordingly. Now, Blair exudes ill-concealed satisfaction that, at last, in David Cameron, he has an apprentice as well as a rival.

Tony Blair faces the same difficulty as Bill Clinton, in that his victories have been personal--his party is not reconciled to abandoning the Second Way.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:37 PM


Right-wing teetotaller takes Canada by storm (Tom Baldwin, 1/25/06, Times of London)

Election likely means closer Canada, U.S. ties: Prime Minister-elect Harper's beliefs run in step with Bush, GOP (AP, 1/24/06)

Strained relations between the world's largest trading partners were expected to improve after the election of Conservative leader Stephen Harper as Canada's next prime minister. [...]

The White House congratulated Harper, who will be sworn in within the next two weeks. "We look forward to strengthening our relations and working with the new government," spokesman Scott McClellan said.

Martin's predecessor, Jean Chretien declined to send troops to Iraq, then publicly condemned the U.S.-led invasion, as did many Canadians. Martin later rejected President Bush's offer to work with Washington on a continental missile defense shield and has criticized the U.S. over punitive trade tariffs and for rejecting the Kyoto Protocol to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Harper has said Ottawa should have expressed greater moral support to Washington in its war on terror, although he also stressed Canada did not have the capability to send troops to Iraq.

He also wants to revisit the missile shield, move beyond the Kyoto debate and provide $5 billion more to overhaul Canada's military and expand peacekeeping operations, while pledging to be aggressive in demanding that Washington respect the North American Free Trade Act.

They don't need to help, just not backstab.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:07 PM


Poll finds surprising optimists (BBC, 1/24/06)

Iraqis and Afghans are among the most optimistic people in the world when it comes to their economic future, a new survey for the BBC suggests.

Italians join people in Zimbabwe and DR Congo as the most downcast about their future, according to the poll of 37,500 people in 32 nations. [...]

Canadians are bullish not just about their own finances (64%), but also about the economic prospects of their country (63%).

For the governing party to lose a Canadian election when its people are that upbeat, and justifiably so, about their current economic prospects is even more remarkable than George Bush beating Al Gore at a time of unprecedented prosperity and peace.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:45 PM


Restraining Order (The Editors, 01.19.06, New Republic)

Ever since its founding in the Progressive era, this magazine has championed bipartisan judicial restraint and urged liberal and conservative justices to practice it consistently. Under the guidance of editors like Felix Frankfurter, Learned Hand, and Alexander Bickel, we have argued that judges should play a modest role in U.S. democracy, generally deferring to the judgments of elected legislators and striking down laws only when the constitutional arguments for doing so are clear and convincing. This vision of bipartisan restraint has led tnr to oppose activist Supreme Court decisions on both sides of the political spectrum, from Roe v. Wade to Bush v. Gore.

Imagine, if you will, that you have a friend who likes to eat. Over and over and over again you tell him that he should practice moderation, rather than just stuffing his face. But he he doesn't listen and for sixty years he just keeps bingeing until he's a bloated wreck. Now he asks your advice again. Do you tell him to be a moderate and maintain his current status?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:37 PM


Why the Tories won (Warren Kinsella, January 24, 2006, National Post)

Call it the revenge of the hockey Moms and Dads.

The font of all Canadian wisdom, as everyone knows, is the local rink. Parents huddled on cold benches, clutching cups of coffee, swapping stories about their kids, shaking their heads about those dummies up in Ottawa. Being Canadian.

Back in November, while watching my daughter play at a hockey rink in Toronto, I posted something to my Web log using my BlackBerry. On it, I suggested that the election was going to be about hockey Moms and Dads versus the elites. With Stephen Harper championing the former, and a Westmount millionaire named Paul Martin personifying the latter.

Was I right? Well, I can now reveal that -- right after I posted that observation -- I received e-mails from two senior guys in the Tory war room. They told me that's exactly what they hoped to do.

And so they did. With every photo op (particularly the one showing the Tory leader taking his kids to an Ottawa hockey rink), with every positive statement (Harper stressing his middle-class roots), with every critical statement (the continual references to Martin's millions, and his decision to fly his ships under foreign flags), the Tory campaign was all about the revenge of hockey Moms and Dads.

It wasn't about Left versus Right. It wasn't about Urban versus Rural. It wasn't about East versus West. It was about Tim Hortons versus Starbucks.

Stephen Harper won because he told the story people want to hear. We federal Liberals had lost touch -- with Canadians, with each other -- and we deserved to lose. If you'll forgive the obvious metaphor, we deserved some time in the penalty box, and now we're going to get it.

Careful here, Mr. Kinsella, Democrats think that '94 was an aberration and they'll resume their rightful place in power any day now....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:14 PM


New Orleans Restaurants Starved for Help (MARY FOSTER, 1/24/06, Associated Press)

Ralph Brennan can get the oysters, crawfish and other seafood he needs for The Redfish Grill and his other French Quarter restaurants. What he can't find are enough busboys, waiters, dishwashers and other kitchen help.

Restaurateurs in this storm-battered city known the world over for its zesty food have raised wages, lined up trailers for workers, even put them up in their own homes.

Still, many restaurants have had to scale back for lack of workers. Some places are open for lunch and not dinner, or vice versa.

"We're paying more, we're offering great benefits, we're doing everything we can think of, but it's hard getting people to come back," Brennan said. "I think a lot of people just aren't interested in returning right now."

The returnees weren't much interested in jobs in antediluvian New Orleans were they? Time to import folks who appreciate jobs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:08 PM


Anti-Qaeda protest in Iraq, local anger mounts (Reuters, 1/24/06)

Hundreds of Iraqis staged a demonstration in the restive city of Samarra on Tuesday in a show of defiance against al Qaeda militants they blamed for killing dozens of police recruits last week.

Nationalist rebels and tribal leaders in the city north of Baghdad had already let it be known they were joining forces to try to expel the foreign-influenced Islamists from the area, part of a trend in Sunni Arab areas that U.S. commanders have pointed to optimistically as a sign of political development.

The protesters, estimated by police to number 700 to 1,000 and organised by the Iraqi Islamic Party and Muslim Scholars Association, major forces in Sunni politics, accused al Qaeda of killing some 40 local men who were hauled off a bus near Samarra last week after leaving a police academy in Baghdad and killed.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:57 PM


Dems In '06 Need To Face The Facts (Dick Meyer, Jan. 24, 2006, CBS News)

The 2006 GOP/Rove platform can easily be put on an index card, if not a Post-it note. It reads something like this: we are at war against foreign terrorists who want to kill you and your society and we'll do what it takes to stop it and the Democrats won't; we will cut your taxes and give you money and Democrats won't. Every Republican candidate in the country can spit that one out.

The controversy over domestic surveillance without warrants illustrates the efficient, black and white clarity of the Rovian message. Rove said, "Let me be as clear as I can: President Bush believes if al Qaeda is calling somebody in America, it is in our national security interest to know who they're calling and why. Some important Democrats clearly disagree."

Please draft a two sentence response that will work in a TV ad; my guess is it will sound as convoluted as John Kerry explaining why his vote for war was a vote against war.

Democrats thought the domestic surveillance revelations were a boon; if that were the case, why would the administration be devoting this week to a public campaign to trumpet the issue? Simple: because they think they have the gut punch: we'll protect you, they won't.

In the sixth year of the Bush presidency the Democrats have produced the following message and enunciated it at every chance they've been given: George W. Bush hates terrorists and taxes and we hate George W. Bush.

Posted by David Cohen at 4:45 PM


Warriors and wusses (Joel Stein, LA Times, 1/24/06)

I DON'T SUPPORT our troops. This is a particularly difficult opinion to have, especially if you are the kind of person who likes to put bumper stickers on his car. Supporting the troops is a position that even Calvin is unwilling to urinate on. . . .

But I'm not for the war. And being against the war and saying you support the troops is one of the wussiest positions the pacifists have ever taken — and they're wussy by definition. It's as if the one lesson they took away from Vietnam wasn't to avoid foreign conflicts with no pressing national interest but to remember to throw a parade afterward.

Blindly lending support to our soldiers, I fear, will keep them overseas longer by giving soft acquiescence to the hawks who sent them there — and who might one day want to send them somewhere else. Trust me, a guy who thought 50.7% was a mandate isn't going to pick up on the subtleties of a parade for just service in an unjust war. He's going to be looking for funnel cake. . . .

But blaming the president is a little too easy. The truth is that people who pull triggers are ultimately responsible, whether they're following orders or not. An army of people making individual moral choices may be inefficient, but an army of people ignoring their morality is horrifying. An army of people ignoring their morality, by the way, is also Jack Abramoff's pet name for the House of Representatives.

Mr. Stein wants the United States to lose the war. He feels no qualms about publishing his desire in one of "our nation's leading newspapers", though I'm sure he thinks of himself as a proud truth-teller. This isn't treason -- he's not important enough to be a traitor -- but he is a punk.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:03 PM


What Science and Theology Have in Common (B. Alan Wallace, January 24th, 2006, Quantum Biocommunication Technology)

How did organic molecules become living organisms? Evolution did it. How did consciousness first arise in living organisms? Evolution! Why do humans have such greater intelligence than other primates, far more than is needed to survive and procreate? Evolution is the cause. Here is a modern version of Aristotle’s Unmoved Mover.

Just as theists may attribute the orderliness and majesty of the natural world to God and Buddhists may explain such things in terms of karma, scientific materialists attribute everything to interactions of matter. With the advances of science in explaining natural phenomena, religious believers on the defensive have tried to provide divine explanations for scientific mysteries. Hence the phrase “God of the gaps.”

Now materialists have devised their own substitute — “materialism of the gaps” — to patch up the holes in the edifice of scientific understanding in such areas as the origins of life and consciousness in the universe. Everything, they assure us, can eventually be explained in terms of functions and emergent properties of physical processes.

Why should we take the leap of faith that the objective world, independent of human precepts and concepts, conforms to our human notion of “physical”? Even if it does, to which theory of matter does reality conform? In terms of Newtonian physics, a material body may be defined as a fraction of space endowed with constitutive properties such as impenetrability and mass. But these criteria are challenged by quantum mechanics, which undermines the primitive concept of matter as a collection of inherently massive and spatially defined particulate bodies.

The more closely we inspect the fundamental constituents of the physical world, the clearer it becomes that matter is not made out of “matter” but oscillations of immaterial abstract quantities in empty space. In other words, materialists fill the gaps in their knowledge with vacuous abstractions.

Moreover, one hypothesis in contemporary quantum theory is that without reference to an observer, the universe as a whole does not change in time. If this is true, the notion of evolution is not applicable to the universe as a whole without an external observer and without an external clock that does not belong to the universe.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:54 PM


Judiciary Committee Recommends Alito to Senate (Fred Barbash, January 24, 2006, Washington Post)

By a 10-8 party line vote with sometimes bitter partisan debate, the Senate Judiciary Committee today recommended that Samuel A. Alito Jr. be confirmed by the full Senate as associate justice of the Supreme Court.

The nomination will move to the full Senate Wednesday with a vote expected by the end of the week, according to the committee chairman, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.).

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:32 PM


Zarqawi recruits in Yemen rounded up (UPI, 1/24/06)

Yemen has rounded up 19 suspected followers of Abu Musab Zarqawi who they say were planning to carry out terrorist attacks on U.S. targets.

The pro-government September 26 daily quoted a security source as saying the suspects were being interrogated by the general prosecutor annd would be tried in a terrorism court.

The source said the suspects planned to attack places in Yemen frequented by Americans, including the popular Aden Hotel.

He said several members of the cell returned from Iraq upon Zarqawi's instructions to carry out terrorist acts.

Truce! Truce! We said truce!

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:54 AM


March of the Resenters (Mark Gauvreau Judge, 1/24/2006, American Prospect)

The anti-war, anti-Bush protest march coming to Washington February 4 has nothing to do with politics. [...]

Politics entails reason and arguments about things outside ourselves: the safety of all of our people, how best to educate them, what is acceptable expression in the public square -- it is, as Aristotle said, the way of "deciding how to order our lives together." For many protestors, the public good is of very little consequence, otherwise they would not suck resources from the police department and clog up city streets during a time of war. And reason is certainly not high on their list of virtues. These are people who call terrorists freedom fighters and claim George Bush is worse than Hitler.

So what drives them? The great St. Louis University historian James Hitchcock summed it up nicely in an essay, "The Root of American Violence." "What has happened," Hitchcock wrote, "has been the abandonment of politics, or it annihilation, in favor of public and organized forms of therapy. Emphasis is less and less on the general material needs of the citizens, with which the state has some possibility of coping, and more and more on the formerly private, personal, and subjective aspect of lives, which the state is expected, somehow, to respond to in symbolically comforting ways. What the New Left primarily accomplished was to establish a particular style of public discourse which enables emotionally frustrated people to express themselves in cathartic ways."

Some have said that the narrow, irrational emotionalism of the protestors resembles religious fanaticism. This is evident in the work of Roger Scruton, the British philosopher who wrote a marvelous book, The West and the Rest, about terrorism. Like Hitchcock, Scruton makes the point that the anti-American protests are not politics at all -- that they are in fact hostile to politics. Western civilization is composed of communities held together by a political process, he observes. Ironically, it is the existence of this political process that enables us to live without politics:

Having consigned the business of government to defined offices, occupied successively by people who are the servants and not the masters of those who elected them, we can devote ourselves to what really matters -- to the private interests, personal loves, and social customs in which we find satisfaction.

The party of the self vs. the party of society.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:40 AM


Poll: Alito should sit on high court (CNN, 1/23/06)

A majority of Americans said the Senate should confirm federal appellate judge Samuel Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court, with just 30 percent opposing his confirmation, according to a poll released Monday.

Only 38 percent of respondents said they think a filibuster by Democratic senators would be justified, and about a third said they believe Alito would vote to overturn the 1973 Supreme Court decision that struck down state laws against abortion.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:36 AM

THE PARTY OF THE SELF (via David Hill, The Bronx):

I won't support Hillary (Molly Ivins, January 20, 2006, Sacramento Bee)

I'd like to make it clear to the people who run the Democratic Party that I will not support Hillary Clinton for president.

So Hillary has to drop out of the race, huh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:32 AM

SPEAKING OF BLACKS VS. LATINOS... (via Glenn Dryfoos):

Sharon Robinson: honor Clemente some other way (Associated Press, 1/24/06)

The Hispanics Across America advocacy group wants Clemente's number set aside the way the late Robinson's No. 42 was nine years ago. But Sharon Robinson said that honor should remain for her father only.

"To my understanding, the purpose of retiring my father's number is that what he did changed all of baseball, not only for African-Americans but also for Latinos, so I think that purpose has been met," Robinson told the newspaper at a birthday celebration for her father in Times Square. "When you start retiring numbers across the board, for all different groups, you're kind of diluting the original purpose."

Karl Rove will have the President come out in favor of this by lunchtime.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:23 AM


Hillary's Plantation: Hillary Clinton reveals her fear of Condi Rice (SHELBY STEELE, January 23, 2006, Opinion Journal)

A great achievement of modern liberalism--and a primary reason for its surviving decades past the credibility of its ideas--is that it captured black resentment as an exclusive source of power. It even gave this resentment a Democratic Party affiliation. (Antiwar sentiment is the other great source of liberal power, but it is not the steady provider that black and minority resentment has been.) Republicans have often envied this power, but have never competed well for it because it can be accessed only by pandering to the socialistic longings of minority leaders--vast government spending, social programs, higher taxes and so on. Republicans and conservatives have simply never had an easy or glib mechanism for addressing profound social grievances.

But this Republican "weakness" has now begun to emerge as a great--if still largely potential--Republican advantage. Precisely because Republicans cannot easily pander to black grievance, they have no need to value blacks only for their sense of grievance. Unlike Democrats, they can celebrate what is positive and constructive in minority life without losing power. The dilemma for Democrats, liberals and the civil rights establishment is that they become redundant and lose power the instant blacks move beyond grievance and begin to succeed by dint of their own hard work. So they persecute such blacks, attack their credibility as blacks, just as they pander to blacks who define their political relationship to America through grievance. Republicans are generally freer of the political bigotry by which the left either panders to or persecutes black Americans.

No one on the current political scene better embodies this Republican advantage than the current secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice. The archetype that Ms. Rice represents is "overcoming" rather than grievance. Despite a childhood in the segregated South that might entitle her to a grievance identity, she has clearly chosen that older black American tradition in which blacks neither deny injustice nor allow themselves to be defined by it. This tradition, as Ralph Ellison once put it, "springs not from a desire to deny the harshness of existence but from a will to deal with it as men at their best have always done." And, because Ms. Rice is grounded in this tradition, she is of absolutely no value to modern liberalism or the Democratic Party despite her many talents and achievements. Quite the reverse, she is their worst nightmare. If blacks were to take her example and embrace overcoming rather than grievance, the wound to liberalism would be mortal. It is impossible to imagine Hillary Clinton's "plantation" pandering in a room full of Condi Rices.

When the long term health of your party depends on maintaining the social diseases afflicting its base, you're in deep trouble.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:05 AM


Rove's Early Warning (E. J. Dionne Jr., January 24, 2006, Washington Post)

Perhaps it's an aspect of compassionate conservatism. Or maybe it's just a taunt and a dare. Well in advance of Election Day, Karl Rove, President Bush's top political adviser, has a habit of laying out his party's main themes, talking points and strategies.

True Rove junkies (admirers and adversaries alike) always figure he's holding back on something and wonder what formula the mad scientist is cooking up in his political lab. But there is a beguiling openness about Rove's divisive and ideological approach to elections. You wonder why Democrats have never been able to take full advantage of their early look at the Rove game plan.

That's especially puzzling because, since Sept. 11, 2001, the plan has focused on one variation or another of the same theme: Republicans are tough on our enemies, Democrats are not. If you don't want to get blown up, vote Republican.

You'd think a paid political expert on the Democratic party would grasp that they can't take advantage because Mr. Rove portrays Democrats accurately. They're the party of the Left in a nation of the Right.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:04 AM


Europe 'knew about' CIA flights (BBC, 1/24/06)

European governments were almost certainly aware of the CIA's secret prisoner flights via European airspace or airports, a key report has said.

The preliminary report comes from Swiss MP Dick Marty, for the human rights watchdog the Council of Europe.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:31 AM


Number of one-parent families up by 24% (JAMES KIRKUP, 1/24/06, The Scotsman)

THE number of one-parent families in Scotland has risen by a quarter since Labour came to power, official figures show.

The fresh evidence of family break-up comes as Tony Blair unveils his attempt to reform the welfare system - a system critics say has encouraged the growth of single-parent families.

According to official data obtained by The Scotsman, there are now 174,000 single-parent families in Scotland, up from 140,000 in 1997. And families in Scotland are disintegrating faster than those in other parts of Britain: Scotland's 24 per cent rise outstrips the UK-wide increase of 17 per cent.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:29 AM


Lib Dems slide in polls as troubles take their toll (JAMES KIRKUP, 1/24/06, The Scotsman)

THE sex and alcohol scandals that have beset the Liberal Democrats are starting to cost the party support among voters, a poll shows today.

Confirming the fears of Lib Dem insiders, an ICM survey for the Guardian gives the party 19 per cent of the vote, down 2 percentage points since last month.

Only in a nation that's 100% eccentric could they still garner that high a number.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:21 AM


Alito heads into Judiciary committee vote (AP, 1/24/06)

Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito takes his first step toward the high court with a preordained Senate Judiciary Committee victory Tuesday, but the strength of opposition among panel Democrats may forecast his margin of victory in the full Senate.

It's somewhat early, but it's been an awfully good century for the Right.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:04 AM


Is Harper a moderate thinker or closeted right-winger? (AP, 1/24/06)

Conservative leader Stephen Harper narrowly lost his chance at becoming prime minister in the 2004 elections after opponents painted him as a scary right-winger who would reshape the landscape like a U.S.-style evangelical Republican.

This time around the scare tactics didn't work.

Closeted? What is comparing conservatives to homosexuals but an MSM scare tactic?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:38 AM


Bush hits foes who say spying broke the law (Joseph Curl, January 24, 2006, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

President Bush yesterday took direct aim at Democratic critics on Capitol Hill who charge that a secret spy program he ordered in 2002 is illegal, saying, "If I wanted to break the law, why was I briefing Congress?"

Opening a three-day White House offensive to defend his decision to create the covert program, the president told nearly 10,000 people at Kansas State University that he has the authority under the Constitution to conduct foreign intelligence, as well as legislative approval granted by Congress three days after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. [...]

"I repeat to you, even though you hear words, 'domestic spying,' these are not phone calls within the United States," he said, insisting that the program is "what I would call a terrorist surveillance program."

That's the value of focus groups.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:22 AM


Top 10 U.S. Senate Races of 2006 (John Gizzi, 1/23/06, Human Events)

9. Michigan

Arch-liberal Debbie Stabenow was the closest winner among new Democratic senators elected in 2000. At a time when Michigan GOPers are on a political roll under State Chairman Saul Anuzis, she will face a strong challenge from either of the potential Republican candidates—Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard or former Detroit City Councilman Keith Butler, an articulate black conservative. [...]

2. Maryland

Rep. Ben Cardin and former NAACP head Kweisi Mfume are waging a fierce battle for the Democratic nomination to succeed retiring Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D.). Their infighting could help Republican Lt. Gov. Michael Steele become the second black GOP senator in the nation since Reconstruction. A Rasmussen poll shows pro-lifer Steele slightly leading both Cardin and Mfume.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:02 AM


Venezuelan VP to McCain: 'Go to Hell' (CHRISTOPHER TOOTHAKER, 1/23/06, The Associated Press)

Venezuela's vice president derided Sen. John McCain for suggesting that "wackos" run the South American country, saying Monday that the United States should focus on its own problems.

Jose Vicente Rangel was responding to McCain's statement on Sunday that America must explore alternative energy sources to avoid depending on Iran or "wackos" in Venezuela _ apparently a reference to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

January 23, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:25 PM


Canada's Major Media Predict Harper Win (BETH DUFF-BROWN, 1/24/06, Associated Press)

Canada's major media predicted a victory for Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, in an election expected to dramatically change the country's political landscape. [...]

With all voting stations officially closed from Atlantic Canada to western British Colubmia, the Canadian Broadcast Corp., the Canadian Press news agency, Global and CTV national television networks all called the election for a Conservative minority government led by Harper, whose party was expected to win seats for the first time in French-speak Quebec and make sigificant gains in the Liberal stronghold of Ontario.

Conservatives win minority; Martin to step down as leader (TERRY WEBER, January 24, 2006, Globe and Mail)

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper was headed to Parliament Hill as Canada's next prime minister after capturing a fragile minority victory in Monday's election, picking up votes in Quebec and making inroads in Ontario but failing to scale the heights early polls had predicted.

"Tonight, friends, Canadians have voted for change," Mr. Harper said, speaking to supporters in Calgary.

"And Canadians have asked our party to take the lead in delivering that change. I tell Canadians we will respect your trust and we will stick to our words."

Fragile minority for Tories: Paul Martin will step down as Liberal leaderL Harper faces a tough House of Commons (SUSAN DELACOURT, 1/24/06, Toronto Star)
The Conservatives have toppled Prime Minister Paul Martin's government, winning a shaky minority and ending his long career.

Martin conceded defeat late last night and announced he would step down as Liberal leader after an orderly transition.

"I will not take our party into another election as leader," Martin, 67, said at his LaSalle-Emard headquarters in Montreal. The crowd of supporters cried, "No," but last night spells the end of a decades-long political journey for Martin and his team.

By winning a couple of dozen seats more than Martin's party, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper and his party have ended 12 years of Liberal rule and drawn the West and Quebec into a radically altered federal political landscape.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:45 PM


Dear Western Standard reader,

It's election day, and the Western Standard is the best way for you to get up-to-the-minute news and opinion all day and all night!

Here's how:

1. The Shotgun blog

Visit our popular blog at http://westernstandard.blogs.com for the quickest news and the smartest views, brought to you by literally dozens of Canada's brightest bloggers. And just after 7 p.m. MT, our editor-in-chief Kevin Libin will be live-blogging from the Tory HQ in Calgary.

2. Western Standard Radio

For our Southern Alberta friends, tune in to our radio program at 6 p.m. MT on AM1060 CKMX as host Grant Farhall leads a special hour-long election call-in show. Not in Calgary? Not a problem -- listen over the Internet at www.ckmx.com.

3. Global TV

When the polls close tune in to Global TV, where I'll be providing colour commentary throughout the night, going head-to-head against Liberal poobah Stephen LeDrew.

4. In person at the Telus Convention Centre

If you're headed down to the Tory HQ at Calgary's Telus Convention Centre, make sure you stop by to say hello to Kevin and the rest of our Calgary editorial staff in the media area.

This election, the Western Standard has you covered -- on the Internet, radio, TV and live on location. The only thing we won't do for you is vote!

Yours truly,

Ezra Levant

P.S. If you haven't done so yet, make sure to sign up or renew your Western Standard subscription now, so you don't miss a beat in the exciting months ahead! Visit http://www.westernstandard.ca/subscribe

Tories poised for minority, final poll shows (MICHAEL VALPY, January 22, 2006, Globe and Mail)

The final poll results for The Globe and Mail and CTV by the Strategic Counsel showed the Conservatives with 37 per cent support, the Liberals with 27, the NDP at 19, the Bloc Québécois at 11 and the Green Party at six per cent.

Strategic Counsel chairman Allan Gregg said the poll would produce "a solid Conservative minority government with more Bloc and more New Democrats than we have today."

The poll finds that the desire for change among the Canadian electorate continues to be high, with 63 per cent saying they believe it's time for a change, up from 54 per cent when the election was called.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:26 PM


Blair: My high-wire act over school reforms (George Jones and Toby Helm, 24/01/2006, Daily Telegraph)

Tony Blair staked his future on the Government's education policy yesterday by warning rebel Labour MPs that he was ready to make the reforms an issue of confidence in his leadership.

The Prime Minister admitted that he was engaged in a "high-wire act" as he battled to persuade his party - including John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister - to support plans for the introduction of trust schools with greater independence.

He told his first monthly press conference of the year that the schools legislation was "fundamental" to his government and did not rule out relying on support from Conservative MPs to get it through the Commons. [...]

David Willetts, the Conservative education spokesman, welcomed Mr Blair's apparent readiness to face down the Labour rebels.

"If he really does stand up for more freedom for schools we will stand should to shoulder with him," Mr Willetts said.

They are after all his rightful party.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:19 PM


Bolton: Bush won't tolerate nuclear Iran (Herb Keinon, Jan. 23, 2006, THE JERUSALEM POST)

US President George W. Bush will not accept a nuclear Iran, John Bolton, the US ambassador to the United Nations, said Monday.

Bolton, speaking from New York via video hook-up to the Interdisciplinary Center's Herzliya Conference, said that Bush was determined to pursue the issue through peaceful and diplomatic means, "but has made clear that a nuclear Iran is not acceptable."

According to Bolton, Bush worries that a nuclear-equipped Iran under its current leadership could well engage in a nuclear holocaust, "and that is just not something he is going to accept."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:15 PM


Iraqi rebels turn on Qaeda in western city (Reuters, 1/23/06)

Iraqi nationalist rebels in the Sunni Arab city of Ramadi have turned against their former al Qaeda allies after a bomb attack this month killed 80 people, sparking tit-for-tat assassinations.

Residents told Reuters on Monday at least three prominent figures on both sides were among those killed after local insurgent groups formed an alliance against al Qaeda, blaming it for massacring police recruits in Ramadi on January 5.

"There was a meeting right after the bombings," one Ramadi resident familiar with the events said. "Tribal leaders and political figures gathered to form the Anbar Revolutionaries to fight al Qaeda in Anbar and force them to leave the province.

"Since then there has been all-out war between them," said the resident in the capital of the sprawling western desert province of Anbar, speaking anonymously for fear of reprisals.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:10 PM


CATBIRD'S SEAT: From Genesis to gays to Griffey, Ken Blackwell speaks his mind (Dan Williamson / January 19, 2006, The Other Paper)

Frontrunners are boring. They surround themselves with a phalanx of overprotective advisers and handlers. Their public appearances are rare and tightly controlled. And since anything they say can and will be used against them, they keep from saying much of anything at all.

An exception to this rule is Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, currently the odds-on favorite to win the Republican nomination for governor in the May 2 primary.

Blackwell sat down in his office for questions on topics ranging from creationism to the Cincinnati Reds.

As usual, Blackwell was relaxed and occasionally funny, delivering most of his answers quietly, quickly and concisely. He was most animated when recalling his two-year term as mayor of Cincinnati in 1979-80 when he tried his hand at televised bear wrestling. ("Bear sweat stinks.") [...]

Do you have any openly gay friends?

I have openly gay friends and employees.

Do you ever debate the topic with them?

Let me put it this way: We have had discussions where our views are expressed. But we also understand clearly that there are points of view or points of fact or debate that we won't agree on.

But you know, it really does stem from the fact that those who are my friends understand that I respect their human dignity regardless of their sexual orientation.

Do you believe homosexuality is a sexual orientation? Or do you believe it's a psychological disorder that can and should be cured?

I think it's a choice that can be abandoned. [...]

If Ken Griffey Jr. is healthy this season, should the Reds try to trade him for pitching?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:40 PM


Redefining Sovereignty. Ed. by Orrin C. Judd. Mar. 2006. 520p. Smith & Kraus, $29.99 (Brendan Driscoll, Feb. 1, 2005, Booklist)

Editor Judd is the more prolific half of brothersjudd.com, a neoconservative blogsite as dedicated to providing up-to-the-minute political commentary as it is to skewering various works of the modern literary canon for being too socialistic (Dreiser), relativistic (Faulkner), or confusing (Joyce). In this book, Judd collects his own canon of opinionated experts on the topic of the future of national sovereignty. Aware that world political structures are evolving away from traditional Westphalian notions of the state, Judd fears “transnationalism,” the possibility that citizens’ rights will be infringed by international bureaucracy and their security achieved at the price of individual liberty. This timely issue will attract many readers. Those seeking robust debate will, however, be disappointed: Though some of this selection’s contributors (such as Kofi Annan) defend the spirit of international cooperation, the majority of the 30 excerpts (including those from Ronald Reagan, Walter Russell Mead, and several National Review commentators) boisterously celebrate American exceptionalism while shouting down isolationism and multilateralism alike. An argument disguised as a debate, this book will likely resonate with Judd’s many internet followers.

Neoconservative? Followers?

-PROFILE: Sovereignty Redefined (Edward B. Driscoll, Jr.,
11/03/2005, Tech Central Station)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:15 PM


U.S. Weighs Bin Laden's Words (CBS News, Jan. 19, 2006)

Michael Scheuer, a former CIA officer who tracked bin Laden for 10 years as part of a unit he created, told CBS News anchor Bob Schieffer that this latest threat should be taken "very seriously."

The important thing about bin Laden, Scheur says, "is that the coordination between what he says he's going to do and what he does is very nearly 100 percent over the past decade. He's a very deadly serious man."

Scheuer said the offer of a truce is "very similar to one he made to the Europeans about two years ago. They paid no attention to what he said and then, thereafter, al Qaeda did attack twice in London. I think it would be foolish not to take this as a very serious threat to the United States."

If that's the best al Qaeda can do to Europe--and there's every reason to believe it is--it's time to stop taking them very seriously and downgrade them to serious nuisance.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:00 PM


Source: Sox agree to Crisp deal: Six players to be involved in swap (Chris Snow, January 23, 2006, Boston Globe)

The Red Sox, according to a source with knowledge of the deal, have reached agreement in principle with the Indians on a complex six-player deal centered upon 26-year-old Coco Crisp that also will bring to town a quality setup man in 28-year-old David Riske and young catcher Josh Bard.

Boston will ship top prospect Andy Marte, reliever Guillermo Mota, and catcher Kelly Shoppach to Cleveland. The deal is contingent upon physicals. The only player in the deal with a known and recent injury issue is Mota, who missed a month last season with the Marlins because of inflammation in his throwing elbow.

Now the deal is just bizarre. You wouldn't trade Marte for Crisp even up, but Riske is a big improvement over Mota, but why Bard instead of Shoppach, who's younger, a better hitter and the best defensive catcher in their system? And why not get another outfielder in the deal, which is what they could really use?

AL East Top 10 Prospects: Red Sox #7. Kelly Shoppach - C - DOB: 04/29/80 (Matthew Pouliot, 1/23/06, RotoWorld.com )

.253/.352/.507, 26 HR, 75 RBI, 116/46 K/BB, 0 SB in 371 AB for Triple-A Pawtucket
.000/.063/.000, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 7/0 K/BB, 0 SB in 15 AB for Boston

It hardly seems fair, but Shoppach’s embarrassing showing in 15 at-bats for the Red Sox last season seemed to counter what good he did by hitting 26 homers and finishing with an 859 OPS in 371 at-bats in Pawtucket. There didn’t appear to be much interest in him in trade talks over the winter, and now the Red Sox are prepared to go with John Flaherty rather than try Shoppach as the personal catcher for Tim Wakefield this year. Shoppach still figures to be a long-term regular. He’s solid enough defensively that he’ll never have to hit for much of an average to be one of the game’s top 30 catchers. With Jason Varitek signed through 2008, Shoppach will again be a candidate to go in an in-season deal this year.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:42 PM


The Plot to Shush Rush and O’Reilly: Talk radio, cable news, and the blogosphere freed U.S. political discourse. The Left wants to rein it in again. (Brian C. Anderson, Winter 2006, City Journal)

Campaign-finance reform has a squeaky-clean image, but the dirty truth is that this speech-throttling legislation is partly the result of a hoax perpetrated by a handful of liberal foundations, led by the venerable Pew Charitable Trusts. New York Post reporter Ryan Sager exposed the scam when he got hold of a 2004 videotape of former Pew official Sean Treglia telling a roomful of journalists and professors how Pew and other foundations spent years bankrolling various experts, ostensibly independent nonprofits (including the Center for Public Integrity and Democracy 21), and media outlets (NPR got $1.2 million for “news coverage of financial influence in political decision-making”)—all aimed at fooling Washington into thinking that Americans were clamoring for reform, when in truth there was little public pressure to “clean up the system.” “The target group for all this activity was 535 people in Washington,” said Treglia matter-of-factly, referring to Congress. “The idea was to create an impression that a mass movement was afoot—that everywhere they looked, in academic institutions, in the business community, in religious groups, in ethnic groups, everywhere, people were talking about reform.”

Treglia urged grantees to keep Pew’s role hush-hush. “If Congress thought this was a Pew effort,” he confided, “it’d be worthless. It’d be 20 million bucks thrown down the drain.” At one point, late in the congressional debate over McCain-Feingold, “we had a scare,” Treglia said. “George Will stumbled across a report we had done. . . . He started to reference the fact that Pew was playing a large role . . . [and] that it was a liberal attempt to hoodwink Congress. . . . The good news, from my perspective, was that journalists . . . just didn’t care and nobody followed up.” The hoaxers—a conspiracy of eight left-wing foundations, including George Soros’s Open Society Institute and the Ford Foundation—have actually spent $123 million trying to get other people’s money out of politics since 1994, Sager reports—nearly 90 percent of the spending by the entire campaign-finance lobby over this period.

The ultimate pipe dream of the reformers is a rigidly egalitarian society, where government makes sure that every individual’s influence over politics is exactly the same, regardless of his wealth. Scrutinize the pronouncements of campaign-finance reform groups like the Pew-backed Democracy 21, and you’ll see how the meaning of “corruption” morphs into “inequality of influence” in this sense. This notion of corruption—really a Marxoid opposition to inequality of wealth—would have horrified the Founding Fathers, who believed in private property with its attendant inequalities, and who trusted to the clash of factions to ensure that none oppressed the others. The Founders would have seen in the reformers’ utopian schemes, in which the power of government makes all equally weak, the embodiment of tyranny.

To eradicate “corruption,” leading theorists of campaign-finance reform, such as Ohio State University law professor (and former Ohio state solicitor) Edward Foley, Loyola law prof Richard Hasen, and radical redistributionist philosopher Ronald Dworkin, want to replace privately financed campaigns with a system in which government would guarantee “equal dollars per voter,” as Foley puts it, perhaps by giving all Americans the same number of political “coupons,” which they could then redeem on the political activities of their choice. This super-powerful government would ban all other political expenditures and require all political groups to get operating licenses from it, with stiff criminal penalties for violators. The experts have even started calling for draconian media restrictions to achieve their egalitarian aims. In Foley’s view, the chilling of speech is “the necessary price we must pay in order to have an electoral system that guarantees equal opportunity for all.” But when these experts pen law-review articles with titles like “Campaign Finance Laws and the Rupert Murdoch Problem,” you know it isn’t the New York Times or CBS News that they have in mind.

There's nothing more repressive and anti-human than egalitarianism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:50 PM


Why the West will attack Iran (Spengler, 1/24/06, Asia Times)

The same Europeans who excoriated the United States for invading Iraq with insufficient proof of the presence of weapons of mass destruction already have signed on to a military campaign against Iran, in advance of Iran's gaining WMD. There are a number of reasons for this sudden lack of squeamishness, and all of them lead back to oil.

First, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have the most to lose from a nuclear-equipped Iran. No one can predict when the Saudi kingdom might become unstable, but whenever it does, Iran will stand ready to support its Shi'ite co-religionists, who make up a majority in the kingdom's oil-producing east.

At some point the United States will reduce or eliminate its presence in Iraq, and the result, I believe, will be civil war. Under conditions of chaos Iran will have a pretext to expand its already substantial presence on the ground in Iraq, perhaps even to intervene militarily on behalf of its Shi'ite co-religionists.

Surprisingly, Spengler sounds as innocent as a pre-WWI Socialist, certain that the workers' shared ideology would unite them, when, in the event, nationalism proved a far stronger bond. Nothing would destroy Persia quicker than its intervention in an Arab state like Iraq or Arabia. Ahmedinejad may have forgotten how willingly Iraqi Shi'a fought the Islamic Republic, but Khamenei hasn't.

A Truce, But Why? (Lee Harris, 23 Jan 2006, Tech Central Station)

History is what no one ever expects to happen, and last week it happened again. A tape was released, purportedly from Osama bin Laden, in which he offered a truce “under fair conditions” with the United States, in order to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan.

For the sake of argument, I am going to assume that the tape from Bin Laden is authentic, and that he is sincere in offering a truce. I am aware that these are both bold assumptions, but neither of them affects the question that I want to address, which is, even if it is a ploy, why would bin Laden permit himself to be cast in the light of a suppliant offering a truce? The mere offer of a truce, after all, is an admission of weakness, if not defeat. So, if the tape is authentic, we have to ask the question, Why would bin Laden risk appearing either weak or, worse, defeated, in the eyes of his many followers and admirers in the Muslim world? [...]

[I] want to go out on a limb (quite far out on a limb) and to suggest [a] possibility, speculative though it may be: Bin Laden is scared, but he is not afraid of our drones hovering perilously close above his head. I want to suggest that bin Laden may be scared of what is currently unfolding in the Muslim world -- not afraid of the march of democracy in the Middle East, but afraid that the Muslim world may be on the brink of tearing itself apart, of plunging back into the feud-blood between Sunnis and Shi’ites that has been the theme-with-variations of all Islamic history; and worse, a blood-feud that might be won not by the Sunni Arabs, who have won virtually all such feuds in the past, but by the Shi’ite Persians, whose history has hitherto been that of the perennial loser.

As Mr. Harris correctly notes, the Shi'ites have been the big winners since 9-11. That's one of the reasons it's hard to believe Khamenei will let Ahmedinejad screw things up now.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:02 PM


Canada's surging conservatives: Monday's election is expected to end the Liberals' 13-year hold on power. (Rebecca Cook Dube, 1/23/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

Perhaps the most dramatic campaign story has unfolded in Quebec, where Conservatives failed to win a single seat in the last election. According to a recent poll, the Conservatives' leader, Stephen Harper, is more popular in Quebec than he is in his home province of Alberta, the most conservative region in the country.

"That's like saying George Bush has higher positives [ratings] in Massachusetts than in the state of Texas," says Tim Woolstencroft, managing partner with Strategic Counsel, the Toronto firm that conducted the poll. "It's stunning." Nationwide, Mr. Harper's favorable rating is over 50 percent.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:25 PM


Growth of Scottish public sector is costing jobs (FRASER NELSON, 1/23/06, The Scotsman)

SCOTLAND's private sector has entered outright decline in the face of the relentless expansion of the public sector, according to official data obtained by The Scotsman.

Businesses have shed 17,000 jobs over a period where the government and its various agencies have hired 24,000 more staff - the exact reverse of the trend promised by Jack McConnell, the First Minister.

The CBI has warned Mr McConnell that his avalanche of government spending is now hurting the economy by squeezing out companies.

An unpublished survey of Scotland's labour market by the Office for National Statistics has found 707,000 people are now employed by the government - almost one in three jobs in Scotland. Such a ratio is rarely seen outside Scandinavia.

Yeah, that sounds sustainable....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:20 PM


Hamas' road to politics (OLIVIA WARD, 1/23/06, Toronto Star)

As Wednesday's Palestinian election approaches, with Hamas' closest rival, the Fatah party, in disarray, Israelis are forced to think the unthinkable: the group that launched hundreds of suicide bombers to kill more than 350 of their countrymen and wound more than 2,000 others, may be the principal partner in negotiations for the future of Middle East peace, and eventually form the government of a new Palestinian state.

After the election, pollsters predict, Mesha'al and his organization are likely to be a significant political force. If so, their success will be built on patience as well as violence, assembling an organization that has, in less than two decades, put down deep roots in the Palestinian community.

"Hamas represents, in the minds of people here, the resistance, the faithful Muslims, the good and incorruptible -- and they also have a great social network of services for women, children and youth," says Gaza psychiatrist Eyad al Sarraj. "When people vote overwhelmingly for Hamas, it's because they trust them more than any others."

And, he points out, "Hamas is the main framework of security here. When children become teenagers, they have seen how powerless their fathers are, unable to protect their families. But Hamas takes on the role of the father, and identifies itself with the ultimate father, God. God cannot be defeated as your father was."

Forcing them to govern is part of the genius of imposed statehood.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:18 PM


The 'nice' party is losing its innocence (FRASER NELSON, 1/23/06, The Scotsman)

THE nice party is losing its innocence. For years, the Liberal Democrats have traded on their character - a vote for them was, essentially, a vote for decency. It was a temptation that fate could not resist.

Charles Kennedy, on whose personal standing the party drew much of its support, has now quit - admitting he had a drink problem and had repeatedly lied about his condition.

Now Mark Oaten has quit as its home affairs spokesman under the most lurid of circumstances: a married father of two caught visiting a male prostitute. The Lib Dems are used to being called naive and insubstantial - but they now risk looking sleazy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:52 PM


Islam and Democracy, a Secret Meeting at Castelgandolfo: The synopsis of a weekend of study on Islam with the pope and his former theology students. With two conflicting versions of how Benedict XVI views the Muslim religion (Sandro Magister, January 23, 2006, Chiesa)

Joseph Ratzinger has written little on the topic of Islam over the years. But it is a topic very much on his mind, and all the more so since he became pope. Last September, in Castelgandolfo (see photo), Benedict XVI dedicated two days of study to Islam, behind closed doors, together with two experts in Islamic studies and a group of his former theology students.

The news of the meeting leaked out, but until last January 5 nothing was known about what was said there.

But on January 5, one of Ratzinger’s former students who participated in the meeting, American Jesuit Joseph Fessio, provost of Ave Maria University in Naples, Florida, and founder of the publishing house Ignatius Press, gave an ample account of the meeting during one of the most popular radio talk shows in the United States: the Hugh Hewitt Show.

During the interview, Fr. Fessio also reported the thoughts expressed by the pope in the course of the discussion. In Fessio’s view, Benedict XVI holds that Islam and democracy cannot be reconciled.

But one of the other participants at the meeting, Samir Khalil Samir, an Egyptian Jesuit and professor of Islamic studies at the Université Saint-Joseph in Beirut and at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome, when consulted by www.chiesa, gave a different interpretation of the pope’s thought. In Fr. Samir’s view, Benedict XVI holds that it is very difficult, but not impossible, to reconcile Islam and democracy.

In his contribution to the discussion, the pope supposedly wanted to explain precisely the reasons for this difficulty. [...]

This is what Ratzinger wrote some years ago in one of his rare comments on Islam, in three pages of the book-length interview “The Salt of the Earth,” published in Germany in 1996 and in the United States the following year, by Ignatius Press, the publishing house of Fr. Joseph Fessio.

It is the passage reproduced below. It should be read with the awareness that almost ten years, dense with events and further reflections, have passed since then.

”Shari’a shapes society from beginning to end...”

by Joseph Ratzinger

I think that first we must recognize that Islam is not a uniform thing. In fact, there is no single authority for all Muslims, and for this reason dialogue with Islam is always dialogue with certain groups. No one can speak for Islam as a whole; it has, as it were, no commonly regarded orthodoxy. And, to prescind from the schism between Sunnis and Shiites, it also exists in many varieties. There is a noble Islam, embodied, for example, by the King of Morocco, and there is also the extremist, terrorist Islam, which, again, one must not identify with Islam as a whole, which would do it an injustice.

An important point, however, is [...] that the interplay of society, politics, and religion has a completely difference structure in Islam as a whole. Today's discussion in the West about the possibility of Islamic theological faculties, or about the idea of Islam as a legal entity, presupposes that all religions have basically the same structure, that they all fit into a democratic system with its regulations and the possibilities provided by these regulations. In itself, however, this necessarily contradicts the essence of Islam, which simply does not have the separation of the political and religious sphere which Christianity has had from the beginning. The Koran is a total religious law, which regulates the whole of political and social life and insists that the whole order of life be Islamic. Sharia shapes society from beginning to end. In this sense, it can exploit such partial freedoms as our constitution gives, but it can't be its final goal to say: Yes, now we too are a body with rights, now we are present just like the Catholics and the Protestants. In such a situation, it would not achieve a status consistent with its inner nature; it would be in alienation from itself.

Islam has a total organization of life that is completely different from ours; it embraces simply everything. There is a very marked subordination of woman to man; there is a very tightly knit criminal law, indeed, a law regulating all areas of life, that is opposed to our modern ideas about society. One has to have a clear understanding that it is not simply a denomination that can be included in the free realm of a pluralistic society. When one represents the situation in those terms, as often happens today, Islam is defined according to the Christian model and is not seen as it really is in itself.

That, of course, is precisely what the Reformation will do, alienate Islam from itself and force it to fit the Judeo-Christian model that separates Church from State. Catholicism wasn't initially thrilled by having that model forced back on it -- after having won its long struggle to become the orthodox religion of the West -- either, but it learned to live with it rather amicably.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:21 AM


Kuwait showdown over sick emir (BBC, 1/23/06)

Oil-rich Gulf state Kuwait is embroiled in an unprecedented constitutional crisis pitting two branches of the ruling Sabah family against each other.

The cabinet has asked parliament to support the removal of Emir Sheikh Saad al-Abdullah on health grounds.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:57 AM


Day-Laborer Study Finds Community Ties: Immigrants Often Have Families, Attend Church and Are Hired by Homeowners (Peter Prengaman, January 23, 2006, Associated Press)

The immigrant day laborers who wait for work on street corners across the United States have families and attend church regularly, and the people who hire them are more likely to be individual homeowners than construction contractors.

The first nationwide study of day laborers also found that one in five has been injured on the job and nearly half have been cheated of pay.

The study, the most detailed snapshot to date of the mostly Hispanic and often undocumented immigrants who have become a focal point in the immigration debate, was based on interviews of 2,660 workers at 264 hiring sites in 20 states and the District of Columbia.

The authors said they were surprised by the level of community involvement among men often thought of as transients.

Red America is not ultimately going to get rid of like-minded people who it exploits for labor. Democrats, on the other hand, are threatened both by the social views and the willingness to work for non-union wages.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:34 AM


First glance (Elizabeth Wilner, Mark Murray, Huma Zaidi and Holly Phillips, January 23, 2006, NBC First Read)

The Bush Administration's campaign to rally support for their NSA domestic spying program in advance of Senate hearings on February 6 now matches the intensity of their all-out 2005 push to establish private accounts for Social Security. Unlike that uphill fight on unfamiliar territory, however, they're fighting this battle on familiar turf, employing the same arguments and tactics they used against Democrats in 2002 and 2004. There's just one little tweak: They are taking care to note that they aren't questioning Democrats' patriotism -- just their approach to fighting terrorism. Karl Rove said on Friday, "Republicans have a post-9/11 worldview, and Democrats have a pre-9/11 world view... It does not make them unpatriotic. It does make them wrong."

Republicans clearly see an opening to try to tarnish Democrats not only for 2006 but also for 2008, going after any Democrat with national standing or aspirations, judging from the Republican National Committee's release yesterday lumping Sens. John Kerry and Barack Obama together in response to their criticisms of the NSA program. "When Democrats illustrate that they fail to understand the dynamic and dangers of a post 9/11 world, we’ll work to point that out," RNC communications director Brian Jones tells First Read.

The Administration seems confident of two things: 1) that the public cares more about the war than they do about government corruption and reform, on which Democrats are focusing their efforts, and 2) that when the debate over their anti-terror policies, both the NSA program and the Patriot Act, is framed as a choice between personal safety and personal liberties, a majority of the public will come down in favor of safety. Democrats argue that this choice is false but have yet to articulate that argument forcefully enough to beat back the now-incessant pounding from all levels of the GOP, whose argument also overlooks opposition to the policies from within the party.

Democrats are putting down an awful lot of chips on Americans wanting to be nicer to Arabs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:30 AM


Suspected pirate ship surrenders to U.S.: Navy Eight-hour chase off Somali coast is sign of stepped-up Western safeguard attempts (PAUL KORING, January 23, 2006, Globe and Mail)

A suspected pirate ship was shadowed, shot at and finally surrendered to a U.S. warship after an eight-hour, slow-speed chase off the Somali coast, the navy announced yesterday.

The high-seas drama, not far from where gunmen in fast launches fired a rocket-propelled grenade and swept bullets across the decks of a posh cruise liner last November, was the first evidence of stepped-up efforts by Western navies to safeguard shipping from the increasing threat of seaborne hijackings and robberies.

The U.S. Navy said one of its guided-missile destroyers, the USS Winston S. Churchill, fired warning shots after the rusting, nondescript and unnamed vessel ignored multiple warnings to stop.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 AM


The man who defined the world: a review of Defining the World: The Extraordinary Story of Dr Johnson's Dictionary By Henry Hitchings (Steven Martinovich, January 23, 2006, Enter Stage Right)

Defining the World: The Extraordinary Story of Dr Johnson's DictionaryHarold Bloom once argued that William Shakespeare created what we know as the modern man through his plays. Our modern world may have been created by impoverished academic who toiled for years to compile what would appear to be a more humble accomplishment, a dictionary. As much a story of the English language as it was a reference work, Dr. Samuel Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language had an impact that may be beyond measure.

As Henry Hitchings shows in his marvelous Defining the World: The Extraordinary Story of Dr Johnson's Dictionary, embodying its author's sensibilities and biases, the dictionary not only was a snapshot of the English language at the time of its publication in 1755, it also shaped its future. Considered the standard for nearly two centuries and still in print today, Johnson's dictionary has influenced how every dictionary since has been created.

It was surprisingly hard to find an affordable and complete edition of the dictionary, but this abridged one is very good: Samuel Johnson's Dictionary by Jack Lynch

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:13 AM

RAGE AGAINST THE MAVERICK (via David Hilll, The Bronx)

Gang of 14 defused threat of filibusters: Alito's likely confirmation due in part to bipartisan group (James Kuhnhenn, January 22, 2006, Knight Ridder Newspapers)

[T]he Gang of 14 can claim considerable credit. They may have set a new standard for the confirmation of Supreme Court justices -- or restored an old one where bipartisan comity prevailed.

Simply put, the Gang of 14 agreed that only under "extraordinary circumstances" should a Senate minority attempt to block a judicial nomination by filibuster.

"It changed the paradigm," said Sen. Ben Nelson, the conservative Nebraska Democrat who helped to organize the bipartisan deal. "For me, the bar is now higher" for a filibuster. [...]

Bush and Senate Democrats have been building to this moment for five years. It began during the 2000 presidential campaign when Bush held up conservative Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas as his models for the Supreme Court.

In response, during Bush's first term Senate Democrats filibustered 10 of his appellate court nominees whom they deemed too conservative to serve.

Conservatives reacted by pushing the Senate Republican leadership to exercise a "nuclear option" that would ban senators from being able to wage judicial filibusters at all.

But Senate traditionalists of both parties viewed that threat as an unacceptable infringement on the Senate's hallowed right of extended debate.

The bipartisan Gang of 14 defused that time bomb.

The seven Republicans among them said they'd never support a bid to change Senate rules to ban the filibuster so long as their seven Democratic partners refused to support a filibuster except in "extraordinary circumstances." [...]

"It put the onus on Democrats, put the burden on them to figure out how to explain what was so extraordinary about the people they want to filibuster," said Ron Cass, chairman of the pro-Alito legal group Center for the Rule of Law.

Alito's activist detractors, meanwhile, rage about the gang.

"The point of the deal was to preserve the filibuster for a bad Supreme Court nominee," said Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women.

"If someone as extreme as Alito . . . cannot be filibustered, then I don't know who could ever be filibustered."

Ms Gandy could almost be a member of the Stupid Party.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:05 AM


Pro-life groups see brighter days (Joyce Howard Price, January 23, 2006, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

"The pro-life movement is in the best position it has ever been in," said Wendy Wright, executive vice president of Concerned Women for America (CWA).

Pro-life advocates are excited about broad abortion bans proposed by lawmakers in two states, Ohio and Indiana.

It's their hope that these bills become law and that the statutes are eventually considered and upheld by a more conservative U.S. Supreme Court in a challenge to the Jan. 22, 1973, ruling in Roe v. Wade that abortion was a constitutional right.

"We're seeing, after many years of education and work, that people are beginning to understand the pro-life movement. The culture is shifting to a more pro-life perspective," said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, which opposes abortion.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Liberian leader wants closer relationship with U.S. (Rob Crilly, 1/22/06, USA TODAY)

Liberia's new president says she wants to rebuild close ties with the United States in the wake of a 14-year civil war that undermined the relationship.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, sworn in Jan. 16 as Africa's first female head of state, said American help is essential to restoring vital services, such as running water and power. She warned that tens of thousands of former fighters could destabilize the country again if they don't get work or education. [...]

First lady Laura Bush and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice traveled to the Liberian capital, Monrovia, to witness Sirleaf's inauguration.

Sirleaf said their presence signified improving relations.

"It helps to start ... the restoration of confidence in the ability of the (Liberian) government to meet the needs of the population and to manage the resources of the country efficiently, effectively and honestly," she said.

January 22, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:30 PM


Tories have a massive mountain to climb (David Cameron, 23/01/2006, Daily Telegraph)

What I'm trying to do is straightforward. I want to put the Conservative Party back in the mainstream of political debate. Only if we do that will we show ourselves relevant to the concerns and aspirations of modern Britain.

This is what the Conservative Party has always done: the secret of our enduring success as a political party has been our ability to keep up to date with social progress and the changing aspirations that social progress brings.

Disraeli recognised the need to make the Conservative Party relevant to the emerging middle class in our towns and cities. Churchill recognised the need to offer the post-war generation the dream of a property-owning democracy.

Thatcher saw the need to make Conservatism the aspirational choice for working-class voters trapped by the patronising assumptions of socialism.

So today we need to show how our values and principles are the best way to meet the aspirations of a new generation who demand social justice for all as well as high standards of living for themselves; who care about their quality of life as well as the quantity of money in their pockets.

I'm fired by a determination to improve the environment we leave to our children. But I believe that we'll do that only if we harness the ingenuity of the market for green ends.

Our mission should be to end poverty at home and abroad - but we will achieve that only through Conservative principles of encouraging enterprise, helping people to independence, and giving them the tools to climb the ladder from poverty to wealth. [...]

The next question is perhaps the one I hear most often. Is what we're doing Conservative? Aren't we just turning the party into a pale imitation of New Labour? I am Conservative to the core of my being, as those who know me best will testify.

I'm a Conservative because my instinctive values, and my responses to every political challenge, are Conservative values and Conservative responses.

First, I believe that the more you trust people, the stronger they and society become. So, for example, my response to the urgent need to restore respect in society is the opposite of Tony Blair's top-down government initiatives.

I want to set free the voluntary organisations and social enterprises that have the knowledge and the commitment to turn our communities around.

Second, I believe passionately that we're all in this together - that we have a shared responsibility for our shared future. There isn't a single challenge we face that isn't best addressed by asking not just what government can do, but what individuals, families, business and the voluntary sector can do.

So in education, for example, while we want to give head-teachers more freedom to run their schools, and ask all parents to take responsibility for their children's education, we also believe that government should show leadership in areas where it can make a decisive difference: synthetic phonics to teach literacy properly; setting by ability to stretch the brightest pupils.

It's typically Tory, but nonetheless bizarre, to emphasize a distinctive Britishness without ever addressing the EU threat and values without ever bringing up any of the moral and morale problems.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:13 PM


Scandal-hit Lib Dems in freefall (Brendan Carlin, 23/01/2006, Daily Telegraph)

Sir Menzies Campbell appeared last night to be the Liberal Democrats' only hope of restoring their battered credibility after Mark Oaten's resignation plunged the party into its worst crisis for a generation. [...]

The resignation, on the heels of Mr Kennedy's ousting over drink problems, coincided with the Lib Dems' worst polls in five years.

A Mori poll for The Sun put the party on 15 per cent, down from its general election height of 22 per cent and its average of 20 per cent between 2001 and 2005.

Right-winger set to smash the mould in Canada (Francis Harris, 23/01/2006, Daily Telegraph)
An unashamedly Right-wing politician is poised to shatter decades of middle-ground consensus in Canada's general election today.

The emergence of Conservative leader Stephen Harper has panicked opponents and cheered those demanding a radical change of direction for a country they describe as vanquished by the adherents of political correctness. [...]

Mr Harper, 46, an economist, has been very careful not to threaten too much change. But most who have watched him during 20 years in politics say he is far from the typical Canadian consensus-seeking mould that has typified leaders of both Left and Right for decades.

According to his biographer, William Johnson, the country has never had a leader like him in the 139 years since Britain handed over power.

The biography, Stephen Harper and the future of Canada, describes him as a brilliant conviction politician who admired the no-nonsense styles of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.

An introverted policy wonk, he distrusts the Canadian political elite and has a taste for necessary but unpopular policies. Many Canadians, including some on his own side, say this mix will make the sparks fly if he becomes prime minister. [...]

In the run-up to war in Iraq, Mr Harper gave voice to the minority who were uneasy that Canada's old allies in America, Britain and Australia were about to engage in a conflict without Canadian units at their side.

On the day war broke out, he berated Canada's Liberal government for its "insecure anti-Americanism".

Once again David Cameron stands to have a good day even without doing anything himself.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:52 PM


How biography of Mao offers insight into Bush (Elisabeth Bumiller, JANUARY 22, 2006, NY Times)

When President George W. Bush met with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany in the Oval Office this month, the talk turned to Merkel's childhood under Communism, then wandered into the subject of Bush's latest bedtime reading: "Mao: The Unknown Story," an 814-page biography that presents the Chinese dictator as another Hitler or Stalin.

Participants in the meeting say that Bush spoke glowingly of the book, a 10-year project by Jung Chang, the author of the hugely successful memoir "Wild Swans," which has sold 10 million copies worldwide, and her husband, John Halliday, a British historian. "Mao" has been at the top of the best-seller lists in Britain and Germany and was published to mixed reviews late last year in the United States. [...]

Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, said last week that Laura Bush had given the book to her husband as a gift and that the president had just finished reading it. Asked why Bush liked the book, McClellan said he would find out, then reported back on Friday that Bush had told him that it "really shows how brutal a tyrant he was" and that "he was much more brutal than people assumed." [...]

American scholars say that Bush was probably also drawn to the book because it is, in effect, an argument for the president's second-term agenda of spreading democracy around the world.

One major disclosure in the book, for example, is Stalin's powerful role in Mao's rise.

"The book certainly makes an effective case for the wickedness of dictatorship," said Andrew Nathan, a specialist in Chinese politics at Columbia University. "It doesn't talk about democracy, but for a person who believes in democracy, this is a valuable brief."

The lesson being that failure to change the regime in the USSR at the end of WWII cost another hundred million lives.

Posted by Matt Murphy at 8:18 PM


By the Babe Unborn (G.K. Chesterton)

If trees were tall and grasses short,
As in some crazy tale,
If here and there a sea were blue
Beyond the breaking pale,

If a fixed fire hung in the air
To warm me one day through,
If deep green hair grew on great hills,
I know what I should do.

In dark I lie; dreaming that there
Are great eyes cold or kind,
And twisted streets and silent doors,
And living men behind.

Let storm clouds come: better an hour,
And leave to weep and fight,
Than all the ages I have ruled
The empires of the night.

I think that if they gave me leave
Within the world to stand,
I would be good through all the day
I spent in fairyland.

They should not hear a word from me
Of selfishness or scorn,
If only I could find the door,
If only I were born.

Posted by David Cohen at 7:12 PM


UF requirement for partner benefits: You must have sex (Jack Stripling, Florida Sun, 1/20/06)

University of Florida employees have to pledge that they're having sex with their domestic partners before qualifying for benefits under a new health care plan at the university.

The partners of homosexual and heterosexual employees are eligible for coverage under UF's plan, which will take effect in February. The enrollment process began this month, and some employees have expressed concern about an affidavit that requires a pledge of sexual activity. . . .

As a member of the Senate, representing faculty in UF's College of Medicine, Behnke said she was compelled to learn more about UF's plan. She said she was taken aback to find that employees would be required to swear to prior sexual activity, a standard not applied to married couples covered by UF's primary health care plan.

"Are you going to police it?" Behnke asked Cavanaugh.

Cavanaugh said he had no plans to personally enforce the sex pledge. The "non-platonic" clause is "increasingly standard" in domestic partnership plans, Cavanaugh said. The clause is one of several methods used to legally ensure that an employer is only obligated to cover employees in a committed relationship, not longtime roommates.

With employee benefits averaging one-third of total compensation and the sky-rocketing cost of healthinsurance, it seems like a small price to pay.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:33 PM


-INTRODUCTION: to Ideas Have Consequences (1948) (Richard M. Weaver)

Like Macbeth, Western man made an evil decision, which has become the efficient and final cause of other evil decisions. Have we forgotten our encounter with the witches on the heath? It occurred in the late fourteenth century, and what the witches said to the protagonist of this drama was that man could realize himself more fully if he would only abandon his belief in the existence of transcendentals. The powers of darkness were working subtly, as always, and they couched this proposition in the seemingly innocent form of an attack upon universals. The defeat of logical realism in the great medieval debate was the crucial event in the history of Western culture; from this flowed those acts which issue now in modern decadence.

One may be accused here of oversimplifying the historical process, but I take the view that the conscious policies of men and governments are not mere rationalizations of what has been brought about by unaccountable forces. They are rather deductions from our most basic ideas of human destiny, and they have a great, though not unobstructed, power to determine out course.

For this reason I turn to William of Occam as the best representative of a change which came over man’s conception of reality at this historic juncture. It was William of Occam who propounded the fateful doctrine of nominalism, which denies that universals have a real existence. His triumph tended to leave universal terms mere names serving our convenience. The issue ultimately involved is whether there is a source of truth higher than, and independent of, man; and the answer to the question is decisive for one’s view of the nature and destiny of humankind. The practical result of nominalist philosophy is to banish the reality which is perceived by the intellect and to posit as reality that which is perceived by the senses. With this change in the affirmation of what is real,, the whole orientation of culture takes a turn, and we are on the road to modern empiricism.

It is easy to be blind to the significance of a change because it is remote in time and abstract in character. Those who have not discovered that world view is the most important thing about a man, as about the men composing a culture, should consider the train of circumstances which have with perfect logic proceeded from this. The denial of universals carries with it the denial of everything transcending experience. The denial of everything transcending experience means inevitably-though ways are found to hedge on this-the denial of truth. With the denial of objective truth there is no escape from the relativism of "man the measure of all things." The witches spoke with the habitual equivocation of oracles when they told man that by this easy choice he might realize himself more fully, for they were actually initiating a course which cuts one off from reality. Thus began the "abomination of desolation" appearing today as a feeling of alienation from all fixed truth.

Because a change of belief so profound eventually influences every concept, there emerged before long a new doctrine of nature. Whereas nature had formerly been regarded as imitating a transcendent model and as constituting an imperfect reality, it was henceforth looked upon as containing the principles of its own constitution and behavior. Such revision has had two important consequences for philosophical inquiry. First, it encouraged a careful study of nature, which has come to be known as science, on the supposition that by her acts she revealed her essence. Second, and by the same operation, it did away with the doctrine of forms imperfectly realized. Aristotle had recognized an element of unintelligibility in the world, but the view of nature as a rational mechanism expelled this element. The expulsion of the element of unintelligibility in nature was followed by the abandonment of the doctrine of original sin. If physical nature is the totality and if man is of nature, it is impossible to think of him as suffering from constitutional evil; his defections must now be attributed to his simple ignorance or to some kind of social deprivation. One comes thus by clear deduction to the corollary of the natural goodness of man.

And the end is not yet. If nature is a self-operating mechanism and man is a rational animal adequate to his needs, it is next in order to elevate rationalism to the rank of a philosophy. Since man proposed now not to go beyond the world, it was proper that he should regard as his highest intellectual vocation methods of interpreting data supplied by the senses. There followed the transition to Hobbes and Locke and the eighteenth-century rationalists, who taught that man needed only to reason correctly upon evidence from nature. The question of what the world was made for now becomes meaningless because the asking of it presupposes something prior to nature in the order of existents. Thus it is not the mysterious fact of the world’s existence which interests the new man but explanations of how the world works. This is the rational basis for modern science, whose systemization of phenomena is, as Bacon declared in the New Atlantis, a means to dominion.

At this stage religion begins to assume an ambiguous dignity, and the question of whether it can endure at all in a world of rationalism and science has to be faced. One solution was deism, which makes God the outcome of a rational reading of nature. But this religion, like all those which deny antecedent truth, was powerless to bind; it merely left each man to make what he could of the world open to the senses. There followed references to "nature and nature’s God," and the anomaly of a "humanized" religion.

Materialism loomed next on the horizon, for it was implicit in what had already been framed. Thus it soon became imperative to explain man by his environment, which was the work of Darwin and others in the nineteenth century (it is further significant of the pervasive character of these changes that several other students were arriving at similar explanations when Darwin published in 1859). If man came into this century trailing clouds of transcendental glory, he was now accounted for in a way that would satisfy the positivists.

With the human being thus firmly ensconced in nature, it at once became necessary to question the fundamental character of his motivation. Biological necessity, issuing in the survival of the fittest, was offered as the causa causans, after the important question of human origin had been decided in favor of scientific materialism.

After it has been granted that man is molded entirely by environmental pressures, one is obligated to extend the same theory of causality to his institutions. The social philosophers of the nineteenth century found in Darwin powerful support for their thesis that human beings act always out of economic incentives, and it was they who completed the abolishment of freedom of the will. The great pageant of history thus became reducible to the economic endeavors of individuals and classes; and elaborate prognoses were constructed on the theory of economic conflict and resolution. Man created in the divine image, the protagonist of a great drama in which his soul was at stake, was replaced by man the wealth-seeking and -consuming animal.

Finally came psychological behaviorism, which denied not only freedom of the will but even such elementary means of direction as instinct. Because the scandalous nature of this theory is quickly apparent, it failed to win converts in such numbers as the others; yet it is only a logical extension of them and should in fairness be embraced by the upholders of material causation. Essentially, it is a reduction to absurdity of the line of reasoning which began when man bade a cheerful goodbye to the concept of transcendence.

There is no term proper to describe the condition in which he is now left unless it be "abysmality." He is in the deep and dark abysm, and he has nothing with which to raise himself.

Allow me to begin by saying, with not the least bit of false humility, that I pretend to no understanding of the field of Philosophy as such. I took just two Philosophy courses in college. I saw the professor of the first, Introduction to Philosophy, at a cocktail party about halfway through the semester and he said he was surprised to see me because he thought I was off campus that semester. He wasn't kidding, and was shocked to hear that I was even taking a class with him--so to speak. I only took the second, Medieval Philosophy, to help out a fraternity brother, who'd mistakenly bought the text books and written his name in them so the bookstore wouldn't take them back. I bought them from him for half-price and enrolled. That professor actually had a class vote at mid-term because she didn't think it fair that I be allowed to stay in the course since I'd not yet attended a single class meeting. I apparently won in a vote as tight as Gove v. Bush only because of a single fellow student's persuasive power. He told the professor: "I don't think you should take this personally, he's a History major and we have a course together that's taught by the Chairman of the Department that he never goes to either." Suffice it to say, all that follows is just armchair philosophizing and is not intended to reflect any nuanced understanding of the thickets of gobbledygook that professional philosophers have erected around their theories in order to make themselves seem to have specialized knowledge. On the other hand, I do believe that if we mow down those thickets we arrive at pretty simple ideas that all of us are competent to discuss. And so to the matter at hand...

It seems uncontroversial, even incontrovertible, to say that at least in the intellectual realm the past several centuries in the West have been the Age of Reason or of Enlightenment. We are, perhaps, at the End of this "Modern Age" -- as John Lukacs has argued -- but it is certainly the case that elite opinion in Europe, especially, and in America is and has been premised on the dogmatic acceptance of the theory that we can know the truth about the material world around us by rationally examining, testing, and thinking about it. Now, there are myriad claims wrapped up in that seemingly simple assertion -- that the material world exists, that only material exists in the world, that our perceptions of it are trustworthy, etc. -- but at its core we find the notion that: reason is a more reliable source of knowledge about existence than faith. In fact, reason can be said to be the only reliable source of knowledge. Anything that we can not prove via the operation of reason is de facto suspect, if not downright foolish.

Now, you'd think that this dismissal of faith -- a revolution when it was effected -- would have to rest on some truly iron-clad basis, but the fact is that the sufficiency of Reason has never been demonstrated, and presumably never can be. I was, and I suspect most of you were, told on nothing more than the basis of pedantic authority that Rene Descartes had solved the conundrum of how can know that we exist, that the world outside our own thoughts/senses exists, and that we can reliably reason about such questions when he made the brilliant pronouncement: Cogito, ergo sum (I think, therefore I am) [Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting the Reason in the Search for Truth in the Sciences (1637)]. Richard A. Watson, one of the foremost living authorities on Descartes, calls that phrase: "a statement nobody can doubt who thinks it." But the truism that we all think we exist and are capable of rational though isn't actually a rational proof of same, is it? It is just as accurate to say that no one can believe that statement to be well-reasoned who thinks about it.

Recall that if our topic is the sufficiency of Reason then that sufficiency must obviously be demonstrated by rational processes, not just by the faith-based justification that it's what we all believe. It is this box that Descartes and Cartesianism never found the way out of, as Mr. Watson himself demonstrated in his book, The Breakdown of Cartesian Metaphysics. As he shows there, within a hundred years Cartesian metaphysics had been completely disposed of, with David Hume driving the final nail in the coffin:

David Hume, like Berkeley, comes to sceptical conclusions about Cartesian ontology, after reading Bayle and Locke. Not only does he deny the ontological dualism, but he also explicitly denies the all-inclusive ontological type-distinctions between substance and modification. Foucher argues that Cartesians do not know the essence of mind and matter as they claim to; Malebranche argues that we have an idea of the essence of matter but not of mind; Locke argues that we cannot know the essence of either mind or matter; and Berkeley argues that we have a notion of the essence of mind but not of matter. Hume concludes that we have no idea, and thus no knowledge of any substance at all. [...]

Hume argues that impressions and ideas are the only objects that do exist. When we examine our idea of substance, for example, we find that it is not an idea of an independently existing entity at all,
but only a compound idea of a collection of related perceptions. [...]

Hume can be seen as making sense of the Cartesian way of ideas by retaining the epistemological likeness principle, but he does so only by abandoning the dualistic system that gives rise to difficulties.
Impressions are not external objects, nor do collections of them comprise external objects. But they are not internal either; they are all -- together with ideas, which are in essence only weaker perceptions
-- that exists. There is no problem of the causal interaction of substances because there are no substances. There is no essential difficulty about representation, for all entities are of the same sort.
Perceptions do not in themselves point beyond to anything that must inhere in or that must cause them; they are what they are, and we can know of nothing -- and thus nothing exists -- that transcends them. All the other philosophers considered here, even, emphatically, Foucher are searching for knowledge of the essence of substances. With Hume, the search for knowledge of qualities, powers, forms, forces. and essences or natures of substances founders at last. This is because nothing remains to which these terms can be applied; all that exists, for Hume, are impressions and ideas, which are perceived openly to be what they are and nothing more. [...]

And if the abandonment of the ontological pattern of substance and modification requires that new explanatory support be given for the relations of an idea's being in the mind and of a mind's being directly acquainted with an idea -- because these relations can no longer depend on the relation between a substance and its own modifications -- Hume can be seen as offering for this explanatory role the relation of an idea to the collection of perceptions of which it is a member.[...]

Hume thus completes the breakdown of Cartesian metaphysics.

Countless others have tried to rescue Reason from this impasse, but without success, which is why we find ourselves, almost three hundred years after the breakdown, still discussing Descartes as if he mattered. All the Age of Reason has ever had to go on is the pretended authority of Descartes's nostrum and the hope that the intellectual classes could repeat it often enough that the masses wouldn't examine it too closely. As a matter of fact, it seems fair to say that to be an intellectual is to proceed as if Descartes's "proof" were sufficient. Whether he would have wished to be or not -- and presumably he would have not -- Descartes not only provided the foundation of the Age of Reason, but deserves to be considered the Father of Intellectualism.

David Hume, on the other hand, did not just lay Descartes to rest, but offered an exemplary model of how we might react to the insufficiency of Reason and to the awkward truth that from a rational point of view the only proper position to take towards the world is one of thoroughgoing skepticism. He concludes his Treatise with what can only be called a testament of faith:

But what have I here said, that reflections very refin'd and metaphysical have little or no influence upon us? This opinion I can scarce forbear retracting, and condemning from my present feeling and experience. The intense view of these manifold contradictions and imperfections in human reason has so wrought upon me, and heated my brain, that I am ready to reject all belief and reasoning, and can look upon no opinion even as more probable or likely than another. Where am I, or what? From what causes do I derive my existence, and to what condition shall I return? Whose favour shall I court, and whose anger must I dread? What beings surround me? and on whom have, I any influence, or who have any influence on me? I am confounded with all these questions, and begin to fancy myself in the most deplorable condition imaginable, inviron'd with the deepest darkness, and utterly depriv'd of the use of every member and faculty.

Most fortunately it happens, that since reason is incapable of dispelling these clouds, nature herself suffices to that purpose, and cures me of this philosophical melancholy and delirium, either by relaxing this bent of mind, or by some avocation, and lively impression of my senses, which obliterate all these chimeras. I dine, I play a game of backgammon, I converse, and am merry with my friends; and when after three or four hours' amusement, I wou'd return to these speculations, they appear so cold, and strain'd, and ridiculous, that I cannot find in my heart to enter into them any farther.

Here then I find myself absolutely and necessarily determin'd to live, and talk, and act like other people in the common affairs of life. But notwithstanding that my natural propensity, and the course of my animal spirits and passions reduce me to this indolent belief in the general maxims of the world, I still feel such remains of my former disposition, that I am ready to throw all my books and papers into the fire, and resolve never more to renounce the pleasures of life for the sake of reasoning and philosophy. For those are my sentiments in that splenetic humour, which governs me at present. I may, nay I must yield to the current of nature, in submitting to my senses and understanding; and in this blind submission I shew most perfectly my sceptical disposition and principles. But does it follow, that I must strive against the current of nature, which leads me to indolence and pleasure; that I must seclude myself, in some measure, from the commerce and society of men, which is so agreeable; and that I must torture my brains with subtilities and sophistries, at the very time that I cannot satisfy myself concerning the reasonableness of so painful an application, nor have any tolerable prospect of arriving by its means at truth and certainty. Under what obligation do I lie of making such an abuse of time? And to what end can it serve either for the service of mankind, or for my own private interest? No: If I must be a fool, as all those who reason or believe any thing certainly are, my follies shall at least be natural and agreeable. Where I strive against my inclination, I shall have a good reason for my resistance; and will no more be led a wandering into such dreary solitudes, and rough passages, as I have hitherto met with.

In short: so what if reason is itself irrational and only faith allows us to believe in its utility; faith suffices. In effect he's returned us to the pre-Rational worldview, where reason was a tool that God had given us in order to apprehend Creation. Thus is Reason cut back down to size and Faith returned to primacy.

It can hardly be a coincidence that Rationalism and Intellectualism and the theories they spawned have been far more influential, and destructive, in Descartes's France and on the European continent than they have been in Hume's Anglosphere. Having blindly clung to a metaphysic that was so clearly flawed, it's not surprising that Europeans (and American intellectuals) proved susceptible to the seductive allure of such rationalisms as Darwinism and Marxism, which offered perfectly rational explanations of how the world worked, if only you ignored the fact that we can't know it to be rational or material and that experience demonstrates otherwise. Meanwhile, in England and its former colonies -- but especially in America -- we have generally followed the example of Hume and been skeptical if not utterly hostile towards intellectuals and the claims of Reason. Perhaps that alone explains why there has never been a viable Communist party, nevermind a Marxist government in the Anglo-Saxon world and why Christianity remains so strong and Darwinism has fared so poorly in the States. Richard Hofstadter famously complained -- in his book, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life (1963) -- that America had been characterized throughout its history by a peculiarly vehement brand of anti-intellectualism:

The common strain that binds together the attitudes and ideas which I call anti-intellectual is a resentment and suspicion of the life of the mind and of those who are considered to represent it; and a disposition constantly to minimize the value of that life.

Of course, having to acknowledge the American love affair with inventors and other men of practical intelligence, he was forced to draw a distinction that speaks volumes:
[I]ntelligence is an excellence of mind that is employed within a fairly narrow, immediate, an predictable range... Intelligence works within the framework of limited but clearly stated goals, and may be quick to shear away questions of thought that do not seem to help in reaching them. [...]

Intellect, on the other hand, is the critical, creative, and contemplative side of mind. Whereas intelligence seeks to grasp, manipulate, re-order, adjust, intellect examines, ponders, wonders, theorizes, criticizes, imagines.

To exactly the extent that men can apply their God-given reason to the solve problems, we value it. At the point where some men start pretending that they can dispense truths via the operations of naught but their own minds our patience is exhausted. Switching back across the pond, think of Samuel Johnson's eloquent response to Hume's fellow wrestler with Descartes, as recounted by James Boswell:
We stood talking for some time together of Bishop Berkeley's ingenious sophistry to prove the non-existence of matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal. I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it. I shall never forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it, "I refute it thus."

What does it matter if Reason ultimately collapses in on itself so long as we believe in the reality of the rock--and what kind of person wastes their time worrying about it? As a purely practical matter -- practicality being the hallmark of the intelligence that we honor, as opposed to the intellect that we scorn -- our faith in God and the more limited reason he blessed us with has served us rather well, so why bother trying to make of reason something that it's not?

Typically, it was a British philosopher, Michael Oakeshott, who best explained Intellectuals and what they were about, in his essay Rationalism in Politics:

There are some minds which give us the sense that they have passed through an elaborate education which was designed to initiate them into the traditions and achievements of their civilization; the immediate impression we have of them is an impression of cultivation, of the enjoyment of an inheritance. But this is not so with the mind of the Rationalist, which impresses us as, at best, a finely tempered, neutral instrument, as a well-trained rather than as an educated mind. Intellectually, his ambition is not so much to share the experience of the race as to be demonstrably a self-made man. And this gives to his intellectual and practical activities an almost preternatural deliberateness and self-consciousness, depriving them of any element of passivity, removing from them all sense of rhythm and continuity and dissolving them into a succession of climacterics, each to be surmounted by a tour de raison. His mind has no atmosphere, no changes of season and temperature; his intellectual processes, so far as possible, are insulated from all external influence and go on in the void. And having cut himself off from the traditional knowledge of his society, and denied the value of any education more extensive than a training in a technique of analysis, he is apt to attribute to mankind a necessary inexperience in all the critical moments of life, and if he were more self-critical he might begin to wonder how the race had ever succeeded in surviving. With an almost poetic fancy, he strives to live each day as if it were his first, and he believes that to form a habit is to fail. And if, with as yet no thought of analysis, we glance below the surface, we may, perhaps, see in the temperament, if not in the character, of the Rationalist, a deep distrust of time, an impatient hunger for eternity and an irritable nervousness in the face of everything topical and transitory.

Now, of all worlds, the world of politics might seem the least amenable to rationalist treatment--politics, always so deeply veined with both the traditional, the circumstantial and the transitory. And, indeed, some convinced Rationalists have admitted defeat here: Clemenceau, intellectually a child of the modern Rationalist tradition (in his treatment of morals and religion, for example), was anything but a Rationalist in politics. But not all have admitted defeat. If we except religion, the greatest apparent victories of Rationalism have been in politics: it is not to be expected that whoever is prepared to carry his rationalism into the conduct of life will hesitate to carry it into the conduct of public affairs.

But what is important to observe in such a man (for it is characteristic) is not the decisions and actions he is inspired to make, but the source of his inspiration, his idea (and with him it will be a deliberate and conscious idea) of political activity. He believes, of course, in the open mind, the mind free from prejudice and its relic, habit. He believes that the unhindered human 'reason' (if only it can be brought to bear) is an infallible guide in political activity. Further, he believes in argument as the technique and operation of reason'; the truth of an opinion and the 'rational' ground (not the use) of an institution is all that matters to him. Consequently, much of his political activity consists in bringing the social, political, legal and institutional inheritance of his society before the tribunal of his intellect; and the rest is rational administration, 'reason' exercising an uncontrolled jurisdiction over the circumstances of the case. To the Rationalist, nothing is of value merely because it exists (and certainly not because it has existed for many generations), familiarity has no worth, and nothing is to be left standing for want of scrutiny. And his disposition makes both destruction and creation easier for him to understand and engage in, than acceptance or reform. To patch up, to repair (that is, to do anything which requires a patient knowledge of the material), he regards as waste of time: and he always prefers the invention of a new device to making use of a current and well-tried expedient. He does not recognize change unless it is a self-consciously induced change, and consequently he falls easily into the error of identifying the customary and the traditional with the changeless. This is aptly illustrated by the rationalist attitude towards a tradition of ideas. There is, of course, no question either of retaining or improving such a tradition, for both these involve an attitude of submission. It must be destroyed. And to fill its place the Rationalist puts something of his own making--an ideology, the formalized abridgment of the supposed substratum of rational truth contained in the tradition.

For such creatures the idea that we should take anything on faith -- especially the value of reason itself -- is unacceptable precisely because it makes us dependent on something outside of the human mind. We all know, of course, what (Who) the worst of those somethings might be, but it was Thomas Nagel, who most explicitly stated that the intellectual insistence on the metaphysical truth of Rationalism reflects a terror of what they might have to face once they accept the reality that faith trumps Reason and that rationalist metaphysics is ultimately so incoherent that it breaks down:
Even without God, the idea of a natural sympathy between the deepest truths of nature and the deepest layers of the human mind, which can be exploited to allow gradual development of a truer and truer conception of reality, makes us more at home in the universe than is secularly comfortable. The thought that the relation between mind and the world is something fundamental makes many people in this day and age nervous, I believe this is one manifestation of a fear of religion which has large and often pernicious consequences for modern intellectual life.

In speaking of the fear of religion, I don't mean to refer to the entirely reasonable hostility toward certain established religions and religious institutions, in virtue of their objectionable moral doctrines, social policies, and political influence. Nor am I referring to the association of many religious beliefs with superstition and the acceptance of evident empirical falsehoods. I am talking about something much deeper--namely, the fear of religion itself. I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn't just that I don't believe in God and, naturally, hope that I'm right in my belief. It's that I hope there is no God! I don't want there to be a God; I don't want the universe to be like that.

My guess is that this cosmic authority problem is not a rare condition and it is responsible for much of the scientism and reductionism of our time. One of the tendencies it supports is the ludicrous overuse of evolutionary biology to explain everything about life, including everything about the human mind. Darwin enabled modern secular culture to heave a great collective sigh of relief, by apparently providing a way to eliminate purpose, meaning and design as fundamental features of the world.

This last propensity is on hilarious display in today's New York Times Magazine, where the Darwinist Daniel Dennett is arguing that religious belief is biologically determined. You don't have to be a trained philosopher to recognize the devastating problem with his theory, that the belief that religious belief is biologically determined must then also be biologically determined. It is in the reduction to such absurdities that the Rationalists are finally doing to themselves what Hume didn't quite manage to do to Descartes -- dispose of him once and for all -- and why Mr. Lukacs may well be right about the Modern Age -- the age during which the claim was made that Reason is superior to Faith -- coming to an end.

-ESSAY: The Metaphysics of Conservatism (Edward Feser, 12 Jan 2006, Tech Central Station)
-ESSAY: Politics of Progress (James R. Harrigan, 02 May 2003, Tech Central Station)
-ESSAY: The Burke Habit: Prudence, skepticism and "unbought grace." (JEFFREY HART, December 27, 2005, Opinion Journal)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:26 PM


GOP likely has won on Alito; the cost: Further polarization (Steve Goldstein, 1/22/06, Philadelphia Inquirer)

Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr. appears certain to be approved Tuesday by the Senate Judiciary Committee in a straight, 10-8 party-line vote, setting the stage for a vigorous floor debate that will culminate in Alito's confirmation.

The Republicans have won the latest judicial battle - but the war over the divisive issues that dominated his hearings has only intensified, according to legal experts.

In fact, the 12-week process since his Oct. 31 nomination spotlighted the polarization of politics between Democrats and Republicans, particularly on abortion, executive power, individual rights, and other contentious matters destined for the docket of the Supreme Court.

If Democrats keep voting in lock-step against everything the President wants and they keep losing then how do things get more "intense" or "polarized"? Don't the losers just get more bitter?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:10 PM


Expose 'radical' UCLA teacher, get $100 (Reuters, 1/19/06)

An alumni group dedicated to "exposing the most radical professors" at the University of California at Los Angeles is offering to pay students $100 to record classroom lectures of suspect faculty.

The Web site of the Bruin Alumni Association also includes a "Dirty Thirty" list of professors considered by the group to be the most extreme left-wing members of the UCLA faculty, as well as profiles on their political activities and writings.

UCLA Chancellor Albert Carnesale on Thursday denounced the campaign as "reprehensible," and school officials warned that selling or distributing recordings of classroom lectures without an instructor's consent violates university policy. [...]

The group, which is not affiliated with UCLA or its official alumni association, is the creation of Andrew Jones, a 2003 UCLA graduate who said he runs the organization mostly on his own with $22,000 in private donations.

Jones told Reuters that he is out to "restore an atmosphere of respectful political discourse on campus" and says his efforts are aimed at academics who proselytize students from either side of the ideological spectrum, conservative or liberal.

"We are concerned solely with indoctrination, one-sided presentation of ideological controversies and unprofessional classroom behavior," Jones said on his Web site.

Jones' site describes his campaign as "dedicated to exposing UCLA's most radical professors" and his list of the university's "worst of the worst" singles out only professors he says hold left-wing views.

Jones said he would accept recordings only from students whose professors consented in writing to have their lectures taped. And students would be paid $100 only if they furnished complete recordings of every class session, as well as detailed lecture notes and all other teaching materials from the class.

Imagine professors who are too ashamed of their lectures to have anyone they don't have power over hear them?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:24 AM


Here's what Tory cabinet could be: In his first nightmare duty as PM, Harper would have a mind-boggling array of choices to make (GREG WESTON, 1/22/06, TORONTO SUN)

As always, Harper will be faced with a dizzying matrix of considerations in making his cabinet picks -- geography, gender, ethnicity, experience, political IOUs, electoral strategies and last but sometimes least, the ability to head a multibillion-dollar ministry with thousands of employees and 34 million shareholders watching every move.

In Harper's case, there is another key factor that will come into play -- namely, whether the Conservatives win a majority or a minority.

If it is a minority, Harper may try to minimize the learning curve for his new ministry by moving some existing opposition critics into their corresponding portfolios in government.

If the Conservatives get a majority and the luxury of up to five years in office, experience in government and familiarity with the issues of a specific portfolio would not be essential job qualifications for cabinet.

That said, whatever the size of a Conservative win Monday night, Harper's biggest cabinet-building headache will be deciding whom to leave out.

Most of Harper's friends and loyalists are Alberta MPs, as are a disproportionately large number of other highly capable members of party -- in fact, too many for all of them to be included in a regionally balanced cabinet.

Calgary MP Lee Richardson and Kevin Sorenson from Crowfoot, for instance, should both be in the cabinet, but may well get squeezed out in the Alberta overload.

Over the past week, we asked various Conservative insiders who they think would occupy the front bench of a Conservative government. The picture that emerges is a cabinet full of talent, intelligence, experience and, surprisingly, youth.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:13 AM


Desperate British Asians fly to India to abort baby girls: Women refused terminations on the NHS are joining the millions of Indians who have surgery to uphold a sons-only tradition. (Dan McDougall, January 24, 2006, Observer)

Bringing up a girl, to quote a Punjabi saying, is like watering a neighbour's garden - and it is widely acknowledged that India's patriarchal society has long been based on a simple need for male heirs, often at the cost of unborn females, who are widely seen as little more than an economic burden.

As many as 13 million female foetuses may have been aborted in India in the past two decades following prenatal gender checks. Hi-tech mobile ultrasound technology, it seems, is responsible for sending millions of women to backstreet abortion clinics across the country.

But abortion of female foetuses has long been a part of life in Britain and The Observer has uncovered evidence that pregnant British Asian women, some in effect barred by the NHS after numerous abortions, are now coming to India for gender-defining ultrasounds and, if they are expecting girls, terminations.

The medical procedure is called partial-birth abortion. After around 24 weeks in the womb, two-thirds of a full-term pregnancy, the foetus is pulled from the mother feet first, up to the neck. The doctor then creates a hole in the skull to take out the brain, making it easier to collapse the head and take out the foetus.

Ask not what you can do for NARAL....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:04 AM


More than inflation on Bernanke's full plate (T.M. Sell, 1/22/06, The Seattle Times)

The Fed usually is obsessed with inflation, as central bankers tend to be. That's probably the fundamental thing to understand about the Federal Reserve system — it's run by bankers, and bankers most fear inflation.

Inflation eats away at savings by making money worth less (if not worthless), and penalizes lenders (which includes bankers). As happened with home mortgages in the 1960s and 1970s, if you lent at 3 percent and inflation is 5 percent, you're losing money.

Of course, when you're lending at over 6% and there is no inflation you're guilty of usury.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:48 AM


Sham neo-Nazi finds himself between a Reich and a hard place (Paul Mulshine, January 19, 2006, Newark Star-Ledger)

Jacques Pluss has accomplished the impossible. He has managed to get himself hated by everyone. [...]

Pluss did this with an unprecedented -- some would say nutty -- piece of guerrilla theater that just came to light the other day. At this time last year, Pluss was a quiet and otherwise unremarkable part- time history teacher at the Fairleigh Dickinson University campus in Teaneck. Then in March, the student newspaper received a mysterious letter postmarked from a small village in Ireland. The letter alleged that Pluss was a member of a neo-Nazi group in America and was also, among other things, an Irish Republican Army member who was being investigated concerning a recent drive-by killing in Belfast.

The neo-Nazis and the IRA generally don't move in the same circles, so that should have tipped off the college kids that something about the letter was a bit fishy. But then a bit of investigation turned up the curious fact that Pluss had been holding forth on an Internet radio station hosted by the National Socialist Movement.

Before long, Pluss was summarily booted from his teaching post and told not to show up on campus again. Fairleigh Dickinson officials said the firing had nothing to do with his politics. The dismissal was, they said, the result of some absences that had, coincidentally enough, come to their attention at the same time they learned of his tendency to march around in a brown shirt wearing black boots.

Having gotten that bit of legalese out of the way, they then went on to denounce Pluss for his political views. "It's not politics; it's hate mongering," a dean by the name of John Snyder told the Bergen Record. "It's just hatred directed at the very students he taught."

When I phoned Pluss at the time, he protested the hypocrisy of the FDU faculty. Murderous leftist movements of all types are welcome on campuses all over America, he told me, but their right-wing equivalents are repressed.

That a bunch of other professors should be purged as well isn't an argument that you shouldn't be.

Now It Can Be Told: Why I Pretended to Be a Neo-Nazi (Jacques Pluss, History News Network)

Throughout the course of my academic career, I came to hold in deep respect the scholarship of the French Deconstructionists, particularly Jacques Derrida and Michele Foucault (especially Foucault’s Archeology of Knowledge and his History of Madness). At the same time, my work – in teaching and in academic writing – has been heavily influenced by the notion of Geistesgeschichte, as articulated by one of the premier medievalists, Ernst Kantorowicz. All of those scholars stress, each in their own way, the need for the historian to “become” her or his subject in order to develop a relationship with it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:33 AM


Questions for Daniel C. Dennett: The Nonbeliever (Interview by DEBORAH SOLOMON, 1/22/06, NY Times Magazine)

Q: How could you, as a longtime professor of philosophy at Tufts University, write a book that promotes the idea that religious devotion is a function of biology?

The beauty is that the only possible answer, given Mr. Dennett's own position, is that his writing is likewise just a function of biology. As they lose ground, these guys just keep tightening the circular reasoning around their own throats.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:25 AM


Candidate’s remark rattles Democrats (JIM TANKERSLEY, 1/22/06, Toledo Blade)

U.S. Senate candidate Paul Hackett told a Toledo crowd this week that he’d deport all illegal immigrants if the national budget permitted, stirring another controversy over his candor — this time among Democrats.

Several local Democrats said they disagreed sharply with Mr. Hackett’s statements, made Wednesday night to a group at the University of Toledo. Nearly all of them also praised the attorney and Iraq war veteran for what they called an honest — and often feisty — style they said could win over Republicans and independent voters.

The far Right and the Left are nearly indistinguishable on matters like this, isolationism and trade protectionism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:20 AM


Message to Musharraf (Jim Hoagland, January 22, 2006, Washington Post)

The Hellfire missiles aimed from a Predator drone at the bin Laden operatives gathering in Damadola also carried a badly needed message for Musharraf and his intelligence chiefs, who helped create both al Qaeda and Afghanistan's Taliban: The sanctuary those groups have been granted in Pakistan's remote tribal lands on the Afghan frontier now exceeds the limits of strategic ambiguity.

Suicide bombings and attacks with roadside explosive devices directed at U.S. and NATO troops as well as Afghan authorities have spiked upward in recent months. U.S. intelligence reports to the Pakistanis on terrorist locations and movements along the frontier have received no effective response from Pakistani authorities during this damaging terrorist upsurge.

"You can draw the Afghan-Pakistan border on a map by looking at the pattern of signal intercepts," says one U.S. official. "The bad guys chatter away in Pakistan, feeling they are safe. That area lights up like a Christmas tree. Then they go silent when they cross into Afghanistan, where they fear getting hit."

The aerial strike on Damadola, which is four miles inside Pakistan, killed as many as four al Qaeda chiefs, Pakistani officials concede. Villagers have reported 18 deaths, including some women and children. Musharraf is happy to have Washington bear the entire blame in Pakistani opinion for the reports of collateral damage.

But the story, and the moral burden it involves, seems to be more complicated. The Damadola raid followed by a week a little-noticed assault on the Pakistani village of Saidgi in North Waziristan, where residents described helicopter-borne foreign troops grabbing suspects and flying them back to Afghanistan.

Two limited, carefully planned border attacks in rapid succession would appear to be something more than accidents of opportunity.

The thing Musharraff has to keep in mind is that the very remoteness of the region, which makes it a good hiding place for these guys, allows us to make it a free-fire zone. There's not going to be extensive media coverage in the badlands.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:12 AM


The Isolation Pendulum: Expect a Cyclical U.S. Retreat From World Affairs After the Iraq War (Peter Beinart, January 22, 2006, Washington Post)

When Americans think about foreign policy, they often think in cycles. In 1952 an academic named Frank Klingberg divided America's relations with the world into periods of "extroversion" and "introversion," each lasting about a generation. After World War I, he noted, America turned inward, only to turn outward again after World War II. In 1974 another scholar, Michael Roskin, picked up the thread, arguing that Vietnam was pushing the pendulum back to isolationism. Sometime in the 1990s, he predicted, the pendulum might swing again.

Most of what follows is nonsense--the view of Ronald Reagan as an isolationist is particularly hilarious--but it's certainly the case that the defense will soon be cut just as quickly as it's been built up over the past four years. We just don't spend money on the military in peacetime.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:07 AM


'Blue' States Tackling Energy On Their Own: Federal Efficiency Rules Fall Short, Some Say (Justin Blum, January 22, 2006, Washington Post)

The states are creating energy efficiency requirements for light bulbs and household appliances, limiting power plant and automobile output linked to global warming, and requiring the use of renewable energy, such as wind and solar.

Leading the effort are "blue" states that voted Democratic in the 2004 presidential election. Even some of those states that have Republican governors, such as California and Connecticut, are making their own rules.

"In a way, the left is controlling that agenda," said Amy Myers Jaffe, associate director of the energy program at Rice University in Houston. "They're just implementing it at the community and state level."

Jaffe and other analysts said some of the policies would have to be adopted nationally to have a significant impact on the environment and energy consumption. But with other policies, such as the auto emissions limits, they said a sufficient number of big states are adopting regulations to make a significant difference nationally. "If all these giant-population states do this, does it matter that we don't have a national policy?" Jaffe asked.

California alone can drive this policy if the GOP won't get out in front nationally.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:00 AM


Israeli Hints at Preparation to Stop Iran (JOSEF FEDERMAN, 1/22/06, AP)

Israel's defense minister hinted Saturday that the Jewish state is preparing for military action to stop Iran's nuclear program, but said international diplomacy must be the first course of action.

"Israel will not be able to accept an Iranian nuclear capability and it must have the capability to defend itself, with all that that implies, and this we are preparing," Shaul Mofaz said.

His comments at an academic conference stopped short of overtly threatening a military strike but were likely to add to growing tensions with Iran.

The Realist crowd has been pushing the line that we may just have to learn to live with a nuclear-armed Iran, ignoring the reality that our response to Iran isn't in our hands but in Israel's. Because we wish to avoid a wider war in the Middle East, that the foreign policy establishment thinks could be provoked by Israel bombing Iran, we'll take military action ourselves if Israel just threatens convincingly enough.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:52 AM


Officials: Al-Qaida's No. 2 once at attack site (EN-LAI YEOH, January 22, 2006, Chicago Sun-Times)

Ayman al-Zawahri, the apparent target of the U.S. attack Jan. 13, met his deputy, Abu Farraj al-Libbi, in Damadola last year, the security official said.

Al-Libbi, a Libyan, had confessed to Pakistani interrogators after his capture in May 2005 he met al-Zawahri at Damadola, near the Afghan border, earlier in the year. Al-Libbi was captured after a shootout in northwestern Pakistan.

Another high-ranking intelligence official confirmed al-Libbi's account of the meeting, which took place a few months before his arrest. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity.

''His statement was later verified, and we were able to confirm that al-Zawahri visited Damadola,'' the first official said.

The home was among three destroyed in the pre-dawn air strike that killed 13 villagers.

Hard to see a downside to people worrying that if they ever meet with al Qaeda they're permanently on our target list.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:19 AM


Sox reach deal for CF Crisp (Tony Massarotti, January 22, 2006. Boston Herald)

With the return of Theo Epstein all but formalized, the Red Sox now appear on the verge of concluding a heretofore tumultuous offseason by acquiring both center fielder Coco Crisp and shortstop Alex Gonzalez. [...]

The Red Sox will send a package including reliever Guillermo Mota and prospect Andy Marte to the Indians. The inclusion of Mota in the deal explains why the Sox signed free agent reliever Julian Tavarez to a two-year contract despite having a bullpen that already included Keith Foulke, Mike Timlin, Mota, Rudy Seanez and, perhaps, Jonathan Papelbon.

Beyond the acquisition of Crisp, the Sox also are about to sign free agent Gonzalez. The 28-year-old former Florida Marlins shortstop, is a free-swinging, career .264 hitter with little power, but he is regarded as a very good defensive player. He will likely bat ninth in a revamped Sox lineup that should feature much-improved infield defense. [...]

In the 26-year-old Crisp, the Sox will have a switch-hitter who possesses an array of talents. Though Crisp has played left field for the Indians - Cleveland has the blossoming Grady Sizemore in center - he played center field during his minor league career. In slightly more than two full major league seasons, Crisp has 35 career home runs and 54 career steals. Last season, he batted .300 with 16 home runs, 15 steals, a .345 on-base percentage and .465 slugging percentage.

Just as important from the perspective of Sox officials, Crisp is not eligible for free agency until after the 2009 season. [...]

While Crisp batted second (behind Sizemore) for the majority of time last season, he will replace Damon atop the Red Sox batting order. Crisp has a .271 average as a leadoff hitter over the last three seasons, but he is just now reaching the prime years of his career. With him in tow, the Sox would likely have an Opening Day lineup that looks like the following:

Crisp, cf; Mark Loretta, 2b; David Ortiz, dh; Manny Ramirez, lf; Jason Varitek, c; Trot Nixon, rf; Mike Lowell, 3b; Kevin Youkilis, 1b; Gonzalez, ss.

Just his name gives Coco Crisp a shot at the same cult hero status that Damon enjoyed, but the Gonzalez signing is a waste. They're an offense built on long at-bats that extend starting pitchers and get you into the soft middle section of opponents' bullpens, whereas Gonazlez has a career OBP of.291--even the other Alex Gonzalez is at-least over .300. Given that Marte may be the best player over the long term involved in the deal, the two other players the Sox are getting had better be pretty good.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:53 AM


Martin slams the `far, far right': Says Tories not `progressives' of old (LES WHITTINGTON, Jan. 22, 2006, Toronto Star)

Citing Harper's plans to cancel national child care, abandon the Kyoto environmental commitments, allow MPs to vote on banning same-sex marriage and rethink $5 billion in support for aboriginals, Martin said, "We have a party that wants to take this country to the far, far right of the U.S. conservative movement."

And he reminded voters that today's federal Conservatives are not the same Progressive Conservatives of years gone by. "That party, the party of Bob Stanfield, the party of Joe Clark ... the party that was proud to call itself progressive, is no more. It's as dead as disco."

A fitting epitaph for Mr. Martin: He regretted the death of disco.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:48 AM


Syria decries Hariri probe 'bias' (BBC, 1/22/06)

The Syrian president has repeated criticism that the UN inquiry into the killing of former Lebanese PM Rafik Hariri is biased against Syria.

In Liberty's Century there is indeed bias against you if you're a totalitarian--get over it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:20 AM


AMERICAN EXPERIENCE premieres JOHN & ABIGAIL ADAMS (Monday, January 23 at 9 p.m. on PBS)

John Adams was brilliant, argumentative, sometimes irascible. Abigail was a savvy observer of the tumultuous political scene, not afraid to speak her mind in an age when women were excluded from politics. Together they forged one of the greatest partnerships in American history.

In this latest program in the AMERICAN EXPERIENCE presidential series, two formidable actors -- Simon Russell Beale (John Adams), recipient of the 2003 Laurence Olivier Theatre Best Actor Award for his performance in "Uncle Vanya," and Linda Emond, an accomplished stage actress who previously portrayed Abigail in the Broadway rendition of "1776" -- bring the couple to life. Historians, including David McCullough, author of the bestselling John Adams and the recent 1776, Joanne Freeman, and Joseph Ellis, provide insight on the couple and their legacy.


Sites of Liberty

Adams found himself at the center of the action in Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC. Visit these sites of liberty and learn from Adams and others about the extraordinary events that took place at the birth of the nation.

Dearest Friend

John and Abigail wrote more than 1,000 letters to each other during the course of their long relationship. They talk of love, liberty and revolution. Hear excerpts from the letters they exchanged during their long separations.

Adams Unbound

John Adams loved to read, and he loved annotating his books. His comments and arguments jotted in the margins offer insight into one of the greatest political minds in American history. Take a look at some of Adams' original notes in this special feature.

Here's my personal favorite exchanges of letters by Adams and Jefferson, as the former takes the Rationalist tack and the latter makes the Faith-based response that differentiates Humeian Anglo-Americanism from the Descartes-inflected French way:
The Adams-Jefferson Letters: The Complete Correspondence Between Thomas Jefferson and Abigail and John Adams by Lester J. Cappon (Editor)
Adams to Jefferson (Montezillo, May 12th. 1820.)

The question between spirit and matter appears to me nugatory because we have neither evidence nor idea of either. All that we certainly know is that some substance exists, which must be the cause of all the qualitys and Attributes which we perceive: Extension, Solidity, Perception, memory, and Reason, for all these are Attributes, or adjectives, and not Essences or substantives.

Sixty years ago, at College, I read Berkley, and from that time to this I have been fully persuaded that we know nothing of Essences, that some Essence does exist, which causes our minds with all their ideas, and this visible World with all its wonders. I am certain that this Cause is wise, Benevolent and powerful, beyond all conception; I cannot doubt, but what it is, I cannot conjecture.

Suppose we dwell a little on this matter. The Infinite divisibility of it had long ago been demonstrated by Mathematicians--When the Marquis De L'Hospital arose and demonstrated that there were quantities and not infinitely little, but others infinitely less than those infinitely littles, and he might have gone on, for what I know, to all Eternity demonstrating that there are quantities infinitely littles, and he might have gone on, for what I know, to all Eternity demonstrating that there are quantities infinitely less than the last infinitely littles; and the Phenomena of nature seems to coincide with De L'Hospitals demonstrations. For example, Astronomers inform us that the Star draconis is distant from the Earth 38. 000, 000. 000. 000. miles. The Light that proceeds from that Star, therefore, must fill a Sphere of 78. 000, 000, 000, 000, miles in diameter, and every part of that Sphere equal to the size of the pupil of the human Eye. Light is Matter, and every ray, every pencil of that light is made up of particles very little indeed, if not infinitely little, or infinitely less than infinitely little. If this Matter is not fine enough and subtle enough to perceive, to feel and to think, it is too subtle for any human intellect or imagination to conceive, for I defy any human mind to form any idea of anything so small. However, after all, Matter is but Matter; if it is infinitely less than infinitely little, it is incapable of memory, judgement, or feeling, or pleasure or pain, as far as I can conceive. Yet for anything I know, it may be as capable of Sensation and reflection as Spirit, for I confess I know not how Spirit can think, feel or act, any more than Matter. In truth, I cannot conceive how either can move or think, so that I must repose upon your pillow of ignorance, which I find very soft and consoleing, for it absolves my conscience from all culpability in this respect. But I insist upon it that the Saint has as good a right to groan at the Philosopher for asserting that there is nothing but matter in the Universe, As the Philosopher has to laugh at the Saint for saying that there are both Matter and Spirit, Or as the Infidel has to despise Berckley for saying that we cannot prove that there is anything in the Universe but Spirit and Idea--for this indeed is all he asserted, for he never denied the Existence of Matter. After all, I agree that both the groan and the Smile is impertinent, for neither knows what he says, or what he affirms, and I will say of both, as Turgot says of Berkley in his Article of Existence in the Encyclopedia: it is easier to despise than to answer them.


Oh delightful Ignorance! When I arrive at a certainty that I am Ignorant, and that I always must be ignorant, while I live I am happy, for I know I can no longer be responsible.

We shall meet hereafter and laugh at our present botherations. So believes your old Friend,


Jefferson to Adams (Monticello. Aug. 15. 20.)

[L]et me turn to your puzzling letter of May 12. on matter, spirit, motion, etc. It's croud of scepticisms kept me from sleep. I read it, and laid it down: read it, and laid it down, again and again: and to give rest to my mind, I was obliged to recur ultimately to my habitual anodyne, 'I feel: therefore I exist.' I feel bodies which are not myself: there are other existencies then. I call them matter. I feel them changing place. This gives me motion. Where there is an absence of matter, I call it void, or nothing, or immaterial space. On the basis of sensation, of matter and motion, we may erect the fabric of all the certainties we can have or need. I can conceive thought to be an action of a particular organisation of matter, formed for that purpose by it's creator, as well as that attraction is an action of matter, or magnetism of loadstone. When he who denies to the Creator the power of endowing matter with the mode of action called thinking shall shew how he could endow the Sun with the mode of action called attraction, which reins the planets in the tracts of their orbits, or how an absence of matter can have a will, and, by that will, put matter into motion, then the materialist may be lawfully required to explain the process by which matter exercises the faculty of thinking. When once we quit the basis of sensation, all is in the wind. To talk of immaterial existences is to talk of nothings. To say that the human soul, angels, god, are immaterial, is to say they are nothings, or that there is no god, no angels, no soul. I cannot reason otherwise: but I believe I am supported in my creed of materialism by Locke, Tracy, and Stewart. At what age of the Christian church this heresy of immaterialism, this masked atheism, crept in, I do not know. But a heresy it certainly is. Jesus taught nothing of it. He told us indeed that 'God is spirit,' but he has not defined what a spirit is, nor said that it is not matter. And the antient fathers generally, if not universally, held it to be matter: light and thin indeed, an etherial gas; but still matter. [...] All heresies being now done away with us, these schismatics are merely atheists, differing from the material Atheists only in their belief that 'nothing made something,' and from the material deist who believes that matter alone can operate on matter.

Rejecting all organs of information therefore but my senses, I rid myself of Pyrrhonisms with which an indulgence in speculations hyperphysical and antiphysical so uselessly occupy and disquiet the mind. A single sense may indeed be sometimes deceived, but rarely: and never all our senses together, with the faculty of reasoning. They evidence realities; and there are enough of these for the purposes of life, without plunging into the fathomless abyss of dreams and phantasms. I am satisfied, and sufficiently occupied with the things which are, without tormenting or troubling myself about those which may indeed be, but of which I have no evidence. I am sure that I really know many, many, things, and none more surely than that I love you with all my heart, and pray for the continuance of your life until you shall be tired of it yourself.


January 21, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:29 PM


Merkel's 'small steps' bring giant leap in popularity (Tony Paterson, 22/01/2006, Daily Telegraph)

Angela Merkel, Germany's Chancellor, has confounded her critics by emerging as the country's most popular leader for more than a decade - only two months after being elected.

Dismissed only six months ago as a humourless and dowdy East German, Mrs Merkel is riding a wave of unprecedented public approval that last week placed her at the top of Germany's key opinion poll rating for politicians.

The monthly survey conducted by the ZDF television channel found voters rated the 52-year-old conservative Chancellor as Germany's most likeable politician, and the politician who has achieved most since the change of government in November. The last chancellor to enjoy such popularity was Helmut Kohl, who won huge public approval for his role in securing Germany's reunification 16 years ago.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:14 PM


Saboteurs of the Status Quo: The power of vision and fearlessness. (Rich Lowry, 1/20/06, National Review)

John Lewis Gaddis, author of a half-dozen books on the topic, is the nation’s foremost historian of the Cold War. So when in the 1980s he dismissed Ronald Reagan’s goal of ending the Cold War, arguing instead that the American-Soviet competition had settled into a stable “long peace,” it would have been natural to conclude that Gaddis, the august expert, was right.

He was wrong, of course. Gaddis explains why in his crackling-good, recently published book, The Cold War: A New History. It holds lessons for today in its reminder of how inspired people, armed with truth and morality, can force epochal historical changes.

In the 1970s, the Cold War had entered its détente phase, which for the U.S. meant managing the Cold War, not winning it. This seemed reasonable enough. “It took visionaries — saboteurs of the status quo — to widen the range of historical possibility,” Gaddis writes. In the West, these saboteurs were Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II. In their qualities and in their arguments, there is the distinct echo of George W. Bush.

Mr. Gaddis's excellent esssay on the revolutionary nature of the Bush Doctrine is included in our forthcoming book.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:57 PM


'You can get off alcohol and drugs, but you never get off orchids. Never': Fanatical collectors of 'trophy' specimens are driving a £6 billion black market with smuggling routes that criss-cross the world. As William Langley reveals, 'orchidelirium' is beyond addiction - and beyond hope (William Langley, 22/01/2006, Daily Telegraph)

On the moist, spicy slopes of Borneo's 13,500ft Mount Kinabalu grows the Rothschild orchid, a plant too sexy for its stalk.

Named after Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild, a 19th-century connoisseur of the erotic potential of flora, this rarest of orchids has hardly ever been seen outside its natural habitat.

Which made it all the more surprising when six of them were found at Heathrow airport in the luggage of 32-year-old Sian Tiong Lim, a fresh-faced pharmaceutical researcher from Putney, south London.

The plants had been smuggled into Britain to feed the fevered demand of collectors for exotic orchids. Last week Lim was jailed for four months - believed to be the stiffest sentence ever handed out by a British court to a plant trafficker - but the world's endangered orchids can feel no safer.

The trade is worth an estimated £6 billion a year. On the black market a single, rare orchid can sell for thousands of pounds.

Those infected by what is known as "orchidelirium" describe a condition not just beyond addiction but beyond hope.

Eric Hansen, author of Orchid Fever, recalls a conversation with an otherwise down-to-earth neighbourhood flower grower who told him: "You can get off alcohol, drugs, women, food and cars, but once you're hooked on orchids you're finished. You never get off orchids. Never."

-REVIEW: of The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean (BrothersJudd.com)
-REVIEW: of Fer-de-Lance by Rex Stout (BrothersJudd.com)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:54 PM


Only the Japanese didn't go wild about our Willy (David Harrison, 22/01/2006, Daily Telegraph)

As the whale swam up the Thames, the story flew around the world from New York to New Zealand.

The Canadian press described it as "a whale of a tale", while the Washington Post called it a "seven-ton splash in the Thames". According to the New York Times it "raised the eyebrows of even the most jaded Londoners".

Australian and New Zealand newspapers, aimed at readers well used to seeing giant mammals off their shores, described London's latest tourist attraction as "a small whale".

In Japan, one of the few countries that still hunts whales, the coverage was, perhaps not surprisingly, muted, consisting largely of short news items and pictures of the whale near the Houses of Parliament. Perhaps the presence of a harpoon might have stimulated more interest.

Awfully catty for a conservative British publication. It was an animal for cripessakes--the Japanese at least would have made its death productive.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:48 PM


The Army's deadliest enemy is at home (Max Hastings, 22/01/2006, Daily Telegraph)

Last week's court-martial proceedings against a Royal Navy submarine captain accused of bullying his officers made bleak reading. I have no opinion about the merits of the case, and no sympathy with bullies. Like most people who care about the Armed Forces, however, I felt my heart sink at yet another public embarrassment. Their via dolorosa seems endless.

There are high-profile prosecutions (many of which collapse) resulting from alleged misdeeds in Iraq; fears about the impending deployment in Afghanistan; regiments disbanded and recruitment ailing; controversy about the treatment of recruits. The Sunday Telegraph reported last week on despondency at Catterick's Infantry Training Centre, where instructors live in fear of accusations of abuse. [...]

We are getting ourselves into a shocking tangle about what we expect from warriors. Throughout history, it has been understood that wars make unique demands on those who fight them. These can be met only by creating a service ethos utterly different from civilian life, not least in its willingness for sacrifice.

Today, politicians and lawyers have thrust upon the Armed Forces restrictions and legal burdens designed to drive them into line with modern civilian practice. This is madness. Those who administer the Infantry Training Centre at Catterick are scarcely allowed to impose discipline on new recruits, lest they quit or sue.

Many line battalions have to run their own training programmes for alleged trained soldiers from the ITC, to render them fit to serve. Faced with the most rudimentary discipline - punctuality, kit inspections, morning runs, obedience to orders - many young men literally pack up and go home.

The excesses of European Human Rights law are bad enough in civil life, but disastrous when imposed upon the Services. The current issue of British Army Review carries a letter from a veteran warrant officer, suggesting that young soldiers no longer find it acceptable to give "casual salutes" to officers. The First Sea Lord, Sir Alan West, said this month that the Armed Forces face "legal encirclement" from human rights. Every officer knows what he means. Circumstance and misguided policy unite against discipline, confidence and morale.

The one good thing is that rendering the human beings totally unfit to wage war will get us to use our non-human lethal means more readily. Of course, that's hardly a humantiarian result, but then the Human Rights crowd isn't really interested in that anyway.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:31 PM


Report says ransom money found on Osthoff (Reuters, Jan 21, 2006)

Part of the ransom money alleged to have been paid by the German government to win the freedom of Iraq hostage Susanne Osthoff last month was found on Osthoff after her release, the German magazine Focus said on Saturday.

Without citing its sources, Focus said officials at the German embassy in Baghdad had found several thousand U.S. dollars in the 43-year-old German archaeologist's clothes when she took a shower at the embassy shortly after being freed.

The serial numbers on the bills matched those used by the government to pay off Osthoff's kidnappers, the magazine said.

There can't still be anyone left who hasn't figured out that these people are just facilitating the funding of the "kidnappers'" organizations by their own governments, can there?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:06 PM


Tucker Carlson: Bin Laden Getting 'Talking Points' from 'NY Times' (E&P Staff, January 21, 2006)

While much of the liberal blogosphere, and political figures such as Sen. John Kerry, remain inflamed over comments by MSNBC's Chris Matthews on "Hardball" on Thursday--in which he suggested that Osama bin Laden, in his latest video tape, sounded an awful lot like fillmmaker Michael Moore--The New York Times has also now been linked to Osama by another cable news pundit.

Later on Thursday night, MSNBC's Joe Scarborough weighed in on the subject, going beyond Moore to claim that bin Laden was also borrowing language or ideas from the likes of Howard Dean, Sen. Kerry and Sen. Ted Kennedy. His guest, Tucker Carlson, who has his own MSNBC show, then spread the net further, to include opinion columnists at The New York Times.

The exchange from the transcript follows.

SCARBOROUGH: Now, of course, Tucker, I'm not comparing these Democrats to Osama bin Laden, but look.

First thing, Osama talks about how our troops are terrorizing women and children in Iraq. John Kerry said the same thing in front of Bob Schieffer on "Face the Nation."

Osama's saying that George Bush knows he can't win this war, something that Howard Dean said, and, also, that this was launched for political reasons, which of course Ted Kennedy said last year, that this was all dreamed up in Texas for political benefit.

CARLSON: By the merchants of war who financed Bush's presidential campaign, in the words of Osama bin Laden and many on the left. In other words, Halliburton is responsible for this war, every single talking point.

I hate to think of Osama bin Laden reclining in his cave in Waziristan, reading the op-ed page of "The New York Times."

But, clearly, he is. He's got every talking point. It's uncanny.

If they don't like being lumped with bin Laden they could switch to our side. At least that professor is honestly proud to have al Qaeda agreeing with him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:03 PM


Oaten resigns over rent boy claim (BBC, 1/21/06)

Former Liberal Democrat leadership challenger Mark Oaten has stood down as the party's home affairs spokesman over an alleged affair with a rent boy.

Mr Oaten released a statement apologising for the "embarrassment" caused to his family, friends and the Liberal Democrat party.

Married Mr Oaten, 41, and the MP for Winchester, dropped out of the Lib Dem leadership race this week. [...]

Mr Oaten's resignation as home affairs spokesman comes only two weeks after the party's leader, Charles Kennedy, stepped down after admitting he had received treatment for a drink problem.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:57 PM


Reforming Morocco from the Ground Up: Morocco, perhaps more than any other country in the Middle East, knows that violence and terror will end only when the conditions fueling them are resolved. As Jason Ben-Meir explains, the country’s National Initiative for Human Development is a big step in this direction and could mark the beginning of a region-wide movement. (Jason Ben-Meir | Monday, January 16, 2006, The Globalist)

In May 2005, Morocco launched its National Initiative for Human Development as part of a broader plan of social reforms that have taken place since King Mohammed VI's ascendancy to the throne in 1999. [...]

Training people in facilitating community meetings throughout the project area will give the Initiative the reach it needs to engage people in the development process from village to village and neighborhood to neighborhood.

The facilitators are particularly important in the beginning stages of the process. They help to organize meetings, manage conflicts and develop consensus. Schoolteachers, government technicians (such as in health and agriculture), politicians, non-government personnel, community members and others can be effective facilitators.

One example of where this is already taking place in Morocco is the national park's divisions, some of which have facilitators on their staffs. These facilitators assist the members of rural villages that neighbor protected nature areas with creating strategic plans for the development of their communities.

The projects that are designed involve agreements between the villages and the park managers. Often, these initiatives take the form of new income generating activities as desired by the local people (such as fruit tree planting) in exchange for the villagers' accommodation of nature protection measures, such as not allowing grazing animals to feed in designated areas within the park.

The new income reduces communities' dependence on the natural resources of the protected areas and in turn promotes conservation. In this way, economic development in itself can further environmental goals. The facilitators play a critical role by helping to bring all parties together and negotiate win-win scenarios.

This kind of development is federalist democracy in action. Local people making fundamental decisions and mobilizing for the development of their communities is the hallmark of federalism. What is more, broad participation — which is extremely difficult to achieve without effective facilitation — is a basic quality of a vibrant democracy.

The public-private partnerships that are formed are shown to have sensitized government officials to the needs and interests of local people. The partnerships also encourage greater accountability and transparency, which help to prevent corruption.

If Morocco's National Initiative makes training in facilitation a major vehicle through which communities across the nation are brought into the development process, the socio-economic and political consequences of this 'bottom-up" approach will be profound. Morocco will then be a unique example in the world of a country that has implemented this approach on a national scale.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:53 PM


Face Transplant Patient Smokes Again (MARILYNN MARCHIONE, 1/18/06, AP)

The world's first face transplant recipient is using her new lips to take up smoking again, which doctors fear could interfere with her healing and raise the risk of tissue rejection.

"It is a problem," Dr. Jean-Michel Dubernard, who led the team that performed the pioneering transplant in France on Nov. 27, acknowledged on Wednesday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:45 PM


Our History by the Numbers (Robert J. Samuelson, Jan. 23, 2006, Newsweek)

Let us now praise the newest edition of "Historical Statistics of the United States," whose five volumes and 1,781 tables are about to hit libraries and universities all over the country. [...]

If you peruse "Historical Statistics," you'll encounter many revealing numbers:

* During the past century, religion has become more organized in the sense that more people have joined a formal church. In 1890 only about 34 percent of Americans belonged; by 1989 that share was 60 percent, down slightly from its peak of 64 percent in 1970. This decline may reflect the rise of small storefront congregations, which are missed by membership surveys. [...]

* Despite massive suburbanization since World War II, the United States remains a country of vast open spaces—farms, forests, pastures and range. From 1945 to 1997, the amount of "urban land" (defined as areas with at least 2,500 people) quadrupled to 65.5 million acres; still, that was less than 3 percent of the total of 2.26 billion acres. Cropland (455 million acres) and forests (642 million acres) had increased slightly since 1945. Reforestation has offset much woodland lost to subdivisions.

But just try telling a Leftist that we're a religious people and that we have more forests than we used to.....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:24 PM


Red tape 'turning best firms away from Europe' (David Rennie, 21/01/2006, Daily Telegraph)
Europe's most successful companies are turning their backs on EU markets because of red tape, a high-level report said yesterday. [...]

The findings made unsettling reading for the EU leaders, ripping into their pledges to build a "knowledge-based Europe" that would overtake America in 10 years.

The reality was the opposite. Not only were US, Chinese and Japanese firms outspending Europe on research and development, the gap with Europe was growing.

Perhaps most damagingly, Europe's most important countries were pouring more and more of their technology investment overseas, as they despaired of the European Union becoming "innovation friendly".

Unless EU governments took bold action to increase spending on research, freed labour markets so skilled workers could move more easily, and stopped pouring taxpayers' money into dying industries, Europe's post-war way of life was doomed.

The report said: "Europe must break out of structures and expectations established in the post-Second World War era that leave it today living a moderately comfortable life on slowly declining capital.

"This society, averse to risk and reluctant to change, is in itself alarming but it is also unsustainable in the face of rising competition from other parts of the world. For many citizens without work, or in less-favoured regions, even the claim to comfort is untrue."
The elderly are by nature risk-averse.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:04 PM


Robbing Wal-Mart (George Will, Jan 19, 2006, Townhall)

Organized labor, having mightily tried and miserably failed to unionize even one of Wal-Mart's 3,250 American stores, has turned to organizing state legislators. Maryland was a natural place to begin because it has lopsided Democratic majorities in both houses of its legislature.

Labor's allies include the "progressives'' who have made Wal-Mart the left's devil du jour. Wal-Mart's supposed sin is this: One way it holds down prices (when it enters a market, retail prices decline 5 percent to 8 percent; nationally, it saves consumers $16 billion annually) is by not being a welfare state. That is, by not offering higher wages and benefits than the labor market requires. Labor's other allies are Wal-Mart's unionized competitors, such as, in Maryland, Giant Food, a grocery chain. These allies are engaging in what economists call rent-seeking -- using government to impose disadvantages on competitors with whom they are competing and losing.

Wal-Mart's enemies say Maryland is justified in expropriating some of the company's revenues because the company's pay and medical benefits are insufficient to prevent some employees from being eligible for Medicaid. Well.

Eighty-six percent of Wal-Mart employees have health insurance, more than half through the company, which offers 18 plans, one with $11 monthly premiums and another with $3 co-payments. Wal-Mart employees are only slightly more likely to collect Medicaid than the average among the nation's large retailers, who hire many entry-level and part-time workers. In the last 12 months, Wal-Mart, the largest private employer in the nation and in 25 states, estimates it has paid its 1.3 million employees $4.7 billion in benefits. That sum is almost half as large as the company's profits, which last fiscal year were $10.3 billion -- just 3.6 percent -- on revenues of $285 billion. Wal-Mart earns just $6,000 per employee, one-third below the national average. Anyway, Wal-Mart's pay and benefits are sufficient to attract hordes of job applicants whenever it opens a new American store, which it does once every three days.

Maryland's new law is, The Washington Post says, "a legislative mugging masquerading as an act of benevolent social engineering.''

Anyone know why this shouldn't be considered a Bill of Attander?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:59 AM


Maternity leave spurs 'labor' crisis: Increased birthrates are taking women out of the workplace (Iva Skochová, January 11, 2006, The Prague Post)

Patricie Krobová, 35, enjoys the last day in her Prague office before taking leave. Companies must come to terms with a new Czech baby boom.

When one of her team members announced that she would take maternity leave in 2005, Pavlína Matoušková, 29, who works at a large telecommunications company, realized she might just be witnessing the beginning of a mass exodus.

Matoušková is seeing more women take maternity leave now than ever before in her eight years as a human resources manager.

"I am starting to think there is something in the water here," she says. "It seems like everyone is pregnant, especially in our call center."

There appears to be reason to rejoice for those who have long warned about the damage the country's startlingly low birthrate will have on the labor market and the economy: During the past two years, the number of births has seen a dramatic increase, and for a few months in 2005, birthrates even surpassed death rates. [...]

The country's natality is increasing because the baby boom generation of the 1970s is reaching its prime childbearing age, according to an analysis by the the Czech Statistical Office (ČSÚ). Unlike in the United States and Western Europe, where the population soared in the years after World War II, the population explosion in the Czech Republic didn't take place until the communist party introduced major pro-family reforms in 1970s.

The Labor and Social Affairs Ministry recently launched its own reforms aimed at encouraging couples to have children. The reforms provide generous benefit packages and require companies to hold the jobs of employees on leave for up to four years, and, as of April, women will begin receiving a state subsidy of 17,500 Kč ($725) for each newborn child — more than double the current amount.

According to ČSÚ projections, this scope of reform will have little impact on future birthrates. Although the number of births will remain relatively high for the next five years — though not as high as the number of deaths — statistics suggest they could plunge again around 2010 and keep dropping.

It would still require a Great Awakening to save even Poland and the Czech Republic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:50 AM


Policy Memorandum: A Historical Comparison of the Current Economic Expansion (WhiiteHouse.gov)

To: Interested Parties

From: The White House

Date: January 20, 2006


The American economy has exhibited tremendous strength and resiliency during the President’s years in office. When comparing the economy with the same point in the previous business cycle, in many respects the current expansion is even stronger than the growth of the early and mid-nineties. This memo highlights some of those economic comparisons.

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the last recession ended in November 2001. After four years of solid growth, the unemployment rate in December 2005 was 4.9%, inflation is contained, GDP growth is strong, and more Americans now own their homes than at any other time in our Nation's history. One of the most encouraging measures of the Nation's current economic strength is the rise in worker productivity – during this recovery, productivity has increased at the fastest rate since World War II. Over time, productivity growth leads to higher standards of living.

In April 1995, four years after the recession of the early 1990s came to an end, unemployment and inflation were higher than they are today, and GDP growth was lower. In spite of a stock market collapse, recession, terrorist attacks, corporate scandals, high energy costs, and natural disasters, today's economy has remained resilient. A comparison with the economic recovery of the previous business cycle illustrates our current strength.

The graph is fascinating.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:42 AM


Assad pledges reforms for Syria (BBC, 1/21/06)

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said he has decided to carry out political reform.

But he gave no details, other than to say he rejected any outside interference in the matter. [...]

The speech was regularly interrupted with angry chants of support from the audience of Arab lawyers, but our correspondent says the Syrian leader himself was strangely downbeat.

Unless the reforms include closing the Ba'ath Party and standing for election it's too little too late.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:40 AM


Grits and Gospel: The Sublime Mix Of Wilson Pickett (Richard Harrington, January 21, 2006, Washington Post)

Wilson Pickett was a man and a half, the all-night groover at his best in a midnight hour that was not just a time but also a place and a promise.

"I'm gonna wait till the midnight hour/that's when my love comes tumblin' down ," Pickett sang with gruff insistence, melding the gospel urgency of his youth with a decidedly secular sexual swagger.

"In the Midnight Hour" was the first in a string of '60s classics that included "Mustang Sally," "634-5789," "Funky Broadway" and "Land of 1000 Dances," cornerstones of Southern soul and mainstays for any rock or soul band looking to tap into the particular jubilation that Pickett represented.

In a classic soul era largely defined by crooners and shouters, Pickett was a screamer, a throat-shredding force of nature who always seemed about to bust a gut or blow a gasket. He called what he did "grits music," and it could scald a listener or fire up a fan's imagination.

"Pickett could take one note and just squall that note, and do it all night long!" remembers Sam Moore, of the legendary '60s duo Sam and Dave. He adds that "when Pickett showed up on a show, you either had it together or you would get embarrassed and just walk off the stage. We had run-ins many times onstage where it was a war -- and it was a good war."

Though, by all accounts, there are two guys who everyone was terrified of goping up against on stage: Howlin' Wolf and James Brown. No one would follow either.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:34 AM


The Author Who Got A Big Boost From bin Laden: Historian 'Glad' of Mention As Sales of Book Skyrocket (David Montgomery, January 21, 2006, Washington Post)

Twenty-four hours after Osama bin Laden told the world that the American people should read the work of a little-known Washington historian, William Blum was still adjusting.

Blum, who at 72 is accustomed to laboring in relative left-wing obscurity, checked his emotions and pronounced himself shocked and, well, pleased.

"This is almost as good as being an Oprah book," he said yesterday between telephone calls from the world media and bites of a bagel. "I'm glad." Overnight, his 2000 work, "Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower," had become an Osama book.

From Blum's end of the conversations, you could tell the reporters were expecting him to express some kind of discomfort, remorse, maybe even shame. Blum refused to acknowledge feelings he did not have.

"I was not turned off by such an endorsement," he informed a New York radio station. "I'm not repulsed, and I'm not going to pretend I am." He patiently reiterated the thesis of his foreign-policy critique -- that American interventions abroad create enemies. [...]

Yesterday, he made clear that he deplores the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. But he argues, as many other essayists have, that they were an understandable retaliation against U.S. foreign policy. "The thesis in my books and my writing is that anti-American terrorism arises from the behavior of U.S. foreign policy," he said. "It is what the U.S. government does which angers people all over the world."

Battered women similarly try to justify their husbands' attacks by saying they deserved it. More interesting though is how contemptuous of The Other is his argument, essentially denying peoples responsibility for their own actions and contending that we control them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:32 AM


Guillen wins another title: U.S. citizen (ANDREW HERRMANN, January 21, 2006, Chicago Sun-Times)

Ozzie Guillen had a .264 lifetime batting average as a player, but on his immigration test Friday, he hit a perfect 1.000.

"Ten for ten,'' the Venezuela-born manager of the White Sox said after being sworn in as a U.S. citizen.

Or, maybe nine for 10.

"They asked me who the mayor of Chicago was. I told them, 'Ozzie Guillen,' " he joked.

Guillen, who took the oath with his wife, Ibis, and son Oney, said becoming an American was a bigger thrill than winning the World Series.

"You can only become a U.S. citizen once,'' he said, while -- good news here, fans -- "you can be a World Champion more than once.''

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:24 AM


Anti-U.S. Tack Backfires On Canada's Liberals (Doug Struck, January 21, 2006, Washington Post)

Rob Hlohinec, 58, doesn't see what's so bad about Americans. He even admits to knowing some.

"I've talked to Americans. They want the same things we want," Hlohinec said as he watched a Conservative Party campaign rally in this Ontario town last week.

At his side, Irene Heller, 82, agreed. She said that was one reason she would vote to replace the government headed by the Liberal Party's Paul Martin in Canadian national elections on Monday. Martin, she said, uses anti-Americanism to try to win votes.

"He gets votes when he knocks America, and I don't approve of that," said Heller, who braved a sleet storm to attend the rally.

Heller's and Hlohinec's candidate, Conservative leader Stephen Harper, holds a strong lead in public opinion polls, fueled largely by dissatisfaction with 12 years of Liberal rule. Among the dissatisfied are voters unhappy with the growing divide between Canada and the United States.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:21 AM


Lessons Learned in Iraq Show Up in Army Classes: Culture Shifts to Counterinsurgency (Thomas E. Ricks, January 21, 2006, Washington Post)

A fundamental change overtaking the Army is on display in classrooms across this base above the Missouri River. After decades of being told that their job was to close in on and destroy the enemy, officers are being taught that sometimes the best thing might be not to attack but to co-opt the enemy, perhaps by employing him, or encouraging him to desert, or by drawing him into local or national politics.

It is a new focus devoted to one overarching topic: counterinsurgency, putting down an armed and political campaign against a government, the U.S. military's imperative in Iraq. [...]

"It's a vastly different Army from 2003," said Lawrence T. Di Rita, an aide to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld who until recently was the chief Pentagon spokesman. "It's impressive."

Di Rita's comments are noteworthy given the history of antagonism between the Army's leadership and Rumsfeld's office. An Army chief of staff and the service's civilian secretary left the Pentagon bitterly critical of how Rumsfeld and his associates handled the Iraq war in 2002 and 2003.

Officers here said they see a strong cultural shift at work for the Army, whose self-image still sometimes seems based on charging across Europe toward Berlin in 1944 and blasting Saddam Hussein's tanks in the Arabian Desert 47 years later.

"What we're trying to do is change the culture, to modify that culture, that solving the problem isn't just a tactical problem of guns and bombs and maneuver," said retired Army Col. Clinton J. Ancker III, director of the "doctrine"-writing office here that defines how the Army does what it does. He is involved in an effort to restructure the Army's "interim" manual on insurgency, which some insiders see as a mediocre stopgap.

Unusually, the Army and the Marines are collaborating on the new manual and also asking for input from the British army, which has had centuries of experience in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq.

Conscious that it largely walked away from counterinsurgency after the Vietnam War -- the subject was not mentioned in the mid-1970s version of the Army's key fighting manual -- the service now is trying to ensure that the mistake is not repeated. Spearheading that effort is Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus, whose doctoral dissertation at Princeton was on the Vietnam War and who later commanded the 101st Airborne Division in Iraq. "I think the changes are very broad," Petraeus said. He oversees several of the Army's training bases and schools" with his new job here.

"This is about institutional change, and the whole Army is included. It is kind of a generational change," he said. Indeed, in the next few years, officers who joined the Army after the end of the Cold War will begin to take command of battalions.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:15 AM


Woman kept £1.5m Lotto win secret from husband (ANITA SINGH, 1/21/06, The Scotsman)

A MYSTERY woman yesterday claimed she won £1.5 million on the National Lottery - but has never told her husband.

The woman, a mother-of-two who gave her name as Jane, called a radio show to reveal her astonishing secret.

For the past three years she has hidden her fortune from colleagues, friends and family.

It's not like any of us would notice a few more shoeboxes...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:10 AM


Scandal of thousands left to suffer without dental care at weekends (ALISON HARDIE, 1/21/06, The Scotsman)

MORE than a quarter of a million Scots have no local access to emergency dental care at the weekend, a Scotsman investigation has found.

In the Highland and Lanarkshire health board areas, people who have been unable to register with a dentist have nowhere to turn if pain strikes on a Saturday or Sunday. [...]

Consumer groups said the latest problem to afflict Scotland's crisis-hit dental service would further undermine patients' confidence, especially as more and more practices were closing their lists to new patients or axing the NHS service.

The position in the Highlands is especially dire, with health officials forced to admit last year that up to 10 per cent of the area's population would have to wait four years to see a National Health dentist.

Forget emergencies, wouldn't all of us who watch the BBC, PM's Question Time, and British movies help pay to fix the Brits' teeth? Their mouths look like the colonial cemeteries you find around here, with the tombstones helter-skelter, weathered, and crumbling..

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:01 AM


U.S. Fills Its Latest Quota Of H-1B Visas For Foreign Workers: The United States has filled 20,000 slots for foreign workers with advanced degrees from U.S. universities. (Chris Murphy, Jan. 18, 2006, InformationWeek)

The United States has used up the 20,000 H-1B visas it set aside for foreign workers who earned a master's degree or higher from a U.S. university. That allotment was established last year on top of the 65,000 general H-1B visas the country issues to companies wanting to hire a foreigner to work in the United States.

H-1B visas are a hotly debated immigration policy, since they allow foreigners access to work in the United States. Employers—led by IT companies—argue they need them to access the best talent in the world and that the United States doesn't produce enough science and engineering talent to turn foreign workers away. Microsoft chairman Bill Gates is among the tech leaders who've spoken out in favor of expanding H-1B visas, saying U.S. companies need to import expertise or expand abroad to find it.

We don't get it, but at least nativists and Leftists have some kind of argument against unlimited immigration of unskilled workers--what coherent argument is there for throwing out skilled workers with American educations who companies are dying to hire?

By the way, these guys are a hoot, Techie Immigrants Make 'Curry Rock': Software engineer Srikanth Devarajan merged his computer skills with a longtime passion for music to produce H1Bees, an album about the life of H-1B visa holders in the United States. (All Things Considered, November 13, 2005)

Hundreds of thousands of high-tech workers have made the trip from India to the United States over the past decade. Many have come on an H-1B visa, a guest worker program for highly skilled foreigners.

That's how Indian software programmer Srikanth Devarajan made his way to America a decade ago. He says that back home, many people consider H-1B visa holders like him to be pampered and privileged. But the reality of being a stranger in a strange land can often be lonely, nerve-wracking and confusing.

Devarajan chronicles the immigrant experience in the United States in a new album, H1Bees. Sung in English, Tamil and Hindi, its seven tracks reflect a mix of Indian and Western musical styles. The result is what he calls "curry rock," a name he's trademarked.,/blockquote>

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:47 AM


Germans urged to be more fruitful (Karin Strohecker, January 21, 2006, REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

Ursula von der Leyen, a medical doctor and the mother of seven, wants Germans to have more babies.

Since taking the family affairs portfolio in Chancellor Angela Merkel's Cabinet, she has been making proposals that have put the family high on Germany's political agenda.

Her calls for free child care and extensive tax breaks for families with small children have put the spotlight on Germany's low birthrate.

The Federal Statistics Office said yesterday that Germany's population fell for a third straight year in 2005, adding impetus to the new minister's determination to halt the decline by encouraging families to have more children.

The data show the number of Germans has fallen by 3.2 million in the past 33 years, a decline masked until recently by the flow of immigrants.

In a country where large families are now seen as an oddity -- partly in reaction to the Nazis' pressure to procreate -- Mrs. von der Leyen's costly pro-family plans have dominated the headlines this year.

By the time they figure this out it will be too late, but the problem with Nazism wasn't its emphasis on fertlity but its materialism. Offering folks money isn't going to get them to have enough kids.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:42 AM


Containing Tehran (David Ignatius, January 20, 2006, Washington Post)

In crafting their Iran policy, administration officials don't want the nuclear issue to be isolated from the more basic problem of Tehran's erratic and potentially destabilizing role in the Middle East. The message to Iran is that while the United States opposes Iranian nuclear weapons, it supports a technologically advanced Iran that, as it matures, can play a leading role in the region. A shorthand for the administration's policy aim might be: No to Ahmadinejad, yes to the Iranian people and a modern Iran. [...]

A key question for U.S. officials is how to assess Ahmadinejad's radicalism. Many were surprised by the belligerent tone of his speech to the U.N. General Assembly last September, and worries deepened after his reckless statements denying the Holocaust and calling for Israel's destruction. The toxic spirit of the 1979 revolution seemed to have returned.

An intellectual benchmark in the Iran debate was a briefing given to officials last fall by Jack A. Goldstone, a professor at George Mason University who is an expert on revolutions. He argued that Iran wasn't conforming to the standard model laid out in Crane Brinton's famous study, "The Anatomy of Revolution," which argued that initial upheaval is followed by a period of consolidation and eventual stability. Instead, Ahmadinejad illustrated what Goldstone called "the return of the radicals." Something similar happened 15 to 20 years after the Russian and Chinese revolutions -- with Stalin's purges in the late 1930s and Mao's Cultural Revolution in the 1960s, Goldstone explained. He argued that Iran was undergoing a similar recrudescence of radicalism that, as in China and Russia, would inevitably trigger internal conflict.

The gist of Goldstone's analysis gradually percolated up to Rice, Hadley and others. What has intrigued policymakers is the argument that Ahmadinejad's extremism will eventually trigger a counterreaction -- much as the Cultural Revolution in China led to the pragmatism of Deng Xiaoping. Officials see signs that some Iranian officials -- certainly former president Hashemi Rafsanjani and perhaps also the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei -- are worried by Ahmadinejad's fulminations. Unless the Iranian president moderates his line, wider splits in the regime are almost inevitable, officials believe. They also predict that his extremism will be increasingly unpopular with the Iranian people, who want to be more connected with the rest of the world rather than more isolated.

Sort of scary that our foreign policy team needed to have that explained, but now that it has been they understand Iran better than they did Iraq.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:30 AM


Bet on Tory minority: Stephen Harper's Conservatives look poised to topple Paul Martin's Liberals (ROBERT BENZIE, 1/21/06, Toronto Star)

Nationally, the Tories enjoy the support of 37.1 per cent of decided voters compared with 26.9 per cent for Paul Martin's Liberals, 19.5 per cent for the New Democrats of Jack Layton, 11.5 for the Bloc Québécois led by Gilles Duceppe and 4.6 for the Green Party led by Jim Harris. The undecided vote stood at 16 per cent.

The Conservatives have achieved success by increasing their support among older voters, men and more affluent Canadians, EKOS president Frank Graves said yesterday.

"The real story here is largely one of demographics and the intersection of values and interests with some of Canada's key groups of voters," Graves said.

A conservative party that has to fight to win mature secure men has had an awfully bad run.

Posted by Matt Murphy at 1:09 AM


Kennedy Says Alito 'Itching to Overturn Roe v. Wade' (Nathan Burchfiel, 1/20/06, Cybercast News Service)

U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) on Thursday said he plans to vote against Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito because the judge is "itching to overturn Roe v. Wade."

Kennedy explained his position on Alito's confirmation, which is expected sometime next week, during a speech to the liberal Center for American Progress. The group, founded by John Podesta, who served as the chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, opposes Alito's confirmation because it fears Alito would cause "a profound shift in the ideological balance of the Court."

Kennedy summed up liberal talking points against Alito, touching on several aspects of the judge's record and noting that his views on women's rights "should give every woman pause" because he is "itching to overturn Roe v. Wade," the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.

Alito's record is "clear and ominous," Kennedy said, and he should not be confirmed considering the "new attacks on the progress we have made in civil rights." He was referring to President Bush's authorization of secret, warrant-less wiretaps of Americans with suspected ties to al Qaeda.

You'll notice that the Constitution is still "living and breathing" after Ted Kennedy took it for a joyride.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Does it pass the wife check? (Jen Haberkorn, January 21, 2006, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Eyeing an intricate DVD player or clunky home theater speakers? Better check with your spouse first.

The idea of checking with a mate before purchasing a big-ticket item may not be a new idea, but its name, spouse acceptance factor -- usually called wife acceptance factor for the greater number of men interested in electronics -- is building steam among technology gurus and electronics manufacturers.

Women control 88 percent of electronics purchases, whether they make the purchase or influence what their spouse buys, according to research by the Consumer Electronics Association. Whether an item passes the wife acceptance factor, or WAF, typically depends on price, design and complexity.

And they always have had de facto control over men, which is one of the reasons they don't need the political franchise.

I was at the local thrift store the other day, where you can buy books for a quarter. As it happened, they'd just gotten in a book that was too nice to sell that cheap and they asked if I'd be interested. It was a Little Nemo collection in an exquisite coffee-table size. I remembered a glowing review from several years ago (it's actually of a later book), but they wanted $45 for it, so demurred, saying: "The Wife would kill me." But it was one of those non-purchases that nags at you and when I looked it up on Amazon to see what it normally costs it turned out to not only be out of print but to be selling in the Marketplace for nothing less that $375. Thankfully, I have an understanding wife and the book was there when I went back.

January 20, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:52 PM


It'll be all right on the night: Political correctness has crippled the left's sense of humour. (John Birmingham, January 21, 2006, Sydney Morning Herald)

What is surprising is just how successfully the new right, for want of a better tar brush, has been at colonising this outpost of public discourse. If you're looking for a year zero from which to trace this development, you could probably do no better than 1987 when P.J. O'Rourke published Republican Party Reptile and inspired a generation of conservative satirists to begin poking fun at the sacred cows of the left. Reptile was not just genuinely funny, it was dizzyingly, irresistibly, shockingly so. [...]

He managed to synthesise a right-wing, almost Hobbesian, political philosophy - "neither conservatives nor humorists believe man is good. But left-wingers do" - with a libertarian paradigm of personal freedom taken to excess, which was a core faith of the 1960s counterculture and the comedic engine of his seminal 1979 article in National Lampoon entitled How to Drive Fast on Drugs While Getting Your Wing-Wang Squeezed and Not Spill Your Drink. [...]

The thing about humour, unfortunately, is that it is often sick and wrong... [...]

By establishing an exclusion zone around a whole category of topics that are ripe for exploitation by comics because of the very tensions they create, the left abandons the field to the enemy and often confuses itself over just who are its friends and who are its foes. Silverman, for instance, is often cited as an example of toxic conservatism, and yet her skewering of identity politics is as dangerous to reactionaries as to anyone. Likewise the creators of South Park, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, were excoriated by some critics for their pitiless treatment of Hollywood liberals in Team America: World Police, as well as racking up black marks for the unholy trinity of racism, sexism and homophobia. Yet Team America remains one the sharpest satires of the war on terrorism so far released, while South Park offends everyone eventually.

The stand-out feature of Parker and Stone's work, indeed of all successful comics, whatever their medium or subject matter, is confidence. Confidence that their joke is inherently funny, even if millions of people refuse to agree. And confidence of course is a defining characteristic of the right in its resurgent form. To read Mark Steyn on the Islamisation of France, for instance, is to encounter a man speaking the unspeakable and doing so with an unshakeable self-assurance. But it is also to witness a comic genius at work, sharpening an already finely honed wit to a razor's edge on the rock-hard noggins of his enemies.

The left, on the other hand, has indulged for so long now in the guilty pleasures of relativism, protected by a value system that says discussion of certain topics is off limits, that any sense of confidence they might have had at one time has now entirely disappeared. And with it their sense of humour.

The basic mistake here is to presume that the Left ever was funny and that liberalism could do humor if it wanted to--which it doesn't, because, gosh darn it, how can you laugh and be happy when there's so much suffering in the world.....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:48 PM


U.S. conservatives told to stay mum on election (Canadian Press, Jan. 20 2006)

There's an e-mail making the rounds of U.S. conservative groups, warning them not to talk to Canadian journalists before Monday's election for fear of scaring off voters and hurting Stephen Harper's chances.

And while right-wing commentator Paul Weyrich says he didn't actually write it, he agrees with the sentiments.

The message, obtained by the New York Observer, says Weyrich received a call from a prominent Tory, Calgary lawyer Gerald Chipeur, who asked him to avoid interviews with Liberal-friendly journalists trying to link Harper with "scary" American groups.

"He said the Canadian media, which is trying to save the current Liberal government, has a strategy of calling conservatives in the U.S.A. in the hopes that someone will inadvertently say something that can be hung around the Conservatives," the e-mail reads.

Let's not blow their last shot at crawling out of the moral cesspool....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:26 PM


Marriage builds wealth more than being single? (Joanne Morrison, 1/20/06, Reuters)

Staying married has its benefits, especially financial, as a new U.S.-wide study shows the wealth of a married person is almost double that of somebody who is single.

Divorce among U.S. baby boomers reduced personal wealth by about 77 percent compared to that of a single person, while the financial standing among those who remained married almost doubled, according to a nationwide study released this week.

"If you really want to increase your wealth, get married and stay married. On the other hand, divorce can devastate your wealth," said Jay Zagorsky, author of the study and a research scientist at Ohio Sate University's Center for Human Resource Research.

Married people will see an increase in wealth that is more than just adding the assets of two single people, according to the study that was published in the Journal of Sociology.

Those who remained together saw a 93 percent gain in wealth compared to that of a single person, while individuals facing divorce saw their financial situation deteriorate long before the decree became final, according to Zagorsky.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:19 PM


Koizumi reform pitch in last Diet-opener (REIJI YOSHIDA, 1/21/06, Japan Times)

In his final speech as Liberal Democratic Party president to mark the opening of the ordinary Diet session Friday, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi reiterated his plan to trim the civil service, consolidate state-backed financial institutions and push further administrative reforms.

Koizumi delivered his 2006 basic policy outline at the opening of the 150-day ordinary session, which runs through June 18.

"With momentum from postal privatization, I will continue reforms to create a simple and efficient government," Koizumi told lawmakers.

Specifically, he pledged to reduce the number of central government employees, which now stands at 690,000, by 5 percent, within five years and to reassess salary levels to ensure they are in line with those of the private sector. [...]

His rivals in the LDP had argued that the government should carry out more economic pump-priming before embarking on economic reforms, while Koizumi maintained a relatively austere fiscal policy and pressured banks to dispose of their bad loans.

"Now the economy is on the road to a private-sector-led recovery, is meeting goals on the disposal of bad loans and is not relying on the government's fiscal spending," Koizumi claimed in his speech.

The vital questions are whether he started the reform movement in time to save Japan and whether his successors will continue it--the answer to both is: pretty dubious.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:16 PM


Seeking People to Work Down Under: Australia, which is facing a shortage of skilled labor, is looking abroad to fill the gap. (Evelyn Iritani, January 20, 2006, LA Times)

From the small town of Toowoomba near Australia's Gold Coast, Dennis Davey is trolling the world for people to work in his 200-person engineering company.

He has snared 15 workers from South Africa and 15 more from China. Some of the South Africans have already been poached away by the town's mining companies, so if the latest batch of Chinese works out, Davey says, he will bring over at least 50 more.

"We have no choice," he said in a telephone interview. "We can't find any more people."

The future of Davey Engineering — and other Australian companies — may hinge on the efforts of Australian immigration officials such as Angus Pryor, who set up shop inside a Residence Inn in Beverly Hills this week asking Southern Californians to consider moving Down Under.

With an economy heading into its 15th year of growth and an aging population, Australia has more jobs than qualified applicants. This year, the government expanded its annual quota of skilled migrants by 20,000 over 2005.

"Australia is a victim of its own success," Pryor told a small crowd who joined him for coffee, tea and visa advice Monday morning.

Victim? Since when is being a land of opportunity bad? The reality is that the developed world will be competing for immigrants as it ages, not shutting them out.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:01 PM


Time for schools to be free? With Old Labour, no danger (Charles Moore, 21/01/2006, Daily Telegraph)

If one listens to [Deputy Prime Minister John] Prescott, one hears the authentic tones and beliefs of mainstream British post-war socialism, and so one finds oneself turning to him for enlightenment when his fellow politicians are speaking only in jargon.

On this principle, trying to elucidate the extraordinary row about schools now convulsing the Labour Party, I take as my text some words of Mr Prescott from the same Sunday Telegraph interview.

Indicating that he was not happy with his own government's education White Paper, Mr Prescott explained that middle-class parents were concerned about the quality of their children's education, "which is sadly not the same for working-class parents". "If you set up a school and it becomes a good school," he went on, "the great danger is that everyone wants to go there."

That sentence contains the key to all egalitarian thinking about schools, perhaps to all egalitarian thinking about anything. [...]

[Tony Blair's] instinct is that a good school should be encouraged and that a bad one should close. In the Labour Party, that makes him a heretic.

We can trace the Left/Right divide directly to this question, first posed in the French Revolution, which elevated the pursuit of egalitarianism to the central purpose of the State, whereas the Anglo-American model emphasizes the guarantee of Liberty by the government instead.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:55 PM

444 DAYS?:

Safe at Home: 25 Years Ago, a Gift From Major League Baseball Helped Iran Hostages Reconnect With America (Les Carpenter, January 20, 2006, Washington Post)

It was a small thing really, barely bigger than a credit card, tucked unpretentiously in a small black case. For each of the 52 American hostages who bounded off the plane, free at last, the ticket stuffed inside the box was another of the trinkets that piled up around them. A modest reward for the cold, metal muzzle of a shotgun pressed against their faces.

Modest? I 've always thought it made the ordeal seem nearly worthwhile.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:34 PM


U.S. Indicts 11 for Acts of Domestic Terrorism (DAVID STOUT, 1/20/06, NY Times)

Eleven people have been indicted on charges of carrying out a years-long spree of arson, bombings and other acts of domestic terrorism throughout five Western states, the Justice Department said today.

The 65-count indictment, returned by a federal grand jury in Eugene, Ore., accuses the 11 of charges that include arson, conspiracy and use and possession of destructive devices arising from crimes in Oregon, Wyoming, Washington, California and Colorado from 1996 through 2001, the authorities said.

Working on behalf of the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front, the defendants committed arson with improvised incendiary devices fashioned from milk jugs, petroleum products and homemade timers, causing damage in the millions of dollars, Justice Department officials said.

"The trail of destruction left by these defendants across the Western United States caused millions of dollars in damage to public and private facilities," Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales said at a news conference.

Director Robert S. Mueller III of the F.B.I., who appeared at the session with Mr. Gonzales, said one of the bureau's "highest domestic terrorism priorities" is catching and prosecuting "those who commit crime and terrorism in the name of animal rights or environmental issues."

The indictments announced today follow a series of arrests on Dec. 7 in Oregon, Arizona, New York and Virginia, the Justice Department said.

I've been pulling together links for a review of Michael Crichton's State of Fear and it's hilarious the way they demonstrate the book's point--that preconceived notions are nearly impenetrable by reality, indeed, shape one's perception of "reality." Practically without exception, those on the Right review it favorably, though perhaps with caveats about the shallowness of the characters and the pedantry of the text, while those on the Left may make nods to his way with a thriller, but find the premise--that global warming is more a craze than a crisis--downright dangerous. Included in the latter are myriad objections to the idea that environmentalists are the bad guys, even terrorists. After all, everyone knows it's uncaring businessmen who are the bad guys....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:25 PM


Lot of Folks Can’t Tell Left From Right (Rachel Marsden, 1/20/06, Toronto Sun)

[A] Harper victory might also indicate that a lot of Canadians have held those “scary conservative values” all along, but just didn’t know it until now. I’m serious.

In fact, a 2002 Compas poll found that over half of Canadians are oblivious to the differences between the political “left” and “right”. Some 18% thought the Canadian Alliance precursor to the Conservative Party was on the left. Another 32% admitted outright to not having a clue.

This campaign has spotlighted some of the tangible differences between the two ideological camps...

Algorithm detects Canadian politicians' spin (Stu Hutson, 20 January 2006, NewScientist.com)

With the most fiercely fought Canadian election in more than a decade taking place on Monday, the crossfire of political rhetoric between the incumbent prime minister and his Conservative Party challenger is becoming heated – but which one is more trustworthy?

According to a new computer algorithm, Prime Minister Paul Martin, of the Liberal Party, spins the subject matter of his speeches dramatically more than Conservative Party leader, Stephen Harper, and the New Democratic Party leader, Jack Layton.

Spin, in this case, is defined as “text or speech where the apparent meaning is not the true belief of the person saying or writing it”, says the algorithm’s developer, David Skillicorn at Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:23 PM


Eco-saboteur faces charge on phony green card: Eco-terror - The arrest of Canadian Darren Thurston, a key underground figure, is part of an extensive bust (BRYAN DENSON, December 15, 2005, The Oregonian)

An Animal Liberation Front saboteur from Canada who emerged as a seminal figure in a wave of North American eco-sabotage nearly two decades ago was indicted Wednesday in Portland by a federal grand jury for allegedly carrying a phony green card.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:09 PM


Christian Quotation of the Day (January 21, 2006)

A Christian man is most free lord of all, and subject to none; a Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to everyone.
-Martin Luther (1483-1546)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:34 PM


Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:20 PM


The not-so-mad mind of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (Victor Davis Hanson, January 20, 2006, Chicago Tribune)

In all his crazed pronouncements, Ahmadinejad reflects an end-of-days view: History is coming to its grand finale under his aegis. So the name of the haloed Ahmadinejad will live for the ages.

But for now, barring divine intervention, Ahmadinejad's task poses two small hurdles: getting the bomb and preparing the world for Israel's demise.

Oddly, the first obstacle may be easier. [...]

[R]aising doubts about that genocide is now Ahmadinejad's aim just as much as targeting downtown Tel Aviv. Holocaust denial is a tired game, but his approach is different.

He has studied the recent Western postmodern mind, nursed on its holy trinity of multiculturalism, moral equivalence and relativism. As a third-world populist, Ahmadinejad expects that his own fascism will escape scrutiny if he just recites enough the past sins of the West. He also understands victimology. So he also knows that to destroy the Israelis, he--not they--must become the victim, and the Europeans the ones who forced his hand. Ahmadinejad also grasps that there are millions of highly educated but cynical Westerners who see nothing much exceptional about their own culture. So if democratic America has nuclear weapons, why not theocratic Iran? Moreover, he knows how Western relativism works. So who is to say what are "facts" or what is "true"--given the tendency of the powerful to "construct" their own narratives and call the result "history." Was not the Holocaust exaggerated, or perhaps even fabricated, as mere jails became "death camps" through a trick of language to take over Palestinian land?

It worked on Simon Jenkins.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:16 PM


Iran's leader challenges Europe to take back Jews in Israel (The Associated Press, 1/20/06)

In a new attack on the existence of Israel, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has challenged Europe to take back the Jews who emigrated to Israel, adding that no Jews would remain in Israel if Europe were to open its doors.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:14 PM


John McCain Crushes Hillary Clinton in New Poll (NewsMax, 1/20/06)

Sen. John McCain trounces Hillary Clinton in the latest poll on the 2008 presidential race, which gives him a whopping 16-point advantage over the former first lady.

By a margin of 52 to 36 percent, voters preferred the Arizona Republican over Clinton in the Diageo/Hotline survey.

Even Republicans aren't a stupid enough party to not nominate him, especially given how much help such a landslide will offer down ticket.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:42 PM


UNANSWERED QUESTIONS (Jeffrey Toobin, 2006-01-23, The New Yorker)

This studied reticence is similar to that of most Supreme Court nominees since 1987, when Robert H. Bork gave extensive and candid testimony about his legal philosophy and political views. Members of the Judiciary Committee conducted a high-level debate with Bork on civil rights, abortion, and the right to privacy—and the full Senate rejected him by a vote of 58–42. That experience has led to a belief that, for nominees, the less said the better. As Arlen Specter, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, observed last week, “The hearings are really, in effect, a subtle minuet, with the nominee answering as many questions as he thinks necessary in order to be confirmed.” By that standard, if only by that standard, Alito probably said enough. Hapless committee Democrats interrupted their speechifying long enough to run into Alito’s stonewalling on almost all the important constitutional questions, so they hectored him on smaller points, like alumni politics and his failure to recuse himself in a case where, theoretically, he had a financial interest.

But if the Senate had a more transparent and searching confirmation process, the Supreme Court would probably be similar, though not identical, to the one we have now. Bork lost not because he answered but because of how he answered; a majority of senators saw him, correctly, as being outside the political mainstream of his time. That wouldn’t have been true for at least four of the six nominees confirmed since. If Anthony M. Kennedy, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen G. Breyer had forthrightly answered questions about their judicial philosophies, they almost certainly would have been confirmed anyway; all of them belong in the large middle ground of American politics.

That's ridiculous. The Kennedy and Souter nominations would have been withdrawn before they were voted down by the Republic Senators and it's not even particularly likely that Bill Clinton could have withstood his nominees explaining their views of the Constitution and the Court forthrightly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:37 PM


ACROSS THE UNIVERSE: A battlestar is reborn (NANCY FRANKLIN, 2006-01-23, The New Yorker)

For further, excruciatingly detailed plot points, you can read the millions of words about the show that have been posted on the Web by fans of the old series, many of whom have invested tremendous emotional energy into deciding whether Moore’s version is good, bad, or acceptable on any level. Some fans, for example, were bothered by the fact that this version does not pick up where the last one left off; it starts all over from the beginning. And a couple of very important characters who were men in the first series are now women. But what interests people who normally don’t care about science fiction is how timely and resonant the show is, bringing into play religion and religious fanaticism, global politics, terrorism, and questions about what it means to be human. (There are also a couple of funny jabs at the media, particularly at talk-show airheads who don’t, or can’t, distinguish between news and entertainment.) There’s no woozy space-aginess in the show, no theremin or symphonic music—the score consists mainly of taiko-inspired drumming, sometimes to the point of tedium, as if you were at a never-ending Iron John weekend. “Battlestar Galactica” is frank and graphic about sex and death. It’s not the kind of show where you find out after the fact that someone is pregnant and everyone is wondering whether the baby will be an alien; here, you see the baby being made. The central twist is that both the Cylons and the human beings they’re trying to kill are religious: the humans believe in gods, and the Cylons believe in God. In killing people, they think they’re doing God’s work. A wrinkle in that twist comes when the President (played by Mary McDonnell)—who arrived on board as a Cabinet secretary, forty-third in line for the Presidency and now in that job only because the forty-two ahead of her are dead—begins to believe that she is destined to lead the survivors to a promised land, and it’s not clear whether her visions are to be taken seriously or are side effects from a cancer treatment.

Here's a helpful hint for viewers: always root for the technologically-advanced monotheists.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:27 PM


Paper Closes Reader Comments on Blog, Citing Vitriol (KATHARINE Q. SEELYE, 1/20/06, NY Times)

The Washington Post stopped accepting reader comments on one of its blogs yesterday, saying it had drawn too many personal attacks, profanity and hate mail directed at the paper's ombudsman.

The closing was the second time in recent months that a major newspaper has stopped accepting feedback from readers in a Web forum. An experiment in allowing the public to edit editorials in The Los Angeles Times lasted just two days in June before it was shut because pornographic material was being posted on the site.

The Post's blog, which had accepted comments from readers on its entries since it was first published on Nov. 21, stopped doing so indefinitely yesterday afternoon with a notice from Jim Brady, executive editor of www.washingtonpost.com.

Mr. Brady wrote that he had expected criticism of The Post on the site, but that the public had violated rules against personal attacks and profanity.

We're thankful to all of you that we very seldom experience such problems here.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:17 PM


Kiss and Make It Up: What happens when there is no law constraining Alito. (Dahlia Lithwick, Jan. 19, 2006, Slate)

In the end, Samuel Alito almost, almost sold me last week with the enormously attractive, ceaselessly repeated mantra that a judge's politics, ideology, preferences, and opinions really are irrelevant. Maybe the only thing that matters really is that a judge "apply the law" and maintain "an open mind." Maybe all that liberal criticism of Alito really was just petty and personal. After all, he showed us that he knows the law. And if he says he has an open mind, who is really in a position to dispute that?

It took me a couple of days with a deprogrammer (and some long evenings with the bourbon) to fully unpack the problem with Alito's very neat theory of judging. Maybe it almost works as applied to Roe v. Wade, where there are dozens of precedents and even super-precedents, as Arlen Specter loves to call them, to navigate. But all that nice jurisprudential wallpaper simply falls away where it really matters: the constitutional limits of the war on terror. When it comes to the reach of the president's authority to pursue this war with a warrantless wiretap in one hand and a cattle prod in the other, there is almost no statutory authority or court precedent. Judges, specifically the justices of the Supreme Court, will in the end be making up the law more or less as they go.

Huh? Why isn't the absence of prior attempts to hamstring the Executive in wartime itself an important precedent? If prisoners of war were entitled to trials why haven't they ever gotten them in the past? If you can't spy on the enemy if he's contacting people in American then why has it been routine in the past? The fact that the Court would have to invent limits on the Executive war-making power out of whole cloth is exactly why it would be anti-constitutional and ahistorical to do so.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:04 PM


Harry Reid Is Not Boring: Has Scorsese fictionalized your U.S. senator? (Chris Suellentrop, Dec. 22, 2004, Slate)

Reid may not be the most colorful figure in Washington, but his career is far more interesting than that of the average senator. In politics, Nevada is the next best thing to Louisiana. To take just one example, is there another U.S. senator who has been part of the inspiration for a character in a Martin Scorsese film? (A character played by Dick Smothers, no less.) In Casino, Robert DeNiro's character melts down in front of the Nevada Gaming Commission after the commission denies him a license to operate a casino. The scene is loosely based on a December 1978 hearing when Reid was the commission's chairman, and some of the dialogue spoken by Smothers is taken directly from Reid's words during the hearing. (The rest of the scenes involving Smothers, who plays a composite politician known only as "Senator," have nothing to do with Reid.) OK, it's lackluster Scorsese, but at least it's not Gangs of New York. And there are other Reid echoes in Casino: Joe Pesci's character refers to a "Mr. Cleanface," which gangster Joe Agosto said was his nickname for an in-his-pocket Reid, but a five-month investigation of Agosto's claims cleared Reid of wrongdoing.

Posted by Glenn Dryfoos at 12:49 PM


A New King Among Kings: Robitaille scores three goals, giving him a franchise-best mark of 552 and putting him ahead of Dionne, and L.A. beats Atlanta, 8-6. (Chris Foster, January 20, 2006, LA Times)

The game belonged to the Kings, who carved out a wild 8-6 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers on Thursday.

The moment belonged to Luc Robitaille.

He capped the game by throwing the puck nearly the length of the ice into an empty net for the fifth hat trick of his career. That added an exclamation point to his evening, during which he broke Marcel Dionne's team record of 550 career goals.

Robitaille fought to control his emotions after the game, in which his three goals left him with 552 as a King and helped the team rally from a two-goal deficit in the third period.

"It's overwhelming," he said. "It is a special night that I will have in the bank forever. I have had so many great memories here."

An announced sellout of 18,118 at Staples Center made sure of that, showering Robitaille with long and loud calls of "Luuuc" as he was mobbed by teammates after breaking the record.

Luc is a lousy skater and a so-so puck handler, but he has one of the best noses for putting the puck in the net that I've ever seen. He's also grown from a shy teenage rookie who couldn't speak English into one of the really good guys in pro sports. I was at the Staples Center the night Luc scored his 500th career goal; I'm sorry I wasn't there last night to throw a hat on the ice.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 10:07 AM


27 new species found in California caves (Juliana Barbassa, Associated Press, January 18th, 2006)

Twenty-seven previously unknown species of spiders, centipedes, scorpion-like creatures and other animals have been discovered in the dark, damp caves beneath two national parks in the Sierra Nevada, biologists say.

“Not only are these animals new to science, but they're adapted to very specific environments — some of them, to a single room in one cave,” said Joel Despain, a cave specialist who helped explore 30 of the 238 known caves in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

The discoveries included a relative of the pill bug so translucent that its internal organs are visible, particularly its long, bright yellow liver. There was also a daddy long legs with jaws bigger than its body, and a tiny fluorescent orange spider.

“Many people will be looking at these trying to find where they fit in the tree of life,” said Darrell Ubick, a cave biologist with the San Francisco-based California Academy of Sciences.

We bet with spiders, centipedes and scorpion-like creatures. We also assume "adapted to very specific environments" means they couldn't find them anywhere else.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:00 AM


Marriage and Caste: America’s chief source of inequality? The Marriage Gap. (Kay S. Hymowitz , Winter 2006, City Journal)

While Americans have been squabbling about gay marriage, they have managed to miss the real marriage-and-social-justice issue, one that affects far more people and threatens to undermine the American project. We are now a nation of separate and unequal families not only living separate and unequal lives but, more worrisome, destined for separate and unequal futures.

Two-America Jeremiahs usually nod at the single-parent family as a piece of the inequality story, but quickly change the subject to describe—accurately, as far as it goes—an economy that has implacably squeezed out manufacturing jobs, reduced wages for the low-skilled, and made a wallet-busting college education crucial to a middle-class future. But one can’t disentangle the economic from the family piece. Given that families socialize children for success—or not—and given how marriage orders lives, they are the same problem. Separate and unequal families produce separate and unequal economic fates.

Most people understand what happened to the American family over the last half-century along these lines: the birth control pill begat the sexual and feminist revolutions of the 1960s, which begat the decline of the traditional nuclear family, which in turn introduced the country to a major new demographic: the single mother. Divorce became as ubiquitous as the automobile; half of all marriages, we are often reminded, will end in family court. Growing financial independence and changing mores not only gave women the freedom to divorce in lemming-like numbers; it also allowed them to dispense with marriage altogether and have children, Murphy Brown–style, on their own. (This is leaving aside inner-city teenage mothers, whom just about everyone sees as an entirely different and more troubling category.) Today, we frequently hear, a third of all children are born to unmarried women.
Less Education Means More Illegitimacy....

To put it a little differently, after the 1960s women no longer felt compelled to follow the life course charted in a once-popular childhood rhyme—first comes love, then marriage, then the baby carriage. Sure, some people got married, had kids, and stayed married for life, but the hegemony of Ozzie and his brood was past. Alternative families are just the way things are; for better or for worse, in a free society people get to choose their own “lifestyles”-bringing their children along for the ride-and they are doing so not just in the United States but all over the Western world.

That picture turns out to be as equivocal as an Escher lithograph, however. As the massive social upheaval following the 1960s—what Francis Fukuyama has termed “the Great Disruption”—has settled into the new normal, social scientists are finding out that when it comes to the family, America really has become two nations. The old-fashioned married-couple-with-children model is doing quite well among college-educated women. It is primarily among lower-income women with only a high school education that it is in poor health. This fact may not conform to the view from Hollywood; movies from Kramer vs. Kramer to The Ice Storm to the recent The Squid and the Whale, not to mention unmarried celebrity moms like Goldie Hawn and moms-to-be like Katie Holmes, have helped reinforce the perception that elite women snubbing a conformist patriarchy were the vanguard of a vast social change. Now it’s pretty clear that this is a myth saying more about La-La Land than the reality of American family breakdown.

The most important recent analysis of that reality is “The Uneven Spread of Single-Parent Families,” a 2004 paper by Harvard’s David Ellwood and Christopher Jencks. The Kennedy School profs divide American mothers into three categories by education level: women with a college degree or higher; women with a high school diploma (including those with some college, whose trends look very similar to those with high school alone); and women who never graduated high school. The paper’s findings are worth pondering in some detail.

Forty-five years ago, there was only a small difference in the way American women went about the whole marriage-and-children question; just about everyone, from a Smith grad living in New Canaan, Connecticut, to a high school dropout in Appalachia, first tied the knot and only then delivered the bouncing bundle of joy. As of 1960, the percentage of women with either a college or high school diploma who had children without first getting married was so low that you’d need a magnifying glass to find it on a graph; even the percentage of high school dropouts who were never-married mothers barely hit 1 percent. Moreover, after getting married and having a baby, almost all women stayed married. A little under 5 percent of mothers in the top third of the education distribution and about 6 percent of the middle group were either divorced or separated (though these figures don’t include divorced-and-then-remarried mothers). And while marital breakup was higher among mothers who were high school dropouts, their divorce rate was still only a modest 8 percent or so.

That all changed in the decades following the 1960s, when, as everyone who was alive at the time remembers, the American family seemed on the verge of self-immolation. For women, marriage and children no longer seemed part of the same story line. Instead of staying married for the kids, mothers at every education level joined the national divorce binge. By 1980, the percentage of divorced college-educated mothers more than doubled, to 12 percent—about the same percentage as divorced mothers with a high school diploma or with some college. For high school dropout mothers, the percentage increased to 15 percent. An increasing number of women had children without getting married at all. So far the story conforms to general theory.

But around 1980, the family-forming habits of college grads and uneducated women went their separate ways. For the next decade the proportion of college-educated moms filing for divorce stopped increasing, and by 1990 it actually starting going down. This was not the case for the least educated mothers, who continued on a divorce spree for another ten years. It was only in 1990 that their increase in divorce also started to slow and by 2000 to decline, though it was too late to close the considerable gap between them and their more privileged sisters.

Far more dramatic were the divergent trends in what was still known at the time as illegitimacy. Yes, out-of-wedlock childbearing among women with college diplomas tripled, but because their numbers started at Virtually Nonexistent in 1960 (a fraction of 1 percent), they only moved up to Minuscule in 1980 (a little under 3 percent of mothers in the top third of education distribution) to end up at a Rare 4 percent.

Things were radically different for mothers in the lower two educational levels. They decided that marriage and children were two entirely unconnected life experiences. That decline in their divorce rate after 1990? Well, it turns out the reason for it wasn’t that these women had thought better of putting their children through a parental breakup, as many of their more educated sisters had; it was that they weren’t getting married in the first place. Throughout the 1980s and nineties, the out-of-wedlock birthrate soared to about 15 percent among mothers with less than a high school education and 10 percent of those with a high school diploma or with some college.

Many people assume that these low-income never-married mothers are teen mothers, but teens are only a subset of unmarried mothers, and a rather small one in recent years. Yes, the U.S. continues to be the teen-mommy capital of the Western world, with 4 percent of teen girls having babies, a rate considerably higher than Europe’s. But that rate is almost one-third lower than it was in 1991, and according to up-to-the-minute figures from the National Center for Health Statistics, teens account for only about a quarter of unwed births—compared with half in 1970. Today 55 percent of unmarried births are to women between 20 and 24; another 28 percent are to 25- to 29-year-olds. These days, it is largely low-income twentysomethings who are having a baby without a wedding ring. The good news is that single mothers are not as likely to be 15; the bad news is that there is now considerable evidence to suggest that, while their prospects may be a little better than their teenage sisters’ would be, they are not dramatically so.

Race has also added to misperceptions about single mothers. It’s easy to see why, with close to 70 percent of black children born to single mothers today—including educated mothers—compared with 25 percent of non-black kids. But blacks make up only 12 percent of the country’s population, and black children account for only one-third of the nation’s out-of-wedlock kids.

Tune out the static from teen pregnancy, race, and Murphy Brown, then, and the big news comes into focus: starting in 1980, Americans began to experience a widening Marriage Gap that has reached dangerous proportions. As of 2000, only about 10 percent of mothers with 16 or more years of education—that is, with a college degree or higher—were living without husbands. Compare that with 36 percent of mothers who have between nine and 14 years of education. All the statistics about marriage so often rehashed in magazine and newspaper articles hide a startling truth. Yes, 33 percent of children are born to single mothers; in 2004, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, that amounted to 1.5 million children, the highest number ever. But the vast majority of those children are going home from the maternity wards to low-rent apartments. Yes, experts predict that about 40 to 50 percent of marriages will break up. But most of those divorces will involve women who have always shopped at Wal-Mart. “[T]he rise in single-parent families is concentrated among blacks and among the less educated,” summarize Ellwood and Jencks. “It hardly occurred at all among women with a college degree.”

It isn't necessarily all conscious, but you can't help noticing that all of the "reforms" and "revolutions" pushed by liberals serve to atomize society and force stranded individuals into a position where their only relationship is to the State and is a dependent one, which has the circular effect of getting them to support increased statism. It's really quite a brilliant system, it just doesn't work out too well for the atoms.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:42 AM


Minority Leader Reid Apologizes to GOP (The Associated Press, January 19, 2006)

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid on Thursday apologized to 33 Republican senators singled out for ethics criticism in a report from his office titled "Republican Abuse of Power."

"The document released by my office yesterday went too far and I want to convey to you my personal regrets," Reid said in a letter. [...]

"Researching, compiling and distributing what amounts to nothing more than a campaign ad on the taxpayers dime raises serious ethical questions," said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, one of the lawmakers named.

Might want to apologize for comparing them to John Gotti while he's at it...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:35 AM


Choice in schools benefits the poor (David Green, 20/01/2006, Daily Telegraph)

Evidence from Sweden shows that choice benefits the least well off, and helps to raise standards for all pupils in neighbourhoods where schools compete.

Sweden is the only European country operating a universal voucher scheme. The reforms began in 1992 when independent schools were guaranteed the right to receive funding from municipalities. Vouchers are now valued at 100 per cent of the average cost of a place in a local state school. Any type of school that meets the requirements of the National Agency for Education is entitled to this funding, whether religious, for-profit or charitable. Schools are prohibited from charging top-up fees and are not allowed to select pupils by ability. They must also meet specific academic standards and adhere to the national curriculum.

The voucher system has resulted in an increase in independent providers. Before the reforms, independent schools in Sweden accounted for less than one per cent of pupils and few of those received any government funding. According to the Swedish National Agency for Education, there were 565 independent schools in 2004/05, accounting for 11 per cent of the 4,963 schools overall. An independent study found that competition from independent schools has improved results in state schools. Moreover, it has been found that new independent schools are more likely to be established in areas of under-performing state schools serving disadvantaged children.

The strongest evidence is from American charter schools. Charter schools are supported by public funds and may not charge fees. Public authorities pay them a cash amount per pupil, usually lower then the average cost of local state schools. They cannot select their students based on admissions tests, and must obey many public school regulations, including test requirements, although they are often exempt or partially exempt from regulations about teacher certification. To avoid back-door selection, state laws typically require charter schools to select students by lottery when the number of applicants exceeds the number of available places.

One of the most authoritative studies has been carried out by academics from Harvard University and Columbia Business School. They looked at charter schools in Chicago, where school places are allocated by lottery when a school is over-subscribed. The study compared the achievements of pupils selected by lottery with those who were not (and who, consequently, attended local state schools). This method has the advantage of eliminating the ''selection'' effect that statisticians worry about. The results cannot be explained by ''home background'', or middle- class parents so hated by Labour backbenchers, because all the pupils had motivated parents who wanted their children to attend charter schools - some were lucky enough to attend and others were not.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 8:29 AM


Diplomacy has failed and the choice is clear (Michael Costello, The Australian, January 20th, 2006)

The world will either have to accept an Iran with nuclear weapons or it will have to use force to destroy its capability.

It may well be that the right judgment is that, given the high risks of military action, we should accept a nuclear Iran, seek to contain it and hope its extremism will moderate over time. But the point of this stark statement of alternatives is that the debate on Iraq's nuclear activities should put aside wishful thinking.

Diplomacy has not worked and will not work. [...]

All in all, a terrifying mess.

Perhaps someone will now listen to the head of the IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei, who has every reason to dislike the Americans. ElBaradei has reminded everyone of Iran's record of cheating on IAEA safeguards. He said he could not confirm Iran's programs were peaceful. He said it was possible that "they are really not very far - a few months - from a weapon".

"Diplomacy has to be backed by pressure and in extreme cases by force," he said.

So there it is. The threat may be a few years away or it may be a few months away. The choice is hard on the world, and above all on Israel. Acceptance or force: either way dreadful. But inaction, pretending diplomacy is another option, is in practice a choice for acceptance. So let's not fool ourselves. Choose.

It will be depressing to watch the mental and intellectual hoops Western elites will jump through in the coming months to deny this reality.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:13 AM


Pennsylvania Governor: Rendell-Swann a Toss-up (January 19, 2006, RasmussenReports.com)

Our latest poll of the race for Pennsylvania governor shows Republican Lynn Swann, the former receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers, narrowly leading Democratic Governor Ed Rendell 45% to 43%.

Fifty-four percent (54%) of voters view Swann favorably; 47% view Rendell favorably.

That favorability rate seems awfully low for Mr. Swann given that he's a football hero who hasn't had time yet to alienate anyone politically. Though, perhaps it's just a function of low name recognition--he retired some time ago.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:04 AM


Crane: Has Harper really moved left? (DAVID CRANE, 1/20/06, Toronto Star)

[B]ig questions remain about what a Harper government would be like. Has Harper really changed from a right-wing ideologue to a middle-of-the-road Conservative? Is the new Harper more than skin deep? Or is his campaign simply an expedient response to intensive Conservative polling?

Harper's history is of a strong believer in small government and especially a weak national government, devolution of power to the provinces, as well as being a social conservative seemingly more in tune with the religious right than mainstream Canadian values.

In a telling profile by Marci McDonald in Walrus magazine of members of the so-called Calgary School, a group of Alberta academics who have an almost pathological dislike of both the federal government and Ontario, Harper's neoconservative credentials as part of that group are spelled out. The article quotes Ted Byfield, a leading voice of a quasi-separatist Western Canada and Harper supporter as saying after the 2004 election, "The issue now is: How do we fool the world into thinking we're moving to the left when we're not."

The genius of the Third Way is that it offers Rightwing solutions in Leftwing packaging.

Has he squandered his shot at majority? (BRIAN LAGHI, January 20, 2006, Globe and Mail)

Eighteen months ago, Mr. Harper saw his chances at governing go up in smoke after he and others began talking about the possibility of a majority government.

It was a mistake that Mr. Harper and his troops pledged not to make again.

But with the election just three days away, a number of late-breaking factors may give Ontarians pause.

Take, for example, Mr. Harper's announcement earlier this week that a Liberal-dominated Senate, Supreme Court and civil service would serve as a check on his government were he to win a majority.

The comments were supposed to ease anxieties.

Instead, they brought a focus on the fact that Mr. Harper might head to Parliament with intentions to change the way the Supreme Court is appointed.

But the concerns are less about judicial activism than they are about the resurrection of Reform grievances over the West's exclusion from power.

While Reform accomplished many worthwhile things during its dozen years of existence — raising alarm bells about fiscal and democratic deficits come to mind — the party rubbed many central Canadians the wrong way by complaining that government has been manipulated against Western interests.

As George Bush demonstrated best, the key is to make the Left think it's won--all that compassionate conservative rigamarole--and that you're reconciled to that.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:59 AM


The fight for Ontario begins (LES WHITTINGTON, 1/20/06, Toronto Star)

Ontario is the final battle site in the federal election and it's turning into an epic Liberal-Conservative fight over sex, politics and religion.

Prime Minister Paul Martin, insisting he can still pull out a victory in Monday's election, is pinning those hopes on a whipped-up appeal to Ontarians to stave off the Conservatives' radical social agenda.

And he is accusing Conservative Leader Stephen Harper of getting ready to stack the courts with right-wing judges to make it possible to ban same-sex marriage and clamp down on women's rights to choose.

Citing Harper's statement that a Conservative government, even if it was a majority, would not have "absolute power" because of Liberal-appointed judges and senators, Martin said the Tory leader's attitude toward power is cause for grave concern. "Who talks that way? Who thinks that way?

"He (Harper) spoke of the courts as his political opponents, he described them as an obstacle, a barrier between him and his agenda," Martin said, describing his opponent's priorities "as the most socially conservative agenda that has ever been this close" to being carried into power in Canada. It is an agenda inspired by "the extreme right in the United States," he added.

This seems a high risk strategy for Mr. Martin even in a Blue nation. People notoriously lie to pollsters to make themselves seem more politically-correct than they really are.

Smell of desperation (JOHN DERRINGER, 1/20/06, Toronto Sun)

[C]an somebody, for the love of God, please explain how any Canadian can step into a polling station and check off the name of the Liberal candidate in their party? Although it causes me a massive migraine, I can think of three reasons why people might do so, and they're all difficult to fathom.

First off, there's the "immigrant vote," which, according to many experts, is the main reason the Liberals have been able to dominate Toronto. The theory goes that folks who've come to Canada in the last 35 years feel they owe a debt to the Liberal Party for giving them a life they couldn't have dreamt of in their countries of origin. Strangely, this seems to apply even to those who entered the country during Brian Mulroney's tenure as prime minister.

What is clear to me is that those who feel that Canada has welcomed them, sheltered them and given them enormous opportunities have the people of this country to thank, not the Liberal party.

Secondly, there are those who've bought into the propaganda of the left-wing media (particularly the CBC). The mantra of such outlets has been simply, yet very effectively shifty and mysterious: Stephen Harper has a "hidden agenda." It's so well hidden, in fact, that nobody I've heard from can accurately describe it. [...]

There's a third reason, and it's plain laziness. There are plenty of Canadians who come home at night and say "Hey, my life's not bad, why rock the boat?" Incredibly, these folks are willing to overlook the rot of the Chretien/Martin Liberal regimes. This, to me, is like supporting the senior executives of the company you work for, even if they've been found to be stealing from the company, and by extension, its workers, because you're still getting a paycheque. In this scenario, it goes unnoticed by these folks that things at the office could be much better, that the bi-weekly cheque could be much bigger, the health plan better, if a new, accountable, management group were put in place.

It's amazing what people will put up with when there's food on the table and a hospital nearby that will admit them for free.

Not that amazing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:46 AM


How the Conservative Columnist Witch Hunt Burned Me (Michael Fumento, January 19, 2006, Townhall)

I was first called by a Times reporter in late December, who accused me of writing a pay-for-play column. I flatly and truthfully denied it. The reporter was flummoxed, having nothing more than an accusation to work with. She kept digging but found nothing.

Weeks later, Eamon Javers of Business Week called and asked about the same column. Again a denial. But by this time my most recent column concerned the exciting biotech products under development by the Monsanto Company, based on a just-released report. Javers asked if I had EVER received money from Monsanto. Sure, I said. It was a $60,000 book grant to my employer, solicited back in 1999, which was applied to pre-established salary and benefits.

Javers then asked if I had acknowledged Monsanto in the book. No, I said. I had called numerous scientists who had helped me to ask how they would like to be acknowledged and one at Monsanto said he'd prefer that both he and the company be left out.

I could have ignored his wishes. But notwithstanding that I live in the backstabbing capital of the world, I kept my knife sheathed. Monsanto had helped me where others would not. I simply referred in my acknowledgments to "others who wish to remain anonymous." Further, acknowledgments are not full disclosure forms; they are personal. Read some.

Javers then took it upon himself to establish, right then, a completely new set of rules regarding columnists disclosure of the receipt of corporate money. All previous standards were null and void.

Under Javers' Rules, there's absolutely no distinction from a book grants to an employer and pay-for-play for individual columns. Further, once you've benefited from a grant you are considered forever in the donor's debt. Never mind that shortly after received the grant I ripped Monsanto for being "chicken-hearted" and caving into environmentalist demands. Therefore the grant must also be disclosed unto eternity – 2006, 2016, 2036, whatever.

This is shown in the very title of Javers' piece. While my grant ended in 2000 and my column began in 2003, I remain forever "A Columnist Backed by Monsanto."

Javers' Rules also declare that any mention of the donor corporation triggers the rules, including a column I wrote devoting a single sentence to Monsanto. And – very importantly – Javers' Rules are retroactive. Your inability to foresee that one day he would invent them is no excuse.

Javers then called my syndicate, Scripps Howard New Service and, discretion being the better part of valor as they say, I was fired. Instantly. No consultation. Intrinsic to witch hunts and the fear they generate is that an accusation is a conviction. Javers accused; Scripps fired.

Only folks about whom we all have as low a regard as we generally do (Mr. Fumento very much excepted) for politicians and the press could think that such absurd standards need apply. You have to be easily bought yourself to imagine others are being so bought.

Posted by Stephen Judd at 6:33 AM


Hopefully you're aware that, in addition to his blog postings, Orrin is also a prolific reviewer of books (I think he's published over 1500 to the site.) Well it seems that I don't always check the site to see what he's been up to, so I set up an RSS feed with his most recent featured reviews.

The feed is here: http://www.brothersjudd.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/brojudd.rss

I use Bloglines to aggregate RSS feeds online. You can subscribe to the feed via Bloglines by clicking the button below:

Subscribe with Bloglines

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Soul singer Wilson Pickett dies (BBC, 1/20/06)

Veteran US soul singer Wilson Pickett has died aged 64 after suffering a heart attack in Virginia.

His management company said that he had been in poor health for the past year, and last performed in 2004.

Born in Alabama, Pickett shot to fame in the 1960s with hits including In The Midnight Hour and Mustang Sally. [...]

Soul singer Solomon Burke added: "We've lost a giant, we've lost a legend, we've lost a man who created his own charisma and made it work around the world."

Solomon Burke, Otis Redding, Ray Charles and Isaac Hayes may have been his only peers.

Wilson Pickett (Daily Telegraph, 21/01/2006)

Wilson Pickett, the singer who has died aged 64, was best known for his raspy-voiced and passionate recordings of In the Midnight Hour and Mustang Sally; although he never achieved the popularity of James Brown or Aretha Franklin, his distinctive sound took soul music in a rougher direction and inspired many imitators who were keen to emulate "Wicked" Pickett's aggressive and rhythmic style.

Wilson Pickett, 64, Soul Singer of Great Passion, Dies (JEFF LEEDS, 1/20/06, NY Times)
[M]r. Pickett, who lived in Ashburn, Va., had enjoyed a series of accolades as he approached retirement. His first album in more than a decade - 1999's "It's Harder Now" - was honored with a Grammy nomination for best traditional rhythm and blues vocal performance. In 2000, he picked up three W. C. Handy Awards from the Blues Foundation, including one for comeback album of the year.

At the close of 2004, however, "we sort just said, 'Let's take a year off,' and eased him out of the responsibility of having to think about gigging," Ms. Lewis said. "It wasn't necessary for him financially."

Mr. Pickett had long since cemented his legacy; his shift from gospel music to rhythm and blues and soul led to a string of 1960's classics, including "Mustang Sally," "Land of 1,000 Dances" and "634-5789." [...]

[H]is chance at pop fame emerged in 1961, when he was invited to join the Falcons, an R & B act that had already scored a Top 20 hit, "You're So Fine."

While the Falcons enjoyed modest success, Mr. Pickett struck out on his own, recording the song "If You Need Me." His performance hit the market at roughly the same time the soul singer Solomon Burke released his own version. Still, both treatments sold well, and Mr. Pickett soon had a contract with Atlantic Records.

He quickly cranked out a series of hits, including one of his signature songs, "In the Midnight Hour." Most of his songs were recorded in either Memphis or Muscle Shoals, Ala., which at the time were the hotbeds of soul recording activity in the South. His sidemen included Southern musicians like the guitarist Steve Cropper (who co-wrote "Midnight Hour" and other songs with Mr. Pickett) and, later, the guitarist Duane Allman of the Allman Brothers.

He soon found himself with the nickname "Wicked Pickett" - which has been described as a reference both to his screaming delivery and to his offstage behavior.

He continued to record songs that would become part of the soul canon, including "Funky Broadway" and "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love." He also earned a reputation as one of music's most compelling live performers, delivering stage shows in which he mixed gospel-tinged solemnity with funk stylings that evoked James Brown.

Through the 1970's, Mr. Pickett reached beyond his own repertory, covering songs by Randy Newman ("Momma Told Me Not to Come"), Steppenwolf ("Born to Be Wild"), the Beatles ("Hey Jude") and even the Archies ("Sugar Sugar").

Like other soul performers, he found his star beginning to wane with the advent of disco and other genres in the 1970's.

Reason enough to despise disco.

January 19, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:37 PM


Al Qaeda's Mad Scientist: The significance of Abu Khabab's death. (Dan Darling, 01/19/2006, Weekly Standard)

IF KHABAB CAN BE SAID to have had a lasting effect on the development of Islamist extremism, it would be that he moved the possibility of Islamists using unconventional weapons out of the theoretical and into the practical. Those wishing to view his legacy need look no further than the extremely crude but deadly chemical and biological experiments set up under the auspices of Ansar al-Islam in northern Iraq prior to the U.S. invasion.

With Khabab dead, it is unclear what has become of the leadership of al Zabadi, particularly if the other Egyptians killed in Damadola include any of Khabab's assistants or aides. The issue of determining Khabab's successor is complicated by the fact that the U.S.-led campaign against al Qaeda has already dealt a number of blows to the terror network's unconventional weapons efforts--including the capture of Mohammed Omar Abdel Rahman, the son of the convicted Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman whom the Los Angeles Times identified in April 2004 under his kuniyat (assumed name) of Asadullah as being a member of al Zabadi prior to his capture in February 2003. Another senior al Qaeda leader, Mustafa Setmariam Nasar, is believed to have worked closely with Khabab in Afghanistan and was captured in Pakistan in November 2005.

In the absence of either man, one possible successor would be Abu Bashir Yemeni, whom the Los Angeles Times reported in April 2004 had worked with both Khabab and Mohammed Omar Abdel Rahman.

While Khabab was not listed among the senior echelons of the al Qaeda leadership, he was one of its most dangerous engineers.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:07 PM


Administration Lays Out Legal Case for Wiretapping Program (ERIC LICHTBLAU, 1/19/06, NY Times)

The Bush administration today offered its fullest defense of the National Security Agency's domestic eavesdropping program, saying that congressional authorization to defeat Al Qaeda after the Sept. 11 attacks "places the president at the zenith of his powers in authorizing the N.S.A. activities."

In a 42-page white paper, the Justice Department expanded on its past arguments in laying out the legal rationale for why the N.S.A. program does not violate federal wiretap law and why the president is the nation's "sole organ" for foreign affairs.

The defense comes at a critical time in the administration's effort to quell the growing political uproar over the N.S.A. program. House Democrats will be holding their first hearing Friday on the legality of the program, and the Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled another hearing in two weeks. A number of legal analysts, meanwhile, including those at the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, have questioned the legality of the program in strong terms.

But the Bush administration appears undeterred by the criticism. In its white paper, it turned time and again to the congressional authorization of Sept. 14, 2001, even though the Congressional Research Service study was particularly skeptical of this line of defense.

YOUNGSTOWN CO. v. SAWYER, 343 U.S. 579 (1952) (MR. JUSTICE JACKSON, concurring in the judgment and opinion of the Court)
The actual art of governing under our Constitution does not and cannot conform to judicial definitions of the power of any of its branches based on isolated clauses or even single Articles torn from context. While the Constitution diffuses power the better to secure liberty, it also contemplates that practice will integrate the dispersed powers into a workable government. It enjoins upon its branches separateness but interdependence, autonomy but reciprocity. Presidential powers are not fixed but fluctuate, depending upon their disjunction or conjunction with those of Congress. We may well begin by a somewhat over-simplified grouping of practical situations in which a President may doubt, or others may challenge, his powers, and by distinguishing roughly the legal consequences of this factor of relativity.

1. When the President acts pursuant to an express or implied authorization of Congress, his authority is at its maximum, for it includes all that he possesses in his own right plus all that Congress can delegate. 2 In these circumstances, [343 U.S. 579, 636] and in these only, may he be said (for what it may be worth) to personify the federal sovereignty. If his act is held unconstitutional under these circumstances, it usually means that the Federal Government [343 U.S. 579, 637] as an undivided whole lacks power. A seizure executed by the President pursuant to an Act of Congress would be supported by the strongest of presumptions and the widest latitude of judicial interpretation, and the burden of persuasion would rest heavily upon any who might attack it.

2. When the President acts in absence of either a congressional grant or denial of authority, he can only rely upon his own independent powers, but there is a zone of twilight in which he and Congress may have concurrent authority, or in which its distribution is uncertain. Therefore, congressional inertia, indifference or quiescence may sometimes, at least as a practical matter, enable, if not invite, measures on independent presidential responsibility. In this area, any actual test of power is likely to depend on the imperatives of events and contemporary imponderables rather than on abstract theories of law.

3. When the President takes measures incompatible with the expressed or implied will of Congress, his power is at its lowest ebb, for then he can rely only upon his own constitutional powers minus any constitutional powers of Congress over the matter. Courts can sustain exclusive presidential control in such a case only by disabling [343 U.S. 579, 638] the Congress from acting upon the subject. Presidential claim to a power at once so conclusive and preclusive must be scrutinized with caution, for what is at stake is the equilibrium established by our constitutional system.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:52 PM


No Jail for Two Homosexual Rapist Teachers: One judge was keynote speaker at Lesbian and Gay Bar Association Dinner (Terry Vanderheyden, January 19, 2006, LifeSiteNews.com)

Judges in two separate cases of rape by homosexual high school teachers have let the rapists off without prison.

Brockton Superior Court Judge Suzanne V. Delvecchio handed Gregory Pathiakis, 26, of Brockton, Mass, a suspended, 2 1/2-year sentence, followed by five years probation. He admitted to sexually molesting a 15-year-old student on December 23, 2003. WorldNetDaily reported that in a written statement read in court by his father, the Middleboro High School student told Pathiakis, “I feel you deserve jail. You are a disgrace to all teachers.”

“He was in a position of authority over these kids,” lamented Plymouth County District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz. Cruz asked the court for a minimum of four years in prison. That the rapist did not go to jail he said was “disheartening.”

...raping boys is just a lifestyle choice.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:49 PM


Syria backs a nuclear Iran (Patrick Bishop, 20/01/2006, Daily Telegraph)

Syria yesterday backed Iran in its nuclear confrontation with the West as their leaders met in Damascus in a defiant show of solidarity.

The Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, welcomed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and said the Iranian leader had the right to acquire nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. In turn, Mr Ahmadinejad asserted his host's right to freedom from foreign interference.

His old man, an even more reprehensible creature, at least had sense enough to back the first Iraq War.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:56 PM


Case Will Challenge Akaka For Senate Seat (Brent Suyama, 1/19/06, TheHawaiiChannel.com)

Hawaii Rep. Ed Case announced on Thursday that he will run against fellow Democrat Sen. Dan Akaka this fall.

Ideal for the GOP as Case makes the case that Akaka is too old but even if he wins the party faithful resent him.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:36 PM


Gays rush to altar, fearing marriage law at risk (CTV News, January 19th, 2006)

Gay couples across Canada are rushing to the altar, worried that a possible Conservative government will reverse the legalization of same sex marriages.

David Lockwood and Jason Cass got married Wednesday in Toronto.

"We decided Saturday night (to get married) Wednesday afternoon. The election is Monday. We wanted to do it before Monday," Cass said.

Pastor Mickey Wilson in Edmonton is scheduled to marry five same-sex couples in 10 days.

Toronto's city hall wedding co-ordinator, Louise Code, said there are 10 same-sex marriages booked for Friday.

"We've noticed a considerable surge in same-sex weddings that wish to be performed," she said.[...]

Ontario Health Minister George Smitherman and his partner are also considering pushing up their marriage date if Harper becomes prime minister.

"We're concerned that the rights we currently have that are constitutionally guaranteed are put at risk by Mr. Harper," Smitherman said.

We sure hope no one lets slip that the “hidden agenda” of the wicked Conservatives is not to repeal gay marriage, but rather to abolish divorce.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:22 PM


As Muslims speak out, appeals intensify for reporter's release (Dan Murphy and Charles Levinson, 1/20/06, CS Monitor)

The Supreme Guide of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, Mahdi Akef, urged "the kidnappers of the American journalist Jill Carroll to release her immediately'' in a statement Thursday. "The Supreme Guide calls on all Iraqi factions to protect civilian lives, Iraqis or not, and especially the lives of reporters and media workers who came to expose the crimes of occupation."

The Muslim Brotherhood is considered the most powerful Islamist political opposition in the Arab world.

In Iraq Thursday, the Iraqi Islamic Party, a leading Sunni Arab political party, also released a statement denounced kidnappings "because they are conducted against innocent people, who are mostly sympathetic with the Iraqis and their miseries.... The IIP urges the kidnappers to release this female journalist as soon as possible."

Saad Bazaaz, editor of Azzaman, a daily newspaper, and chairman of al-Sharqiya television channel in Iraq, in a phone call from Qatar, said that "Voices are coming from everywhere [on Carroll's behalf], even from the hardliners. And that is very good. Everyone in Iraq is talking about Jill Carroll, and they are saying the right things."

The Qatar-based Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, whose Al Jazeera program has made him one of the region's most respected and popular preachers, reiterated his previous religious ruling, or fatwa, against the kidnapping and murder of journalists in Iraq and said this certainly holds for Carroll's case. In Cairo, eight regional Arab human rights groups issued a joint statement reminding Carroll's kidnappers of her "respect for Iraqi, Arab and Islamic norms and traditions."

So yet another terrorist incident leads to the opposite of what they intended, this time prompting Muslim groups to speak out in the way Reformers and Islamophobes have been demanding.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:13 PM


Girl in vegetative state reported to improve: DSS says it has no plan to remove feeding tube (Patricia Wen, January 19, 2006, Boston Globe)

A day after the state's highest court ruled that the Department of Social Services could withdraw life support from a brain-damaged girl, the agency said yesterday that Haleigh Poutre might be emerging from her vegetative state.

DSS also said it has no immediate plans to remove her feeding tube.

''There has been a change in her condition," said a DSS spokeswoman, Denise Monteiro. ''The vegetative state may not be a total vegetative state."

Monteiro said Haleigh is breathing on her own, without the ventilator she has depended on for four months. Monteiro also said that doctors at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield elicited responses from Haleigh during tests performed yesterday. [...]

Monteiro said that doctors did not tell DSS, which has custody of Haleigh, that her condition had changed until yesterday afternoon. [...]

Last fall, doctors described Haleigh as being in a persistent vegetative state and ''virtually brain dead," district court records said. Physicians said her brain stem was severely injured, leaving her unable to think or feel and in an ''irreversible coma," according to an opinion Tuesday by the Supreme Judicial Court.

Many neurologists say it is rare for a patient with severe brain-stem injuries to fully recover from a persistent vegetative state that lasts for more than a month.

Jack Egan, a Springfield lawyer for the girl's stepfather, said yesterday's medical news confirms their view that DSS was too hasty in determining that Haleigh's condition was irreversible. He noted that DSS asked the courts to withdraw life support after Haleigh had been in the hospital for less than a month.

Oh well, at least the Death Cult got to Terri Schiavo before they could be stopped.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:04 PM


Hillary talks Iran strike: Clinton blasts Bush administration’s handling of country’s possible development of nuclear weapons (GLENN THRUSH, January 18, 2006, Newsday)

A tough-talking Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton Wednesday suggested she would back a military strike on Iran if that country's radical Islamic government attempts to build nuclear weapons.

Clinton's speech seemed to position her somewhat to the right of the Bush administration, which has stressed diplomacy without ruling out any other option.

She's only to his Right until he bombs them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:28 PM


Liberal Campaign Caught Falsely Accusing Conservative Candidate of Sexual Abuse (John-Henry Westen, January 19, 2006, LifeSiteNews.com)

The Liberal Campaign in the Saskatoon-Wanuskewin riding of Saskatchewan has reached a boiling point after the campaign office was caught calling in to a television show falsely accusing the Conservative candidate of sexual abuse. Tuesday night on Shaw Cable, a caller phoned in falsely accusing front-runner Conservative incumbent MP Maurice Vellacott of sexually assaulting his church secretary at North Park Church.

Vellacott has never been accused by any woman of sexual assault and was never a Pastor at North Park Church. Bishop Jerold Gliege former long-term Pastor of North Park Church and now of Holy Covenant Orthodox Church, confirms that Vellacott never served there. Gliege says, "Vellacott is an upstanding, honourable man who has served this Saskatoon-Wanuskewin constituency very diligently." Bishop Gliege suggests that Vellacott is being targeted with slander due to his pro-life and family views. "Because he is an articulate defender of life, marriage and family, he is the target of attacks by those who have differing views," he said.

Vellacott responded quickly to the televised accusation by looking directly into the camera, stating to the technicians that he needed to get the name and phone number of that caller for defamation proceedings.

Chris AxworthyAfter the cable show ended, Vellacott was handed the requested phone number by Shaw Cable producer Gracie Field. Upon arrival back at his campaign office he was told that a person had reported in and was confident that the accusers voice was that of a friend of Liberal candidate Chris Axworthy. When the (306) 956-2570 number provided by the Shaw Cable staff member was dialed, it was found to be Chris Axworthy's campaign office phone number. The same number is also listed as the main campaign office number on the website of the Liberal Party of Canada...

Just because Liberals are starting to feel like Bobby Trippe doesn't make their opponents sexually abusive.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:16 PM


First Read (Elizabeth Wilner, Mark Murray, Huma Zaidi and Holly Phillips, January 19, 2006, NBC News: First Read)

Polls over the last several months have shown a link between Bush's job approval rating and the rise and fall of prices at the pump...

No, no, no, the received Media wisdom is that any dip in poll numbers reflects something deep and important about the President and his presidency. Get with the game, huh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:14 PM


Inquiry on Clinton Official Ends With Accusations of Cover-Up (DAVID JOHNSTON and NEIL A. LEWIS, 1/19/06, NY Times)

After the longest independent counsel investigation in history, the prosecutor in the case of former Housing Secretary Henry G. Cisneros is finally closing his operation with a scathing report accusing Clinton administration officials of thwarting an inquiry into whether Mr. Cisneros evaded paying income taxes.

The legal inquiry by the prosecutor, David M. Barrett, lasted more than a decade, consumed some $21 million and came to be a symbol of the flawed effort to prosecute high-level corruption through the use of independent prosecutors.

Mr. Barrett began his investigation with the narrower issue of whether Mr. Cisneros lied to the Federal Bureau of Investigation when he was being considered for the cabinet position. He ended his inquiry accusing the Clinton administration of a possible cover-up.

Sometimes the bad guys get away with it and you just have to move on with your life.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:06 PM


As Smoke Clears, Tobacco Maker Opens Lounge (MONICA DAVEY, 1/19/06, NY Times)

The room is lined with vintage ashtrays, delicate lighters, matches and pens shaped like cigarettes. The scent, naturally, is of smoke.

Chicago's smoking ban took effect this week, but it was hard to know that from inside the gleaming lounge along Milwaukee Avenue in a hip neighborhood on the North Side. Here, under glass, are thick jars of tobacco - Oriental Rose, The Empress, The Earl - poured lovingly into white smoking papers by tobacco's answer to the coffee shop barista.

At the very moment smokers around Chicago were learning not to light up on train platforms, in sports stadiums and in some restaurants, a subsidiary of R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company was preparing for the grand opening on Thursday of its answer to the smoke-free set: the Marshall McGearty Tobacco Lounge, what its creators intend to be the nation's first upscale, luxury lounge dedicated to the smoking of cigarettes, especially a new R. J. Reynolds variety.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:57 PM


There is no housing bubble, says senior economist (BATTINTO BATTS JR., January 19, 2006, The Virginian-Pilot)

“There’s a couple of shifts taking place in the economy,” said [Mark Vitner, senior economist with Wachovia Corp., ], who has been featured on CNBC. “We are shifting from a home-building economy to one of business investment.”

Numbers he presented, comparing change from a year ago , show that national spending on information processing equipment and software was up 11.1 percent during the third quarter of 2005. At the same time, other capital spending was up 10 percent. Also, nondefense capital goods orders were up 7.4 percent. [...]

The business investment numbers and employment growth are indicators that the economy is strong, Vitner said. He cited statistics showing the U.S. economy added 108,000 jobs in December and the civilian unemployment rate was 4.9 percent nationally and 3.5 percent in Virginia.

“The economy is shaking off the effects of the stock market bubble,” Vitner said.

The Wachovia economist cautioned against the perception that the housing market will be the next to go bust.

“Everybody is looking for evidence of a housing bubble,” he said. “There is not a housing bubble. The supply had not kept up with demand.”

Although the number of housing starts has begun to decline, that is an indicator that the supply is catching up, Vitner said. And he said the housing market continues to be driven by baby boomers who are retiring or close to doing so.

Vitner expects interest rates to remain low, a factor that will affect the number of people taking out mortgages on homes. Someone in the audience asked Vitner whether he was concerned that so many of the home buyers were financing their purchase through the use of interest-only or other nontraditional mortgage methods. Some experts have predicted that an increase in interest rates could lead to scores of loan defaults by buyers who have purchased more house than they can afford.

Vitner thinks that is an overblown doomsday prediction.

“It takes a lot to foreclose on your home,” he said. “If you just pick up the phone, the bank can work up a plan with enough payment holidays to get you through just about anything.”

You mean I'm not going to be able to trade my Pets.com shares for a house?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:52 PM


When Bad People Are Punished, Men Smile (but Women Don't) (ELISABETH ROSENTHAL, 1/19/06, NY Times)

In the study, when male subjects witnessed people they perceived as bad guys being zapped by a mild electrical shock, their M.R.I. scans lit up in primitive brain areas associated with reward. Their brains' empathy centers remained dull.

Women watching the punishment, in contrast, showed no response in centers associated with pleasure. Even though they also said they did not like the bad guys, their empathy centers still quietly glowed.

The study seems to show for the first time in physical terms what many people probably assume they already know: that women are generally more empathetic than men, and that men take great pleasure in seeing revenge exacted.

The Jean Valjean problem is well known and it's this lack of moral fullness that makes their disenfranchisement best for the democracy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:48 PM


France defends right to nuclear reply to terrorism (Elizabeth Pineau, Jan 19, 2006, Reuters)

France said on Thursday it would be ready to use nuclear weapons against any state that carried out a terrorist attack against it, reaffirming the need for its nuclear deterrent.

Deflecting criticism of France's costly nuclear arms program, President Jacques Chirac said security came at a price and France must be able to hit back hard at a hostile state's centers of power and its "capacity to act."

France doesn't need nukes and shouldn't be permitted to have them--when they do get hit they'll rely on us to take care of the problem anyway.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:44 PM


Bin Laden Warns of Attacks, Offers Truce (AP, Jan 19, 2005)

Al-Jazeera aired an audiotape purportedly from Osama bin Laden on Thursday, saying al-Qaida is making preparations for attacks in the United States but offering a truce to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan. [...]

"Based on what I have said, it is better not to fight the Muslims on their land," he said. "We do not mind offering you a truce that is fair and long-term. ... So we can build Iraq and Afghanistan ... there is no shame in this solution because it prevents wasting of billions of dollars ... to merchants of war."

What's left of al Qaeda knows they're losing bad, even if Democrats don't.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:57 AM


Fearing Social Unrest, China Tries to Rein in Unbridled Capitalism: With a fast-graying population, increasing pollution and environmental damage and the absence of a real social system, Beijing is now seeking to check unbridled capitalism and quell flaring social tensions. (Der Spiegel, 1/18/06)

Under massive pressure from Beijing, Shanghai's city fathers have levied a new tax on properties that are resold within a year of purchase.

Central government planners are worried. They want to steady the economy in the bellwether city at all costs -- for fear of an impending crash. Such a meltdown could spark unforeseen consequences, and deal a crushing blow to state banks that have amassed billions in distressed debt.

To ward off the apocalypse, Beijing has been curbing loans for steel, cement and, of course, real estate during the past twelve months. According to Cao Yushu, a spokesperson for China's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the escalating investments are a "tumor in China's economic body." The economy has nonetheless continued at a rolling boil, growing by more than 9 percent. Provincial officials and managers customarily ignore edicts issued by the planners in Beijing.

So China continues to boom, using a quarter of the world's cement and steel, and almost a third of its coal. The country has long succeeded Japan as the world's second-largest consumer of oil.

And maintaining growth remains its only option. Compared with industrialized countries, private consumer spending comprises a relatively low share of its GDP -- arguably too low to cushion a major slump.

They're hitting the brakes when their per capita GDP is still just one/seventh of ours and people think they'll be a legitimate rival?

MORE (via Kevin Whited):
Public unrest increasing in China (BBC, 1/19/06)

China has announced another rise in public disturbances in 2005, as rapid economic growth continued to spark social unrest.

The Public Security Ministry said it handled 87,000 public disturbances last year, a rise of more than 6% on 2004.

The figures come amid growing anger at official corruption and several high-profile land disputes between authorities and villagers. [...]

China's official statistics are unreliable.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:33 AM


The Fatwa against Mini-Skirts: A new wave of prudishness is washing over India. It's striking the country's prosperous technology capitals and has led to fatwas and campaigns against India's most popular celebrities. And when Playboy hits the newsstands for the first time later this year, its hallmark Bunnies won't be exposing their birthday suits. (Padma Rao, 1/19/06, Der Spiegel)

The most troubling aspect of these recent incidents is that they have taken place in the very information technology capitals of India that have been wooing overseas investors and vying against each other to present themselves as the most tolerant and cosmopolitan. Hyderabad is India's second-largest IT hub and it is home to Microsoft's largest foreign center outside of Redmond.

Some believe the new wave of prudishness is a consequence of the country's rapid economic changes. "It is India's conservative but booming middle class who most fear the loss of the traditional Indian family whenever women assert their sexuality," says India's leading social scientist and psychoanalyst, Dr. Sudhir Kakkar. "Through their frank views on sex, Khushboo and Sania crossed that rubicon." [...]

Of course, some Indians in high places feel that the whole brouhaha over the crackdown is much ado about nothing. "There are some things we cannot copy from the West," said Krishna Tirath, a member of India's parliament who is named after the greatest Casanova of Hindu mythology herself. "As our society does not approve of pre-marital sex, it must be done undercover."

Actually it's the most important thing for them to import from us

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:28 AM


Why Do "Jewish Organizations" Promote Hate Between Jew and Christian? (Rabbi Daniel Lapin, 1/18/06, Orthodoxy Today)

During November, the head of the Anti-Defamation League declared Christians to be the enemies of Jews. "Their goal is to implement their Christian worldview, to Christianize America, to save us!" he said. He proceeded to name names: "Major players include Focus on the Family. Alliance Defense Fund, the American Family Association, Family Research Council and more. They and other groups have established new organizations and church-based networks, and built infrastructure throughout the country designed to promote traditional Christian values."

Where do these traditional Christian values come from? Why, from the Bible of course. Remember that book? The one God gave to the Israelites at Mount Sinai a little over 3,000 years ago. Would you tell me please which 'traditional Christian values" could be opposed by any Jew who took the Torah seriously? In attacking Torah values, the ADL's leader clearly indicates that his organization is driven by Democratic Party doctrine, not by Jewish values. Jewish values derive from the Bible. But one isn't supposed to say that.

It doesn't seem that hard to say that they preach hatred because they hate.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:10 AM


Iran Crisis: Cheney Plays the Egypt Card: Vice president deals Mubarak in on nuclear standoff (James Ridgeway, January 17th, 2006, Village Voice)

According to the Iraqi press, Cheney was expected to broach the possibility of Egypt’s sending troops to Iraq--as a last resort--along with other units from countries in the Arab League. Cheney is expected to raise the same idea in Saudi Arabia.

The thinking is that Egypt can be drawn into a confrontation with Iran because of its close proximity and because Egypt's leaders would be happy to come down hard against any Shiite radicals working out of Iran and bent on causing trouble in Egypt. This all comes from Juan Cole, the Mideast expert who teaches at the University of Michigan and keeps a Web page.

The Iraqi government might agree to such a deal in the end run. Egypt has longstanding friendly relations with people in the Iraq guerrilla movement and might have some sway with them. In addition, helping the U.S., which gives it $2 billion in aid, would be a plus, and there is always the possibility of Egypt and the U.S. completing some sort of free-trade arrangement that would open the U.S. to Egyptian goods.

Should the Iran imbroglio go to the UN, Egypt could operate under the UN flag. The countries of the Arab League are against Iran developing nuclear armaments. In other words, dragging Egypt into Iraq might kill two birds with one stone--inserting Egypt as a player in that war, and pushing them toward a confrontation with Iran.

Well, if the Administration didn't grasp the enmity between Shi'ites and Sunni before they went into Iraq, they've figured out how to use it now.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:03 AM


City residency rules in peril: Legislature OKs bill to let workers live in other places (Reginald Fields, , January 19, 2006, Cleveland Plain Dealer)

The Ohio House on Wednesday passed a bill that will eliminate residency rules passed by local voters, like the one in Cleveland requiring municipal workers to live in the city.

One Cleveland lawmaker said the bill - once it is law - could devastate the city's hopes for an economic recovery, while a fire official blasted city leaders for not making the city a desirable place for firefighters to live.

The vote was a victory for police and firefighting unions across the state, members of which filled the public seating area of the House chamber to witness the vote. The unions had lobbied for the better part of a decade for a state residency statute that overrules local laws.

Getting rid of such laws allows a huge chunk of the middle class--including most of your white population--to move out of the city and the remainder that works in the private sphere soon follows.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:54 AM


Iran's master puppeteer (Sanam Vakil, 1/20/06, Asia Times)

[Supreme Leader Ali] Khamenei, after 16 years in power, has learned the delicate and tactical process of manipulating the complicated political system and its flamboyant actors.

While Khamenei is indeed the final arbiter and puppeteer of the Iranian political system, he has been using President Mahmud Ahmadinejad and his ideological international approach to moderate his own public image since Ahmadinejad was elected last summer.

In this recent taqieh or dramatic passion play, Khamenei is the one character who will emerge from behind the political scenes having captured not only his domestic audience but also an international one. [...]

Ironically, factionalism is enshrined in the Iranian political system. These factions have competed in the parliament, often reinventing themselves, creating not only a level of competition but also a clear sense of patrimony. With parliamentary elections every four years, factional shifts in the system occurred in 1992 in the aftermath of the Iran-Iraq War and in 2000 when reformist politicians brought wind of a "Tehran spring". Indeed, the reformist challengers to the Iranian state were marginalized in the 2004 parliamentary elections due to the much-maligned, behind-the-scenes direction of the supreme leader.

Equally important to the Iranian political structure is the institutional system. Modeled after the French political system with a parliament, president and judiciary, the government maintains clerical oversight bodies that are appointed by the supreme leader. The former institutions have been dominated by factional competition as evidenced by the reformist emergence. Indeed, president Mohammad Khatami's 1997 and 2001 electoral victories posed political challenges for the clerical conservatives.

After 16 years at the helm, though, Khamenei has learned to use this factionalism and institutional control to his advantage, pitting those who support him against those who do not. Using unelected institutions such as the Guardian Council to vet candidates prior to elections and to negate legislation passed by the reformist parliament, Khamenei enabled the final consolidation of conservative power evidenced in the recent round of elections when only clerically approved candidates were permitted to run for political office.

The problem with this entire analysis is the assumption, which seems not to be borne out by reality, that Khamenei wanted Ahmadinejad to be elected in the first place and knew that the Reformists would successfully boycott the election, rather than elect Mostafa Moin, whho he forced down the Guardian Council's unwilling thoats..

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:27 AM


NFL's Samson: a warrior in prayer: Pittsburgh's Troy Polamalu, one of the toughest players in pro football, brings his faith onto the field. (Jim Klobuchar, 1/20/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

Polamalu calls himself a man committed to faith and to respect for others, and nothing in his off-field persona suggests this is a public display of humility. He speaks quietly and deferentially in private and is not one of the actors in the normal rowdiness of the locker room. He and his wife avoid the bar scene, and yet his teammates uniformly admire him for his skills and total commitment as a player, and for his faith. He prays often during a game, not for success, he will say. His explanation has something of a child's naiveté to it: the wish that this game involving driven men in a brutal, megabucks collision stretching for three hours will be played without injury to either side. [...]

As a kid growing up in California among siblings who found trouble with the law, he was on the jagged edge of disappearing into the streets. His mother saved him by settling him in rural Oregon with an uncle, Salu Polamalu, who was steeped in the Samoan culture and performed its fire sword dances. He also knew about the child's athletic heritage. Several family members had made it in college and professional football. Salu laid out some choices: Treat yourself and others with respect and discipline yourself, or wind up in a dead end. It worked. He became so courteous and proper that he asked his wife's family for permission to date her in their courtship.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:20 AM


Russian space city builds new route to heavens: New church in once-atheist Baikonur readies for Orthodox Christmas (James Oberg, 1/06/06, MSNBC)

For almost half a century, Russian rockets and space travelers have assaulted the heavens from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, the Soviet spaceport in Central Asia that was portrayed as the shining symbol of a communist future. Now one of the last sights for departing space crews is the shiny domes of a new Russian Orthodox church — where they have their own way of reaching toward heaven.

The city of the space workers was originally named “Leninsk” in honor of the founder of the Soviet state, a champion of the official atheism under which priests were imprisoned and churches were burned. Cosmonauts in the Soviet era were often quoted as joking, “We have been to heaven, and didn’t see God there.”

But in a radical cultural revolution, the collapse of the Soviet regime in 1991 unleashed a long-underground religious impulse even among the elite of Soviet society, “rocket scientists” and the military hierarchy.

Within months of communism’s fall, a small Russian Orthodox church was organized at the space center in an abandoned sporting goods store. A young Russian priest came to town, held religious services and at the request of officials began blessing rockets and space crews. Cosmonauts began carrying traditional Russian icons into orbit.

Senior military officers back on Earth also began to come out of the closet on the issue of respect for the long-suppressed Russian church. [...]

This remarkable religious surge will be celebrated spectacularly this Saturday, the Russian Orthodox Christmas. It will be the first time Christmas services are held at Baikonur’s new church, just completed in the middle of last year.

The imagery of it happening in this town is exquisite.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 8:14 AM


Seismic shift in Quebec politics (Chantal Hebert, Toronto Star, January 19th, 2006)

For the first time in over a decade, it is once again politically correct to support the Conservatives in Central Canada. After a 13-year absence, the party has returned to the mainstream and, from all indications, it is there to stay.

But it goes beyond that. Quebec has been the scene of a dramatic shift, a sea change whose implications are still difficult to measure except to know that they are significant.

Consider the following:

This was never going to be a good year to run as a federal Liberal in Quebec. But if Quebecers had only wanted to punish Paul Martin for the failings of his party and his government, they would have stuck with the Bloc Quéébéécois.

Gilles Duceppe remains Quebec's most respected leader. He has run a campaign whose only fault to date has been its predictability. For his pains, he has recorded a double-digit loss in support since the election call. According to a CROP poll published this week, the Bloc could come out of the election with less than 40 per cent of the popular vote on Monday. In the Quebec City area, it has actually fallen behind the Conservatives.

Harper's surge in Quebec caught the Bloc completely off guard. It seems its counteroffensive was too late in coming to nip it in the bud.

That a leader from Alberta —— whose policies remain controversial in Quebec —— is the beneficiary of this turn-around makes it even more remarkable.

Earlier this week, Montreal's federalist daily La Presse, gave its unqualified editorial support to the Conservative party. La Presse has supported the Tories in the past, notably in the Mulroney era. But he was a Quebecer.

Since Pierre Trudeau, La Presse had always endorsed Quebec federalist leaders over non-Quebec ones.

Here is another measure of the magnitude of the Conservatives' psychological breakthrough in Quebec: At this point, Harper's Tories are more popular than Mario Dumont's Action déémocratique party. In francophone Quebec, they outrank Jean Charest's provincial Liberals. Suddenly, it pays for a Quebec leader to be associated with Harper.

Regardless of Monday's seat count in Quebec, this will have lasting consequences. For better or for worse, the Conservative party has for now become the federalist option of choice in Quebec.

The unexpected Conservative surge in English Canada can be explained rationally, but only divine intervention can explain this.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:12 AM


Experiment probes climate riddle (Richard Black, 1/19/06, BBC News)

Darwin, AUS--A three-week experiment to resolve the biggest riddle in climate science begins in Australia on Thursday.

Scientists will use radar, aeroplanes, weather balloons and a ship to study the life cycle of tropical clouds.

They are searching for details of how clouds form and carry heat high up into the atmosphere.

A better understanding of these crucial processes should lead to computer models that can predict the extent of global climate warming more accurately.

Current projections of global temperature rise, reported in the last assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), see increases by the end of the century that range from 1.4 to 5.8C.

The spread of possible temperatures represents a huge uncertainty - and much of it stems from unknowns to do with how the world's economy will develop over coming decades.

But there is also uncertainty over how the climate will react, and one of the key issues centres on a poor understanding of what goes on inside clouds - how they form, and how they behave.

Not that being clueless about the main components of their models has stopped scientists from dreaming up projections willy-nilly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:07 AM


Merkel's Middle Way: Chancellor Charting New Role for Germany (Jim Hoagland, January 19, 2006, Washington Post)

Angela Merkel chilled Vladimir Putin's Kremlin this week only a few days after she thawed the Bush White House. The back-to-back visits were an accident of scheduling. But they signal the determination of the new German chancellor to put her own stamp on the foreign policy of Europe's strongest country.

She hopes to end three years of strained if not hostile relations between Washington and Berlin, as well as the lavish displays of camaraderie and complicity that united German and Russian leaders. Merkel is out to rebalance these key relationships -- but from a new vantage point. [...]

Merkel's habit of explaining big points through her own life story -- a 51-year-old former East German physicist, she grew up in a communist dictatorship and came to politics only after Germany's reunification in 1990 -- also seemed likely to bond her more closely to Bush than to Putin, who served as a KGB officer in East Germany.

"She can talk to any Russian she wants to, in fluent Russian. Putin monopolized Schroeder with his KGB-taught, fluent German," one U.S. official observed approvingly. In Moscow this week, Merkel met with citizens critical of Putin's rule and pressed the Russian leader on the war in Chechnya.

But Merkel is not nostalgic for the Cold War or for an American protectorate over Germany, which it created. She recognizes that Germany, which imports more than one-third of its energy from Russia, has to maintain a good working relationship with Putin's country.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:03 AM


Syria Frees 5 Political Activists: Released Opposition Leader to Create 'New Liberal Party' (Rhonda Roumani, 1/19/06, The Washington Post)

Riad Seif, one of the country's boldest and most charismatic opposition figures, was arrested in 2001 along with nine other activists in a crackdown on democracy forums that emerged shortly after President Bashar Assad came to power in 2000. The forums marked a period of ferment dubbed the Damascus Spring, in which Syrians gathered freely for the first time in decades to demand greater democracy and an end to corruption.

On Wednesday, without advance notice, the government freed Seif along with another parliament member, Mamoun Homsi, and opposition figures Walid Bunni, Habib Issa and Fawaz Tello. Each had been sentenced to five years in prison for violating the constitution and inciting sectarian strife. They were released seven months before their terms ended.

"We have arrived at the point where we really have to change," Seif said after his release. "There is no way to continue as it is now. We want to build, as soon as possible, democracy in Syria, because that is the only way to save the country and to avoid catastrophe."

When totalitarians lose the will to kill opponents they fall.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:59 AM


Army to Slow Growth and Cut 6 National Guard Combat Brigades (Ann Scott Tyson, January 19, 2006,
Washington Post)

The Army announced yesterday that it will cut six National Guard combat brigades -- or up to 24,000 infantry and other combat troops -- as part of an effort to ease budgetary pressures and shift manpower into homeland defense missions.

In addition to scaling back the guard's combat brigades to 28 from 34, the active-duty Army will add one fewer combat brigade than it had planned, ending up with 42 instead of 43, Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey told a Pentagon news briefing yesterday.

As a result, the Army in coming years will grow to 70 instead of the anticipated 77 active-duty and National Guard combat brigades to respond to overseas and domestic contingencies, Harvey said. In 2003, the Army had 67 combat brigades, Army officials said.

"This force structure we think is appropriate to the threat," Harvey said, explaining that the change resulted from a broad review of Pentagon strategy and resources that will be made public next month with the new defense budget.

The changes suggest that budgetary pressures are exerting limits on the expensive manpower increases that the Army initiated in recent years in its struggle to meet demands in Iraq and Afghanistan.

That's still way too big and will be cut drastically as the Long War finally winds up. Defense will drop back down to a more normal 2% of GDP.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:53 AM


U.S. to boost envoy posts in Asia, Africa (Nicholas Kralev, January 19, 2006, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

The United States will shift hundreds of its diplomats from Washington and Europe to emerging countries over the next few years as part of a broad reconfiguration of the Foreign Service and its mission, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said yesterday.

Miss Rice said U.S. envoys would be asked to spend less time on traditional diplomacy -- monitoring political developments and talking to officials -- and more time traveling outside the capitals "to help foreign citizens better their own lives."

The State Department employs about 6,400 Foreign Service officers, about one-third of whom are stationed in Washington, one senior official said.

Diplomats Will Be Shifted to Hot Spots (Glenn Kessler and Bradley Graham, January 19, 2006, Washington Post)
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said yesterday that she will shift hundreds of Foreign Service positions from Europe and Washington to difficult assignments in the Middle East, Asia and elsewhere as part of a broad restructuring of the diplomatic corps that she has dubbed "transformational diplomacy."

The State Department's culture of deployment and ideas about career advancement must alter now that the Cold War is over and the United States is battling transnational threats of terrorism, drug smuggling and disease, Rice said in a speech at Georgetown University. "The greatest threats now emerge more within states than between them," she said. "The fundamental character of regimes now matters more than the international distribution of power."

As part of the change in priorities, Rice announced that diplomats will not be promoted into the senior ranks unless they accept assignments in dangerous posts, gain expertise in at least two regions and are fluent in two foreign languages, citing Chinese, Urdu and Arabic as a few preferred examples.

Rice noted that the United States has nearly as many State Department personnel in Germany -- which has 82 million people -- as in India, with 1 billion people.

They didn't sign up to help realize our ideals in foreign countries...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:43 AM


Two-thirds in poll favour change (BRIAN LAGHI, January 19, 2006, Globe and Mail)

The federal Tories appear to have successfully framed the question Canadians will ask when they head for the ballot box on Monday, as an overwhelming two-thirds of voters now say it's time to change the government.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


New Study Reveals Neanderthals Were As Good At Hunting As Early Modern Humans (University of Chicago Press Journals, 1/19/06)

The disappearance of Neanderthals is frequently attributed to competition from modern humans, whose greater intelligence has been widely supposed to make them more efficient as hunters. However, a new study forthcoming in the February issue of Current Anthropology argues that the hunting practices of Neanderthals and early modern humans were largely indistinguishable, a conclusion leading to a different explanation, also based on archaeological data, to explain the disappearance of the Neanderthals. This study has important implications for debates surrounding behavioral evolution and the practices that eventually allowed modern humans like ourselves to displace other closely-related species.

"Each population was equally and independently capable of acquiring and exploiting critical information pertaining to animal availability and behavior," write the anthropologists, from the University of Connecticut, University of Haifa, Hebrew University, and Harvard University.

The researchers use new archaeological data from a Middle- and Upper-Paleolithic rock shelter in the Georgian Republic dated to 60,000�20,000 years ago to contest some prior models of the perceived behavioral and cognitive differences between Neanderthals and modern humans. Instead, the researchers suggest that developments in the social realm of modern human life, allowing routine use of distant resources and more extensive division of labor, may be better indicators of why Neanderthals disappeared than hunting practices.

January 18, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:41 PM


The west has picked a fight with Iran that it cannot win: Washington's kneejerk belligerence ignores Tehran's influence and the need for subtle engagement (Simon Jenkins, January 20, 2006, The Guardian)

Never pick a fight you know you cannot win. Or so I was told. Pick an argument if you must, but not a fight. Nothing I have read or heard in recent weeks suggests that fighting Iran over its nuclear enrichment programme makes any sense at all. The very talk of it - macho phrases about "all options open" - suggests an international community so crazed with video game enforcement as to have lost the power of coherent thought.

Iran is a serious country, not another two-bit post-imperial rogue waiting to be slapped about the head by a white man. [...]

I would sleep happier if there were no Iranian bomb but a swamp of hypocrisy separates me from overly protesting it.

Mr. Jenkins similarly wrote before the Iraq War that while he personally wanted Saddam gone we shouldn't remove him and, though he realized America would likely take him out irrespective, he wrote as if Britain might be talked out of helping. Here he seems to think that America can be talked out of denying Ahmadinejad an active nuclear weapons program. He certainly hasn't wised up any over the past four years.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:38 PM


Democrats Unveil Their Own Plan for Rules on Lobbying (CARL HULSE, 1/18/06, NY Times)

With a stinging attack on Republican ethics, Congressional Democrats today proposed a lobbying overhaul they said far exceeds new Republican proposals in limiting the influence of monied special interests on Capitol Hill.

"Today we as Democrats are declaring our commitment to change - change to a government as good and as honest as the people that we serve," said Senator Harry Reid of the Nevada, the Democratic leader, who compared Republicans to organized crime figures he battled as a state gaming official. [...]

Mr. Reid said on Tuesday that having Republicans rewrite House rules governing lobbying was "like asking John Gotti to do what he can to clean up organized crime."

If onl;y Republicans weren't the Stupid Party they'd just pass the whole Democratic plan tomorrow and watch them splutter.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:27 PM


Mag: Ted K’s secret love child a secret no more (Gayle Fee and Laura Raposa, January 18, 2006, Boston Herald)

The National Enquirer splashes this week with a shocking story about Sen. Ted Kennedy’s secret love child with a Cape Cod woman whom the mag says he dated during his days as a swinging single.

According to the tabloid’s source, the boy, named Christopher, just celebrated his 21st birthday and is “mature enough to make his own choices about his background and biological father.”

A Kennedy family confidante told the Enquirer, “This is one of the biggest secrets in the Kennedy family and known to only a few people including Ted’s ex-wife, Joan.” [...]

“Caroline announced to the family that she was two months pregnant around May 1984,” blabbed a Bilodeau confidante. “Ted was not happy about the news. He already had three kids with Joan and knew a baby out of wedlock could hurt him politically.”

According to the Enquirer, the scandal-scarred senator begged Bilodeau to have an abortion, but she refused.

This is the man who once said: "Robert Bork's America is a land in which women would be forced
into back-alley abortions..."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:12 PM


US freezes Syrian chief's assets (BBC, 1/18/06)

Washington has frozen all US assets held by Syria's military intelligence chief, accusing him of contributing to violence in Lebanon and Iraq.

Asef Shawkat, brother-in-law of President Bashar al-Assad, is said by the US to have promoted terrorism and interference in Lebanese affairs.

He is also accused by Washington of playing a direct role in Syria's alleged support for militants in Iraq.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:05 PM


With pensions waning, workers save. Is it enough? (Mark Trumbull, 1/19/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

While many large employers still offer pensions, the shift toward voluntary saving plans such as 401(k) accounts has been clear for more than a decade. For millions of workers, contributing part of each paycheck is a firm habit. And there's evidence that when they do so, the effort can yield a solid stream of retirement income for those at all income levels. [...]

"One thing that we know works pretty well ... is automatic enrollment" in 401(k) plans, says James Poterba, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. "We know that has a very substantial and positive impact." With the trend of corporate pension phaseouts likely to continue or even accelerate, such policies represent a crucial new frontier in the US retirement system.

Democrats are expending their last bit of energy and political capital fighting SS reforms that are not only inevitable but worthwhile and likely to be popular. It's a sure path to self-marginalization.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:57 PM


LDP wants public keyed to fall party race: Koizumi's successor in the top job must have mandate for reform (TETSUSHI KAJIMOTO, 1/19/06, Japan Times)

The Liberal Democratic Party said Wednesday it is aiming to raise public interest in its fall leadership race to choose a successor to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

The pledge is part of the LDP's 2006 policy paper "Accelerating Reform," adopted at its annual convention in Tokyo.

"For the public to actually feel they are participating in the election that is directly connected to (choosing the next) prime minister, (the party) must develop an active, open and appropriate policy debate for choosing the leader of a new era," the paper says. [...]

"Valuing the people's judgment, it is the LDP's utmost responsibility to accelerate reform," Koizumi said in reference to his goal of downsizing government through fiscal structural reforms.

If their demographic/spiritual situation weren't so dire, Mr. Koizumi would be bucking fair to be their George Washington.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:11 PM


Effects of diet, smoking passed to sons in DNA (Dan Box, The Australian, January 6th, 2006)

Children are more likely to be obese if their fathers started smoking before adolescence but they will live longer if their grandfathers went hungry during childhood.

The charm of the modern rationalist lies in his delusion he is rational.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:01 PM


US beats old EU states on productivity (Chris Giles, Financial Times, January 18th, 2006)

Another year of poor productivity growth sealed a decade of underperformance by leading European economies that are falling further and further behind the US, the world's most authoritative guide to productivity shows today.

Figures for 2005 produced by the Conference Board, the global business organisation, report productivity growth in the 15 old members of the European Union of only 0.5 per cent, compared with 1.8 per cent in the US and 1.9 per cent in Japan. In contrast, productivity in the 10 new members, mostly in eastern Europe, grew rapidly in 2005, rising by 6.2 per cent as they took advantage of EU membership to increase both the hours worked in their economies and the value of the output of every worker.

Annual growth in national output for every hour worked in the EU 15 averaged 1.4 per cent between 1995 and 2005, compared with 2.4 per cent in the US.

How pre-post-modern.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:30 PM


Want to e-Mail a 'NY Times' Columnist? Better Subscribe to TimesSelect (Joe Strupp, January 17, 2006, Editor & Publisher)

If you haven't signed up for TimesSelect, The New York Times' online subscription product, don't bother e-mailing the paper's star columnists.

Since the Times put the words of its eight Op-Ed columnists behind a paid wall last September, it has also decided that only TimesSelect subscribers should be allowed to e-mail Paul Krugman, Maureen Dowd, David Brooks, et al.

As the Left collapses ever inwards on itself it peers out in bewilderment and wonders why America is become incomprehensible.

Posted by David Cohen at 6:00 PM

IN TED KENNEDY'S AMERICA . . . (via Best of the Web)

Kennedy Severs Final Club Ties: Senator says he will stop paying dues to the Owl after critics claim hypocrisy (DANIEL J. HEMEL, Harvard Crimson, 1/18/06)

During his days as a student at Harvard, the youngest brother in the Kennedy clan garnered just one mention in The Crimson—a 1956 article about an inter-house debating event, according to an archive search.

The question at the debate was: “Resolved: That the Federal Government should compel the state of Alabama to grant equal educational opportunities to Negroes.” Kennedy’s Winthrop team took the negative side and won.

. . . women and blacks are convenient, but not essential.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:35 PM


Liberals scramble after Hargrove calls Harper separatist: Martin forced to issue statement praising Tory leader's patriotism (CANADIAN PRESS, Jan. 18, 2006)

The Liberals are in full damage control this afternoon after a high-profile campaign endorsement by the head of Canada’s largest private-sector labour union turned disastrous.

Canadian Auto Workers president Buzz Hargrove used a campaign stop in nearby Strathroy to call Conservative Leader Stephen Harper a separatist whose Alberta-born political principles place him outside mainstream Canadian values.

He seemed to agree with questioners that Quebecers vote for the Bloc Quebecois over the Conservatives.

Prime Minister Paul Martin issued a retraction on Hargrove’s behalf as soon as the comments hit the news wires, and was forced to praise Harper’s patriotism in an effort to quell the controversy.

“I have large differences with Stephen Harper but I have never doubted his patriotism,” Martin said at a news conference in London.

Dirk Pitt couldn't raise this wreck.

Attacks on Harper intensify (MARTIN O’HANLON, 1/18/06, CP)

As Hargrove pounded the Tory leader, Martin hammered on with his now-familiar message that Harper would is "out of step" with Canadian values and would threaten abortion rights and gay marriage.

"If you want to stop Stephen Harper, if you don't agree with Mr. Harper's values - such as the war in Iraq and missile defence - there's only one choice you can make and that's the Liberal party," Martin said.

"The question isn't change. It's change for what? I don't believe that Canadians want to roll back the clock."

Ontario Health Minister George Smitherman is one Canadian who doesn't want to turn back the clock on gay marriage.

Smitherman said he and his gay partner may move up their wedding date if Harper wins the federal election.

"The reality is for some Canadians who currently possess certain rights, these rights seem to be . . . put at risk by a Harper election," he said.

"I never thought that would happen in my country."

The reality is it's an issue Harper can't campaign on but having them raise it will help him.

Posted by David Cohen at 5:12 PM


U.S. Strike Killed Al Qaeda Bomb Maker: Terror Big Also Trained 'Shoe Bomber,' Moussaoui (HABIBULLAH KHAN and BRIAN ROSS, ABCNEWS.COM, 1/18/06)

ABC News has learned that al Qaeda's master bomb maker and chemical weapons expert was one of the men killed in last week's U.S. missile attack in eastern Pakistan.

Midhat Mursi, 52, also known as Abu Khabab al-Masri, was identified by Pakistani authorities as one of three known al Qaeda leaders present at an apparent terror summit conference in the village of Damadola.

Family celebration or terror summit; they are easy to confuse.

MORE: From an update to the same article:

Pakistani officials also said that Khalid Habib, the al Qaeda operations chief for Pakistan and Afghanistan, and Abdul Rehman al Magrabi, a senior operations commander for al Qaeda, were killed in the Damadola attack. Authorities tell ABC News that the terror summit was called to funnel new money into attacks against U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

"Pakistani intelligence says this was a very important planning session involving the very top levels of al Qaeda as they get ready for a new spring offensive," explained Alexis Debat, a former official in the French Defense Ministry and now an ABC News consultant

So, in other words, this is one of our most important successes in recent months.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:34 PM


War protester loses `restricted area' suit (Associated Press, January 18, 2006)

The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected an appeal from an anti-war protester who was convicted of violating the boundaries of a "restricted area" established during President Bush's visit to South Carolina in 2002.

The right to free speech doesn't carry with it a right to speak wherever you want to.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:23 PM


Mother Nature leaves Green candidate in the dark (CBC News, 17 Jan 2006)

Long hours on the campaign trail are exhausting many federal election candidates, but one Green Party candidate in southeastern Manitoba has literally run out of energy.
Janine Gibson lives in an energy-efficient home powered by only solar and wind energy. However, an extended period of cloudy skies and calm winds left the Provencher candidate without electricity for a 22-day stretch in December.

On the bright side, she never runs out of hot air!

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:20 PM


U.S., France Reject Iran Request for Talks (NASSER KARIMI, 1/18/06, AP)

The United States and France rejected Iran's request for more negotiations on the Islamic republic's nuclear program, with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice saying Wednesday "there's not much to talk about" after Iran resumed some atomic activities.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:13 PM


Larry David ‘Curbs’ talk of Cantor connection to show (Under the Dome, 1/18/06, The Hill)

In a profile of ascendant Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) in the Jewish Forward newspaper last week, the paper reprised part of a story it broke three years ago on the saga of a sandwich named after Cantor at Stacks, the short-lived kosher deli owned by Jack Abramoff.

At a January 2003 fundraiser for Cantor, who had just become chief deputy whip, Abramoff unveiled the Eric Cantor sandwich, “a tuna-based stacker,” which, lamentably, was “not quite [the] power lunch befitting” the only Jewish Republican in the House.

Hence a request by Cantor, whom Forward recently named to its “Forward 50” list of influential Jewish Americans, to switch his eponymous sandwich to roast beef on challah, “a deli special that exudes Jewish power.”

Which brings us to “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” the hit HBO series by Larry David, the co-creator of “Seinfeld.”

In a recent episode, Larry has a sandwich named after him at Leo’s Delicatessen, but he balks at its contents of whitefish, sable, onions, capers and cream cheese.

He says that, although he’ll consider tuna, he’s more of a “pastrami/corned beef kinda guy.”

Despite the show’s often taking its inspiration from real-life events, David, in an e-mail to The Hill this weekend, dispelled any notion that it’s any more than a coincidence.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:31 AM


Here we go again; Is anybody coming? (Wesley Pruden, 1/17/06, Jewish World Review)

Not since frightened mice sat around a wheel of camembert, arguing over who would bell the cat (which every little mouse agreed would be a very good thing to do), have so many mice occupied themselves with high statecraft.

Everybody who's anybody is getting very cross with Iran. The Europeans, suddenly aware that a nuclear Iran might interrupt German reveries of sausages and raise the temperature of Islamic nightmares in France, are grumbling that somebody really ought to do something. Russia and China, who make a fine living selling exotic arms to famously bad-tempered regimes, agree with the United States and the Europeans that Iran should "fully suspend its nuclear program."

Even in Washington, where Democrats have taken a blood oath never to agree to anything the Republicans bring up first, there's growing agreement that Iran is a catastrophe-in-waiting for everyone. Chuck Schumer, fresh from stopping in a single bound the confirmation of Samuel Alito, is disturbed. Not disturbed enough to want to do anything in particular about it, but disturbed enough to put it on his to-do list of things to worry about.

Both the casual and careful observer can be forgiven if they think this must be where they came into this movie about a rogue state with a history of bluster, spilling the blood of its neighbors, encouraging terrorists, building and using weapons of mass destruction and conducting a clever game of hide-and-seek with the United Nations weapons inspectors, flouting and then mocking the international institutions dedicated to peace, happiness and only good stuff.

We're always the ones who go after the cat.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:11 AM


Purple Heartbreakers (JAMES WEBB, 1/18/06, NY Times)

[N]ow comes Jack Murtha. The administration tried a number of times to derail the congressman's criticism of the Iraq war, including a largely ineffective effort to get senior military officials to publicly rebuke him (Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, was the only one to do the administration's bidding there).

Now the Cybercast News Service, a supposedly independent organization with deep ties to the Republican Party, has dusted off the Swift Boat Veterans playbook, questioning whether Mr. Murtha deserved his two Purple Hearts. The article also implied that Mr. Murtha did not deserve the Bronze Star he received, and that the combat-distinguishing "V" on it was questionable. It then called on Mr. Murtha to open up his military records.

Cybercast News Service is run by David Thibault, who formerly worked as the senior producer for "Rising Tide," the televised weekly news magazine produced by the Republican National Committee. One of the authors of the Murtha article was Marc Morano, a long-time writer and producer for Rush Limbaugh.

The accusations against Mr. Murtha were very old news, principally coming from defeated political rivals. Aligned against their charges are an official letter from Marine Corps Headquarters written nearly 40 years ago affirming Mr. Murtha's eligibility for his Purple Hearts - "you are entitled to the Purple Heart and a Gold Star in lieu of a second Purple Heart for wounds received in action" - and the strict tradition of the Marine Corps regarding awards. While in other services lower-level commanders have frequently had authority to issue prestigious awards, in the Marines Mr. Murtha's Vietnam Bronze Star would have required the approval of four different awards boards.

Hard to take Mr. Webb's protestations too seriously when he ignores the two attacks the media covered most heavily in recent years, those on George W. Bush's service. But it's both wrong and foolish to attack Mr. Murtha and likely something the Party and White House want no part of. It's wrong because there's apparently no reason to doubt the quality of his service, and foolish because every time Mr. Murtha opens his mouth it helps the GOP. You could hardly ask for a better spokesman for the defeatist party if you're a Republican.

A Swift-Moving Story (Howard Kurtz, January 18, 2006, Washington Post)

Is Jack Murtha being unfairly Swift-boated?

The left side of the commentariat is up in arms about my piece on a conservative Web site raising questions about the congressman's two Purple Hearts.

Here's the report by the Cybercast News Service: Check it out and reach your own conclusions.

Look, anyone can dig into a congressman's record, and Cybercast (which is part of Brent Bozell's conservative media criticism group) quoted people on the record, dug up a bunch of clips and gave the Pennsylvania Democrat a chance to respond. Editor in Chief David Thibault told me that Murtha had placed himself in the crossfire by becoming a leading voice for a U.S. pullout in Iraq.

What, exactly, does whatever Murtha did near Danang in 1967 have to do with the soundness of his stance on Iraq? In the case of John Kerry, you could argue that the Swift Boat Vets -- even though the media poked significant holes in their account -- was challenging the biography of a presidential candidate who had put his Vietnam heroism at the center of his campaign. But what is Jack Murtha running for, other than reelection in his district?

The one thing Mr. Murtha has done that would tend to make his own war fair game is to compare the war he fought in -- and the armed services he fought as a part of -- to this one. But even that doesn't go specifically to his combat record.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:49 AM


Supreme Court Steers Clear of First Abortion Case in 5 Years (AP, 1/18/06)

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Wednesday that a lower court was wrong to strike down New Hampshire abortion restrictions, steering clear of a major ruling on whether such laws place an undue burden on women.

The opinion was written by retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, a key swing voter at the court on abortion rights.

Justices said a lower court went too far by permanently blocking the law that requires a parent to be told before a daughter ends her pregnancy.

An appeals court must now reconsider the law, which requires that a parent be informed 48 hours before a minor child has an abortion but makes no exception for a medical emergency that threatens the youth's health.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:24 AM


Germany's Secret Aid for America's War: Revelations that information from German intelligence agents in Baghdad was passed along to Washington while former chancellor Gerhard Schröder publicly condemned the US-led war in Iraq have caused an uproar in Berlin. The opposition wants a parliamentary investigation. But was it hypocrisy or simply political pragmatism? (Marc Young, 1/17/06, Der Spiegel)

Considering Schröder's center-left coalition of Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens was re-elected in 2002 in part due to its strong anti-war stance, the allegations could be particularly damaging to both the former chancellor's legacy and the current foreign minister's political future. Amid the sparse furnishings of his office, a visibly annoyed Steinmeier says the categorical opposition of the Schröder administration to the war in Iraq is now unfairly being twisted into some sort of complicity.

"We never said back then we were breaking off ties to the USA and were leaving NATO," says Steinmeier. "We just said we would not take part in this war."

So what was it? Hypocrisy at the highest levels or simply pragmatic realpolitik? Certainly, it would be naive to believe that just because Schröder refused to back US President George W. Bush's plans for invading Iraq that all military and intelligence ties between Berlin and Washington would be cut. But did Schröder lie to voters?

Any issue that isn't worth being hypocritical about can't be very important.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:47 AM

I WANNA BE LIKE W (via Tom Morin):

Love should not be confused with lust, says Pope (Hilary Clarke, 18/01/2006, Daily Telegraph))

Pope Benedict XVI's first encyclical, expected in the next few days, warns believers not to confuse love with lust or degrade it "to mere sex".

The encyclical, a papal letter to bishops that sets out Roman Catholic policy, discusses the relationship between "eros", or erotic love, and "agape", a Greek word referring to unconditional, spiritual and selfless love.

"It is not totally negative on eros," a Vatican source said. "It argues that eros under the right circumstances is OK."

But the Pope issues a warning in the document, entitled Deus Caritas Est (God is Love), that eros risks being "degraded to mere sex" if it is not balanced with spiritual or divine love founded on the teachings of Jesus.

John Allen, a columnist with the National Catholic Reporter and one of the most respected Vatican watchers, said: "The Pope wants to make sure that everything he does is grounded in fundamentals in terms of objective truth.

"The encyclical is his attempt at being a compassionate conservative. In his mind, you can't really be free and happy unless you accept God's plan for human life."

Every Western leader wants in on this compassionate conservatism deal, huh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:16 AM


Suicide Is Painless--At The Box Office (Ed Driscoll, January 18, 2006)

Somehow Hollywood just keeps finding ways to make their upcoming Oscar Awards in March as politicized as possible. First there's the films in competition for the main awards, which include such Red State favorites as Syriana, Good Night, and Good Luck, Munich, and Brokeback Mountain. Then there's the choice of Jon Stewart from Comedy Central's Daily Show as the host.

And for the piece de résistance, as they in Old Europe, last week, it was announced that the Academy will be awarding an honorary Oscar to Robert Altman. [...]

[C]oming later this year is Altman's next film: the movie version of A Prairie Home Companion written by Garrison Keillor. The day after the 2004 election, Keillor told a Chicago audience:

"I'm trying to organize support for a constitutional amendment to deny voting rights to born-again Christians," Keillor smirked. "I feel if your citizenship is in Heaven-like a born again Christian's is-you should give up your citizenship. Sorry, but this is my new cause. If born again Christians are allowed to vote in this country, then why not Canadians?"

Pretty funny bit on ESPN Radio's Mike and Mike in the Morning yesterday--they read off the list of Golden Globe winners to see if either of them had either seen the movies and actors or even heard of them. Being straight white men they hadn't for most.

In Movies, Big Issues, for Now (DAVID CARR, 1/18/06, NY Times)

It is an odd moment in cultural history, with the year's string of weighty contenders, plus less-heralded efforts like "Munich" and "Jarhead," doing their own form of reality programming. (Imagine: Only two years ago, our big Oscar-film issue was whether Frodo and Sam would destroy the ring.)

The current movie mood was probably inevitable. In an atomized news media culture, Jon Stewart is not the only nontraditional source of political thought. His selection as host of the Oscars can be read as one more reaction to the shock of the election to the industry's liberal elite and perhaps a sign that it may be willing, for the moment anyway, to grab that opportunity with both hands.

"With 'Syriana,' 'Good Night, and Good Luck' and 'The Constant Gardener,' some people are saying it is almost a 70's revival in terms of political movies," said Rachel Weisz, who won for her supporting role in "Gardener."

Imagine being so isolated from your own culture that you think the messages in the drivel he writes about here are weightier than those in the films Americans are actually watching, like The Passion, Lord of the Rings and Narnia?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:14 AM


Risk of teen drivers reaches others (Jayne O'Donnell, USA TODAY)

New teenage drivers are more dangerous than previously thought: Nearly two of every three people killed in crashes involving 15- to 17-year-old drivers are people other than the driver, auto club AAA will announce today.

Teenagers have long been the riskiest on the road. AAA's analysis shows that unlike elderly drivers, who mostly kill themselves when they crash, new teen drivers involved in wrecks have an impact far beyond their own families.

Driving age should be set at 21 to 65.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:07 AM

SPEAKING OF LOCATION... (via Brian Boys):

Woman pleaded: I want hitman to kill me (Keith Hunt, 1/17/06, Kent Online)

A 53-year-old woman was so depressed and desperate to end her life that she agreed to pay a friend to arrange for a hitman to kill her, a court heard.

Christine Ryder ended up handing over a total of £20,000 to Kevin Reeves after he agreed to murder her himself.

But Reeves, 40, of Saltings Road, Snodland, near Rochester, failed to keep his side of the bargain and she shopped him to the police.

Now he has been jailed for 15 months after being convicted of deception.

A judge told the married father: "While it is clear you had no intention of arranging for someone to kill Mrs Ryder and didn’t propose to yourself, you deceived her into believing it would happen."

...if you want to get money by preying on someone who's temporarily depressed you've got to go to Oregon.

Fraught Issue, but Narrow Ruling in Oregon Suicide Case (TIMOTHY EGAN and ADAM LIPTAK, 1/18/06, NY Times)

The Supreme Court's ruling was...notably focused and technical. It did not address whether there is a constitutional right to die. It did not say that Congress was powerless to override state laws that allow doctors to help their patients end their lives.

It said only that a particular federal law, the Controlled Substances Act, which is mainly concerned with drug abuse and illegal drug trafficking, had not given John Ashcroft, then the attorney general, the authority to punish Oregon doctors who complied with requests under the state's law. The law allows mentally competent, terminally ill patients to ask their doctors for lethal drugs.

Meaning they'll get another bite at the apple soon, with at least one of the majority gone.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:41 AM


Conservatives take 18-point lead, poll shows (CTV.ca News Staff, Jan. 18 2006)

The Conservative Party has an 18-point lead over the Liberals in a new poll, giving them 42 per cent support nationally and setting possibly setting the stage for a major electoral shift. [...]

"These numbers would deliver a majority government," pollster Tim Woolstencroft of The Strategic Counsel told CTV.ca on Tuesday.

"We've seen a transformation of the electoral landscape that's basically on par with 1993, 1984, 1968 and 1958," he said, referring to elections which generated big majorities. [...]

Here are the parties' diverging paths revealed by The Strategic Counsel's tracking poll, conducted for CTV and The Globe and Mail (change, in percentage points, from the Jan. 12, 14-15 poll in brackets):

* Conservatives: 42 per cent (+2)
* Liberals: 24 per cent (-3)
* NDP: 17 per cent (+1)
* Bloc Quebecois: 12 per cent (+1)
* Greens: 5 per cent (-1)

When one looks at numbers across Canada excluding Quebec, the Conservatives hold a 46-28 lead.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:06 AM


Selling panic closes Tokyo market (BBC, 1/17/06)

Tokyo's stock exchange closed early for the first time in its history on Wednesday, in a bid to head off a meltdown after a frantic day's trading.

The move was sparked by heavy selling in shares following allegations of fraud at internet firm Livedoor. [...]

Japan's Nikkei share index ended down 3% or 464.77 points at 15,341.18. [...]

Prosecutors raided the Tokyo offices of Livedoor on Monday, following allegations the company had violated Japanese securities laws.

Bosses at Livedoor denied the company broke market rules by giving misleading information to shareholders, but shares in the company dived on Tuesday, dragging the overall index lower.

One of Japan's best known internet companies, Livedoor has grown rapidly through a series of takeovers and stock splits into a group with a value of about 730bn yen ($6.3bn; £3.6bn) before the scandal erupted.

Conflicts mar Guangdong dream (Tim Luard, 1/17/06, BBC)
The southern province of Guangdong should be a dream come true for China's leaders.

For more than two decades it has set the pace for China's economic development.

It used its closeness to Hong Kong and the commercial instincts of its people to become the richest province in the country, and the workshop of the world.

But a series of protests, disputes and scandals have turned this glittering jewel in the reformists' crown into something closer to a blot on the political landscape - the grim embodiment of all that is going wrong with China's unique blend of capitalism and communism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:02 AM


Who lives, who dies in the jungle (Richard Black, 1/17/06BBC News)

The woolly mammoth and the dodo have gone; the dinosaur kingdom lies withered in its fossil graveyard.

The gorilla and the bonobo dwindle, along with countless fish and rainforest beetles as yet un-numbered.

Golden eagles and rhinos, meanwhile, gambol in their newly-found multitudes.

What is it, then, that decides who lives and who dies - which species teeter and fall after the dodo, and which, like the eagle, regain their numbers and soar again?

As the examples overwhelmingly demonstrate: for individual species it's just intelligent decision-making by humans.

How we're accelerating evolution (Dolores Flaherty, Sep 22, 2002, Chicago Sun-Times)

While those folks in Kansas a few years ago successfully were getting evolution out of textbooks, some of their friends, maybe even family members, or they themselves, were on the forefront of evolutionary change--breeding bugs and weeds with resistance to their chemical sprays and even to gene manipulation.

That is sort of a down-to-earth overview of The Evolution Explosion, Stephen R. Palumbi's account of how humans are causing rapid evolutionary change. It's happening in germs, viruses, insects and plant life. And we'll be quite lucky if we manage to stay ahead of it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:51 AM


Lott Eyes Reelection, And Maybe Leader's Post (Charles Babington, January 18, 2006, Washington Post)

Democrats' hopes of winning this year's U.S. Senate race in Mississippi were probably slim from the start, but they got pinched even further yesterday when Sen. Trent Lott (R) announced that he will seek a fourth term.

Lott, a former majority leader who lost his Pascagoula house to Hurricane Katrina, had toyed with the idea of retiring to make more money in the private sector. But he told hometown supporters that he wants to stay in Congress, and he hinted that he may try to regain the leadership post he lost after a costly gaffe three years ago.

Better a gaffe in a speech than in running the Senate.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:48 AM


Pakistan confirms militant deaths (BBC, 1/17/06)

Pakistan government officials have said as many as five foreign militants were killed in last week's US air strike on a village near the Afghan border.

Eighteen people were killed in Damadola village last Friday in an attack which has sparked anger across Pakistan.

The US strike was reportedly aimed at assassinating Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda's number two, but it does not appear that he was hit.

The Pakistani prime minister has warned against any more such strikes.

Thing is, when you have terrorists using your territory you don't get to issue the warnings.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:37 AM

PARADOXOLOGY (via Robert Schwartz):

Crumpled Papers: Lowering Expectations at Science's Frontier (NICHOLAS WADE, January 15, 2006, NY Times)

THERE is considerable disorder in heaven when stem-cell scientists are chided by the Roman Catholic Church for the folly of pursuing "miracle cures." But such are the paradoxes generated by the implosion of a South Korean researcher's widely believed claims to have created human embryonic stem cells from patients.

Of course, miracles like the Shroud of Turin are also widely believed. But scientific claims are meant to belong to a different category of truth: They are the certified knowledge of a community of scholars who have rigorously tested their ideas through experiment and mutual criticism.

How then can the fraudulent claims by Dr. Hwang Woo Suk have been accepted by Science, a leading journal that rejects most papers submitted to it? How can the community of stem-cell scientists have allowed a very visible claim to have stood unchallenged in their field for 20 months? Little wonder that Richard Doerflinger, an official of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, ridiculed the dreams of therapeutic cloning in a statement last week, scoffing that scientists were chasing miracle cures "in pursuit of this mirage."

Hmmmm, let's see....why would sciencism seem like just another religion?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:02 AM


This guy sure played a mean game of baseball (Bob Ryan, January 18, 2006, Boston Globe)

The numbers below represent the average 162-game season for some retired major league baseball players.

Hall of Fame numbers

Nos. 1 (Willie Stargell), 2 (Harmon Killebrew), 4 (Hack Wilson), and 5 (Tony Perez) are in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Many people believe No. 3 should be in the Hall of Fame. Those numbers belong to Jim Rice.

No. 6? Take a look at those numbers. In his average season, this man had 40 homers, 130 ribbies, and slugged .564. The pitchers were afraid of him. The problem is, so was just about everyone else. This year was his first appearance on the ballot and he came perilously close to being knocked off it forever. If only 16 fewer people out of the 520 who voted had not included his name on the ballot, he would have fallen under the required 5 percent needed to remain eligible. This man received 40 votes, or 7.7 percent. How can that be?

Some of you may have guessed the answer already. The player in question is the Pariah of Pariahs, the ultimate Mr. Persona Non Grata.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Wealth from worship: An economist finds that going to church is more than its own reward (The Economist, Dec 20th 2005)

Jonathan Gruber, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, claims that regular religious participation leads to better education, higher income and a lower chance of divorce. His results* (based on data covering non-Hispanic white Americans of several Christian denominations, other faiths and none) imply that doubling church attendance raises someone's income by almost 10%.

The idea that religion can bring material advantages has a distinguished history. A century ago Max Weber argued that the Protestant work ethic lay behind Europe's prosperity. More recently Robert Barro, a professor at Harvard, has been examining the links between religion and economic growth (his work was reviewed here in November 2003). At the microeconomic level, several studies have concluded that religious participation is associated with lower rates of crime, drug use and so forth. Richard Freeman, another Harvard economist, found 20 years ago that churchgoing black youths were more likely to attend school and less likely to commit crimes or use drugs.

Until recently, however, there was little quantitative research on whether religion affects income directly and if so, by how much. A big obstacle is the difficulty of disentangling cause and effect. That frequent churchgoers have higher incomes than non-churchgoers does not prove that religion made them richer. It might be that richer people are likelier to go to church. Or unrelated traits, such as greater ambition or personal discipline, could lead people both to go to church and also to succeed in their work.

To distinguish cause from coincidence, Mr Gruber uses information on the ethnic mix of neighbourhoods and congregations. Sociologists have long argued that people are more likely to go to church if their neighbours share their faith. Thus Poles in Boston (which has lots of Italian and Irish Catholics) are more likely to attend mass than Poles in Minneapolis (which has more Scandinavian Protestants). Measuring the density of nationalities that share a religion in a particular city can therefore be a good predictor of church attendance.

But ethnic density is not wholly independent of income. Studies have found that people who live with lots of others of the same ethnic origin tend to be worse off than those who are not “ghettoised”. So Mr Gruber excludes an individual's own group from the measures, and instead calculates the density of “co-religionists”, the proportion of the population that shares your religion but not your race.

According to Mr Gruber's calculations, a 10% increase in the density of co-religionists leads to an 8.5% rise in churchgoing. Once he has controlled for other inter-city differences, Mr Gruber finds that a 10% increase in the density of co-religionists leads to a 0.9% rise in income. In other words, because there are lots of non-Polish Catholics in Boston and few in Minnesota, Poles in Boston both go to church more often and are materially better off relative to, say, Swedes in Boston than Poles in Minnesota relative to Swedes in Minnesota.

Mr Gruber finds little evidence that living near different ethnic groups of the same faith affects any other civic activity. Poles in Boston are no more likely to join secular organisations than Poles in Minnesota. Since general differences between cities are already controlled for, that leads him to conclude that it must be religious attendance that is driving the differences in income.

The greater religiosity of Latino immigrants is reason enough to welcome more of them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


People die of famine in nation that exports food : Kenya's grain silos are full, but Britain is sending £13 aid to help it to deal with devastating drought (Xan Rice, 1/18/06, Times of London)

The Government has requested $150 million (£85 million) in emergency aid to help to feed 3.5 million people. Visiting Wajir yesterday, Hilary Benn, the British Secretary of State for International Development, pledged an additional £3 million, bringing Britain’s total contribution to £12.7 million. He said: “There is a fine line between a per ennial difficulty that these people face and a tipping point. We have now reached that tipping point.”

But while the drought is one of the most severe in years, questions are being asked — even at the highest levels of the United Nations — about why a country like Kenya continues to need emergency food aid.

Although less than a fifth of its land is arable, Kenya is a food exporter. Grain silos are still full from last year’s harvest. Despite the drought, the Government forecasts a surplus of 62,500 metric tonnes of maize next year.

Kenya’s media accuse the Government of failing to avert a crisis everyone saw coming. During the second half of last year, while the famine was unfolding, President Kibaki’s Cabinet did not hold a single meeting.

Ministers spent most of their time campaigning in a referendum on whether to adopt a new constitution. There were food handouts, but in many cases these were forms of patronage before the vote rather than targeted relief.

“It seems that politics have been a large distraction to the Government’s handling of the crisis,” one Western ambassador said. “And the northeast is not worth much in terms of votes.”

The Government was shocked into action after President Kibaki visited the worst-affected areas, but the response has been haphazard. The World Food Programme did not have enough funds to distribute food to all affected areas, so the Government sent in the military. In some regions food delivered by the army has simply been thrown off trucks, according to Oxfam, which yesterday described the distribution as fractured, inefficient and wasteful.

Do anyone but Environmentalists and Darwinists still not recognize that the only survival pressures on Man are a function of intelligent design?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Baghdad radio lets foes talk things out (James Palmer, January 18, 2006, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

It is a recent afternoon in Baghdad, and a Sunni and a Shi'ite sheik are chatting in the modest Baghdad studio of Radio Dijla.

Moufaq Al-Alani, the program's 63-year-old host, waits patiently for a caller to express his views on terrorism before politely suggesting that parents and teachers teach young people to respect all Iraqis.

Qasem Al-Joubari, the Sunni sheik, says imams should emphasize that killing civilians is never acceptable for a Muslim. His Shi'ite counterpart, Mahdi El-Mohamedoui, says violence reflects poorly on both Islam and Iraq in the eyes of the world.

An engineer, turning and sliding dials on a bulky soundboard, furiously spins his right hand behind a glass partition to signal a commercial break, and a young staffer hurries into the studio with glasses of sweet black tea.

This is talk radio in Iraq.

January 17, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:13 PM


Powell: Iran is going down Iraq's path (GETHIN CHAMBERLAIN, 1/17/06, The Scotsman)

COLIN Powell yesterday warned that Iran was heading down the same path as Iraq had done before the 2003 invasion and could not be trusted to tell the truth about its nuclear programme.

The former United States secretary of state said he believed Iran posed a serious threat to the rest of the world in the same way that Iraq had done, and he refused to apologise for the action the US took against Saddam Hussein's regime.

However Mr Powell, who was in Glasgow to address a Jewish group, admitted that the military campaign against Iraq was based on "bad intelligence" and that it was now clear that Saddam had not managed to amass any stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:08 PM


Senate Democrat backs Alito (Reuters, 1/17/06)

Ben Nelson of Nebraska on Tuesday became the first Senate Democrat to announce his support of conservative Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito, who is expected to be confirmed later this month by the full Republican-led Senate.

"I have decided to vote in favor of Judge Samuel Alito," Nelson, a moderate, said in a statement issued by his office.

"I came to this decision after careful consideration of his impeccable judicial credentials, the American Bar Association's strong recommendation and his pledge that he would not bring a political agenda to the court," Nelson said.

And the calendar, which says he has to run for re-election in a Red state in November.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:58 PM


As Final Week Of 2006 Election Begins, Tories Within Close Striking Distance Of Winning Majority Government: Tories (38%, +1 Point) Have 12-Point Lead Over Grits (26%, Unchanged) -- NDP (19%, +1 Point) And Green (5%, Unchanged) (Ipsos, 1/17/06)

The latest Ipsos Reid survey of Canadian voters indicates that Stephen Harper and the Conservatives are well on their way to forming a strong minority government come January 23rd, and are within close-striking distance of winning a majority government. [...]

Ipsos Reid’s seat model projects that if a vote were held tomorrow, the Conservatives would have a potential of 149-153 seats, the Liberals would have a potential of 64-68 seats, the NDP would have a potential of 29-33 seats, and the Bloc Quebecois would have a potential of 57-61 seats. In order to achieve a majority government, a party needs a minimum of 155 seats in the House of Commons.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:36 PM


What Reason Do We Have to Trust the State to Know Best? (Christopher Hitchens, 1/16/06, Huffington Post)

Although I am named in this suit in my own behalf, I am motivated to join it by concerns well beyond my own. I have been frankly appalled by the discrepant and contradictory positions taken by the Administration in this matter. First, the entire existence of the NSA's monitoring was a secret, and its very disclosure denounced as a threat to national security.

Then it was argued that Congress had already implicitly granted the power to conduct warrantless surveillance on the territory of the United States, which seemed to make the reason for the original secrecy more rather than less mysterious. (I think we may take it for granted that our deadly enemies understand that their communications may be intercepted.)

It now appears that Congress may have granted this authority, but without quite knowing that it had, and certainly without knowing the extent of it.

This makes it critically important that we establish an understood line, and test the cases in which it may or may not be crossed.

If the intelligence agencies haven't been monitoring Mr. Hitchens since he arrived on these shores, seeking to undermine America and support the Soviet Union in the Cold War, then they aren't doing their jobs. But it's interesting to note that his argument isn't that we shouldn't be monitoring these conversations but that we shouldn't be offering varied rationales about why and how we are. It's the contradictions, not the clandestine.... Of course, he then rolls right into his own contradictions--"our deadly enemies" know that we'll try to intercept their communications so we should have told them we were doing so and, oh, by the way, we shouldn't have been doing so unless Congress said to, which it did, but it didn't mean it....blah, blah, blah....

No, Mr. Walzer, there can't be a Decent Left.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:25 PM


The Earth is about to catch a morbid fever that may last as long as 100,000 years: Each nation must find the best use of its resources to sustain civilisation for as long as they can ( James Lovelock, 16 January 2006, Independent)

This article is the most difficult I have written and for the same reasons. My Gaia theory sees the Earth behaving as if it were alive, and clearly anything alive can enjoy good health, or suffer disease. Gaia has made me a planetary physician and I take my profession seriously, and now I, too, have to bring bad news.

The climate centres around the world, which are the equivalent of the pathology lab of a hospital, have reported the Earth's physical condition, and the climate specialists see it as seriously ill, and soon to pass into a morbid fever that may last as long as 100,000 years. I have to tell you, as members of the Earth's family and an intimate part of it, that you and especially civilisation are in grave danger.

Our planet has kept itself healthy and fit for life, just like an animal does, for most of the more than three billion years of its existence. It was ill luck that we started polluting at a time when the sun is too hot for comfort. We have given Gaia a fever and soon her condition will worsen to a state like a coma. She has been there before and recovered, but it took more than 100,000 years. We are responsible and will suffer the consequences: as the century progresses, the temperature will rise 8 degrees centigrade in temperate regions and 5 degrees in the tropics.

Much of the tropical land mass will become scrub and desert, and will no longer serve for regulation; this adds to the 40 per cent of the Earth's surface we have depleted to feed ourselves.

Curiously, aerosol pollution of the northern hemisphere reduces global warming by reflecting sunlight back to space. This "global dimming" is transient and could disappear in a few days like the smoke that it is, leaving us fully exposed to the heat of the global greenhouse. We are in a fool's climate, accidentally kept cool by smoke, and before this century is over billions of us will die and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Arctic where the climate remains tolerable.

By failing to see that the Earth regulates its climate and composition, we have blundered into trying to do it ourselves, acting as if we were in charge.

Boy, haven't been this scared since Malthus/Darwin/Ehrlich/etc.... warned about diminishing resources and survival pressures....

The great thing about this sort of nonsense is that it discredits sciencism generally. Michael Crichton's amusing, if pedantic, State of Fear has one hilarious section where he demonstrates, probably too well for his own broader purposes, that scientists arrive at whatever result they choose to: "All that matters is that hundreds of studies prove again and again that expectations determine outcome. People find what they think they'll find.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:39 PM

30% PARTY:

New Poll Reveals Overwhelming Majority of Americans Want Greater Abortion Restrictions (Terry Vanderheyden, January 17, 2006, LifeSiteNews.com)

A new poll conducted by Angus Reid for CBS News has revealed that the overwhelming majority of Americans would like to see greater restrictions placed on abortion.

Thirty-three percent of respondents said that abortion should be permitted only in cases such as rape, incest and to save the woman’s life; 17% said abortion should be allowed to save a woman’s life; 5% said abortion should not be permitted at all, while 15% said abortion should be permitted, but subject to greater restrictions than it is now. In total, 70% of respondents favour greater restrictions.

While Democrats can't figure out why their assertion at the Alito hearings that the Constitution guarantees an absolute right to abortion isn't getting any traction.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 5:23 PM


Drilling for answers to Earth's origin (Leo Lewis, The Australian, January 17, 2006)

The world's most technologically advanced exploration ship sailed yesterday on a mission that may reveal the origin of life on Earth.

The Japanese ship Chikyu is intending to drill 7km below the seabed - more than three times deeper than has ever been done before. It will then raise to the surface a cylinder 1.5m long and 15cm wide which could contain science's first glimpse of a "living" sample of the earth's mantle.

"The 20th century was all about the origin of matter and the universe, so it seemed useful to go to space and the moon," the project's director-general, Asahiko Taira, said.

"There were extraordinary advances and we learnt about atoms and the Big Bang. The 21st century is about the fundamental question of where life comes from."

They seek it here, They seek it there,
Those wizards seek it- everywhere!
Is it in Heaven Or is it in Hell?
That demned, illusive Pimpernel!.

(With apologies to Baroness Emmuska Orczy)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:52 PM


New WPO Poll: Afghan Public Overwhelmingly Rejects al-Qaeda, Taliban: Strongly Supports US and International Presence (World Public Opinion, 1/17/06)

A new WorldPublicOpinion.org poll of the Afghan public finds an overwhelming majority opposes al-Qaeda and the Taliban, endorses the overthrow of the Taliban and approves of the US military presence in Afghanistan.

Eighty-one percent of Afghans said they think that al-Qaeda is having a negative influence in the world with just 6% saying that it is having a positive influence. An even higher percentage—90%—said they have an unfavorable view of Osama bin Laden, with 75% saying they have a very unfavorable view. Just 5% said they have a favorable view (2% very favorable). These levels were slightly lower in the country’s war zone, the eastern and south-central part of the country: three in five (60%) in those areas had a very unfavorable view of bin Laden.

The poll was developed by the Program on International Policy Attitudes and fielded by ACSOR/D3 Systems, Inc. from November 27 to December 4, 2005, with a sample of 2,089 Afghan adults.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:41 PM


Ronald Reagan’s Unlikely Heir: Ohio’s Republican gubernatorial front-runner Ken Blackwell is “Jesse Jackson’s worst nightmare.” (Steven Malanga, Winter 2006, City Journal)

Ken Blackwell has so many people worried because he represents a new political calculus with the power to shake up American politics. For Blackwell is a fiscal and cultural conservative, a true heir of the Reagan revolution, who happens to be black, with the proven power to attract votes from across a startlingly wide spectrum of the electorate. Born in the projects of Cincinnati to a meat-packer who preached the work ethic and a nurse who read to him from the Bible every evening, Blackwell has rejected the victimology of many black activists and opted for a different path, championing school choice, opposing abortion, and staunchly advocating low taxes as a road to prosperity. The 57-year-old is equally comfortable preaching that platform to the black urban voters of Cincinnati as to the white German Americans in Ohio’s rural counties or to the state’s business community.

The former Xavier University football star is one of a handful of black conservatives making a stir in national politics. The group includes Maryland lieutenant governor Michael Steele, vying for an open U.S. Senate seat in his heavily Democratic state; Keith Butler, a minister and former member of the Detroit City Council who is the current front-runner for the GOP nomination for next year’s Michigan Senate race; former Pittsburgh Steelers great Lynn Swann, running for the 2006 Pennsylvania GOP gubernatorial nomination; and Randy Daniels, New York’s former secretary of state, now seeking the state’s GOP gubernatorial nomination. Of this group, only Steele has the unqualified backing of both his own state GOP and the national party. Ironically, Blackwell and Co. are proving too conservative for the Republicans.

Blackwell stands apart from the group, thanks to his deep electoral experience and his very good chance of getting elected. He has already run more political races—from school-board seat to city councilman to secretary of state—than all the rest of them combined. He’s served in Washington as a HUD undersecretary and traveled the world as a U.S. ambassador. He’s chaired a major presidential campaign, been mayor of one of Ohio’s largest cities, and plotted supply-side fiscal policy with Jack Kemp. If he wins in Ohio, a state where Republicans are on the defensive after scandals that rocked the administration of Governor Bob Taft, Blackwell would not only become the nation’s first elected black Republican governor but would immediately figure as a compelling 2008 vice-presidential candidate.

“Ken Blackwell represents the only chance the Republicans have in Ohio,” says Paul Weyrich, who headed the Heritage Foundation, where Blackwell was an analyst in 1990. Weyrich, who calls Blackwell one of the few extraordinary individuals he has met in 50 years of public service, says that, without him on the ticket, Ohio Republicans “are going down the tubes big-time for what they’ve done there.”

What they’ve done since capturing the statehouse more than a decade ago is to engage in a flurry of taxing and spending that has left the state’s budget swollen and its economy deflated. Under GOP rule, state and local government spending from 1995 through 2004 rose nearly 20 percent faster than the personal income of Ohio’s residents—almost three times the national growth rate. To pay for such splurges, current governor Bob Taft, in conjunction with the Republican-dominated state legislature, heaped on some $350 million in tax increases in 2001, then followed with a host of new levies the following year, prompting the Cato Institute’s annual survey of governors to deplore his “disastrous fiscal record” and award Taft a failing grade. “About the only good news to report is that Bob Taft is term limited and cannot run for office again,” the Cato report declared.

Not surprisingly, Ohio’s economy has been one of the nation’s feeblest. In the last decade, the state’s private sector has added only about 147,000 jobs, a mere 3.4 percent growth rate, compared with a robust 12 percent nationwide. Ohio also lays claim to one of the slowest population growth rates of any state, and one of the highest rates of migration of its citizens elsewhere in the country. “We have become one of the leading repopulators of other states,” Blackwell says.

Though Ohio’s decline has been steepest in the last ten years, the state has been on a downward arc for more than three decades, transformed by both Democratic and Republican administrations from one of the country’s lowest-taxed states to its current high-tax, slow-growth model. [...]

As Blackwell rose in the national Republican Party, he won greater attention from the Ohio GOP, though the state party quickly discovered how much Blackwell’s Reagan Republicanism diverged from its unreformed country-club Republicanism. In 1993, Governor George Voinovich appointed Blackwell to fill Ohio’s vacant treasurer’s post, and the next year voters elected Blackwell to that position, making him the first black to win statewide office in Ohio. Four years later, he was elected secretary of state—after forgoing a run for governor at the request of Ohio’s Republican Party chairman, who wished to spare Taft a primary battle.

In the midst of his rise, Blackwell has struggled to push the Ohio GOP rightward, becoming one of its sternest critics. He bitterly opposed Governor Voinovich’s attempts to raise the state sales tax, then successfully campaigned against a ballot initiative designed to increase the sales tax after Voinovich’s effort failed in the legislature. Though many state GOP leaders supported the tax-hike initiative, 80 percent of Ohio voters rejected it. (Voinovich, now one of the U.S. Senate’s so-called Republicans In Name Only, is today’s leading national embodiment of Ohio-style Republicanism.) Blackwell’s successful opposition to his own party sparked an all-out war on him, with Republican House Speaker Larry Householder’s staff even circulating a 109-page plan for destroying Blackwell politically. The hyperbolic language of the report labeled Blackwell “the Enron of Ohio politics, propped up and overvalued, a fraud,” prompting Blackwell to respond that the report displayed so much hate on the part of its authors that “I pray for them and for us.”

In a state where he’s often at war with his own party as well as the Democrats, Blackwell has developed a combative political style, sharpened by his quick wit. Drawing a clear distinction between his platform and that of one of his GOP opponents in the Ohio gubernatorial sweepstakes, Attorney General Jim Petro, Blackwell says, “Jim is the Al Gore of Ohio. He wants to reinvent government. I want to shrink it.”

Responding to GOP criticism that he’s too conservative to win in a “50-50 state,” Blackwell argues that “voters don’t want 50-50 leadership.”

In the face of opposition from within both of Ohio’s major parties, Blackwell, a National Taxpayers Union board member, is running a singular effort to energize Ohio’s taxpayers for the 2006 elections by stoking their anger over the state’s tax-and-spend ways.

If cutting taxes is issue number one in OH, how does he lose?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:12 PM


Supreme Court Upholds Oregon Assisted Suicide Law (David G. Savage, January 17, 2006, LA Times)

The Supreme Court rejected the Bush administration's challenge to the nation's only right-to-die law today and ruled Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft overstepped his authority when he sought to punish the Oregon doctors who helped terminally ill people end their lives.

The 6-3 decision was a victory for states and their independent-minded voters, and a defeat for social conservatives.

New Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., in his first significant decision, joined Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas in dissent.

It's destined to be a short-lived precedent.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:54 PM


Democrats can learn from failure to block Alito (James P. Pinkerton, January 17, 2006, Newsday)

Lesson for the day: Don't take political advice from liberal law professors.

That might seem like obvious advice, especially for those seeking office in "red states," but Senate Democrats seem not to have gotten the message. Now they are paying a huge price, as Samuel Alito moves toward confirmation - and Democrats move toward marginalization. How all this happened was revealed in a recent New York Times article headlined, "Glum Democrats Can't See Halting Bush on Courts / Concede Strategy Failed."

In 2001, 42 of the 50 Democrats then in the Senate - the number is down to 45 now - went on a retreat to "hear experts and discuss ways they could fight a Bush effort to remake the judiciary." The experts were three liberal legal eagles - Laurence Tribe of Harvard Law School, Cass Sunstein of the University of Chicago Law School and Marcia Greenberger of the National Women's Center in Washington - who told the Democrats that they could "oppose even nominees with strong credentials on the grounds that the White House was trying to push the courts in a conservative direction."

...your attack rhetoric ought not to be the same as the platform on which the majority party is dominating you. Republicans keep winning by saying they'll shift the courts Right--why point out that they're fulfilling their promise?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:29 PM


At King Event, Mrs. Clinton Denounces G.O.P. Leadership (RAYMOND HERNANDEZ, 1/17/06, NY Times)

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, speaking yesterday at a ceremony honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., compared the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to a plantation where dissent is not tolerated.

So she's Butterfly McQueen?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:26 PM


Plants revealed as methane source (Tim Hirsch, 1/11/06, BBC News)

Scientists in Germany have discovered that ordinary plants produce significant amounts of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas which helps trap the sun's energy in the atmosphere.

The findings, reported in the journal Nature, have been described as "startling", and may force a rethink of the role played by forests in holding back the pace of global warming.

And the BBC News Website has learned that the research, based on observations in the laboratory, appears to be corroborated by unpublished observations of methane levels in the Brazilian Amazon.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:25 PM


Why Paul Martin has to go: Even if the Liberals win, he won't be honest with himself, or us (PAUL WELLS, 1/17/06, MacLean's)

A party that has lost its way must guard against false memory. When this campaign began, according to an Ekos poll, fully 64 per cent of Canadians expected the Liberals to win. Only 18 per cent thought the Conservatives would. The Liberals had nothing but airy contempt for their adversary. "Stephen Harper will never be prime minister," a senior Liberal party official told me two months after the 2004 election.

This was a hard campaign to blow. So if the Liberals lose, Paul Martin will have to go. If they win he will have to go too.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:13 PM


U.S. Wins Support In Iran Dispute: China, Russia Join Call to Suspend Nuclear Program (Mary Jordan and Dafna Linzer, January 17, 2006, Washington Post)

China and Russia agreed with the United States, Britain, Germany and France on Monday that Iran must completely suspend its nuclear program, the British Foreign Office said. Although the countries failed to agree on whether Iran's case should be referred to the U.N. Security Council, the Europeans applied new pressure on the Iranian government by calling for an emergency meeting of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency on Feb. 2.

With all six nations declaring that they sought a diplomatic solution to the escalating confrontation with Iran, Russian President Vladimir Putin offered a glimmer of hope for a compromise. Putin said the Iranian government was considering a proposal from Moscow that Russia would produce enriched uranium for Iran, to ensure the material could be used only for peaceful purposes.

Iran has adamantly reserved the right to develop its nuclear program, stating that its intention is to produce peaceful nuclear energy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:05 PM


We may finally have my e-mail problems straightened out--largely because it started rejecting even the Other Brother's messages--so if folks could be so kind as to change the address to orrin-at-brothersjudd.com when they send me personal mail (no more .zzn), it should work. If you continue to encounter problems please let us know.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:03 PM


Democrats abort deal on Alito vote (Charles Hurt, January 17, 2006, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Senate Democrats have scrapped a "good-faith" agreement they made two months ago to allow the Judiciary Committee to vote today on the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr.

"This is a new low in our confirmation process," said Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican. "Not only because it is virtually unprecedented, but also because it reflects a breach of trust."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:02 PM


End Red subversion of democracy (Ravi Shanker Kapoor, 1/22/06, Organiser)

The chasm between the pretense and the practice of Indian communists is so conspicuous that even the dumb could perceive it. Yet, the adherents of the most violent ideology masquerade as peace-niks; the worshippers of mass-murderers like Stalin and Mao sermonize on social harmony; and, quite blatantly, the enemies of democracy pose as the champions of democracy. Worse still, even though the truth about communists is well-known, few in India have the courage to take them to task.

That communists have been undermining democracy in West Bengal is a well-established fact: political leaders from non-Left parties such as the Congress, the Trinmool Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have said it so many times; journalists, political observers, even bureaucrats have talked about the electoral misdemeanours in West Bengal; yet the Red subversion of democracy continues unabated. A report in The Indian Express on December 18, “What they didn’t want you to see: EC on how Left ‘rigs’ Bengal polls,” once again described how the communists have been subverting democracy in West Bengal. [...]

What is the way out? As Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy wrote in a recent article: “The moment of truth, therefore, has arrived. The land of Bankim Chatterjee, Vivekananda, Aurobindo, Subhash Bose, and a galaxy of leaders which no other state can boast of, not to forget the indomitable spirit of Syama Prasad Mookerjee, cannot remain enslaved to an ideology in deep rigour morties. The people must search out an instrument, give it full support, and liberate the state in the next election. Communism belongs to the museum, like the fossils of dinosaurs, and not in Writers Building.” Bengalis can, and should, learn from Biharis and end another Evil Empire.

Posted by Matt Murphy at 11:04 AM


15 Cubans Who Got to Fla. Bridge Sent Home (Laura Wides-Munoz, Jan 9, 2006, Associated Press)

Fifteen Cubans who fled their homeland and landed on an abandoned bridge piling in the Florida Keys were returned to their homeland Monday after U.S. officials concluded that the structure did not constitute dry land. Under the U.S. government's "wet-foot, dry-foot" policy, Cubans who reach dry land in the United States are usually allowed to remain in this country, while those caught at sea are sent back.

The Cubans — including a 2-year-old boy and a 13-year-old boy — were sent back around midday, said a Coast Guard spokesman, Officer Dana Warr. They were rescued last week and were held aboard a Coast Guard cutter while they awaited a final decision on their status. [...]

The Cubans thought they were safe Wednesday when they reached the Old Seven Mile Bridge. But the historic bridge, which runs side by side with a newer bridge, is missing several chunks, and the Cubans had the misfortune of reaching pilings from a section that no longer touches land. [...]

The Cubans had left Matanzas Province in Cuba late on the night of Jan. 2 aboard a small, homemade boat. They were rescued by the Coast Guard from the base of the bridge just south of Marathon Key.

It's times like these that make even conservatives briefly sympathetic to the argument that party differences don't matter. One is tempted to ask: If a Republican president is unwilling to help out victims of tyranny and simultaneously thrust an icepick into Castro's back when the opportunity presents itself, what's the point?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:54 AM


Stephen Harper's Canada?: Just look at John Howard's Australia. (Greg Barns, January 17, 2006, Globe and Mail)

[M]r. Harper's party is employing the same campaign tactics that Mr. Howard first used in 1996 for his landslide win and that he has used to great effect in three successive elections.

As The Globe and Mail disclosed on Jan. 7, it's no accident that the Harper campaign feels like it has been ripped straight from the pages of the John Howard campaign manual. Mr. Howard's national campaign director, Brian Loughnane, is advising the Conservatives; last fall, Conservative Party strategists closely watched the tactics used by Mr. Howard to record his fourth election victory.

Mr. Howard's electoral success can be put down to his capacity to capture the support of working-class and lower-middle-class families who used to vote for the ALP; he did this by lining their pockets with tax cuts and middle-class welfare payments, such as cash bonuses for new mothers. And he appealed to their moral conservatism and desire to slow down the pace of social change.

In 1996, Mr. Howard's campaign slogan was "For all of us." Mr. Howard said the ALP was more interested in what he called "elite" issues such as aboriginal reconciliation, Australian republicanism and the arts.

Mr. Howard's phrase for those who have switched their support from the ALP to his Liberal Party is "mainstream Australians." These voters, who primarily live in the western suburbs of Sydney and southeast Queensland, don't like gay marriage. They fear social change; Muslim and Asian migrants moving into their neighbourhoods scares them. They believe aboriginal Australians get too much welfare. They like tough-on-crime policies. And they focus on their economic bottom line - they like tax cuts and low interest rates.

The beauty of capturing these voters' support is that, for a left-of-centre political force such as the ALP to win them back, it has to shift to the right - and that causes public brawling among its membership and makes the party seem a weak alternative to Mr. Howard's.

Mr. Harper's strategy appears to be a carbon copy of that adopted by the Liberal Party in Australia.

And here's the mind-boggling thing--Democrats have, instead, shifted Left.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:48 AM


55% would welcome Harper majority: Poll indicates Conservatives can widen gap as Liberal attack ads proving ineffective (BRIAN LAGHI, January 17, 2006, Globe and Mail)

[E]ven in Quebec, where the Tories have been essentially moribund for 12 years, 64 per cent of voters say a Conservative majority would be good for the nation.

The general lack of concern about a Tory majority suggests the party has an opportunity to increase its current lead in the polls, said Strategic Counsel chairman Allan Gregg. He said that 60 per cent of Bloc Québécois voters appear unafraid of a Conservative majority, a number that indicates federalist voters who have parked their support with the Bloc are open to being wooed by Mr. Harper.

"If I was Harper right now, I'd go right into Quebec and hold big rallies," Mr. Gregg said. "Big balloons and marching bands and just feel-good stuff."

Mr. Gregg said the desires of a lot of Quebec nationalists dovetail with Mr. Harper's policies, which include ideas such as delivering more taxing power to the provinces.

Forget attacking, build the majority.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:33 AM


Beware AIDS education (Joseph Farah, January 11, 2006, WorldNetDaily.com)

A 42-year-old North Carolina AIDS activist, who said his highest priority was talking to kids about the disease, has been busted, along with his roommate for raping a 13-year-old boy.

Ricky Odell Yow, 42, the founder of Global Wheel of Hope, an organization that performs AIDS-HIV education in schools and who just last month was the subject of a heart-rending feature story in the Greensboro News & Record, is now being held on $1.5 million bond after being charged with five counts of taking indecent liberties with a child, three counts each of a first-degree sex offense with a child, using a minor to assist in an obscenity, first-degree sexual exploitation of a minor, crimes against nature and two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

The crimes took place last year, but just 30 days ago, Yow was telling a local reporter how he shows children as young as 12 photos of his brother, who died of AIDS, and shares his own story.

Knowing that gay men want access to young boys so badly they're even willing to become priests to obtain it, why would you make it easy for them?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:28 AM


New Conservative attack ad takes aim at Layton (CTV.ca News, Jan. 16 2006)

With one week remaining before the election, the Conservatives have unleashed their own vicious television ad, but this time the target is Jack Layton and his New Democrat Party. [...]

The ad was first released in British Columbia where the Liberals have slumped in the polls. In some key ridings outside of Vancouver, there are tight races between Conservatives and New Democrats.

"I think what this demonstrates is that they view the NDP as real competition there," said CTV's Rosemary Thompson.

Many voters in B.C. tend to swing between one of the two parties, and with Liberal fortunes slipping, the Conservatives appear to be targeting those NDP votes, said Brian Laghi of The Globe and Mail.

"If you recall, a lot of people who vote NDP, when they have a second choice it will be Tory, and vice versa," Laghi told CTV's Mike Duffy Live.

Perhaps Canadian politics works differently because of the shorter campaigns, but with a week left and all the news good for your party it would seem dubious to run negative ads. Run as if you were ready to govern and present yourself as a fait accompli. Voters like voting for the winning side, which may have been what saved George Bush in '00.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 AM


Pakistanis Say Terrorists Died in Strike (AP, 1/17/06)

At least four foreign terrorists died in the U.S. airstrike on a Pakistani border village that was purportedly aimed at al-Qaida's No. 2 leader, the provincial government said Tuesday.

A statement by the administration of the Pakistan's tribal region bordering
Afghanistan also said that between 10 and 12 foreign extremists had been invited to dinner at the village hit in Friday's attack.

Pakistani officials have said Ayman al-Zawahri, Osama bin Laden's top lieutenant, was invited to a dinner in the village to mark an Islamic holiday but did not show up and sent some aides instead.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:21 AM


It's Curtains for al-Qaida: What happens when Iraqi "insurgents" take on Zarqawi's thugs? (Christopher Hitchens, Jan. 16, 2006, Slate)

In Washington, in public, but unquoted, Ahmad Chalabi said last fall that it would be the Sunnis who would get rid of Zarqawi. Now we read (in the Jan. 12 New York Times) of members of the Sunni "Islamic Army" directly confronting al-Qaida's gangsters on the streets of Taji, a town to the north of Baghdad, with appreciable casualties on both sides. And within a few weeks, when the Dec. 15 elections occurred, armed supporters of the local insurgent militias were guarding polling places (in Ramadi, among other previously hot locations) and warning al-Qaida to stay away. Interviewed for the Times piece was Abu Marwa, a militia activist from a town farther south, who described setting a trap for two Syrian al-Qaida members—and killing both of them—after their group had tortured and killed one of his Shiite relatives. ("His legs bore drill holes revealing bone. His jaw had slid off to one side of his head, and his nose was broken. Burns marked his body.")

The significance of this, and of numerous other similar accounts, is three-fold. First, it means that the regular media caricature of Iraqi society is not even a parody. It is very common indeed to find mixed and intermarried families, and these loyalties and allegiances outweigh anything that can be mustered by a Jordanian jailbird who has bet everything on trying to ignite a sectarian war. Second, it means in the not very long run that the so-called insurgency can be politically isolated and militarily defeated. It already operates within a minority of a minority and is largely directed by unpopular outsiders. Politically, it is the Khmer Rouge plus the Mafia—not the Viet Cong. And unlike the Khmer Rouge, it has no chance at all of taking the major cities. Nor, apart from the relatively weak Syrian regime, does it have a hinterland or a friendly neutral territory to use for resupply. And its zealots are now being killed by nationalist and secular, as well as clerical, guerrillas. (In Kurdistan, the Zarqawi riffraff don't even try; there is a real people's army there, and it has a short way with fascists. It also fights on the coalition side.) In counterinsurgency terms, this is curtains for al-Qaida.

Which is my third point. If all goes even reasonably well, and if a combination of elections and prosperity is enough to draw more mainstream Sunnis into politics and away from Baathist nostalgia, it will have been proved that Bin-Ladenism can be taken on—and openly defeated—in a major Middle Eastern country. And not just defeated but discredited. Humiliated. Is there anyone who does not think that this is a historic prize worth having? Worth fighting for, in fact?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:31 AM


Saudi FM opposes Iranian attempts to build nukes (Associated Press, THE JERUSALEM POST, Jan. 16, 2006)

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said he opposed any attempt by Iran to develop nuclear weapons, but alleged the West was partly to blame for Tehran's nuclear program. [...]

The prince, in London for a conference on terrorism, said he hoped Iran would not seek to develop nuclear arms.

"Where are they going to use these weapons? If they hit Israel, they are going to kill Palestinians. If they miss Israel, they are going to hit Saudi Arabia or Jordan," he said. "Where is the gain in that?"

He said Saudi Arabia would "absolutely not" seek to develop a nuclear weapon if Iran had one.

"We do not believe in this at all," the prince said.

US senators say military strike on Iran must be option (Carol Giacomo, 1/15/06, Reuters)
Republican and Democratic senators said on Sunday the United States may ultimately have to undertake a military strike to deter Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, but that should be the last resort.

"That is the last option. Everything else has to be exhausted. But to say under no circumstances would we exercise a military option, that would be crazy," Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona said on CBS's "Face the Nation."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:19 AM


Dock workers rampage against new EU bill (Lucia Kubosova, 1/17/06, EUOBSERVER)

The European Parliament is fearing fresh demonstrations by dock workers today (17 January), as the bill on liberalising port services is to be debated in the Strasbourg plenary.

According to parliament officials, over 6,000 demonstrators took to the streets at the French site of the EU legislature on Monday (16 January), while the docker's union representatives claimed that between 8,000 to 10,000 protesters attended the march.

Twelve policemen were injured, one of them seriously, during the clashes.

Notice how no one ever talks of a united Europe as an emerging superpower anymore?

January 16, 2006

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:20 PM


Gore Is Sharply Critical of Bush Policy on Surveillance (VIKAS BAJAJ, 1/16/06, NY Times)

Former Vice President Al Gore said today that recent revelations that the Bush administration monitored domestic telephone conversations without obtaining warrants "virtually compels the conclusion that the president of the United States has been breaking the law repeatedly and persistently."

Though I personally find them trivial, I don't doubt that there's at least a heartfelt case to be made that wiretapping communications between Americans at home and terrorists abroad should be subject to some scruti ny outside the Executive branch. But to make that argument even somewhat compelling for the American people you'd need to couch it in the most dispassionate and nonpartisan way so as to seem to be above politics and concerned only for the strictest reading of the Constitution in order to err on the side of maximum protection of our liberties. The Democrats though, by trotting out the usual hacks, have made this seem just another in the long series of trivial issues where George Bush makes them foam at the mouth. Folks long ago stopped listening when they scream wolf, so even if the President is intent on ravaging their flock this time it's no longer possible to get a serious hearing for their concerns. (assuming, as we needn't, that their "concerns" are serious.)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:47 PM


Egypt on Iran: We will not accept a new nuclear power (Yossi Melman and Shlomo Shamir, 1/16/06, Haaretz Correspondents and Reuters)

Egypt on Monday said it supported using nuclear technology for peaceful purposes but rejected the emergence of a nuclear military power in the region, in its first official reaction to the standoff over Iran's nuclear program.

"All countries should adhere to their commitments in a way to allow the international community to be sure of the peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program, as we do not accept the emergence of a nuclear military power," Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said in a statement.

Aboul Gheit said Egypt was "closely watching" the development of the Iranian nuclear issue "out of its absolute keenness to support all the efforts aimed at consolidating the nuclear nonproliferation (policy) not only at the regional level but all over the world."

Sunni Arabs recognize that letting Persian Shi'ites have nukes threatens themselves more than Israel.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:22 PM


The Tehran-Caracas Axis: Hugo Chávez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are more than just pen pals. (MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY, January 16, 2006, Opinion Journal)

In his efforts to provoke the U.S., the Venezuelan no doubt hopes that saber rattling against imperialismo can stir up nationalist sentiment and save his floundering regime. That view argues that the U.S. would do best to ignore him, but it's not easy to ignore a Latin leader who seems intent on forging stronger ties with two of the worst enemies of the U.S., Ahmadinejad and Fidel Castro.

That Chávez is making a hash of the Venezuelan economy while he courts international notoriety is no secret. There are shortages of foodstuffs that are abundant even in other poor countries. Milk, flour for the national delight known as arepas, and sugar are in short supply. Coffee is scarce because roasters say government controls have set the price below costs, forcing them to eat losses. The Chávez response last week was a threat to nationalize the industry.

Property rights are being abolished. Last week, authorities invaded numerous "unoccupied" apartments in Caracas to hand them over to party faithful, part of a wider scheme to "equalize" life for Venezuelans.

A bridge collapse earlier this month on the main artery linking Caracas to the country's largest airport, seaport and an enormous bedroom community is seen as a microcosm of the country's failing infrastructure. Aside from the damage to commerce, it has caused great difficulties for the estimated 100,000 commuters who live on the coast, Robert Bottome, editor of the newsletter Veneconomy, told me from Caracas on Wednesday. The collapse diverted all this traffic to an old two-lane road with hairpin turns and more than 300 curves. It is now handling car traffic during the day and commercial traffic at night, with predictable backups.

With Venezuelan oil fields experiencing an annual depletion rate on the order of 25% and little government reinvestment in the sector, similar infrastructure problems are looming in oil. In November, Goldman Sachs emerging markets research commented on a fire at a "major refinery complex" in which 20 workers were injured: "In recent months there has been a string of accidents and other disruptions [of] oil infrastructure, which oil experts attribute to inadequate investment in maintenance and lack of technical expertise to run complex oil refining and exploration operations."

Though personally inclined to regime change the two Latin American tyrants and nuke the Iranian nuclear facilities, I don't get why Castro isn't a perfect argument for ignoring these guys. After all, Castro was only ever even a mild treat to the U.S. at the very beginning of his regime. As soon as he'd been in power a while he'd made such a hash of things in Cuba that he he could be safely ignored.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:13 PM


Indonesia's stature rises: Anticipated security pact with Australia underscores how much ties have warmed. (Tom McCawley, 1/17/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

A security pact expected to be signed this year between Indonesia and Australia will mark a formal end to a six-year rift over violence in East Timor and signals just how far the world's most populous Muslim nation has come in relations with its southern neighbor as well as the United States. [...]

In both Indonesia and Pakistan, the US now enjoys friendly ties to presidents seen as sympathetic to US interests. Both Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan support a moderate Islam and are seen as bulwarks against violent fringe groups. Together, they preside over about 356 million Muslims, about a quarter of the Islamic world.

Geography alone makes Pakistan's stability and ability to remain a partner in the long term less certain, but Indonesia could evolve into a normal democratic ally fairly quickly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:10 PM


For Senate Democrats, a last stand on Alito (Gail Russell Chaddock, 1/17/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

Wow, made it four days, Senate Panel to Vote on Alito Jan. 24 (DAVID ESPO, 1/16/06, AP)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:04 PM

JUST BETWEEN U.S. (via John Resnick):

IRS Plan To Outsource Tax Collection Raises Security Concerns: The agency plans to hire three contractors to track down deadbeat taxpayers. But the Government Accountability Office and the National Treasury Employees Union have questioned the IRS's ability to properly manage contracted employees. (Larry Greenemeier, Jan. 13, 2006, InformationWeek)

The Internal Revenue Service by March expects to award contracts to three private-sector companies to help the agency improve its ability to track down deadbeat taxpayers. Yet despite carefully worded security stipulations written into the IRS's request for quotes from prospective contractors, concerns remain regarding the government and the business world's ability to adequately protect sensitive information.

President Bush gave the IRS the power to use private-sector contractors when he signed the American Jobs Creation Act in October 2004. The act created Section 6206 of the Internal Revenue Code permitting contractors to be used to help collect taxes in cases where the tax owed is not in dispute. The IRS, which started looking for contractors last October, says using them for debt collection will help increase the amount of tax liabilities collected each year, leading to an estimated additional $1.4 billion dollars in tax revenue over the next 10 years.

In what sense can information you're alreaqy required to give to the government be said to be private in any meaningful way?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:18 PM


Shutting Themselves In (MAGGIE JONES, 1/15/06, NY Times Magazine)

One morning when he was 15, Takeshi shut the door to his bedroom, and for the next four years he did not come out. He didn't go to school. He didn't have a job. He didn't have friends. Month after month, he spent 23 hours a day in a room no bigger than a king-size mattress, where he ate dumplings, rice and other leftovers that his mother had cooked, watched TV game shows and listened to Radiohead and Nirvana. "Anything," he said, "that was dark and sounded desperate." [...]

Like Takeshi and Shuichi, Y.S. suffered from a problem known in Japan as hikikomori, which translates as "withdrawal" and refers to a person sequestered in his room for six months or longer with no social life beyond his home. (The word is a noun that describes both the problem and the person suffering from it and is also an adjective, like "alcoholic.") Some hikikomori do occasionally emerge from their rooms for meals with their parents, late-night runs to convenience stores or, in Takeshi's case, once-a-month trips to buy CD's. And though female hikikomori exist and may be undercounted, experts estimate that about 80 percent of the hikikomori are male, some as young as 13 or 14 and some who live in their rooms for 15 years or more.

South Korea and Taiwan have reported a scattering of hikikomori, and isolated cases may have always existed in Japan. But only in the last decade and only in Japan has hikikomori become a social phenomenon. Like anorexia, which has been largely limited to Western cultures, hikikomori is a culturebound syndrome that thrives in one particular country during a particular moment in its history.

As the problem has become more widespread in Japan, an industry has sprung up around it. There are support groups for parents, psychologists who specialize in it (including one who counsels shut-ins via the Internet) and several halfway programs like New Start, offering dorms and job training. For all the attention, though, hikikomori remains confounding. The Japanese public has blamed everything from smothering mothers to absent, overworked fathers, from school bullying to the lackluster economy, from academic pressure to video games. "I sometimes wonder whether or not I understand this issue," confessed Shinako Tsuchiya, a member of Parliament, one afternoon in her Tokyo office. She has led a study group on hikikomori, but most of her colleagues aren't interested, and the government has yet to allocate funds. "They don't understand how serious it is."

That may be in part because the scope of the problem is frustratingly elusive. A leading psychiatrist claims that one million Japanese are hikikomori, which, if true, translates into roughly 1 percent of the population. Even other experts' more conservative estimates, ranging between 100,000 and 320,000 sufferers, are alarming, given how dire the consequences may be. As a hikikomori ages, the odds that he'll re-enter the world decline. Indeed, some experts predict that most hikikomori who are withdrawn for a year or more may never fully recover. That means that even if they emerge from their rooms, they either won't get a full-time job or won't be involved in a long-term relationship. And some will never leave home. In many cases, their parents are now approaching retirement, and once they die, the fate of the shut-ins - whose social and work skills, if they ever existed, will have atrophied - is an open question.

That isn't a problem just for the hikikomori and their families but also for a country that has been struggling with a sagging economy, a plummeting birth rate and what has been called a youth crisis. The rate of "school refusal" (kids who skip school for one month or more a year, which is sometimes a precursor to hikikomori) has doubled since 1990. And along with hikikomori sufferers, hundreds of thousands of other young men and women are neither working nor in school. After 15 years of sluggish growth, the full-time salaryman jobs of the previous generation have withered, and in their places are often part-time jobs or no jobs and a sense of hopelessness among many Japanese about the future.

It's the natural end of the secular materialisms--turning inwards on yourself--since only you can matter and only to you.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:35 PM


Time’s Up, Clarence: Why the crowds aren’t shouting to spare an aged death-row inmate (MICHAEL KRIKORIAN, 1/13/06, LA Weekly)

[Clarence Ray Allen] is in many ways the poster boy for death-penalty advocates. He gives them the single best reason to extort the virtues of the death penalty over a life sentence.

While serving a life sentence at Folsom State Prison for a murder for hire in Fresno, he arranged for the killings of the witnesses in his case. His apparent rationale was that he would get a retrial and, boom, voilà, there would be no witnesses because they had all been mysteriously murdered. Not the brightest guy in the joint, this Allen.

The tragedy starts in 1974. According to court documents, he enlisted the help of his son Roger and two employees to rob Fran’s Market, a store east of Fresno owned by Ray and Fran Schletewitz, whom Allen had known for years.

Roger Allen invited the Schletewitz’s son, Bryon, to a party. While Bryon was swimming, someone took his keys. The Allen clan then robbed the store. Later, Roger’s 17-year-old girlfriend, Mary Sue Kitts, confessed to Bryon that she helped cash money orders stolen from the store. Bryon confronted Roger Allen, and also mentioned that Kitts had told him what happened.

Clarence Ray Allen then ordered that Kitts be killed. She was strangled. When Bryon learned Kitts was missing, he went to the authorities.

In 1977, a jury convicted Clarence Ray Allen of burglary, conspiracy and first-degree murder. He was sentenced to life without parole.

In Folsom State Prison, Allen befriended fellow inmate Billy Ray Hamilton, who was soon to be paroled. Allen told him his plans to kill the witnesses, and arranged for Hamilton to be supplied with guns and $25,000.

Not long after his release, Hamilton entered Fran’s Market, brandished a sawed-off shotgun and led Bryon Schletewitz and other employees into the stockroom as he searched for a safe. According to documents, Hamilton shot and killed Bryon Schletewitz, Douglas White, 18, and Josephine Rocha, 17.

Hamilton also shot a 17-year-old clerk, who was left for dead but survived. A neighbor who heard the shotgun blasts went to investigate. Hamilton shot the neighbor, who then shot Hamilton.

Days later, a wounded Hamilton was arrested while robbing a liquor store. Police found a list of names and information on eight people who had testified against Allen, including Bryon Schletewitz and his father, Ray Schletewitz.

Both Allen and Hamilton were eventually convicted of the killings and sentenced to death row at San Quentin. They both have outlived the parents of Bryon Schletewitz.

That not executing them makes us complicit in their continuing evil is a powerful argument, but not the most important in favor of capital punishment.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:52 PM


China Seals Off Village After Protest Violence (Reuters, 1/16/06)

China has sealed off a village in southern Guangdong province after days of protests over land grabs ended at the weekend in clashes with police that killed a teenage girl, two residents said on Monday.

Last week's protest came a month after police sent to quell a similar demonstration in another part of Guangdong opened fire, killing at least three people and as many as 20.

``They've blocked all the roads leading to the village and they searched our bodies and motorcycles,'' a man surnamed Yang at Panlong village in Sanjiao township told Reuters by phone.

``We are not allowed to leave after dusk.''

Residents said police used electric batons, or cattle prods, when they tried to disperse a crowd of several hundred protesting against low compensation for their confiscated land.

``They turned off all the street lights and car lights before beating whoever they caught,'' a villager surnamed Xu said by phone. ``That includes the girl -- she was just 13 and she died.''

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:37 PM


Galloway aide admits TV fiasco (MICHAEL HOWIE , 1/16/06, The Scotsman)

GEORGE Galloway's reputation sank even lower yesterday after his spokesman admitted that the Respect MP's appearance on Celebrity Big Brother had turned into a "worst-case scenario".

The maverick politician has attracted fierce criticism for choosing to go into the Big Brother house. His standing has suffered following days of controversial antics, which have seen the former Labour rebel impersonate a cat and dress up as a vampire.

In the latest episode last night, the arch-critic of the Iraq war was shown hiding in a giant cardboard box and apparently squabbling with the disgraced television entertainer Michael Barrymore over his cigars.

Meanwhile, the MP's east London constituents have lambasted him for deserting them and humiliating himself.

Are they not aware they humiliated themselves by electing him?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:14 AM


A Power Outage on Capitol Hill: We are in danger of scrapping our checks and balances—not just for a few years (as was done during the Civil War), but for good. (Jonathan Alter, 1/23/06, Newsweek)

Remember, this is not about whether it's right or wrong to wiretap bad guys, though the White House hopes to frame it that way for political purposes. Any rational person wants the president to be able to hunt for Qaeda suspects wherever they lurk. The "momentous" issue (Alito's words) is whether this president, or any other, has the right to tell Congress to shove it.

So it's about whether the president has to behave irrationally and anticonstitutionally if the Congress says he should?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:12 AM


Alito Hearings Unsettle Some Prevailing Wisdom About the Politics of Abortion (DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK, 1/16/06, NY Times)

Just a little over a year ago, senators of both parties said publicly that it would be almost impossible for a Supreme Court nominee who disagreed openly with the major abortion rights precedents to win confirmation.

But partisans on either side now say that last week's confirmation hearings for Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. cast doubt on such assumptions.

All eight Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee have indicated they believe that Judge Alito would threaten abortion rights. All are expected to vote against him, although the parties are still disputing the date of the committee's vote. But many concede that his confirmation is all but assured and that their party is unlikely to try to stop it through a filibuster.

Who was the last winning presidential candidate to openly agree with the precedents? Jimmy Carter?

What the Democrats Fear (New York Sun Staff Editorial, January 16, 2006)

The news from Capitol Hill this week will be the vote that doesn't take place. Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee will delay by up to a week action on Judge Samuel Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court, though the consensus, at least at the moment, seems to be that the Democrats will fail to block Judge Alito's confirmation.

That hasn't stopped them from trying, as they grilled Judge Alito for hours on end and even made his wife cry. Thanks to their efforts, we now know a lot more than we did before. Not about Judge Alito, whose judicial philosophy wasn't any great mystery after his 15 years riding the Third Circuit, but about the Democrats themselves. Now we know what they're afraid of.

The Democrats, at least those on the committee, are afraid of voters. They're afraid of the elected representatives of those voters. They're afraid of a judge who will take seriously the fact that the executive and legislative branches are equal to the judiciary.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:23 AM


The hostage no one knew was missing (Joanna Bale, The Times, January 16th, 2006)

A British reporter kidnapped in Iraq described yesterday how his captors threatened to behead him before he was freed by chance when US soldiers raided the farmhouse where he was being held.

Phil Sands, of the Dubai-based newspaper Emirates Today, was rescued on New Year’s Eve after being held for five days on the outskirts of Baghdad. He had not been reported missing and his family was unaware of his plight.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:10 AM


Psychotherapy on the Road to ... Where? (Benedict Carey, New York Times, December 27th, 2005)

The meeting brought together some 9,000 psychologists, social workers and students, along with many of the world's most celebrated living therapists, among them the psychoanalyst Dr. Otto Kernberg, the Hungarian-born psychiatrist and skeptic Dr. Thomas Szasz, and Dr. Albert Bandura, the pioneer in self-directed behavior change.

"This is like a rock concert for most of us," said Peggy Fitzgerald, 56, a social worker and teacher from Sacramento, holding up a program covered in autographs. Ms. Fitzgerald said she attended war protests during the 1960's, and "this has some of that same feeling."

Calls to arms rang through several conference halls. In the opening convocation, Dr. Hunter "Patch" Adams - the charismatic therapist played on screen by Robin Williams - displayed on a giant projection screen photos from around the world of burned children, starving children, diseased children, some lying in their own filth.

He called for a "last stand of loving care" to prevail over the misery in the world, its wars and "our fascistic government." Overcome by his own message, Dr. Adams eventually fell to the floor of the stage in tears.

Many in the audience of thousands were deeply moved; many others were bewildered. Some left the arena. [...]

A frequent theme of the meeting was that therapists could not only relieve anxieties and despair but help clients realize a truly fulfilling life - an idea based on emerging research.

In his talk, Dr. Seligman spelled out the principles of this vision, called positive psychology. By learning to express gratitude, to savor the day's pleasures and to nurture native strengths, a people can become more absorbed in their daily lives and satisfied with them, his research has suggested.

A just-completed study at the University of Pennsylvania found that these techniques relieved the symptoms of depression better than other widely applied therapies, Dr. Seligman told the audience.

"The zeit is really geisting on this idea right now," said Dr. Seligman, who has consulted with the military on how to incorporate his methods.

Indeed it is. In fact, it has been geisting on that idea for over five thousand years. But we hope Dr. Seligman won’t be offended if we suggest it doesn’t geist all that well in the hands of infantile neurotics who charge us three hundred dollars an hour to share the insights into the mystery of life they learned from Mr Toad’s Wild Ride.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 5:03 AM


Cultural gap filled at last by Thatcher, the Musical (Jack Malvern, The Times, January 16th, 2006)

Think of a brass-lunged anthemic diva such as Aretha Franklin or Shirley Bassey. Now imagine them belting out a song that begins, “I’m the iron in your bloodstream”, while the backing singers respond with a chorus of, “Haemoglobin, haemoglobin”.

No, it’s not a British Medical Association adaptation of Bohemian Rhapsody; it’s the long-overdue Thatcher: The Musical. A production feting and satirising her life receives its world premiere at the 550-seat Warwick Arts Centre in Coventry on February 7 before a national tour.

What chance do you think the Judd children have of seeing Disney World this year?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Darwinism – Science or Secular Religion? (Jonathan Rosenblum, 1/12/06, Cross Currents)

Scientists themselves have admitted their own susceptibility to various forms of bias. In his classic work, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn describes scientists’ resistance to abandoning a given paradigm until an acceptable alternative is proposed, no matter how much countervailing evidence has accumulated. Scientists are uncomfortable moving from a position of purported knowledge to one of ignorance. Stephen Jay Gould, one of the leading neo-Darwinists, discusses in The Structure of Evolutionary Theory the ways in which social and career incentives cause scientists to fail to fully grasp the import of the date they observe.

NOWHERE IS THE BIAS OF SCIENTISTS on more prominent display than with respect to the ever roiling debates over Darwinian evolution. Supporters of Darwin often find it convenient to obfuscate the extent to which they view his theory of natural selection among random mutations as a full refutation of all religious belief. But others are more candid. Richard Dawkins, perhaps the best known present day defender of Darwin, famously claims, “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.” George Gaylord Simpson, another leading Darwinist, states the meaning of evolution: “Man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind.”

Cornell University’s William Provine plays the role of the prototypical scientist in Rabbi Dessler’s example, proclaiming, “a world strictly organized in accordance with mechanistic principles . . . . implies that there are no inherent moral or ethical laws. ”

These scientists cannot claim that these views are merely the outgrowth of the overwhelming empirical evidence in favor of Darwin’s theory of natural selection. That theory rests not on empirical observation but on a priori assumptions. In a 1981 lecture at the American Museum of Natural History, Colin Patterson, the chief paleontologist at the British Natural History Museum, observed that both creationism and Darwinian observation are scientifically vacuous concepts, which are held primarily on the basis of faith. Patterson related that he had asked the members of an evolutionary morphology seminar at the University of Chicago to tell him just one thing about evolution that they knew to be true. The response was a long and embarrassed silence.

The scientific naturalism of the Darwinists – the belief that everything can be explained by natural, material forces—is ultimately founded on rhetorical legerdemain that has nothing to do with science. First step: exclude all non-natural causes as a priori inadmissible. Second step: If Darwinian evolution were true, it would explain the observed taxonomic similarities between different living things. Third step: Since no alternative explanation currently exists to explain those phenomena, Darwinism must be true. (This step, to which Darwinists inevitably have recourse whenever the holes in the theory are pointed out, Philip Johnson astutely notes in Darwin on Trial, is the equivalent of preventing a criminal defendant from presenting an alibi until he can produce the real criminal.) Fourth step: Since Darwinism is true, all explanations based on non-natural causes are vanquished. Note how that which was a priori excluded at the outset is now deemed to have been somehow disproved.

Colin Patterson was right that the Darwinian theory of life developing through trillions of micromutations, sifted by natural selection, is not scientific. A scientific theory, as defined by Karl Popper, must be falsifiable. When Einstein introduced his General Theory of Relativity, for instance, he offered at the same time a series of bold predictions based on the theory and by which it could be tested.

Instead of constructing such tests for their theory, Darwinists start by assuming the truth of theory and then looking for corroboration, a travesty of Popper’s definition of science.

The tatty state of Darwinism is revealed precisely be the way adherents have been reduced to the anti-scientific position that they needn't reconsider their own theory since the skeptics haven't offered a new one.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Memory Design Breakthrough Can Lead To Faster Computers (SPX Jan 16, 2006)

Imagine a computer that doesn't lose data even in a sudden power outage, or a coin-sized hard drive that could store 100 or more movies. Magnetic random-access memory, or MRAM, could make these possible, and would also offer numerous other advantages. It would, for instance, operate at much faster than the speed of ordinary memory but consume 99 percent less energy.

The current challenge, however, is the design of a fast, reliable and inexpensive way to build stable and densely packed magnetic memory cells.

A team of researchers at The Johns Hopkins University, writing in the Jan. 13 issue of Physical Review Letters, has come up with one possible answer: tiny, irregularly shaped cobalt or nickel rings that can serve as memory cells. These "nanorings" can store a great quantity of information. They also are immune to the problem of "stray" magnetic fields, which are fields that "leak" from other kinds of magnets and can thus interfere with magnets next to them.

"It's the asymmetrical design that's the breakthrough, but we are also very excited about the fast, efficient and inexpensive method we came up with for making them," said paper co-author Frank Q. Zhu, a doctoral candidate in the Henry A. Rowland Department of Physics and Astronomy in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences at Johns Hopkins.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Trial and Error (DAVID DOBBS, 1/15/06, NY Times Magazine)

Many of us consider science the most reliable, accountable way of explaining how the world works. We trust it. Should we? John Ioannidis, an epidemiologist, recently concluded that most articles published by biomedical journals are flat-out wrong. The sources of error, he found, are numerous: the small size of many studies, for instance, often leads to mistakes, as does the fact that emerging disciplines, which lately abound, may employ standards and methods that are still evolving. Finally, there is bias, which Ioannidis says he believes to be ubiquitous. Bias can take the form of a broadly held but dubious assumption, a partisan position in a longstanding debate (e.g., whether depression is mostly b